I get a glimpse of the boy from District Four on television, while I'm trying to get Treeza and Chicory to stop panicking. That's most of the point of watching the Reapings, and pretending that it's vitally important to see other frightened children coming up to the stage. It takes about half an hour, and sitting still that long is often enough to even off their breathing and get them thinking straight. At least that's Haymitch's theory, and so far, it's worked well enough.
At any rate, the commentators don't dwell on Finnick Odair, except to point out that it's unusual, but not unheard of, for District Four not to produce any volunteers when a young tribute is called. We're assured that there have been at least sixteen Games where one of the District Four tributes wasn't a volunteer. The girl is an eighteen-year-old volunteer named Dempsey Colton, and she tries to upstage the quiet boy beside her during the reading of the Treaty. He's supposed to be fourteen, but he barely looks twelve. He's an attractive child. That's all I have time to think before they move on to District Five and Treeza -- who really is twelve, but looks fifteen -- asks if they'll actually get to meet Caesar Flickerman. She's one of the merchants, and some relation to the baker's wife ("at least according to the paperwork," Haymitch quips obscurely), and she has her blond hair cut into a fashionable bob. If I think there's anyone particularly threatening, it would be Swather Brooks, from Eleven, who looks like he might well eat both of my tributes as an appetizer before getting to the rest of the field. Chicory's eyes go wide when he watches that Reaping. He's seventeen, but skinny and malnourished, like so many of the children I've called.
I don't give any more thought to the boy from Four until a slow moment at the Remake Center, while Chicory and Treeza are still in prep. Most of the tributes are still in prep. Finnick Odair is sent downstairs wearing a pair of scaly pants meant to evoke a fish tail, and not much else. He looks around for his escort and mentor, who are both at meetings (Haymitch is meeting with a new sponsor himself), then sits down miserably on a chair not far from me. They've put a seashell wreath on his head, and he's carrying a plastic trident. Other than being cleaned up, they've really not done anything to him.
And why would they? On camera, in a quick shot from a distance, he seemed to be a solidly attractive child, but nothing special. Up close, I can see that he is quite genuinely beautiful, the way a painting or a sculpture is beautiful. It's an almost feminine kind of beauty -- full pink lips, deep and thick red hair, and eyes as green as gemstones. His face is unmarked except for a casual spill of freckles on his nose, and he's strongly built despite his youth.
He makes me think of the book of fairy tales Haymitch gave me, like he's a creature conjured up by a good witch, maybe a perfect son for the hardworking king and queen who've been cursed with barrenness, born from a seashell they found on the beach and gifted with all of the charms that could possibly fit into him.
He seems to feel me looking in his direction, and looks up slowly. "Hi."
I smile. "Hi. I'm Effie Trinket. I'm the escort from Twelve. Did you need anything?"
He shakes his head. "I'm Finnick. I'm waiting for Mags. She usually mentors the girl, but I know her from home, and I asked if she could mentor me."
"I think she got a call to meet with a sponsor while you were in prep," I tell him. "I'm sure she'll be back soon."
He gives me a distracted little smile, and turns away to face the elevator.
The other tributes start coming down about fifteen minutes later. Therinus has given up on his authenticity kick (it never went over well with the public) and has done something he calls "conceptualization." It's changed since the sketches I looked at. He's got them in a shared, tent-like structure made of lumpy, textured black material, which he says symbolizes a pile of coal. They are wearing hats that are supposed to be lumps of coal clumped together, but I don't even need to wait for Haymitch to get back to know what he'll say, and I'm right. I don't think I've ever heard anyone string together quite as many colloquialisms for defecation as he does as soon as he lays eyes on them.
Therinus starts weeping hysterically about his "vision" while Haymitch (totally against procedure) hectors his partner, Agabus, into doing whatever he can to break the image -- "I don't care what! Just make them look less like a giant flying mutt crapped on them." We experiment with whatever we happen to have on -- Haymitch tries his suit jacket and his fine shirt on Chicory but they're way too big for him (Haymitch spends the rest of the evening in an undershirt, which lets the whole country see that he hasn't exactly been keeping in shape, and will cause no end of merriment among the comedians… but up close, I can still see the strength in his arms and shoulders). I offer Treeza my wig, even though I don't like going without it, but she shakes her head firmly. I do end up giving her my shoes, to give her a little height, and I spend the evening barefoot.
