I awake to the scent of bitter roots, steam. I turn my head to the left and watch my mother pour hot tea into a cup. When she turns and finds me looking at her, I guess I startle her pretty bad. Thankfully, she doesn't drop the tea on herself.
I turn back to looking at the blank ceiling. My expression must be blanker, since she nervously bites her lower lip.
"Here, we thought you might want something," she offers me the tea.
Propping myself up, I take a small sip, the smell more soothing than the actual taste. I hold it afterward, just sitting up.
My mother says nothing. She only sits next me, a hand resting on my shoulder. In a moment of childlike want, I place my head on her shoulder, leaning in. She holds me close, brushing my bangs from my face and the kiss on my forehead almost makes me cry. I try not to, not in front of her. There's something about crying in front of her that doesn't seem right. She is my mother yet she feels like my daughter too. Why shouldn't she? She had been gone in her own mind for years until just recently, and even now she loses her thoughts.
I chuckle bitterly, shutting my eyes as I cry into her shoulder. I've become like her, like the woman I never thought I'd be: a mother lost in her own mind.
She probably understands me better than anyone on certain terms, the knowledge of not being able to care for her child, losing the father of your children…
"I know it hurts," she whispers.
"But it shouldn't even hurt,"
"Katniss, honey," she says to me, tilting my head up so she can look at me. The tears staining her face are unbearable to witness. "I don't know what is going on in your head. I wish that you had never… what was done to you was unthinkable— Shh, I know what you will say, and that's my point. You can't be like me, the way I left you alone when your father died. This boy—he's not like your father but I know you and he… what was done to him was horrible, too, but you can't leave your child. Not like how I left you.
You have to be stronger."
I fall into her chest, knowing she's right, but I'm tired of being strong.
We're like that for a while, mother and daughter, until I hear the sound of the door sliding, and my children are standing in the doorway, watching me closely. Hyacinth's arms reach out as he babbles, beginning to cry and I take both into my arms as my mother holds us all, trying to make up for time gone.
We leave my quarters soon after, where they take me down to get something to eat. I stomach much very well but I manage to do so. Hyacinth pulls at my shirt but I hold back. While our medical care has vastly improved, there are still potential side effects to nursing when the mother is too much medication. Like me. So we figured on reducing it slowly, having to wean him early, but on occasion won't hurt him.
Not like everything else.
Hyacinth does worry me, but no longer for what used to be my main concerns; although they still tend to be issues I look back on. He's perfectly healthy by all standards, no deformities, and his brain is in good condition. His attitude, however, is another problem.
I try not to think of his father as I head to where the pediatrician is located in the vicinity. Gale and Madge are with me, now his foster parents. I hold my child closer, savoring each moment of proximity I have with him. He doesn't squirm and allows me to keep him in place. Madge touches his head; my heart beats rapidly.
There's a psychologist here, too, a gift of the Capitol no doubt.
I stare at them and they stare back: friendly warm smiles.
My scowl deepens.
"Alright, well, Hyacinth is a good boy, but we've noticed rather aggressive tendencies."
They pause, waiting for me, watching how I take this in: a stupid creature in their sights. "Go on. I'm not a moron,"
This time their smiles are thin. "We never said you were,"
"Well, Miss Everdeen, your son has been here now and again while you've been, er, recuperating and we've noticed things about him. Such as his violent nature when being around children his age,"
"Is he usually violent?" asks the psychologist, a woman in her forties it looks like. Rather sharp in appearance, in both dress and her looks.
"I'm aware of only one incident and it was only toward me,"
They exchange glances.
"Ah, I see. Well, your son, from what we can tell, is generally well-behaved. His attitude is just problematic, especially since he'll need people skills to adapt in the social environment around him."
"I think we can all be use of some people skills," I retort, not liking the way she indicated it as, not just my fault, but of the caretakers I've given him to be raised by, including everyone else besides Gale and Madge. People from the Capitol should just be silenced.
