Reading The Hunger Games

Katniss, Gale, Peeta, Haymitch and others read the Hunger Games trilogy. I'm going to do all the books and not stop halfway through the series.






  Sadly I don't own the Hunger Games... Here's the first chapter.... Please review    1. When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim's warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.  Prim gasped at that. "It's from your point of view Katniss" She said. I groaned, of course it would be. Peeta and Gale both started paying more attention at that.  I prop myself up on one elbow. There's enough light in the bedroom to see them. My little sister, Prim, curled up on her side, cocooned in my mother's body, their cheeks pressed together. "Awww" Finnick and Johanna said together mockingly. Prim glared at them making them laugh. Haymitch snickered at this scene. Rue was smiling at the thought. She loved doing that with her mother.  In sleep, my mother looks younger, still worn but not so beaten-down. I smiled at that. It made me happy that she didn't look so tired all the time.  Prim's face is as fresh as a raindrop, as lovely as the primrose for which she was named. "It's a nice name" said Cinna with a smile. It seems as though he didn't care that he was from the capitol and thought of everyone as his equal.  My mother was very beautiful once, too. Or so they tell me.

"You shouldn't say that Katniss" said Prim. "Well, it's not my fault that she hasn't done anything to help us since dad died." I said tearing up. Gale hugged me close, trying to comfort me. Peeta looked at me with understanding in his eyes, I liked the look in his blue eyes. "Katniss, you should forgive your mother, she may not be helpful but she's family. I've forgiven my mother for all she has done to me." he said. "What has she done to you?" I asked. He said nothing but pointed to his eye, and I gasped. No one understood that but me. When he gave me bread, he was hit with something, I think a rolling pin. And his mother, was the one to hit him with it. "I'm sorry" I said softly. 

Sitting at Prim's knees, guarding her, is the world's ugliest cat. "It can't be that ugly" said Finnick, trying to cheer everyone up.  He didn't like it when everyone was sad.  Mashed-in nose, Finnicks eyes widened comically.  half of one ear missing, Now his mouth opened.  eyes the color of rotting squash. And he started to laugh. It made everyone laugh. "Hey Prim, can I meet your cat when we get back?" Peeta asked still laughing. She nodded not being able to talk because she was laughing so hard.  Prim named him Buttercup, insisting that his muddy yellow coat matched the bright flower. "Which it doesn't" I added. "Hmmmm, I don't know Katniss, the color is kind of on" said Gale smiling. He was letting me know he didn't really think that but was trying to cheer up Prim by shifting his head towards her. I made an "o" with my mouth and said "Oh, you're right Gale, silly me". This made Prim smile.  He hates me. Or at least distrusts me. "Why?" Thresh asked. I just continued letting the book explain.  Even though it was years ago, I think he still remembers how I tried to drown him in a bucket when Prim brought him home. Silence... and then everyone, and I mean everyone, burst out laughing.  Scrawny kitten, belly swollen with worms, crawling with fleas. Nothing should be like that I thought. It's sad that even humans are sometimes like that.  The last thing I needed was another mouth to feed. Peeta looked confused. Surely she knew that if he helped her once, he would do it again. "Why didn't you ask for help?" He asked. I saw him looking at me. I knew he was thinking about when he gave me bread. "Because I thought it was a mistake, but thanks about that." "About what?" Prim asked. "He's the one that gave us the bread Prim, the one that gave us hope" I said softly with everyone listening. She gasped and flew towards him. "Thank you! Thank you! THANK YOU!" She practically yelled. He smiled and hugged her back. "You're welcome" he said. Gale was glaring at him, but not a lot, so I guess he doesn't like Peeta, but was happy that he helped my family stay alive and give us hope. Haymitch was thinking that if she was able to feed her family, she would live thought the games. She was most likely going in since the book was about her and the title was The Hunger Games.  But Prim begged so hard, cried even, I had to let him stay. It turned out okay. My mother got rid of the vermin and he's a born mouser. Even catches the occasional rat. "Well, that's good" Finnick said. He was smiling about something, I wonder what.  Sometimes, when I clean a kill, I feed Buttercup the entrails. He has stopped hissing at me.

I smiled proud of myself. 

Entrails. No hissing. This is the closest we will ever come to love.

Johanna and FInnick snickered at this. 

I swing my legs off the bed and slide into my hunting boots. Supple leather that has molded to my feet. "How can it be molded to your feet?" asked Finnick. "I don't know why don't you ask the person who works with clothes." I mean really, how would I know? "It means that they are worn out and still fit good" said Cinna.  I pull on trousers, a shirt, "A little graphic, aren't we?" asked Finnick. I glared at him.  tuck my long dark braid up into a cap, and grab my forage bag. I smiled, I loved going hunting.  On the table, under a wooden bowl to protect it from hungry rats and cats alike, sits a perfect little goat cheese wrapped in basil leaves. Prim's gift to me on reaping day. "Thanks Prim" I said happily.  I put the cheese carefully in my pocket as I slip outside. Our part of District 12, nicknamed the Seam, is usually crawling with coal miners heading out to the morning shift at this hour. Men and women with hunched shoulders, swollen knuckles, many who have long since stopped trying to scrub the coal dust out of their broken nails, the lines of their sunken faces. Cinna frowned, angry that people have to look that way just because the capitol said so. That isn't right.  But today the black cinder streets are empty. Shutters on the squat gray houses are closed. The reaping isn't until two. May as well sleep in. "If you can" said Peeta. I started laughing thinking that Peeta and I have more in common than I thought. Everyone was looking at me weirdly, so I continued reading to show them why I was laughing.  If you can.

