The 76th Hunger Games

Ashby is the daughter of Katniss Everdeen. She has been told barely anything about the Hunger Games purely because of her mother's fear. This puts Ashby in a dangerous position. She and her family are being followed and it's up to Ashby to find out who they are and what they want. But what if ... they want her?


3. Ashby's self hatred

Chapter Three

Ashby’s self hatred

I turned to glare at the large men closing in on me, causing me to let go of Fir, who sagged back down again. Standing up quickly, I extended my leg and kicked the smallest guy, who was still pretty huge, in the stomach and sent him flying back.

 There were still three guys to take out so I focused on them. The boy seemed like too easy a target so I threw a punch at the bulky guy, who easily caught my wrist and twisted it. If it hurt me, he would have had no idea, because I kept my face totally neutral ... as neutral as possibly when someone is trying to twist your wrist in an unnatural way. It gave me a chance to extend my leg again and kick him where it hurt. The large man gave out a stupidly girly scream and fell to the ground.

I turned to the last guy, who’d been threatening Mum and dropped down to a crouch, slid my leg across the floor and tripped him. When he was down, I punched him as hard as possible and knocked him out. Who knew I could do that?

Suddenly, I remembered the boy and spun round to find I was face to face- well actually face to chest- with him. Couldn’t he shrink a little? Instinctively, I took a step back, not liking how close he was. It made me extremely uncomfortable. He matched my steps as he stepped forward, backing me in a wall.

For some idiotic reason, I did nothing to stop this from happening. He placed his hands on the wall, just a little away from my shoulders and I saw a horribly satisfied glint in his eyes. I knew a look of pure horror mixed with fear was printed on my own face.

 Attempting to push him away from me, I placed my hands on his chest. Obviously, he saw that move coming, caught my hands and let them drop to my sides. This is definitely the end, I thought to myself. He’s going to kill me. It’s going to be slow and painful and...

The boy turned away, helped his friends up and left. I stared after them, completely baffled. It was only 10 o’clock and we’d already had some drama going on! This kind of thing never happened in Rosaville.

Rosaville is the town I live in if you’re wondering. It’s all rather confusing and even I don’t understand sometimes but Rosaville is in Jolain which is next to Destructoria. There are 14 states. Mum said they used to be called other things and sometimes she accidently calls them districts for some reason but anyway, back to the story.

“What ... was that?” I puffed, breathlessly. Mum slouched down onto the floor and Dad got up and walked stiffly over to comfort her. Little Fir was lying on the floor, grasping his head painfully. I walked over to him, lifted him up and lay Fir onto Mum and Dad’s bed.

“I have absolutely no idea.” Mum replied with a puzzled expression on her face. Dad agreed quietly. I scooped some of Fir’s very sun kissed hair away from his face and smiled.

“You okay, little Fir tree?” I asked Fir quietly and he nodded in a slow, painful looking motion. I looked over to Mum, a worried expression on my face. “Mum, I think we need to get Fir to a medic.” My voice sounded urgent and afraid. That’s exactly how I felt. There was no way I was going to let anything happen to little Fir. If anything did, I wouldn’t be able to take it. He meant everything to me. I couldn’t live with myself if I let him hurt like this. I had a feeling it was something bad that had happened to him anyway. Mum nodded frantically.

“Yes ... yes, yes of course.” She muttered standing up and taking my hand for comfort. I smiled up at her and Dad then let him pick Fir up. We followed Dad all the way to the medic on the other side of town, seeing as he was the best. His name was Doctor. Elphinstone and everyone seemed to love and cherish him ... even me! Fir would be in perfectly capable hands.

“He’s suffered a large blow to the head, am I correct?” Doctor. Elphinstone asked and we all nodded simultaneously. I swear he laughed at us. This was no funny situation! Fir could be dying for all he knew!

“It looks like mild concussion. He’s very lucky it wasn’t too severe. Just let him lie down for two or three days, giving him one of these before he goes to bed for a week.” He handed Mum a pack of pills and she nodded quickly. Doctor. Elphinstone should really have given the pills to me. I was the one who looked out for Fir, not Mum.

She was brilliant and I loved her but her mothering skills weren’t up to scratch when it came to us. Dad was pretty amazing too except he could barely take his eyes off Mum half the time.

Unfortunately, Mum kept the pills hooked in her fingers so there was no way to quickly snatch them away from her. She’d probably forget about them so I would have to make sure I knew where she put them.

