Chapter Seventeen

It had been weeks since I brought Haymitch to school and the outbreak that happened afterwards. We weren't assigned any more tasking projects about our families though we still learned about our history. It was nothing too personal, mostly what each district used to specialize in and when each one began to rebel.

Currently, the snow had begun to pick up, large flakes floating to the already white covered ground. Winter had finally happened and the ground had been solid for weeks. The air was nippy, causing a pain to your hands if they were bare for too long.

This was my favorite time of weather.

If it snowed too heavily, school could be cancelled for the day or days if I was lucky. During this chilly season, we spend most of our dark evenings gathered around the fireplace in the living room. Blankets would cover our bodies as we talked and laughed as a family. Of course, this also includes Haymitch, who would tell us stories about his rebellious days in school. Those ones always bring a smile to my face.

Since it's usually freezing outside, Dad makes us delicious winter meals that bring warmth not only to your body, but to your soul. His stew is to die for, especially with the cheese buns. He also makes millions of sweet treats, meaning Mom scolds Rye and me often about eating too many. Even after she yells at us, Dad will sneak us a treat under the table.

I pressed my hands against the cool glass, trying to get a look outside. Today made a smile grow on my face as I watched the snow flutter in the sky. I knew exactly how I would spend my day.

"Whatcha up to, Willow?" Rye asked, pressing his nose to the window. He jumped, surprised by the cold, but still stood beside me.

"I'm watching the snow. I think school will get called off." I said, looking over at him.

"Darn it. Gale was going to visit our classroom today." He sighed, a slight frown on his face as he looked out the window.

I shrugged my shoulder. "I'm sure he'll come tomorrow instead. And besides, it's not like you'll never see him. He's been here in Twelve since fall."

"I guess you're right." Rye replied.

"Hey, kiddos!" Dad called out, coming in from the snowy outside. Rye and I ran to the door, watching him stomp the sticky snow off of his winter boots. Fresh snow clung to his blonde hair and winter jacket.

"Hey, what?" Rye and I asked, smiles wide on our faces.

"You two are the luckiest kids ever," he began, hanging his coat on a hook. "School's been called off. You get the day to do whatever you want."

Rye and I cheered, jumping around the room in excitement. No school was a blessing. It meant the freedom to do anything you wanted and nobody could stop you. It was a nice break from the long, dreadful days trapped inside the schoolhouse.

Mom came from the bedroom, squinting her eyes to see outside. A smile slowly grew on her face. "No school, huh?" She asked.

"Nope. No school!" Rye exclaimed, tossing his arms out wide.

"Peeta, does the snow show any signs of letting up soon?" Mom asked.

Dad shrugged. "I would say around noon it should die down. Why?"

Mom let out a sigh, her smile never leaving. "Oh, no reason," she began, circling Rye and me. Suddenly, she reached out, pulling us close to her. "I just thought we could go ice skating."

"Can we really?" I asked, excitement building up inside of me. Forget my original plans. I was just going to have Dad show me a few painting techniques. Ice skating? That was definitely a better way to spend my day off.

"If the snow stops around noon." Mom nodded.

"Oh, geez. Have this burden rest on my shoulders." Dad teased, acting annoyed.

"Can we take a sled?" Rye asked, tilting his head at Mom and Dad. Rye has never been fond of ice skating. Maybe the skates pinched his toes too much or he hated falling down. Either way, ice skating wasn't his ideal choice. But sledding? That was right up his alley.

"Why not? It sounds like a great plan." Dad said, making Rye cheer.

"What are we going to do until then?" I asked. As excited as I was to go skating, I still wanted to go outside while the snow was falling. I loved everything about winter. The cold winds, the wet snow, and even the frozen ice patches.

"We could go make a snowman. The snow is perfect." Dad offered. Rye and I quickly agreed, rushing over to pull on our snow gear.

I pulled my winter pants up to my chest and slipped on my new winter boots. Effie had sent them a few weeks ago so the shoes were the right size. The fur in them were already making my feet sweat, but I couldn't care. I zipped up my jacket and popped on my mittens while Dad shoved a hat onto my head then Rye's.

