Index list tomorrow!
I'd be interested in seeing something with Mags and Carolyn. When did they meet? When did Mags figure out who Carolyn was? for Anon
"Is it Blight's?"
I look up from the tackle box, my chest suddenly tight. Mags Donovan is standing in the door of the equipment shed, not even bothering to pretend not to recognize me. She's looking at my expanding waistline with vague curiosity.
I try to look confused. "I'm not sure what you're asking."
"Give me a break, Gia. I've known you since you started working the Games."
"Yeah." I give up and come out into the light. "And no, it's not Ollie's."
"Are you sure?"
"As sure as it's possible to be without a gene scan. Timing. You know." I consider pointing that I was just finishing a cycle when I ran from the train, but I decide that's more information than Mags needs. Besides, she's a woman. She'll know what I mean. I settle for, "There are times certain things shouldn't be possible."
"But they sometimes happen."
She shrugs. "True enough. I guess you'll know for sure when the reaping comes around and they run the poor child's blood. I'm guessing Blight had someone cook the books on your genetic file, but I doubt he did anything to his own. What are you doing, Gia?"
"Need a hand?"
"God, yes. I can barely keep this stuff straight in my head. And it's Carolyn here. Carolyn Odair, formerly McNamera."
"Of course. The McNamera girl was snatched by raiders just before Charlie Flynn's Games. I guess the poor thing didn't make it in the out-districts. Lucky they found you. Shame the whole family's dead."
I nod. "Doolin worked it out with Ollie, so I wouldn't be imposing on a real family. Messages smuggled in fish guts, as I understand it. He knew I was in trouble a long time before I did." I look down at my belly. "I guess he's probably not too happy with me."
Mags shakes her head. "He loves you. He'll be dramatic about it when he finds out, but it goes with the victor territory. We're all pathetic attention seekers. But don't you put that on this baby."
"I'm not going to. Doolin and I are going to make him a good home."
She nods. "Well, welcome to District Four. I hope you don't mind the smell of fish."
"I'm getting used to it."
She sits down on an old crate. "My family used to own the tackle supply shop. Before the Games, my job was inventory. Do you have Doolin's list? I'll educate you."
"Oh, Doolin's covered it, I just… I can't remember it. I've got the treble and the dressed treble -- those are easy. But I can't remember which is the Aberdeen hook and which is the octopus hook."
"You'll get it," she says, and leans over the tackle box. She picks up a box of straight hooks with narrow barbs, counts it by sight, and puts the number twelve on the line after "Aberdeen hooks" on my sheet. "I make better hooks than this. Doolin doesn't believe me. But I used to make them in the shop, from odds and ends. I can do some good flies, too."
"Do you still fish?"
"As often as I can. There's a pier in Victors' Village. We all use it, though we mostly turn our catches over to the workaday folks, if we catch more than enough for our own supper."
"I'm surprised you're allowed to."
She grins, and I understand that they aren't allowed to at all. District Four's rebellion is subtle.
We finish the inventory. "Listen to me, Carolyn Odair, nee McNamera: You need to be careful. We all know who you are up at the Village. We've all seen you at the Games. Rogan, Desandi, Mari, Rivie, and Hennessey. That's Hennessey Doolin, by the way, and it's not a coincidence, though I'll be damned if I remember how they're related. Somewhere on a maiden name side. I'm the most sociable, so they sent me."
"And they'll keep my secret?"
"They will." She thinks for a minute. "District Four's not what people think it is. We get along and go along, that's true. We have a resort up the beach from Victors' Village, and we see Capitol folk all the time. We mostly get along with them. We play along with One and Two in the Games. We get along with them, too, and we certainly chased District Thirteen out during the Dark Days. I was little, but I remember it. Those prissy bastards shut down half our business."
"The illegal half?"
"The half the Capitol ignores, anyway. They arrested people who fished and trapped for themselves, to get extra food. All the food was supposed to go to a central authority and be distributed by the government. They didn't even care if we shared it. They decided it was immoral for anyone to find a way to supplement official allowances. There were a lot of things they thought were immoral." She shudders and doesn't continue in this vein. I wish she would -- I've never really heard anyone from the districts talk about the Dark Days. But instead, she just shakes it off. "So we threw them off, and when it became clear that the Capitol wasn't going to fall, we played nice with it, and we still do. But don't imagine for a second that we wouldn't take the first reasonable chance we can get to throw them off, too."
