?

Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
HG: The End of the World, Chapter Twenty-One - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
HG: The End of the World, Chapter Twenty-One
Haymitch has just pulled into the District Twelve station, a little buzzed. He figures he may as well drink, since they're ridiculing him for it anyway.


Chapter Twenty-One
I wonder briefly if District Twelve is going to join in the general ridicule. It wouldn't be the first time. They were experts before the Capitol ever got its hands on me.

But the crowd gathered at the train station is quiet, almost solemn. I know they have no choice about being here, so I don't pretend that most of them really care that I'm coming home, but they don't have to act as respectful as they are. There is a platform built up, and I can see my mother and brother sitting on an uncomfortable looking decorative bench. As soon as the train stops, a site producer runs in and tells me that I have to go out and greet the district before I say hello to them, but that it won't take long.

"And there's another thing. It shouldn't take long."

"What is it?"

The assistant shrugs. "Not sure. Some kind of new political appointment, I think. I guess she came on the train with you. We told your family that it would only be a few extra minutes." This fills me with dread, because there's no way this is accidental, but the producer apparently doesn't think anything of it. "Everyone here is so proud of you," she finishes with a perfunctory smile.

I somehow doubt that, not after the last few days, but on further consideration, I guess they'd never show that to outsiders. After the camera crews are gone, I'm sure the real faces will come out.

There is a bottle of whiskey on a low table that I've barely touched, and I almost take another shot of it before I realize that Mom will smell it on my breath before I have a chance to explain how they've cut down my pain medicine a little sooner than they should have, and it's just about getting my stomach to stop hurting until it finishes healing. She'll think of Dad first.

I guess she probably already has, since I've been all over mandatory viewing. I'll have to make sure I explain it to her quickly.

The door to the car opens, and a tall woman in a Peacekeeper's uniform comes in. She has reddish brown hair that comes down to her shoulders, and brown eyes roughly the size of dinner plates. She's painted up almost as much as a Capitol escort, with disturbingly red lips and falsely tanned skin. Looking at any individual part of her, I'd think she was beautiful, but somehow, altogether, the effect is unpleasant. This may have something to do with the whip that's curled up against her slip hip, or the way she's caressing it like a treasured pet.

She notices me looking at her and looks back with a bemused sort of smile. Her eyes glitter maliciously. "I see you've already been drinking today," she says. Her voice is low, a kind of nasty purr. I envision her as a cat with her prey safely balanced on a sharp claw.

"Who are you, and why is that any of your business?"

"Lucretia Beckett," she says, and wrinkles her nose. "I'm the new Head Peacekeeper in District Twelve. Everyone here is my business."

"What was wrong with our old Head Peacekeeper?" I ask.

"Oh, the Capitol feels that, with a shiny new victor, District Twelve deserves someone with, shall we say, a somewhat higher status."

"And you're real high class?"

She doesn't answer, but gives me a flat, hard smile.

The production crew comes to gather us a minute later. We follow them out onto the platform. Beckett stays a few paces behind me. Even a new Head Peacekeeper, apparently, is not supposed to interfere with the fuss made over a victor.

The applause I get is muted, but I don't take it personally. District Twelve is not given to public displays of enthusiasm for anything. I’m brought up to a standing microphone (the same one Gia used at the Reaping, I think), and the producer whispers, "Keep it short. Just say hello and thank them for their support."

The microphone goes on with a whine. I stare out at the sea of faces. Digger is up in the first row, but they haven't invited her to the stage. I smile at her. She smiles back.

"I guess I made it home," I say. "I sure wish I wasn't alone. Beech and --"

There is a loud whistle from the microphone and I step back. Lucretia Beckett looks at me with a warning in her eyes.

I go back. "I'm glad to be home," I say. "Thanks for being here. And for supporting us."

I leave the microphone again. There is not even perfunctory applause, though everyone is watching me intently. I will visit the Berryhills and the Donners later. Gilla didn't have any family. I don't know who to visit for her.

