I've written for the Hunger Games for years and this is my first happy ending. Therefore I make no apologies for the general lack of doom and gloom in this...
It's funny how it takes something massive like a war to make a person appreciate what they've always taken for granted or never had time to notice in the past. I can't help thinking that as I sit in front of the floor-to-ceiling window in my office and watch the sun rise. Panem's far from perfect, but it's still unrecognisable from what it used to be.
It's not unusual for me to be here at this time. The only chance I really get to be alone is when virtually everyone else is asleep. And watching the sunrise helps me. The sun I'm looking at now is the same sun the people in District Eight can see. It's been too long since I've been home, too many months have passed where I either simply haven't been able to leave the Capitol or some trouble or problem in another of the districts has taken my time.
But not for much longer. Because today is the day it ends. And tomorrow is the day I can go home.
I stare at the sky for several more minutes before the sound of the door creaking behind me makes me turn around. Who would be here at this time in the morning? And more to the point, who would dare to enter a president's office without knocking? Nobody's dared to do it for the past two years, so why are they starting now?
I begin to stand up at the same time as I take a deep breath, putting my public face on without having to think about it even a tenth as much as I used to. It's become natural to me now, something I do without thinking. But then I see who's on the other side of the door and I sit back down again.
Of all the people I might have been expecting, this small child wasn't one of them. She walks towards me, still slightly shaky on her feet but determined not to fall all the same. Her pale gold hair catches the light of the rising sun and she looks more like something out of an ancient fairytale than the daughter of one of my greatest allies and closest friends.
"Why are you here, Sapphire?" I ask, watching the little girl as she reaches out to gratefully grasp the side of my chair for support. "Where's your Ma?"
"They can take the woman out of District Eight, but they can't take District Eight out of the woman, isn't that right, Flax?"
"'Mother' doesn't sound right," I reply, rolling my eyes as I look across to the doorway where Satin is standing, her arms by her sides and her back as perfectly straight as ever.
She smiles and walks as far as the chair on the other side of my desk. Then, instead of sitting down, she picks it up and carries it around so she can set it down beside mine. Sapphire giggles and then stumbles over to her, raising her arms until Satin gives in and picks her up.
"She looks so like her that they could be the same person," she says, and when Sapphire gazes across at me with impossibly bright blue eyes, I know Satin's talking about Cashmere.
"What are you doing here now, Satin?" I ask, knowing better than to think she really wants to talk about her sister. "It's way too early for sane people to be up and about."
"You're not standing for re-election, are you?" is her blunt reply. "That's why you wouldn't talk about the speech you're giving later."
"You've always known I wouldn't be President Paylor forever. I never said otherwise, not once in the past two years."
"It'll be a shock to people."
"You mean to Plutarch?"
"I mean to everyone. Look at all you've achieved, Flax. Think about what you can still achieve if you stay."
"My biggest achievement is the Council of Panem," I say, quietly but firmly because I've waited too long for this day to change my mind now. "Each district has a representative on that council for a reason. The Council makes the decisions, not a single person who calls themselves the president. Virtually any one of them could do my job now. You could do it if you wanted. If the people of District Eight want to elect me then I'll be their representative for as long as they want me to be. But I want to go home, Satin. It's where I belong. I know you understand that," I finish, looking pointedly at Sapphire.
"I've worked with you and metaphorically stood by your side since the day you stood in the City Circle and shot Prisca Oakhurst, and I did that because I believed in you. That was two years ago, and I still believe in you now."
"I don't know what to say. I'm flattered and it means a lot to me. What I've done ever since the first uprising means more to me than I can say, but-"
"You're not going to change your mind?"
"No, I'm not. Panem doesn't need me to stay now, and I really need to go home."
"Flax," echoes Sapphire, pointing at me and smiling widely.
Satin and I look at each other, and then at the same moment we give in to the laughter neither of us can hold back.
"See. There isn't a person in Panem who doesn't know who you are."
"Of course she knows me. I've seen her countless times since she was born. But I'm not dying, Satin. I'm not dropping out of life entirely, despite what you think of the backwater province of District Eight," I add, with a smile which broadens when she scowls viciously back. "I'll probably still be on the Council unless Poplin wants a fight about it."
"Good. But no offence to Poplin, of course. I like her. She's smart."
"Yes, she is," I reply. "So maybe she should stay on the Council."
