So, for those of you who read be-nice-to-nerds' first one shot last week, this is the second one, for those of you who didn't, she and I are basically writing alternate endings of The Hunger Games where small changes to what happened in the arena result in a different winner.
As with everything that I write, all four of the chapters I've done for this will fit in with what I have written before (apart from the obvious 'AU-ness' which is the whole concept of the story ;)) so if you haven't read anything I have done before then there may be random things that aren't really explained :)
Anyway, strange though it seems to be posting again after however many months, this is the first one. Much to my disappointment, I still don't own the Hunger Games or any of it's characters. Let me know what you think...
"Glimmer. Glimmer, wake up."
It's always the same words, the same accent, the same tone, sometimes female, more often male, but always the same. I hear the soft but insistent voice as if it is coming from many miles away, and I push it away even further, realising that the peaceful oblivion of my no doubt drug-induced sleep is a much nicer place to be than reality. My name is repeated a couple more times and then there is nothing but silence.
I don't know how much time passes, but eventually, probably because the drugs are wearing off, I realise that I can't keep fighting to stay asleep and I allow my eyelids to flutter open, squinting for a minute as my eyes become accustomed to the bright light of the stark, white room. I find that I am already propped up into a half-sitting position by the bed I lie on, so I can easily look around at all of the machinery that surrounds me. None of it is currently connected to my body but I somehow know that it was before, as if I am half remembering a dream.
I try to lift my hands but when I quickly find out that I can't, I look down at the bed to see two sleeping figures sitting on chairs at either side of me, their heads resting on the mattress. One dark-haired and one blonde, but both with their hands clasped tightly around one of mine.
I try to extricate myself from the grip of my mentors, unable to stop myself from smiling slightly at the sight of them, their presence comforting me as the events of the past month start to slowly return, but my movement wakes them and they sit upright immediately, their faces full of concern. They fall into their usual roles as soon as they move, with Gloss getting up to get me a drink of water and Cashmere leaning forwards to rearrange and tidy my hair. I find that I appreciate both gestures more than I could say, which I certainly wouldn't. The arena hasn't changed me that much. I won't let it.
"How long have I been here?" I ask, my voice cracked and shaky through lack of use.
"Six days," replies Gloss softly as he returns to my side, holding a finely made crystal glass out to me.
It looks strange and other-worldly after the hardships of the arena but I take it and drink deeply anyway, protesting when he pulls it away before I've finished.
"You'll make yourself sick if you drink too much too quickly."
I nod and sit up, going to stand until I realise I am naked under the sheets. That makes me stop myself, not because I think that Cashmere is the type to care, but because I find that I still feel an irrational desire to preserve what little modesty I managed to retain after interview night.
"I'll go and fetch you a dress," says Gloss quickly, and from the speed at which he leaves the room I get the impression he's trying to avoid being alone with me, as if he has something he knows he has to discuss that he wishes to avoid.
I look questioningly at Cashmere but she says nothing as she bustles around the room, making an uncharacteristic departure from her usual elegance and grace, almost as if she can't bear the prospect of silence despite not knowing what to say. Eventually, when there is nothing left in the small and almost bare room for her to tidy or rearrange, she stops at the foot of the bed and stares at me, her blue eyes fixed to my green ones as she shakes her head slightly.
"I'm so pleased it was you, Glimmer."
I don't know what to say to that. I'm not used to people who are capable of getting through my external ice-cold façade to see the person underneath, and while before I would have always said that her brother was the only one of my mentors who could do so, I get the impression that she has changed, or maybe I should say that something has changed her. She doesn't lower her gaze so I shrug my shoulders, smiling slightly and trying to hold back the ever increasing range of emotions that are threatening to tear me apart.
"Will they let me leave here?" I ask, suddenly desperate to escape something I can't quite identify.
"Soon," she replies as she walks the short distance to the bedside table to pick up a hairbrush before gently pushing me forwards so she can sit on the bed behind me.
I try to push her away at first, instinctively knowing that any kind of physical contact will probably result in my emotional collapse, even if it is something as trivial as her brushing my hair, but she is gently persistent and I eventually relax back against her.
"Tell me what you're trying not to think about," she says. "I held it all inside me for months when I came back from the arena and it did me no favours."
"Cashmere, I can't," I reply, hating how weak and feeble my voice sounds. "I will not let them see my pain. They want a beautiful doll that they can gawp at. They won't ever let me be anything else now so why should I bother trying?"
