My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am 18 years old. I am from District 12. We are in a rebellion against the Capitol. Because of our acts against President Snow and his government, every District was destroyed in a night of fire and death. My friend Gale got me and my family, along with many others from our district, out to the safety of the woods. Those of us who survived were rescued by District 13. That is where we live now underground and in hiding. The war is going on.
But in the midst of it, somehow today is supposed to be the happiest day of my life. Today, I will be getting married…
My mother pins the last braid on the top of my head into its intricate design. She is trying to make me look my best even with the little that we have. I am wearing a borrowed blue dress that I was given on my arrival to District 13 since I had come with nothing. It's a simple design, but at least it fits well. I look at myself in the mirror. This is as good as it's going to get.
"You look beautiful," my sister Prim says to me.
"Thanks, little duck." I know that I can't hide my nervousness as I give a last sigh to my reflection. I know that most every bride feels this way on her wedding day, but I supposed this was because most were anxious about the future. Not many had to deal with what I did today…getting married without even knowing who the groom was going to be.
It all began about six months ago when all of the Districts of Panem had finally had enough of the Capitol's oppression of our land. The leaders of the districts decided to meet secretly and formed a plan to begin a rebellion. They were able to make one successful attack on the city against President Snow. Before the revolution grew out of control, the Capitol decided to end it all by destroying all 12 districts in one fell swoop. It was the worst thing any of us had ever had to witness. Those who had escaped in time watched as the home we had known and people we had loved burned to ashes
I remember that night, standing in the woods with my mother, sister, and a small group of other citizens of District 12. After witnessing the bombing, we were broken, grieving, cold, hungry, and at our end. Then, out of nowhere, salvation came from the air. Hovercrafts that had been dispatched from District 13, which we thought had been destroyed ages ago, landed and took us away. The soldiers who were under orders for the rescue told us we were being taken to what was left of that district which was now underground.
When we arrived, we were given food and living arrangements, which was eventually followed by work assignments. We were all expected to pull our weight in the business of the rebellion. Hovercrafts on mission to the other districts arrived with more refugees. It was sad to see how few there were left when all was said and done.
This was how I had been spending my last few months with my family, and we watched on the TV in our modest quarters as the fighting continued. Everything was kind of coming into a pretty good routine, when last week, a sudden announcement was made that called for the entire population to meet in the district center that evening. My family and I looked at each other having no clue as to what could be happening.
At the appointed time, though, we all gathered around when Alma Coin, the leader of District 13, came out onto the platform and stood in front of a microphone. She put up her hands to silence everyone before speaking.
"People of Panem. I welcome you all to District 13. It had been our pleasure to provide you refuge here after the atrocities done by the hands of the Capitol. I promise you that we are still in the fight for our freedom from their rule. But, at the same time, we have a crisis on our hands. You can see that because of the bombings, our population is in desperate need. We will not survive if something is not done, and soon. A council has been created to discuss the problem and a satisfactory solution has been found."
I could see everyone looking around at each other trying to make sense of what was going on. People were whispering all throughout the room. Once the murmuring died down, Coin continued. "We hereby decree that a reaping will take place next week, where the names of all eligible males and females from age 18-35 will be placed in a bowl. Each boys name will be matched with a girl's name, and the two will be immediately wed. They will be given accommodations, and their job from then on will be to produce a child as quickly as possible. Our leadership will oversee their success, and will take action where needed."
I breathed in a little gasp. They are forcing people into marriage and then making them have a child? This is crazy! I was so stunned at the idea and couldn't believe what I was hearing. But just then I realized something even more important. She said from age eighteen. I am eighteen. My name was going to be placed in the bowl. In the next week, more than likely I was going to be married. The thought stunned me in place. Prim had to jolt me from my spot to tell me the gathering was over and we could go home.
So here I am now, ready and waiting to head to this event that will change my life. I am so angry at being forced into this, but what can I do? Refuse? Say no? I have a feeling that would not go over well. No, I can do nothing but obey at this point.
My mother gives me a sympathetic look, and then takes a glance at the clock. "It's time to go," she says quietly. I nod, and then take Prim's hand as we go to the lowest level of the structure to return to the district center. The feel is different from before. Whereas the previous week, people of all ages were standing around in the middle, this time most people are around the edges of the auditorium. In the middle is a much smaller group of about 200 or so women and men who I see are mostly around my age.
I look back at my family. My mother gives a nod of encouragement, and Prim winks. I wink back at her, trying to show her I can do this, then turn and walk towards the waiting group. I see a couple of familiar faces, the most important being Gale, my friend and hunting partner since the death of our fathers. He is talking passionately with a few other males who I don't recognize. Knowing Gale, they are probably discussing the rebellion. He sees me and gives a wave. I return the gesture. I have been praying since the news was announced that he and I would be matched. At least I would be comfortable with someone I know. My luck has never been that good, though.
I also find Delly Cartwright, being her usual friendly self by talking with a group of girls I don't know. No matter how old the dress is, she still manages to make it look fresh and young on her. She catches my eye during the conversation and motions for me to come over. I was never one to have friends, and the only girl who was even close to being that was Madge Undersee, who was lost to me in the bombing. I guess Delly is as good as I will get to having a girlfriend right now.
