AU Set in the modern day, fictional, small world of Panem County, Ohio. In the tiny farming town of Seamburg, Katniss and Peeta have not crossed paths since they were children until one night an act of fate brings them back together. All of your favorite characters are here including redneck Uncle Haymitch. Please R&R.
Suzanne Collins, who I am not owns The Hungar Games.
Many thanks to my beta kismet4891!
It's another ordinary September day in the small, rural Ohio town of Seamburg, located in Panem County, just 7 miles south of the county seat of Capitolville. Here farmers are gearing up for harvest, and the high school football team is on a fine start to another losing season, life here is as it always has been for the most part. Although today is going to be one of those days for Katniss Everdeen.
The world is a tough one, life has already taught her that every day there is someone out there experiencing what will be the best day of their lives, and someone else is going through their worst day. Katniss, at twenty-one, had already experienced both. Her best was when she was seventeen, her stint as an only child ended when her baby sister, Primrose, was born. Katniss loved her sister instantly. There was a two-way tie for the worst day, it was between the day her father died and when her mom passed away from cancer a few months later.
Today will be a far cry from the worst day she's ever had, but it is still going to be tough. Katniss looks at the clock, its three-thirty and time to get Prim to pre-school, something that she usually enjoys doing, but not today. Katniss has to break some bad news to Prim, it's not as bad as the two times before, although this will still hurt. She hates to do it because poor little Prim has received more bad news, by the age of four, than most people get before they're forty. Katniss is hurting too, but she can't worry about herself right now, Prim must always take precedence.
"Haymitch, I've got to go to get Prim, answer the phone." Katniss calls into the workshop.
"Sure sweetheart," Haymitch says without taking his eyes off the rifle he is cleaning. "Hey what color is that crazy teacher's hair this week?"
Katniss has to think for a moment. Miss Effie, the pre-school teacher who is 35 pretending to be 20, changes her hair so often that it is hard to recall what color it currently is. "Blonde with purple feathers, I think."
"Feathers?" Haymitch scoffs. "What in the hell, is she trying to get the kids' attention by pretending to be Big Bird?"
"No," Katniss is trying to think about how to explain current fashion trends to her uncle who thinks that camo and flannel plaid are always in vogue. Although she wasn't much better, she only knew about them because Madge had recently gotten some. "Feathers are the fake, colored streaks of hair, they attach them at the salon."
"That woman is crazy," Haymitch shakes his head. "Of course you would have to be, to want to deal with a bunch of snot nosed brats all day. Prim not included, of course."
"Hey, it's the only preschool in town. Besides Prim is learning a lot, she can't spend all day in a gun store, watching TV in the office."
"Now I think that it worked out just fine," Haymitch defends himself having had turned the office into a type of nursery for Prim. He got a satellite dish so she could watch Nick Jr and the Disney channel during the day and bought her brand new Playskool table and chairs so she could draw and have tea parties. There was nothing in the world funnier than the sight of her Uncle Haymitch drinking pretend tea with her four year old sister. He was so sad when Prim started school a month ago, he liked having her around.
"Have you told her about Bow yet?" Haymitch asks with his face full of concern. "Cause if you don't want to tell her, I could."
"No," Katniss tells him. "I'll do it, I would have told her this morning, but I didn't want to ruin her day at school. She didn't seem to notice him being gone this morning."
Haymitch reaches into his pocket, pulls out a ten, and hands it to Katniss. "Here take her to the bakery and get her some cookies and milk, it will soften the blow. Make sure you get yourself something too."
"Thanks Haymitch," Katniss says softly, it's times like these why she finds it so easy to love her gruff uncle.
"Don't mention it sweetheart," Haymitch waves her off. "Why don't you just take the rest of the day off?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I've got Beetee here we'll be fine. Besides you've got to bury him, right?"
"No, Gale was going to dig the hole this morning with the back hoe. Bow still looks like himself, I thought that Prim should see him. I know that's what the psychologist would say. I'll just have to cover him with dirt."
"Good, get going you'll be late," Haymitch reminds her.
Katniss leaves Everdeen's Hunting Supplies and Ammo. She has worked there ever since her Dad and Uncle opened up shop seven years ago. They sold mostly hunting gear, but Haymitch and Beetee also customized guns and other weapons for special order. A lot of their business was internet based, a town as small as Seamburg would never be able to support a shop like this otherwise. The store had been a lifelong dream for both of them, her dad loved archery and hunting. Haymitch liked guns and target shooting, so for the brothers who wanted to run their own business, it seemed like a natural choice.
