Haunted: River Seymour
Haunted by Evanescence
Long lost words whisper slowly to me
Still can't find what keeps me here
When all this time I've been so hollow inside,
I know you're still there...
I apologize for the long chapter but it is necessary to end this SYOT. This chapter is a bit edgier for the Teen Rating for language and mature situations- you have been warned!
Disclaimer: I don't own the Hunger Games
River Seymour (16) District 4 Victor of the 99th Annual Hunger Games
I let my eyes flutter, my eyelashes brush up against my cheek and slowly my eyes adjust to the bright light that stab like knives. I find myself lying on a hospital bed, white sheets with small lacing at the ends that brush up against my fingertips. The room is an eerie white, cold as ice. The ceiling is dotted in tiny splotches of beige that mix and blend together making my head spin. I glance down to see only a white cotton sheet covering my body, the tubes that poke and prod into my veins. I bring my arm to my line of sight and gasp; there no longer are the marks and bruises that have been imprinted on me. My fingers trace over the smooth yet tanned skin, soft as angel wings. They have erased my battle wounds, my memories of training and fighting. Gone. My eyes wander to my chest which has been enhanced significantly, round and full. I begin to scoot myself up to see my lower body when a sharp pain runs up my abdomen and I wince. I inch my gown towards the start of my rib bones, no longer visible as they were in the Games; my eyes fill with tears as my hand runs diagonally across the stitched and faded red line where Hudson threw the axe at me. His anger, determination hitting me full force as he charged towards me. I did not win, I brought my hand out, to block his knife and he just flew back and the last cannon sounded. Never had I been so humiliated and belittled, I was going to die and instead they saved me. I was supposed to win the right way, with the last bit of adrenaline pulsing every inch of my sore and bruised body. With my throwing knife hitting him in the heart, forever ending his fight to get home. That was supposed to happen, and yet they take that away from me too. I didn't win, I failed. I didn't win because they toke who I was, they toke this bitter and angry teenage girl and reaped her with an amazing guy who loved me for me, and then they dimmed his light leaving me in the dark. I am no longer this girl, but vacant and merciless. I am a killer. I killed because I was trained to. I killed because it led me to believe that winning the Games would empower me to shine through Raine, but of course, Raine always wins. I did not kill Hudson. I did not win. They merely spared me, and for what? What will they do with me?
Through bitter tears I turn my head to the large glassy window in which Cameo stands, he smiles and waves. His messy dark hair falls into his green eyes as he comes around to the large oak door. It creaks softly as he walks in, his head low and footsteps short and quick. He comes around to my right side and sits carefully next to me, I feel him inhale and exhale slowly, careful not to strain my healing wound. He pats my hand and looks into my dull, lifeless eyes.
"You did it River." He laughs and whispers, "You won." I shake my head and turn away, letting the tears cloud my Capitol enhanced vision. "You won, River. You made it out."
"I didn't win. This isn't the way I wanted to come out, Cameo. I was supposed to kill Hudson, not the Gamemakers. I was supposed to feel happy and relieved to have finally achieved something my sister could not." He sighs and brings himself to the far end of the bed. "I failed. Not only did I fail myself but I-I failed Leon," I choke feeling the deep pang of his memory suppress me and explode into a million little pieces.
"Leon would be happy for you. He would've sacrificed himself in the end if he knew you would get out of the Arena."
"He was stupid like that… wasting his life for mine."
"No he wasn't River. He loved you with every ounce of his body; he would've taken a bullet for you."
"Yeah, he took Madeline's fucking poisoned arrow." The memories flash through my head, his hand clinging onto mine as he took his last breaths. The way he caressed my cheek as he brought his lips to mine, him kissing me until the poison had reached his heart. His light slowly fading and dimming, forever dark. How could he do that? I was supposed to get hit with the arrow, I was supposed to die. Not him, not sacrificing himself for me. "Leon was supposed to worry for himself, not me."
"Don't you think that was a good thing? He saved you, you're still breathing and your heart still beats."
"I am not living. Whenever I close my eyes I see their faces. Every. Single. Time. How is seeing them in the back of my mind living!?" My voice rises, it cracking as the tears run down my pretty new face, "This isn't me. Look at me, they toke everything, my scars, my state of mind, Leon…" The words pour from my mouth are incoherent, I cannot breathe, I will never be able to breathe. "I loved him! I love Leon Finlend and he will never hear it because he's dead!" I thrash and scream, my throat stinging and burning with every breath I steal from the ones I killed, the ones that died in that Arena. Peacekeepers barge through the door and shove Cameo out of the way as they inject me with a clear oily liquid; my vision darkens, slowly fades and I feel myself floating. Floating far, far away from here and into a deep dark abyss: oblivion.
I open my eyes for the second time and this time the room is darker, only a bright and blinding light shines over me. Slowly my pupils adjust and around me are five people, all look young and… they're the Gamemakers. They saved me, I don't understand. What made me so special, just because they couldn't save Leon they saved me?
"Hello River," one Gamemaker states, she has long platinum blonde hair and icy blue eyes. "I'm Icelynne and I'm the Head Gamemaker. Do you want to know why we saved you?"
"Yes," I choke. She nods her head and meets me eye to eye. "I just want to know why you killed Hudson, I was supposed to die."
"President Echo has better plans for you. She's inviting you and us to a dinner tomorrow night, tonight you have your interview with Izzy over there," she says pointing to Izzy who waves and giggles.
"What does she want from me?" The Gamemakers shake their heads.
"Even we don't know, I guess that's why we're going to her house," a handsome Gamemaker says, wrapping his arms around Icelynne. She smiles and returns her gaze to me. "This is the first time she's done this; the only time in fact it's ever happened. Wait." Her eyes brighten and she looks at her colleagues. "President Echo's father had a tribute in mind and had him win, what was his name… Ah! Reed Linden, from District 7. That's about all I know, the Presidents like to have their personal lives private." My body cringes and my heart quickens. What could she possibly want with me…
"You guys will have to leave, River needs to get ready for her interview," says Opal my stylist. Soon her two assistants file into the room, I haven't bothered to learn their names and I don't care to.
