Disclaimer: I do not own the Hunger Games.... :(
This is sorta a prequel/companion to my story Through Another's Eyes, but it's not necessary to have read that to understand. This can be considered a stand alone one-shot as well.
"Peeta!" My mother's voice sreams shrilly.
I sigh heavily, and push my pillow over my ears, trying to drown out the sound and get a couple more minutes of sleep.
God, I hate her.
Maybe if I ignore her, she'll go away and never come back. Then I'll be left to sleep in peace.
Her reverberating stomps enter my room. "There you are!" her oh-so dulcet tones screech again. Guess not. "Didn't you hear me calling you?"
Throwing the covers off, I manage to sit up. "No, mother, I didn't. What's it you needed?" I'm impressed by my ability to remain calm so early in the morning.
"Your father has taken your brothers to the market, so you need to take over the kitchen." She thrusts me out of my bedroom. "Now, hurry! If a customer arrives and you're not down there, so help me—" She starts ranting. I've learned to tune her out.
I enter the shop kitchen and see a tray of uncooked bread waiting for me. I swap them for two perfectly cooked, golden-brown loaves already in the oven. Placing the steaming hot oven tray onto the counter, I look around for something else to do.
I notice the weather then. The rain is falling in icy, torrid sheets, never relenting nor stopping.
I don't envy my brothers right now.
"Peeta!" The woman shrieks, "don't forget to make a new batch of cakes! And then when you're done with that, switch out all the ones in the display with the new ones!" She's still screaming, even though I'm merely one room away from her.
I choose not to respond.
"Peeta! Did you hear me?" She stomps into the room.
"Yes, mother, got it. New batch of cakes." I respond quickly. Best not to get her started, because when she does—she never shuts up.
But she's not paying attention to me anymore. Instead, she's squinting out the window. I follow her gaze. Oh, no. Someone's digging in our trash again.
Here we go, I think helplessly.
Even though I expect it, her voice still manages to make me jump. "Filthy, rotten little brat!" she screams. Ripping open the door, the insults continue getting steadily harsher. "Get away from there, you dirty spawn! Do I need to call the Peacekeepers?" I walk up behind my mother, trying to see who the poor soul is. "Do you know what they do to trash like—"
I abruptly realize who my mother is yelling at, and I'm shocked into silence. Before me is a shell of person I thought I knew so well. She looks broken and defeated and…lifeless. I turn away from the sight, unable to look at her hallow face any longer.
Katniss. What happened to you?
Of course I heard about her father. One third of the families working in the coal mines had lost someone that day. I just didn't know it had hit her so hard. I had no idea whatsoever.
My mother walks away, muttering under her breath. I look out the door once more and see her slumped against the apple tree.
I can't fit this image of her—so hopeless and lost—with the one I have in my head. The fake act she puts up in school, the one that makes you think that everything is okay—that she's still strong, still brave, still going on.
I can smell the bread in the oven. Keeping my eyes on her I walk back into the kitchen. I check the loaves, they're perfectly brown. My eyes flicker back to her hunched form, and then back down again toward the bread...
Making a quick decision, I grab each of them and stick the ends directly into the flame.
The smell of burnt bread immediately floods the kitchen.
I place the two loaves onto the counter, allowing them to cool. They are still perfectly fine, but not sellable. No one would pay money for burnt bread, a fact I well know. I look back at Katniss. Good. She's still there.
My mother smells the loss of good business. Stamping into the kitchen, she sees the ruined bread. She lets out a scream of pure fury. I don't flinch or apologize like my brothers might have, which only seems to make her madder. Grabbing a wooden spoon she advances on me, all the while shouting hateful words that question my intelligence.
I watch her swing, and I feel the pain; but I don't give her the pleasure of seeing me cower away from her. I stare at her straight on, daring her to give me her worst. Nothing else comes.
She grabs the bread off the counter, and for a second I'm afraid she'll just throw them away, wrecking my plan. She doesn't, instead she shoves the still burning hot loaves into my arms and points a menacing finger at the door.
