Warning: This is not a blog post. This is a little fiction that spilled from my head while I was lounging around on holiday break.
Double warning: I get paid to write non-fiction. So you know, I’m aware that this is not awesome. I feel like you should know that before you waste the next 15 minutes.
Preface: This fiction is based on the song “Stay” by Rihanna and also the end of the book “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins (the 3rd book in The Hunger Games trilogy). The basic premise is straight from the book, including the last line, however I have added some detail of what I imagine happened in those moments at the end of the book. If you have not read “Mockingjay,” some of it will probably not make any sense to you. All rights to Rihanna and Suzanne Collins for their words.
Based on the song Stay by Rihanna
“All along it was a fever
A cold sweat hot-headed believer
She wakes to the sound of metal scraping hard ground. Clunk. Scrape. Thunk. Clunk. Scrape. Thunk. Buried alive. It’s what she was dreaming before she woke up to the nightmare that is her new reality.
She’s not even consciously aware of it at first, but something about him being there is a catalyst. Her initial reaction is to flee, when she sees him there planting the primroses along the side of her house. But it’s the first time she’s really moved with purpose since she returned. Scrubbing away the dead skin, removing the layers of guilt and grief that will never really go away.
He starts showing up at breakfast. Sae lets him in and the two of them provide the only conversation in her house since before the war. The exchange is stilted at first, merely polite. But he warms up quickly to the company and she’s not surprised; he was always the one who was so good with words. She merely sits and stares at her uneaten toast, unsure if he is still her boy with the bread, or merely a boy who happens to bring her bread each day.
“I threw my hands in the air, said, “Show me something,
He said, “If you dare, come a little closer.
He persists in showing up, in bringing the bread and keeping her company, but always giving her the space she requires. He needs his own space, too. She can tell because sometimes he leaves quickly with no explanation.
On the afternoon she feels brave enough to open her father’s old plant book, he shows up early for the evening meal and finds her huddled in the coat closet rocking back and forth, sobbing without sound. Wordlessly he climbs into the closet with her, the outside of his left knee touching the outside of hers. She remembers the last time they sat this way, shoulders touching instead of knees, on a beach filled with terror and longing. She glances at him and she wonders if he remembers, too. Regardless she feels a tiny flicker of something ignite. She’s just not sure exactly what it is that’s coming alive.
It’s his idea to continue the work on the plant book; now memory book. They write down everything they can think of about those they lost, adding photos and other special items they find. He adds a sketch or a painting where needed. Together they immortalize the lost innocents, and their own lost innocence.
It becomes their routine: breakfast together, she hunts and he bakes, preparing the evening meal, and working on the memory book together. Despite the normalcy of the time they spend, she is still wary of him, and he of her. Or at least she thinks he must be, although he offers her shy smiles now and again which she tries to return. She’s just not sure her mouth turns in that direction anymore.
“Not really sure how to feel about it. Something in the way you move makes me feel like I can’t live without you.
It’s that same shy smile that he offers her the day he catches her staring at him. He is shading a wreath of flowers in Maysilee Donner’s hair to go along with the description Haymitch helped provide for the page. She is caught up in how extraordinarily young he looks in the moment; so much like her boy with the bread, before–
He catches her staring again the next day, when he’s slicing the bread for their evening meal. Sae only comes by a few days a week now, so they work together on the off days to pull together leftovers or create a simple meal of bread and cheese. He says nothing about her staring again, but merely offers another small smile. She catches him staring at her later when they’re resting by the fireplace after the dishes are done.
She wakes up screaming in the night, the same as every night, or really anytime she closes her eyes and drifts into the dark dreams that have replaced her sleep. She lays huddled in a ball on the edge of her mattress, holding tight to a pillow and remembering a time when his arms were there to keep her safe from these monsters in her head. Would he hold her now, if she asked? Does she want him to? She remembers a time when she would have died for the boy with the bread; when she couldn’t go on living without him. Can she live without this boy who brings her bread now? She shakes her head to clear the thought.
“I want you to stay.
He stays later and later in the evenings, whether they work on the book or not. Sometimes they merely sit, side by side facing the fire. Sometimes he draws while she reads. Sometimes they make popcorn or hot chocolate together. One night they bake molasses cookies, from a recipe he remembers, which is reason to celebrate in itself.
He’s having nightmares, too, he admits. They never talk about what happened in the games, or after when he was taken. They never speak about the rebellion, or the war and all those they lost. They stick to the now and the struggles they still encounter every hour. They live in the present.
