7 YEARS AGO
I folded a piece of paper into a triangle. I place one tip on the table with my finger. I scan the room real quick for the teacher; ok her back is to the class. One, two, three and flick. Score! Direct hit to the back of Peetas' head, I stifle a giggle as I watch him flinch.
We use to sit together all the time but the teachers started to separate us for disrupting the class. Mostly me, not that my grades were ever effected, I ace everything without even trying. Class is so boring. My mom's medical books are more interesting then what they teach us here.
Peeta sits in the row next to mine two seats up. I watch as he unfolds the paper reads the note, writes something on it and folds it back up. Instead of throwing it back to me he passes it down the row. Hilda hands it to me under the desk. I unfold it to see his answer.
'R U sure it's K if I come over 2moro morning? I won't B cutting in2 UR play time w/UR BFF Delly?' KE
'OMG of course it's K & how many times do I have 2 tell U she's not my BFF U R!' PM
I smile smugly at his reply. It's not that I'm jealous of Delly. Well, ok maybe a little but he was my friend first. When I met Peeta he didn't have any friends. His whole family's life had changed when he was born 'abnormal'. The weekend he and Mr. Mellark came over so Peeta could be measured for his first leg, Mr. Mellark had told us that when Peeta was born all their friends and some family started to distance themselves from them. No longer inviting them to any of their social gatherings nor coming over to any of theirs. So they just stopped socializing with most people from town.
Peeta said that once he realized they were being shunned because of him he felt guilty and would rather hide from everyone hoping they would forget he existed. My dad told him there was nothing wrong with him, that it was the nonsense the capital was spewing and the people who bought into it that were the problem. Mr. Mellark said he was so nervous for Peeta when he finally started school, thinking he might be bullied, how happy he had been to see Peeta had make some friends.
The day Delly became our friend, was also the first time I went over to Peeta's house for a play date. My dad had dropped me off at his house when we went into town to trade. It was also the first time I met Mrs. Mellark.
She looked down her nose at me, turned to Mr. Mellark and said "Seeing as he's going to have to live in the Seam one day, he might as well make friends with them now." She then shoved colored chalks into our hands and ushered us out the front of the bakery saying "Make as much noise as you want" she then went back inside with a smirk on her face.
Peeta had already mastered the use of his new leg and you almost couldn't tell he was 'abnormal'. We ran around playing tag for awhile, and then sat down in the front of the bakery with our chalks to draw on the floor. I saw Delly staring at us from across the way and could tell she wanted to play too. I motioned for her to join us and as she was walking over her mom came out, grabbed her hand and tried to pull her back into the shoe shop. Delly dropped to the floor and threw an epic tantrum right in the middle of the square.
"Why can't I play with Peeta?" legs flailing, "I've always wanted to play with him but you never let me" fist pounding, "how come it's ok for Katniss but not me, it's not fair" and so on and so on. It seemed to go on forever. Delly's dad finally came out of the shop and told Mrs. Cartwright to leave her alone. That was it; Peeta had a second best friend.
Right as I was about to flick another paper at him the bell for lunch rings. I grab my lunch bag and go over to Peeta.
"So what do you have planned for us tomorrow that I need to miss hunting with my dad?" I ask.
"It's a surprise" he tells me. I scowl at him, I hate surprises and he knows it. He just grins at me. "Come on Katniss you'll love it, I promise."
We sit down at our usual table; Madge and Delly are already there. Mrs. Undersee and my mom are best friends so Madge and I grown up together. We start to unpack our lunch.
"You girls know what he has planned for us tomorrow?" I ask them. They shake their heads. Peeta lays out slices of bread.
"I was going to ask you the same thing" said Madge "We thought you might know". I place pieces of sliced turkey meat and goat cheese on the bread.
"Nope, he's being secretive" I say with a frown. As he brings out the cookies and hands one to each of us. I look at mine and it's decorated with a Katniss flower. "Wow Peeta, you're getting really good at this" I tell him. He beams at me. I can't help but smile back; he has such a passion for decorating.
