Fallen from Grace (Hunger Games)

68th Hunger Games


28. Walls

    Emily knocked on the door and shouldered her backpack to a less sore spot of her shoulder and shifted her weight from one point to another when the door opened. Mr. Aldair stood at the door frame, the boys obviously inherited their looks from their greying father; grey eyes and strong facial features from a developed jawline to cheekbones that could beat a boulder in a fight. And his tall frame made Emily feel smaller than she actually was.

    She always felt nervous around Mr. Aldair, he was hardly ever home due to working in a factory farther away from home and Emily never had a great experience with grown men. “Oh, Emily’s home!” he called out to the house and moved out of the way for the seven-year-old to enter. The little girl meekly entered the house and slipped her shoes off and left it to the side of the door with the other line of shoes the residents of the home made. “Conner and Serenity are setting something up in Liam’s room,” he informed her.

    “Okay,” she nodded and walked a little deeper into the room. “The family has been telling me you’ve been here a lot more often as of late,” Mr. Aldair added.

    “Oh . . . yeah,” she nodded. “Is that okay?” Emily asked.

    “Of course,” he waved her off. “The misses loves you and the boys enjoy your company. If you were causing trouble then that’s a different story.”

    Emily lightly smiled when the youngest Aldair son, Scottie came downstairs. “Oh gaaaaaawd, you’re here,” he sighed dramatically. “Mooch off of someone else’s food cabinet.”

    She rolled her eyes at the boy and tossed her bag at him. “Your parents sound okay with me staying here,” she stuck her tongue out.

    “Because they’re old-fashioned old people,” Scottie rolled his eyes at her.

    “I can STILL ground you,” Mr. Aldair raised a brow at his son.

    And Scottie’s smile dropped within a second. Emily heard the creaking stairs bend underneath weight and looked over to the middle Aldair son before he hugged her from behind and lifted her off the ground. The redhead squealed and clamped her hands around his arms around her waist as he spun them around.

    “Is ‘enjoying my company’ a watered down way of saying ‘adore’?” she asked in a grunt before Liam put her back down. “Hi.”

    “Hi,” he smiled at her. Scottie then tossed Emily’s bag at Liam’s head. “And that’s our cue to put your stuff away,” he said in an annoyed tone.

    “Yeah,” she nodded and kept a straight face as they both turned toward the stairs and went up halfway when Mrs. Aldair turned around the corner.

    “Emily,” the Aldair mother smiled as Liam and the redhead reached the top of the stairs. The woman’s hands went to the curls of the little girl’s hair and played with it for a couple of seconds. “I think it’s about time you need a haircut,” she said as she examined Emily. “To show off your pretty face. And I can hardly see your eyes—I don’t even remember what color they are.”

    “It HAS been getting hard to see lately,” Emily crinkled her nose and adjusted her shirt to cover her collarbone, feeling her bruises were exposed.

    But Mrs. Aldair had already seen them while fixing Emily’s hair. It was in her eyes. Emily hated when the Aldairs were sad for her or because of her. “I’ll cut it before dinner, okay?”

    Emily nodded, “Okay.” Mrs. Aldair allowed her to pass, Liam waited for her just behind his mother and started walking when the redhead joined him. They turned to Liam’s room when she noticed a second bed a few feet away from Liam’s bed. “Why—?”

    “I . . . told them,” Liam interrupted her. “About what I saw . . . and you sleep over so often, mom and dad thought it’s better if you have your own bed instead of sleeping on the couch” Emily looked toward Liam. “You’re not mad that I told them, are you?”

    Yes . . . and no. It was bad enough he knew, but having the parents know was worst. Emily opened her mouth to say something, closed it as her lips pursed into a thin line and her eyes dropped to her hands when she asked, “Why do you guys care . . .?” Why did they care about her?

    Liam shifted from one foot to the other and walked in to put her bag on the new bed. “Well . . .” he turned to her, “You’re family . . .” he finally said. “Mom and dad treat you like the daughter they never had and Conner immediately treated you like a sister since we met. Scottie picks on you since you’re younger than him, and I . . .” he paused and scratched the back of his head, “Well, I pick fights with bullies giving you a hard time . . .” he muttered. “We kind of care about you, you know?”

    Emily’s arms were crossed over her chest as she stared at the messy haired boy standing in the middle of the room. She had absolutely no idea what unconditional love was or the fact that other families could love someone with no blood relation whatsoever, no questions asked. Hearing that she was loved was so foreign and, dare she admit it, overwhelming. Yet there was a warm and fuzzy feeling spreading through her chest. “You do?”

    He nodded.

    The little girl pursed her lips and hesitated to drag her feet toward the boy and hugged him tightly. “Thank you.”

    Liam hugged her back and they both let go when the kids turned to the door and walked down the hallway. When they reached the living kitchen space, Conner was on the couch reading while Scottie was tossing a hacky sack over his head and the Aldair parents were soaking vegetables for dinner. Mrs. Aldair looked toward the kids when she heard them coming down the stairs. Emily lightly smiled at her and she did the same when she walked over to the middle aged woman and hugged her. She lightly pat Emily’s head lovingly and muttered, “You’re welcome, dear.”

    Emily had no idea what it was like to be in a loving family, let alone know people that gave her five minutes of their time. The Aldairs practically raised her to understand what it was like . . .

    “Mrs. Aldair?”

    Emily looked up at her therapist. The woman stared at her. A month and a half into the nonsense and she hardly got through to Emily. The most she got out of the new victor was how much she detested being in the Capitol for so long and that she needed to go to the bathroom. The woman couldn’t break her. And Emily wouldn’t allow her to break past her walls.

    The number of Peacekeepers rose after her first day attacking the trainer and she had a couple of moments where she killed the others. She managed to draw blood from one trainer before she quit and had Emily sedated of course. The therapist tried to talk about Emily’s outbreaks in the Training Center, but the redhead merely shrugged and treated it as if it wasn’t a big deal.

    She just wanted to go back to Eight . . .

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