Post Mockingjay. Fifteen-year-old Posy Hawthorne has a talk with her brother, Gale, that leads her to uncover one of the hidden reasons for his departure to District 2 ten years ago.
Disclaimer: Apart from the obvious non-THG name, all characters belong to Queen Suzanne.
Special thank-you's to Jenn (jennycaakes) and Marcy for beta-ing. You guys are the best.
I hope you like it. Reviews of any sort are much appreciated :)
The Flower and the Wind
Posy was feeling better today. Her ponytail bounced as she plopped herself down at the table across her mother, who was mending the hem of a customer's dress. As she ate her warm raisin bread, courtesy of the Mellark's, her usual thoughts about him were snuffed out by a more dominant one.
Gale was coming home today. Her big brother, who lived all the way in District 2.
She remembered when she was younger, a few months after the War ended, she had pleaded with her mother to beg Gale to come back. She even tried to call him; she had watched her mother press the black buttons on their new telephone a few times and copiously noted the order of the buttons on her drawing of a telephone. Once, it rang. And rang, and rang. Eventually, she had said 'hello' in her sweetest manner, hoping to hear Gale's booming voice on the other side, but only a long beep answered. Huffing, she climbed off the kitchen stool. Gale's phone must be broken, she thought naively.
She didn't understand then why he could move so far away from all of them. From her. Who would call her Pose-Nose and give her piggyback rides around the house before dinner? Who would she run to when Vick or Rory made fun of her stick dolls?
Prim was gone too. Her mother had told her that she had gone on a trip to a meadow in a faraway place. At five-years-old, Posy had asked why she needed to go to that meadow when they had a meadow right here, and her mother said that Prim was on an adventure. Posy's tummy did flips in slow motion, like on the day she realised Gale wasn't coming home to stay for good. She asked the question anyway, "Is Prim coming back?"
Her mother shook her head. No, she wasn't. Posy's whole body was frozen, like her fingers when it was cold and snowing. Only it was a hot summer's night and the only thing that could be considered remotely cold was the tiny breeze blowing through the window. Her mother had smoothened her hair and stroked her cheek. "It is too lovely there in the meadow. Prim can't bear to leave it."
Why? Posy wanted to cry. Why did Prim have to leave too? Didn't she like it here with their family? Didn't she miss Buttercup? Posy saw Buttercup sometimes prowling around in the meadow. Posy knew that he was searching for Prim, because he looked sad. Much like her.
But that night, before she closed her eyes, she tucked her hands under her pillow and started thinking about Prim and her new meadow. Maybe it was better that Prim didn't come back, Posy finally decided. Mrs Everdeen had moved to the Fish District, and Katniss lived with Peeta now. Where would Prim live if she came back?
When Posy was ten, she asked, for the hundredth time, about Gale (she knew it was the hundredth because she kept count in her diary). Why he came to visit but never stayed longer than two days? Her mother had sighed and looked at her for a long time before finally saying, "Gale and Katniss chose to go on different roads."
Why? Posy wanted to ask. Katniss and Gale used to be best friends, they hunted together and everything. But she didn't press. She knew that, for now, that was all her mother was going to tell her.
It didn't stop Posy from speculating as she grew older. Posy thought and thought and thought, and formed and formed and formed, until she was semi-confident that she knew one of the reasons for Gale's departure many years ago.
Katniss chose Peeta, and her brother couldn't bear it. Just like Posy couldn't bear it now, when she saw the boy she loved with another girl.
Ty. His name brought an onslaught of heartache, regret, and yes, light-headedness and thrill. Ty, who smiled at her when he picked up that dropped pencil and handed it back to her. Ty, who she has loved hopelessly ever since he sat in front of her two years ago in seventh grade.
She didn't talk to her mum about it. She didn't need to, her mum could tell. A few months later, she sat Posy down one quiet afternoon, when Rory and Vick were out with their friends, and asked her if she wanted to talk about something. Posy waited for the spinning wheel to settle, yes, no, yes, no, yes, no.
"No," she had said, and wondered afterwards if she should've said yes.
