Chapter 4: Charming

It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.

Oscar Wilde, author

Days Two and Three of training are similar to Day One. We get up early, train hard and discuss strategy. By day three, it is decided that all six tributes from One, Two, and Four will ally together. I guess we all made the cut. I don't know how long the alliance will last, but I know that if I want to survive, I have to find the right balance between staying when the numbers are in my favor, and leaving when the games are close to ending. Hopefully Mags can help me with that.

While we wait to be scored, my alliance clumps together. The girl from Six rocks back and forth, biting her nails. Ivy and Raisin sit right next to each other, the boy from Eight whispers reassuringly to his district partner, and the tribute's from Ten clutch each others hands. Otherwise, the room is silent.

Dusk is called. Then Merit, followed by Roman, then Antigone, then a small boy named Alfred, and then finally, a tall girl named Sonja. Knowing we're being called in District order, I'm next. I take a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves. Training scores aren't everything, Mags says. She only got a six in her games. However, the higher my score, the more sponsors I'll get.

"Finnick Odair," the robotic voice calls. Here I go. Time to impress the gamemakers.

"Good luck," I say to Mariah, but she ignores me, so I enter the evaluation room without another word.

Everything is set up in the same way it has been over the past few days, but the atmosphere is different. The other tributes are obviously absent, along with the trainers. In their place is a line of gamemakers, peering down at me from the balcony with criticizing eyes. They mean to intimidate me, but I'll do my best to ignore them.

I start off by introducing myself. "Finnick Odair. District Four."

"You have ten minutes."

I take off towards the spears, working quickly, but with accuracy. Out of the three I throw, all hit the target, but only one hits the middle of the bullseye. One hits the edge of the bullseye, and the third hits the ring closest to it. I'm satisfied though, and run to the snares, where I take most of my ten minutes making a presentable trap. It's not my best, but I think it's well-made, considering I have less than ten minutes to make it, and more time once I'm in the arena. The gamemakers ought to recognize that. Once I finish my snare, I move on to the tridents, throwing one after another as quickly as I can. The satisfying thud of each trident hitting near or on the bullseye keeps me focused and motivated, and I barely hear the head gamemaker call time.

Most of the gamemakers seem pleased with what I have done, which is a relief. "Thank you," I say and bow polite before leaving the room. I've done all I can. Now all I can do is wait.

Everyone on the District Four floor crowds around the t.v. that night, Chauncey's poodles included. Penelope, the big purple poodle, lies at my feet, and I stroke her head as I wait for my score.

"Good evening, Panem!" Caesar Flickerman says cheerfully. His hair is a bright neon green this year, and I find it a little distracting. "Get ready for the highly anticipated… training scores! First off… Dusk with a score of… nine!"

Merit scores an eight, while Roman gets a nine as well. Antigone scores a ten. Alfred and Sonja receive a four and six, respectively. Then, it's my turn.

"Finnick… with a score of… ten! Ladies and gentlemen, do you realize how incredible this is?! Finnick Odair has broken the record for the highest score ever obtained by a fourteen year old! Give him a round of applause!"

Ten?! Did he say ten?! Mags squeezes me in a tight hug, and Marissa high fives me.

Mariah, however, only scowls.

"Jolly good!" Chauncey cheers. "You show them how it's done, lad!"

Mags quiets us down again as Mariah's picture comes onto the screen. "Mariah… with a score of… eight!"

Chauncey and the mentors congratulate her, but Mariah only mutters a grumpy response. If I didn't know better, I'd say she was jealous of my nine.

The rest of the scores pass by quickly. The little twelve-year-old from Five, Logan, gets only a three. His district partner, Ruthie, gets a seven. Zev from District 6 gets a score to match his District number, while shaky, paranoid Elsa receives the lowest score I can remember anyone getting; a two. Hawk, the boy from Seven, gets a nine. I'm sure Antigone will target him right away. Fawn, Hawk's district partner, gets a six. The eight tributes, Bernard and Agatha, get a seven and four, respectively. From Nine, Tucker earned a five, and Teresa a three. The twelve year olds from Ten , Bronco and Dixie get a five and a four. From eleven, Granger and Raisin both earn fives. Finally, from District Twelve, Elmer gets a four, and Ivy a seven. Then Caesar bids everyone goodnight, and Mags shuts off the tv.

"Mariah," she says, "I would like to speak with you in your room now. "

Mariah blows a raspberry and rolls her eyes, but retreats to her room with Mags following behind. I wonder what this is about, but then Chauncey heads to the kitchen, and Marissa turns to me. "That leaves you and me, Finnick? Mind if we have a little chat about your strategy so I can get to know you?"

