• • • Secrets and Bloodshed • • •

Prologue •

My name is Katniss. Katniss Everdeen. Most of the Seam people hate me—or should I say us, at least –we never worry of tomorrow if we starve. We fill our bellies with a stomach-full each day without breaking a sweat. Maybe it I the reason we deserve their deep antipathy. I am, and Prim, what they call Merchant kids, that they envy and despise. I guess I can't blame them, since there's the Hunger Games to worry about, and the multiple names then own in the Reaping Bowl, they can hold their grudge, if that's their way of releasing of anger, I'm taking the blow. Maybe it's also the reason why I don't talk to new people. That I always feel uneasy whenever they try to talk to me. I was never an easy companion to be with.

Tomorrow, I'm turning nineteen, meaning I am ineligible to attend the reaping next week. Tomorrow's going to be a real party, turning nineteen seems like the age of maturity and the age of relief. Because of the fact I no longer have my name thrown into the reaping bowl this year. But I can't really celebrate, can I? My little sister, Prim on her third reaping, the first without me standing with her at the City Circle. My friend, Gale, who is not turning nineteen until the next two months. These are two people that I'm most certain I love since my parents died. Or so they say they died. But for me, disappeared is a better word. They're no corpse found.

Once, my parents went to gather herbs beyond the fence, to extract the serum to make medicine with. And then they were gone. Just disappeared. Without a trace. The Head Peacekeeper, Cray allows them to, in fact, he was okay with the idea. So he wasn't a suspect. Going beyond the fence violates at least 12 laws in District 12, and punishable by public execution. And no Everdeens had been publicly executed for all I know. If they did, we'd be the first ones to know.

As of now, I don't have the slightest idea of their whereabouts. No corpse. No blood. They're not dead. I hope.

I was twelve back then. They go to the woods twice a month. Prim and I always go with them if they do. But that same day they were last seen, Prim was sick, I am to take care of her. Never in my mind had I imagined nor thought it was the last day I'd see them smile. If I knew I'd lose them, I should have stopped them from walking another inch of that doorstep. I heard the last bell as they went out of the shop. And after so many years, I'm still hoping to see their smiles when that door opens and greet us warmly with their longing arms.

Since they're gone, our Aunt Aloe and Aunt Vera, Sisters of my father, helped us run the shop and taught us what we need to learn of. Like running the business and mixing herbs to make medicines.

Gale was there when I was running to the woods, half-crazy, crying my eyes out. Feeling like the world's going to end. Screaming every foul word I know in the vast nothingness of the woods. I didn't know any good. Then realized I can't lose myself. Not for Prim. I still hear him say in my thoughts "Life doesn't end here, Katniss. I don't want you to stop your life here. Breathe, breathe, please. I don't want to kill yourself, not here, not now. I love you, Katniss." But I was twelve, I didn't return his feeling up until now, I still don't think it's the right time. I think we're still children. I didn't return any gesture of affection to him. If he's true, he can wait. There're a lot of girls flirting with him. I don't want to act like I'm, one of them.

Gale. I'm kind of terrified of him. He's not a town boy, I mean, he used to be when his father died. Just because of a feeble-minded Peacekeeper. The Peacekeeper sent the bullet flying in his father's skull when he dropped his gun to the cemented ground. Without another gasp, he was a goner. The feeble-minded Peacekeeper paid his debt, he was out of everyone's eye the next day, not knowing if Cray told us the truth that he killed the Peacekeeper himself, Or if the man was really sent to another District and ran off unscathed.

Gale was fourteen then. It sucks for him since he has to sign up or the tesserae to feed six mouths. I help him get through a whole year. He was helping out in the shop with my Aunts but decided he can't depend on us forever so he went hunting in the woods, endangering his life for the sake of filling his family's empty bellies. Having to grow up with almost everything at your grasp and then the next second have absolutely nothing is the worst thing a Town kid has to suffer.