Finally, we decide to cut the main structure in two, so that they're both wearing what look like asymmetrical black capes. Therinus refuses to participate, and Agabus doesn't want to cross him any further. I run out to the street and find someone who's selling strings of beads for the parties, and drape orange ones over their shoulders and around the hats. The first chariots are already going out.
"What's that supposed to be?" Haymitch asks.
"I don't know. Fire?"
He covers his face, then sighs and looks up. "I'm sorry," he tells the kids. "We'll get past it with the sponsors, and at least you're covered up."
Treeza turns this way and that, making her cape sway. "I like it," she says.
Chicory looks at her like she's crazy and mutters something about blondes.
Mercifully, the cameras don't dwell on them during the parade, and the close-ups during the president's speech are actually close enough that the audience is basically only seeing their faces.
Not that much time is spent on the District Twelve chariot. Everyone gets at least one shot, but the focus perpetually moves back to District Four, lingering on Finnick's face from many different angles. The cameras love him.
When we watch the recaps that night in the apartment, it's clear that the cameras aren't alone in that. People on the street have captured images from the live broadcast, and are carrying signs with Finnick's face blown up to poster size. A doll manufacturer promises that he has already called his top designers to get an action figure molded before the Games begin. Giggling schoolgirls declare their love. The segment producers joke about trying to find other tributes' fan clubs, but not having much luck.
Treeza rushes to a mirror. "Do you think he'll notice me?" she asks.
"Let's hope not," Haymitch says. "Getting noticed by other tributes isn't generally a good thing in the Games, unless they're scared of you. We're going to have to work around the -- "
"I shouldn't have gotten my hair cut!" Treeza declares, trying to push her short hair into different shapes. "I was prettier with long hair."
Haymitch shakes his head. "Don't worry. We'll get you more camera time."
He closes his eyes, then opens them and turns to Chicory. "Are you worried about your hair, too?"
"No. When I finish with pretty-boy, his own mother won't want to look at him."
"Great," Haymitch mutters. We watch the coverage a little longer, then he sends the kids up to sleep. He and I have a cup of coffee in the little dinette area.
"Effie, will you go out on the street and see if we have any friends that they just neglected to show?"
"I'm sure we do," I tell him. "You know how they are. They're always looking for… novelty." I reach across the table and take his hand. He sometimes objects when I do this, but seems to have mostly concluded that it's harmless. This time, he weaves his fingers through mine. I smile. "I'll find their fans. And I'll get a wig with Treeza's haircut and get it into Games Gab. See if we can't get people to look at her as fashionable."
"That would be good. And I'll see if I can get Chick calmed down. Going into training with a grudge is always a bad idea." He skims the ball of his thumb over my hand. "Is it me, or does that kid look a little familiar? Has he been on the broadcast from Four before?"
"I don't think so," I say. "He's pretty noticeable."
"Yeah." He squeezes my hand and looks at me calmly for what probably seems longer than it is. "I bet half the other tributes are weak at the knees, and the other half are out for blood."
"It's probably a good thing they stopped playing games with the sponsors," he says. "I mean… you remember the year after my Games. The way they found out that some people were getting sponsors."
"I remember. You were one of the ones that helped stop it."
"I sometimes wonder if it's back. Did you notice Jack Anderson squiring ladies around the Capitol?"
"I just assumed that he decided he likes everyone. People do sometimes, you know. And they do keep an eye on what you do with sponsors. Or what I do with them, for that matter. I used to date a bookkeeper. He had some seasonal work making sure that all of the sponsorships were legitimate. Anyway, wouldn't you know? Wouldn't they be… well, talking to you?"
He smiles wearily and stares at our twined hands. "It's one advantage of being a careless drunk with an expanding gut. No one's calling these days."
