Prim and I head to our favorite restaurant in the Capitol called "Cheddars." It is a real fancy place and always super busy. It's usually not a problem, when ever I say my name the head waiter usually drops whatever he is doing and prepares a table for us immediately. Today though, a million people are here, and I think I know the reason.
"Prim," I say, "This is the media frenzy that I don't want to deal with right now. It's only because I have Artemis and a bunch of people know that we come to this place every year. Do you want to go to another place?"
"No," Prim says, "If what you said about Snow is true, that he will only keep Artemis out of the Reapings if she lives the light in the spotlight with you, you need to start getting used to it."
I know that she is right and I push towards the restaurant. In the back of my mind resides the revolution. I didn't even think about Prim, what will happen to her? I make a mental note to talk to Finnick and Johanna about it. For now, I will just bask in the elation that I have with my baby in my arms.
"Alright," I say, "let's go get a table. I hope Artemis doesn't get too scared."
"I have a feeling she won't" Prim said, "She seems strong like her mother."
I smile at her and walk towards the register. I feel bad for the guy that has to work this crazy rush, so many people are trying to get in to see a glimpse of me and my baby.
"Table for two please," I ask.
The waiter looks up and smiles, "I was wondering when you would get here. I'm assuming this is what is causing this big rush. Even so, I have your table prepared and Kelsey here will escort you to your table Ms. Everdeen."
"Thank you Steve," I say and follow the waitress.
The whole dining room erupts when we arrive and people are shouting questions at me. I cover up Artemis and make my way to our table, Prim following close behind. Many people reach out to touch Artemis, but I give all of them a glare that most don't want any business with. We finally reach our table and sit down.
"Can I start you guys off with some drinks," Kelsey asks.
"I'm just gonna do some water," I say.
"Can I get some iced tea," Prim asks.
"Sure thing," Kelsey says, "I'll be right back with those, and here are your menus."
She walks off and I look down at my menu. I don't look at it for long when I notice Artemis staring intently at it. She puts her little hands on it, and looks back up at me. I laugh a little and she goes back to playing with my braid and I look at the menu. What looks good, I ask myself. I need some food that will keep me going through these games. When the games finally begin, there is only so much time to eat when you are trying to keep someone alive. I decide on the steak, with grilled potatoes and a fruit salad filled with strawberries, oranges, bananas, and apples. The waitress comes back with our drinks at just that time.
"You guys ready to order," she asks.
"Yes," I say, "I'll have the steak and potatoes with the fruit salad."
"Alright, and for you ma'am."
"I will do the grilled chicken," Prim says, "with the pea soup."
"Alright I'll be right back with your food," the waitress says as she returns to the kitchen.
I try to give Artemis a little water and the reaction on her face is a mixed bag. She looks confused at first but content in the next second. I laugh and look back at Prim. She is staring at me with a questioning look on her face.
"What are you thinking about right now," she asks.
I pause, what am I thinking about. Obviously I'm wondering about my tributes, that is the main reason that I am here. Guiltily I am thinking about the food, I am just so damn hungry. I am also thinking about how happy I am here with Prim and Artemis.
"Well first I am thinking about when our food is gonna be here," I say and Prim laughs. "I am also thinking about how just plain happy I am. I have never felt more content in my life, if I could freeze this moment forever, I would."
"That is what I am talking about Katniss," Prim says, "Little Artemis has given you a new life, and I am so glad she has come into your life."
"So am I," I say as I look down at Artemis. She is starting to doze off to sleep and I rock her gently and soon she is out like a light. "Of course," I continue, "I am thinking about my tributes. I wonder what they are doing right now?"
I walk over to the rope tying station where Henry is standing, fashioning a rope into a whip of sorts.
"What's up Henry?" I say, trying to break the ice.
"Please," he says, "call me Indiana."
"Okay," I say wearily.
"So," he begins, "I'm thinking about an alliance."
"With who?" I ask.
"With you and Ron," he says, "Why the hell would I tell you about an alliance if it did not include you?"
"I guess not," I say sheepishly. I am going to have some real trouble if I can't match this social factor. "So just us?"
"I want to bring Elsa in on this as well," he says cracking the whip as he finished it.
He starts walking over to the archery station where the attendant is waiting.
"Can you set up some moving targets for me please," Indiana says, grabbing a knife in his off hand.
