I CAN LET GO NOW
After living my whole life in the Seam and a few months in a compartment in District 13, my new house in District 2 feels like a mansion. The very idea of having my own room is odd to me, but my mother insists I'm too old to share a room with Vick or Rory anyway. Vick sleeps alone and my sleep pattern is so awkward with so many night shifts it's probably better that Rory rooms together with Posy.
I had a day shift at the defense headquarters today. I like my job, even though it feels bittersweet. While I can see a future in military strategy, I now know the dangers of my own plans, even if I'm not the one to act upon them. What was Prim even doing there? I'm lying wide-awake in bed, alone with my thoughts of Katniss and how she'll never forgive me. That's when I hear screams. It's Rory. I jump up and run to his room. Little Posey is staring at him, wide-eyed. My mother takes her away and I sit on the bed, holding Rory down and stroking his hair until he calms down.
"Another bad dream?," I ask.
"Gale... Gale, the Seam... it's gone. They were bombing it and we were trapped in our home. When we finally managed to escape you turned to get Prim and Ms. Everdeen. And then a bomb hit, right there. Gale, Prim is gone." He breathes deeply and closes his eyes again. Rory is having a very hard time dealing with Prim's death. I guess I never noticed that, being about the same age, they were friends too. If Rory is like this, I can't even imagine how Katniss must be coping.
My mother comes back to check on Rory and I tell her to take Posy to my bedroom. I should sleep here tonight just in case he has another nightmare. He doesn't. I, however, can't sleep a wink. I don't have nightmares like Rory does. My mind is too heavy for that. Instead, I battle insomnia and indulge in my newfound addiction to coffee, without which I wouldn't be able to work.
I don't hunt anymore, it seems wrong to do it without Katniss. Before, when I hunted without her, I had a purpose: to keep our families alive. Since my salary is more than enough to keep my family fed, clothed, and sheltered, I see no point in setting up a snare. Besides, devising snares is what I do during my day job, isn't it? I wonder if Katniss approves of what I do for a living now. Probably not, she didn't like my death traps then, she definitely hates them now.
I'm overcome with a mixture of guilt, anger, and regret that leaves me nauseated. I never meant to kill Prim, and I didn't. My only mistake was to trust a foul leader. The bomb was supposed to kill targets from the Capitol only. I had no idea how she'd use it for her own twisted purposes. I suppose that even if the explosions didn't kill our own, Katniss would still have shown disgust at it. Unlike me, she never considered thinking like the enemy. When she shot that woman in her own Capitol apartment, I thought that Katniss was finally beginning to understand that some deaths were justifiable if we were to overthrow the source of our oppression. But no, that was just an act of desperation rather than a cold calculation.
Still, I didn't kill Prim. It doesn't matter though. I as good as did it from Katniss' perspective.
I get up and pace around the room. There's no way I'll be able to sleep before work so I make myself a cup of coffee and sit in the kitchen watching the clock. It is almost four in the morning. I have this urge to pack up and leave in the next train to District 12. I miss her. But I shake this thought off. I have responsibilities to my family and my job. Besides, she probably doesn't want to see me. I wonder if she's made it back to Peeta's arms yet. And if she has, would she come back to me if she found me at her doorsteps?
No. I'm done with this back and forth. It's unfair to me, to him too. I should hate him, but what I hate is the fact that, in spite of it all, Peeta is still a likable person. Under different circumstances, we could have even been friends. Or not.
I can't dwell on this anymore. I should phone her. Last time I tried to dial her number, my mother caught me. I sat there listening to her lecture about how I need to give Katniss some time. And then she took away the paper where I wrote down her new phone number and scowled at me for using my special service credentials to obtain it. Whatever. Katniss needs to know.
I take a pen and a piece of paper and hope to pour my feelings down into written form. At first, I can't think of how to begin it. Then it clicks. I'm sorry. I realize I never told her how sorry I am. I also want to repeat that I didn't know the bomb would be used to kill her little sister, but this isn't the time to sound defensive. I tell her what I think our life would be like if Prim was never reaped, if she never had to volunteer. We would have grown even closer together. I would have proposed. She would have never been thrown into Peeta's lips. Or would she? I'm haunted by the uncertainty held by a future without her.
The truth is that "what ifs" are of no help. We can't change the past. So I talk about all of the things I love about her and how much our friendship meant to me. How much it still means to me.
When I'm done, I fold it into an envelope and slip it in a drawer. My mother is right. I'll give her time, and then I'll send it. I don't even know if she'll write me back, let alone if she'll reciprocate my feelings. Even if she doesn't, at least I'll know I took my shot at closure.
