Dear God. This turned out to be way longer than I originally planned.
Anyways, please keep in mind that this is written in first person, therefore he/she will interpret things their own way, which isn't necessarily correct.
DISCLAIMER: Pretend I actually wrote one.
I cry loudly, not bothering to rub away the trails of snot and tears, ignoring the stares.
The teacher's had sent me home early because no amount of coaxing and patting and hugging and "shh, shh, it'll be okay"'s could get me to calm down. I can't calm down. I can't I can't I can't.
Katniss, my sister. My hero.
She was the one I could always, always count on, no matter what.
When we were younger she'd always play with me, unlike some other kids I've known who had brothers and sisters ignore them, push them out of the way. But Katniss never did that. Whenever we didn't have enough food, she'd always split hers with me, saying she was full so I didn't go hungry – even if she did. In the Seam where most siblings glared at each other with resentment at having to share, even fighting and letting the younger ones starve… That really meant something.
I really loved my mom, too. But after Daddy died and she just left – I was so scared. And I'd just wait and wait for her to wake up, telling her that even if Daddy was gone she still had us. Me and Katniss. The three of us were still family… even if a big piece was missing. Together we could fix the hole Daddy left behind.
Only she didn't wake up.
I know she really loved Daddy. Katniss and I did, too.
But he must have been a really big part of her heart. Because when he left, he took it away and didn't leave enough for me and Katniss.
But Katniss was there the whole time. Even when I knew she wanted to give up, become a broken doll like Mom, she didn't. She held on for me.
And now she was gone.
And it hurt.
The sadness. I don't think I've ever felt anything like this before. Not even when Daddy died.
I can't walk anymore. It hurts too much.
So I just tumble to the dirty cement and cry.
As I'm sitting, I can't help but think of all the scenarios where my big sister lived. She'd get Peeta's medicine and he'd be okay. Together they'd come home happily ever after, in love and alive.
But then my mind flashes back to Clove's face. How she seemed so… so… happy. She seemed so happy that she was going to kill my sister. Somewhere in the back of my mind I'm hoping that maybe Clove was smiling because she was closer to winning the Games and going home to her family, but I could see in her eyes that the thing she enjoyed most was causing pain.
It was fun for her.
And suddenly I'm on my hands and knees, throwing up what little food I ate today.
Because how can someone be like that?
How can someone like pain? Thrive on it?
I scream, a sobbing, messy scream filled with confusion and grief.
Suddenly I feel a hand on my back, gently helping me up, and bringing me into a hug.
I don't know who it is, but I didn't care. Right then, I really needed it.
I pressed my face against their shirt, letting out hiccupping sobs as I breathe in the scent of flour and fresh bread, ignoring everything except for the softness of the fabric of their shirt.
After a few minutes, I look up and to my surprise I see Peeta's dad.
I can tell he's sad, too. The usual warmth in his eyes was gone, and all I could see was a cold, empty shell.
Then I realize that any hope for Peeta was pinned on Katniss.
Knowing that she put herself in danger for him, died for him, when he woke up… He will pass in a slow, painful death, blaming himself as the blood poisoning spreads throughout him, eating away at his mind, leaving him in a delirious hysteria.
There could be no worse way to go than to know the one you loved died for your sake.
"Thank you," I sniff, and he nods briskly.
We sit for a few minutes, watching people go about their business and toss us the occasional glace filled with pity. It makes me feel uncomfortable, and I guess Peeta's dad felt the same because in a silent mutual agreement we both stand up and begin walking away. I'm not sure where we're going and I follow him uncertainly. Maybe he didn't want me to follow him. Maybe he was there for just those few minutes of comfort, which is more than I could ever ask for. When I see that back of his white baker uniform dusted with a fine layer of soot, it makes me feel even worse.
But when I carefully trail away, he motions me to follow with a silent wave of his hand.
Relieved, I continue tottering after him like a duckling, occasionally having to jog to keep up with his bigger, faster steps.
I'm surprised a second time when I see that he led us to the bakery. I thought he was being considerate and walking me back home.
The next thing I know, I'm sitting at their table with a fresh chocolate chip scone and a glass of cool milk sitting in front of me.
I stare at my gifts, frozen.
Milk. Even with my goat, it was something I never dared to drink. Katniss taught me it was more useful to use milk to trade for salt or oil or cloth. Drinking something so precious would only be a waste.
