Chapter 7: The Interviews Part 2
Once inside the elevator alone, he let out a few deep breaths, clenching his fists. He wasn't sure if he was either trying to calm himself or get in the game, amp up for what was to come tomorrow.
He was messed up.
He had been so calm, surprisingly so, after he got on the train. The daze of the crystal chandeliers and brightly colored food, furniture, and décor had put him in a different state, and he couldn't forget the buzz his mind felt after the second glass of the sour drink. On the outside he was his usual wry, crude humorous self while on the inside he was crying, screaming, begging the powers that be to let him go back to Finn and his dad.
But the first day of training, when he felt the impact of his body hitting the mat after a trainer flipped him over, it had all changed.
It was really happening – he was in these damned Games; and he had to fight it out. He didn't want to die.
The elevator dinged and the doors opened to an empty Penthouse - even the Avox's were nowhere to be seen. He kept his head down, watching his feet take one step after another as he walked towards the sofa, dropping himself on the cushions. He lay down and stretched out his feet, letting out a big breath.
He was heading towards his death the next morning. He would wake up, get dressed in the appointed tribute outfit for that year, and then sent to a Launch Room where he would enter the pod that would lift him up to the Arena.
Where he would face forty-seven other kids.
Thats what they were. The youngest of them ten, the eldest eighteen. It all seemed inconceivable, kids entering a stage where they fought to the death, but it was all real. And to the Capitol, it was entertainment.
Three of them he had gotten to know for the past two weeks, and one of them had even given him a continuous nightmare that he would have to be the one to end her life.
When the elevator dinged again, his eyes shot open, staring at the crisp white ceiling above him.
He heard the 'click click' of heels across the hard floor of the suite and pegged it as Mackie, Clara, Maggie, or-
"What the hell? Couldn't wait for the rest of us, huh, 'the fighter'?"
A second later Maysilee was leaning over the sofa looking down at him, her loose hair hanging down and draping her face, just barely touching his cheeks.
She walked around the sofa and flopped down right next to him, bouncing slightly on the nice cushions. He sat up straight, facing her.
"Well, I figured 'the charmer'," he mimicked her same sarcastic voice, "would get more sponsors, so there was no reason for me to stick around."
"Please," she scoffed, fingering the hem of the dress. Haymitch followed her gaze and watched her delicate hands, more-so her long legs.
"It was just the dress and the few sips of 'courage' that Eva slipped to me before I went on," she said.
"I think it was more the dress," Haymitch muttered dazedly.
Maysilee's head snapped up to meet his gaze, looking surprised.
"And your hair," he continued, reaching forward with a shaking hand to touch it.
It was as soft as it looked. He leaned in close as he rubbed her hair between his fingertips, and he smiled even wider when he saw her cheeks turn pink. He took a deep breath, still feeling her soft hair, wanting her to pull away; willing her to pull away before he did something stupid.
But she didn't, she kept his gaze.
When the corner of her mouth twitched, he finally spoke; nothing left to lose.
"Listen. As of now, it's do or die, you know what I mean?" he asked, his voice low, his fingers going still. His other hand was reaching around to rest on the cushion near her hip, caging her in.
She didn't say anything, only gave a slight hint of a nod.
Haymitch nodded in return, and without a second thought leaned forward more, tilting his head until his nose nestled against hers, lips a breath apart. She smelled like vanilla and the sourness of the blue drink from before. He leaned forward more and brushed her lips with his, barely touching...
The elevator dinged and the doors slid open.
Haymitch pulled in a deep breath as he stood up, walking to an armchair across from the sofa. Maysillee kept her eyes closed for a split second more before opening them and meeting his gaze.
He gave her a grin, and her cheeks grew pink again as the rest of the District 12 'crew' joined them. Haymitch looked up to watch them all crowd around, either taking seats or standing. Dylan met his gaze, glancing between him and Maysilee before raising an eyebrow, which Haymitch ignored.
"A good round of interviews, I must say!" Clara said, her voice sounding not as usually nasally.
"Excellent, guys," Cassie said, smiling at all of them. "You each had an edge and a story. You got laughs, you weren't as stiff as half of them. Job well done."
"And you all looked amazing!" Mackie said. Eva, the designer for the girl tributes, more of the silent type nodded and smiled brightly as she rested a hand on Maggie's shoulder.
"A round of drinks, please!" Clara shrieked, waving a hand around in the air. Two Avox's rushed to fulfill her request, and soon everybody had a drink in their hands.
