Thank You, God, for everything.
DISCLAIMER: I do NOT own the Hunger Games. Yes, I am once again starting up another story. I need to get into the habit of updating my already started up chapter stories but you're going to have to waitttttttt for those. HE HE HE SORRY. FYI, this starts where Peeta and Katniss and Haymitch are training for the 75th Hunger Games.
~ Katniss Everdeen's point of view ~
The sun here in District 12 is beating down hard on us. It's normal, of course, for it to beat down on us during the summer, but it seems to be hotter than usual this year.
I finish my jog with a few lazy steps through the fine line that separates the Village, where I just was, and the Seam. I cough, overheated, and my hands latch onto my kneecaps, keeping myself steady. I breathe heavily, but not as heavily as Peeta and Haymitch, who both come in behind me after a minute.
I pant, and look behind me to see Peeta in the same position I was.
"How much time?" I say, my chest going up and down.
"Two minutes, forty seconds," he says tiredly, but determinedly. "We're-we're going to have to get it down to two minutes."
"Oh, for Pete's sake, boy, how much longer do we have to do this?" Haymitch spits. The lack of alcohol in his system has made him even more bitter and annoyed with the world than ever. He's especially mad at Peeta, who came up with this plan.
I'd gladly give the guy a bottle of the stuff, but Peeta's against it. He's determined that two of us three were getting out of the Capitol, and he's training the three of us to get us ready for the Quarter Quell.
I straighten, wiping my brow with my sweaty arm. The Quarter Quell's announcement was just last week, and Peeta, in his usual, calm manner, is now a drill sergeant. I look at him now, panting and smiling at the stop watch. I wonder just how happy about this he really is. Or how burdened. Or sad.
I let out a breath and say, "Not much longer, Haymitch." I turn to Peeta and say, "We're getting a drink. Feel free to join us."
"Okay," he says, and the three of us (Haymitch lags in the back) head to my house in Victor's Village.
We've been in the Meadow all afternoon and only went to the Square to check on Peeta's bread that he has rising in the corner of the bakery. Haymitch and I waited outside while he went and checked on them. His mom saw us and gave me a spiteful look before heading back to the counter. We then began to run when Peeta came around.
By the time we started off to go back home, the road was clear, and that is why I hadn't seen the white car in my front yard when it rolled up.
I blanch and stop walking. Peeta looks at me, and says, "Katniss? What is it?"
He looks and sees the car and whispers, "Oh."
My heart begins to beat even harder than it had been when I was running. No. He can't be here. He had already been here to warn me; what does he want? Why won't he go away? I did the best I could in pretending to be in love with Peeta. Did he come back to reprimand me? That was weeks ago. Why now?
I take a deep breath and look up to see Prim leaning out of the front door.
"Katniss, Peeta," she says quietly, "the-the President's here. He wants to talk to yo-you both."
I nod blankly. I can barely walk toward the house, so Peeta gently grabs my wrist and drags me in. I don't mind the physical contact. Even though we play the star-crossed lovers act for the cameras, I need someone here, right here and now with no cameras, to help me along, because I have absolutely no idea what to do.
The four of us enter the house. Two Peacekeepers are standing near the window that's behind the easy chair that's near the green sofa. My mother is in the kitchen, making supper. She sees us and smiles, saying, "Oh, good. You're back."
Haymitch slumps onto the green sofa and Peeta says softly, "Where is he?"
Still smiling faintly in front of the Peacekeepers, she points to the office, which is near the door, and says, "He's in there."
"Thank you," Peeta says, and we go to the door.
I'm trembling. My hands are shaking like hell and my heart's still palpitating. My brain is frozen; my head begins to hurt. Why is he here? We did the deal. We did. I confronted him at the end of the Victory Tour and he said I didn't do enough. Was that what this was about? Was it because of the Quarter Quell that he now came to talk to me and Peeta?
I gulp and Peeta says, "Ready?"