I walk over to the group with the best smile that I can put on my face. It still probably comes out as a scowl, but I do my best. Delly's face lights up as I get near.
"Katniss! You look great. Come on over. Meet these girls from some of the other districts." She begins to rattle off the names of each one that I know I will never remember. As soon as she completes the introductions, a song plays, and the leadership council that I recognize from the various announcements on TV emerges. We all look up to see Effie Trinket, a rebel who had been placed in the Capitol, coming to speak.
"Good morning to all. Today is a very special day as we look to embark on this task to help our people. You all survived for a purpose, and now we look to rebuild, not only our buildings and land, but our population. This is the first step. We know it is unconventional, but we truly hope you will find the joy and happiness in all of this. We thank you for what you will do."
Joy and happiness in a forced marriage? She is absolutely ridiculous. The woman's heels begin clicking as she walks over to a glass bowl. "We will begin by picking out a name from the girls bowl. I will then call out the name, and then do the same at the boys bowl. The two names called out will be a match. You are to come up to the stage to present yourselves, then each couple will be led to the areas behind me to be married. There will be several stations that you will go through in the process. From then on, you will go to the compartment assigned to you and continue on with your usual daily schedule. But, know that within one year we expect each couple to attempt to conceive a child."
I almost want to gag as I hear this. I was never one of those girls who dreamed of marriage and children, and now here I am being told that I have to do both. Every instinct tells me to run away from this. I am so nervous, and my legs just about want to give out. But I somehow remain standing as Effie begins to call out names. At first, I don't recognize any of them, so I assume they are people from other districts. Eventually, I hear Delly's name. She gives a little squeak, but then heads up to the stage to meet her match, a tall red haired guy with freckles. I can see her almost trembling up there, but when he smiles at her, she visibly relaxes and gives him that big grin of hers that can melt hearts in seconds.. I can only hope that will be a good sign and know I will not have to worry about her.
The names continue on and on, until about thirty minutes in the Trinket woman yells out. "Katniss Everdeen!" I know she has called my name, but it is like my brain can't make my legs work. It takes me a good minute, but I finally make connections and start walking towards the stage area. I go slow, but finally manage to get there and walk carefully up the steps in the middle. I am standing beside Effie, looking out at the audience like a lost little puppy. The world looks like a complete blur around me. Nothing is in focus. I am barely able to register when Effie calls out the name from the boys' bowl.
"Peeta Mellark!" My head immediately turns. Did I just hear right? I know that name. It is the baker's son from District 12. I know who he is. More importantly, I owe him. He saved my life and that of my family when I was eleven. Now, it seems that he is going to be my husband.
I search out his face in the crowd and find it around where most of the movement is occurring. He begins to slowly walk towards my direction. He looks kind of like me, shell shocked and unsure. He makes his way up to the stage and then takes his place beside me. Once we are together, they quickly usher us away from the podium.
We are led by some official looking soldiers through a door which leads to a small hallway. We walk down it past a few different doors until we are pointed to a particular one on the right. It is opened, and Peeta holds the door and lets me walk in first. Inside, there are two District 13 officials sitting at a table in their usual grey uniforms.
"You can approach," one of them briefly glance at us from his pile of paperwork and says. We approach the long table and stand in front of it. The same official eventually looks back up at us, smiles, and asks us our names and originating district.
"Katniss Everdeen. District 12," I answer.
"Peeta Mellark, District 12," my new partner replies immediately after. The second official is writing down the information on a piece of paper as we speak.
"Well then, let's get on with it," the first one states unemotionally. "You can hold hands if you would like." I begin to think how idiotic it sounds to do that with someone you don't even know, when Peeta surprises me by softly taking my hand in his and giving it a little squeeze. I think he is trying to reassure me that it is going to be okay somehow. I look into his blue eyes for the first time and see they are looking directly back at me intensely. There is something in them that I can't quite tell what it is, but it makes me feel warm inside. I decide right then and there that I can do this. With new resolve, I listen to the official ask each of us if we would take the other as husband and wife.
Do we have a choice? I breathe in and out, my will fighting with every step. I take a deep breath. "I do," I finally answer softly in what is barely more than a whisper.
The official looks over at Peeta then. He focuses his eyes directly on mine. "I do." His voice is calm and strong, if quiet.
Now that it is official, we are handed simple silver rings, which we each place on our left hand. Then the second official asks us to come up to the table to sign the document that he had been writing on.
We approach him. As I get closer, I see that the paper is a marriage license. It has our names on it, the date, and the signatures of the witnessing officials.
"Please sign here," he says pointing to a couple of lines at the bottom. Peeta takes the pen first and scrawls out his name. He then hands the writing instrument over to me. I take it with a shaking hand, with a feeling that my life path has taken a turn, and I am unsure of the road ahead. I begin to write.
With a couple of flourishes it is done. I am married. I am Katniss Mellark, wife of Peeta Mellark.