A/N: Is anyone else a huge Kings of Leon fan? Their song 'Pickup Truck' is a good one here ;)
Chapter 11 The Numb
Unsurprisingly, it's been raining nonstop since that day. The field work has been put on hold, but we've still been busy with the animals and anything else we can get done. Prim seems to be handling things much better than Katniss. Where Prim is crying and noticeably upset, Katniss is numb. She walks around the house and cleans, throws old things away, cooks and bakes, and she is most definitely not sleeping at night.
I stay with her. She lets me in. She talks to me, but there's little emotion behind her conversations. She talks about anything but her parents.
I've stayed with her every night at the house, but it's after I fall asleep when she gets back up and does anything to clear her mind. One night, I came downstairs around midnight to find her on her hands and knees on the kitchen floor, her hands covered in rubber gloves and a bucket of bleach water next her. She scrubs the floor as though there's blood splattered there too… but there isn't.
It's the morning of the funeral when I get out of bed at dawn to go find her, to maybe get her to come back to bed for a while.
I search the entire house before finding her where I least expect; her parent's bedroom. She stands in the closet, dressed only in a nightie, her hair back in a messy braid. I stand in the doorway and just watch her hold onto an old cotton dress of her mothers. It's blue and I can just make out the yellow flowers embroidered at the hem. She holds the dress to her face and inhales.
And that's when she cries.
She drops the dress and starts to frantically pull all the other clothes of the rack. She throws them all around the room, even kicks some of them. She stomps and cries and screams until she loses all her energy. Until I have my arms around her and we're sitting at the foot of the bed.
It's a while before she speaks.
"She left us…" she breathes, "She left me here. We lost daddy and then she decides she'd rather die than be the only parent left to raise two kids. I'm still a kid! I still need them!"
"She was sick, babe," I tell her, rubbing her arms.
I know she knows this.
"She missed your dad… I don't know what I would do if something happened to you. I don't think I would ever really be the same again."
She looks up at me, her eyes filled with tears. And then she nods, as though she understands that now.
"They're together now, right?" she asks, smiling a little.
"Yeah, and she's not sad in heaven, no one is," I tell her.
And we stay there on the floor until the sun shines through the window.
"What did I do to my parent's room?" she says before standing up and looking around.
She looks around the room like she's had an idea suddenly, but I don't ask her about it.
I laugh a little, "You had a tantrum…" She laughs too.
We hear Hazel calling up the stairs for us to get ready. But before we leave the room, Katniss digs though the mess she created until she finds the blue cotton dress. She smiles at me and kisses me once before heading to the bathroom.
The funeral is held at the same church that Prim and Rory were married in.
Kate's casket is closed. But Prim put together a display of pictures and scrapbooks. Katniss played her mother's favorite hymn, "How Great Thou Art" on the piano. She planned on singing too, but she just couldn't. Silent tears stream down her face while she plays. The church is packed with people and several people actually standing outside during the service, some even without an umbrella. Katniss wears that blue cotton dress and she looks beautiful, if only she wasn't so sad. Watching her with this look on her face, as if she's at a loss of what she does next, is like a knife twisting in my gut. But we've both been here before. We both know that it will be okay, and that this is just a moment.
After the burial, people bring food to the house. It looks as though half of it may go to waste since Hazel, Katniss and Prim have spent most of their time cooking and baking to keep busy. There is food all over the countertops, table and even on the coffee table in the living room. There's a very large pile of cards laying on one of the benches in the hallway, waiting to be opened.
It's not until after dark, when we're all sitting on the front porch, when Prim brings up the big question.
"What do you want to do, Katniss?"
Katniss lifts her head from my shoulder and sighs. The rest of us are silent until she thinks over her answer.
"We still owe $250,000 on the farm," she says quietly.
For a moment, she looks guilty.
"I could put together my savings, maybe cash out my life insurance policy," she suggests, "But that wouldn't even cover $50,000… We don't really have much of a choice."
