The Song Of The Mockingjay
It has been a whole year since Prim died.
It has been three whole years since Rue died.
And I can’t stop thinking about either of them.
They are ghosts that haunt me: they haunt me in the day when I think, they haunt me at night when I sleep, and they haunt me when I’m everywhere and nowhere at the same time, when my mind is wandering and thinking of nothing but really it is thinking of everything and only them.
I hear things.
All I hear is the rattling sound that the bombs made as the exploded in my little sister’s face and blew her and everyone around her to shreds. I hear the startled shrieks of the fallen hodgepodge of fighters that assembled from the districts, and among them only Prim’s voice was soft and gentle as it let out a refined exhale of breath. All I hear is the echoing sound of Rue’s voice, calling to me for help- for me to help, for anyone to help her get out of the net and out of this place- and the sickening impact of the spear thudding against her stomach. I hear her voice asking- no, begging- for someone to place her soul on a pair of golden eagle wings, and my own voice rising to meet the challenge as I use my own voice to lift up her light soul and spirit, flying it away to where it can be safe.
That is what I hear.
I feel things too.
All I feel is the ghost of Prim’s comforting hand in mine as she squeezes it reassuringly, both giving comfort to me and taking some from herself, transferring the protection. I feel the memory of the long nights we used to fall alseep together, just the two of us, huddling in each other’s loving, protective arms, as we faced a cruel, seemingly impossible world. All I feel is the lingering hand that squeezed mine before Rue died, before her spirit left her body and she was no more. I feel the gentle graze of my fingers on the backs of her eyelids as I closed them in quiet reverence, as my fingertips envied that little girl’s peace and pitied her chance of ever getting to see peace in this world, in this life, again.
That is what I feel.
I see things too.
All I see is little Prim- sweet, sweet Prim- standing tall and soldier-like against a darkened sky, filled with bombs raining down on her, and a darkened land, filled with bodies that bore her down, that were one more burden to carry. I see the realization on her face- that steely resolve that I both cherished, admired, and despised in her- as she meets my gaze, and we pass a million words between us: I love you, I will miss you, I will not forget you- but not one of those words that we transfer is a proper goodbye. All I see is the petite frame of Rue trapped underneath a net, a sight that makes my blood boil: Rue is a mockingjay, and a mockingjay is a bird, and birds don’t belong in cages, bird shouldn’t be trapped, because they sing, and no bird had ever sung a song that sounded sweeter than Rue’s simple whistle of 4 notes. I see that as the beautiful life force ebbs from that little bird’s eyes, she gives me that song, she passes on the tune to me, and I become the mockingjay because of her, and because of her song.
That is what I see.
I don’t want to see anymore. I don’t want to feel anymore. I don’t want to hear anymore.
All I want is to wither away to nothing, to become the shell of a woman who once could have been something great and powerful, but couldn’t stand on her own after she lost both of her legs. Prim and Rue were my sisters. They still are. I lost them. And once you lose your legs, you truly never get them back.
It has been fifteen years since Prim died.
It has been seventeen years since Rue died.
Sometimes, it feels wrong to live. They were both so young, so beautiful, so innocent. Well, Prim used to be, at least. I always felt like there were two Prims: the one that Rue reminded me of, the one that died with her, and the one that was killed by Gale’s bombs. Both versions of Prim Rose Everdeen were young and beautiful, but only one was innocent when she died.
I have a child now. A daughter.
Her name is Rose.
She is so young, so beautiful, so innocent.
It’s truly remarkable sometimes how much she reminds me of them. Some days, especially when we go to the meadow and we’re surrounded by flowers, I’ll get swept up in her and everything wonderful about her, and I seem to freeze in time as I watch her. I watch her dance and there is such joy, such remarkably innocent joy, that I can’t help but be reminded of them. I see them in her: Rue’s timid personality mixed with Prim’s kindness. It’s wonderful, it really is.
But it is hard to explain to my daughter when I watch her dance in that meadow- that damn meadow- and I start to cry. She wonders why, and I have to wipe away the tears long enough to tell her only that she is a beautiful dancer. Of course, she is only two years old, so she knows nothing other than to give me a strange look before shrugging it off and resuming her dancing.