The force behind the brush strokes increases noticeably. "Tell me. Fall apart here with me and I will help you put yourself back together so they will never know you were broken. You are like me now, Glimmer. You have to be two people. You have to be what everyone wants you to be when they can see you but you have to find out who you are and retain your true self as well. If you don't then you will drive yourself mad quicker than the Capitol ever could."
I slowly turn to face her, and the second she pulls me close, my flood of tears is unleashed and I cry until I can cry no more, hearing the screams of the dying in the arena, watching them fall at the bloodbath, some slain by my own hand, watching as one by one, their cannons sound and their faces appear in the sky. I have only ever cried like this in front of one other person, and it is remembering that he is dead that makes me cry all the harder. Cashmere says nothing, she just holds me, holds me like I am a little child and she is twice her age, seeming not to notice or care that we barely know each other and that there is barely eight years between us.
"I killed them," I whisper shakily. "I didn't want to but I had to fight. I thought I would be different but when the time came, I cared about nothing but saving my own life."
"And that doesn't make you a bad person, Glimmer. The Hunger Games is what it is, and it's over now."
"Is it ever over? How can it ever end when I can see their faces every time I close my eyes?"
"It might not feel like it will now but it gets easier."
"Does it? I can still see that boy, the one from District Eight. I don't even know his name but I can see his face. I might have trained for the Games but I never wanted to, it was my father's choice, not mine. District Eight was the first person I killed and he will be with me forever, I know he will."
"There was a girl I killed, she wasn't the first, but she was the first I really remembered, the first one who mattered. I knew nothing about her when I killed her, not her name nor the colour of her eyes. I didn't even know how old she was. It just felt different when she died. Real." She takes a deep breath and lifts her gaze from the floor to focus on me once more.
I have never seen her like this before. She has always seemed so poised and in control, and I have been so wrapped up in my own problems that I have never spared a thought for her. I have become what I despise, a hypocrite who doesn't take the time to see past the mask that another presents to the world, but it will stop now. I open my mouth to speak but she shakes her head, her bright blue eyes not leaving mine for a second, almost as if she can read my mind.
"I can now tell you that her name was Elsah, and that she had black eyes and pale brown hair. She was from District Three and she was thirteen years old when I killed her. When I faced her parents on my Victory Tour, her father thanked me for killing her quickly and not letting the girl from Two have her. I have never felt so ashamed. So I won't tell you that you'll get over it, Glimmer, because you won't. I won't lie to you because you deserve better than that, but I can tell you that you will learn to deal with it in your own way and in your own time. Gloss and I will help you."
I can't help the shake of my head that is my response to her final words, and my mocking laugh echoes around the room. "So where's Gloss now? He couldn't leave quickly enough. If you ask me then he has obviously decided that he got what he wanted from me before the Games started."
Cashmere almost hisses at me, grasping my arms so her perfectly manicured fingernails dig into my skin. "Maybe he should walk away from you if that is what you really believe. If it is then you don't know him at all. It's not my place to tell you why, but he will be back and there is something he needs to talk to you about."
I open my mouth to question her but she must sense it because she points her finger at me before putting it to her lips and shushing me.
Then something else occurs to me. As I am awake and feeling better, the effects of the arena erased from my body if not my mind, they are going to want to hold the Victor's Ceremony. And that means dressing me up, putting a crown on my head and making me relive the whole horrific nightmare that was the Seventy-fourth Hunger Games while being broadcast live on national television.
"Cashmere? How did they die?"
"Pardon?" she replies, almost convincing me that she didn't hear me.
"I need to know how they died before I watch the Games review. I have to be prepared, then they won't see me break," I finish weakly, mirroring her earlier words.
"I was on my own after I left the Alliance. I saw nothing but pictures in the sky until I killed Katniss at the Cornucopia. And then the trumpets sounded."
I can see them all, still there inside my mind; Marvel, my arrogant and obnoxious district partner, Varia, the vicious and sadistic girl from District Four, Clove and Cato, the fierce, lethal girl who somehow ended up becoming my friend and her devoted and equally lethal lover, and then there is Him. The man from District Eleven. Thresh. Part of me wants to know how he died and the rest of me wants to remain in ignorance forever, just in case he suffered before the end.
"I saw Cato and Clove's pictures appear in the sky on the same night. I can't imagine anyone in the arena being able to bring both of them down," I prompt, smiling slightly at the memory of Clove, of how we argued and insulted each other without malice, of how proud she was, of how she had glared at me when I had curled up against her for warmth but then lay back down and accepted me as she would accept nobody else other than Cato. I surprised her, I think, as she was another of the small few who saw past my appearance to find a very different person to the one she expected.
