The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games 1) - Page 61


"The bread? What? From when we were kids?" he says. "I think we can let that go. I mean, you just brought me back from the dead."

"But you didn't know me. We had never even spoken. Besides, it's the first gift that's always the hardest to pay back. I wouldn't even have been here to do it if you hadn't helped me then," I say. "Why did you, anyway?"

"Why? You know why," Peeta says. I give my head a slight, painful shake. "Haymitch said you would take a lot of convincing."

"Haymitch?" I ask. "What's he got to do with it?"

"Nothing," Peeta says. "So, Cato and Thresh, huh? I guess it's too much to hope that they'll simultaneously destroy each other?"

But the thought only upsets me. "I think we would like Thresh. I think he'd be our friend back in District Twelve," I say.

"Then let's hope Cato kills him, so we don't have to," says Peeta grimly.

I don't want Cato to kill Thresh at all. I don't want anyone else to die. But this is absolutely not the kind of thing that victors go around saying in the arena. Despite my best efforts, I can feel tears starting to pool in my eyes.

Peeta looks at me in concern. "What is it? Are you in a lot of pain?"

I give him another answer, because it is equally true but can be taken as a brief moment of weakness instead of a terminal one. "I want to go home, Peeta," I say plaintively, like a small child.

"You will. I promise," he says, and bends over to give me a kiss.

"I want to go home now," I say.

"Tell you what. You go back to sleep and dream of home. And you'll be there for real before you know it," lie says. "Okay?"

"Okay," I whisper. "Wake me if you need me to keep watch."

"I'm good and rested, thanks to you and Haymitch. Besides, who knows how long this will last?" he says.

What does he mean? The storm? The brief respite ii brings us? The Games themselves? I don't know, but I'm ion sad and tired to ask.

It's evening when Peeta wakes me again. The rain has turned to a downpour, sending streams of water through our ceiling where earlier there had been only drips. Peeta has placed the broth pot under the worst one and repositioned the plastic to deflect most of it from me. I feel a bit better, able to sit up without getting too dizzy, and I'm absolutely famished. So is Peeta. It's clear he's been waiting for me to wake up to eat and is eager to get started.

There's not much left. Two pieces of groosling, a small mishmash of roots, and a handful of dried fruit.

"Should we try and ration it?" Peeta asks.

"No, let's just finish it. The groosling's getting old anyway, and the last thing we need is to get sick off spoiled food," I say, dividing the food into two equal piles. We try and eat slowly, but we're both so hungry were done in a couple of minutes. My stomach is in no way satisfied. "Tomorrow's a hunting day," I say.

"I won't be much help with that," Peeta says. "I've never hunted before."

"I'll kill and you cook," I say. "And you can always gather."

"I wish there was some sort of bread bush out there," says Peeta.

"The bread they sent me from District Eleven was still warm," I say with a sigh. "Here, chew these." I hand him a couple of mint leaves and pop a few in my own mouth.

It's hard to even see the projection in the sky, but it's clear enough to know there were no more deaths today. So Cato and Thresh haven't had it out yet.

"Where did Thresh go? I mean, what's on the far side of the circle?" I ask Peeta.

"A field. As far as you can see it's full of grasses as high as my shoulders. I don't know, maybe some of them are grain. There are patches of different colors. But there are no paths," says Peeta.

"I bet some of them are grain. I bet Thresh knows which ones, too," I say. "Did you go in there?"

"No. Nobody really wanted to track Thresh down in that grass. It has a sinister feeling to it. Every time I look at that field, all I can think of are hidden things. Snakes, and rabid animals, and quicksand," Peeta says. "There could be anything in there."

I don't say so but Peeta's words remind me of the warnings they give us about not going beyond the fence in District 12. I can't help, for a moment, comparing him with Gale, who would see that field as a potential source of food as well as a threat. Thresh certainly did. It's not that Peeta's soft exactly, and he's proved he's not a coward. But there are things you don't question too much, I guess, when your home always smells like baking bread, whereas Gale questions everything. What would Peeta think of the irreverent banter that passes between us as we break the law each day? Would it shock him? The things we say about Panem? Gale's tirades against the Capitol?

"Maybe there is a bread bush in that field," I say. "Maybe that's why Thresh looks better fed now than when we started the Games."

"Either that or he's got very generous sponsors," says Peeta. "I wonder what we'd have to do to get Haymitch to send us some bread."

I raise my eyebrows before I remember he doesn't know about the message Haymitch sent us a couple of nights ago. One kiss equals one pot of broth. It's not the sort of thing I can blurt out, either. To say my thoughts aloud would be tipping off the audience that the romance has been fabricated to play on their sympathies and that would result in no food at all. Somehow, believably, I've got to get things back on track. Something simple to start with. I reach out and take his hand.

"Well, he probably used up a lot of resources helping me knock you out," I say mischievously.

"Yeah, about that," says Peeta, entwining his fingers in mine. "Don't try something like that again."

"Or what?" I ask.

"Or. or. " He can't think of anything good. "Just give me a minute."

"What's the problem?" I say with a grin.

"The problem is we're both still alive. Which only reinforces the idea in your mind that you did the right thing," says Peeta.

"I did do the right thing," I say.

"No! Just don't, Katniss!" His grip tightens, hurting my hand, and there's real anger in his voice. "Don't die for me. You won't be doing me any favors. All right?"

I'm startled by his intensity but recognize an excellent opportunity for getting food, so I try to keep up. "Maybe I did it for myself, Peeta, did you ever think of that? Maybe you aren't the only one who. who worries about. what it would be like if. "

I fumble. I'm not as smooth with words as Peeta. And while I was talking, the idea of actually losing Peeta hit me again and I realized how much I don't want him to die. And it's not about the sponsors. And it's not about what will happen back home. And it's not just that I don't want to be alone. It's him. I do not want to lose the boy with the bread.


Tags: Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games Science Fiction
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