Effie knows she shouldn't feel like this. Her job requires no emotion but excitement and anticipation. So why is she feeling?
Tributes shouldn't make her feel. Of the twenty-four names drawn, twenty-three fade from memory. The lone victor becomes a sort of celebrity in the Capitol. Someone to idolize, someone to fawn over, but certainly not someone to inspire emotion. Tributes shouldn't make her feel.
So why does she suddenly feel something like regret? She feels her hand flapping around in the big glass bowl that only has one paper in it. Ah. That's it.
She remembers the first time she met Katniss, seeing her volunteer for her sister. She never told anyone, but she thought it was incredibly brave: this girl, small and underfed, willingly going to her death to save her sister. Of course, it wasn't until later that she thought about the going-to-her-death part. That year, all that mattered was that a volunteer from her district – her district, the district that never has a volunteer – meant more attention for District Twelve (and for her).
But when she did think about it, she grudgingly admitted to herself that she had a little respect for the girl. Effie had never had siblings herself, but she doubted she would have the courage to volunteer for them. She never told anyone that either.
Finally, she knows she can't stall any longer. The cameras are rolling and the Capitol is watching, and she forces herself to snatch that lone piece of paper. She barely hears herself when she crosses to the microphone and reads out the name that everyone knew was coming. She's surprised to find that she really does feel regret. She regrets taking this girl away from a family that has already lost her once.
But she shouldn't feel like this. She shouldn't feel protective of this girl, but she does.
Unlike the escorts from other districts (she tries to ignore One, Two, and Four), Effie's never really believed that her tributes would come home. After all, most of the tributes she's given are half-starved children who are as scared of the Capitol as they are of their opponents.
But that year was different. She told herself she might actually have a pair of fighters. For once. And she did – they won and everything was great until the President announced on live television that the Victors were going back into the Games. And even though every person in Panem must be feeling the same thing, she couldn't help but think that this was for her tributes. Not just the two that came out of the Arena together, but their mentor, who was the real brains behind the operation.
Effie knows she'll never like him. Heaven forbid she actually becomes fond of that bad-mannered drunk that she's forced to work with every year. But still, she doesn't hate him. When he wants to be, he's actually pretty intelligent. He knows how tributes think, because he was one. He knows how to get her (their?) tributes out alive. And he does. The first time a single Hunger Games ever has two Victors and they're theirs (hers?).
She knows he deserved just as much credit as she did. But still, she was upset when he got a better response than she did at the Victor's Interview. She knows she's more popular than he'll ever be, so why did she hear more of "Haymitch Abernathy!" than her name?
Still, she has to admit that she doesn't dislike him as much as she used to. But she still doesn't like him.
The second bowl is harder. She doesn't have as much time to wave her hand around pretending to hunt for the slips of paper. And if she's honest with herself, she doesn't want it to be either of them. Not the man who has, of all things, grown on her. Not the boy who was always so polite, so charming. Neither of them. But the Capitol has to have their tributes, so she grabs one of the papers.
She's never really been sad or upset, so she refuses to believe the wetness threatening to spill onto her face. She rushes over to the microphone again and almost spits out the name to prevent herself from crying.
There's a hush in the square. No one' spoken since Katniss was called, but now it is dead silent. Everyone turns to look at the man the name belongs to. He barely has time to make a face for the girl when the boy volunteers.
Peeta. He's the first tribute Effie's ever really liked. Most of them are too terrified to talk to her, and Katniss had terrible manners. Not Peeta. No, she took to Peeta quicker than to any other tribute she's ever had.
She sighed along with the audience during his interview, even though the girl he confessed his love for was sullen and rude. It's the most exciting interview in the history of the Hunger Games, even she knows that. Of course, that doesn't stop Katniss from trying to kill the poor boy when they leave the stage.
It's a cruel irony that she's in exactly the same position that she was a year ago, with Katniss and Peeta on either side of her, pretending to be brave.
But she's not, she realizes. For all the ways these three people have changed since they went into the Games, she's changed more. Maybe it began when the two kids (stupid kids) thought they could defy the Capitol. Maybe it rubbed off on her, because she knows exactly what the Capitol would call these thoughts she's having. Treason. But really, is there anything right about sending these people back into an Arena that will never leave their nightmares?
She knows there's nothing she can do about it, but she wishes there was. Because despite all the stress they've put on her, and how hard they've made her life, she realizes that somehow she actually cares for these three people. They've been to hell and back (courtesy of the Capitol), and instead of being left in peace they're being sent back to the very place they've escaped from.
Effie knows she shouldn't be thinking these thoughts – treasonous thoughts – but she can't stop them from running through her mind as she stands on the stage. And on that stage, she makes a vow to herself. Even if no one else can even know, not even them, she'll protect these people. Not only the ones that will be taken away by hovercraft in a week – all of them.
Because even though she's probably the worst escort in the history of Panem (who actually grows fond of their tributes?), she's sort of proud of that title.