THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE | CHAPTER 13
I’m glad I won only last year. Otherwise I’d know all the other victors, not just because I see them on television but because they’re guests at every Games. Even if they’re not mentoring like Haymitch always has to, most return to the Capitol each year for the event. I think a lot of them are friends. Whereas the only friend I’ll have to worry about killing will be either Peeta or Haymitch. Peeta or Haymitch!
I sit straight up, throwing off the sheeting. What just went through my mind? There’s no situation in which I would ever kill Peeta or Haymitch. But one of them will be in the arena with me, and that’s a fact. They may have even decided between them who it will be. Whoever is picked first, the other will have the option of volunteering to take his place. I already know what will happen. Peeta will ask Haymitch to let him go into the arena with me no matter what. For my sake. To protect me.
I stumble around the cellar, looking for an exit. How did I even get into this place? I feel my way up the steps to the kitchen and see the glass window in the door has been shattered. Must be why my hand seems to be bleeding. I hurry back into the night and head straight to Haymitch’s house. He’s sitting alone at the kitchen table, a half-emptied bottle of white liquor in one fist, his knife in the other. Drunk as a skunk.
“Ah, there she is. All tuckered out. Finally did the math, did you, sweetheart? Worked out you won’t be going in alone? And now you’re here to ask me... what?” he says.
I don’t answer. The window’s wide open and the wind cuts through me just as if I were outside.
“I’ll admit, it was easier for the boy. He was here before I could snap the seal on a bottle. Begging me for another chance to go in. But what can you say?” He mimics my voice. '“Take his place, Haymitch, because all things being equal, I’d rather Peeta had a crack at the rest of his life than you?
I bite my lip because once he’s said it, I’m afraid that’s what I do want. For Peeta to live, even if it means Haymitch’s death. No, I don’t. He’s dreadful, of course, but Haymitch is my family now. What did I come for? I think. What could I possibly want here?
“I came for a drink,” I say.
Haymitch bursts out laughing and slams the bottle on the table before me. I run my sleeve across the top and take a couple gulps before I come up choking. It takes a few minutes to compose myself, and even then my eyes and nose are still streaming. But inside me, the liquor feels like fire and I like it.
“Maybe it should be you,” I say matter-of-factly as I pull up a chair. “You hate life, anyway.”
“Very true,” says Haymitch. “And since last time I tried to keep you alive... seems like I’m obligated to save the boy this time.”
“That’s another good point,” I say, wiping my nose and tipping up the bottle again.
“Peeta’s argument is that since I chose you, I now owe him. Anything he wants. And what he wants is the chance to go in again to protect you,” says Haymitch.
I knew it. In this way, Peeta’s not hard to predict. While I was wallowing around on the floor of that cellar, thinking only of myself, he was here, thinking only of me. Shame isn’t a strong enough word for what I feel.
“You could live a hundred lifetimes and not deserve him, you know,” Haymitch says.
“Yeah, yeah,” I say brusquely. “No question, he’s the superior one in this trio. So, what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know.” Haymitch sighs. “Go back in with you maybe, if I can. If my name’s drawn at the reaping, it won’t matter. He’ll just volunteer to take my place.”
We sit for a while in silence. “It’d be bad for you in the arena, wouldn’t it? Knowing all the others?” I ask.
“Oh, I think we can count on it being unbearable wherever I am.” He nods at the bottle. “Can I have that back now?”
“No,” I say, wrapping my arms around it. Haymitch pulls another bottle out from under the table and gives the top a twist. But I realize I am not just here for a drink. There’s something else I want from Haymitch. “Okay, I figured out what I’m asking,” I say. “If it is Peeta and me in the Games, this time we try to keep him alive.”
Something flickers across his bloodshot eyes. Pain.
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