Chapter One

"You worthless brat!" My mother screamed at me. My father glared at me. I looked up and saw my father about to beat me. But my brother, Landon, grabbed his hand.

"She didn't do anything." He said calmly, defending me.

"Yes, she did!" My mother shrieked. "She gave away perfectly good food to that beggar. I saw her!"

"He was starving." I said, quivering. "And it wasn't too much food. It's also the Reaping today, when we should be gracious."

"Did you think about us?" He roared. My father and mother stopped yelling after a bit and walked inside. I could hear them call me mean names that I'm not allowed to repeat. I lost it and cried. Landon comforted me.

"It's okay, Rissa." He said, using that nickname he gave me. "They'll get over it. But why did you give the food to him, anyways?" He asked, curious. Landon is 7 years older than me and he's calmer than my father and he doesn't lose his head like my father sometimes. I sniffled. I was only 6 then when I gave the boy the bread. I hadn't answered his question.

Now I'm 9, waiting on the sidelines with my mother and father who are selfish and greedy and hates me and my brother. They give us barely enough to eat and my mother just makes us work in the bakery while she sits around. My little sister, Anya, was standing next to me. I grabbed her hand. Anya was 3 years old and my mother can't tell her to work yet but soon, my mother will start ordering her around too, like she's her personal servant. I think that's how she sees us kids. The escort with the ridiculously long name (I can never remember it) steps up and I realize that while I was thinking about my "parents", the mayor had already delivered his speech.

"Ladies first!" She squeals and bounces over to the ladies' ball. Her unnaturally green hair and dark skin made her look kind of like a tree. She pulled out a name and bounced back to the podium. Seriously, how do these people live with themselves? How could they be happy sending off innocent kinds into a fight to the death? I grit my teeth to keep from telling the tree-lady off and I can hear her squeal with excitement the lucky (or not-so-lucky) tribute.

"Mihaela Reime!" She was my brother's crush/best friend. He is not going to take this well. There were no volunteers. Not surprising, seeing as we hadn't had a volunteer in forever. The boys' name was drawn and I held in my breath. Not Landon. Not Landon. Not Landon. I kept praying but apparently, no one was there to receive my prayers.

"Landon Jones!" The lady cried out. My brother walked up, appearing strong and confident. But when I look into my eyes, I know it is just a mask. Inside, he felt horrified. Scared. And I feel like a part of me is ripped out. Tears start streaming down my face. Oh no. Landon. They shook hands and they're led inside the Justice Building. I walk in, and I see Landon, sitting there with his head in his hands.

"Landon." I cried and ran up to him to hug him. The only fatherly figure in my life. If you don't count the selfish jerk of a father I have. Which I don't. He hugs me back.

"Larissa." He muttered, using my full name for once.

"Make it home please?" I asked with tears in my eyes. He looked torn and I know he's fighting with himself on whether or not he'd save Mihaela or himself. I know him too well. I nod, understanding. Anya's next, hugging him and crying, not saying much. My mother and father walk up.

"You better win us that Victor's home son." My father said. And Landon looked up with rage and fury in his eyes.

"Or what?" He challenged. "I'm going off to my death and that's what you say to me? What a great father." He said, his voice filled with sarcasm. My father held back from hitting him, but just barely.

"Or else I'll make both your sisters volunteer until we get that Victor's house." Landon looked horrified.

"You won't." He whispered. I didn't realize what he meant until a few seconds later.

"I won't do it." I said defiantly. "And Anya won't either." Landon looked a bit better but still pale.

"I'll force you to, one way or another." He said and they left. Anya and I hugged Landon and I slipped him something.

"It's the locket you gave me. It has pictures in it." I said smiling weakly. He smiled.

"Thanks, Rissa." He said before The Peacekeepers came and took us away. The next few weeks were torture. I watched Landon fight for his life and when he died because of the Careers, I cried for 3 hours straight. I missed Landon already.

Years came and went, more kids were being sent out to the arena. Many were killed. It had always been this way but the year my brother was in the Hunger Games was the worst for me. The victor from that year was Mihaela, who had gone insane from the gory Hunger Games. Surprisingly, she spent the Games up in a tree, eating leaves and nuts and other foods. She was near a river and just waited for the tributes to die off. But Landon was right beneath her tree when he died. And watching your best friend die is horrible. The murderer was gone, a pale, blonde boy from District 1. Mihaela had held his hand until he died. At least Landon died with the girl he loved holding his hand. But if he had won, would he be insane like Mihaela? Would it be any better?

When I was 16 and my little sister was only 10, my father forced me to volunteer. I'm not going to tell you about it- it'll just make you horrified. So that year, I volunteered. And I had just signed off my death sentence. It was like writing, I, Larissa Jones, have volunteered to die in the arena in the 44th Hunger Games. in ink and signing it. I was escorted to the Justice Building and I sat there, glaring at the door. My father came in.

"Don't screw this up for us, brat. You owe us and we'll make your sister's life horrible if you don't win the Victor's house." He snarled. I gulped. Anya came in and ran to hug me. I braided her hair and she turned around with tears in her eyes.

"Don't leave me alone with these two." She mouthed. "Please." I managed a small smile.

"I won't." I said.

"Try your hardest?" She asked.

"Always." I said. She handed me a small ring. My mother stomped up to her.

"Where did you get that?" She demanded. Anya shook.

"I found it. No one was wearing it and I was so pretty and you were forcing Larissa to volunteer so I took it. I was planning to give it to her and you can't stop me." She put it on my finger where it fit snugly. I clenched my fingers together into a fist to prevent my witch of a mother from taking it. She grabbed Anya and dragged her out. The next person in was Owen Brooks, the guy I had given the bread to 10 years ago. My heart fluttered at the sight of him. He was so nice and kind and confident when he sat next to me for the music class. He smiled at me when I was asked to sing a song and I did. We became best friends and soon, I was in love. It was really annoying sometimes because I get these weird feelings a lot. Whenever he touched me, smiled at me, talked to me, or just looked at me. And I was too shy to tell him I loved him.

"Hey Owen." I said.

"Hey, Larissa." He said, sitting next to me. He saw my ring and looked at me. "Is that your token?"

"Yes." I said. "Anya gave me it."

"Oh. I brought you something too." He said shyly as he pulled out a beautiful charm necklace.

"It's beautiful. Do you think they'll mind if I put my ring on it?" I ask. He shrugs.

"I don't know. Why did you volunteer, anyways? Did you know Rena?" He asks me. I shook my head.

"My parents made me." I said and I looked at him and shook my head slightly to let him know that I really don't want to talk about it. And he must've noticed and understood because he didn't press any further. Then, he hugged me and stood up.

"Will you try to win, Larissa?" He asked. I looked at him and nodded. And the last thing he says before the Peacekeepers took him away made my heart race. "I always have and always will love you!" He shouts. And soon, I'm being led to the train, feeling happier than I ever had before. He loved me. He actually loved me. But that suddenly changed to sadness. I'll probably die. And I'll never have a happily ever after with Owen. But I'll fight till the end. I won't come down easy.