Artemis was not taking to the storm of reporters very well to begin with. I was trying to push my way through the crowd to get to my table out of reach of the media zone.
"There will be an interview with Caesar tomorrow night, and I will explain and take questions there," I shout into the crowd. "I know you must have a million questions and I am willing to answer them, but this is overwhelming the baby."
With that, they back down and I am able to make it to the District 12 table where, for the first time, I sit alone. I sit alone and Artemis is making a big fuss, obviously scared from the reporters.
"Shhh baby," I say to her, "Momma is here. I will make sure that won't happen for a while. You are going to have to live with it in the future, but for now you're safe in my arms."
This calms her down a little but she is still crying so I start to sing to her.
Come stop your crying, it'll be alright
Just take my hand, hold it tight
I will protect you from all around you
I will be here don't you cry
For one so small, you seem so strong
My arms will hold you, keep you safe and warm
This bond between us, can't be broken
I will be here don't you cry
'Cause you'll be in my heart
Yes, you'll be in my heart
From this day on, now and forever more
You'll be in my heart
No matter what they say
You'll be here in my heart, always
Artemis has stopped crying and is holding on to my hand just like I sang to her. Her bright, blue eyes look right up at me.
"That's right sweetheart," I say, "Momma will always be here."
That is when I notice the silence in the room. It was like when my father sang in the woods so many years ago. The mockingjays had stopped and listened to him. The same way, but the people in the room had stopped and listened to me. The looks on their faces are a mixed bag. On some there is adoration, that I am taking my life in this direction. Some are confused, wondering how I, Katniss Everdeen, can care so much about another. They have seen me transform throughout the years into an emotionless girl that has no care for another. Then there is a select few with glares on their faces. They are mostly from competing district mentors, obviously thinking I am just there to steal the spotlight. I look back at them with an icy look of my own and hug Artemis closer to my body. She seems to enjoy that because she coos up at me and I look down at her with a smile. She seems to be playing with my braid again, but I decide to give her, her stuffed lion. She immediately takes a hold to that and hugs it to her chest.
"Thank you Ms. Everdeen," a voice rings out.
I look up to the podium and find President Snow standing there and wonder how long everyone has been standing there. DId they all hear me sing? I ask myself.
"That is truly a lovely singing voice," he says, "with such a pretty young child to go along with it. Now, before I turn it over to the new head gamemaker, I would like to address some things. First off being that we welcome all of you to the Capitol once again. Secondly, Ms. Everdeen will not be bothered by media until tomorrow night during the interview. Any such behavior reported by Ms. Everdeen will be handled with extreme consequences. The usual goes as followed, the arena will be kept secret until your tributes are in the tube. Sponsorship will work the same as it always has. Everyone must be present for the required activities or punishment in the arena will be dealt out. Lastly, may the odds be ever in your favor. Now your new head gamemaker, Plutarch Heavensbee."
The new head comes on stage and he looks like any other gamemaker, a little thicker than others but with his new position, he has probably been eating a little better. He gives his opening statement and announces that the dinner will commence and the parade is to begin shortly. I start to eat and face towards the window, and await the crowd's reaction. While Artemis was down for her nap I was in constant contact with Cinna and Portia. Cinna showed me the designs for the opening ceremony outfits, and I was astonished. Why Cinna had waited till now to do a spin off of my outfit, I will never know. I think that he saw what I saw the first time I laid eyes on Kim. Potential.
I am walking to the chariot where Ron and I will meet to enter the parade when I bump into the person I least want to talk to.
"Hello Tris," I say, trying to keep it casual.
"Hello yourself," she says and looks at me. I am becoming very uncomfortable with her eyes looking into mine, trying to find a weakness. I stare back into hers and see the same look that I saw during the reapings. She is already prepared for the games, mentally and physically. She laughs a little as she starts to walk away, "Well good luck tonight, and for the next couple weeks I might add." She looks back right at me, "I'd watch your husband pretty closely as well."
As soon as she says that, Ron trips over the wheel next to the horse when the horse reels back, catching him off guard.
"Yeah," I say, "he can be pretty clumsy at times."
"Well," she says and then her eyes turn to that rock of a person, "accidents do happen. See ya around Kim."
She turns around and starts to walk toward her chariot, where Tobias sits. Their stylist has gone to accentuate the strength in the two and has chosen all black for them. Tobias however has his shirt off, and I can see the majority of his tattoo on his back. It looks like his back is on fire, because there is so many flames coming off it. He looks over at me and winks. I walk away with disgust to the chariot in the back, where Ron is picking himself off the ground.
"You doing alright?" I ask teasingly.
"Yeah," he says, "horses are mean though. When we win, we are so not getting one."
"When?" I ask.
"Well yeah," he responds, "Katniss says to get it in our minds that we will return as a couple, so I took it as that we are going to win."
