She didn’t know why she did it, but it’s working, so she’s glad she did.
It came over her like a fever, and maybe it was a fever. Maybe the mushrooms that she was growing weren’t the kind that you were supposed to eat, no matter what the box said. Maybe someone poured something into the terra cotta planter at a party, and it changed everything.
She ate the sandwich, and then she felt hot. She went outside and found a tree with stringy, supple bark, which she tore off. She blackened birch twigs with a lighter that she had in her pocket, she tied them together and used a black tulip from her neighbor’s garden. She crushed star anise seeds from her potpourri into the bulb, and then wilted the petals with steam.
Then she set the twig-tulip-anise creation into the planter and poured in half of a Miller High Life to water it, and suddenly she got twice as many tips at work, the acne at her hairline was gone, and she was getting much better at latte art.
She didn’t know who to tell about her fever, so she spoke quietly into her own make-up mirror reflection, speaking the oddities of her behavior to her own self, then closing the mirror to seal them away.
At parties, and on dates, she was normal. She was beautiful. She wanted to tell someone about what was happening to her, but she couldn’t. When she started manipulating airways to bring a sprightly spring breeze into her apartment everyday, she had no one to tell. The same with the potion that she made that made her eyes brighter, deeper, harder to look away from.
She tried to tell Catherine.
“Have you noticed anything different about me, Cat?”
They were out at a hip place in downtown where the drinks were 15 dollars. Nina was buying.
“You look amazing. Is that dress new?”
People were doing this a lot. When she puffed her lips, just to try it one day, just to see if she could, everyone complimented her smile, or the curls in her hair. They were always just missing it. Cat was seeing all of her, seeing the otherworldly glow of Nina and attributing it to a dress Nina had worn hundreds of times, that Cat had given her in 8th grade. It was amazing that it still fit her.
“Yes! Sorry, I’m fishing for compliments. I just wanted to know what you thought…” Nina felt powerful and being powerful made her feel alone.
She was trusting her instincts, though. When she wanted to make something happen, she would make it happen. It was a strange, exhilarating ability. Every time she resorted to shooting sparks from her hands to light her ancient, broken stove, she would suddenly wake, milliseconds later, to realize what she’d done and how she’d done it and she’d think that something had taken over her.
She liked it, though. All of the power that she suddenly had. She didn’t know what to do with it.
One golden morning, she woke up and whispered her thoughts into her make-up mirror and was sad she was alone. She didn’t think it was possible to change this by burning the right amount of cardamom, but she didn’t think it was impossible to change. She got up and made coffee, scribbling ideas dressed in her underthings, feeling like she was the master of the small universe around her. The cafe where she worked, the apartment where she lived, the places that she frequented. Every time she needed a book from the library, it was there. The bakery was never out of the popular cupcake she liked.
She pulled on sweatpants and a hoodie and chewed on the strings that cinched the hood shut.
She poured rose water into a glass, just a tad, and mashed lemon rind and turbinado sugar with a marble pestle. She added a bit of her own hair, her own spit. She tried to spit like a lady, but discovered it was nearly impossible.
Nina took the contents of the glass and poured it into a cocktail shaker, added gelatin and a man’s name, a frequent customer to the cafe. She had named her plastic dinosaur after him. She wrote it on a napkin, and ripped the napkin to shreds, and tossed it into the cocktail shaker, with ice, and dehydrated malted milk, and crushed baker’s chocolate.
Then she added alka seltzer and water and she shook the entire thing until her hands had frozen to the cocktail shaker. She shook until the ice melted, until the cocktail shaker was losing its cool, until her hands were tired from holding it and her biceps and triceps were burning. She spoke while she was shaking, but she didn’t remember what she said. No one would be able to repeat it, even if they were listening.
She poured her concoction into a jam jar, then sealed it in boiling water. She wrote “love potion” on the side with her favorite color of nail polish, and then she stuck it in the fridge.
It was an odd color, the love potion. Sort of a grey-ish pink. She wanted to try it, but she knew it wasn’t for her. She had to give it to someone else. They had to drink it, and then see her, and then they would fall in love. She didn’t know how long it would last. Maybe, if she wanted to keep the love lasting, she would have to make more. She could make it in pill form.
All the possibilities in all the world felt right at her reach, and the air around her fingertips crackled and sparked. She giggled, and she wrapped her hoodie-clad arms around herself and whistled and sang a tune from a Disney movie. Things were good, and great, and going her way.
She was the master of her universe, and it felt… nice.