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HG: The Narrow Path, Chapter Fourteen - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
HG: The Narrow Path, Chapter Fourteen
Preparations go on for Finnick and Annie's wedding, including Peeta's baking of the cake, which makes Haymitch hopeful. Even more hopeful, he wants to talk to Katniss. To Haymitch's confusion, Peeta also asks about his parents, a question Haymitch can't answer.


Chapter Fourteen
The wedding goes off without a hitch. Even I get a little misty when they wrap the net around Finnick and Annie. In a normal district, this would be when they break out the wine, but of course, in District Thirteen, it's prohibited. It's the first time I've seen a lot of the survivors from Twelve all in one place since they got off the hovercrafts, and even without wine, they seem a little drunk on the whole thing. No one is dressed up other than the bride and groom. This bothers Plutarch, but it's perfectly normal for District Twelve. Everyone is cleaned up and combed, and Prim Everdeen has braided autumn leaves into her hair.

Greasy Sae drags Gale out to dance, and soon everyone is dancing with abandon, including me. I haven't danced in a circle since before my Games, but the steps come back all right as I dance between Lizzabee Leggett and Posy Hawthorne. Delly dances a reel with Rory. The falling autumn leaves twirl among the dancers, and Cressida raves about the visuals. "If the Capitol weren't about to fall," she says, "I think there'd be a rage for leaves at every wedding next year."

When Peeta's cake comes out, I see Katniss push through the crowd to get a look at it, her eyes huge and awed. I'm sure Plutarch will find a way to work this into the propo. I hope he does, anyway, and I hope Snow is forced to watch it several times.

It seems like the right time, so I go to her and tell her that Peeta wants to talk to her. I put my hand on her shoulder, and feel her trembling. She doesn't seem to have any idea what to say.

I start to take her right downstairs, but Cressida wants more footage, and ultimately, we both want to spend more time celebrating Annie and Finnick. I go down a little early to tell Peeta that we're going to try a face-to-face. If Katniss seemed nervous, Peeta seems terrified, even though it was his idea. He instructs the techs to restrain him as well as they can, and asks if they have a way to control him if he flies off the handle. They decide on a remote-controlled dose of a tranquilizer, and give him a mild dose just to calm him down.

"Are you sure you're okay with this?" I ask him.

He bites his lip and nods. "She's just a girl, right?"

"She was always more than that to you. But yes, she's just a girl."

He nods, his eyes starting to get a little wild. "I dreamed about her today. She was in the rain. I know what she was talking about in the cave."

I have no idea what this means, but it doesn't include the word "mutt," which is good. "She was glad to see your cake."

"Do you think she'll be glad to see me? After..." He flexes his hands like he's squeezing her throat. "You know."

I think that glad isn't the right word, but I don't say so. I think she's scared to see him -- not of what he'll do, but of what she'll feel. I don't think Peeta can process that right now, though, so I just say, "Sure. You should have seen her face when she realized you were well enough to frost a cake. It was like you were -- " I stop.

"Like I was what?"

I was going to say, Back from the dead, but I can see that Peeta is not in shape to hear that she's been acting bereaved, or that she might respond to him like he's a ghost come to haunt her. I say, "Like you were right there with her again."

Peeta frowns at me. "That's a lie, Haymitch. Why are you lying to me again?"

I sigh and tell a little more of the truth. "I think she was surprised to hear that you wanted to see her. In shock, maybe."

"Gave up on me, did she?"

"Peeta, you tried to kill her." I look at him carefully. Everything about him is coiled up tight, like he's preparing to take a huge leap. "Are you ready for this?" I ask him again. "Really ready?"

He nods tightly. "I won't hurt her."

I have heard Peeta tell a lot of lies, but this one proves to be the only hurtful one. I bring Katniss down, and he opens by insulting her looks. She's already wound up, and promptly fires back in kind. I can see them both shutting down, and I can't think of anything to do about it. It's like the cold days after they got back from the Games, when he shut her out because he realized she'd just been playing along -- or, at least, that she'd started that way. And just like those days, she snaps at him and tries to withdraw.

I try to think of something for her to say (I insisted that she wear the earpiece), but I've got nothing.

