I'm a woman. That's what I tell myself. I tell myself that I can handle it when I lie sleeping and have nightmares or I see all of the faces of the dying as they pass by on their way to my mother, Mrs. Everdeen, I have to hold on to this one detail. I hold my sister, Katniss when they come in but then she falls apart. She's always been emotionally attached to the dying. I'm not much different.
Katniss and I were born fraternal twins but I'm twenty minutes older. I don't know why but I felt like I was abnormal in my little family. I hadn't felt like I was included since my father's death. I'd been a daddy's girl as long as I could remember. I followed him everywhere, except in to the mines. Dad may have taught Katniss and me bow and arrow but when he'd seen how much I disliked using it he'd taught me other ways of getting food for the family. He showed me how to make snares, and how to track animals. He even taught me how to kill them with a knife but he also taught me my passion.
He had swords. Daddy told me that he found them in the forest, where we go to catch food for Momma to cook. I later suspected that the swords were replicas he made of the ones from along time ago, before the capital and the 13 district system was made. Daddy taught me to use sword, daggers, and even axes though they weren't really that hard to use. Axes I used to cut wood down to make repairs on the house or just for a fire but axes were easier to use to kill animals because I could throw them better. Daggers were good for that to but because I took to blades like fish to water I could use my swords and daggers to kill large prey. It helped us.
My talent helped us even more when Dad was killed in the mine collapse. I was able to get us food when Mom and Katniss fell into a depression. I took care of us when no one else could. Prim tried to help; the little darling but I wouldn't let her. I wanted her to stay innocent for me, it was my selfish wish that she never had to be put through more then she has to. So it was selfish for me to lie crying for her, the day of the reaping when I knew Prim's name was being put in that bowl.
The reaping is something everyone here in District 12 hated. One kid, between the ages twelve and eighteen had their names put in two bowls, divided by gender and they chose a paper from each. These two people, one boy, one girl, were sent to the capital to fall prey to a game of killing for the Capital's enjoyment. It's something they do to ensure that we know our places.
So when I arise on this day, the day of the reaping for District 12, I cry for my sister, Primrose, and my sister Katniss. Katniss hasn't been functional since the disaster happened seven years ago when we were eleven but I'll take care of her as long as she needs it. I'll always take care of my family.
With this is mind, I can do anything; even pull myself from my pity party and into my hunting clothes. I'm just dragging on my last boot when I feel the small, frail hand of my twin sister. She'd lost too much weight to make it through the next month if I didn't get her some grain. I'd signed up for tesserae yesterday and they would give the grain and oil to us today. Tesserae is when someone can sign up for a meager grain and oil supply through out a year and in return they put their name in for the reaping again. You may, if you wish, add tesserae for each family member. This year my name will be in thirty-two times today. Katniss will be in eight times, because I wouldn't allow her to put her name in again for tesserae.
"Katfir?" She called for me. I turned on the bed, where I had sat to slip my foot into my hunting boot. The sight of my sister, so rail thin that her bones could be seen through her skin with no problem but her eyes always looked so happy. They used to be pain-filled, but I'm glad that I no longer had to worry about her in pain from depression. Now I just needed to worry about her physical pain. I leant back so that I could look her over, to see if anything I couldn't see was wrong but her soft hand on my shoulder stopped me. I glanced though, at my sleeping mother and eleven year-old sister to make sure they were not awake as well.
"Katniss?" I asked her tentatively. Now that she was sure that my attention was grabbed she brought her other hand from under the blankets and I could see something in her hand, a metal shine met my eyes and I could feel them widen. "Where did you get that?" I asked her, gently taking it from her offering hand.
"The lady, Ms. Madge that you bring the strawberries to told me to give it to you. She said that…" Katniss had to stop for a moment to take breaths. Her lungs were getting worse. Katniss had gone to work in the mines at sixteen without my permission and she'd been crushed between a rock and a large piece of coal. It had nearly crushed her lungs into submission. The damage had forced my mother out of her own pity party and she'd helped Katniss but it was too bad. Katniss might make it, if I could get us real food and maybe extra. We couldn't afford the surgery that would make her better but I could get her things that could heal her better, enough where she could move again without risking death if she stood for to long. "She said that you brought her a bear pelt and that her father only gave you a blanket."
I knew what she was talking about. I'd taken down a bear recently with my sword. It was the best haul I'd had for two years. Bears weren't rare, but it was rare that I took the chance to take it down. They were vicious and had claws that could rake me in half any day. I'd skinned the bear, which had taken up nearly the whole day to do, and I'd sold the meat for a high price and the pelt had went to the mayor in exchange for a warm wool blanket.
See, it's illegal to own weapons, much less, poach on animals. You weren't even supposed to cross the fence to the trees. It was punishable by death, but I had to risk it for the survival of my family just like Dad did.
I looked down now, to the pin. It was golden with a bird on it, a mockingjay. They were hybrids of mockingbirds and jay birds. (Sorry but is that correct?) Their ancestors used to be used in the war by the capital. They would copy what the enemy, the districts, said and then tell them. After the war the birds mated wildly with the native mockingbird and the mockingjay came to be. They can't copy our words, but they copy song.
"This has to be worth something…maybe I can sell it to…" I stopped when Katniss' hand pressed the pin into my palm more. I looked up from the pin and into her sad eyes. Oh, no I've made her sad again.
"For once, Katfir, keep it for yourself." Katniss told me strongly. I felt my own mouth twitch down. I always felt selfish, how could I keep this to myself? I could get a pretty penny for this and maybe get some food for my family that wouldn't be dirty cast offs from others.
