A/N I'M BACK! =D
I am so incredibly sorry for the horrible long wait! I know I said in the last AN that I would update right after that but what I didn't intend was to have my life completely and totally turned upside down by pretty much...everything. And on top of all of that, this chapter was the hardest chapter I have had to write in my life, which is weird since it wasn't all that hard (I'm confusing you now, aren't I? I'm sorry! :( :P) to write. But I'm back! And hopefully for good. I'm gonna try to keep on top of the writing now but I'm taking out the Tuesday and Thursday updates that I had originally planned to do; it is just way too constricting and I don't have any guarantees that I will be able to do that, so updates are now going to be whenever I can get the chapter written and uploaded.
ANYWHO! Here's the next chapter! For a quick refresher (since it's been so long), the houseguests have moved into the Big Brother house and have just done the first Head of Household competition of the summer. Annie's team (which includes Cato, Clove, and Marvel) won the competition whereas Haymitch's team (Katniss, Peeta, and Joline) lost, so Annie gets to choose the first HoH and Haymitch has to send one of his players home. Enjoy! :)
"Annie, since your team won, you get to choose the first Head of Household."
It was five minutes later and everybody was back on their respective bed. I was still reeling from our loss and I was a jangled mess of nerves. I worried that Haymitch was sending either Peeta or I home tonight. But, a voice in my head reasoned. You and Peeta were the strongest physically in the competition; he may not get rid of you. I sighed. This was going to be a long night.
"I choose Cato."
Was it possible for this feeling of despair to get even worse? If I didn't leave tonight, I just knew I was going to be put on the block. I knew from just looking at Cato that he didn't like me. I glanced in his direction and he shot me a triumphant smirk.
I inwardly groaned and looked away as Caesar said, addressing Cato, "Congratulations Cato, you are now the first Head of Household of the summer!"
Annie's team cheered (Cato gave a loud whoop and punched the air) while everybody else just clapped.
"Haymitch," Caesar continued. "You now have the difficult decision of letting one of your players go tonight. May it be a good decision."
I could feel my legs shaking as we walked back into the house. The grey wall sliding down felt a little ominous and claustrophobic. While everybody else was talking and laughing, there was a raincloud hovering over Peeta, Jolene, and I. Haymitch walked off somewhere as soon as we walked in, probably to think things through. Or to find stronger alcohol.
"Katniss, please go to the Diary Room."
I started, a little shocked that I was the first houseguest to be called into the Diary Room. But I made my way to the living room, where the door to the DR was to the side of the semi-circle of couches.
When I opened the door, I found myself facing a silhouette of tree on the wall. I turned to the right and saw that the walls of the short hallway were painted a dark blue with little white dots to resemble stars. There was another tree silhouette on the other end of the hall.
I walked through the door at the end of the hall and saw that the DR was actually bigger than I thought it would be. After watching the show for so many years and only seeing a portion of the DR, I just assumed that that was all there was too it. But the room was in fact about double-and-a-half of what you see on the screen. And like the hallway outside, the walls in here were painted a dark blue.
To the left was a large loveseat about a shade lighter than the walls. Behind it on the wall were more painted-on stars. The wall it was facing had a large square cut out of it and I could see a much smaller room with a camera aimed through the square at the chair.
I perched myself on the seat and self-consciously glanced at the camera. I hated being in front of a camera and I know that that's very ironic, but while I'm in the house, there are fifteen other people who are getting camera time also, not just me. Being in the DR is a completely different story because it's all you for however long you are in there. Even the filming at home when I found my key was almost way too much.
"Hello Katniss," a male voice said over the speakers in the room.
"Hello," I responded a little shyly.
As the producer explained the logistics of the DR, I wondered what they wanted to talk to me about. Probably my thoughts on Haymitch's upcoming decision.
"So, Katniss," the producer's voice almost immediately went from firm and informative to warm, friendly, and gossipy. I mentally rolled my eyes. "What is it that is going on between you and Peeta?"
I felt my body go rigid with shock. I started fidgeting with the end of my braid, an old nervous habit of mine. "W-What makes you think that there's something between the two of us? I…only just barely met him?" To my dismay, it came out as a question as opposed to a statement of truth. There was no hiding from this one now.
"Oh, come on," Mr. Producer cooed. "Don't play coy with us. We all saw that little bit of hand-holding before the Head of Household competition. And we didn't miss the absolute look of shock on your face when he walked in earlier. So, tell me: is he a boyfriend or someone close?"
