Chapter 1: A corpse that breathed
There was a time when I it took to get me to smile was to see my sister, Prim, talk about her goat Lady and how much cheese she was gonna make. Now, there was nothing remotely possible to get me to react. Lifeless. A corpse that breathed, that is what I am.
Nothing could've prepared me for the events that took place that fateful morning. It would've been better if a bomb had been dropped off and obliterated everything in sight. It certainly would've been more humane, but the Capitol is known for its inhumane practices.
But how, we who lived in District 12 could imagine what befall us...the destruction, the death, the despair, the pain, the violence and the hunger. We were accustomed to the meager food that graced our tables, what was according to President Snow, our justly due. We needed to be nurtured and disciplined as fathers did with their children. We had no right to complain, we had to accept and work daily, no exceptions. It cost my father his life, on a mine explosion, but that was his duty in life.
If someone would ask me if I wanted it all back, I would say yes. Give me District 12, as it was before the Reaping Day, as it's called.
This hospital bed doesn't remind me of home. My mother isn't by my side taking care of me. My sister is not holding my hand, saying what's been happening in my absence. There are no more tears to cry. The other beds contain women that have lived through the hell I have, yet I feel alone. I feel no connection with their plight, it is not the same and yet it is. We survived the Women's Room. Only we came out with marks deeper than others.
The daily reminder lives within me, poking unannounced, making wish I could've killed it. The nurse looks at us pitifully, knowing what's been done and can never be forgiven or forgotten. Our bellies keep growing, our bodies in spite of our deplorable conditions feeds and nurtures these intruders, these parasites implanted by our tormentors.
A government representative had come by, to explain our options. Those being, we could give up our parental rights of the creature, in this district the fertility rate was very low, so couples would be joyful over the possibility of taking a newborn. Most women acquiesced to this option, as the most plausible, in contrast to keeping said monster and being its mother. Nausea and disgust was not something we could live with forever.
It was just another reminder that my body wasn't my own, it had been stolen, violated, and implanted with their seed, for their purpose and they had won. Even if I was out, even if I was in this other district, supposedly safe, Snow had won.
As the intruder moved freely inside me, I remembered how the air felt on my skin that morning...
I had woken up before the first rays of sunshine. The men were getting ready to start their shift at the mine, so it wasn't strange to be up so early. The Seam was my home, and it would always live in my memories. The Seam was my father. A man who taught me everything he knew, including never give in, your mind is your own. His voice was legendary, it was said I had inherited as well. Prim was still asleep, so I tried not to wake her. Mother was in the kitchen, drinking some tea. She barely acknowledge my presence, and neither did I. I had a job to do, I had to support this family, even if what I did was illegal. It beat selling my body to some Peacekeeper from the Capitol for some pennies.
As I climbed the barb wire fence, I looked back feeling like someone was watching. I thought maybe Gale Hawthorne, my best friend would accompany me this morning, as he had been neglecting his hunting duties these past few days. It didn't matter, I always shared what I got with his family: Hazelle, Rory, Vick, and Posy. They were my family too. I hoped that in the future, Prim would marry Rory, as he only had eyes for her, and I knew she thought he had the most beautiful grey eyes. Never mind, that grey eyes were common among the children of the Seam, but my sister looked like she belong with the Townies.
I kept my pace, looking for the hiding place for my bow and arrows. As the time few by, it seem nature knew what was about to befall the inhabitants of District 12. Only some snares had rabbits, but I couldn't hunt a turkey or squirrel, it was as if they had disappeared or refused to come out of their hiding place. The feeling wouldn't leave, I felt the presence of someone watching. If I was caught, it could mean death. It was better than my whole family dying of hunger.
I take what I got into my bag and run, towards the fence. I feel like the prey now, someone is chasing me. As I see the fence, it reassures me that freedom within my grasp, little did I know that was the last bit of freedom I would live with more months.
Chapter 2: I will only care about Prim
Whatever was chasing me, let me go. And later on I would find out why. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to go. As I walk my way back to my little shack in the Seam, I noticed that the doors of my neighbors where left open and things were haphazardly left as they fell all around the place. It was as if people left in a big hurry.
A static and then the speakers at the town center were activated. A voice, from a nightmare spoke words you never want to hear.
"Citizens of District 12, you have been gathered today for the announcement of a new policy in our Panem, by decree of our esteem President Snow. Your district has been chosen to be the first to experience the Hunger Games, a new technique in discipline and genetic variation by ethnic cleansing your population.
Never forget what that dreadful District 13 tried to do and how they failed by their own efforts. It is time to show Panem your dedication and pride, your fealty to the cause and to your president. Please, all the men step forward. Please stand at the center of the square. Those that don't comply will have their family publicly punished. Thank you."
This voice wasn't from the local Peacekeeper, this meant Capitol's people had arrived on the train or by hovercraft so stealthily, that we hadn't noticed.
I'm running as fast as my legs can go, they burn with the effort and I even leave my kills behind along the way. But I'm too late, all I hear are the shots that echo all around me. As the women of my district wail and scream, I do and loose my meager breakfast of stale bread and lukewarm tea.
This is just the start of the so-called Hunger Games...Snow's way of control and punishment. I'm on my knees trying to catch my breath, but all I can hear are the screams. All those men, fathers, brothers, sons, friends...dead. I feel dread claim my body, and I'm paralyzed with fear.
Did Gale die? And his brothers? Did Prim see it all?
I need to find her and protect her.
In my rejuvenated energy and frenzy to get Prim, I had forgotten about what this new policy implied to us women, now defenseless and without our men to protect us.
I was walking to my doom.
When I approach the town square, I'm able to see bodies and more bodies of the men that had just been shot. I take notice that there's an army of Peacekeepers, all surrounding the square and some are guarding the women.
I'm trying to stay in the shadows as much as possible, but my plan gets thwarted.
"This is right where I wanted you...defenseless, no Gale in sight. Now I can have you, by order of the President himself. Get in line, you are gonna be my bitch after you are processed."
Cray yanks my hair back and licks my neck. I start to gag, but he just moves me towards the area they are holding the women. As I'm walking, I see the mayor has not been spared, his wife is beside as well. But Madge is not among the bodies that litter the ground.
"Lieutenant Crane, here I bring a fine specimen, Katniss Everdeen. She was lurking about, but I found her."
He sneers and takes hold of my chest suggestively. Crane looks my way, takes his time looking at my body, not once making eye contact. I am just a body to him, to be used for his taking. This is something I understand on the spot. This new reign will put us women under their mercy... and they have none.
"KATNISS! KATNISS! KATNISS!"
Prim finally sees me. But our reunion is interrupted.
"Please let me go...please let me see to my husband. Don't you see that he needs me!"
Poor Mrs. Mellark looks crazed and lost, she hasn't realized that her husband is dead just a few feet from where she stands. She doesn't stop her ranting and finally takes steps towards her husband, which is also where two of her dead sons are.
I don't see her youngest...this brings a calm over my soul I can't explain. I have no time to reflect on my feelings, when out of nowhere shots are fired and Mrs. Mellark collapses close to her husband. She struggles until she takes his hand in hers, until no breath leaves her body.
It is a message.
No one is safe.
They are in control.
We depend on them.
We belong to them.
Somehow, this makes me more determined to fight, to survive, to conquer this new foe.
After the execution, Crane looks towards me, and finally locks his gaze on mine.
"Get in line, Katniss Everdeen, don't wanna ruin that pretty face of yours with my gun."
I swallow the bile that has risen from my unsettled stomach and walk towards Prim. Her face is red and splotchy, eyes swollen. As soon as she is able, she takes hold of my torso, her grab is so strong I question if she will ever let me go. My mother stands, her gaze vacant, no reaction is visible on her body. It brings out a rage inside me, once again she hides behind her indifference and I get to pick up the pieces and be responsible for Prim's life. It is then when I decide I won't waste efforts trying to safe her, in the eventuality it requires it.
I will only care about Prim.
Chapter 3: If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree
They line us up, as Crane observes his bounty. He looks us up and down, takes time on the younger, more attractive women. It doesn't matter if you are fair-haired or dark haired, if your eyes are blue or grey. It means being from the Seam or the town won't save you. When he passes in front of Madge Undersee, he turns back. He licks his lower lip, and slowly moves his hands towards her disheveled hair.
I cringe from my place, only two women down. Crane likes her wheat colored hair, taking his time to remove the pins to touch the strands. Madge tries to control her breathing, but I can see her legs are about to buckle to the ground. The rage that stews inside me demands action, but I control the urge. Prim needs me, so I can't protect my only friend. She has no one, all her family is dead.
I look towards the bodies, searching for Gale...if he was alive, he would die right now. I knew he had his sights on Madge, even though she was from town. I bet they had been secretly seeing each other at the slag heap. It was funny that everyone thought Gale and I were a couple. We are just the best of friends...that could've been more. Only I gave my heart a long time ago. I can feel my eyes welling up, if I think of him I won't make it. At least he is not in the pile of his family. Neither is Gale as far as I can see.
Suddenly, I feel hope. Maybe Gale saw the troops gathering and he had the foresight to escape. Unfortunately, Darius didn't make it, I can see his reddish hair. I can hear the sobs of the women of District 12, like a symphony for the dead. We all stand in front of our captors, even at the moment proud of our men, our district in spite of it all. I wonder how long it will last. As for my mother, I don't expect much, it won't surprise me if she is one of the first to die.
Cray, the bastard Peacekeeper of our district, leers happily. He has always been a lecherous man, stalking the Seam girls, offering them money for a night with him. Sadly, starvation and desperation have lured girls into his grasp. Now he's open to all, and my body shivers uncontrollably.
Crane sees movement in our group.
"Thread get that bitch up front, NOW!"
Maysilee is dragged by her hair, by this Thread, a Capitol issued Keeper. As they stand in front, he pushes her to her knees. Her floral dress gets immediately stained by the blood spilled. She cries for Haymitch, for him to save her. Crane guffaws and the others follow.
"He's not here to save you...he's dead, as you will be soon enough."
Maysilee looks at us, her face teared stained, her clothes sodden, her life forfeit, and yet she gives us strength in her gaze. A mockingbird starts singing, Maysilee looks to the sky, her visage transformed, like she is free. The bullet exists through her forehead and her body collapses to the ground.
"No one will save you. You do as you are told, no exceptions. Let's continue, shall we? Thread, get the census of this godforsaken district, we need to run call over who's dead and who's still breathing. Make a station, then we need to move them into the camp. Then, the fun begins."
Crane smirks towards his comrades.
"Listen up. When your name is called you will step forward. You will be marked for your duties, those that have special skills, please let Captain Thread know, it might keep you from a bullet. You never know."
The selection process begins as woman after woman is called forth, a letter is printed on the underside of their wrist. We don't know what it means. Small children are separated from their mother and Keeper takes them to the train, or so it seems.
When my mother is called, she miraculously steps into the platform, in front of the desk.
Thread asks her, "Have any skills, Mrs. Everdeen?"
My mother answers, "Healer. I'm a healer, sir."
Her deference towards this grates on me, he doesn't deserve it. It surprises me the most, since now my mother is showing survival skills, she has neglected to use before. She is sent back to the group of women set to be transported to the camp. What camp, I dare not imagine.
I hesitate and look towards Prim. She gives me a forced smile, encouraging me forward. I walk towards the front of the desk, and without any fear look directly into Thread's eyes, and see into the soul of the man who can command my death. I find no hope for a future, only death.
"Any skills, Miss Everdeen? I can see you need some meat to put into those bones...but no matter you will do for your district."
He stares at my chest and my legs. Finds me lacking, I've never been curvaceous, but then I'm a Seam kid, it comes with the territory.
Do I say I'm a hunter? It's illegal, so it means I'll be executed right where I stand.
"I can sing."
"Sing me something then."
I remember a song my father taught me, one my mother forbid me to repeat. But I can't resist singing it now. If only he was hear to hear, as Pee- I can't think of his name, or it will be my undoing. I have to believe he is alive, that he is with Gale. Maybe Haymitch is with them too. I can only have faith that some of the men are alive, and they'll come for us.
Are you, Are you
Coming to the tree
Where they strung up a man they say murdered three
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it seem
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree
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 seem
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree
Are you, Are you
Coming to the tree
Where I told you to run, so we'd both be free
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it seem
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.
Are you, Are you
Coming to the tree
Wear a necklace of rope, side by side with me.
Strange things did happen here,
No stranger would it seem,
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.
My rendition is followed by startled gasps all around. Thread isn't amused.
"You'll be trouble, but no matter. It will be dealt with soon enough, or you'll know what's to be hanged from a tree. Next, Primrose Everdeen."
I immediately regret what I've done, forgetting Prim is in danger and could suffer the consequences of my actions. I almost stay close, but Thread gives me a menacing look, indicating he's not playing and I'll get burn. I stand back and walk towards the rest of the group. But I noticed the forgot to mark my wrist.
I start to panic, thinking she'll be sent away with the children, not knowing if she'll live or die.
"Have you had your menses?"
What kind of question is that? I'm tempted to jump on the platform and break his neck. From here I can see Prim get red from head to toe.
In a childlike voice, she answers, "Yes, sir."
"Do you have any skills?"
"Yes, I help my mother in her healing the sick, sir."
"Good. Mark her as WR and her sister as well. Yes, Miss Everdeen don't think I've forgotten you."
Even though I should be thrilled my sister is with me, my instincts tell me different. Maybe it would've been better if she went with the rest of the children.
