For a few moments, Peeta and I take in the scene of our mentor trying to rise out of the slippery vile stuff from his stomach. The reek of vomit and raw spirits almost brings my dinner up. We exchange a glance. Obviously Haymitch isn’t much, but Effie Trinket is right about one thing, once we’re in the arena he’s all we’ve got. As if by some unspoken agreement, Peeta and I each take one of Haymitch’s arms and help him to his feet.
“I tripped?” Haymitch asks. “Smells bad.” He wipes his hand on his nose, smearing his face with vomit.
“Let’s get you back to your room,” says Peeta. “Clean you up a bit.”
We half-lead half-carry Haymitch back to his compartment. Since we can’t exactly set him down on the embroidered bedspread, we haul him into the bathtub and turn the shower on him. He hardly notices.
“It’s okay,” Peeta says to me. “I’ll take it from here.”
I can’t help feeling a little grateful since the last thing I want to do is strip down Haymitch, wash the vomit out of his chest hair, and tuck him into bed. Possibly Peeta is trying to make a good impression on him, to be his favorite once the Games begin. But judging by the state he’s in, Haymitch will have no memory of this tomorrow.
“All right,” I say. “I can send one of the Capitol people to help you.” There’s any number on the train. Cooking for us. Waiting on us. Guarding us. Taking care of us is their job.
“No. I don’t want them,” says Peeta.
I nod and head to my own room. I understand how Peeta feels. I can’t stand the sight of the Capitol people myself. But making them deal with Haymitch might be a small form of revenge. So I’m pondering the reason why he insists on taking care of Haymitch and all of a sudden I think, It’s because he’s being kind.
Just as he was kind to give me the bread.
The idea pulls me up short. A kind Peeta Mellark is far more dangerous to me than an unkind one. Kind people have a way of working their way inside me and rooting there. And I can’t let Peeta do this. Not where we’re going. So I decide, from this moment on, to have as little as possible to do with the baker’s son.
When I get back to my room, the train is pausing at a platform to refuel. I quickly open the window, toss the cookies Peeta’s father gave me out of the train, and slam the glass shut. No more. No more of either of them.
Unfortunately, the packet of cookies hits the ground and bursts open in a patch of dandelions by the track. I only see the image for a moment, because the train is off again, but it’s enough. Enough to remind me of that other dandelion in the school yard years ago. . .
I had just turned away from Peeta Mellark’s bruised face when I saw the dandelion and I knew hope wasn’t lost. I plucked it carefully and hurried home. I grabbed a bucket and Prim’s hand and headed to the Meadow and yes, it was dotted with the golden-headed weeds. After we’d harvested those, we scrounged along inside the fence for probably a mile until we’d filled the bucket with the dandelion greens, stems, and flowers. That night, we gorged ourselves on dandelion salad and the rest of the bakery bread.
“What else?” Prim asked me. “What other food can we find?”
“All kinds of things,” I promised her. “I just have to remember them.”
My mother had a book she’d brought with her from the apothecary shop. The pages were made of old parchment and covered in ink drawings of plants.