Colton had spent the night at her house that night. The following day, they had watched the movie of the book he’d read to her, and then he left.
On school the following Monday, Audra walked into the building feeling more like herself. Even though it had been almost a week since she found out about her family’s deaths, she’d come to terms with them. It also helped that she was able to talk to them, but that’s a long story. She was relatively okay now, and was wearing pieces of clothing that she never would’ve worn: a soft, modest tight black halter top, a pair of ripped blue jeans, and black, high heeled combat boots. Her long, fingerless silver gloves were, as always, covering her her arms, ending just above her elbows.
She met up with Colton, who smiled at her as he bent to softly kiss her, then took her hand. She smiled weakly at him and leaned against him for support, one hand on his arm. They talked with their friends, Dalton, Mark, Ethan, and Ethan’s girlfriend Maddi for awhile.
Colton had flushed when they asked about the kiss, but managed to mumble an explanation, which earned a little laughter from them.
Audra had joined in their laughter, though it seemed rather strained. She broke off into a small coughing fit, and she knew that the others would tell that something was wrong.
When she had stopped coughing, she took a few shaky breaths, and felt Colton squeeze her hand reassuringly.
“Uh… What on Earth was that?” Mark asked a moment later, confusion written on his face.
She only shook her head. “Not here, and not now. Later. I-” Her voice cut off as she saw a familiar mass of bright red hair walking in their direction. Her face slowly morphed into one of pure anger and hatred, her eyes glued on the woman heading their direction.
Colton had wrapped an arm around her shoulders and was starting to look in the direction her eyes were fixed in. The others had already done the same. “What’s wro-” His eyes widened as they landed on the young woman, not saying anything.
The young woman who was receiving so much attention was the type who received that much attention and more everywhere she goes. She had bright red hair - that could only be described as hair that was unnatural and resembled the Little Mermaid - was tucked into a bun on the back of her head. She had bright red lips, piercing green eyes, and fair skin. She wore a maroon skirt that fell just above her knees, and a tight, cropped, long sleeved black shirt with a sweetheart neckline. A pair of black high heels were on her feet, and large golden earrings were on her ears.
She made her way over to them moments later, a flirty smile on her face that was covered in makeup. She made eye contact with Colton and slowly looked him up and down, completely ignoring Audra.
“Oh, hey there, handsome,” she said in a sickening flirty tone of voice.
Colton averted his gaze from her, looking down at his feet. She could tell his cheeks had turned light pink. “O- Oh, uh…”
“Ersa, back off,” Audra said through gritted teeth, hatred evident in her tone.
She looked over at her, and the flirty smile fell off her face, turning into one of disgust and disappointment. “Oh. Hey ‘sis’,” she said with clear disinterest.
Colton looked over at Audra with wide eyes. “You two are sisters?”
Audra scoffed and scowled at her, then her face softened as she looked over at Colton. “Dear stars, no. Unfortunately, Ersa is my step-sister. Her last name is Hunter.”
"I was named after the Greek goddess of dew, who was the daughter of Zeus and Selene,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone. She smiled flirtatiously at Colton, whose eyes narrowed a bit at her.
“How fascinating. You were named after an offspring of Zeus who, once again, couldn’t keep it in his pants. You’re not special. There was also Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Athena, Hermes, Dionysus, Perseus, the Muses, Helen of Troy… Although all of them were much more important than the measly goddess of dew. You’re just a paulo pituita nasi.”
“Audra, calm down,” Colton whispered into her ear.
Ersa gasped, offended, putting a hand to her chest. She recovered swiftly. “Oh yeah? And what does that make you? I’ll tell you. It makes you a quisquiliae peram.”
Audra’s jaw clenched. She was not about to let her step-sister get away with calling her a “trash bag.”
“I’m more important than you are. I’m from the constellation Hercules. In case you’d forgotten, he’s a song of Zeus. A go-”
"Half-god! He was a demigod!"
“Exactly. And he was tasked with killing Hydra as one of his twelve labors. No wonder you’ve always been second compared to me.” Ersa turned to Colton, reaching forward and running the backs of her fingers on his arm. “She don’t deserve to have you in her presence. Why don’t we ditch the peasant?” She smiled that same flirty smile, reaching up and brushing some strands of his hair out of his face.