"Doesn't that defeat the purpose?" I ask, genuinely confused. "You're Mariah's mentor. Shouldn't you be getting to know her, and Mags be helping me. Anything I say you can use to help her."

Marissa hesitates. "Well, yes, I am Mariah's mentor, but Mags and I are a team. Our goal is for one of our tributes to come home, and when one tribute dies, both of us turn our attention to the remaining tribute in hopes that together, we can save them. That's why I want to get to know you. So, tell me about yourself."

I tell her about my life back home. I talk mostly about my parents, my friends, training, and fishing. I also tell her why I volunteered.

Marissa smiles. "Yeah, Mags told me about that. That's brave of you. I volunteered for my younger cousin, actually, when I was eighteen. I wasn't planning on ever volunteering, and apparently, neither did anyone else that year, so I volunteered last minute." She pauses suddenly, lost in thought. "Anyway, enough about me. What's your strategy? Mags said you were taking on a charming appeal, but what else?"

"I was going to stay with my alliance until I thought the time was right," I reply. Other than that, I have no idea."

Marissa nods. "I really don't know what else I can tell you that Mags hasn't already. I personally won the games by outsmarting my fellow careers and turning them against each other. I doubt the girl from Two would fall from anything you tried to do the same."

I shake my head. "Probably not."

We talk for a little while, until Mags comes out of Mariah's room. "One last thing. Do you prefer Finnick, or something else? Do you have a nickname?

I shrug. "Finnick's fine. Sometimes I go by Finn, I guess, but usually that's just my mom. Or this girl I know, Annie. What about you?"

"Rissa," the young victor replies. "By my husband, Reef, a few of the other victors, my family, and my friends. So basically, a lot of people."

I grin. "Can I call you that?"

"Tell you what. Win the games, and then you can."

I laugh. "Deal."

"No, walk should be more like this," Mags struts across the room, swinging her hips ever so slightly and winking and waving to an imaginary crowd. as she demonstrates how I should walk across the stage at the interviews tonight. She looks so ridiculous, I can't help but burst out laughing.

"Finnick! This is serious!" she scolds, but she eventually loses it and laughs too. "I know, I know. I'm too old to be doing this. But I'm trying to make you lighten up. Make your movements more fluid. Right now, they're too stiff. Try it again."

I cross the room for what must be the twentieth, thirtieth, fortieth time. I try to mimic Mag's walk, modifying her demonstration to fit a fourteen -year-old boy instead a seventy-year-old woman. "Good!" Mags says smiling. "If you add your seductive voice we've been working on, you'll be sure to charm every Capitolite in the audience."

That night, Augustus slicks back my hair and dresses me in light grey slacks, a white dress shirt and a black sweater vest and tie. "There," he says, rolling up my sleeves to the elbows and hemming them. "Now you look fancy, but at the same time, your most attractive areas are still brought out!"

"Uh… thanks," I say. I know Augustus is only trying to help, but I don't know how he thinks of these things.

My stylist grins. "Now problem, kiddo!" He gently pushes me out into the hallway. "Now get out there! It's showtime!"

Merit is the first to the stage. Her sweet, laid back personality makes everyone smile. She talks about her mother and sister who are waiting for her back home. Dusk is energetic and giddy, answering all Caesar's questions with enthusiasm. Antigone is bold, determined and intimidating and she seems ready to kill all of the tributes here and now. Roman doesn't say much and answers questions with as few words as possible. I don't know if he's just shy, or trying to be vague. Mariah tries to seem confident, but I can tell she's nervous. If I were to mention this fact to her though, she'd probably punch me in the face, which won't work for my sexy appeal at all.

The buzzer sounds. "Mariah Manchester, ladies and gentlemen!" The crowd cheers, but settles down so Caesar can announce the next tribute. Me.

"And now, for the brave fourteen year old from District Four that everyone's talking about! Finnick Odair!"

I strut onto the stage just as Mags taught me, trying not to feel awkward. I must not do too terribly of a job, because the crowd screams and cheers wildly. I smile and wave as I sit down, feeling a little overwhelmed. I find Mags in the crowd, and she gives me a reassuring smile. Finally, after what seems like several minutes, Caesar finally gets the crowd under control.

"So Finnick, I hope you're enjoying the Capitol so far. I know everyone just loves you."

"I am enjoying the Capitol very much, Caesar. Thanks for asking. And what's not to love about all this," I say seductively, gesturing at my body. The crowd roars to life again, but all I can think is wrong, wrong, WRONG.