"Yes, of course. See you later, River." They quickly leave and Izzy waves at me one last time, the door closes with a thud and my prep team haves me up from the bed and standing. Minutes stretch and compress, time slows and quickens as they fit me into a sea green dress incrusted in tiny aquamarine jewels, the dress accents my curves and ends at mid thigh. I wear stiletto heels that are probably an inch to high for me and thinking of walking across the stage in these make me nauseous. Opal places a mirror in front of me and smiles, proud of her work. I stare at this girl who no longer is me, I twirl a piece of my chestnut brown in between my fingers, no longer grizzled and damaged by endless hours in the water. I run a hand over the baby smooth skin that has no imperfections, my battle wounds forever gone. My fingernails perfectly manicured and not bitten to the stub, not covered in dirt and grime. My lips supple and pink, not cracked and bloody. The only thing unchanged are my eyes, still an emerald green, shining yet vacant.
"Those are the only things we didn't change, hasn't anyone ever told you how beautiful your eyes are," Opal murmurs moving pieces of my hair back for her to curl. The lump in my throat thickens and bulges. Tears threaten to escape and show my fears, my failures but I will not let them see how damaged I am. I inhale and plaster a smile to my face, pretending that I am the happiest person in the world for winning and being declared Victor. The title Victor no longer means anything to me; it merely means child killer, forever a show piece to the Capitol. This is not me; I will never be me again…
The deafening crowd that screams my name sounds like the cannon for Leon, so distinct from the others. His cannon was the loudest, the most traumatizing, mind destroying. His cannon let me know of his heart no longer beating, his mind slipped away, that cannon represented the change that took inside me, the evil that I had done, and was going to do to win. Never had I imagined of such a fate, to be changed to a totally different side of the Capitol for Leon. Never. I had liked the Capitol for their generosity to the Victors, but in reality the Victors are the ones that pay a heftier price, they want their lives back. To go back and unwish of being reaped, but what about the ones that volunteer like me? Do they realize the price of winning, my state of mind altercated by the dead, of the one that I caused to be there. Is there some just like me, maybe Cameo? Do they realize what they volunteer for?
"River Seymour. How is it being Victor?"
Ah well sense you asked, terrible, miserable, not worth it. "It's great." I plaster a grin on my face as the crowd roars again. I am just the biggest fish in the boat, the rest who are small and helpless do not matter, only the largest and strongest gets the recognition.
"I bet. Are you excited for the Victory Tour, going to the different Districts?" Izzy giggles and relaxes into her chair.
To be honest I forgot about the Victory Tour, I forgot that they will escort me to fancy parties where I will meet the people who supposedly sponsored Leon and me when in reality they only sponsored him. I will meet the families of the tributes who no longer walk this Earth. To deepen their guilt and pain, to see my face is looking at their own dead child's. "Of course." I plaster that grin to my face and I wish for the love of all of Panem to slap it off. To show my eyes, no longer full of life but full of pain and grief. To get back all of my scars, the ones that I earned from training and the Arena.
"What do you plan to do after everything?" I sit there and think of all the things I could say, to live happily and have my life full of rainbows and butterflies. What a bunch of crap, even I wouldn't believe what came out of my mouth.
"To live my life to the fullest and count my blessings." The crowd roars again and I settle back into my seat. There are no blessings, just sins that I have committed and are being worshipped for. My life will be empty, cold, vacant. My mind will always wander to the dead, the blood I caused to shed, the people I have broken.
"Let's watch your Games, River." The video starts with the reapings, me volunteering and waving, smiling so wide that the world will end. I could never smile like that again, even my eyes are vibrant and shinning with such intensity it hurts to even look. Leon's name is called and he runs up, a smile spreading across his face, his blonde hair falling into his ocean blue eyes. He looks me over and smiles, warmth rushes through me. Did he love me then, did he love me the night we meet? So many questions and never answers. I just stare, no longer looking at the others whose lives were cut short. I couldn't because they will come back to haunt me. The Chariots catch my eye next and both Leon and I are dressed in that pirate get up. My hair was up in a ponytail, streaks of seaweed dangled and accented my hair. My green eyes eccentric with smoky eye makeup, I was radiant. Leon was excited; I could feel his energy reaching out to me through the screen, taunting me. As the chariot moves, he keeps his eyes locked onto me. I never really noticed, I was caught up in the moment. He never really moves his eyes away from me, just when President Echo begins her speech. The next is the interviews, my dress moving like the waves back in 4 and the life in my eyes evident.
"I am River and I am a Seymour, but I wouldn't expect you to know that."
The line rings and distorts itself within my mind, the words hitting themselves against the walls of my skull. Everyone knows me now, but not who I truly am. Not the girl who was bitter and slashed at whoever would embarrass her. They just see this perfect girl whose love died before her eyes, a perfect love and survival story. The Capitol killed me. They shut out the girl Leon said he loved and threw her to the curb. They've changed me for what they think is the best. The Capitol didn't want a bitch of a Victor; they wanted some sweet and beautiful Barbie doll for everyone to gawk at, to show off like a fancy new car. I will not be remembered as the girl Leon loved, but as this fake pretty Victor.
The rest is a blur, the Games starting and me throwing knives into Harmony, her cannon sounding. The lightning bolts falling, the rain shooting like bullets. Days are fuzzy and don't connect together until the moment Koda and I are fighting to escape from the cliff's edge. Him clawing and biting at me, me kicking and screaming for Leon. After what I said to him, I was surprised to see him come for me with a cannon booming in the distance. His face lit in relief and body covered in dirt. I remember his body holding me, his muscles contracting as he ran, Koda screaming as he fell. Me telling him to never let me go, and him agreeing. That night as he nursed me back to health, him observing every scar, cut, imperfection on my body and saying that I was still beautiful. Even as he dragged the old damp rag across my face to wash away the dirt smudges and blood, he still cared even after I had told him all that terrible stuff. I gaze over the crowd awing and crying, some falling over in tears. They think they know what it was like… to lose him. I only I know the true pain he caused me to feel, as he pushed me aside and toke Madeline's arrow. My face was wild, distraught, angry as I grabbed the knife and threw it directly in between her eyes, the cannon sounding before she even hit the ground. Leon twitching and moaning as I held onto his hand and soothed him, the parachutes surrounding us containing the medication needed to neutralize the effects of the poison. He kissed me long and deep and told me he loved me, his eyes closed forever and the cannon sounded. Something inside me snapped. The dam that held all my feelings and thoughts gushed and spilled, drowning me. I no longer felt alive or determined to kill, I felt empty and angry. Angry that I couldn't have saved Leon, angry that I couldn't have killed Madeline when I noticed her strange tendencies, and how wrong I was about the Games. The Games changes people, never for the best. It kills the ones who make impacts on the ones they love, we're just pieces in their Games. They give the Capitol entertainment to mask their own evil, destruction, fear of being overpowered.
