I hear a twig snap and turn my head back, knowing my Catnip is here. The only person who I can be myself with, who I can share almost all my secrets with. Almost all. The only one that I haven't told her- or anyone for that matter- is that I am in love with her and afraid to tell her because she probably only thinks of me as a brother, and nothing more. I start to wounded what it would be like to sweep the hair behind the curve in her ear, to hold her body close to mine, even in a simple hug. Anything else beyond that makes me dizzy, makes me angry at Catnip for being so perfect in every way and for my fear of telling her. As she comes closer, I catch myself day dreaming about me and her and snap back to reality.
"Look what I shot." I say as I pull out a loaf of bakery bread with an arrow stuck in it. This wins me one of her beautiful laughs. I hand it over and she puts it in her hands. Gently, she pulls the arrow out and reviles the puncture in the bread that unveils the fragrance and makes my mouth water.
"Mm, still warm" she says. "What did it cost you?" she asks.
"Just a squirrel. Think the old man was feeling sensitive today. Even wished me luck." I reply. Trying to keep my voice calm so she doesn't know how happy I am she is here. With me. I start day dreaming again about running away with her- again.
"Well, we all feel closer today, don't we?" I just barely catch the words.
"Prim left us a cheese" Katniss says. She then pulls out the cheese, which makes me smile. "Thank you, Prim. Well have a real feast." "I almost forgot! Happy Hunger Games!" I say, plucking a couple of black berries from a bush. "And may the odds..." I then toss one of the berries into a high ark, in her general direction. She then catches the berry. "…Be ever in your favor", she says, finishing with a equal verse. We have to joke about it because the point is to be scared out of your wits. I don't say this, but this year is the most scary for me. Not because I have 42 entrees in the hunger games, but that the impossible might happen. That Katniss, with her 20 entrees, might have the impossible happen to her. That I won't be able to volunteer, because she would hate me forever and the pat we had a couple years ago. We made a promise that I would stay behind and take care of both mine and her family if she got reaped and vice versa. In a desperate attempt to calm myself from that thought, I pull out my knife and slice the bread as Katniss stripes the bushes of there berries. We go back into our little nook of rocks as soon as I finish spreading the cheese. I then let the fear of loosing my Catnip and being alone come back again, but quickly dismiss the thought. Its more likely that I would get reaped then her entering the arena. This thought allows me to relax a little and enjoy the food and company she gives me. My Catnip is not like any other girl I have ever liked. Or more like loved. She is the only one who aids my broken heart, but she is also the one who makes it break. Knowing I can't be with her, because she never wants to get married, for reasons I understand. I use to think like her, until I found out she was the only exception. Before I knew that she was my better half. That she made me feel like singing and crying at the same time. "We could do it, you know." I say quietly. "What?" catnip replies. "Leave the district. Run off. Live in the woods. You and I, we could make it" I say. I feel her eyes looking at me in disbelief. "If we didn't have so many kids" I add quickly. Of course, there not our kids, but they might as well be. My two younger brothers and little sister. Catnips little sister, Prim. And then there are out mothers, who would die without us, not there to feed them. "I never want to have kids" says Catnip.
"I might, if I didn't live here." I respond
"but you do" she says, clearly annoyed by my day dreaming.
"forget it!" I snapback a little to strongly then I intended. I don't even know where that came from. There's nothing romantic between us, despite how much I want to be the first man to kiss her, to be hers and she be mine. Besides, why would some one so breathtakingly beautiful ever want me when she could have any other man in district 12. someone who can take care of her, give things I never could. My heart starts aching for her to want me like I want her. Only her, here, next to me, can save my heart from shattering into so many pieces, it's beyond repair.
"What do you want to do today?" she says, breaking the silence.
We can do fishing, hunting, or gathering.
