Sorry for waiting a day to update. I've been really busy with projects as I said in my previous author's note last chapter. Oh yes, my friend finished the Effie and Haymitch picture and it's just far too amazing for words. The expressions, the way she drew the baby (the coloring she chose for the blanket is one that, unlike the assumed shades of blue or pink, does not give a definite gender), it's just outstanding. For someone who hasn't read the Hunger Games at all, she really captured Effie and Haymitch's looks perfectly I think. The link is on my profile page. I really REALLY recommend you guys checking it out. You'll be very glad you did. Anyway, thank you everyone who reviewed, alerted, and favorited. All of your support makes my fingers type faster and my heart leap for joy. Here's chapter ten. (And yes, I meant "Orbs", not "Ores". Just to clarify that it's not a typo).
Chapter ten: Orbs of Iron
The hum of static fills the still air as the large screen in the center of District Twelve flickers on. People slowly file out of nearby buildings and huddle close together as a cold wind blows, ruffling the skirts and pants of the thin population. The atmosphere was that similar to what it was on Reaping Day only I'm not standing in front of some magnificent podium with two large glass bowls. No. For some odd reason I'm standing in the crowd.
"It's a shame." Someone whispers close to me. "Poor old Haymitch having to endure this. I hear that he isn't even leaving his house today. I guess the fellow has no hope for her."
Her? Haymitch? What was this person talking about? I turn around to find the whisperer but am quickly stopped as the Capitol's anthem booms loudly over the set of old speakers on the stage.
"Today marks the beginning of Panem's Annual Hunger Games. And as you all know, the tributes this year look very promising. The Gamemakers say for us to expect the best competition yet!" The grinning face of Caesar Flickerman looms on the screen. His hair is dyed a light plum shade and sits pulled back behind his head in a ponytail. "And might I add that everyone is very excited about a certain tribute whose parent won the game several years back. It'll be very interesting to see if she lives up to her father's standards."
A victor's child in the Games? I look around the crowd expecting to her someone mutter her name but all is silent. All eyes remained glued to the screen, the faces they belong to void of any expression. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up as the feeling of approaching doom twists in my stomach. Something isn't right about all of this. The question being what exactly it is.
"I think everyone knows how this works." I nearly cringe back as the camera gets unnecessarily close to Caesar's face. "All tributes must stand on their platforms for exactly sixty seconds. When the time is up and tributes are allowed to step off, well-" He bursts into a rather frightening fit of giggles. "Let's say it gets rather messing. So, without further ado, how about that long awaited countdown, Templesmith?"
The loud voice belonging to none other than Claudius Templesmith begins to boom over the speakers. "Sixty...fifty nine...fifty eight..."
The faces of the tributes appear on the screen, eyes focused on the Cornucopia. Some of them look as if they are frightened to death, determined, ready to shed blood to please the crowd. It's one face though that catches my attention.
She's young, no older than sixteen. Her hair, blonde, is pulled back into a long ponytail that keeps any loose strands from falling into her eyes. Her expression, solemn, is very familiar to me as if I've seen it on another face before. And then I see her eyes. Gray. They are the unmistakable Seam gray eyes that many District Twelve residents have. And it's as if the world has stopped spinning. I know who she is at once. My daughter. Haymitch's daughter. Our child.
Her head turns towards the cameras and it's as if she's staring right at me. Her expression changes as our eyes meet. Solemness melts away into disbelief, into shock as it was me who sent her there. I don't know what to do. She's so far away and this urge comes over me to reach up and grab her. I don't want her to be there. She shouldn't be there. Why is she? Didn't the fact that I was from the Capitol give her immunity from the Games? But there she was on the screen, her eyes bearing into mine as if I'm to blame.
The gong sounds and the tributes begin to run. All except the girl with the gray eyes. Why isn't she running? She's sitting bait! She won't take her eyes off me. It's as if she's in a trance and can't pull herself out of it. For the love of Panem, does she not realize where she is?
"Run!" I scream at her. "Don't just stand there! Run! Run!"
And the next sound is unmistakable. The sickening, wet crunch of metal meeting flesh and bone. She's falling now though the expression doesn't change. The camera still focuses on her eyes. The dying question of why fading into the gray Seam eyes as the cannon sounds. Someone's screaming. Their voice piercing the air. My voice. It's me.
"Open your eyes, Princess! You're having a nightmare! It's just a dream!"
Someone's holding me down and I begin to thrash trying to break free. The vision of the girl with the Seam gray eyes flashes in my mind. The way she looked at me. The expression in her dying eyes. The moment of realization when I saw she was my daughter.
