Last night the capital announced a competition for my wedding dresses to compete against each other. I'd much rather have them fighting to the death than me. All of Panem will be voting for their favorite. It's just one more thing in my life that I have no control or say over. Ever since I won the Hunger Games last year it seems more and more like I actually lost. Katniss Everdeen, the self reliant hunter from District 12 never left that arena, Victor Everdeen pawn of the capitol did.
I take the short walk over to Haymitch's house this morning. Peeta and I are meeting him to go over mentor business; I say business because I'm really not sure what kind of training Haymitch is actually going to give to us today. Normally he is so wasted on white liquor that for him to actually train us would be a miracle. In past conversations he may give us a tip or two but then his conversation will veer off into an entirely different direction, most of it slurred and barely recognizable as human speech. But Peeta and I are now expected to take up the reins as mentors' to the tributes of District 12 and it seems as much as I don't want the job, I am determined to be good at it.
I walk into Haymitch's house which is right next door to mine in Victor's Village. Peeta is already here speaking to Haymitch in the living area. Haymitch, no surprise has a bottle in hand but still is sober, well that's a stretch. He's not fall over drunk, but coherent, ready to advise and teach.
"Hi, Katniss" Peeta welcomes me "I saved you a seat" he says as he pats the cushion on the couch next to him.
"Hey" I return with a smile as I take the seat next to him.
"I saw your dresses last night on TV. You looked gorgeous." He says
"Thanks." I say shying away from the flattery a little bit. "You should have turned the TV off. Don't you know the groom isn't supposed to see the dress before the wedding?" I say joking back at him.
"Well I still don't know which one it will be so I think it's still okay" he says.
I nod my head in agreement and grab his hand that had been fidgeting in his lap for the last minute. I wrap my fingers around his and just let him hold my hand in his lap. He smiles and this seems to reaffirm or relax him a little bit. The last few months since the Victory Tour and our wedding engagement things have been awkward between us. No, let me extend that. Ever since he proclaimed his love for me in front of all of Panem things have been a little awkward between us. But especially since the end of the games when I thought life would go back to normal and he thought otherwise.
But the Capitol won't let my life return to normal, hence Peeta and I getting married. I make that sound so terrible when I think that to myself. Like Peeta is below me or something. He's really not, not at all. In fact I'm the one who's emotionally stunted in the love area of the brain. Peeta is a wonderful man and I have feelings for him no doubt. It's just…. I don't even have the words for it in my thoughts. Maybe it's the pressure, that I have to marry him, or else. I tend to screw things up and if I screw this up, the 'or else' is that a lot of people I care for end up dead.
"Glad you could make it sweetheart" Haymitch says with his usual dry sarcasm.
"Yeah, sorry I'm a few minutes late. My mother needed me to go get some supplies. What did I miss?" I ask to really either of them.
"O, Nothing too important. I was just trying to impart some life saving advice to District 12's new mentors." says Haymitch again with the dry sarcasm. Apparently he's more drunk than I initially thought.
I sneer at him but decide it's not worth starting a 'Who can be more snotty' competition with him and just say "I am all ears, learn me up."
"Well, I guess we were talking about your duties. I will be supervising you two this year through out the Reaping and all of the games but for the most part I'm going to leave everything up to you. I'm going to give you advice when you need it and teach you how to schmoose sponsors. Peeta your skills tend to lean more toward the sponsors. So I imagine we'll be spending most of our time together after the games start. Katniss, when it comes to the sponsors, maybe you should just let Peeta and me do the talking. You'll pick it up over the years but at first you should just do a lot of observation." Says Haymitch
"Hey! That's not fair to say. I mean, maybe I'll be good." I say
Then both Peeta and Haymitch look at me as if I'm delusional.
Catching their drift in a much softer voice I say "Well, I could be." Okay, so I suck at words. I briefly remember Haymitch trying to prepare me for my interview last year when he called me 'sullen and hostile' and that I had about as much charm as a dead slug. Maybe it is best I steer clear of the sponsors.
"Listen, it's okay that Peeta takes charge with the sponsors. Your job is going to be more in prepping the Tributes. You have the survival skills and cleverness that are going to be crucial to their survival. You're going to be constantly monitoring the games, keeping track of tributes and obstacles, plus you're going to have to reign in Mr. Sensitive here." Haymitch says as he points to Peeta. "Whenever a tribute is thirsty or in need of something this guy is going to want to deliver. You can't let him do that. You'll use up all the sponsor money and then won't have anything to send when it's actually crucial."
As I'm listening to Haymitch I know that this is where my skill set lies but the task seems utterly daunting. I can't imagine teaching a tribute everything I know about survival and hunting over the course of less than a week. It took me many years to pick up the skills I have. And I only did because I had to, to provide for my family. Right now I'm imagining trying to teach a tribute like Peeta about hunting, gathering, and tracking. This was not going to be easy. Peeta has never stepped a foot beyond the District 12 fence, never shot anything, and he's certainly never gone hungry. Most children in District 12 are just not prepared for an event like the Hunger Games. But I suppose outside of career tributes no one really is.
I nod my head to Haymitch taking in my responsibilities but there is no hiding the terror in my face. Haymitch and Peeta both see it. Peeta gives my hand a squeeze for support and says "Don't worry; you'll be the best mentor ever. I promise. And I know what Haymitch said about me is probably true. So when it comes to the games I will do my honest best to trust your instincts. I mean it was you who got us out last year."
