Chapter 18

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  ''But the real question, Vivianna, is what are we going to do with your hair?''

''My hair?'' I echo into the phone.

''Of course, it's lovely the way it is, the length and the curls and all, but-''

''Effie-'' I attempt to interject but she ignores me.

''-if we maybe cut it, dyed it maybe? Now that would look simply stunning! Cinna, of course-''

''Effie!'' I explain, trying again.

''-is entirely against the idea of dying your hair. But, now I'm being serious here, a light shade of pink? Ooh! What about the colour of the dress you wore for your Victory Tour in District Five?''

''Effie!'' I cry out, finally gaining silence on the other end of the phone line.

''What is it?'' she asks, still sounding bright and bubbly.

''We're not doing anything to my hair!'' I tell her, making sure my voice sounds definitive. ''I only called to ask you a question!''

''Such a shame...'' I roll my eyes at her as she asks me, ''What do you want to ask me about?''

I'd been contemplating it for the past three days, ever since I read the book on previous Victors. It's been driving me insane, becoming an obsession, an infatuation. I have to know more, about me, about Finnick - anything I can possibly find out. I've also been having daily visits from a (usually drunk) Haymitch. He tells me he's keeping an eye on me, although I don't know what for. I'm twenty, very nearly twenty-one and I can handle myself, it's Haymitch who needs caring for, he can barely manage to get dressed in a morning. Although I know that Gale's mother, Hazelle, has been cleaning his house for extra money. My own home collects dust, the bookshelf thick with it, layered on all the books. Except the one I read everyday, combing it word for word for more information on the Victors - anything that will give me clues.

''Who is Finnick Odair?'' I ask her, biting my lip lightly out of nerves.

''Oh, he's simply charming!'' she gushed dramatically. ''Surely you've met him before whenever you've visited the Capitol?''

'' least I think it's only been once. We met at Snow's party in the Capitol for the Victory Tour. I'm not sure, Effie, it sounded like he knew me. But I can't ever remember meeting him. Believe me, Effie - I'd remember meeting someone like him.''

''Oh, have you succumbed to his charm, too, Vivianna?'' Effie squeals, excitedly.

''No!'' I deny quickly before hesitating. ''I mean, he's attractive, but our conversation was more sad than 'charming'. I haven't really been dazzled by him just yet.''

''There's always time! He's awfully popular with the ladies, over here. He just grows taller and taller with every year!'' she tells me, rather unhelpfully, might I add.

''Where's he from?'' I ask her, before she can start talking about his hair. ''When were his Games?''

''District Four, 65th year, five years before your own Games. I've only spoken to him myself about three times. You're better off asking Haymitch - he'd know more about him. He'll definitely tell you more information.''

Haymitch is definitely not going to tell me more information. He's against the whole idea.

''Oh...okay. Thanks for your help, Effie,'' I say wistfully. ''I should go to bed, it's late. Goodnight, Effie.''

''Goodbye, Vivianna, dear!'' Effie bids me goodbye, before clicking off the phone.

I sigh and put the phone down.

~few days later~

Haymitch and Peeta are playing chess quietly on the right of me, sitting in their rockers. Prim is standing stiffly by the hearth, her mother waiting by the door of the kitchen with the two other Peacekeepers. We wait for Katniss, my fingers repeatedly drumming my leg agitatedly.

''Checkmate,'' Peeta says nonchalantly, earning a low grumble from Haymitch in return.

And then we fall back into silence for the next three or four minutes - each one seeming eternal - until Katniss arrives home. It's evident that the Peacekeepers are surprised to see her although I'm not entirely sure why.

''Hello,'' Katniss says neutrally.

Her mother appears behind her, as if to protect her, but still keeps her distance. ''Here she is, just in time for dinner,'' she says brightly, although we all know we usually have dinner an hour ago.

Katniss pulls her hood down and lightly shakes the snow from her hair. ''Can I help you with something?'' she asks.

