*AN* Thanks for all the support so far - I love comments, you guys are the best! I decided to change the POV here - lemme know what you think...



Three Days Ago

 

Oenothera

 

I’m studying history upstairs, looking out over the desolate housing estate we live in. It’s the only one like it in District 12 with only three occupied houses, for the victor’s of the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games. I turn the page in my history textbook, eyes scanning the chapter on the morbid symbol of our nation’s past. I don’t even need to focus on the text; I know every detail about the event. I’ve memorised all research I’ve been able to collect on it, especially my parent’s contribution in it and the rebellion. I researched the library, the Town Hall, which I know for a fact is not the original Town Hall of this District. In fact, most of the buildings in this District were restored.

Katniss, there is no District 12.

 

I’ve never met ‘uncle’ Gale, but I can almost hear the words in my head in his voice, crystal clear as the day he said them to my mother. I flick to the next page of the book and trace my finger along the edge of the torn page. It prickles my finger and I shiver, remembering the day Mom tore it during one of her fits. They don’t come as often as they did when I was a toddler, the fits, and Dad’s were always much more refined and controlled. I guess it’s in his quiet character not to get too enraged – unlike Mom. The television is seldom turned on because when the Capitol is mentioned, it all comes flooding back to her. She says it doesn’t affect her anymore, that the memories are fading, but I can tell by the way she tenses, by the way her eyes suddenly look distant and cold and calculating all at once, as if she’s back in the arena again. The Hunger Games can never truly come back to haunt her, we’ve been promised that by the government. All the same, Mom has taught us archery, just in case. It’s a ‘practical’ use in life, which is the same thing as they said about teaching us how to cook. I know she’s really just afraid the Games will come back, and we’ll be taken. The odds will never be in our favour, the kids of the two rebellious victors.

The day she tore the page was the anniversary of the first Games her and Dad were in. I used to have flashbacks all the time of her suddenly breaking down when I was small, and Dad having to comfort her. Of course, he couldn’t, because the same memories tore at his brain too. After Kuwai was born, she changed into another person – until this day. The TV was on and it was dark outside, the window panes to the outside world reflecting the image of our living room right back at us. The smell of freshly baked bread wafted in from the kitchen – cheese bread, of course, though Dad said it was a ‘coincidence’ he had made that recipe that day. Kuwai was sprawled across the floor doodling in a book, covered in flour. He was always the better cook out of the two of us. I was on the sofa, attaching fletches to my arrows after a long day of target practice out back. The evening had gotten cold suddenly when I had been outside; the sun seemed to set earlier today than normal. Our parents, the entire District, even granduncle Haymitch – everyone was more aloof than usual that day. And it was not until this particular TV programme came on that I realized why the atmosphere was so eerie and so nostalgic.

“Today is the 25th Anniversary of the 74th Hunger Games – the Games that changed it all!” the TV announcer says. Mom’s head shoots up from the sewing she was doing, her hands trembling ever-so-slightly. Dad’s head appears from the kitchen, his floury hands draped in a towel.

“Casey Flickerman,” Dad hisses, and I know immediately he’s talking about the nephew of the old TV presenter, Caesar, who snagged the job immediately after his uncle ‘retired’.

“In honour of such a historic occasion, we present to you a programme put together especially for this event. Sit back, relax, and enjoy: The History of The Hunger Games!” The credits roll in and Mom gasps. Dad is at her side immediately, but both their eyes are fixated on the TV that shows clipped and cut images of them as kids, fighting in the Games all those years ago. The anniversary is something they cannot ignore now. I see a young girl’s face flash on the screen – Rue, it says. Rue is my middle name. And now I know where Mom got it from.

“Turn it off!” Mom whispers, her eyes petrified and fixated. Dad cannot move; they are stone. My brother and I pause, unsure what to do. “Now!”

“Kuwai!” I hiss. My brother, so young and vulnerable, leaps forward and pulls the plug on the television set. The draining, groaning sound of the power going off fills the suddenly silent room. Tension and emotion throbs in the air, and I can hear my mother’s laboured breaths as she tries to control her breathing. It’s been so long since she’s had a breakdown that I almost forget what it’s like, but I remember enough to know that her breathing isn’t slowing this time. She loses it.

“It can’t happen Peeta – I can’t go back, I can’t!” She stands up, neglecting her sewing as it scatters to the floor and looking around frantically for her husband’s support. He can’t help either – he’s escaped into himself, into a deep, dark, safe place that he’s made that protects him from the memories. My mother, who’s always so strong, breaks down. Her eyes turn to mine, almost enraged. “This is why you should never have been born!” she cries. “They’ll take you, they’ll take both of you, and then we’ll have nothing!”

“Who’ll take us, Mom?” Kuwai’s young voice asks – he was too young to know better back then, too young to know that this isn’t really our mother talking to us, but her past embodied.

“The Capitol,” she whispers. Her eyes drop to the stack of books beside me from when I was completing my homework before. “President Snow…” She walks towards the books unconsciously, reaching out. “You’ll never know, sweetheart,” she whispers to Kuwai, reaching out for him and touching his hand. She bends down and opens the book, knowing what page her history is on. “I promise you – you’ll never know anything about the Games.” And then, she rips the page out. And my heart is ripped in half. History is everything to me – the past is why I have the present. That was the day I vow to myself that I will become a Hunger Games scholar. And I do.

I’m back in the present day suddenly, my finger still tracing the torn paper from that day, long ago. I have never witnessed a breakdown since. Apart from the occasional aloofness, our parents are always there for us. Until today.

Kuwai is my little brother, and I’ve promised myself that he is my responsibility. If my parents ever get trapped so deeply in the past as they almost did on the 25th anniversary, Kuwai and I will get away from here and lead our own lives. I’ve found a cabin, abandoned and derelict, way, way off in the woods. No one knows about it, I’m sure. Kuwai and I will go there someday, if needs be. If our parents do the unthinkable and go to extremes to prevent us from ever-being in the Games.  I’ve had to make a promise this extreme to myself, because I’ve seen video clips of my parents in the past. I’ve seen the famous Katniss Everdeen with an arrow, I’ve seen her bury Rue, my namesake, and I’ve seen them witness the butchering of Cato. I’ve seen my parents as animals, and once some things are seen, they cannot be unseen. But I promise myself that I will only run away from them if I have to. Only if I have to. I pray that day will never come.

The doorbell downstairs rings, smashing my thoughts and warping me back to the present. Who could possibly be visiting? No one from town ever visits this estate, except Uncle Haymitch, who has his own key. I glance at the clock – usually he would be hosting the local AA meeting in town at this time. The fact he set up those meetings baffled me at first –  I’ve never seen Haymitch drink, not once, but I’ve been vaguely informed of his past ‘problem’. The door downstairs clicks open and I hear a deep voice rumble something incoherent. A shiver runs up my spine, and immediately, for no reason in particular, I sense danger.

“Dad!” Kuwai calls in his chirpy voice. “There’s someone here for you!”

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