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In Peeta's Eyes
I stand there in shock as I watch Prim walk to the stage.
"Prim! Prim!" Katniss runs up to Prim and pushes her behind her with her hand. "I-I volunteer as tribute!" she shouts.
The whole square is silent, as we stare in surprise. We haven't had a volunteer in a while. This is because here in District Twelve, we just grit our teeth and watch, trying to ignore the terrible Games. No one, and I mean no one, has volunteered in decades. Basically, the rules are, the girl and boy tribute are picked and they ask for volunteers.
"Lovely!" Effie says. I wonder how that woman can be so happy. That's the way it is in the Capitol, I suppose. This makes me filled with fury. "But I believe there's a small matter of introducing the reaping winner and then asking for volunteers, and if one does come forth then we, um..." She doesn't know what to do. I chuckle at this, knowing that the Capitol needs its control.
"What does it matter?" the mayor says, pain clear in his voice. I've seen Katniss around at school, sometimes put with Madge, the mayor's daughter, so the mayor must know her at least a little. "What does it matter? Let her come forward."
"No, Katniss! No! You can't go!" Prim's screaming hysterically, wrapped around Katniss like her life was on the line- which is funny, because where she's going, it is almost certain death.
"Prim, let go!" Katniss says, a little harshly for her sister. This is painful for her, everyone can see it in Katniss eyes. "Let go!"
Gale glides forward and lifts Prim into his arms. He whispers something to Katniss.
"Well, bravo! That's the spirit of the Games! What's your name?" Effie's happy. With this action, everyone's pretty much forgotten the Haymitch hug.
"Katniss Everdeen." Katniss says it clearly, but only after swallowing. You can see the hesitation. It's obvious she never believed this would happen. This is Prim's first year, and Prim is probably even more terrified, she will be forever haunted. Katniss isn't a weakling- she doesn't want to give anyone the right to say that about her.
"I bet my buttons that was your sister. Don't want her to steal all the glory, do we? Come on, everybody! Let's give a big round of applause to our newest tribute!"Effie beams.
Not. A. Single. Person. Claps. I suppose this is District 12's only way to show their disapproval. Even the ones beyond caring, the ones with the betting slips.
I've never thought that Katniss was someone who District 12 cares about, and I'm sure neither does she. Katniss is from the Seam. The place where no one cares about anyone but their own families. Katniss is one of the people who aren't full every single day. I spy a few people from the Hob touch their three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and hold it out for Katniss. I follow in suit, and soon, every person in the crowd has done it. Here in Twelve, it means thank you for all you have done, and someone precious is leaving, goodbye.
Haymitch rises from his chair, and drunkily staggers his way toward Katniss. I don't like the way he's throwing his arm around Katniss. She flinches at the touch. "Look at her. Look at this one! I like her! Lots of..." He's so drunk he can't think. "Spunk!" he exclaims, finally satisfied with the word he's chosen. "More than you! More then you!" He's pointing at the camera. Is he addressing the Capitol? Or perhaps the audience? It's brave of him. No one knows for sure who he's addressing, and we don't find out because while he opens his mouth, he steps clear off the stage and lies there, unconscious.
Katniss seems to have zoned out, staring at some hills or the woods in the distance. Men appear to take Haymitch away on a stretcher.
Effie's determined to get through the reaping. Her dream to get promoted to a better district will never happen at this rate, so she has to up her game. "What an exciting day!" she exclaims, adjusting her weird, pink hair that must be a wig because her hair is teetering on the right side of her head, threatening to fall off, through all this action. "But more excitement to come! It's time to choose our boy tribute."
Without hesitation, Effie Trinket reaches into the glass ball and grabs the first slip she sees. It happened so fast that none of the crowd was able to brace themselves. We were all still wondering about Haymitch, and Effie's wig, too.
I should have braced myself because the next two words pretty much ended my life.
"Peeta Mellark." Effie reads off the slip in a clear crisp voice.
Instantly, I feel too hot. My heart is racing and the sun is in my eyes, making me dizzy. I can't breathe. I can't breathe.
I regain my breathing ability and climb to the stage. Steady, you can't show your vulnerability, but it's obvious that my face splays the shock and I struggle to appear emotionless.
"Volunteers for this young man? Anyone feeling brave, like Katniss?" Effie asks.
Rye's too old to volunteer. Johnny won't volunteer, I know that for sure. My friends will be devastated if I die, but no one wants that fate to themselves. No one will volunteer for me.
The mayor reads the pointless Treaty of Treason, while I wonder if there's any chance of survival. I don't think any tributes even listen to the Treaty.
Katniss looks like she's lost in a memory. She's staring at me like someone just issued her a death sentence, which, if you think about it, someone has. I wonder if she wants to slit my throat. I did nothing wrong. In fact, I helped her out of a tight spot a few years ago.
It was raining like never before when I saw her, Katniss, that is. I was eleven and so was she. Katniss was at our trash bins, which had just been empty. She was so skinny, and it made me sad to think about how many days she's been hungry. My father and two brothers went to another shop to buy a new, decent pair of shoes for Johnny, so it was just Mother and me holding down the fort. My mother asked what I was looking at, so she looked out the window as well. Fury blossomed on her face and soon, she was outside. I followed, a little scared.
My mother started yelling about the Seam kids always pawing through her trash because they can't afford anything in the town. I peeked out behind my mother to look at her and she had held my gaze. Katniss neatly replaced the lid on the trash bin. She was soaking wet. Oh, how I wish I could tell her to come inside and get warmed up, maybe eat some bread! I had thought. My mother had trudged back in, cursing, and I followed, but not before I saw Katniss scurry to the old apple tree in my backyard, by the pig.
My mother had told me to bring the bread we had been baking, until Katniss had interrupted us, I walked into the dining room to wait. The bread was a golden brown, perfect, really. There's hardly a day when we don't eat stale bread, or the leftovers of the bakery that no one buys. That day we had very good business and were rewarded with actually eating bread we would normally only bake for wealthier people. I looked out the window again, at Katniss. She was slumped over in the mud.
I made a decision quickly. I kept the bread in the oven until it burned. My mother trudged in to see why I took so long and she lost it.
"Why would you keep the bread in so long?! It's burned now!" My mother had screamed.
She grabbed a long wooden spoon and smacked my face, but I refused to cry. I took the two loaves of bread and padded softly to the back door.
"Feed it to the pig, you stupid creature! Why not? No one decent will buy burned bread!" My mother was still yelling at me when I walked outside in the rain.
In case my mother was watching, I started to rip off chunks of bread and tossed it to the pig. I heard the front bell ring, and I knew my mother would hurry to help a customer.
I looked back at the bakery to make sure my mother was really gone, and threw one loaf of bread in Katniss' direction. Her eyes were wide, curious, as I threw the other loaf of bread and sloshed through the mud, back to the bakery without looking back.
The next day, my eye had blackened and my cheek was swollen. I looked across the schoolyard and my eyes met Katniss'. I looked away, embarrassed, but I knew that I was the one who had helped her.
The mayor finally finishes the Treaty, and motions for Katniss and me to shake hands. Her soft hand is shaking slightly, and I give her hand a reassuring squeeze. I don't want to lose her in the Games. I will not kill her. I will be there for her if I can. There is only one victor in these Games. And I will ensure that it's her.