I've written this piece a long time ago and just recently found it on my disc. It was long ago before 'Mockingjay' came out *and established a certain canon*. Effie-centric with a spoonful of Hayffie, for she's my fave and she must be protected at all cost. When mentioning the Capitol I was more trying to describe her social background and upbringing without making her actually aware of what is really going on behind this façade. But you're the best judges.

If you see any mistakes, do not hesitate to comment or PM me, all messages are welcome!

I don't own any of this, sadly, etc, etc, etc. Enjoy!

Effie Trinket is five years old and her hair is in the brightest shade of pink. She sits on the floor with her cousin, dressed in expensive golden dress, playing with his toy soldiers. The adults, including Effie's parents, are enjoying the party and Effie is pretty sure that no one is going to take the toys out of her hand, saying it's very, very, unladylike and girls should play with dolls.

Basically Effie has nothing against dolls and she likes her pink hair, but sometimes she'd love to stop being a lady. Climbing up the trees, jumping into puddles, running wild... She likes it, she honestly does, though she wouldn't admit to her mother. She would be scared like hell and, frankly, she doesn't like the lectures her mother gives her.

Who does, anyway?

And therefore, though she is only five, Effie quickly learns to pretend, hoping that maybe her good behavior would be appreciated and rewarded. One time. In the future. For now, it is playing with dolls, changing clothes and wearing shiny dresses.

Effie doesn't know words such as "ambition", "expectations", "objectification" yet and there will be no alarming bells in her head when she learns the definition. She will accept her parents' actions, thinking it is only natural and perfect way to bring up a child. Years will need to pass for her to realize how wrong she was.

Effie Trinket is fourteen years old. She sits on her bed with legs crossed, staring absentmindedly at her History book, trying to work out mass of dates, names and presidents. And Games. In chronological order.

She feels tired, which is probably typical for her age and will pass over night. Today, however, she doesn't have any strength to dress herself in a pretty dress instead of worn-out jeans, grey jumper and two different socks. Blue wig is tossed somewhere on her bed—the only thing that doesn't fit the perfect order in Effie's room.

She uses to tide, wash and organize when she has nothing—or too much— to do. It keeps her hands busy and Effie likes to think that maybe she can have control over something in her life, even if it is only a room.

Then her mother comes in. She is glamorous and glimmering and Effie is pretty sure that she has undergone more plastic surgeries that she admits. Her make-up is so heavy that it's surprising it doesn't slide down. Her hair is shiny green. And her heels are so high that Effie cannot tell how her mother is able to stand.

She opens her mouth and Effie immediately braces herself for bunch of critical words. Wrong outfit, ladies do not sit in jeans, which are horrifying, where did you find them? And Effie, you know the escorts have to look well! And history, again?

Suddenly dates, names and places seem to match perfectly and are not a one-thousand-pieces-puzzle anymore.

Mother—insisting upon calling her by first name—can go like this forever. After ten minutes she finally stops, demands Effie to do something with herself and goes out.

Effie sighs and throws herself on the pillows. She isn't the fighting sort of daughter and, besides, her mother is right, escorts should look well. And she is meant to be an escort, after all.

Effie is nineteen years old when she starts her training. She wants to become an escort. It is a perfect job for her. Glamour. Travels. Fame.

Yes, she would love that.

Wouldn't she?

Truth be told, Effie doesn't seem to feel confident at her Academy. It is huge and shiny, and full of beautiful, chattering girls.

They are still girls, not young women. Effie doubts if any of them has thought about something not related to fashion or celebrities' lifestyle.

Training is hard and exhausting, but Effie tries and tries and tries. She aims to excel at everything and it's driving her insane but, finally, she becomes noticed. And though her social skills are still not as good as she wishes them to be, she gains some friends—or rather acquaintances—who seem to like her.

(They don't and she realizes it too late. It was all about fame, not about her, she knows it when she starts to do it herself.)

Some people tell her she is on her way to success. Her mother is thrilled. Even her father—who has spent most of Effie's life in his office—calls her one day and says something that Effie interprets as "it's good, keep it up".

She is honestly content of her life.

But it doesn't last long.

