Fallen from Grace (Hunger Games)

68th Hunger Games

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32. Suffer

    The half year point came without warning in Emily’s mind. She had been so numb mentally and physically that the four months went by in a flash. She continued going back to the Capitol for her therapy treatments and showed no signs of improvement due to Snow’s visit. It was just like when she got out of the arena . . . quiet and unresponsive . . .

    She was practically robotic . . .

    Thorburn and Winnow came to Victor Village with her team and prepped her up for the stupid tour. Stupid eulogy speeches that she read from a card written by Thorburn with no soul in her voice, parties afterward, and then back on the train to the next district to continue the whole process again. The whole trip molded together in a blur, she couldn’t remember much of what happened or whom she met. She vaguely recalled meeting a few other victors in their home districts, the only ones making a big enough impression for her to remember was: Kella from Three and Trace from Four. Though, she didn’t remember much of the conversations.

    She either might have been too numb from the fact she was a barren wasteland or the fact that she took her medication to keep her calm in case Emily showed any signs of snapping at some point on the tour . . .

    Once she returned back to District Eight, Emily regressed to her old habit before the boys moved in with her. Although, instead of the house being in total darkness, she locked herself in her room in total darkness. Conner and Scottie recognized her behavior and left her be most of the time. The only time they tried to talk to her was when they came to her door and told her that food was ready, though they knew she wouldn’t come out and left a plate of leftovers in the kitchen.

    When the boys went out for work and went to sleep, she emerged from her room and reheated her meals before retreating to her cave again.    

    One night, Emily came out of her room to go for her midnight dinner. She took slow steps little by little in case they could hear her coming down the stairs. The stairs barely made a sound as she went down to the kitchen and heated her leftovers in the oven. While the food was still in the oven, she went into the untouched wine cabinet and pulled out a bottle of champagne she recognized from nearly a year ago. The redhead fished for the bottle cap opener when she heard the stairs murmur to life.

    Well, someone was awake and she had no way of hiding herself except using the island counter, but they’d know she was still down there with the fresh smell of heated food still in the oven.

    Emily popped the cap off the bottle, the sound of bubbles hissing from the mouth when Conner came around the corner. “Hey, Em.”

    She weakly smiled at him.

    The oldest Aldair son walked over to the island and hopped onto the bar seat. He didn’t say a word, except saying yes to alcohol, and stared at Emily carefully. She poured two flutes for them and handed him his glass when the oven dinged. The redhead took her meal out and let it cool while they sipped their drink in the quiet. Emily finished her flute of champagne before Constantine did and poured herself a second glass when he said, “So what’s bothering you?”

    “Nothing’s bothering me . . .”

    “Mhm . . .” he nodded with his brow raised. “Yeah, you being in your room most of the time since Snow’s visit sure says nothing is bothering you.”

    “Sarcasm doesn’t suit you,” she commented.

    “Neither does cursing and drinking for you,” Conner replied.

    “I haven’t been cursing THAT much, have I?”

    “Not the point—Emily, what’s going on? What did Snow say to you . . .?” he asked, his voice solemn.

    “It . . .” Emily let out a quiet sigh and poked at her soup chicken and rice with a fork, “It doesn’t matter . . .” At least not anymore. Conner kept staring at her, Emily tried to ignore the man, but his grey eyes burning into her head started to bug her. The new victor forced the food down, even if she lost her appetite some time ago, and put the plate in the sink to soak to avoid staring at Conner. “I’m just a little weirded out I have to go back to the Capitol and tell kids what to do soon,” Emily lied.

    “You’re really bad at lying.” Dammit, how did the Aldairs know when she lied? It was so much easier when the Capitol ate every lie she fed them. But in her own home, she couldn’t get away with anything even if she tried.

    Emily drained down her second glass and took the bottle with her into the living room. Conner rolled his eyes at her and followed right after the sixteen-year-old girl. “Maybe I’m just naturally sad?”

    “I think I would notice that if that were true. You just . . . took a few steps backwards.”

    She let out a sigh and ran a hand through her short curls before she slumped into the couch and lifted the mouth of the bottle to her lips. He wasn’t going to go away unless she said something. She knew that. Better to just go with it rather than run away from it. Constantine sat beside her and watched her drink from the champagne bottle. The world was slowly starting to spin, her body felt warm, and it felt like her nerves were vibrating. Like, a weird tingling under her skin.

    Emily looked up at Conner from under her lashes, her lids fluttering to stay open. The same face . . . same face, but grey eyes. It was like the world had lost color and the first thing she noticed was the absence of blue in his eyes. But the warmth from his body was still there; different, but still there.

    No matter how many times she blinked, she still saw him. The same worried look in his eyes . . . the same face . . .

    She leaned in closer and their lips touched for a second, but he took her by her shoulder and pushed her away from him. No, he was being shy. She didn’t get much of a chance to make any moves first and she caught him off guard. Of course that was the case. The bottle dropped from her fingers as she tried to push herself forward onto him, but he fought her back by keeping her at arm’s length.

    “Emily!” he yelled out her name. She stopped in her track and really looked up at him, really looking at Constantine. Same face, but natural grey eyes. Never blue. He pulled a loose sleeve from her arm over her shoulder and sat her down. “I know . . . you’re feeling guilty,” Conner began, “But just because I look like him doesn’t mean I AM him . . .”

    She nodded.

    “I want you to know that, even if you try to force it, I would never do it,” he shook his head. “You’ve always been Liam’s person . . . since you were kids, in fact. You’ve always belonged to him and I would feel guilty if I ever touched you in that manner.”

    Emily swallowed the lump swelling in her throat and relaxed her muscles, she sank back into her seat and readjusted Liam’s shirt over her body and stared at the mantelpiece in front of them centered in the middle of the coffee table.

    Conner uncomfortably adjusted himself in his seat and then ran a hand through his hair. “Don’t get me wrong, Em . . . you just never interested me like that—”

    “No no . . . I understand . . .” she muttered.

    It wouldn’t have been fair to him anyway. Using his brother like that just because she felt bad. Just because she wanted to avoid talking about what truly bothered her. Just because—

    “I can never have children . . .” Emily said under her breath. Constantine looked down at her quizzically. “Snow . . . he . . . he made me take something to kill my insides . . .”

    “What? Why?”

    “Because . . .” Tears ran down her face. “Because . . . he was furious at what I did in the arena . . . because of what I said . . .” He still stared at her, hardly recalling what it was she said that would have resulted in the loss of child bearing. “Because I said I wanted to start a family . . . it gave the Capitol hope that I might have kids someday . . .” she explained as her voice grew weaker and cracked, “Too much hope is dangerous . . . so he had to kill the hope before it becomes uncontrollable . . .”

    “You didn’t have to take it—”

    “Yes, I did . . .” she argued. “If I didn’t take the poison, he would have killed you and Scottie instead . . .” Emily would rather sacrifice a future rather than lose what she had in the present. She didn’t want to lose what breathing evidence she had of Liam. The redhead shook her head and didn’t dare look up at the man. “I didn’t want to lose you too . . .” she cried.

    Conner didn’t say a word—couldn’t say a word. She had already lost so much. As heartbreaking as it was for Emily to feel something she wanted die inside, he couldn’t argue a decision she had already made. He took her in his arms and embraced her whilst he whispered he was sorry.

    “I’m sorry . . . I’m sorry you’ve been suffering this much . . . you don’t deserve it . . .”

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