"No, Alora, don't do this!" I exclaim. She doesn't look at me when I yell at her. We have had this same arguement about a hundred times over the past two years. Never have I made a dent in her determination. Never have I come close to convincing her not to do what she is about to do.
"I've told you, Mags," she tells me. "This is for the best. I've trained hard, and everybody here knows that I'm the best person for the job." The look she gives me is partly consoling, partly sympathetic.
She is right, of course. She has a better chance of winning the Hunger Games than any other girl in District 4. She is beautiful, muscular, smart, and deadly. She has the support of the entire district, even before she has volunteered. It is a no-brainer that Alora should be the one to enter the arena representing us.
The rub is that she has an entire family to support. Her four sisters are all too young to fish, and her dad abandoned the family last year for a merchant lady who sells jewelry to the richest ladies in the district. Her mother is addicted to sleep syrup, and she only spends about two hours a day conscious.
"Alora, you are too important to your family to send yourself into the arena! Plus, you'll be going in next to Onyx if you volunteer!"
Onyx Overly is the most promising male tribute our district has seen since our very own Elo Lazzian won the sixteenth Hunger Games eight years ago. That year marked the beginning of an eight year drought in the games. We haven't had a winner since then, but this year, everyone is convinced that Onyx will change that.
"Mags, I keep telling you," Alora says, the tone in her voice suggesting superiority. "I'm not scared of Onyx, I can take him. My family will survive for a couple weeks, and I'll be right back. No harm done…" she trails off. And with that, she hikes up her dress and speeds up, hoping to lose me.
"Alora!" I yell after her, knowing that she won't slow down. I'm so frustrated and scared for her that the tears start flowing, adding yet another emotion to my already overly-emotional mindset.
I run back to my house and dress hastily in my reaping dress. It is beautiful thanks to my mother. She takes used clothing from merchant women and alters them for the women in the district who can't afford to buy new clothing. This dress actually used to be a trench coat, but she cut the brown leather in such a way that it drapes itself elegantly over my slim frame. The deep brown of the dress matches perfectly with my dark brown curls that run just past my shoulders.
I apply minimal make up to my face, then jolt down the stairs. My mother is busy preparing a simple brunch for my brother and me: pineapple, swordfish, and onions – simple, but delicious. I take my spot at the table and wait for my brother, Milt, to join me.
He jumps down all the stairs and sits in the chair next to me. He is dressed nicely in grey pants and a forest green shirt. It is refreshing to see him out of his swim trunks and tank tops that he adorns daily.
His expression isn't worried. It would be comforting to know you had someone as dependable as Onyx ready to step up and take the reaping bullet for you. He doesn't mimic my apprehension at all; in fact, he looks rather excited for his first reaping.
When breakfast is done, Mom begins clearing the table. "Mom, go get dressed, we're going to be late," I insist. She regretfully throws the towel in the sink and sprints upstairs. She is back down again in a yellow sun dress in under a minute, and we all leave together.
The reaping is scheduled for 9:00, and we don't arrive until around 9:05. Luckily, they haven't started yet. I slide my way into the section reserved for seventeen year olds. I see Alora, and I slide through the crowd to stand next to her. I can't stand the thought of ignoring her in what will probably be the last few minutes I'll ever spend with her.
"I'm sorry about this morning," I tell her. The mayor is just taking up the mic, and we fall silent as he announces the names of all the past District 4 victors: Blythe Tandrum – the first Hunger Games, Ariella Vanders – the second Hunger Games, Kibbee Borgson – the ninth Hunger Games, and Elo Lazzian – the sixteenth Hunger Games.
"I don't blame you," Alora tells me. "I know you love me, and you're scared for me. But you just have to understand that by volunteering, I am saving somebody else."
"I do understand, and I know what you mean about saving somebody else," I say. "It is valiant and all, but there is a time and place for valor." I hope that with the real axe of the real Hunger Games looming over her head that my words will sink in, but she just turns away from me and listens to the mayor.
He reads the treaty of treason, the document that put us in this mess in the first place, and then introduces our district sponsor: Lillianna Laprizz. Every year she comes back, but she always looks different. This year, her hair is solid black and her face is powdered into a white canvas. Her lips are metallic silver, and so are the knee-length fake eyelashes that hang from her eyelids. They look painful.
