I attempt to cover my mouth as I sneeze once again. The makeup artist looks irritated with me and pauses for a moment before she finishes applying the powder to my face. I throw a semi apologetic glance at her but she ignores my efforts.
The stark clicking of heels on the hard floor alert me to Effie's entrance. "Oh Gyrina, haven't you finished her makeup yet?" She gasps. "We've only got an hour before the broadcast!"
I open my eyes long enough to see Effie standing in the room clad in some bright pink jacket and matching spiked heels looking completely flustered, and absolutely loving it. Her tones take me back to years and years ago when we did something very similar.
"Up, up, up! We've got a BIG day ahead of us!" The echo of her voice rings in my ears. I try to forget what events happened on that big day and focus on getting through this afternoon. The makeup artist finishes her powdering and gets up to leave.
"Oh Katniss, you simply look stunning!" Effie gushes, but it only makes me feel more uncomfortable. She keeps the conversation going while I eye the doorway for a sign of Peeta but Effie picks up on my awkwardness at once. "Sorry, Dear. Sometimes I talk much more than I should." She confesses. "I'll get Peeta and the children in here right away."
Her heels click all the way down the hall and I am left alone. This room was a spare next to ours in the hospital. What used to be lavish living quarters has been transformed into a dressing room. I bite my bottom lip and stand up, trying to calm the raging sea inside my chest. I spy a mirror and expect to wince at my reflection but am pleasantly surprised to see a very normal looking Katniss looking back at myself. My face looks a little smoother, my eyes a little more defined, the dark circles that were there covered up, but overall, I look the same as I always do.
My hair trails down my shoulder in what Effie called my "signature braid" and my clothes look plain enough. "I can do this." I think to myself. But I don't believe it. My eyes move over to the window and I search for something to disc tract me. A lump rises in my throat and my lip quivers, but I remain steady. I've survived every bad things this world has thrown at me, I will survive this.
Small steps race down the hallway and her bright blue eyes meet mine. "Mommy!" she giggles and smashes into my legs. I lean down and give her a hug as Peeta walks in holding Rye. "Hi there!" I try to say cheerfully, but the emotion I had been trying to swallow comes out in my words. Willow leans back and places her hands on the sides of my face. Her eyes search mine and her brow furrows in confusion. "What's wrong mommy?" she asks.
I make my lips form a smile and lean my forehead into hers. "I'm just a little tired honey. I haven't been sleeping well lately." I say and to my delight this satisfies her. She knows that I don't always get the best night's sleep, and sometimes I wake up screaming. To her, it's normal, and she doesn't question it.
I kiss her forehead and stand back up. Peeta stands behind Willow with Rye asleep in his arms. I can just barely see the same powder I have on his face and outfit resembles mine. I grimice at the similarity. No matter what we do we've always been dressed alike. 20 years makes no difference.
I sense Peeta's eyes on me and I clear my throat. His eyes look tired and worn. Probably from the last few nights of my screaming, and the month of time before when I wasn't even conscious. My chest feels heavy with the guilt of these weeks of pain for him. I search his eyes for a moment before I lean in and gently place a kiss on his lips. What else can I give him now?
I feel his hand my cheek and the hint of desperation on his lips. We are both existed and more than ready to go back home to our quiet house. Our kiss is broken once we hear Willow protesting to the lack of attention we've given her. A smirk plays on Peeta's lips. "Look out there, Willow?" He says excitedly to her and points out the window. She giggles and places her hands on the glass.
She and Peeta continue to play a game where one tries to spot the same thing the other is looking at. I take the sleeping Rye from Peeta's arms and sit down on the little love seat facing the window. Rye gently sighs of contentment in his sleep as I snuggle him closer to me.
Eventually our peaceful afternoon is shattered when I hear Haymitch's loud voice boom through the hall. "No!" He says irritatedly as he and Effie enter the room. Their conversations comes to an end as they both fall silent at the sight of us.
Peeta is the first to speak. "Is it time?" He asks. His strong voice does not waiver, but I know he is dreading what is to come as much as I am. Haymitch gives a mournful nod and turns for the door. I feel my heart skip a nervous beat and my stomach lurch at the thought of what I have to do next. My eyes drift down to the sleeping boy in my arms, and the little girl beside her father, unaware of the torment inside me.
Effie gently leans down to take Rye from me and I force myself to go against every instinct to hug him close and run. I take a deep breath and stand. Turning to take one last look at Willow, I force an assuring smile. "We'll be back soon, have fun with Auntie Effie, okay?" I say and she just smiles and nods at me before she starts chatting with "Auntie Effie" about her adventures in the Center.
Haymitch reaches out to open the door for me. I bite my lip and set my jaw. Finish this, and go home, forget this ever happened I keep telling myself. Peeta and Haymitch make light conversation as we make our way backstage, but I'm so afraid if I try to say anything, I'll break.
Eventually Haymitch leaves for his position somewhere in the producers room and Peeta and I are left by ourselves as we wait for the show to begin. I keep concentrated on the ground so I don't let myself get worked up, but as soon as Peeta places his hands on my shoulders I become aware of how tense I am. "Katniss you have to stop." He says gently and slides his hands down my arms and grasps my clenched fists.