"District Eleven killed her. He hit her head with a rock so hard that she couldn't recover. He thought he was avenging the death of his little district partner."
My mind reels at the thought of Thresh killing Clove so I focus immediately on the only part of what my mentor just said that I think I could make sense of with a bit more explanation. "What do you mean 'he thought'?"
"The girl from Two-"
"Clove," I interrupt.
"Clove didn't kill the girl," she says, pausing and taking a deep breath before continuing. "Marvel did."
I try to imagine Marvel making the tiny child beg him for her life before he killed her, and I find it all too easy despite not knowing if she did or not. At least my district partner is one less for me to grieve for.
"That doesn't explain Cato."
"He tried to get to Clove but he was too late. He killed District Eleven and then ran straight to her. She had just about enough strength left to ask him to end her suffering so he killed her then killed himself before they'd even fired her cannon. They died in each other's arms. You should have seen the headlines in the papers." She can't see my face but I roll my eyes as I sense Cashmere slipping into 'gossip-mode' and predictably, she doesn't disappoint. "How much did you know about them? Did they know each other before the arena? Were they really lovers?" she asks, her questions coming out in a rush in her quest to know the details.
I shake my head at Cashmere, realising that I don't want to tell her all I know of the pair from District Two, which is really only enough to answer her last question anyway, especially not just to satisfy her insatiable curiosity.
"Maybe you can tell me about the man from Eleven then?" she counters immediately. "I might not be the most intelligent woman in Panem but I know more about people and human nature than virtually anyone. I saw you cry when you saw his picture in the sky and those tears meant something."
My tears start to fall again at the mention of Thresh and my voice shakes as I answer her. "He was a good man. He didn't deserve his fate."
"How do you know?" she asks, but her voice and the smile that accompanies it are gentle.
"I knew him. Well, I spoke to him a few times," I reply, before I stop abruptly when I soon find out that I don't want anyone to know what I felt for him. Not ever. That is mine and nobody else's.
"I see you now know that what I said is true," she says quietly, and I know instantly what she means.
'It is human nature to want the one you can't have more than any other', she had said to me after I had returned from the first day of training, almost as if she could read my mind.
"And nobody knows that better than you, do they, Cashmere?" I retort, my old, familiar coldness returning slightly as I attempt to change the subject.
"Probably not," she says lightly, nodding in acknowledgement of how my words had struck their intended target but not seeming all that perturbed. Maybe she really does love him. "He will want to see you."
"Not yet," I reply, knowing that she means Falco, my district's Capitol escort, the man who has been in his role since Cashmere's Games eight years ago and is now a whole lot more than just that to her. I don't dislike him and can even see what she sees in him, but the thought of having to deal with his Capitolian ways and beliefs when I am feeling so vulnerable, however subdued they might be when compared to those of most others I have encountered here, is not something I am ready to consider.
She nods and pulls me back. I rest my head on her shoulder. "He's so happy that you won, Glimmer. And he convinced the style team to change your dress. I think you will be pleased with his suggestion."
The mention of the style team and dresses is enough to make me jump off the bed, wrapping the sheet tightly around me as I draw myself up to my full height and glare at her. "I will not have another Interview Night! I am not a tribute anymore, I am a Victor! I am a person not an object and I will not endure being sent onto that stage virtually naked for the Capitol's gratification!"
"Have you quite finished?" she asks when I eventually fall silent, her amusement clearly showing in her sparkling blue eyes.
I nod and sit back on the bed, almost ashamed by my loss of control, which has happened far too many times for my liking since reaping day, but only almost. The people here may still control me but they don't control me in quite the same way they did before the arena and I have no intention of ever letting them forget that.
"I mean it, Cashmere," I tell her, hearing some of the old authority that I used to possess surfacing in my voice. "I know that Interview Night had the desired effect but I don't need sponsors now. I will not be degraded like that again.
"Just have a look at this," she says, holding a white piece of paper out to me like a flag of surrender.
I take it and unfold it, revealing the roughly sketched image of a woman who bears a remarkable resemblance to me despite how she has her head turned so her face can't be seen. The golden hair is mine though, and the lack of detail in her features is more than made up for with the intricacy in which the dress she wears is shown. It looks like a river of gold, with a high collar and a long skirt, with thousands of trails of tiny diamonds running through it. It looks perfect, and when I look back at Cashmere, I can tell by the expression on her face that she senses victory in this particular battle.
