Fallen from Grace (Hunger Games)

68th Hunger Games

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2. How They Met

    Stupid . . .

    Stupid . . .

    What was he thinking!? Volunteering in the Games when only one of them could come out alive!? What was he thinking!?

    When Emily and Liam arrived to the train station, Emily didn’t hesitate and holed herself in an empty bedroom and curled up in a ball on the bed as the train began to move to the next district. “Em . . .” Liam called from behind the door and gentle knocked on the door. “Emily . . .”

    But the redhead ignored him and his gentle pleads for her to come out and talk to him. The door wasn’t even locked, it didn’t have a lock. Liam could honestly come inside and comfort her if he wanted to, but that was his nature. He gave Emily the space to think and calm down before joining her when he felt it was the right time to go inside. He also learned that Emily wouldn’t communicate with him when she was consumed with negative emotions, and pushing her only resulted in tears and screaming . . .

    Emily looked out the window and thought about the circumstance she was in . . . the terrible turn of events when she saw Liam in the Justice Hall with her as her district mate. Didn’t he realize how important he was to her? He was the one person she completely trusted . . . the ONLY person she trusted . . .

    The redhead closed her eyes and laid her head back against the wall when she thought about when she met Liam and his brothers . . .

    Emily had been having some issues with bullies her age making fun of her for making an ugly little stitch she just learned the day before. “Wow, that’s so ugly!” one exclaimed.

    “Geez, can you GO any slower?”

    “At this pace the Peacekeepers will kill you for dragging us down,” another laughed.

    Emily swallowed a lump that swelled in her throat at the idea of being killed because she wasn’t good enough to do a simple little stitch. Her green eyes fleeted over to some Peacekeepers walking down her row to check how everyone was working and dropped her eyes immediately to the little cloth in her hands and continued with her work. Her small hands trembled violently as she pulled the needle and stabbed through the cloth again, only to stab her finger yet again. The little girl choked a cry and sucked on her finger to get the rest of the blood off before she quickly went back to work before the man in white walked past her.

    Could he see how much she was trembling? How much the boys around her harassed her and snickered at her fear?

    The bell rang and echoed in the factory, making Emily jump and the boys chuckle louder at her skittish behavior. She excused herself from her work area and walked away from the boys toward the exit of the grey factory. Time to go home . . .

    The red haired girl bundled herself in her moth eaten coat and wrapped a scarf around around her neck while she exited work with the rest of the factory. She broke through the sea of people toward home when looked back and felt her blood go cold when the boys came into view and eyed her.

    Oh come on . . . not now, she was too tired to even deal with them . . .

    She picked up the pace a little more. And so did they. Great. Emily whipped her head around and began to run away as fast as her little legs could manage. She heard three pairs of feet chase after her seconds later. Her heart thudded against her chest, heat consumed her body the longer she ran, and her lungs burned. But the pain her body felt was nothing compared to the fear of what the boys had in plan for her.

    What did they want? Why did they always pick on her? What did she do to deserve that kind of torment from them? She just wanted to go home and be safe in her room.

    Her mind buzzed with ways to escape that she paid no attention to where she was going. Left. Left. Right. Left. Right. Right. Straight. It was getting so dark that any dark corner of District Eight was better than any well lit area where the could see her easy. Her red hair was already a giveaway of her whereabouts. 

    She needed to disappear . . . 

    Emily turned another corner, then quickly whipped around another and hid behind a smelly pile of garbage and crouched down behind it. She covered her mouth with her scarf and forced herself to take in small and quite breaths even when her lungs burned and screamed for air. The redhead heard the three pairs of feet scuffle around the corner and run past her in search of their victim and ran far far away from where she hid.

    The little girl stayed where she was and counted to one twenty to make sure they were long gone before she crawled from her hiding place and timidly looked around the unfamiliar parts of District Eight.

    Where was she . . . this place didn’t look familiar . . . oh no . . . she was lost . . .