The attendant readily agrees and starts up the dummies. I watch as Indiana cracks the whip out, snares a target dummy by the neck, and pull it back towards him while he stabs it with his knife.
"Where did you learn that," I ask, amazed and also terrified.
"My dad," he says, "In 8, one of our special skills is our knowledge in history. My dad was digging up some stuff when he found an old bull whip. I learned how to use it, and even make one. I figured that maybe I could use it if my name ever got reaped, and here I am."
"Wow," I say, "about Elsa now."
"Listen," he says, "I don't like her that much, but don't tell her that. She is snotty and stuck up most of the time, but she is pretty too. I figure that my best chance of taking down 2 is using her sponsor money that she will pull in with her body. You know that some old, fat man will be dying to sponsor her so if she makes it out alive he has a small chance of sleeping with her at the sponsor appreciation banquet."
"Okay," I say while grabbing a bow for some practice, "but why do you need us?"
As he snares another body he replies, "You guys work well as a team, and I know how to judge character and you guys have it."
"You know that only two can make it right," I say aiming the arrow down range.
"Well, seeing how the two of us have a better chance of their partner making it with four than two, it kinda helps the odds," he says.
"My odds have not been good as of late," I say and let the arrow fly.
The first time that I held a bow was today. Sure I've seen Katniss do it a hundred times on the TV, but that is just on screen and doesn't translate to my abilities. That is the reason I am so surprised that the arrow finds the dead center of the head on the target.
"Well it looks like they might be improving," Indiana says, "see ya around." He saunters off with the whip coiled around his hip and fedora on his head.
I stay at the archery range for at least an hour. The instructor seems really happy to have a capable student.
"I didn't get to see Katniss," he says during our lesson, "she played the strategy of not showing your strengths. It seemed to work for her."
After the hour of archery, I feel as though I can hit anything. I progressed from still targets, to moving targets, to moving while hitting moving targets. After my last workout, I thank the instructor, and move on to another station. I do notice out of the corner of my eye Tris, who is standing in the thicket of trees at the camouflaging station, watching me. I don't know how long she has been there, but I am sure that she knows about my new found talent.
I go over to Ron, who is at the fire starting station and sit down next to him.
"You've been gone for a while," Ron says while not even looking up at me. He is attempting to start a fire with another stick. He finally gets it and looks up at me, "What were you doing for that long? DId the meeting with Henry last that long?"
"No," I say, "that took about ten minutes. I'll tell you more about it later tonight. I just stayed at the archery station for awhile, turns out that I am a pretty decent shot."
"Really," Ron says, "well that sh-."
"Help her out for the Katniss Games," Tris interrupts. She is sitting across the table from us. I hadn't even noticed her.
"What are you doing here," I spit. I don't want to be anywhere around Tris and Tobias, especially after this morning.
"Learning how to make a fire," she says casually.
I know it's a lie. They learn everything about the games in the academy, and I'm pretty sure that fire starting is one of the first things. I can't call her on it though because tributes are free to move from station to station.
"What do you mean by the Katniss Games," I ask.
"Just a little name I came up for these games," she says. It seems like she is willing to tell out important information. "Snow's message said that they were honoring the girl on fire right? So along with the two tributes being able to win, I'm guessing they will be pulling out other things from her games. Bow and arrow training may be a valuable asset."
After she says this, she starts a fire the way Ron was trying to do, but in only ten seconds.
"Hmm," she says, "I seem to be pretty good at this."
With that she turns and walks away. Ron curses her under his breath and says that he is going over to the sword training area. I sit there for a while though, is that comment for me? Did she throw that my way because she believes that I just now found out that I had a knack for bow and arrow? Does she believe that Katniss is training me privately? I can't in my mind figure out this girl, and it might come back to haunt me in the end.
The rest of the training day is uneventful. I hit the edible plants, spear, rock climbing, and knife throwing stations while Ron attends the shelter making, sword, knots, and weights station. We both agree that the other will do the opposite of we did today. So I will be doing what Ron did today, tomorrow. We are heading back up to our floor at 5 o'clock, exhausted, sweaty, and hungry. We open the door to find another younger woman staring straight at us.
"Oh," she says, "I'm sorry. You must be the tributes that Katniss has talked about. She was absolutely right about both of your attributes, and you are so pretty Kim. Well good luck to both of you." She gets on the elevator and rides it down to the bottom floor.