Colton’s friends had been gone for a long time, not wanting to get mixed up in their argument. Colton had taken a step away from Ersa, now out of reach.
“This peasant happens to be his girlfriend. You’re just a puellae ludere, Eraa, and you’ll never be more than tha-” She broke off in another fit of coughing, this one worse than the previous one. She leaned against Colton for support - barely able to stand - who turned his attention away from Ersa, focusing on Audra.
“Hey, take it easy,” he murmured, rubbing circles on her back. He tucked some of her curly hair behind her ear, then reached down and took one of her hands. “You’re alright. You’re alright…”
“No she’s not.” Ersa crossed her arms loosely across her chest. “She’s a mortua puella walking.”
Neither of them needed to know Latin to know she had called Audra a “dead girl walking.” It’s what’s she was, after all.
Audra had calmed down at the sound of Colton’s voice, and merely looked up at her step-sister, all the fire out of her from how exhausted she was. She looked away.
Colton bent and picked Audra up in his arms, holding her close to him. “Have a good day, Ms. Hunter,” he said curtly before quickly heading down the hall towards Audra’s first class.
Audra was leaning her head against his chest, her eyes closed and her thoughts starting to wander. She was thinking about Colton (it was hard not to when she was in his arms, smelling his nice smelling cologne). Something was off about whenever they kissed. Sure, whenever they kiss, it feels right to her, like she found who she belonged with, even though she wasn’t able to stay. But there was something about the taste that reminded her of stars…
Her brows furrowed slightly. It didn’t make sense though. Colton wasn’t part of a constellation. He wasn’t even a random star (those were rare). He didn’t have the mark that all stars have. There wasn’t anything about him that really stood out that she could classify as a-
Actually, now that she really thought about it… There was something about his voice. Something… different.
“You alright, Auds?” he asked gently, pulling her from her thoughts. He had set her down at the chair by her desk, and was kneeling on the floor to her side, holding one of her hands in his while the other reached up to brush more pieces of hair behind her ear. His brows were furrowed in concern. “You’ve been coughing more than normal. Do you want to go lie down in the lounge?”
Luckily, nobody was in the room yet. Audra shook her head a little, her free hand rubbing her arm. “I’m just- just a little cold.” She hesitated, then gently pulled down one of her gloves to show him her frost covered skin. “It’s… been getting worse.”
Colton nodded, biting his lip as he quickly took off his heavy leather jacket, laying it on her shoulders. His eyes were brimming with tears, which he quickly wiped away with the palm of his hand. “I- I don’t want to lose you…”
Audra smiled sadly at him and, after slipping on his coat, reached forward and stroked a gentle thumb over his cheek, wiping away a few stray tears. “We’ll spend more time together, okay? Whatever you want, whenever you want.”
He nodded a bit, looked around the empty room, then stood a little taller and kissed her, his brows furrowed and tangling his hand in her hair behind her head.
He pulled away a few moments later, and he nodded. “Okay.” He paused, then said, “I’ll talk to Mr. Knudson about letting you rest the last two periods of the day. I’ll stay in there with you, if you’d like.”
“Will you sing to me, if you do?” Her eyes were hopeful. She had to get to the bottom of this.
Colton smiled a little, nodding. “Of course. Anything you want.”
Her heart started pounding, and she hoped he didn’t notice. She grinned, leaning forward and pressing a gentle kiss to his forehead. “Thank you, Colt.”
He beamed at the nickname. “Anything for you, princess,” he murmured, his smile softening.
“Oh! You’re in this class as well, handsome?” came Ersa’s annoying voice just then. She grinned at him as she made her way over to him. She leaned across Audra’s desk, staring intently at him. “I have a secret,” she said in a singsong voice. “A life-changing secret.”
“I don’t want to hear-” Colton started, moving closer to Audra.
“It’s about a cure for Audra,” she added knowingly.
His eyes widened, as did Audra’s, though with two different meanings.
Audra was filled with panic. “Ersa! Tace! Tace!" she begged.
Colton hesitated. “What is it?”
When Ersa spoke, she was slow. ”Voto ad atrium maius.”