Lukas Veridia, 17: District 7 Male

Often, I am upset

That I cannot fall in love

But I guess

This avoids the stress of falling out of it

July 1, 73 ADD: 6 days before Reaping

The heat radiates relentlessly as the constant mechanized humming of the many types of motorized saw permeate even through my noise-cancelling headphones. The sun is close to its highest point, beating down on the sawmill relentlessly. Those who work here don't have the luxury of the shade of the trees that the lumber yards provide. It's usually not too bad considering that District 7 summers are usually mild, but this recent heat wave has made working out in the open nearly unbearable.

I load up the steel bed of the mechanical bandsaw with a log, tightening the clamps on each side. With the push of a handle, the saw starts up. Sawdust is kicked up as I work my way down the length of the log. It's a strenuous task. I have to use a great deal of force to cut through the whole log only to go back and repeat the process until the log is reduced to a bunch of long wooden planks.

I bend down to lift up and load another log when I feel a hand on my shoulder. I jump at the sudden sensation, nearly stumbling over the stack of logs as I turn around. My coworker Zelie stands in front of me, saying something that I can't quite hear. Her lips move too fast for me to make out any words.

"What?" I say, squinting as if that'll help me hear any better. Zelie reaches up and takes my headphones off, draping them around my neck.

"It's time for our lunch break," she says, walking in the direction of the large log cabin that holds our break room. Without a word, I follow her. I watch as the last few crew members enter the cabin.

I can hear the thirty or so voices talking amongst each other before the door opens. Everyone on shift eats lunch together. I honestly wish we didn't. There's just too many people in one space. On top of that, there's always at least one person trying to make small talk. I wish I could just ignore everyone and that everyone would do the same to me. Life would be so much easier that way.

I make my way to my locker in a room just off the main entrance. The small space is occupied by at least seven of my coworkers, talking amongst each other. Two older guys are engaged in a conversation right in front of my locker. My stomach growls in hunger.

Just ask them to move.

My mind searches for the right words to say, but nothing comes up. Even if I could find the right words, would they even move? I'd end up just awkwardly standing here, waiting for them to finish their conversation.

"Hey guys," Zelie says, stepping in right on time to bail me out. "I hate to interrupt your conversation, but you're in front of our coworker's locker and he needs to get his lunch."

"Oh, sorry about that," the shorter one says as they both move out of the way.

"Y'know kid," the other starts, speaking specifically to me. "We would've moved if you said something."

Hardly acknowledging their suggestion, I hastily open my locker and grab the brown paper bag that holds my lunch. I keep my head down as I head towards my usual seat in the back corner of the break room, away from everyone else. Before I can even start eating, Zelie pulls up a chair and sits directly across the table from me. Normally, she goes off and sits with some of her other coworker friends. She knows I prefer to be alone, so why is she invading what little privacy I have here?

"Hey, Lukas," she says.

"Hey." My response is barely audible. There's an awkward silence that lasts too long for my comfort. I would say something to break the discomfort, but what do I even say? And what if I say the wrong thing? Zelie will probably think I'm a total freakshow.

"So, how are you holding up?" Zelie asks, breaking the awkwardness.

"Fine," I answer.

"I didn't embarrass you back there, did I?" Zelie's blue eyes look directly into mine. I quickly avert my gaze, looking at my sandwich that I haven't even taken a bite out of.

"No, not really," I lie. To be honest, I was embarrassed before Zelie spoke up for me. Her having to be my mouthpiece only added to the embarrassment. Those guys are probably talking about how stupid I looked just standing there, not saying a word. That's why I'd rather just not talk to anyone. That way there'd be no reason for people to judge me.

"That's a relief," Zelie sighs. "By the way you booked it out of there, I would've thought you were absolutely humiliated."

I was.

"Oh, uhh– I was just hungry," I say. Zelie looks down at my uneaten sandwich then back at me. Setting aside my aversion to eating in front of people, I take a bite out of my sandwich. It tastes just as bland as it does every other day.

"Right." I can hear the doubt in Zelie's voice. She knows I'm lying.

You wouldn't have to lie if you just asked those guys to move like a normal fucking human being.

"Anyways," she continues. "You nervous about Saturday?"

"What's Saturday?"

"The Reaping," Zelie says. "You know, the thing that happens every year?"

"Oh, yeah. That," I say, "I try not to think about that stuff too much."

As a matter of fact, I never really considered getting reaped a possibility. I mean, no one I've known has ever come close to being reaped. Plus, my family makes just enough to avoid having to apply for tesserae. There's no need for me to be worried about the Reaping. The chances of my name being called are slim to none.

"Well, I guess that's good," Zelie says. "Considering how nervous you seem about everything else."

I nearly choke on a chunk of my sandwich. Zelie can see right through me. She thinks I'm nothing more than a wound up ball of nerves. This is why I should've avoided her on my first day here. I shouldn't have said a single word to her. She probably talks about how much of a weirdo I am to all of her friends. Everyone probably laughs at me behind my back, mocking every little thing I do or say. This wouldn't have happened if I kept to myself like always. I'm always the most vulnerable when I'm around other people. Nothing bad ever happens when I'm alone. That's when I'm the safest.