"But Katniss," I objected but again she pressed it in my hand. I sighed and gave in for now. Katniss saw my defeat and took the pin from me, pinning it to my black shirt and jacket. I smiled softly at her, moving forward so that I could tuck her back into the same place she hadn't left for years. I made sure to press a kiss to her eyes as they began to close.
"Will you sing for me?" She asked, her voice almost a whisper. It was still early, and Katniss slept all the time now. I sighed softly, debating but really I couldn't take something so small from my sister.
"Of course." I mutter to her but on the inside I want to leave, to head out to the capital and yell at them for the way my sister is, that it's their fault they don't care about us in District 12. Instead I take a deep breath and start singing Katniss' favorite song.
Deep in the glades,
Where the caterpillar eats,
Where the meadows meets the shade,
There's a place of heart and a place of love,
No one hurts, and no one has sorrow,
The willow branches along a hill and beneath it lies our father,
He breathes in the wind and when we meet him,
He'll welcome us with open arms…
I smile as I see Katniss fall into sleep. She loved that song, day or night it would make her happy. Prim liked the willow song but Katniss loved the Glades song because she liked to believe that when it takes her that father will be there waiting to take her to Heaven. I hoped she was right because I wanted her to be happy, so happy that she won't have to worry about when her next meal is that she won't have to worry about the pain her breathing causes her.
I sigh though, because I know it won't happen, it'll never happen to us.
Instead of weeping again I go on my way, out the door, past that weird old worm infected cat and to the roads. I debate for a moment, about just going back, so that I can keep my sisters and mother company but instead I head left, towards the fanciest part of our town.
It's not that fancy, with its beat up market stalls, and the dark entrance to the caves, over seen by the peacekeepers, which make sure that everyone is working who can hold a pick. I don't work in the mines because women are not required to. We are usually expected to sit at home while the men work but that rule has been broken along time ago by more people then not. I'm not heading to the market place though, or the hob, a dark supposedly illegal market where I can sell my meat without real fear, and where things that shouldn't be seen by peacekeepers are sold.
I'm heading to the victory houses. It's the place where the tributes, the one boy and one girl who are put up on the day of reaping, go if they win the Hunger games, which is what they call sticking the 24 tributes from each district into an arena and fighting like dogs, is called. I am not a victor, thankfully, but I'm headed there for a reason. I scored a job a long time ago, when I was barely twelve.
"Please! I just need a job, anything, I'll do it!" I screamed at the top of my lungs. I was only twelve. I was expected to go to school but I knew the work and the tesseraes aren't keeping us as feed as I'd hoped. My mother was incapable of working, as well as my sisters. I just needed some money, something that would get my sisters and mother food. I didn't need any; I just wanted to help, to protect them like Daddy told me to.
"Go home, girl, you're too young." The peacekeeper guiding the mines growled down at me for the third time. I could see his hand gripping his whip that was tied to his waist. I wanted to beg again, to push him into letting me work in the mines like dad did but as I opened my mouth to beg again but a hand, large and uncomfortable on my shoulder stopped me. I twirled around, nearly stumbling if it weren't for the hand holding me up. In front of me was an older man, or he was older than m but he seemed eighteen, if I had to guess.
"You're going to get yourself in trouble, kid." The kid himself said. I balked and I wanted to cry. The man was so worn, I could see something in his eyes that told me that he wasn't normal, that he'd been through to much to be normal anymore. Even at a young age I could tell that this man was special. As the man with rough features, blonde hair and tanned skin that didn't speak of the mines at all, pulled me away from the guards by the hand I felt like I should probably say something, do something against it but maybe he would help me.
"Mister…" I said weakly. My stomach was so empty but I was going to be strong. Katniss, Mom, even little bitty Prim needed food more then me. If they had food then maybe Mom and Katniss would start talking again.
"Abernathy." He supplied as he continued to drag me away from the populated area. I thought that maybe he was going to stop at the hob. Instead he pulled me in front of the most beautiful place I had ever seen. It had high, pretty gold gates but the inside had pretty houses that weren't made of wood like mine but of metal and were shaped so fancy and fantastical that I could hardly believe they were real. When Mr. Abernathy pushed the gold gates open and pulled me in I had to swivel my head around on my neck fast to catch everything, the gardens, the flowing water, and even the little fish in the ponds in front of the houses.
There were ten, but Mr. Abernathy pulled me to the one in the middle, at the end of the block and then stopped, finally on the porch. He finally released my hand and I let it flop to my side as I looked around some more.
"Sweetheart," Mr. Abernathy called me to grab my attention. I felt a spark of happiness at being called that. I hadn't been happy in a long time. "Why were you begging the peacekeepers for a job of all people?" He said, sitting on some kind of chair made of metal. It swung in place, which only served to confuse, and amaze me enough to stare at it.
"Um," I looked back up to him and into the man's eyes. What pretty eyes, like my teddies eyes, blue. "My daddy isn't here anymore, and my mom and Katniss won't talk, or move and Prim's only five so I need to get us some food. The tesseraes aren't working, because they only come once a month. I know Daddy worked in the mines, so I was going to work there but Cray said I couldn't because I was too young." I told him, and blushed when he leant forward. No one usually paid attention to me when I spoke. I was used to being brushed aside.
"You are to young, sweetheart, the dust would kill your lungs before you were eleven." He told me and my lips formed a pout without my permission.
"I'm twelve!" I exclaimed, and I only then saw his lips twitch up. He seemed to be mock-shocked for a moment but I didn't know if it was real shock or not.