Chapter 4: And the soldiers just enjoyed our misery
Once all the women are processed, it's passed noon and the hunger has stricken us. No one dares ask for food. Thread starts diving the women according to age, or that's what I assume from the groups that are formed. Greasy Sae seemed to be spared for her cooking skills, it looks like she'll be feeding the Capitol's army. Her granddaughter has been taken with the rest of the children, to board the train. I can see the pain in her eyes, but her emotions don't betray her. She remains stoic and strong.
She must be wondering if she'll ever see her again. Once again, I feel a bit of comfort knowing Prim is within my grasp, but for how long I wonder. The questions by Thread give the feeling of things to come.
What's our punishment?
In the first place, what was our crime?
Why Snow and the Capitol have to prove superior to the rest of the districts, making us the example?
I get restless and start to move from one foot to the other. Prim catches my movements and shakes her head. Her gaze is fearful, I know she's concerned for me. She knows I don't tolerate authoritative figures, much less anyone relating to the Capitol. Blame Gale for my disdain and suspiciousness. Nothing good can come from a government that keeps their citizens starving, and in deplorable conditions. Then again, maybe that's how it is in District 12. Maybe the rest of the districts are all thriving under the careful tutelage of the Capitol.
I totally ignore the presence of my mother. She is on her own, and I know she'll be fine as long as she keeps her head down, and follows orders. Her skills is well priced, and I'm sure soon enough will be needed.
The ink used for the mark starts to itch. I start to scratch it, and since it doesn't stop I finally look at it.
What does it mean?
My question will be answered soon enough.
Cray follows Thread around like a little puppy, I almost laugh out loud. Then I remember where I am and question my own sanity. Bodies are still lying around, no effort in giving them a proper burial.
A throat clearing announces the next step in our dismal future.
"In single file you will walk out of the town square. As you can see you are heavily guarded, there's no place you can run to. Try if you wanna find out what will happened to you...you can guess. Each of you will be transported to a facility...a camp where you'll be able to eat as soon as possible. Please cooperate with the officers AT ALL TIMES. No exceptions. Those of you that have special skills will be called upon at a moment's notice, be ready."
Thread kept a smirk on his face, a job well done. I wanted to slap him and drop him into the ground, bash his head in. But no one rebelled...including me.
I missed my sister's warmth, now she was not allowed beside me. One of her classmates was holding hands with her, from what I could see both were trembling.
My hope was on Gale, he had to have escaped. We would come for us, to where this camp may be. Hazelle was with us, and Posy had been shipped on the train. As far as I could tell, the other two brothers were missing. Rory and Vick would probably be with Gale.
I kept trying not to think of him...his blue eyes staring right at me. His hands caressing my cheek. How soft the touch of lips felt on mine, that very first time we kissed.
My musings were diverted by the presence of Madge by my side. She looked crazed and defeated, ready to die with her family. I took her hand and gripped it tight, giving her the strength to endure, to survive, to live. We couldn't give the Capitol the satisfaction of seeing us succumb and drop to their feet.
In a whisper, "Kat...Did you see him?"
I knew she meant Gale. I shook my head in a negative, he wasn't amongst the bodies I could see. I could see her body relax, and I knew she felt the same, Gale would save us, he would come.
"Do you know where they are taking us?"
Her fear wouldn't let her stop talking. Once again I told her no. Regrettably, the Keeper nearest to us saw or heard we were talking and immediately came forward. He forcibly yanked Madge from my side and she fell on the bloody ground that had run off this way.
"You think we are going for a picnic? Did we say you could talk? You do as we say, understand! You will my first, and I'll make you scream so hard. Get the fuck up, NOW!"
His harsh words caused all the women to gasp and unravel, but still they kept in line.
"That's right. Each us will get to fuck each and every one of you bitches. We still haven't decided the sorting method, but this one is mine first."
He spat on Madge's face, her face covered with new tears. She kept looking for a way out, for Gale to come out of the shadows and rescue her.
The man noticed her beseeching eyes and kicked her.
"No one is coming. The men of this district are all dead. Get used to it, this is your life now."
The sobs could be heard all down the line.
"Be fucking quiet the lot of you! Thread and Crane won't be lenient in anyway. Follow our orders and live."
Our nefarious destiny had been revealed. It was not as workers, it was as laborers of another kind, a forced act of depravity. Some women lost control of their bodies, others emptied their stomachs.
And the soldiers just enjoyed our misery.
Chapter 5: None of us asked to be used
The frail girl next to me cries in her discomfort. Apparently her baby is coming. C complains about the labor pains getting more and more intense and I can perceive her fear. I fear it too. The reveal of the parasite within us. It's a day I dread more than death itself.
My own parasite makes itself know poking and prodding my abdomen, I can easily see its hands protruding trying to breach and come out. I don't soothe it. I don't touch it. Only endure it.
"K...K please help me. I can't see it, I just can't. Please."
C begs for my attention and I just turn on my side. I know what she wants, but I won't. I've done my share of horrible deeds, but this one will not.
She wails and sobs, until finally a doctor and a nurse take her away. I take deep breaths hoping for a miracle, that I'll wake up in my bed on the Seam...and the sky is bright and the meadow waits for me. He is there picking up dandelions to make crowns and necklaces for Prim. How she loved it when he would put them on her, and she would twirl for him.
Without noticing tears fall, but I clear them before long. There are no more tears worthy of the pain that resides within me. I'll just have to keep breathing, existing, living each day.
Greasy Sae comes into the ward, looking at each of her girls with pride and sorrow. She was mother to us all, taking care of us, trying to clean what was left, but never really judging what had been done. She looks into my direction, and can feel her eyes on me, but I keep pretending I am asleep. It doesn't fool her.
She is a true survivor.
"Katniss...Katniss, I know you are awake. Poor Cecilia had a stillborn, all that pain and for nothing. Poor child."
Her words enrage me.
"Poor child? It is a blessing Sae. Cecilia is free... free from it. I wish mine dies as well."
Sae stares and shakes her head.
"It's not the child's fault, Katniss. After all the purpose of its creation is no longer valid. These children are going to parents who want them, who are not capable of having their own. Not all women have given up on their baby...a child is a blessing. I loved mine and theirs...I wish I could see my baby girl once again. Don't ever say that again. Let that child be whatever it may be, if you don't want him someone else will take good care."
"It is so easy... Sae. Your children were wanted, you asked for them. I did not. None of us asked to be used."
Sae looks away, I know she wants to console the others.
"If it was in my power I would have taken all your pain, but it wasn't. Your mother suffered as well. She was their to pick up the pieces-"
"Yes, she was and yet she lives after everything...both of you were spared most of the atrocities we had to endure. No, Sae. You can't pass judgement and say what's right. Now, I'll like to rest."
With that, she turned to the other side of the room to visit B, I don't even remember her real name. We all became letters, anonymous within the walls that imprisoned us.
The meadow beckons me in dreams, blooming with wild flowers. It is like I'm right there, when I know it's gone. Nothing is as it just to be. I had taken a detour that day, instead of going directly towards the barbed-wire fence, to hunt. I knew Gale was waiting, but I just simply felt compelled to come. The truth was he had asked me to come, and I had pretended I hadn't heard. He kept giving meaningful looks and artfully touching my hand at school. He was that resourceful and cunning. If only he had known he had always had my heart. Even if the whole town believed Gale and I were meant to be, he had to have known it was not so. Gale was a big flirt, and more of a big brother for me. I told him so that very same day.
"Well...well you came."
He was breathless, as if he had just ran there, when I knew he had been waiting for me.
I was blushing and fidgeting with my hands. He was so handsome, with those crystalline blue eyes starring into my soul. I felt he could see my thoughts and feelings.
"Do you remember the first time we met?"
Now he was blushing and stuttering. I wanted to hold me and kiss him...Katniss get a grip.
"We were five and it was the first day of school. I noticed you right away with your pigtails and your smile...my father noticed my immediate infatuation with the miner's daughter. He said I would marry you someday..."
My eyes got wide and I gasped. It made him bold and came closer.
"Do I have a chance...to...to be with you? Or does Gale hold your heart?"
His eyes turned towards the ground and I missed them.
"I...I well, Peeta, you know Gale is my best friend, that's all...he has many lady friends, and well I'm not. He is like a big brother to me."
His face changed and brighten, but his eyes locked with mine and his hands took hold of my arms. I shivered at the contact.
"I will never let anyone hurt you or Prim... I have never forgotten that night, when my mother threw you against the pigpen. It was wrong, and I should've done more-"
I stopped his words, and tears were wetting my cheeks. That dreadful night of hunger and despair had forced me to scavenge for food and his mother had not been happy. He risked himself by burning a loaf of bread and getting welts on his face done by his mother.
"You saved Prim and I...I have always been grateful."
His hands touched my chin, and he looked into my face searchingly.
"I don't want your gratefulness, Katniss."
I try to cover my sobs, as I remember that day, one of the few we had together.
I miss those days, when I was a clueless at teenage romance. And my biggest concerns were what to hunt and sell at the Hob. Now what remains are the skeletons of that girl, that survived the Women's Room. I need to live for those that perished, I need to live for...my district, so no one forgets what was done. What Snow and the Capitol ordered, against human decency and morality. I have to stand for my fellow women that are silent forever, for the ones that accompany in this other woman's room with the consequences.
Only now I fear he will not want me...He will not be grateful to see me alive, a shell of the Katniss he loved.
WR, K, C, B, are just letters, but their meanings will haunt me forever.
Chapter 6: They won't be my last.
C comes back to the ward to say goodbye to the rest of us. She looks thinner and more gaunt. Her soulless eyes search mine, and she nods. Nothing more is said between us.
Her burden is gone. Mine is just beginning.
A bright light strikes and momentarily blinds me. When I can finally see, I'm back at the camp. A rudimentary structure that was constructed overnight. It seems parts of it were brought with the troops that came on the train. Fences were erected over the perimeter. The watchtower look ominous over us, and a guard is already there with his gun ready to shoot anyone brave enough to escape and challenge death.
We are cold and hungry, but our bodies defy the gravity of the situation we face and still stand. My mother is put to work, one of the soldiers needs medical attention, he got injured while helping in the construction of our new prison.
Thread stands at attention, and all the soldiers follow.
"Well, we have finally finished and brought the lot here. You have schedules, keep to them. All of you have duties to uphold. Anyone caught out of line will be severely reprimanded. Cray get the woman cook to fix us some, we need to inaugurate our installation."
That snake, smirks and looks for Sae amongst the older women.
The soldier who had threatened Madge comes forward.
"I was informed you had an altercation with one of the subordinates. You get first pick for enforcing the law. Faster the better the follow the rules of the game. You have been selected to serve the Capitol and you make President Snow proud, soldier."
I wasn't Madge and I was trembling. I felt bile rising and I was gagging. Knowing this was all issued and approved by the government was surreal. We had no rights. Our freedom was forfeit.
"Women of District 12, you have been selected to serve the great nation of Panem. Do your duty well and you'll be rewarded. I'll remind you once again to follow the commands of your superiors and you'll do fine. Disobey and suffer the consequences. I welcome you to our installation, we'll see how it works, so it can be replicated in other districts as the programs moves along. We need to enforce unity and compliance with the ordinances of our President. Our nation needs us, we need to obey and be productive citizens. That is the greatest honor."
Who was he fooling with this speech?
To rape and sire children?
To murder a whole town of men?
To separate women from their children, strip them from their dignity?
I wasn't the only one dry heaving to the ground.
"So without further ado, please escort the subordinates to their corresponding cells. We will reconvene in the improvised mess hall. Understood?"
In unison the soldiers replied.
We were herded like cattle into our cells, only we could see each other in the different sections, according to age. There was no division between Seam women and merchant, we were all together in this.
A simple soup in a dirty bowl was passed and nothing else. Sae came with the big pot and started distributing the meager meal. Her eyes were diverted, as not to reveal much. I wanted to speak with her, get her to help me get Prim free. It was all that matter now. She was not meant for this. None of us were, but she was just a child.
The warmth of the soup helped my body stop shivering, but I didn't know for how long it would stay inside me. I kept glancing at Madge, who kept her face down and didn't touch her her bowl. I wanted to hold her, give her some encouragement. It would be useless and cruel. She would be picked first, as an example.
Silence was among us, but beyond the walls we could hear their boisterous laughter and celebration. They had succeeded and conquered our district. Now, phase 2 had commenced.
The gate was opened abruptly and in came Cato with another soldier. The girls scurried to the corners like frighten little mice running from Buttercup. Only the big bad cat was no cat, but a serpent ready to strike.
"Where a-are youuu my sweeeet?"
Madge was trembling, but somehow found the strength to stand. She set her shoulders back and cleared her face. Her gaze was locked on Cato, showing no fear. I didn't know if it was worse, showing a strong facade or simply succumbing.
"You see boy...she wants to defy me. She was to show she has spirit, but I'll show her who is the boss here. To y'all bitches. This here will show you who is in control."
With a lewd gesture he grab his genitals and started to stroke. The other soldier started to guffaw at his antics. Madge still stood, but I could see her knees were about to buckle. I wanted to say stop, but I knew I would be taken as well. Maybe it would be better, to already get this over with, but Prim would see. I had to protect her.
"I'll see who's standing when I'm done with you."
With that he took her by the arm and yank her out of the cell. The younger soldier followed and closed the gate with a clank.
I heard relieved sighs all around me. They thought it was over for tonight. But I knew it was only the opener, after all they were celebrating.
