"Gosh Ollie, stop looking at yourself in the mirror. It isn't like you are magically going to morph into someone else." Posy rolled her eyes. She was curled up on a small leather couch next to Ari; the two of them spent the whole morning building a house of cards. They had gotten as high as five levels twice so far, always knocking it down with the breath of their nervous giggles.
I ignore her and continue to stare at my side profile, pulling my shirt tight across my blossoming belly. The best way I can describe it to myself is that it looks like I swallowed a giant ball. My belly button is even threatening to pop inside out. I push my hair aside, the auburn locks falling in waves down my back.
I sigh and join Posy and Ari in the sitting area, picking up a small pile of cards and helping them build up a third level. "How many card houses have we made?"
Posy shrugs. "Hundreds, maybe thousands. I lost count after the first month."
A lot had happened in the six months since we arrived here, kidnapped from District 14 by Garth. We had lost Lectra, had been forced to undergo weekly tests, been held prisoner in this dreary cabin, and most of all, been kept from all we knew and loved with no promise of ever going home.
I missed Stosh. I longed for his touch, for his calming words and kind heart. The people here were so barren of emotion. They rarely smiled and took their work very serious. And as far as I could tell, we were the only children around.
Posy missed Gale. At night she would call out for him in her sleep, thrashing back and forth. Sometimes she would settle quickly, other times I would go and wake her. Let her cry in my arms until she fell back asleep. She looked so much like him, with her dark hair and grey eyes.
Ari rarely spoke. Something tortured her, picked her apart on the inside, but she wouldn't share what. Many nights she woke up screaming and refused to let either Posy or I near her until morning. She was a small, thin girl with short brown hair and milky brown eyes. She was so fragile looking.
And what did we all have in common? We were all pregnant with Stosh's baby.
"Ollie, pay attention! You are going to knock the house over." Posy glares at me. She has become very serious about her card houses lately, I think it helps bring her some normal in our messed up life.
I shrug. "We'll just build another one. This afternoon, tomorrow, the next day, the next week, the next MONTH." I slam my hands on the table, causing the three-story house to fall apart, cards floating to the ground in all different directions.
Ari shakes her head at me and sighs, picking up the fallen cards to start over. Posy's bottom lip trembles. "At least we are doing something other than sulking in front of the mirror all day."
I give her a sarcastic smile and make my way out onto the small balcony. I liked Posy, I really did. We just got on each other's nerves often, which happens when you are stuck under the same roof for six months straight.
I observe the scenery, which is much different than District 14. Instead of mountains and snow our view is of the ocean and sand, and where there is grass, it is thick and coarse. The air is warm and tastes like salt. There are funny looking trees that bend at the tops, with long leaves hanging of the top of them. Under different circumstances I might call this paradise, but right now it is a prison. I have no idea where exactly we are. Except for that short conversation with Garth I was knocked out for the whole trip, as well as Posy, Ari, and Lectra. We have no idea how far we came, but we can at least say that we went south. Far south it would seem. I sit down in a small hanging chair made of rope; one of our attendants called it a "hammock".
I close my eyes and think back to our first day here. How afraid we were, how unsure we were that we would survive the week. We were split up, each given our own room in what appeared to me a Med Unit. We were visited by doctors and nurses, poked and prodded. They asked us endless questions about our previous lives and health. Asked us questions about our pregnancies. They did scans of our abdomens and took amniotic fluid. They issued us linen pants and shirts and shoved us all in this cabin on the beach, where we stay every day.
We are given two hours of free time outside each day. We each are assigned an armed guard and they follow us as we walk on the beach, play in the sand, or wade in the water. We are not allowed to wander more than 100 feet past the property line on either side. At least it is some fresh air, but not enough. The cabin felt stuffy in the warm weather. It was nice, larger than the rooms we had back at the Breeding Center, but the locks on the doors and windows were constant reminders of where we were. It sounded crazy, but I found myself missing the Breeding Center more and more.
I often sat out here wondering what Stosh was doing at this moment. Had he moved on to another girl? Was he looking for me with Peeta and Katniss? Had they given up searching after a month or two? Had they even searched at all? We weren't really important to Panem; we could probably be considered an unfortunate but necessary loss to the cause. The only hope we had was that whatever Garth and the others were doing here could possibly pose a threat to Panem. Because of that we had a chance of being rescued.
Escape was futile, that was proven the first day we arrived. I remember the conversation I had with Garth.
"Welcome to your new home Miss. Asher, I think you'll find you like it here. It can be quite pleasant, much nicer than that igloo we came from."