"The final day."
The screen flashes to the final battle at the Cornucopia, Dotti shooting an arrow into my leg. Watching helplessly as Dotti, Aden, and Hudson fight as I hide behind the steel walls of the horn. Aden bashing Dotti with his fists, indenting her skull. Hudson throwing his axe into Aden's stomach, him throwing the axe into my abdomen, I remember my mind was set then, I was going to die. Just as I held up my hand I wait for the invisible force to knock him back and kill him but instead there's my throwing knife and I threw it deep into his skull… wait. That isn't what happened?! The crowd cheers as they announce that I've won, that I killed Hudson. I didn't kill him, his cannon was the last thing I remember. I let the darkness take me and carry me away from there. What the hell?!
"River do you think mentoring tributes will be fun?"
"… I guess." I smile and they cheer. Typical… stupid Capitolites…
I walk into the President's Mansion in a low v-neck emerald green dress that curves and falls in strands like seaweed down my legs. With my heels clinking down the marble flooring I spot a long wooden table lavished with so much food I think I could die. All the food you could imagine is piled onto it and more arrives by the platters. I take my seat at the far end, careful to not let the ends of my dress snag onto the wooden legs of the table. Soon the Gamemakers file in and take their seats, to my left is the female Gamemaker who has raven black hair and blood red eyes. I turn my head to not let her eyes remind me of Leon's blood dripping on me and spot the male Gamemaker with brown hair and dark brown eyes who sits patiently as he quietly taps his fingers lightly on the porcelain plate. Izzy sits to his left and Icelynne and her boyfriend sit across from her. Left are three seats, weird I thought only President Echo was dining with us…
The grand doors slam open and President Echo, an older teen probably the same age as Cameo, and a cute little red headed girl walk in. President Echo wears a red dress that glimmers against the faint glow of the candles lit in the middle of the table. The boy who looks familiar wears a black dress shirt and pants and his hair is swept to the side, some falling into his dark mysterious eyes. The little girl wears a blue dress and flats, her red hair layered and straighten, reaching all the way down to her waist.
"Hello everyone. Welcome to my home." President Echo laughs and takes her place at the opposite end of the table, the two who walked in with her seat at her sides.
"My goodness! I haven't introduced you to my children!"
"You have kids," Icelynne blurts and quickly covers her mouth. President Echo smiles and her musical type laugh twinkles softly in the grand room.
"I like to keep my private life, well private. This is Joylena, my daughter," she waves her hand to the red headed girl who blushes and ducks her head down. "And this is my son, Calloway." She waves her hand to her right to the older boy. His name rings a bell, a very loud one too. I just can't put my finger on it… hmm it'll come to me later.
"River darling you look ravishing in that dress," President Echo coos as she walks over to me, her heels clicking with each step. She runs her cold and pale hand over my hair and I feel goose bumps, her friendly smile might say something but her eyes say otherwise. They glint with power and evil sending a chill down my spine. Ishudder and look back down to my feet. She sighs and heads back to her seat a sly smile spread across her lightly tanned face.
"Well River how it is being rich and famous, must be extraordinary," she says as she casually leans back into her chair, taking a long sip of champagne. The only thing that flashes through my mind is blood, runny and sticky dripping onto the dew that covers the plot surrounding the Cornucopia.
"It's fine…" Her eyes dance as she surveys me. I let her see the dark and dull expression my eyes reflect, letting her see the pain and suffering I will face for the rest of my life.
"Why River, hasn't anyone told you how beautiful your eyes are." Another pang of guilt and suffering ripples through me. She's doing this on purpose. She saw Leon and me, she saw my Games. "They're so green, much prettier than mine."
"River do you know why I had you live instead of Hudson? He was much stronger than you, even had his siblings to go home to."
"No, I don't. That's why I'm here," I let my face waver to show the raw emotion I feel, to let her see what she has done to me. She smirks and twirls a butcher knife in her hands, it gleams a blinding silver light. "I need to know why you saved me."
"Of course, but after we eat. Wouldn't want to let this food get cold would we?" I automatically nod my head, feeling my body slow as we feast. We eat in silence, only the clanks of the silverware echo. Time passes and my anxiety level gradually rises with each passing minute. It drowning me in the sea of my emotions, the predators of the sea climbing to power as the smaller and weaker ones are crushed, hidden.
"You are excused Gamemakers, I will speak to you in a bit. Joylena can you show them to the waiting room?" President Echo nods towards them and the little girl leads them to the grand doors from which we entered. "River, have you met my son."
"I don't believe so… "
"Mom, what are you doing," Calloway asks his face turning red as he stands facing his mother.
"He worked as a trainer. Ring a bell?" Then it clicks. He was that guy who toke Rose's dagger. He was kinda off… like not Capitol-esque.
"So you two met at training, just like me and my late husband…" She smirks and brings me closer to Calloway. In heels I'm about the same height as him. He smells piney like District 7, not the crazy Capitol musk and perfume I've smelled since I left that Arena.
"Mom don't do this," he whispers. He clenches his fists at his sides and I feel him grow tense. "Just let her go home."
"Calloway, this is why she's here with us. Remember what I told you," she asserts looking into my eyes. "River you will marry my son in two weeks." My breath hitches and I drop my head feeling the tears sting my tear ducts. Marriage?!
"I'm not letting you do this to her," he shouts. President Echo frowns and turns her attention to him. "You won't do what you did to Dad."
"The sad thing about this Calloway is that I will. I want my son married to a Victor and I want to be a grandmother. You two would make the most beautiful babies." Her words make me want to throw up all over her pretty dress and shoes. This woman has just made my life a million times worse.
"I don't want to get married." The words that come from my mouth are choked and hoarse. I clear my throat as she glazes her light green eyes over me, a sneer present on her pale face. "I just want to go home…"
"Mom I told you I'm never getting married or having kids, so don't do this." Calloway's eyes close and he sits in his chair bringing his hand to his face.
