It was the first time the holidays came up since the rebellion and the war.
Last year, she had been imprisoned for the holidays. She had been in a cell, in the dark, in the cold, all by herself. She had not even a clue that it was Christmas that day. The time had faded away so quickly, yet not quickly enough. The weeks and months she had spent in prison were still very much in her mind and one Christmas had been violently taken from her.
The year before the imprisonment she still had had a family to spend her time with. She would have spent it differently, enjoyed it more if she had known it would be the last Christmas with her parents. She would have taken it all in more and not taken it for granted, especially her family, who would drive her up a wall at Christmas, but that was what families were ought to do.
Now, she didn’t have any family left. Her family was dead. She was alone and the holidays came up. The holidays were meant to be spent with family.
That thought, in particular, made her pack some of her belongings and made her buy a train ticket. She was on the long way to the people she once was close to. The only people she once was close to and who were still alive. They were not family, not by blood, but close enough.
They were not geographical close, but they used to be close to her heart. She used to care for them, a lot, but then things happened and these people were forced to move to the other side of the country. There were three people on the other side of the country, who she used to call her team.
A team was no family, of course, but maybe they could pretend for the holidays. There was pretending with real family too, it shouldn’t make a difference.
The train ride was long. It gave her enough time to work herself up in a state once or twice. She was nervous to go there to the people she had been close to once, but wasn’t anymore. She had no idea how they would react, especially since she had not given them any kind of warning sign.
She should have called, she mused when she finally arrived in the late afternoon. She had to carry her belongings all by herself all the way to their houses. Once in their street, she looked left and right, figuring out where to knock first. She was eager to see them all, but something drew her to his house. Parting from him had not been easy; nothing with him had ever been easy.
He was a difficult man, thick and stubborn, a ruffian, not letting anyone close enough, but she managed to crack him open a little over time. And even she had put her guards off with him around. They had a connection, but after the war, it was damaged. Nothing was like it what it had been before.
Still, she was here, after months of no contact and she knocked at his door, waiting for him to open. But no heavy footsteps were audible after her knock. Not moans or any kind of noise coming from the inside. Once he was asleep he was a heavy sleeper, so she tried to open the door to make her way into the house.
The house looked just the same as she remembered it. Still dark, still some dirty dishes on the table in the kitchen, books everywhere in the living room, an unmade bed and clothes all over the floor. She even noticed an open toothpaste in the bathroom, but there was no sign of him.
She exhaled deeply, making her way to the dirty window in his bedroom. She looked outside, on the street. Her gaze drifted back and forth. The sun had set by now and the dark was creeping in. Her eyes glimpsed some light coming from the house across the street. She sighed again.
Before she made her way to the other house, she checked herself in the mirror again. She looked as presentable after a long train ride as she could. There was no time to freshen up; she had wasted so much time not seeing them. She was eager to see them, finally, after all these months.
Her feet carried her with ease across the street, but once she was standing on the porch right in front of the door she was stone still and couldn’t move. Suddenly, she was second-guessing her decision to come here on a whim. Seconds ago, she had been thrilled to finally see them, but now. Her heart was racing, her hands sweaty and despite the cold temperature outside she felt hot.
She managed to work up the courage to knock, her hand shaking. It took them awfully long to answer the door and for a second, she thought, her knock had been too weak, but then the door opened a blonde man was standing in front of her. His face turned into shock, a frown forming.
“Effie?” He asked. “Is this you?”
Effie’s tense shoulders relaxed immediately once she saw Peeta’s face and heard his soft voice. It felt familiar, but her appearance was not familiar to him. She had shaken off the heavy layers of makeup and ditched the extravagant clothes for some less extraordinary one. She nodded and offered with a smile, “Hello, Peeta.”
While her appearance could fool him, her Capitol-accent could not. Within moments, Peeta swept her up into his arms and she was happy to obey him. It felt good to be in his arms. Even though, the tight embrace was overwhelming her. She was not used to this kind of close body contact.
When he let go of her, he said, “What are you doing here? You should have called.”
“I hope I’m not intruding,” Effie answered.
“Of course not!” He assured her, guiding her into the house and closing the door behind her. “But I would have set up the guest room for you and picked you up from the station.” He stopped just to frown again. “Where’s your luggage?”
“Oh, don’t worry. It’s somewhere safe,” she said. She was not ready to get into the fact that she broke into Haymitch’s house, even though it had not been locked. “Where’s Katniss?” She asked instead to change topics.
