No more Games, Effie Trinket thinks as she wanders the blank, colorless corridors of District Thirteen. No more breathtaking costumes or gorgeously festooned chariots. No more startling twists of fate in blood-spattered arenas. No more spectacle.
Deep in her heart, Effie knows that this is a good thing. Deeper still, in a part of herself that she’s never taken the time or perhaps had the strength to examine, she’s always known.
There was nothing good about the Games. There never was.
Without the Games, she’s nothing, a useless person. She has no talents, no skills. She can barely fry an egg, never mind till the land or heal the sick or whatever else the people in this district are expected to do.
It isn’t that she wants the Games to resume. She doesn’t! There’s been enough bloodshed. It’s just that she doesn’t know what to do, now that there’s no one for her to escort and fuss over.
She follows the corridor until she comes to stairs, and then she climbs those because what else is she supposed to do? At the top of the stairs, she comes face to face with a guard in a gray uniform, and she nearly shrieks and stumbles back down because she didn’t see him before, and she’s from the Capitol, and surely he can tell that just by looking at her, even without makeup and the turquoise dye fading from her hair, and oh how he must hate her…
To her shock, the guard only gives her a cursory glance, and then steps back to let her pass. After a few seconds, she tiptoes around him, swallowing convulsively, fear rolling in her stomach like a lead pellet.
Once she’s past him, though, she finds herself in a doorway and beyond that is the outside. The sky is approximately the same color as everything else in District Thirteen, but there’s a brightness to it, a metallic sheen that hurts her eyes. She stands there blinking for a few minutes, and as her eyes slowly adjust she becomes aware of the fact that there’s a garden in front of her.
Well. There’s a patch of damp yellow grass surrounded by a low wall of rough gray (of course) stones. In the Capitol, nobody would think to call this a garden. It would be … an aberration. An affront to the senses. There’s nothing artful here.
In the middle of the garden stands a tree that somehow survived the Capitol’s repeated firebombing. It’s twisted and ugly, and the few wrinkled leaves that cling to its branches remind Effie of curls of scorched paper.
The tree isn’t important. The woman sitting beneath it is, because Effie knows her.
Knows her daughter, anyway.
Katniss has been sent away, presumably to her house in District Twelve, but nobody knows for sure. Rather, a select few must certainly know, but they’ve no reason to share that knowledge with the likes of Effie Trinket. Wherever Katniss is, Effie hopes that she is safe and being cared for. She finds she can’t hate the girl, for all she was instrumental in bringing down the Capitol and essentially destroying everything Effie knew and loved. Instead, she feels a sort of detached protectiveness, as if Katniss were part of a drama she watched unfold, which is true enough.
In any case, she doesn’t think she’ll ever see Katniss Everdeen again.
But what about her mother? Effie hesitates in the doorway, uncertain. Should she go to this woman and talk to her? Or would it be wiser - and perhaps more courteous - to turn away and retreat back inside? It isn’t Effie’s fault that terrible things happened to her daughters. She didn’t deliberately draw Primose Everdeen’s name on the day of the Reaping. She tried to help Katniss as she navigated the pre-Games festivities in the Capitol. She tried to get her sponsors while she was in the Arena. Both times! She tried.
But so what? Effie’s innocence might help her sleep at night, but what comfort can it possibly bring to this woman?
Effie bites at her lower lip and studies her nails. Not long ago, they were coated with rose-gold lacquer, as if she’d stirred the sunset with her fingertips. Now only a few flecks remain. Once they’re gone, she thinks with a wistful sigh, they’ll be gone forever.
She looks up again and almost chokes on her breath when she sees the other women looking straight at her. Her face is thin and pale, her gray eyes huge. She looks the way her daughter Prim did, right after Effie drew her name and read it aloud: so lost.
Tears fill Effie’s eyes. She blinks and they start to run down her cheeks. “I’m sorry,” she whispers. “I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry…”
And then she’s stumbling forward blindly, into the ashen garden, toward the woman who has every reason in the world to hate her. She sinks to her knees beneath the gnarled boughs of the tree and catches hold of the woman’s hand, half-expecting her to recoil.
To Effie’s surprise, she doesn’t. She just sits there, watching her with her younger daughter’s lost eyes. And Effie holds her hand and whispers again, “I’m sorry.” Because she isn’t to blame for what happened, but she’s human and she can feel another’s pain. Something she never really thought about before.
They sit together under the tree. They sit there for a long time. And Effie never hears a single word of thanks – not that she expected to – but she does feel the feeble press of fingers, and so she continues to hold on.