And the scone… it was something I'd pull Katniss to the baker's window every once in a while to admire, smelling the sweet smells and wondering what chocolate tasted like. From the rumors I've heard at school, chocolate was basically a sort of edible brown gold, something the richer kids from town would wave in front of our faces teasingly while our hungry eyes trailed after them wistfully.
How much was this luxury worth?
"Thank you… but it's okay. I'm not hungry," I say the exact moment my stomach growls.
Peeta's dad doesn't say anything as he digs his elbow into some dough, plowing and stretching it into different shapes. I can tell, though, that he won't take no for an answer.
I cautiously lift the scone and take a tentative bite.
The warmth of the sticky, gooey chocolate and the crunchy sugar-coated crust with the fluffy white bread hidden beneath… I chew slowly, savoring the flavor. After a minute, I sip some of the milk, and immediately the cool liquid washes down my thirst.
At the same time, I can't help but wish I could share this with someone.
Katniss, I know, would look at it with some suspicion ("Prim, you know we can't afford something like this.") before taking a bite. Gale would be the same. Rory would probably down the whole thing in two bites.
But they weren't here right now. So I carefully broke off half, and offered it to the only other person with me.
It's Peeta's dad's turn to look surprised, and I think he was going to turn it down, but this time I wasn't going to take no for an answer. He smiles, really smiles after a moment, and I know I've done the right thing.
"Can I help?" I ask, pointing to the dough after he finishes his half.
He nods, and the rest of the time is spent in a comfortable silence.
"Sweet, tiny Prim... Well, It definitely shows you not to judge a book by its cover." – Madge Undersee
Peeta's Brother's POV
I walk home and ignore people's stares, but eventually it starts pissing me the hell off so I glare back, willing them to say something to my face. They all look away. Fucking cowards.
But I know they're still talking behind my back. I know it.
It's the worst at school. Watchful eyes that flickered away when I met them. Whispers that would ominously die down as I passed, like I was some sort of walking plague.
I push my hands deeper into my pockets and scowl.
It's not my fault, I want to shout, shake the person nearest to me. It's not my fault that Peeta's practically dead.
Peeta, the nice, popular one with friends and admirers practically falling at his feet. Peeta, the one I knew would have been inheriting the bakery. Peeta, who was our parent's favorite.
Peeta, the brother I didn't volunteer for.
I know that's what everyone's secretly thinking. They don't dare to say it out loud, to my face, but I know it's what they're thinking.
Worst of all, it's true.
I could have volunteered. Died for his sake. Been the hero.
Instead, I'll live the rest of my life with people branding me as the selfish bastard.
It looks even worse because of that girl, Katniss. Compared to me, who shrank back when they called for Peeta's volunteers, the older sister who practically ran to save her tiny Prim was a fucking god.
Katniss. She was really cool, that girl. I don't know if she ever noticed it, but the ones who knew what she risked to feed her family respected her. It takes guts, doing what she did.
And then suddenly I'm jealous.
I'm jealous because she loved someone enough to die for them, and I could tell if the roles were reversed, Primrose Everdeen would have done the exact same thing. A family like that must be really amazing.
Oh, sure, my parents were fond of me. But I could tell, from the little details, that Peeta was the special one. Like how my usually gruff and standoffish bitch of a mother would occasionally tousle his hair, or how my father would smile when Peeta frosted his cakes.
I tried to outdo him whenever I could, and that one time I beat him at the school wrestling match I was ecstatic. And my parents looked at my medal and gave me a proud look, before turning to Peeta and saying, "Second place in your entire school? You beat the upperclassmen, too. Wait till next year. I'm sure you'll definitely get first."
After then I sort of let go. What was the point, anyways?
So when I got home and saw Prim and my dad baking and… laughing together, the way only Peeta could make Dad laugh, I snapped.
"So, Dad, you got a replacement for Peeta already?" I ask, leaning by the doorway, arms crossed.
The laughter died down, leaving my dad and Prim looking stricken.
A part of me feels sick for what I've said, but I keep going. "Honestly, I'd think you'd wait until he was actually dead first. It's just more polite, you know?"
Now Prim looks like she's about to start crying, and from the reddish puffiness around her eyes I can tell she's already been doing a lot of it. Damn. I didn't want to do this to her.
