Back at District 12

Whilst Katniss is off fighting for her life in The Hunger Games, what's happening back at home? What is Gale feeling about Katniss' relationship with Peeta? He's watching it all back home,but what is he thinking?

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4. The escape

I tried to put on the best Capitol accent I could, mimicking Effie Trinket. She was a manically upbeat woman who arrived one a year to read out the names at the reaping.

'I almost forgot! Happy Hunger Games!' Plucking some blackberries off the bushes around us I gave Katniss a big, cheesy grin.

'And may the odds-' I tossed a berry in a high arc towards her. Catching it in her mouth,as she always does, her face relaxed as the sweet tartness exploded across her tongue.

'--be ever in your favour!' She finished with equal verve. Katniss and I always joke about the Hunger Games, otherwise it would terrify us. Anyway, the Capitol accent is so affected, almost anything sounds funny in it.

I pull out my knife and slice the ,not so warm now, bread. My black hair dangles over my grey eyes so I can hardly see. Katniss watches me, lost in her own thoughts.

I spread the bread slices with the soft goat's cheese, carefully placing a basil leaf on each while Katniss strips the bushes of their berries. We settle back in a nook in the rocks. From this place, we are invisible, 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. Her eyes reflect the sun smoothly. The food is glorious, with the cheese seeping into the warm bread and the berries bursting in our mouths. If this day off was all about roaming mountains with Katniss, it would be perfect. But instead we have to be standing in the square at two o'clock waiting for names to be called out. I wish I could freeze this moment, right now, and live it forever. I can see the woods from here. Every time I see the woods, I imagine running away, living there instead. Raising children who wouldn't have to be entered into the Hunger Games. A peaceful life. Katniss and I.

'We could do it, you know' I say, not realising I'm saying it out loud.

'What?' She replies.

'Leave the district. Run off. Live in the woods. You and I,we could make it,' I grin at her, could I convince her enough to do it? No. She doesn't respond.

'If we didn't have so many kids,' I add quickly, to break the silence. They're not our kids, of course. But they might as well be. My two little brothers and a sister. Prim. And you may as well throw in our mothers, too, because how could they survive without us? Who would fill those mouths that are always asking for more? With us hunting daily, there are still nights when game has to be swapped for lard, or shoelaces, or wool, still might when we go to bed with our stomachs growling.

'If we didn't have so many kids' I add quickly. They're not our kids, of course. But they might as well be. My two little brothers and sister. Prim. My little brother, Rory, has had a crush on Prim since kindergarten. Katniss and I always make jokes about how they'll get married and we'll be in-laws. I wanted to be more than in-laws,but would could I say.

'I never want to have kids,' Katniss says. Never have kids? That's a dream of mine. I've always longed for a big family, like my own.

'I might. If I didn't live here.' If I didn't leave here, my kids wouldn't have to be entered into the Hunger Games. We could live peaceful lives. Maybe they wouldn't be my kids. They could be our kids.

'But you do' Katniss scowls at me. I could tell she was irritated with my response.

'Forget it,' I snap back. Clearly we didn't want the same things in life. Are we really suited?

There's never really been anything romantic between us. I never wanted her to know how much I loved her. It would make things awkward. When we met, she was a skinny twelve-year-old. I looked so much older than her, even though I'm only two years older. It took a long time for us to become friends, stop haggling over every trade and begin helping each other out. She never knew how I felt. She probably never will.

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