So as I said, this will be a sort of continuation of Sacrifice. Just in case you haven't read it on my page or don't want to, I'm not sure if it's necessary for this plotline… okay, it kind of is. I'll just post it in the chapter before this. Anyway, for those of you who were waiting forever, I have this:
Okay, so I am sooooooooo sorry for not getting this out sooner. My laptop broke literally days after posting Sacrifice. So this has actually just been sitting in my documents. Luckily, it was only the screen that was broken, otherwise I would've lost this. Sorry again for abandoning Staying Alive, but a new chapter is up if you would have mercy on me and read it. I understand your frustration and I'm so sorry.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Hunger Games… Sorry!
Rory comes home today.
We wait at the train station, wrapped in threadbare coats and hole ridden scarfs. I grip Prim's hand like it is my lifeline and my mother does the same.
I wish I could say that today will be happiest moment of our lives, that there will be no sorrow or tears, but that would be a lie. Rory's return feels bittersweet and its burning my senses. I try to distinguish between the grief and the happiness, but I only find a confusing mixture. They announced the winner on national television. The shocked look on Rory's face made my heart break from the pain, the loss.
Primrose squeezes my hand tighter. She's staring at the screen, tears smearing her pinks cheeks. My mother has spaced out, closing her eyes and cradling her head in her hands. She couldn't handle it, still can't. She broke down as soon as she realized what Madge was going to do. She dove for the safety of her comatose state, ignoring everything and everyone around her.
I want to say that I held it together. That my cheeks aren't wet from crying or my eyes aren't puffy from tears. I want to say that I remained strong for my sister.
But I didn't.
Because Madge is my friend. More than that, she is a symbol to all. She is strong and courageous and fearless. She just sacrificed herself for another. I can't utter a word, though my lips move to say something, anything, I can't.
I don't even know how I feel about it.
How can I say that I'm grateful that Rory made it through when Madge suffered such a horrific death? She experienced so much pain until the very end. I can't say that I wish it didn't happen. I wanted Rory to come home. Yet, I still possess a sense of regret and grief and sadness, and if you asked me right now, who I would pick to come home, I wouldn't know.
I wanted them both to.
How do you choose between two people that you care about?
Even the most coldblooded person broke down into tears. Ever since the final eight, viewings have been mandatory in the square. It is absolutely silent. The only noise being the muffled sobs and heavy breathing coming from the crowd.
The camera leaves Madge's still body. She doesn't look like she is dead. It is as if she is sleeping. A peaceful smile is planted on her beautiful face and her jacket it covering the wound. It makes it seem as if she is harm free, simply slumbering.
But I know different and that knowledge brings a new wave of tears on.
I want to turn around and see Gale. I want to discover his reaction. I want to know if I can help him. He visited Madge before she left for the Games, but he won't tell about tell me about anything they said. I know it's something big because Gale rarely keeps anything from me.
Rory's face appears on the screen. A loud boom sounds in the distance, indicating Madge's demise. Cato's canon has already gone off.
When Madge murdered Cato, a boom echoed throughout the forest. Rory froze and stared straight ahead.
He didn't know who it was for.
Madge or Cato?
The logical choice, to anyone, was that it would have been Madge, but Rory held hope.
As the rumble of the last shot dies off, he just stands there. He doesn't move from the cave he has been hiding in. It is difficult to see his face in the night and I squint, peering through my blurry and tear filled eyes.
When the Capitol does something to the lighting and the screen, I am finally able to examine his expression.
He is numb.
As long moment of quiet, that not even the Capitol announcers interrupt, stretches out and the realization dawns on him. He sucks in a deep breath.
"Madge!" he screams. I hold back a sob as Prim buries her head in my shoulder.
He sprints out of the cave and into the night. He looks frantically around, as if seeing her might prove that the canon was a lie. That she is actually alive and well, simply out collecting food like that fateful day not so long ago. He fists his hair and the desperate tears in his eyes are enough to scar anyone for life.
When the hovercraft comes to pick him up, he refuses to grab onto the ladder. He is hysterical with grief. I can only hear sobs and what sounds like Madge's name come from his mouth.
Two men are lowered down and they have to fight Rory. They have to grab him roughly by both arms and try to force him onto the ladder, but Rory has grown strong and I see the damage he inflicts as he struggles against the two large men.
I'm surprised they don't cut off us from viewing such rebellious and uncooperative behavior, but I don't comment.
Mostly because I can't even speak right now.
Finally they manage to lock him onto the ladder and Rory becomes frozen in place.
