I’m in the arena, the first one, with Rue, and we’re running from the tracker jackers. I call for her to hurry, but when I turn to look at her she’s already been speared, clutching her stomach where the blood begins to pool in thick blooms. I try to cry out, but the tracker jackers catch up to me, and I fall into a hallucination-induced sleep.
When I come to, I’m in the second arena, clutching on to the spinning island of the cornucopia. My fingertips are tearing on the harshly jagged rock, and I’m about to fly off when Johanna grabs my hand, slamming her axe down into the ground. But that will dull the blade, I try to protest, weakly, knowing that it will annoy her when she tries to use it later, but nothing actually comes out. I can see her lips moving, mouthing things at me as she digs her nails into my palm, but I can’t hear what she’s saying. The adrenaline is making us sweat and her palm is too wet from that and the water and my hand slips and I’m pulled under. I try to swim, but the water is forcing me down, pushing me from all sides, and this time there’s no one to help me back up. I’m drowning, stuck, my arms flailing above my head and when I look back up they’re stuck in Finnick’s rope, the one he gave me that’s frayed in only the middle and to the left (where he tied all his knots). But that’s wrong, I realize. But he doesn’t belong here, like this? Still caught in Finnick’s rope I’m reaching for the sky, trying to pull my wrists free, but they’re straining and stuck and suddenly I can’t remember what the sky looks like anymore, and I can’t reach it anyway. I open my mouth again, suddenly able to speak, even through the water, and yell for help.
I wake up. I hear screams echoing off of the harsh white walls, and I realize that they’re mine. I stop screaming, but tears are running down my cheeks, and I take a deep, shuddering breath, trying to focus in on what’s real.
My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. There is no District 12. I was in The Hunger Games. I escaped. The Capitol hates me. The Capitol took Peeta. The Capitol took Johanna. The Capitol took Annie. We took them back. We would all be better off dead. I try to focus my eyes through a haze of sleep, blinking my eyelids rapidly, though they must actually be made of lead, are they made of lead? I realize that I can’t move my wrists, for real, and I almost panic. My mind feels morphling-drenched, even though I know (I’m pretty sure I think I think) it’s not, and I’m having a hard time expressing any one clear thought. I try and focus on what I can see. Focus on the facts.
Hardened brown eyes that require molding like beeswax with words until they’re soft again. Thin lips, just a bit cracked and peeling, surrounded by a thin face. A tiny crooked dimple that carves itself out of her left cheek when she smirks, which is always when she’s not trying to bathe herself and my heart aches just a little for a moment.
It’s the heartache that truly locks it in, and the pieces click together into one smooth, messy whole.
I open my mouth, finally, and manage to croak out one word.
“Johanna?” I wince. My throat feels like I’m swallowing shards of glass.
Johanna rolls her eyes above me, and sneers, lightly. She releases my arms, and pushes herself up into a sitting position at my side.
“No, brainless, it’s Haymitch. Only I no longer smell like the contents of a liquor store, and I thought it would be fun to grow some boobs.”
I stare at her, still, too confused and suddenly annoyed to be amused.
“What are you doing? Why were you holding me down?” My voice is beginning to rise, and I can see the mirth in her face increasing with my irritation.
“You were having a nightmare.” She shrugs. Her nonchalance is infuriating, all of a sudden, and I find myself gritting my teeth and glaring without even realizing.
“So you held me down?” She shrugs again, trying to look unphased, but I can see that there’s actually a small amount of worry clouding her eyes and suddenly I want nothing more than to have her lay down with me.
“You were flailing. You were screaming.”
I swallow, hard. It’s not really possible that she actually cares, is it? I’m afraid to lend myself to the possibility. I take a deep breath. “Johanna—“ I begin, but her harsh voice cuts straight through my words.
“Look, brainless, you were about to fucking hurt yourself, and you were driving me fucking nuts, so yeah, I held you down.” Her eyes are crackling, now, electric with malice and irritation, a little bit of amusement still seeping through the corners. She shifts her weight and lifts her hands up in the hair, palms facing me. “You really want nightmares? Fine. You want to hit yourself in the fucking face? Fine. That’s your fucking prerogative.”
She moves to stand up, but even before she leaves I’m hit by a sudden sense of panic, loss like an arrow in the chest. It hurts just a little too much, and I don’t even care what I’m doing, I just know that I want it to stop. I grab at Johanna’s wrist.
“Johanna,” I say, voice rough, whisper-soft. She turns, a curious look on her face, as though she can’t decide between curious irritability or smug annoyance, so she’ll go for both.
“What, brainless?” she snaps. I sigh, and bite my lip. I look down, a little unsure. “Please don’t go.” I don’t look at her. I don’t want to see the annoyed rejection written on her face. I move a fist down to massage my stomach, trying to work out the knots. She puts a hand over my fist, stopping it, causing me to look up. She looks contemplative, as though she’s actually considering it, and her eyes soften, just for a second. She smiles humorlessly, and lifts up the blanket.
“Move over, brainless. I bet your feet are cold.” She pushes her way under the small blanket, the tender hand brushing my back juxtaposing her harsh words. We lay there, her arms wrapped around my waist, and I can feel my eyes start to flutter shut once more, eyelashes criss-crossing with heavy sleep. Several minutes later, I feel a light pressure on my cheek. At first I’m not entirely sure that I felt it, but a second later I feel it again, the ghost of a kiss, lips barely brushing over my hairline.
My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. There is no District 12. I was in The Hunger Games. I escaped. The Capitol hates me. Johanna Mason is behind me, in bed, and I think I actually like it. I think that she likes me, too. And suddenly, I find, that’s the only truth I need, for now.