Hopper Croakington II and the Princely PresentSuzanne Selfors
Hopper Croakington II and the Princely Present
A Little Drake Story
By Suzanne Selfors
Table of Contents
About the Author
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Hopper Croakington II, son of the famous Frog Prince, sat in the school’s Castleteria, eating a bowl of curds and whey.
Actually, he wasn’t eating. The spoon hung precariously from his fingers as he stared across the room at the princess table. His friend, Sparrow Hood, son of Robin Hood, was staring at the same table. “A pride of lions, a flock of geese…” Sparrow took a sip of hot cocoa. “What do we call a group of princesses?”
“Intimidating,” Hopper murmured.
Sparrow snorted. “Speak for yourself, bro.”
Because Hopper and Sparrow attended Ever After High, a boarding school for the sons and daughters of fairytale characters, they were used to eating meals with royalty and nonroyalty. Hopper should have been comfortable with the princesses. After all, he was a crown-wearing member of fairytale royalty. But when it came to talking to girls, Hopper always got a bit tongue-tied.
The princesses chatted loudly, their jeweled crowns gleaming beneath the Castleteria’s chandeliers. While Sparrow went back to eating his breakfast, Hopper kept his gaze fixed upon one particular princess. Her name was Briar Beauty, daughter of Sleeping Beauty. She happened to be fast asleep, her head resting on the shoulder of the princess sitting next to her. She wasn’t being rude. It wasn’t her fault that she was asleep in the middle of a meal. Briar was cursed, and that was one of the reasons why Hopper had a mad crush on her.
You see, Hopper and Briar had two things in common—both were privileged enough to be born into royalty and both were under the control of unfortunate curses. Briar fell asleep at inopportune moments, and, at equally inopportune moments, Hopper turned into an amphibian.
A little green frog, to be exact.
Hopper sighed. Briar was the most amazing girl he’d ever met. Everyone called her “the life of the party” because she had so much energy. When awake, that is. Even though he wasn’t a member of the Charming family, he often imagined that he would be the prince whose kiss would end Briar’s sleeping curse. And he hoped she was destined to be the princess whose kiss would cure him of his slimy curse. It was possible. Anything was possible when you lived in a fairytale.
An elbow jab woke him from his daydream. “Your sleeve’s in your curds,” Sparrow pointed out.
“Oops.” Hopper dabbed his velvet sleeve with a paper napkin. He usually took better care of his clothes. He couldn’t control his transformation, but he could certainly control his wardrobe. He was quite fond of dapper velvet jackets, vests, bow ties, and loafers.
“Why don’t you go talk to her,” Sparrow said. “You want to serenade her? I just wrote a new song.” He patted the guitar that hung from his shoulder, as it often did.
Hopper added sugar to his fairytale breakfast. Curds and whey was an acquired taste. “You know I can’t talk to her.”
“Oh right.” Sparrow smiled slyly. “I almost forgot.”
He hadn’t forgotten. He was simply teasing his friend. The unfortunate fact was that each time Hopper tried to talk to Briar, he blushed. And whenever Hopper Croakington II blushed, he transformed.
To make matters worse, Briar didn’t like frogs. She thought they were kind of gross.
“You want me to talk to her for you?” Sparrow offered.
“No way!” Hopper said. That would be totally humiliating. This wasn’t spellementary school. Hopper Croakington II, crowned prince and record holder in the long jump, was perfectly capable of asking a girl out. His heart began to pound. “She’s waking up,” he whispered.
Over at the princess table, Briar sat up straight. “What did I miss?” She rubbed her tired eyes, then pushed her long hair away from her face. “Even though I was asleep, I know you were talking about me.”
“Of course we were talking about you, silly.” Apple White, daughter of Snow White, put an arm around Briar and smiled. “We were planning your birthday party. We know how much you love a good party.”
“What do you want for your birthday?” Ashlynn Ella, daughter of Cinderella, asked.
