The worst part of it all is that I just can't seem to do anything right. But how do you know what the right thing to do or say is when the person you love most in the world doesn't remember you? Well, actually, that isn't true. She remembers me alright. Just not the way I'd hope she would. She remembers the Gale who played the field when it came to girls, not the Gale who only had eyes for her. She remembers the Gale who snapped at her without reason and the Gale who would rather do anything than acknowledge her existence.
And the look in her eyes, man, it cuts right to the heart, stabs deep. It's like a mix of fear and disapproval. Like she's scared of me. Maybe it isn't me she's afraid of but she's definitely afraid of being my wife. Either way, it hurts every time I manage to catch her gaze.
This morning, I'd really freaked her out by walking in and catching her as she was dressing. She was standing there in this thin, little towel and I couldn't help but stare, if even just for a split second. Course that split second was all it took for her to panic, screaming for me to turn around. I turned and tried to think of anything I could say to apologize. I should have knocked but it didn't even occur to me that she might be changing clothes. It wouldn't have occurred to me that she'd care. I've touched her, held her, kissed every square inch of her body before so why would seeing it now matter? But it does matter. It matters because to her, I'm not her husband, I'm just some stranger. She'd darted into the bathroom and slammed the door behind her.
I wanted to make it right but I didn't know how. I'd waited and she didn't come out. I'd tried to talk to her through the door but I could hear the tears in her voice and giving her space seemed like the only thing I could offer her so I did just that. I left and headed to Orientation.
We were taking a tour of 13, the whole group of us from Orientation, when we come upon a lost Madge, trying to find the Medical Center. I shouldn't have left her to find it on her own. I should've insisted on showing her where to go. The woman leading our tour asked for a volunteer to show Madge where to go. I'd debated for a moment. Would she want me to? Was she still really mad about me walking in on her when she was naked? I decided it didn't matter and that I should volunteer anyway and was stepping forward, about to speak up. And then it happened. The thing I hadn't even had time to be afraid of yet. Tripp Krull stepped in, volunteered to walk Madge down to Medical. And she'd smiled at him as if she did remember him.
How could he? How could he do that? He knows full well about her memory loss. He knows she doesn't remember marrying me or loving me. Knows she vulnerable. But he did it. He saw a chance to get in her good graces and he took it. Before they left for the games he'd professed his love for her. All the time he'd been her friend, he never stopped loving her. And at the time, I trusted that he wouldn't cross any lines, wouldn't disrespect the marriage between Madge and I. But now, was it different? Did the rules change now that Madge doesn't remember loving me? Where we back at the beginning of it all where he and I both battle it out to win her over? My mother's hand on my shoulder calms me down and reminds me that I shouldn't panic yet. Tripp is her friend. He may not necessarily be trying to do anything shady. My mind is probably over-thinking everything right now. He probably just offered as a friend is all.
And later, I got a minute alone with Madge. One she actually initiated herself. I'd immediately launched into the apology I'd been practicing in my head all morning but she'd cut me off and surprised me by offering up her own apology. Still, I'd apologized too. Explained that I know this all a lot for her to take in right now and promised her I'd be more careful. I'd even gotten a little bit of a smile out of her. But part of it all seems superficial. Like she's acting purely out of formality, not fondness. And I suppose she is. But what else could I expect of her? She doesn't know me anymore, of course her illusion voice would take over. She never used to let people see anything other than that. Never let you see the real Madge.
We'd just sat down to eat our lunches when Tripp Krull plops his damn tray down on our table. She falls right into chatter with him and I don't fail to notice that she seems more comfortable talking to him than me. He has her laughing in mere seconds. I can tell by the way that he won't look directly at me that he most definitely intends to win her over, to steal her away from me. And he's ballsy enough to make a move right here in front of my face. Well, screw that. I love this girl more than anything and I'm not about to just forget about her. If he wants to play this game, then so be it. I'll play. I'll win her love all over again and he can watch me do it if that's what he wants. I won't lose her. Not to him, not to anybody.
So I turn on the charm. I know how to get her attention and I intend to do that whether Tripp Krull is sitting in front of me or not. I jump into the conversation and flash my most flirtatious smile at Madge as I compliment her cooking abilities. Makes my heart soar when I see her cheeks flush pink.
"I can't cook at all though! How did I…when did I learn?" She asks with curious excitement.
"Actually, I taught you. Once you moved to the Seam, I would come over after my shift at the café and give you cooking lessons. It was easy though, you were a fast learner." Tripp chimes in from across the table.
"Really?" She asks, her attention now turned to him.
