I watch my father's arrow land between the eyes of the squirrel. It's a clean shot. One he could do with his eyes closed. The fat squirrel will be a decent trade today and Father might treat us to a cheese bun or a cookie.

Springtime has made the animals fat and healthy. Plenty of feed has nourished the animals and in return we're shooting and catching plenty of meaty animals. Father's trader's have been more than pleased with the game he brings them.

I fetch the squirrel and bring it back to Father.

He smiles down at me and I smile back at him.

It's Sunday. He's day off and we've been in the woods since before sunrise. We've managed an excellent haul, which will get us by for the next week. Things aren't as tough as they had been during the past winter. We had experienced a few too many hollow nights and father did his best to make sure Prim and I weren't hungry those long and cold nights but even with him being over generous with our meals, it didn't make a dent in our hollow nights and I knew he was worried if we'd even see the end of the winter the way things were.

But we scrapped through like we always have and were eventually rewarded with Spring. I saw it as our reward for our struggling.

"Next time, it'll be your arrow." He tells me, pulling the arrow out gently and patting the top of my head.

I nod cheerfully and hand the squirrel to him. I hadn't had such luck with my hunting but I hoped as I practiced and practiced that I'd be as good as he is.

"How about we head on home. We've got more than enough today."

I nod and pick up my bow and arrow. He lets me lead, teaching me the importance of tracking and retracing my steps for when I'm old enough to bring myself to the woods and hunt after school and early mornings.

We're silent. I've learnt to be silent on these trips and be aware of my surroundings. Anyone can be behind the fence and if we're caught then I know to expect the worse. And the dangers of a wild animal, one that is smarter and tougher could be the end of me.

We listen to the mockingjay's sing my father's tune he had sang hours ago.

But the birds fall silent.

"Quick Katniss." My father whispers, grabbing my elbow and pulling me to the safety of the overgrown woods.

We hold our breaths and stay as still as possible as the faint hum of the hovercraft flies overhead and heading west, just along the outskirts of District 12 and to the next district.

This wasn't uncommon and I can count on two hands the amount of times they've been patrolling in the last 9 weeks.

"Why the patrols?" I ask him when the birds start singing again.

"It's just what they do."

"But they're so common now when before it was just a few times a year." I say. "Is something happen?"

"The reaping is coming up. It's just what they do for the reaping's."

I can hear it in his tone how unsure he is that that is the truth. I know he knows something and from keeping it from me protects me. The less I know, the more safe I am he always tells me.

"Stop your worrying little one." He tells me. "Now cheese bun or cookies?"

I smile at him and we continue on home. We come back inside the fence and continue down the meadow and into town.

Grayson Hawthorne meets us on the pathway into the Seam. "Dave." He says to my father. Grayson catches me looking and lowers his voice. "Don't bring the girl."

My father nods and kneels down to look at me. "Go home Katniss. We'll go and trade when I get back."

I scowl and he smiles at me, kissing my nose. "You have such a pretty face to be scowling. Run along home to your mother and sister."

I nod and he nudges me in the direction of our house while they go off in the opposite direction.

Curiosity gets the better of me and I quietly follow behind them. Grayson leads them to the house down near the entrance of the slagheap. Mr. Dobson lives in this house. He's one of the oldest residents of the Seam at age 64. He still works in the mines with my father and his two children were reaped together four years apart. His wife died a few years earlier and Mr. Dobson has slowly deteriorated as each day goes past and grief and loneliness slowly kill him.

My father and Mr. Hawthorne gather in his front room with Mr. Dobson who sits in his wicker chair. It's just the three of them. Four or more would be detected by the Peacekeepers.

"What's happening?" My father asks.

"It's best you listen." Grayson tells him.

"It's happening. The miners, they're willing to fight. They're going to fight with you." Mr. Dodson explains. "But we need all the District to be on our side, like you said." He says. "We need to know when this is going to happen."

"We've got 7 weeks until reaping day. The peacekeeper numbers won't increase; they know what we're like here. We could take the District in a matter of weeks and we need to. This Quell, it's got the District in uproar. We've got to let the Capitol know we don't stand for this." My father explains.

"How are we going to do it? We don't have weapons or anything to protect us with." Grayson adds.

"We'll use anything we've got." My father says. "Words out, District 11 and 8 have rebelled. District 11 has been teetering since last year's game and the death of their tribute girl has set them off. They've been punished and we could be the same but we've got to know that risk and be prepared to fight even if it could kill us."

There's silence for a long while.

"So what can we do?" Grayson asks.

"This has got to be kept a secret. The peacekeepers have to have no idea this is going to happen." Mr. Dobson tells them.

"But we need the word spread. We need the whole town on board but for them to be sworn to secrecy. No telling or speaking about no taking of our District." My father says. "It will be known as the Mockingjay."

"Katniss!" A voice makes me jump, hitting my head on the windowsill.

The voice has pulled me out of sight and away from the house of Mr. Dobson.

"What the hell Gale?"

He laughs at me as I rub the sore spot on my head.

"What were you doing spying on them?"

"I wasn't."

"That's what it looked like. Why you spying Catnip?"

I scowl at him. He was thirteen and a pain in the arse. He tagged along some Sunday mornings and teased me. He pulled the end of my braid and was extremely immature.

Our family had become friends after a mine explosion and our mother's stood behind the rope waiting. Our fathers came out of the smoking elevator together and a close friendship was formed between our families, having survived something tragic together.

And now I could never get rid of him.

"None of your business." I tell him softly and turn on my heel, heading home.

"Don't walk away, I'll tell them you were snooping."

I roll my eyes and walk off ahead of him. He's fast at my heels and I know there's no getting away from him.

"Want to go down to the river?"


"Why not?"

"Father and I still have to trade and then I was going to stay with Prim for the rest of the day."

"We can take her with us."

"She's not allowed."

"Come on Katniss, a group of the boys are going to the river."

"No, it's all right. You go. You'll have more fun."

And he would. I wouldn't. Those boys would tease me constantly and Gale would join them.

"Is she your girlfriend Gale, cause she's mighty pretty."

"Piss off. She's just my friend."

"You won't be saying that when she has tits. I bet there'll be a few visits to the slagheap. "

That boy got a black eye but his friendship with Gale never ceased. I was left mighty embarrassed and went home crying. I checked myself out in the mirror with fat tears rolling down my cheeks and studied my flat chest. I crossed my arms over my chest and shivered at the thought of the slagheap. I'd be a late bloomer, my mother had told me that night. Maybe that would delay the pressure to visit the heap.

I knew what happened there. I had heard stories at school about the slagheap. Those older girls and boys who had gone for a visit to the heap. And it wasn't just the Seam kids who frequented it, it was also the Merchant kids.

And as a result of visiting the slagheap my neighbor Magnolia ended up with a stomach swollen with a baby at just 16.

I vowed to myself I'd never be that girl. I'd never be a Monday morning gossip piece and join the long list of those who visited the heap. But I knew Gale had taken a girl there. I had heard the talk one Monday. There had been nothing more than just kissing but I was sick to my stomach to know he had entered the Slagheap already.

"Katniss, they're just messing with you."

I pick up my pace but his growth spurt and long legs match my short strides.

"Please, I don't really want to go alone."

"I don't want to go at all."

"Fine. I'll see you tomorrow."

I nod and close the front door between us. There's a note on the table letting me know Mother and Prim are next door assisting Magnolia with her labor.

