When I awaken only Rory and Katniss are in the kitchen and they are both standing with their backs to me by the sink. The radio is playing but they do not notice me in time to turn in off. I catch the end of a segment before they turn. "- and we have received reports of the newest arena being constructed just a few miles away from the home of our newest friends Miss Everdeen and Mr Mellark. President Alma Coin does not seem to be planning on a quiet resignation despite continuous unrest in the districts. Tomorrow the strike is planned and with any luck we it should all be over by the end of the week with the lowest number of casualties possible but we're expecting a good-" The voice says before Rory cuts it off.
"I'm coming. I'm coming with you tomorrow." I tell them.
"I know." Katniss says. Well, that was easy.
"I don't think that's a good idea, anything could happen. What if they capture her, what if she gets hurt, what if-" Rory argues.
"I belong there as much as anyone else. I'm a part of it and I want to go home." I say. Rory clenches his jaw and that little line between his eyes appears. Even in a pink nightgown Katniss looks so fierce that I know she will win. I am going.
"You stay in the hovercraft and you'll be safe enough." She says.
"No! I want to come with you. I want to be there when you get her. I want to watch her the moment she is caught." I argue.
"Don't you think making them let you come in the hovercraft was enough? I'm tired Melodie, more tired than you would believe. Don't argue with me. I'm not losing you and that's final." She says firmly and I hear Rory let out a long breath of relief. Peeta joins us looking ruffled fresh from sleep.
"Then I'm coming too." Rory says crossing his arms.
"That's for Gale and your mother to decide. I can't decide that for them." Katniss says.
"Then why do you get to decide for Melodie?"
"Because Peeta and I care about her. Plus if I didn't let Gale decide I might as well be dead already." She tells him. Peeta pats Rory on the back and gives him a knowing smile.
"I care about her too. Doesn't that give me a vote?" he mutters and Peeta chuckles then mutters something inaudible. I blush and refuse to catch any of their eyes for the rest of the day.
Gale arrives a little before lunch then Peeta and Katniss leave an hour later. The arguing between Rory, Gale and Hazelle begins the moment that they leave and continues on throughout the day so I take Posy and Vick and we play at the bottom of the large garden all afternoon so that they don't have to listen. By the time dinner comes the argument is settled and Rory seems to have won. Gale stays for dinner since tomorrow is so uncertain and we're leaving soon. Sitting side by side Rory and Gale have so few differences apart from height that if I squint slightly they become the same person. Gale catches me doing so and raises and eyebrow with an amused smirk. I've interacted with him so rarely that I still see him as that intimidating man on the screen but here at the table teasing Posy he isn't so frightening. He and I are part of the same mismatched family pieced together from the broken and the weary.
It comes to time to leave and Gale goes to wait in the hovercraft. Posy demands that I am the one to put her to bed again tonight. When I come in she has the sheet pulled up over her head. "What are you doing under there, silly?" I ask and try to pull it down but she hangs on.
"Hiding from the monster." She tells me and sticks one hand out of the cocoon to point at the wardrobe. I give a small laugh and open it up to show her that it's empty. She pulls the sheet down to her shoulders.
"Posy, there's nothing there. Let me tell you a secret. Adults make up stories about monsters to scare children into doing what they're told but the truth is that they don't exist, at least not the way you think they do. They don't lurk under the bed or in the wardrobe. They look just like you or me. The real monsters are out there, Posy, and people like Katniss and Peeta and Gale are the ones who catch them. What do you think about that? Posy Hawthorne, sister of a monster hunter. If everything is goes well then by next week you won't ever have to worry about monsters any more. Poof! All gone." I tell her. I think the meaning of my words is lost on her but she isn't hiding under the covers anymore. "Goodnight Rosy Posy. I'll see you again soon." I promise then kiss her on the head and close the door behind me.
Rory is already saying Goodbye to Hazelle and Vick so I try not to interrupt their moment together but Hazelle pulls me in to join their embrace. "You two stay together and do what you're told. Don't leave the hovercraft. Don't do anything stupid. If anything happens to you I don't know what I'd do. You come home safe then we'll go home. Home to Panem together in our new life." She says as the tears run. She has to worry about Gale, about Katniss, about Rory and about me. I'm sure she cares about Peeta too and that's a whole lot of worrying for one woman. I promise that we'll be fine then we each grab a ladder and we're dragged frozen upwards into the hovercraft.
We meet Gale in the cargo area and he leads us through the halls to a room at the back with a huge window that wraps around half of the room. Themis sits at the head on the large table with Katniss and Gale on each side of her and Patria soldiers filling many of the other seats. A huge screen fills the remaining wall and on it is a map of The Capitol. At least twelve red dots glow and each has a lighter area surrounding which touch each other so almost the entire map is covered. I ask Themis what they represent.
