I wake to find Gale and Madge watching me, seated in separate chairs a bit away from the bed I am resting in. They are holding hands and this bothers me like you wouldn't believe. Madge, seeing my eyes flutter open, lets go of Gale's hand and brushes the hair out of my eyes.
"How are you doing Katniss?" Madge says in her sweet tone. She grabs both of my hands and holds them in her own. A rush of jealousy goes through my body. Madge. Gale. They were spending time together. Alone.
I moan and try to sit up. Gale comes over to me and says in a harsh tone that makes Madge release my hands, "Stay down."
Stay down. The very two words that have been haunting me. I've heard them in my nightmares, Johanna calling to me.
Then, I think of Peeta. Peeta is all I can think about anymore. Peeta, who insisted I stay alive in order to live a life I knew I could never have. I feel like I've failed him.
What if it was not me, but Peeta who had gone with Johanna in those last crucial minutes of the Quell? Would he still be alive? Would I still be alive? Probably not. Peeta couldn't have been the one anyway. Johanna, Finnick and Beetee would have never let it happen. They were given special instructions to keep me alive. Had it not been for Haymitch, would they have slit Peeta's throat?
Gale touches my shoulder and says, "Don't worry. You'll see your mother and Prim very soon." His voice is comforting, but I don't believe what he is saying is true.
Without thinking, I push his hand away, off my shoulder, and roll over to face opposite from the pair of them. Gale and Madge. They want me to live, but I feel like I'm losing the will to stay alive. My heart keeps taking me back to Peeta: his kind heart, loving ways and sweet gestures. Also, his effective lying.
I sigh and groan in pain. My head is on fire with fever and my stomach feels empty. I don't think I've eaten for at least a day or so.
Gale returns to his chair. I can hear the chair sink from his weight. Madge whispers something to him. I don't see it, but I hear her hushed tone and then he responds aloud, "I don't think so. He has lied before to save her. I'm sure he'd do it again."
At first, I didn't know what Madge could have asked, but by the way Gale had said "he", almost as if the "he" was an "it", I knew she must have asked about something Peeta had said. Peeta's said a lot of things. Gale's words hit me hard. He has lied before to save me. It's true. His undying love for me. Our secret marriage in District 12. The baby. That must have been what she was wondering. Was any of it true?
Gale knew it wasn't. He probably saw right through Peeta's answers to Caesar Flickerman's questions. But Peeta had fooled everyone else. Even Madge. If I hadn't been part of his lies, I think I'd have believed him too. He was really a very convincing liar.
I feel very sore and exhausted. From what, I have no idea. I assume it's just after effects of the Games. I wish Gale and Madge would leave me alone. I need to sleep or think about my next plan in action against the Capitol.
Then, I hear the door open and Haymitch's deep, sober voice booms in the room, "Is she awake?"
I turn to face him and respond, "Well, now I am." I act like he's annoyed me by disturbing some kind of impending sleep.
This is the second time I've seen him since the end of the Quell and I don't think it's hit me yet just how much I missed him, just how grateful I am that he is alive. So, I'm rude. Plain, old, rude Katniss Everdeen who never appreciates people until they are gone. Like losing Rue. And now Peeta. President Snow will surely torture him in every way possible. He'll hurt him and make his death slow and painful just to remind rebels how strong the Capitol is and how the star-crossed lovers cannot overcome every obstacle thrown at them. All Peeta wanted was for me to live.
Haymitch hands me a glass of water and for the first time, I realize I'm parched. The cool liquid pours down my throat and I close my eyes. It's good to have clean, fresh water.
"We're almost to District 13," he announces in a solemn state.
I nod and take more sips of my water. Madge and Gale stand up and walk out, as if on cue. Haymitch paces back and forth in front of my bed, as if he is getting ready to break some news. There is a knock on the door. Haymitch opens it and accepts a tray of food from what looks to be a young girl. He hands the tray to me and I start gobbling down all kinds of treasures: meat, soup, and thankfully, no bread from District 3.
Haymitch watches me eat in silence, but he doesn't have to wait long. I've finished everything in a matter of minutes. He continues his pacing and begins what he wants to say, "After we got you from the arena, they doctors hooked up some machines to fix your arm and the rest of your body. I tried to tell them that the whole thing that Peeta said, about the pregnancy, was just a way to divert the Capitol's attention."
I'm unsure where he is going with this. Just making some conversation? I nod again to show I'm listening.
He runs his fingers through his hair, "They didn't listen to me though. They insisted to check on the baby. I told them there would be nothing to look for. It was all just part of the plan."
I now have a sense of where this is going and my heart skips a beat. I gasp for air.
"Well, it turns out, sweetheart, it wasn't just another convincing lie from Peeta Mellark."
