Suzanne collins – the hunger games i. part 2. “the games”/18

18
The boy from District 1 dies before he can pull out the spear. My arrow drives deeply into the center of his neck. He falls to his knees and halves the brief remainder of his life by yanking out the arrow and drowning in his own blood. I’m reloaded, shifting my aim from side to side, while I shout at Rue, “Are there more? Are there more?”
She has to say no several times before I hear it. Rue has rolled to her side, her body curved in and around the spear. I shove the boy away from her and pull out my knife, freeing her from the net. One look at the wound and I know it’s far beyond my capacity to heal, beyond anyone’s probably. The spearhead is buried up to the shaft in her stomach. I crouch before her, staring helplessly at the embedded weapon. There’s no point in comforting words, in telling her she’ll be all right. She’s no fool. Her hand reaches out and I clutch it like a lifeline. As if it’s me who’s dying

instead of Rue.
“You blew up the food?” she whispers.
“Every last bit,” I say.
“You have to win,” she says.
“I’m going to. Going to win for both of us now,” I promise. I hear a cannon and look up. It must be for the boy from District 1.
“Don’t go.” Rue tightens her grip on my hand.
“Course not. Staying right here,” I say. I move in closer to her, pulling her head onto my lap. I gently brush the dark, thick hair back behind her ear.
“Sing,” she says, but I barely catch the word.
Sing? I think. Sing what? I do know a few songs. Believe it or not, there was once music in my house, too. Music I helped make. My father pulled me in with that remarkable voice – but I haven’t sung much since he died. Except when Prim is very sick. Then I sing her the same songs she liked as a baby.
Sing. My throat is tight with tears, hoarse from smoke and fatigue. But if this is Prim’s, I mean, Rue’s last request, I have to at least try. The song that comes to me is a simple lullaby, one we sing fretful, hungry babies to sleep with, It’s old, very old I think. Made up long ago in our hills. What my music teacher calls a mountain air. But the words are easy and soothing, promising tomorrow will be more hopeful than this awful piece of time we call today.
I give a small cough, swallow hard, and begin:
Deep in the meadow, under the willow
A bed of grass, a soft green pillow
Lay down your head, and close your sleepy eyes
And when again they open, the sun will rise.

Here it’s safe, here it’s warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.

Rue’s eyes have fluttered shut. Her chest moves but only slightly. My throat releases the tears and they slide down my cheeks. But I have to finish the song for her.
Deep in the meadow, hidden far away
A cloak of leaves, a moonbeam ray
Forget your woes and let your troubles lay
And when again it’s morning, they’ll wash away.

Here it’s safe, here it’s warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm

The final lines are barely audible.
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.

Everything’s still and quiet. Then, almost eerily, the mockingjays take up my song.
For a moment, I sit there, watching my tears drip down on her face. Rue’s cannon fires. I lean forward and press my lips against her temple. Slowly, as if not to wake her, I lay her head back on the ground and release her hand.
They’ll want me to clear out now. So they can collect the bodies.



Suzanne collins – the hunger games i. part 2. “the games”/18