"And do what? Be an independent country?"
"Why not? There used to be more than one country in the world." She shrugs. "I doubt it, though. I think most of us would be happy to be in Panem if they left us alone to do as we please -- the rest of the districts, too -- and stopped their little power trips."
"So Four is really a rebel district?"
"Yes and no. There are loyalists here, too. No one wants to see a re-run of the Dark Days. I think it's fair to say that the victors who'll recognize you are on your side." She bites her lip. "But you have to remember, we're not the only people who've seen you. You've been on television. You have to remember to stay off the cameras here."
"Well, I wasn't planning on giving any interviews to Capitol View."
"And you need to stop moving around like a Capitol girl on a holiday."
"You don't even notice it, do you?" She sighs. "You've done this at least eight times with girls from the districts -- teaching them to walk like Capitol girls. In heels. With those smooth little steps, like they expect everything to be paved. You have to take it backward. If you're going to seem like a district girl -- or an out-district one, which is what you're pretending to be -- you're going to have to scrub off the little refinements. Why don't you come out to my beach with me?"
She closes up Doolin's tackle box and leads the way out without waiting for an answer. I try to pay attention to the way I'm walking, but every time I try to consciously change it, I feel quite silly, like I'm making fun of district girls by doing a stereotypical shamble. Mags doesn't comment on it. Doolin's inventory shed is very close to Victors' Village -- not for nothing does Ollie call him a thief; he has money coming in from more angles than I've been able to see straight yet, though he promises he'll explain them all to me soon -- and it's not a very long walk to Mags's place.
"We can stop in my kitchen for lunch later," she says brusquely. "I can have visitors during the day -- I guess you've heard that rule somewhere -- and I've got a good bit laid out for lunch. My friend Liza will be there, too."
I raise my eyebrows. "Do I… know her?"
"Not likely, you being new in town. Might be good practice for introducing yourself around. Liza's good people."
In other words, if she does spot something amiss, she won't say anything. "Thanks."
"No problem. I think you have guts, Carolyn Odair. I like that in a person."
We get down to the beach, and my shoes start filling up with sand. I see Mags take her own off, and I follow suit. The soft sand tips me this way and that, and slows me up.
Mags gets down to the water first and looks over her shoulder. "There you go! Now get down here in the surf and I'll really teach you to walk."
Something from the perspective of one of the other Star Squad members, the soldiers from 13. What was it like growing up in 13, and what was their perspective on the war? for princesselwen
"District Thirteen re-educated Katniss," Peeta Mellark says tentatively. "Real or not real?"
I shake my head. "Not real. She was barely out of the hospital when she started doing propos. Wherever she was educated for it, it wasn't in Thirteen."
"Thanks, Commander Jackson. I thought was how the time went. Time gets a little messed up in my head sometimes. It's just the winter after the Quarter Quell, right?"
"Right." I take him in -- too thin, still looking spooked at every shadow. He has no business being here, no business in the army after what happened to him. He's here to star in propos, but he should be in intensive therapy. "I guess it seems longer to you, though, doesn't it?"
He nods. "A few lifetimes." He manages a smile somehow. I don't know where he finds it, or how he remembers the expression at all. He's badly damaged, but I think, under it, he has a yard of guts. He starts to say something else, probably another "real or not real" question, but he backs off and just shakes his head and goes back toward the camp. His legs are grossly distorted. One is thin and ravaged like the rest of him. The other looks like it's in full health. It's only up close that you can see that it's obviously robotic.
A gift from the Capitol, for their victor, after the first time they damaged him. I watched it happen live, along with the twelve districts of Panem, in the Seventy-Fourth Games.
The Hunger Games were always mandatory viewing in Thirteen, played everywhere to remind us why we were so lucky not to be under Snow's thumb. Whatever insipid narration they had was replaced by our own commentary. When Katniss Everdeen held up the berries and forced the Capitol to back down, the solemn announcer said, "And thus is the power of the people. As this girl has brought the Capitol to her will, so shall we, in time." Of course, by the time we saw the Victory Tour through, most of us preferred Peeta, who was so much better on camera, but the intelligence from the districts of Panem was clear: it was Katniss who lit them on fire.