I lean over the side of my bed and throw up my meal.
The next thing I know, Haymitch is standing over me. He looks quite somber and unmoved. I've never seen him like this before. He asks me, "You didn't know, did you?"
I shake my head viciously, "No! It's impossible! There must be some kind of mistake. Peeta and I never…"
I'm about to object to what Peeta and I have never done. But then, I realized that a few weeks ago, the night before the Quarter Quell began, I remember bringing Peeta back to my room. That was the day he dropped the baby bomb on the Capitol. It was in the late hours of the night, a long time after we were supposed to have fallen asleep. He had whispered in my ear. I responded to his call.
Haymitch sees my hesitation and takes my bewilderment to confirm what he was thinking that must have happened.
"Oh… but you did," his serious expression is changed into a look of anger.
I am utterly shocked. With my mouth ajar, I stare into nothingness.
"Search back through your memory…" he stares at me in an intense way and I struggle to fight back tears. Then I look back at him and he takes this to mean I've come up with an explanation. But I remain silent. "You see? The stupid mistakes you teenagers make!" Haymitch knocks over something and my glass of water falls and shatters on the ground.
I'm so stunned I don't defend myself. Instead, through all the shame and confusion, I manage to ask Haymitch the one question that was bothering me the most. "Does anyone else know?" By anyone else, I mean Gale and I'm sure Haymitch knows this too.
He clenches his fist and sits back down, "No."
I am very grateful he hasn't told anyone. However, he adds something else.
"As soon as you get better, you have to tell everyone. Your mother, Prim, Madge, Finnick, even your beloved cousin…" he says in a mocking tone.
I turn red, if I wasn't already purple by then. Gale can't know. He told Madge he thought that Peeta was faking everything. Even though what Peeta had said (at the time) was untrue, his words were now truth and I am, in complete irony, pregnant.
I ask Haymitch to leave and he deliberately sits in his chair and watches me. His presence is bothering and I just want to be alone. Then, I realize I can never be alone. A second heart will soon be beating inside of me.
He recognizes how afraid I am and cools off. "Well, I'm no doctor, but…" Haymitch trails off.
I don't really want an answer. I just wanted him to say he was making some kind of joke or something. But he doesn't.
I fall into a daze in the minutes to come. Doctors surround me and do several tests. I don't pay much attention. After they are done, I snap back into reality. I've been so strong for the past two years. No one has seen my real emotions. It seems like I shouldn't be crying, but then I realize that this baby inside of me might be the last part of Peeta I have. Then I remember the pearl, Peeta finding it inside an oyster. He had brought it to me and said, "For you." And I had kept it. That's why I'm crying. I've lost Peeta and he will never get to meet his child.
Haymitch walks up to me and holds my hand. It is the simplest gesture, but it means the world to me. I feel something small fall into my grasp. He lets go and I open up my hand. Inside, sure enough, is my pearl. I fall asleep immediately.
The next day, I sit up in bed and feel much better. The pain in my head is still there and my stomach is killing me, but my arm is healing.
I climb out of the covers and find the little girl, who had brought Haymitch my food yesterday, standing right outside my door. She looks like she is from District 12 with her black hair and olive skin, but I have never seen her before.
"Have you seen Haymitch?" I ask her.
"Yes, follow me." She responds. She leads me around corners and through several doors. I get lost and confused. My head is spinning and I feel woozy.
I decide to ask her, "What's your name?"
"Leanore," she says immediately.
Even though I'm sure she knows more about me than I do, I say, "I'm Katniss."
She nods and then replies, "Haymitch is in here." She points to the door we are standing in front of.
"Thanks," I turn the handle and walk inside.
I find myself in a small study. Haymitch takes a minute to notice me. He is pacing again. Finally, without looking me in the eyes, he tosses me some clothes and tells me to leave. I feel odd, as if I've done something wrong, when I realize I have. Getting pregnant was not part of the plan.
When I walk out, Leanore is gone. I don't remember how I got to where I am, so I change in the nearest bathroom.
The clothes are simple. Black fitted t-shirt and black sweat pants. I put them on and wish Cinna had made my clothes. I miss him more than ever. I'm sure Cinna would have tons of fun with a maternity line. Cinna! I remember what had happened just before the Games had started. He too, has been captured by the Capitol. I don't even know if he is still alive.
I've just tied my shoes when I hear the bathroom door open. I see two pairs of feet. One pair has on white ballet flats. The other, hiking boots. Gale's hiking boots.
Making sure my feet are concealed, I listen in on their conversation. I hear Madge speak first, "We've got to tell her, Gale! She has to know!"
Gale raises his voice and responds, "No! We can't. It will crush her. Think, Madge! How would you feel if you were in her situation?"
