Thank you for reading! We'd also like to thank angylinni for setting the three of us up to write each other's stories in the Hunger Games Spring Fling. That's how we initially connected and ultimately decided to write together.
This is a multi-author collaboration. Each chapter will be written from one character's POV, and each character is written by a different author, as follows:
Disclaimer: We do not own The Hunger Games or The Lovely Bones. We're doing this purely for fun.
Thanks to our fantastic beta sunfishdunes, as well as our awesome pre-readers desertginger and jennagill.
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Chapter 1: Primrose
***(trigger warning for non-graphic depiction of rape and murder)***
My name is Primrose, like the flower. Last name, Everdeen. I was 14 years old when I was murdered on June 14, 2007.
Even though my life was short, I still spent thousands of days among the living. I could probably tell you hundreds of happy, or sad, or funny stories from my life. But in the end, no one really remembers those stories. All those thousands of days are overshadowed by one: the day I died.
So let's get that story out of the way first.
The day of my untimely death was actually just like any other. When I look back, I'm always surprised by how ordinary it was. In fact, it was even a good day. Seriously. If not for the fact that I was murdered, it might have turned out to be one of my favorite days that summer.
I doubt anyone but me remembers the good parts of that day, though. Maybe my sister...but honestly, I'm not sure she enjoys looking back on the times when we were happy. I wish she did, but I think that remembering me brings her pain.
The story of my death is the one story that only I know, that only I can tell. Other people know bits and pieces of what happened that day, but no one else knows the whole story from start to finish. So I'm really the best one to tell it.
Here's what happened.
Just like every Thursday, my sister Katniss dropped me off at the rec center for my Girl Scout meeting in the late afternoon. "I'm going to get some groceries, but I'll be back before you get out, okay?" she reminded me, smiling and giving my blonde ponytail a gentle pull. I giggled as I opened the passenger door of her truck. It was hot and sticky outside, but with a slight breeze, it still felt better than the stifling interior of her old, non-air conditioned truck.
"Yep, I'll see you in a couple of hours!" I told her, waving as I turned to jog away. I was a few minutes late for the meeting, so I didn't look back as she drove off. I can't tell you how many times I've wished that I had. I wish I'd had a chance to memorize the little details that I had no way of knowing I was seeing for the last time: the dark green color of our dad's old truck, the little wisps of dark hair that escaped from Katniss's braid and flew around her face as she drove, how tan her skin was compared to my own.
I hurried into the rec center, smiling at the elderly woman sitting at the front desk as I made my way to the small conference room where my troop usually met. But when I reached the end of the hallway, the door was closed. A note posted on the door read, "Girl Scouts cancelled - June 14."
Oh no, I thought to myself, exasperated. I knew Katniss was already gone, and I was stuck. This wasn't the first time that I felt frustrated neither she nor I had cell phones. Mom and Katniss both said we couldn't afford it, and I knew they were right...but it made me feel so self-conscious sometimes. Everyone I knew had a cell phone. And in a situation like this, I couldn't reach Katniss to ask her to come pick me up.
The rec center was located in the wealthier part of Panem, the little town where I lived my entire life. The nearby houses looked huge and stately, with spacious, manicured lawns separating them from the road. It was quite a difference from the tiny, somewhat dilapidated house where my family lived. I'd always wondered what the families who lived there did with all that space. We were comfortable in our house, but it was definitely cramped.
Home was miles from away from here - much further than I cared to walk in the June heat. It'd be almost two hours before Katniss returned for me. Sighing, I sat down on a bench in front of the building, dropping my chin into my hands.
After a few minutes of boredom, staring out at the mostly empty parking lot, my attention wandered to the nearby neighborhood. I'd never really had a chance to explore it before, but the tree-lined streets and well-kept yards looked inviting. Plenty of time until Katniss gets back, I thought to myself as I stood and strode purposefully across the blazingly hot asphalt.
The funny thing that no one has ever figured out is that I didn't make it far away from the rec center that day. Nope, my very last hour on this planet was spent in the big white house that I could see directly across the parking lot on Capitol Drive. Of course, I didn't set out that day intending to end up inside it.
But I got distracted almost as soon as my feet hit the sidewalk on the other side of the parking lot. My ears perked up as I heard something, like faint whimpering. I stopped and looked around, trying to focus on the sound to locate its source. And it wasn't far away. In fact, it was just behind a tree in the front yard of the white house - a dirty, scruffy yellow cat that was limping and holding one paw gingerly in the air.