Days go by and I overhear my mother on the phone. She must be talking to Ms. Everdeen, because I hear Katniss' name multiple times. They also reference a "he" a couple of times. At first I don't get the gist of the conversation, then I reckon this means that Peeta is back in 12. My window is closing. I search for the letter, but it's nowhere to be found. I was sure I stuck it in the desk drawer in the living room. Where is it?
My mother turns away and scowls at me. Yeah, yeah, I'm being noisy, but where is my letter? She hangs up the phone and crosses her arms at me. To my surprise, she knows exactly what I'm looking for, because she takes the envelope out of her apron's pocket and hands it to me. I'm ready to leave the room when I see it's been opened. How could she?
"Listen, son. Before you get mad at me, just hear me out, ok? Take a chair, will you?"
No, I don't want to take a chair. But her serious gaze practically forces me into sitting down.
"Why would you read my letter, mother?" I'm furious.
"Look, you might think I'm just a mother trying to care for her kids, but I also had a husband. And when your father died my world came crashing down. So I guess it's fair to say I know a lot about heartbreak. I was worried about you, so when I found the letter, carefully addressed to Katniss, I just couldn't help myself. I'm sorry."
I want to storm out, but she carries the same look she has whenever she's not done talking. I'd rather avoid a fight so I keep seated.
"The things you wrote about Katniss. Gale, I hope you know she's not that girl anymore."
What is she talking about? Katniss is still the same girl who I met in the woods.
"You're different too," she continues. "The rebellion changed you Gale. Either that or it brought to the forefront things that were hidden deep inside of you."
"Fine, I changed. I don't get what your point is though. I know Katniss, I was there with her in that mission. She's still the same girl, if anything, an even stronger girl." I don't see where this conversation is going. I just want to seal back the letter and drop it off at the train station.
"Ok, if you say so, son. I just think you should adjust your expectations; it takes two to build a relationship. That girl lost almost everything she had. And if I know one thing about loss is that it changes you forever."
My mother leaves the room. I keep seated, contemplating her words. Is the Katniss I love not the Katniss who lives in District 12 anymore? All the different things Katniss did in the past two years were because of the games, the Capitol, and the war. Or so I thought. What if she did what she did because she wanted to? Kissing Peeta in the arena, the interviews, the dresses, the food. No. Katniss is only herself in the woods, in her hunting gear, picking berries, with me.
But what about loss? Katniss was always drawn to me when I was in pain, but when she was suffering it was him she looked for. I'm torn by my mother's words.
I sleep on them. Actually, I try to sleep on them. The bags under my eyes make me look like a sad excuse for what I used to be. So much for camera ready, I think. I wonder what she's doing right now, if she ever thinks of me. I hope so. Because if she doesn't, I'm wasting my time.
Frankly, I was ready to move on as soon as I watched her on the beach with him. I knew it right then she'd never kiss me like that. Not for show, not for real. But during the rebellion, part of me wanted to believe she'd learn to love me one day, and not just like a friend. That the next time she'd tell me she loved me it would be because she meant it, not because she was sorry for me. I'm tossing and turning when I hear Rory. Another nightmare. Another night being haunted by our past.
I tend to him and he quiets down. It's when I realize that when Katniss wakes up screaming, my body next to her would not calm her down. If anything, she'd scream even louder. Inadvertently, I caused her worst nightmare. She'll never forgive me. We can't be together. Her loss is too great to bear to be with me.
I leave Rory when he falls asleep again and return to the letter. Should I still send it? Maybe we can still be best friends. Or just friends. I re-read it. It sounds sappy, though everything is true. My description of all the things I love about her takes me back. Katniss, my best friend, my hunting partner. That's what she was when she volunteered. Except that when she came out of the arena she was no longer just a hunter. She was the girl on fire. A little deceptive, manipulative, confused, broken, hurt, sometimes even cruel. The next thought almost escapes me but I get a hold of it. A littletransformed.
Was my mother right, after all? Am I in love with a girl who isn't there anymore? During the first games I refused to accept her actions. I blamed it on her need to survive. It was the same during the Quell, though she acted on the basis of Peeta's survival, not her own. So when did it all change?
The rebellion? The uprising I hoped would set us free only set us apart. Even without any reason to manipulate, to pretend, to deny me, she still cared for him. She became the Mockingjay for him. Even her thirst for revenge was further fueled by him. Now that I think of it, I should have known during the Quell. It's so obvious to me now.
She had already picked the one she thought she couldn't survive without. So much that she was willing to die in his place. The girl in the woods may have loved me one day. But the girl on fire is in love with the boy with the bread.
I rip down the letter and write another one. This time I spell out my goodbyes, my regrets, my hopes for our future as separate people living separate lives. It almost feels like closure, except I will never have it, because I'm not sure I can handle her words back to me. Worse. I'm not sure I can handle her silence back to me. I see now closure is a privilege not all of us can afford. Instead, I turn on the stove and wait for the flames to consume my words. I can let go now.