"I'm sorry, Flax, but that's not going to happen. Panem knows why but people like you. And the people in Eight worship you like you're some kind of goddess. There's no way they won't vote you onto the Council if your name's on the ballot papers. You'll probably find shrines and temples when you go home."
"Come on," she says, passing Sapphire to me and then standing up. "It's time for breakfast. Even presidents need to eat."
The buzz after I've delivered my speech is like nothing I've heard in the Council Room before. I don't really understand why people seem to be so shocked when I've always maintained that I've no intention of being president forever, but a lot of them don't look like they were expecting it at all. Which is stupid really. What did they think I called the election for?
"So," I start, having to raise my voice to be heard over everyone else. "In this room are the fourteen representatives of the districts and the Capitol, and then those of you with specific roles within the Council. Each of you is vitally important to Panem and each of you will cast your vote this morning. Afterwards, the person with the most votes from amongst his or her peers will become the next person to preside over the Council of Panem in accordance with the Treaty of Freedom."
Even after all this time, my voice still catches when I mention the Treaty of Freedom, the new constitution of Panem that replaced the Treaty of Treason which was so much beloved by Coriolanus Snow and his government. It's that treaty and the hard work of the people who are sat in this room that created the place we all live in today. It's the reason why virtually every person in Panem has food to eat and somewhere to live. I've never been more proud of anything.
"You say that like you won't be here to see it," says Phoebe, who was elected to represent the Capitol when the Council was first formed.
"She'll be here, but like she said, she won't be standing for re-election," replies Vesper before I can speak.
She sits to my right side, about halfway around the perfectly round, oak table, her hands resting on the edge of the intricately painted map of Panem that covers its top. She spends her days negotiating deals between districts, resolving conflict and generally keeping the peace, and though her official title is 'Secretary of Diplomatic Relations', she's known universally as 'The Peacekeeper'. Given what the Peacekeepers used to be, it speaks volumes about how much progress we've made that people can actually almost joke about such things. But she still never wears white.
"No, I won't. But everyone here has been elected by the people. President is merely a title and a job now. Everyone in the country has a voice. Within the next two years, we'll be ready to move to a full democracy where everyone votes for their president as well. That's what always used to happen."
"Yes, it is," says Plutarch. "And it will happen again. We're almost there."
Then, with a flourish worthy of his days as Head Gamemaker, he places a plain wooden box on the table in front of him.
"Everyone will write the name of the person they wish to vote for on the piece of paper in front of them and then place it into the box. Then President Paylor will count them up and announce her successor, first here and then to the whole country."
Everyone looks solemn, but when my eyes catch Poplin's, she smiles softly. We've become closer over the past months, perhaps each reminding the other of home, and she knew exactly what I was going to do. I've been talking to her of going back to Eight for a long time.
When I first had it built, part of me thought the pathway I now walk along without thinking was a stupid idea. Now I'm certain it wasn't. When it allows me to leave the Council House, travel under the street that runs through the City Circle and reach my house without being seen by a single soul, how can it possibly be stupid?
After climbing the steps into what looks like an ordinary outbuilding in the grounds of my house, I peer out of the window to check there's nobody around. Only when I decide the way is definitely clear do I go outside. I wouldn't want to disclose the secret escape before my successor can use it. Not that creeping around and escaping is Satin's style. If she wants to leave a place then she just leaves, with her head held high and her entourage behind her. She'll be a good president. I have faith in her and I'm glad she was elected.
It's all quiet in the house and everything's as I left it. A mess, as usual. But I still know there's something not right. There's someone else here, or if there isn't then there has been, and it takes me about a second to cross to the sideboard and pull out the gun from underneath it.
"Are you really going to shoot me with that?"
I spin around at the sound of the voice from behind me, but instead of raising the gun, I drop it to the floor instantly.
Cam stands only a few short metres away, his hair a bit longer than it was when I saw him last and at least twice as scruffy. His clothes are patched, like he's got so used to being back at home that he's forgotten he doesn't need to do that anymore and can just get new ones. I open my mouth to speak but then suddenly realise I don't know what to say.
I've only seen him for the odd week or two at a time for the past two years. Presidential duties haven't allowed for it to be any other way. And I've missed him. I've missed him so much that I can barely breathe now he's actually stood in front of me and I know he won't have to leave without me this time.
"I'm here to steal you away, Flaxie," he says, smiling slightly. "And this time there's nobody in Panem who's going to get in my way."
