Fresh Meat: Part 4

Haley’s brow furrowed. “Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.”

She took a piece of steak and a spoonful of a salad that appeared to be a mixture of corn, tomato and avocado.

“I had no idea. How did you know?” I kept my voice a little lower than normal. No need to broadcast this. Well, more than it must have been already. Haley wasn’t the only person with enhanced hearing, and Daniel couldn’t be the only person with telepathy or clairvoyance.

Hopefully everyone would be too occupied by eating and meeting people to eavesdrop on us.

Just ahead of me on this side of the buffet table, Jaclyn grabbed food without saying anything. I wondered if she was deliberately ignoring us. In her position, I would have.

Looking uncomfortable, Haley said, “Normal stuff. Increased heart rate, and smells. She smelled a little nervous, and a little um… attracted.”

“Huh. I didn’t think she was doing anything to get my attention.” I thought back over my interactions with her. I couldn’t think of any point where she’d been flirting with me. She’d only ever been friendly.

Of course, Haley had only ever been friendly, and if she had ever been flirting, I hadn’t noticed.

Bearing in mind that Haley later told me she’d been interested in me all along, that meant that… Well, it could mean anything, or nothing.

“She wasn’t flirting,” Haley said. “I really shouldn’t have said anything. People do that all the time—at least a little bit. Right now this place is a sea of pheromones.”

I thought about that. I could completely believe it.

“Wait,” I said, “you can smell pheromones consciously? That’s cool.”

She raised her eyebrow a little. “You’re not going to bug me to help you construct some kind of pheromone based weapon, are you?”

I thought about that. “Well, I hadn’t been…” I began.

“That’s two mistakes so far today,” she said, sounding more amused than bothered about it.

“Only two?” I asked.

She kicked my foot, but not hard. If she’d kicked hard, even untransformed, she probably would have broken most of its bones.

Ignoring the kick, I continued with, “Seriously though, pheromones would be a pain to work with. It’d be like Julie’s voice only without the words to direct people. I know that it worked for Alex’s stepmom before she reformed, but I’m not all that knowledgeable about human biochemistry. I’d have to do a lot before I ever got anywhere. Plus, I’d practically have to add a new lab.”

“Good,” Haley said, “Um… About Amy? Don’t tell her, okay? It would get awkward, and I wasn’t trying to do anything by mentioning it. Sometimes I forget that it’s harder for other people to notice these things, and it was so obvious to me.”

By that time, we’d filled our plates, and were about to walk back to the table when Courtney walked up to us, obviously heading toward the end of the line. She looked good—normal good, not model post-Photoshop editing good. She’d taken her shapeshifting powers a little too far after breaking up with her boyfriend, Keith, last summer.

It was actually good news. It meant that her head was probably in a much better place than last year. After running her through the power impregnator, it was good that she’d stayed that way.

She hadn’t shifted back all of the weight she’d removed, but I couldn’t blame her for that. She wore jean shorts, and a navy blue tank top.

Her nervous expression and glance to the back of the room made me wonder if something were wrong though. She asked, “Would you mind saving a seat for me?”

I looked over at our table. We’d have space. “No problem.”

She let out a breath. “Thanks. I’ll see you when I get back.”

As we sat down, joining Daniel, Izzy, Vaughn, Cassie, and Jaclyn, I asked Haley, “Do you know what that was about?”

Haley grinned at me. “Are you asking if she’s after you?”

“No, you know—“

“Good. Because she’s not.” At that point Haley stopped grinning, and looked more thoughtful as she watched Courtney walk away. “She’s upset about something. I don’t know what.”

“I don’t know either,” Daniel volunteered, which saved me the bother of asking him.

Before I could ask how he’d managed to avoid knowing, he said, “There are so many people around that I’m working to keep everyone out. Normal minds are bad enough, but the telepaths and empaths don’t have good shields either. They’re really loud.”

Izzy squeezed his hand. “Is it bad?”

Daniel shook his head. “Standing near Lee is worse. I’ll be fine.”

