DISCLAIMER: I do not own 'The Hunger Games' trilogy. It completely belongs to Suzanne Collins.
WARNING: Teenage pregnancy, miscarriage, minor coarse language, and minor suggestive adult themes.
A mistake. One mistake that led to another. One time. One time and now my life is ruined. I hear the rumours wherever I go. Most think I went to Cray and that it's his. Some even think it's Gale's. If only they knew the truth…
I didn't think anything of it when I came down with the flu. Prim had had it days before and I just assumed that I had caught it from her. I didn't think anything of it when I started vomiting. I didn't even think anything of it when I missed my period. I'd always been irregular due to stress and the conditions I live in.
It was Greasy Sae who had suggested it.
I had been in the Hob, trading a squirrel with a bowl of Sae's soup when a sudden wave of nausea had hit me. "Are you okay, dear?" she had asked, concern in her wrinkly, grey eyes as she noticed my face turn green.
I had nodded and swallowed the bile in my throat with a grimace. "I've been feeling unwell lately, is all," I had admitted to the older woman. "Feeling sick and tired. I must've caught the flu. Prim had it a few days ago."
"Either that or you have a bun in the oven," she had teased, and then chuckled. I had frowned, recognising the saying but unsure of the definition. My eyes widened when I caught on and I froze on the spot. Sae noticed my change of mood and added, "I'm teasing you, child. You're only sixteen. Besides, if you were with child then you must have a fella you've been hiding from me."
"What?" I muttered, unfreezing and looking at her in confusion, having not been paying attention to the last sentence. "What did you say?"
"Don't worry, Katniss. I'm just messing with that head of yours. You better run along now or you'll be late for school."
That small yet terrifying conversation had only occurred a few hours ago, yet it has been stuck in my mind ever since.
Now, here I am, sitting in a history lesson, not paying attention to my teacher drone on about the Dark Day's, as my mind settles on a more serious and important subject.
Could it be?
I shake my head. I haven't had a period in months. There's a reasonable explanation for this. I'm stressed. I haven't been eating enough. There's no other reason. There can't be.
It isn't possible.
It was only one time.
It was my first time. It had happened in the meadow that leads to the fence in which I illegally hunt down wild animals to feed my family. Few people go there, especially anyone from the merchant side of town. The act itself didn't last longer than twenty minutes. It was an act that had only occurred due to both of our states of weakness.
It happened six weeks ago, on the same day as the reaping for the 74th Hunger Games. Delly Cartwright, one of his many friends, had been reaped along with my only friend, Gale Hawthorne.
He and I had never even spoken before that night and, even then, we had said few words and mostly sat in silence, trying to hold in our tears. He broke first, heart-breaking sobs escaping his strong frame and making his wide shoulders shake. It didn't take long before my own tears had slipped out without my permission. He wrapped an arm around my shoulders, had tried to comfort me. If it had been any other day, I would've pushed him away, would've hit him or threatened him with my bow.
But on that day, the day I needed comfort, his warm touch was there to sooth me... and then we were kissing... and then we were touching and...
It just happened.
It was awkward and clumsy and uncomfortable, my body pressed against the damp grass beneath me, his body above mine, trying to keep his weight from crushing my much smaller frame.
After, we had both been horrified. He had apologised profusely like he had pounced on me like a wild animal, when it was in fact myself that had leaned into his touch and wanted more. I had frantically gathered my clothing and pulled them on before I ran into the woods, wanting to escape him and what had happened.
The possibility of a baby coming out of those twenty minutes had never crossed my mind… until now, thanks to Greasy Sae. Maybe it was because I forced myself not to think about that night again. I would catch myself and quickly change my train of thought before I allowed my mind to settle on the memory of that night.
Other than that incident and the day he saved my life by tossing me two loaves of bread in the rain - that's another story - we had never interacted and haven't since. Our eyes have met several times for a few seconds in the hallway at school, before we both look away, our cheeks a bright shade of pink.
Coming out of my thoughts, I tense, remembering that he is in my history class and that he is seated a row in front of me and two seats to the left. I let my eyes give him a quick once-over and it's enough to know that he is completely bored, along with everyone else in the class.
