Whoever said that being pregnant was enjoyable must have confused it with some other biological process. While experiencing all the changes in my body is nothing short of amazing, I quickly am growing sick of being exhausted all the time, having cravings at weird hours, and constantly going to the restroom.
Mom and Prim are great about everything, and hover around me day and night. My sister is more than thrilled at the prospect of becoming an aunt and begs me to name it after her if it is a girl.
"I don't even know what it is yet, Prim!" I yell at her, more grouchy than usual from the hormones. "Give me some time before we make any decisions like that."
My sister gives me a hug. "I'm sorry. I'm just so excited."
I smile back at her. "I know. And I'm terrified."
"It'll be okay, I promise," she says soothingly. "You know you're in good hands with us. Are you going to work today?"
"Yes," I answer. "The nausea has calmed down for now, so I think I can make it." I get up then and get dressed in the usual jumpsuit. I'm lucky that my uniform here is this, because it will be great at hiding my belly when it begins to grow. At least for a while. I know eventually even that won't help, and I still don't know what I will do when that happens.
"I'll see you lunch," I call out to Prim as I walk out. I head to the surface once more and get my gear. No one talks to me and that is fine. I don't feel like talking to them either. I've never been one to go out and make friends, and considering what I have to hide, now is not the time to start. I go into the woods and hunt. It's lonely out here, and in one way that is good, but in others that's bad. I always spend my time thinking of Peeta. He's married now, and if I know him, he will at least try his best with his new wife. I try to knock out the thought of him with her out of my mind, because doing so will only drive me crazy.
I focus back on the task at hand, and eventually find a small clearing where I find a small deer. I manage to get it and trap a few rabbits which I take back for the day. Starving, I head back to the underground to find Prim sitting with a girl I don't know. They are deep in conversation, and although they seem to be the same age, their looks couldn't be any different. I grab a bowl of soup and a sandwich and join them.
"Hey Katniss. How was it today?" my sister asks in her usual breezy tone.
"Fine," I say as unenthusiastic as I feel.
Prim sticks out her tongue at me. "C'mon. Cheer up! I'd like you to meet my friend Rue. She came here from District 11. We met in our classes." Even though we are refugees, at least the leadership has managed to form some kind of education for the younger kids.
The beautiful dark girl speaks first. "Hi there! Prim has said a ton of great things about you."
"It's nice to meet you." I can't help but lighten up when I see the sweet smile that is so sincere and pure. "Are you here with your family?"
"Most of it," she replies. "My mom and dad are here, but my brother Thresh has been in the forces for six months now."
"Oh," I say. "You must miss him a lot."
"Yeah, I do." Rue states. "I just he was back home here with us, you know?"
I let out a small breath. "I do know. I know exactly what you mean." Prim looks at me sadly, knowing exactly who I am thinking about. Her friend notices, but doesn't force the issue.
"Your sister also told me you're a great hunter," Rue goes on. "I'm great at climbing trees but always wanted to learn how to shoot, as well. Think you could teach me?"
Teach her? I'm not sure what to think of this at first. I've been pretty comfortable with not having company on my journeys into the woods. But now that I think of it, some companionship might be nice. I could use they help sometimes, and teaching her would give me a kind of purpose that might distract me from all my thoughts of missing Peeta.
"Sure, I would love to," I finally answer her. "How about we meet sometime next week? I could start you with the basics."
"Sounds great!" Rue almost squeals. "I can't wait." We make plans for the following Tuesday and finish our lunch. I walk around a little after that, just lost in my thoughts. I have known about the baby growing inside me for a month, and it has probably been the hardest month of my life. I almost regret not becoming a soldier. I've always been a person of action. I can't stand just sitting around, but considering my state now, I guess fate kept me from agreeing to do it when I had the chance.
I sigh and head on through the rest of my daily schedule. Soon enough, I begin to have my new hunting partner joining me each morning. Rue likes to talk, but doesn't push me to respond. She also knows to keep quiet when we are actually at work. I show her some skills and she learns quickly, and I learn to enjoy her company. So, I am surprised one morning about two weeks in when she asks a question out of the blue.
"So, when are you due?"
I turn around to look at her in astonishment. "How did you know? Did Prim tell you? I told her not to…"
She stops me and smiles at being correct about her assumption. "I've noticed you keep placing your hand on your abdomen at times like you are protecting something there. It's a motion I've seen other girls who are pregnant make. I just gave an educated guess."
I calm down and breathe out slowly. "I'm three months along," I admit to her.