Beckett steps up. She is between me and my family, and the production team makes it clear that I am not to make a scene that will interrupt her.

She introduces herself, and again points out that she's been sent because of me. "With a new victor," she says, "District Twelve will find itself in the spotlight for all of Panem. We're going to work together here to make sure we give the best impression we can. I am here to make sure that everyone remains safe, and that the structures and rules of District Twelve are enforced…"

She talks longer than she needs to. I get the feeling that she's just doing it because she can see my mother trying to get up and come over to me, while production assistants on her side keep her sitting down.

I can see down the tracks from here. There are three long boxes being unloaded from the train. I look away. Even looking at Beckett is better than looking at that. I didn't know they were on the train with me again. I'd have gone and sat with them.

"…and we will see to it that the public areas of town are kept sparkling clean, and the streets are clear and easy to use…"

I look across at Mom. She is struggling with the producers. I try to signal her by shaking my head, but it doesn't do any good. Lacklen, wearing the dark-framed glasses Caesar got for him, sees me and tries to calm her down.

"…and of course, we will show what great assets the citizens of District Twelve are to Panem…"

I look out at the crowd. Digger is watching me eagerly. I raise my hand slightly and show her that I'm still wearing her token.

This goes up on the screens, and we get the first real applause of the day, mostly coming up from kids from school. It interrupts Beckett in the middle of a lecture about how our clothing is not appropriate for what is sure to be a media-filled year.

She stops talking and glares at me.

I don't try to make anyone stop.

She tightens her jaw and looks back out at the crowd. When the applause stops, she says, "And we will also practice proper behavior toward public officials. In the meantime, it is clear that you want to welcome your victor back, and I won't delay you any longer."

She gets applause, but I have a feeling it's just because she's leaving the stage.

It's time for me to go to my family. I've wanted to see them for weeks, thought about them in the arena, wanted them to appear surprisingly in the Capitol while I was recovering. But now… now, it seems very large. Too big. There's no real thought in my mind -- nothing like worrying about the state of my identity after the Game, or worries about what she's seen -- just a strange sense that I'm in a dream, that I'll run across the stage and hug my mother, and she'll fall apart in my arms, and I'll wake up by the cliff, next to Maysilee's body, waiting for someone to kill me.

The producers let Mom up. I feel like I should be halfway across the stage already, but I can't do it. I can't seem to move my feet until the assistants on my side of the stage actually give me a nudge.

Mom approaches me slowly, her face solemn. She's been ill again. I can see it in the planes of her face and in her sunken eyes. We meet in the middle of the stage, and she holds her hand out. Touches my cheek.

"Haymitch," she says.

I fold her into my arms, and she doesn't fall apart. She is the same as she ever was. She holds me tightly, and I feel the bones of her arms pressing against my back. Her hair, beside my face, seems thinner and grayer than I remember, but she's here. I close my eyes and say, "Momma."

She does not cry. I do not cry. We are in District Twelve, and there are outsiders watching.

She pulls away and takes my hands, and a few seconds later, Lacklen is there between us, beaming. I muss up his hair and ask him if he's been tough. He tells me that he hasn't been as tough as me. I hope he never has to be, but I don't say so. In fact, I tell him he can always hope.

The cameras catch all of this, and it will be broadcast across Panem. I'm glad that I feel less buzzed than I did on the train. It would have been very bad if I'd drunkenly lurched into my mother's arms.

We do not talk about anything important. That's a given. The producers ask foolish questions about how it feels to be back together ("Feels good," I say), then finally, we're led down to the road, and whisked off to the Justice Building.

Once we get inside, we're given a few minutes to "clean up," by which it is clear they mean "actually say hello."

Mom hugs me again, more genuinely this time. "Oh, honey," she says. "Oh, I’m so happy to see you. I know it must have been terrible."