Father arrives home minutes later. "Come on Kat." I take his hand and we walk into town together.

My father is a kind man. He's considerate. He's gentle. He loves his girls and his wife. He never raises his voice and he never punishes us.

But after the accident, something has changed within him.

He has good days and bad days.

He has nightmares and bouts of anger.

He's not the same man we sent off that morning of the accident. That same man never came back. A part of him has changed and he'll never get that part of him back again.

But today, he's had a good day. The woods seem to put him in a good mood and his anger and moods dissipate.

We trade with the butcher first for some coin. She takes our biggest rabbits and squirrels. Then we head to the bakery. Mr Mellark greets us at the back door with his shy son Peeta hiding behind his leg.

"Hello Dave. How are we this morning?" He asks, he gives my father his usual grin and then notices me hiding behind my father's leg, he kneels down and smiles at me, I can see his son properly now, no longer hidden from his father. "Morning Katniss. How are you sweet girl?"

I step away from my father. "Good Mr. Mellark, thank you."

"Did you catch these ones especially for us?" He asks.

I shake my head.

"She's still learning how to use her bow and arrow. She's getting good though. It won't be long and it'll be her squirrels you'll be eating."

"I look forward to that day." He says and stands back up. "Peeta, you're done for the day. Why don't you go to Delly's? You kids won't be kids for too much longer."

Peeta nods at his father and takes off his apron that is too big for him. He'll grow into it soon enough. Just like all of his brother's hand-me-downs he wears.

Peeta disappears and comes back with a hat on his head and a paper bag.

"Bye Dad."

"Bye Peeta."

Peeta walks past his father and slows down as he walks past my father and I.

"Bye Peeta." I say so softly to him as he passes me. I'm afraid he doesn't hear me but he stops and turns to me, smiling shyly.

"Bye Katniss." He returns and is off to the Cartwright's.

The boy has always fascinated me. He's always so shy and quiet around me but at school, around his friends he is a different person. I catch him staring some days and watch his eyes flit away as I catch him. He draws all day long and during lunchtime he lets his friends play in the schoolyard as he draws, sketching the world around him.

And when my father had his accident, a package of two-dozen cookies and a loaf of bread appeared on our doorstep. Something that would cost my father most of his weekly wage to purchase.

And I knew instantly who it was. I kept the note that was stuck to the top of the package and stashed it in my personal belongings.

I had looked at it constantly ever since father's accident in November of last year and have never gathered up the courage to thank Peeta for the cookies and bread. Especially for the beating he received supplying our family with them. Madge had told me he had come to school with a swollen cheek and black eye.

I'd never be able to repay that boy for what he had done for us.

And kind people have their way of working their way inside of me and rooting there.

Mr. Mellark gives us a package of cheese buns on our exchange and I thank him greatly. We trade at the hob, giving Sae a rabbit and squirrel. And with our trading done for the day we head on home. The cheese buns are warm in my hands and I can't wait to taste the warm goodness of the bun.

My father laughs at my drooling as we step into the house. Buttercup greets us with a hiss and I hiss back at him, setting the bag down.

"Oh don't tease him Katniss." My father scolds.

"He started it."

"I'm sure if you didn't threaten to drown him he wouldn't treat you like this."

I scowl and sit down at the table, taking one of the buns. We've been given eight cheese buns and I silently thank him because Mother and Father always give Prim and I their second bun knowing how much we enjoy them.

It's a quiet afternoon. Father mends the house and I daydream, staring at the white clouds in the sky. I listen to the groans coming from next door as Magnolia labors her first born. I pray for a healthy delivery and healthy mother.

"Peeta Mellark, what brings you here?" My father asks, breaking me out of my trance.

I sit up in the dead grass and look through the house to the front door. I can just make out Peeta standing there. He's due for a growth spurt to keep up with his widening shoulders. A positive from all the demanding work he does at the bakery. He'll be an attractive boy when he's in his teenage years.

"I was wondering if Katniss wanted to come and play? It's all right if she doesn't want to." He replies softly. "And Primrose can come to if she likes."

"Prim is out but I'll just go and ask Katniss. Why don't you come in?"

"No, I'm fine waiting out here."

"I won't be a second."

Peeta catches my eyes and I hide from him as my father appears. He kneels down in front of me and smiles. He can read me like a book.

"Go on Katniss, he's a nice boy. Give him a chance." I stare at him, my lips turning downwards slowly. "No scowling. Go on Katniss, it's a beautiful day out. Make the most of it. I'm sure you two will have fun. Go play in the meadow or something."

"But I'm from the Seam, he'll be seen with me."

"Katniss, I don't think he cares. Go on now. You're making excuses." I huff and he pushes a stray piece of hair behind my ear. "You can come home if you hate it just give it a chance, okay?"

I nod softly and he helps me up onto my feet. I tie my boots to my feet and follow my father through the house.

"Hi Katniss." Peeta greets.


"Home by 4." My father tells me.

"I'll take care of her Mr. Everdeen."

"I don't doubt it. Have fun kids and stay out of trouble."

Father watches us walk down the street of the Seam and in the direction to the meadow.

"I'll race you to the meadow." He says with a smile.

"Ok." I agree. "Ready. Set. Go."

We run down the streets of the Seam. I have the upper hand, knowing exactly where it is. We sound like a pack of wild dogs running down the dusty streets and Seam folk look up at us as we tear past them.

I'm faster, pushing off of my toes while Peeta's strides are heavy and slow him down.

But he beats me just and we both collapse on the ground laughing breathlessly. I turn to look at him and notice he is already staring at me.

"I hardly know anything about you Katniss."

I frown at him. "There's nothing to know."

"I'm sure there is more to you than you think." He says. "I want to know the deep stuff."

"The deep stuff?" I ask nervously.

"Yes, like what's your favorite color?"

"Green." I tell him.

"Green." He says, letting it roll on his tongue. He smiles after he ponders it. "It suits you."

"What's yours?"



"I know what you're thinking but more muted, like a sunset."

I smile, imagining the sunset my father and I sometimes watch together right here in the meadow.

"That's a nice color."

We walk through the quiet meadow.

"Where are we going?" He asks.

I don't answer him and we continue to walk towards the sturdy trees that line the meadow.

"This is my favorite tree." I tell him and reach for one of the branches, hoisting myself up and onto one of the strongest branches. "Come on up."

I don't consider Peeta having never climbed a tree because I've seen him playing in the tree by his house. He follows me up and settles on the opposite branch. The willow tree holds us, sheltering us from the rest of 12. We get a good view of the woods from in between the leaves.

"I can't believe you're brave enough to go out there alone."

"There's nothing really scary out there."

"Then why do they electrify the fence?" He asks.

"To keep us in mostly. To scare us." I say. "The fence is off for most of the day anyway."



"Would you take me into the woods one day?"

I turn to look at him. "Really?" He nods. "Ok, I'd like that."

"Maybe one afternoon after school when I don't have to work in the bakery."

"Ok, you let me know when you're free and we can go. It'll have to be a fast visit though."

"Well what if we skipped classes in the afternoon?"

This wasn't uncommon for me but if the teachers noticed Peeta missing they'd be in for a shock.

"What if you're parents find out?"

He shrugs his shoulders. "I don't care if they find out or not."

I catch the sadness in his voice. I promise to take him into the woods and give him the rules of the woods my father gave me years ago. He listens intently and I catch his eyes widen in wonder.

