My story takes place when I was just a little girl who thought I knew it all. I thought I had my world figured out. My parents would never keep a secret from me because I was old enough to understand.
But I was wrong.
I'll begin in the fall, specifically, the fall before Rye broke his arm. I was only twelve years old then. School had begun, in fact, it was Rye's first year in school. He was excited, while I would much rather prefer to dance in the meadow.
Little did I know how much I would grow to hate that meadow.
I quietly sat down in my desk while the rest of my classmates rambled on about what they were going to do this weekend. Some kids would go to other districts to visit family members or just see something new. My weekends were always the same. "Pst! Willow!"
I turned to my left, looking at one of my classmates. Her blonde hair was pulled into a tight bun on her head. A few flyaways were falling down the back of her neck from running around outside. "What are you doing this weekend?" Annie asked.
I shrugged my shoulders and tossed my braid over my back. "I'm staying here in 12." I replied.
"Don't you always do that?" She asked, confusion present in her green eyes. I nodded my head, slightly furrowing my eyebrows. "Don't you get bored?" She added.
I opened my mouth, about to answer but the teacher entered the school house. We had two school houses back then. One was for the elementary kids, like Rye, and the other one was for the older kids. I was in the older school house, but there weren't many students. Once most of us turned 10, our parents took us out to help on the farm or because our parents thought we learned plenty to survive. My parents decided that I would stay in school until I was 15.
I turned back in my desk, facing forward. I was one of the oldest in the class so I had to be the example. If I didn't behave, neither would the younger children. They all looked up to me, even though I wished they didn't. "Did you have fun at recess?" Mrs. Belling asked.
Most of us nodded our heads, not really in the mood to speak. "Good," She smiled, nodding her head back. "Now that we're back inside, I've decided that today we would discuss our history." She explained.
Immediately, I slightly sank in my desk. Did I forget to mention that I am the daughter of Katniss and Peeta Mellark? Well, it seemed like everyone in our district knew and they always picked on me to explain our history and how it dramatically changed in almost three years. "Willow, would you come up to the front please?" Mrs. Belling asked.
I felt a blush rush over my cheeks as I stood in front of my classmates. They were silent, knowing why I was called to the front. "Would you please explain to the class what you know about our history?" She added.
I licked my lips, looking into their blinking eyes. "Well, um, a long time ago, the capital used to be very strict," I started, my voice slightly shaking from nervousness. I hated attention, especially when it came to this subject. "We used to be divided into districts, similar to today. Once a year, the capital would send one girl and one boy to fight in the Hunger Games."
I looked to my teacher, hoping she would see how much I was struggling with this task. She gave me a soft smile and nodded her head, wanting me to continue. I internally groaned and turned back to the front. "They did this for a very long time. So long, in fact, that this was the only way everyone knew. One day, my mother and my father were drawn to fight." I explained.
Everyone held their breath. Every year, I added something new to the story, something they had never heard before. Usually, it was something small, something to get them to think. "Fast forward a couple of years and my mom is the leader of the rebellion with my dad by her side. They defeated President Snow and everyone lived happily ever after. The End." I quickly summarized. They all slightly groaned, wishing I would add on to the story.
Mrs. Belling stood up, placing her hand on my shoulder. "Thank you, Willow. That was a good summary," she smiled, signaling that I could finally go back to my desk. "Now, this weekend, I want everyone to ask their grandparents and parents about what they remember about the rebellion. Make sure to ask them about your history specifically. Did they used to live in a different district? Did they fight for the rebellion? Were you named after someone special?" She continued as she passed out a sheet of paper with our assignment printed on it. "I want you to write about what you learned on this and on Monday when we come back, we'll take turns sharing."
I let out a long sigh as the paper was passed down the row to me. I hated when this assignment rolled out every year. Sure, this year was much more specific. We were older now and we had to learn more about the details. This was the first year we were supposed to ask our parents.
Eventually, class was let out for the weekend. Most kids ran to their houses, excited for what they were doing this weekend. I walked to the tree in the middle of the school yard, seeing the blonde haired boy patiently waiting for my arrival.
My footsteps made his gray eyes look up from his book. Immediately, a smile was brought to his face as he pulled me into a hug. "Willow!" He cheered.
"Hey, Rye. How was school?" I asked as he let go.
"Good," He replied, picking up his backpack from the ground. He threw it over his shoulder as we began to walk home. "My teacher let me do a math problem on the board today."
"Did you know it?" I asked. He nodded his head, making his blonde curls bounce up and down.