"Oh, you poor thing!" I immediately exclaimed, kneeling down and reaching my hand out to let it sniff me. After a moment's hesitation, the cat rubbed its head into my hand. I stroked it gently before picking it up to look for a collar.
Nothing. No identification whatsoever. I vividly remember looking around and trying to decide what to do next. Leaving the cat behind never even occurred to me - it was hurt and I had to do something to help. Approaching the nearest house was the best idea I had at the time; obviously I had no clue it would turn out to be the worst mistake I ever made.
The street - actually, the entire neighborhood - was quiet and deserted that afternoon. I don't know if that was because it was the middle of the day on a weekday, or if it was because of the stifling heat. Either way, now I just think of that deserted street as another one of the pieces that had to align perfectly to allow my death to occur that day. If any one little thing had changed, maybe things would've been different.
I try not to dwell on those sorts of things very often, though. I can't exactly go back.
Holding the yellow cat firmly in both of my arms, I made my way towards the heavy-looking, windowless grey door on the nearby house. As I approached the door, the cat's ears flattened against its head and a low growl emanated from its throat. "Don't worry, little guy, we're going to get you better soon," I said, attempting to reassure him. I had no idea that the poor, pathetic cat was trying to help me out.
I rang the doorbell and waited. I rang it again, and again. No answer. The cat was clearly getting antsy from me holding it for so long, so I decided to circle around to the back of the house to see if I could find any sign that the cat belonged there.
The backyard was surrounded by a tall wooden fence. The fence posts were spaced so closely together that nothing of the yard was visible from the outside. I hesitantly approached the gate, pausing as I reached for the latch. Is it really a good idea to go into some stranger's yard for this cat? I remember thinking. What will they think if they catch me? But the cat was squirming in my arms more and more violently; I knew I had to find its owner soon or it might run away.
I pushed through the gate, hearing it latch closed behind me. I walked past several windows, all with their shades drawn tightly, as I approached the back corner of the house. The cat continued struggling against my arms, hissing and trying to free its uninjured legs from my grasp. Just as I was about to round the corner towards the back of the house, the cat lunged upward at my head, freeing its front paw and tangling its sharp claws in my hair. "Ow!" I yelped, instinctively dropping the cat and pressing my hand to the side of my head.
In our scuffle, the cat had ripped away my pink hair ribbon as it fled. Without the ribbon, my hair fell haphazardly out of its neat ponytail, making it even more difficult to locate where exactly I'd been scratched. But I knew I'd been hurt badly enough, given the throbbing pain on my head and the blood that I saw on my hand as I withdrew it.
In the end, though, cat scratches were the least of my problems. Before I even truly registered what had happened, I felt two arms grab me roughly from behind, one circling my waist and the other clamping a hand over my mouth. They were holding me so tightly that I couldn't even turn around to see who it was.
In my panic, I first froze, uncertain how to react. But as I felt myself being pulled towards the back door of the house, my instincts took over. I couldn't scream, but I kicked and arched my back and threw my body from side to side - anything to try to loosen the grip this person had on me. Nothing worked. My panicked brain couldn't even form a single coherent thought to try to help me figure out what to do.
I felt so completely and utterly powerless. That poor, injured cat managed to get away from me, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't struggle hard enough to free myself.
My feet were dragged over the threshold of the back door, and I darted my eyes quickly back and forth. I was in a neat, clean, and surprisingly normal-looking kitchen. I kicked my legs fiercely and succeeded in loudly knocking over a metal trash can, thinking that maybe someone would help me if they could just hear it. But I should've known better. Of course we were alone in the house.
Abruptly my captor turned me around and I found myself pushed forward, towards a dark staircase leading down into what I assumed was a basement. The hand dropped from my mouth and I cried out instinctively, "Help me! Someone!" Just then I twisted my head sideways and saw my soon-to-be murderer for the first time. He was an older, almost grandfatherly-looking man with a full head of white hair. How could a man his age be so strong? I could barely think straight, but some part of me tried to memorize his features so that I could describe him to the police later.
He was silent as he pushed me, stumbling, to the top of the staircase. I tried to go limp, to dig my heels into the ground, to do anything to stop our forward progress. Somewhere deep down I knew that if we went down those stairs, I'd never come back up. "Please, please, please," I chanted, tears finally starting to stream down my face as the realization of my situation started to hit me fully.