At that everyone understood and were laughing. 

Our house is almost at the edge of the Seam. I only have to pass a few gates to reach the scruffy field called the Meadow. Separating the Meadow from the woods, in fact enclosing all of District 12, is a high chain-link fence topped with barbed-wire loops. "Is the electricity ever on?" asked Thresh.  In theory, it's supposed to be electrified twenty-four hours a day as a deterrent to the predators that live in the woods  -  packs of wild dogs, lone cougars, bears  -   "Oh my" said Rue snickering. Finnick and Johanna burst out laughing. I smiled and Prim snickered. Peeta and Gale were laughing pretty hard at that. Haymitch smiled a little while Cinna smiled hugely at the scene.  that used to threaten our streets. But since we're lucky to get two or three hours of electricity in the evenings, "It's on all the time in our District" said Thresh with Rue, Johanna, and Finnick agreeing with him.  it's usually safe to touch. Even so, I always take a moment to listen carefully for the hum that means the fence is live. "Smart" said Haymitch thinking that she has an even better chance now.  Right now, it's silent as a stone. Concealed by a clump of bushes, I flatten out on my belly and slide under a two-foot stretch that's been loose for years. "Do you think you can show me where that is?" asked Peeta. "I guess so, but do you really think you will need it?" I asked him. He shrugged and said "It's better to be prepared than unprepared, right?" he asked. I nodded understanding his thinking and agreed to show him. Gale was glaring at him with all his might. "You know, I could show you some time" Gale said. Peeta politely said "No thanks, Katniss said she'll do it" and looked away. That made Gale glare harder.  There are several other weak spots in the fence, but this one is so close to home I almost always enter the woods here.

"Its true" I said thinking about it. I always go there whenever I have the chance. 

As soon as I'm in the trees, I retrieve a bow and sheath of arrows from a hollow log. "That's a great way of hiding it" said Johanna. THinking that if anyone asked her for help, she would tell them about that. Although it might not be the best if they want to keep moving around. She'll think about it.  Electrified or not, the fence has been successful at keeping the flesh-eaters out of District 12. "That's good" Cinna said sincerely. It seemed as though he really cared about everyone. I liked him. It looked like Prim liked him too.  Inside the woods they roam freely, and there are added concerns like venomous snakes, rabid animals, and no real paths to follow. Peeta started to pay more attention. He felt like he would need some of these survival skills later on in his life.  But there's also food if you know how to find it. "While we're out in the woods, I might need you to show me which ones are edible"said Peeta.  My father knew and he taught me some before he was blown to bits in a mine explosion. There was nothing even to bury. I was eleven then. Five years later, I still wake up screaming for him to run. I started to tear up a little. Gale pulled me into a hug trying to comfort me. Rue tried to comfort Prim while I was busy, and I was thankful for that. Peeta softly spoke up. "I'm sorry Katniss, I hope you don't take this as pity, but I feel bad that you loss your dad and now have to fend for your family. You too, Gale, I'm sorry." 

Even though trespassing in the woods is illegal and poaching carries the severest of penalties, more people would risk it if they had weapons. "That's true" said Haymitch.  But most are not bold enough to venture out with just a knife. My bow is a rarity, crafted by my father Everyone looked surprised since not may people can do that.  along with a few others that I keep well hidden in the woods, carefully wrapped in waterproof covers. My father could have made good money selling them, but if the officials found out he would have been publicly executed for inciting a rebellion. "Isn't it funny that the only way to make good money, is illegal but everyone does it?" I asked bitterly. Peeta nodded and looked down, it looked like he didn't really care for himself, but for someone else.  Most of the Peacekeepers turn a blind eye to the few of us who hunt because they're as hungry for fresh meat as anybody is. Haymitch chuckled at that.  In fact, they're among our best customers. But the idea that someone might be arming the Seam would never have been allowed. In the fall, a few brave souls sneak into the woods to harvest apples. "Those are good. My friend does that and gives me some" said Peeta, adding the last part when people looked at him confused.  But always in sight of the Meadow. Always close enough to run back to the safety of District 12 if trouble arises. "Wimps" Gale mutters.  "District Twelve. Where you can starve to death in safety," I mutter. "Hahahaha" laughs Finnick. "You're funny when you're not trying". he added.  Then I glance quickly over my shoulder. Even here, even in the middle of nowhere, you worry someone might overhear you.

I nodded at that, I'm always careful. 

