"What's going to happen if she is not pregnant?" I ask Haymitch nervously. I am wringing my hands together in anticipation while I wait for the results of my wife's exam. I have been doing this for twelve months now, and although it has been hard waiting each time, I know that this one is different. Each month was they have been prodding and testing her for pregnancy, I have been sitting out here, and there to catch her each time it has been negative. But if that is the case now, there is nothing I can do to ease the way for what will come.
We were told last month that if Katniss is not pregnant by now, then there will be consequences. What those will be exactly, I don't know, but it won't be good, and the worst of it is I think it will mean my separation from my love one way or the other.
"I'm not exactly sure," the older man states. "You are one of the few couples in this position, and the leadership has been pretty tight lipped." He takes a breath, but continues, "All I know is that they will consider your marriage a failure at this point and will do something. I haven't heard what is happening with the others like you."
"Is there anything you can do?" I plead.
"I'll talk to them; try to get you some choices. I know you want to stay together, but I don't think they will let that happen. The rebellion and repopulating the country is their priority, and Coin will see it through to the end." He looks sad as he tells me this. I really think he feels sorry for us.
I hear the door open then, and try to put a hopeful smile on my face as the doctor and his assistants come out of our bedroom. Their faces show nothing, but as I see Katniss, I can no longer keep my face on. I can tell she is fighting to keep it together and not let her tears show. She locks eyes with me and I simply nod to let her know I understand what happened. Dr. Aurelius approaches me and shakes my hand before leaving.
"We will share the results with the leadership." he explains to us.
"We understand." I say. They leave, but I get a quick question off to Haymitch.
"How long do we have?"
"Not long, I imagine," he whispers. "I would make every moment count right now. I'll try to do anything I can to help."
"Thank you, Haymitch." The door closes behind him and I turn to my wife. I walk over and take her by the waist to bring her to me. I begin kissing her on the forehead, then move to her nose, cheeks, and eventually lips. Katniss responds fervently and I continue my assaulting kisses.
"I love you. I love you. I love you." I repeatedly whisper to her. I take Haymitch's message to heart and decide to make each minute special that we have left. With each kiss the passion grows until we head into the bedroom and make love almost feverishly.
Later, in the afterglow, I lay there in the bed stroking her hair. "I'm sorry," she whispers.
"It's not your fault." I tell her.
"I feel like it is," she admits.
I make her look at me. "Believe me, it's not. I don't blame you. If anything, I blame Coin and her cronies for putting us in this position. It's wrong. I wish they would just leave us alone." Katniss doesn't respond, but just kisses me again.
When we finally break apart, I get out of the bed and go to a drawer where I had been keeping something hidden. I retrieve a small box and walk over to place it in front of where Katniss lays. She looks at it quizzically.
"What is this?" she asks.
"A present for you," I answer. "Happy Anniversary." I watch her face as she realizes that today we had been married for one year. Tears again threaten to spill down her face, and she just sits there for a minute or two.
"Open it," I encourage her with a small smile. Katniss finally picks up the box and opens the lid. She looks in to find the small locket necklace that I had found for her a few weeks ago. It's a small silver heart that contains the only picture of the two of us we have that the officials had taken the day we got married. We are looking at each other, and you can tell that although the two of us look scared, that there is softness in our gazes.
Katniss closes the locket and turns it over the see the other surprise. She runs her finger over the engraving where it says Always. I can see her tears flowing freely now.
"It's beautiful," she says. "How in the world did you get it?"
"I was able to find a group from District 1 who was willing to do some trading," I tell her. "They had some jewelry that was saved from the destruction of their home, and I found this among the pieces. I was able to give them some of my drawings in exchange for it and for the engraving."
"Oh Peeta," my wife exclaims. I take the necklace out of her hands and place it around her neck. I look back at her and smile.
"I wish I had something for you," Katniss says with a regretful tone. "I didn't even think about it with all that has been going on."
I attempt to ease her mind. "You've been through a lot, Katniss. I didn't expect anything really. But, if you want, there is something you can give me."
She is immediately curious. "What's that?"
"Would you sing for me?" As far as I know Katniss has not sung in a very long time. I think she stopped around when her father died. She has a thoughtful look on her face for a moment, but soon enough takes my hands in her and I hear that beautiful voice. And it is not just any song she is singing, but The Valley Song. The tune that made me lose my heart to her long ago. It is still the most beautiful thing that I have ever heard. When she finishes, the last note hangs in air.
