He sat cross-legged in the open sill of a second-story window, neck hunkered down into the white fur of his coat. Truth be told, Mackenzie was beginning to get used to the wardrobe that had been chosen for him. In the very least, the fur absorbed the cold.
He flicked his cigarette, watching as the ashes danced alongside gravity, rather than against it. It was easier, wasn't it? To accept things as they were? To work with gravity or gamemakers or other laws of nature?
His eyes caught the gate of the tribute graveyard in the distance. There, just beyond that wrought iron fence and over that hill, there was a tombstone with Ike's name on it, an empty place next to her meant to be his own grave. Everything after Ike was still empty, and it was no thanks to Mackenzie. He could, however, take credit for sneaking out there the first night back and filling them up before Lex or Angel saw them.
Unshaven as the trees on the lilac horizon, he listened to Max play piano downstairs with his head propped against the windowsill. White flakes of paint chipped in certain areas; District Seven wasn't as known for Victors as they were for dead tributes, it seemed. They'd dug the graves of the dead before the games were even over; they could've at least splurged on nice paint for the guy who'd actually survived.
The phone rang and he sighed, climbing down from his perch. Probably Jacquelyn calling about the upcoming Victory Tour.
"Hello?" he asked, picking a paint splinter off his cuff.
Post by Gamemaker Cricket △ntoinette on Feb 4, 2019 14:32:57 GMT -5
Sleep don't visit, so I choke on sun And the days blur into one
Holding her face to the phone might be effortless if only she could refrain from bouncing nervously on her heels — her ear tappa-tap-tapping against the black plastic — or if she were able to, you know, hold the receiver herself. Instead Tallulah tries her best to assist, but struggles with matching Denali's erratic fidgeting, gaping at her sister's panic over something that just doesn't seem like that big of a deal. "But what if he answers, Ginny?"
"Well then you say hi." Peregrine rolls her eyes, openly judging the ridiculous premise of the question. "Why are you calling if you don't want him to answer? Do you want me to hang up?"
"No!" Denali chews at her bottom lip, turning her focus to Tallulah in hopes of finding some emotional support that's a little more... supportive. "Lulu? Help. What do I say?"
"Hi is good! Ginny's right, you should start with that. It's casual, but not too casual." ...what??? She doesn't bother to look up from the notepad that the majority of her attention is fixated on, only pausing to thoughtfully press the tip of a pencil to her lips before suddenly hunching over to continue scribbling. Flapping her other hand around blindly, it's as if she's trying to shoo Denali's worries out of the room. "Never underestimate the mood-setting power of a cheery greeting!"
Denali and Peregrine groan in two part harmony at the overly-chipper advice. "Don't you think cheery is maybe the wrong tone for murder apologies? Shouldn't I —"
Denali yelps in surprise, thwacking her head against the phone so hard that Peregrine sympathy-grimaces almost as hard as she does. "That's gonna leave a bruise," Peregrine mutters, leaning forward to blatantly ogle the bright red spot on her sister's forehead as she switches the phone into her other hand, shaking her own fingers out after the collision.
"Um... hi!" Denali panic-responds, sounding as if a teacher has just called on her mid-daydream to answer a question on the blackboard and she was so out of it that she doesn't even know what class she's in. Peregrine unhelpfully mouths the words good job and gives her a thumbs up. All of it feels blatantly like lies. Denali scowls at her before remembering that she's supposed to be saying things. "Mac-kenzieee." It's as if his name is an unfamiliar word in her mouth, her tongue slowly sounding out the syllables and giving it her best guess. Onomatopoeia. Syzygy. Cantankerous. "Uhhh. It's Denali." There's yet another moment of desperate stalling. "Lyons?" The girl who killed Lex after implying that she definitely would not do this thing as a favor to you for being a good human. "I... um... well..."