He turns his head, I think to look out of the window, but then his eyes meet mine and we both gasp, looking like terrified rabbits that know what our fate will be as soon as the arrow is released. We look away. The possibility of me carrying his child is in the very front of my mind and, however many times I try not to think about it, I just can't make the thought disappear.
If Greasy Sae is correct, then there is a possibility that I may bring a baby into this cruel world where it could stave to death or get reaped. They are just a few reasons why I have never wanted to have children.
How am I even going to find out if my suspicions are correct?
The tests that determine pregnancies are expensive and can only be bought in the town apothecary. I may be able to trade some meat for one, if the owner finds my trade suitable. My mother has the supplies to do the test herself, but I couldn't ask her. Even now, I can just imagine the shame on her face.
For a while now, she has been taking medicine that helps with the depression that took over her body after my father's sudden death. She has been with us a lot more lately, making an effort to eat with Prim and I without having me ask her to. It wouldn't bother me if she never ate with us, but it is something that Primrose insists on, and if I Prim wants something, I will do my best to give her it, even if I don't particularly like it.
I can't forgive mother for what she did. She left us. Prim and I nearly starved to death.
If he hadn't tossed me that bread that horrible, rainy day...
Prim and I wouldn't be here now.
A wave of sickness washes over me, a cold sweat breaking over my skin. I put a hand over my mouth and once again force myself to swallow the bile. Whatever is wrong with me has to stop soon. Feeling sick and tired will effect my hunting and, like Gale and I promised each other, it is my responsibility to look after Gale's family along with mine while he is fighting to the death in the 74th Hunger Games.
The Games started five weeks ago, this year being said to be one of the longest Games ever, and the whole of Panem has to watch. In every classroom there is a small screen that stands in the background. The device plays at all times, but the volume is almost always muted. The only time the volume turns up is when something important occurs.
I glance at the screen and watch as Delly Cartwright walks through the woods. Watching the sweet, caring merchant girl in the deadly arena is like seeing a Capitol resident in District 12. She looks completely out of place. The whole thing doesn't look right. Nothing about the Games is.
I'm surprised Delly has managed to last this long. It's not something I like to admit, but we all know that Delly couldn't harm a fly, that she is the last person who would ever have the urge to kill someone. She is one of the nicest people in District Twelve and is not somebody I would like to see experience a painful death.
She must have learnt some things during the few training days that the tributes are allowed before they enter the arena, because as soon as the buzzer went off at the cornucopia, she had ran to the woods, away from the bloodbath, while Gale had raced forward to grab a weapon and backpack.
The screen flashes to Gale and I notice that he too is walking in the woods. The volume increases as I wonder what will happen if they find each other. The teacher that stands at the front of the class falls silent as everyone turns to the screen.
We watch as Gale, his bow loaded with an arrow, walks around a tree that looms above his tall frame like a giant, and clashes with the blonde girl. They jump apart and Gale quickly positions the bow and arrow. Delly freezes. I hold a breath. The bow and arrow has never been Gale's best weapon but, I am sure, if Delly holds still enough, he will be able to land a deadly blow.
"Delly," Gale breathes, realising that the girl before him comes from his own district. He lowers his bow and I let out the breath I had been holding.
"Gale. It's good to see you. How have you been?" Delly asks, and I don't fail to notice that, even in the arena, where she can be killed at any second, she is kind and polite.
"Well, I have had better days," Gale replies, earning an understanding nod from Delly. He looks her up and down. "Come on. I can't exactly leave you out here. I found a cave tucked away by the river. If you would like, we can team up? It would be nice to have some company that I know won't try to rip my throat out while I sleep."
Delly nods at his suggestion and forces a weak smile before the volume in the classroom turns quiet once again.
Peeta and I glance at each other for a quick moment before I focus my gaze on the view outside the window. Once again, the thought of possibly being pregnant takes over my thoughts. The panic and fear that I feel makes my throat close up and I cough violently, earning a few looks from the people surrounding me.