"No," I say, and I grab the knob and we head in.
The sun's spilling into the white room. There's a white chair in front of a white desk that has a bigger white chair behind it. In the bigger white chair, in his usual crisp and clean and ugly and nasty and horrible clothes and sharp hair, is President Snow.
He smiles at us and says, "Good afternoon Katniss, Peeta."
"Hi," I say loudly.
He smiles a creepy smile, spreading out his lips and says, "Come now, take a seat."
I look to Peeta and he nods for me to take the lone chair. I sit and he stands behind me, one hand on the back of the chair.
"Why'd you come to District Twelve?" I blurt bluntly. I can't help it. It's the question I've been thinking and it's the question I want an answer to. The answer to immediately.
"Oh, you know, Katniss. Same old, same old," Snow says, laughing, moving his hands around.
I continue frowning. I can tell that Peeta is also frowning.
The President clears his throat, loses his creepy smile (I'm a little happier at not having to look at it) and leans forward, his hands clasped on the desk.
"Now, Katniss, remember, when I was here before, we made a deal with each other. What was that?"
I think and think back to when he had come before. "You said for us to not lie to each other," I reply.
"That's right. I'm not sure what you think is lying, but I consider you illegally training is a way of deception, don't you think, Katniss?" he says.
I give him a poker face now, trying to hide the fact that I want to punch his ugly face. "I didn't think that what we did like that mattered," I say, though I know that my words are hollow. Peeta, feel free to take the rein and make this conversation go in our favor, please.
"You didn't think training for the Games mattered? Tsk, tsk, Katniss," Snow says slyly.
"Would you like for us to stop? Because we can, you know, stop making our bodies ready to kill," Peeta pipes up from behind me in his charming tones. I'm not sure what effect his words will now have with the President who's sending us off to our deaths.
"Continuing is illegal, and so I don't think that you should continue with such a practice. Breaking a law like that in Panem is punishable by several things, including the usual stocks, whippings and the like," Snow says.
He's a disgusting man. This only makes me clench the armrests on my chair. When makes me really angry is that he ignores the fact that the Career districts, 1, 2, and 4, all have freaking training academies for their tributes. He turns a blind eye to the Capitol lap dogs and turns to us, District 12, where the two victors of last year's games cheated the Capitol of death.
I continue clenching the armrests, unrelenting, as he continues, "But, as the Capitol is, we remember and uphold our victors." Yeah. Sending them to their deaths is definitely the Capitol way to remember and uphold their victors.
Snow continues, "And so, that is why I'm giving you an offer that will get you off injury free."
"What?" Peeta asks.
"It's something that is virtually painless on your part but will help the entire nation incredibly. It will also help make everyone think that the star-crossed lovers are real, very real," Snow says calmly.
"Really?" Peeta says, and I almost shove him at his words. He's trying to be funny and now's not the time.
"Yes. You see, Katniss, Peeta, in order for the star-crossed lovers to convince our nation that they're really in love, they have to stay in love for the rest of their lives."
"Yes," I say. What does he mean? Haymitch had already told me this, back at the train. He said that Peeta and I were going to have to stay together always, which meant that we'd have to get -
"Do you mean that-"
"Katniss, it is heavily known in the Capitol that my citizens were counting on a wedding someday. Unfortunately, now with the Quell, there's no chance for that to happen. That is, of course, not in the vast future. But now, you can," says Snow, leaning back in his chair.
"Wait, what?" Peeta says, leaning forward, "you mean you want us to-"
". . . get married," I finish blankly. Of course. The Capitol would have been horrified at the Quell for separating Peeta and I, and I know that if we get married, not only will the Capitol be ecstatic, but maybe our wedding will officially calm the flames burning up in the Districts.
I internally start to panic. A WEDDING. I'm seventeen, and I'M GETTING MARRIED, AND I'LL BET YA THAT IT'S NOT GOING TO BE IN DISTRICT 12. It's no doubt going to be a big, staged Capitol wedding, full of bright lights and substance but no heart, no sincerity.