"I suppose you've waited long enough," I reply, refusing to let myself smile back yet because I might explode with emotion if I do. "I guess that means you really love me."
"Not really," he answers teasingly, really smiling now. "I just waited for two years to tell you I'm not that interested."
When he says that, the years of war and time apart fade away and I jump forwards to hit him like I would have done five years ago. He laughs, playfully hitting me back before pulling me into his arms and clinging to me like he's never going to let go. I hope he never does, but someone coughs and I reluctantly pull back.
"I forgot to say. I didn't exactly come on my own."
I follow the direction of the cough into the sitting room to find two people looking back at me. At first I don't recognise the nearest one. She's tall and strong-looking, with thick dark-blonde hair cut short so it just rests on her shoulders. But then her eyes meet mine and I know. It might have been two years since I saw her, but her big brown District Eight eyes are the same. Adie, but older now, a young woman not a little girl, whose Capitolian half of her parentage shows far more clearly than she likes. Zib told me she'd grown. I didn't realise how much.
I step forwards, unsure how she's going to react, but she shows no such doubt. She rushes over and hugs me tightly, still the same Adie despite how much she's changed. She only lets me go when her companion reaches up to touch my arm.
"I've missed you, Cali," I tell her, and I'm abruptly folded into the arms of the woman who has been more like a mother to me than my real mother ever was.
"It's only been a couple of months since you came to Eight. And I haven't had chance to miss you," she replies teasingly. "Your face is never off my television screen."
"Where is she?" I ask, hoping she don't take my longing to see my closest friend as some kind of rejection.
"Did you seriously think I'd miss this? Honestly, Flaxie, and to think they made you the president."
I turn around to see Zib standing in the doorway, and she stays there for only a split second before she sprints across the room and throws herself into my arms. Everyone laughs, and I can't help feeling like I'm already home. But I notice something else as well - Zib's as tiny as ever in all ways but one, and when I'm hugging her as tightly as I am, I can't ignore the slight swell of her belly that wasn't there when I saw her two months ago.
"Something you want to tell me that you didn't tell me last time I saw you, Zibeline?"
"You weren't you when I saw you last. You were doing your President Paylor thing."
"The me you know and President Paylor are the same person, Zib. You could have told me."
"I'm here to tell you now. It's taken me a while to believe it myself."
"And?" I reply softly, unsure of the response I'll get because she's never exactly thought of herself as the maternal type, no matter how the whole world can see how good she is with Adie and how much she loves her.
"I got used to the idea after I finally ran out of death threats and he still stayed with me," she replies with a smirk that tells me all I need to know and makes me grin back at her. "But it's all his fault, the stupid man. How am I going to be anyone's mother? It's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."
"As I said to you before, Zibeline Pershing," says Cali firmly. "I don't think you can hold Lucan entirely accountable for the fact it's going to be Auntie Flaxie instead of President Paylor in a few months time. The pair of you make the average Capitolian look modest and you're not exactly discreet about it."
"Cali!" she exclaims, but being Zib, she doesn't quite manage to look embarrassed.
"Too much information already," says Adie, rolling her eyes. "I don't need to hear that about my sister."
"Ditto," retorts Zib, her expression a familiar one that tells me even she doesn't know if she's joking or being serious. "So make sure Chiron keeps his hands and his everything else to himself. Or I'll make sure of it for him. On a permanent basis."
"Chiron?" I ask as the younger Pershing sister flounces out of the room in a strop.
"One of the ex-Training Centre kids from Two. Adie's been there with me and Lucan a few times and she met him there. I like him really, but it's more fun if she doesn't know that."
"You're cruel," I reply, but I laugh along with everyone else all the same. "There are more than enough bedrooms upstairs," I continue. "Sleep where you want because I can't leave until after the ceremony tomorrow."
"Are you sure you don't want to run away with me?" asks Cam teasingly.
"I'm sure," I reply flatly, before flopping down onto the sofa.
I'd been going to go to bed, but in the end the others sit down as well and none of us go anywhere. We're still talking when the sun rises, and I quickly decide it isn't worth going to sleep. There'll be time for that when I'm on the train home.
"I've got to go see Drusilla," I announce when the clock strikes for six. "She'll never forgive me if I'm seen in public like this."
"I still can't believe you have a stylist," says Zib, lifting her head from my shoulder.
"Neither can I. But I think I'll miss her complaining about my hair."
"What's wrong with your hair?" asks Cam as he stretches his arms high above his head. "I like your hair."