"Thank you," I tell her. With that, I take her in my arms and we lay down in the bed. Do we sleep? Not really. We pass the hours of the night alternating between whispered affections, kissing, and eventually more lovemaking. We don't talk about the impending consequences that await us, but just relish the moments we are given together this night.
All too soon, we find out that the leadership wastes no time. The buzz at the door comes promptly at six in the morning. I look into those beautiful grey eyes there in front of me that are full of fear and sadness. I kiss her forehead, and slowly rise to be able to get out of the bed. Katniss follows suit and we silently get dressed. We open the door, and they are there. The three grey uniformed officials who had threatened us early on and Haymitch. I can tell from his pained face that this will not be good.
They walk inside and do not even begin with pleasantries. "We were informed last night of your situation by Dr. Aurelius," one of them states. "We were saddened to hear that you still have not been able to conceive. As important as our repopulation program is to us, we must do what is best to ensure its success. Therefore, we have no choice but to declare your marriage as a failure and take action."
I don't want to, but find I have to ask. "What would that be?"
"As of today your marriage will be dissolved," the female official says without emotion.
"We want to stay married!" Katniss pleads with her. "Can't we just have some more time?"
"It's been a year," she states. "Most of the couples who were matched the same day you were are already expecting, and some have even given birth. We are in desperate need to repopulate and simply don't have more time to give you."
"So, you make us get married when we don't want to, and now you end our marriage when we don't want to." I am speaking now out of fear and anger. "When do we get a say in our own lives?"
"I'm afraid this is what is happening whether you like it or not. We must ensure our survival and win the war. I am here to tell you that we will dissolve your marriage and reassign you." I am shocked at the coldness of this woman.
"To where?" I ask a little more calmly.
"Well, that is to be your decision," the official even smiles obviously thinking she is giving us the world in doing this. "Mr. Abernathy here was opposed to separating you, but after our decision he did convince us that we should at least give you a choice."
"A what choice is that?" Katniss asks.
The third official finally speaks up. "A choice between joining our soldiers who are fighting, or being reassigned to a new partner in hopes of a better chance at conceiving."
I swallow the lump in my throat. These are choices? Neither one is tempting. Katniss is stunned silent. I don't want to go into the war and possible death, but the thought of having to be married to someone else is absolutely unthinkable. How could I possibly do that to Katniss after everything we have been through this past year?
"I'll join the forces," I tell them.
"No!" the voice I love so much screams. She grabs my hand almost painfully. "No, you can't go fight. I wouldn't be able to stand it if you died out there. Be matched with someone else. At least I would know you were alive. Please, Peeta. Don't go." She looks directly at me, practically begging me with her eyes.
I let out a sigh. "Alright. Reassign us, then." I say resigned.
"Very good," the first official states in approval. "There is only one thing more. Both of you will need to sign this document terminating your marriage." He sits a piece of paper in front of us. I look at Katniss, neither one of us can move to do it. Tense minutes pass, before she finally gives is and grabs the pen and signs. As she drops the pen on the table she is visibly crying. It pains me to see it. I put my arm around her, and then pick up the pen and scrawl my name quickly before throwing it quickly away.
The female official picks the paper up and looks it over. She determines it is good and nods. "Okay. Mr. Mellark, you will come with us now. We will take you to your new quarters and come back later for Miss Everdeen."
I look at them in disgust. "You're not even going to let us say goodbye?"
They take glances at each other, and then look back at me. "Three minutes, Mr. Mellark. That is all. We will be waiting outside for you." They all file out and I turn to Katniss.
"Katniss, are you sure about this? I don't want to be with anyone else. I want you. If I go fight and we win the war there might be a chance we could be together again." I am trying to make her see the reason of this.
"You could be killed, and I would never be able to survive that. At least knowing you're alive I could go on. You can have the chance of having a baby again. It's okay. I promise." She comes into my arms and I just hold her there.
"Just remember that no matter what, in my heart, you are my wife. Always." I raise up her chin so that I could look her in the eyes
"Always," she repeats in a whisper. We stand there just staring at each other for a moment, before both of us all of the sudden crash together in a mind-blowing kiss.
"I love you," I tell her softly.
"I love you too." We continue to hold each other until we know we have to part, neither of us wanting to. Finally, I start to let go, slowly, continuing to touch until we are only connected by the fingertips. I can feel her shaking as I finally pull away, and turn around to go out. I walk out the door to meet the group waiting for me. They begin leading down the hallway, and I follow. I turn around one last time to look back and see Katniss in the doorway. I touch my hand to my heart, and she places her hand lovingly upon the locket. When a corner comes, I finally turn and face forward when I can't see her anymore.
