Part 1 of 5
The room is dank and murky.
Dust clogs in the smallest corners, sticks to the plush velvet couches, moulds
itself to the grubby window panes. The lights are off; Peeta and I don't get
the privilege of electricity or facilities. We are held captive in this room,
lab rats ready for testing. Tomorrow they will interview us and then we will be
dumped like prey in separate buildings as they torture us for information on
the Mockingjay's whereabouts. Information I don't even know myself.
Where is Katniss?
Who cares? Isn't it my
fault I'm here? It was my knife which cut the tracker from her arm, my decision
that saved her life. Until she was struck by lightning. But I prevented the
Capitol from reaching her. So now I will pay the price, and I don't even know
if she made it out of there alive. Chances are slim. Besides, if the rebels
managed to break into the broken arena, surely they would have rescued Peeta as
My thoughts are interrupted by the sound of quiet sobbing from across the room. I sigh. This crying is not because he's scared. Not because he is to be tortured in a number of hours. Not even because he feels bitter remorse towards Snow for capturing him. No. Peeta is crying because he is worried sick about Katniss.
"I should- should- n- never have let her- out o- of my- sight." The words are barely comprehensible between the sobs. But they are choked out along with many tears. I want to comfort him, to tell him he was being used as a pawn in Plutarch's rebel plan, but somehow the words dissolve on my lips, which are already soaked in sweat. Besides, Peeta is my only ally here. The idea of telling him it was partly my fault he was split from Katniss in the arena is too despicable, even for my taste. So instead I advance slowly towards him, hastily put a skinny arm around his shoulders and draw in close. We stand there awkwardly, arms shaking, half hugging, our bodies and minds trembling in the bitterness of the cold room.
That night we half-
daydream, half- mutter quietly to each other, half- sit there like zombies in a
trance staring blankly at an ever- changing set of coloured lights from the
city below which buzz past our window every few seconds. The cool wall tickles
my back. There is no way, no way at all, that I will ever sleep here. And it
seems as though Peeta can’t sleep either. His eyes constantly flit around,
darting around the dimly- lit room, the misty light from the moon outside
reflecting the tears in his eyes. Clear like the glass on the window panes.
Like rainwater pattering down a slippery surface.
I never realized how there can be so much depth to one person. Like an onion. So many layers, but all we see is the thick outer one, the part which tastes bitter, makes us cry. But the inner bit, the glowing bit, the strongest part, is the part we leave behind. Throw away. Never reach. By the time the knife has cut through the slippery layers on the surface, we've finished the meal. Bought a replacement. On and on it goes. Round and round. A bad skin means to discard the entire root. The grinds are thrown away, with no hope of ever seeing the light of day again. I pushed Peeta aside in the arena. Ignored him, his lover- boy ways, assumed it was all for the camera. But I never saw the pained boy inside. The one who, his whole life, has been trying to reach her, but knows now in his heart he will likely never see her ever again. Certainly not after Snow has altered him beyond repair, killed him, even. Peeta never really had Katniss, did he? She was always torn. He always felt there was a part of him which was grabbing, flaying out, only never to reach. Like the remnants of the discarded onion as it tries to escape the dark place it has been trapped in. The goodness of a person is disintegrated in the face of the Capitol.
That is what is happening to us.
It is as if he can read my thoughts. His blue eyes lock on mine, but then skitter away in a hatred I cannot deny. I don't blame him, either; he is always so gentle, it is about time he kept his distance from me. But instinctively, when my arm reaches for his hand, he doesn't recoil. We both need human company at this point. It's a miracle we are assigned the same quarters for the night. Though we are in the dungeon- part of Snow's mansion, we are together. This is the safest we'll be until our eminent deaths tomorrow.
"You think we'll die?" There we go again. Voicing my thoughts, and being correct in his assumption. I nod. He stares straight ahead of him into nothingness. "I didn't say goodbye to her."
I pause. "You did. You kissed." My voice catches on the last word and I jerk my head away in embarrassment. I don't feel any love towards either Peeta nor Katniss. So why do I feel so uncomfortable?
Shame. Yes. I am ashamed of myself.
Peeta gives a slight smile and shakes his head. "No." he says. "I wanted our last goodbye to be more than that. A eulogy, of sorts." He clears his throat. "It was clear we were never both going to make it out of there alive. And should I die soon, before I get the chance to kiss her goodnight, I want Katniss to hear my eulogy for her."
He is reading out his decrement of love, all neatly etched in fire coal on a bit of tree bark he salvaged from the arena, but I don't hear a word of it. All that goes through my head is the word "goodnight". Goodnight. What did he mean, "Kiss her goodnight"? Kiss her to sleep? To death, one last time before he was to never see her again? Killing himself would never have worked, anyway. This was, surely, what he knew, would happen. But suddenly my mind can’t process anymore information. My body slumps against the wall; I am too sore and tired to question it now.
The endlessness drags on and on and on, the dense air clogging up my lungs, forcing me to wheeze. The night is our enemy; many times I am on the verge of surrendering to its itching fingers which grasp out for me, almost allowing myself to be forever captured by its icy grip, but instead I refuse its cold company, grit my teeth, and force my eyes to remain open for the entirety of its painful duration. Peeta sits hunched up against the wall beside me for the 12- hour period, his blue eyes as intense as they were in the Arena. Not in the least bit tired after reading his long eulogy. We sit in silence.
After a few hours, Peeta speaks up again. “Johanna, I’m not afraid for her, like you think I am. They can hurt me, but as long as they don’t touch Katniss, I can hold back my worry.”
When I don’t respond, he continues. “You see, the deal I made with Haymitch was that I was to be the one to die. Katniss was to live. But instead Katniss got stuck in that Arena, and I’m still here, so I could murder Haymitch.” He pauses, his breath increasing slowly, his fists clenching in and out. This steady controlled emotion continues silently for about twenty minutes. I think he has eventually drifted off when suddenly he lashes out at the window, his knuckles shattering the glass into a thousand shards which cascade to the floor, splintering over the hard tiles. I shriek in astonishment. He’s up on his feet, yelling now. “I could MURDER Haymitch! For breaking his part of the deal!” I’ve never seen Peeta this angry before. Let alone that, I’ve never even seen him in the slightest angry.
I want to shout at him, for scaring me to death, for getting paranoid over the inevitable, that Katniss is most likely dead and there’s nothing he can do. The words are about to flow freely from my lips, but I don’t get them out. Not before the Capitol guards burst into the room, grab Peeta’s arms, and yank him out the door. It shuts with an almighty BANG!
All that’s left is the heavy silence and the trail of his blood which spattered the white tiles.