I adored the Hunger Games trilogy. Suzanne Collins created such a rich and wonderful world and I'd love to spend more time there and see what happens to Katniss and Peeta. But the trilogy is finished, Katniss has had her adventures and now her story is more of a romance. So here's my dreamed up version of what happened after Peeta came home and planted the primrose bushes.
Through the windows I see that is pouring rain outside—definitely not a hunting day. Greasy Sae cleans the breakfast dishes while I plop down on the couch and decide what exactly I should do today. My list doesn't get much further than sleep and wonder what's for dinner.
Peeta gives up on meticulously picking at his eggs and gives Greasy Sae his bowl. He walks over to an armchair by the couch, pausing at the mantle and the accumulating mountain of letters.
"What's this?" he asks.
"Maybe you should go through this."
I respond with a scowl.
Peeta sits on the floor and starts sorting the letters.
It's probably as good of time as any to see who's written me so I sit on the other side of the stack.
The first letter is from Dr. Aurelius. As I skim through the pile, I realize I better start a stack for all the letters from him and my mother. Peeta seems to be using the stack and sort method too.
"Katniss, have you opened any of these since you've been home?"
I stare at the floor and have no interest in the letters. I don't want happy letters—don't deserve them and don't understand how anyone could truly be happy after all the death and destruction the war caused. I don't want the sad letters, because I don't want a reminder. And, I don't want to make the effort. I just want to be left alone, but since that's not going so well at the moment, I do make the effort, but decide not to do it happily.
I scan the pile for something that looks remotely interesting: a letter from Delly, some government correspondence, letters from reporters probably wanting interviews and then I see it—a letter addressed in Peeta's careful hand. The handwriting is small, precise and has a newfound twitchy quality. I spot another, then another and put them in my lap for a time when I feel braver.
I wonder if they're love letters, angry tirades or just brutally honest accounts of my flaws. I stare at Peeta and wonder if I look hard enough at him if I can tell without opening the letters.
His stacks are neatly arranged, but a white corner pokes out from under his black boots and gives away a pile he's trying to conceal.
"You wrote me?" I ask.
"Oh, it's nothing," he replies. "Part of my therapy. We can just tear them up."
He's blushing, embarrassed but curiosity has the better of me and I won't let him destroy them. I want to yank the letters out of his hands but don't want to provoke him into throwing them in the fire.
"Please," I say.
Reluctantly he hands them over and I sit on them before he can change his mind. We sort in silence until every letter is in its place.
Peeta thinks I should read the doctor's letters first. I'm in a contrary mood so I decide to call the doctor's office. Surely that will take less time than reading pages and pages of medical advice, therapies and diagnosis of my various psychoses. The doctor seems relieved that I'm alive and finally going through my mail. He says it's a step in the right direction. He tells me some things to do, asks me if I want to talk (I don't) and then gives Peeta some instructions.
While Peeta talks to the doctor, I read an upbeat letter from Delly. She's still in 13 and thinking about coming back to 12 as soon as the town's more rebuilt. She sends her love, tells me I'm amazing and that she'll do anything she can to help. My mother's letters tell me about her setting up a hospital, about District Four and the seafood she's never eaten before. She asks me if I'm eating and says that she calls Greasy Sae to check on me. If the president will ever let me out of 12, I should visit her at the beach. When Peeta isn't looking I hide his stack of letters under a couch cushion. If he doesn't want me seeing them, I'm determined to read them.
"You're doing great," he tells me when he gets off the phone. "Dr. A is going to send you treatments and call you weekly. You need to open letters and packages from him. He can really work wonders, you know."
Coming from the man who tried to strangle me a few months ago, I have to consider this.
Silence follows and I ask Peeta how he's doing.
"Much better than that first night in District 13," he said.
I touch my neck, where those black bruises stayed for months. "You're eyes aren't as cloudy."
Peeta explains that he went though a lot of therapy, a lot of talking with Dr. A, figuring out what real, what memories were tampered with and what triggers his episodes. He says the letters were part of the therapy. Dr. A made him write down his questions so I could answer them. They discussed the games based on the videos and Peeta's memories are gradually coming back. He says his episodes can be controlled—he can sometimes feel them coming on—but won't ever go away.
