Disclaimer: Just get me some Polyjuice Potion and a lock of Suzanne Collin's hair and I can shape-shift into her. How does that sound?
When my hunting cap is on, I stride over to the woods. When I go through the town, I hang my head low and hide my face with my bangs that refuse to stay in my braid.
I don't want to risk Peeta seeing me like this; all disheveled.
This is not who I am, someone who cares about the way people see me. But there's something about him. About Peeta. His beautiful blond head, those blue eyes that seemed to look into my soul when he saved my life with the bread.
Ever since that night, I was a goner. I was his, even if he couldn't be mine.
I shimmy under the fence guarding District 12 after listening for a hum indicating that the electricity is on. It's not.
I jump up and grab my bow and arrows from their hiding spot, then search for my best friend, Gale. I find him leaning on a tree trunk.
"Hey, Catnip," he says. "Look what I caught." He holds up a fresh loaf of bread with an arrow pierced through the middle. The bread from Peeta's father's shop.
"When did you get that?" I ask.
"Earlier this morning," Gale replies. "Why?"
With Gale being my best friend, I usually tell him everything, but I couldn't bring myself to tell him about my feelings for Peeta. I've tried plenty of times, whenever I felt guilty for keeping a secret from him, but when I start to tell him, I chicken out and say something stupid like, "I think I love… the Hob" or "Peeta… is sixteen, right?"
Those are the times when Gale suggests he take me home so that my mom can check up on me.
"Oh," I reply. "Just… because squirrels are… you know, small. For a trade… you know."
Gale walks toward me and puts the back of his hand on my forehead.
"Catnip, are you okay?" he asks. When I don't reply, he adds, "Well, it's reaping day… I guess nobody's right today."
"Yeah," I mumble. "That's it."
His hand drops from my head.
Without another word, we both start to hunt. Gale is immediately one-hundred percent focused, while I on the other hand, keep fanning my face, knowing it must be as red as the strawberries that we bring the mayor.
Gale must notice that I am out of it, because he suggests that we sit for a while.
We're talking about usual things, then, out of nowhere, he says something unexpected.
"We could do it, you know," he says.
"What?" I ask.
"Leave the district. You and I. We could make it."
Suddenly, my heart starts to hurt. At the idea of leaving Prim, my twelve-year-old sister, with just my mother. Leaving home. Leaving Peeta.
"No, I- we couldn't," I reply.
Gale sits up from his old position, his back leaning on a tree stump, and knits his eyebrows.
"Why not?" he asks.
"Because," I say. "Would you want to leave your mother? Posy? Rory? Vick? We can't leave our families."
And I can't leave Peeta, I add silently to myself.
"Well, if it weren't for them-"
"Then we wouldn't know each other. And why bring that up? Why today?" I snap.
"I don't know," he says back. "Just being stupid I guess."
He grabs both of our hunting bags and stands up. "I'll bring these over to Greasy Sae today."
"I'll see you at the reaping." I say.
"Wear something pretty," he replies flatly before climbing under the fence.
I wait a few minutes to make sure he's gone before climbing under the fence and to my house in the Seam.
When I walk into the door, I see that it's 1:45 o'clock. I have fifteen minutes until the reaping.
I take off my hat and toss it on mine and Prim's bed. I just plunk down when my mother comes rushing in, holding a beautiful dress.
"Katniss, honey, you need to change quick!" she says, handing me the dress. She runs out of the room and I faintly hear her talking to Prim.
I change into the dress and look at myself in the cracked mirror.
The dress is light blue with ruffles on the collar, which is a V-Neck, and on the short sleeves as well. It's quite short, but I don't mind, since I'll be changing out of it as soon as I come home.
I walk over to the other room where my mother is finishing Prim's hair.
When she is done, she beckons me over. She starts to braid my hair, but I stop her.
"Um," I start. "I don't think a braid will go well with the dress."
In all honesty, I couldn't care less. I just felt that if I looked a little more… prettier than I usually present myself, then Peeta might actually notice me a bit more.
So my mother unbraids my hair and looks as if she is thinking of something.
"Oh!" she exclaims, snapping her fingers and running off. She's back in less than a minute with a white tiara. She pushes back my hair with it and brings the mirror so I can have a closer look.
When I see myself, I find that I actually have pretty potential.
I've never appreciated how long my hair is, which is all the way to the bottom of my ribcage.
My mom hands me flat shoes that match my dress, and we're off to the reaping.
After we're signed in, Prim walks off to the section marked off for twelve-year-olds with some of her friends, including Rory, Gale's brother, and is Prim's best friend.
I go to the sixteen-year-old section, and, as if I have sensors, my eyes immediately find Peeta, and another one of my stupid fantasies ambushes me.
We're in the same place, but Peeta looks away from his friends, who he was talking to over the rope in the seventeen-year-old section, and sees me.
He walks toward me, and I'm frozen.
He's wearing an incomplete suit because the jacket is missing, and two of the top buttons on his shirt are missing. His collar is popped on one side, and folded on the other.
He looks at me with his piercing eyes, and his hair seems to be flowing.
"Katniss," he says, as if impressed.
"Peeta," I reply.