"Happy Hunger Games!" she cheers at us, hoping for a reaction. Most of the adults applaud, and some of the rowdier kids in the mass of hormonal bodies whoop and holler.
"Let's begin, shall we?" she asks, and the crowd screams assent. Crossing the stage, she holds up her hand, the face of which is covered by no less than ten rings. Her nails are long and filed to points, deadly looking, even from this distance.
I feel Alora tense beside me, anticipating the name being read. Her hand is poised to raise, assuring that she will be the first to volunteer. And I don't doubt she will be the first and only to volunteer this year – not only does everyone know she is planning to volunteer, but they are all smart enough to not want to go in next to Onyx.
Lillianna reaches the crystal bowl of names, and she reaches her hand inside. The entire crowd holds its breath, waiting for the name to be called. Who will it be? Will Alora volunteer?
Lillianna draws in a long breath before reading the name into the microphone.
"Alora Cripis" she says. The crowd is shocked, even the mayor looks confused.
Alora no longer looks confident. She is confused, not sure what to do. I give her a small nudge forward, then she slowly walks up to the stage. Her steps up the stairs are shaky, wobbling from side to side in heels. But once she is up on stage, she looks out triumphantly to the crowd.
"Congratulations, Alora," says Lillianna. "You have won the reaping!" And with this, the crowd cheers. "Now we have the simple matter of asking for volunteers," says Lillianna. "Are there any volunteers…?" She looks out to the crowd expectantly, waiting for the status quo to be upheld.
Before this, I was powerless. I couldn't stop Alora from volunteering, it was her right as a citizen of Panem. But now, I had a chance to protect her, to save her. And I was taking it.
"I… I vol… I volunteer," I say, quietly, too quietly. Nobody except a few kids around me hear, and they turn and look at me with confused, almost hateful looks. "I volunteer!" I shout, loud enough for the people on stage to hear.
The look Alora gives me is first confused, then followed by fury. She knows why I'm doing this, and she hates it. Lillianna doesn't look surprised to have a volunteer; in fact, we have only ever had four tributes who were not volunteers.
They beckon me up on stage, and I am climbing the steps while Alora is descending them. I can't help but see the tears flowing down her face as she avoids eye contact with me. As I mount the stage, I look out over the crowd and look at their faces. They all look confused and disappointed.
"What is your name?" asks Lillianna, handing me the microphone.
"Mags," I say. "Mags Arthur."
"Well, Mags," Lillianna says to me in her strangely accented voice. "Congratulations on volunteering for the Hunger Games! Lets give her a hand, folks," she says to the crowd.
"Oh," is all Lillianna says, clearly confused. "Well then, lets meet your district partner!" She crosses to the boys ball, and pulls out a name. "Kulas Heatherbarkley."
A small boy from the section of fourteens begins walking up to the stage, but he is stopped in his tracks by the voice that yells out from behind him, "I volunteer!"
Of course, it is Onyx. I can only see his hand protruding from the tall eighteen year old group, and he is in the back. But that perfectly tanned and muscled arm could belong to no one else. He skips up on stage, clearly excited. Lillianna feeds off of his energy, asking him, "What is your name?" as if she genuinely wants to know.
"Onyx Overly," he says, and half the girls' eyes flutter, a few pretend to faint for the benefit of their friends. I don't blame them, Onyx is beautiful.
"Shake hands, you two," says the mayor to us, and we do. It's the first time I've ever looked into those deep green eyes, and they keep me hoping that it won't be the last time. The anthem plays, and when the final notes are finished, we are escorted into the Justice Building for our hour of goodbyes.
I got the first chapter done! Hurray! Anyway, I hope you like how this story is starting out. Someone reminded me that part of Mags' character is that she is protective and doesn't mind sacrificing herself to protect someone, so I hope this is sufficient for her entrance into the games. Keep reading, its going to get there. I realize that the time in the capitol usually blends together, and it is hard to make it unique, but I will do my best. Review this chapter if you liked it please.