Johanna is kept in isolation in an undisclosed location for three weeks after her Games. "We wouldn't want that flu to come back and ruin her celebration!" Claudius chirps. This leaves everyone here for the Games at somewhat loose ends.
Haymitch and Chaff start drinking, predictably enough. I visit sponsors for next year. Mags spends time with a sculptor friend. Seeder attends the ballet, and takes a master class. Caesar is tasked with keeping the audience's minds on the Games, and he does it by hosting a series of movies that have been made about them, or biopics about the victors. There's even a new movie made about Rogan Lally, the second victor, who died last spring. They push the production through so it can be screened during the downtime.
Finnick goes through several lovers, as do Cashmere and Enobaria. Jack doesn't. This puts him in a very good mood. "I'm not the flavor of the month anymore," he says. "I guess I'll just have to amuse myself in the Capitol instead of amusing other people." He decides to help the Gamemakers pick a wardrobe to go into Johanna's new house, and he asks me to help him, since she seems to like my taste and the District Seven escort, Barnabas, knows very little about women's fashion ("Which explains why he likes our stylist," Jack quips). Jack himself knows a great deal about menswear, and rather likes Capitol fashions, but he's had very little exposure to young women.
We spend a day in the fashion district, going from shop to shop. At first, he suggests that I actually buy her the same kinds of clothes I wear, but I convince him that she wouldn't like that in the end -- there should be a difference between the way a fifteen-year-old girl and a twenty-seven-year-old woman choose to express themselves.
I get her a lot of winter clothes that will be appropriate in the isolated Victors' Village in District Seven, which Jack tells me is four miles off the nearest logging road, ten miles from the nearest camp, and thirty miles from town ("I'm grateful for that, since the town stinks of the paper mill"). Jack doesn’t consider everyday life. He wants to get her only high fashion. I convince him that she'll want clothes she can move around in outside the Capitol. We get her a nice selection of slacks and tops, and athletic shoes. Then we go a little wild with the upcoming fashions. I try to stick to the people Johanna would have heard of on her late night television binges.
Philippa has a juniors line in production for the autumn line. I choose not to go with the plant life, given Johanna's abhorrence of looking like a tree at the parade. I get her sharp, geometry-inspired skirts and blouses, and a wildly twisting style of pantsuit that's made from a single band of fabric. We find the craziest shoes of the season, figuring she might like a laugh, and a selection of bright colored umbrellas for Seven's frequent rainy days, and I don't even try to resist the temptation to buy her a coat I had my eye on, but thought was too warm for the Capitol -- it's white pressed wool, bulky in a delightfully comfortable way, and emblazoned with this season's geometric designs in bright, beautiful colors. I also order her a full case of jewelry and an extensive make-up kit, along with a book on different cosmetic applications.
I do think about young Cinna, whose collection will show sometime next month, but I don't know where his studio is. Johanna won't have heard of him, anyway.
"Will she want wigs, do you think?" Jack asks, perusing a selection of hair extensions for himself. "You were wearing them when you were her age, weren't you?"
Let's see what's under Effie's wig!
I shove the voice aside. "I think the head is more of a long-term commitment. I'll give her a catalog if she wants to try them, but once your stylist is finished with the closing events, she'll probably want to pick a look that she wants."
"Do you want to talk to her? I can contact her on the hover craft. I was going to call her."
I go with him back to the Training Center. We can't call from one of the open phones in the Viewing Center, so we go up to the District Seven apartment. Barnabas and Blight are sitting in the dinette, playing cards and smoking. Barnabas has come and gone in District Seven twice now -- there aren't that many male escorts, and Blight has a habit of chasing them off -- and I guess they've come to some kind of rapprochement, or at least found out that they can share irritating habits and only annoy each other with them. Jack asks if either wants to talk to Johanna; they both decline. I haven't gotten a close look at Blight for a while. He looks hollow-faced and empty. There's no time to wonder about it.
