Screaming. There was always screaming going on in her house. Her mother was shouting at their father, or else making snide comments and being generally passive aggressive about things, or she was shouting at one (or all) of her five daughters. The daughters grew up knowing nothing else but this, all of the anger and need to be heard above any other voices, but their father could be heard, too.
He would tell them to protect themselves. Defend themselves from the unsavory types that were in their district. Mostly he’d warn about the peacekeepers, that sometimes they don’t keep their hands to themselves, and his daughters were pretty. Nothing extraordinary, but once you looked beyond the layers of dirt that couldn’t be scrubbed out of their skin, they were pretty.
Needless to say, the daughters took these things to heart. The screaming, the fighting, the brawling. If Mira gave any sort of look to Tonya, then she might end up with a broken nose. It had happened before.
Morke was in the middle of the chaos, and she never felt like she belonged. She tried to get close to the older two, Mira and Tonya, but they wouldn’t let her. They called her names, put her down, and mocked her any time they got the chance. Morke stopped trying after Tonya pulled out a clump of her hair during a fight after school. She hated them then.
So then she tried to get close to the younger two. She took care of them, and watched out for them, but Iva and Tanna were close in age and they got along better. They turned into vicious monsters that fed off of each other, and they spewed their poisonous words at Morke too often.
“You’re a whore,” one would say, which would make the other laugh.
“Where did you even hear that word? You don’t call people that!” Morke shouted back. But they never cared, and their mother adored her ‘babies’ so much that she never reprimanded them, and their father was a pushover that spent all day in the mines and never had the energy to deal with them once they were home.
It was hell, but it was all Morke knew.
She was deprived of affection and attention, but she didn’t know if she wanted it, anyway. When she walked anywhere she stared at the ground and tried to avoid eye contact and keep to herself. It seemed safest that way, since her father had filled her head with so many worries.
But when she was home, and her sisters weren’t fighting for once, she would lay in the bed that she had to share with Tonya and Mira, and she’d listen to their stories about boys and what it was like to be kissed and have sex. Sometimes she wished she didn’t have to hear, but when she’d lay there quietly and listen she started to wonder what it would be like if she had a boyfriend? Would it make her feel better? More confident? Maybe if she had one, then her older sisters would like her.
There was a lot to consider.
And it only took one night. The next morning she was determined to find someone to make her boyfriend, and it was a pretty easy decision. Tox Mercer had been her friend since his brother died in the Hunger Games. He’d lived briefly under their roof while he was recovering from the loss, but her mother was unwilling to have another mouth to feed and he was kicked out pretty swiftly. Morke never abandoned him, though, and she kept him company in the lonely shack that had been left to him.
He had to be the perfect candidate to be her boyfriend.
So, she went to his house to keep him company, as she usually did. He was always cheerful, despite the miserable circumstances he was left in, and his company was much different than the company of her family. She wasn’t sure she liked it- too quiet, really- but she liked him. He was a cute boy, anyway.
She flirted with him and it was easy. He needed affection, too. He clung onto each word she said, and he believed it was the entire truth. When he kissed her for the first time, she felt like maybe what her sister’s were saying made sense. Kissing was fun and it felt good, it made her heart race and her cheeks get warm. She could get used to this.
“You really like me?” he’d ask.
“Yeah, I like you,” she said. She was glad he didn’t say love. She wasn’t sure she could ever love him. Or anyone, for that matter. Love was something she didn’t understand. It felt like weakness.
She made it a habit of going over to his house after school. It didn’t take long before they were kissing with new passion and it lead them farther than they were ready for. It hurt, but it was fun. She understood why her sisters talked about it so much now.
But she didn’t realize that there’s consequences that come with it. Of course she didn’t know right away, but her body started to change and feel different, and she felt sick all the time. At first she was convinced that she was dying, and her mother became worried for her health, but then Mira, the only sister that was somewhat decent towards her, told her what was going on.
“You’re pregnant, Morke,” she whispered one day while they were sitting outside.
“I am not,” Morke snapped at her.
“Tox is worried about you. He told me,” Mira said as she looked up at the clouds in the sky.
She felt betrayed. That was supposed to be her private business. Why would he tell her sister?
“I’m not pregnant. Only grown ups get pregnant,” she muttered as she hugged her knees.
“That’s not true,” Mira snorted. “Girls who have sex with boys get pregnant.”
Morke looked at her. “Then what about you and Tonya?”
Mira raised an eyebrow. “I don’t have sex with men. I’ll let you figure that one out on your own, and if you tell mom I’ll beat you up,” she threatened. “And Tonya doesn’t have that much sex, honestly? She’s all talk. And lucky, I guess.”
Morke was scared now. She couldn’t have a baby, she was still young. Her mother would kill her, and her father would be so disappointed. What was she going to do?
Keep it a secret, of course. For as long as she could.
But once her stomach started showing and she couldn’t cover it up anymore, her mother began demanding answers and when she revealed what had happened, she was instantly thrown out and was informed if she wanted to go out and get pregnant while being unmarried, then she had no place in her home.
There was no love. No kindness. Not from her family.
But Tox was there to offer his hand and give her a home. He was the kind one. But she figured he only offered his home because of the baby. That made sense.
But even after the baby arrived, he still said things like, “I love you.” but she still didn’t feel the same about him. She loved her son. From the moment she first held him, she discovered love.
“He’s perfect,” she said as she held him. He was so small. A button nose and sleepy eyes. His hands were tiny, and he cried a lot, but whenever he was in her arms he was quiet. He needed her, and she never wanted to let him go.
“You’re going to be a great mom,” Tox said gently. He was still kind, even after the baby was born. It didn’t make sense, but she was glad he was there. That he continued to support her, since her family didn’t care.
Well, her mother wanted to come around and look at the baby and hold him. Morke didn’t trust her, though. She figured that she wanted to steal Triste from her. And her sisters were still obnoxious. Iva and Tanna called her a slut, and Tonya took any moment to flirt with Tox and try to get to him, which was weird. Mira was the only one who was different. Somewhat. She still called her names around the family, but when she was alone she liked holding Triste and was...kinda nice. At least she wasn’t trying to get to Tox. And wasn’t trying to steal her baby.
She didn’t care what they thought of her, because she was happy for the first time in her entire life.
She still hated most of the world, but she loved one thing now. Her son. And that’s all she needed.