Gale Hawthorne, now 63, unlocked the door to his enormous mansion in what had been District two. Many of the older 'Victors' hadn't wanted to stay in the houses they had been assigned and had sold them soon after the rebellion. Gale had been one of those fortunate enough to live in one now, as a war veteran. The house was cold, dark and lonely. Gale lived alone.
He heard the already programmed television in the living room switching on to the six o'clock news as he flicked the light switch. It was now a regular feature on ONE, the first of five channels. ONE always showed official business, fundraisers and documentaries; TWO was renowned for its dramas of the past, using old records stored in what was the capital; THREE showed mainly children's shows in the daytime, repeats at night; FOUR showed various films which were now being made in their hundreds. Channel FIVE was particularly special. It was nicknamed the history channel. In addition to the programmes about life before the districts, the rebellion and the Capital, were tributes to all those who died in the 75 years of the Hunger Games and the war which followed.
Beetee - who looked amazing for his age - and Cressida, who both read the news, sat solemnly at their desk as they did everyday. Caesar Flickerman and Claudius Templesmith had been chosen to report to begin with but there had been complaints about the manner in which the bad news was delivered. Gale had no idea that today would be so very different.
"We regret to inform you," said Beetee in his factual voice, "that Victor of the 74th Hunger Games, Mockingjay for the nation and personal friend of mine, Katniss Melark - formerly Everdeen - pasted away this morning."
The world stopped. Gale dropped his bag and the keys in his bag. He walked towards to television. Then he speeded up, jogging, running. No! No, No, No, No, No! NO! anything but those words.
"Mrs Melark," not those words either, "went into the woods from her house in twelve late last night. When she returned in the early hour of the morning, her husband claims she simply came to bed as if nothing had happened."
Now the woman began. "Peeta Melark, Victor of the 74th Hunger Games, told the Peacekeepers that she would often have nightmare and go for a walk to calm down, often with a pen and notepad to draw or write. This morning, after a walk down the road to the local bakery, Mr Melark returned to find Katniss dead. The autopsy confirmed that she simply pasted over in her sleep aged 67."
"It has been confirmed that she will be buried in the tribute field along with all those who fought for our freedom, either as a tribute or in the rebellion. As a tribute to this spectacular woman who fought to get us out of a the cruel dictatorship of the Capital, the 74th and 75th Hunger Games, both of which Katniss fought in and survived, will be shown later this week on ONE. May this fallen Victor, Soldier, Wife, Mother and friend to many, let the Mockingjay rest forever in peace."
The new anthem of Panem filled the speakers and the screen was filled with Katniss, right from when she was wearing two braids instead of one at school, to the reaping, the tribute parade, her interview, the games, victory, the second reaping, second parade, second interview, second games. Then came the images of Katniss fighting in District eight, some of the promos they filmed, the execution and assassination of Snow and Coin. And all that happened after. The film ended with a picture of the mockingjay sign.
Back in the studio, Beetee and the rest of the reporters had teary eyes.
"This truly is," Beetee sniffed, "a dark day, not only for Panem, but for the universe."
The news moved on the the weather - hosted by a young girl with auburn hair and fox-like features - but Gale hardly noticed. How could he? Even after the bomb that...that... Katniss might not have forgiven him, but he hadn't forgiven himself either. They might not have spoken in years but... Gale always felt that if he had wanted to he could have picked up the phone, waited for the dialling to end and hear the long lost voice which had always made him feel better.
Gale could have got on a train or a hovercraft and rode for a couple of hours, knowing that at the end he would see that face. Her face. So often had he been tempted. Once, Gale even bought a ticket and gone to the station. Gale just couldn't.
It wouldn't just be her, it would be her mother - who's scorn and hatred could burn though him; Peeta with the smug look he always wore on television when walking down the red carpet with Katniss on his arm at the Hunger Games Memorial service every year. What about their children? Do they know what he did?
And Katniss herself. He alway hoped that she would have forgiven him but something inside told him she hadn't. Perhaps Gale had an overactive imagination? Whenever he had watch her on the screen at the memorial service, she was always looking around, ignoring the news crew and staring absently into the distance when people were talking to her.
Grabbing the cushion beside him, he hurled it sat the television, knocking over the vase on the table in doing so. Amongst the glass, Gale picked up a flower. The scream rocketed through the whole house.
A sob escaped Gale's mouth. Finally, he couldn't contain it. "KATNISS!"
"Katniss. No, you can't be gone, you can't. No!"
When his housekeeper arrived the next day, she found the old man curled up on his sofa, clutching a single white flower from the vase on the coffee table she refilled every morning. His eyes were red and raw from the abundance of tears he had cried. She asked what was wrong over and over, but he only uttered one word. A whisper. Small, quiet, barely a breath. Over and over and over and over until it drove anyone who cared to listen crazy.