Alma Coin didn't really like either of them. She thought Peeta a stooge and a clown. Katniss was willful and selfish. But -- after much debate about whether this particular fad mattered or not -- they were just supposed to be the wedge we used to get back into the war. My assumption from our command meetings before the arena rescue was that we'd get them on camera a few times, then put them back in school where they belonged, and go about the business of running the war.
I should have known better. The rest of the districts have never had any appreciation for people being where they belong, and doing what they're supposed to be doing. They're grandstanders. I'd blame it on the Games, which encourage a "victor" mentality -- stand out or die -- but I don't imagine that they'd have survived the Games culture as long as they have if it wasn't part of the way they think. I certainly see it in our new citizens from Twelve. It's not just their three victors acting alone. They all seem to think that rules are optional.
It's going to get them killed.
Then again, it might save us.
I don't know what to do with them. I don't know how to talk to them, or what they might do in any situation. The boy Gale is everything I was trained not to be as a military leader, but the young soldiers would die on his command without even asking why. The girl, Katniss, hates being here, ignores the command structure whenever it's inconvenient to her, but commands the hearts and minds of much of the country we're trying to save. And Peeta… I can't begin to sort out how I feel about him. Even Abernathy, the lazy, incorrigible drunk who Alma thought would be easily dismissed, re-wrote the war strategy in a single afternoon's meeting.
And then there's Plutarch Heavensbee.
A Capitol man. A Gamemaker, of all things. He found us nearly by accident. He was bored after the sixty-ninth Games, when the returning victor had to be quarantined on Greenland. Boredom -- the most despised of admissions in Thirteen, a sign that you expect society to provide you with diversions. Practically a straight route to Capitol debauchery -- or so I've always been taught. Keep your hands busy, and don't wish for decadent amusements. The mind will eventually take care of itself.
But Plutarch was stuck on an icy island and he was bored. He ran scans that had been ignored for years, in-gathering scans for signs of remaining civilizations. He came across evidence of a long abandoned cobalt mine of ours, where a single drone was still operating. He turned up the detection, and he found evidence of the nuclear spill (which we identified to the populace as a plague, to avoid contamination paranoia once we had it contained). Instead of reporting to his superiors -- either in the rebellion or the Capitol -- he started a relentless program of research that finally led him, somehow, to our spies in the Capitol. And he kept at them until they contacted us.
We almost ignored it.
We don't change our ways very often, and Alma's first instinct was to withdraw the spies so Heavensbee would leave us alone again. She sent out a few feelers to him, but no one really expected us to jump back into the war against the Capitol, no matter what Heavensbee thought. Sure, we made noises about someday rising up and overthrowing the Capitol, reclaiming the land we lost to them, and helping even the districts we didn't control to see better way, but it was a pipe dream, and we all knew it.
Then Katniss Everdeen held out her handful of berries.
Our commentator was solemn and dignified in his announcement.
But the people were watching, and they were touched. Pressure started to build, even on Alma.
It still might not have gone anywhere, if it hadn't been for the aftermath of the nuclear leak.
We talked about it endlessly, but again, it was a defector from Panem who knocked us out of our complacency. Dalton. District Ten. He was asked to get our genetic stock back in order, but he refused. Alma didn't want to listen to him after that -- she doesn't like being refused -- but Boggs got him a spot at a strategic planning meeting. His message was simple: If we continued to be complacent, to go along as we always have, if we didn't rejoin the world immediately, we were going to die out. "And you'll all be sitting in here," he said, "congratulating each other for staying the course until there's no one left to congratulate. It's time to get off course!"
My guess is, if I asked Alma now, she'd stay that we hadn't changed course at all, that this was always the plan, and its success proves her wisdom as a leader. I was in her cohort at school. I know her well. Anything that goes well is going according to her plan; anything that goes wrong is sabotage.
I wonder if it ever occurs to her to play "real or not real" with her own thoughts.