One of his curls has disentangled itself from the rest of his hair, and is falling across his brow. I reach across and correct it with my free hand. "You know, in your year a lot of the girls in school were talking about you after the parade."
He catches my hand by his face and holds it. "Yeah? Were you?"
I nod. "I even had a poster."
"It was right beside my mirror."
"So it would look like we were standing there together having a conversation."
"I didn't know how unpleasant conversations with you would end up being, of course."
Our noses brush against each other, and Haymitch sits back, letting go of my hands. "You should go, Effie. Check out what's going on out there, and sleep at home tonight. I'll see you tomorrow morning."
"I think you're right," I say. I get up and go to the living room, and put my shoes back on. Treeza shed them with exaggerated protestations of pain as soon as we got up here. I turn to head for the elevator and see Haymitch standing in the door to the kitchen area, watching me from the shadows. I look back at him.
He smiles. "Get out of here, Effie. Please."
I nod and go to the elevator. It seems to take a long time to get all the way up.
Out on the street, there's a breeze coming in off the lake that keeps things cool, and I'm glad of it. In the Games plaza, the camera crews are milling around, hoping to get a glimpse of anyone inside. I'm recognized and interviewed cursorily -- who am I wearing (a dress from Philippa's pre-fall line), do I think my tributes are strong this year (of course, I'm completely sure of them), and how is the District Twelve team responding to the interest in the boy from Four (we haven't given him much thought, though I spoke to him and he seems like a nice young man). They release me. Later, I'll find out that the only thing that makes the airwaves is my comment that Finnick Odair is nice.
The parties on the street are the same as ever, though there do seem to be more fans of Four than usual. There is almost nothing in Finnick Odair's look that people can copy, though a few barbers have opened up to offer dye jobs and haircuts, and enterprising children are selling seashells from the lake shore for people to make crowns.
I end up having to go off the streets and into a few private parties -- they rarely turn away a well-known Games escort -- to find fans of districts other than Four, and they aren't promising. Haymitch's usual friends in the Capitol are reliable (though even Miss Sanders, while being devoted to Twelve, is showing more concern for what will happen to "that poor boy from Four -- they're going to smother him with all of this nonsense!"), and many children seem to like Treeza. Children always flock to the twelve-year-olds… though Finnick has a goodish concentration of these himself, since he looks so young. Chicory is decent-looking, and there seem to be people making a concerted effort to argue that brunettes are inherently more attractive than redheads, and in one alleyway, it looks like a fight might start over the subject.
Finnick is all the talk at the smarter parties in the good section of town. Politicians and military men are talking in excited tones about how he resembles a young Alexander, whoever that is. One makes an obscure reference to sending him a horse named Bucephalus, and they all laugh. The president makes an appearance at this particular party, and I see him from a distance, talking to one of these men and smiling coldly.
There are a few victors milling around as well. Jack Anderson is attending to an older woman who seems delighted with his company. He keeps glancing up at the screen, where they're showing re-caps of the parade. They still have the reaping crews down in Four, and Finnick's father has been cornered by them. He's a decent-looking man, though his skin is weathered by life at sea.
"Doolin Odair," someone says beside me.
I turn to find Mr. Hedge, the other District Seven mentor. He looks spooked. "Who?" I ask.
"I used to do business with the old crook. Overpriced shellfish. I bought shark from him once. I haven't seen him in years. He looks old." He smiles a little madly. "I guess we all do."
"Don't be silly. You look fine."
"She probably doesn't. She won't let them put her on television."
He blinks heavily. "The mother," he says. "Carolyn, I think her name is. She was beautiful once. The boy takes after her."
It occurs to me to wonder how he knows what Odair's wife looks like. I imagine that they must have some kind of communication system to show the fish they're selling. Maybe she handled the business. But it looks like Mr. Hedge isn't thinking of her entirely as a fishmonger. "How do you know them?" I ask.
He turns to me, wide-eyed, and seems to realize that he's been speaking to me. He forces a smile onto his face. "Aw, you know. Youth. There's a resort down there in Four. I used to date a Capitol girl, and she got us travel permits to go there. I probably couldn't do anything like that anymore. I met Odair at the beach. He was selling fresh oysters." He laughs wildly. "You know what they say about oysters!"