Effie is twenty years old and going out with a boyfriend her mother approved. It's ridiculous, being matchmade in those times, but she's to scared to oppose. And, besides, Marcus is quite nice. They go to a restaurant, eat pasta and talk. Effie is not comfortable, not completely, but it could have been much, much worse. She feels safe behind her wig and make-up, she can talk about stupid things without even thinking and she becomes gradually better at flirting.

Until he kisses her. And, again, it's not exactly unpleasant, but she doesn't feel anything extraordinary. Nothing special, nothing romantic, nothing exciting, so after a while she pulls back, smiles softly and bids him good night.

(Her definition of love still derives from reading romantic novels, where she'd be supposed to feel fire rushing through her veins—which she doesn't—and she isn't so like her mother to chase after money and position, not love).

Marcus calls her a few days later, but as Effie's mother was watching them from the kitchen—it seems she uses kitchen only for that purpose—their story doesn't even have a chance to develop. They don't meet again. Effie accepts it as she did many times before, silently promising herself that she will run away and will not let her mother live her life again.

She fails miserably.

Effie is twenty four years old. She is standing on a platform in District Twelve, on a day of her first Reaping as an escort, and feels like her life has gone terribly, terribly wrong.

She knew it since she arrived here. It isn't a glamorous district, not at all. It is poor. And dirty. And very, very different from Capitol, but she was prepared for tough conditions.

But not quite as tough.

It was never meant to look like that. There should not be a half-drunken mentor behind her back, there should not be so many scared, thin faces of children. Why are they all so sad? She has never encountered a person so terrified by the Games—in Captiol it was a sort of festive.

She cannot bring herself to make a joke, to show her (recently gone) enthusiasm, to act as if this was an entertainment. She is well-trained, though, so she is able to conduct the event as cheerfully as possible, but only because it's her job. And because she does not want to think what would happen if she didn't.

(It is an iron rule of being an escort: always do what you are said to do and don't even try to think about choosing any other option. Effie does not know about anyone who broke that rule, so it is probably a wise one.)

She picks out two names (and she will always think this way: it was not fate, it was she who sentenced them to death).

The tributes are Jack and Maudie. They die before second day is done.

Effie cries three nights in a row and drinks until she doesn't remember her name.

It doesn't help a bit.

It will not change with time. She will remember every scared face and name, and devastated parent. No amount of alcohol would make her forget and she will silently promise herself that she will not have any children unless she is sure they are out of the Games.

But, of course, she can never be sure of that.

Effie is thirty when she picks out names of Katniss and Peeta.

She has gotten much, much better at pretending to be enthusiastic. Now she is almost convincing and Haymitch looks at her with disgust. Or annoyance. Frankly, she has never seen him looking at her in any other way.

(She is so envious sometimes: of his attitude (of the way he can tell Seneca, of the way he would tell the President himself to bugger off), of his lack of family (or rather: of lack of fear that having a family creates), of his indifference.)

Somehow, the kids make Haymitch to stop drinking—or at least be sober enough to help them. It's amusing, really. She doesn't let her hopes rise, though—making that man to restrain alcohol is not quite the same as killing to save your life. But they are brave. Maybe they are even fighters.

While watching them fighting on the arena, Effie and Haymitch are able to talk normally for the first time ever. He is surprised when he discovers that she does not shriek all the time and her voice can be surprisingly nice. She is shocked when he actually does something apart from emptying his glass.

They think that maybe, only maybe and somewhere in future, they may grow to like each other.

And then the kids both survive.

Effie is thirty one, nearly thirty two, when she picks out Haymitch's name. And, oh gods, this is one of the worst moments of her life. Not only because it finally hits her how cruel it all is, but also because she would never wish anyone to go back to hell, and that is where they are heading. She does not love Haymitch (she probably would in a novel, but her life is not a novel), she is not even sure if she truly likes him, but this is really too unfair—even for him.

Effie is well aware of what Katniss thinks of her—that she's grim only because she won't get promoted, because it's another crappy year in crappy district. If only Katniss knew how much it's far from true. Effie has never thought that she could get attached to someone so easily. But she did. And now the possibility of losing Peeta or Katniss or even Haymitch is, well... it hurts. Effie doesn't really like the pain, but she is grown accustomed to it over the years. Somehow, she does not want to get used to this new kind of hurt.

