Fallen from Grace (Hunger Games)

68th Hunger Games

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44. Second Year

    The year came and went with nothing interesting or new. Emily continued on as a model and President Snow never came to her house again. Suppose the modeling job was the trick for her. The redheaded woman still went to physical therapy and continued her Career training, more so to keep her strong appearance and because it helped her during her off times from modeling.

    Emily put her hair up in a bun, some curls had escaped and brushed against the sides of her face and tickled her cheek. It was reaping day and she had to look as professional as possible for the cameras. Her makeup appeared sharper than usual with a gentle shade of color on her lips to tone down the 'intimidating' look. She tightened the cloth band around her wrist, something she usually had on her for the cameras and her job for the sake of the Capitol. Emily took it off when she was home, as if she removed a heavy weight off of her when she did.

    She let out a sigh and started toward her door. The smell of breakfast smacked her immediately and she slightly smiled as she went downstairs. Her heels clicking as they touched the wood floors of the kitchen and looked up to Scottie at the island and Constantine with his back to her. "Good morning," she greeted.

    "Morning," Scottie replied with a smirk and sipped his coffee. Emily went to the fridge and took out a water bottle with a sigh. "Well, don't you look serious," he commented.

    "Have to, don't I?" she rolled her eyes and sipped her beverage.

    The youngest Aldair brother eyed Constantine, who had a crooked smile on him. "What?"

    "You forgot again, didn't you?" Scottie teased.

    "Huh?"

    Emily heard something click where Constantine stood and she glanced over at a small stack of pancakes with a candle stuck on top. Emily scoffed a laugh and relaxed a bit as she shook her head. Right, her birthday.

    "Happy 18th," Constantine chuckled and put the plate over at the island counter.

    "Welcome to adulthood," Scottie smirked and raised his mug to her.

    "You guys are just too much," she lightly smiled and sat down beside Scottie. The Aldairs were the only people that actually deeply cared about the day of her birth and it still baffled her twelve years later. She stared at the lit candle, the gentle warmth from the flame that tried to fill in the gap in her chest.

    Two birthdays without him . . .

    Emily took in a deep breath and blew out the candle. The boys shortly clapped before the scoot away from their chairs and kissed Emily on her temple. "We'll see you at the Reaping," Conner told her and gave her shoulder a light squeeze.

    "Stay gorgeous," Scottie added.

    "I'll try," she groaned sarcastically and returned the kisses with a peck on the cheek for both of them before they left. Regular citizens had to go to the Reaping, even if they didn't have anymore relatives to be afraid for. Emily had some time to enjoy her breakfast while the whole district got ready for the most dreaded day of their lives.

    Emily pulled out the candle from the stack and put it to the side before she started eating. She didn't make a wish when she blew out the candle. To her, all the things she wanted she could never have or have come back to her. Wishes were stupid . . .

*****

    The Reaping was boring, the train ride was an emotional train wreck, and the wait for the parade was as endless as last year. Her tributes were young again. A fourteen-year-old boy and a girl that unfortunately got chosen for the Games on her last year. She was so close. Emily didn't even bother with their names.

    Second year as mentor and already she could care less about her job.

    Emily's eyes went to the screen as she sipped on her fruity umbrella drink when the tributes were hauled in by chariot. The Career's outfits, of course, were gorgeous. By District Four she looked over at Trace Brun, whom smirked and waved his hand once and went back to chatting up a storm with Kella. Emily let out a sigh and finished off her drink, resulted in a brain freeze, and walked out of the room to the elevator. The parade was too boring, Phox could deal with bringing them up to their rooms and eat. Both mentors didn’t have to be present.

   The redhead went down. Down down down, until the metal box dinged and opened up to the Training Center. It was already lit up, her green eyes searched the room until it fell on the other redheaded victor, Abraham Rose. He was at the throwing axe range, three were already stuck to the target in an inconsistent manner while the boy had a tight grasp on another axe in hand.

    The redhead looked toward Emily's direction, the ding of the elevator caught his attention then looked back at his practice session. "Hey, Red," he greeted casually and raised his arm to ready himself.

    "Hey, Rose," Emily smirked at the seventeen year old, even though he did not see. "Sick and tired if the parade too?" she asked as she walked over toward the archery station. The closer she came to it, the faster her heart raced. Her fingers brushed against the arch of the bow before grasping the handle and weighed it in her left hand.

    She could still remember Liam holding the bow with great posture and strength . . .

    "I've seen enough kids dressed up to last a life time . . ." he muttered. Then with all his strength, he threw the axe.

    God. And it was his third year. Could not wait to reach that point. Emily glanced over at Abraham with pursed lips, picked up an arrow, and nooked it. "Been an eventful year?" she added another question and raised her bow, reminding herself of the obnoxious couple article in the Capitol paparazzi news.