I'm not sure how to answer this. "Terrible" doesn't really cover it, at least not in the way I always used the word before, the way Mom uses it. But it's as close as I can come. "Yeah," I say. "I… I'm sorry about the things you must have seen in the arena."

She shakes her head. "You did what you needed to, and you comported yourself better than most do. You were clever, and you stayed alive."

I want to explain that I never wanted to kill anyone, that I dream about the knife I couldn't get out of Crispus Bidwell's neck, that Maysilee was thrashing and kicking when she died, but I don't even know where to start.

I turn to Lacklen. "So, Caesar Flickerman said he gave you glasses."

"Yeah, check them out." He pulls them off his face and hands them to me.

I put them on, and the world jumps at me, twisted and distorted. I wonder if this is how Lacklen sees the world without them.

"Shake them," he says. "It makes the whole world shake."

I take them off and give them back. "I've had enough of the world shaking," I say.

"Oh. Sorry."

I look at Mom. "Is Digger coming?"

She grinds her teeth. "They wouldn't invite her. I told them she was your family, too. She told them about the toasting… which, by the way, you are both far too young for…"

"Mom -- "

"But they treated her like a stranger. Like she was just a girl you happened to know."

"Everyone kept saying you loved Maysilee," Lacklen tells me. "All the stupid interviews on the street. I said you loved Digger, but they never aired it."

I want to say that I did love Maysilee, that I loved her a lot, but they'd hear it wrong, and it wouldn't mean that I don't love Digger, anyway. I can't think of anything to say about her. I want to tell someone everything, but I can't think who. Digger would listen, but she wouldn't understand, not really. It would hurt her.

For the first time, I realize that there is no one in District Twelve who will understand almost anything I say, about Maysilee, about the Games, about the Capitol, about anything. I feel acutely lonely.

Mom seems to pick up on this. She takes my hand and says, "It will be all right, Haymitch." She looks at me, starts to say something, then shakes her head. "We'd best get cleaned up. The mayor will be waiting."

We straighten each other up. I am going to buy Mom the prettiest dress I can find for her, once I get a chance to shop, but for now, she and Lacklen are both in borrowed clothes. A prep from the onsite team comes in to touch up our make-up, which I'm grateful for since Mom is very inexperienced with it and had applied it in a way that would have gotten her laughed at. My hair is duly shined up, and Lacklen is combed and cleaned.

A producer comes in, carrying a velvet box. "We just got this from the cargo handlers," he says, and I think about the "cargo" they were unloading earlier. "Pelagia Pepper sent it along. It should have been given to you on the train, but you were indisposed. The Donners will be at the banquet. You should return it there."

I take it. I know what it is, but I still take it in very carefully when I open the box. Sitting there, glowing against the black velvet, is Maysilee's mockingjay pin.

The producer scurries off.

Mom comes over and looks at it. "Are you all right?" she asks.

I nod.

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. Sure. Why wouldn't I be all right? I can return Maysilee's pin now. I'm sure the Donners will be glad to see it."

She frowns.

I bite my lip. "What do they think? Do they think I let her die? Did they play it like I didn't care? I did. Did they --"

"Stop it, Haymitch," Mom says. "I was watching with them. I've held Mrs. Donner while she's cried. Lacklen and Indigo have been helping them around the house and helping the merchant kids keep the shop going for them. They're our friends, and they don't think you betrayed Maysilee."

"Really?"

"I promise."

The producers come in a minute later and lead us outside, then down to the formal dining room -- the same room where we said goodbye in some other world. The fireplace where Digger and I did our toasting is going merrily, and the place has been cleared of cobwebs. The tables have been righted and draped with fine linens, and china and flatware almost as good as the Capitol's everyday ware has been set out.

I see the Capitol liaisons here, and Mayor Hammond and his wife, and all of the production crews. The mine foreman is here and he greets Mom respectfully. The Berryhills are here, huddled around a table and looking out of place, though Beech's sister gives me a watery smile. No one is here for Gilla. Apparently Sae does not qualify for an invitation any more than Digger does. I spot the Donners at a table by the window, and my heart stops. Maysilee is sitting there, lovely in a blue dress, her hair long and soft and untangled again, her china blue eyes weary but alive.