“Come on,” he said, guiding her to the kitchen, where not only Katniss was sitting at the table, but also Haymitch. Before Effie could meet his gaze, Peeta was pushing her to Katniss. “Look, who found her way here, it’s Effie!”
“My girl,” Effie gasped looking down into the grey eyes. Her dark hair was still in a braid. She looked just as beautiful as ever. Despite what Katniss had been through, to Effie she was still a small girl. And ever since her sister died, there was more hurt in her eyes than usual. It made her look like a puppy, which you wanted to shower in love.
Effie had not expected Katniss to give her a hug, but just like Peeta she embraced her within seconds after laying eyes on her. Having her victor in her arms felt again good, oh so good. Effie even managed to enjoy it a bit, closing her eyes, drawing her a little further against her.
And just like Peeta, Katniss asked once the embrace was over, “What are you doing here?”
“It’s Christmas,” Effie said. “You’re supposed to spend Christmas with your family. And I thought since we all don’t have a family anymore.” She averted her gaze to look at the floor and bit her lower lip. She did not have the strength to finish that sentence. It was all fairly new to her and her victors to spend Christmas without family.
“And you thought you spend it with us instead?” Haymitch asked.
She looked up to meet his grey eyes. He was the only one out of the four, who was used to spend Christmas without family.
“Four people without family could be a good match,” she said; her eyes were locked with his. He scoffed at her answer though and for a moment, she was scared he would reject her.
“We are a team, that’s close to family, right?” Peeta asked suddenly, cutting through the tension.
“As good as any,” Effie approved, her eyes still fixed on Haymitch. She was offering him a weak smile. It was a peace offering; an offer to leave the past in the past, at least for the time of the holidays.
“Great, then that’s settled,” Peeta said, swirling around the kitchen to get another plate and some silverware for Effie. Katniss was getting another glass. While they did so, Haymitch finally walked around the table to come to stand in front of Effie. She didn’t say anything, just watching him.
“You’re home,” he stated without flinching.
She liked the sound of that. For the past months, she had not had a home. Home had become a foreign word to her. “People usually drive home for Christmas,” she remarked.
“Will you leave once Christmas is over?” Haymitch asked.
She studied him, thinking for a moment. Her heart was beating fast again, her hands sweaty. There were many unknowns in front of her, concerning a future with him, if that was what he was implying. Being here was a first step in the right direction. Any more decisions she should not be made today.
“We’ll cross that bridge once it’s there,” she said instead and finally gave into the urge of wrapping her arms around him.
I no longer believed in the idea of soul mates, or love at first sight.
But I was beginning to believe that a very few times in your life, if
you were lucky, you might meet someone who was exactly right for you. Not
because he was perfect, or because you were, but because your combined
flaws were arranged in a way that allowed two separate beings to hinge
together. - Lisa Kleypas (insp)
“Close your eyes, close your eyes and forget all about us tonight…“
I couldn’t help drawing another cuddle scene in 13 and I regret absolutely nothing. I just love the idea of Haymitch coming to Effie’s room late at night after long war meetings and just crashing in bed and cuddling with her and that’s the only way he’ll fall asleep
"You could live a hundred lifetimes and never deserve that boy."
You know, I think this changes halfway through Mockingjay. Why?
“You’re a painter. You’re a baker. You like to sleep with the windows open. You never take sugar in your tea. And you always double-knot your shoelaces.”
Why do I say it changes here? Because she’s fighting for him now. For the first time ever, she is letting herself notice the little things, the things that make him the person she fell in love with. She’s done so much to push those feelings away - push him away - but here in this moment, she pulls him close (metaphorically speaking of course) and tells him something important. Intimate details of his life. Things she knows because she’s spent time with him. Things she actually cares about. And in this moment, she’s not fighting to keep him alive (because she would be damaged beyond repair if he died) but fighting to bring him back to her, to keep him alive because she can’t live without him. Without him there is no life, that’s why she’s “waiting for something” at the end of Mockingjay, because Peeta gives her a sense of life, of things being better than their current circumstances.
Haymitch says that she could live a hundred lifetimes and never deserve him, she agrees he’s the superior one in the group, and then here…she becomes bigger than her ego, than her hurt feelings, than her broken and fragile heart…and does something for Peeta. I think for the first time ever she has this change of heart, this moment where she deserves him as much he deserves her. Their healing is a joint process. That whatever she’s feeling, however she’s hurting, he’s worth it.