Fallen from Grace (Hunger Games)

68th Hunger Games

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4. Tribute Parade

    Her team pulled the strip of cloth off her legs and she tried to hold her cry in pain back. Honestly? They HAD to wax her legs? And while they waxed her legs, another member of her team was washing the dye from her hair. Winnow, her stylist, absolutely loved her red hair and wanted to make it redder so she appeared radiant.

    In her opinion, that just made her easier to notice in the arena. She was already a walking target as it was with her old red hair and pale skin. Making crimson red wasn’t going to help at all . . .

    Pluck!

    “Ow!” she hissed.

    “Sorry, deary. You have some red and blonde hairs all over your body, we have to make you all clean and hairless,” the one plucking her eyebrows apologized.

    Emily sighed and nodded. She knew she had hair everywhere; it wasn’t exactly a problem to have hairy legs, even if most of them were too fair to see on her already pale skin. The reds were really the only ones people could see if they were close enough. But NOPE. She had to be all clean and shiny for the Capitol to praise, like she was supposed to be a groomed poodle or something.

    The rest of her team scrubbed and cleaned her, her newly dyed fire red hair dry and pulled up when it was dry, and her hands rubbed to take away all of the scars from pricking her finger in her years of sewing dresses by hand. They sent her into District Eight’s dressing space where it was well lit, a rack of possible costumes for both Emily and Liam, and two different changing rooms to slip behind. 

    Liam was already there, his hair was cut and up in a controlled yet wild look to it. Surprisingly, it didn’t look ridiculous on him. In fact, it seemed to compliment his features. He was covered in a robe like her, so it indicated his stylist hadn’t come to see him either. Liam looked in Emily’s direction and immediately got back on his feet, another habit of his that he had picked up when they became closer friends as a respectful greeting.

    “Your hair . . .”

    “Oh . . . yeah,” she stared at pat her head. It was all up in, what felt like, layers upon layers of a bun with long colorful needles that didn’t clash with her hair sticking out around her head and beads of the same colors at the end of them. Some curls of her hair had escaped from the bun, bouncing in place whenever she moved and brushed against her neck and jawline. “They thought it would be nice to make me a walking target,” Emily joked.

    Liam chuckled and looked down at his feet with a smile before he looked back up at her. “It suits you.”

    “You think so?” she wrinkled her nose at him.

    “Yeah,” he nodded and stared at the vibrancy of it in the light. He then dropped his blue eyes back on her green eyes, “It actually makes your eyes pop out,” Liam added and squinted his eyes. “Geez . . . now they’re really noticeable. I don’t know which is worst to look at.”

    Emily playfully scoffed and smacked his arms. Liam played back and swat her a couple times and Emily mock fought him and lightly kicked the side of his leg. If it weren’t for him being there with her, she would have been a wreck. Emily felt that it was a natural ability of his to help her forget the bad things. 

    But even those moments come back when the fun stops . . .

    They heard the door open and they stopped playing around, trying to control their giggles and nudged each other to remind each other to stop laughing, but that only made them chuckle louder. “I see you two aren’t that nervous,” one of them commented. 

    One of them was a man, tall and his eyes sharp and shockingly purple. And just like his eyes, his lips shared the same shade of purple. But everything else about him was black with a sliver of a purple vinery upon his suit. His hair was the only solid black on him. The other one was a woman; she had softer features compared to her coworker. She was slightly taller than Emily, her lips and hair a light blue that complimented her dark skin and matched her light blue eyes. She had a tattoo of the same blue color as her hair at the corner of her left eye and down her neck, ending god knows where.

    “Oh my GOODNESS, your hair is BEAUTIFUL!” the woman complimented and came closer to Emily to exam her team’s work. “Oh—I’m so glad the color turned out as well as I had hoped. No! It’s better,” she squealed and faced Emily. Emily’s eyes were wide as she watched the woman in amazement at how enthusiastic she was of her mere appearance. “Oh no, you’re gorgeous too!” she added and lightly touched her hands against Emily’s cheeks and gently turned her face left and right to look at the work done on her as well as her features. 

    Liam chuckled beside Emily while her stylist examined her with passionate interest. “You should tell her that more often, she won’t believe you.”

    “But she IS!” she gasped and let go of Emily’s cheeks. “I’m Winnow,” she greeted.

    “Nice to meet you,” Emily nodded.

    “Winnow, looking at them now which design should they where?” the other one, who’s name Emily didn’t catch, started without even much of a hello or acknowledgment toward Liam.

    The tributes looked behind them toward the wrack of costumes and back at each other. One of those two outfits they would have to go out in public in and they weren’t too pleased by the idea of it. Emily furrowed her brows at Liam got on her toes for a better look of what she thought she saw. “Are you wearing makeup?” she asked.

    “Shut up . . .” he muttered in embarrassment and looked away from her. Emily chuckled while she took a seat at one of the sofas while the stylists discussed what their tributes would wear.

***** 

    It took some time, but they finally decided on their costume. They decided on a purple attire with spools as their District Eight inspiration. Their outfits looked like from the old Victorian age, their hats decorated like spools with black and mostly purple thread wrapped around them. Emily’s dress bunched up in the back and she wore, what appeared to look like, a spool corset to make her waist so much smaller. As a part of the “theme” of their costumes. Liam’s top hat appeared like a spool as well, his vest a shining silver vest with a long sleeve black shirt, sparkling in different parts of his shirt to the littlest movement.