"Really? Your so scrawny, I just thought you were eight!" He told me and this time I knew he was mocking me so I puffed out my chest in pride.
"Nope, I'm twelve! I have lungs that can hold out against any dust!" I said enthusiastically and I pushed my curled up fists to my chests as if meaning my lungs. For a moment he looked at me with some weird face before he actually leant his head back and roared with laughter. I watched as he laughed at me but his laughter was contagious and I couldn't control my giggles from coming out. That was the first time I laughed since a year ago, when they told me Daddy wasn't coming back. Looking back, I now know that he hadn't laughed in a long time either.
"Tell you what," Mr. Abernathy said, finally laughing no more. "You can work here, cleaning up my place. I don't trust these Avex they sent here." He told me and for a moment I could see his eyes get all glossy like he wasn't with me any more but I smiled at him.
"Really? Oh, thank you!" I squealed and before I could think, not that my young self thought much of it, I wrapped my arms around his neck and hugged him. Mr. Abernathy didn't move for a long time so, I pulled back, my neck and cheeks red. "Sorry." I muttered, taking a step back. Mr. Abernathy's face had turned weird, and later I would reflect and know that his face held sadness, pain, and wonder.
"You don't care about what I did?" Mr. Abernathy asked me. I thought it was weird. I didn't know what he did, was he talking about him carrying me here? This place was wonderful, why would I care if he carried me here?
"No, I don't care. I mean, Mom doesn't know I'm here but I'm sure that she won't mind." I told him and he blinked.
"Not about dragging you here. Didn't you watch the last Hunger games?" Mr. Abernathy asked me. I tried to remember, and now that I concentrated, and that he'd given me a hint I kind of remember them.
"Um, you mean where they put those people in that circle thingy and they have to fight with each other? They show it on that big screen right?" I asked to make sure that I knew what he was talking about. He nodded and I concentrated harder, trying to think about it. "I think, I don't mind. I mean, if I'd minded I'm sure that I'd remember it." I finally decided and my eyes, which I hadn't been really using, turned to look at Mr. Abernathy. His eyes were wet, I didn't know why.
"Are you all right, Mr. Abernathy?" I asked him and I took a hesitant step closer to him. To my surprise, and delight his arms wrapped around me.
"Haymitch. You can call me Haymitch." He answered. I smiled and burrowed into his arms.
"Katfir Everdeen." I whispered, glad that someone was giving me comfort, and not sympathy or pity.
"Sweetheart." He said instead of my name.
Now, my eighteen year-old self pushed open the same golden gates and I headed to the same house, with the same road, and the same abandoned housed around it. I'd been taking care of Haymitch for almost eight years. He was a messy person and sometimes I think he does it just to fire me up. I'll come everyday to see him, and take care of his house for an hour. I swear he messes every room up just to spit me. He has two spare bedrooms that he doesn't even need yet every time I come to see him he has things strewn in those rooms and every other room in the large home.
I go up the driveway, which is different since we don't use cars in District 12, not unless you were coming for the Capital for the reaping. I didn't bother knocking; instead I trudged in, prepared for an hour of hard work. Just like I knew there would be, there were bottles, dirt, wrapper, and all kinds of trash strewn out, just in the hallway. I groaned and started there. At least this means he didn't bother with upstairs. If he trashed the hallway then usually upstairs wasn't part of his temper tantrum.
Once I had gathered as much of the crap as I could I walked into the kitchen to throw them away. Sitting there at the table was none other than Haymitch himself, just sleeping with his face down in his own vomit. I sighed and for a moment I just wanted to shake him, to tell him to get it together. I could never do that, not after what he went through in the Hunger Games, not after the nightmares he has when he doesn't have alcohol.
Instead I worry over the hallway, then the living room, the one bedroom he actually uses, and then the bathroom. When that done I've amazingly spent only forty minutes here. I'm a fast cleaner, after years of practice, and so it no longer takes me four hours to clean, but it takes longer when I have to clean him up, and not just the house.
So now I start cleaning the kitchen which is covered with bottles of wine. I put away the still full ones, and throw away the broken ones and the empty bottles. Once there is nothing else to do, I even took out the trash and cleaned his dirty plates and laundry; I cautiously approached the sleeping Haymitch.
Waking Haymitch was something one with no experience should never do. See Haymitch sleeps with a knife, always, drunk or not drunk (Very rare). So I was very cautious when I nudged his shoulder. He didn't wake and I groaned, it was going to be one of those days. Well mornings really since it was barely two yet. I needed to get out in the forest before all of the night game was gone. I nudged him again, a lot harder but it didn't work. Instead I took a deep breath and screamed at the top of my lungs, "HAYMITCH!"
The blonde jumped up, sending the chair backwards and crashing into the wall. I made sure I was far away from him, so that the wicked hunting knife in his hand didn't get aimed at me. His sleepy blue eyes, which I thought were beautiful, scanned the room and when they landed on me I smiled at him. He dropped the knife onto the table and lay back down. I huffed and now that I knew that I wasn't going to get hurt I moved closer to his hunched muscular form. I shoved his shoulder not too lightly.
"Oi, Haymitch, get up we need you to get in the bed not on the chair…and now that I think about it I should probably feed you something to." I told him, knowing how this was going to go. Haymitch would refuse to move, and then I'd have to beg, and if he didn't move then I had to pull his heavy ass out into the hall and then to his bed. Well, guess what mister? Not today I'm not. Both you and I have better things to worry about then sleeping in a chair.