"Aaron…" my dad says quietly, but I can hear something in his voice.
"What? You know it's true. And hey, you've always wanted a daughter, right?" I laugh, the pent up anxiety I've had for years breaking the dam I'd been building the whole time. "Might as well just adopt her – After all, her mom's probably just going to fly back to her mental wonderland."
And I know I've crossed the line.
Prim sobs as she runs past me, and I tear my gaze away from my dad, unable to face his resentment at my not volunteering for Peeta and his cutting disappointment.
"We all have our fair share of regrets." – Aaron Mellark
I run down the steps, down the cobblestone sidewalks, and through the grimy sidewalks of the Seam.
I've never cried this much. I was surprised that I could continue. It was exhausting, but I couldn't stop.
Was I being selfish? Being with Peeta's dad when he had kids that he could have been comforting? I took away Aaron's dad when Aaron probably needed him the most.
The delicious milk and scone I ate earlier was feeling less like a gift, and more like something I stole. I know Peeta's dad was just being nice, but maybe it was just because misery liked company. Was he regretting it right now? I bet he could have earned a pretty penny for what I ate for free.
Still, Aaron's comments stung.
It wasn't my mom's fault that she went away after Daddy died. It was just that the balance in the neurochemistry in her brain went all wrong – she couldn't help it. Besides, after a while we were able to afford medicine for it, and she was okay. She learned to cope. It was hard, but she didn't give up.
And then I suddenly realize that I didn't go home to comfort her.
I wasn't there, and she really needs me now.
Now I'm really running, huffing and puffing as my heels clack on the gritty sidewalk.
The physical exertion helps, because now I'm too tired to cry, and even though I look like a mess, I didn't want to worry her more
"Mom?" I call as I open the door, slipping through quietly.
After being in the bakery with its rich smells and pleasant atmosphere, I can't help but feel a bit self conscious as I look at my own home. Small, shabby, and no matter how much we cleaned it, covered eternally with a thin layer of soot.
"…Mom?" I call a second time before making out her silhouette by the window. I rush over and crawl onto her lap like I did when I was younger, waiting for her to soothe me by running her hand through my hair and whispering that everything would be all right.
But she doesn't do anything.
Worried that I might wake her up from her sleep, I carefully unfurl my arms that I've hooked around her neck and slide off her lap. She must've had a hard day. It would be better to leave her alone so she could sleep it off. We could grieve together tomorrow.
When I bend in to give her a goodnight kiss, I notice something weird.
Her eyes were open.
Open and staring blankly.
I swallow nervously. It couldn't be, right? She promised that she wouldn't… she promised….
"Mom?" I shake her lightly, hopefully. Just wanting her to snap out of it.
Suddenly I remember what Aaron said. "Might as well just adopt her – After all, her mom's probably just going to fly back to her mental wonderland."
I shake her harder.
"Mom? Please don't do this. We don't have your medicine. We don't have the money right now. I promise I'll try to get it later, but right now I really need you."
I feel my shoulders curl forward when she doesn't reply, and my hands fall limply to my side.
I never expected the day I lost a sister to be the day I also lost a mother.
"She got a good head on her shoulders, that girl. Just figured out how to use it in a different way." – Greasy Sae
"Prim? Prim?" I hear someone call.
My head snaps up. "Huh? Oh... Hi, Rory."
I force a smile so he wouldn't worry. Rory is one of my best friends… Or maybe my only friend. We've known each other for a while – ever since Katniss became friends with Gale.
And then suddenly I have another lump in my throat. Without Katniss, I'd be spending lunchtime alone, maybe out by the willow tree outside, or sitting in an empty classroom, alone with no one but my thoughts.
I was never that great at making friends. To me, the only friends I ever needed were Katniss and Buttercup, my cat.
But then I came to school, where groups of kids wandered around like packs of piranhas, scoping out who was on what social status, and what they could do to who and get away with it. Teachers would turn a blind eye to anything. Everything. I think they think it builds character, or maybe it's just been going on for so long they don't feel the need to stop it. Lately I've been leaning towards the latter, though.
The first couple of weeks were hard, but they weren't terrible. First it was just the occasional accidentally shove, or maybe someone would conveniently have their foot stuck out as I walked by. Maybe if I had said something then, they would have backed off, but I didn't have the courage. I still don't.
