PART ONE: THE SURVIVOR
1. To remain alive or in existence.
2. To carry on despite hardships or trauma; persevere
P R O L O G U E
Emery Matilda Hope. Emery was old English for survivor, Matilda for strength. People often said I had a such strong name, not realising the true meaning of Hope: Born on a wasteland. Yes, my name summed me up perfectly. Apart from the survivor part, or strength for that matter.
I was past hunger, past starvation, past living. I was just existing. I knew today was the day; the day I was going to die. I had spent the night lying against the trash cans of the bakery willing for sleep to come or better yet death.
My father died a few years ago in a mining accident, my mother last month, my sister a few weeks ago and my brother just yesterday. Death had taken everyone away but refused to take me.
When I lay down, it hurt. My ribs dug into my stomach. I just couldn't seem to stop shaking. I barely mustered the energy to move when the witch who owned the place chased me away with a poker.
I tried to walk down the streets, unsure of what I was actually looking for. Food, pity, mercy? But all I received was threatening glares. Parents covered their children's eyes and pulled them away from the skeleton from the seem. The merchants always hated us seem kids and we hated them in turn. They had considerably more money than us while we lived in poverty. And even when a girl of thirteen staggered down the streets they did not help. They turned a blind eye. Like I did not exist. To many of them I didn't. And the ones who did acknowledge me, shouted for the peacekeepers to take me away. If only. All I wanted was a bullet in my head. Quick. Easy. Painless. Nothing like this eternal torture.
I dropped to the floor but then heaved myself up again, determined to finish my walk to nowhere. My stomach churned, groaning loudly with emptiness. I leant up against a wall to regain my breath. I noticed a girl in my year staring across the square at me. Delly, I think her name was. I hadn't seen her for a while, I hadn't been to school. Not since mother died.
Delly looked around to see if anyone was watching. They weren't. No one cared about me. She darted across the square and into the shadows where I stood. She pulled out her crumpled handkerchief and undid it. Inside was a half eaten scone, most of it crumbs. "Sorry it's not more," she whispered, thrusting it into my hands. Most of the crumbs fell to my feet, but I barely noticed. I just stared at the pretty merchant girl in shock. She gave me a small embarressed smile.
"Delly," a woman, presumably her mother, called from across the square. "Come away from that thing. Mrs Mellark says she's been hanging around for weeks. She's probably diseased."
Delly ran back to her mother who dragged her away in search of a peacekeeper. That was my queue to leave. I staggered through the backstreets and scoffed my scone in one bite, but it was too much. Not minutes later I had vomited it back up again. Water, I needed water.
There was a puddle on the floor. I didn't care it was filthy, I would be dead by nightfall anyway. I cupped my hands and sipped the water. After I had finished I washed my grease and mud caked face. I crawled through the streets, less people were around here. I some how found myself across from the mayors house. They had it so easy; they had no idea what it was really like.
It was quite ironic how the people who worked the hardest and suffered the most always got less. There were families in the seem who worked ten times harder than the merchants, but were living in poverty.
As night fell it began to rain. Really rain. A downpour. My little spot on the floor began to flood leaving me in a puddle.
I wandered again, collapsing every few steps. After a few minutes, my legs gave way. I tripped and fell into a deep puddle. I didn't even have the energy to shield my face. It hit the ground hard. Something began to dribble out my nose. Blood. I groaned; refused to move.
"Kill me now, please..." I whispered, my voice desperate and hoarse. It's not time yet, the voice in my head sang.
When? I had suffered for months, was there no mercy in the world. I lifted my head up and found myself in the middle of the victors village. Only one of the houses contained a light. Haymitch Abernathy. The lone victor of district 12. He was rich, and a drunk. Surely I could get a few coins off him. A slice of bread or a cup of water? I heaved myself up and held on to the rail up the steps to his door. I knocked the door, but no one came.
I looked around and saw there was a bell. I rang it. No one answered. I rang again. And again. Taking out all my frustrations on this bell. The door suddenly swung open. I jumped back in surprise. There stood the man I had only seen from a far at the annual reaping. He was tall, scraggy and reeked of alcohol.
"What?" he asked angrily. I tried to speak but nothing came out. "Well." I continued to gape at him. He growled in frustration and went to close the door.
"Wait," my voice cracked. "Help me, please." "Sorry, kid. If I helped everyone who came to my door I would be broke," he said harshly.
For the first time, my eyes brimmed with tears as my last hope began to run further away from me. "Please, just give me anything. Scraps. I haven't eaten in weeks," I begged. I dropped to my knees and began to weep at his feet.
He tried to kick me away. I gripped on to his trousers.
"Why should I help you?" Haymitch asked. I looked up at him, my vision blurry with tears.
I didn't mean to say it. I don't know why I did. It just slipped out. But I was desperate. I needed to survive. "I'm your daughter," I sobbed, barely understandably.
"What?" he gasped, putting his bottle of liquor on the table by the door.
"I'm your daughter," I repeated, a little stronger this time. "My mother told me a few weeks ago... When she died." He stared at me stunned. "Who was your mother?" he stuttered.
"Carla Theréy," I said. It was the only honest thing that had came out my mouth. "I don't know a Carla," he said, trying to kick me away and close the door.
I held on tighter. "She said it was fourteen years ago, you were drunk." "I'm always drunk kid, but I've never been that drunk."
I pulled myself up to stand and held his hand. "Please," I said earnestly staring into his bloodshot eyes, begging for him to give me a chance.
He sighed in defeat. "One night," he muttered. He stepped inside and held the door open for me.
I didn't stay for one night. I stayed for several. Haymitch never mentioned me leaving, so I never left. He gave me food and shelter and in return I cleaned, fed and looked after him. I soon learnt that Haymitch's drinking was a constant thing, but I did not mind. He had suffered greatly and it wasn't my place to tell him what to do. I think he respected me for that.
In the first few weeks we barely talked, but as time went on I began to open up to him. He told me very little about his life but I did not pry.
That changed on the day we went to the Hob. He had ran out of liquor and asked me if I would like to go with him to buy some more; he needed a hand carrying it. I could only oblige. Besides, I hadn't left the house in the whole time I had been there.
I had never been to the the Hob before, despite being from the seem. The place always scared me. But I felt safe when I was with Haymitch. The entire journey there and back we talked about everything and nothing. I learnt about his favourite season, why he loved the autumn, his favourite seller who worked at the Hob. I told him about my family, my life and my love for song.
In time, I began to actually care for him and him for me. I actually felt bad for lying to him. So when I told him that I was not his daughter, he simply replied: "I know." He told me he always did, and nothing more was said on the matter.