Effie should go ballistic. My mother will be surprised and so will Prim. Peeta's family is going to have mixed reactions. I inwardly groan when I think of how everyone will think of this. Haymitch, Cinna, Portia, Gale . . .
I instantly sit up straighter. How will he react? This is bad.
Snow smiles an evil sort of smile and says, "Yes. If all plans go correctly, we should be heading out in the morning."
"Tomorrow morning?" I say quickly, incredulous. "We're moving out so soon?"
"Yes, we have a very busy TV schedule and the Games are being put together, so we shall get it done very, very soon. We have plans that the wedding should take place in the City Square eight days from today," Snow says. Gosh, I want to lash at him. His greedy little eyes, his selfish face, his ugly being. All could be improved by my vicious fingernails.
"Will that be accommodating for the both of you?" he says.
"Yes, we'll make it work," Peeta says in a happy sort of voice. I've heard that voice before. He's using it to force that he's happy when he isn't.
"Good, good. We'll be leaving, eleven o'clock tomorrow morning," Snow says, standing up. He smiles and tipping his head to one side, says brightly, "Oh, and make sure your families come. Katniss," and he looks at me. He loses his happy tone and still smiling, says, "Extend an invitation to your 'cousins.' Wouldn't want any of your family to miss your wedding. Tell them they have the days of coming to and leaving the train and their time in the Capitol free of work."
I have a feeling that Gale won't want to go. I also have a feeling that it's an invitation he shouldn't refuse if he wants to stay unbeaten or unpunished. I begin to gnaw on my inner cheek.
Peeta turns to open the door for him and Snow says, "Thank you for adapting to the circumstances. I'll be off to the Mayor's. Good day," and he disappears into the hall.
Peeta closes the door, leaving Snow and the Peacekeepers to be sent off by my mother. He walks up to me and nonchalantly sits on top of the desk, looking at the ground.
We sit there for a few minutes, our minds reeling. What just happened? Tomorrow my family and Peeta's family and Gale's family are going to be shipped off to the Capitol where I'm going to have to marry Peeta in a big, showy wedding.
I slump in my chair and look up to Peeta. He's looking at the ground, and I wonder what he's thinking of. The love was real, very real on his part, and I know that inside he's fighting with himself, happy on one side of the spectrum, upset and horrified on the other.
We sit in silence for a minute before the door opens and Prim pops her head in.
"Supper's ready," she says quietly, not knowing what to say because she doesn't know what happened. I'm going to have to tell my mother and Prim and so I say, "All right, Peeta, c'mon, let's go to supper." That's where I'll tell them.
"Allr ight," he says in his usual voice, and the three of us head to the kitchen table which is near the staircase. The table's set and Haymitch is sitting on one side of the table, a surly look on his face, a knife in his hand. He's using the utensil to pick his teeth.
I take the seat opposite him and Prim takes the seat next to me. Peeta takes the foot of the table while my mother, setting down a pitcher of water, sits at the head.
We begin the usual and begin to eat after a moment. I'm pouring my water when Haymitch looks up from his roasted venison and says, "Alright, what did he have to say?"
I look quietly at my plate while he, my mother and Prim stop eating to look at me. Peeta looks up from his plate, chewing thoughtfully.
"He-he knows about us training illegally," I say, looking straight back to Haymitch. No way was he going to stare me down. "He wants us punished."
"How?" Haymitch wants to know.
"By having us get married in the Capitol for all of Panem to see," Peeta says, and his voice is just like mine. Cool, even, masking the madness within.
"What?" my mother says, looking worriedly at me, "you're going to have to get married?"
"In the Capitol? When?" Prim asks me in an awed voice.
"We're leaving tomorrow," I say, still looking at Haymitch, "on the President's train. All of us. He wants my mother and Prim and Peeta's family to come." My mother looks at me worriedly and Peeta gives me a nod, telling me to finish. I sigh and say, "And he wants my 'cousins' to come, too. Wouldn't be right without all the family there," I end sarcastically.