She blinks at my tone. Says nothing to reprimand me, "We've taken footage of him interacting—"
"Footage?" Gale touches my shoulder.
"Completely for academic purposes and his own sake,"
A medium sized screen comes on, showing Hyacinth in the middle of the room, playing on his own. He looks quite content; all of us know that he's good with playing on his own and no one usually bothers him when they decide to join.
Several children appear on the screen and he continues to play on, stacking blocks upon other blocks before punching his fist through. This isn't exactly atypical behavior. He always does that. It doesn't bother me the same way he did it to the plane.
Two children, a boy and a girl, come nearer to him, having a conversation of their own. They try to play with the blocks too when Hyacinth begins to screech, waving his arms hysterically. They teeter on leaving and venturing forth. They both dare and I suddenly see my son slapping their faces. They cry, long and hard, as they are taken out of the room and he goes on with stacking, as though no one had even disturbed his play.
"You can see why this is a concern. It's not normal for children to be antisocial."
"Well, excuse my son for not being raised more appropriately,"
"Miss Everdeen, we mean no offense—"
"Hyacinth is a good boy," intervenes Gale, "We play with him all the time and he's never given us any kind of problems."
The pediatrician looks at all four of us before speaking. "We're not saying that he isn't a bad child; his temperament is just worrisome, since this is typical behavior of neglected children. Now, before any of you start, this is not to say that you've neglected him, but we cannot lie and disregard the fact that Hyacinth was raised in a very violent and cruel environment."
He looks pointedly at me. I meet his stare head-on.
The psychologist speaks now. Her voice is too loud. "Hyacinth is also an only child which comes into effect. Despite common stereotyping, there is nothing wrong being raised as an only child, however, he will not learn social skills regarding those his age because of lack of sibling interaction. If I'm correct, your sister, Prim, she is… thirteen or so now. This could begin a chance to learn adapting to environments where there are other children around but she is old enough to be seen as another adult figure in his life. Only children actually fare better around those who are older than them, most of the time; no child is the same. We're just giving a word of caution to recognize that he may take time to warm up comfortably around other kids and infants."
My voice rises, "Why did you even put him in that situation? If he's supposed to 'warm up' how can he do that when more than five children suddenly entered his space?"
Neither answers me.
"Do you people even know what you're doing?"
"Miss Everdeen," grits out the psychologist, "We've been doing this for years—"
"You've been doing it like shit for years then,"
"Do want your child to be helped or not?"
"I would like you to respect what you know about him and not just toss him in such situations! If he's antisocial, was that really the best thing to do?"
Gale is leaning forward, elbows on his knees, "What do you propose we do about Hyacinth then?"
Both of them turn to him a little too eagerly. I'm tempted to smack Gale back. I steel myself inside—he has custody now, too.
"We're just trying to get him to warm up to other children. Like we have stated, there is nothing wrong with the child. He just needs more interaction with other people that are his age or he doesn't know. He'll become too withdrawn if not tended to properly,"
Gale nods, listening. Madge is attentive to them too, glancing at me now and again. She gives me a smile and I return the gesture. I'm not the best mother, I know that… yet it hurts when they make it sound too much my fault. I couldn't exactly wander around my captor's home and watch over what Hyacinth was doing. My rapist and I were just that: rapist and victim. The environment was never going to be a place where he could grow up normally.
There's no need for reminders.
I collapse onto my bed, my son playing with locks of my hair. I laugh as he resorts to putting the tip of my braid under my nose and I gently pin him down, blowing raspberries into his belly.
He falls asleep after a while, his breathing even and gentle.
I allow myself, now, to think of Cato. As I always do when my mind overflows.
He was in my arms for a long time, a long time of just looking at the face of my killer and captor and deepest confidante. This boy who knew my secrets, this man who made me feel, this monster who taught me fear. He just lay so still that I wondered if I had died with him—my own heart couldn't beat. I felt cold. He felt cold. We were the same temperature. We were both so lost.
