Disclaimer: The Hunger Games belongs to Suzanne Collins.

Warning: Story centers around abuse and may involve trigger scenes.


Prologue


It's been a summer full of rain.

Thick black rainclouds paint the sky almost everyday. The droplets fall so quickly and heavily that they pool in the streets, unable to get down the gutters quick enough.

I like the rain, when I can take a few minutes to stop and stare at it through the window in the front of the house.

It's pretty I can't help but think to myself. I watch as it's hurled to ground outside, coming down so quickly it actually bounces up a little before completely landing, and being swept away by the current.

"Peeta!"

Mama calls my name just as a sharp crackle of thunder ripples through the sky, followed by a long flash of lightening.

Between the loud noises outside and the sudden calling of my name, I jump back away from the window in fright, landing on the floor with a thud.

Mama laughs, calling me over to her. "Come on now Peeta, I don't have time for your nonsense."

She must be having a good day. I take advantage of it and shoot her a crooked smile, hurrying to where she stands.

"Now you know you're being trusted with a very important responsibility, yes?"

I nod.

"Then don't let us down."

She hands me the thin raincoat that had belonged to Bannock, my oldest brother, who passed it down to Rye, my second oldest brother, who no longer fits into it, so it's been handed down to me...the youngest of three.

There's holes in the seams of the sleeves and honestly, it's as if I'm not wearing a jacket at all, but I don't complain. Complaining will only turn mama's good mood into a bad one, quick.

Plus, I wasn't raised to be ungrateful or wasteful.

"Now, I don't want to hear any nonsense about the thunder or lightening, you hear? You just go on and get those deliveries out and hurry home. There's plenty to do here."

"Yes mama," I nod as she begins shoving freshly cooked and packaged loaves of bread under my shirt, to keep them from getting wet. The heat stings against my bare chest and I wince just barely before she instructs me to put on Rye's old rain boots.

"Alright, now scoot on out."

She pushes me out into the rain and a moment later I hear the door shut tightly behind me.

It's silent outside, besides the rain. Everyone has retreated into the heat of their homes.

I push the warm loaves against my body closer and step carefully off the rickety porch.

Rye's old boots are probably two sizes too big for my good foot, and I can feel my heal pop in and out of it as I trudge along on the muddy path.

My false leg has picked up a pretty steady throb in the seam that connects the metal to whats left of the skin on my thigh. I lost the real one years ago. The bad weather tends to make it ache more than usual, but Mama is finally trusting me to help out with deliveries and I don't want to disappoint her.

She doesn't like to talk about my leg very much, so we don't. It embarrasses her, and when Mama is embarrassed she gets angry. I don't like to see Mama angry, so I play pretend. I pretend I have a real leg, like Rye and Bannock do.

I wipe my soaking bangs out of my eyes and sniff, relieved to see the Major's house just in the distance-my first stop.

I feel instant relief from the pounding rain once I make it onto his covered deck, and pull the packaged bread out from under my shirt.

I grasp the cold metal knocker and hit it against the door three times before waiting for someone to appear. Through the windows that lay on each side of the large door I can see the inside of the beautiful house.

The marble flooring, the plush furniture that looks as if you could sink into it, the warmth of a fire place going in the living room...

I hear footsteps approaching and straighten up. If they caught me snooping they might tell Mama, and if Mama found out...

The door opens startlingly quick and I jump back, straightening my posture.

"Good afternoon," I greet shyly.

"Hello there, what do you have for me?"

It's Mrs. Undersee, the Major's wife who comes to the door with a beaming grin. Behind her, I catch a glimpse of their daughter, Madge, who I go to school with.

"I...uh..." I hand her the loaf and she smiles appreciatively.

"Still warm. Thank your Mother and Father for me, alright little one?"

"Yes ma'am."

She pats my head fondly before ordering me to get into the warmth as soon as possible.

"Don't want to catch cold now!" she calls after me as I plod down her steps and off into the rain.

I make four more stops before I start for home again, and by then, the saturation had completely soaked through my thin raincoat and shirt, numbing my trembling form.

I push through the door and have barely stripped from the wet garments when Mama appears through the bakery doors.

"What took you so long?" she asks, her voice holding a dangerous edge to it.

I slump to the ground with a tired sigh. My leg feels like it's about to burn off and my breaths comes out in such ragged pants that it takes me a minute to fully catch my breath.