"Are you coming with us?" Rye asked as Mom zipped up his jacket for him. His hands were already covered in his blue mittens, making it impossible for him to even think of putting on any of his gear by himself.

"Yes, I love making snowmen." Mom smiled, holding a boot for him. Dad kept him steady as he picked up one foot for Mom to slip on the boot.

"Hooray! We can make a whole family of snowmen!" Rye grinned.

So, we trekked out into the snowy weather. Immediately, snow clung to my eyelashes and hair. My feet crunched in the snow as I followed behind Dad and Rye. "What body part can I make?" Rye asked as we stopped in the clear spot between Haymitch's house and ours.

"I think you can make the head, Willow and Mom can make the middle, and I'll make the bottom." Dad said, a smile on his face.

"Okay!" Rye nodded, dropping to his knees.

We laughed and followed his lead. Mom and I knelt beside each other, rolling up a ball of snow. We started to push the small ball on the ground, gathering up the sticky snow quickly. I missed the snowball and fell, my face landing in a fresh pile of snow.

"Willow? Are you okay?" Mom laughed, watching me pick myself up. I wiped the freezing snow off of my face and smiled.

"Yeah, I'm fine." I replied, joining her again.

Eventually, we had a little family of snowmen. There were two big ones, which were supposed to be Dad and Mom. A slightly smaller one, which was supposed to be me. And an even smaller one which was Rye. We all stood line, admiring our latest work.

"We forget Haymitch." Mom pointed out, a frown slightly on her face.

So, we quickly threw together a fifth snowmen, propping him up beside our family. "There we go." Dad grinned, patting the snowman.

"Haymitch." Rye smiled, hugging the snowman.

"Let's go show him our newest creation. I think he'll enjoy it." Dad said, walking towards Haymitch's house. The rest of us waddled behind Dad, trying to keep up with him. It was amazing how fast he was with his prosthetic leg.

Dad knocked on the door, pausing with a smile on his face. Beside me, Rye giggled into his mittens, trying to hide his excitement.

Haymitch opened the door, squinting his gray eyes. "Well, hello, Mellark Family. What brings you to my door this lovely winter morning?"

"We want you to see our snowfamily!" Rye cheered, making us chuckle.

"Shouldn't you be in school, squirt?" Haymitch asked, tipping his bottle at Rye. Rye shook his head, a smile wide on his face.

"School's been cancelled for the day." I said.

"Well, I'm sure you're happier than a pig in a mud puddle." Haymitch teased, looking at me.

"Nope. They're so disappointed. We had to almost drag them over here." Dad replied, giving us a fake frown.

"No, we're not!" Rye immediately denied, making us laugh.

"So, a snow family, huh?" Haymitch asked after a pause. "Just let me get on my boots and a coat."

Once Haymitch had his gear on, we lead him to our little snow family. He smiled, pointing at his replica. "Who's that handsome snowman?"

"It's you, silly." Rye replied.

"We're going ice skating later. Do you want to come with us?" I asked. Rye begged beside me as we looked up at Haymitch.

"Sorry, I don't think I can make it down to the lake and back. Bad back." Haymitch replied, stretching out his back. Rye awed, his shoulders slouching.

"Rye." Mom softly scolded.

"Don't worry, squirt. I'll join you next time." Haymitch promised. We all waved goodbye to Haymitch as he walked back inside his toasty house. Once he had left, we grabbed our skating gear and Rye hopped into a sled, holding them on his lap.

Dad pulled the sled behind him as Mom and I led the way. The lake has always been a favorite place for me. There's a little house beside it that has a small broom and a fire poker inside. Mom and Dad would let me play house when I younger. This is also the place Mom taught Rye and me how to swim.

Once we finally arrived, I quickly plopped onto a log and tightly laced up my ice skates. Dad and Rye scooped up piles of snow, clearing the hard ice for me to skate on. I enjoyed ice skating so much. It made me feel like I could fly.

Once a large area had been cleared, I was allowed to step onto the lake. At first, I started to slip, not used to the slick land. I held out my arms, balancing myself. Once I was stable, I slowly stood up and slowly skated around.