She turns to leave, but before she gets to the door, he says, "Katniss, I remember about the bread."

She stops cold. Her eyes widen. When she speaks, her voice is shaky, at best. "They showed you the tape of me talking about it."

This is it. The central memory for her. The most basic, defining one. If he says something to destroy it, everything is over.

"No. Is there a tape of you talking about it? Why didn't the Capitol use it against me?"

"It was made the day you were rescued. So what do you remember."

Peeta takes a moment to answer, and when he does, I almost relax. Almost. He remembers it, and he doesn't destroy it. He remembers his mother hitting him, and he remembers giving her the bread. He even remembers seeing her in school the next day, and has for some reason held onto a memory of her picking a dandelion. "I must have loved you a lot," he says.

"You did."

"And did you love me?"

I will Katniss not to say the wrong thing. I try to send brainwaves at her to just tell him the truth -- the real truth, not the one she's convinced herself of. I don't dare speak into her ear, because Peeta will know if I feed her the lines, but I whisper them in my head: Yes. Yes, you love this boy. You've loved him for a long time.

She doesn't say it. In fact, she goes the other way entirely. At the moment, I could strangle her myself.

Peeta is no better. Once the conversation veers, he veers it straight into the Games, and Gale, and everything he shouldn't be going anywhere near. Katniss gets defensive.

He laughs at her, and it's not the Peeta who's spent the last few days frosting a wedding cake. It's not even the one who misses his father, or was brainwashed into cruelty. He's back again to being Mirrem's son, leaning on that single, narrow cold streak in his heart. "You're a piece of work, aren't you?" he says.

She turns and walks out. I don't know where she goes. I go into Peeta's room. He's staring at the tranquilizer needle in his arm.

"What the hell was that?" I ask him. "Did you want to see her so you could hurt her again? I wouldn't have brought her if I thought that was what you were after."

"She doesn't love me. I convinced myself that she did. Again. And I was wrong. Again. Why am I so stupid about her? I know better. I know what she really is."

"What she..." I shake my head. "She's a girl who's saved your damned life more times than I can count. She's a girl who's spent the last several weeks going crazy worrying over you. Who bullied the president of this district into promising not to hurt you. Who you already tried to kill once."

"Haymitch, I -- "

"Yeah. Yeah, I know. You got tortured. You got pumped through with toxins. And I would give anything -- my life included -- to go back and time and make sure that never happened. But you're not the only person who's ever been hurt, and trying to give as good as you got isn't helping anyone, least of all you."

"I didn't mean to."

I shake my head. "If that's not an excuse for me, then it's not an excuse for you, either."

He leans back into the pillows and says, "I tried."

"Like hell you did." I leave.

The next day, when I go to observation, I see that he's trying to sell Delly on how cruel Katniss and I are. She's not buying. "You listen to me, Peeta," she says, "if your brothers were here, they'd knock some sense into you. I can't. But I'm not going to sit here and listen to you tell lies to yourself. You need to stop it."

After lunch, Prim comes on for her shift. She's noticeably cooler toward Peeta. "All my sister could talk about last night, after we found her sleeping in the laundry room, was getting to the Capitol and killing Snow. Well, that and what a terrible person she is, and how even Peeta knows that now. She's going to end up back in crisis care if this keeps up."

"Crisis care?"

"The emergency mental health system. As opposed to the long term. I doubt they'd put her in long term when they still need her, but they can shoot her full of medicines to calm her down for a few days."

But Katniss manages to calm herself down a little bit over the next two days without help, and Peeta pulls himself out of his sullen spiral. Neither expresses the slightest desire to see each other again and try to fix the damage. Peeta draws her on that long ago day in the rain. It's not an angry picture by any stretch, but it's about the saddest thing I've ever seen.

I go to Command meetings more often. They're starting to plan the invasion of the Capitol. Some troops will leave almost immediately, but others are still training. I check to see when Katniss is scheduled to leave. Her name doesn't appear on the list.

"Soldier Everdeen is not properly trained," Coin says. "She is not fit to serve in a fighting unit."

"She's living to fight Snow!"