I look at Ron with a confused look on my face, and he returns it.
"That is my sister Prim," Katniss says making me jump. "Okay if I don't do something about your paranoia to loud, unexpected noises you are gonna be dead in a day."
"That's the girl you volunteered for," Ron asks, "She looks so much older."
"Well you were what, 8 when my games were," Katniss says, "Ten years can do a lot to a person. So let's go back to the living room and you can inform me about the day's events."
We go back to the living room and Katniss sits down on the ground next to baby Artemis, laying on a blanket under an arch of toys. They are positioned so that she can reach, touch, and see them, but not enough that she can grab the whole thing down. When Katniss sits next to her, she looks over and says,
I am taken aback. This girl is only 12 months old, how can she already talk? Katniss doesn't miss a beat and scoops up little Artemis, making her laugh.
"That's right sweetheart, I'm here," she says. "Sit down you two and start speaking, I have to get ready for this interview I have tonight, and by me getting ready means getting my child ready as well which may prove to be a tougher challenge than I expect."
I sit down and take a deep breath. Might as well get the hard part out of the way first.
"Henry from 8 wants to form an alliance with us."
Katniss looks up at me with a hint of curiosity. "What do you think," she asks.
"This isn't about my thought," I fire, "You are our mentor, you are supposed to tell us what to do."
"True," she says, "but Haymitch told me not to form an alliance, and I did anyway. So even if I tell you yes or no, it is still your decision. I can do my best to protect your life, but that comes from my speculation on what is going to work. Sometimes I am wrong, not often, but some. If I tell you no, you might make an alliance the next minute. If I tell you that it is the best idea in the world, you might decide not to make the alliance. So the question still stands, what do you think?"
"I honestly don't know," I say, "I waited to bring it up until now because I didn't want anyone of the other tributes to hear it."
"Well," Ron says, "Do you think we would be able to beat him at the end?"
"He is very skilled," I say, "I saw him use a whip to snare dummies, pull them back to him, and stab them in the heart. If we double team him though, we might be able to beat him."
"So just him and us," Ron asks.
"No," I say, "he wants to bring the girl from 8 with him too."
"I guess that makes sense," Ron says, "If you are gonna have two victors win from the same district, might as well work with one another."
"That's not it," Katniss says, not even looking up. Her focus is still Artemis.
"What do you mean," Ron asks.
"This boy is smarter than that," Katniss continues, "The only reason that he wants an alliance with you is because you two are going to pull in a shit ton of sponsor money, and by his calculations, he believe that Elsa will pull some too. So with the combined sponsor money from Elsa, you, Kim, and himself, he could probably purchase a district."
"Wow," I say, "that is exactly what he said."
"This isn't my first rodeo," Katniss says, cleaning up some spit that Artemis drooled down her chin. "You guys find any special talents that you want to share with the group as a whole?"
"Turns out, I'm pretty decent with bow." I say.
"Really," Katniss says, "Well I will put in a call to Charles and see what he thinks. For now, I have to get ready. Eat some dinner, clean up, watch the interview if you want, I'm terrible at speaking so it might not help, but overall do what you want to do. You have the night off in my books but same story tomorrow, get up early and hit the training hard. You have to make a good impression for the gamemakers in two days."
Katniss picks up Artemis, and walks towards the elevator, where she will probably take down to the garage and find a car to escort her to the stage where Caesar and millions of people watching worldwide, will be waiting.
"Good luck," I call out.
"Thanks kid," she says, "We will certainly see how this goes."
"Cinna, we aren't going to do the fire thing for Artemis," I say immediately as I walk in the room.
"Of course not," Cinna says. "Relax, we are going to make a brand new identity for this kid."
He brings the outfit into the light and it is perfect. The outfit is a smooth silver with glint to it when it hits the light. I remember reading in the archives, searching for a name, and came across a section called Greek mythology. I opened up the page to find all sorts of gods and goddesses. They each had a meaning to their name, like Ares was the god of war, Aphrodite was the goddess of beauty. Then I came across a name that stuck, Artemis. The Greek goddess of the hunt, I thought nothing could be more perfect.
"Cinna it's beautiful," I say, running the fabric through my fingers.
