A/N: I've had this saved on my computer for some time now. I finally decided to make the necessary changes and post it. I hope you enjoy. ~E~
Watching the sunrise over District 11 wasn't as discouraging as I assumed it would be. After all, today is the day of Reaping and I know just as well as anyone in District 11 that I was more than a long shot for one of the spaces to fill.
My family was one of the poorer ones and out of my own doing, I would attain more rations of grain to survive. Each time, my name would be put back into the pot and this year alone I visited the Town Hall at least eight times. I was a shoe-in.
I sat in the treetops overlooking my home and smiled as I saw the rest of my family slowly emerge from our tiny house. There were eight of us total in a one room stick-built building but we made do with what we had.
I said a quick goodbye to the mockingjays that landed on my branch and climbed down quickly from the branch of my apple tree. If the peacekeepers saw me up here, I could have been in huge trouble.
I met my family right at the entrance of the orchard and their faces were solemn and filled with despair. I wanted so badly to tell them that I wouldn't be picked and that some other unlucky child would go before me but I couldn't even bring myself to believe it to be true.
"Come Rue, we have to work regardless of what today is. We'll take a break long enough to go to the Reaping. You'll need to change clothes anyway," my mother said, barely looking at me. I wanted her to hold me and tell me that everything was going to be okay, but I felt like in some way, they were glad to see me go.
Getting picked for the Reaping meant one less mouth for my family to feed.
I shook my head and tried my hardest to shake that thought out. My mother thought more of me than that. I know she did. She's just sad and wants to try not to think of it.
I spent the first part of my morning jumping from branch to branch and tree to tree pulling ripe apples down to my younger brother and sisters. We played and picked all morning as though the fates of twenty-four children were about to be determined.
As the sun settled more into the middle of the sky, I knew lunch was approaching. I hated the thought of leaving the orchards where even though it was hard work, it was still better than being in the center of town.
I heard the whistle blow, signaling that our time in the trees was over and I followed my mother into our home. She bathed me in cold water and found a dress that once belonged to her. She tried her best to make me look appropriate but it was hard. My feet wore socks for the first time in months and my hair, though tangled and messy, was brushed out and put into a pretty bow. I looked to my mother for a sign of something, remorse, regret, pain... nothing was there.
"Okay, Rue, I think you are presentable enough. Let's go eat and then join the rest of the crew outside."
My father was fighting back tears at the table. At least one of my parental units showed some sort of compassion for what was to take place. My brothers and sisters had no understanding quite yet as to the severity of the situation but nonetheless they were also very quiet and solemn during our lunch.
We cleared our splintered table in silence and placed our plates into the sink and gathered by the doorway. My brother, Flip, grabbed my hand and held it tight. We were the closest of the six siblings and my heart broke as he said, "Rue, if you leave, who will help me pick the right apples?"
"I'm sure you'll do fine. Just remember the brown spots," I said hugging him tight against me.
Mom and dad came from the corner of our shack and led us to the center of town. Parents held their children's hands tight, afraid to let them go. I saw mothers and fathers fighting back tears as we closed in around a giant podium. I waited patiently, looking around at all the children. Some parents tried their best to push their kids behind them, creating a human shield that they knew was easy to break. They had no choice but to let go if their name was called.
Eventually we were separated from our parents and corralled into a group located across from them.
Time seemed to pass by slowly as we waited on the Mayor to take a step onto the stage. We watched as Districts 1 through 9 picked their players and as soon as ten came on stage, I knew it was only a matter of time before the names of our two would be drawn.
As the mayor of District 10 took the stage, parents around me began hugging their kids tighter, some were dropping tears while others tried to turn their faces to stone. I looked to my father who couldn't hold it together while my mother still stood as a statue. I wanted to be so angry at her. She could lose me today and it seemed as though she could care less.
After the Reaping of District 10 finalized, our Mayor took the stage, staring out at each of us. His skin wasn't as dark as the rest of us since he spent the majority of his time stuffed in his office. The only time we ever saw him was during events like this, or when someone got out of line and needed a beating.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the district, we would like to welcome you to the 74th Hunger Games Reaping."
Our Mayor tried to make it sound like this was the best thing to hit our district in years, but we all knew the history of the games. We were never first, always last and if any of us had a chance to survive, it would be a miracle to make it all the way through the games. Only two have survived in the 74 years, Chaff and Seeder. They sat next to the Mayor's wife on the stage.
"We would like to welcome Marius Maxie from District 2 who will be pulling the names for our Reaping."
Marius, who was an overly large man, stood and took the bowls from the Mayor and smiled as he pulled a name. I wasn't aware of which bowl it was but as soon as the name was blurted, a sigh of relief hit me. Soon, a feeling of pain hit my heart as I saw Thresh's sister fight back tears. He was a sight to behold. He was much bigger than me, and larger than most tributes that came from our district. He took his name being called very well and stood before the podium as though he was proud to be there.
The Mayor handed Marius the second bowl and I felt my heart speed up. Parents grabbed their younger daughters tighter, even though they weren't old enough for the Reaping and I closed my eyes as I felt dizziness take over my body. I thought I was prepared. I had it in my mind that if my name was called I would be okay with it. I could do this, if not for myself, then survive for my family who deserved to live in the Victor's Villa.
I opened my eyes long enough to hear, "Rue, you are the female chosen for the 74th Hunger Games."
My legs turned liquid and I felt myself stumble backwards. As I walked to the stage, my father suddenly grabbed me and pulled me tight to him. This was a bold move as the Peacekeepers could have hauled him away. Through his tears he begged, "Please Rue, come back home to me." I nodded. He reached into his pocket and pulled out an apple. It was the prettiest apple I've ever seen come out of our orchard. I smiled, fighting back tears. I looked up at my mother, who didn't even look down at me.
I took a step back, determined to make her see me but she wouldn't even acknowledge me before her. I wanted to scream out her name, beg her to miss me but all I could do was hug my brothers and sisters and tell them how much I loved them and would miss them.
I turned away from my family and walked towards the podium.
I felt arms wrap around me, pulling me down with them screaming, "No, Rue, don't leave, please, I need you."
My mother, who was trying her best to not say goodbye fell to her knees, holding me, begging for my life. She looked to the crowd screaming, "She's only twelve years old! Someone, anyone please step forward and take her place. She doesn't deserve to have her life end so soon." She sobbed hard and I wanted to make her pain go away.
Parents and their children looked away from her, trying not to look her in the eye.
"Mom," I whispered, "I'll be okay," I said taking my mother's face into my hands. "I'll be back before you realize it. Just keep me in your heart and in your thoughts." I began to hum and sing to my mother as I held her in my arms. She finally calmed down long enough to let me go. I was scared that if she didn't, the peacekeepers would make her and it would just make things worse.
I stood next to Thresh who towered over me as we heard the Mayor's speech and then the song of the Capitol played. We were ushered back to a room to say our formal goodbyes to our family.
My mother didn't show.
However, my father stood next to me until he couldn't anymore and as I walked out the door of the Town Hall to head out to the capitol, I looked back one last time, and vowed to make it back alive.