A/N: Hi everyone! This is my first fanfic! I hope you enjoy ^_^
"Katniss…" I hear his voice echo throughout the dark cave.
I run a few steps before tripping over what I hope is a rock. I can't bear to see any more skulls.
"Katniss…" this time the voice comes from behind me.
I turn my head and scream his name, "Gale!" I quickly pick myself up and brush the rubble off my pants. All the color drains from my face when I hear his agonized yell.
"Gale! Where are you?" I yell desperately, fighting tears.
"Why did you leave me?" he asks me.
I swallow hard as I realize that the pain he's feeling is my fault. It's always my fault. "I didn't mean to leave you!" I plead. But there is no response. The cave is utterly silent. It is then that I realize that I have lost him. I am now completely alone.
Minutes pass by. Then hours. Then days. Finally, I hear his faint voice echo through the cave again.
My head perks up at the sound of a human voice.
I look around. Where is his voice coming from?
I wake up with a start.
"Gosh Katniss, I've called you like seven times already!" Prim stands in the doorway of my bedroom with her arms folded across her chest.
I wipe the cold sweat from my face and sit up on my bed.
"Dinner's ready!" Prim gives me a disapproving look, but there's also concern in her face.
"Oh, I'll be down in a sec. I got a lot of work to finish. You guys eat without me."
She sighs. "Well ok. Don't stay up too late." She closes the door behind her.
I yawn and stretch my arms before walking over to my desk, which is currently cluttered with hundreds of sketches. Seeing them makes me want to go back to bed, but I force myself into my seat, and pick up my pencil anyways. I do this not for the possibility of a promotion, but for Cinna.
Oh Cinna, my wonderful design professor. If it weren't for him, I don't know where I'd be now. Certainly not this well-employed. Because I was his favorite pupil, he wrote glowing recommendations for me. That's how I landed a position at Thirteen, the country's leading producer of avant-garde clothing. Most of what we make is exported to the Capitol, but it doesn't matter because they're the only ones who can afford our bizarre clothing anyways. Thirteen's prices are outrageous, but I don't complain because it's my paycheck the Capitol citizens are paying for. If it weren't for my generous salary, I'd find a job at some small boutique to design some normal clothes for.
I've been working around the clock since I joined Thirteen two months ago. I'm already starting to burn out, but I keep reminding myself that I have to support my family, at least until Prim is out of medical school. Then, I'll quit for sure.
I finish up my latest sketch, adding intricate lace patterns, as I think about my situation four years ago. A new university student with no idea what to major in. I was thinking about going into the medical field, since my mother is a retired doctor (well, retired meaning she became too depressed to continue her practice after my father died), but I quickly realized how much I loathed memorizing names of obscure body parts that I'd never heard of.
I was sitting in a café near campus one morning, when Cinna first approached me.
"Hello," a tall, dark-skinned man with nice eyes greets me with a smile. "May I sit here?"
I look around the café. It's absolutely packed, and the seat in front of me is the only one available. I nod, and quickly resume eating my bland oatmeal. We sit in silence for a few minutes, as he sips his coffee and sifts through a fashion magazine. I try to inhale my breakfast as fast as I can, so that I can go study for my exam on the gazillion different facts there are to remember about the human brain.
Suddenly, he looks at me curiously and asks, "Say, where'd you get that?"
"What?" I look up from my bowl of mush and see him pointing at my chest. I look down to find the object in question. "Oh, my mockingjay pin? A friend gave it to me."
He flips a few pages back in his magazine. He stops at a page, and lifts it up to show me what he is looking at. I scan the page until I see my mockingjay pin in the corner.
"Your friend must be a real rebel," the man says with a smile.
I give him a clueless look.
"In the Capitol, clothing and accessories depicting mockingjays are banned," he informs me.
He shrugs his shoulders, "The Capitol makes crazy rules all the time." He lowers his voice and leans in closer to me, "After all, they can do whatever they want."
I grin. It's the first treasonous statement I hear on campus, albeit a rather slight one. I decide that I like him immediately.
We talk for a couple of hours. I find out that his name is Cinna, and he is a part-time design professor. He is a senior stylist at Thirteen, although he lives in the Capitol. He works from his studio, and visits District 13 every Friday afternoon to check in with his superiors. He specializes in military clothing, not something you'd expect to be stylish. His job is to think of ways to make the military uniforms more practical year after year. He tells me story after story about his great successes as well as his biggest blunders. I feel my jaw drop slightly when he tells me about an outfit he designed that starts a real fire when you spin in a circle.
When he asks me what I'm majoring in, I think about it for a while. I am sure I want to do whatever this man does. I reply with a grin, "Design."
Ever since then, Cinna has personally mentored me and, like I said earlier, helped me land a job at his lucrative company. At first I was anxious to get to finally put what I had learned to use, until I realized that I would be designing frilly foo-foo dresses, instead of working with Cinna to design outfits that are actually useful!
I outline a section of the dress I'm working on over and over again until it's noticeably darker than the rest of the drawing. I already know that President Coin, the CEO of Thirteen, will not be impressed with my sketch. I scrunch up the piece of paper that I'd spent hours on and toss it into the waste basket that is already full of previously rejected sketches.
I rest my head on the table for a minute before deciding to open my laptop to browse for some inspiration. While I wait for my homepage to load, I examine the split ends of my braid. I haven't had any time to think about my general appearance lately. I should probably go get a trim soon…
As soon as I glance up at my homepage, The Capitol Gazette, I see the headline "Hawthorne's Eldest Son Caught Poaching." Below the bold title is a picture of Gale being handcuffed by a police officer. I gasp in horror and quickly hit the hotkey that brings up a new, blank tab.
