I met Gale in the woods, intent on finishing as much of the camera rewiring work before the new head peacekeeper arrived. I warned Gale about it, of course. I offered to introduce him to Bonnie and Twill but he refused to meet them until all the cameras were rewired. We couldn't risk the Capitol knowing where we were going. We worked at twice the speed we normally did.
Eventually, we got to the halfway mark on the path towards District 13. But we couldn't go further because we found that trees lay fallen across the path. I pulled out the map Madge had gave me from my pocket. The map didn't seem to have any such barrier indicated. The barrier must have been created after the District seceded from the rest of Panem, perhaps as a way to block citizens of the remaining districts from finding the forgotten district. I climbed up the tallest tree I could find nearby to see how far the wreckage stretched. It went on for several miles. I had never been this far out, so I didn't realize how much of the forest was barred off. I climbed back down and informed Gale of what I saw.
"We'll have to cut through all of this just to get through," Gale surmised, surveying the large tree trunks strewn across the forest floor. Their long tree branches were intertwined creating a barrier that made it difficult to get through. "The good thing is that all the cameras were probably destroyed in the wreckage, so we won't have to worry about disarming any cameras from this point on."
I glanced at the wreckage apprehensively. "We won't be able to finish in time to get the refugees out before the new head peacekeeper comes," I remarked defeatedly.
"I guess we'll have to try," Gale pulled out a hunting knife and began hacking away at the fallen tree trunks and branches standing in our path, and I did the same. We worked quietly and methodically until evening fell, when we broke for a meal. I shot my arrows through a few squirrels as Gale lit a fire. We sat around the hearth eating the roasted meat, chatting about our families and Gale's work at the mines. I made sure to save the extra meat for Bonnie and Twill. After we were done, Gale and I resumed our work, falling into a steady rhythm as we usually did.
"Did you invite Mellark over?" Gale asked suddenly.
"I did," I replied hesitantly, glancing at him apprehensively to gauge his reaction.
"How did he take it?"
"It was fine," I supplied. "I had nothing to worry about."
"Right," Gale remarked tersely, his jaw tightening. "Must've gone well, since I heard you were dancing with him at the diner last night."
"How would you know?" I deflected. "Only merchants go there."
"Word spreads," he replied curtly.
I didn't deny it.
He gave me a disbelieving glance. "The Catnip I know doesn't dance."
"I did before you knew me. I used to dance with my father all the time."
"And now you're dancing with him?" Gale gaped at me incredulously. "Are you falling for him?"
"No," I denied instinctively. "It's not like that—it's just for show," I insisted. But I wasn't entirely convinced I believed that myself as my mind flashed back to the night before.
I was drunk.
But I couldn't explain why my mind kept flashing back to that night and why my heart raced every time it did. Or why I let him kiss me again today. Twice.
"Sure," Gale nodded. "Just remember what I told you—townies only look out for themselves. They'll get rid of you just as soon as they no longer need you."
"They're not all the same."
"They sure treat us all the same," Gale asserted. "Just don't say I didn't warn you."
"I won't, because there's nothing to warn me about," I retorted.
"For now," Gale smirked. "But when there is, I'll be the first one to tell you I told you so."
I rolled my eyes at him. I knew he was just looking out for my best interest, but his idea on townies was shaped by his own negative experiences with them. I understood why he thought the way he did. Most merchants were selfish and treated miners like the dirt beneath their shoes. Peeta's explanation for it helped me understand better why they held such animosity towards us. But they still had no excuse for how they treated us.
I still felt sorry for the way Hannah broke things off with Gale. As always, I accompanied Gale on our trips the merchant shops, so I was there when it happened.
We had made our sales already, so I was putting away the remainder of my game into my bag. Gale was leaning over the counter, flirting with Hannah, under the guise of getting her to buy some of his less valuable game. It was the type she'd never buy anyway, but he just wanted to flirt with her and get her to go into the backroom with him like she always did.
"I can't do this anymore," Hannah shook her head. "My mom is so close to finding out what's going on."
"She's not here right now," Gale smiled mischievously as he played with the tendrils of her hair that came loose from her hairnet. She always said this and he always managed to convince her otherwise.
"It's serious this time," she whispered.
"We can run away together," Gale suggested in a hushed voice as he gazed into her eyes.
"To where?" Hannah asked incredulously.
He shrugged. "The Seam?"
"You think I want to live in that dump?"
"It's not a dump," Gale protested.
"You're the one who's always complaining that its filled with coal ridden air that my townie lungs can't handle," she quipped.
"Your lungs can get used to it," he chuckled.
"I don't want to get whatever diseases that would lead to," she rolled her eyes.
"The woods have even cleaner air than in town..."
"You think I want to live in the woods?" Hannah scoffed indignantly. "Are you kidding me?"
"You always said it seemed like fun!"
"And leave behind my family?" she scoffed incredulously. "Then I'll end up like her mother," she motioned with her head to me. "No offense, Katniss," she quickly apologized to me before turning her attention back to Gale. "I don't want to be the social pariah of town."
"What about what I want?" Gale asked.
She gave an exasperated sigh. "Listen, it was fun while it lasted, but I don't need you anymore," she stated coldly. "I'm going to marry someone from town anyway. I already started seeing him. He's got a respectable shop in town so he's marriage material."
"And I'm not?" Gale asked, insulted by her words.
"Do you own a shop in town?"
"Right," Gale's jaw tightened, as he pulled away from her. "I guess I don't need you either. There's tons of Seam girls around. They're not as spoiled as you are, so they'll be a better fit for me anyway."
"Good," Hannah agreed as she straightened her back. "Don't talk to me in class anymore either, because I don't want anyone to think there's anything going on between us—because there isn't."
"That's fine," Gale retorted nonchalantly. "From now on it'll be strictly business between us."
After that, things became tense between the two of them, but Gale kept his word and kept it professional. I started hearing about his trips to the Slag Heap from Seam girls in my class.
When Hannah was reaped, Gale pretended like he didn't care. I wasn't able to visit her because she had so many family members and friends who waited in line to see her. Besides, I tried to keep my relationship with her strictly professional because I didn't want any attachments anyway. I wasn't sure if Gale got to see Hannah before she was carted away to the Games. All he told me is that it was far too suspicious that she did so well fighting in the arena when she had never been trained. I reminded him that she was a butcher so she knew how to use a knife very well. After she died, he isolated himself for a while. I imagined he may have mourned her death but he never spoke about her again.
He never said anything to me about it, but I could tell he was devastated by Hannah's betrayal of him. It marred whatever little respect and patience he had left for merchants. After that, he no longer felt he could trust any merchant. Maybe for business where it benefited them mutually, but not to have his best interest at heart. I couldn't blame him. Before Peeta came into my life, I couldn't trust them either.
Gale and I continued to work until rain clouds formed overhead. Hail pelted down on us, so we had to leave the remainder of the work for another day. As reluctant as I was to leave our expedition into the woods for a later time when the new head peacekeeper was around, it seemed like we had no other choice. If we only had more time or at least more notice about the new head peacekeeper's arrival, perhaps we could've finished this earlier. But it seemed that even without realizing it, Snow had managed to foil our plans once again. The hail seemed to be a foreboding omen of what was to come, and sent an involuntary shiver down my spine.
What do you think of Gale's relationship with Hannah? What do you think of Gale's warnings to Katniss? Please leave comments and reviews!