"Everything, according to Drusilla. I've given up trying to argue."
However in the end, the ceremony happens without any problems, either with my hair or otherwise, and it seems like only five minutes have passed before I'm sitting in my car at the front of the train station. There are reporters and camera crews everywhere, just like there have been all day as they attempt to follow every stage of the elections, but it feels different now. This time I'm going home.
"Ready to go?" asks Poplin, sitting back into the chair as she finally gives up leaning forwards to watch the people outside.
"I think so," I reply. "How about you? I'll stand down from the district elections if you ask me to, you know that, don't you?"
"No," she says instantly. "Don't do that. I want us to work together. And there's plenty for me to do in Eight when you're in the Capitol for meetings."
"Let's get it over with then. How long do you think it will take to get on the train?"
"With that lot in our way? At least an hour."
She's wrong though, because as soon as I open the door and get out of the car, I'm surrounded by at least half a dozen people, all dressed in pristine black suits. They move forwards as one, taking me with them as they move through the crowd, not stopping even when I look back for Poplin.
"What's going on?" I ask as soon as I reach the private waiting room they show me into.
"Sorry about that," says a familiar voice as I close the door behind myself. "I wanted to speak to you before you left and I thought you'd appreciate a reporter-free journey into the station."
"You're right about that," I reply, watching Narissa constantly as I cross the room and take a seat opposite her.
If Vesper's the one who works publicly to encourage the formation of ties between the districts then Narissa's the one who stays behind the scenes and below the surface. She doesn't have an official title, but I know that if Snow was still alive then he'd have called her my spymaster. There isn't anything worth knowing in Panem that she doesn't hear about and I doubt there could be anyone better suited to the role than her. Just like she did before the rebellion, she has eyes everywhere, and I've come to rely on her even if I don't entirely trust her.
"What is it? If there's a problem then you go to Satin first now."
"There's no problem," she replies, smiling that sly smile she has that makes her look like she knows something nobody else does. "This is hard for me to say and I don't say it lightly, but I wanted you to know you've done a good job. You have my respect, Flax Paylor, and you can count the number of people who can say that on one hand."
"Am I supposed to be honoured?" I ask, and even I'm surprised to hear the lack of anger and annoyance in my voice.
"Only if you want to be," she replies dryly. "But either way, you know how to contact me if you need to. I'll see you at the Council meeting next month anyway."
"Who said I'm going to be on the Council?"
"Come on, Flaxie," she says. "We all know you won't be able to resist. As soon as you get home, you'll be totally unable to fight the urge to get involved with every single problem in Eight. It's just the way you are."
"Being just the way I am hasn't served me too badly so far."
"No, it hasn't. Which is why I'll see you at the Council meeting next month."
"I expect you will," I reply, giving in with a sigh of acceptance. "My train's leaving in a minute. Are you going to tell me why you're really here?"
"Is your train going to stop for fuel in Two?"
"You already know it is."
"Then I'd be very grateful if you could make sure this finds its way into the hands of my most lethal weapon."
I nod once and take the piece of paper from her. When I look at it, all I see is a jumble of numbers and letters, a code that very few people understand and one I didn't want to learn even when I had the option. There are very few instances where I decide ignorance is bliss, but when it came to the intricacies of the workings of Narissa Redsparrow's spy network, I felt I had no choice for the sake of my own sanity.
"What does it say?"
"It's an address. Amongst other things. She'll know."
"And how will I know where to find her?"
"You won't. She'll find you."
I fold it back up and incline my head again before turning and walking out onto the platform. For over a year now, Enobaria's been working to control those in the districts who have sought to use the chaos of the revolution to their own advantage. Narissa recruited her, although what she said to her to get her to agree is something I've never dared ask.
I guess I don't need to know now, and as I look up at the sky, the sun breaks through the clouds. Today's the day. I'm going home. And even though it probably should, nothing else matters.
I go for a walk to stretch my legs as soon as the train glides to a halt in the newly restored District Two station, and I'm not at all surprised when a scruffy-looking girl of no more than five or six steps out of the shadows and beckons me towards her. She looks directly up at me with eyes that make her seem a lot older than she actually is, and I follow without question, without speaking at all. I have nothing to fear, not even here.