"If you don't go through with this marriage than you could watch as I kill River, and don't worry, it'll be slow and painful… just like your father's…" Calloway flinches and looks up to me, his eyes wet with tears. "Propose to her. Now." He opens his mouth but no words come out. He only mouths 'sorry'.
"Here," she hisses shoving a small black box into his hands. He gives her a sad look and his eyes turn dark. He brings himself to one knee and looks into my eyes. He slowly opens the box to reveal a beautiful diamond ring with a platinum band that's encrusted with small aquamarine jewels.
"River Seymour, will you marry me," he mumbles catching a glimpse at his mother who smiles and nods at me to respond. Chills run down my spine as I glance down to meet his dark and pained eyes.
"Yes…" He carefully places the ring on my ring finger. I hold my hand up to the light and watch as the jewels project different shapes and shades of color. Calloway gets back on his feet and walks away just as he opens the door he turns around and looks straight at me.
"I apologize for my mother being such a bitch." He leaves carefully closing the door, his footsteps fading. I turn to President Echo who mutters and looks up and smiles at me.
"You're excused, you'll be sleeping in Calloway's room tonight and tomorrow I'm taking you to get fit for wedding dresses."
"Yes… President Echo."
"Call me Seraphina… we're family now." She grins and she escorts me to the grand stairs that led to the bedrooms. "Last door to the right," she whispers. Her heels click and she returns to the dining room area to talk to the Gamemakers. I sigh and look at the long stretch of the hallway that leads me to my new bedroom and trudge, my feet dragging across the white marble flooring. As I walk I notice several family portraits, some with the little girl who giggles and laughs in most and smiling wide with her brother. The ones with Calloway are never smiling, just the same mysterious look he shows that I've seen except for one that shows him laughing and looking up to a young man who looks just like him. All of his younger pictures are happy and he's always smiling. He actually doesn't have that bad of a smile…
"Hi River." I turn around to see Joylena holding a pink stuffed rabbit and a coloring book. She giggles as I crouch down to meet her ocean blue eyes that remind me so much of home. "Are you going to marry my brother?"
My eyes widen as I look deeper into her eyes, so young… yet she has this aura about her. She smiles for a second and the corners of her lips turn downward, taking me by the hand she leads me to her room. "I have to…"
"My Mommy said you had to, right? I mean my brother hasn't even taken you out on a date." Joylena takes a seat on her pink lacey bed covered in different colored stuffed animals and pats the empty space next to her. "You can sit here… if you want."
"Sure. Thanks." I sit beside her; she bites her lip and turns towards me. "If you want to know anything about anything you can ask me."
"Okay… ummm… do you have any other siblings?" She lowers and shakes her head. "Okay, what's your favorite color?" She looks up and smiles, her eyes bright. She giggles as she holds up a small ragged pink stuffed rabbit.
"Pink! This is Mr. Fluffy." She hands me the rabbit and she giggles as I hold it as if it were a newborn. "I hold him like that too!"
I laugh, feeling my worries melt as I settle with this bubbly little girl. "Who gave this to you?"
"My brother. He went all over Panem, and got me some other stuff," she shrugs. I carefully place the rabbit in between us, its legs dangle over the bedding. "He's taught me a lot about a lot of things. Like how the Hunger Games is and my Dad…"
"What did he say about the Hunger Games," I ask, feeling my voice rise. Calloway seems different from most Capitol people, especially for a President's son…
"He said that they're evil and that when I get bigger," she whispers looking back and forth between me and the slightly ajar door just inches away, "we're going to take over Panem and get rid of the Games." My body goes rigid as she finishes crossing her arms across her flat chest.
"Isn't that dangerous. I mean I don't like them either but it… could backfire quickly like the Mockingjay Rebellion." Joylena nods and looks out the window which sits a small grey mockingjay. "You really think you two could do it?"
"Well yeah. You could help too, you'll be Calloway's wife and everything. Do you like the Hunger Games? My brother told me you and Districts 1 and 2 volunteered." My mind blanks as I think of the only Career who didn't volunteer. Leon. I grimace and look away from her gaze. "I'm sorry about Leon…I know you probably love him more than my brother…"
"It's fine. And after Leon's death I didn't like the Games…" I grumble. She nods and takes her small hand in mine. Her soft skin rubs against mine and it feels like District 4's seashells, smooth and gleaming. "I'll help."
"Really?! You'd help me and Calloway?"
"You pinky promise," she pouts sticking out a small pale pinky in front of me. I smile as our two pinkies knot up.
"Yay! Well you should go meet my brother. He'll want to talk to you."
"Yeah… okay. What do you think of him?"
"He's- He's the best brother in the world," she chimes, it filling the room. She grins and takes out a puzzle from the white bookshelf from her bed. "Since you're going to marry my brother can you be my sister? I never had one…"
I frown as I see her pleading eyes and her lip quiver. Seeing how Raine doesn't exactly like me as of now and now more since I'm marrying the President's son I guess it couldn't hurt to befriend this cute little girl. "Of course."
Joylena clamps onto me so tight I think I'll suffocate. "Thanks River. I know you don't exactly like the idea of staying here instead of going to 4…"
"It's okay. I-I just have to listen for now and once you're bigger we can get rid of the Hunger Games."
"Right," she exclaims. "My brother's room is the last door to the right." I nod and stand up. Her blue dress brushes up against my arm and I smile gazing down as her eyes furrow trying to figure out the twenty piece puzzle that is supposed to make a butterfly.
I quietly shut the wooden white door which creaks softly. Walking carefully down the hall, trying not to make my heels shriek as they land on the glossy marble floor I spot a strange sight. At the end of the hallway there is a sleek black door, standing out very much from the white décor. His door is open and piling the entrance is a lot of luggage and items. I raise my eyebrows as I stand in front of all of it to see Calloway dragging in all the bags.
"Stupid bags…" he mutters throwing a blue bag up against his closet door. He groans as he lands on his bed. I rasp on the door frame and his head snaps back to me. I awkwardly smile and he just stares at me, his dark brown eyes piercing me. I avoid his gaze and walk past the piled bags.
"I-I have to stay here."