    Abraham cocked a brow at the girl and went to retrieve his axes. "Are you asking about Wren?"  He rolled his eyes.

    Emily raised a brow back at him then looked back at her target. "Yeah. You and the new girl weren't left out of the article," she answered and released the arrow, hitting the last ring of the target.

    Abraham huffed, grabbed the first axe, and pulled it out. "I guess eventful is a good word for it."

    "It's true?" Why not ask him that too? She already said she'd ask the victors if the paparazzi were making things up, so far that got one wrong and another right.

   "It's exaggerated . . . From what I've heard anyways." The redhead heaved a second and a third axe out of the target.

    Oh, he didn't read that trash. So he wasn't totally in sync in what was going around the horrid media. Emily kept her silence as she readied another arrow, aimed, and released in a wisp. She talked too much anyway, allow the relaxing noise of training be the conversation.

    Abraham pulled out the last axe, gathered up the four of them, and took them back to their rack. "What was the gist of it?"

    "Uhhhhh . . ." She couldn't quite remember. She was so stressed about the article featuring her and Gryffon she couldn't put a finger on Abraham's. "Umm . . . just that you, as her mentor, already swept her off her feet, I suppose?" she shrugged, which altered her aim and shot outside the rings.

    Abraham rolled his eyes and tried to muffle his cackling. "Ah yes, I am quite the charmer." He struck a pose and continued to giggle, "District Seven's own Prince Charming."

    Emily stifled a laugh and shook her head. He was surprisingly a dork. Completely different than what she witnessed last year and in his Games. "You must be really popular."

    The Seven victor rolled his eyes, "Oh yes. Very much so." He rolled his shoulders and glanced around the training room.

    Emily looked him up and down for a moment then shifted her eyes down at the arrow to nook it in place correctly. She wasn't going to say it, but he was rather cute. Pretty, dark skin for a redhead, tall, and built. In some ways, she couldn't blame the growing popularity of the Seven victor. "Where's your little groupie then, Mr. oh-so-popular?" Emily asked, just for the hell of it.

    "Shhhh!" he hushed, putting a light finger in front of his lips, "Speak of the devil and she shall appear."

    "Oooooooooh," Emily sighed with her brows raised. "So you're HIDING from her," she chuckled.

    "Precisely," he nodded, "but if anyone wants to know . . . I'm blowing off steam," the victor raised a brow with a smile.

    The eight victor lightly chuckled and nodded to him. His own personal stalker that even he couldn't escape from. Sounded familiar. "I won't question anymore," she giggled and shot the last arrow seconds before going off to retrieve them.

    "Ask whatever you want." He shrugged, wandering to the survival section on the training center, "I'd rather be sober when I answer them."

    Wow, she picked up a lot out of him than she thought she would. "Ooookay," Emily replied as she checked the tips to see if they were safe for next use, but put them back in a rack and went over to the hand-to-hand combat station. A trainer nowhere in sight for the time being. "I'm pretty fresh out of questions," Emily said as she kicked off her shoes. "Maybe you can participate in the twenty questions game?"

    "Sure . . ." the boy shrugged, "First question: who are you planning on practicing hand to hand with? Last I checked that's a two person job."

    Emily smirked with her hands to her hips. "The trainers are usually not far away, they'll be around eventually," she answered and looked toward the elevator once then back at the redheaded Seven victor. "Unless you want to be my partner?" the redhead cocked a brow.

    The boy started toward her, an eager strut in his walk from the looks of it like he couldn't resist the idea of flattening her out. "Come on, Red. You've got to have a better pick up line than that."

    Emily pursed her lips in a thin line before she pried her eyes away from him. Well shit, he got her turning pink. She merely scoffed and shook her head, "It wasn't." She coughed then looked back at him, casually as possible. "And you know better pick-up lines?" she playfully challenged.

    The redhead boy laughed, "I don't need pick up lines. I'm Prince Charming, Red." He shook his head and walked up the steps to the mat.

    "Well then, Prince Charming," she rolled her eyes, "When was the last time you did hand-to-hand combat?" she asked and crossed her arms.

    "Fuck if I know . . ." he shrugged.

    "Alright," she shrugged and cracked her knuckles. Emily spread her legs apart for better planting and rolled her shoulders back. She could tell him to go easy on her, but what was the use when she obviously didn't look delicate anymore?

    Abraham huffed and kicked off his shoes then rolling his shoulders one more time. "Just take it easy on my hand, alright?" he said, raising his right hand and wiggling his fingers. "And my face. It's only pretty enough to make up for one scar."

    "Promise," she nodded while bouncing on the balls of her feet. "Bruises are okay though?" Emily asked in a playful tone.

    "Uh preferably not . . ." he scoffed, and watched the other victor. She looked like a lion ready to pounce.