"She's been doing so. But she has not trained to do so as a soldier."

I break it to Katniss as gently as I can. She storms out of her hospital room.

Johanna shrugs. "Don't look at me. My name's not on the list, either. Don't make the mistake of thinking I'm not going."

"Good luck with that," I tell her. "I'm sure the morphling drip will be easy to carry into battle." I go down to observation.

Peeta is drawing again. His parents this time. They are in the bakery, with their backs to each other, conducting separate business transactions while the boys do their chores in the background. He is rather obsessively filling in the price list.

Frustrated, he puts it down. "Haymitch, how much did we charge for the hermit cookies? I've been trying to remember all morning, and it's just gone."

"I don't know. I never bought hermit cookies. Those were the ones with the raisins, right?"

"Right. Why don't I remember that?" He frowns. "They were expensive, I think."

"Why do you need to remember it?"

"Because I can't." He throws the notebook away from him. It skids on the floor past my feet and goes under the radiator.

I pick it up and clean off a few dust kitties it picked up, and put it on his nightstand. "What's going on in your head today?"

"I can't remember how much the hermit cookies were. That's all. It was hard to get raisins, so they cost a lot."

"What started you thinking about it?"

"I was just thinking about my parents. I remember Dad wanted to drop prices and get more customers. Mom said we wouldn't get enough more customers to make up the difference, unless we dropped too low to cover the ingredients, and we still had taxes to pay." He sighs. "Everyone thought we were so rich. Katniss thought we got to eat the bakery food."

"You had more than one room. On the Seam, that seems rich."

"Well, then I guess we must have been rich. Everything money can buy, right? And it made them so happy." He starts to throw his pencil, but instead puts it down carefully beside the notebook. "They were miserable together," he says. "My parents. I don't understand them."

"You said that the other day," I say. "Is that on your mind?"

He nods. "I always figured I'd... figure it out. Figure them out. But I can't. Dad loved Mrs. Everdeen. Mom loved... Mom."

"This is really important to you, isn't it?"

"I keep thinking about it, anyway. It's not fair that they're dead. I never figured it out. I can't ask them. I don't know why Dad stayed with Mom. I don't know why Mom stayed with Dad. I don't know why she lost her temper sometimes. I don't know why he didn't." His eyes twitch up to my face, then down at the covers. "I don't know why I act like Mom sometimes. I don't want to."

I don't have answers for him. I knew Dannel, but I avoided Mirrem at all costs, and did not discuss her with anyone. I tell him to get some sleep before Delly comes for the afternoon.

Somehow, Katniss convinces Command to let her prove her combat worthiness by going into training, and to let Johanna train with her. In the middle of the first day, she comes back to the hospital with a note for some kind of treatment on her ribs, which leaves her in agony. Johanna, stripped of her morphling for twenty-four hours, is suffering from the shakes and swearing. They go back out the next day. I can almost hear Claudius Templesmith -- "An alliance is forming among the remaining tributes..." I am not surprised when, at the end of their second day, Johanna decides it's time to leave the hospital -- a place of weakness -- and Katniss supports her to the point of offering to be her roommate.

Ruth tells me about a doctors' meeting to discuss this proposal. They are leaning against it when I go in, uninvited, to back Katniss up. Ruth offers to keep an eye on them from across the hall.

"Soldier Everdeen," one of the doctors says, "you already have responsibility for your own daughter, and -- "

"Daughters," Ruth corrects them. "Whether you like it or not, I have two, and I am responsible for both. And if Johanna Mason needs to be in that circle as well, then she is. End of story."

I finally win the argument by pointing out that getting Johanna away from her morphling supply can only be a good thing, though they exact a promise that she'll see her psychiatrist every day. Since I didn't know she was seeing one at all, this comes as a surprise. They've been cutting down her morphling supply steadily, so they don't anticipate any major physical withdrawal issues.

Katniss and Johanna move to the apartment across from Ruth and Prim. Over the next few days, I watch them training together on a screen in the observation room. Johanna is having trouble with the mental part of the morphling withdrawal, and Katniss is in pain from whatever they did to her ribs, but they fight through it. They've both fought through worse.

