A/N: I'm baaaack! New summer, new project, new me. I have the entire story finished so that won't be an issue this time around. I'll be publishing often, so be patient my dears. This story is a good one :).
And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
- Let It Be, Beatles
This morning was a good morning, or at least a better morning, Katniss Everdeen reasoned. The early morning April sun shone through a thick barrier of heavenly grey clouds, dotting the meadow Katniss' house backed onto with spots of golden light. The tall grasses, browned by winter, were now splashing with springs of green and buds of flowers-to-be. The meadow backed Katniss' house, and it provided some scenery for Katniss as she sat on the window bench. She was curled in a fetal position, her gaunt back leaning heavily against a windowpane. A thick woolen blanket was pulled up to her neck, and sweat covered, thinning dark brown hair fell in unkempt clumps around her face. Breakfast- a small bowl of oats and fruits with a glass of water- laid barely touched on the ground, only the fruit and water missing. And of course the pills. This was good, though, and Sae would be pleased.
Greasy Sae, as the locals called her, looked after Katniss most mornings, coming in at 6:30 a.m. with breakfast, and returning at 11 a.m. Her mother was working often as a nurse, and besides, Katniss wouldn't want her help anyways. Hazelle stopped by periodically, as did Gale and the boys. Sometimes even Posy tagged along. They all were petrified for her, as they had been since it happened.
Sometimes Katniss grew annoyed with their worrying, but then she reminded herself that it was better than the other option- The Capitol. No way in hell would Katniss ever end up back there, locked up with the likes of Mr. Snow. So, despite the nagging, Katniss could deal with it. And it wasn't like she could complain to anyone; she hadn't uttered a word in weeks. It was amazing how depression could silence. But that's what they chanted. Depression changes a person. It's what they told her mom anyways, but she would know all about that.
Looking back to the sky, Katniss noticed a bird singing its sweet, melodic mating call. It made her think of Rue, a girl as sweet as the tunes of the bird. She was a shy young girl who Katniss had met at The Capitol. They were roommates for a short period of time, when Katniss was even permitted to have them. At first, Rue was far too timid to even speak to Katniss, but eventually the two grew fond of each other. They were friends, useful allies in a place like The Capitol, and they taught each other tricks. But Rue was a fragile soul, and eventually it was decided she needed to be alone; soon after the same conclusion was reached for Katniss. Rue reminded Katniss of Laura, a diffident, shy, character she studied in her sophomore English reading of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.
Sophomore year. Sixteen. Her last year at school. Sophomore English was spent with Haymitch Abernathy, a brilliant but lost soul, who also happened to double as her Honors English teacher. On the days he wasn't hung-over (or still drunk), he provided a plethora of information. Not to say that they didn't butt heads. Often. She usually kept herself under the radar at school, but in Haymitch's class it was impossible not to get fired up. He held an equal lack of affection for the brunette. He would challenge her insights, snap at her, and occasionally the two would full on bicker. One instance that came to mind at the moment was an instance during the time the class acted out the Glass Menagerie. Leevy, an acquaintance of Katniss, was playing Laura, but was absent one day. So, Haymitch so kindly volunteered Katniss to take the role, ignoring her lack of charisma, and her loathing of public speaking.
The scene was a tense one, a fight between Amanda Wingfield (Laura's mother) and Tom Wingfield (Laura's brother). But, more so it focused on how the fight affected Laura. What made matters worse was that Peeta Mellark was taking on the role of Tom. Peeta was an interesting character himself. He was charismatic, friendly and was always surrounded by a group of friends- needless to say he was a popular guy. More than that, he was also heavily involved in theater and performing. By that point in sophomore year, he was chosen to take on the role of editor in the school paper, and also was in the top ten of the grade. Katniss had never recalled speaking to him personally, but he unnerved her; it was something about his perfection that just irked her.
So, Katniss got in front of the class along with Peeta and some girl who played Amanda. During the scene, Peeta stayed in character marvelously, regardless of humorous lines, or shenanigans going on amongst the classmates. Katniss only had a single line that day, the climax of the scene- and Tom and Amanda's fight. Finally, Peeta finished his lines and it was Katniss' turn to speak.
In a monotone voice, she recited the lines: "My glass- menagerie!" What was supposed to be a dramatic and impactful moment in the play was reduced to comical relief by the way she spoke. A few classmates let out breathy laughter, but above their isolated giggles was the ever-in-character Peeta Mellark, laughing. He went on chuckling for a good amount of time, before mumbling "Excuse me," and returning entirely in character. This had Katniss irate. How dare he? She didn't even know Peeta, but she distrusted him from that point on. How could he remain so in-tune to his acting, except when she screwed up? Her minor mistake on infliction could have gone entirely unnoticed, had he not cracked himself up. Katniss recalled returning to her seat ruddy cheeked, with steam coming out of her ears. No, she decided she did not like Peeta Mellark one bit that day.
