Solace Amin

Back home in District One, there was a tradition we kept. It was an old festival, and the meaning of the celebration was lost to history, but pieces of it survived. I remember as a little girl I would walk down the streets, giggling as strangers and friends would smear powdered paint across my face while we walked the street. There were all different colors: reds, greens, and purples that would smear together, sometimes even staining my smiling teeth when they would flash too wide.

Now the only color that's painted on my face is a red so dark that it almost looks black in the muddy water. My sleeve is tucked over the palm of my hand, dipping into the dirty puddle and scrubbing against my face, trying to wipe away the color.

My Amma would have to drag me into the tub after the festival would end, kicking and screaming while I protested in loud, brash decrees. I was colorful and beautiful and bright and felt like someone unique and special when that layer of paint hardened over my skin, my dazzling suit of armor. But she would drop me into the tub anyways, and I would grumble and whine when the brush would roughly scratch my skin, but Amma would always be there with the words that I needed to hear.

I wish she were here now, whispering to me again that beneath the paint I was beautiful and strong and bright, much more dazzling than any smears of color ever could be. But these colors are harder to wash off. No warm tub of water waits for me. There's no promise of another day a year from now where colors will speckle my face again.

The muscles in my hand go quiet. In the muddied reflection, my palm rests softly on my cheek, red pressing against red, little droplets of crimson water pushing away from my skin.

Amma used to tell me the festival celebrated Love. The start of new Love, repairing broken Loves, and strengthening the Loves we already hold. These colors don't represent any of that.

I wonder if back home Amma and all the others are watching me. I hope they aren't. I don't care if they watched me run from my ally in the bloodbath, ignoring his screams as I just kept on running. I don't care if they held their breath and prayed when that arrow sunk into my shoulder and I screamed, feeling my heart go still as I jumped off the cliff, away from the boy with the bow and into the currents below. I don't even care if they felt shock or fear or anger or disgust when I realized that the spear I was swinging had somehow lodged itself into that girl's chest.

But I hope they don't see me now. I hope, more than I've ever hoped for anything else, more than I even hope to win this awful game and see my family again. I hope they didn't see that boy stagger up to me with my knife in his gut. I hope they weren't frozen in place the same way I was as he brought his hand up and smeared his colors along my cheek.

I hope they aren't watching me now, and seeing the same image flash across their eyes that I see in the mud. Of a younger me, eyes wide and smile even wider, with color smeared across her face.

My hand slides across my cheek, and I pray that Amma isn't kneeling beside the television, her hand pressed to the screen, trying to wipe away the colors and reveal her radiant, beautiful little girl hiding beneath.

Hello! I am CC and this is my syot! It's been a long time since I've written a story on this site, but I've slowly been drifting back and I came up with an idea for this story that I don't think I've ever seen before, and so here I am! I would love to get 24 tributes for this story, but if I don't get enough I will be happy to write it as a partial too :)

I have the submission form on my profile, and I would be happy to answer any questions you have for me! I really do think this is going to be a unique, special story, and it would make me incredibly happy to see any of you trust me with one of your characters.

A special thank you to David (David12341) for being an incredibly supportive friend who I wouldn't still be here without, and a thank you to the lovely Ms. Optimism (Optimism) for being so kind toward me while I take my baby steps back into this community. I look forward to hopefully getting to meet more incredible people over the course of this story :)

Wishing you all the absolute best,