Gale's father was a doctor, doctors are college graduates and much more experienced than a healer, but instead of recommending the expensive pharmacy medicines from the Capitol, he recommends our Apothecary Shop for medicines. He was a good friend of my parents, they practically worked together to make a living. So, Gale is my childhood friend, I think I'm supposed to marry him when we reached the right age. I hear them talk about it when they come to our house on occasions or watch the Hunger Games on our television, not that they don't have their own. They like discussing their opinions of the games to each other, often times I heard them scowl at the Capitol.

It took Gale a short while to get used to hunting in the woods by himself. Amazing how he can snare squirrels, rabbits, and the occasional deer. Through the years he had perfected this art. He's a real hunter now. Sometimes he teaches me how to do his stuff , I cannot doubt it, I learn more from him than I learn from school. Except for archery, I'm that champion at school, and that skill, he doesn't have. Every now and then, I go to the woods alone even if it's miles away from the house, at those times I want to drown in my own world. He could make me smile. Not wanting anyone except him. I want to be away from the Shop where my Aunt Vera would scold me for being so stupid at mixing the serums. She adores Prim, and that;s because she's much better at doing this medicines and a better learner, rather have the more potential to be a healer than a brutal and an unfriendly Katniss.

Gale, a true and kind friend. Confessed his feelings at the very young age of twelve. Immature. I might announce to him but didn't dare to. I didn't return his feelings nor did I say I won't try. I'm just not sure if they're true and genuine enough to be even considered to be called love. Or just the false image of child-like infatuation. But honestly, I'm perplexed of my feelings for him. What if I just pity him? Or I just want him because he's always the company I'm longing for. He kissed me one time, and I responded not with my lips but with a stone-hard fist smashing his face. He didn't talk for weeks after what he did, but he apologized and my rage eventually vanished.

"Katniss," Aunt Vera's voice breaking me out of my deep thoughts. "It's almost noon, dear, aren't you going to pick up Prim?"

"I am, in just a minute" I went upstairs to our room and changed into a more presentable clothing. A sleeveless gray shirt underneath a leather jacket and old-fashioned blue jeans, all owned by my mom. I headed for my used to be school.

Graduating high school is an honor or District 12 children. Not all who wanted to go to school can attain it. Since college is much of a rich people deal, I can't afford it. It's a luxury, as many people said. Gale could have gone to the Capitol to study in college if his father hadn't been killed. Universities are exceptional. Only rich districts have those. District 1, 2, 4 and 5. No universities here, in twelve. Very few can afford it anyway.

"We'll be just ten minutes Aunt Vera, we won't be long." Aunt Vera, I can't say I love her.

Because once, there was a young man, about my age, 12; he's a blond who lives in the Seam. Badly wounded by two stray bullets on his chest. It was the morning that my parents were declared missing. There was tension in the Shop when everyone stopped to look at the young man. His face was pale, lifeless as I describe it. It was obvious he has been enduring the pain for so many hours. I don't know how long that bullet has struck him. But he has a lot of tolerance to even stay alive even the enormous amount of blood loss. The bullets must be pulled out of his chest before placing any healing medicine. He was bleeding to death.

He was looking right into my eyes like he was saying "Make the pain go away" like I would if I was in his stance. He was mumbling something, but I can't hear his voice. I saw so much blood, but I can't even dare to look away. The boy needs an expensive treatment to get the bullets out and an important injection. For what all Aunt Vera knew, he owns not one cent in his pocket so she said, "Let him die, we can't afford to lose that priceless serum on that boy" her expression fuming. It wasn't to deny, the serum he needed was found only in District 2 but is treated by some device from the Capitol. It's worth a fortune to have it. The boy already has blood poisoning, he's running out of breaths. He'll die. I was twelve, a child, but knew better that what she knew. I answered her back, endured the profane scowls and hits I received from her fist. But I still stood up, fearless of another blow to the head, "If mother and father were here, they wouldn't let that boy die" I shot her my enraged eyes. Prim looks at her in her innocent ones, hiding at the staircase, wondering what she'd do to the boy. She looks at her. I don't know what triggered her mind to oblige to what I say, I'm eager to save this boy, and he won't die all because we're in a bad situation. If my parents were there in that morning, they would treat the boy, both of them will pour blood and sweat to save that boy, but no, they're not there.

