“Come on Colton! You can’t just say that and leave us hanging!” a young man with short blond hair said with a laugh, his eyes twinkling.
Colton sighed, running a hand through his rusty red hair. He was regretting everything he had just said.
It was lunchtime at West-Lake High School. He and his friends - Dalton, Mark, and Ethan - were sitting in their usual spot In the cafeteria. As usual, there were girls everywhere, trying to get their attention. Even some of the guys. Ethan’s arm was slung around his girlfriend, Maddi, holding her close to him as they ate. Shock was evident on his and Mark’s faces. Dalton was just laughing.
“You’ve been crushing on a girl for two months and you haven’t told your best buds?” Dalton asked in a loud whisper. He laughed again.
Colton rolled his eyes, trying to keep from flushing. “Yeah, so what? Why’s this such a big deal to you?”
“Because you haven’t had a girlfriend since-” Mark started.
He shot him a look, and he stopped talking. “It took me two years to get over that. I don’t want you bringing that up again.” He sighed and looked down at his untouched lunch. “Besides, it’s not like this girl knows me, or anything. She probably hates the very being of every single popular person in this school.”
Dalton stopped laughing and looked at him, his brows furrowed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“She’s bullied, Dalton. That’s what he means,” Ethan said as if it should’ve been obvious. He pushed his black and white glasses up his nose. “Pay attention.”
“But we don’t allow-”
“Doesn’t mean Jess and her posse leave her alone,” Colton grumbled. “I can only do so much to stop her…”
Dalton smiled a little. “So you’ve been helping her?”
He sighed. Too late to turn back now. “Yeah, to the best of my ability. But she’d never believe me if I actually told her that. Everyone has her pegged as some… peculiar alien because she dresses different than everybody else.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t know… Something about her just seems… different.”
“Okay hold up.” Mark put his face in his hand. “She’s not that Scamander girl, is she? The one who transferred here in the middle of the school year last year?”
Ethan frowned. “Don’t tell me you have a thing for-”
“Is there something wrong with her?” Colton snapped. “Who cares if she dresses differently! Didn’t- Mark, you learned the hard way not to judge someone by how they look! Remember Elizabeth?”
Mark’s face darkened. “That was different. Audra-”
“Audra has a unique style. There’s nothing wrong with being who you are.” Colton sighed, running a hand over his face.
Dalton raised a brow at him. “I think this is a little more than a mere ‘attraction’ to Audra. You’re totally smitten with her. When on Earth-?”
“I don’t know, alright?! I don’t know when, or how it happened! I just- I don’t know!” He leaned forward and ran his hands through his hair. “She’s just so… different.”
“Well, then, why don’t you take her out on a date? Ask her to homecoming, the tailgate…” Dalton shrugged, leaning back in her seat. “Shouldn’t be too difficult for you.”
He sighed. “Yeah, but like I said earlier, I’m pretty sure she has a thing against popular people like us.”
“Then make her popular. Make her ‘Queen’ worthy. She couldn’t hate you for that, right? It’s senior year, for goodness sake!”
“I don’t think she’d want to-” Colton cut himself off as he saw a mass of dark hair enter the cafeteria. He turned his attention to her, then smiled a little, propping himself up on an enclosed fist as he stared.
She had curly chocolate brown hair, parted on the right side, that fell to her shoulders. From where he was sitting, he could see her bright blue eyes, and was just able to see the freckles covering her cheeks and nose on her fair colored skin. She was shrugging off her blue flannel jacket to tie around her waist, and underneath she wore a black t-shirt. She had a noticeable hourglass figure - with a small waist and wide hips - and had on a pair of blue skinny jeans with black Doc Martens.
And she had on the long, fingerless black gloves that made her outfit unique.
Colton had a soft smile on his face as he watched her, not paying attention to what his friends were saying. He saw her bright blue eyes scan the cafeteria, readjusting the black leather backpack hanging from her shoulder. Then he saw her shake her head before turning and leaving, followed by Jess and a couple of her friends.
“I’m- I’ve gotta go do something. Sorry.” Colton cleaned up his things, then put his lunch in his bag, and hurried out of the cafeteria in search of Audra and the popular girls that followed her out of the room.
He found them over by the lockers, Audra being surrounded by Jess and her friends while she got things from her locker.
“I mean, you look like you were mauled by a tornado! Actually, in this case, that would be an improvement for you,” a girl with short black hair was saying. “Those gloves, for one, ruin the whole get-up you’re wearing. They do not make you look cool.”
“You’re wrong,” came Audra’s quiet voice. “I don’t wear them to be cool.”
“Oh? You want to talk about wrongs? Let me tell you what I know about wrongs.” The black haired girl leaned forward so she was only inches away from her ear. “Two wrongs don’t make a right. Just take your parents as an example. They had you, didn’t they? Maybe on a highway. Accidents happen there all the time.”
He saw something change in Audra’s appearance. She tensed, her hands momentarily stopping what they were doing. “Don’t talk about my parents.”
She laughed. “I’m right, aren’t-”
Colton couldn’t take it anymore. He stormed over to them. “Jess!”
The black haired girl turned and looked at him, smiling a moment later. “Colton! Hey you!”
He glared over at her, looking her up and down in disgust. “You’re one to talk about parents making a mistake, Jess.”
Jess started, then opened her mouth to protest.
“No. I don’t want to hear another word out of you. Why don’t you do us all a favor and take your friends and go.”
Once they’d gone in the most dramatic way possible, he turned and focused his attention on Audra. His face softened a bit. “Are you okay?” he asked her, lowering his voice.
Audra briefly glanced over at him before returning her gaze to her locker. “I’m fine.”
He sighed, glancing over his shoulder for a moment. Then he looked back at her, brows furrowed slightly. “Are you sure?”
“Why do you care?” she shot back, finally turning to face him. “I’m an outcast.”
“And I just want to help.” He shrugged a little, sticking his hands in his pockets. “I’ve been doing what I could without anyone knowing, because West Lake has a zero bullying tolerance. I’ve been reporting them to the dean, but I couldn’t stand off to the side this time. Are you sure you’re okay, Audra?”
She nodded as she looked back into her locker. Then her brows furrowed. “You know my name,” she said quietly, looking over at him.
He nodded, smiling a little as he leaned his shoulder against the locker. “Of course I know your name. I make sure that I know everybody’s names.”
“But I’m an outcast.”
He shrugged. “So?” He sighed, glanced around the room for a moment before meeting her eyes, unable to speak momentarily. Then he cleared his throat. “Um… Hey, so I was- I was wondering…” He took a deep breath. “Maybe on Saturday we could go to Moon Rise Coffee House and talk about what those girls have been saying to you? Tomorrow? I can pick you up, if you’d like,” he said hesitantly, silently praying that she’d say yes.
“You-” Her face grew more confused for a moment, then she started laughing, turning to look into her locker. “Heck the standards. You let me pick you up, and it’s a deal.”
Colton blinked at her for a moment, then grinned. “Oh, alright. Whatever the lady wants. I’ll give you my address.” He took out a notepad from his bag and a pen, wrote down where he lived and his number, then tore out the piece of paper and handed it to her. “How about tomorrow? It’s a Saturday. Saturday at noon?”
“It’s a date,” Audra said quietly, slipping the piece of paper on her pocket. “I’ll pick you up at noon tomorrow.” She grabbed one more thing from her locker, slung her bag over her shoulder, and then shut her locker. “See you later, Mr. Danvers.” Then she left.
Colton stared after her for a moment, hardly believing what had just happened. He remained standing there, only moving when the bell signaling the end of lunch rang, startling him out of his thoughts. He glanced around the hall, then headed to his next class.