"Do I need a weapon?"

"Do you have one?" He shakes his head. "We'll make you one. What would you like?"

"A spear."

"Okay, I'll get father to make you one. We'll have to hide it in the woods though. You know what the peacekeepers are like with weapons. We'll just find a strong stone we can shape and a stick. Father is good at making weapons, you'll like it."

"Thank you Katniss."

We play a game of tag and stop in our tracks when we hear the hum of the hovercraft going over the district.

"We're in the boundary, nothing to be worried about." I reassure Peeta.

"They don't usually come over the District like this?"

"They're patrolling more. The Quell is coming up." Peeta falls onto the ground and his shoulders slump. I kneel beside him. "What's wrong?"

"The Quell, it's stressing my family out. Both my brothers are in the reaping bowl and with the rules this year."

"I know, I'm sorry."

"I mean we're both safe. I'm grateful for that but they've made the reaping bowl equal, the same number of entrants. I hear one of the entrants has 39 entries. That means all those entering for the first time this year will have 39 entries also. It's an even playing field and the odds are so even, it's hard to imagine what will happen."

"Just be thankful we get to miss the Quell Peeta." I tell him. "It's unfair, I know that. Just hope you're brothers aren't called upon." I say. "But if they are, they're strong, they'll get far Peeta. Have faith in them."

He nods his bowed head and looks up at me. "What about Gale? Are you scared he'll be reaped?"

"I haven't thought about it."

"You spend an awful amount of time together."

"I don't choose to. He's just always there."

"Do you wish he'd leave you alone?"

"Sometimes." I admit.

"You should tell him."

"He wanted me to go to the river today with him and his friends. I don't like big social gatherings and his friends are annoying."


"They're 13 and 14, they like to tease and joke around. They don't care for anybody's feelings."

"What did they say to you?" Peeta asks. I go red. I've never been this open with someone before."You don't have to tell me Katniss. I just thought…"

"They asked if I was Gale's girlfriend."


"And he put them in their place but they…" I trail off.

"What did they say?"

"They asked why I wasn't, mentioned how pretty I was and when my… physique changed there'd be a few visits to the…"

"Right. They're just immature Katniss. Don't let them bother you or tease you." He tells me, picking at a dandelion. "They wish they had the chance to be with someone as beautiful as you and never in a million years will they ever get that chance."

He looks down at the dandelion, never making eye contact with me and I find myself smiling.

I had hardly noticed this boy but right now I noticed everything about him and he was radiant in the afternoon sun. His eyes sparkled, his hair glowed and his eyelashes were golden under the sun. He had a slight dusting of freckles on his nose and cheeks. His hands were calloused and scuffed with burns, marks and charcoal. Orange and red stained his nails. And he was starting to fill out, his muscles becoming more noticeable as he grew older.

He meets my eyes and smiles shyly at me. "We better get going."

"Are you excited for summer break?" He asks as we walk through the meadow.

"Yeah, I'm hoping to do some more hunting and use my bow more. I also hope to go to the lake that's in the woods. It's beautiful and so quiet there."

"How far away is it?"

"A couple of hours walk."

He kicks his toe on a loose stone and shoves his hands in his pockets. "Maybe you could take me one day?" He suggests.

"Oh. I…"

"You don't have to. I just would like to see more."

"Okay. We'll you'd have to be free from the bakery for the day. It is a far way away."

"I usually get Wednesday's off or if not, maybe we could cut school and go. Or I could trade days with my brother. We could go one Sunday."

"My father would come with us then, if that's alright?"

He nods his head. "Can you swim?" He asks.

"I can. Father taught me to swim."

"Then maybe you could teach me. I've always imagined what I'd be like to swim. Is it fun?"

"It is once you know how to move about. Prim's good at it. She's like a little duck. She zooms through the water."

"Maybe we could take her with us."

"I'll ask her. She gets scared going into the woods."

Gale and his friends spot us on our walk out of the meadow and head towards us.

"Oh, is this your boyfriend Katniss?" Dixon asks.

I scowl and reach for Peeta's sleeve, pulling him quicker.

"Oh come on Catnip, we just want to know why you're hanging out with a townie?" Gabe pushes, pulling on the end of my braid. "Why'd you want to hang around a townie, they're just snobby and judgmental, especially Mellark's family here. They turn their nose up at anyone."

I feel the anger run through my blood and the faster I pull Peeta the faster the boys chase us.

"Well her mother was a townie, gave up everything for a miner. Her family must be a little messed up. She is half merchant. I don't think we should associate with halfies." Wes states reaching for Peeta this time. "Maybe she thinks she'll get in with a townie family. I've got news for ya Everdeen, no townie will want you, especially without a good set of tits."

"Especially when you're a halfie. You've got to be full blood to get in with them." Gabe adds. "You're doomed Everdeen, no townie will want you and no Seam bloke will want you, even if you've got a pretty face. But I'd be honored to take you for a trip or two to the slagheap."

Peeta's grip on my hand tightens and I try to walk faster, get away from them. And the worst thing is that Gale isn't saying anything.

"Me too. I'd love to see what Katniss Everdeen is like. But not until you have some tits." Dixon states, grabbing my shirt. "What do you say Katniss?"

"Leave her alone." Peeta speaks.

"Oh, the townie speaks." Wes says. "What'd you say boy?"

"Leave her alone."

"She can speak for herself." Wes tells him, pushing him. "How about this Katniss, Gabe, Dix, Gale, you and me? I'm sure it'd give the town something to talk about. Come on, you're still got Seam blood in ya, they all get good comments about their performances in the Slag. Maybe it's the desperation in them, the inner animal, they say we're crazy us Seam folk and it goes to show when we have sex."

I turn around quickly and let my fist connect with Wes' face. His face cracks under the power of my fist and he covers his nose with his hand.

"What the hell Katniss?" Gale asks.

"You're such a bitch, we were just having some fun."

"That'll teach you all to keep your mouths shut." I tell them with anger in my voice.

"Oh, we got her riled up. Come on Kat, I don't care about your tits, let us take ya to the Slagheap now, use some of the anger. And you can watch how us Seam folk like to do it townie." Wes hisses with blood running down his face.

He's a disgusting sight but he did deserve it.

I scowl and walk away, Peeta at my heels. I don't show them the satisfaction of the pain coursing through my right hand but the adrenaline is pumping inside.

"Are you ok?" Peeta asks.

"I'm fine." I tell him as we round the corner to my street.

"Let me see your hand."

"It's fine."


"Ok." I show him my hand and he studies my knuckles, running his finger over the now-bruising knuckles.

"You should put some ice on that when you get home, help with the swelling."


He smiles at me and we walk to my house.

"I know you're probably going to get into a lot of trouble but that was kind of awesome." I smile at him and he returns a smile. "I should probably get going." He says. "Before they head my way."

"I can walk you home?"

"No, I'll be fine." He tells me. "I had a nice day today Katniss."

"Me too." I admit.

"So shall we meet again?"


He's silent and I catch myself staring into his eyes. I don't know if it's the pain in my hand, the adrenaline or desire but I lean in and kiss his cheek quickly before going inside the house, closing the door behind me and leaning up against it, feeling a smile creep across my face.

"You're home?"

I look up at my father who wears a small smile and shyly look down at my scuffed boots nodding.

"How was it?"


"That's good." He tells me. "I've just got to slip out for a little while. I won't be long."

"Can I come?"

