A Story by Tonia

She had to change. There was no option. It hurt too much to be without her mother. She had to become someone else. And it worked, for a time. Until her mother came back.


The frog was dying. That was the first thing Effi found on arriving at the house. A woman leant over the tank, prodding the little thing and demanding it move. It remained oblivious, nursing its many sores. It was all strangely bleak and emotionless. The grey of winter outside must have bleached the heart from the house and its occupants. Nothing personal could ever be revealed in such a place. The woman hid herself well here. And there was such a tension in her shoulders! Effi could not see her daughter anywhere in such a person.

            ‘Verdammt,’ the woman cursed. ‘Stupid, stupid thing.’ She leaned against the tank, suddenly trembling. She whispered something but Effi’s hearing was poor in her old age. She shuffled closer. ‘I know why you’re sick’, the woman murmured. ‘It’s not meant to be this way. I know.’ As the sad voice cracked Effi heard something recognisable at last. My Rosa, there you are.

Rosalinde’s trembling stopped. Her shoulders rose and fell with a deep breath, as if she were steadying herself. And when she finally turned around Effi could see that Rosalinde was not the least bit surprised to see her. But then she’d always been difficult to surprise, her clever girl.

‘Müttie’, Rosalinde murmured, shivering anew. ‘Mein Gott.’ Such heavy tears had no place in those eyes of hers �" they had always been made of something so bright. Effi peered into the face of the one she’d left behind. It was a mask. There were no details, nothing but mouth and nose and eyes. Rosalinde hid herself well. It had slipped off for a second when she saw Effi, but she was quick to pull that blank face back on and move the frog into a box. A few words fell from her pinched mouth, something about taking the frog to a vet, and nothing more.

Effi could see the tension already devouring Rosa again. Her daughter had always had such faith in the connection between souls. To see her now, barely acknowledging the mother she’d not seen for over a year…something was very wrong. Until she could fix this Effi promised herself she would remain by her daughter’s side.


As the frog’s condition worsened Rosalinde tended to him with more delicacy than she would contribute to any conversation with her mother. Meanwhile it was all Effi could do not to rage at the state of Rosa’s life. She was a secretary! Her Rosa, her artist, sitting at a desk all day and organising someone else’s life!

            ‘I don’t understand. You always hated big cities,’ she commented. ‘Why Berlin? And where are all your paintings? And Heinrich! When is he coming home?’

            ‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ Rosalinde replied mechanically, bathing the frog in medicine.

            ‘This house is so empty, Rosa. You are so empty. Where is Heinrich? Where is your husband?’

            ‘He left me, müttie!’ she suddenly exploded. ‘Um Gottes willen! He hated what I’d done and he left me!’ She squeezed the frog in anger. It croaked in protest and she relaxed her grip, apologising to it fervently.

Effi recalled a thousand moments in Rosa’s childhood when she’d been just as gentle.

‘Why would you get this unpleasant little thing?’ she asked quietly.

‘I think he’s sweet,’ Rosalinde replied in forcibly calm voice.

‘A puppy is sweet. A frog �"’

‘Puppies don’t change,’ Rosalinde growled.

Now they were getting somewhere. ‘What was that?’

Rosalinde released a long sigh. ‘A frog…starts out as a tadpole: a tiny, ugly thing that just exists. But they grow…they become these beautiful creatures with long limbs and big smiles.’ This time she looked at Effi, who saw that those eyes were heavy again. ‘They change. That’s why I like him, müttie. He changes.’

‘And you, meine Rosa?’ Effi whispered. ‘What have you become?’

            But Rosalinde was nursing the frog again and didn’t answer.


It was dead. Rosalinde cradled the frog in her hands and pleaded for it to wake up.

‘He’s not going to, Rosa,’ Effi told her gently. It pained her to see such distress. Clearly something more than a pet had been lost. Effi thought of battles. Rosalinde sank to the floor and cradled her hands to her chest.

