Each day starts the same, I open my eyes letting in the early light of a cruel world I know so well and I groan. Groan because I still have a heart beating in my chest, because air still automatically fills my lungs, because I am still alive, because I have to endure another day of emptiness; I groan because I am already dead inside, my body just doesn't know it yet.
Two things get me out of bed nowadays, one is a sense of obligation to Greasy Sae. She comes by twice a day; maybe more if I am in a real bad state. She makes my meals, does my laundry, makes sure I clean myself and even brushes and braids my hair. I know she cares for me I can see it in the worry on her face and the last thing I want to do is hurt another person who cares about me. The second thing to get me to rise is that getting up, walking down the stairs and strolling through construction areas of downtown District 12 will astronomically raise my chances of falling victim to a freak accident, which could mercifully snuff out the last spark of my so called life.
Much of my day is spent daydreaming about death, my own sweet release. I imagine after I release my last breath coming across a tunnel of pure white light. When I follow the tunnel I come to a meadow in a luscious rich green forest. Around the meadow are all the people who I have loved and lost. My father stands ridiculously tall carrying his bow and wearing his hunting jacket, he is singing and smiling. In the trees Rue jumps from branch to branch producing a giggle that only someone free of life's worries would make. Cinna sits with his back pressed against a tree and a sketch book in his hand watching the light pour down through cracks in the tree line, And then I see her walking as lightly as an angel through a sea of green ahead, when her eyes meet mine my soul sings, it sings her name. Prim.
When she smiles at me I feel a warmth I haven't felt for so long and I know I could be truly happy here. We are all together and we are safe. I am the closest to being at peace when I break from this reverie, but it is short lived because there is always darkness behind you. My mind always goes to what-ifs and things that I would change. As useless as I know this line of thinking is I am also too afraid to argue with the insanity that lives in my mind. Most of the time my thoughts involve Prim. I think of the day of my first Reaping. I think of how pointless it was for me to volunteer, how it was all for not, just the act of me volunteering lead her to her death. From the moment I volunteered until the day her light was taken from my life she had to live in fear. Yes, I extended her life somewhat but what kind of quality did that life have. I think of a Reaping day where I don't volunteer, and I watch them take her away from me, but maybe it would have been better that way. I would have just watched her walk up that stage and not said a word like Peeta's brother had done to him.
His name always escapes my lips like a prayer. That name is my best friend and my worst enemy. It is my salvation and what tries to suffocate me. When his name comes to mind I, if only for a brief period of time, feel alive. His name triggers something so disturbing in me. Some days I let his name explore the corners of my mind and play with my tongue and lips. Other days I am tempted to drill a hole in my head and tear the name out, not wanting to hear it again because alive is not how I want to feel. Some days I can imagine his gentle hands holding my face and other days I feel those same hands crushing my neck. Some days I can picture his piercing blue eyes as they put me under his spell, and other days I can picture eyes that are only black and cold; left that way by inhumane acts performed by people I have never had the pleasure of thanking, the way I thanked President Coin.
I snap out of my internal hell and find myself sitting cross-legged facing the bed of primroses outside my house in Victor's Village. This happens a lot. I find that my mind works similar to that of a solitary confinement prison cell; the window in my cell is too high for me to look out. Sometimes I end up in odd places when I am finally let free. One time I found myself fully clothed standing thigh high in the lake out in the woods where I had learned to swim as a child.
The voice calls out to me again. I know who it is because I will always know who it is; he is always there even when he isn't. Peeta, obviously frustrated by my lack of response, comes and sits down next to me facing the flowers he planted in honor of my sister two weeks prior. I realize in this moment that we haven't been near each other since that day where he looked at me with such pity it tore something in my heart. Peeta, the boy who had once loved me, who had saved my life more times than I can count, who had endured pain, misery, and loss in my name, now looks at me like I am the saddest and most pathetic thing he has ever looked upon... maybe I am.
"Why did you plant these?" My question, which is no louder than a whisper, is the first thing to break up our silence. I don't know what I expect to find by asking him this, but I need the answer. He takes a gentle breath and pauses momentarily.
"I planted them for her, and I guess for me as well.", he begins. "She was an amazing person, so kind and gentle. She helped me so much when I was in the hospital. On my worst days, when no one wanted to be around me, she would come in, sit by my side and hold my hand, just talking to me about memories she had of me. It was so calming." He closes his eyes and his face shows glints of contentment like he is remembering her soothing words. The story is so quintessential Prim that I begin to feel a lump form in my throat. "I guess I thought this was the least of what I could do to honor her memory."
That and keep an eye on her bat-shit-crazy sister, I think to myself. We sit in silence for a few more moments before the quiet is broken again.
"Did you ever love me, Katniss?" The question is spoken so softly and steadily that it doesn't match its content. He had asked me this once before in District 13 and I hadn't given him a straight answer, but there is no point in holding back the truth now.
"Yes.", I say before I turn to him and look him in his eyes, they are blue today, "Maybe as much as you loved me, but we're not those people anymore are we?"
"I guess not.", Peeta shrugs and a sympathetic smile turns up the corners of his mouth. That shrug and smile tell me more than anything he could ever say on this subject. The truth is we really are different people and Peeta Mellark doesn't love me anymore. We are remnants of pawns from others games. How arrogant I thought Peeta was the night before our first Hunger Games on the roof when he said he didn't want this to be his fate. All he wanted to do was keep his soul intact, but the powers that be had ripped both our souls out and torched them alive.
After a few more moments Peeta gets up brushing the remnants of dirt off the back of his pants. "Katniss?" I look up at him in response. "Would it be alright if I came by for breakfast once in a while? It's just that mornings can be... lonely." I know exactly what he means, after spending the night fighting demons and watching loved ones die, the emptiness of real life can be overbearing.
I smile gently and nod. He gives me the same courtesy and begins the walk back to his own prison.