Plutarch gets footage of them training, which he eagerly hands over to Beetee for airtime assaults. "My Capitol sources say that seeing the victors training with us is inspiring a lot of confusion among the people," he says. "They're still wondering where Peeta is."

Peeta is physically as well as can be expected of someone who has been tortured for weeks and then confined to a bed. On his own, he's been doing exercises -- push-ups that get increasingly more vigorous every day, running in place, lifting whatever heavy objects he can find. He does some balance exercises for his leg. "I want to get out of here," he says.

"They're not going to let you live in an apartment," I tell him. "Not on your own. And I'm under sobriety watch, so they won't let you move out with me." I don't mention the fact that he's proven himself dangerous. I think he knows that.

I keep track of things. Peeta continues to work out, to ask if he can go outside. I talk to Soldier York, who is training Katniss and Johanna, and she says it would do him good to get exercise, though she's concerned about his mental state if he's thrown into something military. She doesn't give a go ahead for it yet.

Four days after Katniss and Johanna move out of the hospital, it's determined (after many requests) that Peeta may have a meal with the general population, as long as he's cuffed and guarded and doesn't disturb anyone. I am unfortunately scheduled with Plutarch when he goes, helping pick out fierce looking shots of Johanna, and happy-looking ones of Annie. I would have recommended that they send Peeta for any lunch shift other than the one with Katniss and Gale. The guards apparently just saw Delly's name and figured she'd control him.

She doesn't. I don't know all of what happens there, though Finnick is still angry the next day and Delly apparently let loose and yelled at Peeta. Whatever it was, it's sent Peeta into a tailspin. He doesn't go back to his bed. He sits in the corner of his room, knees pulled up to his chest, his forehead pressed against them, and mutters to himself.

"It's not as big a setback as it looks," Hiram Campbell says. "He's not going on about mutts and he's not threatening anyone. It looks like he just wound himself up too tight, and was determined to prove that he doesn't love her any more than she loves him. Typical teenage romance drama, in other words, which is almost a good sign. Except for what happened after."

"And the business with Annie and Finnick?"

"He feels very protective of Annie. I don't know when he got it in his head that Finnick was an enemy, though. That's new."

I go in and pull up a chair in front of him. "Peeta, are you going sit here and talk to yourself all day?"

"... she didn't love me... I know she didn't, but she's not terrible... she lies..."

I reach across and gently push his head up so that he looks at me. "Peeta, are you in there?"

He nods. "I did that wrong. At the dining hall."

"That's putting it mildly."

"I just... it was like I was watching myself say things. And I couldn’t stop." He looks around shiftily.

"Sure you could," I say. "You just didn't."

"Did you yell at her?"

"What, exactly, do you think she did? She was eating her stew in peace, as I understand it."

"You always liked her better."

I laugh. "She says the same thing about you. You're both nuts. You know that, right?" I hold out my hand. "Come on. Get off the floor."

I manage to get him back to the bed. He sighs. "I can't take it back."

"No."

"Who am I, Haymitch?"

"You're Peeta Mellark. Baker's son. Artist. Victor. Pain in my ass. One of the best men I know."

He looks up at the last, surprised. "I don't feel like a man at the moment."

"If it's only at the moment, you're ahead of most of us."

"Sometimes I feel like I'm still eleven years old. Standing there in the rain, watching her starve while Mom screams at her. I was..." He looks down. "I was embarrassed. She treats it like it was some big, selfless hero thing. But I was just so embarrassed that Mom would do that, that she'd be like that. I had to do something."

"It's what you decided to do that made it a big, selfless hero thing."

"I can't think of what else I could have done."

"And that's what makes you Peeta Mellark." I pull the chair over and sit down beside the bed. "You could have just gone inside and hidden. You could have decided your mother was right. You could have demanded that the city do something. You could have asked your father to help her -- "

"Why didn't he?"

"What?"

"Why didn't Dad help Mrs. Everdeen? It wasn't like he hated her. Why didn’t he go and help when she didn't show up in town, or when the girls were starving?"

"I don't know." I sigh. "You really need to know these things, don't you?" He nods. "The only person I can think of who could even start to answer is Ruth Everdeen. But if I ask her to come down, are you going to start in on Katniss again?"