He just remained in my arms as the sounds of others drifted in and out of my head, circling the world in their drivel as the one who taught me many things just remained still. So horribly still that I peered deep into his face, staring at his eyes, into the skies that would rage fire and pour rain, trying to find light. There was no light. Not for an eternity—it was only dark.
Then they started removing him from me.
Something inhuman wrenched from me then and my body lost the will to move but it clung—clung with desperate fervor—to the still body they were taking from me that was mine. No one knew that body the way I knew it. The way it tortured, the way it moved, the way it thought, the way it blazed.
I felt so many arms encircling me before a final pair of dark broad ones held me tight, and I screamed for them all to let me go. They said nothing to me, only let me howl with unimaginable fear and joy.
Fear because I was losing him.
Joy because I was losing him.
The first was so imprisoning and the latter so freeing.
I finally collapsed into dark nothings and the sound of Peeta weeping for me woke me from my slumber.
I sat in total darkness for a while, watching my door, Hyacinth held in my arms. He didn't comprehend what happened several hours ago and I'm glad he didn't.
My son slept as demons talked to me. I waited in the dark, at times holding my breath, waiting for my door to slide open and confirm what I knew, confirm what I knew will bring me peace and utter sadness: that he couldn't be saved but maybe, just maybe, I could learn to live and move on, for my son. For our son…
It did slide open. Haymitch stood in front of me and we shared the look, the one where we just wanted things said and over with.
My heart didn't know whether to falter or not.
"He's in a coma."
It leapt into my throat and falls back with such velocity that I'm left breathing shallow fast gasps, swallowing air, trying to gather the feelings in me. There's so much conflict warring in me, the pain of losing someone close is battling my innate and profound delight that I can finally be allowed to fly. But he is trapped within a mind that still battles a horrible sickness, and because my body is chained to his, I, too, am stuck in that coma, trapped within the confines of space and time.
Haymitch was patting my back, holding me close, the scent of alcohol and humanity filling my nose. It stings, burning, and I realized I'm weeping. Why was this happening? When it seemed to get close to freedom, not just for me, but for him too, that reality and life decide to attack, bringing us further down into the abyss.
It's so frustrating, demoralizing.
He didn't say anything, he only held me and I was grateful for that—that he doesn't bother sugarcoating anything. It could be why they always sent him to be the one to tell me bad news. But wasn't this good news too? I do hate my captor, and I don't know if I'll ever forget his actions, even with the knowledge of the venom. I don't know…
I'm quiet with my mentor, wrapped in the silence of my heart and the thickness of my tears.
When he left, my mind raged and burned, hot with insanity and pain. My hands reached out to hurt the visions in front of me, my throat parched as I scream. Peeta was yelling, trying to comfort me in this distress, telling me that this is for the best.
It couldn't be!
And he soothed me, attempted, in his kind and warm way, but the red blinded my sight, and when I came out of the violence of my soul, I looked at the chaotic whirlwind of my quarters, dressers overturned, the bed sheets and pillows torn through by fingers and teeth, stained with moonlight spilling onto the floor, making it eerie.
Peeta continued to murmur, my heart matching his words, beat for word. I let it envelop me for a while, sinking to my knees, laying my head down onto my crossed arms. I let out a groan of despair, not wanting to remember but I felt as though I must remember for my sake, for my captor's sake.
It's… like Snow was winning—he is winning. The world had lost and it remained in the palm of a tyrant. I don't understand Snow, his reasoning. He meant for us to be the faces of the war—one a savior and the destroyer. But what was he doing? Where did he stand in this?
I didn't look up. I curled further in.
"What happened here?"
Hands gripped my upper arms, lifting me firmly yet gently up.
Gale put his hands on either side of my face. I looked over his shoulder at Madge, her face forlorn and still.
"Where's my baby?"
"He's with Prim and Cinna," she answers, coming forward and taking my hands into hers.
"Catnip," breathed Gale, his warmth seeping into me.
I pulled away, unable to handle anything suddenly. Their voices rang with pity, even more with worry and I couldn't take their complacent compassion. The thing was, I couldn't really handle much anymore and the destruction of Cato… it left me worse than dead.