"The father?" she asks tentatively.
I look down at the ground. "Long story," I groan, and I go on to give her a short recap of the events that led me to my current condition.
"Oh, wow," she says when I finish. "I can't believe they did that to you. You must miss him so much. Does he know?"
I shake my head. "I haven't been able to talk to him or send any messages. They've married him off to someone else now."
The young girl thinks about this for a minute. "Look, we are going to win this war. When we do, you've just got to believe that he will come back to you."
"He won't leave someone like that." I argue.
"Well then," she shrugs, "at the very least you are going to have the most wonderful reminder of the love you both shared." I can't help but grin at the truth of her statement, and once more instinctively place my hand over where the baby is.
Each day I start to feel better and better. I am getting beyond the point of morning sickness now (although I am craving more than ever), and my work with Rue gives me a reprieve from the loneliness. Mom has been sneaking supplies from the medical ward so that I can have the vitamins I need, and Prim constantly cooks and fusses over me. I'm beginning to think maybe I can do this after all. I still think of Peeta, but focus on the gift he has left in his stead that is continuing to grow.
I have been teaching my new friend for about two weeks when I arrive to our rooms to see we have a visitor.
"Hello, sweetheart," Haymitch says.
I immediately scowl back at him. "What are you here for? Inflicting more punishment on my life that you can't help with?" I am grateful that I am wearing my jumpsuit at the moment that is able to disguise my middle that is just starting to get a bump to it.
"Calm down, there," he growls. "I have tried to do everything I can for you and the boy. I only have so much power. I help in any way if it is possible, and that is why I am here. I actually came to give you a message."
My eyebrows go up. "A message from whom?"
"From the boy," he answers.
"Is he okay?" I ask, desperate to know.
"I haven't seen him myself," the old man grumbles, "but there is someone I'm friends with who has. I was told that he is well and to give you the message."
"What is it?" My anticipation is killing me. I have to know what he said.
"Always," Haymitch responds. "That's the message. Always."
I wish it was more, but hearing that one word I know it came from Peeta. In it, I know what he is trying to tell me, too. He still loves me. He still has hope we can be together. I place my hand upon my locket. If only I could believe like he does.
"Thank you," I finally say to the older man when my mind comes back from its thoughts.
"You're welcome. Do you have anything to say in return?" I think about the possibilities. To be able to say something to Peeta is an opportunity. I know whatever I say can't be long and say too much if the leadership finds out about it. But at the same time, I want to tell him so much. I want to let him know that he has a child on the way. After a few minutes, I finally decide.
"Yes," I state. "I have a reply for him. Tell Peeta this. We love you."
Haymitch looks quizzically at me. I know he is curious and confused at my choice of pronoun. He can't seem to puzzle it out, though, so eventually he lets it go. I don't know what he thinks as he says goodbye and leaves, but I am happy at the thought that if nothing else, I have tried to let Peeta know.
Routine continues on. My little student has become quite adept at her hunting skills now. I have moved on from shooting and aiming to showing her how to make snares. I'm not as good as Gale is at it, but I can at least show her some simple techniques. Rue is a quick study, and I continue to find some pleasure in teaching her.
The baby continues to grow well, and as I get to be about five months along, I start to notice the movement. It's fluttery, like butterfly wings, and the first time it happens I almost break down. The feeling inside is so foreign, and it scares me to death. My mother comes in to comfort me.
"Shhh," she soothes, "It's okay, Katniss. It's normal. You are just feeling the baby move."
"It's so real now," I tell her. "Can I do this?"
"Of course you can," Mother says quickly. "You are going to be a wonderful mother."
I smile. "I'm not going to be able to keep this secret much longer." I say. "I think I'm going to have to find a way to leave."
"How?" she asks.
I shake my head. "I don't know. I'll figure out somewhere I can go." Over the next weeks, I try to make a plan, thinking I might sneak into the woods and stay there. Prim and my mother, of course, think that I am crazy for wanting to have my baby there. I try to reason with them that I have no other choice.
We are arguing about it when the TV breaks in with what must be an important announcement. Coin is once more at the microphone, looking as in charge as ever. "Citizens! I am happy to report that sometime in the next few days our invasion of the Capitol will begin. This war is almost over and our freedom can begin!" The three of us look at each other in what is a mixture of hope and fear.
