Fallen from Grace (Hunger Games)

68th Hunger Games

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36. Don't Be a Burden

    Emily didn’t come out of her room. Abir suspected something had happened but hadn’t pushed her to come out of her room. Whatever happened happened and she wasn’t ready to explain what it was. But, again, he suspected something. Phox on the other hand tried to get her out of bed, but the door was locked and he banged on the door loudly demanding she come out until he gave up some minutes later.

    She didn’t feel like socializing with anyone. She didn’t even want to look at anyone. It almost happened last night and she felt that heavy burden on her shoulders. It was hard to breathe and nothing but what the Eleven victor nearly did and what DID happen long ago kept recurring in her head. 

    And it made her sick . . .

    Why did she bother living a day longer when her actions didn’t even give her a sparkle of hope for a brighter future? Everything just came back to haunt her . . .

    Once the tributes had finished eating and everyone went downstairs to the Training Center, Emily came out of her room. Only the Avox were out and about, cleaning up the table and glanced up at the redheaded girl. She merely pursed her lips and nodded to them before taking a turn into the living space by the window. It was bright outside, light reflected off of the shiny buildings of the Capitol. It was all clean and new . . .

    Emily blinked away and looked down to some books left on the coffee table in front of her. Then she looked back toward the elevator that led to all the floors of the tower then back at the table. It wasn’t like she planned on going downstairs to watch her tributes. Not if it risked running into the judgemental eyes of Phox and that man . . .

    She leaned forward and took the book, opening up to the first page and began to read. Though her eyes skimmed through each line of the page, her brain didn’t process the information she saw. It couldn’t have been interesting if she didn’t remember what she was reading.

    A quarter of the page later, she heard the elevator ding behind her but she didn’t turn to see. It was probably Phox to try and get her to come downstairs and be a mentor. Ignoring him was the best way to shut him up, it would just require a lot of stillness and silence.

    Instead--

    "Acting a bit boring up here on your own, don't you think?" a voice called out to her casually. And that voice . . . the sound of it made her body flinch and go cold. Emily stiffly turned her head toward the owner of the voice. And the moment she saw Sauntor, her eyes went hard.

    Out of instinct, she threw her book at him, exclaiming, “GET OUT!”

    The man ducked backwards and chuckled when the book hit his shoulder, not even flinching at the infliction. "Fuck, girl, you're feisty today. What's wrong with baby this time?" Gryffon Sauntor cooed with a mock pout, tilting his head to the side.

    Was he KIDDING her!? Was he toying with her!?

    Her eyes widened in anger and took another book from the coffee table and threw at him even harder than before, “I said GET OUT, ASSHOLE!” she snarled.

    And just like the first one, he completely avoided it.

    "I don't know what you're trying to accomplish by throwing books, but I can assure you the trees used to make them are probably very upset with you right now," he said in an amused tone as he came closer toward her. Emily carefully watched him while he walked around the couch and plopped next to her, which she immediately reacted by jumping back on her feet before he slung his arm where she used to sit. Emily stumbled back too quickly, hit the back of her knees to the coffee table and tumbled back across from Sauntor. "I only have a question to ask, then I'll leave," Gryffon claimed.

    “What . . ?" she growled under her breath, her body visibly trembling while her eyes were hard and blood-thirsty. "Disappointed and back for whatever you wanted?" 

    The man raised a brow at her while Emily glared at the man unblinkingly. “Honey," Gryffon started, "When I start something, I don't half-ass it. If it was meant to be anything more than it was yesterday, it would have been done then and not saved for later. So no. That's not what I came for."

    It couldn’t be to apologize. He didn’t come off as the sorry type to Emily’s eyes. Unless he just wanted to toy with her, get a reaction out of her just for the hell of it . . .

    The man tilted his head and smirked. "But that makes me curious . . . Make it two questions now. One, why did you play along? You acted like you wanted me dead one moment and then wanted me the next?” 

    Oh god . . . 

    Emily watched him carefully, trying to read for more than just questioning her for something as stupid as why she kissed back. She narrowed her eyes at Sauntor, "That's my business, isn't it . . ?" 

    "It WAS," he partially agreed, his eyes never leaving her her. It almost felt like he mimicked her. "But it's not anymore. At some point or another, Panem'll figure it out and slowly you'll run out of secrets to keep. It's just how your life works now." 

    Emily didn’t answer, didn’t even want to give him the satisfaction. If he wanted an answer, tough luck, he wouldn’t get any. Not with the way he treated her the night before, no way in hell. He would never gain any sort of trust for an explanation. He leaned over his knees, feeling as if he was trying to get closer to her and Emily leaned away slightly with her hand sliding closer to a fiberglass decoration to use on him if he were to try anything.    

