I really wanted to write a story about Mags for a while now. There aren't many stories about her, which I think is a shame, since she's such an awesome character.

So, I decided that she's not going to be a hopeless girl in the games; she'll be strong, and she'll be a career. Really, we just don't know much about her, and I figured she could be a career, though not a ruthless one.

I hope you'll like the story :)

DISCLAIMER: I do not own the hunger games. Suzanne collins does.


Chapter 1

Most days in District Four are quiet and uneventful. Everyone works, no one celebrates or gets excited for nothing.

On reaping day, however, everything in District Four is a mess – no one is working, everyone are meeting their friends, wanting to know who will volunteer, betting on the person who'll get back home.

I, however, decided to work. Not too hard, just a simple knotting work. It made my mind become organized, and just made me feel better. This was so simple, so easy to do, and to know that this simple thing, this simple net I was making, could turn into a deadly weapon in the right hands was really just mindblowing.

My dad sat next to me in our boat and looked at the sea that surrounded us. This was the only place in this district on reaping day that was just so peaceful and relaxing, and when I told him I wanted to come here before the reaping he immediately joined me.

Because he knew I won't come home with him after the reaping.

"You can still back out, you know," he told me and still didn't look at me.

I loosened my grip on the net in my hands and turned to look at my father, whose face expression was unreadable. "I can't," I said simply.

He turned to look at me, and his deep blue eyes looked right into my deep blue eyes. He looked worried. "It's not your job to help me financially," he said. "Especially not when it could end your life."

"I need to do what I can dad," I said in a tired voice. He kept trying to change my mind, to make me rethink about volunteering to the games, but I already made up my mind. "I'm not going to die – I trained for this."

"I only let you train for the games in case you'll get chosen," father said dryly. "If I had known it will result in you wanting to volunteer…"

"Dad, I am going to volunteer," I said quietly yet harshly. "And I'm going to win, and I'm going to bring home money and luxury. Isn't it what you want?"

He looked at me with soft eyes as he put a stray of my wavy dark brown hair behind my ear. "All I want is for you to be safe."

"I will be," I promised. "I'm not going to die. Trust me."

He didn't trust me, and I could see it. But he knew I will volunteer, and he knew nothing he would do could change that. So he turned around and looked at the sea again, and I just knew he was trying not to think about me dying in the arena.

But I won't die, and I knew I won't because I was strong, because I had experience, because I was tough. I didn't look strong, and I mostly looked sweet and smiley, but looks can deceive. I trained for this games for the past three years none-stop, and I had natural survival skills from the many hours I spent at sea.

My dad knew why I wanted to volunteer – we weren't rich, and we needed the money. My dad, even though he was a good fisherman, didn't bring enough money home from selling the fish he caught. We needed to pay for the Capitol every month, and if we won't have enough money soon my father will have to sell his boat. I couldn't let that happen.

My father didn't talk to me at all for the next two hours; we just sat there in silent, each of us lost in his own thoughts. I was nervous; despite my training, I wasn't a killing machine. I was disgusted by dead people, and I definitely didn't like causing misery and pain to people. But I had to think about my father, who was poor and miserable all his life. I had to help him; because this was my duty. To make my father happy. This was all I wanted.

Though I knew that if I won't come out of this alive, he will be even more miserable than before. So I knew I had to live, that I had to win this.

I wouldn't let him be alone.

My dad eventually told me I should go home and get ready to the reaping and he will join me in a few minutes. I nodded and walked to our house, which was a small, shaggy house. It wasn't much, but it was my home.

I tried to look as presentable and nice as possible; I wasn't beautiful, I wasn't stunning and I wasn't incredibly pretty. I was nice enough. In order to see my beauty people had to look at each part of my face separately. My eyes were my best feature by far.

I didn't have many clothes, so picking a dress was proven to be a very hard task, but in the end I found a nice blue dress that complimented my body well enough. I left my hair loose, it only got past my shoulders and it was organized enough without too much effort, and put my brown torn sandals on my feet. The sandals weren't pretty, they were rather ugly, but they were the only shoes I had.