Every night from then on the TV is kept on. About a week later, the reporters announce that their sources tell them the invasion will be happening that evening. We sit around in anticipation. Throughout the night, they go back and forth between different reporters who give their opinions on the situation. It's maddening, and all three of us are eventually falling asleep. I am about to suggest we all go to bed when a loud voice begins shouting from the set.
"It's over!" the main news reporter yells. "It's over! We have won! The Capitol is now in the control of our forces. President Snow has been captured!"
My mother, Prim, and I begin hugging each other ecstatically. We begin to hear voices in the hallways shouting, cheering, and yelling. We decide to join the celebrations that seem to be going on, which go on for hours, ending up with people everywhere gathered in the main auditorium. This seems to be the first time that they have allowed the people from the different parts of the district to congregate together. At one point, I see Delly, Johanna, and Annie in the distance. There are too many people for me to reach them, but they wave to me from where they are. The euphoria of the moment eventually ends and everyone retreats to their own compartments. As I go to sleep, it's almost morning, but for the first time I have that small glimmer of hope.
Things move quickly in the next few days. The floodgates have been opened and the people are now allowed to roam and visit freely. The news from the Capitol reports that although the battle was successful, that there will still losses and many soldiers were wounded. Prim takes this and within two days has left to go and help in their care. After another few days, leaders announce that within the next month, they will allow citizens to begin return to their home districts if they so choose. The rebuilding process can begin in earnest, especially once a new government is established. There is a plan for set people in temporary positions until an election can take place. This news is the opportunity I had been waiting for. I let Mother know that as soon as it is possible, I will return to District 12 hopefully before anyone knows about the pregnancy.
It only takes a few days again before I reconnect with the girls again. "Katniss!" Delly yells as I am coming into the main eating hall that most people use now.
I wave and join her, Annie, and Johanna. As I draw closer, their looks become shocked the moment I sit down. They can see the bulge. "You better tell us the whole story." Jo orders immediately. I do, relaying the details of our separation and my finding out about the baby.
"So, Peeta doesn't know?" Annie asks softly when I finish. I shake my head.
"I tried to send a message through Haymitch, but I don't know if he received it." I tell them. "Have you seen him? How is he? I thought maybe now I might catch a glimpse of him."
"What are you talking about?" Delly says confused. "Peeta's not here, Katniss."
"I thought he was in the married complex with his new wife." I explain.
"Katniss," Johanna says quietly. "Peeta is in the forces. He was in the invasion."
I open my mouth shocked. "What? No. That can't be." The weight of this news overtakes me. "I told him not to."
"He must have changed his mind." Annie concludes. "All we know is that Finnick and Gale's last letter a month ago both said that Peeta had joined their squad. I know they must have been in the fighting."
I place my head in my hands. "I can't believe he would do that."
"I'm sure whatever his decision," Delly puts her hand on my back. "It was for you."
She's more than likely right. That would be Peeta's way. "Do you know if any of them are okay?"
The girls shake their heads. "We got some news that Finn and Gale are alive. That's all. I don't know anything about Peeta." Johanna says sadly. We finish chatting and I head back to my rooms. I think it is time for me to leave. I can go home to Twelve and try to see if I can find out more about Peeta from there. I just know that I've got to get out of here now.
I spend the rest of the day packing my few things. Mother is concerned as she watches me, but knows that I am not going to be swayed. My plan is to leave the next morning. I sleep fitfully, and get up early. My mother makes me a small breakfast. As I eat, there is a buzz at the door. Who is the world?
When I open the door, I am surprised to see Haymitch again. The first expression on his face is shock because he can now see that I am pregnant. "That was what you meant by we," he grumbles.
I immediately can sense what must have happened. "You knew," I accuse him almost baring my claws out. "You knew he was with the soldiers."
He must understand exactly what I am talking about because the guilt comes across his face. "I knew, yes. But he told me not to tell you because he knew all you would do was worry."
I want to scream at him. "How did you get that message then?"
"The Commander at the training site is a friend. She passed it along. Promised the boy she would find out if you were okay for him." I sit down in a chair taking it all in.
"Do you know if he survived the invasion?" I ask not totally wanting to know the answer.
"No," he states as he starts pacing. "In all the chaos we lost track of him. We have been trying to get an account of every man who was there and just haven't been able to find him. Reports say that he was near the bombs when they fell. Leadership is under the belief that he is dead."
I start sobbing at this point. Peeta's dead. I can't believe it. Haymitch lets me cry for a time, and when I have quieted some, holds out a paper. "He told me to give this to you if anything happened to him." I slowly take it and the man sadly turns around and leaves me.
