(All ownership disclaimed. Just a collection of scenes that got way out of hand.)

Pretty dresses

(Six times Madge Undersee wishes to wear something else and one time she doesn't)

001. Silk & Gold

The familiar brisk knock reminds me that I'd changed into my "presentable" reaping clothes too early. My current attire isn't best suited to welcome these particular callers, and it's not like I could blame them. The few yards of white silk for one occasion could well be worth as much as durable winter clothes for all their siblings.

I still open the back door with determination that matches their steely eyes.

"Pretty dress," says Gale Hawthorne instead of a greeting.

Katniss Everdeen tacitly reprimands him with a scowl from her rightful place beside him; where she stands in a worn outfit and the trademark leather jacket she inherited from her father. For a foolish second, I wish I could trade it for my white silk dress and fancy pink ribbon. It's not like wearing what she does could possibly warrant me something other than a hostile glare from her companion, but I allow myself a moment of indulging in the delusion.

Then I just press my lips together to hide my disappointment at the scathing nature of Gale's compliment, and force a strained smile. "Well, if I end up going to the Capitol, I want to look nice, don't I?"

Of course it is the wrong thing to say.

"You won't be going to the Capitol," Gale replies coolly. His eyes, burning cold, skim my neckline to focus on the pin adorning my dress and threaten to melt the golden mockingjay into that stupid expensive fabric. The intensity of his gaze makes me squirm for reasons he would neither anticipate nor appreciate, and I wish more than ever that he could look past my trappings just like he looks past Katniss's ill-fitting jacket. Just like I look past his coal-encrusted prejudices to perceive something worth seeing.

The odds of that happening are not in my favor, and Gale must be thinking of odds too, because all he has to say is something snide about the number of my entries.

"That's not her fault," remarks Katniss, ever the curt friend I can count on.

"No, it's no one's fault. Just the way it is," Gale admits grudgingly. I can tell he is perfectly aware of the fact, but voicing it aloud in front of me might be a different matter.

Unfortunately, he's too right.

And it's not even his fault that I find the rebellious disapproval he wears with that grim and grimy pride of his so dangerously compelling. I wish I could resent him for it, just like he feels free to resent me for things that aren't my fault, but I can't bring myself to.

All I can do is to hide my reckless longing under an emotionless mask and shift my attention to the business at hand.

Isn't that the Seam way of dealing with things?

After sealing our usual bargain and exchanging good lucks with Katniss only, I turn away and close the door of the opulent cage where I supposedly belong. I, the Mayor's daughter who could have anything in this whole damn district except for what she's most interested in. Precisely because she is the Mayor's daughter.

And anything except for freedom, but that's a whole different, bigger matter. In that respect, we are perfectly equal. Leather jackets, pretty dresses and golden jewelry have precious little to do with it. And mockingjays... who knows?

After few seconds, I move over to the window and furtively watch them leave. They are always walking in sync, but always at arm's length, the two Seam hunters who can't seem to catch each other.

What if…?

Today is the reaping after all...

Oh no. That would be… unthinkable, and I don't really want to contemplate such possibilities.

She is my friend and he is hers.

It's nobody's fault. It's just the way it is.