authors note:

bonjour, readers. so, heres chapter one!
i'm sorry that i kind of strayed away from this story.
but i'm back with more interest than ever.
i plan on continuing on the next chapter right now!
but reviews really motivate me ;)!
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think it should be longer next time? shorter? just let me know!
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Chapter One ; In Over My Head

I awoke to the scratching of a pen. The small amount of morning sunshine lit up the small home, revealing Charlie hunched over our tiny table, presumably leaving me a note before he left for work. His brown hair sparkled in the light, his brown eyes were dead, his age was revealed by the wrinkles around his eyes, his lips permanently formed into a pout. My father had once been handsome, or so I am told. He has no trace of the Capitol left on him. No alterations, no dyes, nothing. Just Charlie. He usually holds a strong demeanor, never showing his emotions, never let his face stray from its serious nature. Except on two days of the years, and todays pained expression reminded me what I was so desperately trying to forget. He only let his emotions shine through two days of the year - the day my mother was killed, and reaping days.

I drew in a quick sharp breath, feeling as though the wind had been knocked straight out of my body. Sleep had made me forget about what happened today, and what it meant for district kids everywhere. My mind had tried to protect me from what it meant for me. But it couldn't protect me forever. I had forgotten how to breath completely now, quick gasps escaped my lips every ten seconds, and Charlie quickly ran in my direction. I softly smoothed my hair, and lovingly hushed my desperate gasps. We stayed like this for what seemed like an eternity, the sunshine bright through the house now. This had been the closest Charlie and I had been in exactly one year. But we had to get back to reality sooner or later. He had to go oversee the preparations for the Reaping, begin the population count, and act as the bad guy to the district to protect ourselves - and I had to get dressed up like a show dog to possibly be sent to my death.

Charlie hesitantly kissed the top of my head before heading for the door, turning at the last second, giving me one last reassuring look.

He cleared his throat, "I left out your moms favourite dress for you, I know she'd want you to wear it.." he said in his gruff voice, then left me alone. I walked over to the chair where the dress lay. It was a light peach colour, with a delicate black lace forming flowers all over it. I closed my eyes and touched the fabric, trying to imagine my mother wearing it. Her long blonde hair waving around her perfect face, the dress bringing out all her best features. I wonder where she had worn it, the memories it had held for her. If Charlie had hung onto it, it must have been important to her. Had it been the dress she wore the first time they met? Their first kiss? The moment they realized that they were in love? I hoped that was the one. I picked it up slowly, imagining it as the most fragile thing in the world. I raised it to my nose, and inhaled the sweet scent. The smell of pine needles and lilacs quickly overcame my senses, and I imagined that this is how she smelled. It was hard to imagine her scent had clung to it for seventeen years, but knowing how Charlie kept all of my mother belongings, it wasn't impossible.

This is what made the Reaping bearable for me. The one day a year where I had something of my mothers with me at all times. I slowly peeled off my clothing, and stepped carefully into the dress. This was the first year that one of her dresses fit me. I was ecstatic. The details of the garment were amazing. The open back, the sleeves, the neckline, it was all so gorgeous. I brushed out my hair, letting it fall wavily along my shoulders. I searched for the mirror, and fell short when I got a glance in it. The girl I was seeing couldn't be me. She wasn't pretty, she wasn't beautiful, she was as radiant as the sun itself.

Three quick knocks at the door broke me away from the reflection. Jacob entered without permission, his two younger brothers, Quill and Embry, and his younger sister, Emily, trailing behind him. Jacob was dressed in his factory clothing, the pants falling too short on his long legs, his white shirt stained. It was a sign that he was finally too old for this. That he wasn't going to participate in the dressing up because he was no longer forced to. His brothers were wearing his hand-me-down suits, nearly tripping over the pants that were much too long for them. Emily was dressed in one of their mothers finest dresses, and I knew that she was feeling as nostalgic about this as I was. She was the only one wearing a faint smile.

Jacobs eyes were as dead as Charlies were. He hated the Reaping almost as much as I did. He had already lost his parents, and now his siblings could get ripped out of his grip too. A pang hit my stomach at the though. Emily, only twelve years old, was up for her first Reaping. Emily was hard not to love, and the thought that she could possibly go to the games was enough to churn a stomach. Quill is fourteen years old, and only had his name entered three times. Embry, who was sixteen, wasn't so lucky. Since Jake was no longer eligible for tessera, Embry took it upon himself to sign himself up for him and each member of his family. With Leah and her baby, that made six people. He had his name entered 24 times this year. But Jacob had done it for so much longer, and he had always escaped the fate - I had no doubt that Embry would do the same.

