What am I going to do?
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 sleeve.
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.
Excerpted from Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. Copyright © 2010 by Suzanne Collins. Excerpted by permission of Scholastic. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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