She is not stupid. She knows something is going on. Yes, at the beginning that Mockingjay thing was only a crazy fashion, but now it is meaningful and Effie can feel it. They haven't told her anything and Effie knows it is not wise to ask, but something in her stomach is twisting into tight knot every time she notices them scheming together. Katniss and Peeta and Haymitch are drowning and they probably will drown, finally, and Effie is damn sure someone will help them with it... but if they are going down, so is she.

She shots Haymitch one quick, almost fearful glance before Peeta steps up, just as she expected.

Effie is thirty... four? Maybe not... when she lies on cold prison floor. She doesn't see anything, because there is no window, no light, only cold concrete and darkness. That is probably for the best, she thinks, because she can't feel her hands or legs anymore. They have turned into a shapeless mass of bruises, open wounds and pain. She is afraid to move, because every move leads to even more pain and bleeding.

Effie has never known that people can get so much satisfaction from hurting the others. She finally realizes—too late, as always—how brainwashed the guards are, how brainwashed the whole system is, and how brainwashed she must have been, since she was a part of it. She is not anymore. Never will be again. She made her choice when she joined the Rebellion and now there is no way back.

Does it have any purpose? Is this agony ever going to end? And was it always about suffering or maybe politics, this heartless game, where people are only numbers and homes are just red squares on a map?

She has plenty of time to think, though her mind is dark. She has not accomplished anything. She wasn't happy. She has done terrible things, which she remembers vividly when they give her some drugs and talk to her in a friendly tone about every child she has sentenced to death through the years. It's even worse than when they kick and starve her. It makes her want to kill herself.

And then she is almost ready to accept her punishment from the hands of Rebelliants, but Haymitch comes and saves her life.

Effie is thirty five when they send her out of District Thirteen. No one has been nice to her (and right now Effie defines "nice" as everything that is not cruel) and she is so depressed that she actually thinks it serves her right. Her parents were killed during the fights in Capitol, so she is grief-stricken, shocked and she doesn't even have a place to come back to. There is only one thing she can do: try to start her life again.

But, of course, it only sounds so easy.

She throws out all her wigs and clothes. She moves to District Five and begins to teach, because it is the only available job. It turns out she's actually quite good at this, especially when it comes to Maths—pure, constant and uninfected with propaganda.

She changes her name, of course. She has to. Even Katniss and Peeta (well, maybe only Peeta) seem to understand it. Effie corresponds with them, once or twice a month, and they write about Twelve, themselves and occasionally about Haymitch. He did not stop drinking, Effie never thought he would.

Katniss and Peeta think Effie should not be alone. Her depression is obvious (and they don't even know about her suicidal thoughts), and she could come and live with them. They would be a miserable trio (or a quartet, including Haymitch), but maybe they would manage to help each other.

But Effie refuses, politely as always. She doesn't give any reasons, because she can't form them yet. She only knows there is a voice that commands her to stay here, in Five, and carry on as she does. At least for now.

And Effie, for the first time in her life, listens to herself.

Her life slowly, slowly starts to merge. She feels like someone has put her into darkness and now she has to find the light in herself, or she won't come out. There is no torch, no matches, no one to help: only some sparks hidden deep inside of her.

So she fights every time pills on her nightstand seem to call her, when knives shine so brightly and going out of bath seems hard and almost like a physical work. It is not easy and if she could, she would never face it alone: but now she can hardly go to a therapist and say that she was an escort. So she battles alone with herself, every single day. She sometimes thinks about giving up, but then she goes out to the street and sees people who were really battered by the war and went to hell and back. They are healing wounds, too. And Effie thinks that if they can cure themselves, she can do it, too.

(Letters from Peeta also help. He is kind and patient enough to write her how he deals with his dark thoughts and his advice is always good, so she follows instructions, and eventually learns how to stand up.)

Then she discovers a nice way to pin up her hair. She tries to cook (it goes all wrong, but she eventually gains some skills). She reads, teaches and actually likes being with her students. Some of them like her, too, and it are such a nice feeling, being liked.

All those little steps help her to hold tighter the rope which ties her with life. That rope isn't very strong—at one point it looked more like a string, really—but at least now Effie wants to hold it.