"No."

I don't believe him. I tell him I'll think about it. The next morning, Plutarch starts taking him out to morning workouts, in order to film him training. I don't know how he managed to convince Soldier York. Peeta starts assembling guns. I know he sees Katniss there, and I know Plutarch is in a hurry to get them to talk, but they don't. I talk to his York and she tells me that she doesn't think he's in fit shape physically to join them on the range, but she hasn't seen any of his breakdowns, even when Katniss is nearby.

I carefully ask him how it is to see Katniss. He says it's fine. He hasn't done anything. It's good to be outside and moving around again, and she happens to be there, too. Will I ask Ruth to talk to him?

I still hesitate, but Prim is in the observation room, and that night, Ruth comes to my apartment and tells me that she's heard about Peeta's request. "I'm not sure I have much comforting to tell him," she says. "But I'll answer his questions."

It prompts another anxiety attack on Peeta's part when I tell him, and he insists on being restrained again, though he thinks he can go into it without any pills to calm him down. By the time Ruth gets there after her hospital shift, he has managed to force himself to be still. He tries smiling at her, but it doesn't work quite properly. I start to go, but he asks me to stay. Just in case.

Ruth sits down warily. "I'm told you have some questions."

"My parents," Peeta says.

"What about them?"

"I need to know."

"What?"

He takes a deep breath. "Everything."

"That's a whole lot," Ruth says. "And you're not going to like it all."

"Please," he says. "Please tell me. If you ever loved my dad, please tell me."

She nods. "I did love Danny," she says. "He was my friend. Long before we started dating. We used to go on adventures together. He could turn a summer afternoon in the park into a daring battle with pirates and brigands. And he'd play with anyone -- town, Seam... he even played with the Capitol liaison's kids. Everyone was always the same to him. He was a good boy, and he grew into a good man. If I could change the past, I'd find some way to not break his heart."

"And my mother? Did you know her?"

Ruth nods. "Everyone knew everyone, Peeta. You know that."

"Were my parents ever friends?"

"Yes. Danny was probably Mir's only friend. She was a year behind us. They used to do plays together. Do you remember me telling you that?"

"I think so."

"She was quite a brilliant actress, actually. You get that from her. The way you are on camera. The way you just make people believe you."

"When I lie?"

"It takes talent to make people believe the truth as much as a lie," Ruth says. She sighs. "Anyway, Danny always tried to invite her to things, but she -- I have to go backward a little. About rumors and unpleasant things. And one of them may be real unpleasant for you."

Peeta looks at her steadily. "Okay."

"Mir's mother was the butcher's daughter. She fell in love with a Peacekeeper. Her father wasn't very happy about it, and he arranged for her to marry someone else. One of the Murphy boys. That was your mom's maiden name. Murphy. Your aunt Rooba was born about a year later. I guess things were all right at first. That was the story anyway. Then she got flighty -- your grandmother, I mean. Suddenly, she was with her Peacekeeper again, and then her husband ended up shot in a fight with him. Mir was born almost a year later, and a few weeks after that, the Peacekeeper was transferred. Do you follow what I'm saying?"

"Her father was the Peacekeeper," Peeta says. "My grandfather."

"Yeah. I'm sorry."

"So... my grandmother didn't like my mother?"

"Quite the opposite. It was Rooba she didn't like. She raised Mirrem to believe that she had 'better' blood, that she was going places, that someday, she'd get in touch with her father and get away from all the local hicks. Mirrem believed it, and repeated it frequently. She didn't have a lot of friends."

"But my dad liked her. Why?"

"I asked him that once. He said it was because she was going to get her heart broken, and he felt bad for her. He was right. She used to haunt the Peacekeeper barracks, trying to get a letter out to her father. That was about the time that Haymitch won the Quell and we got a witch of a head Peacekeeper, who recruited a bunch just like her. I've always thought it was some kind of deliberate cruelty that Mirrem finally got word that her father wasn't about to claim any bastard child who could belong to any one of a dozen men, as far as he knew. She started crying and the Peacekeepers tormented her. Danny and I just happened to be around. He was picking up tessera grain -- he used to take it to help out -- and we saw it. Danny decked a Peacekeeper and got me to pull Mirrem out. He got twenty-five lashes for that stunt. Did you ever see the scars?"