"Prim tried so hard to help you when we first got you back," I tell him.
Guilt, shame, dread—while my sister was helping I ran away. I should help him, but my stomach tightens and I get slightly dizzy when I think of the questions I'll have to answer.
When the rain stops, Peeta goes to pick up a shipment of medicine the doctor sent over from the Capitol. I pull the letters from under the cushion and read his letters starting with the oldest first.
I heard you're back home in District 12. I'm in the Capitol until Dr. Aurelius clears me. I miss home and hope you're doing well. I worry about you. We probably have a lot to talk about. I'll be home when I can.
Don't give Haymitch pneumonia.
PS Thanks for saving me.
My therapy would go so much quicker if I could talk to you. We've tried calling you, but you don't answer. Please pick up. I'm just trying to make sense of things.
Today as part of my treatment I rewatched the Quarter Quell—not the doctored version the Capitol showed me afterwards.
Thank you for helping me through the poison fog and not leaving me. Thank you for trying to save me from the monkeys.
I wish I could thank Finnick for saving my life when he rescued me from the platform, restarted my heart, drug me through the fog and took a knife from the careers for me. He was a great guy. (And I'm sorry you had to watch that.)
I'm so sorry we didn't break the alliance when you suggested it. I'm sorry I let them separate us.
When you're up to it, maybe we can talk about the games so I can know what really happened.
I hope to be coming home soon. It's not that the Capitol hospital isn't great, but I miss home. I miss baking and even my oversized Victor's Village home. I haven't seen District 12 since before it
was bombed, so I want to see my family's bakery one more time.
I hope that you're staying out of trouble—not slipping on ice or being chased by bears.
We talk about you in my therapy: what's real and not real. I was getting a good handle on it before the end of the war, but Dr. A is helping with the flashbacks. They come less often now and we're finding out what my triggers are. (Please note that I never want to see a tracker jacker again!)
Today I wanted to talk about that last mission. You wouldn't leave me behind. You stroked my hair, like you did in our cave in the first games. I remember those games more accurately now. And you kissed me. Which after I tried to strangle you never thought would happen again. You saved me Katniss. You saved me from myself, from the Capitol from death and not just that time, but so many times.
Dr. A says you're not answering the phone. He's also been sending letters without a response. I hope everything is ok.
Today I have questions about the first Hunger Games. I asked you before why you didn't look sincere, if you liked kissing me if you loved me. That conversation didn't go very well and I still have questions.
The general consensus is that a person that would risk their life to save mine probably wasn't trying to kill me.
So, why did you drop the tracker jackers on me? I think you said before my group had you treed and that time you were trying to kill me. Why?
Dr. A says you might not have known I was trying to protect you then. So what changed between that day and when you came and found me?
Did you plan of it being us two in the end? Did you really leave me for the mutts to kill me? Why did you wrap my leg in the tourniquet? Why did you offer me those berries? Did you think we would both win, that we would both die as painlessly as possible? I think I remember you saying "Trust me" so maybe you had a plan.
You said you liked kissing me some times. What times? How much of it was an act? But we both survived and for that I'm happy.
I must have loved you then. They say I was trying to protect you. And when we were last in the Capitol you said that's what we do. Maybe I should have protected you more.
I asked you if you loved me and you didn't say yes or no. Dr. A says you might now know yourself. He reminds me that you're a 17-year-old girl who has lived a hard life, who has been in survival mode for years. Finnick even told me one night that he thought you loved me.
How I wonder what we had.
I've lost a leg, been tortured, been burned and driven mad. But what about you? You were burned, driven mad and the whole nation witnessed the trial of the poor girl-on-fire so mad she shot the wrong president. Only, you looked sane when I saw you that morning. After the shot, though, you reminded me of myself when I have my flashbacks.
Katniss, I'm glad you didn't take the nightlock. I have so many questions.
When I wake up Peeta's letters are scattered over the couch. I roll over to find one wrinkled beneath me. I replace them under the cushion so they don't end up in the fire. Peeta is snoring lightly in the chair across from me and I rise and walk with a hunter's stealth and cover him with a blanket. I pause to look at the patchwork skin of his hands and neck. What an odd damaged pair we are.
