There it is: The hawthorn tree inside the toadstool circle. It took me weeks to find it the first time. The trip back would have been much easier if I could have used the GPS on my phone and marked the location the first time – but it seemed unwise to come with a camera in hand.
I unzipped my backpack and removed the jar of honey and bottle of dandelion wine. I left the backpack on the ground and approached the hawthorn slowly. I knelt just outside the mushroom circle and laid the gifts on the ground.
I was still for a time, just observing the environment. I imagined two little hands taking hold of one of the red berries, and gently plucking it from the branch, which would remain peaceful and motionless, not having been tugged out of place.
After I don’t know how long, I closed my eyes, inhaled deeply, and prepared the words in my mouth. It was hard – they seemed stuck inside my stomach. I exhaled, then took in another breath, this time through my mouth
As I began to speak, my eyes come open, and she was there. With me kneeling, she was just above my eye-level. Logically, that meant she was shorter than any woman I’d ever known, but it didn’t seem that way at all – she seemed to fill the whole forest in her magnificence. Her skin was bark-colored, and her hair purest white. She was wearing a dress that seemed to made of grass and leaves, which went touched the ground and seemed to blend in with the foliage around all her. Her eyes were turquoise and seemed too big for her head, except they were the exact right size for her head.
Her mouth formed a slight smile as she looked at me, my mouth open and wordless.
“Well,” she said, “what is it you have to say to me?”
Her accent was beautiful. The vowels sounded vaguely Irish, but the rhythm and melody of her words were more like Italian, and the consonants somewhat Slavic.
My mouth was still open. Once more I felt the words oozing around in my stomach, and I pressed my teeth into lower lip.
She was still slightly smiling and looked like might be about to laugh. I looked down and said “I’m… very happy to be here in front of you. And—”
I stopped and looked back up at her. Her mouth had formed into a full smile. She was so beautiful. How could I be speaking to her?
I closed my eyes. The world was still for maybe half a minute before I felt a little hand on my should. I opened my eyes, and hers were now inches from my own.
“…And?” she asked.
I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment and then let them back open.
“…and I was hoping you could help me with something.”
She turned around and retreated closer to the tree, pressing her left hand into the bark. Not looking back, she asked:
“And what was it you were needed help with?”
I tried to answer.
And then my head dropped to the ground, narrowly missing one of the thankfully-uncrushed mushrooms.
I felt nothing but the beating of my heart, and then her hand on my head, stroking my hair.
“It’s alright, dear.” she said. “I’m three hundred and sixteen years old. I know what your people are like, and whatever it is you want to ask for, I’ve heard it all before.”
I got up and stared looked into her deep, turquoise eyes.
“I… was hoping… I was hoping you could turn me… into a…”
I close my eyes.
“Into a girl.”
A moment later I opened my eyes to meet her squinting gaze.
“You want me to turn you into a girl.” she said, somehow stumbling gracefully over each word. She looked toward the tree and then back at me.
“Are you not already a girl, then?”
“Well I… I mean… sort of,” I said, stumbling over my words the normal way.
She blinked at me.
I sighed and stood up. I put my hands together and looked down, seeing the ugly way that the veins bulged from them.
“I’m a girl.” I said, “but I don’t have a girl’s body.”
The woman blinked again.
“If you’re a girl, and that’s your body, doesn’t that mean it’s a girl’s body?”
I sighed again.
“In a way. But my body isn’t like other girls’ bodies. They’re almost all smaller than me. They’re less hairy. They’re less… ugly. I don’t know how to describe it, but my hands and face and everything just seem misshapen and ugly. Their voices are higher than mine. They have parts that I don’t.”
I touched my right hand just above my heart, then let it slide down my body into resting position. The woman had her head tilted to the side.
“Most of them will be able to have a baby one day, and I can’t.” I finished.
She stared at me, and I stared back.
“So what you’re saying,” she began, “is that you want another girl’s body.”
I put my head into my hands.
“Is this going to be one of those things where you grant my wish but twist it so it becomes something horrible? I don’t want to, like, steal some other girl’s body. I just want the things about my body I said before to be different, like they are for other girls.”
“I’m not trying to trick you,” she said. “I want you to get what it is you really want.”
“Thank you” I said.
“It’s nothing.” she said, taking the jar and bottle from the ground. “A little magic is no more trouble for me than bringing your little human-craft gifts was to you.” She went back to the tree with the gifts, disappearing into it in a way I couldn’t describe or understand.
She was gone for about ten minutes. This time I couldn’t pay any attention to my surroundings, all I could think about was what she was going to do when she returned.
Finally she reappeared. She was holding a small wooden figure. Approaching me, she announced “If you’re sure you want a girl’s body, then this is what you’ll be wanting.”