"Dammit Princess, you're going to hurt yourself! Stop thrashing!''
My eyes fly open and through what little light comes into my room from the open door, I can make out Haymitch's face. His brow is deeply furrowed and appears to be breathing rather hard. I open my mouth but all that escapes it a sob.
"I saw her!" I'm gripping onto his shirt, tears streaming down my cheeks. I take deep gulps of air but nothing seems to be able to stop my hysteria. "She was watching me! I told her to run! But...but..."
"Deep breaths, Princess. It was just a dream."
But his words are of no comfort to me. I just shake my head and tighten my grip on his shirt ignoring the reek of alcohol. My body is trembling as I suck in another deep breath, trying my best to cease my sobs.
"She shouldn't have been in there! She didn't belong! It was a mistake but they..."
"Who shouldn't have been where, Princess?" His hands rest on mine but he doesn't try to pull me away.
"She had your eyes." The words come out choked. "In the arena. I saw her. Our daughter. She had your eyes..."
A brighter stream of light bursts into the room as two figures hurry inside. I look to them and am met by the tired, but worried faces of Peeta and Katniss. Both, still in their nightclothes, look upon Haymitch and me with a mixture of curiosity and concern.
"We heard screaming," Peeta says breathlessly and I wonder if he and Katniss ran here. "We weren't sure what happened. Is everything okay?" His eyes are fixed upon me and I look away embarrassed that he and Katniss see me like this.
"Go get her some tea." Haymitch says to him gruffly.
Peeta nods and, leaving Katniss behind, hurries off to what I imagine is the dining car. As childish as it was, I try not to meet Katniss's gaze in fear of being judge by her. I knew deep down that she most likely didn't care how I looked or acted, but to me, my outward appearance matters greatly. Especially if the person is someone you are in charge of.
By the time Peeta comes back, I have managed to get my breathing relatively back to normal but my body is still trembling. It takes all the concentration I have to not spill the tea when it's handed to me. I look at no one as I take a few tiny sips of the warm liquid. It tastes of raspberry, not blackberry, and I find myself feeling rather disappointed by it.
"Relax, Princess." I feel Haymitch's hand on my shoulder. His voice is unusually gently and even though I'm not used to hearing it that tone, I find it comforting. "It was just a dream. No one is dead."
"She gave me this look as if it were my fault she was there." My hands are trembling so bad that Haymitch takes the teacup away from me-not that I mind really, the raspberry flavoring was awful. "There is no way she could've been reaped. I'm a citizen of the Capitol. No such things like that happens to citizens of the Capitol."
"What's she talking about, Haymitch?" It's the first time since she and Peeta had entered that Katniss speaks. "What's going on? Is there something you haven't told Peeta and me yet? I thought we agreed back in District Eleven not to keep secrets from one another."
Secrets? Were there secrets that I was not let in on? I frown softly at the thought of being left out as Haymitch scowls, his eyes meeting Katniss's.
"If the secrets involved you, Peeta, and me, Sweetheart. This doesn't concern either of you." I watch as he sets the teacup down and looks back at her. "And personally, even if it did, you wouldn't be the first I'd let on about it."
"How far along are you, Effie?" Peeta's words even take Haymitch by surprise. We all look towards him and he back at us with a calm expression. How could he possibly have known? Did I make somehow ever obvious? "The way you said she couldn't be reaped because you're a Capitol citizen. I can only assume you're not referring to another family member. You mentioned to me last year while we were on the train to the Capitol that you were an only child."
"Peeta, that's stupid." Katniss lets out what sounds like a strangled laugh. "Why would she be pregnant?" But the way she's now staring at me, her mouth slightly ajar, tells me she may believe his words. "You're not pregnant...are you?"
Before I can answer, Haymitch does. "We don't know if it's a girl."
And he doesn't need to say the exact words of 'She's pregnant' for the two victors to understand. Katniss looks from Haymitch to me with a look of mixed shock and confusion. Peeta seems deep in thought as if trying to process what was just stated to him.
"You say 'we'..." Katniss finally says after a long minute. "Are you saying that..." And her eyes flash to me before back to him. "That you fathered this child? I didn't think you two even were remotely interested in one another...I don't understand-"
"What I think Katniss is trying to get at is are a round of congratulations in order?" And I can't help but smile at Peeta's support. I should've realized early on that he was too kind to be judgmental about this sort of thing.
"You can start by getting me a bottle of liquor. This is the second time my drinking was interrupted tonight." Haymitch glances at me out of the corner of his eye before looking back at the victors.
