A/N: Heheh. I actually finished this a week ago, but I was too busy watching The Big Bang Theory to post it...
"Bye Posy!" the Vick and I call out as she waves from the doorway, her tiny fist curled around out mom's dress, the other waving energetically at us.
"Bye-bye Vick! Bye-bye Rory!" she beams, and I can't help but grin back. Posy's smiles are contagious, for some weird reason.
And then we're off.
Vick and I usually don't talk much on our way to school. We're really close, though. It's just that Vick is kind of quiet. Well, not 'kind of'. He's really quiet. For most people, talking to him is like talking to a rock. You get no response and you look stupid. It's not like he's a snob or he's one of those ridiculously-shy-low-self-esteem kind of guys, but he just doesn't really like to talk. That's all.
And just because he's quiet doesn't mean he's stupid. Vick's really smart – just not in the way most people would recognize. Actually, I bet he'd be the smartest kid in his grade, but I know he messes up problems on tests on purpose. He doesn't want the attention.
But when Gale would ever bring back a trap of show us how they work, Vick would get them perfectly on his first try. It's actually really annoying since I suck at it, but maybe I'd have better luck using a bow or something. Besides, bows are cooler.
He also always seems to know what you're thinking, too. No kidding. It's honestly creepy how he can guess what you're feeling just by staring at you, but I got used to it.
So I guess that's why five minutes later he looks at me and asks, "So, do you wanna talk about it?"
"Talk about what?" I ask, trying to cover my irritation. He wasn't even looking at me. Was I that easy to read?
"Something's bothering you," he shrugs, kicking at a rock we pass by.
Well, apparently I was.
"Nothing's bothering me," I snap. He doesn't respond, but I can practically see the skepticism radiating from him.
I let out a frustrated sound and march ahead of Vick, leaving him behind.
Still, he was right. Something was bothering me, actually.
Yeah, well, Katniss died. If Gale had went into the Games and died, I'd be devastated, too. Not just devastated, I'd be crushed. So I imagine what Prim feels like.
Even if Gale were to have suddenly died it would be horrible, but I still have Mom, Vick, and Posy at home. It would feel lonelier, more empty without his sarcastic chuckles and wrestling matches we'd have together. But I'd still have mom's first-class hugs, Vick's silent understanding, and Posy's amazing smiles. I think it would be a lot harder for Prim, though. I hate to admit it, but I think she was a lot closer to Katniss then any of us were to Gale. Considering the past situations, I guess it was reasonable. After all, when their dad died I heard that their mom clocked out on them, and...
Ugh. Even if it wasn't their mom's fault, it still makes me angry.
When our dad died, our mom was about to have Posy. That loss must have been really hard on a pregnant woman, but she didn't disappear on us. In fact, she went searching for a job barely a week after Posy was born.
So how could Prim's mom just do that? Push the responsibility onto two kids?
I remember how Katniss resented her afterwards, and I don't blame her. Even I didn't like Mrs. Everdeen after I heard what she did, but Prim completely forgave the woman.
She's just way too soft.
Well, at least she had her mom now. So that was all good. It might take a while, but she'd definitely get better. Smile more, like she used too. Not those half-hearted ones she gives out now, but her real, shining smile…
Oh. That's weird. I just realized how similar Prim's and Posy's smiles were.
I ignore that thought and wave to my friends as I get closer to school.
"Hey guys!" I shout, jogging over.
"Heeeeey, Rory!" Daniel shouts back from under the sycamore tree in the front yard. It's my group's unofficial hang out. No one else sits by it but us.
"Hey…" Blake mumbles as I get closer, one arm slung over his eyes. He isn't much of a morning person.
"Where's everyone else?" I ask, sitting down.
"Not here yet. You came earlier than usual, darling," Daniel answers, eyebrows wagging.
Daniel was definitely the 'ball of fun' or whatever in the group. The stereotypical class clown – never takes anything seriously, loud, fun, and can take a joke. Of course, that makes most teachers hate his guts, but he doesn't seem to mind. I think he's actually proud of his detention record, which broke the last one by a mile. And he still has at least another half year until we graduate.
Our schooling system is kind of different. We stay in primary for a regular length, and we either have the choice of continuing or dropping out.
Most choose to continue. If you drop out, job pickings are really slim unless you take on some other education, like a medical apprentice or a merchant's assistant, or opening your own shop. But the chance of that happening is astronomically low for us Seam kids, so we just move on. Our next school focuses even less on regular curriculum like math and science and more on coal and mining and stuff.
But see, the catch is if you keep going you have sign a contract that forces you to work in something mining-related. For men they usually become coal miners. Women usually do something like sorting minerals or cleaning out minerals. You can get out of the contract by paying a fee, but it's so expensive that no one ever bothers. As long as their concerned, they're lucky to get a job that has them breathing in coal dust twelve hours a day.
Oh yeah, there's another school you can go to, but it's exclusive to the kids at town. It's not an official rule, but the tuition is something only they can afford.
