After leaving the gymnasium I take the elevator back up to the twelve floor. I realize it’s the first time I’ve made this trip by myself, since the past two nights Katniss was with me. It feels weird standing there in complete silence, watching the city zoom past me as I shoot upward. I think it’s fair to say my private session was a bust. I burn with frustration at the tributes that got to go first. I’m sure the Gamemakers were attentive to them, not to mention sober enough to be able to tell who was who. Just another thing that sucks about being from District 12.
When I arrive back at the penthouse, the first person I see is Haymitch. He’s sitting on the couch sipping from a glass, feet propped up on the crystal coffee table. He’s watching something on TV, but turns it off as soon as he sees me enter.
“What were you watching?” I ask.
“Oh you know, just doing some… reminiscing. Some reviewing,” says Haymitch. I imagine he was watching some reruns of the old Games, maybe even his own. I’m glad he turned if off; that’s the last thing I want to see right now. “So, I see you’ve survived your final day of training?” he asks, and I nod. “Well let me tell you, kid, you’ve made it past the easy part. Don’t go in there all confident because you feel like a hot shot now.”
He’s right, and although I do feel better now that I’ve gained a lot of skills through training, I wonder how much it will actually help me in the days ahead. Sure, I practiced throwing a spear at a target. Will it be that easy when the target is actually a living, breathing human being?
“Hey Haymitch, I’ve been thinking,” I begin.
“Well that’s a surprise,” says Haymitch, amusing himself.
“I know Katniss and I agreed to train together, but一”
“But now you’ve had a change of heart,” Haymitch fills in. “I get it, it happens around this time. Eventually everyone turns into an enemy when you’re in that arena, and sometimes that happens sooner rather than later. I wasn’t expecting you two to be best friends forever.”
“Then why did you want us acting like it?” I ask.
“Well, there comes a point in the Games where you realize that the survival of another person means waving goodbye to any chances you hoped to have for yourself. If you get too attached, you put yourself in danger. But一”
Haymitch begins explaining his reasoning, but I interrupt. “The thing is, Haymitch, I’m already too attached.”
Haymitch sits back, stroking his stubbly chin, taking in my words. “I knew there was something going on inside your head,” he says finally. “You like her, don’t you?”
I nod in vulnerability, looking down at my hands, which are folded in my lap. Haymitch is smarter than I give him credit for. “How did you know?” I ask.
“It’s not hard to see. The way you look at her, the way you act around her. I was your age once, too. I know what it’s like.”
I’d never given much thought to Haymitch’s love life. He’s lived alone, no girlfriend, no wife, not even a family, ever since he came home after surviving his Games.
“I couldn’t live with myself and I made it out of that arena and she didn’t,” I say finally.
“Better you than one of the Careers though, wouldn’t you agree?” he says.
“Yeah, I guess. If that’s what it came down to,” I say. “But if one of us should go home, it’s her. And she has better chances than I do, we all know it.”
Haymitch doesn’t disagree. “So you want to be coached separately now because…”
“I’d drag her down. She has better chances without me. I want to help her, but I can’t do that if she’s forced to help me.”
“Is that Peeta I hear?” trills a voice coming from the hallway. Effie emerges, prancing into the sitting room in her high heels.
“We’ll talk more about this later,” Haymitch whispers to me. “Before the interviews tomorrow.”
Effie’s arms open wide as she approaches us, beckoning my into a hug. I stand up momentarily to greet her, then she takes a seat in between Haymitch and I.
“So?” she says, excitedly slapping my shoulder. “How did it go?”
It takes me a moment to remember that she’s asking about my session with the Gamemakers. Before I can open my mouth to answer, the elevator dings and Katniss comes in, looking dazed. Effie jumps out of her seat to greet her, but Katniss makes a beeline to her room, not even turning her head to acknowledge us.
“Katniss, don’t you want to join us?” Effie calls after her, but Katniss has already stormed past us, fled down the hallway, and slammed her door. From the looks of it, her session didn’t go too well either. “How rude,” Effie complains. “Hasn’t seen me all day, and she doesn’t even stop to say hello.”
Haymitch shrugs, beyond caring. “It happens. Just nerves,” he says simply.
Effie is outraged at Haymitch’s nonchalant attitude. “You’re her mentor! Aren’t you supposed to, I don’t know, console her or something?”
“Console her?” Haymitch snaps. “And what, tell her everything’s gonna be okay? Tell her the other tributes don’t stand a chance against her? I’m here to support her, Effie, not lie to her.”
“Well you have to do something,” she says. Haymitch just shrugs and kicks his feet back up on the table. Effie, angier now, stands up, grabs him by the ear, and drags him down the hallway towards Katniss’ room. I stay put on the couch, not wanting to get involved. I’m probably the last person Katniss wants to talk to right now.