Haymitch begins again "So let's start at the beginning I guess, The Reaping. You don't really have to do much there. We show up about an hour early to the Justice Building, greet the Capitol Escort, Effie, who you know. Which by the way, after last years games turned down a promotion to District 1 in order to stay with you two. She apparently feels since you will be taking over as mentors "that big, big things will be happening for District 12" Haymitch says mimicking Effie's capitol enthusiasm. "At the Justice Building we take pictures, smile pretty for the cameras, yadda yadda, take the stage, and Effie takes it from there. After the Reaping you can greet your tributes either at the Justice Building briefly, or wait until we board the train. That's where I normally meet them I guess as you should know, less cameras and usually by then they've calmed down enough to at least speak coherently. In the Justice Building most are still so high on the emotions that they're either in a state of shock, or crying,… or both "
As Haymitch begins saying all of this stuff so matter of factly I can't help but get a little irritated by his insensitivity. Maybe it's just been so long since it happened to him that he's distanced himself from it, that and a lot of alcohol to drown it from his mind. I remember last year when this was all happening to me. The emotions boiling up to the surface were so overwhelming. I mean going off to the Hunger Games is a death sentence for most people and you have to treat it that way. Say your goodbyes and do your best to have fail safes set for your family, like when I knew Gale would provide food for my sister and mother.
When I look at Haymitch I can't help but feel empathy for him. He's had to carry this burden for 24 years all on his own. And then I pray I don't end up like him 24 years from now, so burned out by the bloodshed and politics that surround the games that being sober is a nightmare. But then I remember why I won't end up like him. I have Peeta. I know I will lose tributes, that is just a fact. But when I do I will have Peeta there to help carry the burden, to help me rebuild. We will be each others support systems.
"Once we reach the Capitol you both should know generally how this will go. When you're able to, impart as much survival advice as you both can. Try to make them realize what their skills might be if they haven't figured out where their strengths lie. And when the Games start I'll be there for both of you when you need advice." Haymitch must be calling this meeting to an end as he begins heavily downing the clear liquor in his bottle.
Peeta looks at me and asks if I am ready to go. Absolutely, it's a lot to take in a morning conversation. That every year for the rest of my life, (or at least until we have trained other victors to do our jobs) 2 lives will be in our hands. Children will be looking to Peeta and me for the advice and the training that will save their lives.
Peeta walks me home and I invite him inside. My mother is in the kitchen working on some sort of medical concoction. I don't have the healers' touch like her. My sister Prim inherited most of my mother's skill sets, healing and caring, while I inherited most of my father's, hunting and being the provider. My mother greets Peeta and asks if he would like any tea. Peeta says thank you but he will pass and we both go into the living room to discuss our new found duties as mentors.
"Do you think we'll be any good?" I ask Peeta
"Definitely, We'll have the longest winning streak ever in the history of the Games" Peeta says with a laugh but then continues "It's going to be hard, I mean even in best case scenario we are going to lose half of our tributes because I really don't see the Capitol letting 2 tributes leave the arena ever again."
"No, not after what happened last year." I agree.
"But what I do know Katniss is that we will do everything we can to get one of our tributes out alive every single year. There are going to be years that we fail, but those are just the odds. I know it's going to be hard but we can't take it personally when it goes wrong because we have to remember there are 11 other mentors trying to accomplish getting their tribute home alive as well." Peeta finishes.
"Your right, I guess" I agree. It's terrible to think but our tributes aren't anymore deserving of being Victor than any other tribute in the games. Then briefly I think except for the Careers, but immediately feel guilty for it. I continue with "I can barely walk by the school without thinking about who our tributes might be. It's all so unfair. I look at them and I find myself eying them up, taking mental notes about which ones were the fastest runners or best on the monkey bars. Do you ever think those things?"
"I definitely wonder who it will be. I mean, we know so many of them. If we hadn't have been Reaped last year we'd still be in school with the higher grades. I have a lot of friends who still have 2 or 3 years left of eligibility. I can't stand thinking about the younger ones who still have all 7 years left. They are too young to be thrust into a battle against 16, 17, and 18 year olds." Peeta says.
This makes me think about Prim instantly and Peeta notices. "Katniss?" he says softly.
"It's just that she was drawn last year and she only had one name in the bowl. But it was still her. Prim will have twice as many names in the Reaping bowl this year. And she has a President who hates her sister. What if President Snow rigs the drawing to have Prim's name pulled again?" I am fighting off tears now.
Peeta tries to make me feel better by telling me "The likelihood of your sister being Reaped two years in a row is extremely low, Katniss. And I don't think that President Snow would even risk rigging it because people would have to know it was fixed."
"I think you give the Capitol audience too much credit, Peeta. There was a back to back reaping of a brother and sister from District 1 a few years ago, their both Victors now. And way more Victors' children have been drawn from the reaping bowls to be a coincidence. I've never heard that anyone from the Capitol audience might suspect fowl play. We're entertainment for them Peeta, they don't care how a person's name gets drawn, just that there's drama!" I find that my voice has risen now and I'm angry. Not at Peeta, but just at the whole situation. If Prim's name is called again this year I know it will be because of my winning last year. It almost seems that she would have been safer if I had come home in a box.