I open the note and begin to read. Sobs once more come freely as I look at the scrawl I recognize so well.
I know that if you get this it means I am no longer here. Please understand. I couldn't do it. I just couldn't marry anyone else. My heart wouldn't let me because it is with you completely. My only hope now is to win this war. I only wish in the end that I could be with you in person. Know, though, that no matter what, I am always in your heart, as you are in mine. Forever. I love you, Katniss.
I crumple the note in my hand and just sit there. In time, Haymitch somehow returns. "Is there some other bad news you have to give me?"
"No," he states. "I have a job for you."
"What kind of a job could you possibly offer me?" I ask sharply.
"Snow's trial is going on right now," he tells me. "He is going to be found guilty and sentenced for execution. They want an expert to deliver the blow."
I am incredulous. "They want me to kill Snow?" Haymitch nods his head. I think about this offer. The thought of having to actually kill a person. I think about Snow, though, and how he wouldn't blink twice about doing it. I think about Peeta giving up his life for freedom from this man and his oppression.
"Alright," I finally decide. "I'll do it. For him." The man shows he understands and gives me instructions to be on a hovercraft the next morning. He leaves me then and I spend the rest of the day explaining and saying my goodbyes to everyone. I don't tell them exactly what I am going to do, just let them know that I am leaving. Let them find out later.
I arrive on the hovercraft and pretty much find I am about the only passenger. There is one guard on board who I am told is to be security for my safety during the mission. I take a nap on the flight and not long after I wake up find that we have arrived.
I get off and the first face that meets me is a familiar one. "Hey Catnip." Gale is smiling at me and embraces me in a large hug. He feels my large belly. "Oh my god," he gasps. "Peeta didn't say anything…"
"He didn't know." I respond quickly.
He shakes his head sadly. "I'm so sorry."
All I can do is shrug. He finally turns around and begins to walk toward a waiting truck. I follow.
"I should have known it would be you when they told me an expert shooter would be coming," Gale says once the ride has started. "We'll get you suited up and equipped when we get to headquarters." I nod my head and we are pretty much silent for the rest of the ride.
When we arrive, I am taken to a room, when a trio of what can only be described as strange looking people come and tell me that they are to prep me for the mission. Obviously they are from the Capitol, but I allow them to help me get out of my clothes and into the suit that is provided. It's form fitting, black, and in a way makes me feel powerful. Once dressed, I am given a bow and sheath of arrows silver in color that shimmers in the light. I place the sheath across my back and walk out of the prep room to find Gale. He is waiting for me and leads me up a couple of floors and down a hallway until we come outside onto a balcony. It looks over onto what was the President's palace. I can see marble steps leading up to a platform area where I remember seeing Snow make most of his speeches. A large group of people are gathering in front of it.
"They've pronounced the sentence yesterday," Gale says. "In about fifteen minutes they are going to bring him out here and read the decision. Then, when the signal is given, you take the shot. Short and simple."
"I've got it," I reply, and with that Gale closes the doors behind me and stands guard in front of them. I am alone, waiting. I take an arrow and load it into my bow. It feels different from both my one at home and the one I was using in Thirteen, but I take a few minutes to get a feel for it. I think I have it and before long, I can hear the people below making noise, so I know something must be happening. I watch, and the doors of the palace open and about ten armed guards come out and behind them is President Snow, handcuffs on his wrists.
I watch as they set him in place and for a moment, his cold eyes meet mine. He knows what I am here to do. An official begins reading the verdict of the jury. I am getting my aim together for the moment, but soon find that I may not have to do anything at all. All of the sudden, the masses of people can't contain themselves, and they finally charge up the stairs and through the guards. They take snow and begin beating and kicking him. I am stuck in place, unsure what to do with this development. I can see that the man is being beaten senseless and won't last much longer.
Eventually, through the mass of people, I see a bloodied arm rise up. Somehow, I know it is trying to tell me something. He wants me to end it. I aim again, and for a minute not sure I will be able to take a shot, but finally, I see a little opening. It's not much, but enough that I can see his chest. I let go of the arrow, and it flies and hits its mark.
It takes a moment for the crowd to realize what has happened, but once they do, they arise is cheers louder than anything I have ever heard before. The people turn to look up in my direction and see me, and to my astonishment begin waving and chanting towards me. The doors behind me open then and Gale comes back.