Sparrow elbowed Hopper again. “Did you hear that, dude? It’s Briar’s birthday.”
“Shhh,” Hopper told him. “I’m trying to listen.” He leaned on the table, straining to hear. This was the kind of opportunity he’d dreamed about. If he could figure out what Briar wanted, he could buy her the perfect present. She’d be impressed and she’d notice him in a good way, for once.
Briar spread honey on a hot cross bun. “Seriously, I have everything a princess needs. You don’t need to get me anything. Being my best friends forever after is more than enough.”
“But we have to bring presents,” Apple insisted. “A birthday party isn’t complete without them.”
Briar took a huge bite, chewed, and swallowed. “Apple, really, you are so sweet. But I have an abundance of dresses, shoes, crownglasses, and drawers full of gift cards. I appreciate your persistence, but I mean it: There is nothing left that this queen-to-be needs.”
“Then we’ll have to find you something you don’t have,” Ashlynn said.
“Oh, this sounds like a challenge.” Apple clapped her hands gleefully. “A shopping challenge! Let’s go get a fableous present for Briar’s birthday!”
Apple and the other princesses gathered their belongings, leaving Briar at the table. They hurried past Hopper and Sparrow. “Hi, boys,” Apple said with a little wave.
“Hey, Apple,” Sparrow said, waving back. But Hopper didn’t say anything, because he was transfixed on Briar as she ate the last of her hot cross bun. After checking her MirrorPhone and sending a few hexts, she walked toward the exit.
“Here she comes,” Sparrow said, punching Hopper’s shoulder.
“I know, I know,” Hopper told him between clenched teeth. “Stop hitting me already.”
“Hey, Briar.” Sparrow whipped his guitar onto his lap and strummed a few chords. “Hopper has something he wants to say to you.”
“Really? What?” She stopped walking and looked right at Hopper. And that was all it took to turn Hopper’s brain to mush.
“Uh…” Hopper froze. He didn’t know what to say, so he delivered a corny pickup line. “Somebody better call security, ’cause my heart’s been stolen.” His voice cracked.
“Seriously?” Briar frowned. And kept looking right at him. “You said that to me last week.”
And that’s when the blush ignited in Hopper’s cheeks.
It was the sound he hated more than any other in the entire world. Because it meant that the curse had been activated and he’d been transformed.
Hopper had never gotten used to the sensation of finding himself in midair. Nor the feeling of falling to the ground and landing on four feet with suction-cup toes instead of two feet in nicely polished loafers. And then there was the whole size thing. As a boy, he never had to worry about being stepped on!
But he regained his composure quickly, stood on his hind feet, stretched his green body to make himself as tall as possible, and
said, “Greetings to the fair Briar, whose name betrays her face, for no sharp point doth she possess, only softness and grace.”
Yep, those words came out of his little froggy mouth. The other half of the curse was this—as a boy, he sounded like a complete dolt, but as a frog, he was masterfully poetic. He blinked his bulbous eyes at Briar, then spread his arms wide as if he had the leading role in a play and the lunch table was his stage. “Give me one word of love, my darling, and I shall dedicate myself to you forever after.”
“Oh, Hopper,” she said with a sigh. “You’re so weird sometimes.” Then she headed out of the Castleteria.
“Weird?” Hopper whispered, his hand over his heart as if he’d been impaled by the word itself.
“Tough break,” Sparrow said with a shrug.
As Briar disappeared from sight, Hopper’s blush faded and he found himself standing on the table, back in human form. These changes in size were quite unsettling.
“Watch out!” a student grumbled.
“Sorry,” Hopper said as he peeled a piece of toast off the bottom of his loafer. “Sorry,” he told another student as he accidentally knocked over a glass of fairyberry juice. He jumped onto the floor. Trying to regain his composure, he slicked back his hair, straightened his crown, and then strode out of the Castleteria.
“At least you tried,” Sparrow said, following. “My old man tells me I should try harder at things, but you know how I feel about working.”
