BURNING BRIGHT
A/N: First of all, I would like to thank those of you who have reviewed/followed/and favored this story. Thank you, it means a lot! :) Well, enjoy chapter 3 and let me know what you think~

Disclaimer: I do not own The Hunger Games series

Chapter 3

The entire week flies by in a constant blur. I went hunting but mostly sat around wasting both time and space under the shade of a tree. Dad didn't ask again about my problems but I knew he had mentioned it to mom. She had been acting quite strange around me; always beating around the bush. I don't think she knew how to communicate with me.

Not since that day…

"Boo!" I'm brought out of my crazed stupor by Luke's shouting voice.

I jump back and frown instantly, "Luke!" He's hanging upside down from a tree branch right outside the Victor's Village. I had been so preoccupied with my thoughts that I didn't see when he wandered off.

Luke laughs, "You should have seen your face, Ivy."
I frown and pick up his school bag from the ground, "Get down from there, monkey." I sigh. "You're gonna break something again."

Luke laughs and climbs back down landing on his feet with a soft thud. Both my brother and I have always been good at climbing. Something my mom struggled with when Luke was old enough to climb. He was always up in a branch somewhere. Dad didn't need any extra help at the bakery so I took the opportunity to walk Luke home from school. I plan on meeting Evan after dinner, however. And now that I think about it, Evan has been acting quite strange as well. Always zoning out when we talk or becoming nervous when I catch him daydreaming.

Luke and I make our way to Victor's Village. Luke quickens his pace and hurries off in the direction of Uncle Haymitch's house. "Excuse me, where are you going?" I demand grabbing him by the back of his collar and pulling him back, "You're still grounded, remember?"

Luke groans, "Uncle Haymitch said he had something for me. I won't take long."

"Its not another slingshot, is it?" I raise a brow at him.
Luke averts his gray eyes, "No!" and squirms out of my grasp. "Just don't tell mom." And he runs off.

Don't tell mom, he says. As if it were that easy to lie to mom. "You owe me!" I call out to him as he disappears through the forbidden backyard. I reach home in no time quickly trying to make up an excuse for Luke's whereabouts. But Mom isn't home yet. She must be in town doing whatever moms do- or at least what my mom does which is, I have no idea.

I sigh in utter relief and immediately go to kitchen were dad has left a batch of blueberry muffins. He must have baked them this morning. I take one and gulf it down almost without chewing. Baked goods: my one true weakness. I head upstairs to my room and plunk down on my bed completely exhausted from my day. I had gotten up bright and early to collect my snares only to find them empty. And not to mention school dragged on longer then expected.

My eyes begin to close after a moment and I begin to dream about small little children running though the forest with Mockingjays flying above them. Always watching.

Before I know it my eyes flutter open and the delicious scent of food fills my room. I'm a bit confused and still dazed with sleep. Dinner's ready? I look to my window where the sun has set. I sit up quickly. I slept the entire day! It isn't long before there's a knock and Luke opens the door peering inside. "Dinner's ready." He says.

I notice the goose feathers in his hair and realize he's already back from Uncle Haymitch's for whatever he had for him. Probably another toy to piss off Mom. Still, I doubt Uncle Haymitch even cared about whatever window or vase Luke must have broken to get in trouble in the first place. I can imagine him drowned in his drink laughing as he pats Luke's back with a heavy hand, "You did a good job with this one, Sweetheart!" he would tell my angry mother. And come to think of it, Uncle Haymitch always roots on whatever shenanigan Luke is up to. The both of them are some kind of tag team. Dad jokes that Uncle Haymitch likes Luke way more then he ever liked my mother and him

.
Uncle Haymitch and I have our own strange bond. We don't cook up ways to annoy my mother like he and Luke do. I go to him for advice I cannot bring myself to ask of my parents in fear of their disappointment or disapproval. Even when he's tipsy, Uncle Haymitch manages to give me somewhat decent advise, a swift joke or some kind of drunken metaphor. However, he has a tendency to mistake me for my mother when he's drunk. He'll look at me, suddenly back in the time before the rebellion, and rant on about my people skills or something about Effie Trinket. I've grown used to it.

I shake the thought away and get up following after my little brother; still feeling lost from my heavy sleep. Mom and Dad are already waiting for us at the table. They smile when they see us.
"Finally," Luke says as he plucks down and plows right in to his stew.
"Don't forget to breathe," Mom tells him with a soft smile.
I take a seat across from Luke and steady myself. Even though I am starving I resist the urge to eat like a barbarian. Sorry Luke.

I can feel mom's watchful eyes on me. I know dad told her about my odd behavior a few days ago. I often wonder what she thinks of me when she looks at me. Am I a let down? Am I not what she was expecting? Or am I eating too many cheese buns again? I realize I'm stuffing my face and clear my throat and take a drink of water.

"Ivy." Mom calls my name. Oh, no. Here goes.
"Yeah?"
Mom sets her spoon down, "I was thinking of going in to the woods Sunday morning, would you like to come with me?"
My eyes shoot instantly to her. Mom and I haven't been to the woods together ever since that day so many years ago. I was twelve and had an arrogant and stubborn personality about me at the time. Maybe I still do. Maybe not arrogant but stubborn, that's for sure.