    So just gently paw at his face or something?

    The boy dropped his right leg back and brought his hands in front of his face, "Alright . . ."

    Emily smirked at him, still bouncing like a child in a candy store when she bent her legs without hesitation and swung her legs to the back of his knee.

    Abraham's knee buckled when the other victor's foot made contact. He landed so that his right foot was a little bit past Emily. Emily had a smug look on her face, which immediately evaporated when Abraham reached her with his right arm, grabbed her waist, and jerked her over his knee. Emily flipped over onto her back, the wind completely knocked out of her lungs and stung her back. Okay, have to rough house a little bit more. The small redhead let out a huff with a sour expression upon her face.

    The boy smirked triumphantly, "So are you too ‘in the zone’ to keep up your question game?” he asked as Emily and swung her legs to turn herself around. “Cause it’s yo—” but he was interrupted when Emily hooked her foot to the back of his neck and pushed him forward. Thunk! Next thing Abraham knew he went face first into the mat and ass in the air. He regained composure as quickly as he could and rolled to the side then hoped to his feet.

    Emily laughed as she got back on her feet and flattened out the wrinkle of her shirt. "Yeah, got a little too into the fight there," she answered his interrupted question. "So," she began and went back into her stance again. "What's so bad about Wren that you have to hide?" she asked and took one step closer, carefully and cautiously.

    "Holy shit, have you ever actually had a conversation with her? She's horrid," Abraham answer as he watched her carefully. "She's completely self obsessed. But at least she's hot . . ." The district Seven boy took to two quick steps at her and swept at her feet with his own, which Emily dodged just barely and tripped backward before catching herself. "Why do you want to know so much about her?" he mustered out between breaths as he charged her.

    "I don't," she shook her head, "And I was kind of busy last year," she shrugged and took side steps from his sudden charge. Busy being depressed and harassed that was. "I'm just curious how you 'unfortunately' got in the article for the air headed Capitol to believe you two are a thing," she answered.

    "The whole hot as fuck thing might have played a small part . . ." he admitted.

    There, dare she admit it, Emily had to agree. Wren was pretty, she was popular because of her drop dead good looks. Suppose the Capitol was obsessed with beautiful tributes. "Even though she's horrid and self-absorbed," the redhead spout the reminder and raised her arms for defense and offense.

     "Whoa there, Red. I believe it's my turn to ask a question," he raised a brow, watching the girl closely. "What's up with you and Dickface Sauntor?"

    "Ah, so you HAVE been following the media," Emily answer.

    "Guilty," he shrugged.

    She then stuck her tongue with a roll of her eyes as her answer. "We're nothing the papers said we are," she answered. "Just acquaintances that ran into each other and hung out a few times to not go to work or therapy," she answered in simple detail.  

    Abraham took a breather then lunged at her again, Emily jerked backwards, but not near fast enough due to her shortness compared to his much longer legs. He twisted his arm around and behind her neck and brought his knee to her abdomen. She waited for the gut wrenching pain to come, but he stopped just before his knee made contact. "A person's hotness has nothing to do with their personality, Red. Attraction does."

   Emily pursed her lips and nodded, "You're too close . . ." she answered quietly and pushed him away.

    "Sorry . . ." The boy stepped back, giving the girl a good foot of distance. "I had no intention of making you uncomfortable."

    She smirked at him, though she didn't look up at him. "It's fine. Really," the woman added and ran a hand through her hair. "Just . . . heh . . . bad luck with guys," she shrugged like it was no big deal and went over to pick up her shoes. At least, she felt uncomfortable when it came to the opposite sex being far too close to her. Gryffon knew that and he hadn’t tried anything since her first year mentoring.

    Abraham sighed and walked over to retrieve his own shoes, still being mindful of his distance. She glanced over her shoulder in his direction, noticing the discomfort on his face and, perhaps, guilt for having scared her off? "No, I get it. It's fine, don't apologize."

    Oh great, so it was okay for her to apologize. She pursed her lips as she put her heels back on. "Umm . . . sorry for planting your face to the ground . . ." she started with a twinge of a question at the end.

    He shrugged and smiled lightly, "No worries, Eight. This mug has seen worse. I think we'll be okay."

    She returned the slight smile and stood up. "Ummm . . . good luck with your hot not-girlfriend?" Emily shrugged.

    The victor rolled his eyes but muttered a "Mhmmm . . . and you with yours." Then he turned towards the survival station again.

    Emily kept her eyes on the man a little bit longer before she dropped her eyes and started toward the elevator. She hated how uncomfortable she was around people. Especially toward people that meant well; they weren’t aware she had a boundary that could be crossed. She ran her hand through her hair and went off toward her district floor. Suppose she was needed there . . .

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