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Into the Woods

By carolyncrantz

Thriller / Adventure

Chapter One

"We could do it you know." "What?" "Leave the district. Run off. Live in the woods. You and I, we could make it."

After Katniss returns from the Hunger Games, she must confront the consequences of her actions, and when its obvious she's failed to stop the rebellion and appease Snow, she and Gale get a chance to see if they can make it, after all....Reviews greatly appreciated.

During the Games, the only thing I wanted was for it to be over. I would close my eyes, stop for a second, and think: if I can just get through this, everything will be all right.

But I did. And it isn't.

By some miracle I managed to survive the Games, and now, I often find myself wishing that I hadn't.

But I can't tell anyone that. Not my mother or Prim, who are so happy to have me home. Who think we can be a family again.

Not Gale, my best friend. At least I hope I can still call him that. Things have been awkward with him ever since I returned. Even if I could see him a lot, which I can't because he's so busy now working in the mines, I'm not sure he'd want to. I know he didn't watch the Games, but he saw enough. I told him it was only a show, but he knows that isn't true. Because while it may have been an act on my part, it certainly wasn't for Peeta.

And Peeta. Sweet, kind Peeta. I definitely can't tell him. He'd never admit it, but he's thankful for the Games. Thankful because they brought us together. If I could have one thing in the world it would be to go back to a time before I ever knew Peeta Mellark. Before the horror of the Games and the complicated emotions. But if he could have one thing, well, it would be me. And I can hardly face him because of it.

The only thing that keeps me going is knowing how happy and safe my mother and sister are. In our new home, with plenty of room and food. I know they will never want for anything again, and when I think of that, it is enough to keep me going.

I try to keep this in mind as I help them pick out drapes. Nothing in the world could be less important to me now, but they seem so excited, I work hard to keep the smile on my face. They pull out swaths of cloths, sheer yellows, flowery pinks, striped greens. I have absolutely no idea how one is supposed to choose between them. A woman named Ivy, who owns the fabric store, talks us through. She describes the different materials. She tells us what is best and easiest and nicest. I think we must be her best customers for how she's coddling us. Just when I don't think I can listen to her drone on, she pulls out a fine blue fabric. Prim's eyes light up, and I think I can make it through the afternoon.

As the shadows grow longer, my legs are shaking from sitting for so long. It's never been something I've been good at. I twist my hair impatiently to keep myself from screaming. My mother must notice my agitation.

"Which do you prefer, Katniss?" I hear her voice ask.

"Mmmhmm." I agree.

"It wasn't a yes or no question." She says pointedly.

I shoot her a dirty look. But she holds my gaze. She suddenly seems to think I need mothering and is trying to reassert herself as the head of the family. I've decided to humor her as long as she doesn't tell me what to do.

But I put on a smile that would make the Capitol proud. "No, I like the blue best." I say as I stand up. "It will match your eyes, little duck." I walk over to Prim and playfully pinch her little face. It breaks into a smile, and I pick her up and twirl her around. She's heavier than I remember. "Ohh. You're getting so big!" I exclaim.

Prim blushes. "Gale brought us lots of food." I put her down and hold her small face in my hands since I don't know what to say. I lean my forehead against hers, and she pecks me on the check.

"I'm very glad to hear that."

"Yeah," she smiles, "Gale is great." Her smile fades as she looks at me. "When is he coming by to visit?"

"Gale's got to work now, in the mines," I tell her.

Her eyes get bright again. "Mom!" she squeaks with excitement. "I've got a great idea."

There's such a look of amusement on my mother's face I almost don't recognize her. "Of course, Prim, what is it."

Prim walks over to my mom, "Can we invite Gale over for the Parcel Day Dinner?"

My mother laughs and takes Prim in her lap. "Why, I think that's a great idea. Katniss, why don't you go over to the Hawthorne's house and tell Hazelle. I think Prim and I can finish choosing the curtains."

I don't like being ordered around, but I'm happy for the exit so I don't argue.

I'm hardly out the door when I see Haymitch sauntering across the lawn. He's got a bag clinking at his side, and I don't have to guess what's in it.

"Forget to buy food?" I quip.

"Nah." He pats his belly, "I ate enough in the Capitol to get me through the year." I cringe to think that they throw away more food in a day than most people in Seam see in a year. "This is what I need to get me to the Capitol next year." He holds up the bottles. "Where are you off to, sweetheart?"

"I'm inviting the Hawthornes over for the Parcel Day Dinner," I say before I can think to lie.

"Ohh. Dinner at your house?" He says through a grin. "Great. I'll tell Peeta!"

Oh no, I think. This is just what I need. Dinner with Gale and Peeta.


"Thank god we got the curtains in before the dinner," my mother says as she stands back and assesses the room. She's spent the better part of a week buying things and filling the house with objects we couldn't possibly need.

"What do you think of the new kettle, Katniss?" She asked me a day or two ago.

"We boiled water in a pot for years," I returned coldly. "I don't see what we need a kettle for."

Prim is setting the table. Our mother tried to ask me help get the house and order, but I snapped at her.

"I'm the reason we get to have this stupid Parcel Day Dinner in the first place! Haven't I done enough?"

