It's so nice to be back! Sorry for the mini-sabbatical; moving took much longer than anticipated and I've been trying to devote most of my writing time to my first novel. I really hope to finish by 2013. I did have this little story started and missed you all so much so I had to post. Again, so sorry to do a WIP, I really don't like doing this but I promise to keep updating.
"They won't pick you, Prim."
Prim continued to cry and shake violently.
Katniss pulled her little sister out of the stream of frightened children marching to the Town Square. Terrified eyes found hers as they passed. Faces were wet and noses were red. Katniss squeezed Prim's shoulders tight. She knelt down to face her, turning the small girl away from the tide of doom. "Prim."
Primrose met her eyes tearfully.
"It won't be you."
Prim hiccupped and nodded.
Katniss smiled. "It won't." She glanced up. "There's the section for the twelve-year-olds. You see Emily Pasteur over there? You just stand there next to her. All you have to do is stand there. Then it'll all be over and we'll go swimming, okay?"
Prim nodded. "I like swimming."
"I know, little duck." Katniss grinned and tucked in Prim's shirt. Prim held on to her sister as long as possible before stepping down the aisle to her section. Without Katniss' hand she was far less comforted and confident.
The horrible woman in the bright yellow dress stepped to the microphone.
"Welcome! The time has come!" Effie Trinket grinned maniacally. "It is time to select our District Twelve tributes for the 74th Annual Hunger Games!" She clapped all by herself, ignoring the ghostly silence from the crowd. "And now, as we do every year, we offer you first and foremost a chance to volunteer for greatness!"
She gritted her teeth. Every year was the same. "Will anyone step forward to represent District Twelve in the Hunger Games?"
The silence was deafening.
Katniss rolled her eyes. She spied her friend Gale Hawthorne across the aisle. He smirked at Effie's disappointment.
"Very well," Effie muttered. "Ladies first!"
She walked over to the glass globe and stuck a gloved hand inside. She toyed with the papers. She pulled it up to her eyes.
"Where are you, Primrose?" Effie sing-songed.
An arm pushed Prim from behind. She stumbled into the aisle. She spun around to see who had betrayed her but all eyes were on the ground.
"There she is!" Effie beamed. "Come on up, dear!"
Prim jumped as a Peacekeeper roughly grabbed her am.
The shout came from behind.
"No! Take me!"
Katniss tripped and ran into the aisle. "Take me!"
"The time for volunteers has passed, young lady," Effie smiled tersely.
"Please no!" Katniss ran forward, fighting to reach her sister. "Prim!" she screamed desperately. A Peacekeeper shoved her down. She crawled, cutting her knees on the stones in the dirt. She had a hold of Prim's skirt.
The Peacekeeper hit her hard in the face.
Gale darted forward and grabbed her before the Peacekeepers shocked her with their painful electric pulse weapons. Her best friend dragged the crying dark girl from the aisle.
"Gale! Save her! Gale!" Katniss screamed. Her mother was by her side, clamping a wet rag to her forehead and covering her mouth with her hand. The Peacekeepers were still watching her closely. Outbursts were not tolerated well on days like today.
Prim stared. She wanted to cry, but everything felt dead. The Peacekeepers pushed her to the stairs. She couldn't hear the echo of her footsteps as she climbed. She stared at the children watching her. They stared back. She could hear Katniss screaming against her mother's palm. Her ears were closing; Katniss sounded underwater.
"If we're quite through," Effie quipped. "The boys!"
She twirled the papers.
They could have been siblings. The stunned boy the Peacekeepers dragged to the stage was as fair-haired and blue-eyed as Prim was. And as horrified.
Despite his frightened face and gentle manner, he towered over Prim by more than a foot. His footsteps were audible where her bird-like hops had been indiscernible. She whimpered.
"Primrose Everdeen and Peeta Mellark! Your Tributes!"