We walk inside a derelict warehouse only a minute or two later, and I shudder though it isn't cold. Even after all the time that's passed, places like this still remind me of what we laughingly called a field hospital during the rebellion in Eight. If I close my eyes then I can still see the blood on the floor and I can still hear the people screaming and crying out for help I couldn't provide.
"Go home, Lupa," whispers a voice, and I jerk my head up instantly.
The little girl vanishes without a sound and I don't watch her go. Instead my attention settles on the metal platform that's fixed about halfway up the wall. It's like the ones the supervisors used to stand on in the factories at home, and seeing it makes me wonder what this place used to be used for, but my thoughts quickly move on in response to the woman who stares down at me.
She smiles, but it's a cold expression which doesn't reach eyes that are little more than shadows in the dim light. My breath catches when she leaps forwards off the edge of the platform, but she lands lightly on the floor in front of me and doesn't even stumble despite the height.
"You have interesting messengers," I say evenly, deliberately staring in the direction the girl she called Lupa disappeared. "How is that child going to get to school if she spends her time running errands for you?"
"You're not President Paylor now," she replies. "And Lupa's smart already. The District Two way. She knows she's never going to be sitting in an office in the Capitol."
I sigh deeply. No matter what educational reforms the Council and I have introduced, it'll take a lot more than one generation to totally change a system that lasted well over a hundred years. Education in the districts is variable at best, and many children still don't go to a proper school.
"You have something for me, apparently," says Enobaria, still pacing around in front of me like she couldn't stay in one place if she tried.
I take the piece of paper Narissa gave me from my pocket and hold it out to her. She snatches it away, carefully making sure her skin doesn't touch mine. When she quickly scans it, I can tell from the look in her eyes that it means a lot more to her than it did to me.
"What is it?" I ask, unable to restrain my curiosity.
"My business," she replies, throwing her mass of black hair back over her shoulder and snarling at me in a way that's strangely no less intimidating now her gold-tipped fangs have been restored to the normal teeth they used to be before she won the Hunger Games nearly twenty years ago.
"I was your president until about ten hours ago," I tell her, refusing to back away. "And after all I've seen, not a lot scares me, not even you."
"If I was trying to scare you then you'd know about it," she replies, and if I'd been speaking to anyone else then I'd expect to hear a hint of humour in her voice. But this is Enobaria Moreno, so I can't. She doesn't do humour. "It's an address in the city. Some lowlife's trying to make a profit selling something that shouldn't be for sale. It's going to be my pleasure to end it. And him."
I stare back at her, at least partly wishing I'd never asked. She just smiles that wicked smile again and tugs the zip of her black military-issue jacket further up towards her chin.
"I was surprised when Narissa told me you'd agreed to work with us."
"Why? Killing whoever the person in power tells me are the bad guys is what I do."
"Don't you want something more?"
"Who are you? Some kind of counsellor? Because I'll save you the bother and tell you there's no therapy in the world that'll fix me. Snow got someone to try once. Because he thought there was profit in it for him," she says, looking pointedly down at her petite figure that's barely changed since she was a tribute girl.
"I'm just curious, that's all."
"You know what curiosity did," she replies, and then she pushes past me and disappears without another word.
I stand there for a few minutes, listening to the wind rattle the windows and the metal walls of the warehouse. But then I remember the train and race back to the platform.
"Flax, where've you been?" asks Zib as soon as I get there. "We're ready to go. I've been looking for you."
"Sorry," I reply as she drags me to the train and practically pushes me inside. "There was something I had to do."
"Here?" she asks sceptically, but when I don't answer, she doesn't press me.
"So tell me what's been going on back home then," I say as we all sit down in the same cabin, sacrificing space and comfort so we can all talk together.
"It doesn't look that different to how it was when you saw it last," replies Cam, shrugging his shoulders.
"Even with all the stone and building materials you got from Two?" I ask suspiciously.
"It all takes time, President Paylor," replies Zib, shaking her head and glaring at me with mock-annoyance.
I shake my head back at her as I realise I'm never going to hear the end of that title, no matter how much time passes.
"Fine. But I'll see what's going on when we get there, you know that, don't you?"
"I know, I know," she says lightly, smiling slightly as she turns to look out of the window.
Despite my need for answers, I also stare out as the lights of District Two get smaller and smaller as we zoom away. I'm looking forward to seeing some of the other districts, even if it is very briefly and from the train. Over the past few months, our plans to improve the transport links between them have started to become reality, and that's meant more and more materials have been moved around and shared. The rebuild has really started now, and I hope I'll be able to see buildings and roads that weren't there before.