Unlike us, they have the choice of becoming researchers, scientists, musicians... In fact, if they're talented enough sometimes a Capitol scout will invite them to work over there instead. From what I know, the people born at the Capitol are used to luxuries and living an easy life. None of them have the willpower to push themselves to do anything more extraneous than putting on make-up and getting plastic surgeries (God forbid they actually put effort in studying). The Capitol has to get the brains from somewhere, right? So they travel from district to district, pulling out the brightest minds to join them.
It makes me mad, but at the same time I get some petty satisfaction.
They won't ever get Vick, who was smarter than all those town kids combined, or Prim, who had the potential to be the greatest doctor ever.
Whatever. Their loss.
I let my eyes wander to Blake, who was on the verge of falling asleep. He was the exact opposite of Daniel. Crabby, rude, short-tempered, and very, very lazy. He didn't get into much trouble and got decent marks, despite the fact he never studies.
I guess opposites do attract. The rule certainly applies to this clique. All the other guys are really different, and we have a way of getting on each other's nerves, but we somehow balance each other out at the same time.
My train of thought is interrupted when I see a flower sprouting from in between the roots of the tree. Small, soft yellow colored petals. Delicate stems. Thin, crisp leaves.
"Hey, what're you grinning about? It's really creepy," Daniel says, following my eyes. Suddenly he breaks into a sly smirk, and gives me a nudge.
"So. You like primroses, huh?" he asks as I wipe the smile off my face, slightly confused. I didn't know I was smiling.
"What? Yeah. Sure," I say, not really knowing where the conversation was going.
"Hey. Hey Blake," Daniel says, nudging Blake. He growls at first, but then Daniel bends down and whispers something in his ear. Blake then smirks similarly to Daniel, eying me like I was doing something amusing.
I felt like I was being left out of a joke. "What?"
"Oh, nothing. Daniel here was just telling me about how much you like primroses."
"I bet they're your favorite," Daniel says. "You always get pissed whenever I accidentally step on one."
"Well, yeah. I mean, they're… I dunno. You shouldn't step on flowers," I say a little defensively. Suddenly I'm wondering why I do get angry. I mean, they're just plants.
"In fact, I bet you like all kinds of primroses. Yellow kinds. Pink kinds. Blue kinds…" Daniel trails off, his smirk growing. "Oh, let's not forget… the Everdeen kinds…"
What he's implying hits me hard. "What?"
"Aw, come on buddy. No need to deny it…" Daniel grins as I sputter.
"The definite sign of a young man in love is an inability to speak in coherent sentences," Blake adds, sitting up.
I glare at him and take in a breath. "God… No. Just no. We're friends."
"Just because you're friends doesn't exactly mean you don't want anything… more," Blake said, an eyebrow cocked.
"Yeah, dude. We've. Got. Your. Back," Daniel whooped.
I curse and look away, not able to suppress the traitorous red blush. Of course they notice, and being the true friends they are, they put the effort to make it worse.
And, of course to make the situation worse, Prim walks through the school gates and waves to me, smiling.
"Hey, look who's here," Blake whistles, waving her over.
Before she can take a step, I grab them and pull them away, not turning back.
Ugh. I did not like her!
"Stupidity isn't hereditary, but it is highly contagious." – Thresh's sister
16.) Coal is composed mostly of:
I stare at the paper, thinking hard. My eraser is almost completely nubbed out, so I ignore the urge to chew on the back of my pencil.
Oh, I knew I should have reviewed for the quiz…
The questions were pretty easy, but recently I haven't had a lot of time to study. And I learned this basic so long ago I pretty much forgot everything.
Um… I think, ignoring any unnecessary thoughts, I know for sure it isn't hydrogen…
I draw a line though C, and stare blankly at the three remaining answers.
Sulfur… Sulfur has the melting point of 112.8 °C …
–I wonder if Mom's okay–
...wonder what temperature coal has to be…
–I left her at home alone–
…and there's a lot of nitrogen on Earth…
–She didn't eat anything last night–
…come to think of it, there sure is a lot of oxygen, too…
–She's getting so skinny too skinny this is bad–
…wait, this question has nothing to do with oxygen…
–A doctor we need a doctor really bad I can't keep going like this–
I feel a cool hand on my shoulder, and I look up.
Right then is when I realized I was pressing the pencil against the paper so hard the tip had snapped and my hand was shaking.
I let go and rub my wrist, face burning.
He didn't say anything, but eyed me critically for a moment before moving on.
I spend the rest of class listening to the sketching sounds of pencil against paper. I had left about a third of my test undone, but at this point I couldn't really care less. I don't think I could have finished it if I tried.
So instead, I let my eyes wander.
The old, almost broken clock on the wall on top of the cracked chalkboard claims that it's 2:57. The second-hand desk the teacher sits in is usable, but chipped and dull. The floor tiles are gritty and I can't tell what color they originally were.
When I look over a little to the left, the first person I immediately notice is Charlotte Lee and her long, curly black hair… and even that's enough to make me stiffen. Seeing her used to scare me a lot more, but not as much anymore – Since she stopped bullying me, I think.
My eyes then drift to the person sitting in front of me.
Sandy, messy boyish hair that stuck up in odd angles. Daniel, I think. As I look around, I notice that none of his friends, including Rory, are sitting by him. The teacher must've separated them.
Rory. I can't help but cringe when I think of his name.