I'm so used to the second mentor's door being shut and the room never being used (Haymitch is a creature of habit, and always takes the room on the left side of the hall) that I am surprised when Jack takes a right. Haymitch's room, like the escort quarters, overlooks the city, with a view toward the lake. Jack's window looks out on the Training Center courtyard, where a fountain shoots multi-colored water toward the sky. Haymitch, Chaff, Seeder, Cecelia, and Woof are sitting under a trellis of twined roses, laughing over something they're watching on a little television Cecelia's holding. She had her second baby last year. I wonder if she's showing baby pictures. I should ask to see some.
Jack looks over my shoulder. "I'll have to check on that later." He nods toward his desk, where his phone is warming up. The holding image is projected onto the wall behind it. Beside the phone, there's a picture of Jack in District Seven, not wearing any of his Capitol fashions. He and a tall blond man are grilling something on a bricked up patio. There's also a picture that I assume is of his parents, and a large one of a fireplace surrounded by kitschy art. The blond man, who I assume is Linden, is painting a wooden duck.
Haymitch never brings anything from home to cheer the place up.
Then again, I don't know if Haymitch owns anything that can really be said to cheer him up. He actively resists being cheered up.
Jack pulls a chair over for me as the image from the phone resolves itself into Johanna Mason. The first thing I notice is that she's cut her pigtails off.
Jack grins. "I better warn Sylvania about the hair. I think she was planning on going the little girl route."
"They just kept washing it with this smelly stuff. I couldn't sleep with it. So I cut it off with a kitchen knife. They can fix it up later, right?" Johanna frowns at him. She's pale and too thin, and has the haunted look that most of the victors have when they first come out, but she seems to be more or less all right.
"Sure they can. How are you?"
"Not sick, that's for sure. I don't think I'm ever going to get sick again, with all the stuff they put in me. It's possible that I'm actually immortal now."
"Probably not, honey," Jack says, pointing at me.. "Do you remember Effie Trinket?"
"From Twelve?" Johanna says.
"From Twelve," Jack confirms. He widens the view, and I can now see both of us in the little monitor screen.
"Why is she here? Is she mad about River? I didn't want him to die."
"Of course you didn't, honey," I tell her. "I'm glad he had you with him for so long. He was very fond of you."
"I didn't see him going back in there until it was too late."
"I know. I saw."
"Effie helped me buy clothes for you today," Jack says.
"Sylvania's not buying my clothes?"
"Only for the Games events," I say. "We bought you clothes for home."
"Just blue jeans and stuff, then?"
"A lot of it is every day clothes. But you should see the coat I got you. And some gowns."
"Gowns. You can dress up every night if you want to."
"I can?" She looks up hopefully, more the little girl who watched fashion shows late at night than the one who just won the Games, then suddenly, a shadow falls over her. "I guess I could. But I don't have anyone to dress up with. And District Seven parties… well, they aren't anywhere I could wear a gown. They're mostly climbing trees and throwing logs and things. No one gets to see my gowns."
"Excuse me," Jack says. "You have neighbors now. We'll have dinner parties every week. Saturday night. At your house, at my house. We'll even make Blight come along. Maybe he'll even remember that he can be sociable with his clothes on."
She smiles faintly. "Sure. Why not?"
"Do you want to hear about what we got you?" I ask.
She forces the shadow away and says, "Yeah," and we spend twenty minutes telling her about our shopping trip. She says she can't wait for the first rainstorm so she can try out her new umbrellas.
"So, what's going on out there?" Jack asks her when we've gotten through the inventory. "Do you know where you are?"
"No idea. All the shielding is down on the windows. There are people in masks sterilizing everything every day. We switched hover crafts when I landed -- me and all the Games staff. I don't know what they did with the other one. They keep taking my blood to make sure I'm not carrying anything. They said it was my flu everyone caught."
"That's what they're saying here, too," I tell her.
"Everyone's saying it's my fault?" She grinds her teeth. "I bet they're all saying I'm a murderer, too. I am a murderer, though. I guess."
"They're saying you're a victor," Jack says firmly. "Same as they say about me, and Blight, and Finnick Odair."
"I remember everybody in Seven saying Finnick Odair was a murderer." She bites her lip. "He was pretty nice to me, though."