After three full years she thinks maybe she is able to go back.

Effie does not bother with her age when she steps out of the train in District Twelve.

The sun is setting down and everything looks so peaceful, so... alive. It's almost shocking, considering how this district looked a few years back. Now everything is green and gold and the sky is in the most beautiful shade of blue. Effie admires it for the moment; in Five the sky is always grey because of smoke from the power plants.

She slowly takes her suitcase and starts walking to the village.

No one would recognize her, because she's not wearing any make up or wig and she looks so terribly plain in her jeans and blue shirt (with long sleeves, as always. Scars are too frightening to show them).

She told Peeta she would be in Twelve in the evening, but the train was a bit faster, which happens so rarely that no one could have foreseen it, so nobody is awaiting her. Well, she still remembers the way and the path that leads through the meadows, which once must have been forests.

Half an hour later she approaches Katniss and Peeta's house, but they seem to have gone out. Effie shrugs, leaves her suitcase in the garden and looks around. They really do have a nice house, though the surroundings still look frightening and she understands what Peeta meant by "living on the rubble".

And there's that voice. Effie follows it and suddenly finds herself at Haymitch's backyard, sitting on a piece of wood, looking at the poor man attempting to chase down one of the geese he keeps.

"You bloody... come here and I'll make sure you're a pie tomorrow..."

She admires the view for a moment, trying hard not to laugh, when Haymitch fails again at chasing the goose and almost collapses on the ground.

"You know, it might be easier if you stopped shouting at them," she says conversationally. He turns around and apparently doesn't recognize her at all.

"Yeah, well, thanks for the advice, whoever the hell you are..." Then he stops for a moment and examines her face. "Wait... Don't tell me you're Effie Trinket."

"Unfortunately, I am."

And I have finally admitted it.

He doesn't move.

"You're back."

"It seems so, yes."

"After four years."


He comes closer to her and she is surprised when the smell of alcohol doesn't follow him.

"You look good."

She smiles, but it's only a half-smile, and, truthfully, rather a miserable one.

"You too."


They stay silent for a couple of minutes.

"What, I'm not going to hear a lecture about my manners? I'm shocked."

"Well, I've decided your manners won't improve anyway, so there's no point in trying."

He finally grimaces and it might be a smile, but it doesn't have to.

"Pray tell, who are you and what have you done with Effie Trinket?"

She shrugs and twists her hands together, obviously avoiding an answer. When the silence extends and becomes too heavy, she sighs and looks him in the eye.

"I'm not going to give you a lecture, but honestly, you could ask a lady if she fancies a cup of tea."

Haymitch looks at her suspiciously, but eventually invites her inside.

It turns out Peeta was right, in the end. They can help each other, even if Haymitch says bickering gets them nowhere (but he lies and she knows it).

She doesn't move to Twelve straight away. For a couple of years she tries to part her time reasonably between Five and Twelve, between life she's built and life she is trying to build.

She has always been fond of creation, though.

Effie's nightmares and fears don't go away, not completely. They change, become rarer, come back when she's scared and stressed, but slowly, with the help of others, she can fight them.

Everyone carries their scars, after all.

Her scars are visible and can be scary, but she learns to tolerate them. Not accept, not quite. Acceptation would mean resignation and forgiveness and Effie cannot bring herself to forgive.

There is an unspoken agreement between Katniss, Peeta, Haymitch and her. They do not talk about the Games. Ever.

(Not when there is four of them in the same room, at least.)

Time will come to face it, when the children of Katniss and Peeta become older and start to ask questions. Maybe it will hurt, but there is still plenty of years in between.

(Haymitch sometimes wonders if they will be seen as heroes. Effie hopes, for his sake, that they would, but she knows her place is in the other, shameful category. No one would ever call her a hero.)

Days pass, then months, then years. Effie expects to be frightened, just like her mother, of getting old. But she isn't. There are so many other things to be scared of that aging doesn't seem to be so bad anymore.

So, finally, when another summer comes and stays and tempts her with its glorious sun, she sighs heavily, but then feels that something in her has broken a long, long time ago, leaving only a warm feeling of peace and comfort inside. She doesn't remember feeling that way, ever.

Maybe it is a new beginning.

She steps into the sun.

And she smiles.