She waited for applause that did not come. Effie couldn't have known how the spectators loved the sweet girl who helped her mother picked herbs for sick neighbors. She couldn't have known the boy who was surrounded by friends every day at school. She didn't know anything about them.
Katniss was wailing and sobbing.
Gale stood. He raised three fingers. A funerary salute. The district joined him. They bade farewell to their beloved children.
They were led into the Justice Building.
Katniss fell over herself running to Prim in the waiting room. "I'll go," she cried, grabbing Prim desperately into her arms. "I'll tell them to send me. You can't go!"
Prim gripped her sister's dress. "I don't want to die!"
"I'm not going to let them take you!" Katniss clawed at Prim. "I won't!"
Her mother tried to touch Prim, to embrace her, but Katniss wouldn't let her go. So she held both her daughters while they cried.
"Prim, I won't let them take you," Katniss gasped, trying to breathe.
"I love you," Prim whispered.
When the Peacekeepers came, Katniss refused to leave. She pleaded to go instead. She held onto Prim until the guard struck her across her back with his baton and she fell to the floor. Katniss tried to stand and the officer kicked her hard in the ribs. She choked. They dragged her out begging to die in her sister's place. Her screams faded as she was pulled down the hall by her hair.
Prim sat alone.
A small knock at the door made her sniffle, "Yes?"
The baker entered. Prim stared. He was tall and lumbering, sweet and doughy. A small paper packet was clutched in his hand. He had been crying.
"Hey there, Primrose."
She blinked in surprise.
"How are you holding up?"
"I'm scared," she cried. She hung her head and sobbed.
"Aw, there there," he said, reaching over to take her into his arms. He was big and soft and warm and smelled like vanilla. "You're going to be okay, little Prim."
"I can't fight," she cried. "I'm going to die."
"You don't have to fight," he murmured. "You just have to stay hidden." He pulled away from her. "You can stay small and hidden, can't you?"
She nodded, wiping her nose on her arm. "I'm the smallest in my class."
"There you go," he smiled. "You let the big bullies do the fighting and you stay tucked away safe."
She sniffled. "Is that what you told Peeta?"
He looked at the floor. "No," he whispered painfully.
He held out the packet to her. "This is for you. Something sweet for the sweetest little girl in Twelve."
She waited until he was gone to look inside. Sugar cookies dusted with powdered cane. She stuck one in her mouth and felt a little better.
Peeta had been crying, too. They were ushered into the car by six Peacekeepers. Prim imagined five were for Peeta; he was much stronger than her. Absurd Effie Trinket alone could have kept her from running.
Peeta climbed in first and held out his hand for Prim. He helped her into the center seat while Effie chattered away obliviously on the far seat. The door closed with a lonely thud.
Prim heard the screams before she saw Katniss in the side view mirror trying to get to the car. Her nose was streaming blood. Prim shrieked when she saw a Peacekeeper intervene and shock Katniss with the electric rifle he carried. Peeta covered her eyes as Prim cried.
When they got onto the train it was as silent as a tomb. The train started smoothly and whisked them away.
Staggering to the dining car, Prim slumped into a seat. Peeta sat down next to Prim and exhaled quietly. They let the silence overwhelm them.
Effie sat down across from them. "Well, what a big day!" Neither looked up at her. "You two look like siblings! I hope they have matching outfits for you. Of course, they usually do. But you just look so similar!"
She waited for a response. She sighed. "I'm going to find an Avox to make me a drink," she muttered as she left.
Prim looked over at the laden table. She wiped her nose on her bare arm. "The bottles are right there," she hiccupped.
Peeta glanced over to her. "What?"
Prim gestured to the table. "The bottles are all right there. Why is she going to get someone to make her a drink?"
Peeta smirked. "I don't think people in the Capital know how to do anything on their own."
Prim smiled weakly.
Peeta looked at her. "Do you want something to drink?"
"Is that alcohol?"
"I think that table is. But that over there looks like water."
Peeta stood up and walked to the table. He lifted the bottle and poured a drink. He wrinkled his nose and looked back to her. "Nope, it's white liquor."