‘Please just bury him,’ Effi pleaded.

But Rosa had lain the frog aside: she was grasping at her own heart.

‘I give up!’ she shouted, rocking back and forth. ‘I just can’t be someone else! I’m sorry müttie!’ And as she cried Effi saw more and more of her old Rosa returning: there were the freckles Effi had counted many times; there was the scar on her forehead from the roof when Uncle Herbert had lifted her too high. There were the artist’s hands quivering with life.

‘Mein Gott,’ Effi murmured, wishing more than anything that she could hold Rosa in her arms. ‘There you are. Hush meine Liebling, I forgive you.’

‘Why are you here now, müttie?’ Rosalinde asked in absolute despair. ‘It’s been a year! There were so many times when I needed you! Why now?’

‘You know why. You tell me. Tell me why you did all this.’

Rosalinde’s heaving chest settled. Her hands remained pressed firmly against her heart. Can she feel me there the most? Effi wondered.

‘You made me who I was,’ she said quietly. ‘All my life, I had only you. And after…after you left…it hurt too much to be a part of something that was gone. I couldn’t live with just a memory of you and not feel or smell or touch you. I couldn’t belong to you anymore, müttie. Verstehen? It hurt me too much. So I had to change. Everything. All of it. But I’ve been so lonely.

‘I see meine Liebling. I see.’ Effi thought about the longest time she’d ever gone without speaking to her own mütter. Two weeks. Their fighting had never lasted long. Blood was thicker than water. That’s what her mütter had always said. You couldn’t ever wipe family away. It was like pulling a blind down on a sunny day. You mightn’t have felt the effects but the sun was still there.

            ‘You were always just behind that blind,’ Rosalinde said, stirring the silence. Effi looked at her in surprise. Yes, her Rosa had found herself again.


That night Effi sat close by as Rosalinde settled herself into bed.

‘Do you know what the funny thing is?’ Rosalinde said, bunching her pillow beneath her cheek. ‘I knew you’d be coming. As soon as the frog got sick, I knew it. Am I crazy?’

‘Nein, Rosa. You just couldn’t have let me go after all this time. You love me too much.’

‘I miss you,’ she sighed.

Effi had to be the strong one. It was where Rosa got it from. ‘I know. Hush now. Go to sleep.’

‘Will you be here in the morning?’

‘Nein. You’ll have to come see me. Bring me flowers. Petunias. Ja?’

Rosa’s voice failed her for a moment. She simply nodded.

‘Dank. Gute Nacht meine Liebling.’

‘Gute Nacht, müttie.’

Rosalinde tucked her face into the pillow and closed her eyes. She felt a kiss on her forehead, smelt marigolds and freshly churned soil �" but when she opened her eyes, Effi was gone. She felt neither relief nor sadness, just an overwhelming sense of something turning full circle. She reached across the nightstand for a pen and paper. Just in case she woke tomorrow and thought it all nothing but a dream, she wrote herself a note:

Bring petunias to müttie’s grave.




Verdammt = damn

Müttie = Mummy

Mein Gott = My God

Um Gottes willen! = For God’s sake

Meine Liebling = my Darling

Verstehen = understand

Mütter = Mother

Nein = no

Ja = yes

Dank = thanks

Gute Nacht = Good Night


© 2012 Tonia

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I love the beauty and simplicity of this. The image of yearning for that closure but unable to get until the very end is one that rings true for many. The frog was a brilliant idea, and the last line was the perfect ending. Overall, great job.

Posted 8 Years Ago


8 Years Ago

Thankyou darling, I poured so much of my own personal feelings into this story! It was an 1100 word .. read more

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Added on December 9, 2012
Last Updated on December 9, 2012
Tags: grief mourning change identity f




I'm Tonia. I need to create. It doesn't matter if it's writing my own stories or writing fanfiction or painting or making/editing videos or just doodling random thoughts into a notebook...I just love .. more..

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