Hopper frowned. “I try and I try and it never gets better. Briar thinks I’m weird. I don’t know what to do.”
“You could steal her—I mean, get her a birthday present,” Sparrow suggested.
“But she said she has everything she needs. Besides, I wouldn’t even know what to buy her.” Surely Apple White and the other princesses would find something amazing for Briar. How could he compete?
But Hopper didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity. After all, Briar’s birthday came only once a year.
Even though Hopper didn’t have a clue what to buy Briar, he knew someone who would.
If you’re going to get advice on what to get a girl for her birthday, why not ask the most charming boy on campus? He would know just the right things to make a girl swoon. Lucky for Hopper, that boy just happened to be his roommate.
“I have no idea,” Daring Charming, the son of King Charming, said. He lay on his bed, his hands clasped behind his head. “Girls always buy me presents. I like mirrors, shiny objects, and tanning lotions. You know, standard stuff. Oh, you can’t go wrong if you buy me hair products. I love hair products.” He opened his bedside drawer and pulled out a head shot. He kept stacks of them around the room. “Why not give her one of these? It’s already signed.”
“Uh, thanks,” Hopper said. “But I don’t think giving Briar a photo of you is going to get her to notice me.”
“Oh, you want her to notice you.” Daring sat up. “Why didn’t you say so? Just say hello and smile at her.” He demonstrated, and as he did, a blaze of light filled the room. How he kept his teeth so white was a Charming family secret. “It’s easy.”
There’s nothing easy about saying hello, Hopper thought.
It was late afternoon, and the boys were hanging out, doing their thronework. Their room was opulently decorated with a chandelier, velvet and satin comforters, and royal crests hanging above each bed. Daring’s side was full of trophies, his sword collection, and giant portraits of himself. Hopper’s side also had trophies, plus his collection of jackets and vests, and a small photo of Briar taped to the wall.
“My mother once told me that girls like presents that come in small boxes,” Daring said.
“Really?” Hopper recalled his mother saying the same thing. “So I should get her a piece of jewelry?”
“Why not? I once gave Apple a diamond-encrusted tiara. She loved it.”
Tapping sounded at the window. A girl had climbed the trellis and was clinging to the vines, her face pressed against the glass. “Hi, Daring,” she called. She waved, almost losing her balance. Another girl appeared. They were members of the Daring Charming Fan Club. “Did you forget about our meeting?”
“On my way, ladies,” Daring said with a wave. The girls giggled and slid down the trellis. Daring stepped into his shoes and grabbed his letterman jacket. “Duty calls. Hey, do you have a fan club meeting tonight?”
Hopper sighed. “I don’t have a fan club.”
“Well, you should get one.” Daring opened the door. Sounds of commotion flooded into the room. A group of girls had been waiting in the hallway. They began taking pictures with their MirrorPhones.
“Excuse me,” a voice loudly complained. Hopper knew Briar’s voice by memory. He dashed to the doorway. Briar stood, hands on hips, a scowl on her beautiful face. “Daring, could you move your groupies? I need to get somewhere.”
“Ladies,” Daring said with a grand sweep of his arm. “Group photo?” He grabbed Briar by the sleeve and pulled her close. MirrorPhones clicked and flashed.
“Seriously, Daring, I’m late. Ginger’s making me a birthday cake and she wants my input. I don’t want to let her down.” Briar pulled out of his grip. Then she glanced at Hopper. “And can you please tell your roommate that he shouldn’t block the hall with his entourage?”
Hopper shuffled nervously in place. “H-h-he…” His voice cracked.
“Your request, fair damsel, is but my command,” Hopper the frog said with a bow.
“Thanks,” Briar said. She slung her bag over her shoulder and disappeared around the corner.
Hopper hopped into his room and leaped to the window. He folded his skinny green legs and sat on the sill, peering through the glass. He waited patiently for a glimpse of Briar leaving the dormitory, but something else caught his eye.
