Hey! This is Slim, back with another one-shot for the Caesar's Palace forum's monthly one-shot challenge. The prompt is below, and I hope you enjoy. :)
you see her when you close your eyes
maybe one day you'll understand why
everything you touch surely dies.
- from "Let Her Go" by Passenger
It's the worst things in life- the ones that break you so much that you don't even notice yourself detaching from the world, drifting away but growing stronger than before deep inside. The things like the Hunger Games.
The things like how everyone Haymitch loved was killed.
First it was Maysilee. Clever, resourceful, merchant's-daughter Maysilee, with her silky blonde hair and serious blue eyes. Maysilee, who bravely went up to the stage on reaping day. Maysilee, who kept herself alive so long in the arena. Maysilee with her blowgun and its poison. Maysilee, who saved him from the Careers. Maysilee, who he allied with.
And in the end, she was just Maysilee- Maysilee, who was stabbed to death by the goddamned birds in the arena. Dead Maysilee. Just one of the many people who had managed to die around Haymitch.
Two weeks. It had only been two short weeks since Haymitch had been pulled up in that damned hovercraft. Two weeks that had been filled with medications and sedation and surgery at first. Then the time had transformed into a blur of interviews and audiences and unhappiness. Then home- home, with his family and his girl and a party that he just used as an excuse to try some strong liquor.
His new house in the Victor's Village had been beautiful back then: several bathrooms that were equipped just as well as the ones in the Capitol, fancy bedrooms with king-size beds in every one, a kitchen with so many empty cupboards that he had the money to stuff with food, lovely flower-painted china dishes in the cabinets, a living room with cozy armchairs upholstered in rich shades... It was easily the most gorgeous house in the district.
And of course, his mother and little brother, James, loved the place. James would run up and down the curving staircase and race Haymitch at every opportunity. His mother was over the moon with the amazing recipes in their cookbook. On their first night in the house, she'd made a beef casserole, actual beef, seasoned with little sprigs of parsley. Haymitch couldn't remember a better night.
"Haymitch!" James had whined one day, standing at the bottom of the stairs, the sweet little eight-year-old's eyes hopeful and happy. His hair was uncombed, despite the fact that he had a bathroom of his own, stocked with an arsenal of beauty supplies. The buttons on his shirt were done up wrong, making one side of the collar lower than the other and making the shirttails uneven. "Haymitch, you wanna race to your bedroom?"
Haymitch, who had been nursing a brutal hangover all morning, scowled, running a hand through his already rumpled dark hair. He yawned widely, feeling his ears pop. "Ah, man, Jimmy," he'd mumbled sleepily. "I'm still all tuckered out from las' night... maybe later, all right?" James had gone by Jimmy until he was seven, which was the time he insisted that the nickname was 'for babies', and he didn't appear to like being called that now.
He'd stomped his foot in a frustrated way on the hardwood floor. "But Haymitch... c'mon..." he pleaded. "I know that you're gonna go out tonight again... to see your girlfriend." He scrunched up his face, the puppy-fat cheeks wrinkling in an expression of childish disgust. "Ew... what are you doing with her anyway, making babies?" James had gotten a sly grin.
Haymitch, having been a little fed up with the world that day, had lost his temper. "Shut up!" he snapped, standing up and furiously shoving his chair into the table, hearing the crack of wood on wood. "I am not!"
James hadn't seemed to get the subtle message in that: drop it. He still had his goofy grin. "Mommy says that the smelly drinks outta the bottles make you mad and sick," he announced, as if Haymitch didn't know this and he had to teach him- not to mention keep a straight face. "And that you and Marigold are having sex." He'd paused, a puzzled expression drifting onto his face. "Hey, Haymitch, what is sex, anyway?"
Unable to take it anymore, Haymitch had stormed over to the door. "Figure it out when you're older," he growled. "I'm leaving early. Bye."
He remembered James's little yelp of protest as the door slammed. But he'd much rather forget it.
It had been a dark, desolate day- one of those awful days where a mist of fog lurked through the district, where the clouds were so thick that the world seemed to completely lack sunlight. There were a few streetlights in the Victor's Village, but they faded away when he cut behind the houses into the depths of the Seam. He was off to visit his girlfriend, Marigold, where she lived with her plethora of siblings and her father, seeing as her mother had passed away of pneumonia two years ago. Marigold, a starved-looking girl with a pair of short black pigtails, always had welcomed Haymitch into her home. And she was sure to like his present to her- a bouquet of the flowers she'd been named for, a roast goose doused in a spicy sauce that could feed her whole family for a day, and a slice of homemade cake just for her.
He'd smiled at the very thought of her reaction. Maybe she'd be willing to give him a few kisses, and of course a big hug of thanks. They could do later when her family wasn't around, but now wasn't the time...
But that day, the door had been locked. He was bewildered- their lock was so underused that he'd almost forgotten that they had one. But then the sound of pitiful, tortured weeping met his ears, and a surge of horrified pain thrummed through his body like a string had been plucked in his heart. Then his fists were hammering on the door frantically. "Let me in!" he hollered. "Let me in! It's me! Haymitch!"