Somehow my own two feet took me down the staircase; maybe some part of me thought being cooperative would help? I'm not sure exactly, but I definitely have no memory of being carried down the stairs. It was so dark that I couldn't see anything, not even a tiny beam of light through a window. I didn't even notice if there were any windows. It was hard enough just to remember to breathe; my heaving sobs were making speaking impossible and breathing very nearly so.
A door shut behind me. As I started to turn around, a hand on my back pushed me violently and I fell, striking my chin on something hard. The floor was solid and cold beneath me, but I didn't move. I had no idea what to do. How to even attempt to save myself. I feared what was ultimately the truth - that it was too late for me.
Pushing myself to my hands and knees, I tried to scramble away. Away from what, though? I didn't know. I could faintly make out shapes in the dark - boxes, maybe? - and thought that there might be somewhere for me to hide, or some kind of weapon I could grab. But the man grabbed my legs and jerked them out from under me, leaving me flat on my stomach once more.
"Don't!" I screamed, rolling hastily onto my back and flailing my legs wildly in a desperate attempt to strike him. But he was too fast for me, pinning me to the ground with his entire body weight.
He grabbed my face in his hands and held it in place, staring at me appraisingly. I closed my eyes and moaned. "Shhh," he said with surprising calmness. "Be quiet and this will all be over soon."
Up until this point in my life, I'd always been the kind of person who believed the best about others. I had never encountered anyone who was inherently evil, and I doubted that people like that even existed. So even though what had happened up to this point was unbelievably terrifying and cruel, I wanted to believe him. I stopped struggling, praying to myself that he was telling the truth, and that he'd let me go.
As I lay limp on the ground, the cold seeping into my body, the last things I really clearly remember were the feeling of his hands on my legs pushing up my skirt, followed by the sound of his pants unzipping. At that point, I shut down. I closed my eyes tight and balled my fists at my sides, blocking out every sound and sensation I felt from that point on.
I don't have a clear memory of the burning pain between my legs, or the anguished, animal-like cries that I couldn't stifle, or the warm tears streaming down my cheeks and running through my ears on their way to the floor. None of it. I kept my eyes shut for what felt like an eternity.
I never even saw the knife.
So I didn't understand why my limbs were getting heavier and heavier, to the point that I couldn't even move them anymore. I didn't know why the dry ground beneath my head was suddenly covered in a warm and sticky fluid. Why I felt like I was choking, my mouth filled with a strange metallic taste.
But then, inexplicably, he let me go. I felt his weight remove itself from my legs, and I regained control of my limbs.
It was over.
I stood and ran away as fast I could.
Unsurprisingly, a violent death makes you want to flee the earth as quickly as you possibly can. You're still running. You either won't or can't look back. You don't even know you're dead until you're far enough away to start to feel safe again, and only then do you realize what happened.
When I fled my murderer's house that summer day, I truly thought I was still alive. Since I didn't look back, I never saw that I was actually still lying on that cold floor, a huge pool of blood quickly forming beneath me, soaking my clothes and hair. But even if I'd seen the blood, I still wouldn't have been able to comprehend what happened; that's not how death works. At least not when you die how I died. I wasn't meant to stay behind and try to figure out what happened. I had to go.
Every instinct in my body urged me to move faster, to put as much distance as I could between myself and my killer. I had no clue that he wasn't chasing after me. In fact, I assumed he was.
I didn't notice that the June heat had completely dissipated when I left the house, changing into a sort of murky nothingness. I ran blindly towards the parking lot of the rec center, where I could see my dad's old truck, and where my sister sat oblivious on the ground, reading a book. I remember panicking for her safety. She had to get away. He couldn't get her, too.
"Run, Katniss!" I screamed from across the parking lot. "Run!" I repeated when I saw that she didn't move. Why is she just sitting there? I thought in my confusion as I sprinted frantically.
As I approached Katniss, still agitatedly pleading with her to get up, she never even acknowledged my presence. She focused all of her attention on our dog, Lady, who'd started barking furiously when she heard me yelling. Katniss tried to calm Lady down, while at the same time looking around, perplexed, trying to figure out what was upsetting her.
I didn't slow down - I couldn't - but I reached out my hand to grab Katniss's arm as I ran by. As I touched her, she glanced up with a bewildered look on her face and seemed to say something.
I couldn't hear her though, and it seemed unimportant at the time. We couldn't talk; we had to run. "Come on, Katniss!" I begged her. But she didn't move. She wouldn't come with me. And I couldn't wait for her.
