Fallen from Grace (Hunger Games)

68th Hunger Games

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8. Evaluation

     Emily tried and tried and tried again, but no matter how many times she threw the damn knife it didn’t hit where she wanted. In her frustration, she threw the throwing knife harder and harder but it only ended up hitting off the mark or dropped to the floor. Should she just give up on throwing knives and flail it around instead when she’d be up against someone hand to hand? She might have a better chance than just bruising someone or hitting their shoulder.

    Within the lunch hour, they were told to gather in the waiting room. Well . . . time to wait . . .

    Her leg shook nervously as her eyes stayed on her trembling hands. One by one the tributes were called in and the butterflies in her stomach transferred into her heart and lungs. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t even think. What was she going to do!?

    District Seven’s last tribute just went in; Emily only had Liam left to go before her to think of something. What could she do? Should she show her combat skills? Should she keep it a secret? Maybe it’d help me. Maybe they’d be impressed. Oh god, think! Think!

    “Hey,” Liam’s voice appeared. “You’ll be okay.”

    Easy for him to say. He managed to move up from total rooky making lucky shots to great for practicing three days straight. And Emily moved form place-to-place and earned mediocre levels for all of them. Knife throwing . . . her absolute worst. 

    “Can you just do my evaluation for me . . .?” her voice shook in a joking tone.

    Liam pulled her closer to him and gently hugged her head as he nuzzled his face into her hair. “Show them what you can do . . .” he said quietly. His tone was serious and threatening. It wasn’t often she heard him like that, and when he did it was his anger toward the Capitol ready to explode. She knew what he planned to do. He planned to show how deadly he was. Not just in his aim in archery, but how much he packed in a punch. Emily remembered how ruthless he could be. And his anger told her to show them what she was capable of.

    “I don’t think their trainer would appreciate I hurt them . . .”

    “I don’t care . . .” he shook his head. “Just pretend it’s your dad or something . . .” Emily swallowed the lump trapped in her throat. Liam’s name was called. “I’ll see you later.” He then stood up and walked toward the opened door. 

    Emily kept her eyes on her knees far after the door closed behind her best friend. She was next. It was time to decide. She didn’t have the anger in her to go nuts on the trainer and show how dangerous she was. Emily wasn’t dangerous at all. That was the problem. Liam was the one people should fear if they were to decide which one of the two to avoid. Emily was as harmless as a baby lamb. 

    And that was all she was . . . a lamb . . .

    The redhead pulled a knee to her chest and hugged it against her as she took in deep breaths. Breathe in . . . breathe out . . . breathe in . . . breathe out . . . breathe—

    Emily Horwitz.

    Oh god . . . was it time already?

    Her heart stopped beating for a moment and thumped awake against her chest. She felt like she was seconds away from throwing up. She felt dizzy and she wanted out. Just turn the other way and get a 0. But giving them a show was what decided her fate. Life and death . . .

    She took in a deep breath and stood up. Her frame shook as she slowly dragged her feet. Her eyes darted around the room as she entered the room and the doors closed behind her. Breathe in slowly. God she felt sick. She was so close to emptying her meal. Why did she decide to eat? Worst mistake ever.

    Emily looked toward the Gamemaker at his friends, or judges, or whatevers. Their attention was to each other or some food that recently came in to fill their bellies. They had to sit through fifteen tributes, their sixteenth just coming in, and they were bored out of their minds and a drink away from being drunk. Her first fear was that they’d be too drunk to even remember what she’d show them.

    The redhead looked toward a large mat with one trainer waiting just close by and the obstacle with a couple others with paddles. The rest of the room had the requirements needed for whatever skill the other tributes wanted to show off. Emily walked over to the mat with the one trainer and kicked her shoes off. She took in a deep breath and pulled her hair back in a messy ponytail when she turned around toward the judges and Gamemaker.

    “Emily Horwitz . . . District 8 . . .,” she called their attention. Some of them looked her way, the Gamemaker stared at her with dead eyes, seeing whom his attention was towards and was immediately unimpressed.