“Yes, I’m definitely sure” I said, taking the figure from her hand.
The features were somewhat rough, but it was clearly shaped into a human body. There were two heads merged at the back, like in depictions of Janus. Likewise, each side was the front of a body, one apparently male, the other female.
“All you have to do is take this with you and turn it over in your hand as you walk. By the time you arrive at home, you’ll have the body you long for.”
“That’s… that’s it?” I said. It seemed impossible that after all this time, all those tears, everything I wanted was just one walk home away.
“Yes, my dear, that’s it,” she said, smiling.
I knelt forward to hug her, but then thought better of it.
“I… uh… do you hug?”
She laughed. “It is more intimate among my people than among yours. But I am fond of your habit for it.”
She opened her arms and I took her inside them. It was the first time I internalized how much smaller than me she was.
The walk home was an hour and half. Normally, I would be getting tired of walking by now, but today my body felt perfectly light, as if the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I came across a fallen tree in my path, and rather than go around it, I had the energy to climb over, even without easy use of of my left hand, which was carrying the talisman. It was a bit strange, but suddenly I was beginning to appreciate my current body’s physical build – I wondered whether it would hurt to lose it.
For the first half-hour or so, the feeling of lightness was the only thing I noticed out of the ordinary. That was until I had to push aside some vines – and I saw that my hand looked… pretty. The vine swung back and almost thwacked me when I pulled back to get a better look at my hands, passing the talisman between them to compare. They seemed smaller, daintier than before – especially the joints and knuckles. The small amount of hair was gone, and the veins didn’t stick out at all.
I looked up and down my body to see if anything else had changed, but I didn’t notice anything. I had the feeling that my feet might have changed too – but I was in no place to be taking off my shoes. So I pushed away the vine once more and continued on my way.
I started to feel dizzy. I closed my eyes and put my hands in my head. When I opened them, the world confronting me seemed different. Bigger. But of course… it was really me that was smaller. It was hard to tell, but I could have lost 8 or 9 inches.
Regaining my composure, I moved on. It was another 80 or so rotations of the talisman later that I noticed something else going on: My nipples were starting to feel sore. Even the texture of my shirt rubbing against them was enough to cause to cause a rough pain – rendering me in that moment a masochist.
I actually considered taking off my shirt – a freedom which in a short time I would lose for life. I pulled on the bottom corner before thinking better of it, but felt my heart flutter when I saw that the hair around my belly button was now gone, and the whole area seemed smoother and the muscles less defined.
It was around that point that I noticed my body becoming weaker. In not much more than fifteen minutes, I was feeling tired, and the dizziness was returning. I took my seat on a nearby rock that seemed suited to it, and I put my head in my hands.
It was hard to say without being able to see it, but just from the touch I got the feeling that my face was a bit softer than before. I ran my hand from my under my ear, along my jawline, and down to my chin – the path was now curved.
At this point I was feeling a heavy beating in my chest – I was going to be a girl! And with my chest in mind, I realized that the soreness I felt before was bringing forth its results.
Then fear struck me. Sitting on the rock, I was no longer moving. What if the spell stopped working? She said I had to walk home – she didn’t say what would happen if I stopped. I sprang to my feet as if an electric jolt had run through me and I hustled forward.
I tried to move fast, making up for the time I’d spent sitting still. It was getting harder, though. My hips hurt, and suddenly walking felt different. I had to balance myself differently – it wasn’t just my hips, it was my shoulders as well. I turned my head back and forth, like I was looking for the angel and devil on each shoulder – and I’m pretty sure they were narrower than before.
At this point, I was perhaps ten minutes from home, the talisman dancing in my hands. And it had happened just as the woman said: I was a girl. Well, there was one part of me left unchanged… but in everything visible, it had finally happened.
Soon, My family home was in sight. I made my way out of the brambles over the cut grass, and around to the front door of the house. I entered to see Mimi seated on the floor about ten feet away, looking straight at me. It was as if she has been waiting for me. She was still for a moment, then she arched her back, lowered it, and then made her way toward me. She sniffed around my feet, then looked up at me. I smiled, and she seemed to decide I was OK, and began rubbing against my legs. I lowered myself to pet her.
“Hi sweetie.” I said in my new, girl’s voice. If she could still tell it was me, she didn’t react at all to my new sound, but she did jump up on my leg, sniffing at the talisman. I held it out of reach but stroked her head with my other hand.
Taking leave of Mimi, I made my way to the bathroom. I’d been gone for a while, but besides that I had a lot I needed to check on.
I opened the door and then immediately shut it again, “I’m so sorry!” I squealed. then putting my head into my hands and breathing heavily. There had been a strange girl in the bathroom.