"This is my Victory Ceremony dress?"
She nods. "I told you that you'd like it."
"What did they want me to wear?"
"Judging by your earlier reaction, I think it is best that you never know. Especially when it doesn't matter. Falco showed the style team a slightly vaguer version of this and they changed their minds instantly. As long as they can pretend the design is theirs, they are happy."
"He designed this?"
"We did," she says pointedly.
"Thank you," I say with complete sincerity. Feeling so strongly about something as insignificant as a dress makes me feel shallow and weak but I can't help it. If I am going to rebuild what the Games destroyed into the person I want to be then I need to have the confidence to do it, and I can say with total certainty that despite knowing that I have nothing to be ashamed of, appearing on television considerably more than half-naked in front of the entire nation won't help me to achieve that.
"It was a pleasure," she says, and knowing her as I do, I imagine that it probably was. "It's late," she continues. "I should go. You still aren't back to your full strength. You need to get some rest."
"Can I come with you?" I ask, trying to keep the pleading tone from my words. I don't want to spend a night in this clinical and frightening place when I am conscious and aware of my surroundings.
"Not today," she replies gently and I feel my heart sink. Part of me wants to ask her where Gloss has gone but my pride won't allow me to. "Maybe tomorrow. Lie down and try to sleep."
"Stay for a bit longer."
She pushes me back and I lie down, letting her to pull the blanket over me in a way that I would never have contemplated allowing before the Games. The last thing I remember is her perching on the edge of the narrow hospital bed, stroking my hair back from my face as I fall asleep and into yet another memory, a memory that should be a nightmare but isn't.
I am back there again, walking through the killing fields of the arena with the battle raging all around me, surrounded by cries and screams of both imagined triumph and total agony, but ahead of me, he is there, not fighting, merely watching me as if I am the only person he can see. And how can my dream be a nightmare when I can see his face?
When I wake up the next morning I am alone, but a lot of the medical machinery that surrounded the bed has disappeared, telling me that it wasn't always so. It worries me that I was so sound asleep that I didn't hear them taking it away. Trying to push that thought from my mind, I sit up and see a simple dark green dress hanging from the handle of a cupboard door on the other side of the room. I force myself to rise to my feet and put it on. I can't hide in here forever. I look down at the soft velvet of the dress and can't help noticing that it is the exact colour of the leaves on the trees in the arena. Seeing it makes me remember the last time I had looked up to see them, the morning that I left the Alliance as well as the woods.
"Glimmer, wake up," whispers a voice repeatedly, low and insistent. I open my eyes but I'm obviously not quick enough as the next second I feel a sharp pain in my side. "Cato, stop it," hisses the same voice, and I open my eyes to see Clove leaning over me, with her district partner who isn't just her district partner standing behind her, clearly ready to kick me again in case I hadn't got the message the first time.
"What is it?" I whisper as I sit up, instinctively both matching her hushed voice and reaching for the sword that never leaves my side.
"Cato and I are bored of this little arrangement," she says, and I clearly see the smirk on his face despite the dim light.
I know instantly that they mean to break the Alliance and that therefore it's only a matter of time before the cannons start firing. So why are they telling me? I go to stand up, instinctively thinking that I must be the first target and intending to at least put up a bit of a fight, but Clove puts her hand on my shoulder and shakes her head.
"Don't be stupid, Sparkle. We're giving you the chance to walk away. Just once. Never again."
"Why?" I whisper, realising that I am mirroring her exact tone and question from when I had pulled her to her feet as we had fled the fire, the memory making me think that I have probably answered my own question.
"Momentary slip into insanity," she says, giving me a wicked-looking smile that I have never seen before. "Go. Before Cato makes me change my mind."
"Glimmer? Glimmer, can you hear me?"
I return abruptly back to reality when I feel a pull at my arm, and I focus my eyes to see Gloss standing a short distance away. "You came back then? I wasn't sure you would."
"Will you ever trust me, Glimmer?"
"I don't trust anyone. I told you that on the tribute train."
He shakes his head sadly. "I wish you'd trust me," he whispers, his voice so quiet that I can't be sure he wanted me to hear.
"Why did you leave? I've never seen anyone leave a room so quickly."
He takes a deep breath. "I need to talk to you about something. I'm not sure how you will react and yesterday I was being a coward."
"Cashmere said you needed to talk to me. She refused to say why."
He laughs at that and I welcome the sound because it immediately eases the tension between us. "Cash keeping her mouth shut? Just goes to show that there's a first time for everything."