"I want to say one last thing before you all go to bed," Cassie said, and she raised her glass. Her face then changed; a straight line forming on her mouth, the smile gone.
"You are a strong group of tributes, and we all have hope for each of you. I am confident that you will fight and be strong, as you have shown me this past week or so. I wish you the best of luck tomorrow. Stand strong."
She then gulped down her whole drink.
Haymitch looked around, feeling as weird as the others looked. He then looked down at his clear drink, and thought what the hell. There was a possibility he was going to die tomorrow. Or the day after that…
He tipped his head back and gulped his drink down, it tasting bubbly sweet but sour at the same time. He sighed, the weird taste of what the capitol had to offer now lost on him as he set the empty glass down. He looked at Maysilee, who was staring at him, her eyes inquiring. He sighed again, and looked away.
He couldn't deal with this. He was too stupid to even get near her.
If they crossed paths in the arena and where it was life or death, Haymitch didn't want to have to choose.
He had to get out of there, and purge this girl from his mind before he went to his death tomorrow.
"Goodnight, everybody," he said, standing up. And without looking at any of them, he left to his room.
He shrugged out of his suit and didn't bother changing into his pajamas; he just slipped into bed and tried to fall asleep.
Soon after Dylan came in, and he silently got ready for bed and clicked off the light.
But Haymitch couldn't fall asleep.
He waited until the sounds from the main room stopped, and the lights all switched off.
He sat up in bed, cursing her name silently. And then cursed the memory of the damned look on her face when they were about to kiss. And then the worse one, after, when he acted indifferent after the others entered - as though her hope was lost.
He was going to need at least the start of a drink to help him sleep. He was off the the Games tomorrow. He needed the rest.
He got out of bed, hoping to get a drink quickly and bring it back to his room to have in bed. Since the rest had recently gone to bed, he suspected Maysilee would have to wait for Maggie to fall asleep if she decided to come out as well.
But of course she was already there in the main room.
However this time instead of on the sofa, watching the forest scene-scape, she was sitting sitting against the floor to ceiling windows on the far side of the room, the part facing the main square of the Capitol, the city's bright lights and festivities providing more light than the penthouses fixtures.
He faltered at the sight, and then headed towards the drinks.
He picked up the red liquid that Cassie had pointed out would make him feel sleepy. She called it Port.
"You want a glass? Cassie said it would help with sleeping," he said aloud.
"What the hell," he heard her say, and he grinned as he grabbed two glasses and filled them halfway. He carried them over and sat next to her, facing the windows as well.
He looked down onto a large courtyard that was filled with citizens as they cheered and watched clips of the interviews on large screens. They seemed so small from so high up.
"Cheering for our imminent death. How endearing," she muttered. She took the glass from Haymitch, brushing their fingers together, lingering before pulling back. She took a gulp and half smiled and nodded at Haymitch. He took small sip too, and looked down to the crowd.
"I was wondering earlier..." she started as she sipped the Port, "do you think Clara, Eva, Mackie, even the Gamemakers... you think they all just stay in a drunken state to avoid whats really going on in front of them?"
"Oh, I would never doubt that," he said as he laughed, raising his glass before taking another sip.
"Well, as I'm sure you know, it does the trick," she said, mirroring Haymitch.
"It really is just a game, for them," he said after a second or two.
"Don't you dare defend them," she said her voice lowered, obviously angry.
"I wasn't," he said, looking back up to meet her angry gaze. "I'm just trying to think like them. These people were raised here. They were raised to watch it as a game, not a slaughter of innocent kids," he explained.
"Why are you all of a sudden an anthropologist?" she asked, turning her body towards him.
"A what?" Haymitch asked, tilting his head.
She smiled, and shook her head.
"It was in a book I'd read. Those who tried to think objectively about other people and cultures."
"Looking at something from a different side – actually, from no side at all. An outside perspective, with no pre-judgment."
"Does this look like a face without judgement?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. Then he shook his head. "I'm definitely not them, not trying to think like them, not trying to defend them. I'm just wondering what it must be like to live here and to see dying as a sport, as a game, rather than something that happens every day, like back at home."
"None of it is right, Haymitch! Stop acting like one side has some reason."
"I was saying anything but that! Do you think I've gotten used to the memory of my bloody mother after she was attacked for trying to interfere in a fight over a few coins? None of this makes any sense. Not back home, and never will it make sense to me here. These people make me want to punch, kick, and dismember them," he finished, his hands actually clenching and unclenching.
