by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
I hate spring.
My best friend Bran and I were sitting in his red Mini Cooper Hardtop two-door, parked out in the wetlands west of town, looking out at the cool, cloudy night sky and listening to the mating calls of frogs.
The seasonal imperative our species lives with says spring is the time to mate and grow big with the next generation. I only have to do this if one of the males catches me, though. If I would just stop putting out pheromones, I could hide for the month I'm fertile, and I wouldn't have to lay the damned eggs every year. I wouldn't have to decide whether to kill my mate. Some of them deserve death for the way they treat me when I'm in their mating grip, but some don't. If I leave them alive, though, they're so wasted after the biggest event in their lives that someone has to take care of them for several years while they recover their strength. Not a job any female of our species relishes.
The chorus of frog croaks had started earlier this year than ever before, way before frost stopped edging the night with lace. The air was cold and full of water vapor and the first pollen particles from trees and the smell of plant life waking and rising. I had already begun to grow scent-emitting tendrils in my hair, though they hadn't started spilling pheromones yet. I snipped them out every morning, though that hurt. I could never find all of them.
"Just let me do it," said Bran. "Let me fertilize you. I think this might be the year I mature. I've been getting feelings I don't understand, and you look different to me, more juicy or something. You smell appetizing."