Who was she? We almost never had guests, and no one but me was even supposed to be home. I went about ten feet down the hallway and crouched to pet Mimi, who appeared just when I needed her.
I gave her my affection for about five minutes before turning back to the door. Who was that girl? I swallowed and went over to knock.
“Excuse me?” I said.
“I’m sorry to have walked in on you, but I’m just wondering who you are?”
Still nothing. I knocked again. I’m not sure what I expected.
Then a thought came to my mind. It seemed like it couldn’t possibly be true, but… maybe.
I knocked again and said “I’m going to open the door unless you say something.”
I breathed in an opened the door.
The girl was still there.
The girl was still there, but this time I didn’t recoil on seeing her – and I looked long enough to realize that she was inside the mirror.
She was my reflection.
She was very pretty. She looked just the way I wished I could have. Well, except for her clothes. She was an dull gray hoodie and boy’s jeans too large for her body.
Her hair was a messy dirty blonde, but the emphasis no longer seemed to fall on the “dirty” It didn’t belong to a scruffy, longish-haired boy anymore – instead it was on a pretty, normal-looking girl.
The sight of her was overwhelming, but at the same time it felt… normal. While I had just gotten everything I wanted, some part of my mind was thinking “we’ve seen a pretty girl before: nothing out of the ordinary.” It felt weirdly anticlimactic.
I unbuttoned my jeans and pulled them down. Investigating, I saw just what I had expected, and just what I had wanted.
I sat down on the toilet and tried to pee. I say “try” because it seemed I had relearn how to do it. The muscles were in a different place. It took some time, but figured it out.
I got up, washed my hands, and them made my way up to my room. I went to the toy chest full of stuffed animals I had refused to let my mom throw away. I dug through the bunnies and beanie babies and at the bottom I found it.
It was my dress. It was the only piece of girl’s clothing I owned.
I stripped down to my underwear, which now seemed disgusting against my female body. Then I slipped on the dress. My body was now slightly too small for it, whereas before it had been slightly too large, especially around the shoulders, but pretty much everywhere but the bust.
With it on, I did the mandatory little spin, then looked at how it fell on my new body. I looked down between my legs and felt relieved to see no bulge there. Except… well… it was relieving, but it also didn’t feel quite like I expected. My head flashed with the images of Ken and Barbie dolls. Then it started to hurt a little, and I felt the need to lie down.
And shortly afterward, when I should have been celebrating the best thing that ever happened to me, I fell asleep.
I woke up to the sound of tires churning gravel in the driveway. I jumped onto my feet and ran over to the mirror. My hair was all messed up, so I started brushing it as I heard the front door open. Next I heard my mom moving around on the first floor, and then her voice calling up to me:
“████████? I got three leftover pieces of pie, do you want any?”
I looked at my bedroom door, took some deep breaths… and then didn’t say anything. I turned my face towards the mirror, then back to the door, and then into my heads. It stayed there for a short time before I heard a knock on bedroom door.
Still I couldn’t answer. Then the door opened.
I looked up at her.
“I… Who are you?”
I breathed heavily and stared.
“Are you…” she trailed off, as if she couldn’t believe her eyes. Finally, I made myself say something:
"Yes mom, it’s me, ████████. But I was hoping you could call me Mona now.
“Of course, dear.” my mom said. “Mona.”
“But… how did you do this? You like like a different person?”
It was a questioned I knew I had to prepare for. I didn’t want to send people looking for my benefactor – not only because I was grateful, but because I didn’t want to find myself turned into a toad, or something. So I gave the most believable answer I could think of.
“I ordered estrogen online, and I’ve been trying to hide the effects. Until now.”
My mom stared at me, with a hint of skepticism in her eye. But she seemed to dismiss it, saying “I’m proud of you for finding this out about yourself. But… why didn’t you tell us earlier? We would have helped you. Getting drugs that way seems risky.”
“I was scared,” I said, looking away.
My mom came in for a hug. “I’m sorry sweetie. Things are going to be better now. We’ll make sure of it.”
I went to bed that night with beautiful thoughts in my head.
But also ugly ones.
I had been so ugly before… and I wasn’t anymore. But the feeling was still there. The same feeling that I had cried myself to sleep with so many times. No… not the same feeling. It was similar, but that dissonant chord that had been playing in my head for so long had another note added to it. What was it? Had the spell somehow been undone? I put my hands over my breasts. They were still there.
I got out of bed and looked into my tiny bedroom mirror. I still saw a pretty, tired-out girl.
“I’m Mona” I said to myself.
But it felt like a lie. Somehow, it felt like even more of lie than it did when I was ████████. The little piece of Mona that was there before… I couldn’t find her. Mona had been whisked away to somewhere in a world hidden behind a hawthorn.
