Freya's first concoction was made from the dregs of dinner: crust and bones, clumps of ice, watered down soda, parsley and orange slice garnish. She mixed the mess together in a big glass and pretended to taste. Freya's dad laughed through his nose and dared his wife to take a sip. Without a word, she grabbed a straw and Freya watched in awe as she slurped the whole thing. This proves your mom's a witch, her dad said, smiling.
Her friend Silvia suggested making potions to get back at boys. Freya didn't believe in white magic or black magic—it was all grey, grey as the wet Florida skies that gave them the excuse to stay inside. Freya loved the idea because grey was the color of possibility, the drab herald before the rainbow.
Once boys turned from bullies to salivating beasts, Silvia thought they should make a love potion together. Let's try it out on a girl instead, Freya suggested. But what would be the point of that, Silvia wondered, raising an eyebrow. Freya shrugged. As they gathered ingredients from around the house, Silvia found cinnamon in the kitchen. Freya immediately smacked it out of her friend's hand. Never add cinnamon, she said. Do you want to kiss him or kill him?
When Silvia got all the boys she wanted, Freya found herself alone. She collected carnivorous plants and fed them bits of roast beef. She researched the special properties of herbs and grew them for her own recipes. Without saying anything to anyone, she decided to test a new concoction on Silvia. She was very precise with her ingredients. She kept her room dark and waited for a storm to brew outside. Maybe there was black magic after all, she thought. Or maybe it was the perfect grey: the kind of soft patina that matched Silvia's eyes.
Freya looked at herself in the mirror, wishing her body would stop developing as it was. She could've been an illustrative example in the dictionary for the word buxom. She remembered when her chest was flat as a boy's, all those wonderfully sharp angles.
Despite her dad's protests, she decided to cut her hair short. Who cares what he thinks, her mom said. I think this new look is very becoming. That's exactly what Freya wanted more than anything: to become. A potion with a lot of salt would help, she thought. As she'd learned, salt was commonly used for both cleansing and protection.
Silvia stopped talking to Freya. She had a tall boyfriend now and wanted to get into a prestigious college with a top notch accounting program. Freya had only herself and just wanted to stop feeling like a parasite in a woman's body.
She searched online for a recipe to make homemade stink bombs. Adding in her own herbal mix made them extra pungent. Setting them off in school was easy, but so was getting suspended. When her mom picked her up, she asked her why she did what she did. But Freya couldn't answer.
Freya could be a tall boyfriend in her game online. In a cave with glimmering crystals the size of lanterns, she found a girl named Raisa who'd been poisoned. Thinking nothing of it, Freya administered the necessary antidote. Once recovered, Raisa landed a finishing blow to the lobster-scorpion hybrid that almost killed her. Its stinger fetched a high price on the online market.
They became a team: Raisa, a bare-knuckled brawler, and Freya, a lanky alchemist. Together, they toppled towering golems and slayed sky-crowned dragons. Raisa didn't know Freya's real identity, which is just what Freya wanted. They role-played as a knighted couple, falling asleep to their computer screens long into the night.
Freya spent most of her in-game currency to purchase a promise ring for Raisa. Their avatars shared a kiss on an island crested by rainbows. The ring gave them both extra protection and hearts revolved around their heads for days.
Her mom kept telling her how she wasn't the reason for the divorce, but Freya knew she certainly didn't make the situation easier. Her dad thought them both too crazy, too unreasonable. Freya was very confused and her mom was an enabler, he said. A witch you might say, her mom retorted.
Freya mixed together a truth serum and slipped it in her dad's wine at dinner. She was surprised when he didn't reveal his secret second life. There was no second family in Arizona, no daughter that loved dolls with bonnets, no son that ran track. It must have all just been a dream she had. Regardless, the ending was the same.
Freya began drinking protein shakes and building up her arms. As it turned out, Raisa knew her real identity for a while and didn't need an explanation. She was a good cyber sleuth. You're no different to me now, Raisa told her. Freya cried and felt silly for all the hours she spent imagining their falling out once she told her the truth. She was even more surprised when Raisa helped her find online support groups for people with similar identity issues. She sent her videos about hormone treatment, voice training, and before and after surgeries. There was so much to think about, but for now, Freya just wanted a new name.
Freya became Mel, which wasn't short for anything. Mel: meaning honey, meaning the sweetest ingredient no one should ever waste. Only good magic and good medicine came from honey.
The last concoction Mel made was not a love potion. Surprising herself, it wasn't a poison either. It was a fertilizer. Raisa suggested they start a vegetable garden when they moved in together. One step at a time, Mel told her. Her becoming was just beginning. She no longer had to roleplay—she knew that, someday, what was on the outside could reflect what was within. After this rebirth, growing into her real self would take patience. Yes, Mel thought, a garden would be perfect.
lives in South Florida. His work has previously appeared in Permafrost, Best Gay Stories 2015, PANK, Corium
and elsewhere. He was a finalist for the 2016 Lascaux Prize in Poetry.