She made a face. "Don't they drink water in the Capital?"
"Why would they?" The gruff voice was in the door. Haymitch Abernathy staggered in, a matching bottle in his hand threatening to splash over his expensive shirt.
Prim shrunk down in the seat. Peeta stepped in front of her.
"Hi, I'm Peeta. That's Primrose. You must be Mr. Abernathy."
"Must be." Haymitch ignored Peeta's outstretched hand and stumbled around him to sit next to Prim. She caught a whiff of the stale liquor and gagged.
"Um. Can you tell me which one is water?" Peeta asked Haymitch.
"No idea," Haymitch giggled, lolling his head and elbowing Prim to make sure she got the joke. She hopped up and ran to Peeta. "Ah, already running? Not a bad plan," he sighed as he chugged another mouthful of alcohol.
Peeta stared at him.
"What're you looking at?"
"The man who's supposed to keep us alive."
"You look useless."
The bottle glanced Peeta on the temple before he saw it coming. He staggered back and Prim shrieked. Haymitch hopped up and pounced on him, pinning him to the chair behind him and knocking Prim to the floor.
"You think this is useless?" The switchblade Haymitch had pulled from his pocket with lightning speed was at Peeta's neck. Prim gasped.
"Please, don't," she whispered.
His eyes found her on the floor, hiding behind a chair. Peeta grabbed Haymitch's collar. "Don't you even look at her!" he yelled. He shoved Haymitch off him, climbing to his feet at the same time.
They stood in a tense standoff, eyeing one another with fear or loathing. Prim's fingers stretched out and found Peeta's hand. Haymitch watched the two of them for a long time.
He tucked the blade back into the holster on his hip. "Respect your elders."
Peeta stared him down and gripped Prim's hand tighter.
Haymitch frowned and peered at them through his boozy haze. "You two siblings?"
Effie burst back in with a glowing orange drink. "There we are! And I see we're all introduced!"
Peeta held fast to Prim's hand and led her out of the dining car, slamming the door behind them. Prim overheard Effie asking Haymitch what in Panem he'd done now.
Peeta knocked on the doors as they explored the adjacent car. No answer came at the first door on the left, so he pushed on the door gently. It creaked open and he and Prim poked their heads inside. The room was an explosion of color. Furry pillows, gauze and chiffon, sequins, feathers, leather and animal prints hung from every surface.
"I think this is Effie's room," Prim grimaced.
"Yeah," Peeta sighed.
They let the door swing closed and moved to the door on the right.
The cabin was unkempt and had a vile odor. There were dirty dishes on the floor from frequent room service and fully stocked liquor cabinet.
"Haymitch," they said in unison.
The next cabin on the left was empty. The furnishings were sparse but clean. Peeta held the door open and prodded Prim inside. "You take this one," he smiled. "I'll bet I'm right across the hall."
Prim finally released his hand and tiptoed into the room. "It's big for a train car."
"It's a big train."
She turned in a slow circle.
"Okay, I'll see you later," Peeta smiled at her.
"When am I going to see you?" Prim whispered.
"At dinner," he laughed. "Where else?"
"No, I know," Prim shook her head. "I just..."
Peeta understood. He took a few steps inside and rested a hand on her shoulder. "I'm right across the hall, Primrose. If you need anything, any time, just come over and knock." He squeezed her shoulder gently. "Even if it's just to talk."
She sighed and nodded. "Thank you."
He left her alone and she heard the door on the opposite of the hall open and close with a soft click. She sat down on the bed and stared at the wall.
She heard him in his room. He was trying to be quiet, but she could still hear the tears. She climbed to her feet and walked purposefully over to the door. She opened hers, took three steps across the hall and knocked.
He was wiping his eyes, trying to quell the sobs as he pulled the door open slowly. She pushed into his room and wrapped her arms around his ribs. He abandoned restraint and cried with her as the train hurtled them towards their doom.