The Caged Bird Sings

Cockatoo


Cockatoo


There's intense pain between my legs, and I'm being pushed back, being devoured in both soft chuckles and fingers and flesh. There are people laughing, watching me scream, scream and bite and grind my teeth till I bleed, red droplets falling onto my hands while I'm trying to climb out of this grave, out of my captor. I don't try hard enough and he swallows me alive.

I wake up with jolt, the sounds of them still echoing, ringing loudly in my ears. I cradle my head in hands, waiting for it to subside but there's no reprieve. I look to my left, where Prim and Hyacinth lay. They are deep in slumber so I rise up from the bed to get my legs moving. They know where to head.

Because soon I'm in front of the massive security door, and again, I slide open the slot. This time, he really is asleep. He's curled up into himself, looking angelic and demonic all at once, a god in bondage. It hasn't even been two days yet since Snow gave me a position of power over my enemy. I do not dare bring it up in front of the others, for they will all concede to his dying. I don't blame them, and I desire his death above all else, more than anyone else.

If there's one thing I want in the world, it's his death.

I would fantasize about it, soak in imaginary crimson stains when he made my body spill red all over the sheets, when he'd force me into a corner and just cause me bodily harm, I imagined him being whipped to death, or worse. There was no end to my thoughts, how badly I wanted him to die, and all the time. It was one of the few things that brought me pleasure, even if it looked bleak and impossible. There was nothing else I could do but kill him over and over in my mind.

I stop looking at him. He looks too childlike, lines eased, eyes closed, so ice can't freeze me.

The sun will rise soon, so I head back to ready Hyacinth. Surprisingly, he's awake when I return, bubbling with Prim upon the bed. And Gale.

"There she is," says Prim.

Gale looks behind himself at me, and I see over the bend of his shoulder that Hyacinth is clutching onto one of Gale's fingers. I'm not certain whether that should warm me or not. My son looks entirely comfortable, wrapped in my sister's arms, looking vulnerable and weak so near to Gale, whose hands can break anything. But they can mend things too…

"Hey, where'd you go?"

"Went for a walk,"

Gale doesn't say anything, he just nods. I don't know if he thinks I'm lying or not; which is ridiculous, since I did go for a walk.

He stands and I move forward to my children, taking Hyacinth into my arms while Prim scoots closer to me. I wait for him to tell me something but he only continues to stand there.

"Prim, can you take Hyacinth to the dining room?" I ask. She consents, nodding warily as she glances back and forth between the two of us. She kisses my cheek, as she has been doing a lot lately and I return it, giving one to my baby.

Once I'm sure they're far enough away from the door, I cut to the point, "What is it?"

"You've been sneaking around at night."

"What do you mean?"

"You know what," he replies, voice carefully quiet.

"There's nothing going on,"

"Don't lie to me, Katniss. The guards standing by his cell told me early this morning."

"I don't know what you're—"

"Katniss, you know what I'm talking about!" he says, raising his voice slightly, "Why are you lying to me?"

"I don't see what the problem is! I don't talk to him and he doesn't to me—"

"Katniss, why do you even want to see him?"

Why do I do it?

I'm not sure myself. I'm not. How can I explain it to him if I myself don't comprehend it…?

"Is this because we told you no."

"Yes," I reply, just because I need to have something to say.

Gale huffs, cursing beneath his breath, "Catnip, you know better than to do something so rash—"

"Stop talking to me as though I can't handle anything!"

"I'm not talking to you like that! You know I wouldn't, why are you being so difficult?"

Difficult. I'm being difficult.

There are tears threatening to sting my eyes, burning at the edges, because his tone is the same as my murderer's, and all the things in my life remind me of him, shining black light and distorting my vision. He haunts my dreams and my waking thoughts, keeping me bound to him, locking me in his arms, and I'm being swallowed into the grave that I call his body.

"You don't understand what I've been through!" I shout, "You don't understand anything!"

"Then help me to understand!"

"You can't! No one can!"

"Katniss…" he sounds hurt, trying to hold me, unaware that I'm too broken, with thorns and shards sticking out from my skin. Peeta got too close and he paid the ultimate price—dying for someone that could never appreciate him, that didn't deserve love from someone as beautiful as he was.

"Leave me alone."

He reaches, hands outstretched, and he has no idea how badly I can burn him, the Girl on Fire.

"Go away!"

Gale withdraws his hand but he makes no movement towards the door, continuing to look into the dirty vase of my body into an even dirtier soul. I can't help it, I grab the dresser behind me and push it down, crashing upon the floor, before grabbing the lamp on it and hurling it at the wall, listening to the satisfying destruction of its pathetic life, to be used until it gets burned out, to be replaced, to be forgotten—I helped it.

