“Oh, c’mon Piggy—it will be fun!”
“It will be cold!”
Kermit came up behind her and tried to slip his arms around her waist. It was a testament to how angry she was at him that she succumbed for only a moment before turning on him, her blue eyes snapping with accusations.
“This was supposed to be a vacation. Remember vacations, Kermit?” Uh oh. Kermit, not Kermie. Sheesh—she was really mad.
“Vacations are where you don’t work. You take it easy and enjoy your time with your…loved ones,” she said grudgingly. Ah ha! He was sure he detected a glimmer of warmth in her eyes, but wasn’t entirely certain it was the warmth of affection or the heat of wrath.
“You’d be immortalized,” he cajoled, hoping to appeal to her vanity. Piggy sniffed disdainfully.
“Ho hum,” she snapped. “Been there, done that.”
“Um, you’d be immortalized on a Christmas ornament.” He dared to slip an arm around her waist. “People would put you and me on the tree and think happy holiday thoughts about us.” He made his voice sound as wistful as he dared.
Piggy shrugged, looking unhappy, but he could tell he was penetrating her defenses.
“Um, you’d get to wear a cute little outfit and show off your legs.”
Piggy stepped back indignantly, certain she was being teased.
“Hubba hubba,” said Kermit, utterly sober.
She tried—good grief, she tried, but in the end, Piggy was no match for his inspired silliness. She couldn’t help it. She began to smile.
“There’s my girl,” said Kermit, trying to put his arms around her again. She pushed him off.
“Tell me about it,” she said, becoming businesslike.
Kermit would have liked to have had this conversation snuggled up on a couch in the lodge, sipping hot cocoa or buttered rum and watching a lazy fire blaze, but that would have to come after. If it came at all, his mind prompted. Which it won’t if you don’t sell this, and quick.
“Um, well, um, do you remember the Christmas ornaments that we did for Hallmark a few years ago?”
Piggy nodded curtly.
“Well, the nice folks at Hallmark want us to pose for another one of their Christmas ornaments.”
Piggy looked at him levelly.
“It’s really a very big, um, honor to, um, be asked again,” he said meekly.
“It would mean a lot to me if you would do it. Um, please?”
Piggy let out a moan of frustration, and turned away from him. Her arms were crossed across her chest and one high-heeled boot was tapping angrily. She made a couple of strangled sounds then stopped vibrating, slumped, and turned to face him.
“Oh okay,” she said. “Darn you and those big puppydog eyes.”
“That’s pollywog,” Kermit dared, but subsided immediately when she gave him a sharp look. He tried again to put his arms around her and she let him, but just barely. He kissed her once on her pouty mouth before letting her go.
“One afternoon,” he promised. “It’s just for one afternoon.”
Which explained what he was doing here, knocked-kneed and off-balance, shivering with cold and frustration. He tried to straighten up and bring his unwilling legs together, but succeeded only in spinning in a circle. Now he was dizzy, cold and irritable.
“This will be easy, Piggy,” Kermit muttered himself. “No, I’ve never ice skated before but, I mean, how hard could it be? Kids do it, penguins do it. After all, I’m a frog. Frogs are amphibians, with a natural affinity with the water.” If it’s not frozen.
He heard whirring nearby and, bracing his hands on his quaking knees, looked up in time to see Piggy execute a flawless double-toe-loop and land with enviable control not six feet from him.
“Hi, Kermie,” she said sweetly. Her cheeks were flushed pink from the cold and her eyes were glittering with exertion and what had better not be amusement, Kermit thought furiously. She glided up to him, slipped one of her gloved hands under his elbow and one around his waist and pulled him to an upright position. His feet went skittering away from him and only Piggy’s careful balance kept them both from hitting the ice.
“You just don’t have your legs under you yet,” she said gently.
“Oh, they’re under me,” he grouched. “I just can’t straighten them.”
Piggy manhandled him easily, pulling him upright again and—with no warning at all—sent them both sliding neatly across the ice.
“Wahhh!” Kermit yelled before he could stop himself. He managed to shut his mouth and open his eyes, trying not to think about exactly how fast they were going.
“Doing okay, Mon Capitan?” Piggy murmured near his aural organ.
“Um, sure. Sure, Piggy—just great.”
Piggy spun them about the frozen pond once more, stopping only when Kermit was pretty sure he’d begun to solidify from the cold. Once Piggy released him, his feet started moving in opposing directions and he surged forward and grasped Piggy firmly around the waist, holding on for dear life. Piggy placed a gloved hand on the middle of his back. It felt soft, and very warm.
“Kermie,” Piggy said gently. “Is this your first time on ice skates?”
“Kermit?” Her tone was firm. Resistance was futile.
“Yes!” he said miserably. “I can slide on the ice bare-flippered, but I’ve never worn ice skates before in my life.”
I am so toast, Kermit thought. Not only have I interrupted our get-away for a stupid job, but I’m not even good at it. Piggy will never let me live this down.
Piggy’s voice was quiet. “Why didn’t you tell Moi?”
Kermit sighed. “Well, first of all, I didn’t know how hard it would be. It looks so easy when other people do it.”
Piggy made a soft noise of agreement, indicating he should continue.
“And, second, when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do it, I was, um, afraid you’d tease me or be angry with me or…something.”
Piggy said nothing.
“And I thought you’d be mad at me for dragging you out here in the cold to do a stupid photo shoot when we should be cuddling in the lodge eating canapés and drinking something hot. I’m sorry, Piggy—I’ve ruined the whole afternoon.”
