At last, the sequel to Running! I had a couple of titles whirring round my mind, but settled on Falling because it just seemed to fit. I think the deciding factor was that quote from Batman Begins, if I'm honest: "Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up." It just seems to fit.
The fourth tribute standing (so, the one who died after Maysilee, but before George) was Digger from 11. He barely featured much, but he'll be mentioned in Falling most likely.
Updates will, like Running, be on Saturdays. Unlike Running, this is going to be in multiple POVs so I can cover what's happening to everybody. So, umm... Enjoy? Hopefully?
Disclaimer: I still don't own the Hunger Games, or anybody you recognise from it. Or anything. Or anywhere. I also don't own the Batman quote.
Watching Maysilee's death on live TV was the strangest thing. I didn't want to. The Hunger Games is mandatory, but I didn't want to watch it. There were plenty of cushions on the sofa with me; I could've easily hid behind one of them.
But I didn't. Because, crazy as it sounds, I figured I owed her this. If she was going to die, I could at least have the courtesy to watch. Besides, what if she made some miraculous comeback? She didn't, of course, but I could hope. And I did, right until her cannon boomed. And even then, I kept on hoping.
Now, sitting in Anise's living room, watching Haymitch's interview… It just seems to solidify the inescapable in my mind.
"He looks different." Anise says from beside me. We're both sitting on her sofa, in the 'house' at the back of her family's apothecary. "I mean, not physically, but there's something about him."
"And what did you think of your District partners?" Caesar Flickerman asks inside the small box that is the television screen. "There were three, after all, this year."
Haymitch grins, though it's more forced than it would've been before, it seems. "They became friends, you know? I knew Betony anyway, but the others… Yeah, we became friends. And, of course, that made the Arena that much harder."
"He seems hollow." Anise decides firmly. "Like… Like a shadow person, almost."
I merely nod my head in agreement, watching but not really focussing as Caesar rises from his seat, shouting a 'goodnight' to his audience. Haymitch raises a hand in a small wave, and the crowd bursts into an uproar of applause. Anise stands up and heads across the room to switch the TV off. The mandatory viewing is over, after all.
"Are you okay to walk home on your own?" She asks. "I can come with you, if you like."
I shake my head as I stand up. "I'm good. See you tomorrow!"
The sun is setting as I head home again. Our sweet shop is only a few streets away from the Pottinger Apothecary, yet even that little distance can feel like a lot when you're cold and alone.
I make sure to stick to the Town area. Not only is it quicker to get from Anise's to mine that way, but it means I'm less likely to bump into anyone from the Seam. They have a tendency to 'drown their sorrows' on a Friday night, once their shift in the mines is over, and drunken adults can be found roaming the street. I'd like to avoid meeting them, if I can help it.
The door to the sweet shop is unlocked, though the lights are off and the sign is turned to the 'closed' side. Dad's sitting on the countertop, waiting for me.
"Shut the door." He says tiredly, and I do so.
"Are you okay?" I ask, genuinely worried as I head towards him.
He nods slowly. "Yeah. I'm just a little sleepy, that's all."
I hold out a hand, which he takes as he slides off the counter and onto his feet. "Shall we go, then?"
He lets go of my hand and gives me a light push towards the door to our accommodation. "You go, get some sleep. I'll be up in a moment."
"Make sure you do get some sleep, Daddy." I tease, heading across the shop floor anyway.
"I will, cheeky." I can hear the smile in his voice as I open the door and scurry up the stairs to the short hall, with different doors feeding off it; bathroom, kitchen, master bedroom, lounge, and my room. It used to be Maysilee's too, but now…
It's best to avoid thinking about that.
Still, that particular task is easier said than done. Her bed still sits against the wall opposite to mine, the blankets still ruffled from when she last pushed them off of her, slid out of bed. And Melody doesn't help. Every time I enter the room, she trills at me, as though to ask 'Where is she? Do you know?'