As Katniss continued mulling her memories, she realized Peeta would probably be editor-in-chief next year for the newspaper. They were to be seniors after all. If everything went according to her mother, Hazelle, and Sae's plans, Katniss would be back at District 12 regional high school for her senior year. It all sounded well and good, but Katniss was far from excited at the prospect.
A creaking sound caused Katniss to jump up and look around, startled. Her hunter instincts would always stay with her, regardless of how out of practice she was. Being snapped from her reverie cause her to check the clock across the cozy living room. 10:57. Shaking her head, Katniss realized she had been sitting in her cocoon for almost seven hours, since 5 a.m. She had woken this morning from a nightmare, a recurring one of her father's death. He worked with the city of Albany, New York, building underground tunnels, septic systems, and the like. It was dangerous work, and resulted in a decent paycheck. But, there were considerable risks, including the one that got to her father- a crew of workers had built part of a tunnel incorrectly, and while her father was working, it collapsed, entrapping her father and his crew. While teams worked to free the men the rest of the tunnel collapsed, burying her father. It was also how the Mr. Hawthorne, Hazelle's husband and her best friend Gale's dad met his end. Lots of people from the village of Panem, New York had family working in the tunnels. It was good enough pay and didn't require a college degree, perfect for the people of a poor town.
However poor, Panem was also beautiful. Located in the Appalachia Region of upstate New York, it was nestled in the mountains and encompassed by nature. There was a lake twenty minutes drive from town that the locals frequented. There were also smaller ponds that dotted the area, including one in the woods near Katniss' house where her father taught her to swim. With a population of close to only two thousand residents, everyone was bound to know a snippet of other people's business. This was something Katniss certainly did not appreciate when she was eleven and her father died, and had many, many more reasons to detest such a fact now.
"Girl!" Sae's rough voice cut through the stillness like a knife, but it was a welcome change. The short, thick, older woman pushed her way into the small cottage from the porch, carrying a letter bag full of food, presumably. "Now let me see here," She stomped over to the tray of breakfast and examined Katniss' job on it. "Now you know I appreciate your work on the berries and water, but my God, Katniss! You need food. Now open your mouth." Katniss glared at Sae, but knew she fought a losing battle, and reluctantly opened her mouth. Sae scooped a spoonful of oats into her mouth, and she reluctantly swallowed. This was followed by five more similar mouthfuls.
"Now that's much better girl. I'm warning you that today Gale is gonna take you out and there is no way you can refuse this time. When's the last time you been outdoors? Since Sunday? Maybe it'll help you. Anyhow, I have strict instructions today, and you are going to behave like an angel for me." Katniss' eyes were in slits by now, just imagining what was in store for her. Sae just chuckled as she led Katniss to the bathroom, where a tub was filled.
An hour later, Katniss was clean, her hair brushed, with fresh clothes on. "When's the last time you bathed, child? Since when I done bathed you last week? Now that ain't gonna cut it no more. Don't give me that look! From here on out, I want you bathing at least once between my weekly baths, when someone else is home. I'll be telling your momma and Hazelle, so don't think you'll be getting away Scott-free." Katniss sneered at Sae, but nodded nonetheless. Sae frowned. It was clear that though Katniss was improving, there were still bald spots on her head, ribs countable on her torso, and Lord knew what else was still broken up in that child's mind.
Sae shrugged and gestured to Katniss. "Now come on, I need help making my special stew for your dinner. It hasn't been the same without your meat." Sae gave Katniss a pointed look at the reference to one of the pastimes the girl had neglected for almost a year now. Sae thought that some time in the woods, doing something she loved would help the girl, but she hadn't been able to muster enough energy to do much of energy in her months back from The Capitol.
Sae laid out the ingredients on the limited counter space in a kitchen that hadn't been updated since the house was built. There were all sorts of greens laying about, as well as broths and meat that needed to be diced. It wasn't fancy by any means, and was more rustic than anything, but that's how their kind liked it. Besides, Sae had been at this longer than anyone.
"You know the drill, start cutting." Sae tried to keep Katniss active enough while she watched over her, but even the simple act of bathing seemed to wear the seventeen year old out. Still, gradually, Sae's efforts proved to bear more fruit, as Katniss came to be slightly more involved in the happenings of the house. Sae began chucking ingredients into the pot, but a chunk of meat flew past and hit Katniss square on the chest. Startled, she stood up and let out a yelp, looked down, looked up, and glared at Sae. She let out a heavy chuckle. Katniss just sneered.
Gale Hawthorne was determined to get Katniss out of that damn house. He shrugged on his hunting jacket and called to his mother that he was heading to the Everdeen household. She sounded a grunt of approval, and Gale took off out of the early 1900's farmhouse that was "next door" to Katniss' house. They weren't technically next door, since a good fifty yards of foliage separated the houses, but hers was the closest house to his. So it counted in his mind.
It was early afternoon when Gale barged into the living room from the front porch of her house. He frowned at first when he saw Katniss had abandoned her typical position at the window, but then grinned when he realized that meant she was up. He reminded herself that it was bath day, so that could be the only reason she was up; but she usually went straight to sleep after a bath. So maybe this was a good sign.
