It's cold today. Not that I could tell, the house I live in has plenty of heat. Back in the small, two bedroom apartment my family and I lived in above the bakery, we'd have to stuff aprons under the doors and in the windowsills to keep the cold air out. Heat was a luxury that almost no one in District 12 could afford. We never complained, though, it was all we knew. Now, if there's a crack in a windowsill, or if rain seeps in through the roof, I can get it fixed to where it's like nothing ever happened. I can afford that now.
As I stretch and look out the window, I see snow. Today is the day. The Victory tour starts today. These past six months, trying as they were, flew by like no time had passed at all. Six months I had, and I spent it drowning myself in my passion for baking. My father and Jacob continued the bakery in town, and that left the kitchen to me, for my own projects. Baking was the only thing I could do to completely lose myself and not think about things. It was my saving grace.
I get dressed and make sure my hair is combed the way I like and I head down to the kitchen to bake. I spend about an hour, making a few loaves, some of which I plan to drop off at Haymitch's before the train arrives to take us on our tour. The others I'll drop off with Greasy Sae, who I've found out had gotten some sponsors together for Katniss and I in the arena. I pledged to myself that I'd always make sure she had fresh bread in the mornings.
The walk to Haymitch's house from mine takes only about two minutes, but the wind in the air makes the cool weather feel colder, and by the time I make it to his door, my teeth are chattering. I tread lightly when I hear a commotion. I open the door, and Haymitch is sitting in a chair by his kitchen table, and he's soaking wet. Katniss has a bucket in her hand, and I know how she woke him now. I almost want to leave and come back later, but I'm going to have to see her at some point today anyway, so I may as well get the awkwardness over with now.
"You told me to wake you an hour before the cameras come." Katniss tells Haymitch. He rolls his eyes. "Why am I all wet?" He asks her, like he doesn't know. "I couldn't shake you awake. Look, if you wanted to be babied, you should have asked Peeta."
"Asked me what?" I say. I used to think her bluntness was admirable, and it was one of the reasons I respected her so much, but now it just makes me mad. We've barely spoken in six months, and she has the nerve to act like she knows me.
I cross over to the table and set the loaf of bread I baked for Haymitch on the table, and regardless of the now severed, barely-neighbors relationship Katniss and I have, I decide to offer her some too. "Would you like a piece." Then, I look at her for the first time in six months, and then those lost months replay in my mind- starting from the moment we stepped off that train, hand in hand:
Katniss and I get off the train, holding hands, for the cameras. Then, we are taken by car to the town square, where the Capitol has a celebration set up for us. There are red and black streamers, balloons, the works. The colors of our district and our district flag wave proudly over the town square with a gentle breeze. We are brought up on the stage in front of the Justice Center, and out in front of us is almost the entire district. The citizens of the winning district are not technically required to attend the celebration, but most do.
The crowd cheers for us and applauds until the mayor comes up to the microphone to speak. As the crowd goes silent in anticipation for the speech, I scan the crowd. I see my family. My father is standing tall, and looking directly at me. He catches my glance. He's got a smile on his face, and I know he is proud. My mother is pointing at me then back to herself as if people don't already know that she bore me. I can hear her now. "That's my son! My son won the Hunger Games! Well, you know, I knew it all along…"
My eldest brother, Jacob, stands next to my father and wears the same expression, almost like he's trying to hard to be happy for me. I don't expect much else from him, he's never been one to show any type of emotion. Riley, my other brother, is nodding his head up and down, and smiling at me as well. It brings a smile to my face then, after the situation I'd just been through, seeing my family there waiting for me, waiting for the celebration to be over so they could embrace me with open arms.
To their right, I see Primrose, Katniss' sister. Prim couldn't be more happy, she's crying tears of joy while holding what appears to be a stray cat. Prim is cradling the cat and petting it and it seems to be no stranger to her arms, but it's a mangy looking thing. It's just like Prim to care for an animal no matter what situation it came from. I've got a strong feeling that Prim will carry on in her mother's footsteps and become an apothecary.
But perhaps the best thing I've seen all day, is Katniss' mother. The woman who stared into the distance, in too much pain to try and go on with life after losing her husband. She was smiling, and she actually looked like she was here, in the square, with the rest of the citizens. Katniss' mother had come back from her depression. She holds one of Prim's hand in hers, then she waves discreetly at me with her other hand when she notices me watching them.