Choosing to walk the three blocks to Miss Effie's Pre-School, instead of driving there gave Katniss time to rehearse the speech in her head. How does one tell a little girl that the dog who has guarded her every night since she was born is dead? Prim, you know that Bow was very old and that he has been sick for a while now….Prim, Bow went to go live with Mommy and Daddy in heaven….Nothing sounded right. When she walked through the door of Miss Effie's she still didn't know how she was going to do tell her.
"Children, time to clean up your mess!" Effie calls out loudly, Katniss could not help to think of Glenda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz when she hears Effie speak. "Now I know that it has been a big, big, big, day but that is no excuse to be rude, Cody. Manners, always remember you're manners!"
"Oh, Katniss how wonderful to see you," Effie approaches her and speaks in a sugary sweet tone, although it still sounded like she was addressing children. "How are you, dear?"
"Fine," Katniss replies evenly, although she's screaming on the inside, I would be a hundred percent better if everyone would stop asking me how I am! I've lost both of my parents in the last year, I'm twenty-one and raising my little sister, and now I have to tell her that our dog is dead. How do you think I am?!
"Well that's good, dear," Effie pats her back affectionately. "Primrose, your sister is here, come along now."
"Katniss, look at what I made today!" Prim excitedly tells her when she skips up to Katniss and Effie, her white blonde braids bouncing. Katniss examines the picture, not totally sure what it depicts. It could be one of Gale's cows or a bear maybe, when the artist is four one can never be sure.
"Oh, how pretty," Katniss praises her. "Why don't we get going? I've got a surprise for you on the way home." She feels a little guilty sugar coating things for Prim. Katniss always preferred knowing the truth no matter how harsh it may be, but Prim is nothing like Katniss. Her baby sister is innocent, cheerful, friendly, and the sweetest creature that God has ever put on this Earth. Everybody who met Prim instantly fell in love with her. Katniss could not bring herself to ruin Prim's sunny outlook on life, yet that would come in time.
Hand-in-hand, Katniss and Prim walk into Mellark's Deli and Bakery, Prim chatters on about what she learned in school. "Mr. Flavius taught us about the rainbow today!" Prim tells her.
I'm sure he did! Katniss had to withhold a laugh, it just struck her as funny. Inwardly she was glad that Haymitch wasn't there to hear Prim's comment. She would had to have to listen to a few bad gay jokes and then she would had to have the what was and was not appropriate terminology when referring to homosexuals speech with him again. The last time she had to explain to him that flamer was not an expectable adjective when talking to Prim about Mr. Flavius. Haymitch was not mean or a homophobe he just was a politically incorrect redneck with very little social grace.
The giant of a man, Mr. Mellark, greets them when they walk in, "Hello, lovely ladies. Will you be having the usual today, chocolate chip cookies and cheese buns with hot chocolate?"
"Yes!" Prim answers happily.
"Actually, could I get some coffee with cream please." Katniss is exhausted both physically and mentally, having not gotten much sleep last night.
"Coffee it is, honey," he says with a sympathetic look.
Katniss directs them to the tiny booth in an out of the way corner of the deli and they take a seat. Prim dunks her cookie into mug of hot chocolate, for a moment Katniss experiences the most bizarre feeling of déjà vu. Katniss had watched her mom do the same thing all the time, but with coffee. Prim is a miniature of their mother, she'll be beautiful someday, like her mom was before the cancer. Katniss shakes it off and concentrates on the task at hand.
"Hey Primmy," Katniss says softly. "You know that Bow was really old and that he has been really sick right?"
The little girl nods.
Katniss takes a deep breath, "Last night there was an accident…Bow got hit by a car and died."
"Oh, I know," Prim answers matter of factly as she sips her hot chocolate. "I saw the angel carry him away last night."
"The angel?" Katniss asks with absolutely no clue what she's talking about. Great, now I have to tell Dr. Aurelius that Prim is seeing things. "What angel Prim?"
"The big blonde one on our front porch last night, he had Bow in his arms. He was handsome, but he looked like he was going to cry. You talked to him, remember Katniss? So did Gale."