"It's best you stay here. I want you to practice your reading. I'll only be twenty minutes."

"Where will you be if I have to come and find you?"

"If something happens go next door to your mother."

I scowl and step away from the door letting him out. I hide as I hear Gale and the boys making their way up the street.

"What happened to Wesley?" Father asks me.

I shrug my shoulders and push off the wall towards the little kitchen.


Magnolia brings her little girl Juniper over the next afternoon. Little Juniper was born at 9pm last night and my mother rejoiced at how healthy and chubby the baby was. Magnolia was recovering well and had taken to her daughter naturally.

I stare down at little Juniper in my arms and smile at how at peace the newborn is. She's comfortable with her tiny hand wrapped around my finger and her rosy lips smacked together as she sleeps.

And she's just like me little Juniper. She's a halfie. She looks like her mother, dark hair and an olive complexion already but her eyes and nose scream townie. They scream Mellark and I know from the schoolyard gossip, Eamon Mellark had been the boy to take Magnolia to the slagheap. Eamon was just 17 and a new father, both mother and father could be reaped in 7 weeks leaving Juniper a little orphan.

A knock sounds at the front door and mother moves to answer the door.

"Oh, Peeta, how are you?" My mother says surprised.

"Good Mrs Everdeen. Is Katniss here?"

"Come on in Peeta."

Peeta steps into our tiny living room and smiles at me, noticing the baby in my arms. He smiles at the baby and says hello to everyone else in the room.

"Come sit down Peeta." My mother tells him.

He sits in the small space between the end of the couch and me, touching the newborn's hand.

I don't know if he knows this is his niece. I don't even know if Eamon knows he became a father last night. But Magnolia is at ease at Peeta seeing Juniper and continues her conversation with my mother.

"She's adorable." Peeta speaks, touching Juniper's fist that is clamped around my finger.

"She is." I agree smiling. "What are you doing here?"

He shrugs his shoulders and sighs. I can sense he doesn't want to speak about it now.

"Want to go to the meadow?"

"If you're allowed to."

"Can I come?" Prim asks.

"Of co…"

"It's your turn to hold Juniper." I cut in.

Mother transfers Juniper to Prim, and Peeta and I head out of the house. We race each other to the meadow and find the tree we sat in yesterday. Peeta picks at a few leaves and I sing to the birds in the tree.

"Eamon was with Magnolia last night." He begins. "He watched his daughter come into the world. Mom found out that he got Magnolia pregnant just today and that Juniper had arrived and she went off. She kicked Rye and I out, didn't want us to witness the showdown. It's not good. Eamon's probably going to be kicked out because no Mellark man would ever fall for a Seam girl, it's disgraceful. And now since he has his daughter, Mom's not happy."

"She's not going to go after Magnolia is she?" Peeta asks.

"Like hell she will. She won't step foot in the Seam. She'll do the dramatic town confrontation." He tells me with a sigh. "I hate how everything is."

"I know you do."

I catch the lone tear roll down his cheek and reach for his hand, squeezing it with mine. His home life isn't anything spectacular; I know this as does most of the town. I feel sorry for Peeta Mellark because he doesn't deserve the pain and grief from his mother. None of the Mellark boys do.

I consider telling him about plan Mockingjay but I still don't know enough to tell anyone and this moment is Peeta's.

He walks me home and kisses my cheek and watches me step inside the house before he walks on home. Magnolia and Juniper have gone and my mother and Prim are cooking dinner. They both smile up at me and I return a small smile.

"Your father mentioned he came round here yesterday." Mother says.

"He did."

"He's a really nice boy and if he's anything like his father, he'll treat you well Katniss."

He comes to my house late a few nights later, frantically knocking on our front door. He cradles his middle and his left eye is swollen shut, his right bruised and busted. He's bleeding and bruised.

I watch as my father brings him inside our house, shutting the front door. My father lays him on the stretcher and Peeta winces from the movement but he doesn't scream or cry. I watch from affair as my mother turns into her healer self and treats Peeta quickly. My father assists her, despite his fatigue.

"You should sit with him." Prim whispers to me.

"He doesn't need me."

"He needs a friend right now. Having you here is the best thing he could need."

But I don't approach him until he's been cleaned up and bandaged. Mother has given him some sleep syrup and he is sound asleep.

"Do you know what happened?" I ask my mother quietly from Peeta's bedside.

She shakes her head. "I don't. He didn't want to say. Hopefully in the morning he will."

"He doesn't have a good home life."

"I know he doesn't Katniss." She says. "But no 11 year old deserves this."

I feel my stomach tighten as I look over him, imagining what he endured. I look down at my right hand and sigh.

"I punched Wesley Scott on Sunday."

She sits down in the chair opposite me and brushes the stray pieces of hair from my tear-streaked face.


"He was teasing me."


I nod. "About my breasts and the slagheap and things. He wouldn't leave me alone and kept calling me a halfie. They all did. And I just got angry when they kept calling me halfie. And they kept pulling and pushing Peeta and I. And the only thing that would shut him up was my fist."

She kisses my forehead and smiles down at me. "I don't see anything wrong with sticking up for yourself."

"Peeta stuck up for me. Told them to be quiet. He's got a better hold at his patience than I do."

Mother smiles at me and looks at the boy with the bread. "Like I said, he's a good boy."

"Gale didn't do anything to stop the boys. He just let them continue. He doesn't stick up for me Mom."

"Do you want me to have a talk to Hazelle?"

"No, just let it be for now."

She nods and kisses my forehead. "I'm going to bed. Come and get me if he wakes. Try and get some sleep Katniss."

I nod and watch her walk off to her bedroom, carrying the lantern with her. One candle burns for me, and I watch Peeta sleep. His chest rises and falls and I run my hand through his soft hair.

"I'm not going anywhere. I promise."


"What's going on?" I ask father. He has shaken me awake. I notice it's still dark outside.

He places his finger on his lips and he motions for me to follow him.

It was three weeks since Peeta arrived on our doorstep. He returned home days later, mostly healed but still mentally scarred. He still stops by for visits and we play in the meadow. Father had made him his spear and we had retreated into the woods a few times. But he still didn't say what had happened to him on the night he arrived on our doorstep. But my family all suspected who it was.

He thrusts my bow and arrow into my hands. "Where's Mom?"

"Mrs. Carson isn't well. Now no questions, I need you to listen to me carefully." I nod my head. "It's called the Mockingjay and it begins in an hour. I need you to stay indoors, watch out for Prim. Do not answer the door to anyone. You're mother will be fine with Mrs. Carson. Just stay inside the house. If it gets bad, make a run for it and don't look back. I'll find you, I promise."

"What's happening?"

"We're taking the District. We've got everyone on our side. It's happening."

He brings Prim down with me and she tiredly rests against my body.

"Remember where the hut is Katniss?" He asks me.


"If things get bad, head for there. Don't look back. If the fence is on, wait it out in the meadow in one of the trees. Be safe and don't be seen."

"Will you be all right?"

"Don't worry about your old man Katniss, I'll be fine."

"Do we get Mother?"

"No but she knows what to do. She's tough and can fight." He tells us and looks at his pocket watch. "It's almost time. Take the bag if you make a run for it. It's got supplies and things in there. If not find yourself Katniss and you two will be fine. And if you can, get Magnolia and the baby as well."