"He thought you were tough from the start," I say. "I think he'll want to meet you when you get back."
"Is he usually nice?"
She doesn't look like she entirely believes that the famous Finnick Odair wants to meet her. "Okay," she says. "I'll meet him, if he's nice."
"What are you doing to keep busy?" Jack says. "I know it's hard after the Games --"
"I'm good," she tells him sharply. "I'm fine. They have a television, and a Gamemaker named Plutarch Heavensbee is out here, and he gave me magazines."
"They sent a Gamemaker?"
"A couple of them. Heavensbee is the only one who talks to me. He says it's cold out. They let him go outside. There are a bunch of Peacekeepers, too. Like I'm going to run away. All by myself where it's cold and I don't know where I am. Do they think I'm stupid?"
I smile. "If they do, I'm sure they'll figure out that mistake soon enough, too."
"Well… you know how they were showing you before the Games?"
"The crybaby," she says.
I nod. "They kept that up for a while, then everyone saw you were stronger."
Jack leans forward. "That's important, Jo. The story that's out is that you played a tricky game -- convinced everyone to ignore you, while you planned to wait them out and win."
She snorts. "Yeah. Sure. Well, what else would it be, right?"
"They're going to believe it no matter what you say."
"What… you think it's not true?"
"Johanna," she says, and cuts the connection.
Jack looks at me. "As fresh victors go, she's more or less together. Hopefully, she'll get over the rudeness. She's just making up a face to wear."
I'm not sure that's true, and even if it is, the faces the victors put on tend to be hard to take off, judging by Haymitch's behavior. Or Jack's, for that matter -- the public decided that he was a sensitive, romantic soul with a flair for drama, and that's exactly the face he still gives them. Finnick is the only one I know who's fully committed to keeping his public persona out of his private life, and even he slips sometimes.
I don't say anything.
I have dinner with Haymitch in a little dive he found a few years ago, not far from the Mutt Zoo, and he shows me the little video that Cecelia was showing them. It is of her two children. The older one, a boy named Isik, is trying to feed baby Esta applesauce. This somehow ends up a game where Cecelia uses her solid aiming skills to flick blobs of applesauce into Isik's open mouth. It's a strangely normal thing for Haymitch to have been laughing at.
I tell him about my conversation with Johanna. The restaurant is crowded and there's too loud a din to listen in, and we're in a back booth anyway. I doubt anyone would be able to tell what I'm saying. I thought he might be interested to know that his Gamemaker friend was there, but he just shrugs and says he hasn't talked to Plutarch for a couple of years now.
"She seems surprised that Finnick wants to meet her," I say.
"Well, he's pretty famous. She is, too, but I promise, it hasn't sunk in yet."
"She's only three years younger than Finnick. I wonder… well, he could use someone steady in his life, and another victor wouldn't be…" I trail off, unsure of what I'm saying.
Haymitch raises an eyebrow. "Wouldn't be leverage?"
He thinks about it. "It wouldn't work."
"District to district romance? It would be harder than district to Capitol."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, dating a Capitol girl -- it's a lot of phone calls. They're all bugged. Even if a guy hadn't ripped his phone out of the wall, there's nothing private. And where does it go? He can come here once a year for the Games, but they'll never let him stay in the Capitol. The victors are supposed to stay in the districts and be symbols. But the Capitol girl could move to the district. I can't think of why she'd want to, but in theory, she could. She'd have to quit her job. Give up everything. Risk having her kids in the reaping. She wouldn't be able to get good medicine very easily, and she'd have to put up with living with a victor --"
"In theory, she probably wouldn't mind that part."
"Yeah, but they wouldn’t be living in Theory. They'd be living in Victors' Village. Nice house, still in District… in the districts. But let's say there's theory happening, and she goes. Maybe there's a chance. Probably not -- probably she'd run out of patience and run back to the Capitol in a month, and I'd be the first person to tell her she's smart to do it -- but maybe. But the thing is, it's possible, no matter how long a shot it is. It would be crazy, but, on the outer margins, it could be done."