I smile briefly, unable to help wondering if he would have said that had she been in the room with us. Knowing him, he probably would have and been prepared to suffer the inevitable consequences, and it amuses me to imagine what Cashmere's reaction would be. Then I remember what we had been talking about and I become serious once more.
"So what is it you need to talk to me about?"
"Do you remember when you hit Marvel when you were in the arena?"
I nod slowly, remembering how good it felt despite knowing that he is dead.
"Do you remember why you hit him?"
"Because he tried it on. He's not the first and he won't be the last."
He smiles at my blunt answer before continuing. "And what did he say when you turned him down?"
I am about to say that I don't really remember when he drops a neatly folded newspaper onto the bed. 'A Whole Lot More Than Mentor and Tribute?' says the headline in big, bold print above a picture of Gloss and I standing together waiting for the interviews to start. It would have to be the interviews, wouldn't it? It would have to show me wearing That Dress, a garment that I have come to detest with so much more emotion than I should probably feel for an inanimate object that it well deserves the capitalisation.
After a few minutes I look up at him in disbelief. I know that if this had happened before the arena then I would have been mortified, but now, for the moment at least, it just seems irrationally hilarious.
"I don't mind being 'beautiful and deadly' but if they think I will tolerate 'object of desire' then they've got another thing coming. I am nobody's object," I say flatly in response to some of the descriptives the reporter has applied to me in the article. A second later we both burst out laughing and however strange it feels, it also feels good to laugh again.
"I didn't think you would react like that," he says eventually, still smiling that smile I remember from before the Games really started, back when he had been doing everything in his power to convince me that he wasn't like all of those others who had tried in the past to make me theirs.
"How did you think I'd react? I'm not a naïve little girl, Gloss, I know how the world works. Hunger Games victors are the subject of mindless tabloid gossip. I'm surprised they got that much from one little whispered arena argument though."
"Now you're the newest victor, it's the biggest story of the Games. They've been clamouring to interrogate me at every opportunity for days."
"And what have you told them?" I ask, unsure of exactly what answer I want from him.
"Nothing. I told them that they will just have to wait until you are healed and in a position to speak for yourself."
I nod and smile slightly, grateful for his thoughtfulness and consideration but still at a loss for what to say. He puts the paper and a couple of others into my hand before reaching out and gently stroking the side of my face.
"I love you, Glimmer, and I know that you feel something for me even if you don't love me the same. We could be good together. If you give me a chance then you will see. I would never hurt you or let you down."
He puts his finger against my lips to silence me. "It's OK, Glimmer. I don't want an answer now, but they are holding the Victory Ceremony tomorrow. I will come back at dawn and I will do whatever you want. If you want to deny anything ever happened between us then that is what we will do."
I step forwards, going to rest my head on his shoulder, but for the first time ever he pushes me away. "Tomorrow," he whispers as he turns and walks away.
Unsurprisingly, I haven't slept at all. How could I when I have so much to think about? I throw the newspapers across the room again, only to swiftly get up to retrieve them for what must be the tenth time, furious that I have been through so much and yet I am still trapped in a gilded cage, exactly like before the Games even if it is a prison that is grander and vastly more complex than the one I was trapped in at home in District One.
The Capitol will be more subtle about it now, now that the actual Games are over, but they will still control my life forever. I will not be able to do anything or go anywhere without them watching me and there is no way in Panem that I will be able to keep my private life out of the papers.
But that isn't the problem, well it is, but that isn't something I can control. The real question I have to answer is whether I want to deal with this on my own or if I want to accept the man who was my mentor, a man whom I do love but simply not in the way he loves me.
I don't know why Gloss loves me like he does, for I have never done anything to earn or justify his devotion, but I find the thought of being without him, of being alone, so horrific that most of the time I think my mind is made up. Then I think of the arena, which makes me think of another who I think felt something for me, and when I think of him, I am suddenly not so sure of my decision. I might have only spoken to him three times, spent a couple of brief hours in his company, but when he held me in his arms as I fell apart on the Training Centre roof and every time he looked at me after that, I felt something that told me I will never love Gloss as much as he deserves.
It feels far too soon when I hear the soft knock on the door as the dawn light begins to stream through the tiny window of the hospital room. When I tell him to come in, the door swings slowly open and his eyes meet mine instantly. I nod once and for a fraction of a second a beaming smile appears on his face, making him suddenly seem younger than his years. He steps towards me but then stops, the smile fading slightly in response to the look on my own face, which for some reason feels like it is cast in stone, preventing me from showing any emotion. Not that I know what I would do or say even if I felt able to.