I felt my cheeks blush tomato-red but Mr. Producer rambled on, eventually coming to the conclusion that Peeta couldn't possibly be my boyfriend because A. Caesar had even said that we hadn't seen each other in years and B. I was from Colorado whereas Peeta was from the L.A. area. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. My boyfriend?! How could he be so ridiculous? Peeta and I were just friends, best friends. Neither of us liked the other in that way.
"Ok," I half-shouted, effectively getting the producer to shut up (he was now going on about Peeta and I being long-lost lovers who, by a twist of fate, found each other again in the BB house. He was even calling us the 'star-crossed lovers'). I took a breath and let it out before replying. "Peeta and I grew up together in Colorado. We were best friends when we were younger." I felt a smile tug at my lips as I felt a wave of nostalgia. "We did everything together. Everybody called us the 'Dynamic Duo' because we were always getting into trouble or doing something sneaky." I trailed off a little as sadness suddenly overcame me.
"What happened?" the producer asked, obviously seeing my sadness.
I gave a sad smile. "My dad died when we were younger and Peeta kind of became of lifeline. I didn't realize it at the time, but Peeta essentially saved my life."
"He was really the only one who was there for me. I didn't have very many other friends and my sister was too young to understand what was going on with me. I turned to Peeta for comfort." I stopped, uncomfortable with talking about myself for so long. Talking about Peeta made it even harder.
"How did you two lose touch?"
I shrugged a little. "It's simple really; his family moved away when we were fifteen. They didn't leave us any contact information so I had no way of getting a hold of him when they moved." I swiped my finger at my eye, wiping away a tear that threatened to spill; I wasn't going to cry in front of the camera.
"What's it like to see him after all these years?"
I let out a little laugh, amused, but I thought about it for a second. "Weird," I finally answered. "I didn't expect to ever see Peeta again, especially not in the Big Brother house. It's a little surreal. And to not even be able to talk to him? My only hope is that I don't have to wait all summer – considering I make it that long – before that damn canon sounds."
"I bet you are. Thank you Katniss, you may go back now."
"Thank you," I said as I stood up and walked out of the room. I passed Joline as I passed through the door into the living room; she must've been called into the DR as I was leaving.
Eyeing the brown couches in the living room, I went to the kitchen, where most everyone was gathered. A quick look around showed me that neither Peeta nor Haymitch were there. I wandered into the kitchen area and searched through the cupboards, looking for a glass. After pulling out a tall brown glass, I went over to the sink and filled it with water.
Taking a drink from it, I turned around and watched my housemates, leaning against the counter behind me. Peeta had come back in but Haymitch was still nowhere to be seen; it looked like Joline was still in the DR.
I watched Peeta's back as he looked at the memory board. I hadn't noticed earlier, but my picture was placed right next to his.
Taking a really quick glance around, I looked back at Peeta and, tilting my head to the side a little, I watched him with a perplexed expression. This was, of course, just a ploy to throw off any suspicions that may have possibly generated during the course of the day. I hoped we hadn't made ourselves obvious, but you could never be too careful.
I saw Rue out of the corner of my eye as she walked up to me and stood by my side, leaning against the counter. She was silent for a while before she looked around and asked, "What are you looking at?"
I shrugged and took another sip of water, shifting my eyes away from Peeta's back; he was still looking at the memory wall but I had a feeling he wasn't actually seeing it. "Nothing," I said.
Rue glanced in the direction I had been looking. She leaned towards me and asked in a low voice, "Who do you think it is?"
I shrugged again and pretended to think, glancing around the room. A voice said through the speakers, "Peeta, please go to the Diary Room."
As Peeta left the room, I noticed Glimmer, who was talking with Cato and Clove, watching him intently. And I didn't miss the small smile or the glint in her eye.
Raising my eyebrows, I tilted my head in Glimmer's direction. "Look at Glimmer."
Rue looked over and we both watched as Glimmer kept her eyes on the spot where Peeta disappeared, a slight wistful expression on her face. I also saw the thoughtful expression on Rue's face and smirked triumphantly for a very brief moment before composing my features again.
Honestly, it wasn't all that hard to implicate Glimmer; she had offered me the perfect opportunity at the perfect time and all I had to do was take advantage of it. Hopefully Rue will now spread it around and any suspicions on me will be gone.
We watched Glimmer for a little while longer, but when she turned her attention away from the living room, we started talking. I found out Rue was the oldest of six kids. She had to find a job early in her teens to help support the family, meaning she had to drop out of high school and get her G.E.D. by learning everything she could at the library when she had the time.
