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Deliverance: The Long Road Ahead

By Jen Duke

Other / Drama

No Light, No Light

I don't want him here. It's hard enough trying to find the will to live without having to deal with the emotional confusion that is Peeta Mellark. And how can he just show up and plant primroses in my yard without even thinking that they might be too hard for me to look at?

I storm up the stairs right past Greasy Sae who is making me breakfast, just as she does every morning. And every morning she forces me to eat even though I have no desire to sustain my body. Why should I live when I caused so much death around me? If I'd never lived, all those people would still be here. Finnick, Mags, Brutus, Enobaria, Cato…the list goes on and on. The list of the people that I killed. Every night I watch these people die over and over again. They don't always die in the same way, but in every situation that my unconscious mind conjures up, I'm always the killer.

The first thing I do is sit on the edge of my bed with my head in my hands. I would probably be crying if my tear ducts hadn't already run dry for the day. Now, all I feel is an emptiness, an emotional numbness, a void that nothing and no one can fill.

One thing in particular comes to mind. Why would Peeta come back here? With all district fences torn down and the amount of money he has, being a victor, he could have gone anywhere he wanted. Why would he come back to a place that he associates with pain and loss? His family…his bakery…his friends….none of them are left here. There's only Haymitch, and…me.

A guilt eats away at me but I push it aside. I really hope that he chose to come back to twelve for other reasons. Not me. Because I don't know what he expects but I'm not even stable enough to have too many acquaintances, much less friends or…anything else. Nor do I want anyone like that. Greasy Sae is the only one I'm able to tolerate being here right now. That's why I'm so thankful that Haymitch keeps to himself.

I pick my head up and look in a mirror across from my bed. I didn't put that there. But instead of wondering who it was that did, I'm focused on the person staring back at me. She looks nothing like me. She looks…insane. Her hair is matted and most of the ends are uneven and frayed. Her eyebrows have almost grown into one and her skin is oily and uneven as well. If you were to look at the "Girl on fire" or "Mockingjay," so to speak, and then this girl, you'd never know that they were the same person.

But maybe that's because they're not.

The "Girl on Fire" was a sixteen-year-old girl whose love for her sister overcame her fear for one brief moment in time, and then a talented costume designer gave her that name.

The "Mockingjay" was that same girl, then at seventeen, who wanted nothing more than for her family and friends, and herself, to live in peace.

Now that it's over and I'm just Katniss…why am I still here? Sometimes I think the only reason that I even make an effort to keep myself alive is for my mother. Because I can't imagine going what she's been through. Losing Peeta or Gale would be…devastating. And there's no way I can even imagine the pain of losing a child. Then, losing yet another child? The last member of your family? I can't do that to her.

She's been calling me but Greasy Sae answers every time and I don't have the strength or will to talk to my mother. I should, but I just can't. I wouldn't know what to say, or how to act. So every time Greasy Sae raises her eyebrows at me when she's on the phone, I always shake my head, knowing that she's asking me if I want to talk to her, and I just…I can't now.

I can't even talk to Doctor Aurelius, who, really, I'm supposed to be contacting at least once a week. But really, where would that get me? I seriously doubt he can help me. And I know that the alternative is going back to the Capitol to be tried and possibly sent to prison, but that's no threat to me. I'm already in a prison, in a way. There's just no need for bars in the prison that I'm in.

I have no idea why, but after observing this girl in the mirror, I have an urge to rewind time, back to before everything got so complicated, so destructive and painful.

I must use an entire bottle of hair conditioner that was leftover from the last time my stylists were here, and I must spend at least an hour combing through the tangles. But finally, my dark brown, now-shiny hair flows down smoothly and freely to one side. Then comes the braid. Off the top of my head and then over my left shoulder, just like my mom always did. The way I always wore my hair when I went hunting with my father.

I open a drawer to put the brush back and find a small box with a note on it. It says, - Katniss, please don't neglect to use these items once we've left!