Instead I go to the sink. When I'd been cleaning the dishes I made sure to fill a bucket with water and drop a few handfuls of ice into it, this ought to get him moving. I might even get him to shower today. I tiptoed to his place on the chair and made sure that when he reacted I wouldn't get hurt before I threw the ice cold water out of the bucket and onto his head. He came up off the table quicker than before and he yelled obscenities as he tried to shake the cold off.
"Now, you are going to bath and get some sleep, Haymitch Abernathy! I've got other things to do then worry about whether you are sleeping in a bed or on a table." I answered, slapping the bucket in the corner. He stared at me, and I could tell he was asking himself what just happened. I rolled my eyes and took his hand, dragging him to his bedroom that happened to connect to the bathroom. I refused to focus on Haymitch's hand in mine or how rough they were. I pushed the buttons on the shower, just like he'd taught me to and then I turned to him. He was standing there, in freezing water soaked clothes but I could still see the drop of his heavy eyelids. I sighed. It was the effect of the alcohol on him, I know that but I hated to see him like this every time I came here.
But he reached out to me that day and gave me a job so that I could keep my family going, so I'm going to keep him going through out the years until I pass.
I walked to him (I'd been standing by the showers), knowing what I had to do but it was always awkward. I was a woman now, eighteen years old, and he was twenty-something. (I can never get him to tell it to me straight but I know he has to be in his twenties from the H. Games) so when I lift his shirt over his head I try not to think about how fit his chest is. I try not to think about how blonde the hairs that lie there are rough and scratchy against my fingers when they brush it. I completely go numb when I have to take his pants and boxers off. Then I force him into the shower and he wakes up enough to bath himself. I'm then released to go try and forget that I just saw a man naked and that no, it wouldn't be right to want him.
I was a woman. What can I say to make it better? Haymitch was attractive, and I'm sure he could have anyone he wanted if he didn't drink but I knew the drinking was something Haymitch couldn't let go of, or he'd fall into a depression that I wouldn't be able to splash him out of.
Once I come to peace with seeing Haymitch's body again I start cooking him something. I cook him eggs, biscuits, and even sausage. Twenty minutes after I've put him in the shower he's walking out, with pants on and then he's putting himself right back into that chair but now he's sober, or as sober as he can get.
"Morning Sweetheart." Haymitch tells me and we won't mention that I just had to strip him, or that he was lying in his own pool of vomit, that would spoil our conversation.
"Good Morning Haymitch." I answered, while placing a plate of the rich food the Capital supplies him with in front of him. He dug in and I made sure to pause a few seconds to make sure that he was really eating, and not faking it. Sometimes he couldn't eat because the alcohol was all he wanted. He tried not to drink while I was in the house, only when I left. "I see you like my garbage now." I tell him, playing on a past joke. Our conversations were always so easy, and it made me happy to have someone to talk to so freely.
"Well, today you didn't put cinnamon in it did you?" Haymitch answered me just as playful. I threw the rag into a hamper that was in the corner of the room and I began to straighten my clothes out. I needed to get going, I'd spent way to long cleaning today. I'm usually out in the woods by now. I come back at the end of the day, after I've cut and sold all of my meat to the people of the hob.
"Why don't you sit and eat with me? You've cooked enough for you and me." Haymitch asks me. I pause because the food does smell wonderful but I can't eat this meal when I knew that my family was counting on my to come back with something to eat today and the night crawlers always fetch a lot of money and not to mention that the reaping will be taking place today. That'll take up most of my day.
"I can't." I muttered, taking off the apron that had protected my already dirty clothes. I walked around the kitchen, making sure that I'd gotten everything that I could see. It's this way that Haymitch is able to grab my arm and pull me to a stop.
"You need to eat. They won't hold you accountable if you eat something." He tells me. Haymitch knows me so well. He knows how I feel selfish that I can walk, talk, and move and my sister can't. He knows that I feel responsible for my family and that I think that I should starve, that it will make them better. Haymitch knows everything about me and I try to know everything about him, because I really want to. I want to be there for him just like he's there for me.
So I sit at the table, and I pull some of the food to me. Not because I'm hungry, even though I am, but because Haymitch knows best. Since he never really tries to get me to eat with him I suppose that I'd gotten thinner then I should be, again. I can never tell when I need to eat because I'm so used to nothing in my stomach.
The foods warm sliding down and it's delicious. I don't know what Haymitch complains about. I think he just complains about my cooking to get me talking. Honestly I love to cook and if I could I would cook all the time. I don't tell people this but if I had the choice I'd want to become a housewife, so that I could make sure that my miner had food, our children had food, and that Haymitch had food. But that won't be possible or necessary; I wasn't going to marry anyone. If I marry someone I'd have to like them like that first and they never can measure up to the person I always picture.
I don't notice the time passing as slowly I get Haymitch talking. I know it's early but Haymitch would have woken up soon anyways, from the nightmares. One time when he was drunk he'd told me that he preferred when I woke him up to when the nightmares woke him. He confessed that he liked to know there was someone there. But those confessions were rare, but beautiful because for a moment Haymitch is completely open and haunted but always beautiful.
I've got it bad, I know I do because Haymitch would never see me as beautiful but a woman has to attach herself to some man. That's the excuse I use in my brain but I know better. I just don't have time to sit and think about how I'd deal with this if I did like Haymitch more then just for his looks. How would I get around that?
When it's reaching four in the morning I have to clean up my plates but I leave the food out for Haymitch and give him strict instructions to eat again before even grabbing a bottle. Then I carry him, because I don't know how else to get him too willingly go to the bed. "Haymitch! I'm not going to change my mind just because you won't move." I grunted when I have to hitch him farther on to my shoulder.