I realize that I've almost walked into another of our Capitol imports, young Messala, who's with Cressida's team. He's lacking his usual manic -- almost frightening -- good cheer, as he only lost his partner, one of the Leeg girls, a couple of days ago. "I'm sorry," I said. "I was woolgathering. Is there something I can do for you?"
"No." He shrugs helplessly. "I don't know what to do."
"Bored," I muse. "All right."
"Do you have anything?
I sigh. "Keep your hands busy," I say. "Your heart will take care of itself."
I know that Katniss does not have a good relationship with her mother. However, she (Katniss) did such a good job of Healing on several occasions with very basic supplies, etc. I'd like to see Ruth tell her how well she did and how proud it made her for Sara Libby
There was a time I knew how to deal with Katniss.
Danny says the same thing about Peeta, of course. Since the Games, they're both different. Danny is trying his hardest, and I think his family is actually making some headway. He's trying to be my friend as well. The Games changed both of our families.
But my problems with Katniss don't come from the Games.
I loved her fiercely from the minute I knew I was carrying her, but she was always Glen's little girl. I was sometimes jealous of how she'd light up when he came home at night… then again, I lit up, too. They were happy years. We never had a lot, but until Prim came along, so sickly as a baby, we never wanted for anything, either. What Glen's mine salary and my herbs couldn't cover, he always had a way of wringing from the woods. I lost Daddy's shop when I couldn't pay the inheritance taxes, and I wept over it, but that as because it was the last piece of my old life, the last bit of my father, not because we needed it. Even when Prim was sick and we had to sell Glen's banjo (a piece of his family history, and I'm pretty sure he wept over it as well, when I couldn't see), I didn't feel like we were really lacking something we needed.
We had each other, the four of us. Glen did hurt me when he asked me if I was "certain" of Prim (it still hurts that he imagined I could have betrayed him, but I suppose with all the rumors in town, he had to ask to be absolutely sure, and he believed me on the strength of my word), but we got through it. Katniss never noticed anything amiss. She was a happy, beautiful child. She was Glen's, but it never stopped her from crawling up onto my lap, or watching, wide-eyed, while I ground herbs. When I let her use the mortar and pestle, she was delighted. I didn't have any illusion that she would buy the apothecary someday and make it her life's work, but I loved to see her play at it. When she asked me to put her hair up like mine, so we would look alike, I couldn't stop smiling.
It wasn't until the explosion at the mines that we really lost anything, and in that day, we lost everything.
We all loved one another, but Glen was the center of our family. We lost him, and everything fell apart, beginning with me. I know she blames me for it. She's right to blame me for it. I knew I had a tendency to despair, but I never rebuilt any support system. I had Glen; he would be enough.
The Seam had never really accepted me, and I had imagined myself proudly turning by back on my privileged life in town, so I hadn't been in touch with my town friends for years. None of them knew anything was wrong. I told Danny about it during one of the long, sleepless vigils of the Games, and he was horrified to hear about it. He blamed himself for being too afraid of Mir's jealous fits to check on me when he knew he should have, but I don't blame him. I don't blame Mir, for that matter. Glen tried his best to be Danny's friend (to quell rumors to the contrary, if nothing else) but I felt so uncomfortable around him for so long -- mostly because I felt like I'd condemned him, by choosing Glen, to a life with a woman he turned to out of hurt -- that I'd let my friendship with him decay entirely until we were thrust together again. Kay Undersee, who was once like a sister to me, had gotten buried under her own problems. Of course, Maysilee was gone, and Haymitch was only a tangential acquaintance. I suppose that may change now.
The point was, I had no one but my girls, and at eleven and seven, they were in no shape to deal with the depression that knocked me over and kept me down for months. The shock and depression weren't my fault. The fact I had no adult support to keep me from nearly starving my daughters to death? That's squarely on my shoulders, and I know it. Katniss was the one who found the strength to put our family back together, and I'm often too ashamed to look her in the eyes because of it.
She's always been stronger than I am. She's a survivor, and somehow I knew, even as she was lecturing me about what to do if she died, that she'd be coming home.
What didn't occur to me was that she would come home so different than she was when she left. I expected survivor's guilt, and the nightmares weren't terribly surprising. I did watch Haymitch jitter apart at the seams after his Games, and I knew it was the Games themselves as much as the horrors that were inflicted on him.
