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The Hunger Games Peeta's POV Chapter 1 I'm painting a picture. A beautiful one. It's a sunset.

The oranges and yellows and pinks and reds. I dip my brush in the red paint, but something's wrong. It's too thick. Its odor isn't stale and dry like paint. It smells of iron. I back away from the easel tentatively. In the process I knock the bucket of red paint over and slip in it. It takes mere seconds for me to realize that it isn't paint. It's blood. And I'm covered in it. I bolt awake, sitting up straight with my eyes wide open. It was only a dream I remind myself a couple times before rising from my bed. I shed my night clothes and slip into the shower, shivering from the cold water that spouts weakly from the ceiling. When I come back into my room and see the dress shirt and pants placed on my bed I shudder. Reaping day. How could I have forgotten? Fortunate enough to not have to take tesserae, my name will be in that large glass bowl five times this year. My brother's name will be in seven times. But he's eighteen and it never seems to occur to him that he could be chosen. The thought terrifies me, but I don't have much time to dwell on it. Five times. That's not so bad, right? I had heard around town that Gale Hawthorne, a boy in my brother's year, has his name in forty plus times. A selfish thought crosses my mind before I can stop it. If Gale is chosen maybe she'll bother to look my way. I shake the shameful thought from my head and finish with the buttons of my shirt. In the bakery my mother is already yelling, treating today like any other. I tie an apron around my waist and neck and pull some dough that I prepared yesterday from the cold room. I lay it out and begin kneading and rolling it. Carefully, I press macadamia nuts and shriveled blue berries into the bread, making a silly face with the condiments. I make this loaf large and place it in the oven, cooking it to perfection. No matter who gets chosen for this years Hunger Games, my family will eat this roll as celebration tonight. It could be one of our dearest friends, but there is still cause to celebrate because it wasn't you who was chosen. The thought sickens me. How can any person celebrate after watching someone practically sentenced to their death? "Looks good son," My father claps me on the back, causing me to jump. I smile stiffly and wrap the bread in plastic, placing it in the cabinet. He father gives my shoulders a quick rub and throws me a sympathetic glance. He understands, having lost one of his childhood friends to The Games.

I open my mouth to speak, but suddenly my mother crashes through the door. Damn birds! She exclaims, a picked-at loaf of bread currently being crushed in her fist. I seal my lips and duck out of the bakery as fast as I can, tossing the apron onto a hook. The fresh air is a relief from my stuffed up home. My brothers are almost never to be seen, one working in the mines and the other just acting foolish most of the time. My mothers constant yelling is enough to suffocate anyone. I swear the only balance in my family is my father. I aimlessly wander for a while allowing the nerves in my body to build to a boil. The streets are empty, most families relishing in what could be their last moments together. Catching a glimpse of the town clock, I rush home to lunch with my family for maybe the last time. The rare steaming, fresh bread on the table makes my mouth water. Not often do we have anything but the stale bread thats left in the shop display at the end of week. I savor the goat milk butter that melts into my warm roll. When the cooked squirrel meat is set on the table I have no doubt that most of our meal is thanks to Katniss Everdeen. My father raves about her squirrels and her precise shooting skills. I know that the goat milk butter came from Katniss little sisters goat. The meal is silent as most of ours are. As a whole, my family isnt the best communicators. When I get the chance to just bake with my father is the time that I share most every thought. Reaping day seems to be the only time our whole family is together, sadly enough. I love my brothers but they we were never particularly close. They baked because they had to. I the same, but I also enjoyed it. They spent most of their time together while I was either with my school friends or with my father. As we clean the table I know the time is getting close. At two o clock all of District 12 ages twelve to eighteen will be gathered in the square. My palms begin to sweat and I run them under cold water and then use that to slick my ash blonde hair back. My brother is leaning against the door frame when I finally extricate myself from hiding. Ready? He asks as if he has not a care in the world. I nod, but all I want to do scream no and run away as any cowardly child would. Child. Were all just children. Well, children being forced to become rabid animals that kill one another. As we walk to the square the sun comes out from behind a patch of clouds and shines over. Its almost like a sick joke. Making this day seem happy or cheerful. I give an absent wave to my brother and file into place. Boys on one side of the aisle, girls on the other. Youngest in front, oldest in back. My family left not long after my brother and I, and I see them standing far back behind all the potential tributes.

