Effie gazed around the room, looking for the stumbling drunk she couldn't help but feel a little responsible for. She wasn't surprised at all to realise he'd gone.
The other mentors and escorts were still working the room - trying to persuade the rich and the bored that their tributes were worth investment. Until a short while ago, Haymitch had been among them, though no one had bothered investing in the tributes from District Twelve. Well, tribute. The girl - to absolutely no one's surprise - hadn't survived the first few minutes.
Effie let the door shut behind her. No one would miss her or Haymitch. No one ever missed them.
Effie stuck her chin in the air. She did her best. Every year she tried to help the tributes from District Twelve to survive. And every year she - they - failed. Not that it was her fault. The tributes from District Twelve were frequently too scrawny to put up much of a fight. And this year's... Effie had had the horrified thought that the girl hadn't even been twelve when she saw her stumbling towards the podium. She'd made enquiries, just to be sure, and had been told the girl was almost thirteen, which hadn't seemed at all possible given her height and tiny frame. But twelve she was and into the arena she went.
It sometimes seemed to Effie that it was rather unfair to expect tiny District Twelve children to hold their own against the trained Career teenagers from Districts One and Two. Not that it was President Snow's fault, of course. The rules were the rules.
Effie pushed away from the wall she'd been leaning against, almost afraid it could hear her thoughts.
Haymitch. Where was Haymitch? He was the one responsible for making her feel so melancholy and so she'd tell him, once she found him.
She found him where she'd expected him - in his room with another bottle of alcohol in his hands. Really. Was it beyond him to use a glass?
Effie took the bottle and easily evaded his clutching hands. "You've had enough."
Haymitch shook his head as he started clambering to his feet. "Never enough." He stopped getting up and instead flopped onto the bed when she emptied the bottle down his toilet. "Dammit, Effie."
"You should sleep." She waited but he didn't move. She sighed. "There was nothing you could do."
"Nothing. Nothing anyone can do." She could barely hear the words he was mumbling into his bedcovers. "They're all gonna pay for it anyway. Sooner or later. Die in the arena or get whored -"
"Haymitch!" Effie grabbed his shoulder and started hauling his jacket off him. With any luck, any listeners would have long ago stopped listening to his drunken babbling, but it wasn't worth the risk. "You're drunk. You need to sleep."
"To sleep, perchance to dream - ay, there's the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come... Do you dream, Effie?"
"What?" What was he babbling about? The first had sounded like a quote from somewhere.
"Do you dream?" The jacket finally came off and he grabbed her arm, pulling her until she bent over him, her face inches from his. He seemed disturbingly sober. "I dream. I dream of them every night."
"Do you dream of them dying? Crying out for help? How do you sleep, Effie?" He pulled her closer. "How does he?"
Effie could barely hear his voice. Even like this, he knew better than to let them hear. "Go to sleep, Haymitch. You'll be better in the morning." She twisted her arm, trying to get free, then he released her and flopped flat again.
"Morning. They'll never see morning again." Twisting, he yanked at his covers and managed to crawl, shoes and all, underneath them. "Go to bed, Effie."
She did, dropping his jacket and backing away to his door, then hurrying to her room as though afraid someone might insist she return to the party where big screens showed death close up for the entertainment of all.
To sleep, perchance to dream... Effie huddled under her bedcovers but kept her eyes open and the lights on. At least, if she didn't sleep, she couldn't dream.