I stared at him, wondering what an igloo was. "Call me Ollie."
He gave a hint of a smile. "So we are on a personal level now? Very well Ollie. I just want to let you know a little bit about your new residence. This isn't District 14, and this definitely isn't District 12. You will be expected to cooperate through all tests and studies we chose to put you through. You will be living with the other three girls in a specified location. Don't try to escape. Even if you make it past the locks doors and windows, you won't make it five feet. There are armed guards stationed everywhere. Plus, even if you did make it out of the compound, you would die in the wilderness in a day or two."
He stood and headed to the door. "Now, I need to go pass this information along to your friends."
"They're not my friends." I spat.
He laughed and shook his head at me. "I beg to differ Ollie. They will be soon because they are all you have left."
And he was right. It took a couple of weeks but we all finally opened up to each other. I felt particularly close to Lectra, a tall brown haired girl from District 3. She had freckles all over her skin and big green eyes the color of emeralds. She reminded me a lot of Willow, with her sarcastic humor and positive aspect on life. She assured me that we would be rescued quickly, that Stosh would find his way to me.
In the days before the incident, she opened up about her time with Stosh. I was hesitant to hear her stories but in the end curiosity got the best of me.
"He loved you Ollie, always remember that. He may have been forced to sleep with Ari, Posy, and me, but it is you he talked about. You he wants to be with for the rest of his life. Our only tie to him are our babies, you have his heart."
Then it happened, one morning Lectra woke up crying and screaming. There was blood all over her bed and nightclothes. I knew immediately what was happening, I had seen it with my own eyes back at the Breeding Center. Lectra was having a miscarriage. Has we known what would happen next we would have stalled, taken care of her so she had a little while longer.
We called for help and two men from the medical staff arrived. They lifted her onto a hovering table and as they pushed her past she grabbed my hand. "I have nothing to offer them."
It didn't sink in until she was long gone. I banged on the lock cabin door, screaming her name. Of course, no one came. And Lectra never came back. That was over five months ago and it was still burned in all our memories. Posy and I didn't talk about it anymore and since Ari rarely talked, Lectra was forgotten in our conversation, but not in my heart. I couldn't help but wonder about her and where she was. Had they executed her? Were they holding her somewhere? Had they released her? Posy decided that was impossible. If they sent her home she would have information on where we were. She could describe it to the army; tell them about what we are doing here. Garth wouldn't have that. The realization had sent a chill up my spine; they most likely planned to do the same with us.
The balcony door opening brought me back to reality. Posy cleared her throat. "They are here for you."
Of course, today was my dad to undergo check-ups and tests in the Med Center. I followed Posy inside and saw the familiar face if my appointed attendant. He was tall and tan with sun bleached hair and bright blue eyes. Under different circumstances I may have considered him handsome.
"Hello Cruz. Where to today?" I asked, already knowing the answer.
"Same as always Ollie." His deep voice rang. "Med Center. Hands."
I help up my hands, palms in and wrists touching. He put a glowing blue ring around them, locking my hands together. He motioned for me to move forward and stepped behind me, his hand falling halfway down my back. The gesture made me uncomfortable. It almost felt too intimate.
The Med Center could be reached quickly from our cabin. A long, glass overhang had been built between the two buildings. Just as I did with each trip through the tunnel, I scanned the area outside, taking not of the guard stands and various paths around the compound. I still had hope that Stosh, Gale, Katniss, and Peeta would come and rescue us but just in case they didn't, I had to have a plan as well. Six months I had walked this path, and I still didn't have a good idea of how we could escape. But once these babies were here, we would have no choice. It was like Lectra said. "I have nothing to offer them."
Cruz and I walked in silence, as usual. I had tried to make small conversation for the first month or two but he mostly just nodded or grunted, seemingly annoyed with his task to usher me around. He was young, maybe just a year or two older than me, and he seemed to have no interest in his job. At first I thought he could be an asset to helping us escape, but he didn't seem to have interest in much of anything.
We walked into to Med Unit, which was creepily set up just like the one back in the Breeding Center. Except instead of posters of mothers and babies, pamphlets with information, fake plants and decorations, this Med Unit was completely bare. The walls were stark white and the overhead lights a bright yellow. It held the constant smell of bleach.
Cruz walked up to a small silver box and pressed him thumb onto a small screen, just like the one Stosh and I used to access our room back at the Breeding Center. Would I ever stop thinking about that place? About Stosh? I doubted I would, until the day I died.
