Excerpt from Real Meat
The story itself is not YA, but this section is from a teen’s POV just so I could explore the werewolf community through different perspectives. This led into the discovery of a body so we would then flick back to Tina Harris at the morgue. Tina appears as a side character in THE CROWS. I’m not sure if this will stay or not, whenever I get back to seriously working on this thriller.
Jessica Fielding had a special flair for the dramatic, when it suited her. She sat in her bedroom with the curtains closed against the raining April afternoon, headphones in, pretending she couldn’t hear the knocking on her door.
“Jess, Amy’s here,” her mum shouted through the door. “Jess, come on, love, come downstairs?”
Jessica screwed her eyes shut as the wolf-self came and went, clawing up her hands involuntarily and making fresh holes in her blanket. “I said NO, mum!”
“Sweetie,” her mother attempted, rapping again, “You can’t stay there all day. You didn’t even go out last night. It’s not healthy to cage yourself up at this age.”
“I’m fine, mum, stop fussing!” The wolf reared up, ending her sentence in a snarl.
“That doesn’t sound fine to me,” her mother replied, in tones that said she had heard it all before. “That sounds like someone hasn’t been staying up late enough or getting enough moonlight.” The door handle jiggled.
Jessica roared with frustration, leaping off the bed and slamming her full weight against the door and holding it shut. “Piss off!”
“What did you say?” The door flew open with a mighty crunch of splinters and old hinges, throwing Jessica back across the room, and Mrs Fielding towered in the broken doorway with bright amber eyes aflame. “You listen to me, young lady, you better high-tail it down those stairs in ten seconds and drop the attitude, or you’ll get to see the Big Bad Wolf, do you understand me?”
Jessica dropped to all fours on her sheepskin rug, hands clawing up, gnashing her flat ‘baby’ teeth, but her mother was having none of it, and strode into the room. “ONE.”
Foam formed in the corners of Jessica’s human mouth, but she knew she was beaten. She growled in her throat, but her mother leaned forwards showing all her teeth.
Jessica huddled back against her chest of drawers, the silver charm accessories on her collar clicking together as they swayed.
“THREE. Do not make me get as far as five, Jessica Rose.”
Her middle name had the desired effect. Jessica stood up with bad grace in a sulk. “Alright! I’m going, I’m going. Don’t get your tail in a trap.”
“We never had this trouble with your sister,” her mother complained as Jessica marched down the landing. “She was always out until at least three in the morning, you could barely get her to stay in…”
“I’m out of my room, aren’t I?” Jessica snapped on the stairs. “Why are you punishing me?”
“I’m not punishing you, how am I punishing you? I’m just saying-“
“I’m out of my room, I’m doing what you wanted.” Jessica raised her hands, and clawed down the wallpaper. “See, there you go! Well done Jess, good wolf, Jess. How wolf-like of you, Jess.” She turned her back on her mother and took the stairs two at a time. “Reward the behaviour you want to see, mum, first rule of house-training. God.”
“No blasphemy in this house!” Her mother leaned over the rail, strident voice chasing her daughter out of the hall. “You’re not a blood-sucking heathen!”
“They excommunicate werewolves too, mum,” Jessica mumbled rebelliously, but her mother heard every word.
“That’s why we are good Protestants in this household, and don’t you forget it.”
Jessica pulled a face and stepped outside where Amy was waiting in unsuitable clothing for the changeable weather. She looked Jessica up and down, taking in the scruffy mousey-brown ponytail and baggy purple jumper with its rips and tears. “Where’ve you been?” she asked, twisting a strand of her straight blonde hair around her finger.
“What d’you want, Amy?” Jessica hovered by the front door, folding her arms.
Amy looked hurt. “What’s up, Jess? What’ve I done?”
Jessica swallowed, bouncing on the balls of her feet, sniffing the air. “Nothing. I don’t want to talk here.”
“Let’s go over the fields then.” Amy started off, light drizzle soaking through her frilly summer blouse. “It’s great weather, a bit of rain will make you feel tons better.”
Jessica followed slowly, the light rain soaking through her jumper and splashing down her cheeks, peppering her leggings with damp patches that merged slowly into one, coating her hair in fine droplets. As they came to the field, Amy shook out her own ponytail, releasing long wet hair to cling down her back. The rain was steady now, still not uncomfortably heavy, but not letting up any time soon. The grass brushed against Jessica’s bare ankles and soaked her canvas shoes.
“What’s up?” Amy asked again, brushing her shoulder against Jessica’s. “You can tell me.”
Jessica breathed in the comforting scent of wet grass and damp soil, the rhythmic patter of the droplets against her skin soothing and refreshing her. “Do you think it’s real?” she asked.
Amy twiddled a strand of hair. “What?”
Amy stopped, but Jessica kept walking. “Of course not, Jess. It’s a stupid game, it’s not real.”
“But Grace is dead, isn’t she?” Jessica heard Amy drawing level to her in a few bounds, catching her up. “That’s not a game, is it?”
