Thank you so much for taking the time to read the continuation of the Suzanne Collins's Mockingjay.
It is years after the last book that I wrote, "Children of the Seam," and Lilly and Thomas have reached the same age of Katniss and Peeta when they first met in the Reaping. The new government has maintained peace and have begun to define themselves to the people. Although the family Mellark has gone through many things, they have maintained their harmony together. The scars of the past continues to haunt both Katniss and Peeta, differently. The nightmares of the Games and Rebellion continue to be remembered in the districts as way to never repeat them, there is however a new enemy arising. The ash it seems from the past has drifted through the wind and now is threatening to take away the peace that the star crossed lovers have sacrificed for.
Thank you again for reading and now without further delay.
"Tell it to me again papa?" the voice is soft and low. The candle only lights up a little bit of her room. Her voice just like her mother and the curiosity of the aunt she would never meet. Every day she reminds me a little bit of who we were once. The way her eyes light up when she hears her mother's laughter. It is the same way that mines do. There is so much of her that I see now. It is the smallest details that I focus on, that say everything about her.
My hand reaches up and grabs the nearby chair moving it near her bed. Sitting down, I look at her and smile.
"Which one would you like me to tell you again Lilly?" I ask.
"Hmm," she starts. "Tell me about when you fell in love with mom?"
The memory is the one of the only pure ones that I still have. It is harder to remember the real ones and the ones that have been implanted into my mind. We play more and more the real or not real game, just to keep my memories together. I had to start to write them down, not exactly my proudest moments when you have to refer to a small little book for some of the details of your life that you simply cannot remember.
"You don't get tired of hearing it over and over?" I ask her.
"No," she says. "Probably one day I will, but not today."
I stand and grabbing the comforter I place her feet inside and tuck her on the sides. Bringing it up to her chin, I lean in and kiss her on her forehead.
"Okay," I say sitting back down on the chair. "Well it was when I was five. Your grandpa was walking me to school. It was probably the first day I saw so many changes of leaves. Well, there was a butterfly that caught my eye walking along the side of the road. I can remember seeing it flap it wings and move from side to side. That was until something else caught my eye."
"What?" she says.
"Well it was the red dress," I say. "This little girl was wearing a red dress and had two braids. Well I never told anyone this, but your grandpa slowed down and that was when I stopped and looked up at him."
"What was grandpa looking at," asks Lilly.
The images come to me as if it was just uncovered for the first time in a long time. I haven't thought of this moment in a long time. The way he uses to look at me, with his smile filled with love. It was never conditional on anything more than who I was.
I search my thoughts, and can see him there, but something is off. It is almost as if the memories are being changed. I close my eyes and see him there standing. His face the same as I had remember. I don't really see the background, and I cannot hear the birds. This has never happened before, and suddenly I can feel my heart begin to beat just a little bit faster. A small beep begins to creep up and I fear something that hasn't happened in a while is beginning to happen again.
"Papa?" I hear her voice echo through my mind.
Letting out a deep sigh, I open my eyes and see her there looking at me. My beautiful daughter there with those like her mothers, can calm the most raging storms in me.
"Sorry," I say. "Where was I?"
Her eyes are already closing and a small smile goes over her face. She settles into her warm pillow and then finally in a low whisper.
"It's okay Papa," she says. "I know that you are tired."
It has always baffled me, how they do this. Both she and her mother know exactly what to say and how to say it, so that they comfort even the distressed soul. It was her song that brought me back from the brink of darkness and now it is our daughter's voice that does the same.
"Tomorrow then?" I say.
"Hmm," she responds slowly drifting off to sleep. She turns to her side and then just like that, she is asleep. I push the loose strands of hair away from her face and then smile as I stand.
Turning around I walk towards the doorway. The whole house is sound asleep and although it is cold outside, the winter breeze is held at bay by the warmth of the hearth. The hallway is dark but only for a small light at the end of the hallway. It is the way to the living room. The paintings litter the hallway, some by Thomas, and some by Lilly, there is even one by Katniss. It did take a lot of begging by the Thomas and Lilly, but when she finally relented, we hung the picture proudly. She of course wanted to hide it in the fireplace, with a fire going, but she had made a promise to keep it up with the rest of them.
