The water was finally warming up under the scorching sun. It splashed around my feet as I took careful steps deeper into the sea. I didn't want to scare off any fish. When the water was up to my waist, I spotted a school of fish a few feet from me. I motioned over my best friend with my hand and he headed in my direction. I nudged my head towards the fish and he nodded, understanding my silent signal. I mouthed the words, "Ready, set, go." And on go, he threw down the net and I sent my trident in the direction of the fish, spearing three of them at once. We dragged the net to shore and put our catches in a bucket.
"We have ourselves a feast, Katniss." Peeta Mellark said to me with a large and contagious grin.
I smiled back and said, "Looks that way, doesn't it, Peeta?"
He nodded and told me he was going to start a fire further up shore while I cleaned the fish. Even with that welcomed distraction, I knew I couldn't avoid the truth forever.
It was reaping day for the 74th annual hunger games.
I took out my best knife and started gutting the fish. I had seen it done a million times by my own mother and father. Well, when my father was alive, anyways. He died in a tragic boating accident when his crew went out fishing during a horrible storm. After that, my mother shut down and I had to practically take over the family business. My father had taught me a lot prior to his death, but the things he didn't teach me, I had to learn on my own.
We caught and sold fish for members of our district, district 4. Peeta Mellark's family did the same. That was how we met, actually. When my parents complained of the Mellark's opening up their own fishing shop a few miles from ours, they marched over there to work out some kind of deal.
And that's when I saw him. The young blond haired boy carrying a net and a small trident standing behind his mother. He was begging her to let him go to the beach to fish. She was in the middle of a heated argument with my own parents so she told him he could do whatever. I followed him to the shoreline curiously and watched him struggle to catch a fish.
"You're too noisy. You're scaring off the fish." I called to him from the sand.
He turned around and cocked his head at me in confusion. We were both only eight at the time. He didn't get mad at my criticism like I would've done. Instead, his puzzled expression turned into a curious one. "Then teach me how to be more quiet." He said in a gentle voice.
And thus, our friendship was born. The steady and kind boy and the stubborn and icy girl. Peeta provided me with a balance I didn't know I needed. I gave him some fire to ignite his flame and he gave me water to cool mine down. The perfect friendship that nobody could ever understand. Not even us, sometimes.
I finished gutting the fish and brought them over to Peeta's fire. He made a makeshift skillet and I tossed the fish on it to fry. I sat down next to Peeta on an abandoned log left on the beach. My stomach swirled around in an uncomfortable way in anticipation of the reaping. Peeta and I never had to sign up for the Tessera, like some other children. Our families had done pretty well with their fishing shops. And being sixteen, our names were only in that bowl five times each.
I had no reason to be nervous. But yes, I was. Peeta must've sensed my worry because he turned to me and put his hand on my knee gently. I looked up at him and he gave me a reassuring smile. I tried to return it but it didn't quite reach my eyes.
"Katniss, don't worry about today, alright? You'll be fine."
I nodded. "I know, I know. But what about Prim? It's her first year and-"
"Prim will be fine, too. We will all be fine." Peeta interrupted me. He sounded so sure of himself that I almost believed him. "And besides," He added, "If you do get reaped, at least you're handy with a trident."
I laughed. "Ah, yes. I will spear everyone to death like they are nothing more than some fish swimming around in the salty water." I replied sarcastically. Although, that was how one member of our district had won the 65th Hunger Games.
"Katniss, you could spear someone from twenty feet way. You're that good with the thing."
I rolled my eyes because I hated when he complimented me. It only left me feeling awkward and weird. "Yeah, well. You're strong from lugging around those huge barrels of fish all the time. I bet your strength would get you far in the arena, even if your aim with the trident isn't nearly as exact as mine." I teased.
"Sorry, we can't all be Katniss Everdeen. Now get our fish before it gets too hot."