I felt as though I'd finally found the justice that I so desperately needed, found the freedom I craved, but my heart was breaking with each second of knowing he's lying on a bed, sleeping a living death, and there's nothing I could do.
I just buried my head into my hands and wept for everything and everyone.
I let out a sigh. Night has fallen again. I seem to do nothing except sleep but I've been improving. I still have nightmares; I still have trouble depending on others and being overprotective of my little ones but improving; slowly yet surely, with each crawling dawn.
Prim is in bed with us now, I hear her mumbling in her sleep. I touch her forehead and pull the covers up to her chin. I leave Hyacinth with the smaller, thinner blanket. He still tends to kick it off when he sleeps and I get nervous about him suffocating in his sleep. He's past that age now, I'm certain, yet I get very anxious when it comes to his safety, regarding anything.
Walking out into the place I will never call home, I find myself stopping to look past the door where my captor is caught in a world I can't enter. It's been four months.
And interrogating Snow wasn't an option. He pleaded insanity around the time Cato fell into his death sleep and he's been locked away from the world, hiding in a fancy prison cell, where I don't know if he's lying about it or not. But he's always lied and I don't care what happens to him. I just want him to die for all the transgressions, all the wrong he's placed on us.
No one authorizes the room except the occasional doctor. Who would care about the insane boy who raped a girl?
Sadly, I do.
I walk to his bed's side, lean over and brush some hair away from his face. Taking some scissors, I bring the trash can closer to the bedside, cutting the locks away until they're even. Not shorter, but cut enough so that it looks well-groomed. I don't know why I do this. It's probably just sympathy, but I don't have to answer to anyone. No one fears my killing him anymore so when I do get noticed, they allow it to continue. With the knowledge of the venom, my hand moves to cut his hair and not his neck. With the threat of Snow removed, I can try to bury him in the folds of mending instead of killing.
The whole course of life has been completely denied to me and him, to all the people we knew.
I had asked one day, when the sky was incredibly blue, I remember, if anyone had inkling to where Cato's family was. They did. They were murdered in their home a week after Gale and the other rebels freed my son and me from his home, my prison.
That would explain the lack of people around him. I had been told that it was all for the sake of security issues, which could've been partly true. When I used to want to kill him…
Hyacinth and I are truly the only ones he has left.
I've yet to bring my child here, where the scent of his father is overwhelming. I badger the hospital staff to keep tending to him. They do. Every other day. Sometimes every other week. No one truly cares and the bitter anger swirls into my whole body. I had people looking for me, fighting to retrieve me back.
Cato really has nobody. They'd leave him to rot in his own piss and flesh if I had nothing to voice on the matter. But I do. So he's kept clean.
I sit next to his bed, watching him. I wonder what is happening in his mind now. Does the venom infect his mind, even in this desolate state, where he can't see anything? I don't know if he can hear anything. I've never tried to communicate with him on that level. Partly, I have nothing to say. And another part of me has no desire to talk to him. I want him to be alright but…
I'm not sure of much anymore.
I've been asked several times, by both professionals and loved ones, if I wanted to take him off the life support.
I had almost conceded to the plan. I seriously considered it. There were so many benefits, to everyone, if I just decided to kill him: his misery would end, I could move on completely, no one would consider him a nuisance, my family and friends wouldn't have to see me with him all the time and Hyacinth…
Our child is what stopped me.
How would feel, growing up, without the knowledge of his father? They had said that there was always a possibility of him coming back to the land of the awakened. But, u, as we all know, fate doesn't smile too kindly on either of us so we don't even talk about it anymore. His mind is so far gone, according to the doctors that he will remain this way for the rest of his human life.
I could end it.
How would I explain that to a child, to a grown man, Hyacinth during any stage of life, that I had been the one to kill his father? He may understand, given the circumstances and the relationship involved, but I cannot deny that my son and my captor had shared something as well. Hyacinth is not just mine. He is Cato's too.