The worst thoughts had all run through his head, but then Marigold's father opened the door. Haymitch was surprised to see him crying- him, a strong, grown man who rarely showed emotions, crying-, the coal-dust darkened tears tracing down his cheeks freely. "Oh, Haymitch," he said shakily, wiping his bloodshot eyes with one hand. "I'm so sorry... don't know what happened... just came home early from the mines, and... and Marigold was just curled up in bed, and... starvation maybe... oh, Haymitch, she's... dead."
Bang. Gunshot. Cannon of a fallen tribute. It had hit Haymitch like someone had smacked him across the chest. "Wha-what?" he stammered, his head spinning. But Haymitch hadn't been stupid, and never truly would be. And he knew that Marigold was dead. He stepped inside the house, and with a terrible wave of horror, he saw his girlfriend's body, curled up and motionless under her blankets on her bed. So painfully, blatantly gone. Dead.
Wordlessly, numbly, Haymitch had cautiously made his way toward Marigold. This couldn't be the natural starvation or lack of heat- it was a warm late-summer day, and she'd been getting food from Haymitch's family ever since they'd gotten their new property and money awards. No. This had to be unnatural. A Capitol killing.
To most others, rich merchants' kids with no experience, the tiny little red mark could pass for a yellow jacket sting. Right in the crook of her elbow, a small bruise from the needle disturbing the smooth, olive-tan skin. But to Haymitch, it was obvious. Some kind of lethal injection.
No no no no no...
He'd swallowed so hard that it hurt, trying to push the lump that had settled in his throat away. "M-murder," he got out. The word was almost inaudible. Then he coughed lightly, clearing his throat. "Murder," he said, a little too loudly. Marigold's father turned to look. "They killed her," Haymitch breathed. Oh, no... The anger that had began at the sight of the needle prick, which had been hidden by the onslaught of grief, became so dizzying and strong that he had to lean up against the poorly constructed wall, breathing hard. "They killed her!" he yelled, tears springing to his eyes. He wiped them away. I can't cry. Can't cry. Not in front of people. Too angry to cry. Not now. "The Capitol killed her!"
And with that, Haymitch had found himself racing through the streets, back to his house. His family. This was Snow's payback, for his deadly trick with the force field. And now his mother and brother were probably in danger at this very second...
But all he could see in his mind's eyes as he ran was the image of a smiling, happy Marigold, her eyes bright with laughter.
It was too late.
When he'd skidded into the driveway, panting and holding back a round of choking sobs, he saw a crowd of Peacekeepers surrounding the house. One shoved Haymitch away with the butt of his rifle. "Stay back," the middle-aged man barked, wiping his wrinkled brow. "There's been an... issue. Carbon monoxide leak. And you know you they call it the silent..." Then he turned away, either unable to go on or hiding a smile.
"The silent killer..." Haymitch thought aloud, and then the full force of the words hit. This time it wasn't a gunshot or a cannon; it was a bomb exploding right in his face. His family. His innocent family. His cute little brother, who always looked up to him. His doting, kind mother who never had failed to make ends meet for the little family.
Then he'd ended up being held back from the house, dragged away screaming, with a duo of Peacekeepers pulling him away. Tears smearing on his face, mixing with the sheen of sweat from the run. His own screams resonating throughout the midday air. And through the fog, the bodies of his family, being pulled out of the temporarily contaminated house by gas-masked Peacekeepers. Limp, dead bodies. Not moving. Gone to maybe a better place- or worse. He didn't know, and frankly, he didn't care.
Images of them flashed through his mind, almost akin to the recaps of his own games. First, a smiling little boy with chubby cheeks, huffing and puffing on his way up the staircase. Then a sad, pouty boy when Haymitch had refused to play with him and race. Then the boy -James, oh, damn, his poor James- dead, sprawled out on the grass. And his mother, only a day ago making a huge batch of cookies and letting both of her sons sample the chocolate chips and a good amount of the dough... now she was cold and dead next to her youngest son.
And most of all, Marigold. Her deep gray eyes, her crooked smile with a mess of uneven teeth, her pigtails. One higher on her head than the other. Her hand-me-down clothes from her six older brothers and dead mother, a hodgepodge of men's button-down shirts with flowery skirts and scuffed shoes. Her sweet laugh when they'd feign a formal dance through the Meadow, bestowing one another with crowns of yellow and white flowers and clover-chain 'wedding rings'. The way she'd let out a breathy sigh when they made love and her body went loose and limp underneath his.
And then -don't think about it, don't think about it!- Maysilee. Maysilee, too. His ally, with her good reasoning skills and her loyalty and her resourcefulness. Her beautiful dress for the interviews. She even looked a little like someone to watch for in those fucking coal miner outfits. Someone unforgettable. Her tentative, rare smiles to him were a million times sweeter than the candy that her family's sweet shop sold. And even though he didn't love her like that -no, he'd had Marigold back home to love in that sense- he loved her because she was Maysilee.
They were all gone. And it was his fault.
His screaming sobs dropped down to hiccup-filled gasps. "Why does everyone around me have to die?" he whispered.
And no one answered. No one who loved him was around to understand and tell him why.
Feedback is definitely appreciated. Hope you liked it! :)