"We should get dressed."
I blink as he says this. When he placed me on the bed to regain some feeling in my legs, I thought round two was the obvious next step.
I'm not in a rush and he doesn't need to be as well. "If you're worried about time-"
My underwear and pants are casually tossed to me. We only manged to get half undressed before our needs got the better of us. "And I thought I was the insatiable one. It's too close to lunch. You know how your mother loves to keep us fed... and it appears I'm going to have to keep my strength up..."
I get dressed trying not to let my disappointment show that lunch is not what I'm hungry for. As head back I subtly let him know the servant act will be sufficient for the next two days. Can't imagine most women getting tired of a man serving them the way Finn can.
Effie's not impressed when we return. Not surprised that Haymitch will be boarded up in his house today but not impressed. So I take one for the team. My mother and father were apt listeners while Effie didn't pause to take a breath while they prepared lunch. And Finn is the one that gets to enjoy it. I steal a bite of bun to tide me over while I ask Effie for a small favor.
If I were a more apt listener I would know more about hemlines and accessories. If I cared more about fashion and how to leave an impression I would be able to do more than nod and agree with Effie.
"This is the dress for you! You'll have half the male population lining up."
"Uh-huh." I can see how most men would love to see me wear a dress like the one she's holding up. It's a strapless number. Solid red with a slit to show off my well-toned legs from years of running in the woods. I'd guess I'd have about five seconds to run once my father saw me in it.
She squeals in a shrill voice. "So it's decided? You'll wear it to the dance tomorrow?"
I need to break this to her gently. She's looking at me like my answer is the key to her happiness. "It's just... I've been wearing a lot of red lately... and I was hoping, because you are the only one who could make it possible... if you had something in white, to bring the color of my eyes out?" I didn't know if this was a real thing or not but I'm pretty sure I've heard Effie say it a few times. And white seems safe. Not alluring or sending out mating calls I'm not aware of.
"Of course dear! Think about what shade you like. Cream, ivory, vanilla, they should be in the living area... or is the kitchen... snow white, beige, linen, antique..." The list goes on while I search for the case the most resembles the color I use to know just as white.
I manage to convince Effie I have my father's clumsy feet and wear her down to agreeing that the simplest dress she brought is the one for me. It's white, I mean champagne, and has one shoulder strap designed in the shape of a flower. The bottom reaches to my ankles which my father will approve of. Swirls of lace wrap around the skirt. It's as pretty as a flower. And simple enough I won't feel anyone could misinterpret it or disapprove of it.
Finn delivers lunch to Effie and asks to talk to her in private. I notice the pocket full of tissues in his pocket and know he's well stocked for his shift. I take the time to see how my parents are coping and find they've decided to just let Effie be Effie. It's a battle they'll never win. My father left to consult with his assistant at the bakery about how to incorporate the fireworks and my mother is on the phone double-checking the decorations Effie has ordered from various merchants. Lights, flowers, music, tables. I offer to make a few calls but she tells me this one thing she can handle. At least she gets to stay in the house away from the cameras.
So it appears I have a couple of hours with no commitment. Not that I'm committed to what Finn and I are doing I remind myself. If it happens it happens. I have no expectations.
I retreat to my room to organize my sketches from 4 on my bed. I could sort them by theme or by size. There are a variety of beaches and birds. Then I drew a few in color of sunsets. The only ones with people in it are of Finn. I hide these ones at the bottom. A minute later I take out the one where Finn is looking dead center at me.
If he wasn't already a model I would recommend he become one. He has the body, the face, the pose. If I didn't know how tomorrow night was going to end, with him on a train back to the Capitol for more work, this picture might paint a different story. It's not the face of my friend though. The face that knows when I'm sad or happy. Knows when I'm so mad at the world and the past that I could scream. Knows when I just need to disconnect and feel nothing. I haven't seen that face in awhile.
"I guess a picture does say a thousand words. You look like you're reading a book."
I scramble to hide Finn's picture under the stack. "It's all fiction. Braving another encounter with Effie?"
Therron sighs and plops down beside me on my bed, stretching his arms out to my pillow. "I got to thinking. If you have to suffer then I'll have to suffer too. That's what friends are for. But I'm not going to apologize if she can't take a joke again."
