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“Katniss. Katniss, are you there?”
I started, my hand flicking to my left temple. “Yes, mother, I’m here.”
“I miss you.”
I gave a wary glance around the house, looking for Peeta. “Stop. I don’t want to hear it. You abandoned Prim and me when dad died. You abandoned me when she died. Don’t tell me you miss me,” I mumbled, my chest constricting in pain at the memory.
I heard a long sigh on the other side of the line, and then someone talking. “Look, Katniss, I have to go. Tell Peeta and the kids I said hello, all right?” Then I heard a click, a signal that she hung up.
Good. I wouldn’t have answered anyway.
It’s been 32 years since the Capitol’s defeat. The memory of the events of that day tore at my conscience, always trying to figure out how I could have made it different. How I could have saved my sister from becoming a human torch.
How I could’ve been there with her when the parachutes blew.
Rye poked his head out of his room, pacing over to me when he saw my expression. “Mom, are you ok?”
I blinked, forcing my thoughts away. I forced a small smile. “Yes, I am. Please go get your sister. We need to start eating.”
“Dad too?” he asked.
“No, just your sister,” I answered.
My son ran up the stairs, me following suit. He opened his sister’s door and told her it was time for dinner.
I was still outside of the room Peeta and I shared when she emerged from the door.
“How is dad?” she asked slowly, carefully.
“Better than this morning, Iris,” I replied, waiting for her to go downstairs.
She understood and nodded, hurrying downstairs where Greasy Sae’s Wild Turkey Stew was waiting.
This morning Peeta had another flashback. We’d been walking the streets of the rebuilt District 12 when a mutt approached us, a rare skull in hand. I felt his hand tighten on mine and I turned to face him in time to watch his pupils dilate to cover his blue irises. Just like I did 30 years ago, I kissed him full on the mouth and clenched his hands, attempting to bring him back to me. “Stay with me.”
“Always,” he said before he let go of my hand and sprinted in the direction of Victor’s Village.
I was jolted back to the present by the sudden absence of something to lean on. Luckily, the two times I’d been in the Hunger Games always kept me on my toes.
“Come to check on me?” a voice asked while I was steadying myself.
My head snapped up to meet the eyes of the boy with the bread – blue and untouched by Tracker Jacker venom. “Yes,” I admitted, raking my eyes over his body, checking for any signs of abuse.
Peeta smiled. “Good. Now Katniss, please take these off of me so we can go downstairs and eat?”