When I was younger, I scared my mother to death, the things I would blurt out about District 12, about the people who rule our country, Panem, from the far-off city called the Capitol. Finnick and Johanna started laughing... hard.  Eventually I understood this would only lead us to more trouble. So I learned to hold my tongue and to turn my features into an indifferent mask so that no one could ever read my thoughts. Do my work quietly in school. Make only polite small talk in the public market. Discuss little more than trades in the Hob, which is the black market where I make most of my money. Peeta thought she shouldn't hold herself back.  Even at home, where I am less pleasant, I avoid discussing tricky topics. Like the reaping, or food shortages, or the Hunger Games. Prim might begin to repeat my words and then where would we be? "Don't worry about that Katniss" she said softly. "You have enough things to be worried about." she continued. "That would be why I'm worried" I said "because it's a habit.""Lose the habit" she said. I rolled my eyes and nodded. Peeta and Gale were chuckling at this. I glared at them.  In the woods waits the only person with whom I can be myself. Gale. Gale smiled. Peeta glared at him. Cinna, Finnick and Johanna noticed and smirked. Well, Cinna smiled a little but you get the idea. I didn't notice this because I was thinking about the times I've had in the woods with him.  I can feel the muscles in my face relaxing, my pace quickening as I climb the hills to our place, a rock ledge overlooking a valley. A thicket of berry bushes protects it from unwanted eyes. The sight of him waiting there brings on a smile. Gale says I never smile except in the woods. Gale smiled. He liked the effect he had on Katniss.  "Hey, Catnip," says Gale. "Huh?" Everyone but Prim, Gale and I asked. "It's my nickname for her." Gale explained. "Bet you wish you had a nickname for her" Finnick whispered to Peeta. Peeta glared at him in hatred. "I'll take that as a yes." he said with a smirk, which made Peeta glare at him even more.   My real name is Katniss, but when I first told him, I had barely whispered it. So he thought I'd said Catnip. This made Johanna chuckle.  Then when this crazy lynx started following me around the woods looking for handouts, it became his official nickname for me. Gale smiled remembering that.  I finally had to kill the lynx because he scared off game. Prim and Rue looked horrified at the thought.  I almost regretted it because he wasn't bad company. But I got a decent price for his pelt.

"That's horrible" Prim gasped. I shrugged, you do what you have to do to get food I thought. 

"Look what I shot," Gale holds up a loaf of bread with an arrow stuck in it, and I laugh. Just like I did now.  It's real bakery bread, not the flat, dense loaves we make from our grain rations. "Ew" said Peeta, "If you ever want regular bread, I can give you some if you come down to the bakery or ask me at school" he continued.  I take it in my hands, pull out the arrow, and hold the puncture in the crust to my nose, inhaling the fragrance that makes my mouth flood with saliva. Fine bread like this is for special occasions.

Finnick's stomach growled. "When lunch?" he asked. Thresh looked at him with a smile and said "We don't know, we weren't told." Finnick groaned at that making everyone else snicker. At that moment a letter was dropped onto Haymitch's head making us laugh even more. He glared at us needless to say. "Read the note" Gale said rolling his eyes. He glared harder at Gale and opened the note.    Dear Everyone,  Lunch will appear after the chapters done, you can choose if you want to read while eating or eat and then continue. From, your friend.    "Well, I guess that answers your question" Johanna says to Finnick. 

"Mm, still warm," I say. He must have been at the bakery at the crack of dawn to trade for it. "What did it cost you?"

"Good question" Thresh said. 

"Just a squirrel. Think the old man was feeling sentimental this morning," says Gale. "Even wished me luck."

"He likes you guys" Peeta said softly. 

"Well, we all feel a little closer today, don't we?" I say, not even bothering to roll my eyes. "Prim left us a cheese." I pull it out.

"Thanks Prim" Gale said giving her an one-armed hug. 

His expression brightens at the treat. "Thank you, Prim. We'll have a real feast." I snickered at that.  Suddenly he falls into a Capitol accent as he mimics Effie Trinket, the maniacally upbeat  woman "Understatement" Peeta mumbled. Haymitch snickered at that and added "It's true, she can be upbeat for both of us enough and then some." who arrives once a year to read out the names at the leaping. "I almost forgot! Happy Hunger Games!" He plucks a few blackberries from the bushes around us. "And may the odds  - " He tosses a berry in a high arc toward me. "Catch it, catch it, catch it" Finnick started chanting with everyone joining. 

I catch it in my mouth Everyone cheered with Prim and Rue laughing. Haymitch just looked on with a smile.  and break the delicate skin with my teeth. The sweet tartness explodes across my tongue. " -  be ever in your favor!" I finish with equal verve. We have to joke about it because the alternative is to be scared out of your wits. Cinna frowned at that. He hated how things got so bad.  Besides, the Capitol accent is so affected, almost anything sounds funny in it.

"Do I have an accent?" Cinna asked, curiously. "Yeah, but it's not as bad as most people" Gale answered with everyone nodding behind him. 

I watch as Gale pulls out his knife and slices the bread. He could be my brother. Gale frowned at that. Peeta looked hopeful, maybe he did have a chance.  Straight black hair, olive skin, we even have the same gray eyes. But we're not related, at least not closely. Gale smiled, relieved that she had cleared that part.  Most of the families who work the mines resemble one another this way.

"That's true" Gale said. 

That's why my mother and Prim, with their light hair and blue eyes, always look out of place.  They are.

We all looked at Prim, and if you are actually trying to see the differences it's not hard to see.  My mother's parents were part of the small merchant class that caters to officials, Peacekeepers, and the occasional Seam customer.  They ran an apothecary shop in the nicer part of District 12. "Then why is she living at the seam?" Thresh asked. I just continued without answering.  Since almost no one can afford doctors, apothecaries are our healers. My father got to know my mother because on his hunts he would sometimes collect medicinal herbs and sell them to her shop to be brewed into remedies. She must have really loved him to leave her home for the Seam. "Oh" said Thresh smiling a little. "That's nice that they have true love." He continued. For some reason that set Peeta and Gale off and they glared at each other.  I try to remember that when all I can see is the woman who sat by, blank and unreachable, while her children turned to skin and bones. I try to forgive her for my father's sake. But to be honest, I'm not the forgiving type.   "Oh katniss" Prim says softly. I was about to respond when Peeta interrupted me saying "You should forgive her, she's your mother and just lost her love. If that happened to you, ow do you think you would feel. She probably felt like nothing was left for her since you guys were going to leave her when your older." As I listened, I felt myself nodding agreeing with him. "Thank you" I said. Then, I continued on with the book. 

