The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games 1) - Page 64

"There won't be anything to see tonight," I say, far more interested in the stew than the sky. "Nothing's happened or we would've heard a cannon."

"Katniss," Peeta says quietly.

"What? Should we split another roll, too?" I ask.

"Katniss," he repeats, but I find myself wanting to ignore him.

"I'm going to split one. But I'll save the cheese for tomorrow," I say. I see Peeta staring at me. "What?"

"Thresh is dead," says Peeta.

"He can't be," I say.

"They must have fired the cannon during the thunder and we missed it," says Peeta.

"Are you sure? I mean, it's pouring buckets out there. I don't know how you can see anything," I say. I push him away from the rocks and squint out into the dark, rainy sky. For about ten seconds, I catch a distorted glimpse of Thresh's picture and then he's gone. Just like that.

I slump down against the rocks, momentarily forgetting about the task at hand. Thresh dead. I should be happy, right? One less tribute to face. And a powerful one, too. But I'm not happy. All I can think about is Thresh letting me go, letting me run because of Rue, who died with that spear in her stomach.

"You all right?" asks Peeta.

I give a noncommittal shrug and cup my elbows in my hands, hugging them close to my body. I have to bury the real pain because who's going to bet on a tribute who keeps sniveling over the deaths of her opponents. Rue was one thing. We were allies. She was so young. But no one will understand my sorrow at Thresh's murder. The word pulls me up short. Murder! Thankfully, I didn't say it aloud. That's not going to win me any points in the arena. What I do say is, "It's just. if we didn't win. I wanted Thresh to. Because he let me go. And because of Rue."

"Yeah, I know," says Peeta. "But this means we're one step closer to District Twelve." He nudges a plate of foot into my hands. "Eat. It's still warm."

I take a bite of the stew to show I don't really care, but it's like glue in my mouth and takes a lot of effort to swallow. "It also means Cato will be back hunting us."

"And he's got supplies again," says Peeta.

"He'll be wounded, I bet," I say.

"What makes you say that?" Peeta asks.

"Because Thresh would have never gone down without a fight. He's so strong, I mean, he was. And they were in his territory," I say.

"Good," says Peeta. "The more wounded Cato is the better. I wonder how Foxface is making out."

"Oh, she's fine," I say peevishly. I'm still angry she thought of hiding in the Cornucopia and I didn't. "Probably be easier to catch Cato than her."

"Maybe they'll catch each other and we can just go home," says Peeta. "But we better be extra careful about the watches. I dozed off a few times."

"Me, too," I admit. "But not tonight."

We finish our food in silence and then Peeta offers to take the first watch. I burrow down in the sleeping bag next to him, pulling my hood up over my face to hide it from the cameras. I just need a few moments of privacy where I can let any emotion cross my face without being seen. Under the hood, I silently say good-bye to Thresh and thank him for my life. I promise to remember him and, if I can, do something to help his family and Rue's, if I win. Then I escape into sleep, comforted by a full belly and the steady warmth of Peeta beside me.

When Peeta wakes me later, the first thing I register is the smell of goat cheese. He's holding out half a roll spread with the creamy white stuff and topped with apple slices. "Don't be mad," he says. "I had to eat again. Here's your half."

"Oh, good," I say, immediately taking a huge bite. The strong fatty cheese tastes just like the kind Prim makes, the apples are sweet and crunchy. "Mm."

"We make a goat cheese and apple tart at the bakery," he says.

"Bet that's expensive," I say.

"Too expensive for my family to eat. Unless it's gone very stale. Of course, practically everything we eat is stale," says Peeta, pulling the sleeping bag up around him. In less than a minute, he's snoring.

Huh. I always assumed the shopkeepers live a soft life.

And it's true, Peeta has always had enough to eat. But there's something kind of depressing about living your life on stale bread, the hard, dry loaves that no one else wanted. One thing about us, since I bring our food home on a daily basis, most of it is so fresh you have to make sure it isn't going to make a run for it.

Somewhere during my shift, the rain stops not gradually but all at once. The downpour ends and there's only the residual drippings of water from branches, the rush of the now overflowing stream below us. A full, beautiful moon emerges, and even without the glasses I can see outside. I can't decide if the moon is real or merely a projection of the Gamemakers. I know it was full shortly before I left home. Gale and I watched it rise as we hunted into the late hours.

How long have I been gone? I'm guessing it's been about two weeks in the arena, and there was that week of preparation in the Capitol. Maybe the moon has completed its cycle. For some reason, I badly want it to be my moon, the same one I see from the woods around District 12. That would give me something to cling to in the surreal world of the arena where the authenticity of everything is to be doubted.

Four of us left.

For the first time, I allow myself to truly think about the possibility that I might make it home. To fame. To wealth. To my own house in the Victor's Village. My mother and Prim would live there with me. No more fear of hunger. A new kind of freedom. But then. what? What would my life be like on a daily basis? Most of it has been consumed with the acquisition of food. Take that away and I'm not really sure who I am, what my identity is. The idea scares me some. I think of Haymitch, with all his money. What did his life become? He lives alone, no wife or children, most of his waking hours drunk. I don't want to end up like that.

"But you won't be alone," I whisper to myself. I have my mother and Prim. Well, for the time being. And then. I don't want to think about then, when Prim has grown up, my mother passed away. I know I'll never marry, never risk bringing a child into the world. Because if there's one thing being a victor doesn't guarantee, it's your children's safety. My kids' names would go right into the reaping balls with everyone else's. And I swear I'll never let that happen.

The sun eventually rises, its light slipping through the cracks and illuminating Peeta's face. Who will he transform into if we make it home? This perplexing, good-natured boy who can spin out lies so convincingly the whole of Panem believes him to be hopelessly in love with me, and I'll admit it, there are moments when he makes me believe it myself? At least, we'll be friends, I think. Nothing will change the fact that we've saved each other's lives in here. And beyond that, he will always be the boy with the bread. Good friends. Anything beyond that though. and I feel Gale's gray eyes watching me watching Peeta, all the way from District 12.

Tags: Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games Science Fiction
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