Madge whimpers and doesn't respond to Gale's question. "What if they die before we can help them?"
"The people of the Capitol still don't know if the victor they are talking about is her. They think she's dead! That should give us some time."
Gale and Madge fall silent. I watch their feet.
Madge walks closer to him. "What's she going to think?"
"About all of this. When she finds out about… us," she whispers softly.
A sharp pang hits me. So there is something going on between Gale and Madge. And they didn't think it was obvious?
Gale's voice lowers, "I think she'll be happy for us."
I must have made some kind of noise, maybe something that resembled a dying animal, because I can just picture the sneer on Gale's face right before he swings open the door of the stall I'm behind.
He doesn't look surprised at all. "Hey, Catnip," he says almost casually.
"How'd you know I was here?" I sound like a child playing hide and seek.
Gale shakes his head. I look at Madge and her face is tear-stained.
Suddenly, I'm confused. "How long has this been going on?" I wonder aloud. I'm referring, of course, to their relationship. Madge understands, but Gale looks confused.
"Almost two years now," Madge answers without hesitation. "We became especially close when you went to the Games with Peeta the first year. Some days we would sit together and watch you, hold hands during your trials and make silent prayers for your survival. We both care about you very much, Katniss. Especially Gale, because he's known you for so long," she explains.
I turn to him and he nods slowly in confirmation for what she's said. "You do?" I ask, longing for something I don't think is true.
Gale looks at Madge and then faces me again, "Of course I do." His face is troubled. I don't think Madge knows exactly how much Gale and I have been through the past two years.
"But I thought…"my voice cracks and before the words escape my lips, I think. Gale had never said anything that completely confirmed how he felt about me, but after his suggestion to run away with me and the way he kissed me when I came back from the 74th Hunger Games as victor, I had thought he had cared about me in a different way. I had thought Gale was actually in love with me.
All these realizations hit me in one moment. I change the topic quickly and say, "What do I need to know, Madge?"
Madge opens her mouth to answer, but Gale quickly covers it and stops her from talking. She looks very upset, but determined to tell me what she has to say.
"Plutarch Heavensbee should tell you," Gale resolves and Madge stops her effort to let me know.
"Ok..." I follow Gale and Madge out of the restroom and my head starts to spin. Gale and Madge? And what could be so bad that Plutarch Heavensbee, the Head Gamemaker, would need to tell me directly? They take me to another room, similar to Haymitch's, and Plutarch is sitting down at his desk.
"Ahh… Katniss," he says, almost as if he was expecting me to walk in at that moment. "I suppose you want to know what's happening. Come sit down."
Gale and Madge leave and I sit in a chair on the other side of his desk. He pulls out a remote, clicks a few buttons and a projector comes down from the ceiling, facing a plain white wall.
"The people in the Capitol are angry."
I nod. They should be. The world is turning upside down.
"Everyone was following the Games and they got very upset when the cameras filming the Quell were 'destroyed.'"
I know what he is talking about. The Capitol made up some kind of an excuse to cut out all the footage of the last day of the Games. The people at the Capitol had never seen what happened with me. How I was taken by the hovercraft from District 13. How Peeta, Johanna and Enobaria were captured after the explosion.
"They also explained our 'deaths.' Yours, Finnick's, Beetee's and mine. The Capitol citizens were shocked, but let me tell you, the people in the Districts can tell every explanation was a lie. Everyone in the Capitol demanded they didn't get the Quell they wanted," Plutarch speaks slowly, "So, they asked for another one."
Plutarch grabs the remote and flips on the TV. The anthem is playing and the simple wooden box holding the card marked with the years is held by the very man I despise so much. President Snow is on the screen, in front of a big, calm, admiring crowd. The very sight of him makes me want to throw up. He begins by telling every one of the Dark Days, a speech I have heard several times in my life. But this time it is different. He stresses almost everything in an ominous way. Then, he repeats about what they did in the 25th and 50th anniversaries Quells. Finally, he gets to the 75th Quell.
"On the seventy-fifth anniversary, as a reminder to the rebels that even the strongest among them cannot overcome the power of the Capitol, the male and female tributes were reaped from the existing pool of victors," he says. This reminds me of what had happened just a few weeks ago. I remember how everyone at my engagement party had been stunned. What has the Capitol come up with now?
"Unfortunately, this Quell was unfinished and all but three of the tributes died. Now, we will honor a second 75th anniversary Quell."
Another Quell. I can see where this is going.
President Snow takes out a card marked with a 75. I wonder how many cards in the box are marked with 75's. "On the seventy-fifth anniversary, as a reminder that everyone important to a rebel will die, the male and female tributes will be the friends and family of a former victor."
Plutarch turns off the TV. I gasp. I certainly wasn't expecting anything like this. But, now I understand. Bait.