"I can always try, sweetheart." Haymitch answers. I swing the door open and the clean bedroom looks back at us. I drag him through the doors and to the bed, before I throw him onto it. He doesn't move, lying there face down.
"Ugh, you are such a baby!" I explode but it's affectionate because I can never get mad at Haymitch.
"Always." Haymitch answers because I always call him that, though he deserves it. So with a heave I have him turned over onto his back. Now I throw the blankets over him and flop on the bed, uncaring that the man was under me. "Did you feel that sudden gust of air? I'm not sure because it was so light." Haymitch pretends. I slap his chest and again I ignore the hairs and the muscle there.
"I am not that skinny." I pushed myself off of him and sighed. He really was a big baby. I turn off the light, which I had only turned on when I was cleaning. "Get some more sleep before the reaping, but you've got to get up and get dressed after that." I told him. I didn't have to see him in the darkness to know that he tensed up. The reaping was just as hard on him as it was on me, except he has to get through all of the memories of the arena and I don't.
I sat on the edge of the bed and laid a hand on his arm. "It's going to be fine this year, Haymitch." I tried to sooth. In response he begins to try and get comfortable in the Capital bed that he so rarely falls asleep in. "It'll be over sooner than-"
"How many times?" Haymitch mutters, seeing right through my comfort. I sighed again and moved the blanket to protect him from the cold but he only asks me again. "Katfir, how many times?" He asks and there is no mocking in it, none of the comforting teasing there. His hand has enclosed around my wrist as I was fixing his blankets and I stilled.
"Thirty two." I answered and his hand tightens. I couldn't do anything because I hated when people worried about me and I surely couldn't handle it when the always sarcastic Haymitch was worrying.
"I'm sorry." Haymitch muttered and to my shock he pulls me down into a brief hug. We'd shared comfort for each other before; it was nothing big seeing as I saw him naked occasionally. (I mean what kind of boundaries are there after that?) This hug though was different, and worrisome. It was always tense for us when the reaping was close. I returned the hug to Haymitch because I know he needs it, and maybe I do to. I hope that it will keep the nightmares away for him this time.
"There's nothing to be sorry about." I told him when I had to pull back. His arms fall down and again I adjust the blankets but this time he doesn't stop me. "I mean there are people with their names in more times than me so I should be fine and so will Katniss and Prim so you and I don't need to worry about it." I told him and as I was about to rise he spoke again.
"Will you sing?" He asked me. I sighed and sat back down. Why do Haymitch and Prim always know how to make me stay?
"Of course." I answer. I should have seen it coming and again I can't say no, not because I don't want to but because I want this man to be happy again without the aide of wine or whiskey. With this in mind I have to open my mouth and sing.
"No more talk of darkness,
Forget your wide-eyed fears.
I'm here, nothing can harm you-
My words will warm and calm you.
Let me be your freedom, let daylight dry your tears.
I'm here with you, beside you, to guard you and to guide you…
Let me be your shelter, let me be your light.
You're safe: No-one will find you your fears are far behind you…"
I continued to sing until I knew he was gone into a world where my words couldn't be heard. I smiled and leant down to kiss his forehead. There was no meaning behind it; I just liked to know that he could fall asleep to my voice. It was something I was proud of, grudgingly. I mean my voice must be good if everyone seemed to love it so much. I stayed a moment at Haymitch's bedside and I wanted to stay, just like with my family but this time I wanted to stay because I felt safe here with Haymitch because he has always looked after me when I couldn't take the pressure of being the only way my family stays alive.
I walked out of the house though, because my family does need me. They need me to take care of them and I needed to take care of myself- and Haymitch. I took off through the cover of dark. It was only four in the morning right now so no one would be outside to see me walk away from the village, and through the few trees that were inside the fence.
The fence itself was supposed to be electric but electricity in District 12 is needed at the mines, so they rarely run it. I'm thankful for this because it allows me to slip in between the wires and out into the forest. I ran through the forest, and I was happy to hear all of the animals greeting me as I ran to my hiding spot where my passions were hidden, my swords. They were simple, clean and easy to use if you knew the way to do it. I pulled them from a hollow tree and with them I pulled a small axe, hard to chop with but good to throw.
For four hours I hunted. I took down five squirrels, ten birds, and one wild turkey which were a good haul but not good enough. I could sell the squirrels to the baker, as long as his wife isn't there to see him. Cray, the head peacekeeper will take the wild turkey if I go to the back of his house. He won't be there but his daughter will pay for it to. Five of the birds I will sell to Greasy Sau and she'll giggle.
That's exactly what happened, just like every day and the money in my pouch was good. I bought us some crackers, for the cheese from Prim's goat, and then some herbs to put in the bird soup we will end up having. It was when I was walking by the baker's store that I paused. In the inside stood a boy, with blonde hair and what I knew were grey eyes. He I knew well. We were best friends, despite the fact he was a merchant instead of someone like me from the Seam. It was with this in mind that I stepped into the store.
Peeta, the boy with blonde hair and beautiful eyes looked up from the cake that he was icing and as always with Peeta it was beautiful. "Peeta." I greeted. I could see the stress of the day that I knew was in my own eyes, it was even in Haymitch's eyes.
"Fir." He greeted as well, wiping his hands off on the apron around his abdomen. I could see under that he was already dressed in his clothes for the reaping. I needed to get dressed myself but I wanted to put it off as long as I could. "What are you doing here today?"
