When you become a Victor, there's no going back.
The men and women sitting nervously around the table knew that all too well. Midnight had long since passed, and Cashmere was still missing. The adults knew what had happened. They had known what would happen when the tall, pretty blond had been crowned victor. They had known when she had locked herself in her room. But they also knew she should have been back. She had been missing for almost eight hours. Even Finnick was back. All of the assembled victors were worried.
The door creaked open and Cashmere stepped in. All her plans for quietly going back to her room and pretending the incident had never happened flew out the window when she noticed the gathering in the living room. Shine, Finnick, Blight, Annie, Mags, Seeder, and a few others she didn't know all were staring at her. Cashmere forced herself not to cry. Shine, her mentor, stood up, looking her up and down. Cashmere felt herself blush.
She knew what Shine saw. The beautiful silver dress she had worn to the party in tatters. The broken heel. The smeared makeup. The bruises that had not quite formed yet on her face. Shine sighed. Cashmere waited for her mentor to explode. Shine had a serious temper. Instead, Shine walked over to Cashmere and guided her back to her room.
"Shower," the older, stronger woman commanded. "We'll talk when you're done." With that, Shine walked out, leaving Cashmere alone to clean herself up.
Fifteen minutes later, Cashmere walked out into the living room, having traded the tattered dress for some modest pajamas. Cashmere took a seat at the edge of a couch, looking around the circle nervously. Finnick slipped a blanket around her shoulders. Seeder passed her a mug of hot chocolate.
"They said they would kill Gloss," Cashmere said. "He's my baby brother. He's going to volunteer, I know it. I can't let him die." The adults merely stared at her. "What? Don't look at me like I'm… I'm…" Cashmere broke into tears.
"Cashmere," Shine started, barely controlled, "we know what you had to do. We know what Snow makes his victors do. Why do you think Finnick acts like that?" Cashmere looked, wide-eyed, at Finnick. He nodded, ashamed.
"We're here for you," Mags garbled.
"Why?" Cashmere began to sob. "Why me? Why this? Why can't I just go home and forget all this?"
"That's not the way the Games work."