"I think I'll go back to bed." Katniss says quietly not meeting anyone's gaze. "I'm rather tired and the sun will be up in a few hours. I want to get what sleep I can before then." She looks to Peeta. "Are you coming?"
Peeta gives me a sympathetic look before nodding. "Yeah, I'll be right there."
Katniss leaves the room without another word. Once she's gone Peeta looks from Haymitch to me with a small smile. I knew he was going to apologize for Katniss but for the first time, I didn't find her rudeness towards me repulsive. I understood why she acted the way she did. If I had been in her shoes, I may have too.
"Please don't take it personally. She isn't upset at all with you. Just a little surprised. She's had a lot on her plate at the moment and I know that's no excuse but..." He pauses as if trying to think of something to say, "She'll lighten up to the idea." Glancing over his shoulder, he looks back at Haymitch and me once more before grabbing the handle of the door. "I'm not sure if this means anything but, congratulations. I'm happy for you both."
I turn to Haymitch as Peeta leaves closing the door behind him. So now Katniss, Peeta, Cinna, Plutarch, Portia, and of course, Haymitch, all knew. This wasn't going to be a secret much longer and the idea of others finding out frightened me. But now, I'm not too sure if it's because of my reputation. The girl with the Seam eyes and her possible fate still looms in my mind.
"You're not the only one who has had nightmares, Princess." To my surprise, Haymitch takes a seat beside me on my bed. His eyes don't meet mine but by his expression, the topic we're about to discuss makes him feel uncomfortable. "I have them too. Every night. But now they are about something different." His eyes wander to my stomach and I immediately stiffen. He had dreamed about her too? "Just because your from the Capitol don't think for a second that there isn't a chance they'd reap the kid. And if it happened, it wouldn't be your fault..." I hear him inhale deeply, struggling to get the next words out. "It would be mine."
"Your's?" I ask very confused, "Why would it be your fault if she was reaped? You don't choose the slip of paper from the bowl."
"I don't have too." He says quietly, "But the Capitol would make sure it happened, that her name was called. When it comes to upsetting the Capitol, they make sure you know your wrong doing. And trust me, Princess, when it comes to punishment, they aren't lenient either..."
"That's absurd." I look at him with shock. "The Capitol would never do such a dreadful thing. The Capitol is good. Fair. They would never rig the Reaping."
"They've done it before and they sure as hell wouldn't hesitate to do it again." He shakes his head, his brow furrowed. "There are a lot of things you don't open your eyes to, Princess. Your Capitol is corrupt and slice off my tongue and turn me into an Avox for saying that."
He's obviously very confused. I pity him. He never had the luxury of living in the Capitol. Never got to experience how well they treat us and how fair they are. Hesitating, I reach over and place my hand over his. He turns and looks at me, his left eyebrow raised.
"The Capitol wouldn't put her in the arena. My citizenship to the Capitol would protect her from such things as the Reaping." And I watch as he turns away from me, his shoulders slumping forward the slightest almost as if he's in defeat.
"I just don't want her getting hurt because of me. No kid deserves that. I've already caused my family enough harm. My brother. My mother. And the possibility that she is next is a thought that not even alcohol can drown out."
I don't know how to respond to his words. He cares about this child more than I had ever imagined and maybe in his own way, he cares about me too. But his view of the Capitol and what horrible things he claims they do is concerning. I don't know how to put his worry at ease without just offering him a bottle of liquor straight up. But, for the first time, as we sit here, I see a side of him I've barely, if not ever, experienced. He's being genuine. And no hint of sarcasm or drunken slur is present in his voice.
We sit in silence for who knows how long. My hand rests on top of his as we stare forward at the blank wall. Thoughts and worries run through my mind that I am sure also run through his. I don't know what the future holds for this child but tonight I learned something very important. That she has not one, but two parents who share a deep concern for her well being. Haymitch may not be the best man-he has too many flaws I can name if you give me several hours to do so-but I'm not sure if I would want her father to be anyone else. But, at the moment, I'm not at the liberty to tell him that just yet.
Another genuine moment between Effie and Haymitch where they sort of talked about the baby. Effie still is very oblivious to how horrible and corrupt the Capitol is, but slowly she's starting to see things she doesn't like about them. Like Haymitch warming up to her, she will need to warm up to the idea of the Capitol being not as good as she thinks. Anyway, please review and tell me what you thought. Hopefully I did an alright job keeping them in character. Effie, of course, had a break down in this chapter but she's going through some very hormonal times so I think anyone in her situation would have handled it similarly. Anywho, don't forget to check out the picture. Link is on my profile as I mentioned earlier.-Jen