I must've been darn tired and dozed off right were I had sat against the corner wall when high pitched wails woke me. I looked towards Prim, feeling crazed for a moment, but she was there looking at me. She was crying. All the girls were frightened and banded together searching for comfort. I took notice that other women had been taken and that Madge wasn't back yet.
"Please, let this be a nightmare. I want to wake up. Please."
A girl nearby kept whispering.
The wailing continued and I knew it was Madge, among the other women. She was the one to be punished the most and Cato had kept his promise.
The soup made a come back all over the ground beside me. I couldn't stop the tears, and tried to keep them from Prim's line of sight. I had to be strong. Oh please, Gale. Where the hell are you? Peeta, come to me, please help us. Now I was begging, just like the girl.
The screams stopped. I felt like I could breathe again.
The gate was opened and Madge was thrown in by the younger soldier. He looked sicken by what he had witness. Only time will tell if he would find the courage to fight back.
For the first time in a long time I wanted my mother.
"Please get the healer. She needs attention."
The young man just nodded and left.
Madge had been beaten, gashes were bleeding profusely and others had clotted. Her clothes were rags, stained with blood. She couldn't open her eyes were so swollen and her lips were cut and bleeding. She barely breathed, but she looked unconscious.
"You are gonna be okay, Madge. My mother is coming. You're okay."
They won't be my last.
Chapter 7: I would never regret that afternoon
Madge did live that day, many after that. But for what? What was the purpose of surviving the day to day at the Women's Room?
You already know I did survive.
But you don't know what it cost me.
My mother was an instrumental part of the daily life at the camp. The soldiers and ourselves depended on her skills. Ailments and sickness were rampant all around. And soon we were infected by a miasma of hopelessness.
Nothing could cleanse our marred skin, our broken souls.
I will never forget when Cray came for me. The bastard couldn't even finish and beat me into silence. After all how could that serve the great Panem, if the soldiers were incapable of fulfilling their duties.
I just knew I wanted to die, and still I existed. I endured the the beatings that seemed to make them more excited and ripe, while I dreamt of better times. It was as if I was not there...only my body stayed behind. In my mind I could see him, I could taste and smell the meadow. I could stare into his crystal blue eyes and wonder if we were meant to be.
I would never regret that afternoon.
Prim had gotten so engrossed in making goat cheese. Mother was helping with the birthing of a new child. I was bored, but I felt restless. I needed to be out, into the woods. Maybe take a swim in the lake close to the shack my father took as a child.
I knew Gale wasn't gonna be around and somehow that made it even better. Little did I know that I was being followed...by someone that didn't know squat of hunting skills. If I had been hunting he would've scared every animal away. I was giggling to myself and waiting for the right moment to sprint and see if we would follow.
The boy with the bread was tenacious and kept pace. I just pretended I hadn't heard his racket and kept on my way to the lake. He was panting and I was relishing the fact he was so determined. Once I was close to the water's edge, I started to take off my clothes one by one. I even heard his startled gasp. Would he watch as I bared my body to his perusal? Or would be turn and run back into town, flushed and out of breath?
I knew what I wanted.
Nothing could touch me. I was there in that lake with Peeta watching. I could see myself turn sideways and see him trying to hide, but at the same time wanting to reach for me.
No, I wasn't here. It wasn't happening. I was far away with my boy.
I could barely make out his words, his voice was so hoarse. His face was like a very bright red tomato. I was smirking at him in delight. He hadn't run, yet.
"It's hot today. Wanna go for a swim?"
I saw and heard is very prominent gulp.
Nodding and walking out of the shadows I could finally see he was covered in sweat. Yes, he would be agreeing to the refreshment of the cool water.
"Come on then."
I had kept my undergarments, but once I hit the water they would be pretty much useless in coverage. He turned and took off his drenched shirt and then proceeded to take off his pants and boots. He also kept his underclothes, a thread-bare undershirt and plaid boxers.
"Are you shy, Peeta?"
He was trembling a bit, but not from the cold, it was far from cold here. It was really a rare day with this hot weather, but I was kind of liking it. Seeing him sweat like that out in the open. I couldn't openly ogle him while he worked at the bakery.
"Shy? I'm practically naked...in the woods. Where anyone can see us...animal attack us."
This caused me to laugh so hard, tears welled in the corner of my eyes.
"Give it a rest, Peeta. You're with me, nothing bad is gonna happen."
He seemed more calmed and touched the water with his toes.
"You need to get in or you won't at all."
I had already submerged completely and had come back to the surface. It was so good, my skin was enjoying the cool temperature. Now what I needed was for Peeta to get in too.
Painstakingly, Peeta took the plunge and immediately jumped up and started to cough. I started splashing water his way. He glared at me and proceeded to splash back. It was good-old fashion water war.
I closed my eyes, it was almost like I could feel the water dripping down my face.
He got close and took hold of my arms. Now it was me who was shivering.
"Did you plan this?"
I locked my gaze with his, our breathing accelerated, it was like our bodies had minds of their own. I upturned my chin in defiance. He followed and I cornered, he could leave, yet he was still here.
"You are driving crazy. Can you feel it?"
It was my turn to feel shy and I wanted to get free from his hold. Feel? Yes, I felt him all the time, like a second skin.
"I want to kiss you...May I kiss you, my Katniss?"
The use of the possessive pronoun gave me chills down my spine. He was my boy too. I beamed like crazy and he smiled back, pleased with my reaction.
His lips were hesitant at first, but once they touched mine they had plans of their own. Our hands joined the party as well, mine taking hold of his wet hair and his neck. His strong hands held me close, preventing any ideas of fleeing. I would never run from this, from him, not now. Maybe tomorrow, when I had to face what I was about to do.
Peeta took at step back, in the shallow water. He was shaking his head and looking mad. It was not the response I wanted.
"No...you and I...not like this. I want to...why?"
I was lost for words as well. How do I explain? I want you to be the first to make love to me. But I don't want to wait. I knew Peeta wanted to court me properly and then to get married, have our toasting ceremony over the fire. I sort of wanted that too, but right now I wanted this. Why wait any longer? All our friends were doing it, and some for the wrong reasons. I wanted Peeta to love me completely, and in turn I would love him, with my body and my heart.
I felt my body react to the pain, yet I wasn't crying or agonizing over it. I was sobbing over the feelings I had that day. How his chest swelled and his arms tensed. He was conflicted over my proposition, warring with mind and body. His body wanted satisfaction, while his mind asked to wait, to treasure and savor.
My hands moved over his chest and landed on his faces, making him face me. I rested my forehead on his chin, and then looked up. I found the courage to voice the words he was longing to hear.
"I...love you. I'm yours."
His mouth landed and ravaged mine. I opened willingly and let him take what I wanted, his tongue massaging mine. I moaned in pleasure, he grunted and released me. No, please don't.
"We should get dry."
I wanted to protest, but relented. We needed to let the wet clothes dry, so I suggested we change inside the cabin. As we entered, it felt like my father was alive. I could picture him clearly, even smell his particular aroma.
"How do you know of this place?"
"When I was young, I would come with my father, that's how I learned to hunt. He would take deep in the forest and teach about everything. He would also sing and the birds would accompany him. I miss him so much..."
Peeta came towards me and held me in his arms. He had taken off his sodden undershirt and had put his pants back on. I could feel his heart beat, his usual smell had been masked by the woodsy smell that always lingered on my father. I felt comforted and loved, something I had been missing for so long.
"I miss your signing. Will you sing for me?"
"Someday. Not today."
His eyes stared, beseeching me. Don't you know? Don't be scared. His lips opened and his tongue wetted them. His face seemed closer, until his nose touched mine.
In a whisper, "I do want you...so much." "What's stopping' you?", was my retort.
"It should be special, we should be married. Don't you want to be my wife? Have my children?"
Peeta would never change, he had all figured out, our future. I lived for today, tomorrow might not be there. I tried to pry myself from his grasp, but his hold didn't give.
"Don't run...not from me. Am I what you want?" I wanted to slap him. This again.
"Who's with me? You. Not anyone else. That's your clue. Figure it out. Now let me go, Peeta."
This riled him up, and I wanted him riled up. Maybe this would finally wake him up.
"No. You know this. Gale is like a brother. Don't believe everything you hear. According to the gossip I should be pregnant by now and on my way to marry him. Since he should make an honest woman out of me!"
His lips silenced me, his forehead touched my own.
"You see why I want to wait...you deserve to respected and cherished."
His words were brushing my lips, my face. While I was conjuring ways to punch or kick him.
"I won't live my life according to what is expected of me. I want to simply live, everyday. I don't want to wait. If that's your decision, than I think we should break this off. Maybe Gale is the right choice for me. He won't keep me waiting with false pretenses of morality and propriety. If he wants me, he will have me."
It hurt to say those words, if they were a knife to my chest, I couldn't imagine what they had done to Peeta.
"How can you be so cruel..."
"Call it cruelty. I call it reality. Well I think my clothes should be dry by now."
His hands were still on me, his hold wasn't getting looser.
"Not like this...I won't take you like this. Now we are angry."
So he was still debating. So fickle.
"I'll make it easier for you then."
I started to open my shirt, with nothing underneath my flesh was exposed, and goosebumps rose through out. His eyes stayed focused on mine, but I was willing him to look.
"Look. Touch. It's real and it's me."
He took a deep breath, as if he had been holding it for a long time.
I just nodded. His tremulous hand touched the nipple and it contracted. His mouth descended on my neck, his hands taking hold of my breasts.
"Am I...doing it right? My brothers...Oh, Katniss."
"I've never done this before, it feels right you touching me."
It was right. It was perfect. Please, go on.
Somehow I ended on my back, my shirt forgotten on the floor beside me. Peeta was on top, his chest rubbing against me, while his mouth feasted on my flushed body. His objections had been forgotten, as he let his teenage body rule over his puritanical concerns. I was withering under him, enjoy his abandon display. In this moment he was truly mine. No one could claim him like I could.
His eyes were tortured, he was holding back. His mouth was touching my earlobe, he murmured, "I love you. There's no one else for me. Always." His inhibitions were freed as his confession was professed. His hands took hold of my loosen pants and tugged them off. My bared-skin had never been seen, now belonged to him. My hands helped him divest his remaining garment, and he was mine. Always.
Peeta was so careful, treating me like I was made of paper. I had to reassure him I could take it. I was strong and I wanted to feel his passion. It wasn't long, I didn't expected. And even though his brothers had told him, he was deeply embarrassed for not lasting. He said it felt too good. Now he had to make it up to me.
"Are you okay?"
He was worried about the bit of blood. It was natural, it was proof of our deed. It was enough to make me smile.
"Yes, more than okay. You've made me yours completely. Do you regret it?"
Maybe I shouldn't push it, but I wanted to make sure he wouldn't have second thoughts. It was done, no turning back.
"No...I don't. But I feel like I failed you."
"Nothing compares to feeling you inside me. There will be other times."
"Katniss...we need to be careful. It doesn't mean I won't follow through-"
"I know. I'm curious...how will you make it up to me?"
He blushed and smirks at the same time.
"Well, there's this hidden place..."
He made good on my promise to make up to me.
I would never regret that afternoon. It was the day we had pledged ourselves with words and with our bodies. It kept me alive, it was my lifeline in the darkness I was living. His face, his lips, his taste, it was like the air I needed to breathe.
Soldier kicked me, saying he was done. I could feel the wetness on my face, it was the tears and the blood I had spilled. There was wetness somewhere else, how I wanted to drown myself in that lake. Its water would never be enough to clean the filth that covered every pore.
"Get up! I haven't got all day! I need to get back on sentry duty."
His name, I didn't know and I didn't want to know.
We were all nameless now. It didn't matter, it didn't afford you any kindness. As for them, they were the enemy.
That was enough.
Chapter 8: She was only twelve years old
My mother came by to my hospital bed. What was the her purpose? To say goodbye. I wanted to scream. It was fitting that I didn't want the thing growing inside me. My own mother couldn't stand the sight of me. After all we were all that was left of the past. Nothing could make up for the scars that stayed behind. No forgiveness would be able to fix the craters that existed between us. We were on different sides. Both survived, never to be reunited once more.
"I don't blame you. It just happened and we have to live with it. I just need to be useful in this effort for the good of the district. I hope you can forgive...me Katniss. I can't stay here. I...want the best for you. But I won't say what you should do...it is your life and your body."
"How quaint of you mother. It is my life and my body, yet it still lives thanks to you...why not let me die just like she did? Fine, leave."
I heard her sniffing and it made me even madder.
"Sae will take care of you...she loves you. I will trust she will know how to get your heart to see reason. You need someone to live for..."
"What do you live for? Dad is dead. Prim is dead. I'm still here, yet you are abandoning me here."
She touched my face making it turn towards her gaze.
"You don't need me. You haven't needed me in so long. You grew up so fast and simply stopped needing me...I'm sorry I was such a disappointment after your father. I really hope you'll see him again..."
Treasonous tears escaped my eyes. As if I could let him leave my mind, he was all the good left, he was my lifeline. My only hope was to see him again, that after everything nothing was in vain.
"Katniss...what if the baby is his?"
I was completed flabbergasted by her question. The parasite was not Peeta...but it wasn't impossible.
She simply nodded and went around checking the girls in the ward. She had been their surrogate mother and nurse, taking care of every wound and trying to keep them alive. If only she would've been capable of keeping us free on the punishment of being women. I guess if Thread would've thought it possible, my mother would be dead. The mandate was to impregnate the women of the district, to establish a new order. Whoever defied it was given death as reward.
