Heath relaxed slowly into the bow of the tree he had claimed for the afternoon, the lofty pine had made an easy climb and an even easier resting place, he pushed his soft shoulder-length dirty blonde hair away from his face shaking loose a few of the needles that had been snagged in his ascent. Each day he made the same climbs, different trees but always a breathtaking view, a crooked smile found its way across his full lips as he reached for the familiar object slung on his back, an old guitar left to him by his father, his calloused fingers working deftly along the strings as he plucked a tune to match the breeze, his forearms tanned and corded with muscle dancing as he played. Heath paused for a second and listened his uneven smirk widening further as he heard a far-off Mockingjay repeat his tune, he shifted slightly and sat further forward in his perch, before gently placing his broad shoulders back against the rough bark not caring if the moss dirtied his already worn once white linen shirt.
Taking a breath in slowly through his sharp nose as he started back up strumming and plucking for furiously, his thighs gripping either side of the branch he straddled as his cable like calves dangled in the wind feeling the slap of his rough spun pants against his skin as the gale began to blow harder. He played the sound of a storm amongst the leaves, the melody of a gently flowing river and the crescendo of a crashing waterfall, his smile wide all the while as he listened for the favored bird matching his tune to make a harmony.
A long and sharp whistle sliced through the air and Heath jolted out of his entranced duet with his far-off partner, wincing as the edge of one of his fingernails caught a delicate string wrong and snapped it suddenly. A soft frown creased along his forehead as he looked at his now 5 string instrument "it will be a long time before more strings will be arriving here" he thought to himself, allowing his melancholy to build for a second before slinging the worn guitar across his back. As quickly as the breezes that rolled through during these hot summers his furrowed brow relaxed again and he shrugged to himself letting out a soft forlorn sigh, he had played on fewer strings before and often enjoyed the challenge in practicing his hobby, but would still mourn the wounding of his precious instrument when he had time.
He clambered down the tree quickly, finding toe holds and easily grabbed branches on instinct reaching the base of the towering pine in only half a minute. The relaxed young man scooped up his pack containing his unused climbing pitons and harness that he had never felt the need for and started towards the village, his carefree smile wiped away by the harsh reminder of the reality he was in, but a carefree spring in his step he refused to let the peacekeepers stamp out of him.
Heath strolled casually through the tent village that made up his home, passing by many faces he knew but none he knew well, life was quiet for him here and that’s how he preferred it, no messy meaningful connections and no one to bother him, the closest thing he had to a friend here was the gruff and grizzled, older boy named Cane who shared his tent. Continuing his walk at a quick pace through the familiar maze of faded canvas he smiled at the people who passed close by, giving them a slight nod and not enough time to start a conversation, he knew he’d marked enough trees for felling and pruned enough branches for the paper mill to last a week, and as long as he kept to himself then that meant he had all the time he wanted to for relaxing high in the air and day dreaming about his joyous songs. The tall and well-muscled boy could feel his excitement building at the thought and quickly reminded himself to keep his obvious glee at the prospect unseen, he’d been whipped for playing this daring game before, and was familiar with the risks and rewards. Stopping by a vendor he traded in one of his stamps for the night's meal, without a word in thanks but a wide even smile and a slight bow, he disappeared into his tent, knowing he had at least two more hours before Cane arrived back from drinking... he intended to be fast asleep by then.
Sleep came almost as soon as the cozy sleeping bag was around him, but tonight's slumber was decidedly not a restful one, almost immediately the dreams began. Heath watched the tree his father had been felling fall in impossibly slow motion, and was only able to stand still as one of the trees themselves as it toppled in the wrong direction, directly on to his proud father. This was a familiar memory to Heath; he had replayed it in his mind many times over, but as he shot upright inside his sleeping bag, he felt the sweat running down his face and back, even with the endless replaying of the memory it never lessened the effect.
He grabbed a spare rag from nearby and wiped the cold sweat from his brow, he tried to lay back down and relax, but he couldn’t get the image of his fathers terrified face out of his mind. As almost every other time these dreams came the recollections were rapidly followed by the memory of his family home ablaze. Once again, he sat bolt upright, thankful that his older and stoic bunk mate hadn't made it home tonight, he shook his head trying to clear it of the memories of his siblings screams, clasping the necklace he wore, the thin metal chain ending in a crescent moon, the only remaining object he had from that scarring fire, he silently thanked whatever cruel God there may be that his mother had died before witnessing those horrors. But as always, he set his hard jaw, and forced a calm smile onto his face, he wouldn’t let anyone see his pain, least of all those who kept him down trodden and working. For now, however he felt like he needed to wash this sweat off... and as he remembered some of the prettier girls he passed on the way in, he thought a good distraction might help.