Disclaimer: The credit for the characters and setting and all of those wonderful elements is due Suzanne Collins, not me! I own absolutely nothing.
I sit out on the front porch. My elbows rest on my knees, cheeks against my palms. Above me, the grey sky stretches like a dome as if it bears the intention of containment.
My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am from District 12. I've lost nearly everything and everyone in the revolution that has swept through Panem. My sister is dead. My mother and the man who used to be my closest friend are miles away. I'm alone. I'm so, so alone.
I turn my head slightly, my eyes falling on the bushes of primroses that line the side of my house. A lump forms in my throat, and I gulp it down with much struggle. Primrose. Prim. That was my sister's name.
My eyes flicker up, skimming the milky-grey void overhead that puffs delicate breezes of cool air through the district. It's early morning but not visibly so. My throat is still dry from a long night without sleep. Only in increments of an hour or so could I manage to doze off, only to be awakened by my own screams.
I thought that at least, by now, the nightmares would get better.
Crisp, dry leaves swirl by my feet and the wind moans slightly as it passes through Victor's Village. The Victor's Village, despite the nobility in the name, holds the least bit of pride. Empty mansions line the street; only three are occupied. One by me. Another, by Haymitch, the hopeless drunk who I haven't seen in days, as he is most likely shut up in a room, drowning himself in a bottle of scotch per usual. The third house holds a third victor.
It was Peeta who planted the few primrose bushes for me in memory of my sister. In good faith, evidently. But then again, every deed that Peeta carries out is unquestionably in good faith. Every motion of his hand, every smile, every reassuring touch.
But Peeta hasn't touched me in weeks—the only contact rising from when he grabbed my arm to restrain me from killing myself after shooting Coin. Maybe I want his touch, with warm skin brushing against mine. A sincere grin that reaches even his recently hollowed blue eyes. I haven't seen a genuine smile from Peeta in what feels like lifetimes, but that is an ache that began at my own hands. It was my fault that he was taken by the Capitol. It was my fault that he was hijacked. It was my fault that he was terrorized and will probably never overcome the hallucinations that rock him from day to day, just as I will never overcome the nightmares.
It's my fault that things will never be the same between us. The boy with the bread that used to break through my walls has built up a fortress of his own. But I can't break his walls down now, and I'm afraid he'll never let me in.
A bird passes overhead, its song ringing through the nearly vacant road. A mockingjay.
In my throat, I feel a delicate hum stir, placing pressure behind my teeth. As if it wants to draw a song from my lips. But I swallow whatever tune threatens to rise.
I feel my muscles tense in the chill of the morning as I debate whether or not to go inside when I see one of my only companions making her way to my porch. Greasy Sae. One of the few who survived in District 12 since the war. Despite her ragged exterior, her welcoming smile instantly ignites a flicker of gratification within my chest.
"Good morning, Katniss," she greets warmly.
I just grin half-heartedly, unable to muster anything more genuine. I hope she knows that my response is substantially more emotive than what I've been donning for the past few weeks.
"Let's get you inside," she continues without much hesitation. "You look a little cold, dear. How about some breakfast?"
If it wasn't for Sae's cooking, I would be all but an absolute skeleton. Regardless of having over a decade of experience with single-handedly providing for my family, I can hardly support myself. Maybe it's because I can't aggregate the energy to hunt like I used to. Or even go to the market, for the matter.
She helps me up, gathering my shoulders in her arms. After we're inside, she sits me down at the empty table and begins her work in the kitchen. I sit, staring forward at all of the empty chairs. This house was made for company, of which I have none. Maybe on a good day, Haymitch could stop by. I elect to not consider the possibility of Peeta's attendance. Thinking about Peeta gives me a headache.
It doesn't take long for the trail of Sae's cooking to waft from the kitchen, lacing around me in relaxing ribbons of scent. I feel my muscles relax.
"How're you feeling today?" Her voice dangles from the kitchen.
I know that I can't wriggle my way out of this one with a bodily response. My voice, which is rough and jagged as it fights through my idle throat, finally pushes through for the first time this morning.
"A little better." I'm unsure of whether or not this is the truth.
