I can't believe the number of reviews I have got for this story: thank you!
I jumped as soon as I heard Haymitch behind us.
"So there is nothing going on between you too?"
He says in a slurred voice. He looks at us pointing his finger and a bottle of liquor in his hand... His body sways slightly, and it's got nothing to do with the movement of the train. Peeta is the first one to answer Haymitch.
"Haymitch, I can explain…"
But before he can explain the situation he staggers forward and vomits all over the expensive carpet and falls in the mess. For a moment Peeta and I take in the scene of our mentor trying to rise out of the slippery vile stuff from his stomach. The reek of vomit and raw spirits almost brings my dinner up. We exchange a glance. Peeta and I each take one of Haymitch's arms and help him to his feet.
"I tripped? Smells bad."
He wipes his hand on his nose, smearing his face with vomit.
"Let's get you back to your room. Clean you up a bit."
We half-lead half-carry Haymitch back to his compartment. Since we can't exactly set him down on the embroidered bedspread, we haul him into the bathtub and turn the shower on him. He hardly notices.
"It's okay; I can take it from here."
"No, I'll stay and help."
"Katniss, I'm not sure you want to strip and down and wash out the vomit."
"Yeah, I think I'll wait outside."
I smile back at him, heading out of the bathroom and back out to the corridor. Shutting the door, I slide down to the left of it and wait for Peeta.
I feel like I'm flying, I can't feel the ground beneath me, but there is something around me, holding me, but I'm floating. I slowly open my eyes, a bright light catching them. I try and open them again to see that I'm not flying but I'm being carried. I lift my head slightly to see Peeta carrying me.
"Shh, go back to sleep."
I once again go limp in his arms, watching the world go by through the windows. It's dark, but I can see the silhouettes of houses. We must be passing a District, probably five or six. I close my eyes again, and open them again to find that I am in my bed and Peeta is pulling the quilt covers up. I lie back down. Peeta kisses me gently on the forehead, but I once again fall into sleep.
I wake up screaming after a nightmare of one of the Career Tribute's spearing Peeta in the stomach as the other's hold me down as I watch him cry out in pain, they come after me, but I am still crying out Peeta's name as I watched his lifeless body before me. I volt forward, probably not the best idea as there is now a pain in my neck. I look around the room, Peeta is nowhere in sight. I have to find Peeta. I swing my legs out of my bed, running through the door, and heading to Peeta's room. I don't even knock as I barge in. The door swings and hits the wall, which jolts Peeta out of his sleep. I ran over to his bed, flinging my arms around his neck, before crying into his shoulder.
"They had you Peeta… it was so really… and they had you…"
"Shh, I'm here, everything's all right."
Peeta has one arm around my waist and the other hand is lightly stroking my hair. He sits up straight pulling me closer to him. My tears run dry and my body has stopped shaking from my sobs.
"Come, how about we get you back into bed."
"No… can I stay with you?"
He pulls the covers to reveal he is only wear pyjama bottoms. I crawl in under the quilt with him, as he wraps his arms around my shoulders pulling me closer towards him. I rest my head onto his chest, and feel myself once again quickly falling asleep.
I hear Effie shouting out my name, and the train pulling to a sudden stop. I can hear her shouting out my name. I soon hear Haymitch shouting down the corridor at her.
"Haymitch, she's gone…"
"Did you check Peeta's room?"
"Don't be silly she's a young girl she wouldn't be in there."
"I swear you that she is probably there."
Peeta hasn't even woken up at the sounds of the voices outside his door, and I close my eyes waiting for the two crazy people to slam the door anytime soon.
As on cue the door of Peeta's room slams open and Effie is running around to Peeta's side of the bed.
"Peeta, have you seen…" She looks over beside Peeta, who is now awake from Effie's shouts and screams as she entered the room. "Never mind. I found her Haymitch, tell the driver he can go again, false alarm."
Haymitch is now at the door of the room looking in at us. Well if he forgot last night, he is going to remember this morning.
"Katniss, where are your manners. I don't think sleep in men's beds is a good way to treat this situation."
"I couldn't sleep Effie, I need to beside Peeta, make sure he was safe."
"And why would he not be safe?"
"I had a nightmare."
"Well, we can all see that Peeta here is safe, so I think you should head back to your room now, don't you Katniss."
I slide out of bed, as Effie turns around expecting me to get out of Peeta's bed naked. Haymitch chuckles at the woman's action. I head towards the door but Haymitch blocks the door.
"Effie I think we need to have a serious talk here with our tributes. We don't want extra tributes running around the place, do we now?"
Effie jumps around and looks at Peeta and I.
"They would have the cutest children ever. They could have Peeta's hair and then Katniss's eyes and they could …"
"Effie, the point was we don't want them. Not how cute they would be."
"Yes, no cute children running around the train please."
I feel the blush coming onto my cheeks, as I looked to Peeta and then the ground. I run past Haymitch and into my room to get ready for breakfast. I keep the outfit on and just fix my hair slightly.