    Emily swallowed the lump swelling up in her throat and sniffled her tears away before she began to walk aimlessly for something familiar to find her way home with. It was getting darker and soon enough the Peacekeepers would be out looking for anyone out past curfew. And once they find her she was as good as dead. Emily pursed her lips and wiped away tears that threatened to escape and kept walking down the streets, avoiding the streetlamps as much as possible and stayed in the shadows from the views of anyone outside.

    The clicking of boots reached her ears and Emily stopped in her place and slinked into a dark corner out of the streets and curled into a ball, trying to make herself as small as possible and as invisible as possible. She took in one big breath and held it when large men in white walk right past her and took not notice of her. Emily shivered when they disappeared behind the corner and hot tears ran down her chubby cheeks.

    She wanted to go home . . .

    “Shouldn’t you two be at home?” someone asked and Emily gasped and froze in place.

    “We’re almost there, sir . . .” someone answered. “Getting out of the factory takes longer than you think . . .”

    “Watch your tongue boy . . .” one of the Peacekeepers barked. “Get back home already, you know what’ll happen if you’re out past curfew.”

    “Yes . . .” the boy said and began walking again. 

    Emily sighed in relief that the Peacekeepers were talking to someone else, but that relief ended up with her in tears and pressed her forehead against her knees and quietly weep. She was going to die all because a bunch of mean boys wanted to bully her . . . it wasn’t fair . . .

    “Hey . . .” someone whispered. The little redhead gasped and looked up at two boys staring at her, one boy looked about thirteen while the other one looked around eight. Both had dark hair, the older brother with grey eyes while the younger brother had blue eyes. “What’s wrong? Where are your parents?” the older one asked.

    Emily blinked a couple times and quickly wiped her tears away, hoping that they didn’t see her crying. Even hearing her crying was bad. “I don’t know where I am . . .” she answered.

    “You’re lost?”

    She nodded.

    The older brother looked back where they ran into the Peacekeepers while the younger brother kept his intense gaze on Emily, looking at her with a suspicious look in his blue eyes and a sense of dislike toward her when the big brother turned back to her. “How about you come along with us. We’ll find your way back tomorrow morning when we’re allowed to come out. Promise we don’t hurt you.”

    The little brother rolled his eyes and Emily watched the big brother carefully. “Is . . . is that okay . . .?” she asked.

    “Yeah. We’ll have to hurry though. We shouldn’t be out here much longer and we’re just around the corner.”

    Emily hesitated for a couple seconds and slowly stood up and came a little closer to them. It was better than being killed for being out after hours. When she got closer the boys began walking again and she followed just behind them toward their home. The little six-year-old followed the two strangers to their homes and timidly entered their living space whilst their mother gave them a confused look. “Constantine? Liam? Who’s this?” their mother asked.

    Emily dropped her eyes away from their mother’s gaze and looked down at her feet meekly. “She got lost and we found her on our way back home. We couldn’t leave her out there with Peacekeepers wandering around . . .” the older brother answered. “I’ll help her find her way back tomorrow morning when we’re allowed, okay?”

    Their mother sighed and looked back at the red haired girl in their home and looked back at Constantine. “You two go prepare her a place to sleep then.” Emily looked up at her when the boys wandered around gathering things for her to use during her stay in their homes. “I’m Serenity Aldair,” the woman introduced herself. “The oldest one is Constantine,” she began and pointed to the taller boy with the grey eyes and then pointed to the younger boy, “That’s Liam. Their youngest brother is sick in bed, he’s Scottie and my husband should be here any moment. His name is Braxton, but he much prefers being called “Mr. Aldair” when you talk to him.”

    “Ummm . . .” Emily began and twiddled her fingers awkwardly. “Thank you . . . Mrs. Aldair . . .”

    The woman lightly smiled and looked toward the boys as they came back with a pillow and the cleanest sheet they had. “What’s your name, dear?” Mrs. Aldair asked.

    “I’m . . . Emily Horwitz . . .” she answered.

    “Oh, that’s why you look familiar. I must have seen your mother around some time ago. Red hair? You look a lot like her?”

    Emily nodded.