Mom and I were out in the forest hunting. Mom was a complete different person out beyond the trees. She was so quick and swift and her steps were barely audible. I on the other hand was struggling to keep up and tripping over my own feet. The day was hot and the sweat ran down my neck. I could tell mom was growing impatient. I was scarring off all the game. Even I could tell. Mom stopped under a large shady tree with an excuse to rest but I knew she wanted me to stay still long enough for the animals to let down their guards again. The thought alone irritated me. The way she never told me my faults and instead would sugar coat them with lies or excuses.

"Let's rest for a moment." She said giving me a soft smile.
I hid my eyes from her not wanting her to see the anger raging with in me. I was so eager to prove myself to her that I didn't want to rest.

"I'm not tired." I told her.

Mom kept her small smile, "I am." She wasn't. "You're not?" I was. But I wasn't going to admit it to her. At the age of twelve I still wanted to be like her. To hunt like her, to think like her, I wanted others to admire me like they admired her. But all that seemed to come tumbling down soon after that day.

Mom took a seat on a small boulder and brought out her canteen, "Ivy, baby, do you want some water?" she asked offering me the canteen before she took a drink.

"No," I waved off her offer, "I'm not thirsty." But she knew I was lying. I was parched beyond belief and all I wanted to do was dump the canteen over my head and call it a day. Still, I was stubborn and stuck to my indifferent attitude.

"You should really have some water, hydrate yourself."

I don't know why but her suggestion made me angry and I snapped, "I'm not thirsty!"
Mom was completely surprised by my outbreak. But I only frowned and snatched my bow, "Can we go now?"
Mom stood to her feet, her gray eyes boring down on me with both curiosity and confusion, "Sure." She said.

I didn't wait for her and hurried along the trail. My tracking abilities were subpar and I was getting us off the trail. Mom knew right away. She could pick out all of my mistakes like ducks in the sky. But she remained quiet and would often make suggestions or casually lead me in the right direction. I knew what she was up to and I grew angrier by the moment. We soon found the deer's trail, well actually mom found it. It was a young buck, not too big but larger then a doe.

We hid behind some plants. Mom was as still as a rock but I couldn't stop shaking. I watched as the buck leaned his head down the graze on the grass in an open clearing. She looked to me and nodded. I knew my time to prove myself had come. I had to make this quick and clean. Mom always got them in the eye as so not ruin their coat. I picked up my bow and aimed my arrow. My arms began to shake and my form was way off. Mom picked up on this and knew I was going to miss. Mom lightly whispers suggestions to me but I ignore her. But I was at a boiling point. "Stop!" I snapped, letting my arrow fly out through the trees.

After that everything happened so quickly. The arrow shot the buck through the neck. It jumped startled and ran off. I panicked, cursed an obscenity under my breath and ran after it.

"Ivy!" Mom called after me.

But I ignored her, running through the trees, tripping over roots and splashing in the puddles. The forest was alive with the ruckus I was making. Not to mention Mom calling out after me. I ignored everything and followed the trail of blood the buck was leaving behind. I could feel all the anger and adrenaline run through me. My eyes began to fill with tears making it harder for me to see. I stumbled out in to another clearing where the buck stumbled and fell to its side. I could hear it grunting and whining in pain. It was losing a lot of blood. I stopped a mere feet before it and raised my bow to finish it off. It was then its big black eyes looked up at me. It was at that moment that I felt a cold fear overwhelm me and consume me whole. I couldn't do it. I couldn't let my arrow fly.

"Ivy," Mom came in to the clearing. Her voice was soft. She could see the struggle in my eyes, "Its suffering, Ivy. Finish it." her voice was calm and I knew she felt pity for the animal.

I did too but it was something far more then pity. It was guilt. I had brought down this beautiful animal in such a horrendous way. I had caused him all the pain and fear emanating from his eyes. My hands began to shake but the rest of my body wouldn't move.

"Ivy." Mom said my name again but I didn't respond. She sighed and brought out her bow. With one quick movement she shot the arrow through the buck's heart ending his suffering. She then looked to me. I could feel her eyes on me but all I could look at was the buck's black eyes still open. Starring back at me.
"Ivy." Mom said again setting my bow down with her hand. I hadn't noticed that she was next to me. "It's done." She said.

I blinked and looked away from the buck. I felt the arrow fall to the ground and my bow slipped through my fingers. Before I knew it I was running again. I ran so fast that mom's voice faded behind me. The tears raced down my cheeks blinding my view so I couldn't see where I was going. The sun was high in the air but I didn't stop. My legs began to ache but I still didn't stop. I didn't stop when I tripped, I didn't stop when I stumbled, nor did I stop when I realized I had no idea where I was going. I kept running. Its all I wanted to do. To run. To run from my problems, my responsibilities, from the things that were expected of me. From everyone I knew.

