From Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maguire:
"I took his hand, and I let my middle finger trail across the center of his palm. He took a swig of breath, being startled in a new direction, and my efforts were fruitful. I turned to smile at his and said, 'You have grown to such a man. If we knew each other better I might be a better mother to you. In this light vein I dragged him away from the subject."
What does it mean by "being startled in a new direction"? What direction? A new subject for conversation? What is he startled by?
(I find it strange to change the conversation subject by letting one's finger trail across the other person's palm! )