Disclaimer: I own nothing but my own imagination.
The day was warm but I shivered in my light, cotton dress suddenly feeling stupid for being so dressed up. Obviously I wasn't the only one who held this opinion. Gale and Katniss had exchanged a meaningful look when they had seen my appearance earlier in the day when they came to deliver strawberries to my father. The difference between the two of them was that Katniss hadn't made any comments. Gale on the other hand had made his derision show.
I stood in area designated for girls aged sixteen and tried not to feel like an animal being sold at a market. At the farthest reaches of our enclosure I could see Katniss. She was staring in a pained way towards her younger sister who in turn looked back helplessly at her. Times like this made me glad that I was an only child. The feeling of helplessness when a younger sibling reached reaping age must have been unbearable. Short of volunteering yourself there was nothing you could do but watch as they were slaughtered.
I didn't listen as Effie Trinket welcomed everyone. Instead I choose to focus on my father who was standing some distance behind her his face a cool mask of indifference that I knew hid his true emotions. The reaping always brought back difficult memories for my mother and this morning was no different than usual. When we left this afternoon she was already asleep, allowing the morphling to take full effect and numb the pain completely for a time.
"May the odds be ever in your favour!" I wanted to laugh but I didn't. I hoped whoever had first said this obnoxious phrase was being sarcastic.
I returned my attention to the stage as Effie reached a pale hand into the large glass bowl in front of her. Holding my breath I watched as her hand rifled through the bowl before finally grasping a small slip of paper between two long finger nails.
Please let it not be me. Please let it not be me. I knew that I was being selfish but then again everyone was selfish on the reaping day.
Slowly, painfully slowly, she opened it and announced the death sentence of some unlucky child.
Me? My heart seemed to falter and then start beating again but each pump drew more and more pain into my body. I think I moaned but I can't be sure.
Those around me stepped back as if I was contagious and like a ghost I stepped forward, slightly stumbling over my feet which all too suddenly felt too large. Ahead of me I could see that my father's mask had slipped and he was watching me with a look of abject horror on his face. As I ascended the steps to the platform he rushed forward to meet me and grabbed my arm.
"Dad?" I said turning away from the crowd and towards my father. Up close now I could see that beads of sweat had begun to form on his brow.
"Madge," he said and closed his eyes. "How could this happen-" He was cut off by yet another loud exclamation from Effie Trinket.
"The mayor's daughter! Oh my!" she shrieked. "What an honour! You must be so pleased." My father nodded curtly but I wanted to laugh.
I wanted to cry.
"Alright," Effie said continuing on. "Come over here please dear." My father squeezed my arm once more and then took a step back allowing me to take my place on Effie's right hand side as District Twelve's female tribute. Slowly my unshed tears begin to spill down my cheeks.
Below me was a sea of faces. Some of them looked as distraught as I felt while others seemed almost smug. I couldn't blame them. The daughter of a Capitol official being reaped was a good thing in their eyes. None of them would suffer this time.
I couldn't help but wonder what Gale and Katniss would think now. The odds most certainly had not been in my favour today. I found Katniss easily enough in the throng of people while Effie searched through the bowl to select a male tribute. She was staring at me her eyes hard and angry. Not with me but with the Capitol. At least I hoped she was angry with them. Furious even.
Inside me I felt my own fury growing. How was this fair? How was any of this fair? The Capitol had no right to send me to my death. I had done nothing to deserve this fate other than having unfortunate luck. In a couple of days I would be dead and for what?
"… Gale Hawthorne!" I snapped out of my self-loathing just in time to hear Effie announce the name of the male tribute. Katniss' jaw slackened and her angry eyes brimmed with tears but she didn't shed them.
Gale picked his way carefully through the crowd of people. Somewhere further back I could hear a child begin to wail and I wondered was it one of his siblings. Gale's face was hard. His heavy brows furrowed and his jaw set. He walked calmly to the opposite side of Effie his head held high. He wouldn't let them beat him. I wiped my own cheeks quickly and hoped that he hadn't noticed how weak I was.
Effie gestured for us to shake hands and as I reached out to take his our eyes met. The grey in them glinted in determination and instead of being warm like Katniss' grey eyes there was coldness to them. His hand was warm as it wrapped around mine but he didn't offer any squeeze of comfort. This was a business hand shake. It was in that moment that I realised that only one of us was coming out of this alive and it wasn't going to be me.
I remembered little of the walk from the platform to the Justice Building but I found myself sat on an old couch waiting for my parents to come and say goodbye. I remember Dad pointing out this very room on one of my many visits to the Justice Building. He said that it was where people came to say goodbye and he was right. The whole room seemed tinged with sadness and hopelessness. I couldn't quite figure out the origin of it. Maybe it was the faded drapes or the sagging couch?
Outside I could hear the movement of people; a gaggle of children and the sound of someone crying. Gale's family I guessed. A door opened and closed somewhere outside of my room and the noise disappeared. I moved to perch on the edge of couch and buried my face in my hands.