I gently unfold my hands and notice how shaky they are. Quickly Peeta places his over mine. I look up to find his lip quivering. I lean in and place my forehead against his. Ignoring the memories of the last time I was in a place like this. Shutting out all noise and thoughts and concentrate on the man in front of me.
We both take in a deep breath and hold steady for the others sake. While my memories may be bad, the last time Peeta was on television was when he was still heavily hijacked. Broken, we stand together and wait to be called. Peeta tenses for a moment and I open my eyes to see his brows furrowed in concentration. Desperately I wrap my arms around him to give him some sort of comfort as I usually do when he has an attack. They happen so rarely now but the memories must have stirred up the flashbacks.
After a moment he loosens his grip around me. "I'm okay." he whispers gently and pulls away slightly. I let out a shaky breath and reach for his hand. We both turn and face the stage and wait for the cue that should be coming any minute.
"And here they are now! Peeta Mellark and Katniss Mellark who you'll all remember as the Girl on FIRE!" And there I know is the cue. I will me legs to move forward and my grasp tightens. I take four painful steps up before a blinding light overtakes my vision. My eyes adjust and focus on the love seat I know I'm supposed to sit. Ignoring the camera that is undoubtedly on my face I take a moment to recognize the person speaking to me.
My mind had immediately thought it would have been Caesar Flickerman, who had done all of my and Peeta's interviews. But Caesar is long gone, and replaced by another host who doesn't look familiar to me. His jet black hair is combed back with a slight curl a midnight tux shimmers in the light, changing hues from green to purple. He motions for us to sit and I attempt a curt smile as we do. I'm not as good at pretending as I once was.
"Well, don't you both look perfect there together?" He says with a twang of an accent I don't recognize. I broaden my smile a little bit and hope it doesn't look too artificial. "Thank you." I say and I hear my voice slip back into the same tone I used in all of my interviews. "Simply marvelous. Now, we've all been hearing that you've been having a little bit of medical trouble, Katniss. Would you mind letting us curious folk know what it's all about?" He asks and I feel my upper lip twitch with disdain.
"Oh nothing too major." I say sarcastically and grin. If this guy thinks he can just get all of my personal information just like that he's going to have to think again. "Oh, come now Katniss. You've had us all worried for you! We didn't know if you were dead or alive for weeks! The accusations were flying!" He says with his own sarcastic grin. My fists begin to clench with disdain for whoever this man is. What I wouldn't give to have Caesar back right now. Peeta begins to sense my attitude and takes over. "We've just been dealing with some personal matters Oron, and weren't quite ready to let everyone in on our little secret."
Oron. I suppose that's his name. I watch as Oron's eyes widen at Peeta's words, and he sits forward in his seat just so that a curl of his hair falls dramatically on his forehead. "Oh you just MUST let us in on your little secret! We won't tell, will we?" He motions to the camera. My hatred for him only grows the more he speaks. "Well." Peeta begins and I note his pause for effect. "Katniss and I added a little someone to our family."
With this Oron almost jumps out of his seat. "A family! Of course, so silly of us to not have seen it coming! Our Katniss is a mother now! Simply fantastic! But why the hush hush? Surely you must know that Panem has been DYING to hear when you two would start a family!" He squeals. I internally roll my eyes and focus on the timer off stage that signals when the interview is over.
"Well Oron, that's exactly why we decided to keep it a secret. But towards the end of the pregnancy there was a little difficulty and we had to come here for the best medical treatment." Peeta says and I watch as Oron nods his head profusely. "Of course! Nothing but the best for you two!"
"Katniss and I really did want to come on the show for a reason though." Peeta continues and Oron is on the edge of his seat. "You think we came to show you our children? Not a chance!" I think to myself as I watch his anticipation grow. "We came to ask the people of Panem to give us our privacy." He finishes. A stunned Oron lets his mouth drop a little too far. Before he can say anything I can't help but chime in.
"As you've so graciously mentioned, Peeta and I have done our fair share for the people of Panem, and now we've decided we want full privacy in return. Neither of my children will be shown to the public and we ask that no one ever tries to contact them." I say and ignore the irritated host and face the camera instead. "All we ask of anyone is to leave us alone to live the quite life that we have built for ourselves. We don't want to be celebrities and neither do our children." I finish and suddenly feel as though I can breathe again.
"Well there you have it folks. The last interview of Peeta and Katniss Mellark. Thank you both for joining us, and for all of Panem. Goodnight." A flustered Oron finishes with a smile before we hear the final. "CUT!" Before I can do anything Oron shoots Peeta and I a dirty glance before stomping off stage. Haymitch comes up from behind with his arms folded across his chest. "Well you left with a bang." He says sarcastically and gives a toothy smile. "You kids ready to go home now?" He asks. "YES." Peeta and I both answer in tandem. More than anyone knows.
A/N: Welcome back folks. This has got to be the most challenging chapter I've had to write! Only one or two more left and I think I'll be satisfied to end this story. If you have anymore story ideas you'd like me to fit in before we end please let me know, otherwise I'll see you next chapter! ~Nan0min