Im still staring at my family when the clock strikes two. I whip my head around to see Mayor Undersee take the stage. He wipes a bead of sweat from his brow and begins to read the story of how Panem came about. War, triumph, twelve districts, and a Capitol. For the uprising that happened seventy-five years ago, we must pay. Talk about holding a grudge. The rules of the Hunger Games are simple. In punishment for the uprising, each of the twelve districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. The mayor blabs on about what every kid already knows and fears, ending with, Its a time for repentance and a time for thanks, He goes on to read the past victors, which is all of two. Only one is still alive. Haymitch Abernathy, As if on cue a drunken man stumbles across stage and topples the District 12 escort, Effie Trinket. Its fairly safe to assume this is Haymitch. Id heard rumors about the unstable victor that seemed over exaggerated. I reassess this when I finally see him in person. A flushed Effie (not that you could really tell with all the makeup) makes her way up to the stage. I stifle a laugh in this serious moment, but her pink wig is practically toppling! Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor! I mouth this last line with her, shaking my head at the absurdity. I gesture good luck to my friends while Effie blathers on about how honored she is to be here. In reality, she probably hoped for a better district. No one wants 12 for anything except coal. Ladies first! Effie shimmies off her gloves and dips her pale pink hand in the bowl to her right. She pulls the slip and slowly unfolds it. It all happens pretty quickly after that. Primrose Everdeen! Katniss sister barely takes a step before Katniss volunteers for her. They embrace and then four Peacekeepers escort her onto stage. Effie tries to argue that we should meet Primrose and then allow Katniss to volunteer, but gives up quickly. Gale Hawthorne unlatches a screaming Primrose from Katniss and she makes her way up to the stage. She looks lovely with her hair all braided up and in that light blue dress that so compliments her olive skin, but her entire body is rigid. I already want to reach for her, volunteer for her if that were even possible. Whats your name? Effie asks, her voice full of excitement. Maybe District 12 is good for something. A little drama on Panem TV. Katniss Everdeen, It seems to barely escape her mouth. Effie says an inappropriately timed alliteration about buttons and next thing I know shes shoving her hand in the boys bowl. I think of it almost as a fish tank. Which unlucky fish will be chosen and end up as tonights dinner? Peeta Mellark! Im the unlucky fish.

Chapter 2 All the people crowding me turn to stare. But why? I get a slight nudge in the back and realize its my brother. My eyebrows knit together in confusion. I squint up at the stage and see Effie Trinket gesturing to...me? My legs move, but Im not in control. If I were I would have bolted long ago. I already feel like the Capitols puppet. Being forced onto this stage to accept death. The shock must be so clear on my face. I try to wipe it away. Put on a brave face for my family, for all of Panem watching and sizing me up...for Katniss. Any volunteers? Effie asks. For a split second I wish my brother would volunteer. But I know he wont. And I dont want him to. So I just gaze out at my home of District 12 that already feels so far away, as the mayor reads the Treaty of Treason. The memory floods back so clearly. I was eleven. It was raining so hard and I heard my mother yelling. Not unusual, but I couldnt imagine what she was doing outside during this down pour. I peered out the front door and only saw my mothers back. She was shooing something. She shifts her weight and I manage to peer around her body. And there she is. Nearly emaciated Katniss Everdeen is huddled under a tree, soaking from the rain. My mother spins on her heel and I shrink back into the house, acting as though Id been baking the whole time. I notice it is about time to take the next loaves out of the oven. I was only eleven and already crazy about a girl. Is that even possible? This girl was sitting outside of my home, starving. I had to help her. So I pretended that I didnt know that the next loaves were almost done. I left them in for a little too long. I got a blow in the face from my mother, but it was worth it. Katniss and her family went home fed. I never received a thank you, but I know she sent one. The next day just as school was ending she was out in the schoolyard sitting in the grass. Something caught her eye and they slowly widened. I followed her gaze. The first dandelion of spring. I am suddenly back on stage, sixteen years-old standing as the District 12 tribute for the Hunger Games. Mayor Undersee is gesturing for Katniss and me to shake hands. I reach out to her as Ive always wanted to and she sets her sweaty palm in mine. I give her the lightest squeeze of reassurance and drop my hand. This is it. Whatever it takes I will make sure that Katniss Everdeen emerges the seventy-fourth Hunger Games as a victor. The anthem plays and the Peacekeepers usher us into the Justice Building and then to a private room. The second Im left alone without cameras I break down. Im on my knees sobbing when