He's been avoiding me since last week, though I don't know why. I must've done something wrong, though when I try to remember I come up with nothing. Maybe he was angry about… um… maybe I didn't give enough of Lady's cheese to Gale and Rory couldn't eat any? No. I think that happened once before and he was a little annoyed, but he didn't ignore me. Not like this, anyways.
I've tried to apologize to him a couple of times, but he was always with his friends and they'd snicker whenever I came by. Then he'd get mad and glare at me as if I did something bad.
Maybe… maybe he just didn't want me around anymore?
I quickly stamp away that thought and think of something else. Rory and I were really good friends… right? Well, maybe I wasn't as fun as his other friends, but still.
For some reason, though, I can't stop the nagging in the back of my mind. Why did Rory hang out with me? Whenever we talked, we would laugh, but not as much as he did with his friends. When we'd go outside I could never play sports like his friends could.
Suddenly, everything I did, everything I was, paled in comparison to his friends.
I shake my head. It wasn't good to make assumptions – I'd ask him about it later.
The bell rang, signaling for everyone to leave. I squeezed through the mob of pushing and shuffling feet, somehow making it though. Quietly slink through the loud, crowded hallways, trying to look as small and inconspicuous as possible. Lockers bang as I cross the hall saved for the kids from town – who else could afford the fee for lockers? – and I make my way home.
"Did you know the biggest stars sparkle the prettiest? Well, they also die the fastest..." – Posy Hawthorne
"Hi, Buttercup," I smile, reaching out to pet him.
Instead of waltzing forward and purring like usual, there's an urgent look in his eyes as he bounds towards me.
"What's wrong?" I ask, concerned, as his tail flicks anxiously.
The woman, he meows, the woman in the bed isn't doing too well. I can feel it. She doesn't have a lot of time, Prim. He looks at me, anxiety filling his large, yellow eyes. He knows I need my mother.
I freeze, my hands still outstretched like claws. Animals, I know, have a special sense. A swallow will build its nest so the entrance will face the opposite direction of the wind. Rats leave ships that they instinctually know will sink. Even ants know when it'll rain. It seems like humans were the only species who can't foreshadow things like that.
I finally snap out of it when Buttercup nudges my hand, worried.
"...Oh," I manage to say, my fingers swirling in his orange fur in an attempt to calm myself down.
Whatever happens, Prim, I'll still be here.
"…Yeah. Thanks, Buttercup. It means a lot to me."
And it really does.
I keep his words in mind as I return to the bedroom, only to be assaulted with the foul smells again. It isn't the first time I wonder if my mom's recovery was hindered by the lack of fresh air. I can't help it, though. The bedroom has no windows and I'm not big enough to carry her back and forth. Besides, it'd be dangerous if someone saw her through a window.
Buttercup gently butts his head against the back of my leg, and it gives me enough courage to keep walking into the room.
The skeletal body with its glassy eyes and lifeless gaze is unrecognizable as the mother who raised me. I remember people told me that once she was a very beautiful woman – and I don't doubt it, either. The memories are hazy, but before Daddy died I remember the laughter in her eyes and the swing in her step that made her seem younger than she really was, even under the layer of Seam grime and the unnatural thinness due to hard times. But after he left is when things changed. Her shoulders hunched, the laughter was extinguished, and her feet dragged.
And the woman in the bed is not even that. She is only a shadow of the person she was.
And when I look at her, really look, I finally realize it.
She is dying.
Somewhere deep down inside I know I've been denying it – after all, I've been in the apothecary business long enough to know that the survival of a patient relies heavily on their will to live. In fact, my mother herself was the one who told me this.
Does that mean she has no reason to keep going? I am not enough for her sanity?
Apparently not. But that doesn't mean I couldn't try.
I don't sit by her and talk, though. It may have had some effect, but I don't have time for that anymore. She needed something else, something stronger. Stronger than her daughter's love, anyways.
I rake my brain for some answer, a solution to this problem.
Who would be willing to help us? The Seam doctor refused to help – I had no money. Besides, with my mom out of the picture he makes more money. Then do I have anything of worth to give? My goat, Lady? No. That wouldn't work. I don't know if I'd have the heart to let her go – she'd only go to a butcher's shop. Not only that, she alone wouldn't have brought enough money to purchase medicine. And the medicine takes days to deliver – did we have that time to afford? At this point, I wonder if medicine will even work.
Maybe we could sell her old dresses… Yes! I haven't seen many and haven't seen them too often – she keeps her past firmly hidden under lock and key. They were very pretty. Just like she was. If I close my eyes and focus, I can almost see her younger self, laughing and spinning under the sun…
I know she would be devastated, maybe even resentful if she were to wake up and see that I've sold her dresses, but it would be better than not ever having her wake up at all. So with a heavy heart I walk up to her hand carefully unclasp the necklace she keeps hidden under the color of her dress.
It's sticky with oil and sweat, but it doesn't hinder the beauty of the intricately carved key that dangles from the bronze chain. I had never known she had this delicacy until she reentered her depression, while I was scrubbing her down with a dirty washcloth. But even without her telling me, I knew that this was the key to the classical bureau that she kept stowed away under the bed – the one masterfully carved with roses in dark, smooth wood.