I nod, nerves fill my stomach and I watch father tie his boots. I wonder how they are going to do this. Our District's population outnumbers our peacekeepers. Will they round them up in the market square and force them to surrender? Will they kill them all while they sleep? I suck in a nervous breath and hear a light knock on the front door.

"Lock the door after me. Stay away from the windows and doors. Keep each other safe. And run for your lives if your instincts tell you to Katniss. I trust you."

I nod, swallowing the lump in my throat. Father kisses our foreheads and is gone in an instant with Grayson. I lock the door behind him and peak out the window as the adults and teenagers march the streets of the Seam towards the peacekeeper quarters. Men and women have some type of weapon and they march together quietly in the dark.

I hold Prim in my arms and I listen out for sounds of gunfire or anything else.

All I can hear is my heart pounding and the soft whimpers of Prim.

Then there's no longer silence. The yelling and the screaming carry throughout the District as plan Mockingjay begins.


"It's OK Prim, I've got you. I won't let anything bad ever happen to you."

Commotions sounds from outside the house but I don't dare move. I'm glued to Prim, to comforting her. An old war cry begins to be chanted and the people of 12 fight for their District, show Panem that we're not just a little District, we're full of fighters.

The door rattles as the fighting continues and Prim clutches to me tighter.

A loud knock sounds at the backdoor and we turn to look at the door.

"Katniss, it's Peeta. Let me in please. Your father said for me to come here."

I get up and open the backdoor for Peeta. He has Madge and Delly and her little brother at her side. They take refuge in the house.

"It's scary out there." Delly says. "The Peacekeepers were firing back."

"Is everyone alright?" I ask.

"They didn't let us out until they were sure they had control. They've got control now, just." Peeta tells us. "Eamon and Rye's out there fighting. They didn't listen to Mom and Dad.

I get a better view from out the upstairs window and Peeta follows me. A fire is burning in the town and the citizens sing their war cry as they fight.

"The Capitol could drop bombs and end this whole thing." I say quietly.

"They wouldn't, they'll just punish us, decide who the ringleader is and have their child reaped."

"My father doesn't have any children of reaping age."

"It's not just your father Katniss who planned this." Peeta says. "What way will the hovercraft come if they do?"

"It's hard to say. If they come straight from the Capitol it will be over the merchant side first."

"So we'd have time to run?" I nod. "We see a hovercraft and we run."

But no hovercraft comes. More peacekeepers arrive through the meadow and the boundary gate and they have the District taken back by midday of the next day.

Plan Mockingjay has failed.

The District is rounded up that afternoon and President Snow addresses 12 and the rest of Panem.

Our food supply is cut. A curfew is put in place. We can be shot on sight if we are caught out after curfew. And those radicals and rebels associated with the erratic behaviour will be caught and punished.

Gallows and a whipping post are installed the next day and the countdown to the Quell begins as more Peacekeeper power is distributed throughout the Districts, the troubled ones receiving more Peacekeepers.

But the Mockingjay still lives. The plan to overthrow them is forgotten for now and small things happen. Mockingjay's appear on buildings and the ground. Undercover work and plans upon plans are made.

More talk is shared about taking back the District and Red Mockingjay is planned for during the Quell.


Mr. Dodson is hung.

His body sways in the afternoon breeze and we all mourn for the well respected man.

He confessed it was he who was planned the overthrow. He took the heat off of everyone else and sacrificed his life so everyone else could live another day.

I heard my father cry and I didn't understand the truth depths of his emotions, I just thought he was crying for Mr. Dodson and not for the fact that that should have been him swaying in the afternoon breeze. Made an example of to the rest of District 12 and Panem.

Mr Dodson was the only resident hung, suspected of treason. But the Peacekeepers kept their sights on those who were also suspected. My father received extra glances and check-ins. We didn't venture out to the woods with the fence powered frequently and more hovercrafts doing fly overs. Peacekeepers walked the fence line and no one ventured to the meadow as we were watched over.

Peeta hardly came by during the summer. He was locked in behind the doors of the bakery as his mother and father didn't find it safe for him to be mixed in with rebel behavior and be seen with my father and me. I also believe it's due to his beating he received and the help we provided him with.

Eamon has moved in with Magnolia and hasn't returned home. Peeta has picked up his brother's shifts and Eamon is lined up to start in the mines on his 18th birthday at the end of the year, if he isn't reaped in Sunday's reaping.

The afternoon before the reaping the town goes on shutdown. The mines are closed for the duration of the games. Everyone else will undertake minimal work as their full attention is required during the Quell.

Peeta comes to visit me for the first time in weeks.

He's body has healed. His cuts and bruises slowly fading. He no longer limps in pain nor does he wince.

We sit out on the dusty ground of my backyard beside Lady. Buttercup lazes in the sun and Prim and father have gone for a walk.

"Do you remember that night I came to your house?" He asks.


"Wes tattled, said it was me who punched him. His parents demanded a payment and my mother was furious."

"So it was her who…"

He nods slowly and trails a twig through the dirt.

"Did she know you came here?"

"She found out. Told me to stay away from you and your family. That's why she's given me more shifts, to try and keep me out of trouble. She knew I was with you on the afternoon you punched Wes and said you were a bad influence, cursed you and said you were so alike to your mother, she should have suspected something like this."

"What does this mean?"

"I don't know." He says. "I'm sorry for not being around."

"It's Ok. I understand."

He smiles shyly at me and we sit out under the sun. He has to leave for curfew too soon and I feel saddened at having him leave.

"I'll see you tomorrow Katniss."

"Do you want me to stand by you?"

"Yes please."

He kisses me on the lips before he departs and is gone, following behind a group of peacekeepers.

"Katniss, time to come in." I hear my mother call and turn to look at her. She smiles widely at me and I embrace her, wrapping my arms around her middle. "He's a good boy Katniss. He'll treat you well my dear."


I hold his hand throughout the reaping ceremony and pray for all those I know to be safe. Daisy, Magnolia's mother holds onto the whimpering Juniper, trying her best to soothe the baby girl and keep her own composure. My mother comforts Daisy and Hazelle Hawthorne who cradles little Posy in her arms, shielding her from the hot sun.

Effie Trinket reads the names out in a butterfly ensemble and Haymitch Abernathy drunkenly sits slumped in the chair.

She pulls out the girls name first.

Holly Simpco a 14 year old girl from Town is reaped and no one volunteers. Her odds aren't in her favor.

The boy's name is pulled out next and Eamon Mellark becomes the boy tribute.

Rye Mellark volunteers in his place.

Peeta's hand grips tighter on my hand as he watches his brother take the stage in place of his oldest brother who has just skipped death. I had watched the slight exchange of Eamon demanding Rye to not volunteer but Rye had already made the commitment. His niece needed her father.

"I'm so sorry Peeta." I whisper to him. My father squeezes Peeta's shoulders in support and he keeps his head held high.

He cries in my lap after he says his goodbyes. I rub his back and smooth back his hair. I try to give him comforting words but I've never been good with words.

He stays with our family, sleeping beside me on the floor. We share words in the quiet of the night to each other and I sometimes find myself on the floor beside him. Sometimes he squeezes himself in beside me on the bed Prim and I share.

Rye is placed fairly high in the rankings, his strength and appearance playing a huge factor.

The night of the interviews sends the District into chaos, the tributes joining in unity ripples throughout the District. The Peacekeepers try to fight but Twelve comes back even stronger.

