"I volunteer." Katniss's voice rang out through the square, all else quiet bar Prim's sobbing. My heart stops, with those two words my entire life has fallen apart. Katniss. The Hunger Games. Death. The future is strung out in front me and it ends in one thing, her dying. The thought alone has been inconceivable to me, always. But now, it's not only a fear, it's an absolute fact. Katniss is not going to be mine anymore; she's going to be gone forever. My love is about to die.
I've always loved her; however she has never been privy to that fact. I was going to tell her after her last reaping, after she was eighteen and this horror had passed. She would never have to worry for me anymore at reapings, and then she wouldn't be worn down by the fear of losing me. And, if instead she fell in love with someone else, she wouldn't have to fret over breaking my heart. But then again that's what happened now; my heart is broken, irreparable forever. The words still rang out in my head, I volunteer.
What is only seconds feels like minutes, hours as I see her mount the stage. Prim is there tugging on her. The expression on Catnip's face is clear; she's trying so hard not to cry. I go and grab Prim, my face as stony and unrevealing as possible choking out a controlled "Up you go, Catnip", barely getting out the words without my voice breaking. This is it, surreal but true; she's gone.
I take Prim back with me to my place holding her tight. I hold her tight trying to calm her down. It's futile, but I am doing everything in my own power not to break down. Catnip, gone, it's all I can focus on. I kneel down to prim and look her it the eyes. I see fear and loss, the same as in my family's eyes after we lost my father. But this loss, painted clearly on her face isn't the kind that goes away. It's the kind that stays forever. Prim lost her father that day too, but this was different. This time she'd watch as her sister is paraded around and served on a silver platter for a gruesome death.
Those however weren't the only things I saw in her eyes, no, I saw another thing too. Pleading. Pure begging. I knew what her eyes were saying that she just couldn't bear to ask. And it was then that I knew exactly what I have to do.
Standing, I achieved wary looks of those around me. They know I'm hot-headed and scared that I may act out. I stay there holding Prim close, resigning to my fate. I look over at my mother and catch her gaze. She looks at me and nods; I take it as permission. It's then that Effie, that dreadful woman, Trinket's voice breaks me out of my reverie. "Any Volunteers?" She asked loud and obnoxiously, filled with glee. Her district was finally getting interesting and she was riding the high of action.
It occurs to me that the male tribute has already been chosen, it having happened as my thoughts were in shambles. Looking at the stage I see the baker's kid, P-something in absolute fear. It's written all over his face, the complete and utter desperation in the situation. I, however don't give a thought to the relief I'm giving him, but only the protection of Katniss as I get out the words that had been ringing in my head ever since my Catnip said them herself. "I volunteer."
The surprise is clear on everyone's face as I finally say it, one volunteer is unheard off, and two is when people start to check if they've been drugged. I mount the stage in another eerie patch of silence. I take notice that my brothers don't cry and I'm proud, they're becoming the kind of people who survive in the seam. Also, I take it as a confirmation that they're men and can take care of themselves. Part of me knows that they're doing it for my sake, but it's one of the few things keeping me from crying myself, so I focus on the positive. That's when I look at Katniss.
It's safe to say that she is pissed. The look on her face lets me know that I'm not soon to be forgiven. We shake as the grotesquely happy Effie practically jumps up and down. The fact that two kids just voluntarily put themselves up for death shouldn't excite someone; her joy is in a very obvious way atrocious. Katniss takes my hand in a death grip, her expression unreadable to anyone who hadn't worshiped her very image for years. That is why I was the only one to see the fury in the slight curve of her mouth, the look in her eyes, and the way her brow gave the smallest almost imperceptible twitch. Before I knew it they ushered us off the stage and into separate cars.
It was my first time in a car. I knew what they did for we were taught in school. But still I had never actually been in one, and the whole ordeal was quite scary. Gale Hawthorne, admitted to being scared, the thought inconceivable, right? Well, as much as it had pained me to say the trip was nerve-racking. I jumped at every jostle, nearly yelled with each twisting turn. We reached the station fast thought and the trip from hell ended only minutes from when it began. Surprisingly there were no reporters at the station, none. I think back to the years before and realize that they only were there after the tributes had talked to their families and had a chance to breakdown and cry. Oh yeah time to say the final goodbyes, I really hadn't been prepared for this moment.
I didn't have a chance to see Katniss before I was thrown into a small elevator. I would be scared, like with the car, but I road an elevator before once. This same exact one in fact. The day they gave me, the eldest Hawthorne child, a medal of valor after my father was vaporized in the mines along with Katniss's dad. Come to think of it, that was the first time in the world that I was in a close proximity of her. She had broken my heart then too as I had cried not only for my dad, but for the fact that she lost someone dear to her too. Even thought we became close later in the woods, hunting for survival I had seen her around school. The way she sang on the first day, I may have been older but with my hatred for music I failed and was in her class. The way she sang I had lost all thought and became infatuated. I loved her then and there forever.
