If he could transform himself into anything right now, it would be sugar. He imagined himself, a five-foot-four statue of sugar cubes and Elmer's glue like the model missions she had built in fourth grade, lurching mechanically into the pull of the waves at his feet and turning their clear brine sweet. He imagined his crystalline remains glittering on the waves, flaming in the glow of the crayola-spill sunset.

*Screw frogs, and spells, and charms,* Chris thought. *You can turn your enemies into crap, but you save the good stuff for yourself. I want to melt like that, mama ocean, and just be part of you. *

But that would be the easy way out. He turned and climbed back up the dunes, throwing himself down behind one to build his Beltane fire.

The witchy holiday was supposed to be a joyous, sex-filled celebration of love, but his girlfriend had left him after the eleventh fight and fourth shot of testorestone. Said she could already her Chris' voice lowering and it freaked her out. They had one last kiss goodbye; Mimi broke off, shuddering at imagined stubble, and walked away.

*It's not my fault, any more than it's my fault I'm bi,* Chris thought, twisting a dry stick into the sand roughly. He ground another one in even more deeply and surveyed his work.

*In a way, it's her damn fault. She was the one who showed me a world where it was okay to be butch and strong and be mistaken for a guy by naive het couples and be understood and loved for that - as long as I was really pissed when I was mistaken for a guy.* When she started feeling thrilled by it, the same way she was thrillled when she first read about women who loved other women.... when she sought out the "sir"s and the "young man"s and was proud of it, she knew she was fucked.

Chris tried not to cry. He had done so much crying in the past few days, and it seemed useless to add any more salt water to the scene. Distantly, he felt rough handfuls of sand pouring through his fingers as they numbly scooped away at the dunes. Another sprinkling of twigs, and the nascent fire was ready for flame.

Spirit and body reluctantly rejoined as Chris traced the whorls of a bit of driftwood, pressing his fingers into its soft curves. *My trans identity has been marked and carved by Mimi, he realized. There can't be many men out there who know their gender is different early on because they've already felt the rumblings in their sexuality. Maybe there are, but they're sure not telling me if any of them knew they were trans because they'd come out before and knew the "symptoms."*

*I didn't wander through my childhood going, "Mommy, I want to be a boy and wear trousers. When will my penis grow in?" But I knew the feeling of finding my people, and when I felt it again at 22, it was a clue to look within.*

Chris broke the wavy layers of driftwood apart, slipping long fingers into a crack and splitting it neatly along its inner ripples. He tossed it on the fire and struck a match, the only light on the beach sputtering into life. It slowly settled in and fed on the pile of branches and split boards. A few of his covenmates had called him warlock: both "male witch" as the public used the term, and "traitor, betrayer" as it had been forever used in the Pagan community. Rather than break the coven apart, he'd gone solitary. Now it was just ritualized, token offterings to a Goddess Chris no longer understood. Well, the path of a Witch was never an easy one.

Pressing one hand against the sandy Earth to call Her as witness just as Buddha had when tormented by the deceptive Mara, Chris took a deep breath. This was it - in true solitary fashion, he would do it all alone.

Soaking in the starlight, drawing energy from the strong Earth and crashing sea, Chris reached out and touched the fire.

He screamed, allowing just one short burst of sound before quenching the pain with huge waves of energy and willpower. Then his endorphins kicked in, and he was able to tell his fingers that it was just like slipping slowly into a very hot bath.

Focusing everything on the fire, he slowly pushed his whole left hand in, then his arm, watching the way the hairs burned separately like birthday candles.

Letting go of the beach, he stood up, face contorting with pain, and jumped into the bonfire.

Flaming twigs and sparks scattered, and the fire reached up his legs and raced to eat him alive. Chris drank the energy in, reveling for one moment in the feeling of becoming an elemental power. Then he directed the energy, pulling it up around himself, twisting and turning it like taffy. He was sacrificing himself to the Goddess, to the universe, always one with it but now surrendering the parts of himself that had clung to a myth of separation. Burning them all up, till all that was left was crackling and sparks. As the last of them burnt away, all the wrongness disappeared and he became pure bliss and fumes.