So I don't kill him.
But I may, if it ever has to come to that. Our son is always first.
He would agree, always.
I hear the alarm on my wrist, telling me that it's time to go to my therapy session.
I ignore it for a while, fighting time, before I rise and look over my shoulder at his still figure, where not even his breathing is indicated.
Down the hall, past doors, past blurring images, I come to the room where they try to peel back the layers of my mind. I don't let them, not really. They all ask me such superficial and stupid questions. They take their time with getting me to open up. I have enough patience for that left: to keep people out. I don't want people to know the extent of my mind.
"Did you visit him today?"
Not a stupid question.
"How often do you see him?"
"Describe how that looks,"
I keep my mouth shut.
A sigh escapes into the room. "You know that no one can help you if you remain uncooperative. He's been dead for a while,"
"He's not dead,"
"He's in a coma. He may as well be."
"I didn't ask for your opinion,"
Without another word to her or to me, I walk out of the room, knowing the hour had been spent anyway. Hustling down the winding corridor, I head to Effie's room. I knock on her door, wait. She opens the door, appraising me before allowing me to step through the door.
"How did it go with the—?"
"I want a different one."
Effie lets out a sigh. "Katniss, how do you expect for these to work if you don't even five any of them a chance. You've already had more than six this month alone."
"I don't like the way she talked about Cato,"
She stays for a bit, light in her eyes. "Ah… I see…"
Without the make-up, which she has slowly weaned herself off of, occasionally putting a lot and then it's considered minimal, she's very lovely. I like her better without it. She looks more human to me, and the natural light in her gaze is comforting, something I never would've seen if she had still decided to wear tons of powder. Or those godforsaken deer eyelashes…
She looks past everything for a while, her hand pressed to her mouth, the other cupping the elbow the one held up. "We can try to find another one. What did this one say that was offensive?"
"She said that since he's in a coma, he may as well be dead."
Effie's face darkens slightly. "Unacceptable behavior. You know my feelings when it comes to that boy, Katniss, but she had no right to tell you something so against the decorum of a psychologist. There are a few leading psychologists left. This time, you can pick him or her out,"
"Effie, why can't I just someone here help me?"
"What do you mean, dear?"
"I can talk to you all just fine. Is it really necessary to talk to a psychologist?"
"You may need even a psychoanalyst by this point, however, people in that profession lean more towards a rare novelty. There's a difference as well in talking to us and talking to someone you'll never form too deep a connection with. That's their whole purpose, to listen to you and to help you through your ordeals. It's more intense because they're total strangers with the knowledge of the psyche. Give it one more try, alright?"
She smiles before opening her arms and I walk into them.
"Everything will be better."
I do hope she's right.
I can't just hope anymore.
I head out to see Haymitch and Cinna. I find them outside, talking in almost conspiratorial tones. Haymitch laughs before pulling out his container and drinking deep. Cinna turns around to greet me.
"By the looks of it, you hated this one, too,"
I laugh a little, "I did. Utterly awful,"
"They usually are, sweetheart,"
"Haymitch, I came to request something,"
They stare at me. My mouth dries, heart hammering.
"What is it?" Cinna urges me, smiling sincerely. It's such a contrast to Haymitch's scowl but it's enough of a confidence boost.
"I want to go and see Snow."
"Snow? What for? He's locked up,"
"I know. I want to kill him."
Cinna gives me a sad smile, his hand going for my shoulder, squeezing gently. Haymitch just gives me bitterer grin.
"Welcome back, Mockingjay,"
And I can tell he sincerely means it.
Because we set out as soon as the sun rises, to the Capitol, where everything starts and ends for the people of Panem. It gleams, yet it's not as iridescent as before. The blinding sunlight, greeting the ashen earth, seems to inch slowly, with a sense of finality.
I had told my family that all of this will be over soon.
Even Hyacinth, his mouth still not producing words, gave me some departing ones. His coos are enough to hold me together.
