Instead, I take this time to leisurely walk the halls. Enjoying the silence, basking at the moment. It's not often I get to walk these halls without getting stared at or whispered at.
Today more so, I find myself in no rush to get home. I'd told Aunt Amelia that I was going to the library, and I don't want to face the heat of my lies. Even if it was a little white one. But I can't walk these halls forever, even though I find the echoing of my shoes comforting, so I make my way out the large front doors to the outside.
I come to a complete stop, holding my breath and counting the seconds. It's Beckett and Ember, they stand a good small distance away. They don't seem to see me or hear me, they're oblivious to my presence.
I don't stop dead because I see them, I stop because I heard the whisper of what they said. My name.
“You were supposed to keep an eye on Astra!” Ember hisses under her voice, her shoulders pinched with stress. Keep an eye on me? For what?
“I told you, I tried. Then that stupid bell happened and I lost her in the crowd.” Beckett says, his voice is softer than I imagined, but his words bring a chill deep into my spine. They were watching me, maybe all day. Why? I don't feel safe, and paranoia creeps into my chest. Usually, I am numb, unbothered. But I find myself unnerved at this moment.
“You trained for this, moron. And on day one you fail. What would Alatar say?” I don't know who Alatar is, but apparently, his approval means a lot to Beckett; he lets out an aggravated groan and runs fingers through his hair
I want to eavesdrop, know all about their conversation. But I know I can't, I know I'm not supposed to be here. So I turn away and force my legs to tiptoe back into the building, picking up my pace to a light jog once I'm inside.
I don't see them following me, and I don't believe they know of my overhearing. Let's keep it that way. I know that I will avoid those two oddities from here on out, though. It's the only sane thing to do, avoid the wackjobs that talk about training and stalking.
I take the back door out of the school, cutting through the soccer fields to get to the side street that leads to my apartment duplex. Today has been wildly strange, what has gotten into everyone today? From my aunt being unnerved to the two new kids that admitted to staring and stalking. Is it something in the water? A full moon maybe?
I ponder this as I walk, keeping my head down and shoulders hunched as I make my way past gas stations and bookstores. A few cars speed past with kids from school in them, blaring music, and getting their weekend started early.
Despite being lost in thought, my brain swirling with confusion, I'm able to hear footsteps behind me. I flinch, spinning around looking for the source of the noise. There isn't one, at least none that I can find. I really must be losing it.
I keep walking, giving a small nod to the store owner who's entering his store. He doesn't nod back, but his eyes do widen at the sight of my eyes. I'm used to that.
With a sudden blunt force, I feel myself flying, the wind is knocked out from my lungs and I let out a gasp. Something hit me from the left side of me, and I took flight into the alley to my right. Hitting the ground I let out another gasp, this time from pain.
What the hell?
I lay on my side for a moment, my skin burning from probable scrapes, trying to catch my breath. I hear footsteps, slow and careful, and I pull myself up into a sitting position abruptly. Whoever it is I do not want to be cut off guard again.
He walks slowly towards me, his mouth grinning wide and showing me all his teeth. From here, on the ground, I can observe that they are inhumanely sharp. All of them, sharp like sharks' teeth.
“When they told me about you, they said you are tough.” He says, letting out a low chuckle. My skin crawls and I find myself backward crawling away from him. The man is tall, with a lean build, and slight blood splatters on his clothing; at least I hope it's not blood.
It dawns on me suddenly, I'm in danger. Real danger. For the second time today though, I notice, someone talks about me like they know all about me.
“Get away!” I yell, finally finding my voice. To my surprise, he stops. The smile never leaves his face.
“She speaks, ” is all he says back. There's a silence between us while I contemplate my options.
I could attack him, punch him in the jaw or kick him in the groin. But I reject that quickly if he was strong enough to throw me. I doubt my small punches would harm him.
I could run, get away as fast as I can. But I reject that idea also, I'm no athlete and I probably won't get far.
Trying to stall, I slowly stand onto shaking legs. They burn from scrapes, and somehow my fall had cut through my pants. The man doesn't move, he watches me carefully.
“Who are you?” I ask, trying to stall him longer. His eyes gleam with mischievousness, and I gulp. This man is looking at me like I am his meal. Truthfully his teeth look as though they could tear through my flesh with little effort.
“Should we just cut to the chase? We both know what I'm here for, and it'll be much less of a struggle if you just come with-” I interrupt him by letting out a loud cry. I'd heard enough, and I knew I wasn't going to comply. I think he knew this too because as I sling my bag off my back and whip it at him to use as a weapon he knew to dodge. He did so easily, pushing my bag away from his body and grabbing a hold of me quickly.
