Dawn was breaking. I smiled to myself, Catnip was late. I figured I would play with her head for a little bit, so I set up a less complex snare and waited in a tree, wondering if she would fall for it.
Less than two minutes after I had set in my perch, she arrived. Because she was alone, she was more cautious than normal. She knew I was hiding around here somewhere, looking into trees and bushes. However, I had selected this branch because I knew she couldn't see me. I smiled as I waited for her to fall into my trap.
I had underestimated how sharp her hunter's skills are. She barely picked up on the wire before stepping into it. I swore loudly—too loudly. She smiled darkly, "Nice try, Hawthorne. You ought to know better than to ensnare your hunting partner."
I chuckled before giving away my bird's eye view and climbed down, so blinded by her natural beauty that I almost stepped into my own trap. I righted myself and began to take it down. Game didn't come through here, which made me wonder why she had come here to look for me in the first place. I shot her the quizzical look, knowing she would catch my meaning. We had a habit of being able to almost read each other's minds. The pressure of the woods over years of hunting had done that to us.
"You weren't at the usual spots, so I began to track you. Did a damn good job of it, if I say so myself." She beamed, she rarely cursed, and I knew she was only doing it now to make her point.
"It was a great job, and you almost fell for the snare." We smiled and lingered around, neither of us wanting to move towards the fence to our houses. Since she was a Victor, she had more money than she knew what to do with. Everything we caught that my family didn't need was traded to people who needed it, or simply given away. But today was a special day for us both, and eventually we would have to go back to the lives we wanted most to forget.
Katniss had gone in to the 74th Hunger Games. She and Peeta emerged victorious as she pulled the berries from her pack and wanted to sacrifice themselves—a move that would change us all.
As the embers of the rebellion grew to flames, the Girl on Fire had pissed off a lot of important people, mainly President Snow. Everyone agreed it was safest for her to pretend she had been madly in love with Peeta, but I was the only one jealous enough to hate this solution. Haymitch and I knew better than to think Katniss really loved Peeta and everyone else was stupid enough to believe it.
But today was special. They had made a last-effort attempt to regain control of the rebellion that was sparking up in various districts—they had announced their engagement. I knew it was fake and I guess that was what was most important, but I hated it more than anything. Katniss was only doing it to save her family and possibly me. I was one of the few people Snow could (and would) use against her if need be. Today was the presentation of Katniss's many wedding dresses. Cinna had designed them himself, but the Captiol's citizens were to decide which one she would wear for her wedding in a few months.
Another choice taken from her. Another choice to be made at the wrong time.
Today was also the announcing of the Quarter Quell. Every 25 years, the Capitol came up with something nasty to remind the districts how evil they really were. Year 25, the districts had to choose who to send. Year 50, the year her mentor Haymitch won, they were required to send double the tributes. This was year 75, and I couldn't yet imagine how it could get worse.
How wrong I could be.
We made our way back to Katniss's house. It had been decided that from now on, any chance we had to watch any part of the games would be spent together. Peeta just reminded her of the nightmare murders she'd had to commit. I cured her, for the time being. Capitol lies kept us from being how we should be—'cousin,' I scoffed again. I hated the Capitol for everything they were doing to her, to me, to our families.
I turned my attention back to the television before I broke something valuable of Mrs. Everdeen's on accident.
Caesar Flickerman was there, as always. He was announcing Katniss's wedding pictures and announced the winner: a beautiful white satin ball gown, with various lace patterns. I wanted to applaud Cinna, he was a true genius, she looked absolutely gorgeous in the picture shown.
Then came the announcing of the Quarter Quell. I held her hand, something I often did when we were alone. But this time, it wasn't to show her that I loved her, it was a gesture of comfort, one to show that I was here no matter what. They could do anything they wanted to me: reap me or kill me, mainly; it comforted me that they could no longer hurt her.
As the president opened the envelope, I saw his hard stare crack into a radiating grin, and I knew he was about to make our lives hell once again. He opened the envelope, "On this third Quarter Quell, to remind the districts that the deaths of their friends throughout the rebellion was the direct product of their uprising, the reaping will be done from the pool of existing Victors, and a friend of their choosing."
I just sat there, rooted to the spot. Existing victors? District twelve only has ONE FEMALE VICTOR. As I processed these words, I turned my head to Katniss. The color had drained from her face as she let out a blood curdling scream. She knew what I had already figured out; District twelve had only one female victor. And that female victor had only one person she trusted with her life.
Katniss and I were going into the arena.