Little Fir groaned as I pulled his covers over him. We’d returned home only ten minutes before and he had been making things rather difficult after that.

“Fir, you have to sleep. I know it must hurt but you need sleep!” I hissed quietly. He moaned loudly in return. I rolled my eyes at him and tucked him under the covers.

“Go to bed, lazily head.” I replied sarcastically. I stopped at the door. “Night, little Fir tree.” I walked silently along the corridor as if the events of the morning would happen all over again if I didn’t. I was scared. For the first time in my life, I was purely scared and I hated it. I had no control over the fear pulling at me. Trying to ignore the feeling, I tucked myself down as far as I could into my own bed.

In the middle of the night, I woke up to screaming. I knew it wasn’t Mum because it came from nearby. Frantically, my eyes darted around the room in search of whoever had made such a noise. There was no one else around. It must’ve been me. I’d not screamed in years.

Luckily, no one seemed to have woken up but there was no chance of me getting anymore sleep. I was going to be grumpier than usual in the morning. I stared into the darkness wondering what those men had wanted with me ... what they would have done to me. I recalled the events of my crazy day, trying to get a clue. Nothing. Nothing told me about any of them. The only one wearing a mask had been the boy with the glossy chestnut eyes. I wondered why that was. The other men would be easy to identify if I ever saw them again. They were covered in scars and I’d almost broken one of their noses.

On Sunday, nothing much happened. We went hunting and caught squirrel and some mice but that was all. We picked some plants for cooking and headed straight home.

The next day, Fir and I walked silently towards school. He’d recovered much faster than any of us expected him to and had insisted he was going to school. Typical Fir.

“Ash, do you think they’ll come back?” Fir little voice wavered with emotion. I stopped in my tracks and crouched down beside. Taking his hands in mine, I felt that they were clammy with sweat. Fir was scared ... really scared. The problem was so was I.

“I ... I don’t know Fir. But if they do, next time I’ll be ready for them. They’ll have to go through me to get to you, little Fir tree.” I whispered quietly. I didn’t want anyone else knowing about this. It was none of their business. His grip tightened painfully around my fingers.

“Ash, they don’t want me. They want you. They’re coming for you, if they come back.” He replied and quickly pulled me into a hug. I clung back onto him. Fir was the closest thing I had to a support system, and it was probably the same thing with him.

“I know, Fir. Like I said, I’ll be ready for them.” I told him stiffly. They’d be fools to come back. I’d managed to kick three huge guys’ butts ... but that boy. He had me and he’d turned away. Did they just want to threaten us? It seemed unlikely.

All day I thought about the incident. I kept on thinking about the sheer strength of that boy, the weakness in my Mum and Dad. The way I’d reacted to them hurting Fir. I’d wanted their blood. I felt completely sick.

“Ashby Mellark,” Mrs. Herriot called from the front of the class. “If you would like to join us for the lesson, we are learning more about the Panem. In fact, we are going to watch the “best” bits of your parents Hunger Games today.” This caught my attention. Everyone was glaring at me. I rolled my eyes at them. They were all such drama queens. None of them had anything worth worrying about. As for me ... a whole different story.

 Mrs. Herriot set up the video player and a strange anthem started playing and what I knew to be the Capitol’s seal appeared on the screen. There was an interview between two men who Mrs. Herriot said were called Caesar Flickerman and Seneca Crane. Caesar was one funky kind of guy. He’d gone overboard with this wacky blue hair. They chatted about the Hunger Games and showed the clips of the most exciting “reapings”.

The last, but most exciting reaping was my Mum’s and Dad’s. A crazy lady walked onto centre stage and read out a name on the slip of paper she’d picked from a large bowl.

“Primrose Everdeen.” She called out. Gasps flew from people’s mouths as a small and beautiful young girl slowly stepped out of the crowd. This girl ... she was my Aunt.

“Prim!” Screamed another girl. “Prim no!” There were suddenly dozens of men holding her back. The brown haired girl struggled in their grips.

“I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!” She cried out and more gasps could be heard. I guessed this kind of thing didn’t happen much. My Aunt tried to stop her from going, screaming her name, but once you volunteered, there was probably no going back. The girl nervously walked up the stage steps where the crazy lady helped her up.

“Now dear, what’s your name?” She asked sweetly, so sweetly I wanted to be sick. The girl shifted on her feet and gulped hard.