Xoxo, Flavius-

I should have figured. I open the box and find wax, tweezers, a razor, and makeup, but the rest of the tools I don't recognize. I pick up the tweezers but I put the rest back. I don't need the razor, I'm wearing pants anyway. Not that I care if my legs resemble Haymitch's. Doesn't matter to me in the least. The rest of the items I definitely don't care about.

I do use the tweezers though, and after thirty minutes of continuous plucking, there are now two eyebrows above my eyes. I haven't dressed yet, but I go in front of the mirror to take a look at my progress so far.

The girl in the mirror's body is much skinnier than before the first Hunger Games, which is a little unnerving since I was close to starving at that time. I make a mental note to force myself to keep more food down. My face, though, looks almost the same as it did nearly three years ago. My face is slightly less round than it was then, probably due to being slightly older, but other than that, it's her. I mean, it's me…the Katniss Everdeen from three years ago. Before all of this. Before the war.

I wear a darker shade of green shirt, and brown pants. Then I put my hunting boots over the pants and then my hunting jacket over the shirt and I'm ready.

Downstairs, I sit down and Greasy Sae serves me a plate of eggs she made. She sits across from me and I take a bite. She looks at my fingernails for the longest time. "You should cut those. With all that tossin and turnin you do at night, you might cut yourself."

I take a knife and pare off my long, untamed nails after I finish eating all I can force myself to keep down. As she washes the dishes and I finish my nails, I ask her about Gale and she tells me that he got some fancy job in District 2.

I must admit I'm mostly…relieved. Relieved that there's no longer any expectations for me to act or speak or think a certain way around him. No need to act friendly when I don't want to be. No need to be the Katniss he fell for when I'm not so sure I'm the same person anymore. If only Peeta were in 2 as well.

"I'm going hunting today."

She drops a dish, obviously surprised, and turns around. "Ya are? I wouldn't mind some fresh game at that. Take this with you," she says, and passes me a biscuit.

Bread always makes me think of Peeta. "Is this…from…" I start to ask, but she knows what I'm thinking.

She shakes her head. "No, he just got back. Hasn't done a whole lot of baking."

"Good." I say, though I don't know why. I feel less guilty eating a biscuit that Peeta didn't make. Like I'd owe him again or something. Part of me knows I'm ridiculous for thinking that way but the other part reminds me of all the reasons why I do.

I take the biscuit and for some reason, it's the first thing I've actually enjoyed for a long time. Since that dinner that Tigris made us the night before we left our hideaway in her fur shop. So Greasy Sae is, of course, surprised, when I take another. Then another.

After three biscuits, I grab my bow and arrow, which, due to the fact that I'm not constantly being watched anymore, I keep in my home instead of in a hollowed out tree trunk. Then I grab my game bag and open the door.

He's not here now, Peeta. Which I'm thankful for because, like my mother and pretty much everyone else, I've got nothing to say to him. I look over my right and left shoulders to be sure he and Haymitch aren't anywhere to be seen, then I am on my way.

Unfortunately, I have to pass through the town square and the Seam to get to the woods. Both sights I'd rather not see. Especially when I notice a pile of rubble where Mayor Undersee's house used to stand.

I stare at for awhile, not wanting to ask the question that's on my mind, but when I recognize Thom, I ask anyway. "Did you find anyone in there?"

"Whole family. And two people that worked for them," He says, probably not knowing that I know these people. That the girl that lived here gave me the pin.

"I thought…maybe…since he was the mayor…"

"I don't think being the mayor of twelve put the odds in his favor."

He tells me he's got to get back to work, they're trying to tear it completely down so that they can rebuild it. That's fine, I've got nothing left to say anyway.

I can't stop thinking about Madge now that I'm walking to the Seam. The only thing that takes my mind off of her, is when I notice people from other districts moving into abandoned Seam houses. Most people fixing them up. Of course I get stares but I do the best I can not to make eye contact. I walk briskly with my head down.

I see my house. But I can't bring myself to go in. Not yet. Though I will.