"Yes, Willow. I know what two plus two is." He giggled. At this age, Rye thought everything was funny. In fact, you could probably just drop a bowl on the ground and he would laugh like a hyena. But his laugh always warmed your heart.
Our house slowly got bigger in the horizon. We lived in Victor's Village, which was where the 'rich' people lived. Personally, I didn't think we had much money, especially compared to other students. "Do you think Momma will be happy to see us?" Rye asked.
"Duh." He repeated, laughing. I smiled at him, watching him repeat the word over and over again.
We reached the front door, opening it to hear Dad in the kitchen. A sweet smell filled the air, signaling to me that Dad had baked us fresh apple pie. My mouth began to water as Rye shouted, "We're home!"
"In the kitchen!" Dad fired back. Rye threw his backpack on the floor, blocking the door. He sprinted off towards the kitchen, squealing as I heard Dad pick him up, saying how heavy he was getting.
I hooked my backpack on the wall, slightly delaying my greeting for Dad. I was just nervous about my assignment. Uncle Haymitch had told me that Mom and Dad had gone through a lot, so I shouldn't push them to tell their stories. But that was exactly what I was doing.
"Hey, Willow." Dad greeted kissing the top of my head. I turned around, softly smiling at him.
"Hey, Dad." I replied, looking into his matching blue eyes. His clothes and blonde hair were covered in flour. He looked like he spent all day in the kitchen, never leaving once. Hopefully that meant a wonderful meal tonight.
"Hang on, you got something on you," He stated, reaching toward my face. I stood still, letting him get whatever was on me. Quickly, he wiped a finger on my cheek, leaving a streak of flour across it. "Gotcha!" He grinned.
"Dad!" I laughed, wiping it off with the back of my hand. He chuckled, walking back into the kitchen. I followed behind him. I looked at the table, seeing Rye sitting there eating the pie dough.
"Hey! Get outta here!" Dad grinned, shooing Rye away and taking his dough back. He began rolling it flat again in muscle memory.
I sat down at the table, watching him work. "Hey, Dad," I began. He hummed, signaling he was listening. "Where's Mom?"
"She went out to go see if she could find any game for tonight," He explained, wiping his brow. "Why?" He fired back. He glanced back at me while his hands kept working.
"No reason. Just curious." I replied, shrugging my shoulders. Dad nodded his head, looking back down at his work.
"Willow, will you and Rye go invite Uncle Haymitch for supper tonight?" Dad asked, changing the subject. I hopped down from my chair, heading back to Rye's room to grab him. "Don't forget the whiskey! It's on the shelf by the entry way!" Dad shouted out.
"Got it!" I answered. I opened the door, seeing Rye happily working on his schoolwork. If only I was as determined as him to do my assignments. "Let's go get Uncle Haymitch for supper." I commanded.
"Hooray! I'll grab the whiskey!" He cheered, jumping up from the floor. He ran towards the door, grabbing Haymitch's bribing tool.
Haymitch isn't really my uncle. In fact, I'm not even technically related to him. He was Mom and Dad's mentor in the Games, so they've trusted him with everything. Surprisingly, they've trusted him to watch us when we were little. He's kind of a jackass to most people, besides us. He would do anything for us.
"I call knocking," Rye quickly stated as we walked up to the door. He slammed his fist against the door then waited a few seconds. We patiently waited outside, rocking on our heels. "Can we go in now?" Rye asked, looking into my eyes.
"Sure." I replied, but he had already opened the door. Haymitch also lived in Victor's Village, in fact, his house was an exact replica of ours, besides the smell of alcohol. The place had never changed, not once. The kitchen looked as if it had never been used and the living room was stacked with liquor bottles everywhere.
"Uncle Haymitch! Get up, sleepyhead!" Rye shouted, running towards the living room. I followed behind him, seeing Haymitch jump awake. He quickly wiped his drool off of his chin then brushed his dark locks out of his gray eyes.
"What are you two troublemakers up to?" Haymitch asked, sitting up, looking at me and Rye. Rye excitedly looked up to me, waiting for me to answer.
"Mom and Dad were wondering if you wanted to come over for supper tonight." I explained as Rye nodded his head, trying his hardest to keep a smile off his face. But all of us knew it was impossible for that kid not to have a smile.
"Ya know what, I think I'll pass. I'm tired." Haymitch replied, laying back down on his couch, closing his eyes.
"We have whiskey!" Rye grinned, holding it up. Immediately, Haymitch's eyes opened. He quickly sat back up.