"Oh my goodness," my mother says. I raise my eyebrows and take a bite of bread that Peeta had brought earlier this afternoon. It tastes dense and flavorless.
My mentor whispers so that just me and Peeta can hear, "Was this 'punishment' also to do with your unsuccessful attempt to be in love, sweetheart?" I look back to Haymitch and give him a hard look as I watch him spread jam on his bread.
"Partly," Peeta says quietly after a moment, looking warily at my mother and Prim. He's right. We can't relay too much information with them around. They knew nothing about this and we intend for it to remain that way.
Haymitch nods and takes a giant bite of bread.
"When is the wedding?" my mother says faintly. I look to her, and she looks tired. She's realized that despite her being my mother, there is nothing she can do about this, so she just decides to take it and work with it.
"In eight days," I say quietly.
"Eight days?" my mother says, sighing. She sits up straighter and says, "We should go pack, then, after supper."
"You won't have to pack a lot. They'll be making us new clothes so we'll look good on camera," I say, and the conversation dies down. We eat and after a while we finish. I stand up and so does Peeta.
"We're going to go take Haymitch home," I say, though that's only one of the things we're doing.
My mother smiles faintly and says, "All right."
I smile to reassure her as Peeta and I both take one of Haymitch's arms and lung him out the front door.
We take him to his house but stop at his door. We slip out from under his arms and I straighten, saying, "Haymitch, is there anything we can do?"
"What makes you think that you can get out of this?" Haymitch wants to know. "You can't defy the Capitol and Snow like that, not after what you did with those berries, sweetheart. Believe me, you don't want to." He scowls and says, "Besides, I told you before that you would have to marry the boy at the train if you didn't pull it off. It's your fault."
Peeta begins to say, "Hey, the 'boy' is right here!" while I say at the same time, "My fault? MY FAULT? I did the best I could with you two's idea!"
Haymitch looks at us both and then says, "Sorry, sweetheart, but there's no getting out of this one," and he walks into his house, no doubt to research the place for liquor once again.
Peeta and I watch as the door closes before he turns to me and says, "What did Haymitch mean by what he told you at the train? What happened?"
I sigh. I guess I didn't tell him about that conversation, did I? He knew that we had to act in love on the tour, but I never told him about that conversation. I probably should have told him, but it seemed to be one of those things between Haymitch and I. Something that he didn't have to know about.
"Remember on the Victory Tour when I yelled at Effie and then stomped out of the train when it stopped for fuel?" I say, turning and walking down the porch steps.
"Yeah. Was that where you talked together and neglected to tell me stuff once again?" Peeta says a bit angrily as he follows me to the main road.
"Yes," I say spitefully, turning to face Peeta. "Yes. I got mad and Haymitch talked to me."
"What about?" Peeta wants to know. We're standing still now, looking at each other's faces.
"About me pulling off this act, that no matter what, we're going to have this-this 'star-crossed lovers' act for the rest of our lives, which means that I HAVE TO MARRY YOU!" I say angrily.
"So you knew that you'd have to marry me no matter what and no one bothered to tell me this?" Peeta asks.
"It isn't that hard to figure out, Peeta!" I say. "I might have told you but then I forgot about telling you when last week we were both sentenced to death!"
Peeta looks hurt now. "You could have told me. We were supposed to be honest with each other."
"We never agreed to that," I say, my voice coming down. "Snow and I did, and now look at us."
We both sigh and look at the ground. After a moment, I wave my hand and say, "I-I have to go tell Hazelle about this arrangement."
"I've got bread to take care of," Peeta says quietly. We both look at each other and I say, "Well, good night then, Peeta."
"See you tomorrow, Katniss," he says, and we both look at each other before I make the first move and give him a hug. I don't know why exactly I do it; there's no cameras and I'm not typically an affectionate person. Still, I have to make him feel like this is not his fault and for him to stop looking so hurt about this.
