Peeta smiles and douses Haymitch’s knife in white liquor from a bottle on the floor. He wipes the blade clean on his shirttail and slices the bread. Peeta keeps all of us in fresh baked goods. I hunt. He bakes. Haymitch drinks. We have our own ways to stay busy, to keep thoughts of our time as contestants in the Hunger Games at bay.
Since I’ve been home I’ve been trying hard to mend my relationship with my mother. Asking her to do things for me instead of brushing aside any offer of help, as I did for years out of anger. Letting her handle all the money I won. Returning her hugs instead of tolerating them. My time in the arena made me realize how I needed to stop punishing her for something she couldn’t help, specifically the crushing depression she fell into after my father’s death. Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them.
I turn to Rue’s family. “But I feel as if I did know Rue, and she’ll always be with me. Everything beautiful brings her to mind. I see her in the yellow flowers that grow in the Meadow by my house. I see her in the mockingjays that sing in the trees. But most of all, I see her in my sister, Prim.” My voice is undependable, but I am almost finished. “Thank you for your children.” I raise my chin to address the crowd. “And thank you all for the bread.” I stand there, feeling broken and small, thousands of eyes trained on me. There’s a long pause. Then, from somewhere in the crowd,...
Now comes the harder part. I have to face the fact that my family and friends might share this fate. Prim. I need only to think of Prim and all my resolve disintegrates. It’s my job to protect her. I pull the blanket up over my head, and my breathing is so rapid I use up all the oxygen and begin to choke for air. I can’t let the Capitol hurt Prim. And then it hits me. They already have. They have killed her father in those wretched mines. They have sat by as she almost starved to death. They have chosen her as a tribute, then made her watch her sister fight to the death in the Games. She has...