"Is she going to die like Daddy?" a high-pitched voice asked, laced with worry.
"Of course not, Posy," another voice answered confidently. "People don't die from walking into doors."
"But she didn't walk into a door," the first voice answered. "The door walked into her!" Someone giggled and was quickly shushed. My head ached. What had happened? Slowly, I opened my eyes and found myself staring at a ceiling.
"She's awake!" cried a voice, and I turned my head to see Posy Hawthorne running out of the room.
"Told you she wasn't dead!" said the other voice, and I saw Vick standing beside me. I moved to sit up but Mrs. Hawthorne had walked into the room, Posy trailing behind her, and pressed me back down gently using her hand.
"You should stay lying down awhile, sweetie," she said. "There was a little bit of an accident at Haymitch's." Haymitch's? Oh, yes. I had been cleaning his kitchen. Had I slipped on the freshly mopped floor and hit my head on the edge of the counter, knocking myself out? No, I didn't think that was it. The memory of walking towards the door and colliding with it as it opened came back to me and I winced. Raising my hand I felt around my forehead for the gash that I knew would be there. Sure enough I felt a bandage covering the left side of my forehead.
"Rory's gone to get Katniss' mother and she can stitch it up for you," Mrs Hawthorne said with a warm smile, though her expression changed quickly at my expression. "Or we can get your own doctor if you'd prefer that?" I shook my head and instantly regretted the action as pain coursed through my body.
"No, it's not that. It's just that I've never had stitches before." Mrs Hawthorne reached out and patted my shoulder comfortingly.
"You've been through worse. Besides, stitches don't hurt that much and you're lucky. There's plenty of snow around at the minute so we can numb your forehead first." I nodded gratefully, which caused me to wince again.
"Can we get you anything?" she asked, reaching down to straighten the blanket that someone had hastily thrown over me. I considered her offer for a moment.
"Could I have a glass of water please?" I asked hoarsely. Mrs Hawthorne nodded.
"Gale!" she shouted. "Get Madge a glass of water!" I felt what little blood was in my face drain. Gale? Gale was here? Mrs Hawthorne stood.
"Come on Vick, you've got homework to do," she said, and Vick groaned before following her out of the room. I heard the tap run in the kitchen, and knowing that Gale was about to burst into the sitting room at any second, no doubt a disdainful look on his face, I attempted to school my features into indifference, which is surprisingly difficult when lying on a couch, with a huge plaster covering your forehead. Heavy boots tapped against wooden floor boards as he approached and I froze.
"Here," he said, as he handed the water to me. I took it and eased myself into a sitting position despite Mrs Hawthorne's earlier orders. Raising the glass to my lips I tried to avoid looking at him, knowing that if I did that I would find myself in deeper trouble than I wanted for myself.
"Thank you," I said and he nodded.
"You're welcome." Gale nodded. We were playing it safe, the two of us. He too must have realised that he couldn't avoid me forever, considering our close living proximities. These houses in the Victor's Village would be our homes until we died. We were going to be neighbours for a long, long time. Much too long a time to pretend that each other didn't exist. Maybe now we could revert to what we had prior to the Games – a careful balance between complete indifference and dislike.
Instead of leaving like I had thought he would do, once he had obliged his mother, Gale sat down on one of the small arm chairs facing the couch. I set the glass aside on a small coffee table and wished that Vick would come back in, salvaging this awkward situation with his endearing chatter about school that day.
"Listen, Madge," Gale said, "Sorry about hitting you with the door. I hope that it doesn't hurt too bad."
"You were the one that hit me?" I asked, surprised that he had been coming to visit Haymitch.
"What were you doing there anyway?" Gale leaned back in the chair and ran a hand through his hair. I started to prepare an angry tirade about how it was none of his business what I was doing there but my rational, pacifist side won out.
"I came over to check up on him," I confessed, "I hadn't seen him in a while and to be honest I was starting to get worried." Gale nodded, his expression serious.
"Yeah," he said. I groaned audibly, but luckily considering my current state, Gale must've put it down to pain instead of embarrassment at his one word answers. Gale stood, watching me, and deciding that I was sick of his scrutiny, I sat up and attempted to compose myself.
"Mom said that you were meant to stay resting," he pointed out when I stood up and straightened my blouse, brushing the imaginary creases free.
"Well, are you going to tell tales?" I snapped back, wincing when I heard the bitterness and anger in my voice. Gale shook his head.
"Sorry," I said. It wasn't fair of me to take my anger over what had happened between us out on him when he was just trying to help.
