A/N: Here we are. The last chapter of this story ever. This isn't massive, but I just felt like this needed to be its own little set of scenes, and it also rounds the story out at a pretty 75 chapters. Please, enjoy yourself and have fun. Hopefully this wraps up the story of Lord nicely, while allowing us to look forward to what comes next.
Lord Parthenia, 16
Victor of the 22nd Hunger Games
I can hear Eris making tea in the kitchen, but I don't get up to go help her. Instead, I shift in the big armchair by the window so I can look out at the Victor's Village. The snow falls almost carefully through the bleak December air. The sky is almost as bleached of color as the ground, covered in thick drifts of snow. The eleven empty houses in the Village and the cobblestone paths connecting them are all draped in a foot of the stuff, just like everything else. All I can see is white ground and gray sky and more snow coming quietly, almost respectfully from the bleary sky, building up by the minute. I watch some of the snowflakes blow against the windowpane, sticking to the cool glass, feathery arms almost welcoming as they plaster themselves there. I watch the wind free some of the flakes from the window, blow others onto it, until Eris walks into the sitting room with two mugs of hot tea on a pewter tray.
"Thanks," I mumble as she sets down my mug on the sidetable next to my armchair. I shift in my seat again to face where she sits on the couch. Then, I remove my arms from beneath the yarn quilt Anneliese made for me after my Victory five months ago. The blanket is a bit itchy, and the dark orange ridges of Five's mountains do not go with anything else in the house, but it's warm, and that's all that matters now. Once my arms are free, I cup the warm ceramic mug between my hands, blowing on the tea inside until it's cool enough to drink without scalding my tongue.
Eris doesn't say anything for a while, just leaning back on the couch, blowing on her own tea for a while before sipping at it. She waits for me to start the conversation, as always. I'm just tired, and the tea is good, and the snow is starting to fall heavy, so it takes me a while to speak. It's nice to have someone's company without having to speak words. I also know where we have to go if we want to talk without being heard. I'll have to get out of this armchair, shrug off this blanket, go out in the cold. No part of me wants to do that, so I don't talk until Anneliese's quilt itches the back of my neck so much that I can't take it anymore.
"Want to help me shovel, so the deliveryboy can get here easier?" I ask, voice hoarse as I set down my mostly empty mug of tea on the sidetable.
Eris doesn't seem phased by how long it's taken me to respond, or by my weak excuse for getting us outside. It's the only place that's out of the earshot of the bugs planted in every corner of this house. There's even some in the empty cellar, where I keep nothing but cobwebs. Eris and I found them, when we were pretending to explore the place on my first week here, when this house was still beautiful and strange to me. Now it's as familiar as a lover, and I've come to loathe its creamy wallpaper and stark crown moldings. There is nothing to do here but sleep and drink, which I do plenty of.
I don't do those things when Eris is around, though. Well, I sleep, but not all day like I sometimes do. I don't let her see how bad it's gotten, with winter starting and the snow trapping me inside. I don't show her how many bottles I go through in a week, dozens of glassy jugs clinking together in the wastebin as the girl from the Seam I hired empties it every weekend. She knows things are bad, but not that bad. I won't disappoint her by showing her how much everything has been getting away from me lately.
"Lord," I suddenly hear Eris saying. She's standing over me, prodding me in the shoulder. I shake my head, realize what I've done, losing myself in my thoughts again like I always do. It's hard to pay attention, when all I want is for the snow to go away, for the screams in the back of my skull to go away. It just makes me want more whiskey in a little glass cup burning my throat, but I won't do that, not now, not around Eris, not when I'm trying to show her that I'm doing half-okay.
"Sorry," I mutter, shaking my head again, trying to wake myself up. "Shoveling, let's go, I think I have extra mittens for you, if you didn't bring your own. Should be in the hallway closet. In the basket next to the umbrellas. Yeah, right there. Under the scarves. Come on now, then. Let's go shovel."