"What did Snow tell you?"

"He didn't tell me anything."

"He clearly did—you haven't been the same since he talked to you."

"I haven't been the same since the Games began, Gale."

He doesn't say anything because we both know it's true. He doesn't say anything either due to the knock upon the door. The intrusion is welcome to me and I see Madge's golden hair spilling about her shoulders, eyeing the two of us with intense silent skies.

"Gale, Haymitch has been looking for you."

"Not now, Madge,"

"He means now—"

"Right now's not the time!"

She bristles, looking deeply wounded at the harshness in his tone. I don't like the way he spoke to her either. "You watch it—she's just telling you what's going on."

Gale has the decency to look chagrined and he makes his way to her. "I'm sorry. There's just… a lot going on."

Madge gives a small smile, saddened but understanding, "It's all right." I watch the movements of her hands, how they seem to move to him, hovering near his, knuckles close to his waist. There's a thing in me stirring, a possessiveness of which I don't comprehend but the curiosity to this turn of events is stronger. So I just stare. Madge looks lost but Gale is as composed as ever, only showing that moment of sincerity when he apologized to her. She walks out the door and Gale turns back to me.

"You and Madge, huh?" I inquire.

"W-What?" he says, looking bewildered, "No! What in the world makes you say that?"

"The way you two were looking at one another just now."

"There's nothing going on between her and me."

And I've learned how to fly.

"Don't change the subject, Katniss," he says, approaching me again, "You haven't told me what Snow wants."

"…it really is nothing."

He sighs, fingers pressing into his temples. "All right, I know you'll tell eventually, if you decide to."

And with that he leaves me alone in the confines of my room.

I forgot to ask about the possibility of seeing my captor. Gale would most definitely say no but I could always put it to a vote when we have the next conference. It shouldn't be too long until I can bring up the topic. It's not that I'm looking forward to it, or even seeing him in person, I just have to try again to see him. There's a feeling nagging inside me to question him, to question things, to question life itself and why it spins the way it spins.

I lay down on the bed, a heaviness weighing down my eyes, holding them down for the most part. The difficulty to manage my thoughts becomes just as cumbersome, with all those words and pictures and feelings becoming one jumbled mess inside me.

I wake up later and I see the clock. It's only been fifteen minutes but it feels so much longer. I get up, heading to the kitchen, hoping that Prim is there so I can be with her and Hyacinth. I see him with her, chewing on a pacifier. He sees me and at his reaching out, fingers grasping the air, I practically flitter to him, glad to be with the few individuals who don't make me question anything about what's going on.

We all play together. Well, they play. I observe. Prim is becoming a delicate young woman, her hair out of the control of braids, framing her face and bringing out the blue of her eyes. Hyacinth is almost a contrast, save for the hair that resembles starlight and sun beams.

My fingers stroke his face and his eyes, the color of dismal clouds, a light shade of stone in the sun, turn to me and he gurgles, a happy smile on his face, because I'm smiling at him.

I don't know what I would do without him.

I would probably die.

We don't leave the room until suppertime, and the three of us head together in companionable silence. It's not until I sit at the table, where every eye is watching me, birds of prey that desire to protect, that I get uncomfortable but I do not show my discomfort, slurping my soup in tiny spoonful. My appetite is still not back and I wonder if it ever will be.

Cinna looks at me, and the color reminds me of meadows. I relax a little. "Katniss, how did your appointment with your doctor go?"

"…I…"

Effie sighs as Haymitch drinks back a glass of spirits. "Katniss, really, you're supposed to attend these things. You told me that if I allowed you to go on your own, you would do so."

Effie has a point—I did tell her that, but I had no inclination to go those pointless hours of talking of my feelings, of being pulled into the darkness to find out the source of it. We all know the source, we know what it's done to me—I just want to be alone to wallow in it. The same way I promised I would try to go outside more, the same way I promised I would try not to tell lies; but they bring me comfort. I tried to be truthful and it cost so much pain. Lies cause the same hurt but it's only if they catch me. Aside from this, no one would notice.

But I recall the argument with Gale I had today, how he hated the fact I would tell a bold white fallacy to his face.

Madge clears her throat, "It's not that bad, Effie. Katniss was with Hyacinth today."

"That's not the point, Madge," she replies a little crossly, but more against my actions than Madge herself, "The point is this: when someone tells you to do something, you should come through to do it. Katniss," she says, turning to me, "I know it's difficult but you must know that going to see the doctor is for your benefit."

"My benefit? Why in the world would it be beneficial—we haven't done anything aside from check how my body is doing and how I'm feeling. It's all pointless."

