Sometimes when I'm alone, I take the pearl from where it lives in my pocket and try to remember the boy with the bread, the strong arms that warded off nightmares on the train, the kisses in the arena.
You have a... remarkable memory.I remember everything about you. You're the one who wasn't paying attention.
Technically, I am unarmed. But no one should ever underestimate the harm that fingernails can do. Especially if the target is unprepared.
Peeta,” I say lightly. “You said at the interview you’d had a crush on me forever. When did forever start?”“Oh, let’s see. I guess the first day of school. We were five. You had on a red plaid dress and your hair... it was in two braids instead of one. My father pointed you out when we were waiting to line up,” Peeta says.“Your father? Why?” I ask.“He said, ‘See that little girl? I wanted to marry her mother, but she ran off with a coal miner,’” Peeta says.“What? You’re making that up!” I exclaim.“No, true story,” Peeta says. “And I said, ‘A coal miner? Why did she want a coal miner if she could’ve had you?’ And he said, ‘Because when he sings... even the birds stop to listen.’”“That’s true. They do. I mean, they did,” I say. I’m stunned and surprisingly moved, thinking of the baker telling this to Peeta. It strikes me that my own reluctance to sing, my own dismissal of music might not really be that I think it’s a waste of time. It might be because it reminds me too much of my father.“So that day, in music assembly, the teacher asked who knew the valley song. Your hand shot right up in the air. She stood you up on a stool and had you sing it for us. And I swear, every bird outside the windows fell silent,” Peeta says.“Oh, please,” I say, laughing.“No, it happened. And right when your song ended, I knew—just like your mother—I was a goner,” Peeta says. “Then for the next eleven years, I tried to work up the nerve to talk to you.”“Without success,” I add.“Without success. So, in a way, my name being drawn in the reaping was a real piece of luck,” says Peeta. For a moment, I’m almost foolishly happy and then confusion sweeps over me. Because we’re supposed to be making up this stuff, playing at being in love not actually being in love. But Peeta’s story has a ring of truth to it. That part about my father and the birds. And I did sing the first day of school, although I don’t remember the song. And that red plaid dress... there was one, a hand-me-down to Prim that got washed to rags after my father’s death.It would explain another thing, too. Why Peeta took a beating to give me the bread on that awful hollow day. So, if those details are true... could it all be true?“You have a... remarkable memory,” I say haltingly. “I remember everything about you,” says Peeta, tucking a loose strand of hair behind my ear. “You’re the one who wasn’t paying attention.”“I am now,” I say.“Well, I don’t have much competition here,” he says. I want to draw away, to close those shutters again, but I know I can’t. It’s as if I can hear Haymitch whispering in my ear, “Say it! Say it!”I swallow hard and get the words out. “You don’t have much competition anywhere.” And this time, it’s me who leans in.
I want to tell the rebels that I am alive. That I'm right here in District Eight, where the Capitol has just bombed a hospital full of unarmed men, women and children. There will be no survivors. The shock I've been feeling begins to give way to fury. I want to tell people that if you think for one second the Capitol will treat us fairly if there's a cease-fire, you're deluding yourself. Because you know who they are and what they do. My hands go out automatically, as if to indicate the whole horror around me. This is what they do and we must fight back!President Snow says he's sending a message. Well I have one for him. You can torture us and bomb and burn our districts to the ground, but do you see that? One of the cameras follows where I point to the planes burning on the roof of a warehouse across from us. Fire is catching! I am shouting now, determined he will not miss a word of it, And if we burn, you burn with us!
I search his eyes for the slightest sign of anything, fear, remorse, anger. But there's only the same look of amusement that ended our last conversation. It's as if he's speaking the words again. Oh, my dear Miss Everdeen. I thought we had agreed not to lie to each other.He's right. We did.The point of my arrow shifts upward. I release the string. And President Coin collapses over the side of the balcony and plunges to the ground. Dead.
I am Cinna's bird, ignited, flying frantically to escape something inescapable. The feathers of flame that grow from my body. Beating my wings only fans the blaze. I consume myself, but to no end.Finally, my wings begin to falter, I lose height, and gravity pulls me into a foamy sea the color of Finnick's eyes. I float on my back, which continues to burn beneath the water, but the agony quiets to pain. When I am adrift and unable to navigate, that's when they come. The dead.The ones I loved fly as birds in the open sky above me. Soaring, weaving, calling to me to join them. I want so badly to follow them, but the seawater saturates my wings, making it impossible to lift them. The ones I hated have taken to the water, horrible scaled things that tear my salty flesh with needle teeth. Biting again and again. Dragging me beneath the surface.The small white bird tinged in pink dives down, buries her claws in my chest, and tries to keep me afloat.No, Katniss! No! You can't go!But the ones I hated are winning, and if she clings to me, she'll be lost as well. Prim, let go! And finally she does.
I think about going to the lake, but I'm so weak that I barely make it to mymeeting place with Gale. I sit on the rock where Cressida filmed us, but it's too wide without his body beside me.Several times I close my eyes and count to ten, thinking that when I open them, he will have materialized without a sound as he so often did. I have to remind myself that Gale's in 2 with a fancy job, probably kissing another pairof lips.
The beauty of this idea is that my decision to keep Peeta alive at the expense of my own life is itself an act of defiance. A refusal to play the Hunger Games by the Capitol's rules. My private agenda dovetails completely with my public one. And if I really could save Peeta... in terms of a revolution, this would be ideal. Because I will be more valuable dead. They can turn me into some kind of martyr for the cause and paint my face on banners, and it will do more to rally people than anything I could do if I was living. But Peeta would be more valuable alive, and tragic, because he will be able to turn his pain into words that will transform people.
but it's not safe and I can feel him slipping away, so I just get out one more sentence. Stay with me. As the tendrils of sleep syrup pull me down, I hear him whisper a word back but I don't catch it.
But more words tumble out. 'You're a painter. You're a baker. You like to sleep with the windows open. You never take sugar in your tea. And you always double-knot your shoelaces.'Then I dive into my tent before I do something stupid like cry.
He could have had his choice of any woman in the district. And he chose solitude. Not solitude – that sounds too peaceful. More like solitary confinement.
I pound on the glass, screaming my head off. Everyone ignores me except for some Capitol attendant who appears behind me and offers me a beverage.
Because I can count on my fingers the number of sunsets I have left, and I don't want to miss any of them.
Yes, they have to have a victor. Without a victor, the whole thing would blow up in the Gamemakers' faces. They'd have failed the Capitol. Might possibly even be executed, slowly and painfully, while the cameras broadcast it to every screen in the country.
I don’t stand a chance if he doesn't get better. You’ll never be able to let him go. You’ll always feel wrong about being with me.”“The way I always felt wrong kissing him because of you,” I say.Gale holds my gaze. “If I thought that was true, I could almost live with the rest of it.
Deep in the meadow, hidden far awayA cloak of leaves, a moonbeam rayForget your woes and let your troubles layAnd when it's morning again, they'll wash awayHere it's safe, here it's warmHere the daisies guard you from every harmHere your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them trueHere is the place where I love you.