"I noticed." He mumbles waving his hand to the mounds of bags at my feet. "Where the hell I am going to put all this?!"
"I'm sure I don't need all of this," I squeak. He shakes his head. "I can just-"
"No, I'll find space for all this. Just sit over there," he says pointing to a cherry oak chair a couple feet from him. I nod and sit observing his large room. It's painted a dark brown and all of the furniture is made of cherry oak, I inhale the smell of his piney cologne, smelling nothing like ocean mist or fish like in District 4…
"Doesn't smell like rotting fish and ocean, right? Your face told me so," he says as he puts away Capitol bathroom products in his bathroom which connects directly to his room. Back in District 4 all four of us had to share one bathroom. Lucky…
"You remind me of District 7, you like the forest that much," I inquiry carefully noting his reaction. He smiles for a second and then frowns. "Your father must be Reed Linden from 7." He turns around and nods slowly picking up another bag.
"He was the Victor of the 78th Hunger Games and he had only won to marry my mother. It was rigged, just like yours. He didn't even kill the last person," he exasperates dropping himself on his king sized bed. "An invisible force killed the girl from 2 but the Gamemakers disguised it as my father throwing an axe into her skull. They photoshopped it, just like you and Hudson."
"How did you know about that? You sat here and watched it, didn't you," I exclaim pointing to the large flat screen TV in front of his large bed. He shakes his head.
"I snuck into the Control Room where the Gamemakers were at, I saw the real thing. That's when I suspected what my mother was going to do to you. Just like what happened to him. My mother has been pestering me to settle down, have kids but I never wanted that. I want to have my kid in a world of peace, not under my mother's rule." My jaw drops as I process what I've learned about my… fiancé within the couple hours I've met him. One, he's a rebel. Two, he loves Joylena a lot. Three, he defies his mother every chance he gets. Four, his mother killed his father. Five, he's broken… like me.
"Your mother killed your father?" He sighs and looks up from his lap staring into my dull eyes. "S-She said-"
"Yes. She'll say otherwise around her committee but to everyone she'll give a sob story of his illness," he says emphasizing 'illness'. "I actually saw her do it; I was only fifteen at the time, that's when my father's words really took effect."
"She knows that I hate seeing people get hurt, if she feels like it she'll make me watch her torture and sometimes murder an opponent of hers. She'll knock me out and tie me up while Joylena sleeps. I watch as they scream and beg for mercy, their screams haunt me, they scream for me to help them but I can't move. That's why I had to accept that you would be my wife. I can't stand to see someone in pain, suffer," he rambles. I stand and walk over to him gripping onto the headboard of his bed, his knuckles bone white. "Do you regret volunteering for the Games? Do you regret killing Harmony?"
I let his words sink in as he turns angrier, yet sadness fills his eyes. "Yes. Every second since Leon…" His shoulders relax and he slouches. He rubs his eyes and lays his head on a pillow that looks more expensive than my entire room back in 4. "I didn't see what the true cost of winning was…"
"No one does," he mumbles as he turns to his side. "They don't see what they have to live with. They become slaves to the darkness, traumatized by the dead even if they are sadistic, being my mother's pets…"
A loud yawn bubbles from my lips and I quickly cover my mouth. He looks up and laughs. "Long day?"
"You couldn't imagine."
"I'll sleep on the couch, you take the bed."
"No, I couldn-"
"Just take the bed. The couch is as comfy." He heads over to his drawers and pulls out red shorts. "I'll just change first."
I nod and he hurries to the door and loudly shuts it. I sit on his bed and wait. Its fabric reminds me of the bed I slept in at the Tribute Building. This material is probably made with the finest cotton from District 11 and carefully made in District 8. I smile as I avert my gaze to a picture frame with a small boy and a teen probably eighteen or so swinging the boy high into the air. The small boy smiles and his face is lit bright by the sun but also love. I trace my fingers over the next couple of frames showing the same two people eating ice cream, reading a book, and finally one of the small boy hugging the teen. My eyes land at a small brown frame with Calloway probably fifteen carrying a newborn with tufts of fiery red hair. In the picture he is smiling but the glint in his eye screams 'help' and 'save me'. The same look that he had as his mother threatened him…
"Those are all me, this one," he says pointing to the older teen, "this is my father." As I somewhat expected, Calloway and his father look identical. Even as a teen, they could've been twins. "We had great times together…"
"I bet. My parents forgot about me…" He gives me a reassuring smile and heads to the couch. He yawns as he stretches his built body across the black glossed sofa, his legs reaching the arm of the sofa. "Goodnight… Calloway."
I lean over the edge of the bed and pull down the cord to the lamp. The room turns pitch black, reminding me of the nights in the Arena, cold and chilling. Moon rays dart through the curtain hitting a small globe of different colors casting gems of colors to swell and fill the room. I adjust my body to its side and close my eyes to see the dead with their crooked faces waving back at me, waiting for me to join with me in an eternity in hell, but who am I to say… I'm living a Victor's life…
2 weeks later…
"With the power invested in me, by the Capitol. I pronounce you River Seanne Seymour and Calloway Ryker Echo man and wife. You may now kiss the bride." Calloway brings his lips to mine lovingly since Seraphina decided to bring every TV station in Panem to our wedding. It's all fake, Seraphina, these guests, even this celebration. I don't love Calloway, I like him, but it's not the same. He doesn't kiss me the way Leon did as he died, Leon's kiss was like a million fireworks going off all at once, Calloway's aren't as strong. Everytime I see Calloway, I see Leon. Him smiling and laughing as I did something wrong, or his eyes staring into mine. It's not right, she knows how much Leon's death affected me, she hears my screams at night as Calloway hushes me. She is not a human, but a monster controlled by power…
"Look who finally gets everything they want, fame, money, and a handsome husband." I turn my head to see Raine, her face red and eyes narrowed. She sneers as she eyes Calloway socializing with some guests. "Everyone at home has been talking about you, 'Oh your River's sister!' and 'You're not as beautiful and successful as River!'"
"You think I like this! I've been going through hell; You have no idea how bad it is," I hiss. She smiles and nods. "Are you even listening to me?!"