I get on my knees and struggle to wrestle the box from its snug hiding spot. It's about my size and probably double my weight, but I somehow manage.
When I stuff in the key, it immediately pops open with a creak, and I can't help but gasp at the treasures inside.
Long, thick dresses filled with ruffles and ribbons that distinctly give off an aristocratic air, hues of the softest sky blues to the most striking blood red. Laces and sparkling buttons that shine so brightly, contrasting terribly with the dark, dirty Seam colors.
I immediately slam the lid down, trying to assort the mixed feelings I have. She had all this… all this for years? I knew she carried some dresses, but not anything like this. Even as we were starving and running out of decent clothes to wear, our mom had all this. Even just one of these dresses would have fed us well for a week. Was she so selfish as to cling on to her reminders of the past, even as her children in the present went hungry?
No. There had to be an explanation. Had to be some reason she held on to this.
With a deep breath I pull the lid up again, and this time I notice something hidden beneath the sleeve of a gold sweater. It wasn't anything made of fabric.
I gently pull it out, and I see that it's a colorless framed photo. It's clearly old, but of good quality. As my eyes trail down the yellowing paper I immediately make out my mom – and I can't help but compare her younger, unbelievably radiant teenage years to the sad figure sitting on the bed.
To her immediate right what I think is my grandmother, and I see that she is an exact copy of my mother, except for the eyes. My grandmother's eyes are a darker color – I can guess anything from milky brown to grass green. But they shine with a gentle sort of air that is rare in such a dirty place like the Seam. To my mom's right was a solemn looking man with a prominent jaw line and stern looking eyes. Eyes that I see in my mother, and when I look in the mirror. I realize this is my grandfather.
Standing stiffly next to my grandfather was a dark-haired young boy. I think he might be somewhat younger than me from his height and how he's dressed, but it's hard to tell because his face had been scratched out. Who is he? I don't remember my mom hinting she had a sibling of any sort. But the entire family had light hair… I suppose there are variations, but if you look closely you can see his skin tone is a slight bit darker, too. Closer to the olive colored skin of the Seam than the dainty paleness of everyone else in the portrait.
My mom had never spoken to us about her family, but as I look at this picture I see a whole different life. Rich, luxurious, happy. They look like happy memories. Why did she shut them out?
As I examine the picture closer, I hear a slight fluttering and I see some papers and envelopes had fallen out of the clasp in the back of the frame.
They're even older and more fraying than the photo, so I take great care when I cautiously pick them up, like they'll crumble into so much dust.
My dearest Jennifer,
It is with the utmost bittersweet joy that I compose this letter, as I know now that you and your blessed heart have decided to act upon charity and open an apothecary in the Seam. It is quite a risk, both businesswise and health wise. The oxygen is tainted with terrible pollution that I fear will damage your lungs and cloud your ability progress accordingly, but I suppose you already knew that. What I fear daily, though, is your safety among the Seam inhabitants. You should remember that among the community the majority are pickpockets, murderers, or drunkards. Diseases are passed among the people as freely as air, and even though you've had your vaccinations we can never be too sure. I discourage direct physical contact with patients, lest you are wearing gloves. Please remember it is best to refrain from contact in general when not in business.
Your mother says my precautions are laughable, but the only thing that could quench my worries would be to see your beautiful face at home where you truly belong.
Please stay safe and visit soon.
I can't help but frown as I read the letter. It's obvious that my grandfather cared for my mom, but he made the people in the Seam sounds like… like we were second-class citizens. It was true that we weren't very clean, or that some people couldn't help but rely on stealing to feed their families, but we didn't carry diseases, weren't murderers or drunkards… Um… Maybe Haymitch kind of was, but he lives in the Victor's Village, so I don't think it counts.
I flip through the rest of the letters, and it they're all similar. I'm proud of you, remember to watch out for rabid Seam people, stay safe, come home soon. Different words and formatting, but basically the same thing.
I finger one of the envelopes and notice in intricate handwriting:
From: Alastair Medici
4992 River Rd. #1312
Topville, District 12, 79123
I stare at it for a moment. I think I might have remembered hearing the name Medici somewhere in a short history lesson, but I can't really recall what…
I scan it again and again, burning it into my memory, just in case I ever lose the letters.
My grandfather loved my mom a lot.
And judging by the dresses my mom had, and what their family was wearing in the portrait, they definitely had a lot of money. Enough money for medicine.
I bet he would help her.
"When the animals put up a fight, it's a good thing; Means they want to live. They usually taste better, too." – Rooba, the butcher
I slow myself to a steady walking pace as I go down the pristine stone pathway, trying to shy away from notice, but it doesn't work. The kids born in town where they had enough to eat and pretty clothes to wear – they had a sort of confident stride I couldn't mimic.
So I do my best to ignore piercing stares I receive as I slink by the neatly trimmed bushes and polished windows, feeling like a lone fish in a sea of sharks. Dangerous, jewelry-wearing, manicured, snobby sharks.
They usually don't let Seam kids in town, but with my blonde hair and blue eyes I could have been a town kid. But even my best green checkered dress paled in comparison to the town style, and I couldn't completely wash all the soot off my skin, so I was watched warily. They could sense an outsider.