"Sounds good to me," I say and give him a kiss.
The announcer says that we are to mount our chariots and to prepare for the parade. Ron and I climb into the chariot and he is about to switch on the suits when I stop him. Timing is got to be perfect here. The chariots begin to pull out and when we come out of the tunnel, I press the button to activate the suits. The effect is immediate.
The minute I see them, I praise the good Lord for Cinna. He has transformed my tributes, into a burning ember. The reminder that I am ever present in these games hopefully is good. I look over to where President Snow is sitting and my mind changes. The look on his face is not a happy one. Is what I did bad, did I not please the President? Suddenly I am scared, not for me, but for little Artemis. Have I just put her in danger? All these thoughts circle through my mind as the parade advances through the Capitol. I look down at my child and know that I must do everything to protect her. Just then Finnick and Johanna come over to my table and the ask the same question at the same time.
"Can I hold her?" they say in unison.
They look at each other and an argument is about to begin when I stop them.
"Johanna," I say, "you may hold her first. You must stay seated, however, and in my sight in this chair at all times," as I gesture to the chair right beside me. "Finnick you may sit on the chair on the other side, I have some questions for the both of you."
Finnick looks at me cautiously and sits down. I hand Johanna the baby, and she sits down as well, obvious that she is in paradise.
"So," I begin, "what is this plan you are talking about. No bull crap, real answer. I may be a mother, but I will not hesitate to take extreme action."
"Fine," Finnick says, "but not out loud."
I look at him quizzically, and he starts to write stuff down on a napkin, with a pen that was on the table for some reason. Probably to fill out a registration for the tributes, but I always do that on the train ride over here. After Finnick finishes the note, he asks to hold the baby. When Johanna passes Artemis to him, he slips the note to me.
There is a plan for a revolution. The Hunger Games must be stopped. We would like it if you would join us. We believe that the President is lying about Artemis being safe. This is the only way to keep her alive. There are uprisings in the other Districts, we have received information that Snow is planning to use your child as ransom if they do not cooperate. They won't care about your child and he knows that. He wants to break you Katniss. We need your help, and Kim and Ron's as well.
My mind is racing but my face stays calm. What he says I know to be true. Finnick never lies, that has been his vow even before the games. This may be the only way to save Artemis, and I can't let something bad happen to her.
I ask Finnick, "When do you think Artemis will be able to start swimming?" hoping to get some code going to him.
He gets what I am picking up and says, "Well it depends on a lot of things, but I would be the best teacher for any new swimmer."
"What do I have to do?" I ask.
Oh," he continues, "not much. She looks like a pretty tough girl to begin with." He says to Artemis and tosses her into the air and she laughs, making me smile. "Your mom will protect you just like she does with all her tributes."
I know what he means by that, I have to work my absolute hardest to keep Kim and Ron alive.
"Well I'm in," I say, confirming my choice for the cause.
"Well good," Finnick says, "she looks like she would enjoy swimming very much."
"Where would it be safe to take her?" I ask, alluding to where we would go as a base for revolution.
"Well you obviously want somewhere safe," Finnick says, "certainly no where like District 13. Of course that's obvious, just making a joke. Probably somewhere in 4 to begin with, then maybe you can get a pool put in 12. I know it snows there, so you will probably have to get it heated. Well the parade is almost over, here is little Artemis back. I'll talk to you later Katniss."
Johanna nods her goodbye as well and they walk away to the elevator to meet their tributes when they get done with the parade. I look down at Artemis, and see her falling asleep. She looks so tiny and precious laying there in my arms. I know that I will do anything to protect this girl.
"Go ahead and fall asleep sweetheart," I say to Artemis, "Momma will take care of you. We have quite an interesting life ahead of us. You better get your sleep because when we get off the elevator, let the games begin."
The ride was exhilarating, I can't believe that I made it through the entire time. Ron was my rock, he stayed steady and strong throughout the entire ride. Coming into the tunnel at the end of the parade route, I see myself and Ron still plastered on the screens. After one final wave, I am in the tunnel and our chariot comes to a stop. Cinna is waiting for me there and he gives me a big hug.
"That was brilliant," he says, "the crowd hasn't been won over like that since the parade with Katniss and Peeta."
"Speaking of Katniss," Ron says, "where is she?"
"She told me to collect you two and bring you up to your floor in the training center," Cinna says and we start walking to the elevators.
I look back and see Tris staring intently at me. We lock eyes for a second and she grins. It's going to come down to her and us, I just know it.
When the elevator stops on our floor, I hear something that is completely unexpected. The room is in absolute silence, and there is a soft singing to it, from Katniss.
