I watch the sky, hoping for one less opponent at dawn, but nobody appears tonight. Tomorrow there will be faces up there. Feasts always result in fatalities.
I crawl into the cave, secure my glasses, and curl up next to Peeta. Luckily I had that good long sleep today. I have to stay awake. I don't really think anyone will attack our cave tonight, but I can't risk missing the dawn.
So cold, so bitterly cold tonight. As if the Gamemakers have sent an infusion of frozen air across the arena, which may be exactly what they've done. I lay next to Peeta in the bag, trying to absorb every bit of his fever heat. It's strange to be so physically close to someone who's so distant. Peeta might as well be back in the Capitol, or in District 12, or on the moon right now, he'd be no harder to reach. I've never felt lonelier since the Games began.
Just accept it will be a bad night, I tell myself. I try not to, but I can't help thinking of my mother and Prim, wondering if they'll sleep a wink tonight. At this late stage in the Games, with an important event like the feast, school will probably be canceled. My family can either watch on that static-filled old clunker of a television at home or join the crowds in the square to watch on the big, clear screens, They'll have privacy at home but support in the square. People will give them a kind word, a bit of food if they can spare it. I wonder if the baker has sought them out, especially now that Peeta and I are a team, and made good on his promise to keep my sister's belly full.
Spirits must be running high in District 12. We so rarely have anyone to root for at this point in the Games. Surely, people are excited about Peeta and me, especially now that we're together. If I close my eyes, I can imagine their shouts at the screens, urging us on. I see their faces - Greasy Sac and Madge and even the Peacekeepers who buy my meat cheering for us.
And Gale. I know him. He won't be shouting and cheering. But he'll be watching, every moment, every twist and turn, and willing me to come home. I wonder if he's hoping that Peeta makes it as well. Gale's not my boyfriend, but would he be, if I opened that door? He talked about us running away together. Was that just a practical calculation of our chances of survival away from the district? Or something more?
I wonder what he makes of all this kissing.
Through a crack in the rocks, I watch the moon cross the sky. At what I judge to be about three hours before dawn, I begin final preparations. I'm careful to leave Peeta with water and the medical kit right beside him. Nothing else will be of much use if I don't return, and even these would only prolong his life a short time. After some debate, I strip him of his jacket and zip it on over my own. He doesn't need it. Not now in the sleeping bag with his fever, and during the day, if I'm not there to remove it, he'll be roasting in it. My hands are already stiff from cold, so I take Rue's spare pair of socks, cut holes for my fingers and thumbs, and pull them on. It helps anyway. I fill her small pack with some food, a water bottle, and bandages, tuck the knife in my belt, get my bow and arrows. I'm about to leave when I remember the importance of sustaining the star-crossed lover routine and I lean over and give Peeta a long, lingering kiss. I imagine the teary sighs emanating from the Capitol and pretend to brush away a tear of my own. Then I squeeze through the opening in the rocks out into the night.
My breath makes small white clouds as it hits the air. It's as cold as a November night at home. One where I've slipped into the woods, lantern in hand, to join Gale at some prearranged place where we'll sit bundled together, sipping herb tea from metal flasks wrapped in quilting, hoping game will pass our way as the morning comes on. Oh, Gale, I think. If only you had my back now.
I move as fast as I dare. The glasses are quite remarkable, but I still sorely miss having the use of my left ear. I don't know what the explosion did, but it damaged something deep and irreparable. Never mind. If I get home, I'll be so stinking rich, I'll be able to pay someone to do my hearing.
The woods always look different at night. Even with the glasses, everything has an unfamiliar slant to it. As if the daytime trees and flowers and stones had gone to bed and sent slightly more ominous versions of themselves to take their places. I don't try anything tricky, like taking a new route. I make my way back up the stream and follow the same path back to Rue's hiding place near the lake. Along the way, I see no sign of another tribute, not a puff of breath, not a quiver of a branch. Either I'm the first to arrive or the others positioned themselves last night. There's still more than an hour, maybe two, when I wriggle into the underbrush and wait for the blood to begin to flow.
I chew a few mint leaves, my stomach isn't up for much more. Thank goodness, I have Peeta's jacket as well as my own. If not, I'd be forced to move around to stay warm. The sky turns a misty morning gray and still there's no sign of the other tributes. It's not surprising really. Everyone has distinguished themselves either by strength or deadliness or cunning. Do they suppose, I wonder, that I have Peeta with me? I doubt Foxface and Thresh even know he was wounded. All the better if they think he's covering me when I go in for the backpack.
But where is it? The arena has lightened enough for me to remove my glasses. I can hear the morning birds singing. Isn't it time? For a second, I'm panicked that I'm at the wrong location. But no, I'm certain I remember Claudius Templesmith specifying the Cornucopia. And there it is. And here I am. So where's my feast?
Just as the first ray of sun glints off the gold Cornucopia, there's a disturbance on the plain. The ground before the mouth of the horn splits in two and a round table with a snowy white cloth rises into the arena. On the table sit four backpacks, two large black ones with the numbers 2 and 11, a medium-size green one with the number 5, and a tiny orange one - really I could carry it around my wrist - that must be marked with a 12.
The table has just clicked into place when a figure darts out of the Cornucopia, snags the green backpack, and speeds off. Foxface! Leave it to her to come up with such a clever and risky idea! The rest of us are still poised around the plain, sizing up the situation, and she's got hers. She's got us trapped, too, because no one wants to chase her down, not while their own pack sits so vulnerable on the table. Foxface must have purposefully left the other packs alone, knowing that to steal one without her number would definitely bring on a pursuer. That should have been my strategy! By the lime I've worked through the emotions of surprise, admiration, anger, jealousy, and frustration, I'm watching that reddish mane of hair disappear into the trees well out of shooting range. Huh. I'm always dreading the others, but maybe Foxface is the real opponent here.