The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games 1) - Page 60

"To sleep?" Thresh says gruffly.

"To death. I sang until she died," I say. "Your district. they sent me bread." My hand reaches up but not for an arrow that I know I'll never reach. Just to wipe my nose. "Do it fast, okay, Thresh?"

Conflicting emotions cross Thresh's face. He lowers the rock and points at me, almost accusingly. "Just this one time, I let you go. For the little girl. You and me, we're even then. No more owed. You understand?"

I nod because I do understand. About owing. About hating it. I understand that if Thresh wins, he'll have to go back and face a district that has already broken all the rules to thank me, and he is breaking the rules to thank me, too. And I understand that, for the moment, Thresh is not going to smash in my skull.

"Clove!" Cato's voice is much nearer now. I can tell by the pain in it that he sees her on the ground.

"You better run now, Fire Girl," says Thresh.

I don't need to be told twice. I flip over and my feet dip into the hard-packed earth as I run away from Thresh and Clove and the sound of Cato's voice. Only when I reach the woods do I turn back for an instant. Thresh and both large backpacks are vanishing over the edge of the plain into the area I've never seen. Cato kneels beside Clove, spear in hand, begging her to stay with him. In a moment, he will realize it's futile, she can't be saved. I crash into the trees, repeatedly swiping away the blood that's pouring into my eye, fleeing like the wild, wounded creature I am. After a few minutes, I hear the cannon and I know that Clove has died, that Cato will be on one of our trails. Either Thresh's or mine. I'm seized with terror, weak from my head wound, shaking. I load an arrow, but Cato can throw that spear almost as far as I can shoot.

Only one thing calms me down. Thresh has Cato's backpack containing the thing he needs desperately. If I had to bet, Cato headed out after Thresh, not me. Still I don't slow down when I reach the water. I plunge right in, boots still on, and flounder downstream. I pull off Rue's socks that I've been using for gloves and press them into my forehead, trying to staunch the flow of blood, but they're soaked in minutes.

Somehow I make it back to the cave. I squeeze through the rocks. In the dappled light, I pull the little orange backpack from my arm, cut open the clasp, and dump the contents on the ground. One slim box containing one hypodermic needle. Without hesitating, I jam the needle into Peeta's arm and slowly press down on the plunger.

My hands go to my head and then drop to my lap, slick with blood.

The last thing I remember is an exquisitely beautiful green-and-silver moth landing on the curve of my wrist.

22

The sound of rain drumming on the roof of our house gently pulls me toward consciousness. I fight to return to sleep though, wrapped in a warm cocoon of blankets, safe at home. I'm vaguely aware that my head aches. Possibly I have the flu and this is why I'm allowed to stay in bed, even though I can tell I've been asleep a long time. My mother's hand strokes my cheek and I don't push it away as I would in wakefulness, never wanting her to know how much I crave that gentle touch. How much I miss her even though I still don't trust her. Then there's a voice, the wrong voice, not my mother's, and I'm scared.

"Katniss," it says. "Katniss, can you hear me?"

My eyes open and the sense of security vanishes. I'm not home, not with my mother. I'm in a dim, chilly cave, my bare feet freezing despite the cover, the air tainted with the unmistakable smell of blood. The haggard, pale face of a boy slides into view, and after an initial jolt of alarm, I feel better. "Peeta."

"Hey," he says. "Good to see your eyes again."

"How long have I been out?" I ask.

"Not sure. I woke up yesterday evening and you were lying next to me in a very scary pool of blood," he says. "I think it's stopped finally, but I wouldn't sit up or anything."

I gingerly lift my hand to my head and find it bandaged. This simple gesture leaves me weak and dizzy. Peeta holds a bottle to my lips and I drink thirstily.

"You're better," I say.

"Much better. Whatever you shot into my arm did the trick," he says. "By this morning, almost all the swelling in my leg was gone."

He doesn't seem angry about my tricking him, drugging him, and running off to the feast. Maybe I'm just too beat-up and I'll hear about it later when I'm stronger. But for the moment, he's all gentleness.

"Did you eat?" I ask.

"I'm sorry to say I gobbled down three pieces of that groosling before I realized it might have to last a while. Don't worry, I'm back on a strict diet," he says.

"No, it's good. You need to eat. I'll go hunting soon," I say.

"Not too soon, all right?" he says. "You just let me take care of you for a while."

I don't really seem to have much choice. Peeta feeds me bites of groosling and raisins and makes me drink plenty of water. He rubs some warmth back into my feet and wraps them in his jacket before tucking the sleeping bag back up around my chin.

"Your boots and socks are still damp and the weather's not helping much," he says. There's a clap of thunder, and I see lightning electrify the sky through an opening in the rocks. Rain drips through several holes in the ceiling, but Peeta has built a sort of canopy over my head an upper body by wedging the square of plastic into the rock above me.

"I wonder what brought on this storm? I mean, who's the target?" says Peeta.

"Cato and Thresh," I say without thinking. "Foxface will be in her den somewhere, and Clove. she cut me an then. " My voice trails off.

"I know Clove's dead. I saw it in the sky last night," h says. "Did you kill her?"

"No. Thresh broke her skull with a rock," I say.

"Lucky he didn't catch you, too," says Peeta.

The memory of the feast returns full-force and I feel sick. "He did. But he let me go." Then, of course, I have to tell him. About things I've kept to myself because he was too sick to ask and I wasn't ready to relive anyway. Like the explosion and my ear and Rue's dying and the boy from District 1 and the bread. All of which leads to what happened with Thresh and how he was paying off a debt of sorts.

"He let you go because he didn't want to owe you anything?" asks Peeta in disbelief.

"Yes. I don't expect you to understand it. You've always had enough. But if you'd lived in the Seam, I wouldn't have to explain," I say.

"And don't try. Obviously I'm too dim to get it."

"It's like the bread. How I never seem to get over owing you for that," I say.

Tags: Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games Science Fiction
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