I don't, but I feel like I'm expected to, so I nod.
On screen, Finnick's father is asked where his wife is. He says she was scheduled on a boat the afternoon after reaping. "She didn't want to go, of course -- not with all of this happening -- but she didn't have a choice."
Mr. Hedge gives a derisive snort, then glimpses Jack across the room. He grinds his teeth and excuses himself.
I stay out until just after two, then go home. I put in an order for a wig in Treeza's hairstyle (though I choose to make it blue, so it won't look like I'm trying to sell it). It's not uncommon, if not quite common enough to be called the In Look, so my wigmaker has it in stock, and it won't require much in the way of resizing or styling. Since my orders go to the front of the line, it should be ready for delivery before I leave tomorrow morning.
Sure enough, I'm awakened by a messenger at eight o'clock. He has my new wig. I put it on and dress to match. Make-up is relatively minimal this season. A tan base, glitter frosted false eyelashes, and pearl-toned lipstick. I'm ready to go well before nine, and I get to the Training Center apartment just as the servant -- they've started using Avoxes, of all things, now; this is the first time I've ever seen one not doing menial maintenance work -- is setting out breakfast. Haymitch is trying to strike up a conversation with her.
"She can't talk," I tell him. "No tongue."
His eyes open wider. "What?"
"It's usually a punishment for traitors."
He stares at the girl, then looks at me. "You're all right with that?"
"What do you mean?"
He looks like he's about to say something, then shakes his head and calls the kids out. We have a decent breakfast together. Haymitch advises them to stay clear of the Career pack, which is what he calls the inner district alliance.
"Like I'd want to go near that pretty boy," Chicory grouses.
"I would," Treeza says dreamily.
Haymitch rolls his eyes. "You snap out of it. I have no idea what kind of person he is -- "
"He's a good person! You can tell in his eyes. Even Effie said he was nice, on television."
" -- and neither do you. Maybe he's decent. But maybe he knows how to use that pretty face to get you to come close enough to kill." He considers it. "He is young, though. The other Careers might not want him. If they seem to be leaving him out of things, go ahead, make an alliance. There are worse things than being allies with a kid who's going to end up sponsored by half the Capitol."
I check messages while the kids change into their training uniforms. I'm disappointed -- but not surprised -- to find that two of this morning's sponsor meetings have been canceled.
Haymitch brushes it off. "It's bad luck," he says. "I know you've been working the contacts. Nobody was predicting Helen of Troy showing up in a chariot."
"Never mind. Just an old story." He watches the Avox cleaning up the dishes for a few minutes, his nose wrinkled in unmasked disdain. "What do we have left on dock?"
"You have three still," I say. "One first thing -- you'll need to go downstairs with the children. After that, there's an hour break, then two more. All in the conference rooms. I'll see if I can find a few more during the first one."
"Thanks. Give me enough of a break to check in with you, though."
"I'll meet you in the lounge."
As it happens, I can give him the full hour's break. No one is interested in coming to a meeting who hasn't already set one up. The president of his fan club -- a strange, bookish little man named Erastus -- promises to see if he can stir up some interest in Twelve. "I don't suppose he's done anything this year?" he asks timidly. "I mean, I know he's… busy… at home. Does he have a girlfriend? Boyfriend? Is he doing a hobby?"
"He's not seeing anyone," I say. "And his hobby… He… well, he reads."
"Mmm. I wish he'd at least give us an interview about what he's reading. Do you know if he's read the new one by Quintina Winters? A lot of readers are talking about it. Maybe if he's read it, they'd want to hear about it and maybe give him a little money?"
I'm no one's idea of a reader, at least not the way Erastus means, where they make a whole lifestyle of talking about books, but even I've heard of The Checklist, a book about a District Three woman who is working her way down a list of titillating activities that are frowned on there. I'm reasonably sure what questions people would ask Haymitch about it. I'm completely sure that he has no idea it exists and wouldn't read it if he did. "I think he prefers the older stories. Do you know who 'Helen of Troy' was? Would they want to hear about her?"