A dragonfly walked along the edge of the windowsill. Hopper narrowed his eyes. A strange craving arose from deep in his stomach. In human form, he wouldn’t have noticed the bluish-green insect, which was simply enjoying a bit of sunshine. But his froggy mouth began to water. “Worry not, little friend, for though I possess a rapier-like tongue, I use it for poetry, not the consumption of insects.” The dragonfly did look deliciously fat and juicy, though. It was difficult to control the urge. Hopper’s tongue began to twitch. Just as it was about to unravel…
The dragonfly opened its mouth, and a long string of fire shot out, narrowly missing Hopper’s head. “What in Ever After?” Hopper said with surprise. The dragonfly aimed and shot again. “My dear sir!” Hopper cried as a trail of smoke arose from the windowsill. “You have misunderstood my intentions. While I appear to be a frog, I can assure you that I am actually human. I do not eat—” Another string of fire shot out of the creature’s mouth. This time Hopper had to jump off the sill to escape. He soared through the air, then landed on two human feet. The pocket of his velvet blazer was singed, but nothing else appeared damaged. He whipped around and stared at the dragonfly. “You breathe fire,” he whispered.
While there were all sorts of amazing creatures at Ever After High, like a unicorn, a jackalope, and a Pegasus, only one was known to breathe fire—a dragon that belonged to Raven, daughter of the Evil Queen. Hopper had never seen a bug that could spout fire.
And it would fit nicely into a small box.
The insect flapped its transparent wings and flew across the room, landing on Hopper’s pillow. He tried to grab it, but the dragonfly flew out of reach. He tried again, and again, knocking over a pile of head shots, a tube of hair gel, and two framed portraits. The dragonfly perched on the hilt of one of Daring’s swords. With a sigh, Hopper sat on the edge of his bed. So much for getting Briar an amazing present. He hung his head. Maybe he’d have to give her the head shot of Daring after all. At least it was signed.
The dragonfly landed on his sleeve. Hopper took a long, deep breath and kept as still as possible. The insect folded its back wings, then its front wings. After settling into a comfor
table position, it looked right at Hopper. Hopper cringed. Was it going to set him on fire?
They sat like that for some time, neither moving. It seemed that they were sizing each other up. After a lot of awkward silence, Hopper decided to try talking to the little critter. “You probably saw that whole scene in the hallway.” The dragonfly nodded. “She thinks I’m gross when I’m a frog. Just so you know, I wasn’t going to eat you. I’m a prince. We don’t eat bugs.”
The dragonfly flew up to the ceiling and landed on the chandelier. “Oh, don’t go,” Hopper said. “I didn’t mean to insult you. I’m sure bugs are tasty, but that doesn’t mean I want to eat one.” The dragonfly sat on one of the candles, peering down at Hopper.
Hopper leaned back against his pillows. “Briar’s birthday is tomorrow, and I have no idea what to get her. She told Apple she has everything she needs. I wish I could just do something that would get her to notice me.”
The dragonfly began to circle the chandelier. One by one, with its fiery breath, it lit each of the candles. A soft glow filled the dorm room. Then the dragonfly returned to Hopper’s sleeve.
“Wow,” Hopper said. “That was spelltacular.”
Then he had an idea.
The next morning Hopper scrambled out of bed and began searching the room. He checked the windowsill, but there was no sign of the dragonfly. “Fairy-fail!”
“My thoughts exactly,” Daring said. He stood in front of his mirror, combing his thick blond hair. “But there’s no need for you to be upset. It’s true that there’s a pimple in the middle of my forehead, but I have the strength and courage to battle this enemy.” He pulled a lock of hair so that it hung over the nearly invisible pustule.
“That’s not why I said fairy-fail,” Hopper grumbled. “I’m looking for a dragonfly that was in our room last night. Have you seen it?”
Daring wasn’t listening. “Even those of us born with perfect heroic features must deal with a pimple now and then.” He spritzed himself with his signature cologne. Then he slid into his letterman jacket and opened the bedroom door.