Foster Santalale, 18: District 7 Female

I been trying not to go off the deep end

I don't think you wanna give me a reason

I been trying not to go off the deep end

I don't think you wanna give me a reason

July 2, 73ADD: 5 days before Reaping

I wipe the sweat off my brow as I place another log on the tree stump. I steady myself before bringing my axe down, splitting the wood into two even pieces. I grab another log and repeat the process. This is all I do for my entire shift, splitting wood until the work day is over. It's a monotonous undertaking; get a log, place it on the stump, split the log, repeat. The repetitiveness of it all provides a sense of routine. I've developed an appreciation for this routine, especially with everything that has transpired over the past few months.

Everything had been normal for eighteen years. My mother, father, and I got along fairly well. Sure, we had our occasional disagreements and arguments, but that happens in every family. I was my parents' only child and they did everything they could to make my life comfortable with the limited resources they had. Life wasn't easy by any means, but I was happy with what I had.

Dad was easy to relate to. We had so much in common. It was like I inherited my entire personality from him. I can't count how many times I was told that I was smart like he was. Almost everything about us just clicked. We both prefer to sit back and observe the world around us. Neither one of us is the talkative, extroverted type. I remember how we were able to just sit in silence and enjoy each other's company.

Mom and I mostly had good memories up until recently. I had always thought of her as an amazing mother. She took care of me, looked out for me; she did everything that a mother should do. There are a few hazy memories of her rough moments, but there was never anything she did that would have ruined our relationship. However, that all changed on my birthday.

My parents had been saving up their money in the few months leading up to my birthday to make the day special. It wasn't anything too grand, just a nice dinner and a few drinks. For my mother, those few drinks turned into multiple bottles. In her inebriated state, she broke down crying. I'll never forget what she said that night.

"Foster, Emery Santalale isn't your father."

Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. How could this man not be my father? We were practically the same person. It didn't make any sense.

"He had a work accident that left him sterile."

I could already tell where my mother was going next, and I still wasn't ready. Nothing could have prepared me for such a revelation.

"I was frustrated and desperate, so I had an affair with Sorrel Maxon."

I didn't want to hear anything else out of my mother's mouth, but there was nothing I could say to stop her. There was nothing I could say at all.

"Our boss is your real father."

In a matter of minutes, my entire world had been flipped upside down. I was too stunned to speak as my mother continued to sob and blubber out apologies. I couldn't bear to hear another word that night. I didn't even want to see my mother's face. I looked at the man I had once called my father, but he wouldn't look back at me. I was in dire need of some form of comfort from the only person I could even consider confiding in that fucked up situation, but I got nothing. Both Magnolia and Emery Santalale failed me that day.

I still call Emery my dad, but he doesn't view me as his daughter anymore. In the days after my mother's confession, I tried to talk to him, but he refuses to speak to me more than what is absolutely necessary. He doesn't want anything to do with me. It didn't matter that he raised me, protected me, loved me. The fact that I am not his daughter by blood has tainted me in his eyes. I've pretty much given up on reconciliation, accepting that the man I see as my father doesn't see me as his child.

My mother has tried to make amends with me, but what she's done to me is unforgivable. She robbed me of a relationship with my dad. There's nothing that she could do to right her wrongs. For eighteen years she knew that her husband was not the father of her daughter. She knew that she had cheated on him because he couldn't provide her with what she wanted. It isn't fair that I have to be the consequence of her indecent actions.

It's become glaringly obvious that my dad doesn't want to live with me or my mother any longer. His attitude is ice cold to the both of us. He can hardly stand to be in the same room as either one of us. But we don't have the money to move him out, so we're stuck. We're stuck living with this terrible tension between all three of us. That's why I try to stay out of the house as much as possible these days. The monotony of work seems to be the only thing that brings me a little peace, but even then I can't fully escape this bullshit.

My "real" father doesn't even know that one of his employees is his child. Sorrel Maxon sees me as just another name on the payroll. His jovial, happy-go-lucky demeanor is insufferable. I don't even think he even considered the consequences his and my mother's affair could have on his own family. His wife and three children have never even heard of his little fling almost two decades ago. I could just drop a bomb on him and make his entire world come crashing down, but the rest of his family doesn't deserve to have their life completely shattered like mine. Besides, I can't walk away from a conversation with him without wanting to throw up. Therefore, I have to bear the burden of knowing the truth while he continues to live in blissful ignorance.

I miss being able to live in ignorance of all the shit going on in my family. Life was much better that way; living with a mother I loved and a father who loved me. There's nothing I can do to bring that life back. I'm stuck with this shitty hand I've been dealt, and I don't think anything could possibly be worse.

Whaddup peeps,

So it's been a while, huh? Sorry about that. Life gets busy sometimes. I hope y'all haven't totally given up on me. I wish I could keep a consistent update schedule, but that isn't really an option for me. I'll try to update more frequently inn the future, but I really can't make any promises. On another note, thank you to The Garden for Lukas and to silversshade for Foster. I had a lot of fun writing these two.

Lukas: Home by Cavetown

Foster: Deep End by Fousheé

I'll see you guys again inn District 8!

Until next time,