I stare at the Television in disbelief.
I am surrounded by screams that shake me to my core. I spin around to find the source, only to discover that it's myself.
For a moment, I stop. "No." my small voice is barely audible.
I turn my face around in time to watch Katniss fly out of the door. I can't stop her. I can't go after her. I couldn't move it my life depended on it.
My mother sits down beside me, and clutches me. Holds me tighter than she's ever held me before. I return the embrace willingly. I desperately feel for something solid to hold onto, something to bring me back to my sense. But all that goes away when I feel my mother's sobs wrack her small frame.
I have never seen my mother cry.
Never like this.
Yes, there were tears after we said goodbye to Katniss the first time. Those painful seconds in the Justice building, holding her, and wishing to never let her go. My mother stayed strong until we arrived back at our house in the Seam. She collapsed on the floor.
I close my eyes, and I am taken back to the first games, the games where Katniss volunteered for me. Where I was almost sent of to die and my mother fell to the floor in our house in the Seam…
For a moment, it was as though our father had just died. It was like her life had left her body once more and I was only standing there with a skeleton. That woman was not my mother. After a couple of days of trying to take care of my Mother's frail form, I half expected Katniss to come in the door with burnt bread and rabbits and dandelion leaves. I was waiting for her to come save us once again. It wasn't until the third day that the door creaked open and I jumped up.
"Katniss!" I cried running towards the door.
It was not Katniss. But it was almost the same.
"Gale." I sigh, running towards him.
I bury my face in his stomach as he stands, taken aback for a moment. And then relaxes and surrounds be with his arms, squeezing me tightly.
"Hey there Prim." He swallows, pulling my face up to look at his. "It's…. She's…"
He struggles for words and fight back the tears for the first time since the day of the Reaping.
"I know" I nod.
I stare deep into Gale's eyes. So much like Katniss' I stop breathing for a moment. Their grey eyes, so stony and strong; so unlike my bright blue eyes. They give me strength, and for a moment I think it's her. I think I'm staring into Katniss' eyes, with her olive skin and her dark hair.
But it's only a moment before the tears fight forward and my body is wracked with the sobs once more. Gale brushes my hair out of my face with his coarse fingers, calming me down.
"Shhh. It's okay Prim." It's…. okay." He says.
He doesn't believe it. I can tell.
I pull back from Gale for a moment. "Can you help me with my mother?" I choke out, staring willingly at his face.
Surely Katniss has told Gale of my mother's reaction to our father's death; which explains his reaction now.
Gale jumps into action, going over to my mother's bedside and assessing that she is in fact breathing; her pale crumpled form almost resembling a corpse now. He then jumps towards the counter, throwing his freshly caught game down on the hard surface and beginning to skin the poor squirrel.
My stomach growls in anticipation and I remember that I haven't eaten for 3 days. I smile at Gale for a fleeting moment, and run out the door to the garden to pick greens.
My goat Lady wails at me as I rush outside, and I am suddenly so overcome with guilt I forget my circumstances. "I'm sorry Lady… oh my beautiful girl" I bend over and stroke her soft white fur and scratch behind her ears. "I'm sure Katniss will come home with some…" I lose my voice.
No. Katniss will not come home yet. I tell myself. Yet.
But she will be home. She will be home, because she promised me.
Katniss has never broken a promise.
Not to me.
The tears well up inside me as my throat swells up and I fight back another set of tears. No. Katniss would not want this. This is not what Katniss would do. If I am to provide for our family as Katniss did, I must become my sister.
A small puddle at my feet serves as a mirror as I stare intensely, slowly altering my perception until I see a strong, dark face smiling back at me.
Go on Little Duck, it urges, let's see what you can do.
Suddenly overcome with a strange sense of hope and strength, I rush back in the house, slamming the door behind me. Gale reacts, taking a defensive stance as he clutches the knife he was using to skin the squirrel. My mother even sits up in bed, broken from her depression for a moment. Was I really that loud?
"Katniss will come home." I say, quietly at first. "Katniss will come home!" I scream, repeating it louder and louder until the whole house shakes. "She promised me. And so she will. And until she comes home, we will not wallow. Even if we are half as strong as she has been all these years, then we will survive. But Katniss is coming home, and when she does she will have a house in Victor's Village, and we will have running water, and endless food, and enough money to buy all the beautiful things in the whole of District 12!" I scream my last point; my face clenched in what I'd like to think is a defiant expression.
Gale stares at me, shocked at such powerful words coming out of such a small, fragile girl, and for a moment I swear respect crosses his eyes. "Okay" he says, whispering.
"You're right you know," says a frail voice from the corner. "She's coming home." My mother smiles at me. "And when she does, we'll be the richest people in District 12."
The excitement in her voice takes me back, but I urge her on.
"Oh, but what about Haymitch Abernathy?" I suggest. "Won't he be richer?"
"Of course not my Prim" my mother comes over, hands on my shoulders. "Because he'll be spending all of his money of alcohol, and we're smarter than that, aren't we." Her voice breaks for a moment and she taps the end of my nose.
"We are." I smile back, and hold my mother in a tighter embrace than I have ever before.
Lost in my memory, I don't notice the onslaught of visitors to our house. When I open my eyes, I realize that there are more people gathered into our living room than there ever has been.
Hazelle Hawthorne has arrived, bringing along Vicky, Rory and Posy; I search for Gale's familiar face but he doesn't seem to be here. Some of our old friends from the Seam have come by as well, Madge Undersee and a handful of townspeople I recognize have crammed into the small room, all clutching each other, reaching out to touch my mother and I. They give us looks of reassurance, but I take no consolation in their teary eyes.
My mother hasn't left my arms, but she seems to be out of tears. She stares up at my face, her eyes dark and red and in her eyes I see more fear than I ever could have imagined. Fear not only for her daughter's life, but us too. If Katniss doesn't come out of this arena, we will be thrown back into the Seam, and we will be forced to feed ourselves once again; how can we hope to survive without Katniss?
Our whole survival lies on my sister's shoulders. A sister whose already been broken by these games once. Who now has to face these fears once again.