I stated to gain speed, making large circle around and around the lake. Soon, I was no longer a girl with rebel leaders as parents. I was a girl whose home was on the ice. I belonged on the ice. The cold wind beat against my cheeks and shivers ran up and down my body, but I was happy. I was happier than I had been in a long time.

Until I heard the cracks.

I stopped, seeing the lines growing underneath me. I looked out to Mom and Dad, who were watching me from a log on the shore. "What's wrong?" Mom asked, clearly seeing the fear in my face.

Before I could even answer, I fell into the freezing water below. I flailed underneath, trying to reach the surface. The water chilled my bones, making it difficult to move. I kicked my legs, feeling myself rising.

I popped my head up, gasping for air. Rye's wails hit my ears as I saw Dad scrambling to reach me as I sank down again. It was so hard to move. My now soaking snow gear added extra weight to my body, making it nearly impossible to swim up.

My lungs demanded for air. My arms and legs demanded for a break. But I couldn't give up, not yet. I reached the surface for a second time, the freezing air rushing into my lungs, making me cough. Dad was closer now, but I knew he wouldn't reach me by the time I sank again. I heard his prosthetic leg scraping against the ice as he scrambled to save me.

As my head was dunked again, my body began to shut down. My chest demanded for more air, but arms and legs were so tired and so very cold. I hugged my body for a few seconds, but the pain in chest was too strong to ignore. Using the last of my energy, I reached the surface for the third time.

After the third surfacing, it's rare to see another. Rye's howls echoed off of the lake and Mom shouted out to Dad. Dad was closer now. I was able to see his blue eyes for the last time as I went underwater again.

This time, my body longed for warmth. I was so cold. So very cold. I hugged my body tightly as the freezing water entered my lungs, causing my insides to feel cold as well. I began to feel sleepy. Maybe this would be the end for me.

Suddenly, water rushed past my ears and a bright light blinded my eyes. "Willow!" Dad shouted, holding me up. I peeked open my eyes, seeing his fearful blue ones. He held me out at arm's length above my death trap.

He laughed, hugging me against his body as he rushed me back to shore. I began to shake, my wet body now exposed to the elements of winter. I was freezing, but alive. Mom set Rye down to cry on the snow as she rushed towards me.

"Oh, my Willow. You're alive!" Mom grinned, tears cutting tracks down her face. I weakly smiled as she held her face against mine. Her wooly mittens gently rubbed my icy skin. "You're okay, now. You're okay." She cooed.

"Katniss, I have to set her down." Dad said, setting me in the sled. I trembled from the shock of nearly dying and from the bitterly cold that now threatened to kill me. I coughed up water, but at least I could breathe.

Dad yanked off my coat and snow pants. Mom began to shout at him, as he pushed her back. "Katniss, I know what I'm doing!" He yelled, quickly pulling off his own gear. He pulled his dry snow pants over my body and zipped me up in his furry winter coat. That left him in just his pants and a long sleeve shirt. Not exactly protective in this weather.

He pulled off my hat and replaced it with his own. He took my wet mittens and covered my stiff hands with his warm ones that he left on shore when he pulled me out. He sat down, taking off his boots and socks. He peeled the socks starting to freeze to me off and stuffed them into his pocket then pulled his warm ones over my feet then put back on my boots that were dry on land. He tossed my soaking ice skates towards Mom.

"We need to get her back to the house before she freezes to death." Mom said, her breathing deep, but calmer than seconds ago. Rye's cries morphed into sniffles. He peeked out from behind Mom's legs, his face beet red.

"I know. Make sure we have everything. I'll start bringing her back." Dad said, gripping the rope tied to the sled. He quickly dragged me back, my body still shaking.

Rye's voice grew quieter as we went deeper into the woods. The snow was beginning to pick up again and I felt awful for Dad. He no longer had a winter coat to protect him from the elements for this harsh winter day.

"Dad, do you want your coat back? I'm-"

"No, Willow. You're soaking wet. You need my coat to keep from freezing to death." He immediately denied, his voice harsh. There was no way I was going to change his mind.