    She pursed her lips and turned toward the trainer. The Eight tribute cracked her knuckles and took careful padded steps toward the trainer when the man threw a punch toward her. Emily just barely dodged it and took the man’s wrist, quickly turned around, and pulled the trainer until he rammed into Emily’s back and was thrown over her shoulder.

    But the trainer clasped his hand around Emily’s forearm, too slow to let go and move away, and was pulled down with her. Emily rolled forward and landed on the man when the trainer clasped his arms around Emily’s neck and her legs wrapped around the tribute’s legs. She tried to pry the man’s arms from her neck and quickly decided to elbow the man’s side as hard as she could. It required work to twist around more and hit the man’s ribs so hard she swore there was a quiet sound of a crack. He let go, groaning and writhing in pain while Emily quickly got back on her feet and kicked the man in the stomach. 

    She was about to hit him again when the trainer grabbed her ankle and swiped her other foot with his hand. Emily landed on her back, knocking the wind out of her, when the trainer pinned her to the ground. Her eyes widened with fear and screamed in terror before she violently tried to struggle out of the man’s grasp.

    “NO! STOP! I’LL DO ANYTHING! JUST NOT THAT!” she screamed.

    “Ms. Horwitz!” a voice called out to her, but her terror had completely taken away her senses completely.

    “I’m sorry!” she apologized, but the authorities in the room didn’t know toward whom. “I’m sorry . . . I’m sorry I was bad! I won’t do it again . . .” she sobbed and hid behind her hands, hiding her tears, her fears. “I’m sorry . . .” Emily cried.

***** 

    Emily couldn’t remember how she even got back to her room. She remembered being in the Training Center and was fighting the trainer, but some time in between it was like someone had erased whatever happened in her evaluation. 

    She emerged from her room and found everyone in the living space in front of the projection. Liam turned his head toward her and his eyes immediately fixated on her. “Em! Are you okay?” he asked in a startled tone and hopped over the couch to her. 

    “Yeah . . .” she nodded. “When did I get here? How long have I been out?” 

    Liam pursed his lips and the rest of the team and Phox glanced over at Emily uncomfortably. “You had another . . . episode . . .”

    “‘Another’? You mean this has happened before?” Phox asked.

    Emily’s face went completely pale. Oh god . . .

    “A few . . .” Liam admitted. “I was always around to calm her down whenever it happened though . . .”

    “Well . . . wish I was informed of this—”

    “It was my fault!” he argued. “I told her to show how she is in combat. I didn’t think this would happen.”

    “WELL! Because of that show, her chances of getting a high score had gone WAY DOWN.” Emily blinked and fidgeted uncomfortably as she kept her eyes to the ground. She couldn’t believe that happened. Emily didn’t think of the possibilities either. But it hadn’t happened in a while and whenever Liam or his brothers managed to pin her down she was never triggered. She assumed she had gotten over her fears . . .

    “I’m sorry, Em . . .” Liam sighed.

    Emily shook her head. “You didn’t know—”

    “I SHOULD have. I shouldn’t have convinced you,” he interrupted her. “I’m sorry . . .” the man apologized again.

    The redhead moved closer to him and hugged him closer and nuzzled her face to his chest. “It’s okay . . .” she mumbled. “It wasn’t your fault . . .” her voice shook while she tried to keep the tears in.

    “They’re about the announce the scores guys . . .” Phox called them from the couch.

    Emily moved away from Liam and wiped away the tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks and walked over to the couch with Liam.

    She hated being there . . . she hated going back home to her parents. It was hell on earth and she knew that. But Emily had no place to go without burdening others. Don’t burden others, they’d just drop you like a rock if you whined and complained and begged to them. That was what she was raised to believe.

    So she kept things to herself . . .

    Always lying and always hid the truth from others . . .

    Liam saw, for just a moment, what life in her home was like and it was the time he walked her home the morning after they met. He must have told his parents, because they always treated her with such kindness and love. Something she never experienced under her roof. 