Madge was one of the lucky ones, the damage she sustained was so severe she would never conceive. She barely speaks and every time she sees me, she descends into hysterics. D told me she saw what was done to Prim by Thread. It was message to us all, but specifically to me. We had to obey, we had to serve, we had to birth the new Panem. Our lives we owed them to our country, it was not our own to do as we pleased. Only he didn't expect it to end the way it did.
I wonder if she thinks of Gale. Does she wish she had died in the WR? I know I do...when the memories haunt me at a moment's notice or at night we I pretend to sleep. There's no cure and it seems an epidemic amongst the survivors of WR. No one really sleeps anymore. It means there's no peace and no oblivion from the horrific events we went through.
Does she miss having the ability to have children? Maybe I should give her...
It doesn't matter. The authority here has decided where the children are going to be given. We still are not owners of our fate. We depend on others, we have no place to go. The bright side we are not being repeatedly beaten and raped, expected to breed a new race for the Capitol. We are expected to fulfill the need of children for a depleting population in a desolate and forgotten district.
I keep thinking of M...adge and I remember D...elly telling me how she had heard her screams that damned day. I had been detained in solitary confinement, waiting to be delivered to our new commander. Thread was being sent to another district to start a camp, in other words another women's room. The new head of the soldiers wanted to meet the famous Katniss, who had bitten and kicked her share of soldiers. Commander Crane was considered handsome and young. I could see that Thread wasn't happy about his replacement, but orders needed to be followed. The prospect of fresh meat to brutalize had to please him somewhat. Cray would be going with him, and for that I was thankful. I was tired of pretending for his sake. His rouse would be over soon and the end of a bullet would end him. It was my only desire.
Crane didn't have to see much of the camp and found himself coming to my cell. Meanwhile, Thread had a score to settle before he left. He wanted Prim for himself, he had been keeping her safe. I had thought that maybe he had decided she was too young and that was the reason she had been left alone these passed weeks. I didn't know if my mother had done some deal as well. Until that day she had been fed and left inside the confinement of the younger girls. Only she had been spared, and the rest resented the special treatment. It had caused episodes of violence, as the girls only two years older than my little sister wanted equality in treatment. Thread meant to fix this before his departure. Crane was none the wiser about this event and I was faraway and incapable of stopping it.
He stood tall the opened gate, his dark hair was covered by his headgear. He was wearing his soldier fatigues and boots. His blue-gray eyes were intent on my form. Clearing his throat, he said, "So you are the girl that has stirred the fire and caused so much trouble...tsk tsk, no wonder Thread is sent somewhere else...it is inexcusable to allow such disruptions to occur. You are just a simple girl. Know this, it stops now. I will not tolerate your temper tantrums any longer. You have a purpose, be grateful that the Capitol considers you so greatly. Serve your country proud. In the end you'll feel fulfilled and accomplished. Now...between you and I, it would be better if you comply. I would hate to have to put a bullet in between those startling gray eyes. I would certainly prefer them looking up at me while you serve me, K. That is your name from now on, no more referring to yourself or others with your former names. You are instruments, be useful. That is all."
As he finished is pompous speech, I heard the wails and screams. My heart stopped and restarted, it knew that wail. It was my sister, it was Madge. I knew Thread had taken what he had wanted since that very first day he laid eyes on my sister. I stood and went ready to sprint towards my sister, but met a chest. My gaze met the blue-gray eyes of Crane.
"You stay here. I'm in command and I'll see what that screaming is all about. You will be released tomorrow morning. I heard you used to hunt...I'm in a mood to eat fresh venison meat. If you serve me well, I'll be more than good to you."
I didn't care for words, I wanted actions. I wanted to save my sister.
So I begged.
"Please...please he is raping her. She is just a child, innocent. Please stop him."
I had chains on one of my legs and it was holding me in place. It was the only reason I had not escaped, in my frenzy to save Prim I had forgotten their existence. Suddenly I felt his hand on my cheek clearing away my tears.
"So brave...you will be mine."
As I was about to beg once more, he turned and left. A soldier standing guard closed the gate to my prison and turned around giving me his back. He was the young boy, the one that hated this camp and its purpose. He wasn't inhumane, but I didn't know if I could trust him.
"I'm sorry about your sister...Thread gave order that she would not be touched...only by him."
I could only sob falling on my knees. The wails had turned to whimpers and finally were silenced. I hoped Crane had stopped Thread and my sister spared. Maybe another woman had been attacked first...and Prim watched. It was the next day when I was released back into the WR, when I saw what was left of my sister and Madge.
My mother was by Prim's side, but there was nothing to be done to fix her spirit. It was already gone, what was left was a barely breathing husk. Madge kept murmuring to herself and tears kept running down her face. Delly held me, she was the one that spoke into my ear saying Madge had witness what had been done, she was the one screaming begging for someone to stop it.
I felt defeated and a blindly hate towards the soldiers, towards everyone around me. They should all die.
Crane appeared at the gate demanding I'd be taken towards his quarters. It was then I noticed I had been yelling and Delly had been holding me even thought she had gotten scratched by my hands. The soldiers entered and took me away. My mother found my gaze, I saw her dead eyes starring back at mine.
She was gone, my Primrose was dead.
She was only twelve years old.
She wanted to be a healer like her mom.
She loved her goat Lady, and she loved to run through the meadow in spring.
She had a cat named Buttercup, who hated me and I hated back.
She will never grow up.
She will never marry Rory Hawthorne.
I was dragged into the private office of Commander Crane. It was a completely new wing to the camp. He was seated behind a desk with papers and maps overflowing on top. He talking on the phone, but once he saw I was in the room he finished quickly ending the call.
"That will be all, go back to your duties. Take a seat, K."
I still stood, but one of the soldiers practically carried me and sat me on the designated chair.
"You should be hungry. I think it will make you feel better if you eat a hearty meal with better company, don't you think? As for Thread, I executed him on sight. I'm very deeply sorry that your sister wasn't sent through the trains with the rest of the younger children. It was clearly an error in judgement by the previous commander. Things will change now that I'm here."
The only thing I heard was that Thread was no more. He had taken my right to kill the fucking bastard. I felt detached, like I was somewhere else ready to depart with my sister. Whatever came next couldn't be any worse. It looked like I had been chosen to be the special concubine to the distinguished Commander Seneca Crane, highly regarded by President Coriolanus Snow.
I was just a letter, a body, a breeder to Panem. It was pointless to resist and even to survive.
In my hazy state, yellow invaded my senses.
I was somewhere else.
With someone else.
He was on top of me, twirling a flower between his fingers. Then, he proceeded to brush it against my skin. It was a dandelion.
"Are you truly mine?"
Bright blue eyes stared back.
I sat in my hospital bed, just awoken from my restless sleep. Only I wasn't alone.
M was sitting on a chair, her gaze somewhere faraway, but her hand was holding mine.
Tears sprung from my eyes, seeing her there was heartbreaking and at the same time it was like we were connected like sisters.
Our hardships will never be forgotten.
Chapter 9: No, it's not possible
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any previously copyrighted material. No copyright infringement is intended.
"So brave...you will be mine."
Those words were more true than anything else that was said. Commander Seneca Crane took what he wanted, without delay and fussing. And what he wanted was me.
The weeks after Prim's death, my time was only for Crane, for his hands, for his body to rape and take. I simply gave up, I wasn't strong enough. With her death, my will to keep surviving was extinguished. Only the memories of my time with my boy were balm to my tormented soul.
I was laying there in body, but my mind was in a better place.
"So beautiful... you are my girl. Your child will be mine, a proud citizen of Panem. The future."
The breeze on his disheveled hair.
"Why can't we say we are together? I don't care if my mother objects, but I'm sure my father will approve... What about your mother? Katniss? Are you even listening to me?"
He started tickling me. He was so happy and I wanted to make him happier for the rest of our lives.
I felt hands on my skin, but they were not his hands or his warmth. No, please stop.
"Look at me, my girl."
I tried to shake him off, to turn my head away from his eyes, they were not blue... it wasn't my boy.
"I said LOOK AT ME!"
I felt the slap, but it was nothing since I was nothing.
When he was finished, he simply stood by the window smoking. He would soon leave and I would be alone.
"Clean up a bit. Some important people are coming from the Capital. Sae will bring you some food later and you better eat every last drop."
I nodded back, but kept my eyes averted from his gaze. He got dressed and left the room, his room. I was no longer kept in the WR. I was fed better. I had been taken for the pleasure of one man, instead of many. I felt wretched and ashamed.
Not only was I being used for the good of the country, but now I was the personal whore to the commander and in return had a higher standing among District 12 women.
Sae was in the room and I hadn't even noticed.
"Come darling, let's get you cleaned up and ready. I brought you lamb stew, your favorite."
Poor Sae always trying to cheer me up, no judgement on her eyes. She was more my mother, than my real one.
I looked into her eyes. She shook her head. No sign of Gale or Peeta. I was really hoping they would come and rescue us. It was my deepest yearning, knowing they had survived and were coming. But Sae hadn't seen a trace of them or anyone else.
We were on our own.
Once again despair took reign over me and my crying bout of the day commenced.
"There, there, Katniss. You need to be strong. Not all its lost, the girls need you to survive, to endure, and in the end you will be their savior. I just know it."
She cleaned my face and hugged to her chest.
In a whisper, "He will come for you, have faith child."
Sae was seating, knitting some baby clothes, even with the arthritis on her hands. I was seating in bed, trying to endure the lower back pain.
"You know, Delly's baby was too premature to survive, poor dear. It would've been a beautiful child, just like its mother."
I was enraged by her statement. A beautiful child?
How can she say that?
It was a parasite, a monster that had invaded her body. It was blessing it had died.
I was trying to control my urge to snap at her, breathing deeply.
"Are you feeling contractions? Want me to get the doctor?"
Her worrying was also getting tiring.
"I'm fine. I'm trying not to scream at you! The monster is dead and D...elly is lucky for it. I wish I was too."
I felt it, it was fluttering inside my belly. I wanted to take it out.
"Katniss. Katniss. You must know that your pregnancy is far more advance than the rest... maybe-"
"You too? Are you suggesting I'm a slut that got around even before the fucking soldiers of Panem invaded District 12, and started raping women? Is that what you are saying, Sae?"
She comfortably kept knitting.
"Are you finished? If you stopped talking nonsense... you would realize that you were... pregnant before this. If I'm right it happened pretty close, so its difficult to determine. But most women didn't get pregnant immediately, yet you were. You didn't recognize the signs, darling. It is his baby, you are still waiting for him. He will come for you."
I felt like all the air the room was sucked, and there was no more left.
I closed my eyes and fell back on the bed.
No, its not possible.
This monster could be anyone's baby, but not his.
Chapter 10: Against that wall, he had me
Sae words hadn't left me alone. Not even in my sleep. I kept picturing in my head the face of the man who had impregnated me with the monster inside me. Yet I feared if it would be his, would it have his eyes, or his hair? Could I simply give his baby away?
Our last time was full of promises, his wishes for the future. A future shattered.
I had just been hunting with Gale since dawn. I was really excited by the game we had gotten, thinking how much we would get for it at the Hob. Gale wanted to buy Posy a new dress, and some shoes for Rory since his were opened at the sole. I wanted to buy some sugar cookies for Prim, the ones she was always looking at when she forced me to take her to Mellark's bakery.
What she didn't know was my secret yearning to see Peeta at the counter. If he could, he would try and sneak one cookie for Prim. But it was risk, if his mother caught him, he would pay dearly to appease her. And in turn we would be banned from the bakery indefinitely. I knew not that Mr. Mellark wouldn't care, he was tender-hearted, beside he had secret dealings with me for squirrel meat. But Mrs. Mellark wasn't fond of Seam people, and I was a proud one.
In retrospect, I was looking forward to seeing a certain person than anything else.
To my surprise as we were bartering, I saw Peeta. He was talking with Sae, it looked like he was bringing her some loaves of bread to go with her stew. He was smiling and talking with her, his blue eyes were bright. Sae was laughing about something he said, and I wished I could've heard it what he said. The hustle in the Hob was making it impossible.
"What's got you smiling, Catnip?"
Shit, I forgot Gale was right beside me. I turned my gaze to the stand, and noticed they sold junk. I tried to look interested in something that resembled ashtray.
"What are you going to start smoking? That would ruin your teeth and make you stink... no boy would like to kiss that mouth of yours."
"What? Are you offering to be that boy? Hmm, I was just looking..."
I felt his presence and had to look. He was looking in my direction, still standing besides Sae's stand. Sae noted he was no longer paying attention and looked my way. She was beaming, and I blushed. Peeta was grinning, thinking he was the culprit of my blush. In a way he was, but this was getting ridiculous and in front of other people.
"Are you done? I need to get home, see you tomorrow."
Gale stood dumbfounded, his mouth gaping. I was hoping he hadn't seen more than he should. It wasn't that I was ashamed of Peeta... I just knew he wouldn't approve with his dislike of merchant kids. I wanted to be the one to explain and make him see it from my perspective.
I practically ran like a scared little girl.
I was hiding behind the bakery, waiting for the opportune moment to speak with Peeta. He had to come out sometime and take out the trash or maybe feed the pigs out back. It was a good thing this wasn't winter or I would've been frozen in place.
Finally, he came out and I practically tackled him to the ground. My weight on him caused him to be out of breath. His arms almost instantly grabbed me to his chest.