Kicking Tallulah's foot to get her attention, Denali takes a face journey that attempts to convey exactly how much she is actively dying inside. Helppppppp. I don't know what I'm doinggggg. It's about the only thing she's successfully communicating at the moment. Tallulah finally gives Denali her full attention, holding up the notepad that she's been writing on and tapping her pencil at the first word. I'm —
Taking a deep breath, Denali nods with feigned confidence and attempts to read the script she should have written down for herself instead of babbling incoherently at the twins until they agreed to help without fully understanding what they were getting roped into. I'm calling to offer my most sincere apologies in regards to the terms of our broken agreement and my part in violating the trust you placed in me. "I'm..." Tallulah emphatically taps at the next word, circling it for emphasis. Call-inggggg. Everything blurs together into a pretty pattern of nonsensical loop-de-loops. "I'm sorry." Peregrine attempts to mime slow clapping despite only having one free hand and somehow it still works out to be more coherent than anything Denali is attempting at the moment. (I'm sorry I'm not more like my brother.) "About Lex and stuff. I... know she's — uh — not dead anymore? But I... Ripred. I don't know. Urghhh. Isoundsostupid." Breathe, Tallulah mouths with concern, patting her shoulder. "I'm sorry for that too? I don't know... what to... words and stuff? You know? I just... um... thought I should try. Or... yeah. Something. That. Like that, I mean. Mhm."
Honestly, maybe she should have told Peregrine to hang up.
Denali was not a ghost for Mackenzie to be haunted by. Zion, perhaps, but he'd helped Denali as best he could. Even when it meant gamemakers getting in his face in the middle of the night and threatening to make him pay for it.
But her words —her name— crackled through the receiver like a shock wave and he froze, several emotions at war for which should be at the helm of his brain.
He remembered seeing her in the training center, remembered the weight of the hatchet he'd thrust into her brother's hands exactly a year prior. Maybe Denali had been his penance and maybe Lex had always simply been her plan of seeking vengeance. Or maybe she'd only wanted to finish what her brother had been forced to start. Maybe she just wanted to live.
"Oh-" he said, nibbling on his thumbnail, "Uh, hey?"
The ghost on the phone seemed just as dumbfounded as he. Her voice quivered and cracked, stopped just as soon as it started. Lagged behind and then sped up too quickly in an attempt to catch up. It wasn't exactly easy to decipher at first what she was trying to convey; Mackenzie had listened to Max's drunken babbles for years about how they were going to exact their revenge on who so ever she was angry with at the time, but he also had the advantage of reading her lips while she talked. It took him a second to process what Denali was saying, ("I'm sorry. About Lex and stuff. I... know she's — uh — not dead anymore? But I... Ripred. I don't know. Urghhh. Isoundsostupid,") and he tried his best to form a coherent response.
His tongue ran itself over his front teeth.
"No, um. I-"
"I'm sorry for that too? I don't know... what to... words and stuff? You know? I just... um... thought I should try. Or... yeah. Something. That. Like that, I mean. Mhm."
He raised his voice toward the end of it in an attempt to grab her attention: "Denali! It's... look, I get it. You were in a dark place."
He thought of Lex, and how he still purposefully stomped his feet before entering a room so he wouldn't frighten her. He thought of Angel, and how he spent more time locked in his room than anywhere else. He thought of himself last, sort of. More so the bags that had appeared under Max's eyes from all the times she'd woken him up from a bad dream. They'd all been in the dark place; they'd all done things with the hope of suffering for another day.
"You both were."
He thought of his sword sliding through Bella's chest, the sound of her cannon echoing through his bones. He thought of how quickly the life left her eyes. Perhaps he hadn't done so consciously, but he forgave Denali Lyons if there was anything to forgive her for, and he realized for the first time how worried he had been for her.
"But I don't blame you. Guess I never have."
Because she only wanted to survive. Because her brother hadn't and Mackenzie had. Because, at the end of the day, Lex was still there to climb through his window when he wasn't home and steal his beer and, for whatever reason, his boots.
He cleared his throat, leaning his head against the wooden wall and staring at his feet.
"She doesn't either, I don't think. In case you were wondering."
❝ THE HEART IS AN ARROW, IT DEMANDS AIM TO LAND TRUE ❞