As I enter the dining car, Effie brushes by me with a cup of black coffee. Haymitch, his face puffy and red from the previous day's indulgences, is chuckling. Peeta holds a roll and looks somewhat embarrassed. It's as if they had forgotten this morning.
"Sit down! Sit down! Says Haymitch, waving me over. The moment I slide into my chair I'm served an enormous platter of food. Eggs, ham, piles of fried potatoes. A tureen of fruit sits in ice to keep it chilled. The basket of rolls they set before me would keep my family going for a week, there's an elegant glass of orange juice. At least I think it's orange juice. A rich brown cup of something I've never seen.
"They call it hot chocolate, it's so good."
I sip at it firstly, before I decide it was one of the best things I have ever tasted.
"So, you're supposed to give us advice." I say to Haymitch
"That's very funny: only not to us."
Haymitch considers this a moment, then punches Peeta in the jaw, knocking him from his chair. When he turns back to reach for the spirits, I drive my knife into the table between his hand and the bottle, barely missing his fingers. I rush over to Peeta, making sure he is ok.
"Well, what's this?" says Haymitch. "Did I actually get a pair of fighters this year?"
I lift some ice from under the fruit tureen. I start to raise the ice to the red mark on Peeta's jaw.
"No," says Haymitch stopping me. "Let the bruise show, the audience will think he mixed it up with another tribute before you've even made it to the arena."#
"That's against the rules," says Peeta.
"Only if they catch you. That bruise will say you fought, you weren't caught, even better," says Haymitch. He turns to me. "Can you hit anything with that knife bedside a table?"
I realise that if I want Haymitch's attention, this is my moment to make an impression. I yank the knife out of the table, get a grip on the blade, and then throw it into the wall across the room. I was actually just hoping to get a good solid stick, but it lodges in the seam between two panels, making me look a lot better than I am.
"Stand over here. Both of you," says Haymitch, nodding to the middle of the room. We obey and he circles us. He pokes me and Peeta gives him a glare.
"All right, I'll make a deal with you. You don't interfere with my drinking, and I'll stay sober enough to help you," says Haymitch "But you have to do exactly what I say?"
"Fine" says Peeta. I stand there glaring at him, till Peeta nudges me gently.
"Ok, in a few minutes, we'll be pulling into the station. You'll be put into the hands of your stylists. You're not going to like what they do to you. But no matter what it is, don't resist," says Haymitch.
"But –"I begin.
"No buts. Don't resist," says Haymitch. He turns around to Peeta. "I'm glad you're here, or hell would have broken lose with Sweetheart over here."
He grabs his bottle of liquor and walks out the door. Peeta and I stand in silence for a couple of minutes as the train speeds along. The tunnel goes on and on and I think of the tons of rock separating me from the sky, and my chest tightens. I hate being encased in stone tis way. It reminds me if the mines and my father, trapped, unable to reach sunlight, buried forever in the darkness. I tremble slightly, but I feel Peeta's protect arm around my shoulder.
The train finally begins to slow and suddenly the bright light floods the compartment. We can't help it. Both Peeta and I run to the window hand in hand, to see what we've only seen on television, the Capital, the ruling city of Panem. The cameras haven't lied about it grandeur. If anything, they have not quiets captured the magnificence of the glistening buildings in a rainbow of hues that tower into the air., the shiny cars that roll down the wide paved streets, the oddly dressed people with bizarre hair and painted faces who have never missed a meal. All the colours seem artificial, the pinks too deep the greens to bright, the yellows painful to the eyes, like the flat round disks of hard candy that we can never afford to buy at the tiny sweet shop in District 12.
The people begin to point at us eagerly as they recognise the tribute train rolling into the city. I step away from the window, sickened by their excitement, knowing they can't wait to watch us die. But Peeta pulls me back towards the window.
"Katniss, we need to please the people, get sponsors, it will help us in the arena."
I know he is right do we stand at the window and wave at the people who pass us by, only stopping when we reach the station.
After having every part of my body scrubbed and polished I am now looking at the cold white walls and floor and resist the impulse to retrieve my robe. But this Cinna, my stylist, will surely make me remove it at once. Instead my hands go to my hairdo, the one area of my body my prep team have been told to leave alone.
The door opens and a young man who must be Cinna enters. I'm taken aback by how normal he looks.
"Hello Katniss. I'm Cinna your stylist."
"Just give me a moment, all right? "He asks. He walks around my naked body, not touching me, but taking in every inch of it with his eyes. I resist the impulse to cross my arms over my chest. "Who did your hair?"
"My mother," I say.
"It's beautiful. Classic really. And in almost perfect balance with your profile. She has very clever fingers," he says.
"You're new, aren't you?"
"Yes, this is my first year in the Games."
"So they gave you District Twelve."
"I asked for District Twelve. Why don't you put on your robe and we'll have a chat."
Pulling on my robe, I follow him through a door into a sitting room.