We ate our food quickly knowing we had to get home to get ready for the reaping. We gathered our things and headed towards town. We reached Peeta's house and fishing shop first and I waved him a goodbye and told him I'd see him soon.
"See you soon, Katniss." He said back with a certain sparkle in his eyes that only Peeta seemed to be capable of.
I walked the two miles over to my own house and stepped inside to see my mother dressing Prim. I smiled at my little sister.
"You look beautiful, Prim."
"Go change, Katniss! We can't be late." She said nervously. I hurried and changed into a blue dress and wore my dark hair down my back in waves.
Grabbing Prim's hand, I tried to tuck away all emotion so Prim wouldn't sense my fear. I had a bad feeling about this reaping that I couldn't seem to shake.
"You ready, little duck?"
She smiled up at him and said sweetly, "If you are."
"Madge? Where are you?" My father called to me from the other room. I quickly pulled my blond hair down into a side braid and tied it together with a light pink ribbon. Taking one final look in the mirror, I let out a shaky breath and then turned to leave my bedroom.
As I stepped into my fathers office, he stood up from his desk and came over to me. He pulled me into a tight hug, my head resting against his beating heart. He kissed my temple and then pulled back to look at me.
"You look beautiful, Madge." He said, his voice catching on those few words. He was just as nervous as I was. I didn't really have a reason to be. My name was only in that ball five times. Five slips out of hundreds. Being from a poorer district, a lot of children had their name in their over thirty times. I was considered one of the lucky ones.
"Thank you. Is mother up?" I asked.
He gave me a sad smile and touched my braid gently. "No, sweetheart, she's not. She's very sick today."
My mother was always sick. It had been that way for as long as I could remember. I gave my father a fake smile and told him it was okay. But it wasn't. I needed my mother. I was scared to death. I couldn't do this without her.
But I had to.
"You ready to go then?" My father asked me then, cupping my cheek.
No. I wasn't ready. I would never be ready to stand in that square and wonder if my name would be reaped. I was the mayor's daughter, yes. But that didn't exclude me from the reaping. Even my father, who had some control, was utterly powerless when it came to the games. But I didn't have a choice. Even if I wasn't ready, I had to be ready. Because this was Panem and this was my life and nothing would ever change.
So I nodded my head and my father put his hand on the small of my back as we walked to the square. It was already crowded and lined with children who wore the same expression on their face as I did; a mixture of fear and anxiety and hidden disgust. Effie Trinket was tapping on the mic and checking the sound wearing one of her absurd outfits and pink hair.
"Welcome to the 74th annual hunger games!" She exclaimed a few minutes later.
My father was sitting on the stage and I watched his eyes sweep over the 16 year old girl section, looking for me. When they settled on me, he gave me a reassuring smile. I tried my best to return it but it didn't seem very convincing. Before I knew it, Effie was reaching into the girl's ball and I was sure I was going to pass out, because I had this feeling. This burning as the very bottom of my stomach that was slowly working it's way up my system. This horrible, gut feeling that just knew, knew without a doubt, that my name would be on that slip.
And it was.
"Madge Undersee!" Her voice boomed out across district 12 and it went dead silent. Because I wasn't an ordinary 16 year old. I was the mayor's daughter. I wasn't supposed to be going into the games. My name was only in there five times. You could count that on one hand! I tried my best to remain emotionless as I walked to the stage, every single pair of eyes on me. I wouldn't cry. I wouldn't scream or break down. Not now. Not in front of everyone. I would remain expressionless. I would remain brave.
Effie's hand was now in the boys ball and when it pulled out that tiny slip and read off the name, "Gale Hawthorne," I had to bite my lip to keep myself from gasping out loud. Why? Why him? Why him of all people?