Getting off the elevator, after having a short escape in a memory of the past, I was ushered into a spacious room, larger then my own house and the hob put together. I was surprised, to say the least, that the goodbyes took place in such a large room when the peacekeepers lead me through a door. The room, while still very big, was an anthill compared to the mountain of the other room. It was not as grand, lacking golden embossment, but still wealthy. To think that so much could be housed in district twelve I was left only to wonder about the capitol. What we had was not even pocket change to them. Our most fantastic place would be riff-raff in their opinion. I sat on a velvet couch and the peacekeepers left me alone in the ostentatious room.
I thought back to Katniss for a moment, and how she looked when she received her father's medal of valor. She was crying, hunched with her mother and sister. Her mom had a strange, blank look on her face. She was almost vacant. It was only later when I realized that that look was because, for at least that time, no one was upstairs, leaving poor little Katniss to run the show. It had taken a toll on her and I started to notice it at school. As time went on she became more and more like that kids that lived in the community home, her shoulders curving with her back, the way she never brought a lunch to school. Katniss had been slowly falling apart from the inside and there was nothing that I could do.
I had once wondered about giving her food but knew my mother wouldn't approve. With my hunting we were still barely scraping by, we couldn't afford to bring in any less. Of course, being the one who caught, trapped, hunted, and brought in the food made it so that I could easily take food away from what we had. And I even went to, a few times in fact, but was stopped when I remembered something about Katniss. She may be sick, starving, even dying, but she would never ever lower herself to take charity. She would hate me forever if I tried to give her something. You may call it stubborn or say that it made her an imbecile, but it only solidified my love for her. She was strong and would never sway from her standards or ways.
I say that now, but back then there came a day where it became too much. I was walking in the streets when I came upon her nearly dead. She was lying near a tree on the ground, broken. I almost ran to her but couldn't, the rain made it hard for me to see and I couldn't risk tripping and having the game fall out of my pack. I did, however make it far enough to see as a figure came out of the nearby bakery and toss food to her. I had stopped not risking being spotted as she stood and stumbled away. I went home that night thankful that someone had helped her and she had taken it.
I watched her carefully after that; scared she would fall back into a similar state when I noticed a change in her demeanor. Her back became less arched and she seemed to be getting more to eat. My curiosity piqued, I left to go think about it in the woods. It was when I made my daily round in the evening that I saw her. She was fingering a plump rabbit caught in one of my more neatly done snares. I walked up behind her in my hunter's tread and spoke my first words to her.
"That's dangerous." My voice rang out, Katniss jumping at the sound. "What's your name?" I asked as I walked towards her disengaging the rabbit from the snare, tightening in to my belt where three other currently hung. I knew her name, of course, but it would be quite creepy if she met me for the first time, alone in the woods and I was able to name what she did every second for the last week. You could call it stalking, but I loved her.
"Katniss," she replied barely audible. It sounded quite like Catnip. Then I knew exactly what I could say in my best effort to charm her. "Well Catnip, stealing's punishable by death, or hadn't you heard?" I said. The nickname seemed to bother her as she said louder, "Katniss and I wasn't stealing it. I just wanted to look at your snare. Mine never catch anything." I scowled at that, she had a squirrel with her and a snare is the only way she would've caught it. I decided to call her on it asking, "So where did you get the squirrel?"
"I shot it." She said bluntly pulling a small bow off her shoulder. It was obviously for a child but a bow, those were impossible to get. I once asked a woman, Greasy Sae, at the hob if she knew anyone who could make me one. She had said that the bow maker died, maybe it was her father. "Can I see that?" I asked eagerly.
Katniss handed it over to me repeating my line from before, "Just remember, stealing's punishable by death." I smiled at that, barely able to contain my laughter. She however was guarded and didn't return the smile until quite later. I respected that and once she did we were hunting partners forever. It finally gave me an excuse to talk to her. I loved every second of my time with her and we slowly grew to be best friends. She listened to my rants, I listened to hers. We were drawn together by hunger and now we were about to start the journey of a different hunger together, a hunger for life. I know now that she will never know of my love, but then again, I would sacrifice that any day to see her live another.
I was broken from my thoughts by the door opening and my family running through. My brothers Rick, Rory, and Posy jumped at me knocking me back on the chair. My mother held back and I saw it. She knew what I planned to do. Walking forward she slapped me, scaring the daylights out of my brothers. "Gale, hon. I always knew she'd be the death of you." She said as she gave me a hug. "Goodbye" She choked out as I said one final, "Love you". She gave me a final look before walking out the door. On her way out she whispered one thing heard only by my ears. "Don't let the games change you." I pondered her final words as I said goodbyes to my brothers and had Rick promise me he would try to hunt. He did and before long they drug my last family away and the door shut with an omniscient thud.
I didn't expect any more visitors and was surprised to have two more. The first was Madge who slipped a pin into my hand. I held it up realizing it was the same as the one she wore this morning however she still had another pinned to her dress. She asked me to wear it as a token crying, I know because she thought she was about to lose Katniss. I took it promising that I would wear it and she mentioned that the other would go to Katniss. Madge wanted us to wear them in honor of the capitols largest failure, the mockingjays. She left without a goodbye the tears falling in anvils down her cheeks.