"Give me time, Gloss," I whisper eventually, and I am almost overwhelmed by the guilt I feel when he simply nods in response. Why does he love me? I am certain that I am not worthy of him and I hope that he doesn't come to regret the decision he has obviously made.
"Are you ready to face the people from the other world then?" he asks, his familiar way of describing the citizens of the Capitol making me smile slightly. "If we don't tell them something soon then they will be making it up even more than they are already."
"Don't let your sister hear you calling them that," I reply as I walk over to the mirror which stands in the corner of the room, looking strangely out of place.
It is odd how so much can change and yet my reflection can remain so constant. I feel like I should look different somehow and yet I don't. Still the same tall, slender body, the same golden-blonde hair. Even the emerald green eyes that have seen so much more than they had merely a month ago remain identical. I smooth down the deep purple dress that my stylist had sent over for me, wondering if Gloss had asked him to, knowing that I would be making an unscheduled public appearance, that I would become one of the very few victors to be seen by anyone other than their support team before their Victory Ceremony. Now I think about it, I think the last such tribute was his sister and I wish she was here now. I turn to face Gloss, trying to decide what I should call him now. My mentor? My friend? My lover? Even that is not an easy question to answer anymore.
He extends his hand to me and I walk towards him but I don't take it. "Second thoughts, Glimmer?" he says. "They're not going to marry us in the City Circle, you know."
"Don't tease me, Gloss. Not now."
He nods, guiding me to the door and down the corridor to the lift. Before I know it, the bell rings and the doors slide open. Side by side, Gloss and I leave the Training Centre, and I feel the fresh air on my face for the first time since the arena as I am instantly blinded by camera flashes and bombarded with so many questions that I can't distinguish individual words.
After a while I am able to block them out, and I stare up at the giant screen which is mounted onto the wall opposite me, waiting for them to organise themselves so that only one person speaks at a time and they can actually get a response from us. The screen has been a feature of the Games for as long as I can remember, a picture board showing the photographs of all twenty-four tributes, all in vivid colour before the Games begin and gradually fading to sepia as the cannons start firing. Mine is the only picture in colour now, and I stare at my own face for several minutes, unable to bring myself to look further along.
Then I abruptly return to myself, scolding myself for being so weak. 'Glimmer Goldsmith, if you're going to take the easy way out then you should at least have the courage to face what you have done and what you have lost', I tell myself furiously, before my final thought jars in my mind. 'What I have lost'. Lost? I need to get a grip. I have lost nothing that I wouldn't have lost anyway, for it didn't matter what actually happened in the arena, the end result would always be the same. What I sometimes dared to allow myself to imagine when I thought of him was just a fantasy, a dream that could never have been reality.
My eyes travel along the screen, past my allies and my enemies, those whose lives I ended and those I did not. I try not to look at the list of names beneath my picture, forcing myself to ignore those few lines of illuminated red writing. 'The Kill List', they call it in the Capitol, a name that has become universal throughout the districts too. Mine looks far too long, there are far too many names put there because of my actions. One list holds my attention though, as a tribute having his name under his own photograph isn't something you see every day, but Cato's name is there, right beneath Clove's, silently confirming what Cashmere told me earlier. I have a feeling that I know which name it would cause him more pain to see if he was looking at that list.
Then I finally hear a coherent question from the mob below me but I ignore it, knowing without having to listen that the reporter was only ever going to be asking one thing. My eyes haven't reached the end of the screen, for before they do, I see him. His eyes look as black as they did in life despite the faded tones of the picture and I simply can't look away. He had called me 'Capitol-girl', first as an insult and then as something else, and I can hear his voice in my head as if he is standing right behind me. It is ironic that that is now what I will have to truly become.
"I'm sorry," I whisper under my breath as I finally turn away.
I gaze around the City Circle, making sure that I have the full attention of every person there, not that that was ever really in doubt, before I very deliberately take Gloss's hand in mine, finally answering the question they have all been dying to have an answer to since Marvel's stupid throwaway comment all those weeks ago. The sound of their cheers mixes in with the noise of the camera flashes and then it hits me. There is no turning back. I won the Games, and after I did, I chose this. I will have to learn to accept this future as well as the past, and I am determined that I will accept it. I am a winner of the Hunger Games. I am undefeated and undefeated I will remain. Everywhere except from inside my own mind. Forever.