We stepped into a hall of exam rooms and went right to Room 2, my assigned room. Since there were only four of us, now three, the place didn't need to be very large. There were a few extra exam rooms, which made me wonder if they had planned to bring more than just four of us.
Cruz left me in the room alone; he would come back and escort me to the cabin later in the afternoon, when the doctors and nurses were done with me. I wait a minute or two until a familiar blond nurse entered the room. As far as I knew she was one of three nurses, all blond with blue eyes. A pattern around here. Even Garth ended up having natural blond hair and blue eyes; he claimed his guise from the Breeding Center was to make him seem more like a Capitol citizen. And it worked.
She didn't say anything to me, just worked with a permanent scowl on her head. I got used to not talking with the staff after a month of captivity. Dr. Weaver and Nurse B had been so kind to me, talked me through everything. Here they poked and prodded me with out a word, without asking permission. The nurse, Blondie Number One as I called her, took my blood pressure and checked the baby's heart beat. All of the usual check ups. From here I would be taken to a small exercise room, where they would have me walk on a treadmill for an hour. I remember reading in one of my pamphlets back in the Breeding Center that 30 minutes to an hour of exercise was recommended, so every time we came to the Med Unit here they put us on the treadmill.
But this time Blondie Number One looked up at me and spoke for the first time in awhile. "Wait here, Garth wants to speak with you." Her voice was warm and bubbly, not what I expected.
Butterflies filled up my insides, but not the good time. I rarely saw Garth anymore, he would pop in on me now and again just to smirk at me, say no words. Occasionally I would scream profanities at him and the doctors would shoo him away, accusing him of raising my blood pressure.
Five minutes later the door open and Garth entered. It was still weird to see him looking so normal. His hair golden and eyes blue, dressed in a plain black jumpsuit with a white lab coat over top. "Hello Ollie." He gave me a grin.
I didn't smile back, I just stared at him.
He laughed. "I see nothing has changed since the moment you arrived in the Breeding Center. Still stubborn and full of attitude when it comes to authority."
I raise my eyebrow. "Oh I'm sorry, I didn't realize I was supposed to have respect and politeness for my kidnappers."
He shrugged and took a seat in a gray chair normally reserved for one of the doctors. "You are a little over eight months pregnant Ollie. 34 weeks according to the doctors. Do you understand how close that is?"
"What about it?" I tried to appear defiant but on the inside my resolve was faltering. I remember reading that some babies came at 37 weeks, that was three short weeks away."
Garth smiled. "You and the other two girls have done well over the past six months. You have cooperated with all our tests and not tried once to escape your cabin. But with things drawing to and end, I expect you'll start to get desperate. Posy and Ari are a little over a month behind you in their pregnancies, they have a little more time to get desperate. I wouldn't want you giving them any ideas."
I glared at him. "Afraid I may try and escape Garth?"
"Actually, I believe you may be planning something. But before you carry out yours plans, I want to show you something." He pressed a button on the control panel on the desk and a screen appeared on the wall, an image I recognized.
I gasped. "Is that?"
"District 12?" He said. "Why yes, yes it is."
The picture was of the schoolyard in District 12, where many students ate their lunches on nice days. It looks like a mild spring day; many students sat outside wearing light coats and handmade scarves. Winters could be very long in District 12 so at the first sign of weather like this, people were outside.
Garth walked up to the screen and used his hand to drag the image over and zoom in. At first I couldn't tell what I was looking at, I stood and walked closer to the screen. Almost touching it. I recognized the dark hair and grey eyes immediately. "Stosh!" I whispered. So he was back home in District 12. The relief was shattered by the realization that he wasn't looking for me.
"Give it a moment." Garth said.
I watched as Stosh turned and a smile filled his face. He stood and opened his arms, greeting a blond haired girl with an embrace. An intimate embrace. My face felt flushed, I stepped back from the screen.
"Keep watching Ollie, it gets better." Garth's voice was almost a laugh.
Stosh and the girl separated, their hands interlocking. They turned toward the screen and walked back to the school. Suddenly the image on the screen froze and I let out a loud gasp, falling back onto the table. "No…"
Garth was laughing now. "Oh yes Ollie. Stosh has moved on, and to someone you know very, very well. They aren't coming to rescue you Ollie. We are all you have."
But I wasn't listening anymore. I was starting at the screen, at the image Garth had frozen there. Stosh and Willow walking hand in hand, smiling at each other. My eyes moved down to Willows stomach, a bump obvious from the way her jacket fell open. What the heck happened in the past six months?