Chapter Twenty Six::Esme

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The words branded her mind more, the longer she spent thinking about them. It was weird, as she hadn't thought she'd heard Finn initially, however recalling it now, she was perfectly aware of what he'd said. It wasn't true, it couldn't be true, there was no way that this was real, it couldn't be. She'd just been thinking about it earlier today, wondering if she was safe. After everything that had gone wrong in her life, after everyone she'd lost, this couldn't be happening. Finn was crying, the echoing sobs of their father could be heard from the room they stood beside, and Delvin simply looked numb; his head hung low and a permanent expression of disbelief scarred his face as he slouched against the wall. Raina didn't know what to do, she wanted to argue, she wanted to deny it all, but then when she went to do so, her words failed her. She wanted to scream, kick, cry, fight, anything that would make the pain that ate at her go away, but nothing worked, she wasn't even sure she was breathing in that moment. Finn held her arm, desperate for her to show some sort of acknowledgement to his words, but he too was in no state to do anything beside release what he felt. It just hurt. Never before had Raina known such pain that it was bordering on lethal. She'd been so upset and angry when Asher had been exiled, but that was no where near as hard as this. Her lungs felt as though they were combusting, her entire body burned like raging wildfire; her bones ached like they were being held beneath the weight of the world, and there was nothing that could be done to change it. Everything just hurt. It was indescribably. There was suddenly a void filled with nothing but raw agony, that stretched with every repeat of Finn's sentence that played continuously in Raina's mind. "Raina," He sighed, his bloodshot eyes boring into hers, desperate for something to show she wasn't dying inside, even when she was. "Raina!" She'd thought he'd shouted again, though she hadn't been paying enough attention to spot his lips failing to move as he spoke, if that were the case. She tried looking to Delvin, only by now he'd broken down too, curled up on the floor with his elbows against his knees, and his head in his hands, his body trembling from his furious sobs. The yelling of their father could still be heard from beyond the door, but Raina failed to comprehend what he was actually yelling about exactly, all she could hear was her name. She thought it was Finn, but the more she thought about it, the more it hurt. That was when things began to spiral.

Things became a lot more distant, Finn was suddenly taller than she remembered, and everything around her stretched upwards. Colours dulled momentarily, her voice only coming back enough for her to utter one word, repeatedly. "No," She muttered weakly, her hands trembling as Finn reached for them, his cold grip digging into her sensitive skin as she was now able to acknowledge that she was in fact on the floor. "No, no, no,"She continued to mutter, her face aching from what felt like poison dragging down her cheeks slowly, though with every time she said the word, the liquid picked up pace. Finn said nothing, or at least his mouth didn't move, but she could swear she heard his voice. "Ray!" He'd yelled, urgently, though all she could see were the stains of tears that haunted his gaunt face, as it leant near her own. He tried to embrace her, he tried to pull her to her feet, or at least into his arms, but none of it worked; Raina had somehow mustered the strength to push him away, so that she may sit against the wall, alone. "My sister..." She mumbled, her voice sounding stronger than it had done before, strong enough to formulate actual words now. "She was my sister!" She exclaimed louder, her head shaking as she spoke. Finn tried to silence her, hushing her when she spoke, and desperately trying to embrace her so that her sounds would be muffled, but she was strong enough to force him away. "How!?" She said quietly, for the first time her gaze connected with her brother's, and for a moment she could have sworn they weren't his, but that of Esme's. He'd always reminded her of her sister, but now that only felt like she was being flayed alive. "HOW!?" She screamed desperately, her fingers entangling in Finn's leathers, gripping tightly so that she could keep herself from falling further. "HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN!?" She begged, pleaded to know, but no one spoke, not that she could hear them anyway, all she could do was focus on breathing. It hurt like her lungs filled with mud rather than air, and her ribs were currently being crushed by a million tonnes of bricks.It all just hurt. "Raina come on,"Finn sighed, his head hung low but his eyes trained on his siter, "Get up," His voice had never sounded feeble, he'd always been a role model, a hero, in Raina's eyes, now he just seemed as fragile as her. With Delvin now at her side, they hoisted her up, her legs somewhat giving out beneath her, and so she was forced to use her brother's for support. How could they stand with everything that had just been announced? How were they now on the floor like she had been? How were they not crumbling to ashes, and screaming from the agony? That was all Raina could think of doing, screaming, protesting, crying, fighting, anything that meant she wouldn't have to burden this any longer. It had only been moments, but she was already sure she couldn't do it, cope with this loss.

Esme was her big sister, she was her inspiration for almost everything she'd ever done; Esme used to look after her, whenever she'd fallen, or gotten hurt, it would be her sister whom would pick her up, clean her off, and look after her until she knew it would be alright. She'd been the one to tell her stories, and send her to sleep when she couldn't. She'd been the one Raina would run to when she'd had a bad dream, and the two of them would curl up in the same bed, talking and giggling all night until they both collapsed into a peaceful slumber, entangle in one another. The pair had been tutored together by their wet nurse, they'd dressed together for special occasions, bathed together in the evenings, run away together whenever they didn't want to go to class, played together whenever they'd been allowed, they'd travelled to Winterfell together for the first time, met the Forresters together, been together for the past 19 years. Raina had thought about her sister so often that she couldn't tell how long it had been. But it had almost been a year since they'd last met, and now that would be the last time they'd seen one another, before all of this. Raina had thought about her mere hours ago, thinking about running home to her, where she felt safer. She was prepared to give up Robb, her brothers, her friends, because she thought she'd be safe at home, with her sister, but now there was no one to go home to.

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