Oh, hello stranger. How are you?

But I guess I've been the stranger. The last time I posted something for this story was, I daresay, almost a year ago. My apologies! Anyway, I meant to finish this before Christmas, but I just couldn't get into it. So, today, I sat down and wrote it for you guys. It's really simple, but hopefully effective. I wanted to get a look at the kind of Christmas Katniss might have had after her Dad died. Anyway.

I saw Catching Fire! I thought it was really good. :) The acting was better, and I like the characters. I liked the arena scenes as well, and the director was SO MUCH BETTER. I understand what Gary Ross was going for (at least, I think I do) but the shakiness of before made it hard to focus on at times. This was very clean-cut, very well done. I always have Hunger Games nostalgia though. I remember posting chapters of You Love Me and absolutely dying to see the movie. I think I saw it in theaters, like, three times. :D Anyway, here we are, two years later. Crazy, huh?

As for my other writing, if you're interested-I've been working on a story since November. It started as something for NaNoWriMo (and I won-just barely-with 50,280 words. AH!) and has grown into something much more. I'm really proud of it. It's going to need some polishing, and I have to finish it still (it's at 85,000 words!) but I plan to enter it in ABNA. (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award). If it gets to any important rounds, I will let you guys know! And then maybe you can read it, vote for me? Either way, I'd love for you to read it once ABNA is over. If you'd like to.

I also started a YouTube channel! :D You just type the regular web address for YouTube and add a slash and then this: memaddiesings. Please check it out and subscribe, thumbs-up, or whatever! If you like it!

Okay, I think that's everything. For those that are interested, I have a blog. You just type the regular web address for Wordpress and then a slash and then this: needtuning. I talk about my life and my cat and being gluten-free and music and One Direction and stuff.

I'd love to know your thoughts on this chapter! I always do!

Thank you all so very much!

Much love and thanks,

-Homey

P.S. GRAMMY'S TONIGHT! Who's gonna watch? I know I am! Exicted to see Taylor Swift and to see Carole King and Sara Bareilles to a song together. That's pretty cool.

Disclaimer: Don't own it, dontcha know it.

©HomeschoolGirl 2014-2015. Please don't use as your own.


A Very Katniss Christmas

Christmas in the Capital.

It was a sordid affair, one that expended so many resources it made you sick just thinking about it. Still, everyone in District Twelve was gathered around the live footage set up in the hob, absolutely rapt with attention as they watched the lights being strung upon an eight-story-tall tree. The camera flashed to a shot of a long banquet table, laden with piles of exquisite, steaming food. Some hungry soul let out a whimper in the back of the crowd.

That soul was Katniss Everdeen. The scrawny thirteen-year-old hadn't eaten a bite since early that morning, out hunting in the woods with Gale. They'd given in to the pangs of hunger and roasted their only kill—a squirrel—over hot coals, devouring it all within seconds. Wasn't even enough for one person, that squirrel, much less a ravenous girl and her starving family or a broad-shoulder boy and his siblings.

Gale let her have most of it, knowing very well his mother Hazelle would have conjured up something or other for them to eat, though food was sparse this time of year. The thick snow that covered the grounds made hunting harder and food from the other districts was rarely imported into Twelve, since it was so far from everything. They had a couple ample shipments of grain and sugar, some salt pork before the snow made traveling hard, but not much else.

"I'm going to go back out after this," Katniss had said, wiping her fingers on her pants. She tried to ignore the pangs of guilt she felt over not saving any for Prim. Or maybe those were hunger pains. She wasn't sure.

"You're not gonna find anything, Catnip," Gale said knowledgeably. "Why don't I just ask my Mom for some food? She'll have enough to spare you guys."

"Don't," Katniss snapped. "It's embarrassing."

"It's not—"

"My mother can take care of it, like yours. Should."

"Should," Gale agreed, standing up. He offered an already-calloused hand to Katniss. "But won't."

The food looked so good, as she stared at it now. God, she must get Prim something. She was so small, and she ate so little, but still.

"Greyson," Katniss said a moment later, standing in front of a graying man in his forties. His table was littered with little bits and pieces of meat. Some salt pork. An ancient jar of canned ham. A graying rabbit leg. Treasure, as far as District Twelve was concerned.

"What would you give me—" She said, thinking quickly. Already there was a line forming behind her, a line full of willing-to-pay customers. The TV spot was over, apparently. "What would you give me for—"

"Aw, I can't do none a that, Katniss," Greyson said, his mouth drawn into an apologetic frown. "I got a family to feed myself."