She looks at me and breaks into tears.

"Kaydilyn has been very upset," Mom says, stressing the name, and then I remember. I remember that this is not Maysilee. That Maysilee died on a hilltop full of scraggy plants and sharp grasses. This is her twin.

I have to remember that.

"I need to talk to them," I say.

"I understand. Do you need me there?"

I shake my head.

I hold the little velvet box tightly and start to cross the room. Every step takes a very long time. I glance at the fireplace and see Digger kneeling there. I look over at a buffet table where several cakes have been set up and I see Danny. I take him for a hallucination at first, but he waves. He's in his whites, and I guess he's working the banquet. A server scoots across in front of me.

A camera team tries to close in, but Mom swerves in front of them, and I hear her say, "Give him a moment's peace, will you?"

I don't know if they listen to her or not. They should, when she's using that tone of voice. But I am focused on the Donners. Maysilee stands up and pulls over an extra chair for me.

Kaydilyn.

I sit down, and hold up the box. "Gia Pepper made sure to keep this," I say, and hand it to her.

She takes it and opens it, then leans forward and cries into her skirt.

I look hopelessly at Mr. and Mrs. Donner. "I don't… I… Maysilee was…"

My words fail me entirely. I don't know how I'm supposed to talk to these people. What can I possibly say that will make anything any better at all?

Mr. Donner looks as uncomfortable as I feel. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small cardboard box of his own. He hands it to me.

It's pink and cheerful, with a little plastic window on the front, surrounded by cheerful looking children and daisies. Through the window, I see shiny reddish orange candies. Sarsaparilla candies.

"You promised her you'd have some," Mr. Donner says. "I wanted to make sure you remembered."

My hands start to shake, rattling the candies in their box. "I remember," I say.

Kaydilyn reaches up and steadies my hand. "My sister was your ally," she says. "We're your allies now."

I put the candy in the pocket of my suit jacket. I can't eat it. I can't talk. I don't dare open my mouth because I might start screaming. I squeeze Kaydilyn's hand and turn around to go back to my family.

The film crew is standing there, recording it all.

I stare at them.

They stare back. I think the director is smirking.

Something small darts in front of me, and it takes me a minute to recognize Lacklen. He spreads out his arms protectively and says, "Didn't my mother tell you to give him some space?"

The director laughs and gestures to the crew to move away. I have no doubt that the cameras are following us even now.

We pass a bar that's been set up and I grab a drink from it. I don't care. Let them see it.

Lacklen picks it out of my hand and puts it back without commenting.

We get to the head table, and Mom whispers, "You and I are going to have a talk later about…" She gestures at the bar. "Your daddy's son has no business in that poison."

"It's just for the pain," I tell her.

"Mm-hmm." She smiles at the camera and says quietly, barely moving her lips. "Next week it'll be for the memories and the week after that, because you don't like the weather. I know this song, Haymitch, and I'm not going to let you start singing it."

There's no time to explain to her right now, so I don't say anything.

Dinner is served. It's not as refined as anything in the Capitol, but they've made an effort to fancy up a lot of local dishes. I doubt any of it is derived from wild dog. There are heavy, solid breads from the bakery, with real butter from the butcher's. The centerpiece is chicken and dumplings, which I haven't had since Dad lost his promotion. It's delicious, and I wonder who they got to cook it. There's also a huge ham, and biscuits with gravy, and tureens of peas. No one can really afford to eat like this, but I guess everyone in the room recognizes it as home cooking, the kind of thing we would make, if anyone could afford food.