The two iron shovels I bought from a desperate man in the Hob grind against the cold cobblestones of the path leading up to my house. Eris and I clear away the snow slowly but carefully, creating a wide furrow in the smooth drifts of snow. We don't speak for a while; we're still close enough to the house where the bugs might hear us, even over the whipping wintery wind. Once our skin has been frozen red by the snowflakes, and most of the path has been cleared, we stop at the same time. We throw our shovels into a nearby drift and sit down on the cold cobbelstones together, huddling close to one another for warmth as we whisper.
"Did you get the gifts to Aristotle, for the kids, for Snowday?" I ask quietly, shivering.
"Dropped them off before I came here," Eris tells me, nodding slowly. "They're doing better, after you slipped them all those denarii inside of their Harvest Day turkey. They're all still broken up over Carmen and the infant not coming back to them, obviously, but they're doing better. They'll make the winter. And yeah, the kids liked the presents. I don't think they've ever gotten real Snowday presents before, with how wide their eyes went. I made sure to wrap them in the prettiest wrapping paper I could find."
"Good," I murmur, shifting closer to Eris so I can rest my head on her shoulder, so I can feel her warm breath on my face. My nose feels so cold it could fall off. "Did you send my letter to Mr. Park?"
"I don't think you should be talking to him so much, but I did," Eris sighs. "It's not healthy, that dynamic, and it's a wonder they haven't caught me ferrying letters between the two of you yet."
"He needs someone after...after everything," I grunt, trying not to think about Miriam or her dead mother, who barely made it a week after her daughter's cannon fired. "I killed his daughter, I couldn't save his wife. I can't even send him any money, or they'll get suspicious. So I'm going to send him my words as long as I can, as long as he's interested. It's all I can give him."
"What do you even talk about?" Eris asks me. "I'm baffled by how the two of you get on so well."
"You don't open the letters before you send them to him?" Eris shakes her head. "Huh, I thought you would. Well, we've never talked about Miriam or Mrs. Park, besides him telling me where they had the funerals, and that was just one line. We write about the weather, the District gossip, our favorite actresses from the Capitol soaps. We've both been watching 'The Caligula's' almost religiously."
"You both...come on now. That's what you've been risking my life for, letters about the weather and soap operas? I'm more confused about all of this than before," Eris snorts.
"I think we're confused too, but it's nice to have a penpal," I whisper. "Sometimes I pretend Miriam can read the letters too, and sometimes I write them like I'm writing to her, not him. I don't think he notices."
"Well," Eris mutters. "Well, I won't ask about it again. The two of you seem to have it figured out. I just can't promise I can keep sending them forever."
"I know, but just keep doing it as long as you can. It's nice, I look forward to it," I tell her, leaving out the It's the only thing I look forward to these days for both our sakes.
"Victor Tour's next month," she reminds me after a lapse of silence, watching the snow fall. "I'll be back in two weeks with Goucho and the prep-teamers to start picking outfits."
"Goucho's full time now?"
"Yeah, Odore liked what they did at your Victory interview, signed them on as a permanent stylist. They're certainly easier to work with than Amazingus."
"Still a crock of shit to be around." That gets a chuckle out of Eris, a little one, but any laughter under this bleak gray sky is a victory.
"You're not wrong," she laughs before quieting down, turning to me, trying to look me in the eyes. "You're doing okay, yeah?"
"Not really." I can't lie to her about this. It's too cold and I'm too tired to pretend otherwise.
"Just keep hanging on, it'll get easier after the first year, that's what the others told me," Eris promises, reaching over and squeezing her gloved hand in mine.
"I'm trying, I really am, it's just hard. I've been seeing them more lately."
"Them?" She sounds scared to ask, and I don't blame her.
"All the kids whose names I remember, and the ones I don't. Miriam's mom too, and you sometimes, all butchered up. Even saw Edna once, hanging in a tree. Usually they're in my dreams, but sometimes I see them when I'm awake, too. I keep seeing Soya in the back garden, just laughing and laughing and never stopping, tearing through the snow for something in the dirt."
"Do you want me to talk to Dr. Rubricatus about it?" she asks in a pitifully quiet voice once I'm done. I almost want to laugh at her for the suggestion, but I know she's just trying to do her best to help. It must stretch her thin, all this caring for me, all this going behind so many people's backs just to keep me a little happier than before.