She switched tactics. "Is there anything of ours I could trade you? For that—that ham?"

"Not the ham," He said, absently tapping the lid of the jar. "I could get a pretty penny for this."

Her stubborn gaze turned to the floor as she took a breath. "Please?"

Perhaps it was seeing the strong-willed Katniss beg, but for whatever reason Greyson's resolve softened.

"Tell you what," He said, leaning forward. "If you give me that gorgeous little stone of yours—the one that rests on the mantlepiece, from the beach, then I'll give you this salt pork."

"You promise?" Katniss asked fiercely, tightening her grip on the counter. "I want all of it. All five pieces."

"Yes."

"Okay." She backed away from the counter. "See you in ten minutes."

"Ten," He agreed, and turned to the next customer. But not before discreetly sweeping the bit of salt pork up in his hands and tucking it into his pocket, out of view. It was Katniss's now.

She sprinted home in the falling snow. It almost made the district look picturesque. Katniss could have loved snow, if it didn't make hunting hard. It softened everyone's hard edges. It covered the grey.

Prim was sitting by the stove when Katniss walked in, trying to keep warm. Her mother had let the coals burn dangerously low again. And though Katniss had attempted to teach her, Little Prim was just too weak to do it herself. Katniss sighed and went to fetch some new coal.

"Step back," She cautioned as she came in, carrying it in her bare arms. Prim scooted her chair just far enough away for Katniss to throw them into the stove's belly. A lot of hot ash puffed up in response, coating Katniss's cheeks.

Prim giggled when she turned around. "You look funny."

"I do, do I?" She wiped her face with her shirtsleeve. It came back dirty. She glanced toward the back bedroom, where she could just make out her mother's slight frame poking out from beneath a worn quilt.

"Has she been there all day?" Katniss asked, scarcely above a whisper.

Prim nodded, lost in her eyes. Then she took a breath, brightening. "Did you get food?" Her eyes probed Katniss's pockets for bundles, but they were flat as the line of her mouth.

"Not just yet, little duck," Katniss said, reaching out to ruffle Prim's cornsilk hair. "I'm just about to. I wanted to come by to check on you." She glanced toward the bedroom. "Stay by the fire, all right, but don't get burned."

"Okay," Prim said. She hunched over in her seat, cradling her pointed chin in her thin hands. "I'll wait here."

Katniss wandered back into the bedroom they all shared and stood at the foot. Her mother had the quilt pulled over her head. Only the crown of her light hair could be seen. She touched it.

"Mom."

Mrs. Everdeen stirred in response.

"Mom. You can't let the fire burn out."

She rose her head a fraction of an inch, like it hurt her, and stared at Katniss. There was a blankness in her eyes that had been alarming a year ago, when Katniss's father died. Now it was just there, something to be dealt with. She met her mother's gaze as evenly as she could.

"You can't let the fire go so low when I'm gone. Do you understand?"

She nodded.

"Every thirty minutes you need to restock it."

Her head listed to the side, like it was too heavy for her neck to support.

"Do you promise?"

Her tongue flicked out to wet her dry lips. "Yes."

Katniss turned and swept out of the room. She waved to Prim again as she went through the kitchen, giving her a thumbs-up to let her know everything was okay. Then she grabbed her father's stone and swept out of the house.


He used to go to places far away, when business called for it. He'd be gone for days, and when he came back, there would be treasures. Honeyed almonds. Delicious, delicate cakes that shattered in his pockets. Even now, Katniss could remember licking her fingertips and catching the crumbs on them, trying to get every last bit.

Once he brought back a stone. It was the color of fresh cherries—the ones Katniss had seen on TV, in the Capitol—threaded with spirals of the most lovely violet.

"Where did you get this?" Katniss breathed, cradling it in her tiny palm, like a precious gem.

"From the beach."

"The beach?" She glanced up, eyes ablaze. "What's that?"

"It's a place that carries salt in the air," He said, stooping over to meet her eyes. "There's sand, and endless water the color of the sky on a beautiful day."

"Did you buy it?"

"No. I just picked it up."

"Stole it?" Suddenly, the object felt foreign in her hand. She tipped it toward her father, wanting no part.

He seemed to understand, and laughed. "No, no, Katniss. On the beach, beautiful things like this lay in the sand, waiting to be picked up. They cost nothing."

"Wow."

"And it's yours. I saw it and thought of you."

She pressed it to her chest. "Thank you."

"Of course, my sweetheart." He touched her hair. It was loose, flowing down her back. "Now I should go see your Mama. Did she miss me?"

