I Should Have Known Better [Katniss]
relationship with Gale Hawthorne is somewhat storied. Everyone knows
that he was the one that I let get away. For what, exactly? For
something safe? For something more secure? I can't even be sure the
real reasoning other than my blaming him for Primrose's death. I
blamed him, if for nothing else, the fact it was easy to. Gale was
always someone I could put everything on his shoulders and know he
Maybe that was the beginning of where I was wrong.
After the rebellion and the war that changed my very world, I returned to the graveyard that was District 12. The home I grew up in, the home I knew, it was the very place that I felt slighted me as I was growing up. Being poor as filth my entire upbringing and throwing my name in the Tesserae every year to ensure a meager year's supply of grain and oil for my family, was not an upbringing anyone should have endured. I went back there for the familiarity. I went back there because home was home. Victor's Village still stood tall and despite going home alone, at least it was home.
Being Katniss Everdeen was never a glamorous life but the Hunger Games glorified my struggles. It glorified all of our struggles. As a community, as a country, as a race of human kind, that was what the Hunger Games was: a glorification of terrible proportion over human sufferage. President Snow salivated over the idea of watching children from each district die for the Capital's amusement but with him dead and President Alma Coin dead from District 13, what was next?
So many things raced through my head but the biggest thing for me was simple: Did I make the right decision? When I said goodbye to Gale after, in so few words, blaming him for Primrose's death, I intended to never see him again. I swore to myself that I had made up my mind and my decision was a simple one. I could never love someone who let my little sister die. I could never consciously give my heart, my soul and my loyalty to someone who was the mastermind behind the one person I cared the most in the world no longer being alive. I couldn't cope with Prim not being around and my mother not returning to 12 after the Rebellion was a difficult transition. I was barely eighteen and alone in the world when it all went down.
At least that was what it felt like.
My father died in a mining accident when I was a child, my sister was now gone due to an explosion and I watched her die. My mother was in District 4. The grief was too much for my mother to return to 12 and I understood that. Now. She lost so much and District 12 would only remind her of the grief she had to endure. She moved on to 4 so she could head up a new hospital there, therefore she did well and was helping others. It was sad, is all. I never really had my mother after my father died and when I needed her as a technical adult, I didn't have her. Strange how that worked. I felt no negativity toward her, though. She couldn't cope and well, to be honest, I'm not sure I was coping all that much, either.
Victor's Village felt colder without the warmth my mother and Prim brought to it when they lived with me after the 74th Annual Hunger Games. I was gifted this house, along with other victors of the long standing tradition of Panem, and as long as I had it, they were there. We went from our home in the Seam to a house built for Kings and Queens. Effie thought it was "quaint" but it was far bigger and more glamorous than anything I ever had growing up. It was a small taste of the Capital's wealth thrown at the people who endured the Hell that was the Hunger Games. I had to kill people to obtain the home and that is not something I am proud of to this day. So much blood was shed over the course of 76 years...
All that really remained of that time were the various Victor's Villages in the districts surrounding in Panem.
I realize now that I've become sidetracked. I do that sometimes. I go on tangents and I can never keep my head straight. I was talking about Gale and my choices. Knowing he was in District 2, after securing a fancy government job after Snow's fall and Coin's assasination, I knew he was doing well. He always insisted that if he didn't live in 12, he would have a family and the whole normal life thing. As I laid on my sofa in 12, I had to wonder: was he going to get that? With the job of a government official, ironic really considering Gale's detest for Panem's stature when we lived in 12, it wouldn't have been hard for him to secure that kind of thing. It also wouldn't be hard for him to find a woman who'd love him for the strong, stubborn jerk that he was. It was always the part of Gale I found the most charming. When he was especially difficult, I saw myself in him, and it would bring even the slightest of smirks to my face. Even when I didn't want him to know I was tickled by something he'd say, it was an involuntary thing.
I always had something special with Gale and at the end of the day, I often wondered if I did the right thing. I was satisfied with never seeing Gale again after the Rebellion as I never thought I could look at the man the same way after my sister's death. Was it really his fault, though? The look on his face when I told him goodbye still burns into my eyes and into my head. Why did I pick Peeta in that moment? I overheard Gale in the sewers tell Peeta I would pick whomever I thought I couldn't live without but now I was second guessing myself. I do that a lot but this wasn't like any other time because I never questioned myself about this.