Still in shock, I decide to go downstairs to grab a bite. Settle the nerves, hopefully. I go to the dining room and find that my mother and Prim have saved me some goat cheese and squirrel meat, which is not caught by me because I haven't gone hunting in four years…which I guess is lucky for me…I stop myself before I start wondering how they will punish Gale. I try to savor the food, but the squirrel seems exceptionally hard to swallow today. I find some cold mint tea left in the kettle, and gulp it down to get rid of the bits of meat that are stuck in my throat.
When I return to my laptop, I half-heartedly browse around a fashion website. I try to focus on thinking of something acceptable to present to Coin (I really do!), but my mind keeps wandering back to that day. I thought he'd be happy for me. He was happy for me when I told him that I planned to go to university! It was just the part about my university being in the Capitol that he didn't quite like…
"Why would you ever want to go to school there?" he asked, somewhat angrily.
"It's a good school!"
"There are lots of good schools here in District 12!"
I shake my head. "It's not the same! Gale, you know that those who graduate from the Capitol's university make a lot more than those that graduate from a district university!"
"Who's going to pay for it?"
"I got a scholarship."
"Yes," I lie without thinking. The school actually promised to cover three-fourths of my expenses. I figure I can get a part-time job to pay for the rest.
"You're such a bad liar." The corners of his mouth turn upward slightly, but they resume their previous position as he continues to interrogate me. "How are you going to feed your family?"
"I signed my family up for food stamps for the next four years, and made Mom sign up to work as a part-time nurse at the hospital. They should have more than enough funds to take care of themselves."
He pauses. Holding my gaze, he asks without flinching, "What about me?"
The question takes me by surprise. My brows furrow in confusion. "…What?"
"You're just going to leave me?" I can detect a slight trace of hurt in his voice.
"Gale!" I shout, and grab his shoulders. "Think about it! In four years, I'll be able to get a real job! No more of this illegal hunting business! I'll finally be able to provide for my family without putting our lives in danger!" All I want is for him to understand the necessity of my decision.
He lays one of his hands on mine, which is still on his shoulder. He gives me a long, final look. "See you around, Catnip." Then he shakes his head and turns around. I don't try to call out to him or grab him because I know it's no use.
I haven't heard a word from Gale or his family since I've been back, and we didn't communicate at all while I was studying in the Capitol. He has this notion that the Capitol reads everyone's letters before delivering them to the correct recipient. Surely they wouldn't do that…would they? But it's not like we have anything to hide (aside from our illegal hunting, but I'm sure Gale would be more careful than to mention it in a letter). Gale just never wrote to me because he was still mad at me for "leaving him." What did he even mean by that? We weren't romantically connected…or at least, not officially. He's asked me out a few times before, but I've always brushed him off and insisted on keeping things casual.
I'm only snapped back into reality when my computer make's a ping! noise, indicating a new email. I debate whether or not I should open it. No doubt it's an email from dragon-lady Coin or one of her henchmen telling me to hurry up with my sketch. Or perhaps it's another new task entirely. Wouldn't that be nice? It's not like I already have another twenty-something other crazy costumes waiting to be designed after I'm done with my current hopeless endeavor.
I roll my eyes as I hear President Coin's voice nagging me about how she can't believe how hideous the collar on my last design was, or why I'd even dream of pairing striped leggings with plaid shorts ("I mean really, stripes and plaid? Please.") , or best of all, how in the world I can be Cinna's star pupil and how she doesn't see a shred of design talent in me.
Ok, maybe I'm not the best designer when it comes to Capitol fashion, but maybe if you'd just put me in Cinna's department and let me do work that I actually think is useful…I cuss out President Coin in my head. She may be one of the most powerful and influential people in the Capitol, but she sure sucks at managing her staff.
I slam my laptop shut and jump into my bed. President Coin can wait until next week for my design to be ready for all I care. I dose off, snickering at how infuriated Coin would be if I went into work tomorrow and told her that I had misplaced all of my projects. I imagine her cheeks would turn bright red, something I've never seen happen before, of course. I relish the thought of Coin losing her composure in front of the whole office. It'll probably never happen in a million years, but who cares. One can dream, can't she? Maybe she'd fire me, I think happily. Oh, how I long for Prim to hurry up and finish medical school, so that I can pull a fantastic prank on the President before she terminates my employment. That would be the ideal way to end my pitiful career of grunt work.
"Katniss…" I hear Gale's voice again in the distance. Where is he?
"Katniss…" Is he in jail for poaching? What are they doing to him?
"Why did you leave me?" He's been asking me this almost every night since I got back from the Capitol.
"I didn't leave you, Gale! I mean…I didn't mean to…" I try to explain to him every time he asks me.
"KATNISS!" Prim is standing over my bed in her District 12 university uniform with the same worried look she gives me every morning.
"Morning Prim," I mumble drowsily as I rub the sleep out of my eyes.
"Katniss, you sleep through your alarm every day. We're going to need to get you a louder clock," she says, half joking.
"Sorry Prim, it's all the work I've been getting lately. I can't seem to get a decent night's sleep."
"Yeah well, you better hurry, because you're going to be late!" she says over her shoulder as she walks out of my room.
I groan as I rummage through my drawers for a white blouse and black slacks. I'm about to go downstairs to grab breakfast before I remember that I have an unread email. It's not wise to go to work without reading an email sent by the President, no matter how much I want to get fired.
I quickly open my inbox and click on the unread message. Before I even click on the message, I know something is wrong because the person who sent it was not President Coin—it's from the District 12 Police Department. My heart skips a beat when the message loads.
Dear Katniss Everdeen,
Gale Hawthorne, who was arrested yesterday for poaching, has requested to speak with you. We have allotted a 15-minute time slot for you to come visit him. If you are interested, please show up promptly at the District 12 Police Station at 3:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.
The District 12 Police Department