    "You're not going to kill my curiosity on that one, are you?" he asked, almost challenging by his tone. "Why won't you?" 

    But nothing. 

    All she did was pull her legs up to her chest and purse her lips in complete and utter silence. The room grew uncomfortable. And she wanted it uncomfortable. Make him go away. Maybe the silence would annoy him and he’d walk away once he realized she wouldn’t talk to him . . .

    They stared at each other for what felt like forever. Maybe it was a minute. Maybe it was two. Only the heavy feeling of uncomfortable silence hovered over their heads. Sauntor blinked slowly before leaning back into the couch, letting out an annoyed sigh. "The silent treatment won’t do you shit," he said. "So I suggest dropping it." 

    She didn’t even bat an eye. Her eyes were still cautiously watching him, hard compared to her usual soft wide eyes when she was comfortable. It was like having a staring contest with a cat and wondering what ran through her mind as she stared at him. 

    He ran a hand through his hair and cocked his head, "Do you keep your mouth shut with everyone or is it just me that baby's afraid of talking to?" Sauntor asked, his voice lilting near a childishly angry coo. 

    That was when Emily narrowed her eyes at the man and immediately threw the fiberglass at his head. Which he, somehow, miraculously dodged and shattered into a million pieces behind the couch. Emily jumped back onto her feet and walked toward her room, any way to separate her from the man and not have to deal with questions and his constant childish teasing in his voice. She heard his feet follow behind her and quickened her pace toward the door, but his hand wrapped around her wrist.

    By the mere roughness of his hand against her skin, she felt her body grow cold and muscles stiffen in reaction to his touch. He then roughly tugged at her to stop, making Emily curl inward defensively with her head down and face covered behind a curtain of her red hair.  "Emily, can you act like a damned adult and sit down and talk?" he growled, pushing her backward as he let go of her arm.

    Emily stumbled back, her head still down as her arms crossed over her chest, almost hugging herself. To protect herself. The murderer front had evaporated instantaneously and the frightened little girl stood in her place again. Her eyes were tightly closed and her fingers brushed over the marital cloth around her wrist, not purposely, but almost automatically without reason. Her body trembled, far more visibly than when she was on the coffee table and she hated how much of that vulnerable and weak side of her appeared before the man. 

    Like he had power over her . . .

    She looked up at the man, frightened but still tried so hard to put up a brave front in front of him to show no fear. "You have to go . . . " Emily muttered, "Please . . . "

    "I will," Sauntor said, his voice firm, but the violent growl in it had subsided. "At some point, anyway . . . You don't need to hug yourself, dammit, I'm not going to gut you!" he snapped, which made Emily flinch. "You're still acting like a damned child about to fucking cry and I get enough of that already—can you calm down?"

    She dropped her eyes but kept her lips pursed in a hard line for a few seconds before her arms, too, went limp at her sides.

    "It's just . . . something I learned to get things to go by faster. Fighting takes longer compared to going with it . . . “ she answered inaudibly. He wanted an answer? Fine, if it made him go away then she’d have to. Even if it made her uncomfortable and sick to her stomach. 

    No details . . .

    Never give details . . .

    No one should know. No one had a right to know. It wasn’t their burden to bear . . .

    "With what?" Gryffon asked, his mind reeling.

    Emily looked away to the side, silent as ever as he stared down at her like a menacing behemoth.

    "What would go faster? What do you think I was going to do to you?"

    "You said only two questions . . . You asked why I went along with it in two different ways, so I answered . . . " Emily answered and looked up at him from under her dark lashes.

    "It was the same question in theory," Sauntor rolled his eyes, pursing his lips for a moment. "But fine . . . Just answer one more? What did you tell Abir?" 

    That one she could answer . . .

    Emily took in a deep breath, her shoulders stiff again and squared, then let out a breath past her lips. She shook her head and shrugged. "It's not his problem . . ." 

    Gryffon passed his fingers through his hair again and let out a quiet little sigh. What? No satisfaction in her answer? Not her problem.

    "Should I show you the door?"

    He blinked over at her at her question and let a smirk tug his lip up. "I want to know who first, Emily," Gryffon tried. 

    He figured it out . . .

    Emily shook her head again. "It doesn't matter," she sighed. Shouldn’t matter to him. Shouldn’t matter to anyone. It was her problem . . . HER problem. No one should get involved with her. No one was allowed to go deep into her past . . . 

    Sauntor bit his lip and let his eyes scan the floor for a moment before landing on her again. He was thinking of something, and by the look in his eyes it didn’t make her comfortable in the slightest. Make him leave now before he dug too deep. He shouldn’t know! 

    She couldn’t trust him . . .

    What if he told people!?

    "Liam?" Sauntor guessed without another second's hesitation. "Is that why you can't say?"