"Are you trying to kill me? If anyone saw they would think so... but I think you just miss me."
He was looking smug and I hit his chest in retaliation.
"Can you escape with me for a little while?"
My nose found itself nuzzling into his neck, taking in his scent. He smelled of burnt bread and cinnamon, I felt tempted to lick him.
"I can't right now...so nice. I have a new batch of cupcakes I need to-"
My mouth found his lips, and he opened for me. I wanted to taste him, and it seemed he wanted a taste as well. He had taken a bite of a cinnamon roll, and now I wanted one.
"You taste like cinnamon rolls... you bad boy. Mmm... now I want some."
"Don't tell my mom, or I will never hear the end of it."
He bit my lower lip and tugged on it, being playful.
"Let's just go to the meadow, the grass is really tall and no one we'll see us."
I wanted him to cave and have my way with him, but he wouldn't budge.
"Not today, sorry baby."
I was pouting and got myself off him.
"Don't be like that... if you want you can come inside. Everyone had something to do and I was left on my own-"
I didn't let him finish and simply took his hand and ran inside.
"I have question...is anything in danger of burning if you are not paying attention?"
"No, I don't. Why?"
We were in the back-room of the bakery, which was full of flour sacks and other ingredients. This would have to do.
"No wonder you are always sweating and covered in flour, my bread boy."
I began to touch his chest, my hands going down towards his pants. Peeta's hands stopped me, and he looked into my eyes. I nodded and his hands moved towards my face.
"I love you, Katniss."
"I love you too."
We kissed slowly at first, but my hands had a mind of their own and opened his pants. I pushed them down, and started to pull his shirt off. His eyes wouldn't leave mine, and I felt like his gaze was enough to burn me. He started to undress me, taking his time to touch every inch revealed.
"I want to marry you. I can see us together, having a family. Do you see it? I dream of our toasting, in our own house. Your belly growing with our baby another running through the meadow. I want that so much, Katniss. So much..."
He was kissing my neck, whispering into my feverish skin. His words touched me, but I feared wouldn't never be realized. I wanted the present, the future was undefined.
"Take me. I'm yours."
I liked the fact we were each others first, inexperienced but passionate about each other, and we were willing to learn and practice our loving.
He had me astride his waist, my thighs holding him close to me. My arms took hold on his neck, my lips never leaving his skin.
"I want you. You drive me crazy. I hate that people think Gale will be the one you marry... I don't like seeing you with him, even though I know the truth... You are I'll think about..."
His forehead was resting on my shoulder and my hands ran through his hair.
Close to his ear, I whispered breathless, "Have me."
It was like kindled fire.
Holding me close, he entered me and in unison we sighed in relief.
His movements increased, but I could barely move. I was his prisoner held against that wall. I was praying no one came into the bakery or they would probably hear my moans and his grunts.
"I want this for the rest of my life. You... are... my... life, Katniss. Just... you."
I hid my face on his shoulder, not wanting him to see my tears. I wanted him too, so much. He was so strong, he had no problem holding me steady and keeping pace with his thrusts. Then I felt it, the breaking point when time and space ceased to exist and only our souls were one. It was a humbling experience to give yourself fully to someone. It was the only moment I was willing to be open, to be vulnerable with another person.
His strength crumbled and we fell on top of a flour sack, causing it to spill some. We ended up covered in it and we just laughed. I was sorry he now had to clean up, another chore on top of the many he had to already do.
"You really are mine."
I kissed him once more. Getting dressed in a hurry, I left him sated and happy.
Against that wall, he had me.
Tears were falling down my face, unwanted. But they always fell against my will. Memories were all I had.
I hadn't perceived I wasn't alone anymore. A middle-aged woman had come into the ward.
"Citizen Everdeen, I'm pleased to finally meet you in person. I wanted to congratulate you on your courage and perseverance. Also, I wanted to say your mother has been a great blessing to the cause-"
"Excuse me. But who are you? And if you have come to praise on my mother, you better get on a train and follow where she's gone. I don't care about false flattery, get on with it."
The woman's eyes widen, but then she simply glared.
"I was told you don't have much respect for authority and I see they weren't wrong in their assessment. I'm Mayor Coin, District 13."
"I've come to ask some questions... From what we have gathered from the other survivors, you are responsible for their escape?"
I wanted to turn on the bed and simply ignore this pompous bitch, but I might as well give her my take on things.
"I saw an opportunity and took it with the help of a soldier. I believe you have him in custody. He never did anything untoward with me, I think he respected every woman on that camp."
Her eyes were cold, unyielding. I felt judged and found unworthy.
"We are interrogating him throughly. Is it true you were the personal... woman to Commander Crane?"
I knew the word she really wanted to use. Whore.
"He chose me for his own when he took control of the camp. He is no more."
I saw his blue-gray eyes, his body on top of me, holding me down on his bed, then the fire consuming everything, his dead eyes staring forever at me.
I started to tremble.
"You know... some women consider you a hero, others despise you for giving yourself freely to Crane."
Her words caused fire to course through my veins.
"Well, I don't care what anybody thinks. All of us had to open our legs whether it was willing or not. He chose me, I had to comply or I wouldn't be here to talk about it. It was survival, you wouldn't understand."
Angry tears were now running down my face.
"I was told your pregnancy is more far along than the rest of the women here. Is it possible you are carrying Seneca Crane's progeny?"
I felt like ice cold water was thrown all over me. What did it matter?
"Commander Crane came later on, he wasn't the first commander. What does it matter who fathered this... parasite? After its born you people will take it and give it away to parents who want it. We are still prisoners, we don't control our lives, our bodies. All for the good of Panem."
She ignored my jab against her government.
"How did you escape?"
It was just noise, she kept talking, asking questions.
"Where is Gale? Are you using him in your little rebellion? Is he even alive? Answer me! Where is PEETA?"
Someone was petting my hair and humming. It was Madge. And it made want to fall in to darkness again. She was murmuring something I could barely make out.
"...he will come... they will come...he will come for me..."
Where are you?
Chapter 11: The boy with the bread... My boy
I thought I was finally on my own, but I was wrong.
"Good afternoon, citizen Everdeen. My name is Dr. Aurelius. I was requested to assess-"
"My mental state. Don't bother, just say I won't cooperate and don't waste your time."
With a sigh I turned my back on the intruder.
"I'm here for you... I know it's practically impossible to aspire for your trust, but you need someone to help you with the trauma-"
I stood abruptly from the bed.
"How dare you come in here and lecture me on what I need! Were you raped? Did you see the corpses of the men of your District, lying there starting to rot? Did hear the screams of your sister getting brutally raped by a fucking sick bastard and couldn't do nothing?
No, I think I can't get over it just by talking with a lab coat, much less a man. Get out of my sight."
I was out of breath and my hands were shaking.
"Nurse! Katniss you need to breathe... Deep breaths. Your blood pressure has been elevated lately and it could be dangerous for the baby. Nurse!"
As if I cared what happened to the parasite that used my body everyday. A reminder of what had been done to me, to the women of District 12.
"Coin came in here to interrogate, but not once was she sorry for my sister's death... If I'm truthful I wanted to strangle her-"
I heard the nurse coming, ready to check my vital signs.
"Who is Gale?"
My gaze made contact with hazel eyes. Dr. Aurelius was a very tall man. He looked concerned.
I felt drained, like my energy to fight had been stripped away.
"My best friend. I know he didn't die with the rest..."
He walked closer, as if trying to listen to my whispered words.
"Who is Peeta?"
Hearing his name made him real. He was real. How I missed looking and getting lost in those blue eyes. Closing my eyes, I was there on our meadow surrounded by dandelions. I could hear his laughter, feel his touch, receive his butterfly kisses.
My voice was hoarse and with difficulty I answered.
"The boy with the bread... My boy."
Sae was sitting by my bedside, knitting. She was humming to herself.
"Can I go outside?"
At first I thought she didn't understand me, but thankfully she gave me a glass of water.
"Um. I think if you talk with Dr. Aurelius, you might be allowed time outside. How are you feeling today?"
My hands were touching my protruding belly, and then I noticed it wasn't moving. Was it finally dead? Dread filled my body, a fear unlike anything I've felt before.
"Is something wrong? Are you feeling contractions? Katniss?
I let my hands fall to the bed.
"I-I think there's something wrong, Sae."
Immediately she was on her feet, her hands touching my belly. It was like she knew exactly were to touch, when I felt it move. I heard her sigh of relief.
"There, the baby was just sleeping Katniss. You should see your face... For someone who claims not to care."
She was grinning, like it was just part of some plan.
"Stop it. It's not his. He is not here and he will never come. I was wrong... I'm alone and this, we have parents chosen for it. I have no say, no control over anything. I'm nothing."
Sae was no longer smiling. She threw her arms around me, holding close to her chest.
"You are not alone. All these women owe you, for there's no one with your courage my little mockingjay. Don't you ever say you are nothing... Your mother... She has been damaged, like all of us. It was her moment to find her way. Don't dwell on the things you can't change child. You have a future and I have great hopes for it. He will come, for you are his future."
Chapter 12: A breathable coffin
There was a drip. The noise of the water hitting the floor was driving me insane.
But there it was, that constant splat sound of the water colliding with the hard surface.
"Please, just stop."
"I'm done with you, when I want to."
I wasn't strong enough. I wanted to be dead, yet here I laid still breathing and aching. He wasn't done yet.
"So beautiful, my gray-eyed girl. Look at me, I want to see your eyes while I fuck you."
I did as I was commanded, but my body couldn't stop its reaction. My stomach contracted and the vile rose up.
I was thrown of the bed.
"You better clean this up!"
He kicked me repeatedly and my only defense was to use my arms as protection.
"Don't make me regret taking you...there are others who would be willing to serve me. Don't you forget what can happen to you, if you don't comply to my every wish. Don't wanna end like your sister, do you?"
It was that doctor again. I didn't want to talk, what was there to say? Yes, I'm a survivor. I'm the one that defied the Capitol and saved some of us. Yet here I am a shell of the woman I was supposed to be, with this parasite growing inside me. A daily reminder that my life is not my own.
"He was going to receive people from the Capitol. Important people. He said I had to be on my best behavior. Everything was fixed and cleaned-up. I was given a fresh dress. The camp was spotless and not a sound was heard from anyone.
I saw an opportunity and took it. He was so worried with the special visitation. Commander Crane was going around checking everything had been done to his standard. It was just kismet. I pretended I was the good girl and did as he wanted. He thought he had finally broken me. Take all of it my girl, he had said, and I did. I didn't fight or throw up. My mother didn't look like a rag doll and the others had been fed. News that children were growing inside the women of District 12 was the best news of all. I knew it was now the opportune time, or we would be damned to birth the children of Panem until our bodies shriveled and died.
I had seen the nightlock. Sae had gotten some from the woods, but for what I didn't know. I asked her to give it to me. She wanted to refuse, only she couldn't and she gave me the deadly berries. I squashed them into the stew she had been preparing, the one that would be served to the visitors. It was all my idea."
"So you decided to kill the commander and his guests? What happened next?"
Closing my eyes, I wished as I always did, to be in our meadow under the cover of the tall grass. I could smell his scent, bread and cinnamon was encrusted on his skin, like it was part of his being.
"The young soldier... he saw me and instead of alerting the rest, he helped me. He said we had to run, move towards another district and hide. He couldn't keep living this way, day after day. The guests started to eat, and I waited and watched. Unfortunately, Crane only drank the wine, except I hadn't spiked it. He was shocked as the people started to die around him. His hard gaze imprisoned me right were I sat. He knew. I was sure this would be my end, and I was welcoming it with open arms. I would finally join Prim...that's all I wanted. It was futile, the young soldier and Sae came into the room. His hands were clutching my neck, my breath leaving my body, wishing my neck would break. Sae was screaming and the soldier jumped on his back trying to pry his hands off me. It was instinct, my hand found the knife and I took it in my grasp. Without much delay, I said: "I'm not your gray-eyed girl." and slit his throat."
Dr. Aurelius looked amazed, and it made me want to slit his throat as well. I wasn't a hero, it wasn't supposed to happen like this. My sister was supposed to grow up, study to become a doctor. Maybe marry Rory Hawthorne, if he was worthy of her. My mother wasn't supposed to leave her oldest daughter behind, like it was too much to simply look at her. My boy with the bread and the rest of the men were supposed to be alive and well, living their lives. I wasn't supposed to comply to the orders of a deranged government, much less become a killer and birth the child of a monster.
"Katniss...What about the rest of the soldiers? How did you accomplish the escape of the rest of the imprisoned women?"
They all wanted more. It wasn't enough that I had killed and burned everything in sight. That I had sacrificed the last thread of my humanity for the sake of others.
I turned my back once more, and tried to escape, but there was no place to go. I was still trapped, in a breathable coffin.
"Can I go outside? Please let me go outside to see the sun...and the trees... just a glimpse."
He tried to touch me and I recoiled back. He looked contrite, but the damage was done. I didn't want his pity or his comfort.
"Just a slant of the sun...I beg you."
Tears were welling up in my eyes and I felt even more wretched. It was pointless to pretend I was the strong woman that had taken down the peacekeepers of District 12, the holders of the Women's Room.
I kept my eyes on the floor and moved closer to the wall, ready to collapse at any moment.
