Author's Note: I came up with the idea to write this story in August but recently started this story after dealing with some writer's block on my other story. I decided to play with the idea of someone other than Peeta Mellark helping Katniss on that fateful day when she was eleven years old. I know there will be some breaks in canon (like Peacekeepers having families), but if you can accept that, I think you will really enjoy this story. :)
Disclaimer: I don't own The Hunger Games or any of its characters.
Hopeless. I have never fully understood what that word meant until now. I had done all I could do to keep my family going. It wasn't easy with my father gone. None of us had ever expected him to die in a mining accident even though we knew it was a dangerous job.
That was the major event that led me to this moment. My mother can barely get out of bed and when she does, it's just to stare at the wall or his picture. My sister, Prim, is only seven. That leaves me as the provider. Not that I have been successful. I'm still a few a months shy of being able to apply for tesserae. It's the only way for me to get food without stealing. I tried that once, only to have gotten caught. It was so horrifying that I haven't tried it since.
The only other option is to trade at the Hob. My mother gave me some of Prim's baby clothes to trade but unfortunately, no one wanted them. On my way back through town, I accidently dropped them in the mud. I didn't bother to bend down to pick them up. If I had, I don't think I would have been able to stand back up. Instead, I continue my way home, walking behind the merchant shops searching for trashcans that hadn't been emptied.
The garbage must have been collected. The baker's wife was awfully nasty to me and surprised me so much that I fell back into the mud. I was too weak to stand so instead, I dragged myself to a tree and leaned against it. I haven't moved since. It is a pretty tree. Its leaves are bright orange and red. This place would be a good place to spend my final hours because I'm sure that's all I have left. I stare up at the foliage as I let the colors blur together, creating a haze of colors.
I then think about my sister. She is probably waiting for me to get back. I bargain with myself that in ten minutes, I will get up and walk home. In the mean time, I pull my legs in closer to my chest and cry into my folded arms. I do not want to tell her that I failed, that there wasn't any food left to eat.
"Why are you crying?" says a voice from above me. I jump as I hear this. Before speaking, I look up to see a boy around my age standing in front of me. He doesn't look like he belongs in District 12. For one thing, he is dressed too nicely. He even has rain boots and a hooded rain jacket. No one in District 12 could afford specific items to wear just for this weather.
"I'm hungry." I tell him.
"Oh is that all?" he asks like it isn't a big deal. "We have lots of food at my house. You can have some if you like."
At first I am not sure if he really means it. He then puts out his hand that isn't holding his umbrella and helps me up. Now that I am closer to him, I can see his bright blue eyes and a tuft of blonde hair sticking out from under his hood. He offers to share his umbrella with me but I say no. I need the rain to help wash off the mud. He starts walking and I walk alongside him until we are standing at Peacekeeper Village. This is where they all live. I halt at once; my parents had always told me to stay away from there. Peacekeepers aren't the nicest of people, especially to those that live in the Seam. The boy takes a few steps before he realizes I am not with him.
"Why did you stop?" he asks, clearly confused. He must not know how things work here.
"I…I don't know." I stammer.
"Well come on. We don't want you to catch a cold. This type of weather will do that you know."
I hurry along, not heeding my parents' advice. At this point, I do not care about getting caught. We take the back path to his house, passing the back yards until we reach a house about ten times larger than mine. He opens the back door and starts inside.
"Mom? Dad?" he calls. There is no answer. He steps inside. I stand on the stairs, looking down, noticing the mud that is still on my pants and shoes. "Are you coming inside?" he asks with a smile.
"It's fine. It's only the mud room anyway." he says lightheartedly. I make my way inside to a small room with hooks to hang jackets and shelves for shoes. He tells me to wait there for him. He will probably return with a few items of food and then send me on my way. I am surprised when he returns with a pile of fresh laundry in his hands.
"You can change in the bathroom. It's the door right behind you."
"Change?" I ask, confused.
"Yes, we can't have you tracking mud into the kitchen. Sorry if my clothes are a little big on you. I don't have any sisters." he says.
"No, it's fine." I say to be polite. I quickly make my way into the bathroom and lock the door behind me. I strip the wet clothes from my body, replacing them with the warm, dry clothes. I can't help but notice how wonderful they smell. I spend the next minute holding the fabric up to my nose, taking in the scent. It smells like a field full of flowers, but even better. When I hear a knock on the door, I realize he is still waiting for me. I open the door and he is holding a plastic hamper in his arms.