And then it escalated to sneering. Snapping my pencils. Taking my homework. Insulting my family.
I still didn't do anything.
I didn't tell my sister, though. She had enough to worry about – Mom still wouldn't wake up, there was barely any food on the table, and she had real bad nightmares about Daddy, though she wouldn't admit it.
But after one particularly bad day I had been crying when Katniss picked me up, and though I didn't tell her anything, half an hour later she was in the principal's office with bloody knuckles, a black eye, and the proudest lopsided grin on her face when she told me I wouldn't have to worry anymore.
And they left me alone after that.
Sometime later I became friends with Rory, and he had a lot of friends. So it was kind of an unsaid rule that Primrose Everdeen was not to be touched.
"… been spacing out a lot, recently," Rory finishes, pushing me from my thoughts.
"Uh-huh," I say distractedly, also pushing away any thoughts of Katniss. I'd probably cry right now if I could, but the past three weeks I've cried so much I ran out of tears. Now instead of the crushing sadness, I'm mostly just feeling empty. Like I've scooped out all my emotions with a spoon and just left them somewhere.
"You weren't listening to what I said," he huffs, a little annoyed.
I cringe a little at his tone, but I manage to blurt out a sincere apology – Which seems to annoy him even more for some reason.
"You have to stop that, Prim."
I look at him, confused. "Stop what?"
He scratches his head, and I know this is the sign that he's going to try to phrase something offensive in the most polite way possible. "Stop being such a… pushover. Like, it's not even funny how soft you are. If someone insults you, you respond with an apology. That makes you an easy target for bullies and stuff."
"Oh. Sorry." I freeze. "I mean I'm not sorry… Sorry."
He shakes his head, exasperated, but I think I see a hint of a smile on his face.
And suddenly I feel a tiny bit better.
I smile again, only this time it's not completely forced. "I'll try hard at being more… not me. I think I can do it with some practice."
The two of us spend our time acting out situations where I'd have to get uncharacteristically assertive. Me refusing to cook Buttercup. Me becoming a kung fu fighter. Me brushing off a marriage proposal from William Undersee, a really mean boy whose uncle was our town mayor.
And it feels really nice, taking this little break from everything.
Of course, that's when the lights begin to dim, the teachers call out for our attention, the Capitol anthem starts, and the overhead in front of the cafeteria begins projecting recordings of the two newest Victors, Cato and Clove from District Two.
The light, happy mood shatters and I automatically feel my shoulders hunch and my limbs contract, becoming that protected little ball I was when I was being bullied.
Caesar Flickerman's powder white face pops up on screen until the camera zooms back so it can catch both Cato and Clove sitting side by side.
I'm sure they look great with the hard work of the designers the Capitol has for them, but my focus is so intent on their faces that I barely notice what they're wearing.
Cato – the one indirectly responsible for both Peeta's and Katniss'… deaths. If only he hadn't fought with Peeta and cut his thigh so deeply. If only Peeta had dodged at that last second. If only the Tracker Jacker venom could have kept Cato by the lake for a few more minutes… My mind can't help but torture me with the would have/should have/could have game I've been playing for so long.
And then Clove. Clove. The girl who murdered my sister. The girl who not only murdered her, but made it as agonizingly slow and gory as possible – and enjoyed it.
Suddenly I'm wondering.
What goes through their heads when they kill? I know there's some sick sort of satisfaction they get, but why? How? I know they were trained as kids, but was it that brutal? Was the conscious in the back of their mind stomped out by their trainers? Was cruelty praised? "Oh look, you tortured and mutilated a bunny in the most painful way, yet managed to keep it alive by not severing any of the major bloodstreams! Here's a cookie for you–" Oh, wait. Careers weren't allowed to eat any junk food. Even that part of their life is controlled for the Games.
For some reason my brain keeps going. All the sadness and grief I've felt was flushed away, replaced by things I've never felt before. Bitter resentment. Righteous anger.
Do they know how much pain they've caused, how much suffering families felt when they had to see their children not only die, but die a slow, humiliating death at the hands of the Careers? No. They didn't. Because they didn't think about it. All they ever thought of was the fun and the winnings and their bloodthirsty families cheering them on.
I feel like marching up to both of them and shaking them by the shoulders, even if they're heads taller than me, and just shake some sense into them. Make them understand.
