I realise that I’ve been clenching my fists. Blood drips from the palms of my hands, and my knuckles are ghostly pale. I imagine my face is too. Peeta, on the other hand, is already aware, and running back with a damp cloth. Gently pressing my hand into his, he begins to wipe away the blood.
“Katniss,” He whispers, gentle yet urgent. “Katniss, please,” At this, I lift my head to meet his eyes. An image flashes through my mind; an image of Peeta, bruised and broken, thirsting for my blood. A result of the games. Tears cloud my vision, until I can no longer recognise his features. “Im sorry, Katniss. Theres nothing we can do. We need to go.”
I nod, and we make our way to our children. Our children. Who are now at risk of entering the hell I could wish upon no living soul. Peeta, it seems, does not waste time with false hope. He recognises the situation, reads it as I do. We can do nothing. We have become, yet again, pawns of the Captiol.
Peeta has collected both Prim and Finn, the trio with their eyes red and swollen. I embrace them individually, though my trembling body must provide little in terms of comfort. As we prepare to face the outdoors, the four of us stand ready, hand in hand. A team.
It is not Effie who reads the names of the damned, but Bourne herself. Of course she would choose to come here, where the lives of two children of two victors live. They do not bother with order this year. Families stand crowded ahead of the justice building, and the two glass bowls. Their fear, however, is irrelevant. It is more than likely that, on each and every slip of paper, is the name of one of my children.
I scan the crowd for a familiar face, until my eyes land on Haymitch. He stands surrounded by groups of people, and catches my eye. His expression is grave as he holds up a bottle, shouts something which I can only presume to be ’sweetheart’, and collapses to the floor. How he has managed to get drunk in such a brief space of time, is beyond me.
I feel Prims grip on my hand tighten as Bourne approaches her podium. I look down and notice that she wears a mockingjay pinned to her shirt. Glancing in his direction, I see that Finn has done the same. Peeta, too. My heart tightens.
It is not until Bournes hand reaches into the first bowl that everything clicks into place. The blonde braids. The un-tucked shirt. Her hand around mine. The mockingjay on her shirt. All that is missing is-
“Primrose Mellark!” She calls, her voice dragging out the name for so long, that it occurs to me quite how much she enjoys this. I do not register my actions. Prim has already begun weaving through the crowd, her head held high. I catch sight of her blonde hair, and follow, scrambling through a gaping audience.
They say history has a strange way of repeating itself, yet there is nothing strange about this turn of events. History, it seems, merely sets in stone our future. Which is why, despite the fact that it will not be counted, I shout the words I know all too well.
“I volunteer as tribute!”