“Katniss Everdeen.” That was it. Time froze. I stared deeply into the screen and at the tall, slinky figure. Her beautiful dark and curly hair was in a gorgeous bun on the top of her head and the grey eyes I knew so well stared back at me.

“Oh ... wow.” I muttered quietly. Everyone was fixated on the screen like me. No one could take their eyes off the drop dead gorgeous girl standing before us.

“I’ll bet my hat that was your sister.” Crazy lady replied sweetly. She was wearing a hat? I thought it was some fuzzy thing dumped on her head! I stand corrected! My Mum nods and Crazy lady goes to the other bowl and reads out...

“Peeta Mellark.” Once again, the crowd parts to reveal a young boy with wavy blond hair and the brightest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. Dad. They shake hands on stage, get lead out and it stops there.

Suddenly everyone was buzzing with talk. I could barely believe it! My parents were so young, so afraid. All I could hear was “Katniss was so amazing!” and “Peeta looked so cute when he walked up to that stage”. Who were these people? Was this there only entertainment? My parents thought it was their death sentence and all my class mates could think of was how they appeared on camera. None of them knew my Mum had nightmares every night because of what she appeared like on screen. They were all a bunch of losers.

Relief washed over me as the break bell rang out. I was the first out of my seat. I went straight to the place I spent every break time. I went behind the school block where there was a beautiful spot full of trees. I’d been going there at break times ever since I was 8 just to block everyone else out and ... think.

I thought about a lot. It had only been five minutes and I’d recalled the events of the threatening again and still nothing. I’d thought about my parents and how it would feel, being them. I thought about that boy again, the way my knees almost buckled every time I thought of those glossy chocolaty eyes. I hated how I couldn’t get him out of my head, how I reacted towards him. I should hate him. I should loathe him for everything he is, I thought stiffly. But I didn’t. I hated myself.

I’d tried and tried so hard to make myself believe I hated him and everything he’d done was making me angrier by the second, and that was true when I saw him, but afterwards all I wanted was another glimpse at his eyes. They were all I’d ever seen anyway, but if I saw him again, without a mask, I’d know exactly who he was. Those eyes were unmistakable. That was the worst part of it.

I heard a twig snap behind me and my head immediately whipped around to focus on it. At first I saw nothing but after awhile I realised someone was there. It couldn’t have been any of my class mates because they never came behind here. The figure had been so hard to spot because they were wearing all black and ... and a mask. Oh crap. Not again.

They came closer and I saw a flash of brown in their eyes. Of course, they sent the one boy I couldn’t hate yet couldn’t stand the most. My eyes narrowed.

“You again.” I hissed. If I could see his face, I swear he’d be smiling. It would probably be a dazzling smile too. CUT IT OUT, I screamed in my head. I stood up quickly, but too late. He circled me and then matched my steps for the second time in 48 hours. The moment I knew I was cornered was when my back hit into a tree hard. I winced and, before I could move out of the way, he blocked me off. God dammit! What was with him?

I couldn’t find the right words to say. It was like they got jumbled in my mouth and came out all twisted. All I could manage was letting my mouth hang wide open. I came to my senses ... finally ... and gave him the coolest stare I could. I saw a silver light shining from where his pocket was and ducked down just in time as a blade swooped across the air where I had been.

Next, I did the most stupid and ridiculous thing, I went through his legs. I turned out he wasn’t expecting it because I blocked him off. Pay back, my mind called to me. I almost laughed. Snatching another dagger from his pocket, I poised it at the edge of his throat. Seizing the mask, I raised my eyebrows.

“Do you mind?” Before he could even reply, I was ripping it from his reach. My blade dropped from my hand. The boy standing before me was even more incredible looking than I’d thought. He had cropped golden brown, sun kissed hair that fitted perfectly with his to-die-for eyes. Somehow, this boy even had a perfect tan to match.

Luckily, he himself snapped me out of the most idiotic moment of my life. He threw the dagger at me, which narrowly missed as I rolled over to one side. I was totally unarmed and one blade lay on the floor behind him, a couple others in his pocket, one in his hand and one stuck in the tree behind me. I wasn’t sure what to do next so I just got to my feet and looked from dagger to dagger.