She only tilted her head.
"Too bad we think so much alike," she said softly. Haymitch unintentionally leaned forward.
"Like I said, for them it's a game. But for us… it's our life. Our being," he whispered.
She looked down as their knees touched. He had moved forward again, and he wanted to say sorry, but instead said something completely different.
"That dress…" and May's head snapped up to meet his eyes, her gaze confused. "It… it will definitely help you get more sponsors."
Her head inched forward, and he continued.
"That and how you were yourself."
At that, her eyebrow twitched slightly, but she leaned forward a slight inch more, their knees dropping, hers on top of his.
"We all were pretending, putting on a mask… but you were just... you," he continued.
She shook her head.
"Look who's talking? You just set Caesar at ease, and explained who you really were-"
"A coward who's putting up a front-"
"A fighter… like me. Even though I didn't get pegged the name."
He smiled back and opened his mouth to speak, but then a loud cheer from the crowd down below made him lean away and look down to see what was happening.
They were cheering her name. The girl from District 1; one of the two blondes who had targeted him on the first day of training.
"She's a bad fish," Maysilee said, taking a small sip of the drink this time.
"I have to say I agree," he said.
"We should both stay away from her in the Arena."
"Oh, I was actually thinking of making her an ally," he said, rolling his eyes.
"Seems smart: get cozy enough, then when she's sleeping…"
"You know the meaning of sarcasm, right?" he asked, leaning forward again to catch a whiff of her vanilla scent and see her expression of embarrassment at her jealousy up close.
He had actually hoped it was jealousy.
"When talking about tomor-" she started, but he closed the gap between them, and nestled his cheek against hers, stopping her.
"Don't, May…" he whispered right in her ear. He couldn't help it anymore; he needed to be close to her, to be touching her.
Like he had said earlier, it was now or never.
He felt her shiver, and he smiled. He pulled back enough so their noses barely touched. He needed to see her blue eyes this close when he had no more chances to.
"I shouldn't be thinking about this… damn you," she whispered, her eyebrows furrowing.
He laughed, but reached to grasp her arm and rest his other hand on her back to keep her close.
"You think this is easy for me?" he asked. "My name is called at the reaping and I go into isolation mode… then you come along and I-"
To his surprise, she was the one to shut him up.
She grazed her mouth against his mid-sentence. She applied some pressure and started moving her lips against his, but he was immobile, only able to hold onto her small frame. She slowed down, ready to move away, but when she darted her lips out to lick his bottom tongue, he held her tight and kissed back.
"May…" he whispered softly against her lips, and she drew back enough to rest her head against his neck, her quick breaths warming his skin. He rubbed his hands up and down her back, enjoying the warmth, giving a kiss to her head, leaning forward to kiss her temple.
"Sorry…" she said, pulling back, but Haymitch stopped her from saying anything more by kissing her again, harder this time, run by the lust he knew he shouldn't be feeling. He heard her let out a soft murmur, and pulled back and created as big as a distance as he could manage.
Which turned out to be barely any; their knees were still touching.
They only breathed heavily as they stared at each other.
"For as long as I live, I will never be sorry for that, May," he said softly. He reached forward and caressed her cheek one last time before he stood up, ready to walk away, feeling shaky and disarmed.
But she stood up with him, and grabbed his face to plant one last kiss on him.
Just as stubborn as he was.
He smiled, and caressed her hip before he stepped back from her, putting good distance between them.
"No, Mitch. There's nothing left to say. Just… I'm just glad we stopped ignoring it. But thank you for being so… kind about it," she said shakily.
"I was anything but 'kind'-"
She silenced him again by walking forward and planting her mouth on his again for a split second. She took a step back, but still grasped at his shirt.
"Stop it. Just… accept that it happened, as it eventually would have," she said breathlessly, just as he was feeling.
"At least we had the privacy," he whispered.
Her eyes widened, and she blinked.
"I should get going to sleep. It's… we… the Games are tomorrow, Mitch."
That broke everything. The air turned more serious than ever.
"Yeah. They are, May."
He pulled her into his arms so he could hide his pained face. He tucked his nose into her hair, to burn the vanilla scent and the warmth of her into his mind…
He regained his posture and stepped back.
"I'll… see you tomorrow."
"See you…" she whispered, and he nodded solemnly and went back into his room.