Gray suggests a walk to town to visit Boron. The year he was out of the reaping he wanted to live on his own. Now my childhood home is his bachelor pad. One thing is for sure, becoming self-reliant has drastically improved the district's opinion on Boron.
We knock on the front door but judging by the noise, he's in the backyard possibly with a sibling or two. Sure enough there's a wrestle match between all four of them. I've been so out of sorts lately that it's a welcomed sight to see my children having fun.
"Hi mom!" says Aron somewhere in the dog pile.
The others quickly untangle themselves and greet us. Gray and I softly chuckle to ourselves as we've undoubtedly thought of the same memory of the large scale wrestle matches we used to get in with my father. Sometimes I slip back into my old life remembering when things were simpler.
Our visit is brief since we don't want to spoil the fun. We tell the younger children to be back by dark. We're not three steps out of the backyard when we hear the wrestle match again.
"What's wrong Lynn?" Gray asks.
I shake my head, "I'm just so terrified for that boy. He's got a little brother and a girlfriend still in the reaping. I don't think Volts and I saying we'd do the same thing is going to help him. The Capitol is not forgiving."
He pulls me close and kisses the side of my head. "Still looking out for everyone."
Blane Peaks sees us and happily joins Gray and me interrupting our tender moment. His wife's position makes him unpopular with most of the district. How little they know that his position makes him useful to the coming rebellion. All of our children are close friends sticking with each other through thick and thin.
When he does a quick check around I know he's about to tell me something involving the rebellion. There's something in his face that has me worried.
"What?" I ask.
He hands me a slip of paper, "Got a message from Rook. We don't understand it but he said you would and that you should read it away from everyone."
'Rook' that's Marcus' code name. Something is very wrong.
The path up to my home is secluded enough and I open up the paper. It's Pepper's handwriting so she must've had a phone call or face to face with Marcus. There're only two words written, "Everyone important."
Collapsing to my knees, I let the paper fall from my fingers. Gray is next to me, I can feel his warmth, as he tries to pull me back. His hand clasps mine and I hold tight.
"What is it Lynn?"
"They killed them. They killed them all."
It's a full three days before I come back to myself. These long periods where I blackout have gotten worse since Jay died. When I see Gray with a certain smile I know I've been gone more than a day and there is no end of apologies.
At the end of the week I get the rest of the story. Not only have they've killed his loved ones but they've brought in a new Head Peacekeeper. It won't take long before the Capitol has conditioned the rest of the district to stay away from him. He's now a pariah to everyone but the victors.
The months pass and it's time for the Victory Tour dinner in Five. I'm all fancy in the dress Camry made for me at the games as part of our bargain. It's not my favorite, but at least it's modest.
For the tenth time this month I've had to tell one or all my children they're not coming this year. For weeks I've told them that the Peaks kids were coming over here for dinner as Haymitch passes through the district.
"But we actually want to meet this one," Clea whines.
"Don't argue with your mother," Gray says. "If it makes you feel any better, Clea, I'm not going either."
"Give it a rest, Clea," says Boron. He knows what happened and knows why they're staying home. Boron's the brightest of my children. He was the only one to figure out it was more than possible they were mockingjays. The rest we've told when they were old enough. But with all of them having my red hair and other traits it's hard to determine if any of them had different fathers. Gray tells me that our kids only got the best from their parents.
More pleading but the answer remains a firm 'no'. Haymitch lost everyone important to him. I'm not about to parade around that I still have almost everyone important to me and neither is Mayor Peaks. The car pulls up and her three kids get out and I get in. Blane must attend, but we're keeping our families out of it.
When I see Amaranth I go straight to him. I'm not supposed to know the boy's family is gone yet. Dark shadows are under his eyes. Most likely he's spent many nights up with Haymitch, his first victor.
"Hey Vixen," he smiles warily. "I was looking forward to meeting your family, but I guess it's good you kept them away."
"All things considering?" I say.
"I shouldn't have laughed," he says.
I shake my head, "The whole of Panem was laughing. This happened because the Capitol can't stand to have the joke on them."
When I met Haymitch he wears a look I know all too well. It's the one I saw on myself in the mirror of my arena, haunted and almost dead. I hug him, but he doesn't like the contact. I know what it's like to have your parents and one you love stripped from you. But I had it done one at a time and he all at once. These coming years for him are not going to be easy. And by the looks of Amaranth he may very well have to do it alone.
"Hey, over here," calls a cameraman. "Get a shot of this. Both of the Quell victors!"
No matter how much the women want him, they can't have him. There's no one left for them to hold against him. And now all the new victors will know what will happen if they cause problems for the Capitol.
Haymitch has taken up drinking with Chaff. Most of the other victors have addictions of their own whether it be drugs or alcohol. The older ones, those that won under Galba, are not as addicted to substances. Seeder and Mags lead the charge on those making it through this. I'm not sure where I fall in.
Like every year after the games, I sit writing everything I can remember about this last time at the Capitol. When Benton and Gabby Scaler died, the books went to their son, Alun. Together we keep the separate journals. One is for our tributes, another for the victors, and another for things that will be useful for the rebellion. All of these are stored and preserved at his home amongst all his parent's stuff but not before being stored on several disks the locations of which are known by their keepers only.
The game is set and the pieces are moving. Secrets that will bring Snow down are known by all the right people in the Capitol. There will be another Amaranth or me to be popular with the rich and powerful, a victor that will unearth all these dirty little secrets after we are gone.
This upcoming year will be the last I will ever have to have a child in the Reaping. Three are safe. In a few short months I will learn once and for all if one of my children will go into the arena.
Sometimes I wonder if that was the plan all along. To make me despised among the victors by being the only one who's loved ones weren't touched by Snow. Somehow I don't think I'll be around to see their displeasure.
Ten years ago I told Marcus that I was slowing down. Well, I guess I've reached the end of the line. Instead of the terrifying dreams that almost feel like tracker venom I've instead get just the opposite. It sounds crazy with everything that is going on and no relief in sight, but somehow I'm feeling as if I'm waking up and the nightmare is really over.
Every time I wake up from these dreams I want to cry. If my life is the nightmare created by the tracker venom, then I don't want to wake up. I love Gray and our children more than anyone else I've ever loved in my life. It is because of them I live.