"Alright folks, alright! I know we all love Finnick Odair, but we have only so little time! Let's let the boy talk while we have the chance." Caesar turns back to me. "Now, you were a volunteer, correct? Can you tell us why you volunteered?"

"Why, I had to Caesar. I knew Nyle, the boy I volunteered for, was scared to go into the games. He didn't think he could win, and no one else was volunteering, so it was the least I could do. Besides, I have a chance to win this thing! I have a nine, after all!"

"Yes, yes!" Caesar cries. "Very impressive! How did you do it? What's your strategy?"

I chuckle. "Now, Caesar, I can't give away my secrets!"

The Capitol host smiles ruefully. "No, I suppose not. Well, then tell me about your life back home? Your family?"

I smile. "I live with my mother and father, who are both very proud of me. I'm an only child."

"And your mentor, Mags Cohen, is related to you, correct?"

I nod. "She's my grandmother's cousin, but she's like another grandmother to me," I look Mags in the eye and wave to her. "Hi Mags!"

The camera zooms in on Mags's face, and she smiles and nods to both me and it.

"So you have your mother, father, and Mags. Anyone else? A girlfriend, perhaps?"

I slowly smile. "Ah, no Caesar. At least, not a steady girlfirend. I'm a bachelor. A very elligable bachelor, I might add." I wink at the crowd, which once again cheers and whistles. A few women faint.

"I'm sure everyone is glad to hear that! Finnick, I wish you the best of luck in the games. We would all be devastated if you perished."

I shake my head. "Don't worry. I'll win for you. All of you."

Caesar laughs. "That's the spirit! Ladies and gentlemen, Finnick Odair!"

I bow dramatically, resulting in more cheers and hollers, and leave the stage to watch the rest of the interviews. Only a few stand out. The twelve year old boy, Logan melts hearts by talking about his older brother and sister, who both died in the games when they were twelve. It seems he doesn't believe his fate will be any different, which sadly, is most likely true.

After Logan, there is an awkward pause. No one moves. Finally, two peacekeepers enter the hall the tributes are waiting in and yank a girl who was previously hunched over on the ground to her feet. "No! Stop! Don't make me!" the girl screams, but it's no use. The peacekeepers force her into the chair anyway. The crowd is silent, other than a few whispers.

"Elsa Slivinski… District Six." Caesar says. "You scored a two, one of the lowest scores I can remember. Could you tell me what happened?"

Elsa shakes her head. She pulls her knees up to her chest and buries her head in them. Even from here, I can see her shake violently. "N-no! Leave me alone!" she cries.

"I'm sorry, I suppose we just assumed better of a victor's daughter -"

"Don't talk about my mother!" Elsa screams, tears streaming down her face. "She's dead! I'm not her, okay?! I'm not!" She buries her head again and begins crying hysterically.

Caesar awkwardly puts a hand on the eighteen-year-old girl's shoulder, but she jumps and slaps him away. "Don't touch me!"

Caesar sits back in his chair, flabbergasted and clearly unsure what to do. "I… I think someone had better escort this poor girl off the stage."

The peacekeepers half-drag Elsa roughly offstage and dump her on the ground, where the tributes gather around her curiously. The Six girl mutters one word, over and over again. Morphine.

My eyes widen with realization. Morphine. She must be a morphine addict. I heard it was kind of a big problem in Six, but I never imagined it ever affected someone so young. I guess it must have something to do with her victor mother.

From that moment, the crowd never gets their energy back. If anything, the rest of the interviews make things worse. Bernard and Agatha, the tributes from eight, reveal that they are half siblings. Agatha grew up with their father , the mayor of Eight and her mother, and Bernard with his maternal aunt. They didn't know about each other until after the reaping, when Bernard's aunt visited them both separately and told them. Bronco and Dixie are twelve-year-old best friends from Ten. Their families were friends for years, and after Bronco's parents both died due to different circumstances, Bronco and his younger brother were taken in by Dixie's family. Not even bubbly Raisin or kind Ivy cheer up the Capitol. As Elmer, the boy from Twelve walks of the stage, everyone is dismissed.

In less than twelve hours, all twenty-four of us will be entering the arena. I hope I never have to kill the twelve-year-olds, or Elsa, or Agatha, or Raisin, or Ivy. But this is the Hunger Games. If I'm going to come home, all twenty-three of the other tributes will have to die.

I'm really not ready for this.

Author's note: That was the saddest set of interviews I've ever written. Which tribute is your favorite so far, other than Finnick?

And yes, I did get the name Elsa from Frozen, but the tribute from Six is definitely not based on Queen Elsa of Arendelle.

Next chapter: We enter the arena. But is everything exactly how it seems?