Authors: Sydney Michkal
Copyright 2013 Sydney Michkal
is a work of fiction. All names, dates, and events contained herein are entirely fictional, and any resemblance to real persons and events is entirely coincidental.
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Aisha didn’t formally learn about heat and claiming until she was in her mandatory sixth-grade sex ed class, but like most of her peers, there wasn’t much she didn’t already know. As soon as the lines between childhood and adulthood began to blur, every month saw one or two of her peers begin behaving oddly, staring intently at their peers and then glancing away just as quickly, usually flushing hard. The teachers always caught on within a moment or two and ushered the blusher away to the school nurse, and that was that. Not to mention the whispered hallway gossip about what were blood really meant when the kids who carried it came of age, that they wanted to…do…the things that Aisha’s peers snuck surreptitious glances at on the internet when their parents weren’t around. That the girls had to take drugs every month to keep them from throwing themselves at any boy within reach. Amber-colored contacts cycled between making an attractive girl the queen of the social scene and kicking her right back down to pariah status at least once a semester.
So, yes. Aisha knew
all about weres even if her own parents hadn’t sat her down and had a serious talk with her (Dad standing in the doorway with his arms crossed and looking as if he would rather be undergoing dental surgery without anesthesia rather than being part of this conversation) the same day she got her first training bra. She carved a daisy into the plastic of her desk and tried not to look too bored while the teacher stood at the front of the glass and twisted her fingers together. Ms. Romanova had bright eyes and a round, docile face. Aisha doubted there had been were blood in her family for several generations, if ever. She cleared her throat several times as the first slide of the PowerPoint presentation glowed to life on the screen behind her.
“All right, class,” she said. “Has everyone turned in their permission slips?” Ms. Romanova
continued to twist her fingers around each other as Aisha’s classmates nodded one by one. Her eyes lingered on the children with obvious were lineage until they answered in the affirmative. Cultural sensitivity had come a long way over the past few decades, but teaching about the were wars of one hundred years before was still rumored to cause an argument at every school board meeting. Several teachers in other districts had been fired after non-were parents became offended. Aisha’s was one of the first classes in which the differences between were and non-were sexuality was even being addressed.
Ms. Romanova exhaled upon getting a response from each student, though it didn’t seem to relax her much from where Aisha sat
. “Good,” she said. “You’re all reaching the age where your body is beginning to change from that of a child into that of an adult. You may already be struggling with feelings that you cannot explain, or the sense that your body doesn’t quite belong to you any longer. Don’t worry, this is a perfectly normal and beautiful part of growing up. Rather than being frightened of these changes or dreading them, you should look at yourselves as caterpillars making the transition into your beautiful butterfly selves.”
Aisha made a face at the pitted surface of her desk. Behind her, someone snickered. “From puppies into hounds, you mean.” Several members of the class tittered.
“Clayton!” Ms. Romanova exclaimed, her voice cracking with genuine anger. “We do not allow intolerance in this classroom. To Principal Parks’ office, now. Take your books with you.” She pointed towards the classroom door and glared until Clayton scooped up his things and made his way out, grumbling all the while. Ms. Romanova stood with her back held as straight as the edge of her desk until the door clicked shut behind him before turning back to the class at large.
“Yes, as Clayton
alluded to, there are some of you in this classroom who can trace your heritage back to the conflicts between humans and lycanthropes, sometimes known as weres, one hundred years ago. You will experience adolescence differently than your peers, but that doesn’t make you any less important.” She coughed into her hand and then resumed twisting her fingers about each other. Aisha didn’t see how she hadn’t broken a knuckle by now. “Anyway. Let’s begin.” She started the PowerPoint presentation and dimmed the lights. Aisha did not outright put her head down against her desk, not wanting to earn herself a trip to Principal Parks’ office like Clayton, but she paid little attention to the white-coated actor on the screen, and she doubted she was the only one whose attention switched off. The were wars had taken place over one hundred years before and ended in a resounding defeat for the weres; they had been lucky to survive at all. Weres had blended in among the human populace to the best of their ability ever since then, intermarrying among humans until most weres couldn’t shape-shift even if they wanted to any longer. The only real remaining traits were a tendency towards amber-colored eyes, and a certain…possessiveness towards mates. And, for the girls, the heat.
On the projection screen, the white-coated actor with the reassuring face continued to speak. “As you get older, some of you may notice that you respond differently towards
the opposite gender than your friends, and you probably wonder why.” A derisive mutter started up in the back of the room. Ms. Romanova snapped her fingers several times and turned on the lights, glaring until the snickers subsided. Aisha twirled her pen between her fingers and slumped further down into her uncomfortable desk seat. “Girls in particular might discover that their hormones become difficult to control during certain days of the month, and boys might find that they have a strong, confusing reaction to the young ladies around them. As frightening as these feelings might be, the important thing to keep in mind is not to be alarmed. With modern science, these urges can be medicated so that were-descended people don’t find their ordinary lives disrupted at all.”