"The stew...it was in the stew and they ate it, all of them. Only the bastard Crane didn't eat a single drop. When he was finally dead, we were free to leave it all behind. I knew we had to run and hope we find shelter. The Capitol was bound to find what I had left behind... that is why I burned it all. Nothing but ashes as proof of what the government of Panem had done. But it's not the only proof, right Dr. Aurelius? We are the proof you need and the other districts that have suffered at the orders of Coronalius Snow, our dear president of Panem. There that's what you came here for and now you have it. Go tell it all to Mayor Coin."
"I will grant you some time outside, but you will have supervision at all times. Thank you, citizen Everdeen. Have a good day."
Have a good day? Did he hear himself?
I haven't had a good day in a very long time, and I'm sure I won't for as long as I live.
Chapter 13: A boy
Sae was sitting quietly, singing to herself. I was biting my time, waiting for the clear that I could have fifteen minutes of sunlight. Dr. Aurelius had come through and gotten me time outside.
"The boys will come, Katniss. I can feel it. They are fighting for us, for Panem and then they will come. You need to have faith. He...Peeta Mellark will come for his Katniss. You'll see."
My startled gasp alerted her that I had heard her words. Hearing his name caused me physical pain. I didn't know what seeing him again would do to me. I wasn't the same girl he fell in love with. I was a killer, a tainted woman impregnated with a parasite.
His dreams of marrying me and having children had been shattered. No man would want this. We were damaged women, destined to be shunned. There was no miracle cure for the ailment that had befallen us, only death.
"Are you going up with me?"
Sae stood and came towards me. Her hands cradled my face, her eyes misty.
"Yes, child. I'll always take care of you, like my own young. Just have faith, child."
She was relentless in her quest to instill some faith in me, to make me believe in anything again.
Her hand brushed my distended abdomen, her fingers twitching ready to caress it. Thankfully she desisted of the action.
"The doctor said you need to walk a bit, but no overexertion. I'm glad that soon this little one will come into the world..."
"Yes, I'll finally be free from it."
Madge came into the ward, looking more ghastly. She took Sae's sit and started to mumble to herself.
"She's not doing too good today. They had to restrain her. If another altercation occurs, she will be sedated and kept in isolation."
My eyes never left her, as Sae explained.
"Maybe I should take her up with me. A little sunshine may help her-"
Sae stopped me.
"Katniss...just follow the rules. This is your first time outside. Enjoy it and later see if you can help Madge."
Madge murmurings got louder. I could only make out that she was calling for Gale. For her, I wished my best friend would come through that door and take her in his arms.
A fool's dream.
Who knows what was left of my best friend. Somehow, I knew that he becoming a soldier would destroy what little goodness was left in him. Hate was a strong emotion, and Gale had festered in it long before the Reaping.
"Citizen Everdeen, I've come to take you outside."
A District 13 soldier had been assigned to take me to the outside world. His name badge had BOGGS in big bold letters.
"Are you my guard?"
"Yes, citizen Everdeen. I was told this woman will accompany you as well. Let's move quickly, please."
Sae took hold of my arm, trying to stop me.
"Can I take someone else?"
Boggs turned back and glared at me. It seemed he was told I would be...uncooperative.
"No, citizen Everdeen. Only you and this woman are allowed outside the perimeter, for fifteen minutes. Make them count. Now move."
His politeness was gone, and it reminded why I hated District 13. It was full of regulations and time constraints. If not for my condition, I would be required to train as any citizen. My day divided to perfection into different tasks. It all made me yearn for home, for the woods, for Gale...for Peeta and most of all for freedom.
Boggs stayed behind, as I almost tripped on a branch. My limbs were no longer limber as they used to be. I was wobbling towards the open space within my reach.
I could feel the breeze touching my skin, blowing my hair. Hear near by the birds singing high up in the trees. Tears were falling and I simply didn't care.
"Child, I'll stay seating here. You go on."
Without looking back, I kept walking until I touched the bark of a tree. My heart was beating so fast, as if I had ran for miles. I felt alive, something I hadn't experienced since that last day, before the Reaping.
In a soft voice, "Where are you, Peeta?"
It was useless, but I still ached for his return. Even if I feared it, I knew he would love me. Somehow he would look the other way and forget. But I would never forget, and it would be our undoing.
"I miss you...how I miss you. Prim is gone. Mother is gone. I'm all alone...with this."
A strong breeze rustled the leaves, with it came a strong scent of cinnamon and...bread. I began to walk in the direction it came from.
"Peeta? PEETA! PEETA! I'm here! It's Katniss! PEETA!"
This time I fell hard, as I stumbled on a stump. My agonized scream was heard throughout the woods. I had lost my way and now Boggs would be reprimanded. I almost felt sorry for him.
Sae found me first.
"Katniss! Oh my child! What have you done?"
She seemed extremely distressed, when I was the one that had fallen. Her hand began to pat my belly, it was then I felt something wet run down between my legs.
"It will be all right, child."
Finally, Boggs was standing over me and talking through some contraption. He looked vexed.
"We need a medical team outside. Citizen Everdeen fell and need medical attention."
It was then I felt like a knife had punctured my spine, and nothing could stop me from wailing in pain.
"I think is coming, child. The babe is ready to come out. He likes the woods, just like his mother. He will hunt like you...learn to bake like his father. You'll see, Katniss."
I wanted to scream at her that this thing was not mine or Peeta's, but the contractions were getting more intense.
Then I decided to picture him in my mind, his blue crystal eyes staring at me. His smile, the one he reserved only for me. I remembered that day on the lake, as I had my way with him inside my father's shack. I wanted more days like this.
"Breathe, Katniss. You need to take deep breaths."
I was no longer outside, but in a private room.
My hands grabbed the sheets and I tried to sit up. Sae held me back.
"You had a boy. And the war is almost over, Katniss."
My eyes looked towards my belly, it was no longer invaded by it.
"You wanna see him? He's such a gorgeous child-"
"No. He's not mine. There's no point in seeing him."
Sae locked her gaze with mine.
"You listen good child. You are going to see your baby. You will hold him in your arms and you will feed him from your ripe bosom. Don't be ungrateful of the gift you've been given. Poor Madge would do anything to hold a child in her arms. Its what driving her mad, living amongst pregnant women. Don't make me get angrier with you, child."
She turned and left the room, door slamming behind her.
I was aching all over, specifically between my legs and my breast were swollen and leaking a white substance.
It was over. I was free and my body was my own, yet I didn't feel the relieve I expected. It was more like I missing something.
No, I don't miss it. I'm free and I can be Katniss again. It will have parents who will love him.
I gave birth to a baby boy.
Damn you, Sae. For your words, for making doubt...
The door opened, Sae had come back. But not alone. In her arms she held a baby.
"Katniss, I would like you to meet your son."
If it anyone else I would have simply turned on my side, but Sae deserved my respect as a mother should.
His cries were calling me, luring me to look at him. I was so afraid to look at him, see the face of the man who destroyed my innocence.
"Look at your son. He's so precious, Katniss."
She kissed his forehead, and cooed in his ear, trying to calm him down. My arms wanted to hold him, it was as if my body yearned to touch him.
"Don't be scared, child. He needs you, let's try shall we?"
My gaze fell on the squirming baby, and from just that look I knew.
He was my baby.
I knew I could never part from him.
That is how I found myself holding him, sobbing as he calmed in my embrace.
"It's gonna be all right, child."
"Thank you, Sae. For everything."
Chapter 14: Mockingjay
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any previously copyrighted material. No copyright infringement is intended.
.::The Story of K::.
"Citizen Everdeen. Sorry to interrupt your rest. I just had to come and see you. To thank you for what you have done for me...I owe you my life."
The soldier, the only survivor of the Peacekeepers of District 12 was standing at my my door.
"You owe nothing. You helped me as much as you could...under the circumstances, soldier."
"Soldier Finnick Odair, citizen Everdeen. You can call me Finn."
"In that case, you can call me Katniss. What brings you here? I would think if they had finally given up their campaign to execute you, that you would return to your District as soon as physically possible."
Finnick Odair was a handsome man, with his reddish hair and seawater colored eyes, but at this moment he was conflicted over something and the words were trying to flee from within his chest.
"I do owe...Katniss and I feel I don't deserve what you have done for me. If only I had stood and stopped them...maybe your sister would be alive. If I had not allowed the heinous acts that were perpetrated day after day to the women of District 12, to you...maybe I wish I had been killed."
It was guilt, that was holding this man's soul down. I had to give him the right push, and maybe free him of some of this burden.
"Was it you who ordered the Peacekeepers to invade District 12? Was it you who commanded those troops to massacre all the men and then take the women as prisoners and used them as vessels for the next generation of citizens of Panem? Did you force yourself on any of those women? Were you cruel and vicious? Do I wish you could have stop the brutal rape of my sister? Yes, of course. I wish I had been able to kill him with my bare hands, but we don't control what befalls us. I bear your pain, it was the reason that drove me to do...to become a murderer. Now, we have to keep living. I have a renewed purpose...and I want to live."
"Sae told me. Your baby boy is healthy and the most beautiful boy she has ever seen. She is strong that one, never failed to keep walking not even after...Is your mother here? Has she seen him?"
She was gone.
Just like Prim was gone.
I had to look away and tried to dry the tears that I refused to cry.
"She decided her knowledge would serve better in another district, probably healing wounded rebel soldiers. There's a war going on I'm told. Are you joining the war effort, Finn?"
He shook his head and gave a watery smile back.
"I need to go home. Find my Annie and little Finn. I have to make sure they are safe, that what I've done wasn't in vain."
I was shocked at his revelation, knowing he had a family.
"Did you join the Peacekeepers for them?"
He nodded, his posture stiffening at the beside chair.
"Rumors going around, of the tactics the government would implement in order to keep its control, at all costs. District 13's rebellion was never to be replicated by any other district, in order to keep us all in line...Snow had a group of his most esteem staff devising ways. You were victim of those nefarious plans. I decided to join, in that way ensure my family was fed, as that had been used in our district, starvation. Only those faithful to Panem were given regular rations. My post was to be guard of the Justice Building. It was an easy task, as I did what I could when people approached me. There was an underground network that would supply food for the people in need.
That all changed when I received orders of my new post...in District 12. I didn't want to leave my family behind, but they were not allowed to relocate with me."
Finn held back the tears and started to sniffle. I didn't know how to console him, but his words helped me understand the man behind the kind soldier who had taken a stand against tyranny. I felt pride deep inside my gut for knowing him, and for not allowing that Coin to use him as a scapegoat for her own motives.
"Isn't your district blessed with marine life? Couldn't you feed your citizens with that?"
He rolled his eyes and chuckled.
"Our borders are not our own and what is caught from the sea is Panem's property and distributed accordingly. Anyone caught hoarding what he caught would be executed without mercy. It is the law."
His eyes locked with mine, his gaze full of pain and hate. He had seen it happened, still haunted his memories. Blood spilled sanctioned by law.
"We can only hope this war brings the changes Panem really needs...and brings the real unity between the districts, not serving one Capitol and its ignorant citizens."
I had no such faith, not with a Alma Coin behind the rebellion force. Suddenly, I wanted to see Gale and...Peeta. I needed to be reassured that they had survived and still lived. I needed them to see that Coin couldn't be trusted and someone had to take the reins for Panem's future.
The door opened and in came Sae with my darling boy, all smiles.
"I've brought you your baby boy, child. He's all cleaned up and changed. The head nurse will come and check on both of you. I told her it was useless as I had told her, I've taught all you need to know for now. Stupid stubborn woman. Oh, Finn is so good to see you, my boy! Let me hug you."
To Sae we were all her children, deserving of her care and love. It filled my heart with joy seeing her hug Finn. She knew better than anyone the secrets that lurked inside a man's soul. Some of the words Finn had said...pained me to know that Sae wasn't completely spared from the horrors of the Women's Room. Only she would rise above it, and help others survive. She was our surrogate mother, and I can't imagine what would've been like if she hadn't persevered. My wish for her was that she would be reunited with her granddaughter once again.
"Sae...thank you. I'm going home to Annie and to little Finn. They have waited long enough and I miss them, so much."
My baby boy decided it was time to be fed and made it known by wailing as loud as his little lungs allowed him.
"Sorry my boy. Didn't mean to neglect you."
He latched on without much fussing around. And it felt strange, that this little life depended on me, that my body had sustained him for months and now was giving him the nourishment he needed.
"What's his name?"
Finn was looking at my boy, then looked into my eyes inquiringly. He knew not to ask if he looked like his father, like it was the common dialogue in this situation. But then my situation wasn't the typical girl gets knocked up by boyfriend or husband.
"Maybe you should call him like your father, child."
I turned my gaze to my boy, already sleepy from his feast. No he wasn't an Ethan Everdeen.
"No Sae, he doesn't look like an Ethan to me. He is my boy."
Finn chortled and almost woke up my boy from his slumber. I glared back.
"Sorry, Katniss. Its just same thing happened to Annie when she gave birth to our little Finn. On his third day I told her we needed to name him and finally she relented from calling him her boy. She decided on calling him Finnick, just like his father, since he looks just like me...Shit! I'm so sorry. I-I didn't think..."
Finn looked ashamed and a bit flustered over his blundering words. I couldn't reproach him his heartfelt story. It was the sweetest story. One I desired had happened to me...how I wished Peeta would be here by my side, holding our baby and helping me name him together. But he wasn't here...and this was my baby.
"Don't fret, Finn. One day, I would really like to meet your Annie and little Finn. Now, if you don't mind I need to burp this little guy and take a much needed nap."
Finn tried to say his goodbyes, but Sae practically pushed out of the room.
