Fallen from Grace (Hunger Games)

68th Hunger Games

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15. Rubble

     She had been thrown back to the wall and the building collapsed around and on her. That was it . . . she was dead . . . no way in hell she’d survive a tumbling building made of brick and stone. Emily covered her head for protection, as if it could save her. Seconds before she lost consciousness, a blinding pain went right through her chest, just barely missing her lung when she took a blow to the head and weights crushed her.

    Emily waited with Scott, Liam’s little brother and the Aldair parents at the side as the reaping began. It was Liam’s first year and the sixteen-year-old Constantine stood with the other boys his age. The twelve-year-olds stood in the very back in front of the Justice Building, making it a little easier to see Liam, just barely taller than the other boys.

     He often looked back toward his family and Emily and she tried to reassure him with a slight smile and a weak wave. But that did not calm his nerves, although he played nice and nodded back with a slight smile before he turned his attention back when the names were about to be chosen.

     The girl’s name was quickly chosen. Then the escort approached the boys’ bowl. And Emily swore time slowed down.

     She looked up at Liam’s parents, seeing how utterly terrified they were. Emily took Mrs. Aldair’s hand and gave it a light squeeze. For luck. She returned a worried smile and looked back at the escort as she returned to the microphone with the unfortunate name of that year’s sacrifice.

     “Liam Buffay,” she called.

     Emily let out a loud sigh of relief, not even realizing she held in a breath. She was just about to scream before the last name was called. Their Liam had froze and trembled when he heard his name, and immediately slumped his shoulders but his body never stopped shaking. The moment the reaping was announced over, Emily quickly ran to Liam and threw herself into him and gave him the strongest hug she could muster. He hugged her back just as tightly, his arms shook around her body. He was always such a tough kid to Emily’s eyes, she had never seen or felt him so scared until that day.

     And she never thought there would be many times in the future to come where she would see fear consume his steel blue eyes . . .

     “Thank you for being here . . .” he said to her in gratitude. “I promise I’ll be there for you . . .” Liam added, a child-like promise that his older brother teased afterward was a child’s promise that he secretly bet would only last a week. As many impossible promised were to a twelve-year-old.

     Emily opened her eyes, her lids feeling heavy and dry. Everything was so dark and yet there were rays of light somewhere far and unreachable. She tried to move but immediately cried out in pain and stopped moving. Emily looked down at a coiled bar through her chest just below her collar bone, old blood stained it and her shirt, indicating how long she had been out. Maybe a whole day? Maybe two?

     Where was Liam!?

     She tried to scream his name but her throat was too dry and hurt to talk. Was he okay? Was he alive? Did he ditch her after the building collapsed? Was he out there looking for her? Emily just wanted to know if he was okay.

     The redhead pried her eyes from the bloodstain and down at her whistle. She gasped and quickly pulled it up by its string, put it in her mouth, and blew it. She allowed it to let it tweet until her lungs cried and it hurt to move, but she had to work through the pain. Her fourth blow and she heard a frantic cry.

     “EMILY!?”

     She wanted to cry out his name in response. But her voice. She blew again as her reply. He called her name again and she could hear his feet run in her direction and stopped where he heard the whistle the loudest. “How is she still alive?” another voice asked.

     Wait . . . who was that?

     Liam didn’t answer and began to dig, his growls indicated him lifting heavy boulders away and kept doing so. Some pieces of concrete stirred at the sudden movements around her, making Emily nervous of being crushed more than she already was. “Em! Blow once for no and two for yes. Are you hurt?”

     Tweet. Tweet.

     He cursed under his breath, “Can you move at all?”

     Tweet.

     “So you’re stuck?”

     Tweet. Tweet.

     “Alright. We’ll get you out,” he reassured her.

     “She sounds like she’s seven feet under. It might take us a day to get her out and if we stick around here any longer—”

     “I don’t care . . .” Liam interrupted him. “I promised her I’d always be there for her . . .”

     His words punched a hole in her heart and made her choke up. Idiot . . . he was such a hopeless idiot.

*****

     “Couldn’t get any food like I promised,” Liam commented some hours later. “Hweard the building blow up and I ran over hoping it wasn’t ours . . .” he continued. He struggled to keep going, sounding more and more tired the longer he kept digging her out. “God, you gave me such a scare . . .” Liam sighed. “Your face didn’t show up so I knew you were okay. But you never answered me for three days . . .”

     Three days . . .

     “So you were unconscious?”

     Tweet. Tweet.

     “Took a blow to the head?

     Tweet. Tweet.

     “You’re completely thick headed . . .” he laughed and lifted a boulder away and tossed it to the side. Light broke through two layers above her and Emily immediately raised her hand to the crack to find the surface. She felt the warm orange light on her hand and was then grabbed by Liam’s desperate and wet hand. “There you are . . .” he sighed with relief.

     “We’ll have to get some layers above her too so nothing falls from the lack of support. We still have a ways to go,” Liam’s new ally said. A boy from Five, he was a construction worker and had the strength to help Liam move the rubble around that were too heavy to push alone.

     Liam let go of her hand and climbed over the rubble carefully as to not push any more over Emily. She retracted her hand back and lightly brushed her fingertips over the piece of cloth tied around her wrist. Emily looked to the coiled bar through her chest and looked back at the piece of rubble connected to it. It looked too heavy to pull off. It was a miracle it did crush her if it weren’t for the bars that stopped it from falling and if she weren’t as small as she was. She was still able to move her legs, but just barely with little room she had and her right arm was trapped between more coiled bars, but it remained unharmed.

     Overall, she was fine.

     Emily laid her head on her free arm and waited as the boys above her did all they could to pull her out. “Can you move your legs?” Liam asked her.