There is one face that I don't see, and that is of Gale. I scan the crowd over and over again, and even look in the far corners, figuring he might want to be out of the public eye, but after awhile, I realize that Gale did not come to the celebration. Katniss seems to notice this, too. She isn't looking amongst the crowd the way I am, she isn't looking to them mayor the way the crowd is. No, Katniss is looking west, where the sun is beginning to set over the horizon, and the shadows of the forest where she and Gale once spent a lot of time, dance in the fading sunlight.
"Welcome all, to the 74th annual Hunger Games Victor's celebration!" The crowd cheers.
"I don't have to tell you that this year is special." Still, he tells them anyway. "District 12 hasn't seen a victor since Haymitch Abernathy, some twenty-four years ago. And this year, we have not one," he says, while grabbing Katniss' arm and raising it into the air. "But two victors!" He says, raising my arm as well.
"The Capitol has provided us with a feast! The first of many gifts to come to the winning district. It is my job now to thank the victors, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, for the extraordinary honor they have bestowed upon our district." The crowd cheers again.
Music begins to play, and the mayor leads us all in the national anthem of Panem. When it's over, he shouts, "Let the festivities begin!"
The "feast" provided to the district is nothing compared to the food we were eating on the train and in the Capitol, but it's much more than someone living here could hope for. Every household in District 12 was shipped a care package from the Capitol after we were announced the winners in the arena. These care packages had three bags of flour to bake bread, which, if used sparingly, could last three months. The packages also had a year's supply of oil, matches, health salves, tonics, other weak medicines, water purifying iodine, and a small bag of candy if the household had any children. Might as well start brainwashing these kids while they're young. "Send someone to die, get candy."
Hours go by. There's music and dancing and lights everywhere. People are free to come and go as they please, but the mayor, Katniss, and I are required to stay until at least midnight. After making small talk with Peacekeepers and the mayor and other town officiates that we'd really rather not talk to, the both of us were counting down the time where we could go home and reflect on everything. We need time to ourselves, we need time with our families, and we need time to regain our sanity before the Victory Tour six months from now.
The Capitol plans it that way. The actual Hunger Games last only about a week or two, depending on other factors. But with the reapings, the training, the interviews, and the Games, it's about a two month time stretch. Then, six months later, the winning candidate goes to each and every district, it's called The Victory Tour. Though I think "The Shame Tour" is a more proper name for it.
My stomach flips everytime I think about the fact that I am going to have to stand up in front of eleven other districts and talk about how great the Capitol is and how good it feels to be a victor and a whole bunch of other lies I'm going to be fed, all while looking into the eyes of the parents whose children were lost in the games. I can't imagine the pain they're in right now, and the Capitol is sure to keep it fresh in their minds with the victory tour.
Finally, midnight comes, and the mayor escorts Katniss' family and my family to the Victor's Village, where we'll be living from now on. I've been here before, but I never thought I'd actually get to step foot inside one of these huge, gorgeous houses. The mayor stops in front of two. They are identical, a tan color on the outside, with white shutters. There is a porch, with a small front yard, and then the door to the three- story house. The mayor presents Katniss and I each with a separate key, to our houses.
As the key is dropped into my hand, I thank the mayor and turn towards my house, immediately walking towards it, not acknowledging the glance I feel on me from Katniss. I know she wants to say something, anything, to ease the situation. Not because of me, but just for the sake of peace. I can't allow her to do that, though. If she wants things the way they were, I've got six months to get over her before the Victory Tour.
Walking inside the house, my mother lets out a small shriek, then pushes past me to examine every piece of furniture. There are suede white couches, all the seats recline, and it's sitting in front of a huge television. To the left of the couches and television, is a gorgeous hand crafted fireplace and mantle. The kitchen is big enough to run the bakery just out of it, but of course we'd still keep the bakery we've already got. There is a bathroom downstairs, some storage under the staircase, then each of the two floors above the staircase contain a small common area, two bedrooms, and a bathroom.
This is the first time in my life that I can actually go into my chosen room, which is, of course, the master, and shut the door, and lock myself away. It gives me peace knowing this is where I'll find solitude. This is where I'll find myself again. This is where I'll drag myself back into the reality that Katniss and I are opposites in every way, and it's best that we don't speak much, no matter how much it kills me.