The living room looks like it has been really broken in. Not like the many years it took us to build it, but now it looks like we have lived here for years. Standing there, looking around, I see the bows in the entry way, all four of them. The only differences now between them are the colors of the wood. It was a rule that we had made in our home that everyone of our family would learn to hunt and survive. We never went out without the other, we always hunted in pairs. It was an argument at first, Katniss never really wanted the children to know about our past, but where we live in the woods outside of the fence it is necessary to learn the basics. It took her days to finally agree, but one morning when I didn't find her in the house, I knew that Thomas was with her.
I walk over to the kitchen, and opening the top cupboard over, I move over the boxes and tins, looking for the one that I had hidden from the children. Once I found it, I place it on the counter next to the stove. If they found it, it wouldn't last one day, so of course I placed it in a air tight metal tin labeled 'vegetables' knowing full well their love for the greens would keep them away from it. I take it down and then finally opening it, I breathe in the wonderful aroma. I grab a small piece and placing it in a pot; I walk over to the refrigerator.
The refrigerator hums silently powered by the batteries outside. It was the newest technology from Beetee. The ability to harness not only the sunlight but the wind and water to create energy, was the way that we were able to finally live off the grid and continue to have our privacy from everyone in the Districts. The small gallons of milk pepper the door, each labeled with a date of expiration. Soon enough we will have to go into the District for a supply run, and I know how much Katniss loves to do that.
I grab the milk that is the one nearest to its expiration date, and opening it, I smell the liquid.
'Not too bad,' I think to myself as I pour the milk in the pot. The fire makes quick work of the cold milk and melts the contents of it with ease. Grabbing a spoon I start to mix it slowly, seeing the white milk turn a familiar dark brown. Dipping my pinky into the pot, I taste it and the memories come flooding back.
Pouring it into two cups, I walk over through the living room, making sure to keep my eyes on the ground for Lilly's hunting boots, that she of course has left lying around, to Thomas's books that he has littered around in piles according to his mood. It is sort of a maze to walk through this mined field, but it is something that we have gotten use to. The green shawl is neatly folded by the arm of the sofa. Balancing the two cups on one hand, I pick up the shawl with my now opened hand. It is then that as I am almost through the front door that I see her through the window there sitting on the bench outside.
The cold winter wind greets me as if a punch to the stomach and I have to stop to gather myself there in the doorway. Turning to my right I see her there just sitting staring out into the cold winter night. I make it my point to make as much noise as I can as I walk towards her. As I approach the bench, I look over to what has gotten her gaze and find that it might by the moon, or even the stars that twinkle now in the dark sky. Once I am close enough I place the cups on the nearby small table. This allows me to grab the large green shawl with both of my hands. I sit down right next to her and covering her with the shawl I see that makes no reaction to it. I turn and grab the hot cups and placing one on the arm rest to her right.
"Hi," I say. "Just thought you might want some."
She just stares out to the distance, and I know that it is one of those nights. I know exactly what she is experiencing and though it hurts me, I just sit there and know that all I can do is be there for her. It is the way life is now, the war still occurring in our nightmares, and in our moments when we are awake. It is something that we have tried to shield our children from, but whenever Katniss gets like this, I just tell them that she is thinking about how much she loves them, and that she just needs some time by herself.
There are times when it is only a couple of minutes and other times when it would be days, but she always comes back. All I have to do is wait, been doing that ever since I was five, I think a couple of days or hours or even minutes would be okay.
This time though it is only a couple of hours before I feel her hand reach for mine. Once she finds it, her head finally tilts towards my shoulder. It is when I know that she is coming back and that she is okay.
"Windows," she finally says.
I turn and looking at her, I see her eyes are focused on the stars. It is these little things that we have between us, that remind me why I love her so much.
The windows were the story that my father gave me when I was young on death. When I couldn't understand the lost of someone dying that I loved, he would tell me that the stars were windows to the houses of the people we have lost. They always kept the light on, so that we could know that they were thinking of us. It seems that tonight, Katniss is thinking of someone she has lost.
"Windows," I reply knowing exactly what she is referring to.