"And you doubted me," Cinna says while bringing out my dress. It is dark green, like tree leaves in the summer. It looks as though the summer leaves are reflecting off the moon at night. I feed Artemis just before we go on stage so she won't get fussy during the interview. After she is fed and well, I dress her in her lovely little dress, complete with some black socks and a silver headband, with an embroidered arrow in the middle. I put on my green dress, and braid my hair. I decided that I would always keep my hair in the braid. It is just easier, and what people expect me to wear. After that is all done I grab Artemis's toy lion and let her hold on to it, and walk backstage, awaiting my call.
"...Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to present Ms. Katniss Everdeen, with a very special guest she would like you all to meet," Caesar announces and I walk onto the stage.
Artemis takes the first round of camera flashing and crowd cheering like a champ. What's even better is that puts on a smile while looking up at me. Man, this kid is a natural, I think as I smile back at her. The cameras are sure to get some great pictures early. I reach the chairs center stage and give Caesar a hug. After that I sit down with Artemis and she coos contently and that earns a awwww from the crowd.
"Katniss," Caesar begins, "good to have you back."
"Happy to be here," I reply with a smile on my face.
"I can tell," he says, "so let's begin with the obvious question. Who is this little darling?"
"This is Artemis Rue Everdeen," I say, "my daughter."
"Your daughter," Caesar asks, "how can this be?"
"I adopted her earlier this summer," I say, "she is almost twelve months old."
"Ah," Caesar says, "she certainly looks happy to be here, don't you sweetie."
Artemis looks over to him, and then back at me.
"Momma," she says.
The audience gasps and starts awwing incredibly. The noise is deafening but quickly dies down.
"That's right baby," I say, "This is just my friend Mr. Caesar."
Artemis looks back at him and smiles, now that she has my okay.
"When has she been able to talk," Caesar asks with a broad smile on his face.
"Just today if you can believe it," I say, "my theory is that the medicine that the Capitol gave her to keep her alive sped up her development a little. Of course it is no problem, this is a happy change for me."
"Well the Capitol is truly amazing, aren't they folks," Caesar says.
A cheer rings through the crowd and I smile. They don't know how much is riding on this like I do. This interview is to secure some trust from Snow so he won't take my daughter from me when the revolution happens. As long as she is within my sight, she will always be safe. I will fight to my last breath to protect this girl.
"Yes they have opened up new doors that I never thought would happen," I say. That is actually very true, I would have never gotten Artemis without the selflessness of the Capitol.
"Well we shall open up to the audience for questions," Caesar and I face the horde of reporters ready to find my every secret.
"Katniss," a bald man stands, "how will this affect the impact you have on your mentoring duties?"
"I am still fully behind my tributes," I answer, "I will give my tributes my all, the only exception being that I will do it with my baby with me."
"You won't have her taken to a daycare," the bald man asks again.
"No," I say, "I feel that the safest that she will be is in my sight at all times. It's just something that I picked up in my games. I want to make sure that the people that I love stay safe, and that is the way that Artemis will stay safe."
"Katniss," a woman gets my attention. This is a weird one. Her skin is a light purple with golden tattoos running across her arms and legs.
"Yes," I reply.
"What is the real story behind you and Peeta. Throughout the interviews you said that he was a great friend and reliable tribute, but never addressed his love statement after the games. Was it just a strategy or did you actually have a thing for him," the woman asks.
Damn this girl hit me hard. I don't know how to the answer the question. In reality, I would normally just say that he was a great friend to me but this woman has called my bluff. Of course I love Peeta and still do today. I will never marry and Artemis will be my only family. I look down at Artemis and the locket that I keep with me everyday. It contains two pictures, one who this entire interview is about, and one who this question is about. With Artemis's life on the line; however, I can't afford to keep secrets that aren't completely necessary.