"Please don't bring that creature here," I chuckle, squeezing her hand back. "I don't think his skin will go well with the furniture."
Eris doesn't say anything, just laughing quietly to herself before looking out at the snow for a while. I take it as a sign we're done, and I go to stand up. She reaches up and pushes me back down, however.
"We're not done, what else?" I ask her. "Please don't ramble about stupid Victory Tour shit until we get back inside, where it'll be warm."
"No, not Victory Tour stuff," she sighs. "Well, it's just...the house. They want me to get you to sell the house."
"The house?" I ask, feigning confusion, forcing her to say which house exactly, where, that one? Really, that house?
"Come on, Lord, don't make this hard for me," Eris groans. "The house, the one you grew up in. The one in the merchant part of town, that your mothers owned, that you own. They want you to sell it."
"Why?" I growl. "It's mine, and not theirs. It's the only thing I have that's not theirs."
"That's why they want you to sell it. They can't control what goes on there, and they don't know what you'll do there. They know that you haven't gone there yet. At least, you hadn't the last time we talked."
"I haven't," I whisper. "You know...you know I haven't. You know I can't."
"They want you to sell it," she says again. "This isn't something...they can just take it if they want, you know that. If you don't let them sell it, you won't be able to go inside it again, and you won't be able to take what you want out of it. They'll just take it one night and you won't see any of it ever again."
"They can't take it from me," I murmur, pitifully, almost pouting like a little child.
"If you can't go, I can, and I'll take anything that looks important," Eris sighs.
"No, you can't go," I tell her. "I'll...I'll go. I'll go, once you leave. I'll go clear it out."
"I can go with you," she says so quietly, I almost don't hear it. "You don't have to do this alone."
"I do," I mutter, as tears cluster in my eyes, wild and warm against the cold December wind. "I have to say goodbye to them on my own."
The steps up to the house are covered in snow and ice, but they look just the same as before. I can remember sliding down them on a garbage can lid when I was seven or eight years old, Mama laughing from the top of the stairwell while Mom tried to muster the anger to scold me for it. She yelled a little, not enough to take the smile off of my face, and then we went inside for gingerbread and hot cocoa. It was warm in my mouth and we laughed some more and they both hugged me and told me they loved me. I never went skidding down on the garbage can lid again, because I knew how much it hurt Mom to have to yell a little bit, and I knew I could get gingerbread and hot cocoa whenever I wanted. I just had to ask, and they'd give it to me with a kiss on the forehead.
There is no one in the street even though the merchant houses are all pressed up against one another here. There's so much snow piled up that it's hard to even walk. Anyone with a sound mind, anyone that hasn't seen blood flow under their shaking fingertips, would stay inside on a day like today. But not me. I stand there for a long time, staring up at the red door, the same color it was all my life. The key that fits into the lock on the doorknob is in my pocket. I just have to take it out and twist it into the handle, and the door will swing open, and I will be home. I will be home again.
Each step up the stone stairwell to the door is harder than the last. I hear the distant laughter of a little boy, high and twinkling, coming from behind the door. I can hear the sound of Mom setting down her tools and shouting for me. I can hear my eager footsteps pounding down the staircase so I could leap from the third step into her arms. She always caught me, every time. I can hear the sound of Mama singing as she sewed in the sitting room, sweetly singing about lost lovers and angels and hanging trees and little lambs tucked up in soft green grass.
My little child, so sweet and mild, my little child, come stay a while Mama sings from her rocker as she pulls the needle through the bodice of a lady's dress, over and over, stitches lining up neatly side by side. My little child, come stay a while. Come stay a while.
The door creaks when I push it open, and dust billows up from the floorboards that haven't been touched in four years as I step inside. My eyes drag slowly around the house as I pull the door closed behind me. Cobwebs hang in every corner, and every surface is coated in dust. Down the hallway is the kitchen and the sitting room, but instead I turn towards the stairs and begin to mount them. My legs carry me to the one place I have to go to, the one place I never wanted to see again: the bed where Mama gave up and died on me when she didn't have to.