"Ah, excuse me…" I start timidly to a woman reading on a park bench.
She looks up sharply and scans me with her eyes, decides she doesn't like what she sees, and leaves with a snort. I couldn't have felt worse if she had slapped me.
I probably would have started crying, but after everything that happened so far, something like this doesn't seem worth crying for. But it doesn't stop the embarrassed red flush crawling up my cheeks, because I know other people were discreetly watching, probably snickering to themselves.
Shamefaced, I start making my way down the street when I here footsteps behind me.
"Excuse me, young lady."
I turn around to see an older gentleman around his late sixties carrying a cane and wearing a plain brown suit and a brown fedora, large horn-rimmed glasses perched on his hooked nose. I stiffen, waiting for him to insult me, reprimand me for coming here. Instead, he smiles and asks if I need help with something, which actually took me off guard.
"Um…" I start, then snap out of it. "Yes, actually. Could you tell me the directions to get to River Road?"
"Certainly. You keep walking down this street, take a left where you'll see a restaurant…" he continues, and I have to work hard to remember everything he says. After a minute, he finishes and I thank him gratefully. I probably would have never found the street if I had been searching on my own.
I'm about to turn to leave when he starts to say one more thing.
"Now, you seem like bright child, so remember this situation the next time you think of people," he says with a twinkle in his eye, and before I can ask what he means he winks and hobbles away on his cane.
As I follow his directions, I mule over his words. The next time I think of people…
I shrug and stow away his words for later. I'd have plenty of time to think about it then.
While I continue walking I can't help but marvel at the difference between the town and the Seam. Of course, it's nothing compared to the Capitol with its pristine white floors and glass buildings dozens of stories high, but it's still pretty amazing. I think of how there aren't any children begging on the streets, or buildings so in disrepair they look like they're about to cave in.
I wonder what they think of us.
As I get closer River Road I notice a subtle increase in quality of the shops and homes. It wasn't something you'd easily notice, but it's there. The architecture is slightly of higher technique, or the people in the windows are finer dressed. By the time I actually get there, I'm afraid of touching anything, should I accidentally leave some sort of microscopic soot mark.
1309… 1310… 1311… Ah ha. 1312.
I stare the house – no, mansion in front of me.
Large painted rooftops the color of the sky with at least a dozen windows staring down at me intimidatingly. Bushes and hedges are trimmed to perfection, and through the bars of the golden gates I can see a stone path swirling its way around the front lawn.
I had an idea that my mom had money, but not anything like this.
Suddenly I'm a lot more nervous, and I stand there fidgeting for a while until I spot a strange button on the gate. It was probably a doorbell of some sort.
I press it once and wait for about a minute, then press it again. For a little while it looks like nothing is going to happen, but at the moment I start walking away a cool female voice comes out of a nearby speaker.
"Hello, and welcome to the Medici residence. How may I help you? …Hello? Hello?"
I stare it for a second before realizing I should probably respond.
"Yes, please…" I say, but she continues to ask if anyone's there. Then I realize I have to press the button for her to hear my voice, but by then it's too late.
When I press the button a second time she says the same thing but I can sense the annoyance in it.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know how to work the thing," I say apologetically.
"I see," she says, her tone softening. "May I ask the reason for your appearance?"
"Um… I came here to see Mr. Medici, my grandfather."
There's a pause before she continues. "Dr. Medici does not have any relations that could provide him with a grandchild, I'm afraid. Perhaps you've mistaken the address…"
"Wait!" I say, "My name is Primrose Everdeen. He had a daughter – Jennifer Ever… I mean, Medici. Right?"
Silence rings for a few more moments, and it was longer than the previous one. I'm worried that she hung up on me before the static crackles and the gates unlock.
For a little while I'm unsure of what to do, but then the gates begin closing again so I march in.
Before I have a chance to knock on the door, it flies open, smacking my hand.
A stern-looking middle aged with graying hair stuffed in a bun looks down at me intensely, and I try not to squirm as she looks into my eyes.
"I see… interesting…" she murmurs, and I recognize her voice from the one from the speaker.
Apparently I've passed whatever scan test she was doing, because she nods briskly and walks away, motioning for me to follow her. At first I'm unsure (my shoes might leave dirt tracks or something), but I quickly close the door behind me and jog to catch up to her.
When I was coming here I had so many questions to ask, but when I try to remember them, I get nothing, except for a few that seemed kind of rude to ask right now.
Our footsteps echo on the long marble hallway filled with paintings and a lot of expensive looking things in general, followed by the occasional Persian carpet that silences out footsteps every once in a while. I have never felt so out of place in my life.
I also can't help but admire the view from the large, glassy windows. It leads straight into the garden, which I'm surprised to notice didn't have any flowers, but was filled with medicinal herbs like aloe, elderberry, ginseng, and valerian. Huh. I kind of expected miles of rosebushes, or some other type of regal flower.
I've personally never liked roses. I have to admit they were pretty, but they seemed so stiff and serious, and not particularly useful for anything. My favorites are honeysuckles and dandelions. I've been repeatedly told that they're just weeds, but I guess they've never licked the sweet sap from a honeysuckle bush, or run across a field of dandelions when they were white and fluffy, watching the seeds fly like snow…
The woman finally leads me to a pair of large double doors streaked with gold and takes me in.