But not so very long ago
The world was different
Oh yes it was
I settled down and I built my life
And lived in there
And I watched it grow
It was my life
The sun woke up each morning
Just like it always does
I'd get up and go to hunt
And start the day
I never saw what was coming
When my guilt had crept up on me
And I watched it grow
It was my life
But that life is not my life anymore
The lights shine more brightly
Than they've shown before
Before you came
The lights didn't shine at all
That was my life but not anymore
This is our life, couldn't have it any other way
Come what may, it's our life
"You know," Katniss says out loud, "I never sang before today. You can come out from behind the wall Kim and Ron."
We both come sheepishly out and are amazed what we see. Katniss is sitting on the couch, in front of the TV, with a baby on her lap. A baby? When? Why? All thoughts running through my head.
"It was just too painful," she continues, "My father was an excellent singer. Whenever he sang, the mockingjays would stop and listen to him. After the death of Rue, which was the last time I had sang until today, it brought back too many painful memories. Today I have another reason to keep going."
I look at the baby again and see that she or he is messing with Katniss' braid.
"Whos baby is this?" I stammer out.
"Mine," Katniss says, still eyes glued on the TV and back to her child. She is watching the recap of the parade, analyzing the tributes and appearances.
"YOURS," I ask incredulously. "What are you thinking? You are supposed to be getting us out of the arena alive. How are you going to do that while managing a child? How did you even get a child? You said that you loved Peeta and no one else, and as far as I know he has been dead for quite some time, and-."
"Kim," Ron cuts me off, "Look at her."
I do and I notice something. She looks happy and content. I have never seen that by her ever. Ever since her reaping, she has shut out the world and kept a cover on everything. Now she looks ten times better.
"Please sit down," she gestures toward the other couch in the room, "we are going to have a meeting of sorts."
Ron and I go to the couch she directed us to and both look at her intently, waiting for her to start.
"Now," she begins, "I heard all of your questions and I know you probably have some more. I will answer them, but here is the agenda for tonight. We are going to watch a recap of the parade, so you can get an updated view of competition and the love they are getting from the Capitol. Then I will open it up for questions. You may ask as many as you like, but I have the right to refuse any question. Lastly, I will let you hold her if you don't piss me off with the questions. Got it?"
We both nod our heads and she seems to accept our answers. She looks down at her baby, who is getting a little antsy. She pulls out a stuffed lion and hands it to her. The baby immediately grabs it and starts to nod off to sleep. Katniss hugs the baby to her body and leans back on the couch. She then looks up at the TV for the recap and Ron and I do the same. Tris and Tobias seem to get quite a bit of attention, being that they are the first strong candidates to come out of the tunnel. Elsa and Henry from 8 get a huge round of applause, mostly because of the sex appeal I guess. Then when Ron and I come out of the tunnel, the crowd goes insane. It is so loud, that I can barely hear Caesar talking in the background. The recap ends with the Anthem of Panem, and the recap ends.
"Now," Katniss says, "Ask away."
I speak up first, "How and why."
"Ah," Katniss says with a smile, obviously having more enjoyment with this than I am. "Right down to the nitty gritty huh. Well the how part is pretty easy. Her birth mother had her in a hospital and immediately took off. I had been searching for something like this for a while, and when I found her, I immediately wanted to adopt. The baby was so young that they sent me maternity pills. Those pills raise my hormone levels so that my body thinks that I actually had a baby, without all the morning sickness and blah blah blah. They then, took some of the hormones they had extracted from my body, along with some milk, to the baby. The injected her with my hormones to give her the feeling that I am her mother, and also the milk because she is too young to fed with anything other than breast milk. Normally, changing a person completely in my mind is wrong, but by changing her, it feels like that I am giving life for once, instead of preventing death. I believe that answers the why part as well."
"You said it was a girl," Ron asks, "What is her name?" He is being so much kinder than I am capable at this point in time.
"Her name is Artemis Rue Everdeen," Katniss answers with a smile, looking down at the baby.
I look down at her too, and suddenly my heart flutters. Little Artemis looks so peaceful, and I can see how Katniss could latch on to this to improve her life.
"How is this going to affect us in the arena?" I ask in a softer tone. I'm still pretty irritated by this sudden turn of events.
"This changes nothing," she says, "My focus is still to get you two out alive, I just will have Artemis her with me. I'm pretty good at handling situations like this."
I sit back on the couch and analyze the situation. Katniss appears to still be pretty focused, but I can't take chances. I know that she told me to not think like this, but I am going to do everything to keep Ron alive, whether my life ends or not.
"No more questions?" Katniss asks.
We both shake our heads.
"Alright, I would let you hold her but I feel that she needs some sleep. You do as well, so hit the hay, and come ready to work tomorrow."
With that she gets up and heads to her room where I'm guessing the crib is set up for little Artemis. I watch her leave and hope to be able to be a mother just like her someday. I do know, however, how hard raising a child can be, and to focus on keeping two people alive in the arena My ultimate goal, however, is to keep Ron alive.