He grabs my throat with a large icy hand, lifting me off the ground a few inches. I grapple at his arm, scratching as hard as I can, fighting to breathe.
The man growls, baring his teeth at me hungrily. My head grows heavy quickly, my vision grows fuzzy, and the pressure in my head feels like I’m a balloon going to pop.
He doesn’t let me go, and the tightness around my neck grows tighter. So, this is it.
“You look so tasty, I wonder if you taste as sweet as your chubby little aunt.” Aunt Amelia. Any sense I have left panics, please please tell me he didn’t hurt my aunt. He growls again, opening his mouth so I can see three rows of teeth. He’s not human. I’m looking into his eyes, searching for a sense of humanity. There is none, in his cold black eyes.
I’m going to die.
But then his head is gone, with a quick slice of a blade. Both of our bodies drop to the dirty alley ground, mine on top of his. I cough, air rushes into my lungs making them ache but I’m so grateful for the pain.
“Aunt Amelia..” please, not her.
“Astra? Are you ok?” I look at boots, black heeled boots that stand on the head of my attacker.
“Ember?” My voice is choked, I can barely form a word. I’m lifted off the ground by her gentle hands, she leans me against the wall and I just focus on my breathing. In, and out.
My throat still aches, and I can feel the bruises forming. I’m alive. I look down at my attacker, his headless body...I relieve my stomach next to him.
“Astra you’re in shock,” Ember says, placing a hand on my back. I flinch away from her, backing away and putting space between us. I don’t care that she saved my life, she killed someone.
“Who the hell are you?” I demand, my fear melting into anger. This thing just tried to eat me, and this girl, this stalker saved my life. I should be thankful, but I can’t help but be agitated. Ember sighs, tucking her hair being her ear. Finally, she puts the bloody blade away into its sheath and slings it over her back.
“This wasn’t supposed to go this way you know? Your aunt she was supposed to fill you in on everything-” I cut her off, done with everyone’s vagueness.
“Quit averting from answering me! I am terrified here! Stop acting like this is an everyday thing! Unless...unless it is an everyday thing? Oh my God-” I find my brain spiraling.
I've never found myself to be one to feel emotions, they always evaded me. But today, at this moment, I find myself afraid. The feelings of shock and fear eat away at me, and I wish I could be numb at this time.
“Breathe-” Ember starts but this time it's her brother that cuts her off.
“Enough with the drama, we need to get out of here; before more vamps show up.” Vamp as in vampire? This can't be happening. I must be dreaming. My eyes find Becketts, he holds no sympathy for anything I'm feeling right now. He looks at me tiredly, like having to save me from being murdered has made him late for dinner.
“My aunt, the…vamp...mentioned my aunt. She's in danger. I need to get to her.” My voice Is tight with anxiety, the siblings just shake their heads at me. At least Ember looks sad while doing so.
“Our assignment was to keep you alive. I'm sorry about your aunt but-” I almost feel bad for getting in Ember's face, because she seems to care. But I still get in her face, trying to muster up as much gusto as I could.
“I'm going home! You can try and stop me or you can come with me. I don't care much about your ‘assignment’, whatever that means. But I do care about my family, and you will not stop me from getting to her! Now get out of my way!” Her face falls for a moment, and Beckett rolls his eyes at me.
“The assignment is to keep you alive-”, Ember starts but her brother talks over her.
“We're not babysitters, Em.” I glare at him when our eyes make eye contact. I feel that same electricity return, bringing goose flesh to my skin.
“I'm not asking for babysitting. Now, move.” My voice sounds strong, even though my whole body shakes with shock. The buzzing of the electricity feels strong enough to shake the walls. He steps closer and stares down at me, but I have enough emotion in me right now that I cannot contain it and I will win this stare down. Ember clears her throat, and steps between Beckett and me; surely she can feel the vibrations that torment me.
“We can go check on your aunt. But I swear, it's dangerous for you right now Astra and you are our priority.” Ember talks softly, and I feel my rage melt away. Finally, I look away from those cold gray eyes and I meet the warm blue ones.
“Why am I in danger, Ember? What the hell is happening?” She shakes her head and tugs on my arm to get moving.
“Not a safe place to talk, we’ll tell you what we know once it's safe.” I nod, agreeing. “Let's go check on that aunt of yours, shall we?”