The room is big. Bigger than my house… Ah… well, my house is kind of small… but still, the room was big, and the ceiling high. I was tempted by the sudden urge to clap my hands to see if I could make an echo, but I restrained myself.
"Sir," the woman said, bringing me out of my childish train of thought. "I think there's someone you'd like to meet."
And then I notice the man sitting at the large wooden desk doing paperwork of some sort. I can't recognize him from this far off with the glasses to obscure some of his face, but my heart skips a beat when I see his strong jaw line, the first detail I singled out when I saw his face in the photo.
"Martha, what could it possibly be? I'm quite…" he trails off when he meets my gaze, and I can't help but startle as I stare into his steely blue eyes, so similar to mine.
I feel really uncomfortable as he studies me, even more so than when Martha did, because his stare is much deeper, with more meaning, though I don't know what.
Maybe if I were the Prim from before Katniss went into the Games, the one that was used to being coddled and babied, I would have tried to look away and hide behind Martha. But I'm not. So I stare back at him and try my best not to flinch as I mentally compared him to the picture I saw earlier.
Lines are etched into his face, deepening his stern expression, and he had on glasses this time. His hairline was receding a bit, and he seemed even more solemn than the man in the picture. But I can see it. Age can change a lot of things, but not the core characteristics of someone's face. Again, his jaw line was the first thing I noticed. I have his eyes. His pointed nose and aristocratic features are there as well. Yes, I definitely remember the whitish blonde hair, too.
"Come closer," he commands in a deep baritone voice, and I stride forwards with more confidence than I felt.
When I stand in front of his desk, our blue eyes are clashing so intensely you wouldn't be able to break the tension with a pickaxe.
"Your name, child?" he asks after a minute, but I know it's actually an order.
"Primrose Everdeen," I reply, and I see a flicker of something behind his steely eyes, his emotionless façade.
"Miss… Everdeen," he says, and I can almost see his lips curl in disgust as he says my name. "What business of your is so important that you feel the need to take time away from my work?"
I take a breath. "My mother, your daughter –"
"I have no daughter," he states quietly, almost in a pleasant tone, but I hear the venom under the sugarcoated sentence. At one point I might have be cowering away, but the person I am now digs my heel into his carpet and keeps going.
"That's not true."
There's a long silence, and I become aware of the old grandfather clock that ticked mockingly as the silence continued to stretch. Finally, he says, "Are you accusing me of lying, Miss Everdeen?"
I watch him carefully, waiting for him to snap, yell, explode, threaten. But nothing happens, and I have the feeling he's waiting for me to back up my claim.
I dig in my pocket for the letter, and I can't help but feel a little relieved that I thought to bring one of them with me.
"You wrote her this," I say almost triumphantly as I place the letter on his desk, on top of all his other files and paperwork. He lifts it with his thumb and forefinger, as if it was something unpleasant he'd rather not touch. While the grandfather clock ticks impatiently, he looks at the paper from different angles and even held it up to the light. When he confirmed its genuinity, he placed it back on the table and slid it towards me.
"Very good, Mrs. Everdeen. You are correct. I did, in fact, write this letter."
"So you admit that you lied," I say.
"No. I admitted nothing of the sort."
"But…" I begin, confused. "Jennifer Everdeen is your daughter – You even said so on the paper!"
"Jennifer Everdeen was my daughter," he said almost painfully slowly, as if he was a teacher explaining something to a simpleminded child.
"What? She's still alive, you know," I snap.
"I know that, silly girl – I disowned her."
"Are you deaf, girl? I disowned your mother."
The words sink in, and I feel my knees start to buckle. Luckily, I could hold myself up by pressing my hands against the desk and leaning in. I think he took my change in body language as a challenge, because his eyes narrow.
"Why?" I ask, feeling weak, but grateful that I manage to sound defiant.
"Why?" he repeats disbelievingly, and finally his cold, unfeeling mask shatters.
"You ask me why I disowned her? Let me tell you why – Your mother was selfish. Ungrateful. Arrogant." by then he's also standing, his hands planted to the desk, and he towers over me. "Your mother was weak."
I feel fury bubbling up inside, the raw, blinding fury that I felt when I was watching the Victor's interview. Every bit of fear that almost had me quaking has disappeared, replaced by hate and loathing and anger for this one man who I had been pinning my hopes on.
"How could you say that? My mother was not weak. She tried her best. She tried her best for me and my sister and my father – "
"You dare to speak of that pathetic street rat in my home?"
"My father was not a 'street rat'! He was a kind and honest person who loved us, which is more than I can ever say for you. He was more than you can ever hope to be."
"A fool… Just like your mother," he barks, "I offered her everything. She had the world in the palm of her hand. Luxurious foods. Expensive dresses. Do you know what an ungrateful bitch she was?"
By now I'm trembling, barely holding myself from lashing out. "What did she do to deserve this from you? What could your daughter possibly have done to make you hate her so much? She loved you. Did you know that?" He seems appalled that I would even suggest something like that, so I scream, "She loved you. She loved you and you know it and don't you dare deny it."
