"Look," Ron says with a start, "there it is."
I look out the window and see the tall buildings of an enormous city. I remember in school that the Capitol was rebuilt in a city close to the ancient Rocky Mountains called Denver. We go through a tunnel and arrive on a platform with a ton of people huddled around the drop off point. When they see the train, they start to go berserk. Pointing and shouting at the window where I am currently residing. I suddenly become self conscious and step away from the window.
"Not a good idea," Katniss says as she walks into the room. "Getting sponsor money means actually appearing to the sponsors."
"I'm appalled," I say, "it is like a celebration for our death."
"For them, it is exactly what that is," Katniss says. "You are going have to get passed that and deal with the people. In the arena, when all you need is some water, food, or something, the only way I can get that to you is with the money. Now for some rules for the day. I won't be in contact with you for most of the day, until after the parade. First thing is listen to your stylists, Cinna and Portia have been doing this since my year, so you are in good hands. Do everything they say, even you may not like what is going to happen. Cinna will be yours Kim, and Portia will take care of Ron."
The train came to a stop and Katniss walked out the door quickly, while a group of peacekeepers came to escort Ron and I to our respective stylist rooms. Just before Katniss left I saw a look to her eye that was very peculiar. She had on a face of an almost giddy expression, and I wonder what she is about to do that is going to make her so happy.
I walk to the designated room in the training center that the adoption lady told me to go to, and when I open I find President Snow sitting in the waiting room.
"Ah Ms. Everdeen," he begins, "I was coming to see the little one that will be helping us with our problem, but when they told me you had not arrived, I thought the child should see her mother first."
"Thank you President Snow," I stammer, more because I am so anxious to see my daughter.
I walk into the room that the nurse leads me to and in a crib lays a baby, scratch that, my baby, with a sign written over her.
Artemis Rue Everdeen
Mother: Katniss Everdeen
Born: April 4th, 2200
8lbs, 19.8 inches
I look down at little Artemis and see that she is just waking up from her sleep. Her tiny eyes open and I am shocked at what I see. Little orbs of perfect blue stare back at me, just like Peeta's. I couldn't have asked for any better. I reach down and pick her up and hold her in my arms. Her eyes stay locked on me and I smile down at her.
"Hey baby girl," I say, "Mama is here."
She smiles and it makes my heart soar. She notices my braid hanging down on my shoulder and starts playing with it. I laugh as she figures out what this new thing is. A nurse walks into the room and starts to explain some things about Artemis. She says that the birth went very smoothly, and the mother took off soon after she was born for an unknown reason. They guess that she wasn't ready for a child, but did not believe in abortion. She goes on about how well she is doing, and that she is sleeping through the night very well. She was being bottle fed some of my milk that I had sent to the Capitol, so the baby would be more accustomed to me. It's crazy really, how advanced technology has come that they could manipulate enough things to make a child have a different mother. Of course the gene pool is set in stone, but that was fine with me. This mother was very selfish in her actions, and by stepping in, I feel that for once, I have given life, rather than protect it. She hands me a package of supplies to take with me such as diapers, bottles, toys, etc. She also said there was a crib and other assorted items located in my room on the twelfth floor and at my home in District 12. I thank her and look down at little Artemis. She has fallen asleep again and has cuddled into the crook of my arm. I adjust her so the her head is resting on my chest, and take her out of the room. President Snow awaits outside and I whisper to him,
"Shh she just fell asleep."
The president looks at me with a look of amazement and pure joy.
"Ms. Everdeen," he says, "this is absolutely perfect. I am happy that you have found someone to complete your life. I will tell you the real reason that I approved of your child. Last year after the games, I saw a deterioration in you. It looked like you were going to turn to Haymitch's ways very soon and I just couldn't have that. I needed you to be strong for the Districts. We can manage the unrest. We have done it before and can do it again, but I was worried about you. Now with your child in your arms, I see a life reborn within you. This will improve District life very much."
"Thank you President Snow," I say, not fully expecting this.
"No Ms. Everdeen, thank you," he says and walks out the door. "I'll see you at the mentor-gamemaker dinner during the parade," he calls out behind him, and just like that he is gone.
Little Artemis, must have been woken by the conversation, starts to whimper a little. I look down at her deep blue eyes and smile.
"It's okay," I say, coaxing her to a relaxed state. "Mama is here. President Snow was just talking to Mama about some very interesting things." I am walking to the elevators that will take us to the twelfth floor, talking to her all the way so she can hear my voice. "Like how everyone is just going to love you. And don't you worry sweetheart," I say and I can feel the Haymitch vibe going through me. Perhaps the best way to honor him would be giving her this little nickname for the time being. "I will never let anything happen to you."
I sit in a room, laying on a table, with nothing but a paper hospital gown on me. After the most excruciating two hours of my life, where every ounce of hair was pulled from my body, even in places that only I and my husband should touch. They also sprayed me down multiple times and plucked my eyebrows. I have never known so much pain in my life, and now I am waiting for Cinna to arrive. He walks in the door and I see how normal he looks. He has gotten a little older since Katniss' games and behind him trails a little girl.