I part with my pictures and slide them onto the desk beside my bed. "I'm sure if you spent more time together you and Effie would find an understanding."
"Is the effect of Finn talking here? Where's the panic? The plans of escape for you and your family? I thought I'd be helping you dig a tunnel under the Village by now." He sits up on his elbows and stares at me like I'm a fish that can fly.
"Finn's with Effie. I'm just... waiting out the calm before the storm." I let my hair fall in front of my face to cover the blush that seems to appear every time I say his name. Or look at him. Or think of him.
"Too bad. I told Ginger-"
"Therron! Please don't bring her here today," I plead. I was calm before he mentioned her. "Effie is enough to deal with." Honestly, I would rather move in with Effie than spend a second with his sister.
"Can you ever let me finish a sentence? I told her Finn was here and she's dying to see him again. You don't have to be around at all. It's easier to meet up here but if you don't want your second best friend around than maybe I'll talk to him. See if he wants to come up to the lake or something. She'd owe for me life if she got to see him in a bathing suit in person." He tucks his hands under his head like he's the greatest mind our of generation.
Ginger, like any woman with a heartbeat, would love to see Finn short of any piece of clothing. But Ginger isn't any woman. She's the opposite of someone Finn should be with. He doesn't need her influence. I'd rather see him fall in love with another Capitol model.
I tell Therron I'll talk to Finn for him. Really I'm going to warn him.
I had Finn meet me in my room after he helped Effie back to the guest room to freshen up. Her tears had dried up but left streaks of purple along her cheeks. Ever the gentleman, Finn told her their talks meant the world to him.
"I'm not exactly in the mood at the moment... But if you give it five minutes and remove a couple articles of clothing..." His voice trails off as he attempts a smile sitting on the edge of my bed. The smile and playfulness in his eyes fade as quickly as he tried to conjure them up.
Now is not the time for games. Like me, Finn doesn't talk to many people about what his parents went through. He stays even tighter lipped when it concerns his mother. He allows his father's name to be brought up more but can generally control the conversation to focus on their common looks, which people rarely seem to get tired of talking about.
I scoot closer to Finn and join him on the edge. We both sit quietly for a moment. If we talk too soon one of us will start crying. After biting the side of tongue I decide to go first. "He would be proud of you too."
He turns away from but I see the clenching of his jaw. "He would Finn. You're an amazing son. The way you care for your mother. I know I tease you about modeling and I shouldn't. You've done what you needed to do to support your mother and you should be proud of that."
"You despise what I do, if we're being honest here."
"I don't-" I stop myself as he shoots a look at me. "Fine," I relent. "But I'm getting over it. Or at least I'm working on getting over it." He rolls his eyes at and turns back away. "I'll try to work on it," I promise.
I have a lot of work to do if I really want to close the distance I've created between Finn and I over the last few years.
"What's the worst thing you've thought about me?" he says quietly.
I take his hand and wrap both of mine around it. "That no matter how many prep teams I could get to make me over I'll never look half as good as you do when you roll out of bed in the morning... and I have personally seen that so you know what I'm talking about."
He pulls his hand away leaving mine empty. "Honesty Violet. That's all I'm asking for right now."
"Did Effie say something? Because I'm never honest with her."
His lashes flutter against his glossy eyes. "It's just a feeling I've been getting. Thought I'd ask."
I let go of his hands and bring his face towards mine. "Finn Odair. You are my friend. My oldest friend. Your worst quality is that you still put up with me. I know you're going to come to your senses one day but until then you're stuck with me in your life. Unfortunately you're stuck in Twelve at the moment but-" His lips cut me off and I have absolutely no idea what words were going to come out of my mouth next.
He doesn't press his body into mine. Just keeps kissing me. His hands don't touch me or caress me. But his lips manage to hold me. I keep my hands glued to his face as the kisses get deeper and stronger. Just as I forget where in the world we are he pulls away and I fall a bit forward. Friends do not kiss like that. Friends do not do what we've been doing. Friends do not look at each other the way Finn is looking at me. I have officially ruined what was formerly my oldest and dearest friendship.