A lot of people seem to be writing Glimmer for oneshots at the moment so I thought I would have a go too - started off as being a response to one of Gethsemane's word prompt challenges but I got a bit carried away...(there are still prompt references in it though)
As ever, I would love to know what you think - I don't like to beg for reviews but I might consider it...
The Price of Beauty
I suppose that as a fully trained Career Tribute, I really shouldn't be thinking such a ridiculous thing, but as the final seconds before the Games begin to tick away I know in my heart that it is true. I have never wanted to become a tribute. It was always my father's dream but never mine. He always told me that my beauty would be the death of him, but now it looks like it will be the making of my end instead.
I very deliberately made it so that I wasn't the first person to reach the stage on reaping day in the usual mad dash to volunteer. I had hoped that I could make it look like I had tried but sadly failed to get there first, and then act as if I was disappointed that I would be too old next year at the same time as celebrating inside that I had the rest of my life to look forward to without the threat of the Games hanging over my head.
It didn't work out that way though. Our Capitol escort took one look at me and then pushed the true victor out of the way, obviously deciding that my flawless face should be the one that represents District 1 this year and raising my arm in victory instead. It all happened so quickly that I didn't have time to do anything about it, and I remember exactly how I felt, how I wished that just once I could blend into a crowd rather than stand out.
I know that I have more chance than most of seeing my home district again. If I am not skilled in the use of every weapon then I am more than adequate with most, and I am certain that I won over the Capitol audience as I can still hear their cheers of my name ringing in my ears. But I am not the only trained tribute here, and if everything I have seen so far combined with viewing past year's Hunger Games is anything to go by, then I imagine that District 2 will be a lot scarier than me. The exact same thought that I cannot avoid as the seconds tick by was in my head even as I faced the crowd when the anthem played on reaping day. I am eighteen years old. I don't want to die.
It all started exactly ten years ago. My father started my training when I was eight years old, for the simple reason that anybody who is anybody in District 1 did the same with his second born child, including the man who lives next door, the man who my father has observed closely with the green eyes of jealousy for as long as I can remember. I am that spare child, the one who isn't destined to inherit the family fortune, the one who can be lost without much of a problem.
As I stare at the golden Cornucopia, waiting for Claudius Templesmith to announce that our minute is up and for the chaos of the inevitable bloodbath to begin, I realise that if I die then my blood will be on the hands of the man who lives next door to my family. The one who has always had just that little bit more money than my father, whose latest mistress is just that little bit more beautiful. It is his fault that everything he did, my father had to try to do it better, despite the fact that everyone but him could see clearly that he was never going to succeed.
I stand shivering on my metal plate in spite of the heat of the morning sun that is blazing down on me, surrounded by the twenty-three people who stand between me and my return to District 1. Some look terrified, some just look shell-shocked, finding themselves suddenly unable to comprehend how truly desperate a situation they are in. Only a couple of them appear totally unafraid, my district partner, Marvel, being one of them. This doesn't surprise me in the slightest. It would take more than the Hunger Games to put a dent in his unshakeable arrogance, and it gives me great pleasure to meet his eyes and then look disdainfully away. As he has so frequently reminded me over the past few days, he may have had everything that he has ever wanted in the past, but I am determined that he will not have me, however hard he tries.
I am beautiful. I know that I am. It is not arrogance to say so, merely stating a fact that I have known to be true since the day that I was old enough to look at my reflection in a mirror. Over the years I have found that my beauty is my greatest weapon, allowing me to see places that other, less visually blessed people never have access to. A smile here and a wink of my eye there and there are not many who will not do whatever it is that I ask of them. It is also a useful screen to hide behind. Stupid, beautiful Glimmer, everybody thinks. Surely nobody blessed with that much beauty could have a brain as well? That is where they are wrong, but that is not to say that I don't allow them to believe what they will if it suits my purpose. I will need all of my wiles to survive the arena, and believe me that is the only reason that I suffered being paraded around like a cheap whore for the interviews last night. It still pains me to think about it now, and it is only the thought of the rich young men in the Capitol who must be tripping over themselves to sponsor me that makes me think it might be worth it in the end.
That is the conclusion that I reached after a long conversation with Marvel's mentor anyway, who was the one who eventually convinced me to go on the stage. My own mentor, Cashmere, would never have understood. She liked the awful gold dress. So much so that she bought it from my stylist while I was still wearing it, not sharing my feelings of disgust at parading around more than half-naked in front of the entire population of Panem.
Her brother, Gloss, had understood though. It was he who came to me after we had returned to our floor of the Training Centre and silently lifted the hated golden dress over my head, replacing it with one that was covered entirely in diamonds and must be worth more than all of the lower districts put together. He offered his arm to me and escorted me to the roof of the building, where we danced around and around to the music that drifted up from the streets of the Capitol until I thought of the evening's events no more. If he does the same to all of the female tributes he mentors then I don't care, and that night when he knocked softly on my bedroom door, I called for him to come in as I had done every night since we arrived in the Capitol, not because I loved him or imagined even for a second that he loved me, but because he provided me with a way to avoid the progressively worsening nightmares of the Games that I have had since I was a small girl. Because he provided me with an escape in the only way that he could.
It can't be long to go now and I find myself staring at the other tributes once more, trying to calm my racing heart. My eyes fix upon the one man who seems not only unaffected by my charms but totally oblivious to them as well. Once I had started to come to terms with being a tribute enough to be able to start planning a strategy, I had reached the obvious conclusion that the best thing to do would be to use the favourite plan of so many attractive female Careers, which is to attach herself to the strongest, most powerful male tribute that she can and hope that he doesn't turn on her before she can turn on him.
This was where I reached my first problem. For the strongest and most powerful male tribute in the Games is undoubtedly the man from District 2. I was initially very positive about our soon-to-be alliance, unable to avoid noticing how attractive he is and deciding that winning his protection really wouldn't be a horrific prospect to contemplate at all. That was until I saw her. The girl from his district. Clove. The girl who, when he thinks nobody is looking, he cannot keep his eyes off. It wouldn't have been so bad if his feelings were unreciprocated, but the more I watch them the more I realise that it is not so. And if I watch her then she watches me in equal measure. I think that she worked out what I was trying to do as early on as the Opening Ceremony, and if I am honest with myself then I knew I had failed when she stared right back at me from her chariot, smiling a false, knowing smile as if to say that I can do what I like but I will never turn his head away from her.
Once we got to the first day of training I realised that it was time for Plan B, or at least time to be a lot more subtle about Plan A, for when I saw her throwing knives with her face fixed in an expression of violent rage I have never seen the equal of before, I realised that Career Alliance or no Career Alliance, the poisonous little viper would probably stab me in the back as soon as the starting gong rings if I didn't change my strategy.
So I did. I listened to my mentors and decided to forget about everyone else and about forming alliances, coming to the conclusion that I should think only about myself and see what happens. I spent so many hours thinking of countless strategies and many possible variations on them, considering anything and everything that might help me stay alive.
But there is no time to think anymore, for the gong sounds and the chaos begins. If I stop to think then I will die for certain, so I don't think, I just keep running, keep fighting, and when my spear sinks into the body of my first victim I barely notice that he is there. I don't remember his name or even which district he is from.
They say in the lower districts that the Hunger Games makes monsters of us all one way or another, and though I have never believed them in the past, I know now that they are right.