Happy Hunger Games!
Not my favorite holiday.
As I'm standing in the line filled with others my age, the more taking Katniss' hand and running to live in the woods seems like a better option. A better option than watching teenagers pulled away from their families. Than watching them die. What's worse, though, is that I may very easily be one of them this year. The odds are against me, and have always been against me. Damn tesserae. Just another tool to give the capitol entertainment.
I looked around in my line, to see who else was in danger.
A few girls in my history class waved to me. I waved back, smiling. I might as well try to be cheerful. One walked up to me.
"Hi Gale!" She wrapped her arms around my back.
"You wouldn't want me to suffocate, Reina."
She giggled. A couple of her friends were staring at our encounter. They started motioning for her to come back to them.
"Well, good luck today." She placed her hand on my arm, close to my shoulder, and skipped back. Many girls seemed to ogle at my presence every now and then, for reasons I can't understand. I was happy our brief meeting was over.
My eyes moved to the seventeens, then to the sixteens. Directly in front of me and a few places to the right was Katniss. Her slender figure was waiting, worried for Prim. Scanning the line, my eyes landed on the baker's boy. What was his name? Peter? Peeta? That was it. Peeta. When I walked into the bakery this morning, he was scowling in my direction, for who knows why. Either way, I didn't like the look of him.
Sooner or later, I sought out Prim. All the way in the back, she was rocking on her heels, twitching her fingers. She should be fine. Her name has only been entered once, and Katniss had told me that she forbade her to take any tesserae. My line of vision traveled back to Katniss. She looked pretty in what I would guess is her mother's dress, and some heels saved only for special occasions. I wouldn't call the reaping a special occasion. A cruddy occasion is more like it. And then Mayor Undersee shushed us, and went into the drab history of Panem. And then Haymitch Abernathy, district twelve's only living victor, hobbled into his empty chair, stark drunk. After Effie got out of Haymitch's clutches, she stepped up to the podium.
"Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!"
I rolled my eyes, and took comfort in the thought that Katniss was probably doing the same. I mustered up whatever remains of a smile I could find when Katniss turned to me. But her answering expression wasn't exactly gracious. I knew she would be thinking about the forty-two slips in the mixture, and how it's likely I may be picked. I blinked and my grin erased. I turned away.
Effie continued with her traditional phrase, "ladies first." I almost crossed my fingers in my wishing for Katniss' name to be missed when Effie put her fingers in the glass orb. My desire was satiated.
The next events happened simultaneously.
I froze in place. Not prim. She was a goner. The odds are acting up least if Katniss would have been picked, she could hunt and defend herself. Speak of the Devil, and the devil appears. After Katniss steadied herself, she bounded up the stairs, shoved Prim behind her, and spoke unspeakable words.
"I volunteer! I volunteer as a tribute!" Somehow, I became even more frigid. In one way or another, I broke the numbness and ran up the stairs to catch Katniss' squirming sister.
"Up you go, Catnip." I tried to summon some twisted type of affection, but it just didn't come through. I continued to carry off a still wriggling Prim to her astonished mother.
Effie was very amused with the current situation.
"I'll bet my buttons that was your sister. Don't want her to steal all the glory do we? Come on everybody! Let's give a big round of applause to our newest tribute!"
I wanted to rip off Effie Trinket's pink head. Does she know how much this costs us? My visions of holding that wig were interrupted by the silent thanks. I raise my fingers to my lips and extend them out to best friend. Haymitch chooses this sentimental moment to freely taunt the capitol, accusing them for lack of spunk, unlike our newest tribute, who apparently has a lot of the trait.
And then it's time for the male tribute. I desperately hope it's not me. I couldn't stand having to kill Katniss- no, she deserves to win, she's brave and skilled and kind- having Katniss kill me. I crossed my fingers and bit my lip.
I loosen my tense stance. The bread boy. As he takes sullen steps up to the stage, I notice Katniss' shocked expression. I thanked some type of god for letting Effie's hand avoid one of my forty-two slips, and brought my attention back to the view in front of me. Peeta looked intensely worried, and Katniss held her gaze on her shoes. Trying to conceal her emotions, I would guess. I wonder if Peeta knew whom he was up against, but I would also guess from his constant gazes to the girl to his right, he did. He knew fully well that he was most likely dying in that arena. For once, I felt sympathetic to the boy who had glared at me this morning, to the boy I had never spoken to. But that flash of compassion was gone. Katniss was soon going to be pitted against 22 other adolescents, fighting to kill her. And then the anthem played.
I found myself in a lobby in the justice building, waiting to see my friend-turned-tribute. I waited awhile, watching Katniss' family, the baker, and, to my surprise, Madge, leave the building. A peacekeeper ushered me in to a room that was nothing like the rooms in my house, where I found Katniss almost to the point of tears on a plush couch. I went with instinct. Open arms.
She leapt into them. I hugged her as tight as possible, knowing I may not be able to do this again. Advice. I should give her advice.
"Listen. Getting a knife should be pretty easy, but you've got to get your hands on a bow. That's your best chance." I said this remembering her clean shots on many squirrels in our past.
"They don't always have bows." I remembered the years with the varied weapons, ranging from cannons to spiked maces.
"Then make one," She can try. "A weak bow is better than no bow at all."
"I don't even know if there'll be wood." There usually was. There was never any entertainment watching tributes thirst to death in dry, flaming desert, or freeze sleeping on glaciers.
"There's almost always some wood. Since that year, half of them died cold," I said this remembering some previous year. "Not much entertainment in that."
"Yes, there's usually some."
"Katniss, it's just hunting. You're the best hunter I know." It was fully true.
"It's not just hunting. Their armed, they think." As if she didn't.
"So do you. And you've had more practice. Real practice. You know how to kill."
"Not people." I slightly shuddered.
"How different can it be, really?" I said this with a churlish tone. Katniss bit her lip.
The peacekeepers abruptly entered the room, trying to drag me away. I asked for more time, for it had seemed like only seconds. They continued to haul me out the door. Katniss' became frenzied.
"Don't let them starve!" she was still securing my hand with hers. Like she was holding on for dear life. And it dawned on me that she was. That as soon as she let go, she might as well be dead. That I loved her. Really, truly loved her.
"I won't! You know I won't! Katniss, remember I-" And I'm on the other side of the room. And I won't be able to confess my love for her.
I ran straight out of the building. I didn't stop for air, to rest. I just kept running. Running until it would all disappear. The hunger games, the seam. Just into a state of numbness. I settled for the spot where Katniss and I sat mere hours ago, in our forest. I unfolded my bag of strawberries from my back pocket, and popped a plump ripe fruit into my mouth. The train carrying the tributes sailed across the tracks on the nearby mountains, the train we would watch every year. And it was me, myself, and I pondering over this love that had been planted in my being which I never recognized. This love for Katniss.
And I won't be able to tell the object of my affection. Because, well, the odds are against her. But, then again, the odds haven't been very staunch today.