He stepped forward slowly, the pace quickening every so often. I knew now not to step back unless I wanted to be cornered again. That might cost me my life next time, I hissed to myself. Again, he tried to cut at me with his blade. I arched my back backwards just in time to hear a hiss as the blade cut the air above me. Flipping over, I kicked him in the jaw and landed straight on my feet. That would teach him to mess with me.

The boy rubbed his jaw, clearly in pain from it. I would have felt bad if he hadn’t been trying to kill me. His eyes narrowed at me, like a fox fixated on its prey. I could barely believe I was actually in this situation for the second time in less than two days. I was like a bad luck charm!

He started to circle around, so I matched him, staying opposite from him and letting him take the first hit. It wasn’t long before he crossed over to me and slashed at my arm. I let out a yelp and staggered backwards. Blood started pouring out from the gash and I thought I might faint or something. I leant on the tree for balance and when I looked back at my opponent, his eyes had widened with surprise. Taking a deep breath, I ran forward, scooped up the dagger and moved out the way just before he could slash at me again. If it kept bleeding like that I was going to lose too much blood. He knows that, I thought to myself. He isn’t stupid.

“First blood to you.” I muttered, taking another painful glance at the bloodied wound. Suddenly I wondered how cheesy that line sounded. “First blood to you”, who says that? ... Me, clearly.

“So it seems.” He replied. My knees buckled but this time I managed to stay up right. I hadn’t expected his voice to be so powerful, rich and commanding. Was everything about him so perfect ... apart from him trying to kill me of course? I didn’t know how much longer I could keep this up for. I sighed and threw the knife into the ground next to me.

“What do you want?” I asked quietly. “Why do you keep coming back like this? I didn’t mean to shoot you down so can you just leave me alone?” I was practically begging and my voice was wavering with emotion. I swept some hair from my face and tried to compose myself so I didn’t start crying. God that would have been so embarrassing! The boy frowned as if he didn’t know quite what to make of my little speech.

“It doesn’t matter. You wouldn’t understand.” He replied, looking down and running his strong fingers through his hair. I swear he actually looked guilty. What was he hiding?

“Of course it matters! You’re this close to killing me and you won’t tell me why.” I cried, picking up the knife and storming over to him. He looked alarmed and raised his own blade. I slashed it at him and caught his cheek ever so slightly, causing a small amount of blood to seep out. It didn’t seem to faze him at all. I tried again but this time, our blades met. It seemed so pointless, having a sword fight with daggers but it was still lethal. We both blocked each other’s hits and avoided getting cut until; once again, he cornered me. I raised my knife; lay it across his throat whilst pressing it against my own arm. Feeling a sharp point poking into my side, I looked down to find his own blade was ready to take a cut at my insides. Nice... The school bell rang out loud and clear, causing me to look away momentarily.

“Back off.” I hissed and pressed the blade harder at his throat. Reluctantly, the boy lowered his dagger and took a few steps away. As I was walking away, he caught my hand. I turned back to look at him, confused. His face looked sad and soft.

“I wasn’t trying to kill you.” He replied quietly. Oh sure, I muttered sarcastically to myself. He’d have killed me if he had the chance. I was sure of it. At least ... I thought I was. Snatching my hand away I walked off but before I could turn the corner to the front of the school block I stopped.

“Oh, and don’t forget this.” I called fiercely, spun around and lobbed it at him. He didn’t see it coming but luckily, I’d aimed it to pin his hoodie to the tree. After, I spun around again and joined everyone else in the queue to get back inside the school building.

“Saved by the bell.” I muttered. What a cliché.

By the end of the day, I wasn’t just furious at that drop dead gorgeous boy. I was blazing with myself. Why hadn’t I picked up any clues to who these people were yet? Maybe there were none to pick up ... What was I thinking?! Of course there were. No one could leave nothing behind ... that was it! He may have left a dagger behind or something else. Maybe even the mask. That would maybe help me figure this out.

As soon as the bell went I rushed from my seat. Before I could get out of the door, Mrs. Herriot stood.

“Ashby,” She called out. I stopped at the door, sighing. “I want a word.” There was a chorus of oohs from the back rows followed by stupid girly giggling. I felt my cheeks go bright red.

Everyone else left the room quickly but I stood where I was. Mrs. Herriot smiled encouragingly and I felt like puking. I didn’t want to talk with her about anything. She was a nosy, bossy little morphling.

“Ashby, I can’t help but notice you seem a little ... distracted lately.” She told me in a surprised voice as if I were always the best student ever. I pulled a convincingly shocked face.