Gale spreads the bread slices with the soft goat cheese, carefully placing a basil leaf on each while I strip the bushes of their berries. "Sounds good" Gale mumbled, while his stomach growled. He blushed when everyone statred snickering and glared at Peeta, who was laughing instead. Then, he started chuckling too.  We settle back in a nook in the rocks. From this place, we are invisible "Invisible, huh?" asked Finnick. Gale and I glared at him along with Peeta for some reason.  but have a clear view of the valley, which is teeming with summer life, greens to gather, roots to dig, fish iridescent in the sunlight. The day is glorious, with a blue sky and soft breeze. The food's wonderful, with the cheese seeping into the warm bread and the berries bursting in our mouths. I smiled, that was my favorite part about the woods, the scenery.  Everything would be perfect if this really was a holiday, if all the day off meant was roaming the mountains with Gale, Gale smiled at that.  hunting for tonight's supper. But instead we have to be standing in the square at two o'clock waiting for the names to be called out.

Everyone frowned. "That ruined the mood" I said. It made everyone smile a little and I was happy that not everyone was depressed and afraid. 

"We could do it, you know," Gale says quietly.

"What?" everyone asks beside me and Gale. 

"What?" I ask.

Everyone snickered. 

"Leave the district. Run off. Live in the woods. You and I, we could make it," says Gale.

"That's true, but I don't want to leave my family behind" I said quietly. "You know I mean bring the family with us, Katniss" Gale said to me. I just nodded. 

I don't know how to respond. The idea is so preposterous.

That's what I thought I thought to myself.  

"If we didn't have so many kids," he adds quickly.

"WHAT?" Everyone shouted, though for different reasons. Peeta looked depressed while Finnick and Johanna had the opposite reaction and were laughing really hard. Prim, Rue, Thresh, Haymitch, and Cinna were in shock. Gale and I looked at each other and started laughing. When everyone looked at us, I continued reading. 

They're not our kids, of course. But they might as well be. Gale's two little brothers and a sister. Prim. And you may as well throw in our mothers, too, because how would they live without us? Everyone made a "o" with their mouths and started cracking up.  Who would fill those mouths that are always asking for more? With both of us hunting daily, there are still nights when game has to be swapped for lard or shoelaces or wool, still nights when we go to bed with our stomachs growling.

Cinna frowned, wishing that they didn't have to go through this. 

"I never want to have kids," I say.

Peeta looked down. 

"I might. If I didn't live here," says Gale.

I smiled at that, I think it would too if I didn't live here, well, there. 

"But you do," I say, irritated.

Finnick chuckled. 

"Forget it," he snaps back.

Finnick and Johanna snickered this time. 

The conversation feels all wrong. Leave? How could I leave Prim, who is the only person in the world I'm certain I love? Gale frowned at that. "Only?" he asked. I hid my smile and said "I don't know, what do you think?" He stared at me for awhile until I broke. "Ok, at first I did, but now I'm not sure." I left it at that looking around the room.  And Gale is devoted to his family. We can't leave, so why bother talking about it? And even if we did, where did this stuff about having kids come from? Finnick and Johanna laughed at that knowingly. I glared at them, they were getting on my nerves.  There's never been anything romantic between Gale and me. Gale frowned while Peeta looked hopeful.  When we met, I was a skinny twelve-year-old, and although he was only two years older, he already looked like a man. "Im-im-imagine them hex-next to e-e-each other-er." Finnick choked passed his laughter. When everyone did we all started laughing.  It took a long time for us to even become friends, to stop haggling over every trade and begin helping each other out. Gale and I smiled at each other remembering this. 

Besides, if he wants kids, Gale won't have any trouble finding a wife. He's good-looking, he's strong enough to handle the work in the mines, and he can hunt. He smiled, lost in his thoughts.  You can tell by the way the girls whisper about him when he walks by in school that they want him. It makes me jealous but not for the reason people would think. Everyone looked confused.  Good hunting partners are hard to find.

"That's what your jealous for?" Finnick asked incredulously. 

"What do you want to do?" I ask. We can hunt, fish, or gather.

"That's good to know" Peeta said. 

"Let's fish at the lake. We can leave our poles and gather in the woods. Get something nice for tonight," he says.

I smile, we did that every year. 

Tonight. After the reaping, everyone is supposed to celebrate. And a lot of people do, out of relief that their children have been spared for another year. But at least two families will pull their shutters, lock their doors, and try to figure out how they will survive the painful weeks to come.

Cinna frowned. He really didn't like it that children were taken from their families. 

We make out well. The predators ignore us on a day when easier, tastier prey abounds. By late morning, we have a dozen fish, a bag of greens and, best of all, a gallon of strawberries. "I love those." Prim said suddenly. She was getting hungry, I could tell.  I found the patch a few years ago, but Gale had the idea to string mesh nets around it to keep out the animals.

"Smart" Haymitch muttered. 