Prim looked a little shocked, and perhaps I was harsh, but I don't care. It's all I can do to keep from ripping the curtains from the window, so I go in the back to calm down. Prim tells me my mother only wants to make the place feel homey. So we can have a nice house. A new start. But all this talk of curtains and cushions reminds me of the Capitol and makes my skin crawl. But how can I say that to my mother when she's actually trying for the first time in years?

I lean my head against the post on the porch and take a deep breath. I don't know how I'm going to make through the night. Both Gale and Peeta have been invited. I've had a hard enough time facing either of them separately in the few weeks that I've been back. But together? I'm seriously considering hanging myself with the curtains when I jump. It's the door bell, but we've never had one before and every time someone rings it, I jump in fright. I'm not sure I'll ever get used to it and wonder if there's some way to turn it off. The stupid thing sounds again when my mother calls.

"Katniss, someone's at the door. Can you let them in?"

I take my sweet time as I scoot my feet down the hall and to the door. When I open it, I see Haymitch looking a little happier than usual.

"I brought the alcohol!" he says, lifting up a few bottles of wine with a cheery smile on his face.

"Haymitch," I reproach, "you're the only one who drinks."

"Isn't Peeta and his family coming?"

I nod. "But they don't drink."

"And your handsome cousin and his?"

I nod again. "But they don't drink either."

"Are you sure I'm the only one who'll want to drink?" His lips twist into a bemused smile as realization dawns on my face. He pulls a small bottle out of his bag and hands it to me, slyly touching his nose as to say it's our secret.

Oh, Haymitch, I think fondly, Where would I be without you?

My mother welcomes Haymitch into the front room and it occurs to me they've never actually met before. I realize there is no point in introducing them and let them figure their own way into conversation.

"Yeah," I hear him say as I leave the room, "the curtains are lovely."

I wander into the kitchen to see if Prim needs any help with the food. Everything smells delicious. A large turkey is roasting in the over, almost finished by the looks of it. There are several large bowls filled with mashed potatoes, green beans, spiced corn.

"Do you want me to carry this out to the table?" I ask her.

"Oh, that would be lovely. Thank you, Katniss."

When I've relocated all the vegetables, I go and sit by Haymitch on the couch.

"Lovely cushions," he tells me stroking one of my mother's newest pillows.

"Oh shut up," I spit at him.

He laughs and passes me his flask. I take a sip and pass it back. The liquid is horrible and burns and I can't imagine how he drinks so much of that stuff.

We both jerk as the door bell buzzes again. "You haven't done anything about that yet?"

"It's on my list of things to do."

Prim lets in Hazelle and her youngest children. Rory, Vick, and Posy come crashing in our front room. Prim is suddenly all giggles as she shows them some of her new things. My body tenses as I wait for Gale to walk in, but he doesn't. My whole face must fall because Haymitch hands me the flask again and this time I take a big swig. I get up and am about to walk out of the room when Hazelle grabs me and hugs me.

"Thank you so much for having us, Katniss." I look at her like she's speaking another language. "Gale didn't get off of work until late," I hear Hazelle say, "He'll be here in about half an hour. He wanted to shower and get cleaned up before he saw you."

I feel my blood circulate again, my stomach unclenches, I think I'm breathing. I take a moment to understand. "Of course," I tell her with a genuine smile. "We're happy to have you."

Not long after, Peeta and his family file in. His mother is the only one who seems willing to listen to my mother talk about her new decorations, and I think they may have even known each other back when they were kids, living in town. The children are all playing on the floor, making a lot of noise, but it's happy. Peeta sits down next to me and puts his arm around me. I tense up. He senses it and relaxes.

"Are you okay?" He's developed this annoying habit of always asking me if I'm okay, and it's seriously making me wonder if he's forgotten somehow that we just came back from the Hunger Games.

"I'm just fine and dandy." I respond snidely, and he looks at me concerned. That's another annoying habit of his. He's always concerned. "I'm fine," I repeat, emphasizing the last word and patting his leg, hoping he'll believe me.

Things have been highly awkward between Peeta and me since we've returned. Some days, he so nice to me I think I could really like him. And other days, he's so nice to me, I think I'd really like to choke him. I know I hurt his feelings when I told him that my affections were only an act in the Games. He tells me he knows there is more between us. I want to tell him there is nothing more than bad memories. I tell him I want to forget, and he says we can't forget everything. At this point in the conversation he usually tries to stroke my hair or caress my face, but I turn away. He tells me I just need time. I tell him I need space. And that's where we are right now, with him waiting and me avoiding.

I get up and take another swig from the bottle Haymitch gave me. I nearly drop it when the door buzzes again. That damn door bell. My irritation only last until I realize who must be standing behind the door. My body tenses and my heart starts to race. We haven't really had a chance to speak since I've been back. We saw each other once, right when I returned. He hugged me, and I promised to meet him in the woods that Sunday, but then I couldn't because I had to take photos with the mayor. I told Prim to run to the Hawthorne house and give Hazelle a note, telling Gale I couldn't make it. I never got a response. And the few times I've had occasion to go over to his house, he's been gone, working in the mines. I didn't realize how badly I wanted to see him until I saw him standing there, outside my door.

"That must get really annoying," he says about the bell, a familiar smile on his face.

"Yeah, its days are numbered." I fall into his arms. He holds me, and for the first time in a long time, I feel like everything will be all right.

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