The Hunger Games was a far off concept to most people. Sure you knew someone, who knew someone whose cousin had been reaped but it was rare that anyone – especially someone from town-knew someone who was selected. I, on the other hand had already seen first-hand how the games could affect someone and not just physically.
What would my mother do when I died? She had already suffered through the death of her sister. Her twin sister. I unconsciously moved my hand to touch the golden mockingjay pin that I had worn on reaping day ever since I was thirteen. She too had worn it as her district token during her games and I knew that I would do the same. I tried to absorb some of Aunt Maysilee's strength. When she had been reaped she had been calm, my mother said. Eerily so. I felt like I was falling apart.
The door opened and I sat up. I couldn't let my mother see me like this. It wouldn't achieve anything and would only make this harder for her but it was only my father who stepped into the room and closed it after him.
"I'm sorry Madge. Your mother was unable to come. The medicine…" He trailed off. We both knew all too well the effect the morphling had on my mother. She would be out cold till at least later tonight.
My father walked towards me and I stood up and allowed myself to be wrapped in his arms. I would never get to tell her goodbye. I would never be able to tell her that I loved her.
"Tell her that I-" I try to say but my voice betrayed me, cracking as I try to continue speaking. Dad doesn't need to hear the end of the sentence though. He knows exactly what I wanted to say and nods.
"Of course Madge." His voice is low and soft. Again tears begin to prickle in my eyes but this time I didn't try to get rid of them. Instead I clung to my father as our bodies both shook with sobs. I had never seen my father cry before.
Eventually we release each other and he smiles sadly at me.
"Trust Haymitch," my father says and I frown at him. The ever drunken Haymitch is one of the many reasons why the tributes of District Twelve always die off in the first few hours of the games. My father takes a shaky breath before continuing.
"Remember," he says reaching over to tap the gold plated pin on my dress. "That you are never alone. We love you so much and-" he paused and leaned down closer to me to whisper in my ear. "And things are going to start to change soon…" Ignoring the puzzled look on my face he placed a gentle kiss on my forehead.
"I love you Madge". He leaves the room as silently as he enters it and I realise that I have just seen him for the last time.
A noise between a moan and a sob came out of my mouth and I hardly registered the door opening for a second time. I looked up to see Katniss standing in front of me. She was twisting her hands nervously in front of her and grimaced at me. I think that she could have been attempting to smile. I laughed at the thought which only seemed to make her more confused and me laugh harder.
"Madge?" she asked taking a step towards me. "Are you alright? I can get your Dad back in here if you want? I'm sorry if I upset you. I didn't mean to take some of his time." I shook my head and then threw my arms around her wrapping her into a hug. Now was not the time to be reserved. It was time for me to open up. I didn't have long left and certain things needed to be said.
Katniss looked taken aback when I eventually released her.
"Thank you for sitting with me at lunch Katniss. It meant a lot to me to have you as a friend. I'll miss you. When I'm gone go to my Dad and tell him that you can have all of my stuff, I won't need it anymore and you should take it. Give the clothes away to anyone who needs it. Remember to tell him about the stuff in the attic. There is a coat in there that should fit Prim perfectly." Katniss frowned – not quite the reaction I had been hoping for.
"Stop talking as if you're already gone Madge," she said while scowling. "You still have a chance." I looked at her and she gave a rare blush when she remembered that Gale was also a contestant. Gale and her shared something special and I knew that though she never would admit it she wanted him to return home to her and to his family. Who would want me home? My parents and Katniss. That was it.
"I'm sorry Gale was picked Katniss," I said reaching forward to touch her forearm as she bowed her head. I'd never seen her look so vulnerable. It hurt to watch someone so strong drop all of their shields and finally open up.
For a few moments we stand in silence save for Katniss' heavy breathing. When she finally raises her head her eyes are dry but red rimmed.
"Be safe Madge. Don't make any foolish mistakes. Don't eat any berries that you don't recognise. Get a knife if you can. Or a bow and arrow. I know that you can't shoot but just try your best. Try and practice during the training sessions." I nod sadly not wanting to upset her by reminding her that we both know I have no discernible survival skills. Unless the fight to the death involves who can play a Sonata better I'm in a lot of trouble.
Katniss waves sadly to me when the Peace Keepers return to escort me to the train station. Gale too is leaving his room and is having trouble removing his sister from where she is clinging at his leg begging him not to go. I look away quickly unable to face the crestfallen look on his mother's face and the tears running down his brother's cheeks.
Finally he breaks free and the Peace Keepers hurry us down to the train station where a beautiful wine train awaits to take us, Effie and Haymitch to the Capitol.
As I step onto the train I look back one last time at the district that has been my home strangely heartbroken in the knowledge that I will never see it again in this lifetime.
Gale and Madge are two of my favourite characters in the Hunger Games and I was always curious as to why SC set it up as if there was something going on with them. Then I discovered HG fan fiction and fell further in love with the pairing.
The title came from The Shins song of the same name.
Let me know what you guys think. Critique is especially valued. Anyone interesting in betaing?