Suddenly it dawns on Katniss, and she understands what Prim saw. The guy who hit Bow was big and blonde haired, and he carried Bow onto the porch. Prim's bedroom window looks out onto the porch, maybe to a four year old in the glow of the porch lights he looked like an angel.
For the past year and a half, Prim's life had been filled with talk of Heaven and going to live with Jesus, it started when their mom had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. When their dad died in a car accident almost a year ago, the Heaven stories became an everyday thing, so it's no wonder her thoughts go directly to angels.
Ten-thirty at night and there is a knock at the door this won't be good, Katniss thought when she heard a frantic rapping at the front door of her mobile home. Either the cows were out, or someone was broken down were the most likely causes. But, you never know. The revolver she kept locked in the gun safe would take too long to get, so she grabbed the baseball bat from the closet. A girl living alone with her little sister, with the closest neighbor being half a mile away could not be careful enough.
After pulling on a pair of pajama pants and sweater over her sleeping shorts and tank top, Katniss turned on the porch lights and cracked the door as wide as the chain allowed to see an unfamiliar face. It was guy about her age with a panicked look in his incredibly blue eyes. He was large, almost a foot taller than her and broad. She was about to ask him what it was he needed, but then what he carried in his arms caught her attention. Bow, the dog that her mom and she had got her dad as a Christmas gift when she was five, was laying limp in the strange man's arms.
"I-I'm so, sorry," he stammered. "I hit your dog. He came out of nowhere…I tried to slow down, but I couldn't stop."
Katniss fought the urge to run onto the porch and withheld her cries of shock and grief and told the stranger, "Excuse me while I call my husband." She ran into the kitchen and grabbed her cell phone and called Gale, her cousin. When he picked up she quickly explained the situation and told him to pretend to be her husband when he got there.
Katniss opened the door cautiously; the stranger had laid Bow down and was petting him. "I tried to stop," he lamented. "It's so foggy and it was too late to stop completely."
"No, please don't feel bad," she tried to console him as she lifted the dog's head top look at him closely, Bow was clearly dead. Thankfully he was not bloody; he just looked like he was sleeping.
Really she felt like it was her fault; she should have gone looking for him when he hadn't scratched to door to be let in earlier. She had been paying bills and lost track of time. "He was sixteen, that's really old for a blue heeler. And he had heart problems…And going blind…." Katniss finally allowed some tears to fall although silently. "It was a matter of time anyways, at least it looks like he went fast."
"Yeah, I think it was instant," the stranger replied and ran his fingers through his wavy hair. "He never yelped or anything."
Katniss noticed lights in the drive way, Gale had arrived on his four-wheeler. He ran speedily to the house and asked, "Catnip, are you alright?"
"Gale, Bow's dead," she said sadly.
"Catnip, I'm so sorry." Gale hugged her tightly and kissed her head, and then he turned his attention to the blonde stranger and said just a little too harshly, "You the one who did it?"
"Gale, don't, Prim is asleep!" Katniss scolded him, "Bow probably wandered out to the road, and he could hardly see anymore. You know how he would wait in the drive way for Dad, he most likely lost his bearings and went out further than usual, and it's foggy."
Katniss nearly broke down then, thinking about how every night for the last eleven months the old, fat, salt and pepper coated dog had waited at the end of the drive way for hours on end for her dad to come home, just to never see him pull in. "Bow has finally found his master again."
"Can I help you bury him?" The blonde man offered he seemed so sincere. Katniss finally allowed herself to really look him in the face, there was something familiar about him.
"No, I'll do it in the morning," Gale told him. "Thanks for the offer, though. A lot of people would have just left him on the side of the road."
"I couldn't do that, I had to do the right thing and bring him home." Then the stranger did the oddest thing, he put out his hand to Katniss and she took it. "I'm so sorry."
Katniss managed to compose herself some; the warmth of the stranger's large hand seemed to calm her. "Please, it's alright, like I said he was really old." Then she pulled her hand away.
The stranger surprised her again by asking. "Can I put him somewhere for you? I see that there are toys in the yard, I would hate for a kid to have to see him like this."
"Um, yeah," Katniss looked to Gale. "Gale could you please show him to the shed, Prim won't see him there in the morning."
Gale and the stranger walked towards the shed, spoke for a few minutes, and then the stranger left. Gale came in and checked on her, "Poor guy."