“That’s rubbish,” Amy protested. Her pewter wolfs-head necklace bounced against her chest, and she clutched at it like a talisman.
“Do you think the Loner really is cursed?”
“I don’t believe in curses.”
Jessica stared at her. “We’re sodding werewolves, you dipstick. How can you be an actual werewolf and not believe in curses?”
“It’s not a curse, my dad says it’s a genetic anomaly.” Amy tossed her hair back from her face, rain dripping from her forehead.
“Yeah, a genetic anomaly caused by a curse.” Jessica shook her head, sending droplets flying. “A genetic anomaly for normal people is like, I don’t know, having like two extra toes or something. It’s not turning into an actual wolf. You can live a normal nine-to-five life with a genetic anomaly, and have curfews at ten or eleven, not have to be out until three in the morning and have to spend your entire childhood wearing a stupid dog’s collar.” She tugged at the collar around her neck, and the silver charms stung and irritated her fingers as they connected. “Normal people can have genetic anomalies and scare their kids with the bogeyman,” she continued bitterly, pulling her hand away, “Not, ‘clean your teeth or the Loner will get you, who by the way, is a real person we don’t invite to pack socials because of how shit-scared we all are of her’. Normal people can have genetic anomalies and say stuff like, ‘break the law and you’ll go to jail’, not ‘break the law and the Loner will rip your spine out in front of everybody like she did to Mr Ferguson’.” She glared at Amy, squinting through the raindrops on her lashes, daring her to deny it. “I mean, who takes their ten year old kids to something like that? That should not be the defining memory of our childhood, know what I mean?”
Amy frowned. “Yeah, that was grim.”
“It was fucked up. But our parents took us along anyway, because – yeah, guess what, we’re cursed.”
“You can’t prove it’s a curse.”
“You can’t prove it isn’t.”
Amy glared. “Whatever. There isn’t a Loner Curse. There’s no such thing. That’s stupid.”
“Did your dad say so?” Jessica shot back.
“Don’t have a go at my dad, bitch! You just feel guilty.” Amy brushed against her shoulder with more force, making her stumble.
Jessica whirled, snapping, but only with her human jaws.
Amy danced out of reach, hands in her pockets. “It’s not our fault,” she said, and Jessica shook her head.
“You’re just saying that to make yourself feel better. You were all for it. I didn’t even want to, you were the one who turned the lights out, and shut me in there with the stupid mirror.”
“It was funny!” Amy protested. “Come on, Jess, you thought it was funny.”
“Yeah, right up until the Loner actually showed up at Grace’s fifteenth, and Grace actually died.”
Jessica shook her head. “After her birthday party, her luck turned to shit. She didn’t even get on the work experience placement she wanted. Then she’s just – gone. And Hilda and her gran – they’re gone too. It’s like the whole First Pack is cursed. That’s what everyone’s saying, isn’t it? Jade won’t even speak to me. She’s ignoring my calls, she won’t answer my texts…”
“Who needs Third Pack friends?” Amy jogged after her, kicking a swathe through the longer grass. “Third Pack are losers. And the Loner’s not a bogeyman. She showed up the other night, asked some questions. I thought she’d be scarier in person.”
Jessica spun on her, horrified. “The Loner came here? Again?”
“Yeah.” Amy shrugged, affecting casual unconcern. “It was no big deal. She just wanted to know stuff about Mrs Parks, and Grace. She’s looking into it, Jess, so it can’t be her. Why would the Loner put a curse on the pack? That makes no sense.”
Jessica’s wolf-self reared, her eyes flaring a vibrant amber. “Shut up.”
“Don’t tell me to shut up.”
“No – Ames, I mean it. Shut up. Listen.”
Both girls stopped dead in the middle of the field, facing the curve of the trees.
“Someone in the woods? So what?”
“They sound hurt. Listen.”
The girls tried to pick out the sounds from below the light pattering of rain on the field. The noises faded away into an unnatural silence.
Amy sniffed the air, her eyes glowing a brilliant emerald green. “Hey, Jess? You smell that?”
Jessica sniffed too, inhaling the scent that came to them through the aromas of wet earth and grass. “What is that?”
“It smells amazing. Like a fresh kill. It’s not a deer, or a cow. What is that?”
“It smells delicious.” Jessica licked her lips, gulping the faint traces down. “Wow. I’ve never – smelled that before. Is it a pig?”
“No, not a pig.” Amy began stalking forwards, green eyes glowing, keeping her body low and tense with her knees bent, and arms tight to her sides. Her hands began to claw involuntarily. “It’s over here, in the trees there. Come on Jess! Do you smell that now? Like that, that, sweaty kind of smell around it?”
Jessica followed on cautiously, ears pricked for any further sounds, but there wasn’t anything. The sweat was less prominent as the raw, bloody, meaty smell, but it had a disturbingly familiar note, something that reminded her of the changing rooms in Pagham High School after a cross-country run. “I know that smell,” Jessica mused, salivating. “It smells kind of…”
“…human,” they said together.