"There aren't many people around, are there?" I ask as we leave the platform and head out into the main station building.
It looks much the same as it did the last time I saw it. Little of the damage it suffered during the bombing has been repaired yet, but the parts that are still intact are as they've always been - remnants of a time before the Dark Days that were only enjoyed by the privileged few prior to the uprising. Seeing them now only makes me remember how I used to feel as a child on the rare occasion I came up here. Seeing them makes me remember clutching Grandpa's hand and trying to ignore the way the station people looked down at us.
"Your time in power gone to your head, Paylor?" replies Poplin teasingly. "Were you expecting a welcoming committee?"
"No," I retort instantly, but that's not exactly true. As much as I've never really liked it, I've got used to crowds of people being wherever I am, and it's strange for them not to be here. Part of me was hoping some of the people from my own district would want to welcome me home.
"Come on," interrupts Cam, taking my hand and leading me out of the station.
I don't know what I expected to see, but it certainly wasn't the group of cars that are actually there. They're very battered and old cars, nothing like the ones I'm used to seeing in the Capitol, but it's still a surprise to see them. As far as I knew, every car in Eight was either used by some Capitolian to escape before the rebellion or blown up in the bombing.
"Your transport awaits," says Zib, waving her arm in the direction of the cars with a flourish almost worthy of the big city.
"Are you sure they're roadworthy?" I ask with a smile. "Maybe I should walk."
"Get in the car, Flaxie," she replies, linking her arm through mine and dragging me across the street.
"You can't drive."
"I can. Lucan taught me."
"Are you sure that's a good idea?"
"Don't you trust me? I'm offended."
"No you're not."
"No, I'm not. But you're still going to get in the car. Isn't she, Cam?"
"Absolutely," he replies, and before I can object, he puts his arm around my waist and pushes me inside.
The first suspicions hit me when the car slows down and a low buzzing sound drifts in through the open windows to replace the noise of the engine. The street we're travelling down has been completely cleared of rubble and debris from the war. Many of the houses that line it look tidy and lived in. It's all very different to when I was here a couple of months ago.
"What's that noise?"
"People," replies Cali, not quite meeting my eyes.
"What are they doing?"
"Waiting for you," she says, nodding pointedly at the window behind me as we slowly turn a corner and the noise volume rapidly multiplies.
I asked the question, but as I gaze out at the main square, at what used to be the Peacekeeper Headquarters and the small number of large houses which were occupied by any Capitolian visitors to the district before it was all flattened, I start to understand.
The crowd is gathered outside the front of a row of new houses, clearly made using stone quarried from District Two. Only one of them is finished. And that's the one they create a path to as soon as I climb out of the car.
"You'd better like it," whispers Zib, leaning close to my ear so I can hear her over the shouting and cheering. "Because we made it for you. Virtually every person in the district stopped by to put at least one stone down. They wanted it finished for when you came back."
"I don't know what to say," I reply, surprised to find my eyes filling with tears. "Why?"
"Because they wouldn't have their freedom if you hadn't done what you did. Because you mean something to them and they want you to know it."
"I already know it."
"Well, now you have a house to live in. Be grateful," she adds dryly.
"I am grateful," I reply, smiling and wiping my tears away with the back of my hand. "If I'm crying, it's because… It's because…"
"Honestly, you're pathetic," replies Zib, and a lot of the others laugh because they know she doesn't mean it.
I climb the short set of steps to the front door and turn around so they can all see me. I try desperately to think of something to say to them, but in the end I don't need to. I raise my arm and they all clap and cheer.
They don't finally start to leave until I go inside, and I'm still smiling even after all that time has passed. I'll never forget this day, no matter what else happens.
"Do you want the guided tour?" asks Cam, but before I can reply, there's a knock at the door.
I answer it to find two people I never expected to see, possibly not ever again.
"We made this for you," says my sister, holding out the most intricately embroidered quilt I've ever seen. I look past her to see my mother waiting tentatively at the edge of the path, her eyes on the floor. "I thought maybe we could all start again. Can we come in?"
I stare at Weft for a minute and then look back at Cam. My mother finally looks at me, her expression so full of guilt and need for forgiveness that, though I barely know her now, even I can see it.
It takes less than I thought it would to make myself stand back from the door and hold it open.
So that's it... All I have left to say is thank you to everyone who's ever read or reviewed this or any of my other stories :)