Listening to her talk about her home life made me think of my own. I always knew our situation had never been the best, but, despite my mother's depression and all our hardships, we made it work, if only a little. Other families, I knew, were in worse situations than ours. In the part of town we lived in, nicknamed the 'Seam,' we were lucky to have a roof over our heads and a warm bed at night. There were far too many times I watched as a freshly snow-covered body was covered in a blanket and transferred to the hospital. After Dad died, I made sure to never let Prim, Mom, or myself meet that same fate. It made me appreciate what little we did have.
After both Peeta and Haymitch spent time in the DR, Cato was called in. He came out fifteen minutes later calling, "Everybody into their bathing suits; its picture time!"
I had been expecting it but that didn't stop me from groaning silently. Every year, the fans of the show had the privilege of viewing full group photos of the houseguests online before the first episode aired. The main group picture was almost always in taken in the pool in the backyard.
It wasn't that I had a problem with taking a picture in a swimsuit. What I had a problem with was the navy-blue bikini Prim insisted I pack. I humored her but I forgot to pack a one-piece, a fact I grudgingly realized at the hotel when I wanted to take a dip in the pool.
Once I was changed (covered in a light long-sleeve sweatshirt), I waited for everyone else by plopping myself onto one of the barstools at the counter in the kitchen. Some of the other houseguests had already changed and were milling about, waiting for the others.
My back was facing the hallway to the bathroom, so I didn't see Glimmer until I heard a would-be seductive voice say next to me, "Oh yeah, I'd definitely tap that." Nearly falling off the stool in shock, I turned in her direction, immediately wishing I hadn't. She was leaning against the counter, her elbows propped up, making her chest pop out, wearing a hot pink bikini that consisted mostly of string and very skimpy triangles of fabric.
"What?" I asked.
"That piece of hot stuff over there," she nodded her head in the direction of the bathroom. "I'd give him a trip down Sexy Lane."
Thinking she was talking about Cato (blagh!), I discreetly rolled my eyes and glanced in the direction she indicated. Only to do a double take.
She was definitely not talking about Cato.
Let me just point out that Peeta, while I still viewed him as my best friend even to this day, was definitely no longer a shrimpy fifteen-year-old boy. And yes, I am saying shrimpy because standing next to the hallway leading into the bathroom was a twenty-one-year-old man whose arm, chest, and stomach muscles had developed from clumsy and bulky to trimmed and defined. He was wearing white swimming trunks with sunset-orange accents that hung low on his hips. He obviously still bakes, or at least works for a bakery, because there's no doubt in my mind that he still carries around hundred-pound bags – maybe even two-hundred-pounds now! – of flour like it was no big deal.
I could understand the change, even if it was a little shocking, what I didn't understand was why my heart suddenly started to race and why there were now butterflies flying around in my stomach. It wasn't until Glimmer said, "And I guess I'm not the only one," in a low voice that I realized I was blushing and my mouth was agape.
If possible, I blushed harder and quickly looked away, sputtering, "N-no I'm not, why would you think that?"
Glimmer quirked an eyebrow at me, unconvinced. "Yeah, whatever. Now watch." She smirked. "And learn." She sauntered her way over to Peeta, popping a hip and twirling a curl around her finger.
I glowered at her from across the room but otherwise tried to ignore it. I knew Peeta wouldn't fall for it. He wasn't that kind of guy so he could easily look through it. So then why did I feel this burning feeling in the pit of my stomach that almost made me want to punch someone's face in? It spread from my stomach into my chest and made my breath quicken. It felt like anger, but there was something else underneath, just below the surface of the anger. I couldn't tell what it was and I didn't like it.
My head popped up when I heard a loud obnoxious laugh coming from that direction and I saw Glimmer laughing at something that Peeta must've just said, her hand placed on his upper arm. I glared at her but I caught sight of the look on Peeta's face and calmed down a little. He was uncomfortable, it was easy to see, but Glimmer was either steadfastly ignoring it or completely oblivious to it. In all honesty, it could be either.
Peeta looked away at the same Glimmer did and caught my eye. He gave me a 'help-me-I'm-in-trouble' grimace and moved his gaze back just as Glimmer came back. I grimaced a little and gave a miniscule shrug, not knowing what to do. He set his mouth in a thin line and discreetly nodded his head before changing his features back to normal again. Peeta could see me in his peripheral vision and knew exactly what I was saying. That's how we communicated a lot when we were younger: little movements of the head or an expression we tried to express. We knew each other so well we caught onto each other's little quirks and pretty much formed our own language. It boggled our parents' minds because we were able to have silent conversations from across the room without anybody else knowing.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, everybody had changed into their suits and we were told to head out to the backyard. However, pictures took even longer, and if there's one thing I hate more than being in front of a camera, it was being told to position my body in a specific way and then holding it for God knows how long.