"No. Just checking out your husband. You better watch out River, I'll steal him just like I stole your diary a couple years ago." She turns her back and walks away. "Good Riddance River. I'll become an even better Victor then you will ever mount up to." My blood boils as I watch her disappear among the sea of people who dance away to Capitol pop trash music, not even close to the beauty of Leon's voice. I drop my head and let the memories of him cloud my mind, will it ever end? Their faces, their memories long forgotten?
"You have until the announcement of the Quarter Quell to become pregnant." I snap my head up to Seraphina in front of me. Her face is expressionless and her eyes are dark and narrowed. "You know what will happen if you don't comply with my rules River." She turns and trots off to meet up with her committee at an exclusive table in the far back of the room. I exhale and sit myself down at an abandoned table and watch as everyone else dances and has fun. I lean over the table, placing my hand on my cheek.
"Hey." I gaze over my husband smiling and laughing. My eyebrows rise as I stare at him laughing still and then he burps, quite loudly. He slings his arm around me and kisses my cheek. So unlike him… "River lets go back to the house mkay. I have a surprise for you… want to know what it is," he whispers bringing his lips to my ear. "Me."
"Are you drunk?!"
I glance over to Seraphina who holds up a bottle filled with white tablets and winks, I snap my head to the clear goblet he lazily holds to see two tablets dissolving in water.
"Damn it. Calloway your mother got you drunk."
"Hmm I guess she did." He grabs my hand and leads me to the grand doors. "Let's go home. It'll just be you and me," he says wiggling his eyebrows and bringing his body closer to mine. I shake my head as he escorts me outside the Capitol building. "Please River," he pleads. He pouts and widens his eyes which dilate his pupils. I can't help to laugh at his childish charm so I just nod and let him guide me. This is definitely not the serious and rebellious Calloway I know, but a drunk and childish one, forgotten from the loss of his father. I sigh and take his hand in mine as we head towards the luxurious mansion not far from here. He hums and steps in beat as we walk; a pang of misery hits me again. Leon would do that all the time…
"River you are so beautiful. I'm glad to have you as my wife." He laughs as he picks me up and carries me in with my arms wrapped around his neck. He jogs up the stairs, two at a time as he runs into our room. He throws me down on the bed and starts to tickle me. I start to giggle as his fingers creep up to my stomach and back down to my feet.
"Calloway! Stop," I exclaim as he hovers above me with a sly smile spread across his face. He brings his arms on the side of me and smiles looking into my eyes.
"You have the most beautiful eyes…" Another pang of hell chills my body, the corners of my mouth turn down and I shove him off me. He furrows his eyebrows as he watches me grimace and tears threatening to break me, I will not be broken, I will stand strong. "I'm so sorry River. I forgot ab-"
"It's okay. You're drunk."
Silence. I turn my head to see him softly snoring and carefully tucked into his bed sheets. I sigh as I head over to the couch and snuggle into the sheets that smell of hickory. They brush up against my fingertips, lighty kissing me. I groan and turn to my side and watch as Calloway's face twists in pain and he silently sobs, his misery piercing my heart and slowly seeping with emotion and pain I've tried myself to hold in for so long. Turning to the opposite direction I close my eyes and wave back to the dead that have greeted me since I've left the Arena…
6 months later…
I've started my Victory Tour and upon insistence from Seraphina, Calloway is coming with me. He objected but I urged him to, I really don't want to go through this alone you know. It's going to be hell twice over meeting the tribute's families, the ones that died for me to get out. Hardest districts to deal with our first District 8 because Harmony, District 7 for Hudson and last District 4 for Leon. We'll be going in descending order and last will be my home district. So yes, I have to go through twenty-three families, each mourning and suffering, still trying to recover from the loss of their child's only to look at mine in defeat. To see my face is to see their bloodied and mangled child's, the deaths that all of Panem saw and celebrated.
"Are you ready, River?" Calloway wears a sleek black suit with a matching tie. His hair is still the same, trimmed yet messy. He takes my hand and kisses my cheek, noting that cameras have arrived and are blocking our way into the stage of District 12.
As usual I saw Aura's and Ben's families each just shook my hand and nodded, their eyes vacant and dull. I notice a cute little boy with blonde hair and green eyes crying and whimpering, mumbling something to an older teen that looks like Aura.
"Where's Mama? Where's Mama?"
My breath hitches as I make the realization that Aura had a son, so young too. I stare back at the teen who picks him up and hushes him. Cooing him as the boy cries and screams for Aura. I excuse myself and run out of the room, my chest tightening and breathing heavy.
I spot Calloway leaning up against the doorframe outside of the Justice Building and he just stares at the bust streets of 12, the bleak and still somewhat in ruins 12. He stares at the Seam as skinny and malnourished children beg for food, and merchant kids stroll along the poverty stricken streets. I sigh as his eyes begin to water, his breath quickens as he watches a child collapse in the street. He runs and helps the little boy up, patting off the coal dust that coats the entire District.
"Are you okay?" The small boy shakes his head and begins to cry. His small and thin body shakes like the barren and leafless trees that cover the area. Calloway holds him and hushes him just like what he does to me when I wake up to the screams of the dead. "You know what will make you feel better? What about we go to the bakery and get you some pastries."
"Sure. It's no problem." The boy smiles and holds onto Calloway's hand and takes mine too. I smile as I watch Calloway's teeth gleam and shine as he smiles, a very welcoming and rare thing I wish he did more. He's mostly sullen and distant most of the time, but when he's around Joylena and younger kids he's so happy. He'd make a great Dad, even if he doesn't want them, he will once Seraphina threatens us considering we haven't taken the steps to make one.
"Yes can I have all of your loafs of bread and three cookies." The baker looks up stunned, his eyes widen and he nearly drops his tray full of small decorative pastries.
"S-Sure." The baker runs and begins to gather the food, his hands shaking and sweat beads fall from his bearded face. "Here you go sir."
"Here. Keep the tip." The baker bursts out in laughter. He shakes Calloway's hand and runs out the door.
"Here you go…"
"Timmy. My name is Timmy Higgins."
"Well here Timmy, here's two loafs for your family and a cookie." The boy giggles as Calloway hands him two warm loafs and a blue frosted cookie. "Can you do us a favor Timmy?"
"You see," Calloway says as he crouches down to meet the boy's Seam grey eyes, "My wife and I wouldn't be welcomed in your town for reasons I won't go into specifics in. So can you go and deliver these loafs to the other families here. It's been a harsh winter…"
"Of course! Thanks so much…" He blushes and grabs the large sack almost as tall as him.