    Emily hid her bruises under her clothes and kept her hair long to cover any markings on her face. The teachers noticed, but they never commented on it. They never even asked her if anything was wrong at home. What kind of person noticed a child hiding bruises that peeked under their clothes and sit by doing nothing? Was it just uncomfortable? Did they believe it would stop? Why did they never question!?

    And Emily’s mother . . . her mother did NOTHING to stop her husband. She never lifted a finger to protect her daughter. She just sat back and ignored Emily’s cries for help. The woman just droned out the noise and pretend nothing happened.

    The little girl learned to never trust anyone. No one should ever be trusted . . .

    Her life only became worse when she turned eight . . .

    While her mother was asleep, her father came to her in her room. He always forced her down. Pulled her hair, the back of her collar, choked her throat, anything to pin Emily down to the bed. He always made his way with her. He always covered her mouth so she didn’t scream for help and muffle her sobs. There was no way of escape. He always had her pinned down and cornered. Her head always hurt the next morning from hitting it against the metal headboard. No way of escape . . .

    One night worst than before. And when she stayed the night at Liam’s home to escape the terrible home, her father became more violent . . . more hurtful . . .

    She was a bad girl . . .

    Emily was always a bad girl . . . and she ALWAYS had to be punished . . .

    Liam noticed her sudden behavior change and saw how differently she walked when those nights became regular . . . but the ten-year-old boy didn’t understand why at the time.

    It took so much time and so much courage for Emily to run away and never go back . . . 


    “For Liam Aldair of District 8,” Caesar announced when Emily blinked awake and stared at the projection in front of them. The redhead took Liam’s hand and gave it a tight squeeze. She knew he could feel how clammy her hand was, but he didn’t look toward her while his eyes were glued to the figure on the wall. “With a score of . . .” he paused for effect. “Ten.”

    Emily let out a surprised breath and looked up at Liam. “Congratulations,” she sighed and gave him a hug. His body felt stiff against hers indicated that he was just as surprised as the rest of them.

    “Yeah . . .” he answer airily. 

    “Emily Horwitz of District 8,” the man continued. Everyone’s attention went back and the atmosphere in the room just became tense again. Oh god . . . here goes everything. “With a score of . . .” Pause. Emily felt sick to her stomach again. “Five.”

    She closed her eyes in disappointment and lowered her head. It was to be expected. The girl just didn’t believe she’d get that low. Then again, she DID make quite a show down in the Training Center. Of COURSE the judges didn’t like what they saw.

    Phox began: “Well . . . the best we can do now is for you to wow them in your interview—”

    Emily immediately stood up and walked around the couch toward her room. The room remained quiet; no one called for her to stop. They just allowed her to go. But she heard his footsteps follow behind her. She knew how he sounded, she knew exactly whom stayed close behind her as she ran away toward her room.

    “Lamb, hey—”

    “Go away, Liam,” she hissed at him.

    “Em,” he continued soothingly and lightly put a hand on her shoulder.

    Emily immediately slapped his hand off her. “I said GO AWAY, Liam,” she snarled at him. She couldn’t hold the tears back and he recognized that. “I’m DONE,” she cried. “I’m tired of this . . .” the redhead fought her sobs.

    “I know . . .” he nodded. He kept his distance and made sure not to touch her unless she gave her obvious signs that she needed physical comfort. “I know you are . . .”

    She shook her head and looked away from him as she raised her hand to cover her mouth, her tears spilled and ran down her cheeks. Liam was the only person that was allowed to see her cry. No one else should ever see her when she was that vulnerable. That was what made him special. She put so much trust into him and he accepted her, baggage and all.

    “I want to go home . . .” she quietly sobbed and shook her head. “It’s not fair . . .” her voice grew higher. “It’s not fair . . .”

    “I know . . .” Liam nodded again and slowly wrapped his arms around her waist. She felt stiff against his body and slowly eased closer to him. He placed his chin against her head while Emily snaked her arms around her waist and hugged him back. “I know . . .” he mumbled over and over again as she repeated her last sentence.

    It wasn’t fair . . .

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