by Lena Patten
Camber was very small and a witch. She had auburn facial hair and feet out of proportion to her body. Had you never seen a woman so small you might not believe one existed: she was the height of an average toddler only just learning to toddle. She turned me into a toad. It was a long time ago and I'm over it now. Sex as a toad is under-rated and at least I no longer have to go to work. I was an accounts officer for a major label record company. Being a toad beats that hands down, even if you don't take the sex into account.
Camber has longish banana-blonde hair and she wears a grey Macintosh when it rains, which it often does. (Which is good for me, what with me being a toad now.)
We live on the outskirts of Chichester, on a quiet cul-de-sac called The Woodlands. I used to commute to London before my transformation, and lived in a house on the other side of the road with my wife Lara. After I went missing, I hear Lara promptly sold the house and ran off to Manchester to live with her Personal Assistant. Mrs Balmgrove from Number 5 told me this, after Camber turned her into a mouse. Mrs Balmgrove didn't last long as a mouse. She tried to move back into her own home. No sooner had she stepped across the threshold than LouLou, Mrs Balmgrove's Sealpoint Burmese, whipped her across the kitchen linoleum with one well-placed swipe of a forepaw and gobbled her up whole, eventually spitting out that brown-grey kidney-shaped mouse-organ that cats never eat.
Mrs Balmgrove wasn't the only one to fail to adapt to life as a member of a different species. Camber turned Jamie, the Pearson's youngest, into a slug after she caught him spying through her bathroom window as she was showering. Alas, nobody warned Jamie that slugs and salt don't mix, and he met his end at the bottom of a discarded packet of Golden Wonder crisps.
Aside from the occasional transformation of a neighbour and the attempted pilfering of one of Camber's Koi Carp by the local heron*, things passed at a sedate pace at Number 7, The Woodlands. That is, until Camber's half-sister Felicity came to stay.
Felicity was a princess, and I suspected Camber's bitterness towards her neighbours and life in general stemmed from envy of her sister's aristocratic heritage. That and the fact Felicity was gorgeous, had a big heart and was a mere whisker shy of six feet, whereas Camber had a shy heart, was a size six, with big feet and whiskers.
I had been living in Camber's pond for a year when Felicity arrived. A year is a long time for a toad, and a long time to spend in anyone's company without coming to understand them a little bit. Indeed it's difficult not to begin to feel some small affection—everyone's heard about hostages developing an attachment to their captors, or inmates to prison guards, or even schoolchildren to teachers. So by the time Felicity arrived I saw Camber's ill-behaviour for what it was: a defensive wariness; the actions of someone who, whenever she reaches out, her advances are repelled, met with ridicule or uncomfortable silence at best, and polite apologies at worst. I regretted the way I had treated her, dismissing her suggestion that I should treat with some suspicion Lara's excuses of working late. Camber had been looking out for my interests but I rejected her advances for a woman who didn't love me. No wonder she turned me into a toad. For once she acted not out of jealousy or resentment, but love. She wanted me to see it for myself: my wife didn't want me. As soon as I was a toad she was away on her toes. So when Felicity kissed me, turned me back into a man—into a prince no less—it was Camber I made my princess.
After the wedding we held a memorial service for Mrs Balmgrove and Jamie Pearson. Felicity adopted LouLou and moved into Number 5. By the time Camber and I got back from Honeymoon the Murakamis had built a swimming pool in their back garden. Camber refused to turn the Flight Commander back from being a heron and we often saw him wading in the shallow end of the pool during the early hours. We would spot him as we crept back up to the house, the two of us naked and shivering, having spent the night together down by the pond.
*The Murakamis had vanished from their house several months earlier, along with Flight Commander Warrington.
Story Copyright © 2008 by Lena Patten. All rights reserved.
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About the author
Lena is training to be a psychologist. She enjoys drinking gin and eating walnut and coffee cake. Her best friend Pru is a bit of a nutter.