Katniss, my older sister and my best friend, was the last living person I would ever touch. When I reached out for her arm that day, I thought I was just trying to save her, to keep her from falling victim to the same man who'd hurt me. Now that I'm gone and I can look back with more clarity, I know my touch was much more than that. I was reaching out for my last connection to Earth.
Still, I fear that touch was a selfish act on my part. For me, it was a release, a goodbye to the person I loved more than anyone. But Katniss felt it, too. And it doesn't provide her with the same comfort it provided me. My touch haunts her and roots her to that spot, to that horrible day when her life changed forever. My sister - with her whole life ahead of her - has basically been standing still ever since.
I didn't mean to, but I took part of her with me when I left that day. And I still haven't figured out how to make her whole again.
Since I died, I've spent a lot of time watching the people I left behind. Mostly Katniss and my mom. Their lives were the most affected by my death, and I can't help feeling guilty about what I see. Losing me was just another blow that neither of them deserved.
When I was seven years old, my dad died in an accident at the coal mine where he worked. It was the first tragedy I ever experienced, the first death of anyone I really knew. My life had been so happy and carefree up to that point; we didn't have much money, but Mom and Dad loved each other so much that our home didn't feel lacking in anything.
I was too young to really comprehend exactly how much everything changed after Dad died. All I knew was that when I reached out to my mom for comfort, to help me feel better, she suddenly wasn't there. Well, she was still there in some ways - she was alive, and she still got out of bed and went to work every day - but she was doing the bare minimum that she needed to take care of her two daughters. Less than the minimum, really. That's why Katniss had to grow up so fast; her childhood essentially ended at age eleven because someone needed to take care of me and Mom.
When I look back and think about my old life, there are so many things that I wish I could change, or experiences that I regret never being able to have. But my single biggest regret is that I never thanked Katniss for everything she did for me. I'm not sure whether she even knows that I was aware of everything she did, much less how much I appreciated it and loved her for it.
By the time I died, though, we were as close as we had ever been - and as close as we ever would be - to becoming a normal, functional family again. Almost like we used to be when Dad was around. After I disappeared, my mom once more collapsed into her grief, right back into the same abyss that my dad's death had dragged her into. Katniss was forced to give up everything she'd achieved in her own life and return to the role she'd taken on when she was eleven. The lone functioning adult in an ever-shrinking household.
My sister doesn't deserve the life she's been living. I don't know anymore whether she was forced into this life or whether she chose it, but either way, she deserves so much more. The summer of my death, she had just graduated from high school and was about to leave home to go to college. She would've been the first one in our family to even go to college - Mom and I were so proud. But once I was gone, she just...stopped living. She gave up her scholarship and simply walked away from all of her potential.
I get why she did it, I really do. She and I had become so close over the years when we were essentially parent-less and I don't think either of us were prepared for life without the other. I never realized it when I was alive; I thought I was the one who relied on her, not the other way around. It's only since I've been away from her, unable to do anything but watch, that I started to understand how much she relied on me, too.
And Katniss was never allowed to grieve her losses: not Dad's death, and not mine either. Mom fell apart and someone had to take care of her. That someone was always Katniss.
She wouldn't admit it, but her life revolves around me even to this day. You'd think after six years she'd start to let go, but that's not my sister. Her desire to find out what happened to me was an obsession in the beginning; now the fervor has faded, but the search is still woven into the routines of her life. Calling the police every week, peering intently at strangers she encounters, picking up trash off the ground if she thinks it looks like something I owned...she can't stop herself from doing these things, and she doesn't want to. I know she feels that she owes this to me, because she thinks that she could've saved me if she'd done something different that day.
She's wrong though; no one could've changed what happened. I just have no way of telling her that.
Six years of searching and the only trace of me they've ever found is my pink hair ribbon. The one that yellow cat clawed out of my hair. The cat ran (limped, really) across streets and through yards with the ribbon caught in its paw, eventually losing it in some bushes on the opposite end of the neighborhood, far from where I was killed.
So in the end, that one clue didn't help at all. If anything, it made it easier for my killer to get away with what he'd done, because it seemed that I'd been taken much further from the rec center than I actually was. With the police's attention diverted by the false lead, they lost any chance they might've had to find me.
The police did what they could - I certainly don't blame them. They weren't incompetent or lazy, but just...caught off guard, I think. Our little town had it's share of crime, don't get me wrong, but murders were very uncommon. The officers did their best, though. They talked to everyone who lived in the neighborhood where I disappeared - they even talked to my killer - but no one emerged as a suspect. Everyone was properly horrified at what had happened. And my killer was a very convincing liar.