    Emily’s eyes fell on the man, wide and bewildered. Did he actually . . .? Almost without warning, her eyes went from fearful and vulnerable to murderous and furious. “How DARE you think he would—“ Her little body shoved her forward and her hands shoved him back with all her might she could muster. She couldn’t believe he said that—couldn’t even THINK straight. To compared Liam to someone so horrid! To even possibly believe someone so beautiful could think of doing something as ugly as what she had been through! “—do ANYTHING! How DARE you even COMPARE him to my father!”

    And there it was . . . it was out . . .

    The murderous glint in her eyes disappeared with a drop of a hat and was replaced with wide eyes that reflected absolute horror . . .

    Oh god . . .

    Oh no . . .

    Did she just—

    No . . .

    She couldn’t have—

    But she did. She said it and he knew . . .

    It was over . . .

    Emily felt sick to her stomach.

    "What the fuck . . ?" the tense man mumbled. 

    She wasn’t thinking, she was blinded with rage . . . it just came out . . .

    "Where the fuck was your mother!? Shitting around with her head in the wall or something!? Why the hell did you let him!?" Sauntor snapped. 

    But she didn’t respond. She was long gone. Didn’t even flinch. 

    Emily stumbled back a step before she walked past him without even glancing up at the man. "Why—? Emily, wait, no," he stammered, his voice harsh and commanding, but nothing came after his words. Not even a touch . . .

    She dragged her feet behind her in her zombie like phase when her path was blocked by the tall man.

    "You, why . . . Did Liam know?"

    Her face contorted into a pained expression, her face covered behind her wall of red hair. No . . . of course she never told him. But he suspected something was wrong when they were kids. He noticed something was different compared to her beatings when they met. Emily felt that he asked his parents questions on certain things that she did. That was probably why his family practically adopted her into the family. They worried for her safety and wanted her out of that horrid place . . .

    But it was nothing more than that . . . suspicion. She never told him what happened and he died never knowing . . .

    But then her lips curled into a smile, a pained smile. Her eyes reflected the same torment that she felt in the house, the same heavy feeling that she carried in her chest since she was small, the same tug that planted in her mind and grew like a tumor . . . slowly destroying her from the inside out . . .

    "Just forget it . . . " she said, her tone hurt and choking. She then looked up at the man, pulling an ‘everything is fine’ face that she often pulled out to everyone. "It was a joke . . . “ She ran her hands through her hair and took in a deep breath through her nose and closed her eyes. "It's fine. Don't have to be so serious.”

    She wished she was dead . . .

    Someone knew . . . and she wished she was dead . . .

    Sauntor blinked slowly at her again, his eyes clouding over for a minute before it mirrored the smile that crossed his features. "Really funny," Gryffon droned, rolled his eyes sarcastically. But she didn’t buy the sarcasm . . .

    He didn’t buy her lie . . .

    "Your talent should be a comedian, I swear," he scoffed and stepped around her. Sauntor glanced over his shoulder at her and tilted his head. "So, how about that door? I seem to have forgotten where it is."

    She looked away and once her hands were in fists again, Emily turned away toward the door and started for it. “This way . . . “ 

    Her body felt numb, but it appeared stiff. Her shoulders were squared and her movement looked as sharp as a rock. She was uncomfortable in the most impossible way imaginable. She was so stiff, still so obviously hurt, still trying to hide what emotions she didn’t want anyone to see . . . 

    "If you hide, they get more curious," he shrugged. "If you show you've nothing to keep secret, they'll leave you alone." The elevator dinged and he shifted toward it slightly, glancing back down at her. "Or you can deal with it. Whatever." 

    There was a simple shake of her head, then a cross of her arms again. "Just make them curious then . . . " she mumbled to herself unemotionally when she looked up at him, plead in her eyes yet again like last night. "Don't tell anyone . . . It's not your business to know anything . . . " 

    He cocked a brow and tilted his head at her. "What is there to tell? Your lame joke?" Sauntor shook his head and slid his foot backward to hold the elevator door. "Make up your mind, geez." He rolled his eyes and hopped into the little space. He turned away from her when the elevator door closed between them.

    And, just like that, Emily’s emotional walls crumbled around her. Her heart ached and she couldn’t breathe. The pain that she felt writhing in her chest was too much. Her body was numb, her chest hurt, and wanted nothing more but to die . . .

    He knew the horrible truth . . . he knew something no one should ever know and she blurted out something she wanted to take to the grave. ‘It’s no one’s business . . .’ his words repeated over and over in her head. Whatever happened to her was her problem and should remain her problem . . . don’t burden others . . . it showed she was weak . . .

    And she didn’t want to be weak . . .

    And yet she never felt so miserably weak in her life until that moment . . .

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