He's brought a box back from the train station. It's filled with baking supplies, letters and medications for both of us.
Greasy Sae is at the door and I point at sleeping Peeta.
She hands me a large pot of stew and asks me to make sure my houseguest eats.
"I'll be back in the morning. And I'm putting in an order for groceries, is there anything you need?"
I would eat whatever she made, but decide that there is one thing that Peeta needs. She gives me a sly wink and is off to her house.
In the box, I find new letter from Dr. A.
I've discharged Peeta to District 12. I was hoping you could help me keep an eye on him. Make sure he eats, keeps busy and has someone to talk to. If you could listen to him and try your best to answer his questions, it would help both of you. If he feels an attack coming on, he might ask for help or space, but you should be safe. Also, if either of you get worse or if you can't handle living close to Peeta, call me immediately. I'm always a phone call or letter away if either of you need anything.
PS I'm sending over some pills.
I don't want the pills. I'm not sure what to think about Peeta being home—sleeping in my living room. I don't know what to do about all the letters, about living without my mother. And I wonder if it's all too much.
Peeta's fists rise slowly into the air. "What smells so good?"
I bring him a bowl of stew not really knowing what to say. Really, I'm just tired and want to go to sleep. But after weeks of sleeping on the couch, I know better than to fall asleep here. Instead I sit on the floor and stare at the fire.
"You can ask me one question," I say with my back to him. "I know you have questions, but I'm tired and I'm sure they're going to be things I don't want to talk about."
Peeta joins me on the floor and puts the blanket over my legs.
"Okay. One question," he considers. "How are you? I mean what have you been up to all these weeks?"
I'm not sure if that's two questions but it's not the questions about kisses for show and shooting presidents that I don't want to answer, so I'll try.
"I'm tired," I say. "But all I do is sleep. I don't know what I'm doing, what I'm supposed to do, what I want to do."
I play with the edge of the blanket and try not to look in his eyes. I don't want his concern or pity. I'm not even sure I want his company, but this is probably better than the weeks I spent in the training room prison.
In his silence, I continue. "I was like my mother. I stayed on that couch and barely moved."
"Well, let's keep busy," Peeta says.
The phone rings and Peeta answers it. Maybe he knows I won't.
"Yes, I'm home. Just got in a few days ago. So far so good."
"We just had dinner. She actually read some of her mail today."
"I think she's doing great." Then he hands the phone over to me. "Your mother wants to talk to you."
"Hi Katniss. How are you doing?" mother asks.
"Okay," I say after a pause and tell her about the rainy day.
"Peeta answered the phone. Are you two okay? He's not upsetting you is he?"
"I don't know," I respond. I wonder if the company is good for me. And then think company is probably why he's over here. He misses his family. Haymitch and me are all the family he has in District 12 now.
"Is there anything you need?" she asks. "I can have supplies sent over on a train from the Capitol."
I tell her that I've given Sae my grocery list, but could probably use some salve for my skin. "Hey Peeta, mother wants to know if you need anything," I say without thinking.
He comes back to the phone and asks for some baking supplies that weren't in his box from earlier. And though I'm not really listening I think he's telling my mother what he needs to take care of me.
Good luck with that.
While Peeta's on the phone, I go to bed. I don't know if he plans on staying.
After a night spent dreaming of mutts and strangling, I go downstairs and find him asleep on the couch, covered in letters. At first, I think he's reading my letters, but remember our long ago no-secrets pact and decide that there are worse things he could do than read my mail. Besides, maybe then I won't have to read all those letters. But the letter it looks like he fell asleep reading is addressed to him.
Call me Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 for therapy sessions. I'll send the pills as you need them and call or write if you need anything else.
Make sure she's eating
If she's sleeping too much, she should take the green pills.
Can you try to get her to write or call me once a week?
If she'll talk to you, that's the best therapy. But don't push too hard.
So, Dr. A has also made us a double-deal? I guess that's better than Haymitch. Some job of keeping an eye on me he's done.
Note: This chapter inspired by the pile of unopened letters referenced on page 381 of MJ. Who wrote all of those letters? Peeta of course.