I've learned a few things about him in the years since I died, not that this knowledge does me any good. My killer's name is Snow. He'd been watching me for months before my death. He even knew my name. When I stumbled into his backyard that day, he couldn't believe his luck. I'd delivered myself directly to his doorstep.
When the police stopped by his house the day after my murder, he expressed just the right amount of shock and regret - How could something like this happen in our town? What kind of monster would go after a young girl? - that they didn't even spend five minutes with him before moving on. They didn't know that throughout their conversation, Snow periodically reached into his pocket and ran his thumb and forefinger over the cool metal of the bird necklace - a gift from my sister - that he'd taken from my body. They didn't know that the entire time they were speaking to him, my lifeless body was lying in the garage, folded in on itself, wrapped carefully in a plastic sheet, and stuffed inside a triple layer of garbage bags.
And even if the police had suspected anything, it would've been very difficult to find the murder weapon, even just a day later. Snow was careful to thoroughly clean it, sharpen it, and replace it among the other professional-quality knives in his spotless kitchen.
If they'd gone downstairs to the basement room where I was killed, they would've been hard-pressed to notice anything out of the ordinary. Snow had taken enormous care cleaning up my blood, and then rearranging the boxes to make the room look somewhat messy and haphazard, like you might find in a storage room in anyone's basement. He couldn't clean up all the blood - I had lain on the floor for several hours after my death, blood slowly oozing out of the gaping wound in my neck - but to deal with that, he'd simply moved a heavy old refrigerator over the stain. And a year later, after the investigation into my disappearance died down, he re-finished the basement, obliterating even that last mark that I left behind.
Snow clearly knew what he was doing. It wasn't his first time.
The day after my death, after he spoke to the police on his front porch, Snow walked back inside his house and made himself a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. Then he donned a baseball cap and gloves and walked into his front yard, tending affectionately to a collection of plants running along the front walls of his house. He tilled the ground and prepared a spot for the evening primrose bush that he eventually planted two weeks after my death.
Underneath the bush, he placed one piece of my clothing - my plain white cotton panties - that he removed from my body just before I died. Everything else that I was wearing that day - my favorite lavender-flowered sundress, my white cotton bra, and my black flip-flops - were horribly blood-stained and would go with me to my grave. The panties were, ironically, my only clothing from that day that bore no signs of what had happened, since they'd been ripped off and tossed aside before the worst occurred. Snow set them aside after my death, carefully placing them in the ground beneath the primrose. It was his own little memorial to me.
The evening after he spoke to the police, Snow heaved the garbage bags containing my body into his SUV and drove to the local community college. They were busily constructing a new arena for their football team, but on this blazingly hot day, work had finished in the late morning. Snow found the perfect spot for a grave - a flat, dirt-covered expanse that had already been prepared for concrete to be poured to form the building's foundation. I'd be sealed up forever.
He was surprisingly careless - or maybe cocky? - in burying me under barely a foot of soil, even though he did his best to smooth the dirt and make the site appear just as it had before he arrived. The construction crews ignored the site for a week, focusing on other work. One full week when someone could have found me. But no one did. I rested undisturbed. They poured the concrete. The arena became my final resting place.
As much as my disappearance shocked the town, as much as my absence left a hole in the lives of my friends and neighbors, eventually almost everyone's lives returned to normal. I became little more than a cautionary tale told to children, reminding them not to talk to strangers or wander off from their parents. People grew less and less interested in finding out what actually happened to me.
The investigation into my disappearance stalled within weeks. With no clues other than the pink ribbon, there was really nothing the police could do. There was nowhere else to look. Based on their knowledge of other cases like mine, they were convinced that I was already dead. Katniss believes that as well; it's the only way she could make sense of what happened. Only my mom still clings to the hope that I might be alive, since my body was never found.
Over the days and weeks following my death, things shifted slowly and inevitably towards this impasse. First, the police were searching for me, then for my body, then only for my killer. Now they don't even believe that my killer will ever be brought to justice. If he hasn't been found in six years, how will he ever be found?
Most of the detectives who worked on my case have come and gone over the years. The only reason any of them still remember me is because of Katniss. She's never given up, and she'll never let them forget.
She doesn't know how badly I wish she would, though.
Author's Note: We hope you enjoyed this and will stick with the story! The first Katniss and Peeta chapters will be posted later this week.