"So Katniss, about your costume for the opening for the opening ceremonies. My partner, Portia, is the stylist for your fellow tribute, Peeta. And our current thought is to dress you in complementary costumes since you are obviously very close. As you know, it's customary to reflect the flavour of the District."
"So, I'll be in a coal miner's outfit?"
"Not exactly. You see, Portia and I think that coal miner thing's very overdone. No one will remember you in that. And we both see it as our job to make the District Twelve tributes unforgettable," says Cinna
I'll be naked for sure, I think.
"So rather than focus on the coal mining itself, we're going to focus on the coal," says Cinna.
Naked and covered in black dust, I think.
"And what do we do with coal? We burn it," says Cinna. "You're not afraid of fire, are you Katniss?" He sees my expression and grins.
A few hours later, I am dressed in what will either be the most sensational or the deadliest costume in the opening ceremonies. I'm in a simple black unitard that covers me from ankle to neck. Shiny leather boots lace up to my knees. But it's fluttering cape made of streams of orange, yellow and red and the matching headpiece that define this costume. Cinna plans to light them on fire just before our chariot rolls into the streets.
I'm relieved when Peeta shows up, dressed in an identical suit. As we stand in the elevator bringing us to the bottom floor of the Remake Centre he pulls me closer to him and holding out his hand which I instantly take into my own.
We head over towards the Chariot, Peeta getting in first, only letting go of my hand so he can get into the Chariot. He then lifts me up so I am now standing beside him in the Chariot. I have never been this close to a horse before, so I feel very vulnerable up here. I hold onto Peeta's hand knowing that he is probably not as nervous as I am.
"What do you think?" I whisper to Peeta. "About the fire?"
"I'll rip off your cape if you'll rip off mine," he says through gritted teeth.
"Deal, "I say. I begin to move closer to Peeta. He looks down at me, with a grin on his face.
"I never thought I would see Katniss scared of fire."
"It remind me too much of the mines, Peeta."
"Shh, it will be over soon and then we get to go to our new rooms. And more hot chocolate…"
"Are you trying to say all I am thinking about is food?"
"No, I wouldn't dream of it. Where is Haymitch, anyway? Isn't he supposed to protect us from this sort of thing?" says Peeta.
"With all the alcohol in him, it's probably not advisable to have him around an open flame," I say.
And suddenly we are both laughing. The opening music begins. It's easy to hear, blasted around the Capital. Massive doors slide open revealing the crowd – lined streets. The ride lasts about twenty minutes and ends up at the City Circle, where they will welcome us, play the anthem and escort us into the Training Centre, which will be our home/prison until the Games begin.
Cinna appears with a lighted torch. "Here we go then," he says, and before we can react he sets our capes on fire. I gasp waiting for the heat, but there is only a faint tickling sensation. He then goes to ignite our headdresses. He then looks down at our hands, before giving Peeta the thumbs up.
I turn around to look at Peeta, before giving him a quick kiss on the cheek before we move out into the city.
The crowd's initial alarm at our appearance quickly changes to cheers and shouts of 'District Twelve' I feel unnerved by everyone staring at me, but I feel Peeta once again giving me another reassuring squeeze. I squeeze and it then becomes a game of who can squeeze the best. As I gain confidence, I actually blow kisses to the crowd. The people of the Capital are going crazy, showering us with flowers, shouting our names, our first names, which they bothered to find on the program.
It's not until we enter the City Circle that I realize must have completely stopped the circulation in Peeta's hand. That's how tightly I've been holding it. I look down at our linked fingers. I lean towards Peeta before whispering into his ear:
"Sorry, but something tells me I win this time."
"Don't worry we still have the training scores, and the interviews, I'm sure I'll get you then. "
The whole time during the President's speech I'm looking up at Peeta, as he looks back down at me.
We enter the training centre and as soon as the doors have closed, we're engulfed by the prep teams, who are nearly unintelligible as they babble out praise. As I glance around, I notice a lot of other tributes are shooting us dirty looks, which confirms what I suspected, we've literally outshone them all.
Then Cinna and Portia are there helping us down from the Chariot, just like Peeta had helped me into the Chariot. The carefully remove our flaming capes and head dresses. Portia extinguishes them with some kind of spray from a canister.
I look up at Peeta and kiss lightly on his bruise which Haymitch had given him this morning. He lightly kisses my cheek as well. I turn around to see the prep teams are almost in tears and Cinna eyeing me suspiciously.
Effie and Haymitch are now running over. Effie is the first one to speak.
"Where were your manners? Speaking during a speech. I'm going have to teach you both a lesson in manners, when we get back to the room."
Haymitch just laughs, knowing that Effie will stick to her promise. "Well, you have gained sponsors tonight, but I think we also gained some enemies."
"Oh, nonsense Haymitch, there just jealous that their stylists aren't anywhere near as good as Cinna and Portia are."
"Just watch out, especially the Careers they wouldn't be overly pleased."
We all headed towards the elevator, Portia and Cinna at the front talking about training outfits, Effie and Haymitch talking about different angles for training and Peeta and Katniss bringing up the rear, only thinking of the other.