Mother drags Prim and I home with a few of the other Seam kids following close behind for the safety of their homes. Peeta trails behind and holds me as we listen to the gunfire and fighting from outside.

The Games carry on for the entertainment of the Capitol but our own game continues. Many are wounded and some are killed in the fight. District 12 has successfully rebelled, having gotten the upper hand on the Peacekeepers.

Mother is run off her feet treating the injured and the District fights against the Peacekeepers that are deployed to the District. They keep hold of the power.

Holly and Rye are still alive at the end of Day 2 and District 12 holds the power.

More Peacekeepers arrive the next day. The usual supply train doesn't arrive and supplies aren't delivered. Peacekeepers are shot dead and those who are still alive join the other peacekeepers that are barely holding on.

Peeta returns home with Eamon and my father remains out in the battlefield. I look out for Prim and distract her from the activity outside, as gunfire rattles 12. Mother has set up a mini hospital in the Justice Hall and is helped out by the man from the Apothecary and a few other women and men who treat the injured. Their supplies run low and they compromise with clothing as bandages and anything else they can get their hands on.

The Games play on in the background and our men and women continue to fight well on into the afternoon.

We barely watch the Games but we know tonight will be the finale. We don't notice the showdown with The Careers and the other alliance.

My father has demanded Prim and I to go home. We run along home and watch the screen go blank, a sword thrown through the arena's force field. Everything is silent, even everyone outside goes silent.

"Katniss, what's going on?"

"I'm not sure Prim. Just keep an ear out."

I watch out the window and Prim looks out the back window. The power in the square goes out and silence fills 12.

A little after 9, those Peacekeepers that managed to not be captured escape in their trucks and out of the district quickly. Mother comes for us. "Prim. Katniss. We've got to go now."

"What's going on?"

"We've got to go now."

She throws the game bag over her shoulder as a voice yells for people to exit their homes and head for the woods.

"Katniss, make sure Magnolia and Daisy get out."

"Where's Peeta?"

"I don't know. Just get them out."

I knock on the door and push it open as Daisy and Magnolia run around the house grabbing as much of their things as they can. Juniper is in Eamon's arms and he hurries them out.

"Where's Peeta?"

"I don't know Katniss."

I watch the crowd of Seam folk run for the woods and try to find Peeta amongst them.

"I've got to go for him."

"No." Eamon says but I make a run for the town, pushing past those who make their way to the woods. "Katniss! Katniss come back!"

Arms try to pull me along with them but I shrug them off, heading for the town.


Some people run with me, to scared to go towards the fence and into the woods. They make a run for the road behind the Justice Building.



I hear him before I see him. He's fighting his way through those who make a run for the road beside the Justice Building. His mother has a firm grip on his shirt, trying to pull him with the group who are afraid of the woods.

"No, this way is safe."

"Peeta, this way!" His mother scolds.

"Peeta. The woods. It's safe."

I reach for his outstretched hand and he manages a grip on my fingers. I pull him with as much strength as I have and he is pulled through the crowd of people.

"Peeta Mellark, stop playing games!" His mother cries.

I catch sight of the lights of a hovercraft circling the sky. "We have to go." I tell him.

He doesn't look back and we run for our lives towards the fence. He carries a young kid that struggles to keep up with his mother and we push the rest of those who have made their way to the woods.

The first bomb blast shakes the ground beneath our feet and we stumble to the ground. Hands help us up to our feet and we run as more bombs are dropped onto our District. Those who made it to the fence are on the other side, hiding in the bushes while my father and a few miners help the last few through the fence and into the woods.

The child is taken from Peeta by one of the miners and father hurries us to the woods and we watch as more bombs are dropped. The ground shakes and our home is reduced to ashes.

A couple of sets of arms embrace me and I don't realise I am crying until I hear my mother comforting me.

My family, we're one of the lucky ones. Some of the other's aren't so lucky.

I break free from their embrace and find Peeta standing there. Tears fall down his cheeks and he watches the fire burn in the District.

Eamon comforts Magnolia and his crying baby daughter. He has his family now. Peeta, well he technically has no one.

But he has me and my family.

I take his hand, linking my fingers through his hand and we watch the fire together.

"Don't worry Peeta, we'll look out for you." I tell him. "We'll treat you well."

My mother embraces him and he melts into her embrace and cries into her chest.

And I wonder if he's ever had his own mother comfort him like my mother does right now. Let him cry and comforted without being threatened with the rolling pin or a fist. He weeps and I wipe my own cheeks free from the tears and pain he must have dealt with.


915. That's all that's left of our District. Just the slight memory and a couple of houses.

We're taken to District 13 as refugees. A District we thought didn't exist for 75 years. They have established themselves and are sufficient. They've almost been wiped out from illnesses numerous times but they are thriving. And with the new citizens their population has risen and they hope it will increase in the years to come.

Those who are ill and wounded are treated in the hospital while everyone else is relocated to rooms and given schedules.

We're fed hearty servings and are recognized as soldiers. We are enrolled in schools and trained to become soldiers. Mother is put straight into the hospital and Father is pulled away for a fast military training and is being used for more of the behind the scenes things as he is the man behind the rebellion in 12.

Peeta sleeps in the bunk below mine and I listen to him sob and whimper at night. I find myself comforting him when nights are bad. He comforts me when I experience bad nights.

We're there for each other.

Two months after District 12 is bombed, Rye is rescued from The Capitol, along with a couple of other tributes. Past mentors walk the hallway, those involved in the rebellion and some had be taken into the Capitol, some were killed as they were seen to be involved in the planned second rebellion.

But Rye, his memory has been wiped clear. And he has become an almost 190 pound killing machine. He had been brainwashed into killing whoever was in his path. The doctors work hard to reverse the brainwashing and the destruction need.

My father becomes one of the leaders. Word of him being the leader of 12's rebellion has those following him, listening to him during propos or visits. Our family is used in propos and he talks about his accident in the mine and how he's never been the same again. How he has violent tendencies and suffers from PTSD. Alongside him, Grayson is his counterpart and they begin to slowly fight for the rebellion and taking of the Capitol. Eamon also joins the fight to take the Capitol after what they had down to Rye.

One night, father hasn't returned from Two and mother is down in the hospital. Prim is sound asleep on her bunk with Buttercup, and Peeta and I are wide-awake, lying on his bunk and staring up at the top bunk.

"Do you think it'll work?" He asks.

"If it does, we'll be free."

"That sounds lovely." He sighs. "I'd like to travel to different districts."

"Me too."

"Do you think Rye will ever be the same?"

"I believe he's still in there. It might just take him a while to find himself again."

"If I was old enough I'd join the fight."

"I know you would."

He turns and smiles at me. "I love you Katniss Everdeen."

"Are you sure?"

"I've never been so sure about anything." He tells him. "Thank you for rescuing me."

"I'd never leave you behind. I promised you."

He smiles at me. "You treat me well Katniss."

I smile at him. "Together."


He kisses me on the mouth softly after that and then tucks me into his side for us to finally go to sleep.


My father recovers after being shot in 2. He's back training less than two weeks after and studying to pass. My mother tells him to slow down but he doesn't listen.

"This is for you all. We succeed and we'll be free." He tells her constantly.

He's PTSD is being treated with medication and therapy and the constant exercise is doing wonders for him. He's almost the same man again.

Rye is on the path again and has committed himself to training himself up. He's determined to make it to the Capitol himself and kill Snow himself.