"Yeah," Katniss said quietly. "But at least it saved me from having to have him put down. Dr. Jo said that I should be thinking about it. That would have been worse."
"I meant the nice guy who hit Bow," Gale told her. "He feels like shit. To bad too, that's the kind of guy you should be dating. You should have gotten his number. He looks a little on the soft side, but we could toughen him up."
"That's the start of a fairy tale romance," Katniss retorted. She thought about the stranger for a moment, he was good looking. She thought, I could never date a guy like that anyways, he was way out of my league, he wouldn't go for a tomboy country girl."Besides I told him that you were my husband and I have no time or interest in a relationship right now."
"Life has got to restart for you too, someday." Gale reminded her. "I'm pretty sure he knew you were lying, look at us Kat, a blind man could tell we're related. The Everdeen dark hair, tan skin, and grey eyes run strong, out of all of us cousins only Prim didn't get'em."
Katniss was quickly annoyed, "Don't you have cows to milk in the morning, and shouldn't you be going home and getting to bed?"
"Yeah, I love you too, Catnip. Call me if you want to talk." Gale waved to her, then suddenly stopped and asked. "Hey, did Dr. Jo happen to mention me?"
"No she didn't. Why don't you get it over with and ask her out?" Katniss asked him. Gale had the hots for the new vet, fresh out of Ohio State, Dr. Johanna Mason. "I'm sure that your mom and dad are getting tired of you calling the vet for minor things when Dr. Jo's on call."
"Hey I paid her to castrate the steers out of my own pocket," Gale defended himself.
"You've never had Dr. Boggs help you castrate before, you've always done that yourself." Katniss reminded him.
"Well, what can I say in my defense? Dr. Boggs doesn't look that good in powder blue coveralls and gum boots."
Katniss rolled her eyes, shook her head, and then dismissed him, ready to be alone. "Bye, Gale. Thanks for coming so quick."
"Anytime, Catnip," he waved then left.
Katniss locked the doors, stumbled to bed and then buried her head in the pillow, allowed herself to do something that she rarely ever did, and cried till there no more tears. She cried for Bow, then for Prim, and lastly she shed a few tears for herself. Why did life have to be so unfair?
Katniss has to bite the inside of her cheek to keep her composure, not knowing what is sadder, the fact their dog was dead or that Prim was four and already so accustomed to talking about death.
Prim, next does a very grown up thing, reaches over the small table and puts her hand on top of her sister's. "Don't worry Katniss the angel is going to take care of us. Mommy said that she would ask the angels to take special care of us."
"Primmy that wasn't an angel," Katniss explains gently. "That's was the man who accidentally hit Bow."
"Oh, okay," Prim says a little disappointedly. "But I think he is an angel too."
"Maybe, he was Prim." Katniss decides that it would be best to agree and not burst her bubble, at least not here anyways. What would be the likelihood of ever seeing him again? He was more than likely just someone passing through, she had never seen him before and this was a small town. She knows that if she had seen him before she would have remembered.
They finish their snack and stand to leave, when Prim excitedly tugs on Katniss' shirt. "Katniss, Katniss!"
"What is it Prim?"
"Look, it's our angel!" Prim says brightly and points behind her sister. Katniss turns around to see the man who stood on her porch the night before leaning on the counter talking intently to Mr. Mellark. Quickly she grabs Prim and tries to leave unnoticed, but instead Prim calls out, "Bye angel!"
The young man and turn to look at the sisters. Katniss' eyes connect with the young man's for a brief moment, he waves a little with his mouth slightly open in surprise, Katniss could feel her face get bright red, and then she turns away and pulls Prim out the door.
"Katniss," Prim says a little annoyed. "I wanted to talk to the angel."
"Sorry Prim," Katniss tries to excuse her rude action. "We…we just really have to get home now."
Feeling a little guilty as they walk back to the store, and load up into her old red Silverado, Katniss tries to analyze her reaction. She really didn't understand her own behavior, she all of a sudden felt like she had to get out of there. For some strange reason the thought of having another run in with the stranger had shaken her, not because of him having had the bad luck to be the one to hit Bow. But, because of how he had made her feel when his hand touched hers, she was afraid of liking him, and she could not deal with that right now.
Thank you for reading my story, I hope you enjoyed it! If you did please review, reviews totally make my day and inspire me to write.