I always wondered what would happen if my name was picked during the Reaping. What would happen to my best friend and hunting partner, Gale? My mother? And, oh, God, my little sister, Prim? There was no way they'd survive. My mother's history with death does not flatter her; in fact, the reason our relationship is so troubled is because she shut down when my father passed away. I had to fend for Prim and myself before she slowly came back to us, but I knew things would never be the same for us.
I shudder at the thought of the Hunger Games. I literally shiver . . . I feel it all the way down my spine. Just the thought of innocent children killing other innocent children makes me want to wretch. I know that my chances are high . . . they're insanely high. Because of the tesserae, I'm in extra times. On top of the four I'm in just for being sixteen. I would never tell anyone that I'm scared of the Hunger Games. I try and act like nothing scares me and that I'm invincible, but I know better. I am completely mortal. And I know this because the unthinkable happened to me. I, Katniss Everdeen, was chosen to compete in the Hunger Games.
Technically, my twelve year old little sister was chosen to compete in the Hunger Games. But she would've been dead the second she stepped off her podium. I had to step in. I, although it was small, had a chance to win. If I got my hand on a bow-and-arrow, something to keep me warm, and maybe an ally for a little while, I definitely had a chance.
That is, until the love of my life, Peeta Mellark, was chosen as the male tribute for District 12. That's right, I said it. Katniss Everdeen, the girl who never seems to notice guys, is in love with the baker's son. A girl from the Seam, in love with a merchant's son. It's kind of comical, when you think about it. We have absolutely no chance in hell of ever being together, though. The most I can hope for was an alliance, maybe. But at some point I'd have to kill him or he'd have to kill me. And when one of us returned to District 12, if at all, we'd be shunned for life.
So, as I sit on the train, Peeta literally two feet away from me, I think about what might happen to us. Killed by a Career, probably. Maybe from a natural cause, like dehydration or starvation. Maybe a forest fire, a mutation, an avalanche. I've seen worse things happen in my fifteen Games. I've seen things nobody ever wants to see, and everyone all over Panem has seen them. And my death is just going to be another one that they'd forget about in the next Games.
"I'll go find Haymitch," says Effie Trinket, the chaperone for the District 12 tributes. She has insanely pink hair, a seriously pale face, and extremely powder-pink lips that are totally unnatural. Peeta and I sit in silence for awhile.
"Have you ever met him?" he asks finally.
I sit in silence. Did Peeta Mellark, the boy with the bread, the boy that saved my life, just speak to me? He sighs. "Look, Katniss, I understand if you don't want to talk, but I don't think there's anything wrong with getting a little help." I turn to look at him. Was that an underhanded dig at how he saved my family all those years ago, or was he sincerely saying he just wants to be helped? As I open my mouth to speak, Effie walks back in with a drunk, stumbling man that I recognize as Haymitch Abernathy. He's carrying a bottle of wine and he grabs another before sitting down across from Peeta.
"Okay, what's the plan?" Peeta asks.
Haymitch chuckles. "So eager," he says, looking between Peeta and I. "Here's some advice. Accept the fact that your death is imminent. The sooner you do that, the better." He laughs again. Peeta looks at me and lunges to take the wine from Haymitch.
Haymitch reacts quickly; he kicks Peeta square in the chest, so hard Peeta's chair flies backwards. Haymitch smiles again. "You made me spill on my shirt," he says. "What a shame, it's brand new." Then he stands up and leaves. Peeta, whose face is a distinct shade of red, stands up. He rights the chair and says, "I'll go talk to him."
"Peeta," I call after him, but he repeats himself and follows Haymitch. I decide to just leave him be and I go to my room to watch the Reapings from all 12 districts. In District 1, an extremely frightening pair are chosen. A girl with scary dark hair is chosen for District 2 and the male tribute, a frightening, intimidating boy who looks to be a bit younger, is lucky because an equally frightening boy of eighteen, Cato, volunteers. In those districts, it's an honor to be chosen. In District 12, it's a death sentence.
Districts 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 don't offer many great prospects. District 11 offers up a truly frightening boy who might be me and Peeta's age and then a twelve year old girl, Rue, who is barely the size of one of the boy's arms. I instantly think of Prim and my heart aches. I see my sister get chosen, I see myself volunteer, I see Peeta walk slowly to the stage, and then it's over.
That night, I don't sleep soundly. I don't think I will for the rest of my life. Even if I make it out of the arena alive, I'll never sleep soundly. When I wake up, I pass up all the Capitol clothes and redress in my mother's dress. I redo my hair and make my way slowly down to the dining car. Peeta is there, dressed in his own clothes, too. Effie and Haymitch are sitting side by side and Effie looks truly distressed. Haymitch has an obnoxious grin on his face and Peeta looks uncomfortable.
"There she is," Haymitch says. "We're just discussing strategies that could save your life."
"And they are?" I manage to say as I sit down next to Peeta.
"Shelter," Peeta says simply. "And water."
"Here's the best advice I can give you," Haymitch says sarcastically. "Stay alive." He guffaws and Peeta and I narrow our eyes at each other.
"That's really funny," Peeta says. "Only not to us."
Haymitch frowns. "Pass me the jam, sweetheart," he says. I don't. He repeats himself a few times before reaching over me for it. Angry, I take a knife and stab it at him. Effie gasps.
"That is mahogany!" she says, annoyed.
Haymitch looks to me. "Did I actually get a pair of fighters this year?" He smiles. "How good are you with a knife, sweetheart?" I pull the knife out of the table and throw it at the wall without even looking. It wedges in between two doorframes, making me look way more impressive than I really am. "Stand up, both of you," he orders. He walks around and looks us up and down, feeling our muscles.
"I've seen better," he concludes. "But I can work with this."
"So you'll help us?" Peeta asks eagerly.
"Don't push it, bread boy," Haymitch snaps. "For now, all I'm going to say is do what your stylists tell you." Then he storms out of the car.
Five minutes later, we pull into the Capitol. Peeta is waving at everyone, smiling. "Katniss, c'mon!" he says. He walks over, grabs my hand, and pulls me to the window. I wave with him, mainly because he's holding my hand. Peeta Mellark, holding my hand.
I think I might die happy now.