I wasn't planning on doing this. But I've had enough of it all. I've just had enough of losing and being the helpless girl I've become.
The day is rather stunning, even with some clouds hanging overhead.
The world is going to watch however. Everyone who has felt the oppression of this tyrant will finally see him fall and never come back up again.
Haymitch and Cinna handle the delegations and the right to kill our president.
The people of the Capitol don't object too readily, if really at all. Only a minority care. We've had months, including the year where I was held in District 2, to break them out of their theatrical necessities for gore. Most of them have become convinced of the dictatorship. We've still had several breakouts of dissent over the matter, but they've been lessening by the day.
This is relieving since I'm not the greatest condition. And the people need their Mockingjay.
They need her now more than ever and no one realized it until now.
I didn't plan on killing him today. It was such a spur of the moment.
I just want this done with.
I want Cato to be awake for this. But he can't see it. We waited too long to seek the justice we needed. He'll never know that he's been avenged. He'll never know…
Snow walks to the platform, where he kneels slowly, grunting a bit. His face I messier and all of him is reeling from harsh fumes. They haven't been taking good care of him. Which is shocking; I'd have thought he'd get the royal treatment but, then, Haymitch, Cinna and Gale were the ones who, ultimately, decided how a true prisoner was to be kept, made an example of. He offended not just the laws of nature, but of mankind. He pinned child against child for years.
He had his chance to change that. All of our past presidents did.
The world didn't have to be so corrupted.
But the leaders of the world never bothered to care.
Therefore, I won't either.
The people of Panem need a protector. I won't take on that responsibility because I'm so incapable of being one. They'll need a new leader to take on the job, to guard them as they should have been taken care of all that time ago. I am their Mockingjay because… I choose to be the bird, I choose to fly through the storms, to be the little thing that people can recall when they need to and forget when they can continue forward. I'm the good choice for it, more than ever: I'm insane. I won't be totally remembered, not completely forgotten.
I'll just be the broken girl who went out to heal a broken world.
And even that will be a lie.
I'm a broken girl seeking revenge.
I'm a broken girl wanting the death of her assailant.
I'm a broken girl waiting for a kingdom to come that will finally help us all.
My children must come first.
I just stand before him, thumbing my bowstring, reverberating inside my palm, a quiet thrumming song.
"You look so eager to get this over with,"
I get down on his level, the scent of blood hitting me, and I have to breathe hard to fight back the flashbacks of the dying children I'll always remember. Then he smells of roses and it's more nauseating then the blood. It smells too much; lies wrapped in crimson petals.
"Just answer me. Why did you do this to us?"
He grins. "You want the truth?"
I only nod, getting to my feet, and taking a few steps back.
I notch my arrow. No one breathes.
"Because I could do it,"
I breathe outward, following my arrow as it slices through the air.
"You two were perf—"
I've had it.
It lodges in his head, right between his eyes.
The world screams with cheers and shock.
I get onto my knees, reaching out, with such caution my arm feels akin to molasses.
There's a very indication of his pulse, signifying he hasn't died completely yet. I open my hand and wring the life out of him, whatever is left. I hold my grip until the thumping beneath my skin is gone. Cinna and Haymitch come over to me, offering me their hands to get up. I find myself to be shaking violently. They both hold me up, walking me slowly away, from the people below who lament and jubilate.
Inside me, everything is just silent.
Except Peeta, who is weeping with joy and for me.
I avenged him too.
The din becomes a whisper in my ears, relief overwhelming me. His looming presence seems to just be gone, a threat no longer that could easily rise back to power. Snow is dead to the world. There will probably be some problems fixing our nation but it's nothing compared to the trials we've all faced.
I've done what I needed to do, what I've always wanted and was meant to do.
We head back home immediately, home, where the people I care about are.
My being wants to sing, my father's voice softly echoing.
What does a bird do when it's too broken by purpose to do what it needs to do?
I had power and no voice. I've spoken and the power is gone. I've done what needed to be complete.
How does a dead person start a new life when life itself was too surreal to comprehend?