"So, Rory said that you hit your head on Haymitch's door?" Mrs. Everdeen questioned as she set aside her tools, her work done.
"Yes, I banged it on the edge." I reached a hand up to carefully touch the neat row of stitches that marked my forehead. Mrs. Everdeen reached for my hand and nudged it gently away from her handiwork.
"Don't touch it. You don't want it to scar," she said and then sighed. "I guess it doesn't really matter either way. They will be arriving soon enough from the Capitol and they'll no doubt fix you up again."
"Thank you," I said and then pinched the bridge of my nose. After the Games had ended the Capitol had applied some sort of polish to our skin that had erased every mark and scar that we had accumulated over the course of our time in the arena. The physical scars may have been erased but I wished that they had done the same with the emotional ones.
I watched her as she packed her tools back into her bag. When I looked at her I couldn't help but be reminded of Katniss despite their obvious differences. Where Katniss was strong and confident her mother was weak and tentative. Every movement was small and shuffled, as if she was trying to take up as little space as possible. I knew her husband had died many years ago in the same fire that had taken Gale's father from him but she wasn't like Mrs. Hawthorne. She lacked the preservation skills the other woman possessed and seemed content to fade into the background and let her daughter handle the day to day affairs of the family. How did Katniss' sister feel about that?
I walked over to the mantel piece and opened up the small coin purse that lay there. Selecting two large gold pieces, much more than the usual going rate for stitches, I handed them to the mute Mrs. Everdeen.
"There's no need for that Madge," she said quietly as she shook her head. "I don't want any money. I was friends with your mother when we were younger so consider this a favour from an old friend." It was my turn to shake my head.
"No. Please take it. I've got more than enough." I realised my mistake as soon as I saw Mrs. Hawthorne's face colour red.
"We don't need charity Margaret," she said with more force than was usual for this soft spoken woman.
"I know that," I said quickly, "but please take payment where payment is due." I watched her mull over her options for a moment, even going so far as casting her eyes over the expanse of my living room. Eventually she took the coins that I offered her and carefully stashed them in a pocket of her skirt.
"Thank you," she said stiffly and I smiled wanly at her. "Now remember, call Hazelle at any sign of a headache or stiff neck." She looked genuinely worried about me and despite our little battle only moments before I found myself suddenly feeling quite fond of Katniss' mother. Her soft blonde hair reminded me of my mother.
Moments later the door closed behind her and a small flurry of snow flew in with the breeze causing a miniature snow storm to form in my hallway. I stared at it and sighed before turning my back on the mess and climbing the stairs towards bed. Tomorrow was another day and I would face my problems then.
Sleep did not come easy to me that night and no matter how much I tossed and turned I could not get comfortable. I had hoped that my head injury would have tired me out and my mind could have gotten a much needed reprieve from thinking about a certain fellow victor. Apparently the universe was against me and I was to be tortured with the clear mental image of Gale's concerned face hovering above me.
I rose early, eager to start the day and fill it with one thousand mind numbing tasks and chores to keep me sufficiently distracted. Making up my mind that today I would go into town and offer my help to my father at his offices. The offices at the Justice Centre were always busy and menial tasks like filing documents were often left to the wayside. He would appreciate my help.
Bundling up in my warm red coat and black hat, I opened the door to find the night's snowfall had been more severe than I would have imagined. Nevertheless, I locked the front door and headed towards Town. The thought of sitting in my house alone all day with nothing but my thoughts for distraction seemed like torture.
The streets were quieter than normal, but I was unsurprised given the snow and I only passed one or two people on the trip. By the time I reached the Justice building my nose felt like it had turned into a solid lump of ice and despite the fact that I had shoved my hands into my coat pockets I wondered about the possibility of frost bite.
The Justice Building resembled the Capitol than any other part of District 12, something I had never noticed or thought much about until I had returned. The drapes were made of a richer fabric than the old scraps of material that composed most of the curtains here. There was a carpet on the floor, a complete anomaly in District 12 where simple wooden floors were favoured. Even the art work that adorned the walls was a sign of the almighty power of the Capitol, the large portrait of President Snow in the lobby being the most ostentatious. I examined the portrait closely while I waited for my father to come down and meet me after the receptionist alerted him to my arrival.