“The afternoon isn’t over yet, Mon Capitan,” Piggy said, and Kermit suddenly thought that there might actually be worse places to be than clinging to Miss Piggy’s delectable form, even if it was on the ice. His contentment was short-lived, however, because Piggy’s voice became more businesslike.
“Well—we’ve got about thirty minutes to get you up on your flippers, so hop to it.” She held him up and, sadly, away from her, but grasped his hands firmly and began to teach him the very, very basics of moving on the ice.
He fell enough to know that the ice was hard and unforgiving, but thankfully Miss Piggy was not. She took him in hand and kept him moving, which warmed his muscles as much as it cheered him. He wasn’t going to make the Olympic trials, but by the time the photographers arrived, he was doing a fair job of faking. As long as he held on to Piggy, everything went fine. I’ll have to remember that, Kermit thought philosophically.
Piggy steered him firmly around the perimeter, coming to a neat, ice-spraying stop in front of the photographers.
“Are you ready for us, boys?” Miss Piggy asked, fluttering her eyelashes.
Kermit felt the heat surge to his cheeks. Here I am freezing to death and falling on my, um, dignity and she’s batting her eyelashes at the photographers. Under other circumstances, he would have enjoyed watching her work, but he was too darn cranky at the moment.
“Any time, Miss Piggy,” said the one who seemed to be in charge. “Just take a few turns around when you’re ready. We actually took a couple of candid shots while you two were warming up.”
Kermit’s flush deepened. He hope, hope, hoped that they had not photographed him hunched miserably on the ice, legs splayed in opposite directions and showing his, um, less flattering side.
Piggy looked at him, smiling happily. “Are you ready, Kermie?”
“Oh, sure,” he muttered, and they were off again, Piggy’s protective arm around his waist. Kermit pasted a smile on his face and got through it with difficulty, if not grace. In less than 30 minutes, Piggy was talking earnestly with the photographers about lighting and perspective and a dozen other things Kermit wasn’t interested in any more. The photographers had reams of material now, which would go to the sculptors and artists. Fine-tuning would be done in the artist’s studio, which Piggy generously agreed to visit closer to the end of the project. He waited until they had packed up the cameras and the lights and the chairs and assorted litter and paraphernalia that they’d brought with them and left before he spoke.
“Well, good,” he said in what he hoped was a hearty manner. “I think that went well.”
Piggy turned and regarded him gravely. “Moi sort of enjoyed that, didn’t vous?”
“Um, er, sure,” Kermit lied. He tried to put on his game face, and he might actually have succeeded if his feet hadn’t decided to go in opposite directions at that precise moment. He fell and grasped Piggy shoulders, holding on tightly.
“Oh Piggy,” Kermit burst out. “I didn’t enjoy this at all. This was a bad idea, and I’m really sorry I dragged you into it when we should have been sitting inside with our toes toward the fire and our, um, arms around each other.” That last came out a little unexpectedly, and Piggy gazed at him with a charming mixture of shyness and supreme self-confidence.
“Well,” she said softly. “The afternoon’s gone, but we’ve got the evening ahead of us. What say we go back to the lodge and find a nice blanket to snuggle under?”
“Really?” Kermit said, absolutely aching with longing. “Could we?”
“Yes,” Piggy said thoughtfully. “I believe we could.”
Kermit was so warm and toasty now that it was impossible to remember that he’d been miserably cold and half-way frozen not two hours ago. Piggy had met him in front of the fireplace, impeccably attired in slim-cut pants and a sweater that did everything a sweater ought to do. Her hair was swept up in an artful mass of tousled curls on top of her head, which meant that Kermit could lean over and press a kiss against the soft skin of her neck as often as he wanted. He’d stopped counting at seventeen. Soup and hors d'oeuvres had been consumed, and he sat sipping something that made him feel warm all over. Or maybe that’s just Piggy, Kermit thought, smiling to himself. He heaved a great sigh of contentment at the precise moment that Piggy did the same, and they laughed.
“Jinx kiss,” Piggy said, claiming one.
“I used to play that game when I was a kid, but we called jinx pickle.”
Piggy stared at him for a moment. “I fail to see the appeal.”
Kermit smiled at her. “At the moment, so do I.” He shifted a little and Piggy, knowing him as well as she did, knew this changed of position was a prelude to some sort of change of heart. She turned and looked at him expectantly.
“I just want to say how much I appreciate that you let me impose on you this afternoon—taking time away from our vacation and everything.”
Piggy didn’t say, “Oh, it was nothing,” or “Oh, don’t think about it.” She listened seriously, her head inclined toward him in a way that made him certain that he had her undivided attention.
“And, Honey, I wanted to say thank you for not making me feel more miserable or stupid than I already did.”
Piggy opened her mouth, then closed it and looked away. “Do you remember when we were filming ‘The Great Muppet Caper’ in London?”
“Um hum,” Kermit murmured, inhaling the scent of her shampoo and skin.
“And I didn’t know how to swim?”
“I remember, Piggy.”
Piggy was silent a moment, thinking how to proceed. “We had our ups and downs while we were filming, but you didn’t make fun of me for not knowing how. You were a good coach.”
Kermit was smiling at her, drowsy and content. “Anything else you think I’m good at?”
Piggy moved in suddenly, and Kermit’s drowsiness fled.
“I’ll let you know.”