Another disturbing image is the mass grave being lined with decaying bodies and pieces of bodies and bones in the meadow. It's hard to believe the amount of death that I caused. All these people, gone. And I bet no one even knew their name. They were just normal, everyday citizens of district 12, whose individual lives meant nothing to the Capitol that killed them. And me. I killed them too. I had a part in it, there's no denying that. Yet, here I stand. It hardly seems fair but I keep thinking if I can just get to the lake outside the district, the place that was always my safe zone, the place only Gale and my father and I knew about, everything will begin to make sense.

But it doesn't because I don't get that far.

Apparently my body is even worse than it looks because I'm too weak to even make it to mine and Gale's meeting place, the rock over looking the meadow down below and a mile or so away. It takes me all day just to get there.

I sit there on that rock, and I keep turning at the slightest of noises, expecting him to show up. Expecting him to be carrying his bow and arrow, smiling at me, teasing me. But each time I look, there's only a small animal or the wind. Gale never comes. And I have to keep reminding myself that Gale is in District 2.

For a second, I miss him. I want him to be sitting next to me on this rock, want his pointers on hunting even though we both know I don't need them. I want his lame jokes and his Capitol rants and all his craziness, his fire. But then, at the same time, I have to remind myself that I don't need that. I don't want that. Nothing to do with it. That was a different time, and those were different people. Kids, almost. No idea the destruction they were capable of.

Me, with all the suffering and loss I'm responsible for.

And Gale, with the way-too-fast decision to kill everyone in the Nut in District 2- No moral dilemma about it. And those bombs…and all those children….my sister….

The tear ducts I thought had run dry have surprised me, because I end up soaking the grass underneath my boots with my tears.

By late afternoon, I know I have to go home. I'm tired, and weak, and stressed and in pain and countless other things. But I can't stay out in the woods in the open like this. It's cold out for one thing.

I'm so tired that I barely make it to the gate when I see Thom.

"You have a lot of jobs, don't you?" I say, and it comes out more rude than I mean for it to. Luckily, he either doesn't notice or doesn't care.

"Lots to do. Hop in," He tells me.

I get into the cart he was using to transport bodies. The smell of decay still lingers but I do my best to ignore it. I try to think of something to talk about but neither of us can.

He must be able to tell that I'm tired, because he offers to help me get inside. I tell him no, but he doesn't listen.

I'd be surprised if I weighed over a hundred pounds, so carrying me is nothing to him. He's just as strong as Gale or Peeta. Maybe more so.

He lays me down on the couch and I thank him and he nods before leaving.

I'm just about to fall asleep when I hear it.

The high frequency hiss that would make me jump out of my skin had I had the strength to do so.

How in the hell did that damn cat make it all the way here from 13? Of all the things I'd be happy to have back, he isn't one of them. He starts to meow, and I tell him that she's not here. Prim. He doesn't seem to get it and so I throw a pillow at him, but no use, he just jumps back with his hair sticking up and hisses at me some more.

Finally, he must get it because he hobbles over to the corner and lies down. That's when I notice how badly he's hurt.

I hate the fact that I have to get up and help him. But I can't stand his whining.

So I use the tweezers from earlier to pluck various thorns and other things from his paws and fur. Then I clean out his cuts and brush the mats out of his hair and laugh a little bit because he looks even more ugly when he's wet from a bath.

By the time I'm finished, I have no more strength left in me so I pass out on the couch there.

I don't know if it was Peeta or Haymitch or Thom, but somehow, I wake up in my bed in the middle of the night.

I hear something behind me. It's faint…but it sounds like breathing.


I feel hopeful for just a second because of the nights on the train that I slept in his arms and somehow it shielded me from the nightmares. But then I remind myself why I should have never allowed myself to get used to that and why I can never have that or anything close to it ever again.

No, I do not want it to be Peeta behind me. But it's not. It's Buttercup.

When I turn around and see that it's him, he opens his eyes and in the moonlight, I see him stretch out a paw and yawn, before sitting up and watching me while gently swaying his tail back and forth.

I don't know what makes me do it, but I reach a hand forward and rub his head to his tail. One time. He purs and for some reason, the purring helps me sleep again.

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