Down the hall, I can make out Haymitch’s feeble attempts to talk to coax her out of her room. “Katniss, come out,” he says half-heartedly. “Tell us what happened.”
“Go away!” Katniss screams, the volume of her anger muffled by the door separating us from her.
Haymitch and Effie give up quickly. If I were them, I’m sure I’d do the same thing; I wouldn’t want to upset Katniss more than she already is. Haymitch announces that he’s going to take a nap before dinner, and Effie leaves to go fetch Cinna and Portia, who will be joining us for dinner and the score reveal later tonight.
A nap doesn’t sound too bad to me, either. I can’t think of the last time I’ve had a good sleep, although I don’t imagine this attempt will be much better. As I head to my room, I pass Katniss’, and I can’t help but pause in front of it when I hear the unmistakable sound of sobbing. I want so badly to open the door, to wrap my arms around her, to try to bring some comfort into even the most hopeless of situations. I imagine for a moment what might actually happen if I so much as stepped one foot inside her room, and I picture her grabbing her lamp on her nightstand and hurling it at me. I decide it’s best to let her be, though I can’t possibly imagine what’s brought her to this sudden outburst of anguish. I suppose maybe she choked and completely missed the target, and the Gamemakers spent the whole session laughing at her. But even that seems much too trivial to cause Katniss so much pain.
I don’t end up napping. I rinse off in the shower and change into something more comfortable, then I lie in bed, staring at the blank ceiling. My thoughts keep drifting back to Katniss. How she doesn’t want to talk to me, how something is upsetting her and there’s nothing I can do about it, how in three days, we’ll be in an arena, and who knows what happens then?
I’m so lost in my thoughts that I don’t realize the time ticking away. Soon enough, Effie is rapping at my door and calling me to the dinner table. I rise immediately, wondering what they’ll be serving us tonight, and if “us” will include Katniss.
Effie, Haymitch, Cinna, and Portia are waiting when I arrive. Before the first course is served, Katniss arrives wordlessly and takes her seat. We’re served piping bowls of fish stew, and I notice her picking at hers, swirling her spoon around the chunks of seafood and taking the occasional sip. We lock eye contact for a moment. I know it’s none of my business, but I want to know why she locked herself in her room crying for an hour, so I raise my eyebrows in question. She shakes her head subtly so only I notice it. As we eat, the rest of our dinner party talks about the upcoming weather, which Portia comments is predicted to be unseasonably warm.
As the Avoxes clear our bowls and bring in the main courseー pork chops, glazed apples, and garlic mashed potatoesーHaymitch stuffs a napkin in his collar and says, “Okay, enough small talk, just how bad were you today?”
We’d been so distracted by Katniss’ outburst that I hadn’t had a chance to tell them about my session when I first got back. “I don’t know why it mattered,” I say. “By the time I showed up, no one even bothered to look at me. They were singing some kind of drinking song, I think. So I threw around some heavy objects until they told me I could go.”
Haymitch doesn’t seem surprised. I suppose it was even worse for him because the Gamemakers for the Quarter Quell he competed in had twice as many tributes to assess.
“And you, sweetheart?” Haymitch asks Katniss. He seems to be trying to butter her up and provoke her at the same time with this new nickname.
“I shot an arrow at the Gamemakers.” It’s the first time any of us had heard her speak the whole meal, but none of us were expecting to hear that.
We all stop chewing. “You what?” Effie blurts, a piece of food flying out of her mouth and landing on Haymitch’s cheek.
“I shot an arrow at them. Well, not exactly at them. In their direction,” she amends. “It’s like Peeta said, I was shooting and they were ignoring me and I just… I just lost my head, so I shot an apple out of their stupid roast pig’s mouth!”
Everyone is silent for a moment. Personally, I want to applaud her, but based on the worry etched on the others’ faces, I feel that might not be appropriate.
“And what did they say?” Cinna proceeds cautiously.
“Nothing,” she says. “Or, I don’t know. I walked out after that.”
“Without being dismissed?” Effie looks like she’s about to pass out.
“I dismissed myself,” Katniss says.
More tension. Finally, Haymitch speaks up. “Well, that’s that,” he says, hard to read. He’s the only one who doesn’t seem phased by the situation.
“Do you think they’ll arrest me?” Katniss asks, her voice steady but covering up fear.
“Doubt it,” Haymitch says as he butters himself another roll. “Be a pain to replace you at this stage.”
“What about my family?” Katniss asks, the fear in her voice more apparent this time. “Will they punish them?”