“Me? No ... I just ... got a late night is all, Mrs. Herriot.” I replied sweetly and left before she could say anything else to bore me to death.

I scanned the tree area. He must have left something. He had to! Otherwise I was screwed.  I was probably screwed anyway. I needed something.

The trees shifted in the breeze and the wind whistled slowly as I walked quietly over to where the fight had taken place. I cursed myself for dropping my guard, for letting his looks fool me. I hated how I’d dropped the dagger because of one look at him. Sure, he was probably the fittest guy I’d ever seen in my whole life but what did that matter? It meant quite a lot to me actually, but that wasn’t the point. I had to hate him. He hated me. Didn’t he?

A flash of silver reflected off the blade of the knife I’d dropped. Clearly, he hadn’t picked it up afterwards. I scooped it up and inspected it. The blade was thin and long with a heavily encrusted handle.  It was beautiful with swirls making their way up to the top of the handle like snakes slithering up into the tips of the trees. I’d not seen a snake before. They were very rare. Carved onto the blade itself was the letters L.C. What did that mean? L.C? Could it be a name? Or a group? I wasn’t sure. It could mean anything, anything at all. I tucked it into my bag and rushed on to Fir’s school. I was late for picking him up.

When I made it to Fir’s school gates, I found him and Librae sitting on the old rusted swings in the playground.

“I am so sorry I’m late, Fir!” I panted and he broke into a wide grin. I leaned over to rest my hand on the frame. My breath came out in wheezy, quick puffs. Librae smiled at me and then at Fir.

“That’s okay, Ash. Though I want to ask a question. Why were you late?” He asked slyly. My eyes widened and I took a quick glance at Librae. She didn’t know about the whole attack thing so I couldn’t say anything. I shook my head, laughing.

“You wouldn’t believe me even if I told you, little Fir tree.” I replied, trying to make it look convincing. Fir wasn’t fooled though. I hadn’t expected him to be. He knew me to well. I was hoping Librae would fall for it though. Fir looked over at her and grinned.

“Librae’s coming over for dinner tonight, Ash. You can tell me after that.” There was nothing but a commanding tone in his voice. I raised my eyebrows at him gave a mock bow.

“Of course, my Lord.” I replied in a posh voice which made them both giggle. “Come on, you two. Mum and Dad will be wondering where we are!”

When we got home, my parents were acting more than hysterical. Librae looked alarmed and extremely uncomfortable. I cleared my throat.

“Fir, why don’t you take Librae to your room?” I said loudly and very slowly. It was only then did I realise what a bad idea that was. Fir clearly liked her and she acted like ... like she was totally all over him.  Those two in Fir’s bedroom? Oh dear ... me and my big mouth. Before I could object Fir chivalrously lead Librae off to ... his room. I’d have to check up on them later. I turned on Mum and Dad.

“Seriously, what is with you two?” I hissed fiercely. They looked alarmed. Dad was certainly calmer than Mum was. Her grey eyes were bulging out of their sockets. Her breathing was really unsteady and Dad was looking worried. What was going on? What made them like this?

“They came back-”

“What? When?” I asked quickly. I could take a good guess at who “they” were. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who got a visit from some thug. The only difference was my thug was rather annoyingly cute. I mean, I actually dropped my knife from pure shock of how cute he was! I cursed myself silently for that, swearing I’d never do that again.

“After you finished school. Ash, I think you’re in danger.” Mum tried to calm herself down and attempted to speak softly but it came out in more of a high pitched speak.

“Mum, that’s ridiculous! I’m perfectly safe ... they only came to make a point. They won’t come back.” I told her, trying to sound convincing. Of course I wasn’t in danger. I only ... buried an arrow in a kids arm. Although, I think that kid was older than me...

“No Ashby, you aren’t safe! You’re smart enough to know that by now.” Mum’s voice was getting louder and louder with each word she spat in my direction. It wasn’t my fault some crazy psychopaths wanted my blood! ... Was it?

“Get a hold of yourself, Mum! Those weeks you spent in the arena made you way too suspicious. Calm down, there’s nothing abnormal going on.” I whispered harshly, trying not to attract any attention from Librae and Fir ... Speaking of which, I owed them a little visit. They’d been up there alone for long enough.