Then, to fuel my anger, he laughs. A bitter, condescending laugh.
"Really? Do not humor me now, child. If she loved me, she would not have left with that filth, that coal miner she claimed to love. A disgrace. She shamed me, she shamed this family."
I stare at him, eyes widening with shock, then narrowing in disgust.
"So that's what this is all about. Just you and your superficial pride, worrying about what you look like in the eye of the public. Because that's so important. More important that your daughter, at least."
"Pride? You honestly think this is about something as simple and shallow as pride?"
"What other reason is there?"
"Reasons a child like you would never understand."
"Oh, is that what you think?" I bristle. "Do you know where I got that letter? In a locked box that had carried her most prized possessions – her priceless dresses. There was a picture. A picture of you, her, a little boy, and your wife –"
I didn't see it coming.
His hand connects with my face so hard I see momentarily see spots. I hit the floor so hard there's an audible pop and a shooting pain, and I know some damage has been done.
"Sir!" Martha gasps, but he silences her with a look so filled with wrath that I can't help the traitorous sensation of fear that prickled my skin.
"You will never mention my wife with such disrespect again. Do you understand?" he asks quietly, almost gently. But this time I hear so much anguish, so much pain in his voice I just nod silently, clutching my arm.
The next words that slip out of my mouth are "I'm sorry". I don't know why. Suddenly, I remember Rory telling me that I was soft, that I apologize too much. I'm too tired to even feel frustrated by it.
It takes a few minutes for his shoulders to relax. He walks around his desk and rips open the red curtains, sunlight now streaming through the dark office.
"Why did you come?" he asks, and now his voice is completely devoid of any emotion. It wasn't exactly the same as the icy wall he put up to hide earlier. It was more like he was so drained that there wasn't anything left to hide.
"My mom. She's sick," I whisper. "She needs medicine."
He doesn't answer for a moment, staring out the window. "I see."
"Please help," I say, not bothering to fight anymore. "I'll pay you back."
"I'm sorry," he apologizes, shaking his head. "But your mother is no longer of my concern. She cut off any ties we had when she ran off with your father. I wish you the best of luck."
I guess that was Martha's signal to escort me away, because I hear her footsteps coming towards me.
"No. Please... Please…" I say, tossing away my pride and pleading. Martha gently hooks her arms under my armpits and begins to pull me away, my injuries screaming in the process.
I begin to squirm, kicking and flailing, ignoring the searing pain, but my tiny frame is easy for Martha to subdue. "I'm sorry... I'm so sorry. I was wrong... You were right. Please, please don't do this... Are you listening to me…? I'm begging you… I'm begging you, you sick bastard…"
My grandfather ignores me and faces the window, and his back is the last thing I see as I am ripped away from my only hope.
"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treat's his inferiors, not his equals." – Sirius Black
Today is the same as yesterday, the same as the day before yesterday. Tomorrow will be the same as today, and it will repeat again and again and again.
Oddly enough, without my mom to worry about, everything's easier. There's less pressure. I breeze through my tests, and my teachers smile and nod, glad that their student finally feeling better, or that at least my marks are improving their paycheck.
I smile at them to show that everything's okay and they don't question it, even as my smile freezes onto my face, fake and plastic. Because asking would mean they cared. And caring takes effort.
I stare at my desk, which is filled with crude graffiti – usually horribly drawn pictures or bad words students sketch in with their pencil when they're bored. I think the teachers don't care much about that, either. In fact, to my right there's a boy who's writing an alphabetic list of curse words and Mr. Arcarthy only stopped by to correct his spelling.
In a corner of the mouth of my desk I found a clean spot and carefully began marking the days since my mom died. So far it has five little scratches, and I add another one for today.
The body's actually starting to smell pretty bad, and the idea of getting rid of it kind of makes me feel really gross. I mean, after all, she was my mom. I loved her.
But fortunate and unfortunately, Gale has started working in the mines a little while ago, so I could be a little lenient about when I have to bury her since he didn't visit anymore. The problem was, I wasn't strong enough to dig a hole big enough for her body, nor did I have a shovel.
That only left one option. To dump her in the woods.
The idea of letting wild animals get at her is even more sickening. Thinking about it actually made me throw up a few times. But I don't think I had a choice. Letting her body rot in the house was not an option.
So I spend the day listening blankly to the teacher, avoiding Rory, and dodging unpleasant confrontations.
Just like usual.
"I believe whatever doesn't kill you, simply makes you... stranger." – The Joker
The smell was unbearable, so I wandered for hours outside until it was dark, the night swallowing everything with shadows. There's no moon out, either, and the pollution blankets the stars. Luckily, the injury I got was only a sprain. It was uncomfortable, but it wouldn't hinder me from my job.
Tonight will be the night I get rid of my mother's body.
I stand in front of the door I hadn't opened in six days, my stomach curdling.
But I had to get it over with.
I take in a deep breath and open the door.
You see enough corpses when you grow up around the Seam, but somehow seeing the body of someone you love is different. You see a corpse on the street, and you say, "oh, that's too bad" and move on with life. But when you see the body of someone you love, you remember their lips that would curl up into a smile, or their warm hands that would hold yours. Instead, you see a stiff, cold shell. It's very disconcerting.