"Always," Mrs. Everdeen called out from the next room.

Katniss stared at that stone.


"Here," She announced, laying the stone on the counter. Greyson's eyes lit up.

"A beauty to be sure," He said, examining it closely. Something twisted in Katniss's stomach. Her eyes burned. He didn't notice. "Tell me, where did he get this?"

"On the beach."

"Exquisite, innit? Don't see things like this around District Twelve."

"No. You don't. My salt pork?"

"Of course." He handed the small bundle to her. Just enough to last them a couple days. In exchange for something her father had given her, a little remnant left in his memory. She stared at that smooth stone, the color of cherries. The color of blood.

"Thanks," She said, and turned away, tucking the food beneath her coat. The snow had picked up, and the walk back home was cold, but she went slowly. The fresh air kept the tears at bay. It was worth it, though, when she stepped into the house fifteen minutes later and cut a generous slice of salt pork for Prim. The stove was running low again, and Katniss added more coals. She cooked the food for her sister and set it in front of her. Prim dug in with eager hands, exclaiming over its deliciousness. Katniss picked at her tiny portion and eventually gave up. She gave it to her mother, who picked it apart with her fingers. There was no time for elegance.


Gale came by on Christmas Eve with a half loaf of bread. Katniss smiled as she took it from him.

"Merry Christmas," He said. His cheeks were red with the cold.

"You're early," She noted, turning around to set the bread on the counter. He only nodded.

"Mr. Mellark gave it to me when I came by this morning with a turkey for him. And some muffins, but Mom wanted those for dinner tomorrow. What are you going to do?"

"Nothing," Katniss said with a tiny shrug.

"I've been helping Mom to throw together some presents for the kids. Dolls and such. Does Prim need anything?"

She thought about it. Prim never expressed an interest in toys, but that might be because she knew they couldn't afford them. Katniss shrugged.

"I can figure it out, Gale, thanks."

"Whatever you say, Catnip." He tugged the end of her braid. Then, "Stay warm."

"I will," She promised, because she knew he wasn't just saying that. Around here, people never just said anything. If those spoke, their words meant something.

He said goodbye and left. Katniss wandered over to the bread to poke at it. She saw now it was stale, probably from a couple of days ago. Even Mr. Mellark couldn't spare fresh bread in the spirit of giving, and he was just about the nicest guy in the district. Sometimes she'd stop at the window and he'd give her a muffin, just because she looked hungry. Always the rejects, though. Katniss didn't think she'd ever had a slice of fresh bread.

Prim was sitting on the bed next to their mother, drawing in the margins of an old pamphlet. Katniss peered over her shoulder casually, wanting to see what occupied her mind. Fairytale depictions of gifts tied with elaborate ribbon loomed back. A whimsical tree, with a lopsided star on top. Prim had Christmas on the brain. But not just any Christmas—a Capitol Christmas. One nobody here could give her.

Katniss sighed. Prim looked over her shoulder.

"Why do you sound so sad?" She asked.

"I don't." Katniss sat down. Prim scooted over to give her more room. She lay back, and her sister curled into her arms. Next to them, Mrs. Mellark slept. Katniss took a breath.

"Would you like to hear a story?"

She felt Prim's head nod against her chest.

"It's about Dad. Is that okay?"

"Sure." She perked up. "Nobody tells those."

"Well, I think I was around your age." She ran her fingers through Prim's hair. It was fine as a spiderweb. "Maybe a little younger. And so enchanted by the Capitol."

"It's pretty."

"It's all really pretty. We were in the Hob, watching the Christmas on TV, and I told Dad how I wanted to see the tree. You know, the really big one they put up?"

"You do?"

"I did." Katniss paused a moment to gather her thoughts. "I guess I still wouldn't mind seeing it."

"So what happened?"

"Um…" She blew a breath through her lips. "I guess not much. I just remember it because Dad said one day he'd take me. We'd go to the Capitol and watch the tree be put up and clap with everyone else as the lights went on."

"Do you ever…" Prim paused as her voice caught.

"Yeah?" Katniss asked after a few seconds.

"Do you ever wish he was still here?"

"All the time."

She rolled onto her back, staring up at the ceiling. Katniss followed her gaze to where a watermark was spreading. She'd have to take care of that.

"What was your favorite Christmas?" Prim asked then, forcing thoughts of their father from the room.

Katniss thought back. She'd never taken special care to store Christmas memories in her head. The day had always been much like the others, aside from the slightly more elaborate meals and maybe some candy all to herself. But she wanted so badly to give Prim something.