Exactly what I wanted, I think gleefully.
"Feed it to the pig, you stupid creature!" I finally listen to her echoing words. "Why not? No one decent would buy burned bread!" Does she have no consideration to the fact that we have neighbors? No, of course she doesn't.
Slowly, I make my way toward the pen. Conscious of my mother's gaze, I rip only a few small chunks off the bread and toss it into the trough, all the while not looking at Katniss.
The front bell rings, signifying a customer, my mother slams the door shut.
I pause for just a moment, making sure that the hateful woman is really gone. Still not looking at her, I throw first one loaf, then the second at her feet. I quickly turn around and head back into the shop, before I can gauge her reaction.
Once in the store, I look out the window. I see her stare at the bread in shock before hurriedly scooping them up and hiding them under her coat. She gives one last glance back at the store—I feel as if she is looking directly at me—before running out of my sight.
That's when my gaze travels to the mirror. I'm surprised by my appearance. The same blue eyes stare back at me, but now one is surrounded by a sea of purple. I'd forgotten I had been hit. With that realization, I feel the pain again. Sharp and throbbing.
My mother comes in at that moment to collect the customer's order. She takes in my face. "You are to stay back here, you got that?"
I nod, emotionless. Of course, I can't help any customers now. Not with this bruise on my face.
"Good," she sharply replies. "Now, I thought I told you to make cakes. If you burn those, too—you'll be sorry," she threatens.
Again, I nod. She disappears back into the front without another word or glance.
I can't help but sigh in relief.
God, I hate her.
I don't see Katniss until the end of school, though I'd been looking for her everywhere throughout the day. I suppose it's kind of hard to find someone with only one good eye.
The side of my face where she hit me is completely swollen, my right eye forced shut. It doesn't hurt as much anymore, not since my father gave me a poultice that took away most of the pain.
The good thing is no one questions my bruise. They have seen enough of them to already know the true story. And no one really believes my feeble tripping excuse anymore, so they don't even bother to ask.
I finally notice her standing by the fence, waiting for her sister. She looks like her normal self—proud and strong and undefeatable. No hint whatsoever of the desperation I saw on her face yesterday. It leaves me speechless—the love she has for Prim. She's always had a lot of pride, but she's willing to show weakness if it means help for her sister.
The crowd jostles me and people walk in front of my view, but I don't stop staring at her. I'm not sure I could pry them away even if I wanted to.
I don't think I've ever cared more for her than I do at this moment. She's amazing, everything I wish I was—she is. My emotions are probably obvious as I gaze at nothing but her. I can't bring myself to care, though. It feels as if I'm looking at her for the first time. Like I can finally understand everything she's been through. Suddenly, I want to tell her how I feel, how I have felt for the past six years. Right now, I can pretend that she feels the same way, that she'd be able to love me as much as she loves Prim.
At that moment she looks at me, too. I hold her gaze for a second, her eyes full of none of the emotion I wish they held, before turning my head away. Embarrassed at the absolute adoration that was, no doubt, displayed clearly on my face, when she does not even feel the same way about me. The next time I gain the courage to look up, her back is turned and she is walking away, holding her little sister's hand tightly in her own.
I try to burn this image of her into my head, so that I can use this one—a picture of her happy—against the nightmares I'll have of her broken spirit, so close to giving up.
I already know, though, that it's useless. The memory of her lifeless form is forever ingrained into my mind, no matter how hard I try to forget it.
And it probably won't ever go away.
Your worst memories, they tend to do that.
A/N: I know I should be working on my other story but this idea would not stop bouncing around in my head ever since pandatwilightchicka recommended it. So again, this should be dedicated to her! So the next chapter of Through Another's Eyes should be posted some time tomorrow. ANYWHO, please tell me what you thought of this. It was kind of a spur of the moment thing, and I don't know if it's very good... so just tell me what you think. Thanks for reading!