"No."

"They were there. After that, Mirrem fixated on Dannel instead of her father. She was determined that, if she couldn't have the fairy tale life her mother promised, she'd at least marry her personal knight and make him into some kind of royalty. It bothered me. Danny... sort of liked the idea that someone thought he could be one of his silly heroes. It was probably our first fight." She twists her wedding ring on her finger. "After I... after Danny and I split, he started drinking. Mirrem fished him out of the bars. The next thing anyone knew, she turned up pregnant."

"Jonadab."

"Yeah. The thing was, Mirrem had just won a scholarship to go study acting in the Capitol. The only one that year in all the districts to get it, and she couldn't take it. She came to me to see if we had a way to... well, to end it. We did. There are always ways. But she backed out at the last minute. I wish I could say why, but I don't know what went through her head. Instead, she told Dannel that they were getting married. He went through with it. He always figured he'd wrecked her life. She didn't disabuse him of the notion."

"So they already hated each other by the time they were married."

"It's more complicated than that. No one can really see inside someone else's marriage, but from what I could see, Dannel never stopped wanting to be that hero for her again. And all of those suspicions she had -- you know the ones I'm talking about -- they were because she felt like she wasn't measuring up. And then there were the money problems, and everything else that goes with life in the real world. Neither of them was very good at the real world, when it came down to it. Danny was drinking almost as much as Haymitch for a while, and I'll give Mirrem her due: She got him out of the bottle. And she never stopped thinking up schemes to get rich that never worked."

"She hit me sometimes," Peeta says. "Not all the time, but sometimes. She said I was just like dad."

"I know. And I can't explain that. I can't begin to get inside her head and figure out what would make her do that. What would make any mother do that. Danny almost left her over it. A lot. He did leave her once, for a few weeks, but he went back."

"Why?"

"Because you boys begged him to. And because he assumed it was his fault." She bites her lip. "Does that help at all? I can't think how it would."

"It does, though. I don't know why, but it does."

They sit quietly for a while, then Ruth says, again, "I loved Dannel. He was a good, good man. And he would be proud of how hard you're fighting this."

Peeta looks up, but doesn’t say anything.

I walk Ruth home.

Things go on.
15 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
shortysc22 From: shortysc22 Date: April 30th, 2013 03:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I love the backstory written here about Peeta's parents since the books give so little insight (again it's all from Katniss's perspective and we know how oblivious she can be)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 30th, 2013 04:31 am (UTC) (Link)
For Katniss it's very simple: The Witch hit Peeta. I don't think, even if she heard the whole story, it would get more complicated than that for her.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: April 30th, 2013 04:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow. You just hit the perfect notes each time. I like that the Mellark marriage is a combination of two people whose weak points get brutally exposed, not one saintly spouse and one awful one (though if I'd been one of their kids, I'd have much rather lived with Dad!) Poor Mirrem, what a hell of a preparation for life as a baker's wife in a crappy district. I wonder if her father actually did disown her or if the Peacekeepers even let the message get through? Interesting about her going through with her pregnancy in the end. I actually have a couple of my own ideas about her motivation for that!

Also, I can't help wondering; who exactly *does* buy the bakery products besides the Undersees? It doesn't sound like anyone's doing too well in District 12. Maybe a lot of their purchases are families doing their once-a-year splurge?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 30th, 2013 04:34 am (UTC) (Link)
I have been puzzling at the D12 economy for ages. If no one can shop at the shops, then who's shopping there? Are they doing all of their business with the Capitol representatives (mayor, Peacekeepers, etc)? If so, how many do there have to be to keep all the businesses afloat? I can't make heads or tails of how that works. In the real world, if most people can't afford to shop in a local shop, it goes under. But clearly, they didn't. The shops just stayed open. Maybe they were forced to stay open somehow? I don't know. I'm just going with it, and not trying to explain. ;p

