You had to start somewhere.
At least, that's what Effie Trinket kept repeating in her head as the train zoomed along the railed towards District 12.
Did she think she deserved a better District? Well, of course. But at least she was an escort. At least she had gotten the job. It was an honor after all.
For years she had watched the Games - as a child with her family and as she grew with friends at parties. She watched them place bets, pick favorites, then nurse their glorious hangovers when it was all finished. While Effie never bet, she loved going to the parties, quarreling over favorites with friends. They always felt so disappointed when it all ended - even though they knew it would be only a year until they could start the party again.
This was different though. No parties, no quarrels. She was part of the Games now. And she was rather envied among her friends for landing the job. It's because you're so peppy, they said. It's because you're so fashionable. That's what they needed! And as far as they knew they were right.
Effie herself knew though that the process was grueling - interview after interview. It was a dream job - Effie had to work for it. Maybe it was her peppiness or the bright pink dress that made her stand out - then again, she had been given District 12 when District 2 was also looking for a new escort.
You're fashionable, but not glamorous, one friend said to her. It's because you're tiny. Even in heels, the career tributes from District 2 would outshine you.
Maybe, thought Effie.
But in the end, she did get District 12.
You had to start somewhere. And if she was tiny, she was tiny. If she was peppy, she'd keep being peppy. She'd work her way up the ladder eventually. She couldn't complain, anyway, she did get a whole team of stylists, eager to prep her for her first Reaping.
As they pinned up her strawberry locks to place a blue curled wig on her, Effie began reading over the ceremony. She had it memorized by now, but still. She wanted to get every word right.
Everyone would be watching.
She winced when someone started applying the false nails. She didn't know why this always made her wince - possibly knowing that getting them off later that night would be a pain. Fashion was always worth it though.
Purple lipstick, violet dress, gold heels that matched the small hat that sat cocked to the side on her wig. When she first looked in the mirror she realized that she was indeed rather small - but the fashion made up for it. It always did.
"And may the odds be ever in your favor …" she whispered under her breath, reaching the end of the ceremony transcript. Putting it aside, she went to the window and leaned on the sill.
The train was slowing down now.
Effie had never seen another District in her life, save what they showed on television. And she had never left the Capitol.
All such very big moments - overshadowed by the even bigger one. The Reaping.
"You'll need to introduce yourself to Mr. Abernathy," she had been told back at the Capitol. "He's the only victor from District Twelve and he'll be the tributes' mentor."
Effie remembered trying to search her memory - trying to remember when District Twelve won.
"It was during the Second Quarter Quell. We can have it replayed for you, if you'd like."
Effie decided against it. She didn't know why the thought wasn't appealing or why she said 'no' so quickly - but she did. And no one seemed bothered by it - they moved onto the next topic.
Now, Effie wished she had watched some. She could only remember little bits of the Second Quarter Quell. She also remembered she had gotten particularly ill on a new drink that the Capitol had put out in its honor. She didn't remember at all what Mr. Abernathy looked like - then of course. She supposed he looked different now, anyway.
The train barely gave a jolt when it stopped in the station at District Twelve. The sun outside was bright - Effie squinted in it and took her parasol, waiting for the door to open. When it did, she stuck her parasol out first and opened it so, as she stepped out from the train, she would step into it's shade.
Well, she thought. The train station was lacking.
In … many ways.
Peacekeepers were bustling about her. She gripped the clipboard she held tight to her chest as she looked around more. Everything was so … dark. So … sad? She couldn't describe it. She shook it off, though, and put on a smile as a man made his way towards her.
"Mr. Abernathy?" Effie asked, extending her hand.
"No. No, I'm sorry. I'm Mayor Undersee." He shook her hand anyway and put on a false smile that she mistook as genuine.
"Oh, pardon me. I am so sorry. I should have known. I'm Effie Trinket."
"You're new," he said.
"Yes, but I've been over the ceremony at least a hundred times since I was given this job. I'm certain I'll do just fine."
The Mayor nodded. He thought she was a stupid creature, a brainwashed one with a blue wig. He patted the hand he was shaking like he would that of a child.
"I assume you will want to meet Haymitch then."
"I was told to introduce myself, yes."
"Good luck with that."
Effie looked confused.
"We're setting up for the - um - ceremony. You may want to try and get him there yourself."
Effie nodded. "All right. Where would I find him, if you'd be so very lovely to tell me?"
"Victors' Village. I'll just have the Peacekeepers take you."
He knew it was a bit cruel to send her right into Haymitch's den. Then again, he knew it was hardly revenge for what she would be doing in only a matter of hours. Watching her walk off with the Peacekeepers, Mayor Undersee turned to walk home - just to stop off before anything official. Sometimes reminding himself that his daughter was only three - only three - made the days pass easier.
Effie was surprised at the amount of dirt that had already come to rest on her heels. She tripped a few times on potholes - catching herself and blushing, apologizing for her clumsiness. She had tried to take in the view around her but found it easier to only look ahead.
The houses … the people … either she was looking at poverty or poverty was looking and scowling back at her. She didn't understand. She hadn't done anything. And who knew? Perhaps they would win this year! They had a new escort after all!
Victors' Village was just ahead. Effie was glad that, at least, there were less places to trip as they passed empty house after empty house.
"He'll be in there," one of the Peacekeepers said as they came to a stop at one of them.
"Of course," said Effie. "Thank you so very much."
She walked towards the house and, in the reflection of the front windows, saw that the Peacekeepers had stayed. She didn't see any reason for it. Mr. Abernathy was probably more than capable of showing her where she needed to go next.
Then again, she wasn't about to be rude and tell them what to do.
She stepped up onto the porch and knocked on the door politely.
No one answered.
Thinking it over, she knocked again - knowing it could be rude. He could be hurrying to answer it - she could have caught him at a bad time.
But when he didn't answer for the second time, Effie started to worry. Schedule. Schedule schedule schedule. Was he already waiting where they held the ceremony?
Against her better judgment, she knocked for a third time, only to find that - as she had knocked a little harder - the door was open. She was startled. She looked back at the Peacekeepers, who seemed to be having a delightful conversation. They were laughing about something.
Effie turned back to the door and slowly pushed it open. She dreaded having to enter the house uninvited, but at this point - and this time - it was necessary. That's how she reasoned it in her head.
"Mr. Abernathy?" Effie said, trying not to shout. "I'm sorry I've just walked in but … Mr. Abernathy?"
Effie jumped - her foot had hit something. She looked down and saw an empty whiskey bottle at the tip of her heel. There were several bottles actually - scattered around the hall. One or two had been broken - some had collected dust.
"Mr -" Before Effie could get out the words, the floor creaked behind her. She turned around in surprise and found a man standing before her, pointing at her with a rather large knife in one hand. And a glass of whiskey in the other.
"What the hell are you?"