The sheets are covered in a thin film of dust, but they are still folded neatly on the bed. I didn't go in here after she died, I couldn't, but someone else did. Our neighbor, the candlemaker's wife, made up the room after Mama died, washed the sheets and tidied it up. It still feels like Mama though, with the hand-stitched embroidery hoops lining the walls, the little ceramic bird statues on the bedside table. A picture of Mom and Mama on their wedding day hangs over the bed at the center of the wall. They took it in black and white because that was all they could afford back then. When they got married, Mom was still an apprentice carpenter and Mama hadn't gotten much work yet. They said they lived in someone's attic and barely ate some days, but that it was the happiest time in their lives besides when they adopted me. I stand at the foot of the bed and stare at that picture for a long time, two laughing young women hanging onto each other like their lives depended on it, like if they let go the entire world would fall to nothing at all. I guess they were right, in the end. One of them had to let go because of a saw went through her leg, and then the other decided to follow her, decided to die in this very bed I am standing over, and now there is nothing left at all but myself, standing here in a sea of still dust, trying not to cry.
I turn to go, thinking I will find nothing else I want here, when I spot something folded under one of the pillows. I walk slowly towards it until I can see the yellowed parchment peeking out from underneath the pale white pillowcase. My hands shake as I slowly pull the old envelope from where it's been hidden underneath the pillow, my breath coming in short gasps as I read the name scrawled on it in familiar handwriting. To Lord.
I have been still for so long around the memory of them, so still that I usually don't move at all, that I just stare and think of them so hard I couldn't move if I tried. Not now. I rip open the envelope hungrily, the old paper shredding under my fingertips. I'm careful to not rip the letter inside, though, and my hands begin to shake even harder as I unfold the parchment, as I trace Mama's slanted words under my fingers, as I read the letter aloud, over and over, until the walls have heard each word a hundred times, until each word is stitched into every vibrant thread on every embroidery hoop hanging silently on the wall. Even then, I read it again, quietly this time, in my own head, thinking of the dark haired woman that sang in her rocker as her slanted words flow past my misted eyes.
My Dearest Lord,
I am a selfish woman. I always have been. Your mother was the one who always kept things in order, who gave things up for us, who did whatever she had to do to make sure we both were happy. I was not that woman, I never was, I never could be. I am greedy, so greedy, and I cannot live any longer, not even for you, my love.
It is not because I do not love you enough; it is because I love you too much, and because I love her too much as well. My parents left me for the streets when I was little, and unspeakable things happened to me in those alleyways before the Peacekeepers brought me to the orphanage. But when your mother found me, all of those things were gone. She was the only thing I ever had, besides my voice and my fingers that could pull thread like none other. She was the only reason I was living, and you were an extension of her, because she wanted you so badly. I just wanted to save another child from the life I had, stuck in that orphanage, waiting to really live for once. The two of you were all I wanted, all I needed, everything. I would give up my voice, my fingers, all of it for the two of you.
But now she is dead. She is dead, and I do not know what I can do. I cannot take care of you, and I cannot sew much anymore. My stitches come out all wrong. I can still sing, but only the sad songs, about dead lovers and broken hearts. I cannot do anything else, but think of dead lovers and broken hearts. She is dead, and you are too alive, and I cannot take care of you, I just cannot, and I wish I had the strength she had to be a good woman, but I do not, I never did. They broke me on the streets and she is gone and I cannot take care of you anymore.
You will hate me, I know. You heard what the herbwife said, that I can get better if I choose. I will not choose to, and you will know, and you will hate me. But I hope you understand this, one day. I hope you understand the sucking hole in my chest, so heavy, so empty. I hope you understand how I see her on the edges of my vision every day, your mother, laughing and dancing and crying and kissing you, kissing you, and you are always there reminding me of her and of what I am not, and I cannot stay anymore, I am sorry my sweet little boy, but I cannot stay anymore.