On the way home, we swing by the Hob, the black market that operates in an abandoned warehouse that once held coal. Gale and I smiled thinking about the times we go there.  When they came up with a more efficient system that transported the coal directly from the mines to the trains, the Hob gradually took over the space. I smiled, the place reminded me of my dad.  Most businesses are closed by this time on reaping day, but the black market's still fairly busy. "It's always busy" Gale said.  We easily trade six of the fish for good bread, the other two for salt. Greasy Sae, the bony old woman who sells bowls of hot soup from a large kettle, takes half the greens off our hands in exchange for a couple of chunks of paraffin. We smiled thinking of Greasy Sae.  We might do a tad better elsewhere, but we make an effort to keep on good terms with Greasy Sae. She's the only one who can consistently be counted on to buy wild dog. "That's horrible." Prim said. I shrugged, no one notices the difference between them.  We don't hunt them on purpose, "At least you don't hurt them on purpose" Prim said feeling a little better than before.  but if you're attacked and you take out a dog or two, well, meat is meat. "Once it's in the soup, I'll call it beef," Greasy Sae says with a wink. "Ew" Rue muttered.  No one in the Seam would turn up their nose at a good leg of wild dog, but the Peacekeepers who come to the Hob can afford to be a little choosier.

"That sucks" Gale said with a face. 

When we finish our business at the market, we go to the back door of the mayor's house Thresh eyes widen, "The mayor buys it too, knowing you went into the woods?" he asked. Gale and I nodded smiling. Everyone is shocked by the amount freedom we have in our district.  to sell half the strawberries, knowing he has a particular fondness for them and can afford our price. Finnick snickered at that. "The mayor is the best one to get to buy" he said with a smirk.  The mayor's daughter, Madge, opens the door. She's in my year at school. Being the mayor's daughter, you'd expect her to be a snob, but she's all right. "Just alight?" Rue asked. I nodded thinking that she was like me.  She just keeps to herself. Like me. Since neither of us really has a group of friends, Peeta and Gale frown at that.  we seem to end up together a lot at school. Eating lunch, sitting next to each other at assemblies, partnering for sports activities.  I smile liking that she was my partner and not some snob.  We rarely talk, which suits us both just fine.   Johanna snickered. 

Today her drab school outfit has been replaced by an expensive white dress, and her blonde hair is done up with a pink ribbon. Cinna smiled "That sounds good to wear" he says.  Reaping clothes.

Now everyone frowns. "Just wish it wasn't for this" Cinna continued. 

"Pretty dress," says Gale.

Gale smiles as I smile toward him. Peeta glared wishing that he could hang out with Katniss. 

Madge shoots him a look, trying to see if it's a genuine compliment or if he's just being ironic. "It was probably both" Gale said with a shrug. "How can it be both?" asked Thresh confused. "Because I thought the dress was pretty, but she was wearing it because of the capitol" Gale explained patiently. He was patient with some things.  It is a pretty dress, but she would never be wearing it ordinarily. "I like it better when she is being herself" I said. "For example, imagine if Finnick was quiet, reserved, and nice." I say with a smirk. "Yea- HEY!" he shouted. Everyone was snickering. Haymitch was really starting to like this girl, she could hold her own in a fight he thought.  She presses her lips together and then smiles. "Well, if I end up going to the Capitol, I want to look nice, don't I?"

"She messing with you" I say straight away "everyone messes with others that day" I continued, frowning. 

Now it's Gale's turn to be confused. Does she mean it? Or is she messing with him? I'm guessing the second.

"I was right" I muttered. Finnick heard an cracked a smile in my direction. 

"You won't be going to the Capitol," says Gale coolly. I frowned toward Gale thinking that he should be nicer.  His eyes land on a small, circular pin that adorns her dress. Real gold. Beautifully crafted. It could keep a family in bread for months. "Wish I had that" I heard Prim mutter. I frowned at her and gave her a hug.  "What can you have? Five entries? I had six when I was just twelve years old."

"That's not her fault" Rue said confused. "I'm just mad at the capitol and apparently taking it out on people" Gale said sadly. I hugged him a little trying to cheer him up. He smiled softly when I did this. 

"That's not her fault," I say.

I smiled at Rue. "Looks like you and Katniss have some things in common." Peeta said to her with a smile. 

"No, it's no one's fault. Just the way it is," says Gale. "Oh, Gale" I said quietly. He heard though and gave me a hug.  Madge's face has become closed off. She puts the money for the berries in my hand. "Good luck, Katniss." "You, too," I say, and the door closes.

"Riveting conversation, Katniss" Johanna said sarcastically. 

We walk toward the Seam in silence. I don't like that Gale took a dig at Madge, but he's right, of course. "Of course I'm right" Gale said proudly, in a joking sort of way.  The reaping system is unfair, with the poor getting the worst of it. Cinna frowned.  You become eligible for the reaping the day you turn twelve. That ruined everyone's mood.  That year, your name is entered once. At thirteen, twice. And so on and so on until you reach the age of eighteen, the final year of eligibility, when your name goes into the pool seven times. "What fun" mumbled Thresh. Everyone smiled a bit, Thresh really could cheer someone up if he tried.  That's true for every citizen in all twelve districts in the entire country of Panem.

"Wish it wasn't" Peeta said sadly. 

But here's the catch. "There always is one" said Haymitch.  Say you are poor and starving as we were. You can opt to add your name more times in exchange for tesserae. Each tessera is worth a meager year's supply of grain and oil for one person. "Don't you think that it should be for the whole family and not one for each person?" Finnick asked seriously. Everyone agreed to that. It was horrible that to not starve to death, you would put your name in a lottery, made for death.  You may do this for each of your family members as well. So, at the age of twelve, I had my name entered four times. Peeta, Gale, and Prim frowned. The number keeps climbing every year.  Once, because I had to, and three times for tesserae for grain and oil for myself, Prim, and my mother. In fact, every year I have needed to do this. And the entries are cumulative. So now, at the age of sixteen, my name will be in the reaping twenty times. Peeta gasped softly, though everyone heard him. I looked at him in concern, wondering why he looked panicked.  Gale, who is eighteen and has been either helping or single-handedly feeding a family of five for seven years, will have his name in forty-two times.