I will tell her some day. I will tell her about everything: the games that were no fun, the little girl that was actually a mockingjay, how I became that mockingjay, how I loved two men equally the same but I ended up loving one more equally than the other, how my sister with the personality and love worth a thousand firecrackers was blown up when she tried to save lives. Yes, I will tell her these paradoxes. Someday. But not now. Let her maintain her childhood innocence for as long as she can. Let her dance freely in the meadow while she can, before she realizes that she is dancing on a graveyard.
It has been twenty years since Prim died.
It has been twenty-two years since Rue died.
I went to the forest today. Not any forest in particular. Just a forest. It made no difference which one it was, anyway.
They were with me there, both of them:
Prim, scampering behind me cautiously, holding my bow or arrows or quiver when I needed her too, lifting the burden off of my shoulders that I have carried for so long: protecting her and everyone else. For forever, it seemed, she was so fragile and weak, but I have come to realize that she was the kind of strong that is underrated: that quiet, gentle song that everyone underestimates.
And Rue, clambering overhead in the trees, lifting another huge burden off of these frail, worn-down old shoulders: I no longer have to be the mockingjay by myself. She took a turn, and then I took it for her, but now we are the mockingjay together. I am the voice that calls out “hope!” to people on the side of the road, and she is the wings that fly in the trees above, carrying my song on her wings as the tune resonates throughout the forest. The song of four notes carrying a song of four letters.
I am grateful to not be lonely as I walk nowadays. This life casts a big shadow that can loom so large. But that shadow seems to shrink ever so slightly when there are others there beside me.
It has been seventy years since Prim died.
It has been seventy-two years since Rue died.
It took an incredible amount of strength, will power, and persuasion- including a very healthy bribe- to come here. I haven’t been in these woods in so long. The Capitol always made the locations closed off to tributes after a game was over, and the new government that arose after the revolution didn’t allow anyone on this land for the longest time.
But I’m back now. I’m back. With just enough strength and determination to build one last shrine to little Prim and little Rue. Strange, that I should be in my late eighties now, and they are both eternally 13 years old.
I arrive at a clearing of trees that, if I close my eyes, I can still imagine encircling a small girl trapped in a net, even after seventy-two long years. I ease myself onto my knees, frail bones creaking and protesting as I do so, and cautiously extract my assortment of flowers from the basket I carry with me. They are lovely, an eye-appealing array of purples and yellows and whites. But more than being attractive, they are purely sentimental.
“You two never did meet, did you?” I whisper as I gently pluck the flower heads from the stems, arranging them in a formation like the outline of a thirteen-year-old girl’s body. Rue’s body was obviously taken by the Capitol during the games, and was destroyed along with other fallen tribute’s bodies when the rebels attacked the headquarters. Sort of an “If I can’t have it, no one can have it” situation, I guess.
“I bet you would have been really good friends,” I say as I continue arranging the petals. I have finished Rue’s shrine and I move onto a spot immediately to the right, which I dain as Prim’s ground. “You would’ve been closer than friends; sisters, even.” I blink back the tears that threaten to spill over. No. I will not cry. Not here, not now. “I’ve never had another sister, not since you two died.”
And I know it’s true. I’ve never been quite the same after their deaths. But who can really blame me?
I blink back more tears now, trying my best to keep it together. I have finished Prim’s shrine now. It’s time to say goodbye.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be coming back here again. In fact, I know I won’t.” They don’t respond, and I don’t expect them too. “But I want you both to know that I love you, and I always will. But that I am also happy. After you both died, I was broken. Badly. But that walk that the three of us took together in the woods... Rue, you taught me how to sing the song of the mockingjay, and Prim, you taught me how to be the mockingjay. Since you two taught me, I’ve always felt like I was the mockingjay, even after the rebellion was over. For a long time, I felt like I couldn’t walk, couldn’t even stand, without you two to be my legs. But then I realized that I don’t need legs: I am the mockingjay, and you two are my wings. I I don’t need to walk, because you two taught me how to fly. You taught me the song, and that is what has helped me fly all of these years. So I’m saying thank you. But I’m also saying goodbye, because now I’m giving the song back to you. It’s yours again. I hope that you find someone else to give it to, and that it can help them fly like it taught me to.”
I took a deep breath: All of the extra strength- the strength that I had always hoisted on my shoulders and used to get me through tough times- seemed to be sapped away from me. I felt odd. Lighter. But not empty. It was a good feeling. And now it was my time to fly.Stepping back from the two shrines to the two little girls, I took one last lingering gaze as I raised three of my fingers and whistled a familiar four-note song.