Please forgive me, and I hope you understand it one day. I hope you understand the type of love, the type of loss that makes a woman like me lay down in her bed and wait to die.
With the Deepest Love,
"I understand it, Mama," I whisper once I'm done, pressing the faded letter to my chest, feeling the brittle paper rub against the beat of my angry-sad heart. "I understand it all."
Outside, the winter wind blows the whole world over. Somewhere down in the snow blanketed streets of the Seam, another mother sings Come home to me, come home to me as her baby sleeps, his little chest rising and falling sweetly, oblivious to the sky being blown to the ground above his head. Outside, the snow is whipping, whipping so loud and long in the winter wind that it almost sounds like a dead mother singing, a dead mother singing My little child, come stay a while as the snow falls on the cobbles of the street, the drifts building up little by little until the sad boy inside the old dead house wakes up and begins to cry.
A/N: It's wild that this is finally over. I always knew that this story would end someday, but...this is just a surreal feeling. I have never cried at all during this story, but there are tears in my eyes now, at 3 A.M., now that I am done writing this, and I understand that this story is truly coming to a close. I always knew I would make myself finish this story someday, even back when I didn't update for two years, even when my real life was a mess, I always knew I would finish it. But really doing it, damn, that's something else, and it's so overwhelming to write the last sentences of this story, to know that I can mark this story complete today and that five years of hard work and amazing fun will officially be over for good.
It's such a bittersweet feeling. I am so pleased to have finally finished this story. It has been such a journey, with over 1,150 reviews over 75 rollercoaster ride chapters. It is so relieving to finish this, to know the vision I had for this story for so long is finally completed, that everyone has gotten to read everything I have dreamed up for Lord and all the others. It is such a sad, bitter thing, because this story has been a constant in my life for five years, the place I can go to vent my feelings and develop my writing and just be me, and it's insane to think I will never write a word of Blow Me Over again.
I say this every chapter, but I will say it an obnoxious amount now: all of you are the reason I do this, and the fact that this story had such massive support is something I will never truly understand, and it is something I can never say thank you for enough. All of those reviews, all those views, all those people who have seen our characters and cared enough to interact at all. This story was always special to me with how popular it was, with how many people were invested in it, and it really upped the stakes and made this exciting journey even more thrilling, knowing how many people were following along, even after such a long break between the early days and the rest of the Games. Each and every one of you mean the world to me, and without your support this story would not have been what it was, so I thank you.
I am sad, really sad to be honest to be closing this final chapter of this story, but I also know we have such great things ahead. Withered Hope is just about to begin, with the cast list being posted later today, and that will be a new journey all its own. Still, this story will always have a special place in my heart. I was thirteen when I started this story, and I am eighteen now. My writing and my own self has grown along with this story. There is so much emotion and life experience and adolescence packed into this story for me. It is one of the things I think I'll be nostalgic for, when I'm older, the experience of this whole thing. In a few weeks, I'll be graduating high school, and so it just feels overwhelming to think that this is the time that this story is coming to a close. But it makes sense, really. Blow Me Over was the story that grew with me, throughout my teenage years, and I'll always be thankful towards it for that, and thankful towards all of you for supporting me through that journey, no matter the highs and lows (like the Lord sex scene at the beginning lmao or the two year hiatus).
These characters, this story, and all of you readers will forever be important to me. Thank you for making this the thing I'm most proud of in the world. This has been a journey I will never forget, and I hope it is one you will never forget either. Now, it's time to move onto the next story, the next journey, and I hope you are all excited to follow me there. It will be an honor to continue writing for all of you, just as it was an honor to write this story for so many caring and invested readers. I'm not sure anything will be like this story ever again, but that is okay, because Blow Me Over was an experience all its own, and I will remember it fondly for the rest of my life.
Now I say goodbye, and this story is over. Words I thought I might never say, some years ago, but I'm saying them now. Goodbye, and see you again soon. I hope I'm not the only one being overly emotional over all of this, and I apologize for this mess, but I told you you were getting a rambling final A/N so here it is. I hope this story meant as much to all of you as it did to me.
Thanks Again For Everything,