"Katniss!" Gale called out. Not that it would do any good. Katniss hadn't spoken to anyone since she screamed at Dr. Aurelius during one of his home visits earlier in April- two weeks ago. And before that it was one word phrases- maybe. "Katniss! It's Gale. I'm just stopping by to say hi." Not that she would believe him. She was skeptical enough, and Gale was up to something. He hadn't asked her to go outside with him since mid-January, a few weeks after when she first returned home from The Capitol. She just looked at him with a blank stare. But she was functioning now, and seemed to be in a better place.
After poking his head into the only other two rooms on the first floor- the bathroom and the breakfast nook- he found her tending to Sae's stew in the kitchen. "You're up." He gave a half smile when Katniss poked her head up from the pot. She gave him a half wave in acknowledgement. "You look great." To anyone else, she did not look great. She was gaunt, and bald pockets of hair that either fell out or were pulled out were noticeable. There were scratch scars on her arms and she had a mildly dazed look on her face. But her grey eyes were alert, calculating as they always were. And she was clean and dressed in flannel-lined denim jeans and a heavy sweater and wool socks. A bit excessive for the mild spring weather, but Katniss was cold all of the time.
"Is the stew done?" He inquired. Katniss shrugged, so Gale took a spoonful of it, blew on the hot liquid, and fed it to Katniss. She then nodded. "Perfect," Gale continued as he took the pot from the heat. "Because you and I are taking a walk today." Katniss violently shook her head. Gale ignored her silent protest as he ran to her room and grabbed what he needed: a thick jacket, boots, and gloves. Once downstairs he put the articles of clothing on Katniss with less resistance than he expected.
Grudgingly, she stood up and let Gale direct her outside. She took twenty-minute walks outside once a week with Hazelle, as required, and also had to spend at least an hour twice a week on the porch. Still, it disoriented Katniss to go from the dim artificial light of her indoors to the bright, springtime sun. Nonetheless, the afternoon in the meadow was even more beautiful than the picturesque scene outside the window this morning. Katniss inhaled deeply, sucking in life for her lungs and soul. Gale stood next to her silently as they paved a well-trodden path from the meadow the bordered both the Everdeen and Hawthorne properties to the deep woods beyond.
"I need to check the traps today, and I thought you might want to join me. You haven't been in the woods for almost a year, Katniss." He was going to continue with his train of thoughts, but her terse nod stopped him. The two had a system going, one that had worked for the past half decade. Their fathers were both hunters and poachers, his father specializing in snares, hers in bow-and-arrows. Both men would take their children with them when they hunted, and occasionally they men would also hunt together. One day, a little over a year before they died, Mr. Everdeen and Mr. Hawthorne brought their eldest children on a hunting trip with them. Gale and Katniss had obviously met before, but never in such a setting. After a few similar meetings, it was clear they were ideal hunting partners.
So Katniss checked the snares and emptied them while Gale reset the traps. All in all, it took maybe an hour since Gale had only set the ones closest to the meadow in lieu of planning for Katniss to come. As they walked back towards Katniss', Gale made another attempt to speak.
"Hey. So I know this past year has been really hard for you Katniss, and I get that none of us realized just how bad it was until, you know, you went away. But you were able to trod on after your father, and now I don't see what's stopping you. It's like you're a zombie: You barely eat, you can hardly sleep soundly, and all you do is sit by that damn window. You know Prim wouldn't want-" at her name, Katniss' head snapped from its gaze on the horizon, her eyes in slits.
"Don't say her name," she attempted to command. Her voice was hoarse, cracked and faded by the end of the sentence. But fierce embers churned in Katniss' stomach. However infuriated she was, she didn't feel numb at the moment, which maybe was good.
"I didn't mean to Katniss." His own steely grey eyes met hers. He was mentally slapped himself in the head, but still, noticed a change in her body language. She was fighting for, or rather against something, and Gale was pleased on some level.
"Just don't." Her voice was more audible, and Gale was not given the chance for a rebuff as Katniss jogged away. He could easily catch up with her, but decided not to. It was clear his work was finished for the day anyways. However sour it ended, Gale felt he did his part, and was proud he could get her to speak.
Along the way back to his home, Gale pondered more ways to break Katniss out of her shell. He vowed not to let up until she was fully functioning. As the sun began to set, he reached the white-washed farmhouse, eyes gleaming with determination. He had a few ideas, and would be damned if one didn't work.
"Well you're in a good mood," Hazelle called out from the slanting veranda.
"Ma, I got her to talk today," Gale replied, satisfaction oozing in his tone.
"Don't be too proud of yourself. You usually manage to screw up in one or another." Gale let out a dark chuckle, not realizing how true his mother's words would soon ring.
SOOO many questions! What's "The Capitol"? Why was Katniss "locked up" there? What happened to Prim? How will Gale screw up? And where the hell is Peeta damn Mellark?
Let me know what you think! Reviews are love:)