My final visitor was the baker. He handed me something, cookies I think and promised that he would try to help my family. He was grateful that I saved his son. He also promised a job for one of my brothers unclear on their names he didn't say which one. He left and like my mother said something with his back turned. It was hard to hear, but it sounded something like, "Those Everdeen women get us all." I was puzzled by that until I remembered that Catnip's mother wasn't from the seam. Maybe they knew each other. Maybe he was the one who threw Katniss the bread.
I sat there holding the pin in my palm. It was a mockingjay all right, the kind I heard Katniss sing to that one time. She didn't know I was there as she sang. It was beautiful and sweet, two of the things that very few would relate to my Catnip. I was lost in the words as she sang them, all thoughts on her beauty that shined through the words. It was lovely, but if I ever tried to mention it she would probably stab me. That was a personal moment, one of the few times I had seen a tear creep down her face.
Before long a peacekeeper came in pulling me toward the train. There were plenty of reporters there now. Most seemed disappointed that I refused to cry. Others called out my name to get me to look at them. All they want is to size us up, metal stability, build, all of those everyday things normally not concerning. Now they mattered, it was a fight to the death after all.
I looked up as I heard my Catnip's name being called. I search for her and only a few yards away, there she is. Her face is straight, there's no way she would cry. Katniss is looking at anything but me. I hadn't thought about that. The fact that she might feel betrayed or remorseful that I'm going to die. Or maybe, worst of all, she wants me to live. "Catnip" I call in a hushed whisper, only her and myself able to hear. Her head turns toward me sharply and then I see it. Again the look is the eyes. Scared. I can see in the small set in her mouth, the way her gate hiccuped as she walked. Katniss was scared, and at the moment there was nothing that I could do about it. Without thinking I reached out and pulled her into my chest. Katniss was scared, the thought was almost inconceivable. In all these years that I've known her, even back when she was starving, Katniss has never been scared. Maybe frazzled or shocked, once desperate, but never scared. And fear wasn't in her vocabulary. Only on reaping days, only today.
I held her tight into me and I felt as she stifled a sob, her body racking only a bit. I used my tall frame to keep the cameras from seeing her. These were her emotions, not the capitol's, not anyone else's. She held onto me hiding her face from the spectators and we boarded the train.
It was when the doors closed that she lost it. Sobbing she crumpled into me, no longer worried about those who could be watching. Sure there were probably cameras everywhere on the train, but there had never before been any footage of the journey used in the coverage of the games. I took her over to the couch and sat down, holding her tight. "Shhhh, it's okay," I murmured over and over until she calmed down. It was a lot like when Posy had a nightmare. Katniss stopped after a while going to clean up for dinner. She didn't say anything other than a mumbled "Thanks."
I left the too, heading off to the dinner car. Effie was there, looking at her reflection in a spoon. She was trying her best to fix the wig she had on, which Haymitch had knocked off center when he practically tackled her at the reaping ceremony. Shallow to the bone, I couldn't help thinking, just like all the other capitol citizens. The amount of concern she showed for appearance left me appalled. In district 12 we don't care for looks, the major priority is food or warmth. Most don't even own mirrors.
Effie was completely unaware of my presence, I knew because my steps made no noise, so as to let her be aware I scuffed the chair on the ground as I pulled it out. She looked up sharply snapping at me for doing so. "Don't be ruining the floors now; you'd be surprised at the cost of such insolent stupidity." I glared at her as I sat down, making the chair drag as much as possible. This lady disgusted me in every single way.
She returned the glare pursing her lips in disapproval. I looked away before my anger could get to me, down at the food. Oh, there was sure a lot of food. It was decadent, delicious looking. There was everything; chicken, turkey, blackberries, strawberries, beef, oranges, apples, deer, potatoes, pork, ham, vegetables, cakes, pies, chocolates, sweets, and most impressive of all coffee.
Coffee was scarce in district 12. I had once bought the bitter, awful mixture of grounds and water from the market when I brought down a deer. My mother had mentioned it to me before, for she had loved it. When she would take trips to the shops outside of seam bringing me with her we would always stop to take in its heavy delicious scent. I bought it to make her happy and that day she was. However when I tried it I almost lost my lunch.
My mouth is watering at the smell of everything. Never before in my life has there ever been so much food available. I can't help but think of how long it would take me to gather all of what is in front of me. Days, months, years, it would take forever. I sit there, wondering how many seconds it took them to collect this when Haymitch enters the room.
He's drunk as a skunk. The smell wafting from the door had alerted me of his presence. Well, that along with the sloshing of whiskey in his glass. Chugging down the rest of what as in such object, Haymitch dropped in on the ground. The shatter of glass was quite loud along with Effie's deafening shriek. An attended snapped to attention and ran forward to clean up the mess.
So like, don't like all opinions are welcome. Be as harsh as you want and even if it is not good I would really appreciate you telling me so.
P.S.- All rights go to the Ms. Collins as you should already know.