my father, mother, and brothers walk in. Son, stand up, They all stand at a distance. I unwillingly pull myself to my feet and stare at them. My fathers face is mirror of mine. Eyes red and puffy. He carefully embraces me and lets go all too soon. My mother grabs my hand and pulls me into a tight hug. She brushes back a bit of my fallen hair and looks me straight in eyes. District 12 may have themselves a victor this year, She instantly lets go and falls to the back of the room. I furrow my brow, knowing that she couldnt be talking about me. Katniss. My brothers hug me and give a simple Good luck, My dad kisses my head and then the Peacekeepers are forcing them out. No! I scream, reaching for them. We love you, Is the last thing I hear from my mothers solemn lips. A couple school friends drop by, but then Im completely and utterly alone. Im in a hazy state as they pull me into a car. Then out of a car. Then into a train. I dont bother to wipe my tears for the camera. Let them think whatever they want. Im not coming home either way. The train is breath-taking. Like nothing Ive ever seen before. Plush seats that are even nicer than those in the Justice Building. Too much food to ever imagine possibly eating. I stumble to the window, wiping away my tears and snot. The train is moving impossibly fast. Well be at the Capital in less than day. I turn from the window and run into Haymitch, half his drink spilling on me. Look at what youve done. If Pinky asks where I am tell her Ill be napping, He slurs and then stumbles away. I assume my Pinky he means Effie. Im shown to my quarters. A bedroom, a dressing area, and a bathroom. I flop onto the bed, all ready to burst into tears again. I pull off my shirt, some of the buttons flying off in my haste. I fall into the shower, unknowingly turning the water to scalding hot. But I could care less. I press my forehead to the cold tile and allow the tears to flow freely. Ive got to run out sometime, right? The water is so hot its cold. My skin is pink and sensitive as I slip on black pants and a red shirt. Sitting on the bed, alone. You know whats the worst about being alone? Theres too much time to reflect on your own thoughts. To come up with hundreds of scenarios of how you could possibly die in the next two weeks. Another knot begins to form in my throat, but I manage to swallow it. No more crying. Luckily theres a rap on the door and I open to find Effie, in a different wig and outfit calling me to supper. I trudge behind her to the dining room and sit alone. Ill go fetch Katniss! Effie scurries off and returns with Katniss. Shes in black pants and

a green shirt looking so strong. How does she cope? Maybe shes so confident with her skills that she knows shell win Wheres Haymitch? Effie asks. Last time I saw him, he said he was going to take a nap, I answer. We sit and the meals come out in courses. In such a beautiful array of colors. Orange carrots, green salad, red fruit. I gorge myself. Ive never experienced this abundance of food and I probably never will again so why not? At least, you two have decent manners. The pair last year ate everything with their hands like a couple of savages. It completely upset my digestion. Effie smiles at us and wipes her mouth neatly. I laugh internally as I notice Katniss making an effort to eat the remainder of her meal with her fingers and wipe her mouth on the table cloth. I reach for another bite of chocolate but my stomach turns and makes a dreadful noise. The last thing I need to do is throw up all over Effie Trinket and Katniss. I notice Katniss isnt looking to good herself, but we both make the effort to keep our food down. We make our way to the living room compartment to watch the rest of the reapings. Only a few catch my attention, but Im sure theyre all much more a threat than I can imagine. A large blonde guy from District 2. A small twelve year-old girl from District 11. Then its our reaping and I watch Katniss volunteer for her sister. Im slightly pleased with how indifferent I look as I walk to the stage. But Im sure that the footage of me crying at the train station will concur. The program ends and Effie scoffs reminiscing on the footage of Haymitch drunkenly falling off the stage. Your mentor has a lot to learn about presentation. A lot about televised behavior. Effie shakes her head. I surprise even myself when I laugh. He was drunk. Hes drunk every year. Every day, Katniss adds. We laugh at ourselves. We laugh at the fact that Effie acts like this news. Yes, how odd you two find it amusing, Effie hisses. You know your mentor is your lifeline to the world in the Games. The one who advises you, lines up your sponsors, and dictates the presentation of any gifts. Haymitch can well be the difference between your life and death! Haymitch clumsily walks in, as if on cue again, I miss supper? He then proceeds to vomit everywhere. So laugh away! Effie says. The smell of the vomit practically makes me gag, but I hold myself together. I give Katniss a quick glance and we both bend down, pulling Haymitch up. I tripped? Haymitch asks, blowing his hair out of his eyes. Smells bad. He wiped his nose and smears vomit across his face.