"But district to district? You can't even make a phone call district to district without proving that there's a good, work-related reason for it. It goes through the Capitol first. As to either of them leaving? They're both symbols of their districts. They can't get travel permits, let alone relocation permits. There's just no way for it to work."
"Oh." I poke at my dinner. "You've really worked out why things are impossible."
"I don't make them impossible, Effie." He gives a kind of miserable shrug. "There's no one for me in Twelve. I barely have friends anymore, let alone… So, yeah, I've thought through other scenarios. 'Crazy long shot with a very unhappy Capitol girl' is the best working one I've got."
"Who says she'd be unhappy?"
"She's a Capitol girl. She'd be miserable. I wouldn't want that."
He smiles. "Theoretically."
We finish dinner. I go home. There's a ballet on television. Caesar must be getting desperate. It's about one of the roaming merchant caravans that crisscrossed North America after the Catastrophes, but before Panem rose. I can tell, because the sets that represent the era are pretty stylized -- dusty trucks in a circle around a fire -- and I've seen them before. The prima ballerina seems to be playing a fortune teller. She's doing a dance with a crystal ball, anyway, and she seems to have seen something in it that she doesn't like.
It's very pretty, but I missed the synopsis, and I can't figure out the plot. I turn off the television. I don't have anything to do, so I finish Erastus's book. I still don't understand everything. He must have done a lot of research, because it goes on for pages and pages about how tidal locking works, even though the only important thing is that it means the two planets always stare at each other across space, like angry men about to start a fight. They never turn their faces away from each other, and just revolve around each other. The sides that are facing inward never get direct sunlight. Noon is a total eclipse of the sun by the other planet. What light they get is indirect, so when there's light, it always looks like sunset or sunrise. There's an extended conversation about this, so I assume it's supposed to be a symbol, but I don't know what the symbol is supposed to mean. I suppose there must be dictionaries somewhere that tell people who study that kind of thing, but I never did. Maybe I'll ask Haymitch.
In the end, they don't avert the disaster. The asteroid hits the poor planet. They've managed to move everyone to the rich planet, but the other one has been knocked out of its orbit, and pulled into the gravity field. When it ends, the heroes are watching the object in the sky get larger every night, waiting for the two planets to collide and become one again, which will kill everyone.
I'm not sure why they don't get in the spaceships they used for evacuation and go someplace else. I think it's a depressing book, and I don't understand it, but I dream about it for days. I dream that I'm standing on the observation deck with the gruff hero -- purely Haymitch in my dream, with none of the little masking tics that Erastus gave him -- and the cheerful boy who's attached himself to the group, and watching death approach with no escape hatch. Butterfly shows up in this dream sometimes. She is waving a handful of black feathers at it.
The hover crafts finally return to the Capitol. The head Gamemaker -- who is not Titania Dori, though no one offers an explanation for this -- kicks off the closing events.
Johanna is whisked from one place to another, as the victor always is, and I'm not invited to any of the events, so I don't get to see her. Sylvania has her dressed in organic soil-cloth, and she ends each evening draped in living plants, looking like a small forest. When she watches her Games at the official release, I can tell that she's confused by how little of the plague is shown. They've cut things together to emphasize the idea that she deliberately tricked the other tributes (not, of course, the Gamemakers, who gave her challenges they knew she had it in her to beat), then finally started to show her talent for combat. Not much is shown of her friendship with River. It doesn’t fit the narrative. The cover shows her killing Jacoba.
In Caesar's final interview, she comes across as brash and cocky. He asks the question everyone has been begging for -- when did she decide to "stop faking"? He suggests to her that it was when she realized that one of the stronger tributes had been beatable, and she jumps on it. I notice that she's wearing an emerald tie clip as a pin. I think it's actually Caesar's. I've seen him wear one like it, anyway. I guess she does have a talent for getting people to give her things. That will be handy when she's mentoring.
The Games end after her sponsor banquet, and I walk Haymitch to the train. Instead of coffins in the cold car this year, there are two urns, emblazoned with the national emblems of Panem and the logo for the Sixty-Ninth Annual Hunger Games. Each urn is covered with hard, thick plastic. Haymitch secures them in his car. I touch each of them to say goodbye.