Snow should have looked like a charming, dapper grandfather in his crisp white suit and rose in his lapel but there was something about the way he held himself that let you know that he was a person to be feared not loved. What must it be like to be respected out of fear rather than for you, yourself?
"Is everything alright, Madge?" my father asked, appearing from a corridor, his face pale and his brow furrowed. I shook my head. Why had he immediately thought something was wrong?
"I'm fine, Dad. I just figured that you might want some help in the office today. I was free." He sighed in relief and smiled shakily at me.
"We sure do, honey. You know that there is always filing to be done."
An hour later I sat on the floor of my father's office, sorting a huge pile of files into their different groups. The task was perfectly mind numbing and exactly what I needed after Gale's bombshell about the Victory Tour yesterday.
A phone rang on my father's desk and he answered it.
"Yes?" he said instead of a greeting. "Okay, I'll be right down." He stood up from the desk and informed me that he had to attend a meeting about the mines. I hoped for the Seam's sake that this wasn't about more pain cuts.
I looked over at my father's desk or, more precisely, his comfortable leather chair and decided that I had suffered enough time sitting on the floor and I might as well take advantage of the free space. Gathering up as many files as I could carry I made my way to the desk, sinking into the chair with a sigh.
The screen of my father's computer glowed in front of me and though I knew I shouldn't, I couldn't help but glance at the screen and read the message that was opened on it.
The message was from someone named Councillor Romero and it was with bated breath that I read the message.
A decision has been made to increase the number of Peace Keepers in the Districts in the wake of the 74th Hunger Games and prior to the Victory Tour. Reinforcements will arrive in your District two weeks from now. They will take over the law enforcement in the District.
Why would security need to be increased in District 12 of all Districts? Did they not know that the people here were so without hope that they couldn't revolt if they tried? Sure, the packages had been useful but they weren't enough to sustain a District like ours where food was already scarce.
And what about the other Districts? News rarely circulated between the Districts, it would be almost impossible for me to find out why these seemingly pointless measures were being taken. I moved the mouse of the keyboard to search for more information when it hit me.
Gale had said yesterday that the President had not been pleased that there had been two Victor's. What was he afraid of? We were just two people in Panem. Two people couldn't really change anything. Could it? Maybe it didn't matter that we were two people. Maybe it was the fact that our love had somehow defied the Capitol, even if it was only in a small way, and that had encouraged others to imitate what we had done. Was the fact that we had been willing to die together rather than succeed alone been that influential, that powerful? I shivered at the thought.
I searched through Dad's inbox but the rest of his emails seemed to be about minor changes in tax returns, wage cuts and inter departmental exchanges. I was about to give up my search for more information on the subject when I found a folder marked Articles. Clicking on it, without much faith about what sort of information it held. I saw file after file labelled simply by date. Clicking on a random one I gasped when I saw a large picture of Gale and I under the heading 'STAR CROSSED LOVERS OF DISTRICT TWELVE' followed by an article depicting the great heartache that was about to befall us. I checked the date the article had been published: the day before we entered the games. We had been front page news before the games had even begun. As I scanned quickly through the rest of the articles I found they were much the same. Outrage and pity were too of the main emotions in the articles. It seemed that the Capitol's news outlets could be pretty biased, despite the influence of President Snow. The Capitol citizens had been heartbroken at the thought of one of us living without the other. Had they really been our saviours in the Games, when all along I had condemned them for sending us there in the first place?
My head hurt and I closed the folder and moved to sit back on the floor with the files that I had been sorting. My father had never been suspicious of me before but after I had come back from the Games he had been acting wary around me. Watching to see how I would react to what he said and no longer speaking as freely as he would have before.
Why had my father kept a folder with all these articles? I found it hard to believe that he was proud of me for falling head over heels for Gale and kept the articles as keepsakes. They had to have a purpose. I guess it was up to me to figure out what exactly that was.
Thanks to all who stuck with me through my much longer than planned hiatus. College work, as well as an internship has kept me crazy busy over the past couple of months but since I've settled in now I feel I can devote time to this fic. I'm excited to be back in this world and with these characters. Let me know what you think and hopefully I'll get the next chapter up ASAP.