"You look amazing," he says, then leans down. Closer…. Closer…. Closer…. Almost there….
"Ladies first!" I hear.
I stagger back as if I was pushed, and blush at my fantasy. Then I silently curse Effie for ruining my moment.
My eyes flicker to Peeta, who's saying bye to one of his seventeen-year old friends and punching his fist before he walks away.
Then, to Gale, who's already been looking at me.
Any other person would have looked away, but our friendship allows us to feel comfortable around each other.
As Effie plunges her hand into the girls' sphere, I get that sudden urge to pee that I always get when I'm nervous.
Effie's lips part and a name escapes her lips, but it's not mine.
Usually, somebody would feel relief in the fact that they don't have to be stuck in an arena to fight to the death, but not me. Not when it will be my little sister instead.
I whip my head around to Prim, who was tightly holding Rory's hand. They look at each other fearfully.
Prim moves forward to the stage, but Rory refuses to let go of her.
They're whispering to each other, but I just see mouths moving.
"No!" I yell, and every eye inside District Twelve turns to look at me. "No, Prim! Rory, don't you dare let go of her hand! I volunteer! I volunteer as a tribute!"
Gasps echo everywhere.
"No, Katniss!" Prim yells.
"Prim," I say. "Stay put!"
She obeys, looking frightened.
I run up to the stage and introduce myself. Effie Trinket asks for a round of applause, but instead I get something more.
Everyone, every single person here, presses their three left fingers to their lips and extends them to me.
This almost brings tears to my eyes, but I stay strong. And just in time too, because Haymitch Abernathy staggers towards me, drunk as ever.
He whips his arm around my neck and I stagger under his weight.
"I like this one," he says, his words slurring. "She has a lot of… spunk."
I hold my mouth to resist from vomiting all over the crowd as the smell of white liquor invades my nostrils.
Haymitch stumbles over to a camera. "More than you!" he says, pointing into the lens. "More than you!" he yells to another camera.
Then he throws up over the floor and passes out, with Peacekeepers surrounding him immediately to take him away.
After Effie dismisses the awkward scene, she announces the boys' turn.
I look at Gale and lock eyes with him. Not Gale. Not Gale, I think in my head. Not Gale!
Well, it's not Gale.
"Peeta Mellark!" Effie Trinket yells.
My heart almost stops when I see his stricken face.
I remember the day with the bread again. When he pitied me and tossed me burnt bread. The day I fell in love with Peeta Mellark.
He walks up the steps to the stage, his hands stuffed in his pockets.
Effie Trinket asks for volunteers, while I beg for one in my head. When none come forth, I bite my lip to stop myself from sobbing.
We're told to shake hands, and I have to fight every impulse to hold tighter and take him away. Somewhere away from here. To hide.
But before I could make that decision, we're whisked away into the Justice Hall.
One hour. That's all we have to hear the goodbyes from our loved ones.
Prim and my mother burst into the room, both hysterical.
They both start talking, but I can't hear anything through the ringing in my ears.
Only when Prim begs me to come home, do I tune them in.
"Come back! Promise me!" Prim screams, her hands on my face. "Come back home!"
"I can't promise you that," I say.
She kicks the sofa that I'm sitting on hard.
"Yes you can! You can win!" she screams so loud that I'm sure people outside can hear.
I don't say anything to her. I just stand up and spit directions at my mother. When I'm done, I pull them both into a fierce hug.
"I love you," I whisper. "I love you both."
And at that, they are ripped away from me, Prim still screaming at me to come back home. I just give a small wave and sit down.
The door opens again, and Peeta's father steps in.
The resemblance between the two makes me smooth out my hair.
He gives me cookies and tells me he will take care of Prim. Then we just sit there until he needs to leave.
Next comes Madge Undersee, the mayor's daughter. She gives me a golden pin and a kiss on the cheek.
I think that's it, until I remember Gale right as he walks in.
He opens his arms, and I walk straight in.
Then, he tells me to find a bow and arrows. To make one if there aren't any.
When the Peacekeepers start to take him away, I panic.
"Gale! Don't let them starve! Please!" I yell.
"I won't!" he yells back. "And always remember that I-"
But I'll never know what he wanted me to remember, because he's taken away, and soon, so am I, to a train that will take me to the Capitol.
I'm blinded by cameras flashing, and I know that the scowl on my face will look good, as if I don't care. As if I'm even annoyed by the attention.
Once on the train, I look around for Peeta, just wanting to see him, but I can't find him.
Distracted, I don't pay attention to the fact that I'm on a train and should try to stay stable, so I'm only half surprised when the train jerks forward and I fall down the other way.
I start to get up, when I find a pale hand right in front of my face. My eyes travel up the arm until they meet those blue eyes. He has a soft expression, but no smile, no frown.
"Afternoon, Katniss," he says softly.
"Afternoon… Peeta," I say, taking his hand and letting him pull me up.
When I stand, we're inches apart. I start to think that this is one of those "moments" when I'm supposed to lean in and kiss him, which would be perfectly fine with me, until he lets go and walks into another room, leaving me standing there, my hand tingling where he touched it.
A/N: Anyone reading?