After that we all concentrated on eating. We were interrupted as people from last year stopped to say, “hi.” That wasn’t surprising. We were near the buffet. Practically everybody passed us. What was funny is that any time someone stayed to to say more than a few words to Daniel they were female.

That was par for the course. I’d long ago gotten used to it. He didn’t encourage anybody, and to be fair to them, the fact that he was dating Izzy wasn’t common knowledge.

Still Haley whispered, “I thought you were exaggerating,” to me after the third time. I nodded, but didn’t reply. No need to go into it. Izzy’s hearing was so good it worked as sonar. Where Haley could hear a heart speed up, Izzy could see it beat faster. She had to have some understanding of what was going on. If she didn’t, this wasn’t the time to let her know.

I’d spent enough of our mutual middle/high school years being the friend that had to be distracted so that a girl could talk to Daniel.

Vaughn hadn’t been hanging around with us at the time, so after the third time that happened, he started laughing. Everyone watched him as he finally said, “Daniel, that’s amazing. You’re not even trying.”

“Yeah, I know.” Daniel said. He sounded frustrated.

Cassie caught Izzy’s eye. “I bet that’s fun on a date.”

Where the conversation would have gone from there, I don’t know. Courtney came back with her plate of food and drink, and sat down between Vaughn and Haley.

“I am so grateful you let me sit here. Guess who ended up at the same table as me?”

She didn’t wait for an answer. “Keith.”

20 thoughts on “Fresh Meat: Part 4”

  1. Just for the record, this next section isn’t entirely going to be devoted to relationships, but they’re there, and so it’s important to give a sense of where things are.

    Honestly, I’m probably less confident writing this sort of thing than combat. There are a lot of ways that a fight is easier to describe.

  2. @Jim
    Totally agree with you. In a fight, you can always just write what’s awesome, then sort through the detail later. In a thing like this, it’s hard to decide exactly what you want to go with, and unlike a fight, every little thing has to be set up to have long-reaching consequences. Plus you can’t keep the readers focused with explosions, so you have to keep it interesting in more subtle ways.
    Oh god, I sound like Michael Bay complaining.

  3. I’m liking this character development. These have been fun chapters.

    Typo: she probably would have most of broken most of its bones.

    Also, I’m going to keep bugging you about finishing your Kickstarter video. Is it done yet?

  4. Increased heart rate and pheromones… not exactly precise. It does indicate attraction but you can only guess attraction to who… I’m feeling a set up for a misunderstanding, with everybody thinking Amy is attracted to Nick when really she was attracted to Haley. Than again maybe I’m just imagining Les Yay

  5. Haley always could hear and smell people in a superhuman level. She certainly has enough practice that it is difficult to make mistakes as to who is attracted to who.

    It is nice to see that these supers are still teenagers after all.

  6. Haley and Nick were next to each other, Amy could have seen the two at the same time, reacted to Haley and Haley being a (as far as we know) straight girl she naturally jumps to the conclusion that the other girl is attracted to her boyfriend. I don’t think it’s that hard to make mistakes when interpreting biological responses.

  7. Haley probably couldn’t be sure if Any was attracted to Nick, or to her – unless her vision is acute enough to see where Amy is looking when the pheromone reactions take place. Then again, Haley might not even consider that Amy might be attracted to her.

    Also, it’s really not normal for a person to walk up to someone they are attracted to, who is with another person they don’t know well, make physical contact with the one they aren’t interested in, and address the uninteresting one first. It is plausible that such a thing might happen, but it would be a coldly calculated act in that case. I suspect that the pheromones released in an activity like that would be more conflict-related than attraction-related, and Haley would pick up on the difference.

  8. It’s also likely (I think actual? Not sure of the real-world science) that the pheremones for straight-attraction and homosexual-attraction are different- or for attraction to female vs. attraction to male, regardless of the gender of the one emitting the pheremones.

  9. Anvildude, I’m not completely sure either. One thing I do remember is research almost a decade back claiming that homosexual men’s brains react to pheromones from males in a manner similar to straight women’s brains. If that’s true, then the pheromones might be the same no matter the sexuality of the one emitting them.

