To become the Mockingjay . . . could any good I do
possibly outweigh the damage? Who can I trust to answer
that question? Certainly not that crew in 13. I swear, now
that my family and Gales are out of harms way, I could run
away. Except for one unfinished piece of business. Peeta. If I
knew for sure that he was dead, I could just disappear into
the woods and never look back. But until I do, Im stuck.
I spin on my heel at the sound of a hiss. In the kitchen
doorway, back arched, ears flattened, stands the ugliest tomcat
in the world. Buttercup, I say. Thousands of people
are dead, but he has survived and even looks well fed. On
what? He can get in and out of the house through a window
we always left ajar in the pantry. He must have been
eating field mice. I refuse to consider the alternative.
I squat down and extend a hand. Come here, boy.
Not likely. Hes angry at his abandonment. Besides, Im not
offering food, and my ability to provide scraps has always
been my main redeeming quality to him. For a while, when
we used to meet up at the old house because we both disliked
this new one, we seemed to be bonding a little. Thats
clearly over. He blinks those unpleasant yellow eyes.
Want to see Prim? I ask. Her name catches his attention.
Besides his own, its the only word that means anything
to him. He gives a rusty meow and approaches me. I pick
him up, stroking his fur, then go to the closet and dig out
my game bag and unceremoniously stuff him in. Theres no
other way Ill be able to carry him on the hovercraft, and
he means the world to my sister. Her goat, Lady, an animal
of actual value, has unfortunately not made an appearance.
In my headset, I hear Gales voice telling me we must
go back. But the game bag has reminded me of one more
thing that I want. I sling the strap of the bag over the back
of a chair and dash up the steps to my bedroom. Inside the
closet hangs my fathers hunting jacket. Before the Quell,
I brought it here from the old house, thinking its presence
might be of comfort to my mother and sister when I was
dead. Thank goodness, or itd be ash now.
The soft leather feels soothing and for a moment Im
calmed by the memories of the hours spent wrapped in it.
Then, inexplicably, my palms begin to sweat. A strange sensation
creeps up the back of my neck. I whip around to face
the room and find it empty. Tidy. Everything in its place.
There was no sound to alarm me. What, then?
My nose twitches. Its the smell. Cloying and artificial.
A dab of white peeks out of a vase of dried flowers
on my dresser. I approach it with cautious steps. There, all
but obscured by its preserved cousins, is a fresh white rose.
Perfect. Down to the last thorn and silken petal.
And I know immediately whos sent it to me.
When I begin to gag at the stench, I back away and
clear out. How long has it been here? A day? An hour? The
rebels did a security sweep of the Victors Village before I
was cleared to come here, checking for explosives, bugs,
anything unusual. But perhaps the rose didnt seem noteworthy
to them. Only to me.
Downstairs, I snag the game bag off the chair, bouncing
it along the floor until I remember its occupied. On the
lawn, I frantically signal to the hovercraft while Buttercup
thrashes. I jab him with my elbow, but this only infuriates
him. A hovercraft materializes and a ladder drops down. I
step on and the current freezes me until Im lifted on board.
Gale helps me from the ladder. You all right?
Yeah, I say, wiping the sweat off my face with my
He left me a rose! I want to scream, but its not information
Im sure I should share with someone like Plutarch
looking on. First of all, because it will make me sound
crazy. Like I either imagined it, which is quite possible, or
Im overreacting, which will buy me a trip back to the druginduced
dreamland Im trying so hard to escape. No one will
fully understand how its not just a flower, not even just
President Snows flower, but a promise of revenge because
no one else sat in the study with him when he threatened
me before the Victory Tour.
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