"The usual thing I do on the reaping day." I answered and it was true. I always visited around, just in case I never got to see anyone again. Sadly Peeta, Haymitch, and my family were the only people that I am close enough to visit.
"Nice pin." Peeta said moving closer to see it.
"It's a mockingjay. It's a present from Madge for the bear skin." I mutter. I don't want any peacekeeper to hear. The streets were crowded with them today because of the work they were putting into to make the justice building look presentable for the reaping and then for the Hunger games themselves.
"And you kept it?" Peeta's voice isn't judgmental, he never is, only curious. I smiled at him and relaxed a bit. Peeta had taken off the apron all together and was moving the finished cake to the window so potential customers could see it.
"Upon Katniss' request of course." I said bitterly. I wanted to get more money to possibly feed her with or put towards the small savings we were trying to keep should one of us pass and when I say this I mean I'm trying to make sure they are taken care of if I am killed for hunting.
"It's good that you've got something for yourself." Peeta said and laughed when I reached out to cuff his shoulder. Ah, there's good old Peeta who likes to laugh but he sobers quickly and I want to mourn that fleeting happiness. If I'm lucky I'll get to see him here tomorrow and he'll be happy again.
"I've got to go get dressed…" I finally say because I couldn't put it off any longer. I needed to be there to get Katniss to the square. They made Katniss go, even though she could barely get out of bed. Lucky for us they give us something to wheel her out on, so that she doesn't have to deal with to much pain.
"I'll see you at…" Peeta tries to say it but I smile with pain clear in the pull of my lips and Peeta smiles back before we whispered our good-byes. I hick my bag back on to my back and I'm off to my family where they are waiting. On the way there I begin to think. It's not that hard to do here in District 12 because I have a lot to think about, but mostly it's just me worrying.
One paper for Prim, Eight each for Katniss and Peeta. That's how much I had to worry over. Then thirty-two times for me. I was just lucky that Haymitch didn't have to put his name in but I have to think of how I'm going to take care of him, and patch him up when he gets back from watching even more of his tributes dying painful, tortuous deaths.
I had so much to worry about this year but after this one Katniss, Peeta, and I no longer have to worry about the Hunger Games. Then I'll only worry about Prim and Haymitch. I can comfort Prim because I won't allow her to call for tesserae like I did. I'll have more time to hunt once I don't have to worry about school, which I 'graduated' yesterday at a dismal ceremony. I'll take care of Haymitch to, always, so that'll take up a little of my day and of course stay in contact with Peeta but I can do that when I sell them squirrels.
I don't get to worry about planning out the rest of my life because I've reached the small cabin. I'm happy I have because peacekeepers have begun pushing people into the streets and to the justice building. I walk into the cabin, with its gaping boards and small hearth. At once I'm nearly tackled by Prim.
"Katfir!" She yelps and I can hear the tears. At once I kneel before her, dropping the pack on the floor. I look into her face and I can see the tear tracks, the redness of her eyes and I'm worried for her.
"It's going to be all right Prim." I comfort her and she keeps her little arms wrapped around my shoulders. "Your name is only in once little rose so you don't have to worry at all." I soothe and with little effort I pick her up and set her on the ugly, but sturdy, table in the middle of the kitchen. Mother is fluttering around, going over what I brought home and Katniss is in that contraption. The one they bring for her with its two wheels and its automatic controls that are so high tech that I wonder why they even bother to bring Katniss to the justice court with it.
"But you're in Thirty-two times!" Prim says her voice to high-pitched from the crying. I shush her gently and hum as I keep her in my arms. Katniss rolls herself over and I gently wrap and arm around her too. I know she's worried, we all are but I was going to be the rock for this family as long as they were happy.
"Shhh, don't worry you two, I'm going to be just fine. I know people who are going in fifty times!" I tried to comfort but it was useless so instead I kissed both of their foreheads. "There is no chance that out of all of the little pieces of papers that they will chose mine. I'm sure that I'll be fine and then we can come back home and I'll go catch us some food to celebrate." Prim sniffled. I don't know how much I helped but I could just see over Prim's shoulder, as she buried her face in my own shoulder, that even my mother had stopped to listen to my assurances.
I tried hard to believe them as well. It was easier not to talk about the reaping and instead just go through it but it was Prim's first time, and she needed me. I just hoped that I could help her.
"Katfir, I left you out a dress, you should go change and bath before the peacekeepers come." My mother told me softly and she shuffled forward to hug the two in my place. I can see Prim stiffen. She hadn't liked Momma to much after mother had stopped talking. She'd forgiven Katniss because Katniss had apologized but Mom still insisted that she couldn't help it.
I refused to go on about this again and instead I did as my mother rightly suggested. When I bathed, it was nothing like Haymitch's fancy shower. There was merely a tub of Luke-warm water with a rag there. I was fine with it because I'd never taken a shower. I didn't want Haymitch to think that I took care of him because I wanted something from him, no I wanted him to know that I didn't do it for the money anymore but because I cared.
I bathed quickly only scratching off the dirt where I would be visible, my legs, arms, neck, and face. I tied my hair up in a complex braid but that was as far as I went with voluntarily dressing up. Next after allowing myself to dry I put on the beautiful, simple blue dress that had once been my mothers. Instead it had become my reaping dress.
I came out of the bedroom, which was really only split into another room by more gaping boards that masqueraded as a wall. I'd brought wood to fix the walls but I had to wait on it to grey so that no one suspected where I got it from. I swished around in a circle, trying desperately to cheer my family up. "What do you think?" I asked sweetly. They all turned and I smiled at them.