Rue's eyes widened thinking that that's a lot of pressure to put on one person. 

You can see why someone like Madge, who has never been at risk of needing a tessera, can set him off. Now everyone understood why he was mad.  The chance of her name being drawn is very slim compared to those of us who live in the Seam. I frowned at that.  Not impossible, but slim. And even though the rules were set up by the Capitol, not the districts, certainly not Madge's family, it's hard not to resent those who don't have to sign up for tesserae.

"That's true" Gale said. "It's not their fault but you think it can help to blame someone." I continued for him. 

Gale knows his anger at Madge is misdirected. "Of course I do." Gale says.  On other days, deep in the woods, I've listened to him rant about how the tesserae are just another tool to cause misery in our district. "If they stop, you will die though." Prim said sadly. "I know, I just wish we didn't have to do it." I replied.  A way to plant hatred between the starving workers of the Seam and those who can generally count on supper and thereby ensure we will never trust one another. "I agree with your thoughts" said Peeta. I looked at him weirdly since he would be on the other side. "I don't like it" he continued with a smile.  "It's to the Capitol's advantage to have us divided among ourselves," he might say if there were no ears to hear but mine. Everyone's eyes widened thinking that he was right.  If it wasn't reaping day. If a girl with a gold pin and no tesserae had not made what I'm sure she thought was a harmless comment.

I smiled thinking about that. 

As we walk, I glance over at Gale's face, still smoldering underneath his stony expression. His rages seem pointless to me, although I never say so. Finnick snorted.  It's not that I don't agree with him. I do. But what good is yelling about the Capitol in the middle of the woods? "She has a good point" Haymitch says. Gale glared at him not liking that comment.  It doesn't change anything. It doesn't make things fair. Everyone looked like they agreed, except no one wanted to say because of Gale's glare, except for Peeta who I hit on the back of the head for. He still smirked.  It doesn't fill our stomachs. In fact, it scares off the nearby game. I let him yell though. Better he does it in the woods than in the district.

Finnick and Johanna snickered. 

Gale and I divide our spoils, leaving two fish, a couple of loaves of good bread, greens, a quart of strawberries, salt, paraffin, and a bit of money for each.

I smile wanting to go hunting now. 

"See you in the square," I say.

"Can't wait" Gal mumbled. 

"Wear something pretty," he says flatly.

"Thanks" I say sarcastically. 

At home, I find my mother and sister are ready to go. I smiled thinking about how they were always ready before me.  My mother wears a fine dress from her apothecary days. Prim is in my first reaping outfit, a skirt and ruffled blouse. "I remeber that" Gale says. Prim was smiling and said "I liked that outfit." It's a bit big on her, but my mother has made it stay with pins. Prim smiled liking that she go tot wear it.  Even so, she's having trouble keeping the blouse tucked in at the back.

I snickered thinking that she always has trouble with that. 

A tub of warm water waits for me. I scrub off the dirt and sweat from the woods and even wash my hair. To my surprise, my mother has laid out one of her own lovely dresses for me. A soft blue thing with matching shoes.

"Oh, I like that dress" Prim says. "I do too" I say back with a smile. 

"Are you sure?" I ask. I'm trying to get past rejecting offers of help from her. For a while, I was so angry, I wouldn't allow her to do anything for me. "That's a bit mean" Rue said softly. "I know" I said angrily, not at her but at myself.  And this is something special. Her clothes from her past are very precious to her.

"Clothes are precious to anyone who's not from the capitol or a designer" Prim added the last part for Cinna. 

"Of course. Let's put your hair up, too," she says. I let her towel-dry it and braid it up on my head. I can hardly recognize myself in the cracked mirror that leans against the wall.

Finnick snickered. 

"You look beautiful," says Prim in a hushed voice.

"And nothing like myself" I said. 

"And nothing like myself," I say. "Looks like you don't change" said Peeta with a smile. I smiled back at him, happy about that too.  I hug her, because I know these next few hours will be terrible for her. It's terrible for everyone I thought.  Her first reaping. She's about as safe as you can get, since she's only entered once. "True" Cinna said sadly. I liked him, he seems really nice and actually cares for the other Districts.  I wouldn't let her take out any tesserae. But she's worried about me. That the unthinkable might happen.

Prim nodded with tears in her eyes. 

I protect Prim in every way I can, but I'm powerless against the reaping.  The anguish I always feel when she's in pain wells up in my chest and threatens to register on my face. Prim gasped at that. "You don't need to worry about me, Katniss. I can protect myself". "I know but I can't help it" I said. We hugged tearing up thinking about the future.  I notice her blouse has pulled out of her skirt in the back again and force myself to stay calm. "Tuck your tail in, little duck," I say, smoothing the blouse back in place. Everyone snickered at the nickname, well, except Prim and I. We glared at everyone in good nature. 

Prim giggles and gives me a small "Quack."

We laugh at the inside joke. "Inside joke" I said when everyone looked at us. 

"Quack yourself," I say with a light laugh. The kind only Prim can draw out of me. "Really, I bet I can do it before the end of the readings" Peeta bet. Gale narrowed his eyes and bet he could do it too. "Well, I bet you won't be able to" I said glaring at them. They chuckled and waited for me to continue. God, that's annoying.  "Come on, let's eat," I say and plant a quick kiss on the top of her head.

I smiled, and then frowned thinking about what's coming next. 