I let him go and say, "Go bake some bread, Peeta."
He smiles and we both turn in opposite directions, Peeta to the Square, me to the Seam.
I walk along the familiar grey path through the patchy houses toward the Hawthorne household. I sigh, wondering what to do. I suppose I'll talk to Hazelle and hopefully she can tell Gale. She's an even-tempered woman and hopefully will take this in stride the way that Gale most definitely won't.
I approach their house, which is much like the other houses in the Seam. It's nearly seven now, so hopefully they'll be finished eating and Gale will be sharpening something or other outside the house, preparing for Sunday. The Sunday he won't get to go to the woods because he's going to the Capitol.
I knock on the door and look down with a small smile when I see an almost-six-year-old Posy holding the dirty knob.
"Hey, Posy," I say.
"Hello, Katniss," she says brightly. She turns and says, "Mommy, Mommy, Katniss is here!"
"Oh, is she?" I hear Hazelle say. I hear her come to the door and she holds the door for Posy. "Hello, Katniss! Please, do come in."
"I'll be just a minute of your time," I say as I walk behind Hazelle and Posy to their kitchen, waving to Vick and Rory as we pass them. They're sitting in their small living room, playing with carved boats.
We settle in seats around their tiny table and I say, "I have something to talk to you about."
"Yes, what is it?" Hazelle asks as she helps Posy settle on her lap.
"A train came today, and it wasn't a coal train. It was the President's train. He came to my house and talked to me and Peeta, and um, we're now going to get married in the Capitol in eight days," I say, looking at her for a reaction.
Her brow furrows and she says, "Oh. How-how is your mother taking this?"
"Well enough. She knows that she can't do anything about it," I say. I sigh and continue, "We're leaving tomorrow morning on the train that leaves at eleven. Now, um, there's something that I need to tell you."
"That wasn't the news?" she asks.
"It was, but there's more. You see, you know about the plan of you and your family posing as my 'cousins?'" I say, using my fingers as quotations.
"Yes," she says slowly.
"Well," I say, taking a deep breath, "the President has extended an invitation at our wedding to you and the boys and Posy." I bite my lip, and the look on Hazelle's face tells me that she knows that they can't refuse such an invitation.
"Oh," she says, "how lovely. Um, eleven, you said?"
"Tomorrow morning. It's probably best for you to be there at ten-thirty," I say quietly.
"Of course," Hazelle says. "Well, um, alright."
"What does that mean, Mommy?" Posy asks, looking up to her mother.
"It means we're going on a train tomorrow," Hazelle says in response. "Go, tell your brothers to go find some bags and pack their things." Posy slides down from her mother's lap and skips over to the boys.
We watch her before turning to each other.
"Why would the President make you and Peeta do this?" Hazelle wants to know, leaning toward me to whisper. "I mean, forcing a marriage?"
I sigh and say, "It's a little complicated. You see, Peeta, myself and Haymitch have been training for the Games this year-"
"Yes, Gale told me about that," Hazelle says softly, her face growing concerned.
I nod and continue, ". . . and he found us out. Instead of the usual punishments, he wants to please the people of the Capitol and make us, you know, get married."
"But you're both so young!" she says. "Only seventeen!"
"Age is but a number with the Capitol," I say. She looks at me with sympathetic eyes before saying, "Are you a little happy about it at all?"
I have no clue if she knows anything about the star-crossed lovers being an act (probably. Practically everyone except the Capitol citizens thinks it's fake) or about Gale and myself with, you know, our kiss. I sigh; what am I going to do with him?
"A little, I guess," I say. That's not a lie; I mean, Peeta's a nice guy. He's smart, handsome, can cook, is good with kids, he gets along with everyone and he's got a bit of money on him, I admit that, so yeah, I guess. He's almost a poster-child. Almost. Being married to him wouldn't, in reality, be that bad. It was the being forced to get married in front of millions of people against my will bit that I don't like.
