Chapter 16: Epilogue
And then, suddenly, I can go home. I'm returning home a Victor, but other than that, I have no idea what else I am. There's nothing to pack. Nothing to take. Just Beetee and me. And just like that, I'm on the train back to District 3.
The train seems so empty.
I can't sleep. Every time I close my eyes, there's so much dark and I've never been afraid of it before but I am now. So I pace the train cars all night, lean over the railing at the back of the caboose and watch the tracks go by, my hair trailing behind me in the train's wake as the sun comes up.
I know who it is, and I don't turn around. "I'm just watching..." Watching the tracks whiz past go by is almost soothing, and the air behind the train is almost like District 3.
"You'll get hurt...your eyes. You could scratch your corneas."
I blink, and then I straighten up. My hair is a big tangled mess, I can feel it, but I don't really care. "You have a...point."
He pushes his glasses up to rub his eyes. "Come inside. It's cold out here."
"Okay," I say softly and follow him inside. We sit down at a table and he pours me some coffee. I study the dispersal of the cream into the coffee for a long, long while. It spreads in fractal curves out towards the edges of the cup. When I finally raise the cup to my lips, the liquid has cooled to a reasonable drinking temperature.
Beetee is using a datapad to work on something, drinking his coffee absently. It's comforting, even though he's not interacting with me, listening to the tap tap of the stylus on the pad. I sip my coffee and just exist in the moment.
And finally, I fall asleep at the table, with the sunshine on my eyelids.
I'm standing on the train station platform at District 3. My homecoming is ridiculous and elaborate. It's embarrassing. The Capitol people have followed me here to film me greeting my father.
They don't get much in the way of heartwarming footage.
He greets me as if he'd greet a stranger. We stay a respectful distance apart. I can tell he isn't sure what to make of me. I can tell he's half-afraid of me. Just like everyone else in the crowd.
I still invite him to live with me. He's my father, after all.
Even if he won't look at me.
It doesn't take much to move into the house. We don't really have anything, and it's a small matter to collect the things that we actually do own and move to the house in the Victor Village. I give my father a room with a really nice view of the rest of the District.
A month or so of awkward dinners and silence follow.
Geiger's mother makes the trek to my house a week or two after I return. When I answer the door, I can't look at her. "I'm sorry," I murmur, but she shakes her head. She hugs me, hard. "I saw what you did. Thank you for being there," she said softly. Her voice is thick with tears.
It would be a really good time to cry, when the woman who has been my mother in all but blood for most of my life is holding me.
But I don't. I wish I would, because if crying hurts, not crying hurts worse.
After a few moments, she stands back from me and cups her hand over my cheek. "Come over sometimes. We'll miss you. If we can't have Geiger...at least we'll have you."
I still can't look at her, but I nod. "Okay." She leaves after that, and I return to the house and lose time. It just happens when I don't want to think. I'll sit down somewhere, and before I know it, the light outside has changed.
I lose time a lot these days.
Between losing time, getting used to this house, and trying to sort things out, the days pass almost without me noticing it. If I thought about it more, I'd panic about losing so much time.
But I don't want to think about anything beyond the construction of the tiny robots I'm working on. I suppose the robots will be my talent. They're something to pass the time. Something to take up my thoughts so they don't go to that dark corner of my brain and start poking around.
I'm living next door to Beetee, but I'm not ready to see him again yet. So I keep working.
And waiting. Waiting for something to happen, I don't know.
Maybe I'm just waiting for something to tell me who I am again, because that got lost somewhere in the arena. In the dark, when I fell down.
I'll know when the right time is to do something.
I always know.