All I could do was stare at the white wall in front of me as I sit on the couch. The only sound is the clock ticking, but I don't really notice it. My mind is in a daze after what I just experienced. They have forced Peeta and me to separate, and now have taken him to be given to some other girl. Thinking about it makes the bile rise in my throat. He wanted to go to the war instead, but if it is a choice between him being dead or alive but with someone else, then I will take the latter. He could have a chance at a future that obviously I have not been able to give him.
The tears slowly stream down my face as I continue to wait. As they took Peeta away, the officials had said that they would eventually come back for me. The passing moments feel like agony. I should find something to keep me busy until my return, but what exactly would I do? I already miss him so much it hurts. I touch the locket and hold my hand on it as a way to keep myself together. My breathing is heavy, but at least the feel of the cool metal heart calms me. I raise the pendant to look at the back. Always. Peeta's promise to me. I rub my thumb over the engraving, and keep doing it repeatedly until I hear the familiar buzz. They have returned.
I let out a breath and slowly get up and walk to the door. It opens and the same grey uniformed trio that had been here earlier is in front of me. "Ms. Everdeen, are you ready to go?"
"Where are you taking me? Am I being reassigned a new partner as well" I ask sharply. Yet, I am curious as to my fate.
"Well, you do have a choice," he tells me. "You are not being reassigned right now, as there is a lack of eligible males we could pair you with. But, we have heard of your immense skills with a bow and arrow. We could most definitely use you in our cause to win the war, or if you would like, you can stay here and be of service by continuing to provide food for our populace. We leave the decision to you."
I think about this. Going to the war or staying here. I would gladly go and fight to finally bring down the Capitol and the regime of President Snow, but what about those I love? Just as I couldn't bear to let Peeta go, he would never forgive himself if anything happened to me. Plus, my mother and Prim would be crushed. I can be of more help if I stay here and help with hunting.
"I will stay here," I relay to the official. He gives a lop-sided smile.
"Very good," he affirms. "You are welcome to return to the family units of the district and rejoin your mother and sister if you so choose."
I nod. "Yes, that's where I want to go." I say.
"Follow us, don't worry about your things, they will be brought to you later today." The three then turn and lead me out of the compartments. I follow them sluggishly, only quickly turning back to look at the place that was never really mine, but in a sense where I was happy. I knew I couldn't let these people see me cry. We walk out of the married zone and towards the family complex. They check me in at the administrative desk there and lead me up the transport tubes. We finally get to the familiar door and they press the button. Soon enough my mother and sister are at the door. One look at my red rimmed eyes and although they don't know exactly what happened, they know whatever it was is not good. The officials explain that I am now once more living with them and quickly leave.
"Katniss, sweetheart. Come in." I walk inside the doorway and they both hug me tightly.
"What happened? Where's Peeta?" Prim asks.
"I'm still not pregnant. Therefore, they've decided that Peeta and I's marriage that they forced upon us isn't working. So now they have forced us to sign a paper separating us. They took Peeta somewhere so that he can be reassigned to a new "wife" who can be more able to have a baby." I can't help but let the tears flow now.
"Oh honey, I'm so sorry," my mother says while running her hand through my hair.
"Me too, Katniss." Prim adds. "I think it's horrible what they have put you through. Is there anything that you can do to change it?"
I shake my head. "Not that I can think of."
"Well," my mother states, "all we can hope is that when we win this war and the Capitol is no longer that with the new government there might be a way you can be with him again."
"Maybe." I say this more for her benefit than mine, because I don't really believe it. If Peeta is made to marry someone else, even if the war is won, he wouldn't be free. Mom and Prim leave me at this point and I go to the room that had been mine when I arrived here and reclaim it. I sit on the bed, and within a few minutes am fully asleep.
Prim wakes me up at some point to tell me that dinner is ready, but I'm not hungry. I don't want to eat. All I want is to lay here. She decides not to fight me and leaves, and I once again fall into a deep sleep that is the only place that I don't feel the pain.
In the morning, I am awakened by a sharp feeling on my arm. I look at it and discover they have given me a full daily schedule of work. It's as if nothing had even happened and it's just another day. I know that those in the leadership are truly unfeeling. I desperately want to just stay here in the bed, but know that I will not be able to hide forever. Also, work means getting into the woods and hunting. This is something I can do without too much thought. The place where I can put myself together.
With that, I slowly get up and put on the grey coveralls that as promised had been brought to me. I brush my hair, splash some water on my face, and head into the kitchen. Both my mother and sister are already in there.
"Decided to get up and face the day?" my mother questions.
"I might as well now as opposed to later. Being in the woods will feel good." I reply.
She understands and places a bowl of oatmeal in front of me. I eat it greedily as I am starving from the previous day. When I am done, I give them both a hug. "Thank you for everything."