"Sure did. Like Gale said, you became quite a good cook." He reassures her.
"Wow." She says almost too quietly to hear. "It's difficult to imagine that."
"You know, I've been assigned to the kitchen as my work position. Bet I could manage to sneak you in there sometime and let you try your hand at it again." I offer with another grin.
"You're going to be working in the kitchen?" She asks in surprise.
"Yep. I worked at the café for a few weeks before we came here. Guess that's where they thought I'd be most useful."
"Huh. I guess I'd just assumed you'd be doing something different." She tells me. It looks like she's deep in thought. Perhaps trying to picture me working in the café.
"I'm in the kitchen too, course that's probably a given seeing as how I grew up in the café. Are they assigning you a work position yet?" Tripp asks.
"They didn't say anything about working. But mostly everything has been about my health and my memory."
"Did they say anything new about your memory? Do they think it'll come back soon?" I ask, a little too eagerly. I can't help it. I'm just so anxious for her memory to be back so I can have my Madge back.
"They ran lots of tests. Gave me some homework. Some sort of assignment to help spark my memory. Actually, I think I should get going. I'd like to get started on that assignment right away." She says quietly, looking down.
"Oh, well, I can walk you back. Come on, let's go." I say quickly as I stand.
"Actually, we have a meeting with our supervisor in a couple minutes." Tripp tells me as if I didn't already know. He's now standing too and gesturing to the clock on the wall. He looks so smug I could smack him.
"I'm aware. Just don't want her to get lost again." I tell him through gritted teeth.
"Probably wouldn't be wise to be late on your first day." He continues.
"Oh, I can find it on my own. Really, I'll be fine. You two go on ahead. I wouldn't want you to be late on account of me." Madge says as she hurries off looking uncomfortable again. I think it just became clear to her that Tripp and I are in a battle for her and I'm not sure she knows what to think about that.
Surely I'm misinterpreting the signals here. Surely lunch wasn't what it'd ended up seeming to be. We were sitting there having our lunches and then suddenly I felt some sort of unspoken tug-o-war going on between Tripp and Gale. And it seemed like I was in the middle. But, my mind isn't working like it should be and there's apparently a lot I've forgotten. Perhaps this is how it always is between Tripp and Gale? It's unlikely they were friends. Tripp is from town and Gale is from the Seam. They're the same age but would have been part of completely different social circles. Yes, maybe that's all it was. Just normal weirdness created out of Gale being my husband and Tripp being my friend and them having to interact with one another when they normally wouldn't.
Husband. Gale is my husband. That feels so weird. For starters, I'm entirely too young to be his wife. To be anyone's wife. And while I do find him incredibly handsome that's pretty much it. I don't know that he and I have anything in common. What would we base our relationship on? I can't imagine what we would have in common.
I can see being friends with Tripp and honestly it's surprising that we weren't better acquainted before. Our families are part of town. My father and I would eat in his family's café all the time. Our path's have been intertwined for years. I'm kind of happy knowing I have a friend. Never really had any other than Katniss before.
I rub my fingers against my temples, trying to make my dull headache go away. Maybe I should take more of my medication and a quick nap before I start working on my assignment. I swallow down a blue pill and lay back on the bed. My pillow isn't fluffy like I wish. Not like the ones I have at home. Or rather, had at home. At my home in town. The home where I grew up. The only one I remember. I drift off to sleep as a single tear slips from my eye.
When I wake up, I open my eyes to find Gale laying next to me, his face less than a few inches from my own. He's sleeping. I jump up and off the bed. He stirs a little but doesn't wake up. What is he doing? Did he think it was acceptable to climb right into bed with me? How long had he been here? Anger shooting through me, I grab my assignment and leave before he wakes up. If I were to talk to him right now, it wouldn't be a very positive conversation. Out in the hall, I force myself to take a few deep, slow breaths. It mildly helps calm my anger.
I start walking and end up in the stairwell. It's deserted here, as it seems most all of 13 prefers to use the elevator systems. I sit on one of the steps and stare down at the envelope in my hand. Slowly, I open the tab and pull out the contents. A picture of a dress. A fancy one. And some instructions.
Look over the picture and write down anything that comes to mind.
That's it? That's my whole assignment? How on earth is this supposed to help me regain my memory? It's just a picture of a stupid dress! I crumple the picture and shove it back in the envelope and then shove that into my pocket. I'm so frustrated right now that I could scream! Instead, I close my eyes and let the tears fall. I feel so out of control of my emotions right now. One moment I'm fine, the next I'm filled with rage, the next frustration and now tears? What is the matter with me?