"Thank you! Have a wonderful day," Timmy exclaims running towards the first house in the Seam he sees.
"That was awfully generous of you. Won't your mother be pissed?"
"No. She doesn't know my father left me and Joylena a lot of money that could probably feed the entire population of Panem for a year."
"Hmmm." I turn to see him fiddling with the end of his coat. "Well we still have eleven more Districts to go. Are you going to do that for every one?"
"Just the ones I feel like need it most. Everybody but the Career Districts," he shrugs taking my hand in his. "We better go before your escort gets mad."
"Right… Rigmond doesn't like to be late…"
Oh, here's your cookie." He hands me a cookie shaped exactly like a seashell and grabs his which is shaped as a leaf. "Here's to… being one step closer to a better life," he whispers clinking our cookies together.
As usual the Districts were poverty stricken and Calloway and I bought lots of food for them. Most were grateful, some were bitter about it but I understand. As expected District 8 was disastrous, Harmony's mother attacked me, clawing at my neck. Peacekeepers stunned her and asked me if I wanted to have her executed for attacking me since it's punishable by law. I told them no and walked out, not daring to look at Harmony's father who sulks and stares, no emotion present on his face. District 7 was harsh too, Hudson's siblings were crying the whole time and his oldest sister just stared at me with such intensity I nearly passed out. I met with Calloway's family in 7 too; they were exceptionally nice and welcoming. Calloway gave them an album full of pictures of Joylena and us, even giving them some cash which they nearly resented saying that his company was enough. We visited Calloway's father memorial mark in their backyard also. It was depressing really, his parents and siblings would be proud to see his son grow and become something worthy, nothing like the Capitol citizens. The rest was a blur, just hazy and fast. I tried not to think of it too much, just go through the motions, even at the extravagant parties all for me seemed fake and cliché. All congratulating me and bragging for sponsoring me, which was a lie considering Leon was the one who got all the gifts. Now we finally have arrived in 4 where I get to meet Leon's parents. I'm not sure how they'll react seeing as I got out and he died saving me. I walk in, my hands clammy and hair plastered to my face from the humidity of the area here. I spot his parents each with a personal agenda, haunting even.
"Congratulations River." Leon's mother shakes my hand and smiles. I stand paralyzed with shock, not one parent has congratulated me for killing their child, well indirectly I didn't kill most of them.
"You brought pride and honor to District 4, more than our son ever could." His father shakes my hand and grins. I begin to open my mouth and quickly close it, suddenly feeling the tears begin to sting and stab to be released.
"Leon would want you to have these things of his. We're making his room into a storage room." His mother pulls out from behind her a guitar and a black composition book overfilled with papers that are immensely scribbled on. "We know how much you loved Leon… and how much he loved you…"
"Thanks," I choke, my voice cracking as I take his belongings that smell like him. Like the ocean and musky cologne that clung to him even as he went into the Arena… and never returned from. I run my hand over the worn wood that makes up his most traumatizing weapon: his guitar. I cling onto his possessions as my life depended on it and run out, carrying the physical memory that he was even alive with me.
"River!" I snap my head back to see my parents waving, even with Raine beside them. I frown and walk over to them and sneer as they guide me to my house in the Victor's Village.
"Isn't River's gift to us just grand! Just wonderful," my mother coos as she pats my head. I groan as I stand in front of the house that I should be living in, but now that I've been through this I much rather be living in the Capitol.
"Shut up mother! I've always been the prettier and successful than River! I'll get us another house when I become Victor!"
"That's nice Raine you do that… so River wha-"
"SHUT UP! I'm leaving," I shout turning my heels back to the train. My father grabs my shoulder and spins me around.
"River why are you so upset?!"
"Well let's see…" I hiss. "For one you never paid attention to me and never gave me attention and when I begged for your attention you'd just ignore me more because Raine would do something worthy of your attention!" I bring both my hands to my chest, "What about me?! Did you forget I existed!?"
"River of course you exist!"
"Yeah, because I fucking won the Hunger Games. That's the only reason why you're even talking to me. Just take my fucking house and leave me alone…"
I storm away from them and run, run far away from their pleads for me to return. I won't waste my time anymore, not when I killed others that don't have any time. I pass by shops and the beach, schools and houses, and just run. The guitar bag slaps against my lower back and the composition book threatens to spill and take away Leon's precious words.
River! Wait!" I stop, dropping to my knees panting as Cameo comes up behind me and crouches down to pick me up. "In a rush now are we…"
"What do you want Cameo?! Don't you see I'm a mess right now," I exasperate bringing my hand to my face to cover my face from exposing my true emotions, my fears, my insecurities…
"I need to give you some things. I think it would be best on the train, in your room." He takes my hand and leads me to the steps of the train. He smiles as he walks into my room, freshly scented an ocean mist fragrance and the walls painted a seashell white.
"Nice décor, much like home…"
"Look River, I should've given this to you earlier but… he told me not to until now."
I raise my eyebrows and lean in closer to Cameo. "Who?"
"Leon. He told me his last wishes before the Arena after you fell asleep that night. Here," he says pulling out a shark tooth necklace, the one he wore in the Arena… "I snatched this off his body before they took him here." I trace my fingers over the tiny edges of the tooth that poke my skin, scratchy like sand. I run a finger through the black thread and orange and black beads that Leon wore, his lucky necklace he told me…
"He told me to give you this if you won. If you didn't then he told me to dispose of it and not to let the Capitol take it, but since you're alive…" He hands me a CD, it gleams a silver hue and written across it in messy boy handwriting…
'River Seanne Seymour. Haunted.'
My breath hitches and my chest tightens as I hold onto his CD, my hands shake as I run to the laptop I received as a wedding gift six months ago. I pop in the disc and turn up the speakers on high and wait for his voice to ring in my ears once again.
'Hello River. If you're listening to this first Cameo listened to me and gave this to you or you're not and this CD is forever lost. You just fell asleep in your room and I'm in mine now.'
He inhales and exhales slowly as he conjures what else to say. I feel my chest fill with what I feared. The emotions and fears bubble and spill over, slowly oozing as I continue to listen.
