"Happy Birthday, Willow!"
I walk into the kitchen early Saturday, forgetting it to be my birthday. Still in my nightgown, I smile at the people (and cake) in the kitchen. Haymitch, Annie Cresta, mom, dad, Rye, Emily, Sarah and some other man, sitting in the back talking to Grandma. I ignore him and run to the cake. "HAPPY BIRTHDAY WILLOW" is in icing across the top with beautiful red icing roses and trees-a forest. My favorite place in the world.
"Oh, thank you, daddy!" I hug Father, because I know it was him who baked it and iced it, as he usually does. He grew up icing cakes...before he was thrown into a death trap with twenty three other kids. I shake that thought from my mind. "It's wonderful! Can you please teach me to do it one day?"
“Of course," he smiles.
"Hey, mom, who's that back there with Granny?" Rye comes up and asks, beating me to it. I smile, realizing now that he's ten and I'm twelve. Being older is way better.
"That's my good friend Gale," she says. "He's been in the Capitol a while, so I haven't seen him in awhile. He's very nice."
Just as she finishes the sentence, she looks up from Prim, who she thought was sleeping in her arms. Prim starts crying until Mom makes eye contact with her. Gale walks up.
"Hello, Willow," he says with a handsome smile. He has bushy black eyebrows and hair. I like him already. "I'm Gale."
"Hi. I think I heard about you in class. You were mentioned somewhere...said you were Mom's cousin," I say.
"Really? I didn't know they taught about the Games in class." Gale looks deep in thought.
"There's only about six kids in there. There isn't many people who were willing to come back to District Twelve," says Peeta. "Like Annie Cresta's twins, Rye, Willow, Emily, and Sarah."
"Annie had twins?" Gale looks baffled. "It must be difficult, what with a dead husband and twins. Plus...she's...ya know." Annie hasn't been right in the head since her Hunger Games.
"We check on her almost every day," says Mom. "And the kids are good friends."
"Well, Katniss, congratulations," says Gale. "I'm very happy for you." He smiles when Prim opens her eyes and smiles at him. "Wait-who's Emily and Sarah?"
Mom points to them sitting next to Haymitch, giggling at his funny faces. "Sarah's the daughter of Martha, one of the survivors who came back," she says. Sarah is about ten, Rye's age, with pretty blonde curls that bounced when she walked. "Emily...well...she's Haymitch's."
"W-what?!" Gale definitely looks baffled now, maybe even frightened. "Who's the mom?!"
"Don't know, actually." Father comes up. "She was alone in the forest when we found her. She saw Haymitch, and well... I'm not sure."
"Wow." Haymitch isn't necessarily the type you'd expect to be very parental, due to his "drinking" issue. But he stopped, for Emily. She just loves him. She is only six and she has short red locks that stand out in a crowd. I can't help but wonder what a two year old (that's how old she was when Mom and Father found her) was doing in a forest, but we'll probably never know.
"Cake time!" Haymitch is sitting with Emily in his lap, who is repeating "cake time!" over and over again. When Father says it, she hops from Haymitch's lap and runs to the table. I sit at the end chair, staring at all twelve of my candles. Thinking of what to wish for. Then I thought of it, and stared determined at the wish-makers themselves as their wax started to melt. They seemed to be losing patience, yelling, "Hey, up there! Get on with it, will ya?"
"Happy Birthday to you..." They all began to sing, my mother's beautiful voice and Emily's adorable off-tune-wrong-lyrics which were already singing "Dear Willow..." standing out. I waited for the moment to blow the wish-makers so they would stop pressuring me to blow their heads off.
"Happy Birthday to you!"
I blow the candles.
I wish this peacefulness can go on forever. I do hate war.
But just as everyone begins to clap, we hear gunshots outside.