The walk seems to take forever, but pretty soon I realize that they are taking me back to the singles compartments where I had been when I first arrived in District 13. They check me in there, and escort me to S-265. My new home, I guessed. I am told that my belonging would be brought to me before the end of the day and I was to report to work in the kitchens first thing in the morning.
"Also," the official concluded, "we highly recommend that you do not attempt to see Miss Everdeen again. It would be best for you both if you began to adapt to your new situations. We will be in contact with you as soon as we have a new partner assigned to you."
I had every intention of trying to find Katniss, but I politely answer. "I understand." With that, they mercifully leave and I look around my new rooms and eventually slump onto the couch and place my head in my hands. Everything I hold close has been taken from me, my family by the Capitol, and now Katniss. I begin to let my emotions out in the tears that had been threatening since yesterday. This goes on for a while, before I am out of tears and exhaustion takes over and I fall asleep there on the couch.
The next morning, my internal alarm clock as always wakes me up. It takes me a minute to remember what had happened and that I am not with Katniss, but alone. I wash up, dress, and head to the kitchens. I report for duty with the head cook Chaff, a large man from District 11, then set to work on the first loaves of the day. I mindlessly work the dough and when he comes by; I know that Chaff is impressed with my work. He nods his head and lets me continue on.
This is how I pass my days for the next two weeks. I bake, and then each evening return to my rooms to sleep. I don't try to make any friends or eat with anyone, but usually find a table to myself. Chaff makes attempts at conversation, but I rebuff him each time, only letting him know the barest of details. It's not that he isn't a kind man, and normally I would be happy to get to know him more, but I am not in the mood to talk to anyone right now.
The only activity I do outside of work is watching the nightly news broadcasts. I continue to watch the casualty lists and note that both Gale and Finnick are still alive. The fighting has been intense in District 2, which has been the most loyal to the Capitol. According to the reports, though, the rebel forces are slowly making headway now and it looks like the Nut, their main fortification, is expected to fall sometime in the next few weeks.
After my first week alone, I decide it's time to try and see if I can contact Katniss. I find a day where I am off from work assignment and head over to the entrance of the married complex. The guards are there at the desk along with what looks to be the administrator. I walk up and calmly ask to see Katniss Everdeen. I use her maiden name as I am sure they have already changed it. The female official types into her computer, checks the screen and looks up at me.
"I'm sorry, but no one by that name lives in this zone," she replies. I don't give away any emotion, but I have to admit that I am not surprised. They had mentioned that they would come back for Katniss, and I am sure they moved her like they did me. The question is, where? The only logical answer I have is that they might have let her go back to living with her mother and Prim.
I then walk over to the family area of compartments and go through the same procedure that I had before. This time, though, after checking the computer for information, I see the male official look at me suspiciously.
"May I ask who is wanting to visit with her?" he asks.
"I do," I reply without giving away too much detail.
"I'm afraid only family are allowed to come into the zone to visit. Security, you know? Are you a family member of Miss Everdeen?" He looks me over with s sneer that tells me he know the answer already.
I could try to lie, but I don't see that getting me anywhere but into more trouble. "I understand," I tell him and walk away. Heading back to my own rooms I dig inside my head trying to figure out another way. I finally think about her work and think I might be able to talk to her above ground during her hunts.
The next free morning, I head up the transport tube to the surface around the time that I remember she usually went to work. I get up to the top and walk to where the group's usual meeting place was. I see a few people gathered around, some making snares, and others getting knives and spears ready. I watch for about twenty minutes with no luck.
Just as I am about to walk away, I see her. Katniss is in her usual clothes and her braid is long down her back. She looks thin, but otherwise well. She picks up her bow and arrows out of the supplies and as she comes back up her eyes lock with me. I can see her look of surprise at seeing me, but then her beautiful smile overtakes her face. I make a motion to tell her to come over to me, but Katniss shakes her head and points over to the right, where I see armed soldiers watching over the group. I nod in understanding and press two fingers to my lips and raise them up in the air towards her. She mouths something that looks like "Love you," and then repeats my gesture. Katniss then turns to follow the group as they are leaving.