Gambling your life for the sake of glory? No. Didn't they see? They had everything. They had food and family and friends and lived in a relatively safe District where no children had hollowed cheeks and cracked lips, where no elderly had soot permanently etched into their tired, lined faces.
They had so much. But why didn't they get it?
I watch the pair from District Two as they chat amiably with Caesar, cracking jokes and laughing, and I don't see one bit of remorse, of any sort of hint that they were sorry, that if they could they'd go back and erase everything.
Instead, they look like they'd jump at the chance of doing it again.
I hold onto the table so I either don't fall off or don't scream. Maybe both.
Soon they start talking about Katniss, and you could literally hear a pin drop.
"So…" Caesar says, eyebrows arched. "That really was a show you gave us, Clove, with the Girl on Fire. How did you feel when you were finally able to get rid of one of your strongest opponents?"
"Her?" Clove snorts, disdain clearly showing both in her voice and face. "She was pathetic. I bet she thought she actually had a chance. I just happened to be the one to pull her back into reality. And you know, I can't tell you how great it felt to finally slice her smug face off. It was hilarious..." she chuckles at the memory. "I'd give anything to do it again."
My grip on the table tightens, and I pretend my fingers are wrapped around Clove's neck.
I'd show her how it feels. How Katniss felt...
But as soon as the thought comes, it goes, and I'm left feeling horrified.
Had I really just done that? Wish for the death of someone else?
No, no, no, no, no. I wasn't like that. Wishing death upon someone else… it makes me as bad as the Careers, the Capitol. I will not sink to that level. Katniss wouldn't have wanted me to think like that. She wouldn't have wanted her little sister to change.
I'm a terrible person. Guilty, guilty, guilty.
I ignore the rest of the interview, one because I'm feeling too sick to actually listen, and the second reason which I'm ashamed to admit is because I don't want any more… stray thoughts wandering in my head.
Afterwards Rory and I talk some more, but it isn't the same. The conversation felt choppy and our laughter came out forced.
Back in the classroom we review different minerals and coal properties, but my notebook stays blank, empty of any crucial notes that might be helpful for our next test. I find myself not really caring, though. Grades were something I could improve any day, any time. A couple bad marks wouldn't kill me.
Class ends without incident. I gather my things. Begin walking home.
I really don't want to go home.
I squat down by a murky puddle in the road and watch the ripples I make with my fingers.
It's been three weeks since Mom went back into her depression.
I tried everything. Calling, begging, shouting. I even steeled myself up and slapped her a few times, poured icy cold water on her. Nothing worked.
Her health was beginning to decline, too. And fast.
At least when Daddy died she was able to function somewhat. She could eat. Wash herself. Even cook, if it was a good day.
But there was none of that now.
I had to force feed her, pushing whatever food we could get our hands on into her reluctant mouth, only hoping she'd swallow. For washing her, I'd have to use a wet rag and scrub the grime off, trying my best to keep her looking presentable. I didn't know how long I could keep it up until… Until the inevitable happened.
Sometimes I feel like the only thing keeping me there is Buttercup and my goat, Lady.
It's selfish of me not to want to go back, especially when my mom needs me, but the loneliness is so constricting the only thing that keeps me from breaking apart is Buttercup's motor-like purring, or Lady's friendly licks.
Animals are special. I don't think many people in the Seam know this, because they see animals as food more than a source of companionship.
But when Buttercup curls in my lap on a chilly night, or Lady nuzzles me with her soft nose, I feel so lucky that I know. That they are gifts of nature, something precious that many people don't see because hunger and desperation cloud their eyes.
And sometimes I wish people were like that. So simple, so pure.
But I also know I can't let my mom die. Not now. Even if she was unreliable, she was family. I loved her.
And another tiny selfish part of me can't help but be afraid when I think of the Community, an orphanage that leaves kids with a haunted expression, their eyes constantly shifting in suspicion, and their tense frames always ready to run at the slightest provocation.
Some of them weren't like that, though. The ones that have given up. Instead of fleeing or fighting, they'd close their eyes and wait for whatever it was to come at them, get it over with. Their faces empty of any emotion, just tired. Just so, so tired.
Which category would I have gone in?
I stand up, wipe my dirty fingers on my dress, and briskly walk away from the puddle.