Quill broke the silence with a low wolf-whistle. When I was broken out of my thoughts, I realized it was directed at me. I felt the heat rise up my neck and cover my face. Emily laughed, and ran into my arms.

"Don't listen to the boys," she giggled, "You look beautiful!" I couldn't help but smile. She must have been the only person in the world who could do that on a day like today.

I looked up at Jacob, and noticed he was staring at me and his sister - and I was immediately informed on why he brought them here. This was the first reaping without his parents around, and his sister was too overcome with sadness to take on a motherly role with any of her siblings. That's where I came in.

Jake cleared his throat and gave me a small smile. "She begged me to bring her here. She seems to think that I'm incapable of doing her hair." Emily giggled again in my arms, and he gave her a playful wink.

I immediately masked my feelings, knowing that I had to be strong for these kids, for my surrogate family. I put on my most cheerful voice and said, "Nonsense! I think that Jake should have been a stylist, don't you Em?" Her laughter filled the room. I set her down, and ran my fingers through her silky black hair. In a few swift movements, her hair was braided along the crown of her head, a few curls framing her face. I grabbed some pins, and shortened up the boys suits. Soon, the Black family was all looking dazzling standing before me.

It was no wonder they were all so popular among District 9. The family was blessed with good looks. Jacob was so popular among all of the girls. Whenever he would walk by, the would all whisper. Emily, Quill, and Embry were no exception. Their dark skin, dark hairs, and defined features - they were easily the most attractive family I had ever seen.

The television turned on, announcing that all Districts will now be needing to go to the Reaping, and I had no time to panic. I knew that I had to be strong, not for myself, but for this family - the only people in the District that I had.

I grabbed Emily's hand, and made our way to the City Square, where the reaping would be held. It wasn't far from my home, we had to be close so that Charlie could get there within minutes if needed. It was decorated in bright colours and banners. It all sickened me. The pinks were too bright, the greens too deep, the yellows hurt my eyes. The cameramen perched all over made it all worse. I began feeling dizzy.

One more year, Bella. One more year.

But I knew that wasn't true. Even after I was done, Emily wouldn't be. Quill wouldn't. Embry wouldn't. Kids all over the districts, they'd never be done with this. I felt light headed, faint. No Bella. Be strong, Jake needs you, they need you. So I did.

I walked the kids to their respective age groups, and went to find my own. I gave Jacobs hand a reassuring squeeze before going towards my own.

I looked around at all the girls surrounding me, clinging to their friends. Holding each other for support. I felt jealous. I wish I had someone to support me, someone to stand here beside me, and hope as much for me as they did for themselves that I don't get chosen. I searched the crowd for Charlie. My eyes ran over each and every person, but before I could spot Charlie, Mayor Cullen began to speak. The speech was the same as it was every year, the History of Panem, the place once known as North America that was ruined by war and natural disasters, and the founders. He talked about how the thirteen districts came to be, then he talked about the Dark Days. When the thirteen districts rose up against the Capitol, and how 12 districts were defeated, and the thirteenth was obliterated. Then, the Treaty of Peace came about, with new restrictions, and a reminder that the Dark Days shall never be repeated - The Hunger Games. A reminder to every District citizen. "Look at the power we have over you. We can take your children and kill them, and you can do nothing about it." He then introduced our victors. District 9 only ever had two. One was still alive, Haymitch Everdeen - the town drunk.

Haymitch came stumbling towards the podium to make a speech, but I guess that they had learned from the previous speeches he had made, because the Capitol anthem began to drown him out. Mayor Cullen lead him back toward his seat.

When the anthem had finished our Capitol Escort took the place of Mayor Cullen. Effie Trinket, with her bubblegum pink hair and green suit, cleared her throat.

"Isn't this exciting?" Was the first thing that escaped her mouth, her ridiculous Capitol accent running shrill through my ears. Behind me, I heard a low scoff from Jacob. "Well! Let's just get this show on the road. Don't want anyone to get too anxious!" She said with a high pitched laugh.

She walked towards the bowl of girls, customary for the Reaping. Ladies first, how noble. She reached her hand deep into the bowl, and wrapped her bright orange nails around one unlucky name.

"Well! Here we go!" said Effie, "And may the odds be ever in your favour!"

Not me. Please not me. It can't be me...

Effie called out the name, and it wasn't me.

No, It was Emily Black.

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xo, jewels