"Beautiful!" Prim chimed, also trying to make an effort for me. She was eating some of the birds that I'd brought back. Mother had seasoned it and cooked it. I smiled at my mom and kissed her cheek now. She held me close in an embrace and I fully returned it. I don't blame her for the way she reacted to Dad's death because it was only proof that she was really in love with him.
I didn't get to say anything else, and I surely wasn't going to eat the bird that mom was now holding out on a plate to me. The door was nearly knocked off of the door hinges by the peacekeepers that were here to bring Katniss to the square. I growled in frustration at them and opened the door from them. Their stone faces didn't change as they stepped past me and took the handles of Katniss' chair. I didn't look back, knowing that I could trust Mom to get Prim to the square on time, so that I could hold Katniss' hand.
Together we were forced through the streets with other people. I could see the peacekeepers had to keep a hand on the new eleven year old children to the square. I winced when a peacekeeper got feed up with the loud sobbing and hit the child over the head. This act of violence made me glance back at Prim who was being much more silent in her own crying. When she saw my eyes on her I winked at her and she giggled. I was forced to look forward as Katniss and I were placed in the line in the square.
They had roped off the square, like every reaping day. They'd made a line for boys and one for women. At the start of the fast moving line was a peacekeeper sitting at a table ready to stick you with an electric hand-machine and then force your finger print onto a piece of paper. Then you are forced onto the girl or boy side of the square to wait out the calling out of the reaping.
It only takes three minutes for my turn to come and I look back to node at my sisters. It's unlikely that I'll be able to find them once they force me into the crowd but that won't stop me from trying.
"Name." The peacekeeper said roughly, uncaring. Why should her care? He's well taken care of and he's too old to be put into his reaping. I sigh and say, "Katfir Everdeen." Just like I do every year I hold out my hand and they buzz it, causing a spike of pain to go through my entire arm but I don't mine. They wait for the blood to well up and then forcefully press my finger to the paper in front of me just like the thirty-one times before it. I move out of the way, before the peacekeepers could push me and I try to slow down once I reach the crowd that was moving so that I could hopefully see my sisters. It's no use though because as soon as I start walking a swarm of blue and white clothes is all I can see.
I try to look for them, pushing people out of the way, even jumping on the spot but we were to late getting here and now they've closed off the area. I know if I don't stop moving they'll punish me either once the reaping starts of right there in front of my family, neighbors and God. I take a breath, because if I don't I'm going to announce my worry and get in trouble.
After a moment of silence where not even a rustle of clothing could be heard the anthem for the Capital started playing. I wince and sigh as the justice building doors opened to the haunting tune. Right out of the doors walked the Governor, the head peacekeeper and to no one who's ever met him, a drunken Haymitch. I watch and I can tell that he's not fully drunk. It makes since, he's been drunk so many times that he couldn't get drunk between the time I sobered him up and the time he got forced here himself.
I watch as then that the person straight from the capital comes out all hyper. She had large pink tinted white hair and pale skin. She had bright pink dyed lips and bright pink clothes that made her stand out in the white and blue, depressing crowd. I watch as she eagerly scampers to the microphone, and I have to repress a giggle when I see Haymitch purposely turn in his chair and puke over the side of the raised platform and onto the ground right when she starts speaking. The woman, who I know as the presenter for District 12 in the Capital as she's been every year for almost three years, opens her mouth and I repress any noise I want to make at her voice.
"I'm Effie Trinket, and…" It's the same speech, from every reaping that I've been to. Even when she wasn't the presenter it was the same Capital written speech. The only thing that stuck out from her speech was the ending. It was the same as every year but I could never get past that saying. "Welcome to the Seventy-fourth Hunger Games everyone." She starts, clasping her hands together. "It's an honor that the Capital presents to each district…" She goes into the speech and they even play the same video of all of the Districts.
Basically the Hunger Games were formed when an up-rising took place where the Districts rose against the harsh Capital. The war went on for maybe three years before the Capital grew tired of us and they completely bombed District 13. That District is the last one they show, with the Justice building in District 13 being shown, or should I sat the ruins of it. And then she says the one line that always makes me pay attention.
"…And remember…May the Odds be ever in your favor." Effie says and I shudder at the line. It means that she's ready to choose from the two bowls they've wheeled in. In that left bowl, the one she's shoving her hand in, my name is in thirty-two times, my twin's eight, and Prim's name is in there once. What was the chance that one of those forty-one slips will get pulled, when some people were in fifty times. Effie pulls her hand out and in that one hand is a paper with some poor souls name on it. She shuffled back to the micro phone and she smiled at everyone, because the Capital doesn't get that who ever gets picked will be dead and we'll never see them again.
I watch just like every year as she opens the paper and then pauses for what she thinks is effect and then my face gets pale as I hear, "Katniss Everdeen." Come from her mouth. I freeze because they couldn't have picked her. She'd never make it in the arena with her injury, she's be dead within the first moment the gong sounded. They're pushing my sobbing sister through the cleared row that leads to the stairs and I push through the crowd to get to the end of the row. Prim is shouting, sobbing violently just as much as Katniss but my brain is reeling to much to scream our shout. Instead I try to force myself to my sister. She's reaching back out of her chair and then I scream.
"I volunteer!" I shout and I can see everything stop. I can see Haymitch's body rise to steady for him to be drunk but all I see is my sister being carted away in a wheel chair and in my mind I'm doing the only thing that could save her. "I volunteer as tribute instead of Katniss." I say again and Effie has nearly gone into a stroke because no one has volunteered for District 12 in over fifty years in the least.