Hazelle smiles faintly. "That's good."
"Yeah," I say. Hazelle nods and looking over my shoulder, says, "My, it's getting dark."
I spin around and notice the night setting in. "Yeah," I say, and I stand up. Hazelle stands as well and we walk to the door, me saying, "Remember, be there at ten-thirty. Effie can be crazy when someone breaks her schedule."
"All right," she says as we stop at the door.
"Thanks for doing this," I say. I most definitely do not want Hazelle or Posy or Gale or anyone of them get in trouble because of myself and my bad acting skills.
"Not a problem," she says as she opens the door.
I smile slightly, a bitter smile, and say, "All right, goodbye then, bye Posy" - I wave to the little girl, who's hiding behind Hazelle's skirts - "bye, Vick, Rory!"
Hazelle smiles faintly and I trot out the door, down their porch steps and into the dusty street. I fold my arms over my chest and go to the road and begin to walk. It's beginning to get dark but I've walked these roads before and I know every twist and turn in the grey light.
I walk a minute before I hear the crunch of someone walking behind me, running, really. I turn to see Gale coming toward me, saying, "Catnip!"
"Gale?" I say because there's nothing else I can think of to say. He knows. I know he knows.
He stops in front of me and pointing back to the house, says, "What did Posy mean by we need to pack to go on the train tomorrow? Catnip, tell me, what's going on?"
"We have to go to the Capitol, Gale," I say bluntly after a second.
"What?" he says, obviously annoyed. "Why?"
"For a big celebration," I say.
"Concerning the Games?" he says, disgusted.
"Kind of," I say. I bite my lip and look at the ground. "It's an, um, celebration for my, um, wedding."
I look up to meet his grey eyes, which change from shocked to hurt to what? to angry.
"He's forcing you two lovebirds to get married?" Gale wants to know.
"We're not 'lovebirds', Gale," I hiss. "We're doing it in punishment for training for the Games."
"This is your punishment? Getting married? On TV?" he spits, easily detecting that this will be broadcasted. He looks away from me and says, "This is disgusting."
"Hey, I don't like it anymore than you do, Gale!" I say.
He looks back to me, saying, "You don't?" and I can tell that he doesn't say this because of it being broadcasted. He's saying this with me not wanting to marry Peeta in mind.
"No," I say, "I don't want any of this."
"You don't want to marry Peeta?" he wants to know.
I stammer as I say, "Well, I don't know." Like with Hazelle, I can't admit that I'm not going to be miserable. I hate the concept, not Peeta.
I look to Gale and say, "I don't want to get married on live TV in the Capitol, if that's what you're asking, Gale!"
He's not looking at me. He's looking beyond me, and I turn to see what he's looking at. It's the fence and the Meadow. Beyond it is the woods, our woods, and the mountains and freedom and everything that is being snatched away from me.
"We could do it you know," he says, and I swivel around to see him still looking beyond me. "Take our families, outwit the Peacekeepers and take to the woods. Avoid the Capitol all together."
"Gale," I say a bit pleadingly, "you know we can't. The whole fence is electrified all day everyday and getting caught is inevitable."
He continues looking and I say, "Pack up tonight and be at the train by ten-thirty tomorrow."
He finally looks to me and says, "Fine. Be ordered around by the Capitol for the rest of your life." He gives me a sour look and says, "See you at the train station, then. Night, Catnip," and he turns around and heads back to his house.
I watch him leave before I scoff and continue down the road. Now we're just mad at each other. Him toward me for kissing up to the Capitol so nobody else has to die because of what I do or did and me toward him for being unreasonable.
I continue down the road, passing Victor's Village. I'm not heading home yet. Not yet. I have one last stop to go before I head back for my last free night at home.
You'd be surprised how fast it is to write in first person. Anyhoodlum, how did I do? Did you like it? Please let me know!