Haymitch has already started drinking. He tries to give me a hug, and manages to get all of my jewelry off kilter somehow. I pull away and roll my eyes at him.
He snorts. "Yeah," he says. "She'd be real happy, theoretically."
He turns away and shuts the door before I can answer this.
The fall seems to last a long time. I go to Cinna Barrett's first show. His looks are different and fresh, and not at all on trend with the rest of the designers. Where Cinna's clothes are lightweight and mobile, letting the body under them do the heavy lifting, the others this year have been leaning toward the sculptural. Most of the other collections have shapes stuffed out with batting, creating frames around the head or body, or spiraling around the body like a cage. I buy a few of these. I try on one of Cinna's dresses -- he sends it over for me especially -- but I was right when I saw the sketches. I feel utterly naked and exposed, even though it has long sleeves and a fairly high neckline. It skims over my breasts, and I can see the little depression between them, and the curve of my hip is as clear as it is in the shower.
I don't even dare go outside in it, and send my regrets that I just don't have an occasion to wear it to.
In October, I find a little white kitten going through the garbage by my building. It runs from me the first few times I spot it, but I always bring it something to eat. After a couple of weeks, she starts coming to me. I don't know why, but I start talking to her like Haymitch, calling her "sweetheart," like he does with his tributes. She never does pick up another name. By November, I've taken her to a vet to get her shots, and brought her into my apartment. It's nice to have someone to say goodnight to, who is most likely not going to tell me all the things I need to improve about myself. In fact, Sweetheart seems to think I'm perfectly fine as is.
Johanna's arena is retrofitted and cleared of the "flu," but there are multiple delays in opening it for tourists, though many people want to go. The coverage of the arena seems to peter out, and people stop asking questions, like they always do when the news drops a subject.
In mid-December, the Victory Tour sweeps through. Johanna is again dressed in a way that reminds people of trees, sometimes quite literally when Sylvania has her in the season's sculptural clothes. She continues to act brash. She's gotten her hair styled in a spiky chop. Either she or Sylvania has dyed the tips green for the tour. I'm betting on Sylvania.
She starts things off in Twelve, as usual, and it's a bust, as usual. If she says anything about River, or to his family, it's not shown. Haymitch doesn’t appear to be around. I do see the mayor's daughter playing the piano.
The rest of the districts go roughly the same, until she reaches Four, where Finnick appears and the two of them clearly have a wonderful time together. She says she's been swimming at the ponds in the logging camp, and this leads to an afternoon on the beach in Victors' Village, where she and Finnick have a water fight in the shallows. They're interviewed together at the dinner. He makes fun of her dress (a sculptural one that has a literalistic tree branch curved over her head, with silk leaves dropping down off of it). She teases him about being big-headed. They seem to be having a food fight. By morning, the Fannicks have an all-out civil war going over whether she's just perfect for him or a conniving interloper who is planning to ruin him.
It all ends, as always, here in the Capitol. I can't get to the party, but I do talk to Barnabas later on. He says she thankfully does not seem prone to intoxication, unlike some victors, but she's "tiring."
"I think she managed to annoy the President," he says.
"What do you mean?"
"He asked her to do something, and she laughed at him. She wouldn't say what it was about."
After the tour ends, the Games fade back out of the public mind. There are new lines coming out of the fashion district. A new movie about human-looking robots starts a minor fad of people pretending to be robots. An actress's sculpture dress collapses under its own weight, leaving her standing an awards stage in her underwear. Cinna's line has a minor vogue among high school students, and he gets his picture on the cover of Games Gab, interviewing that he'd simply love to be a stylist for the Games someday.
I go about my life. I date Barnabas for a couple of weeks, mostly at his place, since he's allergic to Sweetheart. I buy clothes. I appear on the cover of Capitol Life, wearing Philippa's new line. (Therinus acts quite offended.) I dream about planets glaring at each other. I meet with sponsors, and am seen in clubs and at shows, and tell reporters about how I'm sure that Twelve has a good year coming up.
At the end of January, the coal mines cave in.