'I wrote a song, for you. I don't understand why Victors would be depressed and sad or whatever after wining, I would imagine you would be too. I originally dedicated this to the children lost to oblivion, but I changed my mind and dedicated it to you. Because, I love you River Seanne Seymour, more than you could imagine. I sang this to the Gamemakers and that's how I got that 11, because I told them that I wrote this for you… this song is called Haunt.'
"The computer in his room was equipped with an advanced music program that let him make his own song, one without a guitar…"
We'll make our agreements,
About when to meet,
And I'll leave you in the doorway,
The cold evening aches,
As it leaves in its wake,
All the memories left by the day,
And I'm questioning why,
As you look to the sky,
That it's cloudless up above our heads,
And thoughts come to mind,
that our short little lives,
Haven't left the path that they will tread,
They will tread
I'll come back to haunt you,
Memories will taunt you,
And I will try to love you,
It's not like I'm above you,
The wisdom we learn as our minds,
They do burn'll,
Entice the naivety in youth,
As adults will grow and maturity shows,
The terrifying rarity of truth,
As you turn to your mind,
And your thoughts they rewind,
To old happenings and things that are done,
You can't find what's passed,
Make that happiness last,
Seeing from those eyes what you become,
Well you become
I'll come back to haunt you,
Memories will taunt you,
And I will try to love you,
It's not like I'm above you,
I will see you there,
See you there,
See you there,
I'll come back to haunt,
Memories will taunt you,
And I will try to love you,
It's not like I'm above you…
The dam breaks and shatters into a million pieces as his voice ends. I heave and cry finally letting the tears fall and run down my face. Letting the pain and misery out, all six months' worth. Cameo holds me as I shake and convulse within his strong frame. I cry for Leon, I cry for the ones I killed, the ones lost to the Hunger Games. I scream for my family to finally accept me for who I am, the only person who did was gone, and the other is just getting used to me, stuck with me forever. I cry myself to sleep, letting the eternal darkness cloud and take over me as Cameo tucks me into my bed and kisses my forehead.
"May you be smiled upon…"
A couple days later…
I've been listening nonstop to the CDs Leon left me. In addition to the one he left Cameo, inside his notebook were his complete recorded songs that stay in the back of my mind. I downloaded them onto my music player and listen with my headphones, his voice is therapeutic yet damaging at the same time. He saves me from wallowing up in misery and darkness, yet his voice reminds me of the voice never to be heard by anyone else but me…
"River! Can you please listen to me?!"
"What?!" I rip out one of the ear buds from my ears and look up to see Calloway fuming with hurt. He sighs and takes his hands in mine.
"Why are you hurting yourself more? Isn't listening to him hurting you?"
"Maybe I deserve to feel miserable my whole life, I don't deserve to feel happy…"
"Don't say that. You are going to live a life full of hope and promise. I promise I'll get you there."
I nod and turn my head as our butler, Xander walks in with two goblets filled with sparkling water, one blue and the other red.
"Hey Xander… are these for us?"
"Yes. I made them myself." He smiles and then frowns, shakily placing the goblet in our hands. I dismiss his weird behavior since he's usually like this.
"Cheers," I whisper as Xander leaves. Calloway smiles and clinks his with mine and we gulp down the weird liquid. It fizzes and bubbles as it goes down my throat leaving a sweet aftertaste. I moan as it hits my stomach, it filling me up. I nod as Calloway finishes and places the goblet down and lies in our bed. Seraphina took away the couch and now we're forced to share a bed, we openly keep our space about it though. I sigh and look down in shock as two dissolved tablets stare back at me at the bottom of the cup. Damn it, she just got me dr- I look back to where Calloway was lying and see Leon smiling back at me, his ocean blue eyes gleaming and alive. His blond hair still swept to the side and skin so tan, just like home. My breath hitches as he comes closer to me, carefully pulling a strand of my hair behind my ear. Then I see Calloway, his eyes hazy and mouth turned up a bit as he places kisses along my cheek and nose. He turns back to Leon and stays as his kisses trail down to my collarbone. I finally kiss Leon now, our first real kiss where he wasn't dying and in pain. Leon lays me down on the bed and caresses me, pulling me closer to him. The musk of his skin makes my head spin, and a deep hunger begins to stir in my stomach that longs for more of him. I see Calloway again and he smirks as he takes in my altercated body. Leon appears again and my head swirls as instinct kicks in. I just let go, letting Leon love me the way he deserves... his fingertips brush up against my skin sending bolts of electricity pulsing throughout my body. One thought however runs through my mind as he begins to undress me...
I am River Echo. 16 years old. District 4 Victor of the 99th Annual Hunger Games. And I am forever haunted…
A/N: Well here is River's POV after the Games and her life from now on, you could see why now President Echo wanted her to win so badly, yep even enough to have Hudson killed just as he was about to kill a helpless River and be declared Victor. Last chapter to Haunted, quite weird to say considering that very few SYOTs finish. It was a long and exciting journey that I very much enjoyed being on. She will be a mentor for my next SYOT and Calloway will join Icelynne and the others. There are a couple questions here that would be appreciated if you answered in a review.
1. Has my writing improved from the first chapter?
2. Which tribute(s) did you expect to get farther than in the story?
3. Which tribute(s) went farther than you expected?
4. Which tributes deaths were the most shocking? Most brutal? Most heartbreaking?
5. Did you expect River to win?
6. What is my strength when writing from what you've read from Haunted? My weakness?
7. A couple thoughts on each of your Gamemakers for next years' Games, Icelynne, Izzy, Lucina, Hunter, Ky, and now Calloway.
Thanks to all those who've read/reviewed/submitted tributes, it feels a bit weird to now label this a finished story and to go on to new tributes and an Arena. My next SYOT, 'Oblivion- The 4th Quarter Quell' is up! If there are some of you guys that want to submit then i'll take down the tributes that were mine for the BB. Just shoot me a pm and i'll tell you which spots are open. One spot per author!
Disclaimer: I don't own the lyrics to Haunt(Demo) by Bastille. This song is what made me love this band! It's so amazing and the lead singer's voice is what I imagine would be Leon's voice. Amazing band that deserves more recognition! Ha, I didn't want to spoil anything so I placed the song's disclaimer here :p
Love Forever and Always, Domi