Even after years of silent longing and heartache, she still wondered. Would it have made a difference? Would it have helped, taken away this constricting band around her chest? Her mum was super, anyone who could raise her brothers earned that title, but Posy doubted that she could solve this problem. It wasn't just a scraped knee she could kiss better or a nightmare she could soothe, but a monstrous thing that had rooted itself in the pit of her stomach and pulled, pulled without caring, until she was sapped of rational thought and left with a void that could only be filled by one boy.
Ty. From his brown hair to his green eyes, he was the most perfect specimen of a boy she had ever laid her twelve-year-old eyes on…
"Hi," a voice said.
Posy whipped her head up from her bandaged leg. Her eyes widened. Ty Fraser was standing in front of her. He was talking to her.
Posy just stared, unable to believe her eyes and ears. Ty rubbed his neck awkwardly. "Um, you're Posy, right? I'm Ty." He grinned, but all Posy could do was swallow and give him a tight smile. At least, she hoped it looked like a smile.
Ty sat next to her and her pulse raced, refusing to rest after the disaster of a sprint that left her clutching her right ankle in pain. "Are y-," he gestured to her leg, "How's your leg?"
Breathe. "Fine," she managed.
A beat, then "Do you always run here?"
Don't squeak, whatever you do, don't squeak. "Yes." She was surprised at how firm she sounded, even if it was only a syllable.
"You're pretty amazing," he said.
Startled, Posy turned to him. His elbows rested lazily on his knees, his hands clasped together, and his green eyes were fixed on her as if they were the trees and she was the sun. And in that moment, with her burning cheeks and pulsating heart, the sun she was.
After she washed the dinner dishes, she left her dozing mother alone on the couch and crept down the hallway. She knocked twice on the door at the end.
"Who is it?" came Gale's muffled voice.
She turned the knob and clicked it silently behind her. Gale was busy sorting through his luggage, but he grinned when he saw her. "What's up?"
"Nothing," she said, flopping down onto his bed. Come on, Posy, tell him. That was what you came here to do, wasn't it? She pinched her eyes shut, and let out a heavy sigh.
The rustling of Gale's sorting stopped. "Doesn't sound like nothing to me," he said.
Posy could picture his eyebrows lifted in question. He had probably never seen his sister so vexed and so not…verbal. The Pose-Nose he was used to never failed to show her disapproval when it was necessary, stomping her feet with her hands planted on her hips, something she learnt from her mother.
Posy rammed her wrists into her eyes. She could finally let some of this burden out. He was Gale. He was her big brother. He could fix this. Maybe.
"How did it feel when Katniss didn't love you back?" she asked, beyond caring if it resurfaced the painful feelings of long ago. If he wanted Pose-Nose, Pose-Nose he was going to get.
The bed sank on her right side and Posy peered out from under her hands to see Gale slumped beside her. She suddenly regretted being so crass, what a horrible sister she was. It was no wonder he didn't want to live here.
She was about to apologise when he muttered, "It hurt."
Her brother, a person of many words. Just like her.
She gulped. "Hurt so much that you haven't found anyone since?" Say no. Say it ends.
"That-" he halted, "That's not the reason."
It wasn't? Posy sat up and looked earnestly at her brother, whose gaze was fixed on his shoes. At least to her it looked like shoes. To him, it seemed like a memory had arrested him and was playing mercilessly before his eyes. The silence stretched for a few beats, then he blinked once, shook his head, and turned to her, "Why do you ask?"
She narrowed her eyes to let him know that he wasn't getting off the hook that easy, but he just looked curiously at her. Too curiously. Sighing, she mumbled, "There's a boy-"
His eyebrows dipped. "A boy?"
Uh-oh. "It's nothing! He doesn't even see me as anything more than a friend," Her voice trailed off, and she rubbed her knuckles with her thumb.
Gale exhaled and put a comforting arm around her shoulders. She kept her gaze on her hands and mumbled, "I don't know what to do. It's been eating me alive."
Planting a hand on each shoulder, Gale turned her to face him. He looked straight into her eyes. "Tell him." Like it was the easiest thing in the world.
"What if he hates me after that? What then?" Posy asked, desperate.
"You can't know that," Gale drew back and crossed his arms over his chest. "I thought you were brave, Pose."
Posy hated the disapproval in his voice. She was brave; she had spent her whole life trying to be brave to avoid being teased by Rory and Vick. She was braver that most of the girls in her school. To have Gale question that, the one quality she took pride in, it cut.