I heard voices, they had woken me of my light sleep. My boy would not let me sleep much. It was ironic that I had wished his departure from my body to be free, when now I was still in his service. Only now I understood and accepted the role of motherhood.
I was his mother, destined to love and protect him for the rest of his life.
As I try to sit against the headboard of my bed, I saw Sae looking hysterical and beyond angry at some doctor and Mayor Coin.
"You can't do this! This is her son, it's her baby. You can't take him away from her! She has finally accepted to be his mother. Please, can't you see how alive she looks! Her decision to give him up was before she held him in her arms-"
"We need this baby, as part of our fight against Snow and his tyrannical government. He is Commander Crane's son, the shame of this nation and his family. I will make it known that Crane raped and fathered a son, all in the name of Coriolanus Snow. That child belongs to the rebellion."
"How dare you use an innocent child for your own aims? This is a baby, a living person with needs and feelings; not the proof you need to show the world what Snow has done to his people, to bring shame on a dead man's family. If you think I will allow you-"
Coin signaled a guard and he restrained Sae.
"Say one more word, old woman. I have given you latitude and its just run out. Take her to the holding cells, some time there will calm her down."
All eyes turned towards me. My boy had started to cry and I had taken him in my arms.
"This is what you want? A defenseless baby? Who is the real monster now, Coin? How will the people react if they know what you really are? I don't know which is better...the status quo or your rebellion. Haven't the women of District 12 suffered enough? Haven't we bled and endured all inhumanities for this government?"
My boy kept whimpering in my arms and I felt so helpless. Please, don't let me fail him so soon.
"This is not Commander Seneca Crane's baby. This is Katniss Everdeen's baby and I'm his mother and you can't take him from me. You want me to speak, I'll speak. You want me to reveal to Panem what was done to District 12, I will. But you will never touch my son. He is not a pawn for you to use as you like."
Sae's eyes were wet with tears, as she looked proudly in my direction.
"You tell them, my mockingjay. You let them know we District 12 women are strong and won't be silenced."
Coin seemed annoyed that her plans had been foiled by a teenage mother.
"Very well, Mockingjay. You will be the voice this rebellion needs. Mind my words girl, one word out of line and there will be consequences."
I glared back without hesitation.
"What can you do to me that hasn't already been done? My sister is dead, my mother has taken part in your war, and Sae, she's your prisoner. I was raped daily and yet here I stand holding my boy, defying you."
Mayor Alma Coin changed her stance, proud like a peacock.
My reaction was involuntary, I recoiled like I had been shot through the chest. I almost dropped my boy to the floor.
"You see I am still in control. You will do as you are told, and serve the Rebellion. In the end, you'll thank me, citizen Everdeen."
Her tirade was interrupted by a ruffled soldier.
"Mayor Coin, you are needed at the control room...They have acquired command of District 2; Lieutenant Hawthorne just sent the coordinates and they are ready to move into the tunnels that lead to the Capitol."
Coin slapped the soldier hard on his face.
"Not another word, Soldier. You have given classified information to civilians. Let's move."
"MAYOR COIN! What about Sae? Let her stay with me, please."
She knew I was using her moment of weakness.
"Let her go. She may stay, but another outburst from her, and she will be taken to the holding cell for a week, understood?"
Sae simply nodded.
As we were left alone, Sae took my boy in her arms, kissed his face and rocked him. He immediately calmed down and started to coo at her.
I watched them feeling relieved, but my mind was reeling from the latest war news.
Gale was alive, about to invade the Capitol.
But where was my boy?
I felt this sudden apprehension, and my mistrust of Coin only grew.
As if she could read my thoughts, Sae turned, "She won't hurt him. Peeta must be useful to the Rebellion. You must have faith in him. Gale, we know now is alive and gaining victories for Coin. Just wait."
Haven't we waited enough?
I should've done what you asked of me, Peeta.
After all, it was only toasted bread.
Chapter 15: Facing a nation
Ragged breathing against my neck. A body was on top of me, pinning me down. I couldn't move.
"You think that you got away from me? Crane isn't here to protect you anymore...Prisoner K. No one will hear your screams, you begging for me to stop. Did you hear your sister cry for you? Did you listen to your friend wail in pain? It will be nothing compared to what I'll do to you..."
His hands were chocking me.
Darkness surrounded me.
Where am I?
Where is my boy?
Please, don't hurt my boy.
I was losing consciousness, ready to die, when the hands just stopped.
"It will never be easy...You will pay for what you've done. You killed Panem's soldiers. The punishment is death. But before you die, you'll give me what I want. What you've denied me, Everdeen. Yes, I know all about you. You tried to escape me, but you see fate has brought you right here. Look at me! I want you to see who will avenge all those men. You are a killer."
My eyes opened, and that's when I saw him.
Peacekeeper Cato had found me.
He hadn't died with the rest, and he was going to take all his anger out on me, and then kill me.
"Don't shed tears. It will only make your time with me last longer, for each tear that falls from your face I'll take something from you."
What was there to take?
He tore my shift off, using the pieces to hold my hands together. I was bound, and all I wanted was to float away inside my memories of the meadow, of a time when I was a Katniss full of hope, and in love with my boy.
"You keep those gray eyes of yours on me, you keep looking."
His hands held me violently, taking what wasn't theirs to touch. He pushed between my legs, and I knew it was about to happen. He would kill the last dregs of my soul.
My eyes closed, and I waited for the hit against my face, something I was so used to endure.
But it never came. The pressure of his body was gone. I could breathe again. But I was frighten of opening my eyes, to see him waiting for the exact moment to attack.
A crying baby.
"Katniss? Are you awake? The little one can't wait any longer...Shhh, hush my baby boy. We need to name you, darling boy. But this mother of yours, she's so stubborn. What's wrong with Ethan? It was your grandfather's name. Maybe she will call you Hunter... No, that doesn't sound right. You don't look like a Hunter. You look like...dare I say it. You look like-"
I sat against the headboard, the sheets rustling with my movements alerting Sae, that I was finally awake. I opened my arms ready to receive my boy. He was getting restless. He was always hungry and growing so fast, but I didn't want him to. I wanted to keep him as a baby forever. It was crazy, but that way I could protect him. As a baby no one could take him from my breast.
Sae wouldn't allow it either. She was the best grandmother my boy could ever have. Even better than his real grandmother...who left us. I had to forgive and forget, but I wasn't too good with forgetting. Therefore, I was no good at forgiving.
"You had a nightmare..."
I kept my gaze on my boy, watching him suckle contently. I had nightmares all the time, only this time it unnerved me how real it felt. I was sure it was my guilt and insecurity that my killing spree had left survivors, willing to take revenge on behalf of the Peacekeepers I had single-handedly killed.
"I have to prepare for today. Coin wants me to record the message. It will be transmitted throughout Panem. The rest of the Districts will see it, the injustice done to the people of District 12. Only, I'm sure Coin will force me to say things...I'll do it, for I have to think of my boy, you, Gale, and...Peeta. We are still prisoners, Sae. When we'll be free?"
Sae sat on the bed and patted my leg.
"You my mockingjay, you will set us free. Your face and your words, the truth will be heard all throughout Panem. He will hear it, and he will come."
He will hear it... No.
I held my boy closer to my chest, and squeezed my eyes tightly. I tried to hold the tears, but it was useless.
"Child, you need to be strong. He will understand, there's no need for tears or shame. You are a survivor. You will see, keep your head held high, back straight and your gaze, defiant. No one can't destroy your spirit, for I believe in you. Never forget it. Your mother will hear it too, and be shamed for her cowardice. There's a lesson for all in this action. You will show them all."
I tried to smile, but I knew it was more of a grimace. Sae had too much faith in me, more than I deserved.
Everything set, the camera was right in front of me. Coin's entourage was standing by, waiting to hear the Mockingjay's words. I really hated Coin. She wasn't any better than Snow and his Games. She had taken Sae's personal name for me, to symbolize my rebel status, just another patronizing ploy of control.
My arms ached to hold my boy. I wanted to where he was. Not here. Some man was going to ask me questions, and I had to answer with the scripted version. I was just a puppet, as I had told Sae. And yet she believed this would gain us our freedom. There was no turning back, I had to do this for my boy. Coin had made it clear, my compliance would gain me privileges. Not cooperating would take away my son, and that I could never live with.
"Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four...one. Good evening, Panem. This broadcast transmitted live from District 13. You've been told by the current government, that District 13 is no more, obliterated for their rebelling and betrayal of Panem. Yet here we stand, a united district still fighting for Panem's liberation from tyranny."
"Citizens of Panem, you must know the rebellion still lives and has started a war against President Snow and all those of support him. We will not tolerate the abuse and the torture he has inflicted on our people. Tonight, you will hear directly from one survivor, her heartbreaking tale of pain and brutality at the hands of Snow's Peacekeepers following his orders to massacre the men and rape the women of District 12."
The interviewer was dark-haired, nothing really stood out from his bland face. But his dark brown eyes unnerved me, as gazed towards me.
"Please state your name."
I took one deep breath, then another. I could feel every eye in the room watching me. I was sure my heart beat could be heard across the waves. Think of your son, think of Sae, think of Gale, think of... Peeta.
"Miss Everdeen, from what District are you from?"
"I'm from District 12."
The man asking the questions, stopped for a few seconds, taking notice of my trembling.
"Do you want me to go on?"
This question wasn't on the script. I heard Coin murmuring. It had to have annoyed her, since she was such a control maniac.
I nodded assuring him I was ready to continue.
"What happened to the men of District 12?"
I closed my eyes, and I could see it. The piles of bodies left on the square, left to rot.
"All the men died at the hands of the Peacekeepers. Shot like animals."
"Did you see it happen?"
"I saw the bodies...yes, I saw them shoot a woman, too. She didn't want to leave her husband and her sons. They were already dead."
"What happened to the children?"
"The children were separated from their mothers. They were herded into a train, destination unknown. I don't know if they survived."
The man looked down at the paper in his hands. His eyes went over the next question.
"Only the women remained...What was the purpose of the Peacekeepers' occupation in District 12?"
Tears started running down my cheeks. I could see Prim. How scared she had been, not wanting to be separated from me. She was only a child.
"The commander announced that we would be the mothers of a new Panem... our children would serve the nation. Our bodies were no longer our own. Our wombs were the property of President Snow, used and harvested for his Panem. To control us, to violate us, to destroy our spirit. He condoned the mass rape of an entire District... Including the gang rape of my twelve-year old sister, which resulted in her death."
I had to make them see, to acknowledge Snow's responsibility over Prim's death. Coin glared at my liberties for changing her scripted answers.
"Is it true you were hand-picked as Commander Crane's woman, exclusively?"
I hadn't expected that question, but then Coin wanted to humiliate Crane's family, and to show the rest of Panem, what a so-called respected citizen and soldier had done under Snow's rule.
"Did you become pregnant?"
Damn you, Coin. Damn you to hell!
"Yes, when I arrived here, to District 13, I found out I was pregnant. Like many other of the women from my District."
I saw the man take a breath, and swallow.
"How did it make you feel?"
I averted my eyes from making eye contact with anyone present. It was painful what they wanted me to admit, for at this moment my boy was the most precious being for me. But then, it had felt like a curse.
"I-I was angry. I didn't want that… to live inside me. It felt invaded by a parasite, that was taking from me. The nightmare of being constantly raped, now had left me with this thing growing inside me."
"What happened to this...your baby?"
"He was born prematurely, from a fall... I wasn't awake for his birth."
It was my turn to swallow. Thankfully, there was a glass of water right in front of me. I took a few sips to quench my overwhelming thirst.
"Have you given the baby for adoption? Many couples here in District 13 can't have children. It has been the option presented to all these women."
I unconsciously directed my gaze on Coin. She in turn was looking smug, as if she had me right where she wanted me. I remembered Sae's words, and cleared my throat and straighten my posture.
"It had been my intention to do so... But my boy, once I saw him, held him in arms... He belongs with me. I am his mother."
"Even if he's the product of rape? Even if he's Seneca Crane's child?"
The man eyes' locked with mine, as if asking for forgiveness for the question. I closed my eyes and tried to control my ragged breathing. I could feel the panic set in. She had done it. She had just declared my son fathered by that monster.
"Everyday from the moment I found out I was pregnant I hated my baby...but once he was born everything changed. When I first held him in my arms, I could see he wasn't to blame... He is not the son of Seneca Crane. My boy is Katniss Everdeen's son. My son. I am enough."
The man startled by my bold words, probably amazed at my stupidity and courage. Was that even possible? To be stupid and courageous? I defied Crane's authority. I'm defying Snow's authority, and at the very same statement declaring war against Coin's domain.
"One last question... Miss Everdeen, how did you get free from the soldiers? How did you arrive at District 13?"
This was her pound of flesh... I had to admit to Panem, I was a murderer. Snow had made me a killer of men.
"Important people had arrived at the camp, from the Capitol. They were there to witness the progress. Crane was too occupied and I took an opportunity, nightlock in the stew. It was fed to the guests, to the soldiers. They died. I helped the rest of the women to escape. I set the camp on fire. We walked without direction, but somehow stumbled into District 13."
I was ready to stand up, but I should've known Coin would want all of it.
"Did Crane die from the poison?"
His hands on my neck.
"I'm not your gray-eyed girl."
"He didn't eat the stew. He was drinking the wine. He watched his guests die all around him. He instantly knew it was me, since I hadn't dropped dead as well. He attacked me, but in the end I got the upper hand and slashed his neck. I told him, "I'm not your gray-eyed girl", before I stared into his dead eyes."