Halfway through our lunch hour the sirens go off. That can only mean one thing a mine accident. My heart sank as the realization hits me dad.
"I have to get Prim" I yell. I run to her class, Peeta right behind me. She's sitting at her desk, looking so tiny and pale, just waiting for me to get her as per our moms' instructions if the sirens were to ever go off. She jumps up, grabs my hand and the three of us run off to the entrance of the mines.
Our mom and the rest of our family from the apothecary are gathered around the district doctor as he coordinates the triage area. Prim, my cousin Jasmine and I are assigned the minor injuries area. My aunt Gina, my uncle Reed and my cousin Sage are assigned the urgent care area and my mom and grandparents get the priority miners section. Peeta, Gale and several other volunteers work among us, handing out supplies as we call out what we need.
After what feels like hours my dad and Mr. Hawthorne are brought into the urgent section. My mom trades places with my uncle so she can tend to them herself. I let out a sigh of relief and go back to stitching Mr. Jones's leg.
"There you go Mr. Jones, keep it bandaged and dry for 24 hours, after that wash it twice daily with soap and water and apply some ointment to help minimize infection" I hands him a bag of extra bandages and a clay pot of ointment. "Keep an eye out for swelling, redness, pus or bleeding which may mean it's infected." He nods his thanks and his wife and kids come over to help him home.
I see Gale sitting by his father's side as they work on him. I wish I could be there too but I'm needed here and I don't want to be in the way. After a few minutes Mrs Hawthorne has to send Gale home with Rory and Vick. He doesn't want to but Vick is to upset and he won't calm down. I catch a glimpse of Peeta and notice he's limping as he moves around gathering more bandages and supplies to take to my mom.
"Peeta" I call out to him "Come here when you're done." He hands my mom the supplies and heads over to my area. He keeps wincing as he puts pressure on his leg. I feel tears stinging my eyes. I can tell he's trying so hard to hide the pain as he walks towards me. He pulls me into his arms when he reaches me and takes me completely by surprise with a quick kiss on the lips, a kiss to comfort. I blink away the tears. This is the first time he's ever initiated a kiss. He usually tries to fight me off whenever I try kissing him. Huh I have noticed that for the pass month now he hasn't been trying that hard and then he'll smile instead of frown when I manage to get one in.
"Was that ok?" he asks shyly.
"Yes, of course" I smile up at him. "But you need to rest your leg; you have been standing on it for far too long." I say as I direct him to a chair and have him sit down. I guess Mr. Mellark thought the same thing because I see him walking to us and he has Peeta's crutches. He glares at his dad when he sees them.
"It's either these or I carry you home" his dad threatens. Peeta shakes his head and grabs his crutches. Mr. Mellark goes to talk to my mom and check on my dad.
"Thank you for all your help" I say.
"I just wish I could stay longer" he said.
"No, you have helped a lot, now you need to rest" I tell him and give him another hug.
"Goodnight" he says "I'll stop by tomorrow to see how your dad's doing, Ok?"
"Ok, Goodnight Peeta" I say and peck his cheek.
About an hour later I finally get a break and go over to Prim. I've become a pretty good healer it's taken a lot of hard work and determination. But Prim at 7 and just starting on her training, is a natural.
"Katniss, you take over this area, since there are less miners coming in. I'm going to go help in the urgent section." Jasmine said. By the time Prim and I are finished we're dead on our feet. We grab a couple of blankets and go to a corner where we aren't in the way. My eyes close the minute my head hits the ground.
When I wake up I'm back in my bed. At first I think it must have been a bad dream but as I pull back the covers I'm still in my school clothes and they are covered in coal dust and specks of blood. It was real. I get out of bed slowly trying my best not to wake Prim. I rush out of the room; my dad and Mr. Hawthorne are on cots in the living room. Mom and a very pregnant Mrs. Hawthorne, have fallen asleep on the kitchen table.