I knew I loved Peeta and after watching his struggle, my heart felt content with the familiarity. Peeta was a lot different than Gale in all ways that a person could be a polar opposite. He was effortlessly kind where as Gale was guarded. He was charming and sweet where as Gale was rugged and heated and stubborn. Peeta had a smile that could light up an entire room from the deepest, darkest gloom. Gale had the softest smile that revealed the deepest, darkest parts of his heart and soul but a person who didn't know him would never notice that. They'd never know the depths of him like I did.
Like I did...
The very inner workings of Gale Hawthorne was something I was versed in. Why did I turn away from that? I went with the safe option. Despite Peeta's situation with being hijacked, he was the safer of the two. Gale was so unpredictable and he was so thick headed that sometimes it drove me crazy. I guess when I walked away from him, I walked away from that chapter in my life. Even with Peeta being back in 12, though, my head wouldn't rest. I didn't want to think I made the wrong decision but I found myself mentally visiting 2. I wondered often how Gale was doing, wondered if he was happier there than he ever was in 12. I hoped he was happier, because if anyone deserved it, it was Gale. He worked so hard to help my family out when I was in the Games, the second Games, and beyond. He kept food on his family's table when he was barely a boy himself and helped me with mine. I tried to help him, too, but Gale was always a great provider. He kept my mother and my sister safe when I was off playing pretend with Peeta Mellark for the Capital's entertainment. He was the grounded force back in 12 that I strived to get back to and leave the charade of superiority behind me. That normalcy, that warmth, that silent strength, those worn in hands, those defined arms and features... that was what and who my heart ached for at my lowest.
Why did I let him go when I had the opportunity to choose him for once? Why would I do that....
The man who always put me first deserved so much more than I gave him and that guilt ate me up to my very core. I never realized how much guilt in that form could hurt and gnaw and claw inside of someone's gut. I felt guilt before, plenty of times, but none quite like the guilt I felt regarding Gale.
There was an internal struggle for what felt like months. Peeta was happy with the regular, every day things back in 12 with us living close to Haymitch again. Haymitch finally was settled and seemed to be in a better place, Peeta was getting better every day while inside I was screaming at the top of my lungs. The internal struggle of not knowing whether I made the right decision or not was killing me faster than any nightlock could have.
Logically, my heart told me to get ahold of him. If for nothing else, to ask him how he was. I didn't want to be the unwanted, unwelcomed ghost from his past to show up over a year after the Rebellion, wanting an instant in back into his life. That would have been presumptious on my behalf. I would have been repulsed if he did that to me and I expected the exact same reaction from him had I done it. As much as the feeling of hurting Peeta turned my stomach due to everything he had gone through, I couldn't lie and act like I was over Gale just to save face. I never had the opportunity to let my feelings for Gale run their course to begin with, with everything else that was going on at the point of my choosing. I never got to tell him, fully, that my heart ached for him. I never was able to tell him those three words in a genuine manner and have the meaning stick. I felt like I missed out on so many opportunities and so many misguided choices in trying to please everyone else. I forgot that pleasing myself was crucial.
I knew, though, that I also couldn't stay in 12 and pretend that I was the happiest I had ever been. I had to do something.
I was struggling with nightmares that kept me up at night but no longer were they nightmares provoked solely from the Games. These nightmares involved someone showing up at my door to tell me that Gale was killed in action or something awful happened to him. If I was truly happy with Peeta and our perfect little playhouse.
Even at almost twenty years old I couldn't make up my mind. I should have just wrote a letter but that was never enough for me and I was never good with words to do that kind of thing. I wasn't great with talking, either, as I had shown many times. It went with the whole "inability to be personable" thing that Haymitch rode my ass about but I was never out to be likable and personable. It may have been the bitter teenager inside of me, angsty and rude, but even now as an adult I didn't want to be the center of attention. I had enough of being the center of attention to fill four lifetimes and then some.