Lets get you back to your room, I suggest. Clean you up a bit. With difficulty, Katniss and I drag Haymitch to his room. We make it to the shower and turn the water on Haymitch. Still fully clothed he hardly notices. Its okay, Ill take from here. I offer. Katniss already looks uncomfortable being in a bathroom with the two of us. She looks at me quizzically as if trying to figure why I would offer, but she gives up. All right, I can send one of the Capitol people to help you. I shiver. Thats the last thing I want. These primped, over joyed, colorful people smiling at me as if were riding a rainbow. No. I dont want them, I say. She nods and walks out. Haymitch is passed out again against the wall. I carefully remove his clothes lathering him in soap. He comes back to reality just as Im struggling to pull him up and wrap a robe around him. Whatre you think youre doing? He stands unsteadily and ties the robe around himself. Just trying to help, I say, backing out of the bathroom. Night, Haymitch. I shut his bedroom door behind me and walk down the long hall until I come to my room. Its not until I get to the bathroom that I realize how dirty I am. Water and vomit smeared on my clothes. I grudgingly pull them off and take my second shower of the day. In shorts and an undershirt I crawl into this luxurious bed, still baffled that Im here. Just this morning I was baking celebratory bread for my family to eat after the reaping. I wonder if they ate it. If they miss me. So slowly, I drift into oblivion. My dreams are filled with the Games. All the ways I could die. All the ways Katniss could die.

Chapter 3 When I wake all I want to do is run down the hall to Katniss room. Tell her that Ill keep her safe in any way I can. I catch the looks she gives me as if shes questioning my every move. I try not to hold it against her. She has no reason to assume Im not plotting her murder. But so much the opposite. I dress in black and make my way to the dining car, sitting next to an extremely hungover Haymitch. Effie joins us, smiling so brightly before realizing that Haymitch is already pouring spirits into his juice Dont get your Capitol panties in a bunch. Im just blowing off a little steam. You should try it with me sometime. Haymitch throws Effie a wink and she huffs, pouring herself coffee and blowing past Katniss who is just entering. I laugh under my breath and spread butter on my warm roll. Sit down! Sit down! Haymitch orders to Katniss. I take a sip of what I like to call heaven in a cup and see that Katniss is eyeing it suspiciously. They call it hot chocolate. Its good. I break off a bit of my role and dip it in, savoring the rich creamy flavor. The meal passes by silently, Haymitch not eating, Katniss and I captured by our delicious hot chocolate. So youre supposed to give us advice, Katniss begins. Id been meaning to ask Haymitch about this since Effies lecture last night. But it never seems like the right time. Haymitch is either drunk, hungover, or passed out. Heres some advice. Stay alive, Haymitch laughs obnoxiously. Katniss and I exchange a look that she quickly breaks. This makes me so angry and frustrated. Thats very funny, I say through my teeth. Before I can question myself I slap the glass from Haymitchs hand, not feeling remorse as the liquid stains the fine carpet beneath us. Only not to us. Haymitch looks at me for a minute and then punches me in the jaw. I fall to the floor. It hurts, but nothing like my mothers blows. When I rise I see that Katniss has put a knife in the table nearly clipping Haymitchs hand. Well whats this? Did I actually get a pair of fighters this year? Haymitch asks. I grab a handful of ice with the intention of relieving my throbbing jaw, but Haymitch stops me. No, let the bruise show. The audience will think youve mixed it up with another tribute before youve even made it to the arena. Thats against the rules, I say. Only if they catch you. That bruise will say you fought, you werent caught, even better. Haymitch turns to Katniss and asks, Can you hit anything with that knife besides a table?

She sure can. She perfectly lodges the blade between two panels in the wall. I knew she could work magic with a bow and arrow, but the knife thing came as a surprise to all of us. Including herself by the look on her face. Stand over here. Both of you, Haymitch orders, nodding to the middle of the room. We do as he says. He circles us like an predator would his prey. Well youre not entirely hopeless. Seem fit. And once the stylists get hold of you, youll be attractive enough. I understand. The Hunger Games arent some beauty pageant, but its obvious that the more attractive tributes obtain more sponsors. All right, Ill make a deal with you. You dont interfere with my drinking and Ill stay sober enough to help you. But you have to do exactly what I say. Knowing that this is the best well get out of him I simply say, Fine. So help us, Katniss starts. When we get to the arena, whats the best strategy at the Cornucopia for someone Haymitch interrupts her, One thing at a time. In a few minutes, well be pulling into the station. Youll be put in the hands of your stylists. Youre not going to like what they do to you. But no matter what it is, dont resist, But Katniss begins again. No buts. Dont resist, says Haymitch. Id argue right behind Katniss, but whats the point? I can only assume that Haymitch knows whats best for us. Haymitch grabs his alcohol and leaves Katniss and I alone in a, all of a sudden, dark train. The train is passing through the mountains that shut the Capitol off from the rest of districts. From the rest of the world. I feel the trains speed reducing and light pours through the windows. Katniss and I rush to look upon this strange new world that is so different from ours. Her, being from The Seam, might as well live in a different world than I did even though we both live in the same district. The city is unworldly. So different than I could have imagined yet it makes sense. The tall buildings, the glistening water, the colorful people. The people begin to notice our train and point at us. Katniss steps away, but I cant take my eyes off the city. I wave and smile at them with the hopes of possibly attracting sponsors. I know the chances are little, but it doesnt hurt to try. As we pull into the station and my view is cut off, I turn to look at Katniss and see she is staring at me in what looks like disbelief. Who knows? One of them maybe rich. I grin and shrug. She scrunches her eyebrows and gives me another puzzled look, probably trying to figure out my motive or strategy. The thing is, I have none except to keep her safe. Were led out of the train, dodging reporters and cameras. I keep up the smile, because its genuine. Im amazed and fascinated by how strange this city is. Were led to the enormous training center building and are separated when we reach the Remake Center. Three people, none who look remotely like the people Im used to, walk into the room