"Good job," he says quietly. "I'll take you to where you can stay tonight." I silently follow and continue to be quiet all through the ride to another building, one that looks like makeshift barracks. We get out and after being led through more hallways my old friend opens a door to a small room and places by bag down.
"It's over," he tells me. "Get some sleep." I sit down on the bed and the door closes. As I lay down, the adrenaline that had been pumping through me must have all of the sudden left my body, because I feel the exhaustion running through me and in moments I am asleep.
I am awoken by a bright and cheerful voice. "Up, up, up! It's a big day for you young lady. You are quite the hero and so many want to see you!" I open my eyes to see a pink haired woman with obvious Capitol attire on. I groan. "Miss Everdeen, I know you must be tired, but we have so much to do. I'm Effie, and I will be your chaperone to all your visits today. Nothing but the best for our new heroine."
I fully open my eyes and lift my body. "And where exactly am I supposed to visit?"
"Well, first off, you are going to the hospital ward to visit with our wounded soldiers there," she chimes. With that, I get cleaned up and am requested to dress in my uniform of yesterday. I comply, and after braiding my hair am led to a vehicle which zooms me to the hospital. Throughout the ride Effie chimes in about how wonderful it is that the rebels have won.
I walk into the ward and look around to see a variety of young me in varying states. Some have crutches, some bandages on their heads or other part of their body, or some lying in the beds, playing cards with those who seemed unharmed. They all gawk at me when they are introduced, and shake hands, telling me how wonderful it was to hear of what I had done. Gale stays by my side the entire time as my protector. It is in the second room of beds that I run after seeing one particular face.
"Prim!" My sister is there cleaning out an arm wound, but smiles when she sees that it is me.
"Katniss!" She screams. "I heard about what happened. I was hoping that you would be coming." We hug and give kisses to each other. She catches me up on the latest in her work, telling me there has been much to do. We chat for about ten minutes before she looks at her watch.
"Look, I've got to go now. The head doctor has a patient who has been in a coma since the invasion. He wanted me to come up and check it out to see if I had any suggestions." I give her a sign that she can go and shout out to her my love.
I continue meeting the men and women there and am happily surprised when I come across Finnick in the final room. He smiles so big I can see his dimples.
"Katniss," he gleams. "It's good to see you." He sees my expanded belly and immediately his face gets downcast.
"Oh, no." he says. Tears start forming in his eyes. "Oh God, Katniss, I'm so sorry. I was right there and saw him pushing that little boy towards us as the bombs went off. We were all thrown back by it and it was so hazy that when I came to my sense Cato and I couldn't find Peeta anywhere. I….I…it's my fault."
"It's no one's fault," I tell him. I take his hand. "There was nothing you could have done. Peeta made his choices. I guess I should feel lucky that at least there is a part of him left behind." I touch my abdomen, and this brightens Finn up. I talk to him a little longer, telling him what I know of Annie and his son. I soon finish up my visit and am heading out to whatever my next stop will be.
As I pas the information desk, I hear a voice calling out. "Miss Everdeen! Wait, please!" I stop and turn towards the voice.
She comes running over out of breath. "Your sister just called down here. She wanted me to tell you that you should go up to the second floor immediately. Room 224"
I am a little confused but tell the woman thank you and shrugging to Gale turn and find the elevators to go upstairs. We land on the second floor and I use the signs to go towards room 224. I find it and Prim is right outside waiting for me.
"Prim, what is going on?" I ask.
"You know that coma patient I told you about?" she begins
I nod. "Yeah, what about it?"
"He's waking up," she tells me.
I am still not seeing her intention. "Do you want me to go in there and talk to him or something?"
"Katniss," she says slowly, "it's Peeta." Once more I feel stuck in place, feeling like I had been hit in the stomach. Gale comes behind me thinking I am going to fall down, but I manage to compose myself. Once I fully realize what is going on, I don't hesitate. I push Prim aside and open the door to look in.
I stand in the doorway and see him. He is lying on the bed, blonde waves tussled. I can see some burn marks on his neck, but the rest of him is covered up. What is most important is that his eyes are opening. I see them flutter then they are fully there seeing me. The blue is as crystal clear as I remember.
"Katniss," his voice is strained, but still beautiful to my ears. I walk quickly over and sit on the bed next to him.
I take his hand in mine. "Peeta."
"I'm sorry," he says.
"Don't worry about that right now," I plead. "We can talk about it later. Just focus on getting better."
"I can't believe you're here," he tells me. "You are here, real or not real?"
"Real, Peeta." I tell him.
"And I'm not going anywhere."