And that's the reality of the situation, hitting everyone where it hurts. Without both John and Kate Everdeen, the farm owners, the bank could take the farm if it's not paid for. And now that I think about it, it's been Kate Everdeen's signature on every one of my paychecks. It's Kate's name on the ownership to the house Gale and I live in. And it's Kate's name on all of the machinery, crops, and all the animals that don't belong to the girls.
We're all fucked.
And it all sets in… Everdeen's will lose the farm and I will be looking for something to fill the void again. I may not even have Katniss. I will have to go off somewhere to find another job that's even half as great as this one. And when that happens, there won't be any Hawthorne's, no Prim, no cheese buns and most importantly, no Katniss.
"I've got some money saved," I tell the family, "I can help… I can see what kind of loan I can get. We will figure it out."
"We all will," Gale says.
Before anyone else can say anything, the familiar shiny black ford truck pulls into the driveway. No one moves while Cato gets out and walks up to the porch.
"Sorry for your family's loss," he says to Katniss, although he doesn't look sorry, "I am here on behalf of my family… they asked me to come down and make an offer."
Katniss stands to face him, clearly confused, "An offer?"
Cato digs into his pocket and pulls out a checkbook.
"For the farm, Katniss," he says as if he's talking to a dumb person, "One and a half million, for the entire thing; the land, the buildings, everything. If you sign the paperwork without any trouble, I may even keep the guys here for work."
"And me? What about Prim?" Katniss asks him, outraged, "Cato, our mother shot herself in the head five days ago! And you show up here the night of her funeral and offer to buy the place?"
"Katniss, everyone knows you can't do it by yourself," he spits at her.
I stand up so he notices she's obviously not doing this alone. And if he raises his voice at her once more, I will throw him down like I did at the fair.
"But there is another way, Katniss…" he says next, a smirk on his face, "A way for the farm to be completely paid for, your friends can still work here, you can still live in this house…" he points at her face, "But you'll have to marry me."
My heart drops. This is a pretty good proposition for Katniss if she was feeling desperate enough to keep her family farm, for Prim to be close to home and for the Hawthorne's to keep their jobs, for me to keep my job. She knows I love it here. She would accept this offer if it meant that I would be doing what I love… farming.
I can see the wheels in her head spinning. We all wait to hear her answer. I wait to hear her answer.
She turns away from him and looks at me, her eyes wide and fearful. I look away because I hate that look. I wouldn't be sticking around if it meant that every day I would come to work knowing that she woke up next to this guy.
I don't watch as she turns back to face Cato, but I hear her words.
"Fuck you, Cato," she whispers, just loud enough for us to hear.
My head snaps back to her as soon as she says the words… and just in time to see Cato's backhand connect with Katniss' cheek. She falls to the floor of the porch and before even checking to see if she's okay, I fly at Cato and tackle him, both of us breaking the porch's railing and tumbling over into the flower bed.
I can hear muffled yelling and shouting, some telling us to break it up and some telling me to hit him harder.
We are by Cato's truck when I hit him one last time, surely breaking his nose, maybe knocking a tooth out. And I have him by the collar of his shirt, both of us bleeding and sweating, our clothes ripped in places.
"You call that a pickup truck?" I asked him, blood running down my face from a cut on my eyebrow, "Get the hell out of here, man, and stay away from her."
I give him one last shove and walk away, spitting blood from my mouth. I walk past everyone's shocked faces and past Katniss on the porch and into the house. I just need a minute to myself.
"You just got your ass handed to you, man," I hear Gale yell before Cato's truck starts.
I shake my head, thinking maybe I let things get a little out of hand. And just when I get my thoughts together, Katniss comes inside, her cheek cut and bruised.
"I'll pay for the railing, I'm sorry," I tell her first, "I just—I mean, he asked you that and I just saw red…"
She's shaking her head, "It's okay, and he's gone."
"He comes in here… knowing you would do anything for your family and he asks you to marry him so you can keep the farm? God dammit, that fucking—"
She lets me fume.
"He put you in that position and I don't blame you for thinking it over, but— Fuck!"
I stop dead and turn away from her wide eyes. I know exactly what I want to say. I take a deep breath and I say it.
"I want you to marry me," I tell her, finally turning to look her in the eye.