What if, when Peeta threw Katniss the bread, she had loved him?
What if, when Peeta announced his love for Katniss, she loved him back?
What if, Gale, had never loved Katniss?
How would this change everything?
How about you read and find out. =)
(All of this goes to Suzanne Collins, I do NOT own anything)
When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim's warmth but only finding the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.
I prop myself up on one elbow. There's enough light in the bedroom to see them. My little sister, Prim, curled up on her side, cocooned in my mother's body, their cheeks pressed together. In sleep, my mother looks younger, still worn but not so beaten-down. Prim's face is as fresh as a raindrop, as lovely as the primrose for which she was named. My mother was very beautiful once, too. Or so they tell me.
Sitting at Prim's feet, the world's ugliest cat. Mashed in nose, half of one ear missing, eyes the color of rotting squash. Prim named him Buttercup thinking his coat matched the bright yellow flower. He hates me. Or at least distrusts me. Even though it was a long time ago, I think he still remembers how I tried to drown him in a bucket when Prim brought him home. It turns out he's a mouser.
I swing my legs off the side of the bed and slip into my hunting boots. Supple leather that has formed to my feet. I pull on trousers, a shirt, tuck my long, dark braid into a cap, and grab my forage bag. Our part of District 12, nicknamed the Seam, is usually crawling with coal miners heading out to the morning shift at this hour.
In order to get to the woods, I must take a shortcut through the town, it's the quicker route. I run past the Mellark bakery, bringing back memories. The rainy day where their youngest son threw me burnt bread, I've loved him ever since. He took a beating for me, I don't know how I couldn't love him after that. I go to his house every day after I go hunting to give his family squirrels, in trade for bread. When I reach the fence, that is supposed to be electrecuted 24/7, but it never is. I climb under it, and then reach the tree in which I hide my bow and arrows.
I see a deer out of the corner of my eye, and get the bow and arrow ready. I aim for it, but I wait too long, and it runs away. I pick up a leaf and crumble it in my fingers, and it heads north. I see the deer again and aim for it and this time I hit it right in the eye. I walk over to it, but am frightened by the sound of approaching footsteps. I get my bow and arrow ready, and aim down to the source of the footsteps. "Who's there?" I ask, my voice trembling.
"Calm down, Katniss, it's just me." The voice says and I see Peeta emerge from behind a tree. My eyes widen, he never comes out into the woods.
"Peeta! What are you doing out here? You're not supposed to be out here!" I yell and he takes a step towards me.
"I believe neither of us are, Katniss." He says and looks me in the eyes. His gorgous, bright blue eyes that make me melt every time I see them. I gulp and nod.
"Well, I have a good purpose. I have a family to feed." I say, truthfully and he chuckles. "What's so funny about that?" I ask, and he chuckles even more. He takes a few steps closer to me and puts a hand on my shoulder. I feel a spark when he touches me and gulp again. He leans in to my ear, and I can feel his warm breath on my neck.
"You should know, that today, I don't allow a pretty girl to hunt." He says and I can feel heat rising to my cheeks and he slips something warm into my hands. I look down and see two loaves of freshly baked bread. My eyes widen and I look up at him and he's smiling.
"Peeta, I can't take this! You're mother would kill you!" I say and he shakes his head and leans up to my ear again.
"I don't allow pretty girls to hunt on such a day as this." He says and takes my bow and arrows away from me, slipping them back into the tree trunk.
"Hey! I need those!" I yell and he shakes his head, gesturing to the bread in my hands.
"Not today, Katniss. Take the bread." Peeta says and I nod and scurry off. I run back to my house and run in.
"Mom! Prim! I got food." I squeal, nearly out of breath. Prim walks in and sees the bread in my hands and her eyes widen.
"Katniss! Did Peeta give you that?" Prim asks me and I nod and use my knife to cut her a slice. She eats it happily and I hear my mother walk in, with a blue dress in her hands. I know it's for me, so I go to the bucket and clean off. I wait for my hair to dry out, then my mother hands me the dress. It's one of her best dresses, too.
"Mom, are you sure you want me to wear this?" I ask, not really wanting to wear it, and she nods. I slip it on over my head, and then my mother does my hair. When I look in the mirror, I don't see me, I see somebody else. I look beautiful. Then I look over at Prim, she's wearing my first reaping clothes, and she looks beautiful. I smile at her. "You look beautiful, Prim. But you better tuck in that tail little duck." I say tucking in the back of her shirt into the skirt. She giggles and hugs me. Then we both hear it, the dreaded sound of the reaping bell. I look at my little sister, she has a blank espression on her face, even though I know she's full of fear.
People file in silently and sign in. The reaping is a good way for the Capitol to keep tabs on the population as well. Twelve- through eighteen-year olds are herded into roped areas marked off by ages, the young ones, like Prim, near the back. Family members line up around the perimeter, holding tightly to one another's hands. But there are others, too, who have no one they love at stake, or who no longer care, who slip among the crowd, taking bets on the two kids whose names will be drawn. Odds are given on their ages, whether they're Seam or merchant, if they will break down and weep. Most refus dealing with the racketeers but carefully, carefully. These same people tend to be informers, and who hasn't broken the law? I could be shot on a daily basis for hunting, but the appetites of those in charge protect me. Not everyone can claim the same.
The space gets tighter, more claustrophobic as people arrive. The square's quite large, but not enough to hold District 12's population of about eight thousand. Latecomers are directed to the adjacent streets, where they can watch the event on screens as it's televised live by the state.
I find myself standing in a clump of sixteens from the Seam. We all schange terse nods then focus our attention on the temporary stage that is set up before the Justice Building. It holds three chairs, a podium, and two large glass balls, one for the boys and one for the girls. I stare at the paper slips in the girls' ball. Twenty of them have Katniss Everdeen written on them in careful handwriting.
Two of the three chairs fill with Madge's father, Mayor Undersee, who's a tall, balding man, and Effie Trinket, District 12's escort, fresh from the Capitol with her scary white grin, pinkish hair, and spring green suit. They murmur to each other then look with concern at the empty seat.
Brigh and bubbly as ever, Effie Trinket trots to the stage and gives her signature, "Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!" Her pink hair must be a wig because her curls have shifted slightly off-center. She goes on a bit about what an honor it is to be here, although everyone knows she's just aching to get bumped to a better district where they have proper victors, not drunks who molest you in front of the entire nation.
It's time for the drawing. Effie Trinket says as she always does, "Ladies first!" and crosses to the glass ball with the girls' names. She reaches in, digs her hand deep into the ball and pulls out a slip of paper. The crowd draws in a collective breath and then you can hear a pin drop, and I'm feeling nauseous and so desperatley hoping that it's not me, it's not me, it's not me.
Effie Trinket crosses back over to the podium, smoothes out the slip of paper, and reads the name out in a clear voice. And it's not me.
It's Primrose Everdeen.