The little girl who brought him there, another blonde, whom I think his sister, thanked me but I didn't accept the credit. It was still Aunt Vera who saved him. "It's a life-long debt. You saving him." her name's Delly Cartwright. I didn't know her brother's name. I neither asked for his name nor the reason he was shot. All I know is he's alive and breathing. And he gave me hope.

Delly and Prim became best friends since them. Whenever Delly reaches out to me, always have the natural ability to bore her. Delly is a friendly girl from the Seam, she's good at conversations at school, but I'm not good at making friends. I never heard her say anything about the boy. She never mentions him to me. To Prim she does. Delly is always with the blond boy at school. Prim laughed at me when I thought the blond was Delly's brother. I forgot the name of the boy.

Delly stopped speaking to me one day, almost immediate it surprised me, I don't know the reason, I didn't ask because I consider her an acquaintance rather than a friend. She began to look at me differently, she gives me this weird look. Not disgust, not resentment not a grudge but envy. And again, I don't know the reason.

But I notice him a lot. I catch him staring at me at times. I like his deep blue eyes. The ones that begged for his death but somehow made it through. The color of his hair reminds me of my parents. The exact shade of the strands from my mother and those dandelions she picks for me at the meadow. Because of his presence, I didn't shatter completely when we lost out parents. I was convinced I saved his life. Sometimes in class, I sneak a glance at him. He never notices me.

I don't have a crush on him. He just gives me hope. Hope, after all, is the only cure for the miserable There was still reason to live and endure pain.

I reach the school gate. I see Prim approaching and crying. My brows crunched together. Small and weak for her age. Fragile as a crystal wine glass. If there's anyone, anyone at all who hurt her. I'll mark their faces, scarred and permanent.

I see Prim. She's running to my direction. I open my arms to embrace her in a tight protective hug.

"Why?" I ask.

"Nothing. Happy Birthday, Katniss" she whimpers as she buries her face in my neck. My birthday's not until tomorrow. She never forgets to greet me ahead of everyone else. But I hate to see the greeting like this.

"Why are you crying? Did someone hurt you?" my face more evident with fury.

"No, I'm just afraid of the reaping" oh, right the only harmful thing I can't protect her from is the cruel Hunger Games. Everyone's very vulnerable to the dreaded games the Capitol people call entertainment, whereas for other Districts, the slaughter of their fellowmen.

"There're thousands and thousands of names there, you only have five written there. It can't possibly be you" I assure her in my comforting voice.

"Kids my age look at me funny, mostly from the Seam" she can't pounce on them, it wasn't in her nature.

"Ignore them," I'd like to say I'll punch their heads off, but I wouldn't want to hear her scolding me for being so brutal. "Don't look at them, just walk straight."

"Okay"

"Let's go home then."

We almost reached the Shop when she asks, "Do you think it's embarrassing for a 14 year- old to be fetched by her older sister." She said in a joking way.

"Prim," but I put on a serious tone which kind of startled her. I placed my hands on her shoulder. I looked at her right through her eyes. "You are the only real family I have. The last thing I want is to let you off alone and disappear without a trace. Like what happened to mom and dad. Don't listen to what they're saying about you, they don't understand us." And they will never will until the same thing happens to them.

She nods.

"Prim," she looks expectantly to what I'm going to say. It's important she must hear it cause I don't repeat myself. "I love you" she knows it but I want her to hear it from me.

"Katniss, I love you too. Happy Birthday.

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• • • • • ~ FanFiction by: MsDayDream ~ • • • • •

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