We witness the wedding of Finnick Odair and Annie Cresta. We meet the surviving Victors and other refugees that have been rescued along the way and we are immersed with the cultures from other Districts and are told stories of what their life was back home. They try their best to befriend us but I let Peeta do all the talking.

My father passes with flying colors and 451 is stamped to the back of his hand. Five days later he is shipped out for his mission. One that he realised wasn't a real mission but more a propo opportunity. He's disappointed but if it helps them win than he is happy.

He hugs us goodbye tightly and follows the rest of his squad to the waiting hovercraft. The camera crew pack in behind the squad and I watch the hovercraft take off.

"Next time I see you we will be free."

I silently say goodbye to and imagine what it'll be like when we see him again.

We don't hear anything for days. Coin updates us during reflection time and tells us they are all safe and Rye Mellark is joining the Star Squad as a replacement.

They're on the outskirts of The Capitol and other squads make their way through the defense system, worming their way to the mansion.

But nothing else is said.

Prim comforts mother at night. I comfort Peeta.

A few days later it is confirmed from a Capitol reporter that Star Squad 451 has been killed, having been trapped inside an apartment.

Our family is rendered speechless.

I cry into Peeta's shirt that night and dream of my father and everyone else in the squad.

Four days later Coin comes for our family. We're thrust into a hovercraft with Magnolia, Juniper, Daisy and The Hawthorne's. A few of the Victors join us on the trip. My father had actually survived and had made it to the mansion but nothing else is known.

By late that night we are dropped off on the roof of a building. A nurse takes the wives and partners and Daisy looks after the kids.

Bad news is brought to us. Magnolia takes Prim and I aside. "I'm so sorry girls." She begins to say, pulling us closer to her body. "You're father, he didn't make it. He died this morning in the city bombing. " She tells us with her voice cracking. "I'm so sorry."

Our mother goes into a catatonic state. Prim becomes inconsolable. Peeta does his best to comfort Prim and I. Daisy takes care of Prim while Peeta holds me tightly and promises to never let me go.

Rye and Eamon are kept in the burns unit for weeks as their new skin healed. Our mother hides herself in our suite with Daisy and Magnolia doing their best to care for her while keeping an eye on Prim and I.

Hazelle Hawthorne, also a widow remains in mother mode with Gale stepping up, helping her take care of his younger siblings. Baby Posy keeps Hazelle conscious with the world and her children.

Peeta and I explore the mansion. We hide in the basements, in the ballrooms, the study and coat closets. We watch the snow fall from balconies and abandoned buildings. He keeps me distracted as I grieve for my father.

He reminds me though he has lost both of his parents, understanding my pain the most.

He treats me well.

Eamon and Rye are released, Eamon finally being with his girlfriend and daughter, and steps up to look out for Prim, Peeta and I. My mother slowly comes back to us but chooses most days to just stay in the recliner in our suite and is coaxed to eat, drink and take her medicine.

Coin becomes the leader of Panem and Snow awaits his execution, something they had promised my father he'd do. But with him gone they've decided to let another archer take the shot. The resident from 13 spends her days practicing in the old training centre. She used to be a resident at The Capitol and escaped ten years before to District 13. Ever since then she's been a right hand to Coin and fueling the rebellion with Capitol secrets.

On the morning of the execution Effie Trinket, our District escort comes for Rye and brings a couple of stylists in to dress everyone else. With our own celebrity status gained from our rebel father we're expected to stand right beside Olympia Jones as she takes the final shot, the symbolic shot to end the games.

Our mother is even dressed with a large winter coat placed over her shoulders.

We're told of the Victor's agreement to host a final Hunger Games with those previously involved directly with The Games will have their own families reaped. I wonder who on earth voted for this final game.

We march out behind Olympia, citizens of Panem following her. Peeta holds my hand tightly and we listen to the drummers end their drumming letting Olympia know it's time for the execution.

She notches the arrow and draws the string back, holding her breath as she takes aim at President Snow, tied to a post. He smirks wickedly at her and I feel chills run down my spine. Something doesn't seem right.

And when Coin falls over the edge of the balcony with the arrow in her chest, I know Olympia had found out something about our newly elected President. A conversation between Snow and Olympia may have happened, Olympia may have known Coin's true intentions from being right beside her for ten years.

We're dragged inside with Olympia detained and carted off and we're left wondering what on earth has happened.

We're left in the dark and the trial of Olympia Jones begins. Peeta and I continue to hide in the mansion as the trial happens and we shut ourselves out from the world.

"Where will we go after here?" He asks as we hide in one of the closets. It's pitch black inside but I can feel his body pressed against mine under a pile of old coats.

"Where do you want to go?"


"Me too."

"But wherever we go, I promise to treat you well."

Secrets are exposed during the trial. Confessions are made. 75 years of unspoken words are finally spoken and the country finds out who Alma Coin really was. Who Snow really was. Coin's mistreatment of Olympia is exposed and the secrets and plans Olympia was sworn to secrecy over have lead Olympia to being the victim.

And the bombing that killed my father, Panem finds out that Coin initiated it, killing hundreds of men, women and children. Most of them her own civilians.

Olympia is found to be innocent but exiled to any District of her choice. She chooses District 12 and is shipped off in the dark of the night with Haymitch Abernathy.


"You kids are going home." President Paylor whispers to me three weeks later in the early morning.

"We don't have a home to go to."

"Don't worry, we took care of that."

She's gentle and kind. She's consoled our family and took time to be with us. She learnt of our wishes to return back home together and she promised she'd make it happen.

She leads us to the hovercraft that is waiting on the training centre roof and she bids us farewell, promising to visit us when things settle down.

The hovercraft is packed, most of those on board heading back to District 12.

It's late when we touch down and Eamon carries Prim and we follow behind Daisy and a military guy from 13 who is showing us to our assigned house.

Those of us who have returned to 12 will live in the Victor's Village until the District is rebuilt. And Daisy has been named as our guardian while our mother is treated back in the Capitol. A fire has been built in the fireplace but the house feels cold. Eamon takes Prim to one of the bedrooms and follows Magnolia to their own room. Rye has stayed behind for further treatments.

And he was not yet ready to return home.

And Peeta and I don't split apart. We've found we're better together rather than apart.

He comforts me after nightmares and I hold him when he's frozen in terror.

We're only young, not even 12 years old yet and we've experienced so much in our few years.

But we promised we'd stay together.

Olympia teaches the children who have returned back to the District. And many more return because this was once their home and will always be there home.

The District is slowly rebuilt, the piles of rubble are disposed of and what used to be District 12 is flattened and restarted again. The meadow turns into a mass graveyard and once the dirt covers the bodies of our lost residents, it turns green as spring arrives.

And like the strength we've poised, it comes out again. Our strength and commitment goes into rebuilding our town. The mines are closed but opportunities are given to those residents to take a turn at anything they choose. Daisy becomes our Mayor and our legal guardian as our mother chooses to go to District 4, unable to face her demons.

Prim eventually follows our mother to District 4, leaving me behind.

But I have my new family.

Juniper's Bakery opens in the winter and Eamon supplies our District with baked goods. Peeta and I help his brother on afternoons.

We become inseparable and become each other's person. We help each other through the bad days and enjoy the good days. We spend our teenage years not worrying about being reaped or ever going hungry again. We go to school everyday, we play on weekends and we work in the bakery. I teach him how to hunt and he unsuccessfully teaches me how to bake and paint. We remain in house 4 in the Victor's Village and when we take walks to and from home and town, we smile as the town slowly grows and expands. We welcome displaced citizens of Panem and watch them start their new lives.

