Chapter Seventeen: he’d been told once that love was nothing more than a gradual decline into madness
Word Count: 939
There were no words he could summon to explain the full depth and breadth of his suffering; agony and fury warred within him. He was within sight of her, and yet, she only offered him measly glances every few moments. When she could spare them, he thought, and the tang of venom to the words brought him back to reality. It wasn’t her fault if he would have liked for her to throw the man beside her out of the seat, as she had the two idiots that had made the same attempt before the banquet even began. He loathed that she had a soft spot for the scarecrow. Every trill of her laughter felt like a dagger in his heart. How could he possibly manage to draw her attention when he wasn’t even near enough to speak to her?
What would he say, besides?
He tried to remind himself of the cameras; of the millions of eyes inspecting his every motion, but it hardly made a difference. His meal was growing cold as he scowled at the pair of them, their eyes hardly ever leaving each others. He felt as if he’d been left out in the cold, and it was a chill that sank into his bones and would not leave. So close, but entirely out of reach, she glowed as if sat beside a fire, her eyes lit up and her cheeks burning with the faintest blush.
Just as the unruly seed of jealousy was beginning to settle into his consciousness, his name was called and his mind wiped itself clean and his expression fell into one of stoic tolerance. The interview absorbed every iota of his attention; forcing him to lock down his internal thoughts and focus only on the way the camera was seeing him. He counted his blessings that he was called to Interview before Silas or Rory; he would not have many chances to rectify that blasted seating error, and his ability to remain a competitor was slowly slipping from between his fingers.
The reporter was a tall man folded into a small chair, with a tanned face and glossy black hair; he had large, circular blue eyes and an artificially perfect smile, which he directed at Aeon politely, his index finger and thumb running down his moustache to smooth the hairs into thin, slick lines. Something about him made Aeon feel greasy.
He said, “I am Albertus Orrin, I am a journalist for the Pangaea United News Network. It’s a pleasure to be interviewing you this evening, Aeon. Can I ask, first, what you have enjoyed most since entering the Capitol?”
Setting himself into the comfortable two-seater couch, Aeon loosened his already lax tie and twisted his features into a look of careful consideration. After a moment, he said, “I’m sorry,” and laughed to himself. “The only thing coming to mind is how goddamn lucky I was to have had the first glimpse of Ruarí in that dress.”
The reporter laughed, and Aeon responded with a jovial smile, as if he was pleasantly surprised the reporter understood what he meant. “She is a marvelous creature, that is becoming abundantly clear.”
“Aye,” Aeon said, nodding and sipping at the tumbler of whiskey in his hand. He didn’t realize his mind had wandered to the smooth lines of satin in his memory until Albertus cleared his throat. Aeon resisted the impulse to jump.
“So tell us about home life in District 3. What kind of family waits for you at home?”
“My parents,” he began, and the rest of the interview meant nothing to him. It passed as unavoidable, trivial things always do; mercilessly, and tiresomely, and with an aching slowness that made him long for sleep.
By the end, his cheeks were sore from forcing a smile and he had long ago emptied his glass of whiskey. There was no decanter on the table before him, and he wondered if it was meant to torture the Gamers. Lure them in with a drink, and then trap them; force them to entertain the brainwashed masses and live their last few weeks of somewhat-freedom as caged birds – singing for those too ignorant to realize the bird was singing a song of great sorrow.
But luck was with him as he left the interview; the name that was called next was Silas Alberec. The timing simply could not have been any better. His lips turned up into a vain smirk at Silas as he passed him, not even considering any attempt to veil his intentions. That seat was his, and Silas could not stop him even if he wanted to.
He slipped into it and turned to grin contentedly at Rory. His body felt lighter, more alive; whiskey was hot in his veins and stomach, the exhilaration of a stroke of luck like electricity on his nerve endings. She was beside him, and she seemed to have been taken directly out of a fantastical alternate universe parallel to his; where a beauty such as the one that sat beside him did not break one’s heart simply to look upon it. He did not mind the twisting, wrenching feeling in his chest.
His future was nothing more than a black hole into which all purpose was slowly being sucked, all but her. She remained in the gradually dimming-to-grey world around him, still ablaze in color and scent and magic.
He had wanted to say something to her. To break into a wellspring of conversation that would draw out her laughter and brighten the depths of her oceanic eyes. But he could not remember what it was.