The applause dies out and the mayor gives the speech in our honor. Two girls come up with tremendous bouquets of flowers. Peeta does his part of the scripted reply and then I find my lips moving to conclude it. [...] I stand there, feeling broken and small, thousands of eyes trained on me. There's a long pause. Then, from somewhere in the crowd, someone whistles Rue's four-note mockingjay tune. What happens next is no accident. Every person in the crowd presses the three middle fingers of their left hand against their lips and extends them to me.
My ongoing struggle against the Capitol, which has so often felt like a solitary journey, has not been undertaken alone. I have had thousands upon thousands of people from the districts at my side. I was their Mockingjay long before I accepted the role.
The party, held in the banquet room of President Snow's mansion, has no equal. There's a large tiled area in the center of the room that serves as everything from a dance floor, to another spot to mingle with the flamboyantly dressed guests. But the real star of the evening is the food. Tables laden with delicacies line the walls. Everything you can think of, and things you have never dreamed of, lie in wait. [...] Just then my prep team descends on us. They're nearly incoherent between the alcohol they've consumed and their ecstasy at being at such a grand affair. They lead us over to a table that holds tiny stemmed wineglass filled with clear liquid.
"You have to do it in there," says Venia, pointing to doors that lead to the toilets. "Or you'll get it all over the floor!"
The wild turkey he shot earlier hangs above him, the nail driven through its neck. His jacket's been cast aside on the ground, his shirt thorn away. He slumps unconscious on his knees, help up only by the ropes at his wrists. What used to be his back is a raw, bloody slap of meat.