I have hated myself since the day of this year's Reaping. It was better than my first time. On that night, I had barely made it to the event because the thought of being chosen as a tribute had made me violently ill. I had taken my twelve-year-old mind off of the wait by thinking that it wouldn't do for me to puke on the broadcast, so I just couldn't be chosen. The master weaver's oldest daughter was chosen that year and I felt a different kind of sick with relief. The next year, I bore up well and didn't vomit once until that year's tribute, my resourceful cousin Angora, was killed in the first fight at the cornucopia. By the time I was fourteen, I had numbed myself to the process and barely remembered to feel relieved when I escaped for another year.
We weren't the most wealthy in the District, but we had enough to improve the odds of our escaping the Hunger Games. Mother had dared to run away from her home when she was not much older than I and fell in love with a District 8 boy whose family taught her to weave and dye. She must have been treated with curiosity as one of the rare outsiders, but Mother had found her niche in turning out silks and linens that were reserved for special occasions. On more than one occasion since I had been born, the District 8 tributes had been paraded around before the Games in her merchandise. We were not the most wealthy, but we rarely needed tesserae. The odds were good that I would never hear my name called.
This year, they called out another familiar name. I've seen the broadcast of the Reapings that they air before the Games and I can't get that image out of my head. My mother is white with shock and I with something like manic relief. I turned eighteen three weeks before the Reaping and next year, I will not have my name entered.
The reason I have hated myself at the Reaping is that you can see my relief and my mother's heartbreak behind another ashen face. My name was not called, but my twin sister's was.
If I had possessed an ounce of courage, I could have taken her place in an instant. No one would have known that she stayed behind unless they caught sight of the birthmark on my left shoulder blade. I have seen friends volunteer in each other's places, older brothers step in. I should have bolted for the stage in response to the announcement that Silk Forsythe would be this year's female tribute and let everyone mistake my sister for her sister Satin.
But instead, all I could feel was a rush of adrenaline that it was anyone but me. I didn't think to react until Mother fell to her knees in tears and clutched at Silk's skirt as she passed by on the way to the stage. We were dressed in our namesakes, standing out proudly to represent our family, and Silk looked a bit like a war goddess of old that day. By the time she took the stage next to Felt Sanderson, the male tribute, there were comments from the crowd that she looked like this year's champion.
Mother didn't think as much. Father spent the time between the Reaping and Silk's departure teaching her fighting skills that he had reserved for my two older brothers. Silk looked sheepish at first, trying to throw punches at the man who had told her bedtime stories, but after a few days of intense work, she began to demonstrate some confidence. There were people who paid attention to her preparations and they added their voices to the minority who thought she would come out of the Arena alive. Father led that minority because the alternative would cripple him.
Mother volunteered to do the tributes' costumes again and I kept the opinion that hand-sewing her own daughter's burial shroud was more than a little morose to myself. I saw how she cried quietly while I was spinning and she was working on the embroidery for Silk's gown. She even shed a few tears when she was stitching the fussy epaulets on Felt's jacket.
I didn't let myself cry. I couldn't. Much as I feared for my sister, I had a despicable, selfish part of me that still enjoyed the last year of having to cheat death. My friends didn't talk to me anymore, since they figured that our whole family was in some kind of preemptive mourning.
Silk was the worst, though. She exploited our ability to tell each other anything and whispered secrets to me in the night. Secrets like how she wanted to tell Cord McCoy that she had always admired him before she went. How she was thinking of taking a hair ribbon that I had found for her as her Arena token. How for all the training she was getting, she didn't think she could actually kill someone. How she wasn't sure if she was more scared to kill or be killed. Most nights, I would try to respond or encourage her to either make up for or conceal my pettiness. On the night that she talked about her fear of becoming a murderer, though, I turned coward again and pretended to be asleep.
She looked like a warrior goddess again on the day the tributes and mentors left, but she held on to me a little too long for it to be convincing. I presented her with an elaborate snood that would keep her red hair out of her face during the Games and that I had crocheted to match the gown that Mother had wept over. The hair tie that she had considered bringing as a token went around her neck as a choker. I walked her to the train myself and finally let myself hold her a little longer than I should have.
I went to her side of our bedroom as soon as we got home and found that she had cleaned it impeccably so that when we came in to clear out her things after the funeral, we would not find a mess. I curled up under the blankets and willed myself to cry for my impending loss, but even having said goodbye to her couldn't draw the tears out.
My parents spoke bravely and proudly of her when her assessment score of 9 was announced. They clutched each other's hands and commented at how beautiful she looked in the gown for the parade. I let myself feel proud that she did well in the interview, but flinched when she mentioned that she hoped to return home to her twin sister. It might have been a way to gain sympathy points, but it sounded genuine and I didn't deserve her longing. I excused myself as soon as her part was done and fell asleep on her bed that night.
I dreamed of nonsense the night before the 53rd Hunger Games. My subconscious saw Silk and Satin reunited for a tea party in which we drank blood and nibbled on eyeballs and chatted about the virtues of self-defense.
I awoke with bile in my throat and rough hands on my arms. The Peacekeepers dragged me from my bed and into the night without a single explanation. My first ride through the air seemed like a bizarre extension of the dream, but no one would speak to me or explain why I had been arrested.
It was not until I arrived at the Capitol that I found out I hadn't been arrested; I had been Reaped. There were bylaws of the Hunger Games that demanded my presence, but I didn't understand them until I saw that my sister had hung herself with the sash of her exquisite dress. She left no note to explain if she was escaping her fate as a murderer or a victim, but in the end, she was both. By the bylaws, any eligible next-of-kin of a tribute was required to replace one who was killed prematurely.
There was no time for training, no assessment score to encourage people to sponsor me. The only identity I had going into that Arena was Satin, the sister of the District 8 tribute who was called both a hero and a coward in the morning.
All I could think in the Launch Room was that I should have taken her place from the beginning.