At the end of the night, Danny brings out an apple stack cake, the sort of thing that people sometimes have for weddings. Different families each bake a thin layer with some unique flavor, and then they're stacked together with apples if they're around, wild berries in the more frequent case that they're not. This one, of course, is made with real apples, and I'm willing to bet that Danny baked every layer himself. There are other kinds of cake as well, though thankfully, Danny has chosen to ignore the existence of carrot cake tonight. I will get some from him later for Maysilee, but right now, I think I'd jitter apart at the seams if I saw it.

I eat every bite that's put in front of me. This is partly because it's good, but mostly because if my mouth is full, I have an excuse for not talking to the people who keep coming up to me. The Capitol liaison wants to have a picture together. Mayor Hammond wants to give me a symbolic key to the city (certainly, it's not a real one; I doubt even he has one of those). Peacekeepers want my autograph and picture to send to their relatives back home. The mine foreman wants to say that I'm as clever as my daddy ever was. It goes on and on. I don't know any of these people, and they never tried to talk to me before.

I guess a few people scared up money to support me, though most of them don't qualify for invitations. When it became clear that I had a chance, some of the people whose names I recognize from Maysilee's rebellious little group scrounged coins to send to Drake. They probably went in toward the ice pack, along with the donations from Eleven and Three. It couldn't have been much. Probably they meant it for Maysilee.

At the end of the evening, we all sing the national anthem. The cameras are on me very closely for this. I am tempted to keep my mouth shut. Then I remember that I'm being watched. That Gia has debts. That Snow can do anything he pleases. I sing politely along.

I just want to go home and sleep after this, but of course, the big event of the night is still coming, as far as the Capitol audience is concerned. In fact, it pretty much has to happen before I can go home and sleep.

Mayor Hammond calls me up to the front and turns on a huge video screen, which is showing the houses in the empty stretch of town known as Victors' Village. I can see the one with the huge tree that Duronda Carson hanged herself from. It's very pretty, and has a huge lawn around it. I hope they don't want me to move in there. Haunts might not be real, but that tree sure is, and I don't want to look at it through my bedroom window every day.

"Welcome home, Haymitch," Hammond says, as though we've known one another forever and he's missed me. "You've come back, but you have a new home now. Along with your salary, you have been granted a home in Victors' Village." He brings out a key, smaller than the fake key to the city he gave me earlier, and says, "Would you like to find out which one it is?"

"It's not Duronda's is it?" I ask, looking at the little red button he indicates on the key tag.

He laughs. "Oh, I think we have enough unused houses there that we wouldn't have to do that!"

I push the button.

The house I've been given is about the middle of the way down the green, with a view of the forest. The fence passes at the back of the yard. It's made of brick, and has white-trimmed windows. There's a tree in the front yard, but it's not as big as Duronda's. There are gardens in back.

I can't even associate it with myself.

"Why don't we get you home to rest?" Mom prods.

"Yes, yes!" Hammond says. "The house is being opened up and prepared by a team of domestics now! Are you ready to see your new place?"

I nod. I can't work up much enthusiasm, at least until Mom starts coughing. When that happens, it dawns on me: Mom will have a solid roof over her head tonight. I have gotten her a real house.

"Can we get things from home… from the old house… tomorrow?" I ask.

"Oh, you'll be busy with the holiday," Mom says. "Lacklen and I will take care of it."

I nod. I'm still not excited, but I try to act like I am for the cameras. I'm sure Snow can think of something to do to me if I don't seem properly thrilled.

They pile us into a car so that Mom doesn't have to walk. The roads are as choppy and out of repair as ever, and I have a grandiose thought about using my salary to fix them. I doubt it will be allowed.

We pull into the Village just after midnight. The lights are on in my house, and I can see a girl in a maid's uniform straightening the curtains.

Mom and Lacklen and I join hands, and the camera crew has the decency to stay off the actual property, at least today (they warn that they will be back tomorrow for a tour). We walk up the path to the door.

It swings open, and the maid I saw in the window stands there grinning.

It's Digger.

