by Zoe Chater
As Essi takes another step, and another, she pats each thigh with her tiny hands, squeezes a little. Just to check.
“Nope!” she chirrups to herself, and, standing straight again, she plods a little further into the garden. Mums, following behind, share an amused smile and continue to talk. As the words jump forward to meet her, Essi only catches a few. “Funny.” “Mittens.” “Munchkin.”
Essi taps each foot down purposefully, making firm thuds with the soles of her wellies on the damp ground. “Nope!” No signs yet, she thinks, and treads more softly now, though still in bits and starts. She’s scanning the grass and borders intently, spotting little curious treasures. Fallen catkins from the hazel tree are funny, crunchy caterpillar-like things that fall apart when squeezed. She wants a few for the pocket of her grey bubble-coat. Blossoming snowdrops are lovely little lamps peering down into the soil, and she wants to pick off flower heads with delicate fingers. However, beneath yellow mittens, her hands can only settle for stroking her finds gently until little flecks of dirt catch in the wool.
“Hop! Skip! Jump!” Essi shouts suddenly, and starts to jump dramatically, nearly toppling over as she lands. Mums are laughing. Mums don’t know that Essi, still testing out her legs, is expecting at any moment to begin a magical transformation. This is, after all, her very first Leap Day. Mum Emma told her yesterday as she was tucking her in, and again this morning, Mum Alice was making breakfast and said “Happy Leap Day!” Essi has wild and detailed visions of what’s to come. She will, for one day, develop the great, strong, muscular legs of a kangaroo. Or, possibly, she will sprout funny spindly elbow-legs like a grasshopper. Or perhaps from the arches of her feet curls of springs will grow and she will bounce on them like Tigger’s tail. Soon enough she will bound up higher than the trees, the house, into the clouds, and look the birds right in the face.
As she nears the pond, her leaping vision is brushed away by a slight rustling sound. She fixes her eyes towards it, near the green fuzzy rock at the water’s edge. She spots a touch of movement in the greenery and lets out the tiniest “Ooh!” before instinctively muffling her mouth with the damp wool of her hands. Mums, too, stop still in mild anticipation.
The ferns waft and there is a wriggling from between the leaves. A muddy-coloured friend hops out into view and then again once, twice towards Essi, stopping inches from her feet. He has wet skin and bug eyes and a fleshy, throbbing chin.
“Aah!” she squeals into her glove, “A frog!” The startled critter propels himself off, displaying his magnificent hind legs and soaring into the pond with a splash. “Look, the legs!” It all makes sense now, Essi thinks, quite pleased with herself. She’s never seen a leap frog before.
Zoe Chater is a physics teacher by day, wannabe writer and mushroom enthusiast by night.
Our Reader said:
This story is very cute while also utilizing the title in a humorous and playful manner.