"You're welcome." Prim says. "You're hurting. Of course we want to help."
"You have just by letting me come back," and I then get out to head to work detail. I place my fake smile on so that I won't get too many questions from the others. I am given my assignment and head out. Once in the woods, I breathe in the air and feel at least in some way at peace. I hunt and am able to eventually find enough game of squirrels and rabbits to take back.
I go back smiling, though, not only because the hunt was good, but because I also have some purpose. Forgetting what they had said, I am going to try and find Peeta and see him. At least talk to him to make sure he is okay.
As I walk back through the underground zones, I decide to go back to the married complexes. That was the last place I saw him, and for all I know they could have married Peeta to someone else as quickly as they did us. I go to the desk and give my name.
"I would like to see Peeta Mellark." I state.
The working official types in a computer and lets me know that he is not in the zone. Okay, so that meant that they have not partnered him to another yet. I try to see if I can talk to my friends.
"What about Johanna Mason, Annie Odair, and Delly Westing? Could I see them?" I inquire again. Once more there is a tapping at the keyboard.
"Miss Everdeen. Your name is not listed with any of those names as a family member, so I am afraid I can't let you through. I'm sorry." Frustration builds within me at the thought that I cannot even go in to see the girls. This is getting worse by the minute.
I make a decision to head to the singles compartments anyway. I ask the same question of the official there. The good news is that now I know Peeta is there, but like before I am not granted access to see him.
"We have been given instructions that you are not to be given a pass to see him. Leadership orders." I am crushed, but I should not be surprised by now. I guess I have got to find another way. I head home defeated for now. Mom and Prim are there with their continuing sympathetic looks.
Over the next days, it is the routine that gets me through. There is the daily work in the woods, and the idea of seeing Peeta again. Although I try to think of some way that I can get to him, each idea is shot down as an impossibility. Written messages are always previewed before given to their receiver, so I know anything I try to write to Peeta would be stopped. When the soldier guards are around, I am constantly watched. Each night the lonliness is unbearable, and the only hope is the locket I have around my neck and the promise it carries.
Finally, it has been around two weeks since my separation from Peeta when I see him. I am getting prepared to hunt and grabbing my equipment when as I am coming up I spy in the distance amongst some bushes a crop of curly blonde hair. As I try to gather details I then see gleaming blue eyes and the kindest of smiles. Realization hits me that he has been trying to find me, too. Probably with as little luck as I have had. I smile as brightly as I can back at him. He looks healthy and well.
Peeta motions for me to come over to him. I take a quick look around and see the guards not too far away. There is no way that I could escape their notice. I shake my head and point to them. Peeta understands. I mouth I love you to him and he gives his signal back by placing his fingers to his lips. There is nothing more I can do here, so I turn away and join the group to leave.
After the encounter, I am unmotivated about hunting, and it shows in how little I am able to get. The officials are curious at my unusual take for the day. When I get to my rooms, I let Mom and Prim know what happened.
"I saw Peeta!" I practically run in out of breath.
My sister is full of excitement. "Oh good! Were you able to talk to him? Is he okay?"
"Well," I answer, "I didn't get to talk to him, only see him because there were too many guards, but he looked good."
"There's got to be some way for you two to get together." Prim has that thoughtful look on her face.
"I've tried, but I can't get anyplace alone to be with him. If you have any ideas, please, let me know. I'm out." I watch Prim as she thinks for a while, but ends up shaking her head.
"The only thing I can think of is maybe he will be where he was again tomorrow and you can get there early before everyone else." I think this is absolutely brilliant and spend the rest of the evening almost giddy thinking there might be a chance.
In the morning, I get cleaned up and dressed quickly and rush out to the meeting area above ground. No one is there, and I look around, quietly calling out Peeta's name. But, there is no response. Eventually, the others begin arriving and I know that he is not coming today. Each day after that I continue the same process, hoping each time that he will come again, but it never happens. Finally, after a week, I come to the conclusion that something must have happened, because I know he would have taken the chance by now.
"Either someone found out he had come or he was working during that time, or he has a new wife." I say the last part with difficulty. "One of those because I know he would have been there otherwise. I know Peeta. Something is keeping him away." I just lay my head on the table in frustration.
My mother pats my hand. "I know sweetheart. I know. Losing the one you love hurts more than anything. Don't give up hope." I am shocked by this last statement.
"Like you did?" I said hesitantly.
"Yes," she says with the guilt etched upon her face. "I gave up hope and it cost me time with you girls. I missed so much by not being there for you. Don't give up on your life. Find something to cling onto."