I need to go to someone who will be able to help me, and the only person I can think of is the owner of the apothecary. I will just have to pay a visit after school and hope we can come to an agreement.
The school day seems to drag on forever and as soon as the bell rings, signalling the end of the day, I jump out of my seat and go to meet Prim at her locker.
"Hey, Little Duck. I'm going to go hunting for a while," I tell her.
She nods before narrowing her eyes at me. "Are you okay?"
I ignore her question. "Are you going to walk home with Rory?"
"Yeah," she says. "I'll see you at home." She then leaves the school with Rory, Gale's younger brother, while I go to the woods to hunt down the game that I need to find if I want to discover if what Sae had jokingly suggested is true.
As soon as I am under the fence and have my bow in my hands, I set to work, throwing rocks at trees so birds scatter in every direction and I have a chance to shoot several down. While I'm hunting, I think about my current problem. If I am pregnant, then what am I going to do?
I know that my mother can make a substance that many women in the Seam have taken, that will kill the baby they carry inside them, but there is a catch; the substance is extremely dangerous and, more often than not, not only will kill the baby, but also the the mother, which is why my mother would make the women think that option through for days.
I suddenly drop to the ground and bring my knees up to my chest while I choke on a sob, the situation I am in truly sinking into my head. I could be carrying a child. A baby that could die at any time. I promised myself, years and years ago, that I'd never get married and have kids. The tears fall even when I try to hold them in, but I just can't seem to stop them. A baby will ruin my life, Prim's life, and even my mother's life. I could barely manage to feed the three of us, and that was before Gale was reaped. Now, having his family to look after also, food is scarce.
After what feels like an eternity, the tears finally stop and I resume my hunting duties. Before I know it, I have a good catch; three birds, two squirrels and a rabbit. I tuck them away inside my game bag and make my way to the fence. The closer I get to town, the more the dread builds up inside me. What if someone from school sees me? Everyone would know about the situation before I had the time to even take the test.
I shake the thought out of my head as the apothecary finally comes into view. I slowly walk up the concrete steps and look around at my surroundings to see if anyone is watching me, before I go inside. The store is void of any customers, myself being the only one.
I walk through the small room, my eyes scanning the items on the many shelves. Most of the items are jars filled with herbs, much the same as the kind that mother makes. I find the rectangular boxes in one corner, hundreds of them lined up. Not many people in District 12 have enough money to buy the tests that were made in the Capitol. I have to swallow the lump in my throat, and force my hands not to shake as I pick up the box. I walk towards the woman behind the counter, and her eyes glance at the test, before looking back at my face.
"I have three birds, two squirrels and a rabbit. A fair trade?" I ask, getting straight to the point, and put my game bag and the test on the counter.
"Who wants the test?" the merchant asks and I try not to frown. I don't have to answer, but it will look suspicious if I ignore her.
"Not for me. I need it for a friend," I lie. "Still, I don't want anyone to know about this. Deal?"
She narrows her eyes at me before nodding and taking the game bag. She goes into a side room before coming back with my now empty game bag. I put the test in the bag and give my thanks before I quickly leave the store and run home.
As soon as I reach the tiny Seam house I call home, I enter the bathroom and lock the door behind me, not bothering to greet my mother or Prim. I take the test out of the bag and read the instructions on the back of the box. I frown as I read the instructions. It seems so simple. All that it needs is some urine, and then my fate will be decided. Just like that.
I follow the instructions step-by-step, before I place the stick-like object to the side.
It must be nothing, I tell myself. Greasy Sae put the ridiculous thought into your head, and now you are being paranoid. It's not possible. One time.
"Katniss?" Prim calls through the door, bringing me out of my thoughts.
"What is it?" I ask, nerves making my fingers tremble.
"Are you okay? You didn't say anything when you came in."
"I'm fine. I'll be right out," I reply, holding my breath. I sigh in relief as I hear her walk away before I realise that it is time, and I become tense once again.
I look at the box. A small minus means negative. A big cross means positive. A few minutes has passed now. I pick up the test, and squeeze my eyes tightly shut before I force them open. I look down at the stick...
And a big, bold X stares back at me.