Maybe today would be different. Maybe she's wake up, apologize for disappearing again, and we'd be back to our usual normal and cheery family of two, and live happily ever after.
"Sometimes I wish I could ask people 'why?'. But something tells me they wouldn't have an answer." – Darius, the Peacekeeper
"I'm back, Mom," I call out as I push my backpack onto the rickety dining table.
Before the silence gets too long, Buttercup meows and rubs against my legs, and I can't help but smile as I pick him up and rub him behind his ear.
How's school? he asks, his green eyes peering at me expectantly.
"It was…" I contemplate on telling him it was good, but Buttercup could see though my lies pretty easily. "It was bad. Rory and I had a little fun, but then they showed the recaps at lunch. The one where Cato and Clove had the Victor interview."
Asswipes, Buttercup hisses, and I can't help but giggle. I knew he didn't care much about Katniss, but he hated the District Two winners because I loved Katniss and they killed her. It was nice to have someone angry for my sake.
"Well… I'm okay now," I say, sprinkling my voice with extra cheeriness. He looks skeptical, but doesn't comment. "Anyways, have you been having any luck with that Persian cat you were talking about?"
Oh, her? Nah, I'm over that one. She was a real bitch, to be honest. Always complaining about not licking my fur enough or some shit. He pauses, looking thoughtful. But there were a pair of sexy Siamese twins down by the Hob.
"Don't worry, I'm sure they'll love you," I say, and I can't help but grin. Buttercup always manages to make me feel better.
He smiled smugly for a moment and purred as I continued to pet him.
After a minute or two I set him down and he yawns and curls up by the window.
I sigh as I watch his tail twitch, so relaxed and carefree.
It was time to check on my mother.
I take on last glance at Buttercup before taking a deep breath and stiffly walk into the bedroom.
When I get in, the smell immediately hits me. Bile, urine, stale air. I can't help but think that this is what death must smell like.
My mom sits propped up in the bed, staring out into nothing. Still as a statue except for the shallow rising and falling of her chest, the only telltale sign that she's alive.
I crawl over to her and sit by her side, my arms tightly wrapped around my knees. I usually do this for about an hour or so. I know some stuff about medical procedures, and I've heard some claims that a patient in a comatose state will recover faster by having a loved one by their side, or just listening to them talk. Some people are skeptical about this, but I really think it's true. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she could be listening to me talk about my day and coax herself out of the crevasse of her depression. It might not happen in a day, but in due time.
Of course, it wasn't like I had a lot of time.
I push that thought away and tell her about school – an edited version. She didn't need anything more negative – and how Buttercup and Lady are doing, and about the dandelions I saw blooming by the sidewalk today.
About half an hour passed before I heard a knocking on our front door.
Slipping off the bed, I close the bedroom door behind me and jog over to the front door and open it.
"Hi," I beam, letting him in.
"Hey there, Prim," he replies fondly, ruffling my hair.
Gale had become something like a brother to Katniss and I. At first I thought he was kind of scary – didn't smile much. Seemed standoffish and aloof. But then little by little he and Katniss starting chipping away at each other's defenses, and I began to see the occasional flash of unguarded laughter, or a teasing gleam in his eye that hadn't been there before.
Katniss going into the Games had made us even closer, though.
At first we just had exchanges – some of his game for a bottle of Lady's milk, or some cheese. Normally he might've stayed a bit and also exchange pleasantries, and at first I was worried that maybe he resented at having to share the spoils of his hunt. After all, with a family of five there was only so much you could spare.
But soon I realized that he, in his own way, was still mourning the loss of a hunting partner. A friend.
But like how he and Katniss slowly grew on each other, the two of us starting having the occasional conversation. Then every now and then we'd drink mint tea together.
Then the 'every now and then' turned into a habit for every time he stopped by.
He sits at the table as I heat up some water, and I take that time to look into the game bag.
It's a decent haul today. Two rabbits and some squirrels. I remember the chunk of cheese I had been saving for him and pull it out from its hiding spot.
As he pockets it the tea kettle trills, and I pour it into two cracked, but still usable cups.
We drink in comfortable silence.
"Hey Prim," he says after a minute.
"It's been a while since I've seen your mom. She still… resting?"
I couldn't let Gale know about my mom's condition. He already had a lot on his shoulders. What would telling him do, anyways, other than add another worry to his load?