I made a quick escape from my parents and stepped almost undetectably up the stairs and onto the landing. I stopped outside Fir’s bedroom door and listened in. The first thing I heard was Librae’s hysterical giggles.

“Oh my god, Fir. You make me laugh so much!” She spluttered uncontrollably. I could picture Fir grinning widely right then. There was some movement.

“Well, Gunnar has done some pretty stupid things in his time.” Fir agreed and they both laughed really hard. Then the atmosphere suddenly went awkward.

“Do you ... do you think that Gunnar likes me? Like, likes me likes me?” Librae asked in a small voice. There was an awkward shuffle and I heard Fir get up. Instinctively, I moved out of sight but in a hearing range.

“I ... I’m not really sure. What would you say if he did?” Fir had never sounded quite so nervous. At least his love life wasn’t even close to the complexity of my own ... if you could call it a love life. The boy was trying to kill me, not ask me out!

“I would say “I’m sorry but I’m taken”.” She replied with a blatant hint as if she was screaming “I LIKE YOU”! Poor little Fir. He totally missed the clue. I heard him struggle for words.

“Taken? Taken by whom?” Fir squeaked with an unmistakable hint of jealousy. I wasn’t sure how Librae would answer that question. She was clearly a whole lot more confident than I first gave her credit for.

“You’re not ... you aren’t jealous, are you?” Librae questioned suspiciously. She was much cleverer than Fir, obviously. She picked up things he couldn’t even dream of noticing. I could picture Fir blushing uncontrollably. Fir coughed awkwardly.

“Uh ... no. Why’d you ... why’d you think that?” He stammered, struggling to speak, let alone act cool! Oh god, this was too painful! And yet at the same time, so ridiculously hilarious. I couldn’t help but keep eavesdrop! This was so entertaining.

“Oh ... I- err- Don’t worry. I totally just made this seriously awkward.” She replied hastily. I heard her get up to leave but something stopped her. I waited for something to happen ... anything. But nothing did. I had the greatest urge to find out what was going on.

“Well, wherever you got the idea from,” I heard Fir say quietly. “You’re completely and utterly right.” And that was my cue to leave. I was totally astonished! Fir had seriously just got his first girlfriend and he was better at this whole lovey-dovey stuff than I was. This was so unfair! How could Fir actually have gotten up the courage for that?! One minute he was shy and acting impossibly tongue tied and the next he was like some irresistible charmer! What was going on here?

After about half an hour, Mum knocked on my door. I was lying on my bed, reading some weird book about “vampires”. Whatever they were.

“Sweetie, its dinner time.” She called softly. I nodded slowly and got up. Apparently, she wasn’t done talking yet.

“You didn’t tell me what happened at school today. He was there wasn’t he?” My jaw might as well have dropped to the floor. How did she know about that? Did she have some super powers she hadn’t told me about yet? This family was so confusing and it was doing my head in!

“It doesn’t matter how I know, I just need you to tell me everything ... including the way you feel about him. And I want you to be honest.” She spoke slowly and in a low tone as if I couldn’t quite grasp English. This was horrifying! I was going to have to tell her everything! This was all awful.

“Well ... um ... okay. I was just sitting behind the school blocks and he kind of just ... appeared.” I began, feeling so incredibly nervous. “I got angry. He was wearing that stupid mask again. Somehow, he cornered me and tried to kill me ... for the second time. I got him up against a tree and took off the mask. Then I ...” I couldn’t say it. Not in front of my Mum. It was already horrifying enough, thinking the enemy must be like ... the fittest guy you’d ever seen, but to admit that to your Mum. Life couldn’t get any worse.

“Then you what?” Mum asked suspiciously. Couldn’t she just leave it alone? Clearly, this was not something I wanted to discuss with my Mother! I turned to her, putting on my best scowl.

“Then I dropped the freaking knife. I dropped the knife and almost got killed, Mum. I was stupid and let my guard down for one second and I almost ended up dead!” I shouted. I threw the book on the floor in rage. I’d been so stupid! I hated myself for it. No, you should hate him, I told myself angrily. But I didn’t hate him ... I couldn’t hate him. That’s why I hated myself.

“Sweetie, why did you drop the knife?” Mum asked kindly, laying a hand on my arm. I turned and looked at her, knowing she saw the weakness in my eyes. I didn’t know how to say it. I didn’t even want to say it.

“Because I thought he was the most dazzling person I’d ever seen.”


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