What I didn't expect was that Katniss is like me. She's not just a nervous wreck. I don't know what happened with Peeta, or what's going on with Gale -- we don't talk about those things -- but whatever it is, she's become completely cut off, and more than once, I've caught her staring, empty-eyed, across a room. I'm pretty sure she doesn't realize it. She just stops moving, stares into space for a few minutes, then moves on, dazed.
It's not a way I ever wanted her to take after me.
It's August when I see her stop halfway across the green, her hand raised a little, looking at the flock of mockingjays that's rising up in the forest. I am out tending a patch of wild strawberries. At first, I don't go to her. The voice in my head tells me that she doesn’t want me, and never will want me for this sort of thing. It's a loud voice, but I make myself ignore it. If she doesn't want me, she'll tell me so. She's very good at communicating that. But I will try. I owe it to her to try.
I go to her and touch her shoulder. "Katniss, honey?"
She turns slowly, mechanically, and blinks at me owlishly, coming out of wherever she was. "Mom?"
"Are you all right?"
She nods, and points at a little patch of dog fennel. "I could have used it for pain. Right? I could have made tea from it and made Peeta's leg hurt a little less."
"Maybe. I'm surprised you remember that. It would have made him sweat a lot, though, and that would have been bad at night."
"Oh," she says. "Right." She frowns. "I don't know if we had it. We might not have had it."
"I didn't see any on television." I guide her over to a little bench. "Honey, you did everything right. You even drained his leg, and I know that's not anything you ever wanted to do."
"I had to." She turns and looks at me, her eyes wide, like she's looking at Peeta's badly infected leg again. "There was no one else. Just me. I had to save him."
"And you did." I stroke her braid. "You saved him. A lot. You cleaned that wound. You got him his medicine. And you knew how to use that tourniquet. They asked me what you should do, and you did it just while I was saying it."
"I think it killed his leg."
"The wolf thing killed the leg when it tore off the muscle. There's no healing from that. It would always have needed to be amputated. But you saved his life by keeping him from bleeding out."
"I should have run behind him so I could guard, then he wouldn't have been bitten. I was a bad ally. I lost Prim, too." She blinks. "I couldn't do anything!"
I don't correct her on her ally's name. She calls Prim "Rue" quite a lot, and speaks of Prim in the arena. Haymitch says if that doesn’t go away in a few weeks, we may have to work on it, but for now, it's just shock and we shouldn't make a fuss over it, which could just make her more anxious. "You couldn't have done anything about that, either. I couldn't have."
"Yes, you could! You save people all the time."
"I lose people a lot of the time, too."
"I kill people. Or get them killed."
I put my hand on her chin and turn her face back around to look at me. "You didn't have a choice about that. Those girls trapped you in a tree, and what you did for Cato -- that was mercy. Marvel was self-defense."
I don't know what to do about this. I expected it, but there's no real cure for it. I need to talk to Haymitch about it, and he better come up with a better suggestion than white liquor. For now, I turn it back around. "Katniss, you did something no one else in the Games ever did. You actually did save another tribute. You took care of him just right. And you took care of yourself. Over and over. I was so proud of you when you cleaned your burn, and put pressure on that cut on your head. And you did some great bandaging. You kept yourself and your friend alive."
"But I don't know that stuff."
"Apparently, you do." I smile at her. "Honey, you picked it up over the years. You got it. And you had it when you needed it."
She bites her lip. "I did?"
"You did. And you know something? I believe -- absolutely believe -- that you'll always find what you need inside you. You always have before. You saved Prim and me, too."
She shakes her head. "That was Peeta. I really can't bake bread to save anyone's life."
"Peeta gave you the bread? The bread that... the burned bread that day?"
She nods. "And the dandelions."
"I looked at him and I saw a dandelion, and it saved us."
"No, you did that. It sounds like gave you a hand, and I'm grateful for it. But you're the one who stood up and made things work again. I admire you."
"It was Peeta," she says again. "The boy with the bread." She sighs. "I guess he's gone now."
She goes quiet again, and I can't nudge her out of it. After a while, I take her back inside.