So I stayed quiet, the only noise exiting from me was my chattering teeth.

The wind began to whip against my face, making me colder than I thought imaginable. We were only halfway home and I could hardly move my toes anymore. I knew that was a sign of hypothermia. My eyes began to feel heavy and I felt exhausted. Maybe a nap wouldn't be so bad.

"Willow, how are you doing?" Dad asked, tilting his head to look back at me. My eyes snapped open and I tried to shake away any sleepiness.

"What?" I asked, my speech sounding like Haymitch's when he's had too much to drink.

"I asked how you're doing." Dad repeated, now stopping.

"I'm fine." I mumbled. He rushed back towards me, studying my face. I frowned, attempting to push him away, but my arms could hardly move. He pulled his sleeve over his hand and wiped some fallen snow from my face.

"Shit." He quietly cursed. He snatched the rope again and began to run. My head grew heavy as my eyes rolled to the back of my head. Sleep would help. Then I'd be home before I knew it.


I awoke to the sound of the door slamming shut. "Is Willow gonna die?" Rye asked.

"No, Rye. She's just very sick. You need to be quiet." Mom said.

I opened my eyes, seeing the fire brightly burning across the room. On my forehead was a hot towel and my body was wrapped in so many layers I was surprised I wasn't sweating to death.

I began to sit up as Dad rushed towards me. "You sure gave everyone a scare." Dad chuckled, kneeling beside me.

"I did?" I asked, slightly confused.

"Yeah, but don't worry. You're okay." Dad said, helping me sit up. He gave me a cup of tea, his hands smelling of cinnamon. Across the room was Haymitch, who was knocking his head back with a bottle of alcohol.

"How long have I been asleep?" I asked, now concerned. The last thing I remembered was being in the sled, freezing to death.

"Just a few hours," he explained. "Here, you should eat something." Dad said, handing me a frosted cinnamon roll. He kissed my forehead then rushed back into the kitchen.

I sat still, confusion still running through my head. "Your daddy put you into some warm clothes as I started the fire. Don't worry, Willow. You're perfectly fine. You'll be back to normal in a few hours." Haymitch said.


I was offered to sleep on the couch, but I was feeling a millions times better than earlier in the day. Besides, my bed was so comfortable and cozy. I wanted to pull my thick comforters over my body and drift into a peaceful sleep.

Just before I closed my eyes, Mom and Dad entered my room. "I have a new song for you." Mom said, kneeling with Dad beside my bed.

Dad ran his fingers over my hair as I softly smiled. "What is it?" I asked.

Mom smiled, opening her mouth to sing.

"Bright morning stars are rising

Bright morning stars are rising

Bright morning stars are rising

Day is a'breaking

In my soul"

"Oh where are our dear fathers?

Oh where are our dear fathers?

They are down in the valley a'praying

Day is a'breaking

In my soul"

"Oh where are our dear mothers?

Oh where are our dear mothers?

They are gone to heaven a'shouting

Day is a'breaking

In my soul"

"Bright morning stars are rising

Bright morning stars are rising

Bright morning stars are rising

Day is a'breaking

In my soul"

The peaceful song lulled me to sleep. The bright stars above our house gave me comfort, feeling like they were watching over me as I drifted into a calm, safe place. As the last verse echoed in my head, it dawned on me that the bright morning stars were angels in the sky. Maybe those angels were all of our loved last in the rebellion.

Thank you guys so much for reading through this long chapter! I hope you enjoyed! If you want to hear a version of this song, listen to The Wailin' Jennys. They do a wonderful job!

Okay, so I want your guys opinion. I'm thinking about making a book where Peeta was saved from the rebels instead of Katniss. Would this be something you'd be interested in reading and if so when would you like me to publish it? I've been working on one chapter, but I don't wanna put too much effort into it if no one wants to read it.

Thanks again! And I'll see you guys soon!

Edit: I decided to publish the book mentioned above. It's called I'm Not Your Mockingjay. Please go check out and tell me what you think! Thanks for all of the support!