A/N: This is my first Hunger Games fanfiction. It's my introspective take on pre-epilogue happenings. I hope you enjoy! Please read and review! Also, all characters, etc. belong to Suzanne Collins, not me.
She stared at the ceiling, at the wooden boards. She wasn't looking at anything in particular. She wasn't counting the spots in the wood or the lines or the number of boards. She wasn't really thinking of anything at all.
She had been good today. She had eaten breakfast and dinner. Lunch she wasn't sure of, she didn't remember anything in between Greasy Sae coming in to prepare breakfast, then returning in the early evening to cook dinner. She knew there was food in the kitchen, in the refrigerator, that was meant for her to put together for lunch. But she hadn't moved from her spot on the couch all day, except when she had heard Greasy Sae come in the back door.
She wanted to stay right where she was, leaning her head back to stare at nothing, to think of nothing. She didn't want to walk past the windows or look out them. She didn't want to see that the world was still going on even though Prim was dead. Even though her mother refused to come home. "Home" was the wrong word though. Without her mother and Prim here it wasn't a home. It was just a house. A house with primroses planted out front – another reason to not look out the window.
Primroses. Prim. Prim. PRIM. Prim there one second, the shirt of her medic uniform refusing to stay tucked in to her skirt. Gone the next, blown into nothingness by the very District she had been working for.
Katniss could scream. She could wail and tear at her hair and beat her fists against the walls. But no, her sadness, her heartache was hers alone. It did not even belong to the realm of private outbursts. It was a dark entity within her, the sorrow and loneliness she felt. It ached all around her as much as she tried to contain it, from the emptiness of the house to the crippling memories she wouldn't wish away. In that she refused to allow anyone in. Not Greasy Sae who sometimes attempted small talk. Not the blonde-haired boy with scars like her own, who had planted the primroses for her. Not Haymitch who would stumble about drunker than not these days. Not the doctor at the Capitol who called and called and wanted to talk about feelings and nightmares she had and who wanted to send her drugs to take. No, the emptiness was something she could cling to – she HAD to cling to because Prim was gone.
The house, though relatively new, creaked and moaned, and there were moments where Katniss imagined that Prim was right upstairs, coming out of her room or about to descend the stairs. But there were no footsteps to follow the creaking and Katniss would laugh morbidly at herself. At her dumb delusions. But more often than not her reprimands were replaced by a quickening of her heart and an ache in her chest.
And then there were smaller tragedies – the tiny bird's nest with three perfect eggs that had been built in a long-forgotten lawn tractor's motor that were destroyed when Haymitch – on the spur of the moment – decided to do yard work. That just yesterday she saw Peeta throwing bits of burnt bread to the flock of geese and the sudden, sharp sense of guilt the image conjured. The whispering that went about town every time a body was discovered from the destruction of District 12. And how, in her mind, she was to blame.
Greasy Sae would update her on the rebuilding of the district, as part of her attempts at small talk. At first Katniss had been too numb to truly comprehend, to really care at all. But as the weeks turned into months, and the numbness turned into the ache in her chest and the pangs of guilt she felt, she found herself thinking of the town, wondering what all the new buildings looked like, wondering how everyone who had moved back – old and new – was settling in.
And so days – maybe weeks – after staring at the ceiling between visits from Greasy Sae and feeble attempts at keeping up with personal hygiene, Katniss found herself pulling a clean tunic over her head, braiding her unkempt hair, and lacing up her boots after she had cleaned her plate of breakfast one morning. Greasy Sae did not call out after her as Katniss strolled down the lane from the Victor's Village toward the town square. It was spring, Katniss realized, and suddenly her mind was flooded with images of vibrant green undergrowth and collecting birds' eggs from nests and the time she stayed her arrow after she saw the spotted fawn following closely behind its mother. The fawn had paused, its huge, dark eyes trained on her, and then with a flick of its tail skipped back towards the doe. Gale had chided her on the loss of game, until she silenced him with a steely look.
Gale. She did not want to think about him as she headed toward town. She didn't want to think about those gray eyes that so closely mirrored hers, or the many hours they had spent together in the woods, or the secrets and smiles she had saved for him, now all wasted and meaningless. She didn't want to think about how, if she had agreed to run off with him, Prim might still be alive. How she would never have been a part of the Capitol's or District Thirteen's games. How she would have never blinked an eye at the blond-headed baker's son.
She made a point to pound the dirt even harder under her boots as she walked on, trying to stamp out those nagging thoughts. Of course she wished things had turned out differently. She wished that every second that she allowed herself to wish. But things hadn't turned out differently. Her best friend was ultimately – although unintentionally – behind her sister's death. Her reason to go on, to live, was gone. And she was having trouble figuring out what to live for if it wasn't securing Prim's future.
She came upon the town square and the sights and sounds of reconstruction stamped out her nihilistic thoughts.
There was a neat little row of newly constructed buildings, their fresh coat of paint a stark contrast against the griminess of everything else. Much of the rubble of the destroyed buildings was gone. To where, Katniss didn't know. But as she approached the new structures, she could tell they were shops. One looked to be a fabric shop, a dressmaker's mannequin surrounded by rolls of bright cloth and ribbon in the window. Others were still empty or unopened. There was a barbershop, the striped pole adding even more whimsy to the bright storefronts.
There were quite a few people out that morning, some passing through town on to other matters, while others were working or overseeing construction. Some paused to stare at Katniss, finally out in the open. Others ignored her and went about their business. As Katniss approached the last of the newly constructed buildings she stopped in her tracks.
There, in front of the building, talking to a man in workmen's clothes holding what appeared to be blueprints was a familiar blond head. Peeta. Peeta in front of his new bakery.
She had stopped not even ten feet from him. As if he sensed her presence, he looked up from his discussion with the other man and found her. Their eyes met and for a split second something passed across his face, almost as if he were in pain. Then his eyes lit up and he smiled at her. Katniss, who had just then realized that her mouth was agape, clenched her jaw shut, turned abruptly, and pounded the gravel back toward the Victor's Village.