“That girl… she’s not me.” I whispered, tears forming in my eyes.
The boy I had been before wasn’t me either. But he was a different kind of not me… He was a wrong version of me. But this girl… she was not me at all. She was just a totally alien person. She was so beautiful. She was everything I wanted to be. But she was what I was not. What I was not, even when wearing her body. Her breasts were a weight on my chest.
I cried myself to sleep once more. It would be the last time.
I was getting better at this. It was a few hours in the woods before I reached the hawthorn. The woman seemed to appear in front of the tree just as it came into my view, as if she had been waiting for me.
“Changed your mind, dear?” she asked, smiling.
“Yes.” I said. “I don’t understand it. This girl – this body. She’s everything I wanted to be. But I’m not her.”
The woman nodded.
“Transformation is a tricky sort of magic, and doubly so for those of your species, whose minds were fashioned for a single form. Your request was one of the milder ones. I’ve had your folk ask to be turned into all kinds of things. One wanted to be a talking teacup. If they weren’t to begin with, most of those who transform go insane.”
She looked into the distance, momentarily in another time. There was a short silence, which I broke.
“I suppose that all makes sense, but… I’ve always wanted a body like this. My old one felt like it was wrong too. I thought I was wired to have a girl’s body.”
She huffed. “That’s why I told you dear: You already had a girl’s body.”
“But… no I didn’t,” I said. “Anyone who looked at it would see a boy’s body, not a girl’s.”
She put her hands on her hips. “I saw that it was a girl’s body.”
“Well, yes,” I answered “But you’re… magic. You can pick up on things humans can’t. And when we see someone who’s body is like that, we see a boy.”
“Dear… you must know that among your people there are many girls who have bodies like yours.” She looked disappointed in me.
“There are… but… still.” I tried to think of a good way to phrase my thought, but didn’t succeed. I continued:
“A lot of people don’t see them as girls, even after transition medically.”
“Do you?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.
“Do I? Well, yes,” I answered. “But that’s only because of my weird experience with gender. A lot of people still won’t.”
“If you’re a girl,” she said slowly, “and if you can see bodies like yours as girls’ bodies, why couldn’t you see your own body as a girl’s body, no matter what others think?”
“Well…” I said, ruffling my brow, “because… I don’t know. I just can’t.”
“Dear,” she said. “How old are you?”
“And what have you tried to help you see your body as a girl’s body?”
“I, uh… well, I bought a dress I wear in secret sometimes.”
“Is that all?”
“And I… uh… I went looking for a fairy so I could wish for a girl’s body.”
“A body that was not your own.”
“Yes, I guess so.”
“Dear, do you see what you need?”
“Maybe… I need my old body back. And I need to transition the normal way. I already came out to my parents. My mom said she would help me get HRT properly. But then there’s school. And clothes. And makeup. And… ahhh! It’s so scary! It’s going to be so hard.”
“It is, dear. But not harder than tracking down a fairy and changing yourself with magic. You’re very clever and very brave… even if you don’t realize it. You can do it.”
“Thank you.” I said. “But… ok. What do I need to do to get my old body?”
“Do you still have what I gave you?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said showing her the wooden figure.
“It will be easier to return your body to its natural form than it was to change it. If you just turn it over 7-times counter-clockwise, the spell will be reversed.”
I gulped, but did as she said.
While the changes before had all come gradually and one-at-a-time, they were reverted all it once. It was as if everything snapped back into place like a rubber band. I was stunned for a moment, and then all of a sudden my veiny hands, my body hair, my broad shoulders, my stature – all of it was back.
Looking myself over, I still felt the crushing ugliness of my features – but there was something I could see in them that I hadn’t appreciated before. While I had a lot of work to do before I could feel good about my body, at least it was my body. I looked back up at the woman and took a deep breath.
“I guess magic can’t do everything for us,” I said.
“Not everything…” she said, her tone bouncing up a down. “…but it can still do something for you here.”
She disappeared into the tree, and then reappeared in an instant. She was carrying a leafy garment that looked sort of in-between a shirt and a dress. She laid it in my arms.
“This tunic will highlight everything you can love about your body. If again you should feel like there’s nothing you can do but replace it altogether – put it on and you’ll see the truth”
I was kind of afraid to put it on, because it wasn’t like normal clothes – it seemed like it could fall apart at any moment. But I suppose had magic holding it together. I slipped it on over my T-shirt, and I felt a brief tingling all over my body. I looked down and right away took note of my hands.
They looked like a girl’s hands.
But they also looked the same as before. They were still a bulky, and my veins were still visible – but somehow that didn’t bother me anymore. All I could see were the hands of a girl, and that girl was me.
I gave the woman a hug far too big for her size.