A/N: Clove's last name that I gave her, "Headen," is Latin for "broken." I'm heavily using Latin, since many Hunger Games canon names are derived from Latin (and THG has heavy ancient-Roman influence.) Clove's mother's name, "Tesella," means "a small cube of stone" in Latin. Her father's name, "Silex," could mean "any hard stone, such as flint." Due to District 2 being the Masonry District, I thought the names' meanings were appropriate.
I hope you enjoy this story. Please review! Please, please, please! I'll make sure you never get reaped for the Games if you do! Updates here are sporadic and not guaranteed, so feedback would really encourage me to continue!
May the odds be ever in your favor!
POV: Clove Headen
It started with words. All the worst fights do. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," they all say. Well, they're wrong. I would know.
A few nights spent alone in the dark can teach a kid a lot.
The screaming got worse and worse, and the words cut deep, and I would run to my room and close the door. Sink down beside the bed. Clutch my knees to my chest. Close my eyes. Shaking, trembling. Do not cry. Do not cry.
Outside the door – or just down the hall, if I was still too scared to take off – Mom yelled, about how we didn't have enough food, how we were going to starve, how he had a wife and a daughter and he couldn't just let us die, couldn't just let us die, couldn't just let us die.
Father – I had never called him Daddy, only Father– he shouted in that deep, granite voice. "I'm doing everything I can, Tesella! I've been working day and night to feed this family!" he yelled, and slammed his big fists on the table. Hard knuckles cracking against wood. Callous, scar-riddled skin, caked with dried blood from a long day of labor.
"You're never home," Mom choked out. "Always the work. And it's not enough, Silex! Look at your daughter. She's skin and bones! She's wasting away in front of you, and here you are telling me about how hard you work?"
Father grunted. "Do you think it's easy, what I do? Forging weapons, carving stone, trying to put on a mask in front of the endless Peacekeepers when all I want to do is come back and be with you? And Clove?" His voice broke, dropped an octave. The sore, bloodied hands tensed and clenched into fists on the table. "I love you. I love our daughter." The hopelessness in his voice scared me. Serious. Dead serious. "I can't do any more than I already am!"
Tears glistened in Mom's pale blue eyes. "You can't possibly understand –"
"Tell me what I don't understand, Tesella!" Father roared.
"If you can't provide enough for us," Mom stammered, "Clove will have to put in more tessarae when the time comes. And then all of Panem would get to watch her die." She swallowed, teeth gritted. "Is that what you want?" She wept harder. "To see our daughter killed? Or better yet, killing?"
By then, I'd usually be hiding in my room. Trying to pretend I hadn't been listening. Wishing I didn't hear the screaming, even if I covered my ears and pretended I was somewhere else.
But if I was still standing in the hall by that late in the fight, I couldn't move. I was stock-still, eyes wide, flinching but unable to turn away. I was a statue: rock solid, made of stone.
Just like everything else in District 2.
Because it's easier. Because stone can crack, but it can't shatter. Because I don't know of any other way to numb the pain.
Mom kept shrieking. "You may think it's a great honor to District 2 when someone's little girl comes back with a crown and food and medicine," she snapped at Father, "but I say it's hideous! I don't want that for her. You can't want that for her!"
Father's silence cut even deeper than words.
"Of course I don't."
His voice was hollow, belying the impossible burden that the Capitol had laid on his shoulders. "I can't." He looked up, into Mom's tear-streaked eyes, at her scarlet-flushed cheeks, her quivering lips. "I want to help her, Tesella. I love Clove. I love our family... You know all I want is for her to be... happy..."
That was the first time I saw Father cry.
I cried, too. At first. I learned later not to cry. Tears never hardened anyone, and that was what I had to be. Hard. More than that – impenetrable, untouchable, unbreakable. Like the machetes, axes, and swordblades that Father forged each day. Like the crude, rugged bricks that we shipped out for the Capitol's architecture. Like everything else made in District 2.
Made of stone.
On those nights, I rocked my head between my knees. I shrieked as loud as I could into my pillow, suffocating the awful, agonized noise. I twisted loose strands of my chocolate-brown hair between my fingers – wind, unwind, wind, unwind. I set my jaw, squared my shoulders.
I taught myself not to cry.