     She pulled the whistle to her lips again and blew. Tweet. Tweet.

     “What about your arms?”

     Tweet. Tweet.

     Emily knew he was trying to figure out how she couldn’t move and she knew that he hoped it was because she was caught in between the rubble. “How come you can’t move, Em?”

     She coughed to clear her through, feeling nothing but stinging pain when she coughed to the point that she was in tears. She needed water, she needed something. “My . . . chest . . .” she mustered, but it was too small for him to hear. “My chest . . .” she tried screaming, her volume as small as an indoor voice.

     “Your chest?”

     Tweet. Tweet.

     He went silent, all Emily could hear were the growls from him and the Five boy. With ten minutes, she felt warmth touch her back and turned her head to the sight of the boys. “That’s a lot of blood . . .” the Five boy commented.

     Liam pushed some rocks over to the side, determination fueled him to get her out. The new ally slipped to the side and pushed a large piece of rubble away with his legs off of the piece that had Emily pinned in a loud growl. Once it was out of the way, Liam slipped through and landed just beside her. “God, how are you still alive . . .?”

     Emily could only lightly smile at him. Liam looked around and noticed their bags just a couple feet away from Emily and out of her reach. One of them was underneath a large piece of rubble and the other was just fine with the canteen of water just a reach away from Liam. He pulled it closer to them with his foot and uncorked it for her. He offered it to Emily and she drank as much as she could allow herself. Still a bit left, but Liam wouldn’t allow her to take just a sip.

     “Thank you . . .” Emily sighed, her voice clearer, but still hurt to talk.

     “Of course,” Liam replied and looked at the problem she was in. “Dammit . . .”

     “This is going to hurt a lot for her,” the Five tribute informed. “With the angle it got her, she’ll have to move as we lift it off her. And she’ll have to pull away once there’s room for her . . .”

     Emily swallowed a lump caught in her throat. She knew she had to anyway when Liam had reached her, but the fact that it was about to happen at that moment made her sick to her stomach. “Alright . . .” Liam sighed and walked behind her. “Just push it back?”

     “Yeah,” the tribute answered.

     “Alright, on three.” Emily nodded and readied her free arm to help her push. “One. Two.” They began to lift and the blinding pain shot through Emily’s chest and to her torso and arms. She cried out in pain and lifted barely just as slowly as the piece of rubble moved away. The bars that trapped her arm slowly moved up too, but not near enough room for her to slip out for that time being. Emily could feel her heart pounding against her chest, her wound pulsing around the bar, she could see spots in her vision and the pain hadn’t and wouldn’t stop.

     Five minutes in and she finally freed her arm out of the bars and took the coil bar to push it back as she pulled herself up. She was just on her knees when she had to room to move away. “You have to be quick about it. Your body has healed around the wound, so you have to be quick about it. Like ripping off a Band-Aid.”

     “Only the Band-Aid is hurting you more than sealing the wound,” Liam rolled his eyes. “You have to hurry, we can’t hold in much longer,” her husband growled.

     Emily hyperventilated and nodded she tightly shut her eyes and pulled away screaming. Her muscles screamed at her to stop, her body wanted to collapse and faint from the agonizing pain, but Emily fought her needs to get out. Tears ran down her cheeks as she was six inches from freedom, her blood warm and left behind her on the bar, and the stinging sensation of the twisted bar that caused friction against her insides.

     Three.

     Two.

     One.

     Emily pulled away quickly and got out of the way before the boys let go and the rubble fell back into place. Liam knelt down beside her as Emily tried to keep her stomach in, the pain making her sick from the pain. “Okay . . . let’s get you out of here . . .”

     She nodded and Liam helped her up and had her on his back. They climbed out of the pit and onto the clear street when Liam fell to his knees. He was out of breath, his breathing shallow and shaky as he felt her forearm. The terrible fear he must have suffered for three days believing she wasn’t within reach. The horror that he may have lost her and that there was no hope to get her back. It must have been too much for him. His tired body lacked the sleep, food, and hydration it needed. Those musts weren’t his first priority.

     Nothing was ever important to him than her. Her safety was always first priority.

     Emily covered her hand over his and kissed his shoulder, nuzzling her face into his neck and tightened her hold around him. She was always grateful to him. His selflessness for Emily was completely inhuman, it wasn’t even healthy. And he saved her life so many times . . .

     “We have to keep going,” Five answered and looked around them as the Eight tributes had their moment. “Guys—”

     He was then stopped short and grunted in quiet pain when Liam looked back. The Five tribute had blood dripping from his lips before he fell over. Liam didn’t hesitate to get back on his feet, held onto Emily tightly as she clung to his back, and ran out from sight from the Careers.

     BOOM

     Shit, they found them!

     Liam ran into an alleyway and allowed himself to pick up his feet to gain more distance between. They needed to disappear. They wouldn’t stop unless they lost them. He rounded around a corner and found an open manhole just ten feet from them. Liam picked up the pace and let go of Emily.

     “Go! You first!”

     She didn’t argue and climbed down as fast as she could. The wound in her chest burned as hot as fire the more she moved until she reached the landing in the sewers. Liam followed closely after and pulled the lid of the manhole and over them. The Careers had just seen them. They had to run!

     “Go, Emily!” he called frantically as he still climbed down.

     The redhead looked around on where to go and ran the shortest way down, Liam reached the landing and saw Emily run around the corner and followed soon after. Emily slowed her pace until Liam was within sight and ran down the narrow pathway, their feet tapping loudly against the wet floor and the stench of the place too much for them to handle. But they had to keep going.

     They had to become invisible again . . .

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