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Before the Mockingjay Could Sing

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She said, “You’ll protect my family.” It wasn’t a question.

He nodded anyway.


 

Three years after she died, and they still gather at her home on the anniversary and talk about her best moments; never her last.


 

“Not these, Katniss. Never these. They’re nightlock. You’ll be dead before they reach your stomach.”


 

She smiled, and her teeth were stained black by the mashed berries.


 

Claudius Templesmith, in the last announcement of the Games: “Well, this has certainly been an exciting year for the Games! I am pleased to present to you the victor of the 74th Hunger Games, Peeta Mellark!


 

Gale punched him when he got back. Prim’s eyes filled with tears when she looked at him. Her mother didn’t acknowledge him, but she didn’t seem to see anyone anymore.


 

“I’m sorry.”


 

Haymitch spent three weeks at the bottom of the bottle after the end of the Games. Prim came by, and he threw an empty jug at her. He threw the drink out the next day, because if Katniss had seen him attack her sister she would have killed him faster than the liquor ever would.


 

Prim cried as she watched the footage, and her mother didn’t comfort her.


 

Weeks of avoiding death came to an end for both of them as she swallowed the berries.


 

His mask cracks when Caesar asks him to tell the audience about her death, from the victor’s chair that should have been hers. He makes it halfway offstage before he starts sobbing.


 

She had thought she would be stuck in the arena if he died, permanently trying to find what she could have done differently. He wasn’t trapped in the arena. He was caught in a hell where no one blamed him for making the wrong choice; no one, that is, but him.


 

The woman’s breath stuttered in her chest as she watched her elder daughter die on the screen in front of her. She never even noticed her younger daughter’s cries.


 

“No, no, no, don’t do this. Let me, your family needs you, come on, Katniss, you can’t do this to me.”


 

Fifty-eight years after Katniss swallowed the berries, another pair of young tributes were the last two remaining at the end of the Games. They each refused to be the one to return to their family. Together, brother and sister took a last breath and stepped onto a planted landmine. They became the faces of the rebellion, and the clasped hands became a symbol of deathless loyalty.


 

They granted him forgiveness, and he couldn’t, wouldn’t take it. He begged for death, and they refused him that mercy.


 

Prim’s oldest daughter is named Chicory, though most people call her Kat.


 

The nation watched in shock as she swallowed five tiny berries and gasped for breath.


 

A middle aged man, his heart pounding, stopped a little girl child from eating some tasty-looking berries.


 

Night (n): the period of darkness in every twenty four hours; the time from sunset to sunrise.

Lock (v): to fasten or secure (something) with a lock.


 

“Damnit, Catnip, I told you not to die.”


 

A quick argument that he’ll forever regret losing; a moment’s choice that made him victor. No other tribute has ever regretted it more.


 

The next tributes District 12 sent wore everything perfectly average. Cinna refused to put a target on their backs like he had before.


 

“If I die in the Games, I need you to take care of my family. Promise me that.”


 

After they receive Katniss’s remains, Prim sings.

“Deep in the meadow, hidden far away
A cloak of leaves, a moonbeam ray
Forget your woes and let your troubles lay
And when it's morning again, they'll wash away
Here it's s -- safe, here it's warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I – I love you.”


 

Peeta settled down with Madge Undersee; neither mentioned the nights when he would wake up screaming for Katniss, years and decades after her death.


 

Katniss, dressed as she was the day before the Reaping, sees her father coming toward her. He calls to her, and she looks back once, as the Capitol’s people descend around a shell-shocked boy staring at her body.