"Hand it over, bud." He declared, waving his hand towards his body.
Rye shook his head, hiding it behind his back. "You have to come over to get it, Uncle Haymitch."
Haymitch let out a sigh, softly vibrating his lips. "Dad made apple pie." I added on. Haymitch looked at me, a smile growing on his face.
"Why didn't you say that before? I'll go take a shower and come over quickly," He replied, slowly standing up. Rye cheered, jumping up and down. "Now get out of here you dorks, your daddy is probably wondering where you are." He smiled.
"Dad knows where we are, silly!" Rye laughed as we walked out the front door. We headed back to out place, thoughts running through my head. How come Haymitch always had to shower before he came over? Why was he always asleep?
We went home, both of us making sure to step on every leaf on our path. The crunch filled our ears, making us laugh and smile. This was my favorite part of fall.
Eventually, we went back inside. I took my place at the table again while Rye went back to his room to play. Usually, I went with him, but I wanted to sit and decide how to talk to my parents about our history.
The front door opened, taking me from my thoughts. Mom entered the house, hanging her bow and quiver on the hooks beside my backpack. I watched her hang up Rye's backpack, which I was surprised no one tripped over. "Hi, Mom." I greeted.
"Hey, blue eyes." She grinned back, coming over to ruffle my hair. I lightly chuckled, taming it back down.
"Hey, Katniss. How'd it go?" Dad asked, turning around to look at her.
"Good." Mom smiled, nodding her head as she placed the rabbit in the sink. Dad looked her over, slightly biting his lower lip and raising his eyebrows.
"Are you?" He questioned, not able to find words to finish it. Mom shrugged her shoulders, brushing off the question.
"Smells great in here," She stated, changing the subject. What was Mom? I furrowed my eyebrows, confused by my Dad's question. He asked it every time she went hunting. And every time, I had no idea what he was talking about. "Willow, sweetie, please set the table."
I lightly groaned, grabbing the plates and silverware. I set the table for the five of us. I had no idea if Haymitch would show up on time or not. He was never consistent. I thought it was because his clock didn't work.
Eventually, supper was ready. All of us sat down together, a spot left open for Uncle Haymitch. We were quiet, everyone happily eating. "So," Mom started, looking at me and Rye. "How was school today?"
"Really fun," Rye began, swallowing his food quickly so he could speak. "I got to write a math problem on the board!"
"Good job, Rye." Dad smiled.
"Yeah, way to go little man." Mom added. Everyone looked at me, waiting for an answer. They knew how much I hated school, so the idea of me having a good day was slim.
"We have assignment in history," I stated. Mom and Dad both stopped eating, sharing a glance. "We're supposed to ask where we got our names from." I finished, not wanting to overwhelm them.
They relaxed, beginning to eat again. I let out a little sigh myself, glad that I didn't offend them. "That's an easy answer," Mom smiled. "We named you after the willow trees in the meadow."
"Really? A tree?" I replied, slightly scrunching my nose.
"Yeah, they're your mother's favorite." Dad agreed, a smile forming on his face. So much for having a cool name. Rye began fidgeting in his seat beside me.
"What about me? How did you name me?" He begged, throwing his fork to the side.
"We named you Rye because that's your father's favorite type of bread. Plus, he said that you weighed nearly as much as a loaf of rye bread." Mom teased. Of course, Rye believed her, his gray eyes widening while his jaw dropped. Rye bread was Dad's favorite, but I doubted the part about Rye actually weighing the same as a loaf of it.
"Really?" He awed. Dad hummed nodding his head. Rye giggled in seat, loving the story behind his name.
The front door opened and shut, Haymitch quickly sliding in beside me. He placed a kiss on my cheek. "The food good?" He asked as he quickly piled it up on his plate.
"Yeah." I answered.
"Uncle Haymitch," Rye cheered getting his attention. "Did you know that I was named Rye because Dad said I weighed as much rye bread and because it's his favorite?" He exclaimed. Mom and Dad stifled a laugh, though I wasn't sure why. That was what they said.
"That sounds like something your daddy would do." Haymitch smiled, looking at Rye and Dad.
"And Willow was named after Mom's favorite tree." Rye added. I stared down at my plate, feeling slightly embarrassed. Did Rye really just have to say that?
"I thought that name sounded familiar," Haymitch played along. "Pass the butter please, sweetheart ." He stated, changing the subject. Mom passed him the butter, rolling her gray eyes. I let out a sigh, leaning my head into my hand while Annie's question rang in my head. Don't you get bored?