"That's a development."
I feel a sigh ripple through my lungs, and then my breath catch in hesitation. Should I tell her?
She doesn't say anything, as if she's waiting for some sort of justification.
I close my eyes.
I'm surprised to hear my lips form around his name. I haven't spoken it in ages, too afraid to not do it justice.
After a few moments of silence, Sae's face appears in the threshold. To my surprise, a smile is plastered over her lips. Nevertheless, sympathy has made its way to her eyes.
Her timbre is soft. "Isn't that nice." It sounds more like a question to me, as if she wants my confirmation.
"Nice" isn't exactly the word that comes to mind. The color of the word is far too pleasant. If anything, I'm terrified by his presence. I'm unsure of how to handle the situation, as I know that no amount of apologies or explanations could mend whatever gash I've torn in our friendship. Even if he does still remember some things, like those nights that we spent on the train where he held me so tightly to keep me from crumbling. He may not hate me anymore, but he deserves to resent me.
Another sigh stirs in my chest.
"He planted some… bushes. Along the side of my house." I feel the all-too-familiar lump rising in my throat again. I wait for a moment. "Primrose bushes."
I watch as her eyes, which had been welling with enthusiasm as I started to speak of him, instantaneously flush of all brightness. But her smile does not disappear.
"That was certainly thoughtful of him," she croons sadly.
I gulp. My eyes feel wet. "Certainly."
A part of me almost resents him for the gesture. Things would be immensely easier if he let me go. Then I could let him go. Maybe this insuppressible feeling of loneliness would go away.
Sae must've gone back to tending to the breakfast because she's disappeared from the doorway, and suddenly, I'm alone to my own thoughts. I close my eyes and try not to think, picturing a black void in my mind. But clearing thoughts is a lot more difficult in practice than in theory.
Out of the blue, a light rapping echoes from the front door, as if to save me from suffocating in my head. My eyelids shoot open. Who could it be? Haymitch? Maybe he's heard the news that I have a personal chef for breakfast and he wants in on the deal as well.
I remain still for a few moments, half-expecting Sae to answer the door. But then I remember she's not my butler. She's my guest who's already providing a favor.
I sluggishly push myself from the chair, unenthusiastically treading to the door. My entire body feels heavy this morning even though my skin is nearly translucent from the lack of muscle and bone.
My hands twists at the knob. The door pulls open.
I feel a pocket of air immediately swell in my lungs, but I can't seem to find a way to exhale. My entire body tenses.
Before me stands the boy with the bread, and staying true to his name, he holds a wrapped-up loaf in his hands.
He seems to predict my silence and immediately continues, awkwardly holding out the bundle in his hands. His eyes are focused on the floor, mine on the bread. "I thought I'd… um… I thought I'd bring you some bread. I had some extra. I've—I've been baking again." Peeta, who had always been so unwaveringly charismatic with his natural flow in conversation, surprises me with his stammering. Maybe he's just as uncomfortable as I am.
I tentatively accept the token. Our fingers very marginally brush as he passes the bread from his hand to mine. I feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand.
When my focus pins on his face, our eyes lock for just a moment. It's been what feels like ages since I got to fully explore those blue irises of his, tender and promising. Although they seem not to bear the same depth as before, the slight bit of affection is unmistakable. I feel my cheeks flush with heat.
"Thank you," I murmur vacantly, my eyebrows knitting together. And then all at once, as if the same thought washes over the both of us, our gazes dart away.
He stands there for a brief moment and then begins to step away. I can sense the imminent goodbye, and before my mind catches up with my mouth, I hear myself ask, "Would you like to stay for breakfast?"
Once again, my gaze finds his face. I can see a delicate smile work its way onto his lips. Still, the hesitation in his footfall is undeniable, but he steps forward, crossing the threshold into my home for the first time in what feels like forever.
Thanks for the read! This first chapter's fairly short—I just wanted to give you all a little sample of how I do things before I completely plunge into the story. Please leave a review if you can, it would be much appreciated! Tell me if I need to add more for next time, or cut some fluff (or if you want to call me a bonehead, do your thing, I have thick skin!). Until next time. :)