"I miss her," she says. "Lately I have been thinking about her a lot."
It is the hardest one, and the one that sometimes haunts Katniss. We still have nightmares, and most of the time they are about the Games, or the War. With Katniss, it is always the same. It took a while to get her to finally tell me the nightmare, but when she did, I could tell how much it weighed on her. The story of a forest being burned alive, with the screaming of the Mockingjays trapped there in the branches. All she could do is cover her ears as the screams of the birds become the screams of the children that perished that night. Most of the time it is in the winter when she starts to have these nightmares, the last memories of her sister being blown to bits in front of the President's Mansion.
"I know," I say. "I miss her too."
She lets out a deep sigh and there I can feel her eyes finally turn from the stars to me. I turn my head and when I see her eyes, they are saddened by the painful memories of Prim. It is the only thing that can penetrate deep into my soul, those deep grey eyes. My hand reaches up to her cheek, and she lets out a small smile. It is then that she leans up as I lean down and for a moment everything just disappears, and it is just us again. We are back on the roof top garden the day before the Games. Her lips are as delicate and smooth, but passionate.
After a couple of minutes she lifts up a hand to my chest and then moves away.
"Do you remember the first time we came here?" she says looking out into the frozen lake.
I look at her, and smile.
"Of course I do," I say trying to remember the first time we were here. Grabbing her hand, I look down and nothing comes.
It is then that something happens that I didn't expect. The memories of that day don't seem to come. Memories were never the problem it was always trying to figure out if they were real or not which was. I look up at her and she can see that something is wrong. I look around to try and trigger the memory and it is as if there is nothing there. The beeping of my indicator begins to go off as I feel a slight tremble in my hands.
She covers my hands with hers and then looks out to the lake.
"I can still remember how the birds sung and I had to teach you how to swing. It is just too bad about the lake being frozen," she says with a smile. "I could use a fresher of how you look trying to swim."
A smirk emerges from her face, and I know that she is just doing what she can to get my mind off of what is happening or not happening to me.
"Hey… well you… forget," I say through the trembling that hasn't stopped. "There will… be time for… all that…in a couple of weeks."
I try to stand but find that most of my strength is gone, and I feel Katniss's grip tighten as she helps me on my feet. It has been years but hunting has always kept us in good physical condition. Even so, whenever I have one of these episodes, this small, I have never been this weak afterwards. Something is not right.
We walk inside and help me to the sofa. She walks back outside grabbing the two cups of coco. She places mines on the coffee table and I can see the shivering of her hands as she places it trembling. She lets the cup warm up her hands, and then lifts it to her lips blowing off the steam that is still coming off the coco. Taking a sip she closes her eyes and smiles.
I open and close my hands trying to calm them, trying to get them back to the steadiness that I have grown accustomed to. She sits next to me, and then placing her cup on the coffee table she looks to me. My breathing hasn't gotten any better, and I am having a hard time concentrating on my thoughts. It is as if all of them are all jumbled in there.
"You okay?" she says.
"I…I don't know what is happening," I say. "It is as if…I cannot catch my breath."
She holds my hand in hers and it is there I see how fragile she is, and how totally fragile I am. The Games broke us, and the War hardened us, we have finally found peace, but no one ever told us how to put ourselves back together.
She moves her hand onto her lap and taps it as if to place my head there. I comply and move my head onto her lap. Her hand starts to caress my hair and my breathing loud and deep begin to calm.
"Close your eyes," she says softly to me. The last thing I see is the fire dancing in the hearth. It is then that as I close my eyes I hear her voice start to sing.
"Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Where the dead man called out for his love to flee
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree"
It is the image of her on the television set singing this song. It was something that the doctors in District Thirteen showed me back when I was struggling to understand the memories that were altered. My heart struggling to calm down, until finally it starts to beat at its normal pace.
It was the first time I heard her sing this song ever. It was the first time that thinking of her didn't cause me to have an episode. It was when I realized that her singing caused not only the birds to be at peace but that her singing caused the same peace in me.
I don't remember the rest of the song. In fact I don't remember anything else but her hand on my hair, and the darkness that welcomed me, not in a nightmare, but finally into a much needed rest.