    When Emily came closer to Liam, she realized his vest was solely made of sewing needles. “Oh my god, you’re not getting pricked are you?” she asked.

    “Funny thing, I asked him the same thing,” Liam added. “No, thank god. It would be too early for there to be any blood.”

    Emily pursed her lips and took in a deep breath, but the stupid spool corset only cut her deep breathing exercise and made it small and shallow. The redhead exhaled a breath and tried to hunch over, again, the stupid thing wouldn’t even allow her to bend over. “Great designs, terrible to wear though,” she shook her head.

    Liam lightly smiled and snaked his fingers around hers, holding her hand tightly. “Besides breathing and moving being a chore . . . how are you?”

    “Nervous . . .” she sighed. No way she could lie about that. “My worst fear right now is passing out while we’re being pulled down the road.”

    The man chuckled. “You’ll be fine.”

    “Easier for you to say,” she rolled her eyes at him. “You’re capable of breathing. Besides, you look stunning. Your girlfriend will LOVE seeing you in it.”

    Liam pursed his lips and kept himself from running his hand through his hair and knocking the hat off his head. “Yeah . . . she won’t watch . . .”

    “Of course she will.”

    “No . . .” he shook his head and let go of her hand. “We actually . . . broke up . . .”

    “What? Why?”

    “Well . . . besides the Hunger Games being the reason . . .” he stopped and looked up, pretending to think of what other reason there was to his decision and then shook his head. “Nope, that’s about it,” he shrugged. Emily was about to argue but he lifted his hand at her. “I can’t promise her that I’ll come back alive. I don’t even know if I will . . . I don’t want to make promises that I might not be able to keep, you know that . . .”

    Emily sighed and crossed her arms over her chest. “Doesn’t mean she won’t be watching . . .”

    Liam rolled his eyes at her and shoved his hands in his pockets, completely forgetting the silver pocket watch in one of them for decorative reasons. “It’s fine, lamb. We’ve been growing apart lately anyway . . .” the man added when the announcement to ready themselves for the parade echoed throughout the room.

    Growing apart? How come? Emily wanted to ask but she was frozen in the spot from hearing the announcement.

    “Come on, Em,” Liam snapped his fingers at her and offered his hand to help her in the chariot. Emily slid her hand into his and pulled herself up with Liam’s help into the chariot and he followed afterward. “You’ll be fine.”

    The redhead couldn’t bring herself to talk, instead she responded with a shaky nod. Liam took her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. Her heart rate slowed down a little and she was able to breathe in more air that the corset allowed when the large doors opened and the cheers of the Capitolites reached her ears.

    Exhale a breath . . .

    One by one, the chariots in front of them moved and that only meant that it was getting closer to their turn to go out and impress the Capitol and the rest of Panem on live television. Emily’s hand squeezed around Liam’s and he did just the same seconds before they began to move. 

    Just smile and wave, just pretend you’re enjoying yourself . . .

    Once she could see colorful Capitolites, Emily knew the cameras were on her and Liam. She plastered on a smile and waved to the plastics, even though internally she was screaming with fear. Down the avenue they went and not once did they let go of each other’s hand, Emily felt that if she let go she’d black out again and make a fool of herself. Liam was her support to stand on her own two feet, and even though it made her feel like dying for admitting it to herself, she was glad he was there to keep her together . . .

    Emily allowed herself a quick glance to Liam. It was no secret that he greatly disliked the Capitol and its insane colorful people, yet he had the most convincing smile she had ever seen on him despite the circumstance. It still appeared strained and forced to her, enough for her to draw a circle on the back of his hand with her thumb. Liam looked down at her and Emily’s lips curled into a gentle and reassuring smile, signaling him that he was doing well.

    His face relaxed and reflected the same smile as hers and looked away back to the passing Capitolites, his smile far more natural than earlier so Emily turned to her side and did just the same as her friend. 

    Once they reached the roundabout, Emily and Liam dropped their arm from waving, but their “fresh and elegant” smiles remained on their face. Once President Snow was within sight of her vision, her body became stiff with fear once more. The old man with snow-white hair and the eyes of a sadistic murderer . . . the man with total control over Panem . . .

    The man watched his “puppets” ring around the roundabout until District 12 finally joined the rest of the chariots and they all came to a stop when they faced the president. He droned on the same old speech he had recited before in past Games to remind how thankful he was for the districts to join together for the yearly tradition and wish them all the best of luck for their week. 

    The lot of them were finally released and gathered inside the Training Center where their escorts, stylists, and mentors awaited them. Liam hopped off the chariot first, gently took Emily by the waist and helped her down. “You two did great,” Thorburn smiled as he came closer to the tributes. 

    “Thanks,” Liam nodded and slid his hands away from Emily and shoved his hands in his pocket.

    Emily leaned back against the chariot, feeling light headed from the inability to breathe the proper amount of air. “Can we get out of these costumes . . .?” she sighed. “I’m feeling dizzy . . .”

    Liam looked back at Emily’s slumped body and pulled her back up when she near fell to the ground. “Sorry deary, I must have tied it too tight,” Winnow apologized.

    “It’s not your fault . . .”

    The rest of them walked toward the elevator and waited for its arrival as Winnow loosened Emily’s corset before the elevator doors opened.

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