I feel some relief at this interaction. At least I got to see her and know she is okay. I can try again on another day to see if I can get closer to her. I go back feeling better for the first time since we separated. It does not last long though. The next day, two weeks after I had been sent here, I get a notice from the leadership.
Dear Mr. Mellark,
We are pleased to inform you that we have been able to select for you a new partner. You are asked to be present in the Population Registrar's Office on Saturday next at 9 AM to be married. We hope that this union will ultimately be successful in helping with the rebuilding of our repopulation. We look forward to seeing you at the ceremony.
Brief and to the point, the thought of what they are doing makes the bile rise in my throat. I still don't know how I could possibly do this. Katniss wanted this; because this way she could assure herself that I would be alive. But, what would that life be without her? Nothing. I spend the whole night lying in bed thinking on the situation, and no answers.
The next week passes quickly. I have to work most days, but two of them I don't have to work as early, and am able to catch glimpses of Katniss again. Each time she gives me a sign of her love, but also shows me that she continues to be watched. There is no way we can talk. I want to tell her of what will be happening, but I never get the chance.
Saturday arrives faster than I would ever want it to. I slowly rise out of bed, dreading what lies ahead. I wash and get dressed in the same clean shirt and pants that I had married Katniss in. The irony of it doesn't escape me. A little before 9, I ride down to the main administrative offices of the district and find the door labeled Population Registrar. I open it to see a small group of people there. Two of the usual grey uniformed officials, Haymitch, and a young girl. I am sure Abernathy is there to ensure I go through with this. The girl is shaking, and I can tell scared to death. She is blonde with blue eyes like me, although both are darker than my shades.
Haymitch walks over to me. "You made it. I wasn't sure if you would."
"Yeah," I reply. "I'm here. Do I have a choice?"
"Not much," he answers. "The girl's name is Serena. From District 8. Just turned 18 two weeks ago." I look over and feel for the poor girl even younger than I am who obviously is fearful of what is about to happen. Katniss I know was feeling the same thing a year ago, but with that strength she has was able to hide it better.
I walk over to Serena and gently take her hand. The officials take this as a sign to begin, so they pick up some pieces of paper and begin the ceremony. As they speak, I feel this young girl start shaking uncontrollable in my hands. As I stand there, I suddenly know that there is no way I can do this. It's not right for me, nor for her.
I quickly drop her hand and go to Haymitch. "I'll be a soldier. Send me to the fighting."
"What?" he is shocked. "Are you sure about this kid?"
"Yes, I am." I say with all my resolve. "I can't marry this girl or anyone else. I love Katniss. No matter what these people have made us sign or do, she is my wife. I am not going be with some other girl that Coin decides is right for me. I'm going to fight, not for Coin, but because winning the war is the only way I might get to be with Katniss again."
"Be careful what you say around here, boy." the older man warns. "Coin is looking to take over Panem when we win the war. That's why she is running all these programs so that the people will think she has saved us all. She won't appreciate hearing that you are saying negative things like that."
"I don't care," I answer. "When the time comes, Coin is not going to be getting my vote. Besides, I am going into the war. That was one of the choices I was given and I could die anyway. That should make her and the leadership happy enough."
"Alright, alright," Haymitch says in defeat. "But what about your sweetheart? She didn't want you to go if I remember correctly."
He's right. "Then don't tell her." I decide. "Let her think that I am still here. She won't worry that way." I walk over to the official's table and ask for a piece of paper and pen. I am given some and take a few minutes to write a letter as heartfelt as I feel. When I am done I head back to Haymitch and place my hand out with the paper.
"Here," I instruct. "If anything does happen to me, then you can give Katniss this." He takes it and looks it over quickly.
"Okay," he concedes. "Go, then. There is a transport heading out in twenty minutes to take a batch of recruits to the training barracks in District 6. You better get on it. I'll deal with the rest."
"Thank you," I tell him, and I turn around and immediately head towards the transport tubes. They take me up to the surface and I go until I find the landing pads. I see a hovercraft on one of them and a line of boys and men in uniforms getting in. I join the line and when I approach the soldier who is checking off names, I give him mine and obviously he doesn't see it on his list.
"I'm a last minute recruit," I say. The man checks on his communicuff and must get a reliable answer, because he lets me on. Haymitch must have somehow let them know I would be boarding. I enter and find a seat next to a large blonde haired brute of a guy. I don't say anything but just get strapped in.
I'm doing this for us, Katniss. I hope you will understand someday. My thoughts continue to be of her, as I doze and the hovercraft lifts off to carry me away from here.