"I guess one year I really wanted my own bow. Dad had already made me one, but it was small, and I was getting better at hunting. I didn't think I'd get it, though. He was always working. Bows take time. He would have hard to carve them, and barter for the other materials. It just…didn't make a lot of sense."

"But you got it," Prim clarified.

"Well, no…" Katniss trailed off, thinking perhaps this might not be the right story to tell. "I didn't. But, um, I had this…doll. Kind of a doll. She had a head and arms and legs and her hair was drawn on with coal. When I woke up on Christmas she was holding a tiny bow. Kind of like the one I wanted."

"I want a doll," Prim burst out. Then she shut her mouth. "I mean, I would want one. If I was little."

Katniss smoothed her hair. "It's fine to want something sometimes, Prim. You can want a doll if you'd like to."

"There's no point," She said, painfully blunt. Katniss tried not to flinch.

"Well," She said after a moment, sitting up. "My stomach is pining for some food. Would you like some?"

"Yes." Prim scooted off the bed and went first out the door.

Katniss realized her mother had stopped snoring.


Christmas morning dawned sunny and cold. The wet spot above their heads had begun to drip. An ice-cold splash of water was what woke Katniss, spreading its dampness across her forehead. She wiped her face on the quilt and sat up. She was the only one in the bed.

"Prim?" She asked, slipping on her socks. When she exhaled, her breath blew fog in the air. She walked into the kitchen. It was warmer, here. Someone had started the coals.

"In here," Prim called from the area many referred to as their living room. For Katniss, it was just a place with a couple of old chairs and ancient pictures. She wandered in to find Prim sitting in one of those chairs, eating some of the toasted stale bread. It glistened as she put it in her mouth.

"Is that butter?" Katniss asked, hardly daring to believe.

"Yes," Prim said, taking another bite. She gestured to an abandoned plate, which lay on their old coffee table. "That's yours."

Katniss picked it up and tore of a small bit, chewing it slowly. It was butter. "How did you get this?"

"Mama did," Prim said simply. Katniss noticed the bundle in her arms.

"What's that?" She asked, stepping closer. Prim held it up. It was crude, quickly sewn—a cloth face and arms, probably stuffed with dried leaves. A wobbly, coal-drawn mouth.

It was a doll.

"Oh, wow," Katniss said, sitting in the other chair. She ate the rest of her bread and watched wordlessly as Prim "shared" hers with the doll. Finally, she cleared her throat.

"Where'd you get that?"

"Mama said Santa," Prim murmured. "He comes for the Capitol kids. I just didn't know he'd come for me."

"Aw, Prim." Katniss stood up, leaning forward to touch the doll. "Of course he does." It was safe to say those words now, now that their mother had finally come through for the first time in over a year. Then she realized something. "Where's Mom?"

"Out on the roof," Prim replied. "Fixing something."

Katniss wandered outside a moment later, wrapped in a quilt. Her mother was up on the roof, in fact, wearing one of their father's old coats. She was pushing something into what Katniss guessed to be the spot above the bed.

"Merry Christmas," She called out. The snow had stopped falling, but District Twelve was blanketed in white. Mrs. Everdeen glanced up from her hands. She was wearing gloves that were loose on her wrists.

"Merry Christmas," She returned simply, and went back to her work.

Katniss watched her for a few minutes, afraid to ask why. If she asked why, her mother might curl into her old shell. The why might never let her come out again.

She settled for an outstretched hand to help her down the ladder leaned against the house.

"You should have woke me," Katniss said, as she mother started for the front door.

"No," She said, shoving her hands in the pockets of the jacket. "You looked peaceful."

"Prim's gift is…" She thought of the right word. "Thoughtful."

"I suppose." They stepped inside and stomped off their boots. In the next room, Prim sang a cheerful song. Katniss restocked the fire while her mother busied herself getting out of the outdoor clothes.

"Here," She said at last, coming up behind her daughter. She held something in her fist. Katniss accepted it.

Her father's stone gleamed back up at her.

"What—" She started, then stopped as her mother's eyes silenced her. They were filled with tears.

"I was at the Hob this morning to get putty for the roof. Greyson was selling it."

Katniss jerked her chin up. "I don't regret doing it. I had to feed Prim."

"I know. I'm not angry." She smiled a wavery smile. "Anyway, I—I got it back. Merry Christmas."

Katniss tucked the stone into her pocket. She felt an overwhelming relief settle in her bones. And then a kind of protest, because how dare her mother pick today of all days to be well again. Grasping at the tiniest shred of glory.

"You too," She whispered, and she left it at that.