"It's okay," he said. "I was being over-bearing." I snorted and Gale raised an eyebrow.
"Sometimes someone has to take charge or else everything gets completely out of order," he said defensively but I could tell that he didn't mind all that much that I'd insulted him. We both looked at each other for a minute, our discomfort and awkwardness temporarily forgotten if only for a moment. The spell broke when he looked away and I quickly followed suit.
"I guess I'd better go," I said. "Will you thank your mom for me?" Gale nodded and stood up as well.
"Mrs. Everdeen will want to examine you," Gale warned and I shrugged.
"I'm fine," I said tersely. I needed to get out of here quick. My head was beginning to ache and I just curl up in bed and feel miserable. "I'm sure she won't mind coming over to my house." Gale said nothing and I took that as acceptance
"I'll walk you back," he said, grabbing his coat from a hook by the front door. Exactly what I'd been afraid of.
"You don't have to do that," I said but he ignored me. I followed him dutifully towards the door and together we crossed the path that led towards my house. Gale hesitated for a moment when we came to my door.
"Thank your mother for me, okay?" I said and pushed the door open. I froze when I felt Gale's hand reach out and hold onto my fore arm.
"Can I come in for a minute?" he asked. "There's something we need to talk about." My mouth dried and I struggled for a minute as I tried to pry my tongue away from the roof of my mouth.
"We don't have anything to discuss Gale," I said, hoping that this would serve as a sufficient reminder of the ties that were now severed between us.
"I need to tell you about something. A recent development," he said and I knew immediately from the way his voice was both calm and forceful that whatever it was he had to say was important. Sighing, I pushed the door open further so that he could move past me and into the house.
His eyes travelled the circumference of my sitting room quickly, no doubt taking in the lack of material goods in the room. My house here in the Victor's Village, while as large as my parents, was sparsely decorated. I didn't see the point in putting stuff that I cared about into a place that I had won by killing a fellow tribute.
I walked past Gale and sat on the couch, shivering at the feel of the cold on my clothes pressing more firmly against my skin.
"I'll light the fire," Gale said as he grabbed a log and kindling that I had laid by the fire earlier in preparation for the night.
"Tell me, what it is that has made you decide that it is necessary to speak to me for the first time in months," I said, fully aware that my voice sounded as haughty as my words. Gale's movements by the fireplace froze momentarily before they started up again.
"President Snow came to see me," he said slowly as he stacked the kindling into the grate. My heart clenched.
"Snow?" I asked. This time Gale turned to look at me. He nodded. "But why? What did he want from you?"
"He says that there was never meant to be two Victors," he said.
"Obviously," I retorted, but then apologised, "Sorry. Continue."
"He said that there was an uproar in some of the Districts over the rule change. The Games are meant to signify the absolute power of the Capitol, not undermine their authority."
"But we didn't force them to change the rules," I reminded him. "They made that decision on their own."
"That doesn't matter," Gale said with a shake of his head. "What matters is that Snow believes that all this could have been prevented if only one of us had survived." I swallowed.
"And what does this mean for us?" Gale shrugged and struck a match before tossing it onto the pile of dry wood which caught almost straight away.
"I don't know necessarily, but it can't be good." The two of us sat in silence for a moment; Gale stoking the growing flames with the poker and I watching him carefully.
"I'm only telling you this because of what we have to do," he said finally after a few minutes had passed.
"What do we have to do?" I asked, suddenly wary. I hoped that he wasn't going to bring up some crazy plan which involved one or both of us dying for the greater good. I might not like him very much at the minute but the thought of him injured or worse still caused my stomach to ache.
"On the Victory Tour we'll have-" he broke off for a moment and cleared his throat. "We'll have to act like before." He turned to look at me properly for the first time since we had disembarked the train. He seemed to see me in that moment and knew the pain that this demand would cause me.
"Oh," I said. All other words failed me and I struggled with what to say next. Luckily I didn't have to think for long because Gale rose to his feet and brushed his hands together somewhat awkwardly to remove the wood shavings.
"I guess that I'll talk to you soon so we can, um," he searched for the word, "sort this out." I nodded dazedly and let him leave. When I heard the front door close I allowed myself to flop limply onto the couch. What was I going to do now?
Hey guys. Sorry that there has been such a gap between updates. I was in the USA working for the summer and living in a two room apartment in a seedy, sea side motel wasn't exactly a great atmosphere for writing. Thanks for sticking with this story. I am overwhelmed by your reviews. Let me know what you are making of events so far. I promise that updates will go back to being weekly again now that I am back at University. :)