The fish and greens are already cooking in a stew, but that will be for supper. Everyone's stomach growled at the thought. We were all hungry.  We decide to save the strawberries and bakery bread for this evening's meal, to make it special we say. I smiled, thinking that we were going to have that dinner.  Instead we drink milk from Prim's goat, Lady, and eat the rough bread made from the tessera grain, although no one has much appetite anyway.

"No one has any appetite until that day is over" Peeta said sadly. "I just wish some of us didn't have to lose our lives for it" he continued, looking at me as he said it. No one had a response for him so I continued reading. 

At one o'clock, we head for the square. I puased here. What if I was chosen to go? What if Gale was chosen? What if-if Prim was chosen? No, I can't think about that right now. I can only ho- "Katniss, are you ok?" Peeta asked softly. "I don't know" I said. "Don't worry, if something bad happens, we can change it" he said. "Yeah, yeah we can. Thank you" I said determinedly.  Attendance is mandatory unless you are on death's door. "But you're practically walking to death's door, so why do you need to go?" asked Rue. No one had an answer.  This evening, officials will come around and check to see if this is the case. If not, you'll be imprisoned.

"Harsh" Finnick muttered. "Life" I muttered to him. He cracked a smile. 

It's too bad, really, that they hold the reaping in the square  -  one of the few places in District 12 that can be pleasant. Finnick and Johanna snorted.  The square's surrounded by shops, and on public market days, especially if there's good weather, it has a holiday feel to it. Prim smiled at me, while I was thinking of all the good times we had there.  But today, despite the bright banners hanging on the buildings, there's an air of grimness. The camera crews, perched like buzzards on rooftops, only add to the effect.

"I like your descriptions" Thresh said trying to cheer us up. It worked a little when we all smiled. 

People file in silently and sign in. The reaping is a good opportunity for the Capitol to keep tabs on the population as well. "Yeah, good opportunity" Gale muttered. I looked at him and put a hand on his shoulder for support. He smiled in thanks while Peeta glared at him.  Twelve- through eighteen-year-olds are herded into roped areas marked off by ages, the oldest in the front, the young ones, like Prim, toward the back. "Shouldn't it be young ones in front and older ones in back?" asked Prim. "That does make more sense" Johanna said sincerely. Haymitch was thinking about that and decided to make a joke "It might be because I always show up drunk and pass out falling off the stage" we all laughed at him.  Family members line up around the perimeter, holding tightly to one another's hands. It was getting depressed. I was starting to think it was going to happen this year, my name was going to get pulled.  But there are others, too, who have no one they love at stake, or who no longer care, who slip among the crowd, taking bets on the two kids whose names will be drawn. "That's horrible" Cinna said. He was taking this badly, just thinking even worse things about the capitol before this.  Odds are given on their ages, whether they're Seam or merchant, if they will break down and weep. I was thinking that I would try to be strong. No one felt like talking so I just continued reading. I hope this chapter ends soon though.  Most refuse dealing with the racketeers carefully. These same people tend to be informers, and who hasn't broken the law? "Merchants" Peeta said quietly. Everyone was still depressed and weren't talking. Johanna and Finnick were lost in their thoughts. Haymitch was too but was slightly more aware of his surroundings. I know, surprising. Cinna was looking on sadly, while Rue and Thresh were hugging like they were siblings. Gale was trying to comfort Prim while I was reading. Peeta looked sad and I reached out to put a hand on his shoulder. He smiled at me in thanks whiled Gale glared at him. Thinking that I should continue before a fight broke out, I did.  I could be shot on a daily basis for hunting, but the appetites of those in charge protect me. Not everyone can claim the same.

I nodded agreeing with myself. 

Anyway, Gale and I agree that if we have to choose between dying of hunger and a bullet in the head, the bullet would be much quicker.

"Don't say that" Prim snapped glaring at us. "Sorry, but you know it's true" Gale said while I backed him up by nodding. 

The space gets tighter, more claustrophobic as people arrive. The square's quite large, but not enough to hold District 12's population of about eight thousand. "That's small compared to District 4" said Finnick.  Latecomers are directed to the adjacent streets, where they can watch the event on screens as it's televised live by the state.

"I wish we could just stay home if they were doing that anyway" Prim muttered. I rolled my eyes silently agreeing. 

I find myself standing in a clump of sixteens from the Seam. We all exchange terse nods then focus our attention on the temporary stage that is set up before the Justice Building. Eveyone started to get tense thinking that it's comingIt holds three chairs, a podium, and two large glass balls, one for the boys and one for the girls. I stare at the paper slips in the girls' ball. Twenty of them have Katniss Everdeen written on them in careful handwriting.

Peeta, Gale, Prim, and pretty much everyone else were looking worriedly at me. I smiled at them silently telling them that I'll be ok. 

Two of the three chairs fill with Madge's father, Mayor Undersee, who's a tall, balding man, Everyone snickered.  and Effie Trinket, District 12's escort, "Hat her" everyone from District 12 muttered, even Haymitch, though that is to be expected.  fresh from the Capitol with her scary white grin, pinkish hair, and spring green suit. "So, I'm not the only one that thought she was scary" Peeta said trying to make me, I mean everyone smile, which he succeed in.  They murmur to each other and then look with concern at the empty seat.

"Hey, that's where I sit" Haymitch said knowingly. We all snickered knowing why he wasn't there. 