"You haven't tried—"

"No, and I don't intend to," I cut her off, "It's a waste of my time when I could be doing other things."

Haymitch interjects, "Listen sweetheart, I'm going to be frank with you. The rebellion is calm now due to the truce, but what would happen if it doesn't all go accordingly. How in the world do you expect people to follow you if you aren't taking care of yourself?"

"Follow me? What are you talking about?"

Before any of the others can say anything, Haymitch continues without pause, "Cato may be the cause of the rebellion for capturing you, but you are still an important asset. You have the name of the Girl on Fire, and because of what's happened to you, many individuals will follow."

I highly doubt that. Being a rape victim doesn't make me more deserving of kindness or empathy. I hear things, see how some people look at me, accusing me, pointing sharp hot rods into my skin, telling me how filthy I am, murmuring how I willingly had sex with him—for it's the only logical explanation to how I'm alive; I did unthinkable, immoral things, allowing myself to be held into bondage by a man that doesn't understand humanity.

The thoughts swirl in my head, blinding me with red rage.

"There's no way that I'll be a rebel leader. You have Gale."

"That may be so, but everyone loves a martyr."

No, everyone loves a fucking gossip story. Martyrs are secretly made fun of.

"I'm leaving," I say, walking to my child and lifting him from the high chair.

"Wait."

I actually halt. It's Gale's voice.

"Snow told you something that you're not telling us."

I don't do anything. They know it is confirmation enough.

"We also all know that you want to talk to the Victor from 2."

He's right. We all know. But I don't understand my own motive. I don't know why I want to see him. All my thoughts he consumes. It frightens me, how easily he enters into my being, keeping me beneath rushing waters to the point I can't hear.

"You're angry about that. But we won't allow it."

"Why not?" I say, looking back at him.

Gale turns to the others. Madge comes to his defense, standing even. "Snow asked for him to remain alive. It's best not to test the treaty. And with your loathing of him…"

"You think I'll kill him."

The quiet is louder than rumbling thunder.

"I won't kill him."

"We can't be sure of that," says Haymitch, "It's one thing to say something than do another thing."

Damn it. He's speaking of my tendency to lie lately. I am going to have to lessen those if I am to gain more privileged trust from these people that I still don't depend on with my life.

"Then have a sentry nearby."

Gale begins to talk, with Madge and Cinna and Effie looking at me. Haymitch eyes the table but he's listening to me.

In the depths of cliffs, I notice it hanging there by a thread, the connection that's been severed from Gale to me, from me to Gale. But I latch on, I plead with every ounce of humanity that I have left. He knows that I need to do this, he's always known what I need to do and how I need to do it. He's continuing to stare, a pain nestling inside, forming a thorny nest.

I have to do this.

Gale concedes. I don't need to hear him speak.

And night falls faster than love, shattering the golden brushes and pink ribbons.

The guards, including Cinna and the others, are standing by. The door is more intimidating due to its sheer size but there's no other anxiety. I enter and a familiarity washes over me, a familiarity that completely crushes me, because it frightens me, because it's something I understand.

I approach carefully. He sleeps, the clinks of chains resounding with every unconscious movement.

Then his eyes open, and his destructive smile is there, along with another side I can't comprehend.

"Hey there, gorgeous,"

My body tenses in too many ways, in disgust and arousal that it can no longer control. I mentally shake my head, remaining a few yards from him. No one can hear us. This conversation is completely private.

It's just me and him.

Like always.

"You finally got tired of being apart from me?"

"Irrevocably." I reply, unsure how I mean it.

He smiles and his eyes rape me, leaving me vulnerable and naked before his sight. He's seen me. I don't feel ashamed. I don't feel anything. It's just another part of life, being used and people could care less.

"I was told you wanted to speak with me."

"I did."

"What do you want then?"

"You,"

I kneel before him, and my hatred for him burns brighter than flaming coals. "You can go die."

He smirks and he lunges forward, his mouth finding mine before the chains keep him in place. I jump back and my hand instantly goes to slap him across the face. I do. But I leave my hand there, right upon the hot red mark.

His head moves, pressing a soft kiss in the inside of it.

"Tell me you love me."

I begin to pull back when his mouth gently grabs my forefinger, holding me in place, knowing how sharp his teeth and words can be, razors in his mouth.

"Tell me you love me."

"But you know the truth. I hate you."

"It doesn't matter. Lie to me." and the smugness, the arrogance melts, replacing this demon with a boy who has no place, who has lost it all, because of irrationality, and brute destruction. There's nothing for him; nothing to have him continue.

So I lie to him. Because, in the end, he's the only one who will ever tell me the truth.

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