I knew I could make up some easy lie – she had started traveling to her patient's homes to check on them. Something simple. But I knew I couldn't lie to Gale, so the only thing I could come up with was that she was bedridden and sick with something and wasn't in the mood for visitors.
It wasn't really a lie. Sort of.
But I can tell he's suspicious. Who wouldn't be? After three weeks she should be better.
"I need to talk to her for a minute. Can you get her for me?" he asks, his grey eyes drilling into mine. I try not to swallow nervously.
"Um… She really isn't feeling good, so how about another time?"
And then I want to smack myself. That was my weak excuse for last time. And the time before that.
His eyes narrow, and I know this time he's not going to fall for it.
"Wait. Gale…" I say as he strides over to the bedroom door. He looks at me expectantly while his hand rests on the doorknob.
Okay. So I need to say something that'll definitely get his attention somewhere else.
Rory scored second in class yesterday.
Greasy Sae's nephew's birthday was today.
I saw a really pretty cake at the bakery.
Instead, I blurt out something even I didn't expect.
"Teach me how to hunt."
He doesn't say anything for a moment, but his eyebrows raise up to his hairline.
"Me. Teach you. To hunt," he repeats, and I can hear the amused disbelief in his voice. I know he's remembering the last we tried that brilliant idea.
I really don't like the woods. Too big, vast, ominous. Shadows are everywhere, and they have a way of playing tricks with your mind. And there're so many noises – cawing of birds, twigs snapping from footsteps that aren't yours. What if a rabid dog or a hungry bear ambles by? And then there's that risk of the officials catching you. I know that most of them ignore it because the Peacekeepers are one of Gale's best customers, but I can't help thinking what if, what if…
The worst part, though, is actually killing the animal.
One time Katniss shot a rabbit, and it wasn't her usual clean shoot through the eyes. Instead, it hit its neck and all I could remember was the blood and the rabbit convulsing and twitching and its wide eyes panicking as we came closer. I thought that maybe if we took it home we could bandage it and somehow heal it.
My crying scared away any other potential game that day.
"Yeah. I think I can do it better now," I say, trying to keep my eyes from flitting to his hand, which still wasn't letting go of the doorknob.
He looks at me skeptically.
"Um. Maybe I can work with… traps. I didn't try them before," I say eagerly. Or try to, anyways. The idea of trapping animals makes me feel sick.
Finally his hand slides off the knob and folds his arms, thinking.
"Well… alright. But we should tell your mom," he says, and I feel my relief plummeting again.
"No!" I almost shout, and Gale gives me a quizzical look. "I mean… No… She'll probably just get worried and she's so tired already."
He looks me over for a bit, and I try not to squirm.
"All right," he says after a moment, and I try not to let out a sigh.
So that's how ten minutes later we were hiking by the fence, dandelions and weeds rustling by our ankles.
You know, we could just gather plants around here and make a salad and not go into the forest at all, I want to say, but keep my mouth shut and continue to hold on to the back of his shirt.
The trees loomed and I distinctly heard the noise of something that wasn't human.
My grip tightens.
For a few minutes we keep walking along the fence, and though it isn't buzzing with electricity, I can't help but stare at the warning signs posted every now and then.
"All right, we're here," he says after taking a glance over his shoulder, both to check on me and to see if there was anyone else around. Then he grabs the weak fence and tugs, motioning for me to crawl through.
I rip my fingers away from his shirt and close my eyes as I push myself through the fence, the metal clinking noisily as it brushed against my back. Gale follows closely, but doesn't make nearly as much noise.
I can't help but feel petrified, but I restrain from reaching out and holding onto him again. He couldn't baby me anymore. I needed to grow up.
The leaves shrouded the sky, becoming a canopy filled with shadows and secrets. I've always loved the sun, so the sudden lack of it leaves me feeling deprived. I ignore the urge to constantly look over my shoulder, to check if something would pop up from behind a bush, or attack from the trees. Gale would have known if something dangerous was trailing us.
He keeps his bow at hand and walks swiftly, but I have the distinct feeling that he's slowing down for my sake, and it bothers me. Was I being a burden?
No. He had already gone hunting today. This was a little something extra.