Haymitch considers this for a moment. “Don’t think so. Wouldn’t make much sense. See, they’d have to reveal what happened in the Training Center for it to have any worthwhile effect on the population. People would need to know what you did. But they can’t since it’s secret, so it’d be a waste of effort.” Katniss relaxes a bit. “More likely they’ll make your life hell in the arena.”
I laugh sadistically. “Well, they’ve already promised to do that to us anyway.”
Haymitch smirks at me, raising his glass to that. “Very true.” He continues to eat, using his hands, much to Effie’s disgust. He starts chuckling to himself. “What were their faces like?” he asks, amused, still chewing his pork chop.
Katniss starts smiling herself. “Shocked. Terrified, Uh, ridiculous, some of them.” She lets out a laugh, remembering something funny. “One man tripped backward into a bowl of punch.”
Haymitch can’t contain himself and starts hooting with laughter. The water I was drinking spurts out my nose and join in, half-choking. Even Cinna and Portia are sniggering. Effie is the most contained, but even she, who is the most uptight of us all, is smiling. “Well, it serves them right,” she says. “It’s their job to pay attention to you. And just because you come from District Twelve is no excuse to ignore you.” After she’s said it, she looks nervous, as if she’s done something wrong, “I’m sorry, but that’s just what I think,” she says, like she’s justifying her comment to some invisible person who actually cares.
“I’ll get a very bad score,” Katniss says, bringing down the mood.
Portia waves her hand in dismissal. “Scores only matter if they’re very good, no one pays much attention to the bad or mediocre ones. For all they know, you could be hiding your talents to get a low score on purpose. People use that strategy.”
“I hope that’s how people interpret the four I’ll probably get,” I say. “If that. Really, is anything less impressive than watching a person pick up a heavy ball and throw it a couple of yards? One almost landed on my foot.”
I catch Katniss smile at me. She finally starts eating her food rather than playing with it; seems her appetite has come back. I’m glad she’s feeling better.
After each of us enjoy a colorful mound of gelato for dessert, we gather in the sitting room to watch them announce our scores. As always, they start with District 1. Marvel, the male tribute, receives a score of 9 and Glimmer, the female tribute, a score of 8. From District 2, both Cato and Clove earn and impressive score of 10, which makes Effie cringe. Most of the other tributes didn’t make a huge impression during training, which shows in their scores, which average around 5. Thresh from District 11 earns a 10 as well. Honestly, if I were a Gamemaker and all he did was stand there for five minutes during his private session, I would’ve given him a 10 too. His mere size is enough to crush just about any one of us if he wanted to. I’m happy to see that little Rue impressed the judges too, earning a score of 7 despite her small stature.
As Rue’s picture and score fade away, I tense up and my photo appears, followed by the number 8. I relax and sink back into the couch, Effie and Portia giving me congratulatory pats on the back. I did much better than I expected to, and I’m happy to see that the Gamemakers think I’m at the front of the pack.
Katniss is next, and beside me I can see her nervously clenching her fists in her lap, biting her lip. Her face appears on the screen, then her score.
“Eleven!” Effie squeals, reading the screen. We all slap Katniss excitedly, in awe and disbelief that she received the highest score of anyone.
Katniss is confused more than anything. “There must be a mistake,” she says. “How… how could that happen?”
“Guess they liked your temper,” Haymitch says, grinning. “They’ve got a show to put on. They need players with some heat.”
“Katniss, the girl who was on fire,” says Cinna, going in to give Katniss a hug. “Oh, wait until you see your interview dress.”
“More flames?” Katniss asks, a mixture of nerves and excitement.
“Of a sort,” he says with a smirk.
Katniss and I congratulate each other awkwardly before heading to bed. She still doesn’t seem too keen on talking to me. Then again, she has had a very long, very emotional day.
I lay awake that night thinking about my conversation with Haymitch that was cut short. I’m relieved that someone else knows my predicament, especially if it’s the one person I really think can do something about it. And it probably makes things easier for him, too. Now, instead of trying to keep both of us alive, he can focus his efforts on Katniss alone. Being District 12’s only mentor, I suppose Haymitch must have to pick favorites. Choose which one has better odds, then invest all the sponsorships and training time on them. In the other districts that have a greater number of living victors, this probably isn’t a problem. In that case, the male and female usually have separate mentors and receive more individualized training. Haymitch has his work cut out for him. But now that we both have one goal一 keep Katniss alive, our combined efforts can make a greater impact.
Now I think more than ever about the near-guarantee that I’ll never be going home. I wonder if my family will miss me. Will they cry when they watch me die on-screen? I’d never really felt loved at home, except for maybe by my dad. I imagine he’ll break down, maybe try to work his stress into baking. In grief he might forget to add yeast, and my mom will lash out at him as he retrieves unrisen, lumpy bread from the oven. Get over it, she’d say. He’s gone! And he’s never coming back!Add to favorites