“I got it!”
“No Anne, wait! Come back!”
It all happened in a blur.
It had been a windy day as they traveled towards Newtopia, and the Plantar family was keeping one eye on the sky in case a storm started brewing. The family was sitting together on the top of the Fwagon when a large gust of wind took everyone by surprise, and Sprig didn’t have enough time to grab his hat before it flew off his head towards a small lake.
Anne reached for the hat, but it fluttered just out of her grasp. In her frustration, she jumped off the Fwagon to chase after the hat.
“Anne, come back!” Hop Pop shouted desperately after her.
“Anne! Anne, wait!” Sprig called.
“Is she doing what I think she’s doing?” Polly asked in horror.
However, Anne didn’t seem to hear their panicked cries as she continued after the hat, which had landed in the middle of the small lake, floating just on top of the water’s surface.
Sprig’s heart sank as the unusual scent in the air confirmed exactly what that water was.
To their horror, Anne splashed without hesitation into the water. It only came up to her stomach, but that was enough to incapacitate anyone.
“It’s too late…” Hop Pop breathed.
But then… Anne didn’t slow down.
“I got it!” Anne shouted triumphantly as she turned to show her family Sprig’s hat, which was clutched tightly in her grasp. She was grinning, looking completely unharmed, until she saw the expressions on the Plantar’s faces. Her grin faltered. “Wh-what?” Anne asked nervously as she glanced around the lake. “Is there some sort of monster? O-or giant leeches, or something else I don’t know about?”
“No, just… just get out of the water quickly,” Hop Pop said, his voice shaking. “Before your skin starts burning and you dehydrate completely.”
“I… what?” Anne glanced at the water in confusion.
“That’s a salt lake, Anne! Didn’t you hear Hop Pop when he was talking about this area?” Polly asked. “He said there were naturally forming salt lakes all over!”
Anne seemed to be processing this information, her face transforming from fear to contemplation. To the Plantar’s horror, she lifted up a finger, dipped it in the water, and then brought it to her tongue.
The frog family gave a collective shudder.
“Hey, it is salt water!” Anne said brightly, and miraculously, unharmed.
Hop Pop sighed to himself. “Frog… I swear, she’s taken more years off my life than both Polly and Sprig combined.”
“Salt doesn’t bother you?” Sprig asked with an impressed grin.
“Nope, in fact, back home we have this huge body of water called an ocean that’s entirely salt water. We would swim in it all the time. I know snails don’t like salt, but frogs?” Anne asked as she started to make her way back to shore.
“We need water to live, Anne,” Hop Pop explained in an exasperated voice. “Salt sucks all the water out of our skin, burning and eventually killing us if we are exposed to too much.”
“Right, and my skin is different than yours,” Anne said thoughtfully. “Salt water doesn’t really burn us, unless we get in an open wound or it gets in our eyes, but even then it doesn’t kill us.”
Anne stepped out of the lake, water dripping from her clothes. She began to wring out Sprig's hat.
“Huh…” Anne continued thoughtfully. “I guess that explains why I couldn't find any salt for the Thai food I was making at Stumpy’s restaurant. I guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t able to find any to add to the food, huh?” She chuckled awkwardly
The Plantars stared at her, mouths hanging open in horror.
“You put it in your food?!” Polly shouted, her eyes wide.
“Yeah, it tastes good,” Anne said with a shrug.
“You… you terrify us sometimes, Anne,” Hop Pop said with a shake of his head. “We love you, but you terrify us.”
“I especially love you because you're terrifying!” Poly added with a grin.
Anne frowned. “You know, out of everyone in this world, I count on you guys to not treat me like a monster.”
Silence followed Anne’s comment as the Plantars glanced at each other.
“Aww, Anne, we don’t see you that way,” Sprig said as he jumped off the Fwagon and landed in front of her. “I think it’s cool that you have super strong skin and are immune to salt! Who else can walk into the death lake and get my hat back for me?”
Anne sighed. “I know you guys don’t see me that way, I’m sorry. I guess meeting people on the road that freak out at the sight of me is bringing back bad memories from when I was considered a monster back in Wartwood.”
Hop Pop scooped Polly up into his hands and hopped off the Fwagon, landing next to Sprig. “No Anne, I should apologize. I know you're sensitive to that kind of talk, and you have a right to be. You weren’t treated properly because of how different you are.”
“Yeah, sorry Anne,” Polly apologized. “If it helps, I don’t see you as a monster. You’re more like a super-cool warrior!”
Anne smiled. “That does help, and I guess I really can’t blame any frog for being frightened of me. I’m a foreign creature that adds a deadly mineral to her food just for taste. Not to mention how much taller and stronger I am compared to frogs. If a creature like that showed up in my world, I would freak.”
“Perhaps some fear was justified at first,” Hop Pop agreed. “But once frogs get to know you, it’s easy to tell you’re the furthest thing from a monster, Anne.”
“Yeah, we’re lucky to have you in our family, tough skin and all!” Sprig agreed.
“Aww, thanks guys.” Anne moved to hug the Plantars, but froze when they took a sudden step backwards, fear flashing across their faces.
“Yer still covered in salt water, Anne,” Hop Pop reminded her with a grimace. “Maybe we can continue this family hug moment when you’re not going to burn our skin off?”
Anne chuckled guiltily. “Oops. Yeah… good plan… good plan.”