I can't think of a thing that would ever excuse the way Mrs. Mellark treats Peeta, but I wanted to come up with something that would make it make sense to her, even if to no sane person listening.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: April 30th, 2013 04:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, there's clearly some bartering going on (Mr. Mellark trading for squirrels etc) but game isn't going to pay for all the flour and sugar they'd need to buy; sugar especially would likely be expensive. Clearly someone's buying and paying handsomely -- Peeta has all that cake-frosting experience, and yet even cookies are too expensive for Seam families, so God knows what decorated cakes cost. The shop which is too expensive for locals yet still exists makes me think of tourist trade, where rich out-of-towners come to enjoy the quaint local sights but still want to enjoy the luxuries they had at home, except that even Katniss the Singleminded would have mentioned summer tourists if they'd been there. (Maybe there are Capitol citizens who like to see live Reapings in the Districts?) Of course, an alternate explanation is that Mrs. Everdeen was just much thriftier than other Seam families and "we can't afford cookies" meant "our money would be better spent elsewhere," not "they cost a month's rent."

And no, Mirrem's treatment of him is not acceptable by any stretch of the imagination. I did like that there was a plausible background for it, though; also that he got his acting skills from her.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 30th, 2013 05:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Maybe the Seam families where the mine workers are still alive and contributing do enough better that they can occasionally buy stuff? We only really see Katniss and Gale, both of them from families where the miner has died and the miner's wife does not go into the local business. Ruth manages a little bit with her herbalist skills, Hazelle as a washerwoman, but mining work, with its inherent risks, probably pays a little bit more when the district isn't being punished.

Still, it doesn't seem like it would hold together.
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 30th, 2013 06:46 am (UTC) (Link)

District economy

I always assumed that bread gets baked in every district (hence the district-specific designs) but that not every district has a baker who makes cookies and cakes. If that's the case, the, yes, some District 12 Peacekeepers and rich townies will buy cakes and cookies, but most of the luxury baked goods get transported out of the District for Peacekeepers and folks with Capitol ties in, say, Districts 10 and 11. And the Capitol of course controls inter-district prices, so the Mellarks can't actually sell the out-of-district luxury baked goods at prices high enough to do much more than break even.

This is probably far too complicated, but it's all I've come up with to explain where the cookies go.

And, by the way, I am loving your HG stories. I'm the World's Most Sporadic Commenter, but me : this story :: Effie : new wigs.

TSS
jedinic From: jedinic Date: April 30th, 2013 04:46 am (UTC) (Link)
This is fascinating and heart-wrenching.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 30th, 2013 05:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I was afraid it would seem to come out of left field. Maybe it kind of does, but if it's interesting...! :D
dragonzair From: dragonzair Date: April 30th, 2013 07:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh God. I thought i might have to wait for another story to get anything more on the Mellarks but here it is! Really happy there was am update tonight!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 30th, 2013 07:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is the last long one I have planned (which doesn't always mean anything, but hey, we all need plans), so I wanted to get those things out there.
rosaxx50 From: rosaxx50 Date: April 30th, 2013 11:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow. Once again I'm simply blown away by your characterisation of these minor characters. Peeta's parents in this case. His mother in particular.

Dannel never stopped wanting to be that hero for her again. And all of those suspicions she had -- you know the ones I'm talking about -- they were because she felt like she wasn't measuring up. And then there were the money problems, and everything else that goes with life in the real world. Neither of them was very good at the real world, when it came down to it.

^ This. Utter perfection. There is no excusing, and Ruth doesn't, but there's such insight.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 30th, 2013 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. I think there's definitely a distinction to be made between explanations and excuses. It may explain things if she had a crappy childhood and unrealistic expectations -- that's why she's short tempered -- but it just... doesn't excuse anything. She's the grown-up and the mom in the equation.
redrikki From: redrikki Date: April 30th, 2013 03:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really love the detail and backstory you've put into their lives. In the books these people are barely cardboard cutouts, but here you've made them complex and interesting and more than a little damaged.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 30th, 2013 07:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
The books are seen through the eyes of a sixteen/seventeen year old girl who has very, very distinct biases... which would render "the witch" more or less inhuman. I expect Peeta might have a different perspective!
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