Just as the town clock strikes two, the mayor steps up to the podium and begins to read. I groaned. I hate listening to this speech and now I have to read part of it. Gale was snickering knowing why I groaned. "Let me get through this and then you can talk". And now everyone understood why I groaned.  It's the same story every year. He tells of the history of Panem, the country that rose up out of the ashes of a place that was once called North America. He lists the disasters, the droughts, the storms, the fires, the encroaching seas that swallowed up so much of the land, the brutal war for what little sustenance remained. The result was Panem, a shining Capitol ringed by thirteen districts, which brought peace and prosperity to its citizens. Then came the Dark Days, the uprising of the districts against the Capitol. Twelve were defeated, the thirteenth obliterated. The Treaty of Treason gave us the new laws to guarantee peace and, as our yearly reminder that the Dark Days must never be repeated, it gave us the Hunger Games.

I sighed, bravely continuing. 

The rules of the Hunger Games are simple. In punishment for the uprising, each of the twelve districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. Everyone was getting even more depressed. I got the feeling something bad was going to happen soon.  The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins.

Cinna frowned thinking that they shouldn't kill each other. 

Taking the kids from our districts, forcing them to kill one another while we watch  -  this is the Capitol's way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy. How little chance we would stand of surviving another rebellion.

"But we do have a chance." said Gale determinedly, with Finnick, Johanna, and Haymitch agreeing with him. 

Whatever words they use, the real message is clear. "Look how we take your children and sacrifice them and there's nothing you can do. If you lift a finger, we will destroy every last one of you. Just as we did in District Thirteen."

Cinna frowned. Everyone looked angry at that. It's true but it doesn't make it right. 

To make it humiliating as well as torturous, the Capitol requires us to treat the Hunger Games as a festivity, a sporting event pitting every district against the others. I glared hating this. Gale tried to calm me down.  The last tribute alive receives a life of ease back home, and their district will be showered with prizes, largely consisting of food. All year, the Capitol will show the winning district gifts of grain and oil and even delicacies like sugar while the rest of us battle starvation.

"If only District 12 can win" I muttered. 

"It is both a time for repentance and a time for thanks," intones the mayor.

I snorted. "Don't believe that." I said. "I don't think anyone does." Peeta said teasing me a little. I glared at him wishing he would be quiet. "Shut up" I muttered. 

Then he reads the list of past District 12 victors. In seventy-four years, we have had exactly two. Only one is still alive. "That's horrible" said Cinna  Haymitch Abernathy, a paunchy, middle-aged man, who at this moment appears hollering something unintelligible, staggers onto the stage, and falls into the third chair. He's drunk. Very. Everyone snickers.  The crowd responds with its token applause, but he's confused and tries to give Effie Trinket a big hug, which she barely manages to fend off.

"Good try" said Finnick. 

The mayor looks distressed. Since all of this is being televised, right now District 12 is the laughingstock of Panem, "It always is" said Johanna. No one from District 12 defended themselves because they knew it was true.  and he knows it. He quickly tries to pull the attention back to the reaping by introducing Effie Trinket.

I groaned. I hated her. As if he knew what I was thinking, Peeta smiled at me and mumbled "Everyone hates her, Katniss"

Bright and bubbly as ever, Effie Trinket trots to the podium and gives her signature, "Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!" "THAT'S SO STUPID. THEY ACT AS IF IT'S A HOLIDAY TO SEND KIDS TO THEIR DEATHS" Prim exploded. Everyone was in shock wondering how such a small girl could be so load.  Her pink hair must be a wig because her curls have shifted slightly off-center since her encounter with Haymitch. Haymitch smirked. "She hates not being perfect" he explained.  She goes on a bit about what an honor it is to be here, although everyone knows she's just aching to get bumped up to a better district where they have proper victors, not drunks who molest you in front of the entire nation.

Everyone snickered at that while Haymitch glared at me. I quickly continued reading. 

Through the crowd, I spot Gale looking back at me with a ghost of a smile. As reapings go, this one at least has a slight entertainment factor. But suddenly I am thinking of Gale and his forty-two names in that big glass ball and how the odds are not in his favor. My eyes widened. I haven't been thinking of that. I start beathing heavily, panicking. I don't want him to die. I closed my eyes tightening them when someone put their hand on my shoulder. "Katniss" Gale muttered. I turned toward him and rush at him to hug him. He hugs back. "Gale, I don't want you to die" "And I won't" he promises. I felt better and decided to continue not looking anyone in the eyes.  Not compared to a lot of the boys. And maybe he's thinking the same thing about me because his face darkens and he turns away. Gale frowns thinking he just made it worst.  "But there are still thousands of slips," I wish I could whisper to him.

He smiles at me. Gale smiled through he pain for me. "It's ok" He whispers. 

It's time for the drawing. I gulp wondering who it's going to be. I afraid it's going to be me, but at least it's not Prim.  Effie Trinket says as she always does, "Ladies first!" and crosses to the glass ball with the girls' names. I'm lowing down reading, getting worried.  She reaches in, digs her hand deep into the ball, and pulls out a slip of paper. The crowd draws in a collective breath and then you can hear a pin drop, and I'm feeling nauseous and so desperately hoping that it's not me, that it's not me, that it's not me.

"Please don't be her, please don't be her, please don't be her" I can hear someone muttering (Peeta), but I can't figure out who. 

Effie Trinket crosses back to the podium, smoothes the slip of paper, and reads out the name in a clear voice. And it's not me.

Everyone lets out a breath of relief. 

It's Primrose Everdeen.  Silence.    Finally finished, sorry it took so long but it got deleted 3 times, can you believe my luck?

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