Книга Mockingjay. Содержание - 12

«Where is he?» I ask.

«Behind that screen, sleeping his sedative off. He lost it right after we knocked you out,» says Haymitch. I smile a little, feel a bit less weak. «Yeah, it was a really excellent shoot. You two cracked up and Boggs left to arrange the mission to get Peeta. We’re officially in reruns.»

«Well, if Boggs is leading it, that’s a plus,» I say.

«Oh, he’s on top of it. It was volunteer only, but he pretended not to notice me waving my hand in the air,» says Haymitch. «See? He’s already demonstrated good judgment.»

Something’s wrong. Haymitch’s trying a little too hard to cheer me up. It’s not really his style. «So who else volunteered?»

«I think there were seven altogether,» he says evasively.

I get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. «Who else, Haymitch?» I insist.

Haymitch finally drops the good-natured act. «You know who else, Katniss. You know who stepped up first.»

Of course I do.



Today I might lose both of them.

I try to imagine a world where both Gale’s and Peeta’s voices have ceased. Hands stilled. Eyes unblinking. I’m standing over their bodies, having a last look, leaving the room where they lie. But when I open the door to step out into the world, there’s only a tremendous void. A pale gray nothingness that is all my future holds.

«Do you want me to have them sedate you until it’s over?» asks Haymitch. He’s not joking. This is a man who spent his adult life at the bottom of a bottle, trying to anesthetize himself against the Capitol’s crimes. The sixteen-year-old boy who won the second Quarter Quell must have had people he loved—family, friends, a sweetheart maybe—that he fought to get back to. Where are they now? How is it that until Peeta and I were thrust upon him, there was no one at all in his life? What did Snow do to them?

«No,» I say. «I want to go to the Capitol. I want to be part of the rescue mission.»

«They’re gone,» says Haymitch.

«How long ago did they leave? I could catch up. I could—» What? What could I do?

Haymitch shakes his head. «It’ll never happen. You’re too valuable and too vulnerable. There was talk of sending you to another district to divert the Capitol’s attention while the rescue takes place. But no one felt you could handle it.»

«Please, Haymitch!» I’m begging now. «I have to do something. I can’t just sit here waiting to hear if they died. There must be something I can do!»

«All right. Let me talk to Plutarch. You stay put.» But I can’t. Haymitch’s footsteps are still echoing in the outer hall when I fumble my way through the slit in the dividing curtain to find Finnick sprawled out on his stomach, his hands twisted in his pillowcase. Although it’s cowardly—cruel even—to rouse him from the shadowy, muted drug land to stark reality, I go ahead and do it because I can’t stand to face this by myself.

As I explain our situation, his initial agitation mysteriously ebbs. «Don’t you see, Katniss, this will decide things. One way or the other. By the end of the day, they’ll either be dead or with us. It’s…it’s more than we could hope for!»

Well, that’s a sunny view of our situation. And yet there’s something calming about the idea that this torment could come to an end.

The curtain yanks back and there’s Haymitch. He has a job for us, if we can pull it together. They still need post-bombing footage of 13. «If we can get it in the next few hours, Beetee can air it leading up to the rescue, and maybe keep the Capitol’s attention elsewhere.»

«Yes, a distraction,» says Finnick. «A decoy of sorts.»

«What we really need is something so riveting that even President Snow won’t be able to tear himself away. Got anything like that?» asks Haymitch.

Having a job that might help the mission snaps me into focus. While I knock down breakfast and get prepped, I try to think of what I might say. President Snow must be wondering how that blood-splattered floor and his roses are affecting me. If he wants me broken, then I will have to be whole. But I don’t think I will convince him of anything by shouting a couple of defiant lines at the camera. Besides, that won’t buy the rescue team any time. Outbursts are short. It’s stories that take time.

I don’t know if it will work, but when the television crew’s all assembled aboveground, I ask Cressida if she could start out by asking me about Peeta. I take a seat on the fallen marble pillar where I had my breakdown, wait for the red light and Cressida’s question.

«How did you meet Peeta?» she asks.

And then I do the thing that Haymitch has wanted since my first interview. I open up. «When I met Peeta, I was eleven years old, and I was almost dead.» I talk about that awful day when I tried to sell the baby clothes in the rain, how Peeta’s mother chased me from the bakery door, and how he took a beating to bring me the loaves of bread that saved our lives. «We had never even spoken. The first time I ever talked to Peeta was on the train to the Games.»

«But he was already in love with you,» says Cressida.

«I guess so.» I allow myself a small smile.

«How are you doing with the separation?» she asks.

«Not well. I know at any moment Snow could kill him. Especially since he warned Thirteen about the bombing. It’s a terrible thing to live with,» I say. «But because of what they’re putting him through, I don’t have any reservations anymore. About doing whatever it takes to destroy the Capitol. I’m finally free.» I turn my gaze skyward and watch the flight of a hawk across the sky. «President Snow once admitted to me that the Capitol was fragile. At the time, I didn’t know what he meant. It was hard to see clearly because I was so afraid. Now I’m not. The Capitol’s fragile because it depends on the districts for everything. Food, energy, even the Peacekeepers that police us. If we declare our freedom, the Capitol collapses. President Snow, thanks to you, I’m officially declaring mine today.»

I’ve been sufficient, if not dazzling. Everyone loves the bread story. But it’s my message to President Snow that gets the wheels spinning in Plutarch’s brain. He hastily calls Finnick and Haymitch over and they have a brief but intense conversation that I can see Haymitch isn’t happy with. Plutarch seems to win—Finnick’s pale but nodding his head by the end of it.

As Finnick moves to take my seat before the camera, Haymitch tells him, «You don’t have to do this.»

«Yes, I do. If it will help her.» Finnick balls up his rope in his hand. «I’m ready.»

I don’t know what to expect. A love story about Annie? An account of the abuses in District 4? But Finnick Odair takes a completely different tack.

«President Snow used to…sell me…my body, that is,» Finnick begins in a flat, removed tone. «I wasn’t the only one. If a victor is considered desirable, the president gives them as a reward or allows people to buy them for an exorbitant amount of money. If you refuse, he kills someone you love. So you do it.»

That explains it, then. Finnick’s parade of lovers in the Capitol. They were never real lovers. Just people like our old Head Peacekeeper, Cray, who bought desperate girls to devour and discard because he could. I want to interrupt the taping and beg Finnick’s forgiveness for every false thought I’ve ever had about him. But we have a job to do, and I sense Finnick’s role will be far more effective than mine.

«I wasn’t the only one, but I was the most popular,» he says. «And perhaps the most defenseless, because the people I loved were so defenseless. To make themselves feel better, my patrons would make presents of money or jewelry, but I found a much more valuable form of payment.»

Secrets, I think. That’s what Finnick told me his lovers paid him in, only I thought the whole arrangement was by his choice.

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