Madge will never get used to sand. She stands on the shores of District four, staring out appreciatively. The moon is low on the horizon. The water brushes against her scarred legs. The salt tickles her nose.
They offered to buff the scars from her legs. Madge couldn't even think of it. The scars are apart of her. The torture is apart of her. The war may be over for the country, but Madge knows it will never be over.
At the thought of war, terrible war, Madge's stomach revolts. A face flashes in her mind. Something in her shakes its head in protest at the sight.
Since she left him, Madge takes the train every few weeks. In Nine, the grain plays music he would have liked. In District Three, she sees the machines that he built. The war machines are being taken apart. She thinks he would like to see that. In Five, the plants remind her of those times the Seam's power would cut, leaving them to fumble in complete darkness. The trees in Seven. The grey fabric in Eight. The stars in Four. The flowers in Eleven.
She knows she couldn't stay with him. But she thinks of him everywhere she runs. She knows she made the right choice. He wouldn't want her anymore. She isn't the girl he used to know. She couldn't ask him to go backwards.
"I think I have to go."
Gale caught her trying to leave in the dead of night. Her bag was packed. A letter was clutched in her hand.
"No, you don't," he comforted.
She didn't want comfort. She didn't want anymore reasons to stay. She kept reminding herself of her reasons. It wasn't about her anymore. She had to protect him before he got stuck.
"If I stay, can you give me space?"
The answer was clear before he gives it. He didn't speak because he knew his response wouldn't keep her. His eyes found a knot in the wood floor. Later, he wished he hadn't looked down. It was one more second he didn't get to memorize her face.
"That's what I thought."
Gale stepped toward her. He only just got her back. He can't lose her again. He can't. Madge dodged his arms.
A gloved hand froze over the door handle.
"I'm not coming back."
She bolted before he could get another word in. Gale shouted. Madge pretended not to hear. His memory was better than any reality she could give him.
When Gale thought Madge was dead, he carried it with him. It burdened his shoulders. It lowered his chin. It tightened his jaw. It exhausted his eyes and took his smile. He felt heavy. He believed everything. He believed she was dead. He believed when they said it was normal to see her everywhere, normal to feel her in bed beside him, normal to drink himself to sleep.
Then she turned up. Her body was covered in scars. Her mind was even worse. And he got one night. One night to try and hold her again. But she slipped through him like wind.
Things got worse. He heard her voice in the dead of night. His hand searched for hers across the table. He monitored the trains to and from District Four. His dreams turned to nightmares. The air turned metallic.
Madge looks out at the horizon. The sun and the moon play tug of war in the sky. Gale once told her that they were the sun and moon. She was the moon, the only thing to brighten the darkness.
She turns. There is no excitement in her tone. After all, what good could they give her?
A hand extends itself in the darkness. A letter hangs from the fingertips.
"This came for you. It's marked urgent."
Madge takes it. Then, the world begins spinning. This is the letter she left at Gale's.
But hers aren't the only words on the page anymore. In blue pen, a chicken scratch handwriting comments on her sentences.
I'm never going to live up to the girl you used to know.
You don't have to. I love you. Nothing they did could change that.
I'm going to fail you.
You couldn't fail me if you tried.
I think I'm going to Four. I could build a home there.
I wish you would look around. You may realize that you finally are home.
Gale barely has the cap off of a new bottle of liquor. His door rattles. A fist pounds on the other side. For a moment, he thinks of ignoring it. But he drops the cork on the floor.
"Better be good."
A hand rakes itself through his hair. He pulls the door open.
Warmth. There is so much warmth. A body clings to his, and all he sees is blonde. His thoughts are loud. His heart is louder.
"Can you forgive me?"
The words are barely a whisper.
"I just kept finding you everywhere I went."
Gale doesn't answer.
Instead, he holds her and never lets her go.