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The Hunger Games: Chapter One, Peeta's Point of View
The only reason I’m waking up today is for the Reaping. Otherwise, I would have loved to sleep for an eternity away from my mother. You’d think a baker in District Twelve would have an easier life than those in the rundown Seam, but I don’t. Try living with a family who doesn’t care for your existence and with a mother who isn’t afraid to beat you if you burn some bread.
Right now it’s the crack of dawn. That means it’s time to prepare all of the ovens and baking ingredients. I start by grabbing my apron. It’s filthy, worn out from use and no washing. I look in the mirror to tie the back. The only difference between my hygiene and the apron’s is I can feel pain. The apron watches life go by, just existing.
Using a small portion of water I wash my hands. It’s a pathetic amount that does nothing. My hands are still dirty and my fingernails are still caked with grime. No one would ever love me for being Peeta. When I die, I’m sure my gravestone will just read “Peeta Mellark: Baker.” That’s right; I’m no one’s son, brother or husband. Just a nobody who’ll be stuck in this daily life on repeat.
As I grab a couple bags of flour, I look out the window for a ray of sun that might give me hope. My eyes follow the most prominent beam I can see and instead of it falling on the ground like the rest, this one hits a face. Her face. The face that belongs to Katniss Everdeen. I see her from a distance since she’s a Seam girl and I’m not, but I’d know her anywhere.
From what I know, her life is much harder than mine. Ever since her father died in the mining accident, her mother has been completely cut off from the world. It’s like she stares into the oblivion of sorrow and shame.
That leaves Katniss’ twelve year old sister, Primrose, but everyone calls her Prim. This is Prim’s first Reaping so a part of me aches for her. But my aching is nothing compared to how Katniss has to feel. Prim is her entire world; without Prim, Katniss has nothing to hold onto. Not even that bloke Gale.
I see the way her face lights up when Prim is happy. It’s nothing like I’ve ever seen before. The trust, the love, the protection. It makes my heart flutter. As I think I barely catch Katniss’ braid as it ducks under the outlying fence in the Meadow. She’s so brave…
Back in my kitchen my mother is already screaming at me. “Peeta Mellark, how many times have I told you to clean the ovens before you warm them up?!” She’s really mad. I reply with a simple, “I’m sorry, Mom. I wasn’t thinking.” So what do I get in response? “Don’t give me that attitude!” I don’t have time to react when her hand comes across my face leaving a large red imprint. I hate everything about my life. Maybe I’ll actually get reaped this year. The chances of that happening are very slim, though. My name is only in four times, one for each year I’ve been eligible, added to zero since I didn’t sign up for Tesserae. A Tessera is a meager supply of oil and grain.
I begin kneading some dough. I don’t have to worry about dressing until later. In the mean time I start four loaves of bread and a couple of cakes. Not too bad today. I’m allowed to frost the cakes, which is a big deal. It’s really helped my art.
After that is when I begin to prepare for the Reaping. Today I’m actually allowed to bathe. However, the water is cold and unwelcoming. I do manage to get the dirt and grime off. When I get out, my skin meets the air and I feel like I got run over by an iceberg. I have to shake it off.
There’s an outfit laid across my bed for me. Basic pants, basic shirt, basic belt, basic shoes. I’m basic and nothing special. After I get dressed, I gel my hair to comb it over. Blonde, combed hair and blue eyes. Like the rest of the world. Whatever, it doesn’t matter anymore.
I make my way to the central stage near the Justice Building. Peacekeepers are lined up everywhere, guns ready to zap anyone who causes commotion. We’re organized by age and separated by gender. So, I can’t speak to Katniss. The woman working attendance asks for my finger and pricks it. The electronic name reads “Peeta Mellark.” Awesome, look who’s ready for a reaping.
Effie Trinket begins to start us off. She is a government drone from the Capitol, the head of all our troubles. She doesn’t know. Her ridiculous pink hair is only muted by her even pinker outfit, and caked on makeup.
Effie begins her introduction. “Welcome! Welcome, welcome. The time has come to select one courageous young man and woman for the honor of representing District Twelve in the 74th annual Hunger Games.” I hear that differently than Katniss. We all hear it our own way. It’s an invitation to your possible death.
Effie goes on to play a video about the uprisings of the once-known District Thirteen. A long time ago, before me or my parents, there were thirteen districts of Panem. That is, until District Thirteen, the nuclear district, decided to rebel. In the time of the Dark Days, a war waged between District Thirteen and the Capitol. Needless to say, Thirteen lost. The video we watch shows the rubble that’s left of it, and the screen fades into President Snow reading the Treaty of Treason, also known as the reason for the existence of the Hunger Games. Doesn’t he know that no citizen wants to see 24 kids kill each other? Too late now.
Effie begins her usual, “Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for the Reaping! As always, ladies first.” Her hand reaches in to grab a piece of paper and she walks back to her microphone. In a clear voice that echoes across the District, I hear, “Primrose Everdeen!”
I immediately find Katniss. I can’t even bear to look at her. She’s shocked, and her heart has been shattered. I have just witnessed what true sorrow and pain looks like. As if someone took the sole thing she loves the absolute most in this world and ripped it from her arms.
As Prim is walking up to the stage, I see Katniss make a move. “Prim!” she shouts. “Prim!” Peacekeepers hold her back until I hear words never spoken before. “I volunteer!” she gasps. “I volunteer as tribute.”
Everyone is staring at her. Even me. No one has ever volunteered. Effie isn’t even quite sure what to do. But Katniss moves past and gives Prim a final hug, but Prim isn’t letting go. Gale comes over to carry her away and Prim and frantically screaming, “No, Katniss!”
As she mounts the stage, Effie says, “Who are you, dear?”
“I’ll bet that was your sister! Let’s hear a round of applause for District Twelve’s first volunteer!” No one claps. Instead, they make a gesture of pressing three fingers on the left hand to their lips, then extending. It’s an ancient gesture of my district. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means goodbye to someone you love.
Effie wastes no time as she goes to the boys’ bowl. She picks up another piece as she reads the name. “Peeta Mellark!” Oh, no. I said I wanted to be reaped but I didn’t mean it! I slowly go to the stage. Effie makes Katniss and I shake hands as I remember the day we met.
My mother was furious with me for burning yet two more loaves of bread. So, I was told to throw it to the pigs in the pouring rain. She then smacked my face. Shocker. I tossed a loaf to the pigs when I noticed her. Under the tree in my yard sat little twelve year old Katniss. She looked weak, tired and dying. I couldn’t stand to see her like this. Not since I realized my lo…fondness of her. I threw some bread her direction which made her look up. She was alive. She took it, and I guarantee I saved her life.
Either way here I stand on the stage of the Justice Building, ready to partake in the Hunger Games. I’m a the starting line or finishing line, I can’t tell which, of the rest of my life.