He took the stage with sturdy steps and when his eyes locked on mine, he didn't seem so afraid. He didn't seem angry. He didn't seem like much of anything. Like me, he had tuned out everything and was trying his best to not show emotion. He was doing a much better job than I was, especially at that very moment. Because looking into the eyes of Gale Hawthorne reminded me of that fateful day four years ago when I helped him. And how ever since then, any conversation he's ever had with me as been filled with anger and hatred. And how I hate him too. Or at least, I want to. Because what kind of person treats you like that after you save their life? What kind of person hates you for that?
"Shake hands, you two!" Effie was saying to us then, pulling me out of my mind and back to the horrid reality. Gale held out his hand but looked towards the ground. I grabbed it and gave his hand a reassuring squeeze. Because no matter how low Gale could stoop, I wasn't Gale. And regardless of how horrible of a person he was, I was a decent human being. And I would stay that way. No boy or capitol or stupid games would change that. His eyes found mine and I nodded my head at him. Just once. Just as a simple gesture. Just to let him know that regardless of how we felt about each other, we were in this together now.
I knew it. I knew it. I knew it. I knew it. I knew it.
Those were the only words that seemed to flow through my mind when my name was read. No other thoughts, fears, feelings. Just those three words. I knew it. I repeated them to myself as I took my place on the stage, looking anywhere but at my sobbing sister, Prim. I didn't even attempt to find Peeta in the crowd because I didn't even want to know what he looked like right about then. Instead, those three words repeated themselves in my mind over and over again and they somehow comforted me, somehow kept me from all the other things I should've been feeling and thinking. They somehow kept me from losing control.
And then the boy tribute was being called and I didn't recognize the name. "Lansing Redstone!"
A 14 year old boy with light golden hair and green eyes began to walk towards me. And then, I saw him. I saw him running towards the stage, brushing past the 14 year old boy with an intense urgency. And I knew what he was going to say and I wanted to scream out to him. No. Stop. Don't do this. Don't you dare do this. But I knew my words would not change his mind.
"I volunteer!" Peeta said practically screaming those fateful words. "I volunteer as tribute!"
There was some confusion because, although four sometimes had volunteers, they were more common in the top career districts, like one and two. But then, Finnick Odair the past District 4 Victor from the 65th Games, spoke up.
"Just let him come up on stage already! Screw the rules."
I turned to Finnick and he winked at me. I looked away quickly, my cheeks blushing. Everyone knew Finnick Odair. He had probably slept with more than half of the women in the capitol. Flirty and gorgeous, he was the most wanted 24 year old in the entire nation. But his charm wouldn't work on me. Besides, he was my mentor now. He had to help me, not try to get me in bed.
Peeta took the stage and when he shook my hand, I squeezed it so tight, I was sure it would leave bruises on his hand. Good, I thought. That's what you get for doing this. I will never forgive you.
"I hate you." I whispered as quietly as possible, my voice wavering. I was still holding onto his hand with as much force as possible.
His eyes were filling with tears but he didn't let them fall. He ran his thumb over my own soothingly and whispered back, "I'd hate myself if I didn't do this, Katniss"
And then we dropped hands and were being pulled in two separate directions. We had one hour to say our goodbyes. I caught one final glimpse of Peeta before they shoved him into his room. He gave me a reassuring nod and mouthed the words, "You will be fine."
The same words he said to me just an hour ago when we had sat on the beach. He was still Peeta. He was still the same steady and loving boy, even under the darkest of circumstances. And I knew why he had volunteered. He wanted to protect me. And he knew that meant his own death. And I hated him for that. Because Peeta Mellark thought by letting me live, he was saving my life. But what life did I really have without my best friend?
No, Peeta didn't get to save my life. Not on my watch. I was strong and fast and good with a trident and with nets. That's how Finnick won the games after all. I would keep Peeta alive. Because I could never go home if I let him die for me. I would keep him alive and district four would have another winner this year.
A/N: I decided to do this in both Madge and Katniss's POV. I was going to do all four but it's more fun if you don't always know whats going on in someones head! PLEASE review and let me know what you think and honestly, reviews give me motivation and I end up updated sooner rather than later!