"Let's fish at the lake. We can leave our polls and gather in the woods. Get something nice for tonight." I reply. It's a tradition for most people to celebrate after the reaping, and most do, out of relief that there children have been spared for anther year. But at least two families will lock the doors and close the curtains and try to figure out how to survive the next painful weeks to come. By late morning, we have a dozen fish, a bag of greens, and, my favorite, a gallon of strawberries from a field that catnip found a couple years ago. On our way home, we swing by the Hob, district 12's black market. Once there, we trade six fish for good bread, and the other two for salt. Greasy Sae, the skinny old woman who sells soup, takes half of the greens of our hands. We could probably do a tad better elsewhere, but we try to keep in good terms with Greasy Sae. After all, she is the only one who buys out wild dog. Once done at the Hob, we go to the mayor's house to sell strawberries, knowing he has a particular fondness for them and can afford our price. Mage, the mayors daughter opens the door. I think she's in Katniss' grade. For being the mayor daughter, she not all that bad. I mean, she's not a snob. "Pretty dress." I say. Mage shoots me a look trying to figure out if I'm being honest or if I'm being ironic. "Well, if I end up going to the Capitol, I want to look nice, don't I?" Mage says. My eyes find a pin on her dress that appears to be made of real gold. This upsets me because she can always count on a meal, were as people from the seam are almost always falling over because of starvation. That pin alone could keep a family going for weeks. "You won't be going to the capitol." I say, trying to sound relaxed. I then glace over at Catnip and see she's got her eye on the pin on Madge's dress, too. "What can you have, five entrees? I had six when I was just twelve."
"That's not her fault," says Katniss.
"No, its no ones fault. Just the way it is," I say
I look at the floor, angry at myself, angry at Madge for saying what would seem like a harmless commit. Madge puts the money for the berries in Catnip's hand. "Good luck, Katniss" she says. "You, too" Catnip says back. The door closes. As we walk back to the seam, both of us are silent. I'm still mad for the rest of the trip back home. I can't stop thinking of how unfair the reaping system is. With the poor getting the worst of it. I think of my 42 entrees, then think of Katniss' 20 entrees. Once were at the Seam, we divide the food equally.
"See you in the square" she says.
"Wear something pretty" I say flatly.
Once home, I see Roy, my twelve year old brother is almost done getting dressed. Vick, my nine year old brother is already done. And my mother is trying to get a dress on Posy, my five year old sister. She reminds me of Katniss in that way, her stubbornness toward wearing dresses. I can't help but laugh a little. "I laid something out for you in your room" says my mother says. I nod and the smile on my face drops. Laid on the bed is my clothes for reaping day. A shiver runs down my back as I think that district twelve will have two less children/teenagers today. After an hour, everyone's dressed and were all done with lunch, although no one felt much like eating. We save the bread and fish and strawberries for dinner. Mom says it's to "make it special." Once were at the square, I tell Roy were to go and leave to go to join the other eight-teen year olds. My eyes search for my Catnip –who looks beautiful in a blue dress and her hair done in a beautiful braid -and I see her talking to Prim, who aperies to be panicking. I watch as they sign in. Once Katniss is with the other six-teen year olds, our eyes immediately meet. This makes smile a little. Then her eyes look at the two glass balls and her expression turns serious. I feel my smile vanish. I look at the stage as the mayor and Effie Trinket go up the stage. They seem concerned. Probably because Haymich, our only living victor, is not yet here. The mayor begins the speech. I start thinking about who will get picked. Wondering if it will be my catnip, or someone I don't even know. I'm so lost in my thoughts, that the only part of the speech that I do pick up is "it is both a time for repentance and a time for thanks." He starts on the short list of victors. In 73 years, we've ha d exactly two victors. Just then, Haymich Abernathy staggers onto stage. He, as always, appears to be very drunk. The crowd responds with its most winning applause. Confused, he goes up to hug Effie Trinket, who just barely manages to fend off Haymich. The mayor looks stressed, since this is all being televised live and at the moment, district twelve is the joke of Panam, and knows it. He try's to pull the attention back to the reaping by introducing Effie Trinket. Fresh from the capitol, and bright and bubbly as ever, she does a little trot to the front of the stage. "Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favor!" she says. She starts going on about how happy she is t be here when in reality, we al know she's just inching to get a better district. One where the victors act more stage appropriate. Her pinkish hair has tilted to the side and must be a wig. I look back at Katniss and she looks back at me. All I can think about is my Catnip and her 20 names. My expression darkens and I turn away, unable to face her. Its time for the drawing. As usual, Effie always starts with "Ladies first." I hold my breath as she pulls out the slip of paper. I start praying that its not Katniss, that its not her. She smoothes the paper out and says in a loud, clear voice "Primrose Everdeen"