I ignore the pretty yellow songbird, heading to my wardrobe. It is just mine now, after all. Pulling out some fluffy red pyjamas, I change out of my dress and slip into my own bed, immediately turning to face the wall. If I can't see Maysilee's horribly empty bed, I can pretend she's still there until morning.
After my interview, I am whacked. Still, apparently, Victors aren't even granted the luxury of sleep. Wilhelm doesn't have time to get a word in before Delicia's ushering me out of the building, through a crowd of excited Capitol citizens- all vying to get a glimpse of my gorgeous self- and into a car. I just about manage to slide into the far seat before she crams herself in beside me, with Wilhelm taking the final seat in the back of the car.
"Victors party, I presume?" The driver asks. All I can see of him in the car mirror is a pair of crazily enormous sunglasses.
"Yes, Bruno." Delicia confirms in her prim-and-proper little way.
"Party?" I groan, just about managing to keep myself from slamming my head against the cool glass of the window. "I'm too tired for parties!"
"Curly." Wilhelm's voice says, low and warningly. I can't see him through my escort's big dress and ridiculously large wig, but I can tell he's probably glaring at me.
I don't say anything else. I remember my mentor's words from the hospital. He knows what he's doing in a world that I'm entirely new to. I should probably listen to his advice.
At the party, there are several random Capitol people who I'm trying my best to avoid, if I can help it. My plan beforehand was to stick with Wilhelm, but he's disappeared. Maybe he's hiding under the table? I'd check, but that would look really weird, and I'm not in the mood for attracting attention to myself.
I'll stay as short an amount of time as possible, and then leave. That's my plan.
"Hey," A voice from behind me makes me jump. I turn to find myself face to face (or rather, face to chest) with a face familiar only from the TV.
Chaff is two metres tall, and won the 45th Hunger Games. The Capitol tend to leave him alone, these days, since he refused to have his severed arm replaced with a prosthetic one, and Capitol audiences can't bare to see people without limbs walking around. Although it's fine to stick twenty four of them in an Arena to fight to the death, of course. Idiots.
"I got sent over here." He grumbles, nodding across the room. "Your mentor said you need some help."
Wilhelm is having an animated discussion with one of the winners from ages ago; Seeder, also from 11. He looks over, waves brightly, and then continues his conversation.
"I was planning to stick to Seeder like glue." Chaff mutters, so that only I can hear.
"Me too." I say, quickly adding, "Stick to Wilhelm, I mean, not Seeder. Why would I stick with someone I don't know?"
The tall, dark-skinned victor laughs. "I like you, kid."
"Good to know." I mutter, before remembering my manners and holding out a hand. If Delicia was hovering over my shoulder, she'd probably give a nod of approval right about now. In fact, I'm surprised she's not here. "Haymitch."
"I know who you are." He says, though he shakes my hand anyway. His grip is crazily strong, not that I'm surprised. I mean, this guy is enormous. "I'm Chaff. In case you didn't recognise me."
"Don't worry; I recognise you." I assure him.
He grins and looks around. "Come on. We need to introduce you to the other victors, and Wilhelm sure as heck isn't going to."
I look across the room. My mentor is still gossiping with Seeder, paying me no attention whatsoever. Fantastic mentor he is, eh?
Still, Chaff isn't looking at those two. He's looking at the cluster of far more terrifying-looking victors in the opposite direction. The only one who doesn't look remotely scary is Mags, and she's standing next to a guy from 7 so bulky that he more than makes up for that.
"I'm good for now." I hurriedly make up an excuse. "I'm… Tired! Yes, very, very tired."
"You can't go home yet." The victor from 11 tells me bluntly. "You have to stay at least two hours; they're the rules."
"Then I'll go… Sleep under the table?" I finish lamely.
He shakes his head and walks away, no doubt muttering about how weird I am.
"Great start, Abernathy." Maysilee comments from behind me.
I walk away, towards Wilhelm and Seeder, and hope she'll leave me alone. I know she won't, though. No, she's way too annoying for that.