"The real story is long and I am sure you all want to hear every detail," I start, "but to get through this please don't interrupt me. This whole thing began many years ago, after my father had just died. I was trying to earn money for my family to bring in some food so my sister didn't starve. I was trying to sell Prim's baby clothes but no one was buying. It started to rain, a cold pounding rain, and I hurried to try to get back to my house. The fact was that I was starving and tired, the rain was just a finishing factor on my life. I sat down by a tree in the backyard of the baker's property and fully expected to die. I had tried to search the trashcans to find some scraps, but unfortunately they were empty. The baker's wife found me and she said I was to get away or she would call the peacekeepers. So I ended up under the tree, waiting to die when it happened. I heard a great crash and a slap to a face. The baker's wife reappeared at the doorway dragging a blonde boy with her. He had a bruise on his cheek and she was yelling at him to throw the burnt bread to the pigs. She disappeared back into the house, and as soon as she was gone, he tossed both loaves to me and went back into the house. I took those home and finally had something to feed my family. The next time I spoke to this boy was on the train ride to the Capitol during my games. Peeta had been saving me before the games had even begun. At first I was hesitant about his comment during the pre games interview, but when they announced that two victors could be crowned, I felt this weird feeling inside me. The longing to be with Peeta was overwhelming so I searched for him, found him, healed him, but I couldn't save him. I blame myself every day for his death, and I have struggled every day after to find a meaning to wake up each morning, now I have. I loved Peeta. I loved being with him, how he made me feel. I loved taking care of him and he me. Now I have someone who I can love more than anyone and nobody can take her away from me."
I finish my statement and look into the crowd. Usually I have never been able to wow a crowd. It's usually because of my not so charming personality. Today though, the crowd is silent, not a peep. I wonder if this is a good thing or bad and look over to Caesar. He too is giving me a particular look of wonder and amazement.
"Katniss that is something else," Caesar says. A resounding agreement from the crowd tells me that this isn't all a bad thing.
A short man stands up and by the look on his face I can tell the question will not be pleasant.
"Katniss," the man says, "how do we know that this isn't just a fake thing to take the media off of you. Where is the babysitter that takes care of this child constantly? I can only assume that she is directly behind the curtain waiting to take the child as soon as you get out of shot of the cameras. Do you really expect us to believe that you are capable of caring for a child by yourself. You are broken, there is no happy end for this child."
The first part of the question stabs me in the heart. Why would someone believe that I don't take care of my own child. The second part is the knife being twisted in my chest. Am I really broken? Is there no future for Artemis? I can't believe that some people believe this about me. My grief must show because when a single tear rolls down my cheek Caesar speaks up,
"Katniss you don't have to answer that. If you would like I can have this man thrown out."
I contemplate this offer. here is nothing more I would like than to just dodge this question and keep my head down, while basking in the fun questions. I am about to say yes when a thought pops into my brain. If I don't deal with this question now, it will always be there. At Artemis's first birthday, when she starts school, when she graduates, throughout her entire life there will always be doubt.
"No," I say, "it's okay. Yes I was close to being broken. I am not fully, but close. Death after death in my life, not just from the games, but from natural causes. Anybody would be at their breaking point, even you. When Haymitch died after last year's games, I was about done. I was so close to shutting myself out when I found Artemis. An idea popped into my head then. I spend half my year trying to save people when I know that one will ultimately not make it. It pains me every year, but I have become good at caring for others. That is something extremely new for me, and I found it in Artemis. If I could guarantee safety in another, I would put all my effort year round to protecting one person, and then half the year protecting three. Whenever I start to feel lost, Artemis always is there to bring me back. Whether she needs a diaper change, wants her favorite toy, or wakes up in the middle of the night needing to be sung to."
"You sing to your baby," the man asks incredulously. "That can't be possible. The great and powerful Katniss Everdeen wouldn't possibly do something as childish as singing. Maybe play some music but you certainly wouldn't sing."
"Yes I would," I reply calmly. "It calms her down quite nicely."
I look down at Artemis and it look like she agrees with the smile she gives me.
"Prove it," the man says flatly.
I don't want to sing in front of these people. I don't want to sing for this jerk in the front row, but it keeps the media interested and off the districts enough so I can save Artemis. Plus she just yawned for a long time so she probably getting tired.
I've heard it's said
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well I don't know if believe thats true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a sky bird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better
I do believe I have been changed for the better
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good
As I finish Artemis is not asleep, and I guess I shouldn't be surprised. She did just nap before we got here and there are thousands of people around, with camera flashes going off constantly. What does surprise me is that the cameras have stopped and everyone is silent. I look at the man that dared challenged me about my child and he shrinks back down in his seat. I have accomplished what I came to do today. The interview continues until the point of where Artemis becomes too fidgety and cranky, so Caesar calls it and I walk off stage with a smile on my face.