I take her words to heart, although I don't know what there is for me to cling to. I sigh as I go with her and Prim to watch the nightly news. The word from District 2 is that the forces are slowly beginning to move on and work towards District 1, the last to conquer before invading the Capitol. The leadership is confident that this will be an easier time than it was in two, but I think they underestimate the district because it is known for luxury. The people there may be spoiled, but they are well trained, as well. I hope Coin and her cronies don't underestimate them. Of course, like each program, they end the day with the latest happy news in their repopulation program.
"And now, citizens, here are the latest announcements of births, pregnancies, and marriages in our wonderful program administered by Leader Coin." I roll my eyes as I watch the screen. Names scroll by, none that seem familiar. That is, until they reach the marriages when I see the words Peeta Mellark, District 12 to marry Serena Beauregard, District 8 tomorrow.
I place my hand to my mouth. Prim and Mom must have seen it to, because they turn to look at me sadly. I can't help but to stand up and just walk into my room, crying in the dark until too exhausted to do anything but sleep. This continues on for days. I barely make it through them. I manage to get to work, but don't get much game. My heart isn't in it. I don't eat much, even when my mother puts my favorite foods in front of me. By the following weekend, I can barely sleep and wake up only to head to the toilet and throw up. After that, I stay in bed the entire day. Prim tries to entertain me by playing cards together, which does help me feel a little better by the evening.
But the next morning the nausea hits again and I don't' want to eat or even get up out of the bed. Mom and Prim are worried and are both hovering over me like hens. I manage to make it to the living room by nighttime. My eyes are puffy and after hours of trying to convince me to eat I finally manage to keep some soup down. I'm not there for long when I head back into my room, though, with only my thoughts, which is not a good thing. I begin crying again and throughout most of the night.
When I am sick for a third morning, Mother has finally had it. "Katniss, something is really wrong. This shouldn't be happening."
"I'm sorry, Mom." I plead. "I think I'm just making myself sick by not sleeping and eating. I probably just need to get out for a walk, try to get some sunshine or something." Mom gives a huff, but she and Prim reluctantly go up with me to the edge of the woods and walk for about half an hour with me. It actually feels so good that I am convinced I was right.
"See?" I tell them both when we return. "I feel fine now. Let's eat some lunch, okay? I just need to get back into the routine. Give me some time."
I do well the rest of the day, and am actually surprised myself when I wake up the next morning and run straight to the restroom. My mother comes in with her hand on her hip. "Ready to talk now?" she asks. I nod.
"Okay, you are vomiting every day. Any other symptoms?"
"Only in the morning." I reply.
"What?" she says.
"The nausea. It's only in the morning really." I say this as a simple fact, but the look on Mother's face tells me that she is thinking something.
"Katniss," she says slowly, "when was your last cycle?"
"My cycle?" I question. I think about this. "Well, I had one about a week or so before Peeta and I were separated, and then I…" Her intent dawns on me. "Oh my."
"How long has it been?" she asks.
"Seven, maybe close to eight weeks since then?" I say. Mother just nods and goes into another room. She returns a minute or so later.
"I had one of these in the medical supplies I stash. With the program we use a lot of them. Take it," she commands me.
She leaves and I do the necessary business. I head out into the living room and we wait together, while she holds my hand. It is warm and comforting. The few minutes pass and my mother makes a motion for me to look at it.
I take up the stick and check the results. Two lines. I am pregnant.
"But, that's impossible," I say with my eyes still on the test. "I tested negative just the day before they took him away. I mean we only had that night…" Once again my sentence trails off. That night. We made love that night afterwards. That is must have been when it happened.
"We must have conceived that last night." I tell her.
"So, that was about what," she thinks, "six weeks ago?"
I nod my head. It's almost too much to take in. "What am I going to do Mom?"
"Tell the leadership," she states as if the answer is simple.
"Where would that get me?" I say. "Just a pat on the back and a good luck to you, if not worse. There is no telling what they would do if they find out."
"They might let you be with Peeta now," she suggests.
"No," I argue, "not when they just married him off to someone else. I'm on my own on this one. I don't think I can tell anyone."
"Are you sure? You can't hide it forever," she states.
"I know," I reply, "but I can try to for as long as I can. They don't care about me now, so they probably won't be watching too closely."
"Alright, Katniss. You know I'll help you in any way I can. Shouldn't you tell Peeta at least?"
"How can I?" I protest. "They aren't letting me talk to him, and now he has a new wife. It would just make it harder for him. It's better if he doesn't know. Like I said, I'm on my own."
"Okay," she finally relents. "I'll go get you something to ease your stomach."
As she goes, I sit there with my hand lightly on my abdomen where I now know a life is forming. I know what my purpose is now, my hope that I will cling onto. "Hey there, little one. This is your mommy. I want you to know that you were created out of love, and I am going to do everything I can to protect you."