In Peeta's Eyes CF 18: Ticking Clock
Haymitch grunts from the edge of the couch, still flaming mad at us, and refuses to answer.
“No,” says Cinna. “But there’s a first time for everything.”
Seeder receives an eight, and then my picture fills the screen. I’m expecting a zero. It makes the most sense now that Katniss has said it. But instead, the number twelve flashes beneath my face. Shock paralyzes me and nobody says a word. Even Effie is silent. A twelve is awarded to Katniss as well. I cannot comprehend what just happened.
“Why did they do that?” Katniss finally asks.
Haymitch understands what is going on. He always does. “So that the others have no choice but to target you. Go to bed. I can’t stand to look at either one of you.” He lays a hand over his eyes.
It clicks into place in my head. This is President Snow. All him. He wants to make sure that neither Katniss nor I ever make it out of that arena. He is making sure that we die one way or another. Because now everyone sees us as a threat, and a grand one at that. Now we are the Careers, the tributes everyone knows need to go down if anyone else is to stand a chance. A cold lump of fear settles in my gut and I think I might be sick. Bed sounds really good right now.
Cinna and Portia remain quiet. Effie sniffles dramatically and pulls out a brightly colored handkerchief. So Katniss and I walk out of the room, holding hands, and wander slowly down the hallway. I intend to drop her off at her door since she has not wanted me to stay with her for the past few days, but when I hesitate for a second, she pulls me forward. Her arms circle around me and her cheek nestles into my shirt. And I forget how to say goodnight. I forget that the Capitol has effectively branded the two of us public enemy numbers one and two with our scores. I forget that in just three days I will be entering the arena and that I will not be coming back out. I briefly remember my painting of Rue barely two hours ago and my sudden and desperate desire for Katniss’ arms. Now that they are around me, everything in the world melts away. There is only Katniss and me.
I press my face into Katniss’ hair and press her closer with my hands on her back. I don’t know how long we stand there in the dark hallway, clinging to each other, taking comfort in each other’s warmth.
Katniss breaks the silence. “I’m sorry,” she whispers, “if I made things worse.”
“No worse than I did.” I shake my head. “Why did you do it, anyway?” I had been hoping that she would stick with archery, shooting things and showing off, not hanging dummies of previous Gamemakers. If anything she’s ever done spits on the Capitol’s shoes, it’s this.
“I don’t know.” She’s lying. She knows precisely why she did it. What’s more, I do too. She thinks she is going to save my life, but she can’t. She quickly adds, “To show them that I’m more than just a piece in their Games?”
I chuckle, but it dies in my throat. That conversation seems so far away, so long ago. It feels like it is from someone else’s life, another timeline that is not mine. Because how can I have gone through all that to live, to survive, and end up here, right back where I started?
“Me, too.” Two can play this game. Both of us can lie. But she needs to know that she can’t save me. She can’t even try. Because she has to be the one to live this time. “And I’m not saying I’m not going to try. To get you home, I mean. But if I’m perfectly honest about it…” Our scores flash behind my eyelids as I close them.
“If you’re perfectly honest about it, you think President Snow has probably given them direct orders to make sure we die in the arena anyway.” She finishes my hanging sentence so effortlessly that I know this has scared her too.
I rub one hand in circles on her back and kiss her hair. “It’s crossed my mind.” It terrifies me, will surely give me new nightmares about the many ways Katniss and I might die, but I press down the sudden wave of vertigo. “But even if that happens, everyone will know we’ve gone out fighting, right?” I offer, trying to put some kind of spin on this that is not completely crippling. It doesn’t work.
We will become martyrs for the rebellion if we die, and I suppose that is not entirely bad. But it’s certainly not a comfort. Katniss will live on in the hearts of the nation just as Rue lives on inside her. I will remain too, but only as the Boy Who Loved the Girl on Fire. I am okay with this. I don’t need recognition, memorials, or battles fought in my honor. All I need is the knowledge that in some way, I will be with Katniss forever. Considering I have faced death before, I should be a bit more at peace with it, but I have never been anything close to that. I don’t know what comes after you leave this life, but I’m sure it cannot be as bad as this world. At least, that’s what I’m hoping. If I’m honest, I’ve fantasized about a world that is a perpetual meadow of wildflowers, where friends and family will live in perfect happiness together. Where I can be with Katniss without the poverty of District 12, without the despair and desolation of Panem, without the gaze and laws of the Capitol. Without fear. If anything like that is waiting for me, maybe death won’t be such a bad thing.
“Everyone will,” Katniss confirms. “So what should we do with our last few days?”
I hesitate for a moment, thinking of all the things I wanted to do with my life after escaping death’s grasp last year. Paint. Bake. Live in the Victor’s Village. Develop a better relationship with my parents and two brothers. Become perhaps a halfway friend with Haymitch. Open my own bakery. Grow closer to Katniss. Marry her. Watch our children play in the yard of our home. Pray madly that they never get reaped. Forget about the Games for eleven months of the year. Do my best to get a tribute home, not safe but alive. And then spend my days and nights trying to forget the faces and names and laughs and smiles of the ones I couldn’t save.
It would never have been much of a life. After a few years, I might even have taken to the bottle, as Haymitch did. Painting and baking and loving Katniss might not have been enough to keep me sane. I might have broken and lost it completely after watching one too many children die under my guidance.
Maybe death in the arena this year really is better. All I am allowed now is stolen moments with Katniss and the deafening noise of my own ticking clock.
“I just want to spend every possible minute of the rest of my life with you,” I say honestly, pulling back from Katniss and placing a tender kiss on her forehead.
She surprises me by taking my shirt in trembling fists and pulling me into her room. “Come on, then.” She lets go of me, smoothing down my rumpled shirt. “Give me a minute to change.” She leaves me to stand in the middle of her room as she enters the bathroom and closes the door.
I climb into her bed and pull up the covers, leaving her side of the sheets pulled down, inviting her in. She returns after a few minutes and shuts off the lights. She crawls in beside me and curls into me, one arm across my waist, the other folded between our chests. I hold her close and listen to her breathe. We don’t say a word, preferring to take silent comfort in the other. It feels so good to sleep with Katniss again. The nightmares were becoming unbearable without her. With her in my arms, I fall asleep faster than I have in a week.
In Peeta's Eyes CF 25: Midnight
18 of 27
In which Peeta decides how to spend the rest of his short life.
Confusion never stops
Closing walls and ticking clocks
Gonna come back and take you home
I could not stop that you now know
~Clocks, Coldplay www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIHZBK…
In Peeta's Eyes: Hunger Games - writerofneverknown.deviantart.…
In Peeta's Eyes: Catching Fire - writerofneverknown.deviantart.…
Characters, story (c) Suzanne Collins
Picture (c) Google
Next one up Friday!