He says the character name sounds familiar, but he can't place her, and doesn't sound hopeful about her generating interest. The fan club has shrunk a lot, and, Erastus complains, half the ones who are left are there for all the wrong reasons. "Half of them believe that rubbish about him being a drunk. I keep telling them that's just something the news makes up to make him look bad."
"They'd probably just want to hear about that homemade liquor he supposedly drinks. They keep trying to make it."
"I don't think he knows how to make it."
Erastus grumbles a little bit more about how he's sure they're just not showing the real Haymitch, who's one of the smartest men in Panem and certainly must be doing something with it, then lets me go.
I go downstairs and find Haymitch waiting in the lounge in a sour temper. He's been taking the pills that keep the craving for liquor off of him, but they don't improve his mood.
"Nothing from the first one," he says. "Apparently, he wants to 're-direct' his contributions."
"I'm sorry. He should have canceled, too."
"I think he wanted to come down here to see if he could get a glimpse of the training room screens."
He shudders. "As far as I'm concerned, that means it's just as well he's not looking at Chicory and Treeza. What's wrong with a guy who's salivating over a fourteen-year-old kid? Who looks even younger, while I'm at it."
"I'm sure it's not like that…"
"Go out on the street tonight, Effie. See how many of the hookers have their hair dyed. How many have seashells on their outfits. Then tell me how 'sure' you are." He runs his hands through his hair. "And if you're right, tell me so, because I could use an uplifting tale just about now."
"Is Helen of Troy an uplifting tale?"
He laughs. "You're not getting past that one, are you? Answer's no, not in the least. If you want to read it, it's Greek mythology. Suffice it to say, her beauty was leveraged pretty well. You can use my library pass after the Games."
"Thanks, I -- "
He looks up, surprised, then leery. I look over my shoulder and see a short, roundish man who I recognize from about a hundred Capitol Dreams events, but have never met properly. I hold out my hand to shake his, but he doesn't respond.
Haymitch seems to know him, though. "Plutarch," he says cautiously.
"Good to see you!"
"Are you back with the Gamemakers?"
"Oh, I've been with them all along. They've had me on research. I'm a full Gamemaker now."
"Feels like I haven't talked to you for years," Plutarch says. He claps Haymitch's arm, actually reaching around me to do it, and moving me off to one side a little bit. "I haven't really been myself, but I'm feeling better now."
"Oh, really," Haymitch says dryly, and physically turns me around to face Mr. Heavensbee. "By the way, this is my escort, Effie Trinket."
Mr. Heavensbee's eyes flicker over me briefly and he says, "Yes, of course. So what have you been doing?"
Haymitch clamps his jaw. "Making friends with my escort, among other things. Effie, this is Plutarch Heavensbee. Plutarch, Effie."
Mr. Heavensbee seems to realize that he's been reprimanded. He smiles at me formally and says, "It's nice to meet you, Miss Trinket. Haven't I seen you at Capitol Dreams functions?"
"Yes. Quite a few."
"Well, I'm not with Capitol Dreams anymore -- it was just eating up so much time -- so it's certainly nice to know that I'll see you somewhere new." He turns back to Haymitch. "It frees up my schedule a little. I wondered if you and Chaff might be interested in a nice chess game sometime. Now that I'm feeling better. Fulvia will be with me. You remember my girl, Fulvia? I started seeing her again a few months ago."
Haymitch frowns. "That's great, Plutarch. We'll play chess. But remember -- don't try any feints on me."
"Wouldn't dream of it."
Mr. Heavensbee walks away.
"What was that about?" I ask. "Why did you want me to meet a Gamemaker?"
"I don't care whether or not you meet him," Haymitch says, sitting down at the lunch counter in the lounge. "Plutarch's a blowhard and I don't trust him any further than I can throw him. But I'm the only one who gets to ignore you. And frankly, I ought to be smacked over the head for it."
I smile, and grab the stool beside him. "Let's get you set up for your next meeting. We'll need more sponsors if we're going to compete with Helen of Troy."