This is a fanfiction I’ve written about “The Hunger Games” series. I hope you enjoy it!
WARNING: Contains mild spoilers from “The Hunger Games.” Proceed with caution…
“The Boy With the Bread” by Meredith Godwin
“Ladies first!” exclaims the lady in the green suit. Her obnoxious pink wig bobs along with her as she makes her way to a glass bowl on the right side of the stage. She stops behind it, faces the audience, and delicately dips her manicured hand in. It swirls above the girls’ names, and suddenly plunges in among the hundreds of paper slips to retrieve one. She carries it, still folded, to the podium in the center of the stage. Resuming her position behind the microphone, she stops, smiles, and begins to unfold the paper.
Not her, not her, anyone but her, I silently plead. The lady glances at the name on the paper, pausing before she announces this year’s female victim. Not a sound is made across the square, each eligible girl in the crowd praying it’s not her name. Please, not her. Not her. Nothing moves except the woman on stage, daintily clearing her throat as she prepares to send an innocent girl into this year’s terrible games.
The lady looks once more at the audience, and then at the paper. She takes a breath, and smiles again as she announces the name. “Primrose Everdeen!”
I breathe a sigh of relief. It’s not her, she’s safe for anoth- I freeze as I realize exactly who that name belongs to. Primrose Everdeen. Her sister.
Primrose slowly exits the section that contains the other 12-year-old girls. Her steps are small and slow as she begins to walk towards the stage. The woman known as Effie Trinket smiles down at her, beckoning Prim towards her fate. She’s only 12, she’ll never make it out alive.
I cast a glance at Prim’s sister across the square. She’s gone extremely pale, and looks ready to faint. Her chest rises and falls heavily as she struggles to breathe.
Primrose stiffly continues walking towards the stage, her fists clenched into two tight balls of fear.
“Prim!” I turn to see her sister begin to come forward as well, pushing through the crowd. She advances quickly, the people parting a path for her. “Prim!” she shouts again, her voice sounding desperate, yet determined. When she reaches Primrose, she pulls her back, and says the words that I cannot bear to hear, the words that condemn her forever.
“I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute.”
I’m speechless. Of all the names in that bowl, it had to be Prim’s? And her sister can’t bear to just stand by and watch her get killed in the games – they’re practically all each other has. So she’s taking Prim’s place. She’s going to compete instead.
I want to scream, to do something, anything to protect this girl I’ve known forever. But there’s nothing I can do. I can’t save her this time.
5 Years Earlier
It was a bleak, rainy day. I had just baked some fresh loaves of bread for a waiting customer. As I drew them from the oven and laid them on the counter, I happened to glance out the window into the back lane. And I saw her.
She was wearing her father’s old hunting jacket, one of the only tokens he’d left behind when he died in the mine. Her eyes told me she was exhausted, and her figure confirmed she was starving. Her brown, braided hair, usually smooth and shiny, was messy and unkept.
As she lifted the lid to the trashcan, her whole body shook, either from the freezing rain, starvation, or both. She was doing everything she could to provide for her mother and sister, and their poverty was leading her to act under desperate circumstances. Even if that meant hunting for food in the garbage. I knew she wouldn’t find any scraps in the metal cans, they’d just been emptied that morning.
My mother saw her too, because she came running through the room and out the backdoor, screaming at her to go away and to pick through someone else’s garbage. Her words were ugly, and I was appalled and ashamed that my own mother would say those things to someone as desperate as she was.
I stepped just outside the door and peered out from behind my mother. The girl replaced the trashcan lid, crept around our pig pen, and sank behind the apple tree in the lane. My mother retreated into the bakery, mumbling under her breath about how much she hated those filthy street rats hanging around the bakery. The fact that my mother would say horrid things and drive her away made me sick. This girl was about to die of hunger, and she had a family to take care of, a family who was probably as desperate as she was. After all that they’d been through, they deserved better than this. She deserved better than this. If no one else would help her, I would.
I burned the bread. I knew I would take a whipping for “wasting” good food and ingredients, especially because our supplies were so limited. But I was willing to make that sacrifice. I had to do something.
My mother heard the commotion I made and rushed into the room. When she saw me standing next to the two loaves with their scorched crusts, she flew into a rage. She yelled and whipped me across my cheek with a wet dishrag. It left a red welt that she told me was a reminder to be more careful, and to never make that mistake again. After she was finished scolding, she ordered me to throw the black bread to the pigs out back.
I opened the back door, and to my relief the girl was still under the apple tree. She already looked worse than the minutes before. She was trembling violently, could barely even keep her eyes open. My mother was behind me, still yelling. “Feed it to the pig, you stupid creature! Why not? No one decent will buy burned bread!”
The front bell to the bakery rang and my mother quickly disappeared, trying to compose herself before approaching the waiting customer. I glanced at the girl again. She was still there, trying to hold on to her last bits of strength.
I checked behind me to make sure my mother wasn’t spying through the window. Then, I ripped off a few chunks of the charred crust and gave them to the pig. I had to make it appear as though I’d followed orders. I then tossed the two loaves as far as I could to the girl, and it splashed on the wet cobblestones near her frail figure. Immediately, I darted back inside the bakery, and closed the door. I couldn’t risk staying out any longer or my mother would notice, and I would be beaten again for feeding the “street rats” of District 12.
I busied myself for a few agonizing minutes, then hastily checked through the window to make sure she had received her gift. She had, as she and the two loaves had disappeared. For the rest of the day, I was glad I had been able to help this girl. I saw her out many more times after that, at school and around the village, but each time my heart leapt at the sight of her and her brown braided hair.
By the time I’m able to focus on reality again, the girl is already on the stage and the pink-haired lady is announcing its time for the boys. I’m not scared for myself, only for her. I won’t be in the arena to help her. I won’t have any control over whether she lives or dies. I can’t save her again.
The lady plunges her hand into the hundreds of papers. She fishes one out, and returns to the microphone. She opens the seal, and reads the name.
“Peeta Mellark” booms out over the crowd. Heads turn to stare at me. Relieved faces follow me as I manage to walk up to the stage. For the second time in 5 minutes, I feel as though I’ve been hit by a bomb, and I know I’m failing to hide it. I take my place next to the girl on the stage, and face the crowd. Hundreds of faces stare up at the two of us, wondering if we’ll be able to stay alive, probably doubting our abilities to win. District 12 has only had one victor in 73 years.
The lady asks for volunteers. The crowd remains silent. I’m not surprised, although I wish someone would take our places. But no one is foolish enough to do that.
The Mayor begins to read something, but I can’t hear a word he’s saying. All I’m able to think about is how desperately I want to protect this girl in the arena. Keep her alive. I don’t care if I make it out, I don’t have much to live for anyway. I glance over at her. She’s remaining still, staring out at nothing. It looks as though she’s lost in a memory…
I snap out of my thoughts as the Mayor concludes his reading and tells us to shake hands. I turn and take her outstretched hand. It’s calloused and hard, a sign of hard work and the will to live. We look into each other’s eyes, and I can see the recognition in her face. She knows who I am.
As we turn to face the crowd once more, the National Anthem of Panem begins to play. It’s a solemn moment as everyone in the on-looking crowd acknowledges us, a silent and final goodbye. They don’t believe we can make it back in one piece. Although I know something they don’t. This year one of us will return, but it won’t be me. It’ll be her.
Katniss will come back.