I didn't stop running until my legs gave out and my knees buckled below me. I fell to the grass floor of the meadow I used to play in as a child. I looked around the graveyard hidden in beauty and broke down before it. I buried my hands in my face and screamed. I cried so much, like I had never done so before. The shame began to consume me along with the guilt. I couldn't get the beast's eyes out of my mind. The way they looked at me, blaming it all on me. It was my fault. In all my years hunting with my mom I had never witnessed something as awful as that. Mom always finished them off quick and painless- so I believed. Her arrows were so fast they didn't even see death coming. But I had dragged this animal's painful suffering in to a chase across the forest. I couldn't even bring myself to finish it off. To relieve it from the pain. Mom had to because I couldn't. I was so weak. Such a failure. I had let her down. I wasn't the daughter she was expecting. I wasn't the great hunter anyone was expecting.

It didn't take long for mom to find me. I'm pretty sure they could hear my screams all the way to the Victor's Village. Mom stood silent by my side as she heard my stifled cries. I tried to compose myself for her but I couldn't. After a moment she finally spoke, "To watch something die before you is a horrible thing." her voice was somber, as if she was remembering something. "You never do forget the look in their eyes…" But she wasn't talking about an animal anymore.

"Ivy," She said my name softly and placed her hand upon my shoulder.

I snapped again, flinching from her touch, "Don't!" I staggered to my feet.

Mom was completely taken back. Her hand in mid air as she looked at me. Like she couldn't believe it was me she was looking at. My eyes filled once more with angry tears. I looked at her like she had all the blame in the world, "Don't touch me." I gritted the words through my teeth. Mom spoke my name. She took a step toward me but I took one back. I shook my head, "This is all your fault."
"Ivy," She said in a cautious voice, "The buck, it wasn't your fault. Things happen."

"No!" I cried, "Its your fault I'm like this! I don't want to be like this- I-I don't want to be you!"

My words dropped on her like a bucket of cold water and she stopped. Her hand fell to her side. Her eyes looked deeply in to mine with confusion and something that almost resembled sadness. Maybe it was sadness but I was too angry to acknowledge it. "I'm sick and tired of everyone expecting me to be perfect like you! But I'm not you. I'm not even close." I shook my head, "And I never will be."

"Ivy, please don't say that." Her voice was low, almost a whisper.

"Face it, mom. I'm not what you expected." and with those final words I stormed off.

This time I made my way back to District 12. I pulled my hoodie over my head to hide my disgraced face. I went through the broken gate and through the Seam. I tried to hide my tears from the people. They looked to me and then to my mom who followed behind me. But no one said anything. Mom and I walked back home in silence, all the way to the Victor's Village where dad was waiting on the porch. When he saw us he instantly knew something was wrong and stood to his feet. He must have seen the look on my mom's face.

"Ivy? Katniss, what's wrong?" He asked when we were in earshot. I didn't answer and instead buried myself in his strong arms. Dad held me tight and looked up at mom. She remained silent.

That night I was awakened by a horrible nightmare. I instantly felt guilty for the way I had treated her. Nothing I said was true. My mom had no faults. And it was definitely not her fault that people expected me to be just like her. But I was crumbling under all the pressure of trying to please her and everyone else. See, I wanted her to be proud of me, little did I know, she already was. I got up from bed and went to my parent's room. I wasn't going to be able to sleep until I apologized.

I stopped behind their door when I heard their voices. Mom was telling dad about what had happened in the forest.

"I didn't expect her to finish it off…" her voice trailed. Dad waited for her to continue, "The sight of the animal would have stumped anyone."
"Not you." Dad said.
Mom was silent for a moment, "Peeta, you and I both know I've seen worse. You've seen worse. But Ivy hasn't. That buck suffering was the worst she's ever experienced. And I don't want her to go through that ever again. Its my fault."

I felt the pang of guilt slap me across the face. I wanted to burst in and fall at her feet begging for her forgiveness but I was stiff.

The bed moved and I could imagine dad bringing her in to his arms to comfort her, "Its not your fault, Katniss. The incident must have set her off. I'm sure she didn't mean any of it."
"I just love her so much, Peeta. I never want her to suffer in any way."
"I know, I know. Don't cry, Katniss. Everything's fine. Ivy's fine. She's safe and sound in her bed. Real or not real?"
Mom was hesitant before she answered, "Real."

I backed away from the door and hurried back to my room where the guilt and the buck's dead eyes haunted me all night.

I snap myself from the memory. I apologized to my mom in tears the next morning but things weren't the same after that. Mom no longer took me hunting with her and the shame continued to eat away at me. Even till this day.

"Ivy?" Mom's voice brings me back to reality.

"Uh, I-" stumble to find words. Both dad and Luke are looking at me. "Yeah." I say forcing a half smile, "Yeah, I'd love to."
Mom smiles, "Good. We'll leave bright and early then."

"Can I go too?" Luke asks.
"No, Luke." Dad intervenes, "You're still grounded, remember?"
Luke groans, "I'm always grounded!"
"Because you always misbehave!" Dad states with a chuckle.
Mom smiles at Luke. I smile too. A small smile but a smile no less. Still, I begin to grow nervous not sure what to expect.