Here is the thing that no one considers:
Effie knows what it is to be afraid, even if everyone around her thinks she mustn’t have a clue. She has lived with fear every day of her life. It’s nothing like what the people of the Districts have faced. No blood, no empty bellies. No obvious reason to rise up. It’s a quiet fear, as constant as breathing. For a long while, she didn’t even know it was there. She only felt its sharp edges and didn’t know what to do with them. So she smiled bigger. Shone brighter. Listened to what the Capitol told her.
“You couldn’t have stayed,” Haymitch tells her on the worst day of her life.
She is sitting in the ugliest place she has ever seen, which—considering how many times she’s been to District 12—is saying something. This gray little room is apparently her new home in District 13. District 13, and all she has are the clothes she’s wearing and a foggy memory of Haymitch asking her to tear her eyes away from the Quarter Quell and have a drink with him.
‘You don’t have to watch this,’ he said, seeing how it tortured her to see her poor children endure those horrors, and she thought, How sweet. How kind of him, for once.
She should have known.
Her head is still cloudy, giving all of this the odd quality of an awful dream, but she knows it isn’t one. When she does have nightmares (and she does these days, even though she never used to), there’s more color to them. Not this hideous nothingness.
“You were already in too deep,” Haymitch says. She hates how composed he sounds. “There’s no way Snow would have left you alone.”
“So you’re saving me, is that it?” she hisses. “Am I supposed to say thank you? Fine! Very well! Thank you, Haymitch. Thank you for drugging me and bringing me to this ghastly hellhole, away from everyone I know and care about, away from all of my worldly possessions—”
“You don’t have family, you’ve told me that—”
“I have dozens of friends,” Effie shrieks, “from the most elite social circles, and they’ll be very concerned—”
“You don’t get it,” Haymitch snarls. He grabs her shoulders with strong, impatient hands and stares right into her eyes. She considers scratching his eyes out. “You’re in this now. What was that you told us? We’re a team? Well, this is what it means to be part of the team. Sorry you didn’t get the chance to pack up all your pretty things, or give goodbye kisses to all your darling friends in the Capitol, but you’re alive, and you can help Katniss. She’s gonna need you. That’s what matters.”
Somewhere deep down, she begins to know that he’s right. It makes her furious.
“You kidnapped me,” she says angrily.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he taunts. “Maybe we should have left you there. At least then Peeta would have some company.”
Effie freezes. “What?”
“They got him,” Haymitch says, not bothering to soften the news one bit. “Snow’s got him, and the Capitol bombed 12 to bits. But please. Tell me more about your terrible problems.”
Effie thinks she might vomit.
“You’re a brute,” she says, tears springing to her eyes, and his fingers dig into her shoulders. She glares at him. “Let. Go. Of. Me.”
For a second, he doesn’t listen to her, and she wonders what will happen, what he will do instead. Her breath catches in her throat. She can feel his on her face. Tinged with alcohol, of course.
Then he lets go of her abruptly, and she sways a little, dizzy without him.
“Great to have you on the team,” he sneers, striding toward the door.
She grabs the only thing in her reach—a plastic cup of water; she dimly recalls him pouring it for her as she first came to—and throws it, aiming for his head.
It misses and hits the wall beside him. At least he gets splashed. He swears and storms out, not looking back at her. As soon as the door slides shut, she bursts into tears.
There’s a gray jumpsuit on the foot of this bed (if you can call it a bed), waiting for her. Clearly someone expects her to wear that tepid atrocity. Looking at it, she sobs harder. If only she’d had some time to gather her things. If only she’d known. If only. If only.
(Peeta, Peeta, her poor boy.)
The next time she sees Haymitch, it’s after he’s returned from the rehabilitation facility and she’s begun working with Plutarch and Katniss. She feels much better; it’s good to have a purpose again, to feel like she’s doing something. Contributing something. Even if she’s doing it while confined to the dullest shade of gray imaginable. A burlap sack would have more couture potential, but she does her best.
After their meeting on how to solve the problem of Katniss’s hopelessness in front of the camera, Haymitch catches up with her in the corridor, greeting her with a low whistle.
“Well, look who’s back and full of good ideas,” she says, smiling.
“Right back at you,” he says. “Good work in there.”
“You too. You have very strong instincts for this sort of thing, whether or not you wish to admit it.”
“Well, I learned from the best,” he says pleasantly, then adds, “I almost didn’t recognize you.”
“Ugh.” She shudders theatrically. “Don’t remind me.”
“No, it’s good,” he protests.
“Good? Hmph. Hardly. I’ve done what I can, but even I’m not a miracle worker.”
“It’s interesting, then,” he amends with a grin. “I like the scarf.”
“It does have a certain understated flare, doesn’t it?” Effie agrees, preening.
“I always wondered what was going on under all those ruffles.”
“You’ve had more opportunities to find out than most,” she reminds him airily. She isn’t in the habit of referring to their past, but it’s so boring down here that any opportunity to flirt will do.
“Yeah, well,” Haymitch says, “most of those memories are a little fuzzy.”
“What a pity for you,” Effie says blithely.
“You know,” he says, catching her hand and bringing her to a standstill, “my head’s much clearer these days.”
“Oh?” she says, holding back her smile.
“I’m paying all kinds of attention to all kinds of things.” He gives her a look that makes it very clear just what sorts of things. She feels a happy thrill run through her, for once without the irritation that usually accompanies these little slips in their professional relationship.
She supposes it’s not much of a professional relationship anymore. Strictly speaking.
And isn’t that an intriguing idea?
He keeps on staring, making open lechery inconveniently charming as always, his thumb brushing over the back of her hand. She decides that she might as well give him a bit of a chase. Goodness knows they could all use some fun around here.
“Manners, Mr. Abernathy,” she teases, tapping his nose. Then she quickens her pace, slipping out of his grasp and leaving him behind.
She hears him chuckling. She puts a little spring in her step.