She glances down at my boot covered foot and then the stub of my false leg uncovered before rolling her eyes.

"I don't want to hear any nonsense about that leg, Peeta. Grow up. Now come on, you have duties to attend to in the kitchen."

"But mama," I groan as she grips my wrist roughly, dragging me through the door off to the side of the house which leads to the bakery.

"Hush," she snaps, her grip on me tightening. "Not another word. Your brothers don't complain, why do you? Huh? Should I have simply stopped with two? I told your father two was enough, but no! He wanted to try for a little girl...and we got you."

I feel my cheeks burn on my face at the familiar story mother has told me at least four times. Bannock and Rye hear, of course, but don't turn away from their stations.

"Quietly working," she observes, clicking her tongue against the roof of her mouth. "You need to learn to be more like your brothers, Peeta. I've just about had enough of you."

She lets go of my wrist with force, pushing me to the spot next to my brother, kneading dough.

Rye breaks me off a good chunk of the bread dough and instructs me to mold it into six different loafs.

I watch his clever hands work quickly, only tossing and shaping the dough for five to ten seconds before placing it on the baking sheet. They looked so neat and perfect.

He caught me staring and glowered in my direction.

"Quickly, Peeta."

I start my own molding and shaping process, but they all either come out too small or lumpy or imperfect. Rye sees my struggle and sighs loudly, pushing me back a little.

"Bring that tray to the ovens...I'll handle this."

I limp over to where he set the tray of what's sure to be cheese buns and grip it tightly in my hands.

I make it about half way across the kitchen before my leg gives out and I tumble to the ground, bringing the tray along with me.

If possible, the room grows quieter. All eyes are on me, and mine are on the floor. My cheeks sting on my face, my heart is pounding inside my chest and I can see my hands shaking on the ground beside me.

This is not good.

"What did you do?" Mama's voice makes me wince as she speaks an octave higher than normal.

A sharp pain shoots through my scalp as I feel her finger nails tug on a patch of my hair.

"You look at me while I'm talking to you, you worthless brat!"

She pulls roughly on the tender spot once more and forces my head in her own direction. My eyes meet her own, and I hardly recognize them.

It's amazing how much someone can change in just a few short years.

Mama didn't always use to be like this. When I was littler, she loved me more than anything else in the world. In fact, Rye and Bannock-my older brothers-use to pick on me, walking around calling me a goody-two-shoes and all that because they thought mama even favored me.

Maybe she did. I was too young to tell. For the most part, those memories have been suppressed and tucked away to the back of my mind. All I can remember are the dead eyes that stare back at me, a mix of pain and loathing.

"What have I told you, time and time again Peeta?" she seethes, her breaths coming out raggedly as she fights not to lose control.

Rye and Bannock stand off to the side, attempting to look away, but I catch their glances every now and then. They don't step in, or try to help me. I don't expect them too, either. It's every man for themselves around here.

If they tried to help me, I'd still get beat. Only difference is, they would too. Twice as hard.

So, instead of helping, they turn back to their duties in the bakery and pretend nothing is going on.

"D-d..." I swallow heavily, "Don't mess u-up."

"Quit your stuttering! What have I told you?"

"Don't mess up!"

I cry out as she grips my head impossibly harder and forces my body to the ground.

"What do you say when you're finished talking to me?"

"Ma'am," I whisper.

She lets go of me with a rough tug, and my body instinctively curls into a ball to block any incoming blows.

"You're nine years old now Peeta," she sniffs. "Too old to be makin' stupid mistakes!"

I hear something hurled to the floor with a crash and jump. It rolls a little and bumps into my knee.

The rolling pin.

Color drains from my face as I shake my head vigorously.

"No mama, please! I won't mess up again, I-I promise! I'll be g-good!"

She yanks me to my feet by the collar of my shirt and pushes me back into the counter top behind me.

"Quit your whining," she hisses. "Pick up that pin and bring it here. Come on now, take your punishment like a man."

I feel heavy beads of tears trailing down my face as I pick up the heavy baking tool and shakily hand it to Mama.

She stares at me for a moment, intimidatingly, pursing her lips.

"Turn around, Peeta."

I don't dare disobey.


I haven't given up on my other stories and plan on updating them soon. This is just an idea I've had for a while now and needed to get it out, let me know what you think! A really big thank you to Misshoneywell for all the help and support she's given to me. Feel free to follow me on tumblr...details on my profile.

-Amelia Day