The last thing anyone sees before the Panem seal and anthem comes on, is the broken and terrified expression upon his face as the hovercrafts lifts him away.
I am separated from Gale. He doesn't even glance at me as I peer over at him. He has his hunter's jacket on. I wore mine today, though it is far too large, it is all I have. It brings me an ounce of comfort through the pain.
I can hear the rustle of the crowd behind us as they shift and murmur. The mood might have been celebratory under different circumstances. Parcels and money and food will be sent in soon. We will prosper for a while, since Rory is our winner, but it seems like something so selfish to be thankful for, when all of our hearts are breaking.
Madge flashes through all our minds, though no one dares to speak her name.
The mayor stands with us all. His posture is straight and defined, his suit is flawless and expensive, but his expression… it is broken and lost. Madge's mother… well, they say she doesn't have too much time left. Her daughter's death broke her heart and she was barely hanging on as it was. Now she is spiraling.
I sigh and bite the inside of my cheek.
The rumble of the train vibrates the ground. As it grows closer, so do the vibrations. It seems as if everyone is holding their breath, I know I am. My eyes flick over to Gale, and though his face is emotionless, his eyes tell a different story.
Turmoil. So much turmoil. They switch from happiness to sorrow with every blink. I want to go comfort him, but not only do I not know how to, but I don't want to embarrass him. There's almost nothing more important to Gale than his pride. Maybe family and a few choice friends, but other than that, nothing.
I tear my eyes away as the train slows into the station. Halting ever so slowly, keeping us all in suspense. It finally stops, but not before my hearts starts beating erratically.
Then everything is almost in slow motion as a short twelve year old boy, broken and lost, steps off the train. He is barely touching the ground before Gale is engulfing him in a tight, brotherly hug. The rest of the family joins in, and though I want to participate, I know it is not my place.
It takes a few minutes of motionless silence before they start backing away and the crowd behind me goes into a restless murmur. I shift from foot to foot, not to keep warm, but to try and rid myself of the tense that has suddenly taken over everyone. Rory, he does not look like a child anymore, but really, after everything, why would he? Still, it startles me to see him like this in person. His family does not back away, but they eye him sadly, as if he is a broken toy. Though Gale just stares at him as if he does not know what to say.
The mayor strides forward confidently, though I can see by his posture that he is anything but. He sticks out his hand stiffly, grasping Rory's. Rory shakes his hand with a guilty face as if he is expecting to be scolded. It is more than that though. It is if he wants to be reprimanded. He wants to be told that what happened is not right and should not be praised, but no one is going to tell him that.
After the uncomfortable handshake, the mayor turns to stare unseeingly at the crowd.
"Ladies and gentleman, District Twelve's seventy-fourth Hunger Game's victor, Rory Hawthorne!" The mayor's enthusiasm actually sounds believable, but the tears forming at the corners of his eyes make me believe differently.
The crowd claps and cheers like they should, even if it is a little less exuberant than it should be. It goes on for a full five minutes before Rory steps forward, an almost livid expression on his grim face.
"Stop!" he commands. Almost immediately, every person is silenced and still. "Just stop!" Hazel, his mother, steps forward and places a hand on Rory's shoulder. He shrugs it off with an angry jerk of his shoulder. "I'm not the victor!"
"Rory-" Gale starts, but he is cut off by a wave of a hand from his brother.
"What did I do? Really, what did I do that was so great? I hid. I didn't fight some incredible battle. I barely suffered. I sat and waited. I did nothing. It was all her. She was the one who did so much! And everyone just wants to forget her as if it were nothing. Well, I made a promise to her. No one will ever forget her, not if I have something to do with it." It is silent save for the sound of Rory's desperate voice ringing in my ears. No one dares look away. Rory takes a deep breath. "So, I give to you, District Twelve's real victor, Madge Undersee," Rory declares with a puff of his chest.
There is a steely, wise glint in his eyes as he raises three fingers from his left hand and gently places them on his lips. Once there, he closes his eyes for half a second before pulling them away and holding them up in a salute.
It takes me only a moment before I follow his lead. I don't even realize I'm doing it until my hand is already up in the air. Though I want to cry, I stay strong. I squeeze Prim's hand as she copies Rory and me.
One by one, every person in District Twelve mimics our movements, some with tears and others with hardened faces.
The mayor looks on, not participating. We all stay quiet until the mayor finally does the unthinkable.
He raises his fingers to his mouth and lifts them away, holding them up. His voice is quiet and cold and sturdy, but a single tear makes it way down his cheek as he speaks, his words lingering in the air as he stares head on into a camera.
A biggggg twist in the next chapter…