All eyes were on me, glaring at the killer of District 12. In some of those eyes I recognized admiration, in others I saw contempt, but most of all, it was fear. I was dangerous, possibly deranged. Would the rest of Panem see me the same way? Had I made it all up and decided to murder innocent people?
"Thank you, Miss Everdeen."
I nodded, no longer able to enunciate another word.
The red light turned off, and a collective breath taken by all those present. One person started to clap, and like a domino effect it spread and the room applauded. The man who had done the interview was drinking his water, his hands trembling. I looked at my hands, only now they weren't trembling.
I had done it, I had faced a whole nation and declared the injustices perpetrated against my District.
Now, we had to wait and see what these words would evoke on the citizens of Panem.
Chapter 16: A very dangerous one
"Do you still hear her screams? I mean at night, when you're trying to sleep... Is it still tormenting you, Katniss?"
Dr. Aurelius was at it again, persistent as ever. His words were supposed to soothe something inside me, inside my brain. But how can you perform surgery on the intangible? How do you mend a soul that's been shattered?
I knew he was waiting, patiently; so unlike Coin and her cronies. They wanted details, more details. It wasn't enough that I had bared my story to Panem, even letting them suggest that... bastard was my son's father. They were listening to every word, every sigh that came out of my mouth. I had to comply, or else something or someone was punished.
This time I knew how she would strike at me, willing to break me even further... Boy. I had to think of him, of keeping him safe within my arms. He was the only one that mattered.
Unbeknownst to me, tears have fallen, as my mind plays with me, remembering the wails and her voice... she was only a child. Who was responsible? He had a name, all of them had names and families, and children, yet my family was expendable.
Prim needed me, and I wasn't strong enough. And like a coward I let them use me, and here I am letting them use me once again.
Do it for him.
He's everything to you.
I can't hold the sobs, as the memory of that night runs like a movie. I'm locked up and no one comes. Where was my mother when this was happening? Couldn't she have offered herself instead? I hate her... I don't want to see her ever again.
The doctor stopped waiting, and surprisingly changed his approach.
"Katniss... It seems clear you know Soldier Gale Hawthorne. He is from your district, right?"
I'm confused, but answered the simple question without foreseeing his line of reasoning.
"Y-yes. He was my next door neighbor and my best friend. We've known each other for years... his baby sister... she was taken in the train..."
"Yes, he's trying to find her... But what I would like to discuss is your relationship with him. Was he your boyfriend? Did he have sexual relations with you prior to the rapes?"
No finesse there, doc. Without tact, Dr. Aurelius was, in plain words, accusing me of being a slut.
"No. I've never fucked Gale Hawthorne. Happy now, doc? What are you going to conclude now? Boy is and will never be that bastard's son. No, he's not a Hawthorne either. He's mine, I'm his mother. He belongs with me."
The doctor averted his eyes, and proceeded to write in his notepad. I wanted to leave, but I knew I had to comply with their strict time restrictions, all about routines and schedules in District 13. If I just left this room, Coin would take my Boy. She didn't care about my love for him, and his need of me. She was only using him to control the murderer of District 12. It's all about control. Too bad I'm at the precipice of my sanity, one more budge and I might... slip.
I saw the doctor shake his head, but something pushes him to keep going. This lets me know his questions are not really his own. That bitch Coin was pulling his strings.
"One more question, and we are done for today. Who is Peeta Mellark? What does he mean to you?"
Involuntarily, my body reacted flinching back as if it had been struck. I closed my eyes trying to hold back my emotions. His name... it was too much for me. He was the good of my past, long gone. And I feared I would never know what became of my Peeta.
It was only a few seconds, but the damage was done. I could picture Coin's face full of glee, as she saw me suffer in silence.
"Peeta Mellark... was a merchant kid. The baker's son, he lived in town. I-I think he was in my class, but we weren't friends. I'm a Seam slut and he's all golden-boy wonder, with a future ahead of him."
I glared at the ceiling, hoping the session was over. But it wasn't. The doctor waited a few seconds, until he had his rebuttal ready.
"I don't believe this act... you're trying to pull. You can't pretend you don't really know this... Peeta Mellark. He may be from town, merchant class, but your world collided, didn't they Katniss? He was your secret, not even your best friend Gale knew about. You know what I think? I believe that baby you hold close to your bosom has a father... and you know who he is. He may be out there right now fighting for the right cause. He might be thinking of you at this very moment. You keep him alive. Just as that baby keeps you breathing."
"If your baby was indeed Commander Crane's, you would have smothered it to death. There's no way you would have let it live, not after everything you lived through. Not after what happened to your sister Prim. Not after you slit Crane's throat and poisoned the camp. You have the inner strength to kill and survive."
His words twisted and turned inside, like a knife hacking at my entrails. It was never enough to relive Prim's death, but I also had to listen to that bastard's name. He was dead, no remains left to give back to his widow and children. I wasn't sorry.
"That baby would have meant Crane had conquered you completely if it had been his. Raped daily in his bed. Crane being responsible for the gang rape of your sister, causing her untimely death. Even in your despair, you planned the mass murder of every soldier and their visitors without hesitation."
Dr. Aurelius had come to a logical conclusion, one I feared was all his own.
A very dangerous one.
"I believe you capable of anything to secure your survival, and now your baby's."
Yes. I would slit your throat at this very moment if I knew it would keep my Boy safe and free us from this captivity.
"If he's not Hawthorne's, then my gut's on this Peeta Mellark, your boy with the bread."
I stared back stonily, not letting any indication his words, his conjectures had any veracity.
Boy was all I had to care about...
My boy with the bread... all that was left were the memories.
Chapter 17: Ask him
I was outside, back in the forest. I was crouching down, searching for easy prey. A scratching noise led me to lonely squirrel. It was simple, I just had to take the shot and trade it with the baker, Mr. Mellark. Maybe catch a glimpse of Peeta working the counter. See him smirk at me from the corner of my eye, as I tried to act nonchalant in front of his father. Maybe we were fooling ourselves, and he knew more than he let on. He was always trying to keep me inside, offering me stale bread and sweets for Prim.
I was set to getting the perfect shot, when some other noise behind me startled my furry animal.
"What… No… It can't be. You're dead. Don't come any closer."
It was Cato. It didn't make sense, for surely… it was dream, more like a nightmare I had to wake up from. My hands didn't work, and I lost my quiver, as he stalked my way. He was going to get me, and I was frozen in place. Not another sound came from anywhere, like we were inside a bubble, not even his careless steps.
I closed my eyes, praying for something, someone to find me. Please wake up. WAKE THE FUCK UP!
A hand touched my cheek, and finally a scream. It had been me screaming.
"Katniss… Shhh, don't be afraid. It's me, Catnip. I'm back."
I tried to open my eyes, but it was like they were glued together, and wouldn't cooperate with me. My ragged breathing and pulsating heartbeat was all I could hear inside my head. I was safe. My Boy had been born, and we were together. We just had to survive. And maybe… maybe one day I would see my other boy again…
"Just take deep breaths… that's it. Open your eyes, Katniss. You're safe."
As my body started to calm down, I took notice of the lack of my Boy's normal reaction to my screaming. He wasn't in the room. This forced me to opened my eyes, feel disoriented as I looked around the dark room. A man was standing at my bedside. The lack of lighting didn't help me learn his identity.
"It's me, Catnip. It's Gale… You do remember me, right?"
His voice, I did recognize. It was Gale. But why was he in my room? Wasn't he fighting close to the Capitol? Wasn't he a rebel soldier, the one that saved what was left of the men of District 12? It was my turn to hyperventilate again.
"Maybe, I should leave… I'm sorry, Kat. I shouldn't have left you, any of you. I'll get Sae…"
My hand grabbed his, as I tried to stop him from leaving. I was sitting against the wall, once again trying to regulate my heart rate and breathing. It was just a nightmare. This had to be real. Gale was back, standing beside me. Then I remembered he had looked for the missing children.
"D-did you find her?"
My voice was hoarse from screaming, apparently I had done it for real.
His fingers touched my forearm, as he hadn't let go of my hand. His face looked forlorn, as he knew who I was referring to. He shook his head, and sniffed trying to keep the tears at bay. Typical Gale behavior, always upholding the man's man code. I let it go, it would be unkind of me to start berating him for it now. Posy had to be alive, somewhere and I knew he would find her.
"I-I heard your broadcast… Everyone alive heard it. It has helped the cause in other districts. More people are joining the rebel forces. You've inspired them to be brave and fight against Snow's tyranny and horrible crimes perpetrated on his own citizens… I saw him, Catnip."
I tried to hold my sob, but it was useless. My Boy wasn't in the room, and I needed to see him, hold him in my arms and smell his unique scent. I was about to stand, but Gale stopped me.
"Sae is taking good care of him. She loves that baby, a doting grandmother if I ever saw it. She was kind enough to explain certain things…"
I stared at his gray eyes, so similar to mine, searching for a truth that could break or make the rest of my life. His face turned serious, a frown forming on his forehead, while his hands held my arms, grounding in place. This was real. Gale was right in front of me, and he knew the truth. I needed to hear it.
"It was supposed to be like any other morning, but it wasn't. I heard shots, but they were not outside of the fence, but close by. Some peacekeeper had been sent to herd us into the town-square. I simply reacted. I had to see what they had planned… a man was shot, then another. Their wives were not harmed. It was up to me to keep, any man not present at that square alive, so I did just that. For some reason I was thankful our fathers weren't alive… they would've died for all of us trying to keep us safe."
Gale stopped, sighed and averted his eyes from me.
"I wasn't able to spare many, but those that heard the shots and saw me, came and stayed waiting for my instructions. I assured them the women were being spared from harm. It was chaos, as you know. I didn't know what would be done with you all, but I thought it was better for a group of us to survive, and come back to rescue you… Not everyone accepted my terms, and some went towards…their deaths. I saw when you were dragged into the square… I had to stop Peeta from running. I had to use all of my strength to stop him. I spoke directly to his ear, you have to live man. You need to come back. His family was killed wasn't it? By then I had pushed them towards the fence. We walked through our forest, picked up my quiver and knife. I kept them alive, hoping we would find shelter in the closest district."
His mentioning of Peeta made my heart stop and I choked on air. My Peeta had survived then… Where was he now? I wanted to scream for Gale to tell me, but my voice didn't come out, and he continued to relate his tale.
"Somehow we stumbled into District 13. When I saw the ruins, I thought we were dead for sure, and we would never see any of our women again. We found shelter in an abandoned warehouse. They watched us overnight, assessing if we were spies sent by the Capitol. But as they listened on our conversations, and saw the conditions we were in, we were no threat to their security. Coin personally visited me in the hospital wing. She congratulated me for my resourcefulness and valor, stating I was a true soldier of Panem. Since that moment I've dedicated every breath to destroying Snow's forces. But I confess…I feel I've failed you. Someday, I'll ask for your forgiveness."
My mouth opened and closed a few times, with little luck producing any sound. I felt trapped inside my body, frozen like I had been in my dream. His arms helped sit back on the bed, as my back rested against the wall. The coldness touching a sliver of skin was like a jolt to my senses, and I coughed.
"H-he's alive… M-my b-boy is a-alive."
My voice was worse now, breaking up. I was trembling, as tears welled in my eyes.
"I saw your boy. He is…beautiful. I heard what you said on the interview, and I believe you. That baby is not… he's your child. Your mother should be here, beside you. At least, I can attest to the fact she's helping others… But she's your mother and you need her-"
"No. I don't need or want her here. Prim is dead. She did nothing. I whored myself to Crane, so I deserve everything I got. It doesn't matter anymore. All I know is that I'm still breathing, and that boy depends on me. No one, and I mean no one is taking him from me. Not even your Commander Coin. Open your eyes, Gale. She's not what she seems. I don't trust her, neither should you. Get your mother, find your sister, and fucking run."
We glared at each other, but he didn't offer any rebuttals, and went for the chair pulling it closer to my bed, causing my ears to pop with the screeching.
Silence enveloped us for a few minutes, only now it was uncomfortable and electrified with everything left unsaid between us. I had to face him, but my eyes stared at my hands resting on my lap.
Where is Peeta? Where is Peeta? Where is Peeta?
"Um… last I heard of him he was back in District 12… but I could be wrong. A group of soldiers were sent to assess the damage and if there was any evidence of survivors. For a while, it was believed all the women had perished in the fire. It was a fucking miracle you brought them all here… you followed the same path I did. As of this moment, I don't exactly know his location or mission. He was put in another unit, under a different lieutenant. He hates it, but wanted to do his part. Besides all he wanted was for the rebels to-"
"It's his isn't it? He's the father… I'll be damned. You kept it from me. Why?"
My shaking got worse, and I felt like I was underwater. Gale's words sounded so distant. I could picture Peeta wanting to save me… not caring for his own life. Being desperate for a rescue mission, and being denied. And…did he know I was alive? Had he heard my voice where ever he might me?
Gale's hand cupped my face, as he tried to get me back.
"I'll see what I can do… He is who you need."
His eyes were sad, as he held back words. I had my answer.
"There's someone here who needs you too. She needs you so much, Gale."
He simply nodded, and stood to leave.
"Get me my Boy."
He gave me a smile that didn't reach his eyes, and just as he was about to open the door and turned around.
"He needs a name, Catnip. A real one."
"When his father comes home, he will."