I walked home from school slowly, taking small and deliberate steps. Normally the walk only lasted about fifteen minutes, but today I had a lot to think about and I wanted to prolong it. I couldn't quite face home yet.
I knew that I had a lot of questions, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to ask them. Could I live without asking? Everyone would expect me to know. They already flocked around me to ask, before we even had our lesson today. Ever since I entered school and they heard the name "Everdeen" they wanted to know. Even the teachers had asked, but they were much more courteous about it and I could tell they held a lot of their curiosity at bay.
What's it like being the daughter of two Hunger Games victors? What's it like knowing your mother was the Mockingjay? What's it like living with the famous Peeta and Katniss? What's it like…What's it like…What's it like…
Until now, I always answered that it wasn't anything different from how their lives were. Sure, we lived in what used to be the Victor's Village, so our house was older than the town itself (as it was one of the only buildings that survived that bombing so many years ago) and it was a little bigger, but my parents weren't any different from the other kids' parents. At least, I didn't think so.
I came home from school every day, and my mother would ask how my day was. I would tell her that "it was all right" and then head up to my room to do my homework. After that was done, I would usually go out to the meadow to play with my little brother until our dad got home. Then we would all have dinner together and watch television.
But there were times that I didn't think were like other kids' lives. Sometimes my mother would sit in the old armchair in the living room, and stare blankly at the wall for hours. Once, she sat there for an entire day until my father silently coaxed her away from it. Other times they would both sit in the meadow together, close, and in utter silence, usually caressing the grass as though it were a long lost friend.
Something that I did understand was when my mother would sit at the primrose bushes that clustered under the kitchen window. She would sit in the grass and watch them for hours; the most solemn and forlorn expression on her face. I knew that those flowers stood for my Aunt Prim, who had died in the rebellion.
The other instances…I just didn't ask about. I had a feeling in my gut that told me I didn't want to know.
Now I understand more, and I don't think I can ignore it any longer. I can't go on pretending I don't know, I can't live in that house with my parents and all of us pretend I don't know. In a few years, my little brother will learn the same thing as I. Will he stay silent as well? It would be better for me to go ahead and bring it into the open.
I couldn't go on living in that house knowing that my mother is a murderer.
I'm not naïve. I know that in war there is going to be killing. My mother was the Mockingjay, the figurehead of the rebellion, and also a soldier. I knew that she had killed, and she had killed in the Hunger Games. As chilling as it is, I knew that that killing was necessary for survival.
But killing President Coin had not been necessary. That had been an act of hatred—of defiance…She had been tasked with executing former President Snow, not the new leader of the freed world.
And she hadn't been punished for it!
I stopped walking, suddenly overcome with a feeling of terror. I was living in a house with a murderer, a murderer who hadn't felt the consequences of her actions!
That's when I knew what I wanted to say to my mother.
I rushed home, running up the hill, through the meadow, to the Victor's Village. I passed Haymitch's house, dark as usual. He wouldn't be up until well into the afternoon, hung over and reeling.
I entered the house as normally as I could, but the tension in my muscles had to be noticeable.
And of course my mother, an expert on survival, sensed it and she tensed too. She had been putting away things in the kitchen and now she stopped, looking at me steadily. I wondered how many people have been given that steady stare of hers?
After a few moments of the silent stare down she said, deliberately and steadily, "How was school?"
I exploded. I dropped my books on the floor, clenched my fists, and inhaled deeply.
"You're a murderer! You killed President Coin for no reason other than your own hatred of the woman! Why would you do that! And then Plutarch let you go! You weren't punished!"
She sighed, slowly walked around the island to come and stand before me. "You don't understand—"
"I understand that you didn't feel the consequences of your actions! That they just let you get away with it! Poor Katniss Everdeen, the Mockingjay, couldn't do any wrong!" I interrupted.
Then I saw something that I had only seen once in my life, directed at Haymitch for something he had said while intoxicated, something about the Games—I heard my mother's rage.
"Plutarch knew that I was tortured enough," she said, her voice even and steady, the rage barely concealed below the surface. "I watched my sister burn before my eyes by a bomb that was created by my best friend. I saw the boy I loved hijacked and turned into a killing machine against me. I saw people die and be tortured all because I defied the Capitol, because I was the Mockingjay. My body was burned and scarred almost beyond recognition, and I lost people that I had counted on. My own mother doesn't even visit me…" The rage seeped from her tone, but she didn't falter. Her shoulders slumped, and she stood, staring down at me. "Tell me that I didn't feel the consequences," she whispered.
I was shaking. Tears poured down my cheeks, but I didn't try to stem the flow. My fists were still clenched, but my arms were wrapped around myself tightly as though I could protect myself from the horrible images flashing through my mind. I had seen pictures of my Aunt Prim, a beautiful young woman who had looked so kind—I now saw her burning alive in my mind. I saw my father, trying to kill my mother.
I had never seen war. I only saw the documentaries that we watched in class; the propos created by District 13 with my mother to rally support for the rebellion.
"Katniss," said a soft voice.
I turned around to see my father standing in the doorway. I thought he was going to ignore me as he walked by, but he laid a reassuring hand on my shoulder before moving to my mother. He took her elbows, and turned her to lead her to their bedroom. Before he walked way, he looked over his shoulder at me and said softly, not unkindly, "Go do your homework. We can talk later, and I'll answer your questions."
I silently picked up my books and waited for the sound of my parents' bedroom door closing before I hurried upstairs. I closed my door, something I never did, and climbed into my bed. I pulled the covers over my head, and I wept.