There was the typical pool group photo and then the photographers had the four teams separate so that we could take pictures with our coaches. The coaches sat on chairs that were placed on the yard and their players were arranged around them. I was put between Peeta and Joline, in descending order from tallest to shortest, curving slightly around Haymitch's chair.
All the while, I caught Glimmer sneaking peeks back at us….no, at Peeta, and that burning feeling in my stomach never went away. But I guess it was affecting the expression on my face or how I held myself because the photographers were always having me move something. More than once, they yelled at me to smile brightly and I would feel a sharp prod in the small of my back from Peeta. I grumbled but otherwise ignored him and tried to smile just a little bit brighter.
After pictures were finished, we were told to go inside, change back into our clothes and meet in the living room. While the other houseguests were changing, Peeta, Joline, and I were told to grab our luggage and place it in near the front door when we had changed.
As I changed into my normal clothes, I could hear the excited chatter from the rest of the houseguests and it did not help at all with my nerves. My nerves have never calmed down today, but it felt like they had intensified because of the elimination ceremony tonight.
When I was done, I wandered around the house for a little bit, waiting for everyone else. Joline tried to talk to me once, but we were both way too preoccupied to say more than a few words to each other. And I knew that we were both thinking the same thing: Haymitch. As far as I knew, Haymitch hadn't spoken to any of us and I was tempted to seek him out and maybe get a feel for what his thoughts were. And maybe – maybe – give him a few thoughts of my own to possibly consider. But somehow I knew it would be a worthless effort. Haymitch worked on his own in his time as a contestant and no doubt he would be even worse as a coach now; he wouldn't listen to me.
Too soon it seemed, we were all back in the living room and Peeta, Joline, and I were on the two brown seats. Well, Joline and I were. Peeta got lucky and took a seat on the green couch right next to me. The three of us kept to ourselves mostly, barely saying a word to each other.
Five minutes later, my stomach gave a nasty twinge of nervous energy when the T.V. flickered on and Caesar's smiling face appeared on the screen. Everyone quieted down immediately.
"Good evening, Houseguests," he greeted, giving all of us a toothy grin. He waited for all of us to say hello back before continuing. "As you all know, the coach for the team that lost the Head of Household competition has to make the difficult decision of evicting one of their players tonight. As the coach of said team, Haymitch, please make your decision."
Haymitch stood up and went to stand in the area between the couches and the T.V. He crossed his arms over his chest and pretty much glared at Peeta, Joline, and I. He looked like he hadn't made a decision yet, but I could tell, somehow that he had already made his decision; there was something about the look he was giving us that told me.
He finally cleared his throat and started. "Houseguests, Caesar," he gestured absentmindedly behind him. "I'm not going to lie and say that this was an easy decision to make." My eyes narrowed, unbelieving. He met my eyes once and looked away. "Because it wasn't easy. I have three very good players and they all proved that in the competition today. I didn't get the chance to talk to any of them, but I can tell that each one of them is a strong player and could go far in this game. But unfortunately, I have to tell someone that their time in the house is over, which is not a fun thing to do. I have made my decision and…" He paused, no doubt for dramatic effect. "Joline, I'm sorry, but I've chosen you to leave the house tonight."
"Which means," Caesar began. "Joline, you have been evicted from the Big Brother house. Please take a minute to say your goodbyes, and come out here to join me."
I stood up at the same time Peeta and Joline did. Before I could say anything, Joline pulled me into a hug and whispered into my ear, "Good luck in here. That Cato guy doesn't look very nice."
So I wasn't the only one who had noticed, I thought to myself. In her ear, I whispered, "I know, but thanks for the warning."
She squeezed me a little before letting go and hugging Peeta. I tried not to notice that she hugged Peeta a little bit longer than was necessary.
Joline got a hug from everyone before she grabbed her duffel, waved one more time to everyone, and walked through the door.
My head tilted back and I ran my hands through my hair, releasing a breath of air I didn't realize I'd been holding. I followed everyone else as they headed into the kitchen area, but I stopped in front of the memory wall. The others talked as I stared at Joline's picture, her bright smile, bright blue eyes, and curly blonde hair.
I should've felt relief, I should be happy that I was still in the house and that Haymitch didn't kick either Peeta or I out, that I had a chance to prove myself in this house. But I felt none. If anything, I was nervous.
Peeta stood beside me and we watched as the colors of Joline's picture faded to grey.
"We're safe," he said, low enough so only I heard.
I glanced at him and smiled tightly. "Yeah, we're safe," I agreed, but half-heartedly. The nomination ceremony was in two days, and I just knew I was going up on the block. "We're safe for now."