"Throw your clothes in and I'll wash them for you." he says. I'm not sure why he is being so nice to me. To be honest, I was starting to think this is either a dream or a trap.
He opens another door in the mudroom to reveal a room that was just for washing and drying laundry. Once he starts the washer, he takes me to the kitchen. It was the most beautiful room I have ever seen. It was bright and white and even has a chandelier hanging over a large counter. He leads me to another door, revealing a room filled with food that he called a pantry. He grabbed a few things off the shelf and opened them.
"Help yourself." he says. He leaves the pantry for a few minutes and returns with a plate filled with meats and cheeses. He sits it in the middle of the floor and then sits across from me.
"What is your name?" I ask him after I realize that we failed to make introductions.
"Merrick." he replied.
"That's a funny name." I say. I catch myself mid-laugh when I realize how rude I am being. He invited me in his house, clothed me, and fed me and now I'm making fun of him. "I'm sorry. I've just never heard that name before." By now I am most likely blushing.
"What's your name?" he asks with intrigue.
"Katniss." I say to him. He laughs back at me.
"How did your parents come up with that?" He waits eagerly for my answer.
"I'm named after a plant."
"Never heard of it. I guess there are worse plant to be named after."
"I have a sister. She's named after a flower. Primrose is her name."
"I think I like Katniss better." he says with a smile. He's probably just saying it to make me feel better but I don't mind. I'm too focused on the food, anyway.
"What about you? Do you have any brothers or sisters?"
"No, I wish. It's just me."
"Why do you live in such a big house?"
"It's not my real house. My dad is here for work so we are living here for now."
"How long are you here for?" I ask. He shrugs his shoulders.
"Til he's done training the new Peacekeepers, I guess."
"If you're not from here, what District are you from?"
"District 2." he answers. It all makes sense now. He was from one of the richest districts in Panem. That's why he was dressed so well.
"How do you like District 12?"
"It's ok, I guess. I miss my friends. I don't have any friends here."
"I don't have any friends here, either." I tell him though I'm not sure why…maybe to make him feel better. He leaves the room again, this time to place my clothes in the dryer. I wish I were wearing them right now so I could stuff them with food to take home to Prim. It feels wrong to be eating such a feast without her.
When Merrick returns, we resume our conversation. We talk about our fathers. I tell him my father recently died and he tells me he's sorry. I tell him about why I was crying with more details included this time. It seems like he has a hard time grasping the fact that we don't have food. Everyone in his District always has enough food. It must be nice. He tells me that his father is a Peacekeeper and is pretty high up in rank. They travel to several Districts throughout the year so he can teach the Peacekeepers about the latest procedures. I don't mention how our District hates Peacekeepers. I just listen to him talk, while I continue to eat the piece of cake he brought to me from the fridge.
Once we've shared our backgrounds and the cake is finished, I know it is time for me to go. The last thing I need is for his parents to see me there. He hands me my clothes from the dryer. I change into them in the bathroom and neatly fold the ones he lent me. I walk out of the bathroom and hand him the pile, which he places on the shelf. He walks me to the back door and opens it. The rain has slowed to a light drizzle. We stand there awkwardly for about a minute, as if neither of us is ready to say goodbye.
"Thank you for the food." I say, looking into his eyes. I'm still not sure why he had done it.
"No, thank you—for the company. It was nice to have someone to talk to." I give him a small wave before turning out the door. I am halfway across his backyard when I hear him call my name. I finally turn around after the second time he's said it. I wait for him to catch up to me.
"I almost forgot. For Primrose." he said holding out a brown paper bag.
"Thank you." I say, holding back my tears. I didn't expect that. He turns around and starts walking back to his house while I resume my walking. Just as I am reaching the path, I hear my name again. Now he is running to catch up with me.
"Katniss. I was thinking maybe we could hang out sometime." he said. I nod to be polite, not certain if we actually will see each other again.
"Where can I find you?" he asks. He must mean it.
"I get out of school at 3. I walk through town to get home." I say. I don't tell him where I live. He'd never be able to find my house. It doesn't matter anyways. A girl from the Seam cannot be friends with a Peacekeeper's son.
So, what did you think of the first chapter? I would love to get some feedback about what you think about the concept of the story. Do you like it? I'm really interested in what readers will think since this isn't a Katniss/Peeta or Katniss/Gale FanFic.
P.S. I plan on updating this once a week. If you get bored in the meantime, you can always check out my other stories :)