The peacekeepers move away from my sister now and instead they come around me. I'm numb but not numb enough to miss Haymitch throw the chair he'd been sitting in at the wall. I watch it crumble but I don't really register that Haymitch is being drug away by the peacekeepers so that they can calm him down. They can't really do anything to him since he's a victor so it doesn't spike interest in my numb mind. The only things that do register are my sisters calling out and I can hear my mother's voice from the front of the people that they've gathered in market area.
The peacekeepers bring me to the steps, one pair for girls, the other for boys. I hesitantly rise up the stairs and I can feel myself trembling as I stand at the required spot where I've seen people coming to terms with their last moments in District 12. There had always been that hidden worry but I didn't like to actually think about what it would be like to know I'd never see these people or this place again. I'd never make it through this, I didn't have the strength to. As Effie exclaims, and the people try to control my sister who's climbing out of her chair, and my littler sister Prim who is now screaming in despair.
It's completely by mistake that my eyes meet Haymitch's but they knock me out of my stupor because I can see the pain that he's hiding. I'd never thought about how my being picked might effect him but I realized that now he's going to have to watch not only a teenager go to his and her death with his help but he's going to have to watch the one person who has taken care of him go to her death.
It's with this revelation that a feeling bubbles up in my chest.
I won't allow Haymitch to spent the rest of his life alone in a drunken stupor with only the memories of everyone's death's on his min, especially my own. I turn from his pain-filled gaze so that I'm looking at Effie Trinket who is talking. They've sub-dued my sisters enough for her to talk again.
"So, my dear volunteer, what is the name of our new tribute?" She asked me, putting the microphone in front of my mouth and I stare at her face blankly for a moment because my mind is stretching to think. They'll show these latter, to the whole world and I know that I have to get sponsors later, so I'd best act like I wanted to volunteer. With this in mind I force a smile that probably comes out like a grimace and answer her.
"Katfir Everdeen." I tell her, I'm surprised at how steady my voice is but I'm not surprised by the high-pitched scream of sorrow that comes from my sister. She needs to be quite or they'll punish her again.
"Katfir, I'll bet anything that, the young girl right there was your sister, wasn't it?" Effie asks to me and I force my eyes to meet Katniss' as I answer her.
"My twin sister, yes." I say and it seems just as steady as before but I can almost hear the pain that was coming from my family now as they're dragged from the viewing area because of the noise they are permitting.
"Well isn't this wonderful, let's see which young man will be joining you in the glorious Hunger games." She says into the microphone and I turn my head to watch her nearly skip to the other bowl. I'm not numb anymore, now I'm alert and because of this alertness when my eyes meet Haymitch's again I can see more then the pain, I can see the anger. He's angry enough that should a peacekeeper come with in ten paces of him I'm sure that Haymitch would take the chance to snap there necks or worse, he'll make the death painful. His status as victor won't save him from that because murder is punishable by death in public whipping.
So I keep his eyes locked with mine as Effie Trinket takes her time choosing a paper from the bowl. I'm hoping that as long as his attention is on me he won't do anything dangerous with his balled up fists. I breathed in deep when I heard Effie next to me open the next paper. I got a moment of warning, as I read the name, breaking eye-contact with Haymitch.
"Peeta Mellark." She says I swivel my head to look for him. How much did the odds hate me? First my sister, then me, then Peeta? I let out one of my own cries, and force my hand over my mouth. Peeta is just as numb as I'd been when my sister's name was called. I can see that nothing has really hit him yet but when they finally stop him at the steps, like they'd done to me. He stands there for a moment before waking up the steps. His eyes are reeling, going everywhere and I want to cry just as much as I'd wanted to but been unable to do for my sister.
"Well, here we are District 12 our two tributes to represent us in the Hunger Games. How about a handshake between tributes?" Effie tells us. I turn to stare at Peeta and we are both unable to process what's happening. I can't take it, so instead of giving him a handshake I hug him. I couldn't help myself. He was my best friend; I'd known him since I was five. He crushes me in his own arms and we can't do anything else because it's time for the crowd to applaud for us but no one is.
We separate now to look out, and I have to force the tears back because I know that the cameras will be showing this later, and it won't be good if I end up with poofy red eyes. Instead I listen as the mayor is handed the microphone, and he begins readying to us the long Treaty of treason, which he is required to read to us every year. I try not to show any emotion, but like I've said before, I'm not good with hiding emotions. My eyes are trained on the hill; I know that I'd just been there that morning hunting with my axe.
Would I even be able to get my axe? Maybe someone will find it one day and put it to good use by feeding their family with it. For a moment I let my eyes move around again. Prim and Katniss are both crying and enveloped in my mother's arms. I want to say that I feel sad but I'm happy that I could take Katniss' place. Now that her name has been officially called she can't be called again. Mine can't either, merely because if I don't come back I'll be dead, and if I do come back I'll be a Victor.
Wait…If I come back I'll be a victor. If I come back I'll be with Haymitch in those beautiful houses and I'll be able to understand what he's been through. My family won't have to worry anymore because I'll be able to support them with the Family's Act which gives them free food and money every month. I'll be able to take care of everybody indefinitely. All I have to do is survive.
And I'm good at surviving.
Hey guys! Looks like I'm back in action right? Don't know how long I've been gone a long time but it feels like forever! I don't know how long the updates are going to be now and how far apart they are going to be so try and bare with me while I get back in the swing of things. There is a poll on my profile so go and vote for what story you want me to start next!
I'm going to start doing a question an update, so here's the first one.
Who is your favorite Hunger Games character and why?