The Caged Bird Sings



I'm here. In the dark. There's no sunlight. There's no warmth.

I'm here. In the light. There's no shadow. There's no chill.

I'm home, watching Prim cook dinner, a capable woman now, sixteen and slender and beautiful. My mother sits in a chair opposite me, watching my face. She takes my hand, I don't respond immediately until Prim squeezes my shoulder. They're so alike: beautiful, graceful, and forlorn, eerie; and in unison, they whisper in voices not their own, snake hisses and wolf growls, "He's in strong hands…" reminding me that I've failed to pull my baby from those stained hands.

I wake up with a start, a scream lodged in my throat and it comes out in a harsh whine.

I turn to look at my left and he's there, watching me. The scream comes out full force, and I'm backing away into the headboard, pulling the sheets around me, like they've ever been of help to me before.

"Hold still," he tells me, coming forward, "You're catching a fever."

I jerk violently when his hand comes to touch my forehead, wet and soft. I open an eye and see the washcloth near my face; his own only inches from mine. I pull away, the heat and cold inescapable, intertwining into my veins and leaving me breathless and icy.

"You should lie back down," he tells me.

I don't answer. I don't lay down either.

"How do you expect to get better if you don't do as you're told?" It's a question but it comes out a statement. He has nothing in his eyes, no feeling in his voice—he's only saying things as he sees them—as reserved and uncaring as ever; just another enigma produced by the Capitol that I'll never be able to understand.

"Why do you care?"

He glances at me, "The wet nurse isn't enough. But I won't allow the child near you when you're ill,"

"My child has a wet nurse?" I hiss, envious of the woman who is bonding with my child, holding him near.

"The child can't be in your care—you're sick right now, and it doesn't help that you're very dangerous and unstable—"

The words hit me; jar me so far back that it leaves me dizzy, the room whirling in whites and blacks, reds and silvers. "I'm dangerous and unstable!" I shout, rising to my knees, aware of my naked body but the modesty isn't there, replaced by a fuming desire to watch him burn, "You are no one to talk to me about instability—!"

"Katniss, calm down—"

My hand finds his face, "Don't you ever say my name—ever!"

I've made him angry. It shows in the set of his lips, the furrowing of his brows. "It's your name isn't it?"

I don't want him to say it—my name is mine. Given to me by my father, who loved me very much—I was his world and he was mine, together forever, songs and melodies and life. To hear my name said from this man, this monster—who destroyed my humanity, killed the boy who saved my life, tore my newborn from my empty, heavy arms—is so painful it hurts.

I've never felt more vulnerable.

And terrible things happen when I'm vulnerable….

He leans in, trailing a finger along my jaw, calloused and cool. "And since you're mine, I can say your name as much as I want."

And it's true. He possesses every bit of me.

To emphasize this, he pushes me back, his mouth finding mine, fingers rolling downwards, bringing out different fires that smolder my heart and my mind, making me struggle to distinguish reality and illusion in the dark.

"Remember that… you're mine."

It's true. Possessing all of me…

I'm vulnerable.

Bad things happen when I'm vulnerable. It's when I'm most confused, it's when I'm most helpless, it's when I'm my most human, it's when I'm at my most suicidal.

Hatred burns as he slides into me.

Something flutters when he murmurs my name: part disgust, part loathing, and the other part I'm too frightened to voice what it is aloud.

So all I do is kiss him, because there's nothing else I can do. He lets out a moan and there's a mewl creeping out of me.

He says that he knew I'd break.

Maybe he's always been truthful—because he's right…

I've given up.

I kill myself in his arms.

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