    “It’s not often you see a lot of redheads in this district. Both of you are practically Capitol red—” They then heard the sheets swat open and spread over the couch, Liam looking annoyed at the mere mention of the Capitol or their weird citizens. Mrs. Aldair narrowed her eyes at her son and looked down at Emily. “How about you get some sleep. One of us will take you back in the morning.”

    The little girl nodded and walked over to the couch and slowed down when she got closer to the Liam boy. His blue eyes immediately went to her and stared at her with the same suspicious glint in his eyes like he didn’t trust her. Or didn’t like her at all. Emily shrugged her shoulder like a shield and nodded to him and Constantine. “Thank you . . .” was all she could get out of herself when Liam retreated away to his room.

    “Don’t mind him, he doesn’t like a lot of people,” Constantine said casually.

    “Oh . . .”

    “Don’t take it to heart. It’s totally normal,” he added. “See you in the morning, Emily,” the boy nodded to her.

    Emily nodded back and the boy disappeared to his shared room with his brothers with his mother just behind him and blew the lantern flame out.

    Then everything went dark—

    
    “Emily . . .?”

    The redhead’s trance was broken and she was back in her room on the train toward the Capitol. She let out a depressed sigh and hugged her knees together when she looked toward the door. “Come in . . .” she finally answered.

    Liam slid the door opened and stared down at her ball figure. Whenever Liam stared at her with those blue eyes, Emily couldn’t help but feel like that six-year-old girl in her dark corner that he and his older brother found ten years ago. The man slipped into her room, Emily scooted over to give him room, and he slid beside her as he took her hand. She could tell he wanted to say something to her, but there was nothing for him to say. He couldn’t apologize for volunteering when he had a reason to, he couldn’t say everything would be better in the end, there was nothing to say that would make the situation any better . . .

    “I was thinking about how we met . . .” Emily said to break the silence.

    Liam lightly chuckled and lightly squeezed her hand. “I didn’t like you when we met.”

    “To be fair, you didn’t like anybody . . .” the redhead laughed. 

    He lightly laughed with her, but their chuckles died down to a quiet snort before Liam looked down at their hand and rubbed a circle on the back of her hand with his thumb. “I’m glad I met you though—”

    “Don’t say that . . .” she shook her head and looked at Liam from under her lashes. What he said only made it sound like he wanted to die and that he was saying farewell to her. Emily wanted to say that it wasn’t goodbye, but then she would be a terrible liar if she said that. She WISHED she could be hopeful and come out alive with him, but only God knew that would never happen.

    And she hated God for allowing it to happen . . .

    Liam gave her hand a reassuring squeeze and pet her head once and said: “It’s okay to cry . . .”

    Emily merely stared at him with a look of question in her eyes. He knew more than anybody else that she hardly ever cried in front of people unless it was people she trusted. Even if she did cry she tried to brush it off as having dust in her eyes and wipe it away hoping no one else saw the tears. With Harmony and Cece, they just witnessed her cry for the first time in front of them when they said their goodbyes to her.

    Liam was the only person she felt slightly more comfortable being vulnerable in front of . . .

    She pursed her lips and looked away from him and dabbed the escaped tears away, refusing to show her moment of weakness. Liam gently pulled her to him and collected her in his arms, her tiny body fitting perfectly to his as he held her to him and allowing Emily to lose it. She took in deep breaths, sobbing against his chest and clenching his shirt in her fist as she cried against him.

    She was scared . . . for her life . . . for Liam’s . . . 

    Emily couldn’t even imagine losing Liam and yet she had a feeling in her gut she would and join him soon after . . . They were each other’s everything. Their best friend, their shoulder to cry on, their support, their rock and anchor . . .

    Liam laid his on top of hers as Emily began to calm down, running his fingers through her hair as Emily turned away from him and leaned her back against his chest. Their legs tangled around each others’ and intertwined their fingers with ease and comfort. Everyone always questioned if they were romantically involved and they always laughed it off and answered that they were just really close friends. Those ten years of friendship could do that . . .

    Emily closed her eyes and took in steady breaths and fell asleep comfortably in Liam’s hold.

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