''Head Peacekeeper Thread sent us with a message for you,'' the woman says, the mention of Thread sending chills through my body.

''They've been waiting for hours,'' her mother adds.

''Must be an important message,'' Katniss comments.

''May we ask where you've been, Miss Everdeen?'' the woman asks.

''Easier to ask where I haven't been,'' Katniss says exasperatedly, crossing the kitchen and the Peacekeepers to take a seat at the table. She flings her back down and turns to Prim.

''So where haven't you been?'' Haymitch asks, bored.

''Well, I haven't been talking to the Goat Man about getting Prim's goat pregnant, because someone gave me completely inaccurate information as to where he lives,'' Katniss directs her reply to Prim.

''No, I didn't,'' Prim defends herself. ''I told you exactly.''

''You said he lives by the west entrance to the mine,'' Katniss says.

''The east entrance,'' Prim corrects her.

''You distinctly said the west, because then I said, 'Next to the slag heap?' and you said, ''Yeah,'.''

''The slag heap next to the east entrance,'' Prim replies patiently.

''No, when did you say that?''

''Last night,'' I chime in, a ghost of a smile at my lips.

''It was definitely the east,'' Peeta adds. Haymitch, Peeta and I laugh, Katniss glaring at Peeta as he attempts to look contrite. ''I'm sorry, but it's what I've been saying. You don't listen when people talk to you.''

''Bet people told you he didn't live there today and you didn't listen again.'' Haymitch notes.

''Shut up, Haymitch,'' Katniss indicates he's right.

We crack up again, Prim smiling lightly.

''Fine. Somebody else can arrange to get the stupid goat knocked up,'' Katniss states, making us laugh a little more.

Katniss looks at the Peacekeepers: the man smiling, the woman looking stern and unconvinced. ''What's in the bag?'' her tone is sharp and harsh.

Katniss upturns the bag in one swift motion,''See for yourself.''

''Oh, good,'' Katniss' mother eyes the cloth. ''We're running low on bandages.''

Peeta goes over to the table, opening a bag. ''Ooh, peppermints!'' he says, popping one in his mouth.

''There mine,'' Katniss narrows her eyes at him, swiping for the bag but he tosses it to me. I catch it easily, quickly throwing a peppermint in my mouth. I hand them to Haymitch, who stuffs a handful in his mouth before passing the bag to a giggling Prim. ''None of you deserves candy!''

''What, because we're right?'' Peeta wraps his arms around Katniss. She lets out a little yelp but quickly turns it into a cry of indignation. She's hurt. ''Okay, Prim said west. I distinctly heard west. And we're all idiots. How's that?''

''Better,'' Katniss says, accepting his kiss before acknowledging the Peacekeepers once more. ''You have a message for me?''

''From Head Peacekeeper Thread. He wanted you to know that the fence surrounding District Twelve will now have electricity twenty-four hours a day.'' the woman informs her.

''Didn't it already?'' Katniss asks, a little too innocently.

''He thought you might me interested in passing this information on to your cousin,'' the woman says. Ah. Gale. The 'cousin'.

''Thank you. I'll tell him. I'm sure we'll all sleep a little more soundly now that security has addressed that lapse.''

Katniss is pushing it with these Peacekeepers and she knows it. I'm guessing the woman knows it, too, because her jaw tightens as she nods, turning on her heel and marching out, followed by the man. As soon as they're gone and Katniss' mother has locked the door, Katniss slumps against the table.

''What is it?'' Peeta asks her, holding her steady.

''Are you okay?'' I add, rising from the couch and going over to the table.

''Oh, I banged up my left foot. The heel. And my tail-bone's had a bad day, too.'' Peeta helps her over to one of the rockers, lowering her down gently.

''What happened?'' her mother eases off her boots.

''I slipped and fell,'' she says. We all look at her with disbelief. ''On some ice.''

I doubt that's true, but this house is likely to be bugged for information. The Capitol is always watching.    

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