Prim comes to visit every few months and Peeta and I go to District 4 to spend summers by the sea. Our relationship grows stronger with each passing day. And despite being such a young age, we know we can't be apart from each other. We heal our wounds and broken hearts. The pain of losing of our loved ones starts to hurt less as the years go on. We promise each other as we create our book that we'll live well to make their deaths count. Strange bits of happiness begin to fill our book and we seal them salt water and a late primrose preserved between pages.

On my 18th birthday he takes me to the meadow for a late afternoon picnic. He plans to teach art in the school and help Eamon and Magnolia in their bakery. They have three beautiful healthy children who don't understand how lucky they are to live in this new world. Rye has settled down with a girl who helps him through every day.

But during my birthday picnic, Peeta hands me a beautiful ring with a pearl.

And my life flashes before. I think to our first afternoon we spent here in the meadow as 11 year olds who had no idea their lives would change.

His arms became my comfort and eventually overtime his lips. We grow together. We experience together. We plan our lives together. We can't imagine our lives apart.

He slips the pearl ring onto my finger and I know right now all I need is Peeta. My dandelion in the spring. The boy who represents life. Eternal love. The boy who promises that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses are. That life can and will be good again.

"You'll let me treat you well for the rest of our lives. Real or not real?"

And as the afternoon sun shines down on me like our first afternoon together I feel warmth spread throughout my body at the fact that I never imagined I'd be here right beside him 6 years later.

I tell him, "Real."


A knock sounds at our front door and I leave my little dandelions who daydream in the warm sun.

They remain undisturbed and I feel comforted at their at peace state.

I open our front door to the shy Oran James, Thom's youngest child, who is the same age as our daughter. I catch him looking at our daughter all the time and smile at the little crush he has on her.

"Hi Oran."

"Hi Mrs. Mellark." He greets, fiddling with the brown cap in his hand. "I was wondering if Willow wanted to come and play? It's all right if she doesn't want to." He says. "And the boys can come to if they like."

"Peeta will be home soon, he promised to play with them. I'll just go and ask Willow. Come inside."

"It's fine, I'll wait here." He tells me.

"I won't be a second." I tell him and make my way to our backyard. Willow hides from Oran's who stands at the front door and I kneel down in front of her. And just like my father, I can read my own daughter. She's never been very good at hiding her emotions. "Go on Willow, he's a lovely boy. It's a lovely afternoon out."

She scowls and I bite back the laughter that threatens to erupt from within me. Peeta calls her my mini me and I know why. Her exact physical features were an exact copy of me.

"No scowling. Go on, go play in the meadow."

"I'm not good at making friends."

I smile. That was a lie. She was great at making friends. She had received her father's ability to talk and make friends effortlessly.

"Willow, you're making excuses. You're great at making friends. I bet you'll know a lot about him by the time you come home." I push the stray piece of her chocolate hair behind her ear and smile at her. "You can come home if you hate it, just give it a chance, okay?" I tell her as she huffs. "My father said exactly the same thing to me when I was your age and I'm now married to the boy who asked to play. Just give it a chance, I'm sure you'll have fun."

She nods softly and I help her up onto her feet. Archie holds his arms up to be lifted and I hoist him up to my hip and follow my mini me to the front door.

"Hi Willow."

"Hi Oran." She greets quietly.

"Home by 4, okay?"

"I'll take care of her Mrs. Mellark."

"Thank you Oran." I reply and smile at them. "Have fun and stay out of trouble."

They quietly walk off down the street towards the meadow and Jude, Archie and I watch the shy 11 year olds head for the meadow. I catch them race each other for the meadow and smile as a sense of nostalgia overcomes me.

The boys and I head back inside and out to the yard. We lay on the soft grass with their bodies either side of me and we watch the fluffy white clouds move across the blue sky. I pull them close to my side and the arm closed around little Archie rubs at the swell of my stomach as little kicks and movements are made within my womb.

My life, I was content. I had Peeta and my three, almost four children. Our lives are filled with lots of love and happiness. We have children who have dreams instead of nightmares. We raise our children with the knowledge that they will be safe and never hungry. They live in a peaceful world and are lucky to not know any different.

I'm glad they don't know any different. They just know what they are taught in school and what we have told them.

We make them braver each day and they make Peeta and I braver also. We've learnt so much since we welcomed Willow and even more when Jude and Archie arrived. We had been scared to bring children into the world. Scared that the pleasure that came with raising children would be taken away with the click of a finger. I tried to not take pleasure in the happiness of impending parenthood and while we raised our children.

But those around me, they made me realise that I couldn't dwell on it being taken away. Peeta especially reminded each day that'd we survive it like we always did.

We became parents nine months after we toasted and our lives have been filled with constant joy ever since Willow was placed on my chest.

We've watched them grow up, reach their own milestones and become beautiful children.

They are pure joy.

His heavy tread sounds down the back steps and he makes his way towards us. He kisses the tops of our heads and lies down with his head right beside mine. He kisses my cheek and cuddles Jude into his side and they point out clouds.

"Where's Willow?"

"With Oran." I tell him.

"Oran James?"

I nod and smile at him. "He came up to the door like another 11 year old I knew did and asked to play."

I watch the corners of his mouth stretch outwards. "He's a good boy."

"He is." I agree. "He'll treat her well."

And with that we settle into a comfortable silence again.

I leave my boys out in the yard, the little ones wanting to wrestle with their father. Their unborn sibling cancelled me out of the rough play. I answered the call from Prim and chatted with my sister who now lives in 2 and is a renowned doctor. She asks about her niece and nephews and I fill her in.

I watch Willow and Oran walk the street back from the meadow just before 4. They stop at the front gate and turn to each other smiling widely. A hand touches my shoulder and I feel Peeta's familiar warmth press against my back and he snakes his arms around my front, resting them on our little dandelion.

"You spying?" He asks, kissing the exposed skin of my neck.

"Maybe." I tell him and we watch our daughter quickly presses a kiss to Oran's ruddy cheek. She smiles at him before making her way for the front door.

We watch the front door open and Willow close it behind her, leaning up against the back of the door. A smile creeps across her face. The rest of her surroundings are unknown to her.

"You're home?" I announce.

She looks up at us and notices our small smiles. She looks down at her shiny boots and nods.

"Did you have fun?" Peeta asks.

"Yes. I had lots of fun." She tells us. "Do you think we could take him into the woods one day?"

"I don't see a problem with that." I tell her. "How about this weekend, we can go to the lake?"

"I think we'd like that." She says smiling to herself and walking off to find her brothers.

Peeta tightens his arms around my waist and I melt into his tight embrace.

"We might have to keep an eye on this Oran." Peeta whispers in my ear. His chuckles tickle the sensitive skin of my ear. "She just we'd."

"If he's anything like his father, he'll treat her well. He's a good boy." I murmur as he kisses the shell of my ear.

"Hmm, I recall being told exactly the same thing." He whispers. "And I've been blessed with my father's exact words."

"What were his exact words?" I ask.

"If she's anything like her mother, she'll have a beautiful soul and make the world shine."

"He didn't say that."

"He did and it's the absolute truth."

I exhale a deep breath and turn in his arms, smiling up at him. "Thank you for taking me to the meadow and showing me the world."

"Thank you for giving me the world."