“Heat,” Aisha said to her desk. “Just say it and stop being a coward. Weres go into heat.”
“Did you have something you wanted to say, Aisha?” Ms. Romanova asked, testily. Aisha’s eyes were a rich shade of hazel, striking but ultimately human, and her feelings towards the boys in her class had never differentiated from the sweaty palms and fluttering stomach marked by three-quarters of the other girls in her class. If the combined were heritage of her parents was enough to throw her into a heat cycle, the tendency hadn’t shown itself yet.
“No, ma’am,” Aisha replied obediently.
“Then please try to be respectful of the other students who may want to learn something.” Ms. Romanova turned back towards the presentation. Aisha twirled her pen through her fingers a few more times and watched with half her attention as the actor in the movie, who had probably never seen so much as a petri dish in his life, assured the class that having were blood was perfectly natural and that they shouldn’t treat their classmates any differently.
Aisha thought derisively.
Except for the expensive suppressants and all of their side-effects. Beyond that, we’re just like you.
By the end
of the video and the immediate uproar of the boys in the class trying to smell the girls that followed, Ms. Romanova looked as though she regretted taking up teaching at all.
Aisha fisted her hand through her long, black curls and held them up from her neck, turning her head this way and that as she scrutinized herself in the mirror above her bathroom sink. She looked good with her hair falling down about her shoulders and knew it, but the club Cassie wanted to take her to was guaranteed to be sweaty and loud. Patent leather stilettos already made up a pretty big concession towards suffering for beauty. Aisha tried a few different up-dos, only to frown at each one as she wound up looking like a girl trotting off to her first prom—and her dress did way too many flattering things to her body to be wasting it on hair that made her look all of seventeen. Jewel red, it hung from Aisha’s shoulders by thin straps before plunging down her chest in folds that more than hinted at her cleavage and would require quite a bit of strategic readjusting at the club unless she wanted to give everyone a free show, swishing against her hips just so before ending right at the midpoint of her thigh. The dress made Aisha feel powerful, as if every man she ran across tonight would be hers for the taking purely by her wishing for it. It was the kind of dress that required the rest of her be worthy of it.
sha dropped her hair to fall around her shoulders and down her back and went to work on her makeup instead. With her deep skin and nearly flawless complexion, she focused her efforts on touching up her eyes with liner and mascara, spreading a deep red lipstick across her pout.
“There you go, girl,” Aisha said to herself as she viewed the finished product in her bathroom mirror, and laughed. “That’s what a man
-eater is supposed to look like.” She laughed again. Aisha’s family might carry a certain amount of were blood in their family tree—after the past century of comingling, it was honestly difficult to find a family that didn’t—but the line had been diluted so much that her heritage only came up when she had to go to the doctor for blood work. More and more, it looked as though she had dodged a bullet.
sounded at Aisha’s apartment door. “Coming!” she yelled. Aisha dabbed perfume behind each ear, started for the door, and then wheeled back to hold up her hair one more time to be absolutely sure she didn’t want to pin it up. She wiggled uncertainly until the knock sounded at her door again, more insistent this time. “Okay, okay!” Aisha compromised by pinning a portion of her tresses back from her face with clips, grabbed her clutch, and dashed for the apartment door.
“Geez, took long enough,” said the woman
on the other side of the door. She stood several inches shorter than Aisha and wore her blonde hair in a bob falling just past her chin to frame light pixie features and amber-gold eyes. No one ever mistook Cassie for being fully human, not with those eyes.
Aisha lifted her eyebrows. “Seriously,
Cassie?” she asked as she shut and locked her apartment door behind her. “You were waiting for ninety seconds at most. Who aims to get to a club early, anyway?”
made a fretful noise and wrinkled her nose. Between that and her strange coloring, she looked more like an elfin creature than ever. “Sorry,” she said. “Doctor switched my suppressants this month. The side effects are kicking my ass.”
“Are you sure you want to go out?” Aisha asked as she cast her friend a sideways glance. Now that she paid attention,
Cassie’s skin was paler than normal, with dark shadows beneath her eyes defying even an expert application of concealer, and her cheeks seemed slightly more hollow, as if she hadn’t been eating well.
flapped her hand and made a dismissive noise. “I’ll be fine. I can be home, uncomfortable, and alone, or I can be out with you getting a nice distraction. I’ll take door number two.” She rolled her eyes and twitched her shoulders. “I swear, though, one of these days I’m just going to pitch that stupid prescription right out the window. What’s the worst that could happen? I call in sick for two days and buy stock in a battery company?”
“That’s not the worst thing that could happen and you know it,” Aisha
said, more harshly than she intended. Weres experiencing uncontrolled heat and without a male around to satisfy their urges had been known to lose fingers in kitchen appliances, crash their cars, even outright stumble into traffic because the need overwrote every other thought.
sighed and rubbed her hand across the back of her neck. “Fair enough,” she said. “Come on, let’s get you out and about, you pretty young thing. The newest suppressants on the market even let you drink during your heat days and I, for one, intend to forget my name.”