    No clue if that research has been updated, proven wrong, or expanded upon, though.

  10. PG,
    ” homosexual men’s brains react to pheromones from males in a manner similar to straight women’s brains”

    … wouldn’t be surprised if ALL human’s brains reacted to male pheromones in the same way. Boys stink (yes, literally. nobody likes the odor of a boy’s locker room, do they?)

  11. If Amy was into Haley, then her voice would have revealed it. She spoke to Nick and Haley and someone with super senses would notice at whom her attraction is directed from listening to her alone. Her heart beat would likely change if she looked at Nick, too.

    I agree that pheromones would be

    Pheromones… as far as I remember, there are two types and only one is attractive to others. I believe it had to be produced freshly, within the last 15 minutes, otherwise it wouldn’t work anymore. It is also working pretty much the same on everyone, no matter their gender or orientation. The other pheromone (which is more common) is doing the opposite, it repels people.
    (Or so I remember).

    Pheromones usually have a very short range, something like 45cm. You’d have to be close to someone for them to have any effect.

    The effect of pheromones is subtle, it won’t change your opinion of someone or make you do anything you wouldn’t consider when unaffected. In most cases it leads to a slight increase of arousal and that on its own isn’t doing much. Most people aren’t even aware of it.

    I’d like to add that it is perfectly normal to find someone attractive or even being attracted to someone without ever acting on it.

  12. On pheromones: I’m not sure if they were doing a study on pheromones or something else, but I recall reading an article where they found that women were attracted to different sorts of men based on where they were in their menstrual cycle. They did this by having guys wear shirts for a few days and having women smell them.

    Imagine participating in that study.

    Michael: One thing about doing more relationship oriented elements to the story is that I’m very aware that while relationships have been explored in the past, it hasn’t been the main focus of the story. As a result, I may or may not have an audience who cares about these relationships. I don’t know, and so that makes me nervous too.

    Starshadow2: Not done yet with the Kickstarter video though I’m hoping to work on it tonight. Life is busy. I have two kids, and one of the interesting things about that is it’s shocking how much time you find that you’re using to drive people everywhere. As in, you drive kids around for an hour after work, and then you have to make supper. Assuming you don’t order out, you could then find yourself eating at 8pm… And if you do order out, figure you’re paying 2-4 times as much as just making dinner…

    By 8:30-9pm, I may or may not be able to do my own stuff (walk dog, practice bass guitar, write), and sometimes I’m not up for doing something challenging. The trouble is, I need to.

    The funny thing about writing online is that at a certain point, you find that you don’t have a hobby, you’re actually starting a business.

    Sometimes I’m ready and excited for my second shift. Sometimes I’m not. Actually, I’m always excited about the writing. The business aspect includes things that are less exciting.

  13. Chance: Thanks. I’m looking forward to this next novel sized section. More than anything else, it’ll expand the world.

    Daemion: I meant to second the sentiment about it being perfectly normal to find someone attractive and never do anything about it. As someone who’s married, I’d argue that it’s more normal not to act on it than act. Act on it, and you’ll find that you’re not going to be married much longer.

  14. Jim,
    The research on changing female preferences in mate selection based on hormonal factors is pretty solid.

    Most of the pheromone research is PRIVATE. I won’t be discussing it here (as I’m not supposed to know it). But pheromones are definitely perceptible at more than 45 cm away (Americans love to wash pheromones off…, and naturally it varies based on room size, wind, and clothing type)

  15. I’ve also heard that you’re actually supposed to go a couple days without washing to get the full benefit out of your pheromones. Keep in mind that women tend to prefer men who bathe or shower more than every couple of days, though.

  16. Even though I’m two years late,to be honest, I kinda hope this thing with Amy goes somewhere. The relationship with Haley is, and really to me, always was bland. This might change with the “Haley has trouble with her powers episode” but I really like Bloodmaoden already. Hope she’s plays a bigger part in the story, even if, regrettably, not as a romantic interest.

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