"What do you think Lucy?" he asks the little girl, "Is she as pretty as I told you?"
"She is even more," Lucy says, and I smile at her. "How do you get your hair so red?" she asks me.
I giggle a little at the small child's question, "I was born with it like this," I say. "It's all natural."
The girl looks up at her dad with awe and he nods to reassure that my statement is correct.
"Why don't you go sit over on that chair, while your old dad attempts to make this girl more beautiful than she already is," he says and I blush at the comment.
"Hi my name is CInna," he says to me, "I will be your stylist throughout the games."
"So you are here to make me pretty?" I ask, not believing the little girl's comment. I don't think that I look that good, especially compared to Elsa from 8.
"Well I won't have to do much," he says and I blush again. "But as I told Katniss 10 years ago, I'm mostly here to make an impression."
He goes and opens a long cabinet, built for an outfit I guess, and pulls out a flat grey dress. My heart sinks, this great stylist, that was able to make a girl seem to be on fire, has lost his touch in my eyes. But I remember Katniss' words and do as he says. When I get to look at myself in the mirror, I look very plain. Cinna does my hair to match the grey dress, covering up most of my hair with grey, and leaving only a few streaks of red. He steps back, looking over his work.
"What do you think," he asks me.
"It looks fantastic," I say hearing Katniss in my ear. "Thank you so much."
"No," he says and I am taken aback, "I want your honest opinion, not what Katniss told you to say." He saw right through my words. I guess he has been working with Katniss too much.
"Okay," I say tentatively, "I think it looks way too plain. How am I supposed to get sponsors in this?"
"That's what I thought you would say," Cinna says, a clicks a remote that he holds in his hand, and it renders me speechless.
The dress comes alive, with ripples of orange and red streaking all around the dress. They are glowing and suddenly I get what he is trying to do.
"It's an," I begin but he finishes for me.
"An ember," he says.
"Hey baby," I say softly, rousing her after her nap. "Time to get up, we got a rough couple of hours ahead of us. You are going to get to meet so many new friends, like Johanna and Finnick," I say as I take her out of her crib and feed her when she starts to cry a little.
After she is done eating, I change her diaper and pull on a green onesie and cradle her in my arms. It still surprises me how small she is. I grab a diaper bag, fill it with fresh diapers and a couple of toys. She has been accustomed to a stuffed lion and I let her hold on to that while I travel to the dining room. I get in the elevator that will take us to the top floor of the building overlooking the final stretch of the parade route. As the elevator doors open I am greeted to an argument that is not unusual. Finnick and Johanna are insulting each other about and I pick up the conversation.
"What in the hell is she thinking," Johanna spits at Finnick.
"She is just trying to find something to hold on to," Finnick comes to the defense of me, as I guess the conversation is about my choice.
"What about the future for this kid. She won't be able to handle mentoring each year, especially when her child is old enough for the reaping," Johanna says and I choose that moment to jump into the conversation.
"Well I talked with President Snow, and he said that Artemis will be perfectly safe from the reaping, and my tributes this year aren't gonna need a lot of training by my estimation," I say making them both jump.
"God dammit Katniss," Johanna says, "Why do you have to be so fucking quiet?"
"For one language," I say, "I don't her to start talking like you. Second, you were pretty loud to begin with, if you could tone it down a little, I don't want her scared before I even enter the dining room."
FInnick looks at me and the baby and like a bug to a light, he comes over and admires little Artemis.
"Did they do the maternity thing?" he asks.
"Yeah," I say, "her mother took off just after she was born, but now I am her mother."
"Well," Finnick says, "you certainly look better. You have more life to you, and that is very good for you. I am so happy for you Katniss, this is really good for you." Artemis coos up at Finnick and he smiles causing her to smile.
"She certainly seems to like you," I say noticing the good vibe coming off of Finnick. He wants kids, but like me in the past, he doesn't want them to have to be put into the Reaping. Plus, he doesn't know if Annie will make it through childbirth.
"Well who doesn't?" he asks, back to his normal self. "Do you think she is old enough for a sugar cube?" he says seductively.
"No," I say laughing, "she is only a few months old, and I would prefer if you don't hit on her. She is pretty young for that sort of thing."
I look over and Johanna is approaching slowly and cautiously.
"You said her name is Artemis?" she asks.
"Yes," I reply, "Artemis Rue Everdeen."
"Oh," she says, uncertain of what to do.
So I break the ice for her. "This is uncle Finnick and aunt Johanna, they are pretty nice people," I say to Artemis, and she looks at me and then to Finnick and Johanna. She smiles at both of them, and for the first time, I have seen Johanna smile genuinely.
"Maybe this isn't such a bad deal after all," Johanna says.
"No it isn't," I say, "and you can both hold her during the dinner after all the festivities that will go on when I walk in that room."
With that, I pass them and enter the dining hall. I am greeted by thousands of people, media and guests alike, assaulting me with questions. But not before I hear Johanna say in a hushed tone,
"This could compromise the whole plan," she says.
Finnick answers her, "No I don't think so. It could be the exact push she needs to help us."