"I am," she said, clenching her teeth.
"Then do it. You don't want to make the mistake of not doing something because you were scared, and regret it later." Her brother's eyes clouded with a faraway look, and he ran a hand through his cropped hair. Which brought Posy back to his unexpected comment from earlier on…
"Did you regret something?" she ventured.
A muscle twitched in Gale's cheek. A breath, a nod.
"What was it?" she pressed.
Gale ignored her and stood up, making his way back to his 'ordered piles' of belongings, which still looked like a mess that his suitcase spewed up.
"Does your reason for not finding someone else have something to do with it?"
She hit the mark. She knew she would. His hands balled around a white shirt he was holding, crumpling the freshly pressed material, and his eyes darkened.
Worried, Posy crossed to him. "Gale?" Kneeling down beside his tense form, she placed her hand on his forearm. It was trembling and she drew back slightly, shocked. She'd never seen him like this before. Well, never seen it and comprehended that he was hurt. She suddenly felt childish for moping over Ty, while her brother was locked up in a self-made cell, unable to pull the key out of his pocket and let himself out.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have pried," she backtracked.
Gale shook his head. "No, it's fine." He drew a few breaths, placed his free hand over hers, and finally relaxed his grip on the shirt. It spilt over the edge of his suitcase. "There was a girl besides Katniss. I think I fell in love with her while trying to convince myself that I only loved Katniss. But I never told her," his voice caught and he pretended to cough.
Gale lifted his head to the window and the moonlight revealed the tears that had pooled in his eyes. He was crying. Her strong, strong brother was crying.
Posy held his hand tightly, hoping to comfort him. "You could still tell her now," she encouraged.
A hysterical laugh escaped him. Then he shook his head with such hopelessness, her shoulders sagged. "She's gone, Pose."
No. No! Her eyes prickled. "I'm so sorry, Gale."
He looked at her then, and pulled her into a crushing hug. Posy held him tightly, letting her tears run freely for him. Her poor brother. Her poor, lonely brother.
When he finally pulled back, he looked less haggard. Pulling his knees up, he rested his elbows on them. The room was silent except for his breathing, which was thankfully reaching a steady tempo. She finally found her breath and her lips ran off without her brain, "What was she like?"
To her surprise, the corners of Gale's lips lifted a little, and the glaze over his eyes melted away. "Beautiful, but frustrating. She knew exactly how to rile me up. She never wanted to be the first to back down from a fight. She was smart and brave," he paused, "So very brave."
Posy smiled. "She sounds really cool."
Gale scoffed, "Don't know if I would say that." Then his eyes grew serious, wistful. "She had this way of knowing exactly what to say to comfort me. She had these, these blue eyes that gave away all her thoughts. Her hair was like sunshine. She was-" he sighs, closing his eyes as if to picture the girl, "She was perfect."
Posy's heart ached for him. "What was her name?" she asked.
A few beats, then "Madge," he said softly, "Her name was Madge."
Oh. Oh. Madge Undersee, the Mayor's daughter who watched both of Katniss and Peeta's Hunger Games with them. Who had held Posy's chubby four-year-old hand and smiled at everything she said. "An angel," Posy had told her mother when they walked home from the square that first night.
Yes, Posy had learnt in history that the firebombs that ravaged District 12 wiped out Mayor Undersee's family. She could barely remember what happened, everything was a haze, probably because her five-year-old self didn't want to remember.
Miss Madge. The angel.
Miss Madge. Her brother's prison cell.
"She was so nice to us," was all Posy could think to say.
Gale smiled at her, reaching over to give her hand a last squeeze. Thank you, it conveyed.
And with that, the conversation was over. For now.
Posy smiled back and moved to the door. Placing her hand on the knob, she turned back to her brother. "Thanks Gale."
She stepped a foot out the door, then hesitated. What the heck, she thought, before flying back into the room and bending down to plant a kiss on his cheek.
"Love you Gale." She hadn't said that in so long. How strange it felt on her tongue.
Her brother startled, but reached up for her hair. Ruffling it, he returned, "Love you Pose-Nose."
Heh. You've made it to the bottom. Hoorah!