"Hey! You okay?" I hear called out from above me. I hadn't even heard anyone approaching.
I wipe my eyes and force a smile onto my face. It's Tripp. "I'm fine." I lie.
"Doesn't look like it." He says as he sits down on the step next to me.
"Just a little overwhelmed right now. I'll adjust, it'll be fine."
"Madge, no one expects you to be okay right now. It's okay of you're upset. You know that, right?"
"I'm not sure what anyone expects of me anymore." I admit. "I mean, I'm in this place that isn't even supposed to exist. Surrounded by strangers. My family is gone. I'm married and living with someone I barely know. And I have no memories of anything for the past year of my life." I cringe inwardly at how pathetic I sound right now.
Tripp's quiet for a minute or two and I think maybe I've been a little too honest. Maybe I've made him uncomfortable. But then, he speaks.
"Got an idea that might make this whole transition a little easier for you. Actually, I'm not sure why this didn't occur to anyone else already. Come on."
"What? What kind of idea?"
"Just come on. You'll appreciate it." He says with a smile.
I follow him as he leads us to a place called Defense. Defense? Why would we be here? Before I can ask, he gestures for me to take a seat and says to wait for him. Then he speaks in whisper to the woman at the desk and she calls someone on the phone. She's speaking so quietly that I can't hear her at all. If it weren't for her mouth moving, I wouldn't even know she was speaking at all. After she hangs up, Haymitch Abernathy appears just moments later. He's here too?
I watch as he and Tripp speak quietly. Haymitch nods a few times and then turns to the woman at the desk. I watch as she seems to argue him for a moment and then finally gives in. She picks up her phone again and makes another call. I can't figure out what's going on at all. Tripp looks back at me, flashes a smile and winks before turning his attention back to the woman at the desk. I feel my cheeks flush a little. Having boys flash smiles or wink at me is definitely something I am unfamiliar with, friendly or otherwise.
Moments later, Tripp is standing next to me again, a slip of paper in his hand. "All right, all done here. Come on." He says tilting his head towards the door again.
"All done? What did we do exactly?" I ask as I follow in confusion.
"We fixed something for you." He says not giving away any clues.
"I see. And where is it we're going now?" I ask, trying not to laugh. I'm having fun with this, whatever it is.
"To see what it is of course."
I shake my head and smile but continue to follow him up a few flights of stairs. We get off on a residential floor and he checks the slip of paper in his hand. "Alright. This is it." He says punching a key code into the lock.
"This is what?" I ask hesitantly as we enter the small room. It's identical to the room I share with Gale except the bed is a single and the room is slightly smaller.
"Your new private living quarters. Temporary though. You only get it for the next month or so while you're adjust to being here in 13 and work on getting your memory back." He explains.
I stare at him, stunned silent. He arranged for me to have my own room? Gratitude and relief fill me at the same time. This is exactly what I need right now! "Oh my goodness! I can't believe you did this for me!"
He shrugs as if it were nothing. "Should've been this way from the get go. Nobody seemed to have thought about you possibly being more comfortable if you had your own space. Just slipped everyone's mind is all."
"Was it a huge inconvenience? I'd hate for anyone to have gone to any trouble over this."
"Like I said, they just didn't think about it. Once I mentioned it, they all agreed that given the current circumstances, that this would be the best plan for now. Just keep in mind, it's temporary. You don't have to stay here alone if you find yourself wanting to stay with Gale again."
"I understand and it…it's perfect, really, it is. Thank you so very much!"
"Well, I think I'll let you get settled then. See ya around." He says as he flashes another smile and wink my way on his way out the door.
You couldn't wipe the smile from my face right now for all the effort in the world. I just succeeded in making a big move with Madge. I don't even think she realizes I'm doing it for the sake of love. I came across her, crying in the stairwell and when she confessed to being uncomfortable living with Gale, it hit me. She doesn't have to live with him. So, I played hero of the day by speaking to Haymitch and having him request a private room for her. He actually agreed that given her memory loss that she shouldn't be forced to share a bed with Gale. I knew going to Haymitch would do the trick. He's got a soft spot for that girl, but then again, don't we all in one way or another?
A big part of this feels good. Like I'm finally getting the chance to make an impression on Madge. The one I should've made long before Gale stole her heart. I'm going to have to be careful though. Right now, Hawthorne is practically smothering her and I think it's creeping her out. I'm going to come at her from a different angle. I'm going to just be there for her. Be the friend that she feels comfortable around and slowly build on that. I want her to feel like I'm the one she wants to spend time with and wants to be around. My only concern, my only fear is that her memory will come back before she falls in love with me. That would ruin everything.