that Id been waiting in. A tall, thin woman with orange skin introduces herself as Kitty. It seems to fit. The tattoos on her face so closely resemble the pictures Ive seen of a long extinct animal called a tiger. In some light I see small whisker poking from her cheeks. Next a muscular man with slick fire red hair tells me his name is Marco. Lastly a small man wearing ridiculously elevated heels peeks from behind them all. He tells me to call him Sparks. His yellow hair is formed in spikes across his head like an electrical spark. I dont understand these people. Is this beauty for them? What do they think of people like Katniss and I who come in looking like actual humans? Nice to meet you, I say after they finish. Peeta Mellark. I hold out my hand and they each gingerly shake it, Kitty commenting on the dirt under my nails. Dont worry honey, well fix you up, She says reassuringly. Im not the one who needs reassurance. I could honestly care less. Im undressed and they vigorously scrub at my body, my face, my nails. They have me sit in a strange cooling bath of goo that leaves my skin baby soft. Im fortunate enough to keep my body hair, but they do apply a burning application to where tufts of stubble have sprouted from my chin. I want to scrape it off, but I remind myself to follow Haymitchs orders and do as they say. When I finally get to remove the ointment there is nothing left on my chin except sealed, smooth skin. Not a hair follicle left. I lay my head back and shut my eyes as they give me a pedi. Whatever it is, it tickles my feet. The mask they have on my face is made from various foods which bothers me a little. Who would waste perfectly good eating food on their face? I wake up confused realizing that Id fallen asleep mid-remake. There is no more food on my face and no more crazy stylists around. Theres a light tap on the door. Come in, I offer, unsure whether this is my place to accept or deny entrance. A dark skinned woman with short, wild hair enters. Her white teeth break through her deep red lipstick and she offers her hand. My names Portia. Its so lovely to meet you, She says. Peeta Mellark. Nice to meet you, I shake her hand. Oh I know who you are, She says surely. I raise my eyebrows because shes a total stranger to me. The bakers son from District 12. You know, your districts reaping has been replayed too many times to count. That girl from your district...Katniss? She was so brave to volunteer. I nod in agreement. Shes something, Peeta, I want you to know that I may work for the Capitol, but it doesnt mean I agree with them. And I am so sorry you are here right now. She brushes a piece of hair from eyes and lays a delicate hand on my shoulder. I must admit, Im surprised.

Well, thank you, I say weakly. Oh, honey, She says sympathetically. Come with me, I follow her out into a brightly colored sitting room that has trays upon trays of food. I sit across from her, not bothering to resist my urge for the food. I take bright cookies and cake squares, one after the other. Portia smiles. Well Im glad youre enjoying the food. Do you make anything like this in your bakery? She asks, genuinely curious. I shake my head, trying to swallow a thick bite of chocolate cake. Mostly bread. Not many people in our districts can afford the cakes or other sweets. Ah well I bet its nice to have those kinds of treats for your family at least. She smiles. I begin to object, wanting to explain that we never eat much besides stale bread. But I dont want her pity. Shes already exceeded the standards of any Capitol person Ive ever encountered. Instead I nod with a smile. So, Peeta, She says. Cinna, Katniss stylist, and I spent a long time working on your costumes for the opening ceremony. I shudder at the thought. I wonder if well be naked, coated with coal dust or dressed as miners like in the previous years. Portia notices my movement and laughs. Dont worry, this will be like nothing you or anyone of Panem has ever seen before. Im going to hope that, judging by the burn scars on your hands, youre not afraid of fire?

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