Chapter One

I don't know how many days have passed. Months, even. How am I still alive?

I don't leave my bed much anymore. I can live without eating. Actually, most days I don't. Greasy Sae comes over a couple of times a week to watch me eat some miniscule meal and tries to slide in a comment about how I'd look better with meat on my bones.

But so would most of District 12.

I've stopped speaking entirely. It's not that I can't, but there's nothing important enough to talk about anymore. The phone rings, but I don't answer. I almost feel the urge to rip it out of the wall like Haymitch did, but I know it would only bring more trouble. Dr. Aurelius

knows I'm here, I just won't answer. My mother calls sometimes, but hearing her voice only makes me think of…

The days pass in a blur. The mornings bring the hollow feeling, and the nights bring the plaguing nightmares. The only time I feel is when I'm dreaming.

District 12 has begun rebuilding itself after the Captiol's bombing. I occupy my days by staring out the window at the process. Some old inhabitants of Twelve have returned, but there are also some new faces. They spend most of their days clearing the rubble that was left over, using large machines to knock over half-standing buildings that avoided the worst damage. I watch clutching the curtains, prepared to hide if someone looks hopefully at my window. I don't like what I've become. I feel like a rabid animal kept in a cage.

Peeta returned a few weeks ago. It was during one of the nights where I would stay up in some sort of protest of the nightmares, tired of seeing my loved ones die over and over again.

I had my cheek pressed against the cool glass of my window and I had just decided to give in and doze off when I heard something outside. Crunching footsteps in the snow. I opened my eyes and saw him. He was stopped, halfway between our houses, having some sort of inner battle with himself. I watched in a slight trance, my hand caressing my neck where the bruises used to be.

He took a step towards my house, murmuring to himself, hands twitching slightly and then looked up at my window. Even with so much space between him, I could still see the color of those blue eyes. I stared back, wondering if it was too late to hide behind the curtain when he dropped his head and continued towards his house.

I watched him close the door, and saw him light the fire inside. I watched the flames flickering and knew, just as he did, that we would both be up all night.

It isn't long before I hear the soft knock on my door. I brace myself, wrapping my arms tightly around my stomach as if to keep all the pieces in place. I don't answer, but he lets himself in anyways, closing the door quietly behind him.

My eyes are closed, but I feel the couch sink as he sits next to me. I hear his steady breathing, and find the courage to look at him. I regret it immediately, flinching at his expression, which is hard. He's looking at me so intensely that I almost feel frightened. Just as I'm about to scream, his eyes soften. They still look a little crazy; his pupils are dilated and his eyes are a sea of blue. His hands, which were clenched into fists, loosen and begin twisting into each other nervously.

We don't talk. We just sit there, staring, becoming familiar with each other again. It's funny, the things you notice about a person whom you haven't seen in months. His arms, which were once strong and sturdy, are as thin as mine. His fingernails are bitten to the point of bleeding, and his hands tremble. His hair has grown out; the sandy blonde tips of his bangs just touch his eyelashes. I stare at his long, pale eyelashes. They haven't changed a bit.

Every day he returns, staying a little bit longer, and leaves before it gets dark. Sometimes he brings a sketchpad, doodling absentmindedly until he remembers that he's supposed to go home. A few times, he opens his mouth, brows knit together, about to ask a question when he stops himself and keeps drawing.

I feel the need to hear his voice. I know I shouldn't, but it's been so long that I find myself wondering if it still sounds the same.

One day, when he's leaning against the wall, sketchbook face down on his chest, staring outside, I give in. I nudge his leg with my toe and break him from his trance.


I nod my head at his drawing, wordlessly telling him that I want to see it.

He glances down at the drawing and then back up at me, overcome by some sort of strange emotion. I prop myself and start to crawl so I'm sitting with my back against the wall next to him. He turns the sketchpad away from me and drops his head.

Suspicious, I snatch the pad from him. I look down, figuring that it's a picture of me and feel my heart ache. Her blonde hair is in two braided pigtails, the way my mother would do it every morning before she left for school. She's in the dress that she wore the day the television crews came to film me in my wedding dresses. Her eyes are bright, filled with so much light that even the darkest days of District 12 could not have put them out.

A single sob escapes me before his arms are around me. I feel my body crumple, my wind knocked out of me. I don't know how long into the night I cried, but we stayed there, on the floor of my living room all night. He stroked my hair for hours, and when he finally said his first words to me, he murmured them to me the whole night.

"It's okay."

"It's okay."