I step into her arms, and I'm finally home.
17 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 23rd, 2013 04:59 am (UTC) (Link)
What a sweet way to end the story! Do you *really* have to go and finish it to bring it in line with canon?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 23rd, 2013 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
It would be nice to stop here, wouldn't it?
sonetka From: sonetka Date: September 23rd, 2013 05:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, Digger. I think you just sealed your own fate, there. But how could she have possibly suspected it?
vesta_aurelia From: vesta_aurelia Date: September 23rd, 2013 11:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Mrs. Abernathy and Lacklan wouldn't let him drink...and they sealed THEIR fates, too.

Poor Haymitch :(
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 23rd, 2013 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah. Though I kind of wonder if their fates weren't sealed the minute Haymitch glared at Snow.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 23rd, 2013 09:55 am (UTC) (Link)
<
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<for [...] games,>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

<<For the first time, I realize that there is no one in District Twelve who will understand almost anything I say, about Maysilee, about the Games, about the Capitol, about anything. I feel acutely lonely.>>

That's just one of the saddest lines. There's so many moments of poignancy but this hurts a lot. The isolation.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 23rd, 2013 05:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's one of the things that really stuck out about Haymitch in the books to me. When he's in the Capitol with the other victors, he's a relatively normal (if snarky and cynical) person. When he's back in D12, he has no connections to anyone until Katniss and Peeta come along twenty four years after his win.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 23rd, 2013 12:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh, Thank Goodness...

He'll get one night in the new house with his whole family. Not that it'll make much difference in the long run of cannon, but I'm so glad you could give him something.

I though Snow killed everyone because Haymitch wouldn't play along with the prostitution ring? Or was it all for the Arena, and then when the prostitution came up, Snow simply had no hold over him?

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 23rd, 2013 05:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Oh, Thank Goodness...

Haymitch says it's because of the force field trick, though the issue of what's "expected" of him will come up. I doubt that all of the victors were prostituted anyway; Finnick says it's the ones who are "desirable." Haymitch being an embarrassing, sloppy drunk may also be something of a defense against this as he gets older.
redrikki From: redrikki Date: September 23rd, 2013 03:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Haymitch's detachment, loneliness and tendency to think Kaydilyn is her dead sister are kind of heartbreaking. It's also heartbreaking to think how different Haymitch might have been if they hadn't murdered his support system and the mom who refused to put up with his drinking.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 23rd, 2013 05:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think he would have been a lot different, that's for sure.

It's another case of Snow being a raving idiot. (Not that this is unusual with power-trip dictators.) If he'd seen that he had a lot of extremely smart people who already had a reason to dislike the Capitol (the Games), he should have coddled them as promised, given them everything, and not treated them like garbage. Instead, he more or less guarantees that they're going to foment a rebellion against him.
vesta_aurelia From: vesta_aurelia Date: September 24th, 2013 12:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
The upright nail must always be pounded down with this type of personality.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 25th, 2013 03:56 am (UTC) (Link)
And they never seem to realize that the nails in question have a big tendency to pull themselves out and grab the hammer, do they?
redlily From: redlily Date: September 24th, 2013 01:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh crimeny, Mom's got a bead on Haymitch's drinking, doesn't she.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 24th, 2013 03:01 am (UTC) (Link)
She was married to an alcoholic. She knows.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 24th, 2013 09:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Quite aside from the tragedy of losing his family (I'll be reading that from behind a cushion I think), one of the saddest things is how Snow and the Gamemakers are turning this brave, intelligent, resourceful boy into a national joke in order to draw his sting. It's not enough to break him in the arena, they have to completely strip him of his dignity.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 25th, 2013 03:59 am (UTC) (Link)
At least his neighbors, I think, have some kind of idea what's going on, hence the conspicuous show of respect at the platform. But it really is a vile thing to do.

Not to downplay how well he lived down to expectations, of course. Whether he used it as a cover or not is debatable, but he definitely drank himself into a stupor for years. Probably self-medicating for depression -- it's a fairly common way that men deal with it -- but still.
17 comments or Leave a comment