"Each dot is a bomb positioned over the Capitol right now. The paler area is what will be destroyed if Coin doesn't surrender. We're hoping that we won't need them." She tells me.
"Can't Coin just destroy the crafts carrying them or do the same to Patria?" I ask. Themis laughs lightly.
"Panem's technology is decades behind ours. Those bombs aren't in regular hovercrafts. They're miles above the earth in unmanned capsules. Panem can't reach them but they're aimed right at her. Any bomb she has aimed at us will be destroyed before it even gets halfway across the sea even if she has anything that can make it that far. Our sources suggest that she doesn't. I'm all for more excitement but this is pretty simple. Zugzwang." She says.
"Zugs what?" I ask.
"Zugzwang. It's a term we use in games to describe a time when the opponent can only move with severe loss or disadvantage. Like chess or checkers. In other words we've got her trapped." Themis tells me. She fills in a few other details such as Coin's refusal to leave the President's mansion but I stop listening after a while. I excuse myself to use the bathroom after a few minutes but do not return. I find a little supply closet beside one of the bedrooms and sit on the floor in the darkness. This is my home they are talking about. Every place I ever walked and every person I ever passed in the street could be gone if Coin doesn't surrender. I can't comprehend every place I've ever known being destroyed. For a moment my darkness asks if it wouldn't be preferable to let the games go on to save my home. But then I remind myself that if it did I would never really go back there, I'd always be half in the arena for the rest of my life just waiting for the next tributes to come along then leave me. Hundreds more I cannot save. I rest my head on my hands and breathe in the stale air.
The door opens and Katniss is there in her mockingjay suit. She notices me and smiles. "You're in my spot." She says. I shuffle over and she sits beside me. We sit in the silent, warm room and listen to the sound of our own breathing. "Rory was looking for you. He told Themis that they should all be looking for you in case you've been kidnapped or something." Katniss says eventually. I give a half-hearted laugh. Of all the things he could be worrying about he is fretting over kidnap from a hovercraft many miles above the earth.
"Are you sure you should leave Peeta and Gale alone together?" I snap although I'm not sure what made me so angry. Perhaps it is Rory's constant worrying or perhaps it is because I know that in a few hours my home could be gone. Katniss tips her head back and sighs.
"Gale found his Dandelion and I found mine. He doesn't need me anymore. Her name is Phoebe. She's... She's perfect, Melodie. She's everything I can't be for him. He's happy. And I have Peeta." She says and although she is smiling she looks like she could cry. "I do love him, Peeta I mean, only sometimes I forget that. Sometimes it still feels like a game or I show I have to keep up until all of this is over. Some days it takes waking up in his arms or the smell of baking bread to remind me that this is real. He is mine. I get to keep him."
I close my hand around hers to comfort her. "I think that knowing that we get to keep the person we care about is the most important thing these days. I don't know what if you or Peeta or Rory or Posy or heck, even Haymitch got taken away from me. I can't bear to- I can't even- I won't-" I try but I can't steady my breathing enough to finish the sentence. I feel the wave of panic come again and the edges of my vision go fuzzy. I feel Katniss's grip tighten.
"Melodie, listen. Listen Melodie, concentrate. You're going to give yourself ten seconds to be scared then you're going to get and up we're going back. Just ten seconds then everything will be fine. You have to believe it."
I let my mind race and my breath quicken as she counts down from ten quietly. It ebbs and flows around me consuming my mind. She gets to "One" and I take in a huge breath then push the panic away until it detaches from me. I straighten feeling a little drained but it is time to move. Katniss pushes the door open and lets in the light then I pull myself up and we walk back to Themis and everyone else. "Where have you two been?" Rory asks.
"Oh, just chatting." Katniss replies coolly. She is getting scarily good at pretending. Themis tells us that we won't arrive in The Capitol until early tomorrow morning so we are dismissed to get some sleep.
I'm shown to my room by the guards but I can't settle. I toss and turn for an hour or two then give up and wander the empty halls for a little while. I grow bored and turn back to go back to bed but run into Rory on the way leaning against his door wearing nothing but long red pyjama pants. He catches me staring then gives a shy smile and I blush. "Can't sleep either?" he asks.
"Same as always. I hoped I would run into Katniss and Peeta but I had no luck. Have you seen them?" I ask.
"They're with Themis and Gale still. I guess you'll have to settle for me." Rory smiles. He opens his door and I follow him into his room. I sit at the foot of his bed beside him and we talk in the darkness until sleep finally takes us.