I'm not exactly noisy as I trail behind him, but compared to his quick, silent footsteps I'm practically an elephant herd. So I try and follow his exact footsteps, and it helps. It was odd, how he seemed to know where exactly to place his feet. In the crevasse of a rock, in between a weave of ivy. Things I never would have noticed.
The silence stretching between us isn't constricting. It's necessary. It's occasionally interrupted by a call of a Mockingjay, or the bubbling of a stream, but I wish we could actually talk.
Suddenly it's completely broken by the sound of thrashing and shrill screaming.
Gale immediately bursts through several thick bushes and I quickly follow, wondering what could make such a hideous, desperate noise.
A large rabbit is dangling by its hind legs which were tied back by some sort of thick vine, and I could see a steady trickle of blood dripping from its mouth.
Gale brandishes a knife from his pocket, grabs the rabbit by its head, and –
"Gale, stop!" I shout, my hands clenched. A little voice inside of me is telling me to be quiet. A fat rabbit like that would mean a decent meal for Gale and his family…
But that voice is overwhelmed by the terrified look in the animal's eyes, the blood, and the thought that maybe it was a female and had a burrow filled with babies she had to take care of.
"Prim…" he says carefully, but I can tell there was defeat in his voice. He would let it go if I told him to.
"Please," I whisper, and after a sigh of resignation he shakes his head and cuts the vine. I can't help but feel a bit better as the rabbit scrambles to safety.
But the feeling of elation is quickly stomped out by the cutting look of disappointment from Gale.
"I'm sorry," I mumble, looking down.
"'S okay," he sighs again, but I know that in his mind he's calculating the losses of letting go of that rabbit. It could have been cooked in a creamy stew, or traded for salt, oil, grain…
We walk back home after that.
"It's weird. I mean, in the Seam we get used to losing stuff. But some people try to find them again, only in the wrong place." – Vick Hawthorne.
"Prim…" I say in what I hope is a steady voice, hoping that my irritation won't show through my clenched teeth, my clipped tone.
She looks up at me with those big, blue eyes and I can't help but feel the grip on my knife go slack. She's so small. So… untainted, if that's the word for it.
Everyone in the Seam is used to death, to suffering. If I were to pick any other random twelve year old girl and put her in this situation, she wouldn't hesitate to kill this animal. And that would be the smart thing to do.
But Prim is different. I don't know why. But she is.
So when she says 'please', I sigh and cut the vine, watching my potential dinner flee, resisting the urge to grab my bow. It's not like I could be quick enough to shoot it, though. I wasn't Katniss.
Her name brings a wave of pain that I barely conceal. There wasn't a day that went by when I wasn't thinking about her, remembering her. Wishing she had my back when I went hunting. She's been with me for so long I forgot the inconveniences, the loneliness of hunting alone. And maybe, just maybe she was something more than just a partner, a friend. But that thought hurts too much to even think about.
I lost her. I didn't want to lose Prim, either.
And suddenly I realize that I'm relieved.
Prim is the same. Even when Katniss was gone, I still had her. She was the same tiny, fragile Prim who cried when she thought Buttercup was lost, who tried her best to help when Rory was sick, who still tried to keep animals alive because she couldn't bear not helping anything in pain, even if she went hungry.
So when I sigh again, it's a sigh of relief.
The Games, as twisted as they are, haven't changed Prim.
And I hope they never do.
YO. WARNING. HEADS UP. READ THIS IMPORTANT, LIFE-ALTERING STUFF RIGHT HERE.
At first I thought this story would be kind of an exciting adventure sort of thing, but then I thought it would have more depth if shit REALLY WENT DOWN. A darker, horror story filled with content not suited for the light-hearted. Psychologically disturbing and all. (And yes, I'd have to change the rating.)
So what do you guys think? TELL ME YOUR OPINION. TELL ME. TELL ME. TELL MEEE.
It's important. If you don't want the story to head down that lane, just tell me. ¿Tú Comprendes? Good.
Anyways, (completely off topic, you can stop reading now) sometimes I wonder if Prim is a bit too mature for a twelve year old, but then again she had a hard childhood. At times she seems to be a bit too babied, too. I think this came from the alternations of living a very shitty life and having Katniss coddle her too much.
And yeah, this chapter is mostly just kind of explaining the situation. You know, since this is Prim. What else would you have expected her to do other than cry and sniffle after Katniss died?
The next chapter will speed up the story plot a bit more.