I tread softly over to my dad taking in all his injuries. Several bad burns, cuts, and as my eyes drift down his body I spot his legs. One ends above the ankle "Oh daddy, no" I whisper as tears start to roll down my face. Just for a few minutes I will allow myself to cry. They are alive that's all that matters. I look over at Mr. Hawthorne and one of his arms has also been amputated. I take a deep shaky breath to calm down; I wipe the tears off my face, no more crying I tell myself.
The front door opens. Gale, Rory and Vick walk in and come over to see their dad.
"You kids need to be quiet" said Mrs. Hawthorne. I see my mom is awake too.
"We need to go hunting Catnip" Gale said. He's looking at his dad with sadness. "They are not going to be able to work for a while and we need to keep things up until they can." I look up at him even at 11 Gale it a lot taller than me.
"Ok, let me go get changed" my healers training is going to have to take a backseat from now on. I go into my room and start to undress and pull out clothes from the dresser. "Prim, wake up" I say as she starts to stir. "You're going to need to help mom"
"But your better than me" she said.
"You're catching on quicker than I did at your age. Dads in bad shape Prim. I'm going to have to concentrate on hunting for now." I tell her, as I feel the weight of responsibility drop on my shoulders. He's not dead I remind myself it won't be forever. "Get up, get dressed and see if mom needs anything" I say. She nods her head and starts to do as I say.
This is the first time Gale and I have been out in the woods alone. We trek along working the snarl line. Shooting at every rabbit and squirrel we find. We've been out since dawn so by mid day we have a decent haul. Not bad at all seeing as it's a bitter January day. As we make our way to the hob we talk about how we're going to make this work. We will go hunting before and after school and as much as we can on the weekends. It'll be hard work but we're determined to keep our families fed until our dads get better. The hob is packed today. Some people ask about our fathers but since most have their own family members to worry about we're able to finish up trading quickly enough. We're starved and tired by the time we get home.
Peeta's here, I had completely forgotten he was coming over and he's using only his crutches. He must be in a lot of pain. A wave of guilt washes over me. On the rare occasion that he over uses his leg he has to forgo the prosthetic and use just the crutches until his leg gets better. He'll normally stay home when he needs them like this but he must have been more worried about us than any embarrassment he might feel at being seen without his prosthetic on. I should have made him stop earlier yesterday. He's about to get up from his chair when he sees me and I just shake my head and hurry over to him, bending down I give him a quick hug.
"Oh Peeta, I'm so sorry. We should have been more careful" I say. "Did mom take a look at it?" I ask.
"She's been busy with your dad and Mr. Hawthorne plus others that have been stopping by" he tells me.
"Let's go to my room" I say. Dropping my game bag on the table and handing my mom the coins I made today.
"Katniss you need to eat" my mom says.
"Let me take care of Peeta first. We'll be right back" Peeta was about to say something but I just shake my head no. He knows not to complain when I'm in healer mood.
I have him sit on the bed and I unlock and pull out the bottom drawer of my dresser. I have extra jars of salve for Peeta saved in here. I make these myself and learned never to leave then in my moms medicine cabinet because they'll get all used up and only replaced when I make more. I had my dad install a combination lock when I realized my mom was sneaking some. I'm the only one you knows the combination. No one messes with Peeta's medicine and get away with it.
He has already rolled up his pant leg and I kneel down and start to massage the salve onto his stump. "It's not as bad as I thought it would be, just a little redness and some swelling should be fine by tomorrow. Do you need more to take home" I ask.
"Ya, I hadn't realized I had run out" he said sheepishly.
"How many times do I have to remind you that when you're down to one jar to let me know? I have 5 in here I'll give them to you before you go home." I say. "Did you bring back any of the empty ones?"
He nods. "You're always taking care of me"
"Of course, you're my best friend. I'd do anything for you"
"Same here" he said with a smile. I grab a towel and wipe off my hands. I'm too tired for anything right now so I climb and lay down on the bed.
"Katniss, you need to eat" he reminds me.
"I need a nap first" I say with a yawn. I feel him shift on the bed and he takes me in his arms. I rest my head on his chest. The beating of his heart is lulling me to sleep. "Stay with me?" I ask. As sleep takes me under I hear him whisper.