When she sees his eyes harden and his body go rigid, she no longer turns away and he no longer flees. He grips the back of a chair and she touches her hand to his back, her way of showing solidarity, until he comes back. He has never been violent with her, not since the time in 13, and more and more she knows that was not the same boy.
One night she falls asleep on the couch while he’s painting a landscape of the ocean they saw in District 4 during the Victory Tour. When he rouses her before he goes to leave for the night, she knows she can’t face the nightmares alone.
“Stay?” she offers, her voice cracking from dryness or fear of his response, she isn’t sure.
She can see him swallow hard, his eyes lowered to the floor. When he lifts them to hers, he offers but one quiet word, “Always.”
“It’s not much of a life you’re living. It’s not just something you take – it’s given.
It becomes part of their routine: they climb the stairs together every night, wordlessly facing one another across the vast white landscape of the sheets until both of their eyes droop and their breath evens in sleep. When she screams herself awake later, inevitably, he wraps her in his arms just as he did on the train. It has never been a question; it’s just what they do. They protect each other.
There are still days when she wonders if there is even a point of getting out of bed, but more and more he is the reason. Today he has made cinnamon rolls for her, and she hates to think of his disappointment if she lays staring unfeeling at the wall all day. She is here with him, but he is here for her. She knows he is giving more of himself to her, and she wonders if he remembers that this is how it has always been with them. It might be the only thing she hopes he can’t recall.
“Round and around and around and around we go.
Oh now, tell me now, tell me now, tell me now you know.
The garden Sae helped plant in the Spring is ready for harvest and they spend much of their time together in the day digging the potatoes and carrots and other vegetables from the ground. In the evenings they are learning to can and save tomatoes and beans, something her mother used to do a long time ago.
Tonight they sit side by side, snapping beans into a bowl. The warmth of his leg alongside hers is comfortable now, and when their fingers accidentally brush while reaching for the bowl at the same time, she feels a flicker that reminds her of something she can’t place.
He startles her when he asks out of the silence, “Our romance during the games was created for the capitol. It was all pretend. Real or not real?”
She looks him in the eye, narrowing her own to discern his reason for this question. It’s a game they play a lot now–real or not real–but up until now all of his questions have been of an impersonal nature. But his deep blue eyes shine with earnestness now and she knows that he is nothing but sincere.
“Real…at first,” she starts. “And then, I don’t know.” She looks down at her hands, still holding onto the last bean she snapped in half.
“What don’t you know?” he barely breathes as the words escape his lips.
“Ooh the reason I hold on.
Ooh cause I need this hole gone–
Tears are welling in her eyes. What does she know? She knows that he loved her and that he would have died for her. She knows that he almost did, several times. She knows that when he was taken from the second arena by the capitol, she didn’t think she could go on without him. She knows she didn’t want to.
Just like in the second arena, when she would have given her life to save his, he is once again becoming the reason she holds on; the only thing keeping her alive now. They have grown back together, true. But it’s more than that now. She sees the questioning in his eyes and she knows he deserves the truth. But she was never the one who was good with words.
Wordlessly she links her fingers with his and gives a small squeeze.
“Funny you’re the broken one but I’m the only one who needed saving–
He was tortured by the capitol–is broken–still suffering from flashbacks and wondering what is real and what is not, but she is the one who needs saving. And he is the only one who can save her from her own despair. Just like the very first time he threw her the bread that saved her life and gave her hope to go on, he is feeding her on hope day by day now as they struggle to rise from the ashes of their past. He is her dandelion in the spring; the hope that things can be good again.
“Cause when you never see the light it’s hard to know which one of us is caving.
He’s still staring intently into her eyes, patiently waiting for her answer, in the way only he can be so patient with her. She reaches her free hand up to brush the blond curls off his forehead, running her hand down the side of his strong jaw and looking deep into his eyes, where she can see her own future. She can think of no better way to answer him: she leans forward to gently press her lips to his.
He understands her wordless answer, of course; he always has. Their souls have been connected since the beginning of time, sealed together the moment he tossed her the bread in the rain and fused more solidly by their mutual trials. He is the only one who truly understands her.
Now he takes control of the kiss, his thumb gently stroking her cheek while his other hand tangles in her dark hair. The small flicker becomes a flame, and then a raging inferno built from their mutual desire and need. When she feels that thing again, the thing she felt on the beach, she knows that it would have always ended up this way. He is everything she needs and she is everything he needs. They are one.
“Not really sure how to feel about it.
Something in the way you move
Makes me feel like I can’t live without you.
It takes me all the way.
I want you to stay, stay.
And after, when he whispers, “You love me, real or not real?” She tells him “Real.”