It's odd, how things change; how people change. How my sullen hatred at the world slowly ebbed away as I learned to accept what I have and move on. Yes, I might have stayed an angry resentful child if it wasn't for the few people I've come to care about. And what a difference it's made, my once silent lunch table is now full of friends… my friends. I squeeze Peeta's hand as I remember the morning I woke up curled next to him in the woods, the morning that changed everything.
We made breakfast of the leftover food Peeta brought, tarts he called them. As it ends up, he designed the recipes himself. Meat tarts and fruit tarts made from the squirrels and fruit I gave him… nothings ever been sold like that in 12 before. We fished and gathered and talked, more openly than I've ever spoken with anyone. I told him of the agreement Gale and I made for after the reaping, and he was even less thrilled with the idea than I was… in fact I can safely say he was downright pissed. We both decided that the four of us needed to talk, open and honestly.
That next evening found all four of us in my living room. Peeta and I on our small worn couch, and Gale in the chair with Madge very comfortably sprawled across his lap. The agreement we came to was as follows: if I'm reaped Peeta volunteers and goes in with me; if Madge is reaped Gale volunteers and goes with her. If Peeta gets reaped, I volunteer and go with him. Either way we are staying together. After the reaping, we'll make solid plans for our future… after we see who's left.
"Katniss." Madge bumps my shoulder pulling me out of my inner thoughts. "You ready?"
I nod. It's time.
We walk in silence to the square, me and Madge flanked by Peeta and Gale. It was rough there for the first couple weeks. The residence of 12 felt quite strongly about our relationships, and decided it was their damn business to tell us how they felt. It became a necessity to travel together for protection, but as the reaping got closer the people had more pressing matters on their mind than the relationships of two seam rats.
With one last look at Peeta, Madge and I take our place for the reaping. I can see Prim a few rows back, beautiful in her red dress. She's safe, surely she's safe with her one name. It's Peeta and Madge I have to worry about this year.
I tune out as the Mayor begins reading the history of Panem followed by the Treaty of Treason. It isn't until I feel Madge grab hold of my hand and see Effie Trinket, the District 12 Capitol representative, walk onto the stage that I come back to the present. I squeeze Madge's hand and hold my breath as Effie's long, fake fingernails swirl above the females reaping pool. I only have time for one quick silent plea that Prim, Madge and myself are not called before I see Effie choose a name off the top. Madge and I are holding hands so tightly my fingers are numb, but it's the only thing keeping me grounded as Effie clears her throat into the microphone. "Delly Cartwright!"
I can hear Madge exhale in relief the same time I do. As Delly walks slowly to the stage, cries reverberate from the audience most likely the Cartwright family. Before I can say a silent prayer for Gale, his brother, or Peeta, Effie is already picking the boys name from the raping pool. Please, Please, Please not them is all I manage to get out before her annoying voice cuts through my silent pleas.
I smile, I actually smile at this. I look across the dividing ropes and see Peeta smile as well. It's done. We're safe for one more year.
The next few weeks fall into place better than I could have ever hoped for. Sadly, Delly and Thomas die within the first couple days: Thomas in the battle at the Cornucopia, and Delly a day later by the careers.
With no help in the shop, Gale is taken on by Rooba to apprentice as a butcher, seeing as her son was reaped and she knows Gale from trading. Now that he works with the merchants, he gets a lot less crap about dating Madge.
I'm coerced into helping in the bakery for some extra cash after Peeta's oldest brother marries and moves out. It's a sweet deal, Gale, Peeta, Rory (Gales little brother), Madge, and I all hit the woods in the morning. We break off into two groups and our days haul has increased to the point that we don't need to hunt at night. With the free ingredients, sales have risen drastically for both the butcher and the bakery.
At night we all hit the woods to train, Gale might be safe, but Peeta, Madge, and I aren't. We train with homemade spears, bows, hand to hand combat, and traps.
Next year, if any of us are reaped… we'll be ready.
I wrapped it up quickly, but at least I finished it. As always, I hope you enjoy my words as much as I have yours. Roar...