I thank God that I closed my mom's eyes after she died – if they had been open and staring, I don't know if I could have gone through with it.
I can't see too much in the dark, but when I roll her out of bed, she hits the floor hard with a sickening splat, and I swallow the urge to scream. As I wrap my fingers around her ankles, they sink in unnaturally to the blobby, decomposing flesh. I pull on her body, humming to block out the dragging noises it makes.
I should have done this sooner – a day after her death would have been preferable. Then the body would have been in rigor mortis, where the lactic acid would have made the body stiff and hard. Easier to carry.
Anything was better than this.
Her hair would occasionally get in sticks or plants, and then I'd have to go back and untangle it with my clumsy fingers. It was so tempting to just yank and hope it'd come loose, but if chunks of her skull were to be pulled off and left behind, they might be found.
I cough up bile multiple times, and by the time I've found the hole I went through with Gale my throat is burning and it hurts too much to swallow.
I take great care in pushing her body through the fence – I definitely didn't want to leave any strips of flesh behind now – and I make my way through the woods, away from the fence.
The anxiety I felt when I came here with Gale was absolutely nothing compared to the hysterical terror I felt now. With Gale, the sun steamed through the treetops and I had his protection to reply on. Right now I was alone, it was night, and I was carrying a decomposing corpse that was bound to attract predators.
I stop by a tree with low branches, and from the prickles I can tell it's an evergreen.
I don't have the energy to head back yet.
So I say a prayer to God and wish and wish… but I don't know what I'm wishing for.
And that's when I hear it. A little grinding noise.
Scared, I turn left and right, but I don't see anything. I could make out shapes, but nothing specific, so I didn't know if something was hiding in the bushes or something.
I stiffen, my heart beating like crazy, but all that was there was that odd little grinding noise.
It takes a minute for me to figure out the sound was coming from my feet where my mother's body is. I swallow back some more bile and lean in, the grinding getting louder and louder and louder and louder until I realize…
I finally snap, coughing and jerking and crying and screaming because I'm only twelve and this is shit and who the hell has to drag their mom's body through the woods at night and hear maggots eating her body and I'm scared and lonely and scared and lonely I'm so scared…
And that's when I hear the second sound.
The snap of a twig.
Without hesitation, I barrel up the tree grabbing and lifting branches as fast as possible just to get away from the ground away from shadows and maggots and snapping trees – just to get away and leave and go, go, go, go…
My sobs had attracted a pack of wild dogs, and when I look down I see the alpha of the pack staring at me, two big, yellow, hungry eyes…
But I keep climbing, keep climbing, keep going until I'm up and away just keep going I have to keep going and never look down and just keep going… Ignoring the sounds of barking and growling and snuffling and chewing and snapping bones…
I'm finally as high as I can go, and I cover my ears and wish Katniss was here because she always knew what to do… This wouldn't have happened if Katniss were here… Why did she leave? I need her. I need her so bad, because I don't have Mom anymore. Gale's gone, and I guess Rory was, too.
I need Katniss so bad.
I cling to the trunk of the evergreen and imagine what Katniss would do if she were here with me.
And then I know what she'd do.
So I close my eyes and sing, even when my throat's hurting and dry and it feels like I'm sticking it with needles, I close my eyes and sing.
"Deep in the meadow, under the willow
A bed of grass, a soft green pillow
Lay down your head, and close your sleepy eyes
And when again they open, the sun will rise…"
I imagine Katniss' smiling face as she strokes my hair, and I forget my grandfather who refused to help me.
"…Here it's safe, here it's warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.
Deep in the meadow, hidden far away
A cloak of leaves, a moonbeam ray
Forget your woes and let your troubles lay
And when again it's morning, they'll wash away…"
Katniss tells me to tuck my tail in, and I forget the maggots.
"…Here it's safe, here it's warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you..."
Katniss and I braid flowers together, and I forget the wild dogs down below.
"…Deep in the meadow, hidden far away
A cloak of leaves, a moonbeam ray
Forget your woes and let your troubles lay
And when again it's morning, they'll wash away.
Here it's safe, here it's warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you..."
And I sing it again and again and again, even when the dogs leave I just stay up in the tree and keep singing.
By then my voice is so broken and disharmonized the melody takes on a haunting tune, no longer recognizable as a lullaby you'd sing to a sleeping child.
I only stop as I see the sun beginning to rise.
A/N: Jesus. I wrote this chapter listening to some really creepy music (In the House, In a Heartbeat by John Murphy; This is Halloween by Marilyn Manson; Friday by Rebecca Black) at night.
And then this is the result. When I looked back at it in the morning, it depressed even me. (O_O) Sorry, Prim. Your life sucks.
On another note, I stole some quotes from Harry Potter and Batman. I realized if I kept doing it, I'd eventually run out of people in the Hunger Games series to use, so you'll probably be seeing some more random character quotes from other series.
Oh yeah another thing I have to add: Prim won't be going into the Games for a little while. The story plot hasn't reached that point yet, and I don't really wanna rush it or anything. It'll be pretty satisfying when she does, though. (That is, if I break my bad habit of leaving stories unfinished.)