I heard my father getting inside the house and in a minute he was in front of me. He looked at me with a weird expression, something between sadness and desperation.

"Please don't go," he said pleadingly, and I couldn't help but flinch at the sound of his voice. I never heard him sounding more desperate in my life.

Instead of telling him I already made up my mind and that I will go, I walked towards him and hugged him tightly. "I'm sorry dad," I said, and was surprised at how hoarse my voice was.

He broke the hug after a few moments and looked at me with narrowed eyes. "You're not going to die."

"I am not going to die," I agreed.

"And you will do everything you can to come back home."

"I will do everything I can to come back home."

"And you won't trust anyone."

"I won't trust anyone."

"And if you'll get into a kill-or-be-killed situation, you will kill the tribute who's trying to harm you."

I hesitated only for a minute before repeating what he said, showing him that I'll do as he said.

He nodded his head approvingly after I said it and walked out of the room.

An hour later I walked towards the Seventeen year old section in the main square. Most of District Four was already there, though the announcement of the names didn't start yet. I walked straight to my best friend, Elena, who was looking worryingly at me when I reached her. She didn't like my decision to volunteer, but nothing she said changed my mind.

"You really going to do it?" she asked me.

"Yes," I nodded, and she gave me a disappointed look before turning to look back at the stage.

Our mayor walked towards the microphone on the stage and everyone went silent. He started talking about the rebellion and the Capitol and the hunger games, and I tuned everything out. I didn't want to hear about the rebellion again – I was there when it happened, after all. I saw my mom and younger sister getting killed. I remembered everything about it, though I sometimes wished I could be able to forget. I was only nine when it happened.

When our escort walked to the microphone I listened again. He was a chubby guy, with pink skin and red spiky hair. He looked cute, always happy and cheery. I liked him.

Though he did have the most annoying voice in the whole panem. "Hello District Four!" he squeaked in a high voice that made some of the people in the crowd wince. "Happy hunger games, and may the odds be ever in your favor!"

He walked to the girls' reaping bowl first and clapped his hands enthusiastically. "Let's start with the girls first!" He searched for a nice piece of paper in the bowl and I prepared myself.

"Josaphee – "

"I volunteer!" I shouted, not letting him finish the name.

He blinked several times before smiling his happy smile again. "Oh, yippee! A volunteer! Come here, come! Come!"

I got on stage and tried to appear as brave as possible, though I didn't feel very brave now. Thinking about volunteering was one thing – actually doing so was another.

I already felt like I did a mistake. But there was no turning back now. The damage was done.

"What's your name, hon?" our escort, Jojo, asked. "Mags Taylor," I said as confidently as I could.

"Well, Mags Taylor, I'm happy to announce you're now the female tribute of District Four!" Jojo said cheerfully, and the crowd cheered. Though I could see one man in the distance who didn't cheer.

"And now for the boys!" Jojo said and all but skipped to the boys' reaping bowl. Before he could even pick a piece of paper someone shouted "I volunteer!" from the crowd.

A second later, a young man walked on stage. He wasn't handsome at all, he looked big and resembled a baboon, and I remembered him faintly from training. But he was one year older than me, so I didn't really know him. I didn't even know his name.

"My name is Shane Robe," he said confidently. "And I'm going to be the winner of the eighth hunger games!"

The crowd cheered very loudly as he said this, and I could barely stop myself from rolling my eyes. Cocky much?

"Oh, this is so exciting! Two volunteers, so fantabulous!" Jojo squeaked happily and clapped his hands again. "Now, shake hands, come on! Shake them!"

Shane took my hand firmly and shook it; we both looked at each other this whole time, and I could see he wasn't really too impressed with my physical shape. He didn't try to hide his displease.

We were both taken to the justice building, and two peacekeepers walked me to a big room inside the building. They informed me I had an hour to see my loved ones, and then I will have to go to the train that will take me to the games.

I sat on a couch and waited. I didn't have to wait for long though – a minute later my father walked into the room, looking stressed though not surprised.

He hugged me tightly and didn't say a word – we already said everything we had to say to each other before we left the house to the main square. Though there was one thing I didn't tell him. "I love you," I said, and was surprised to realize my voice was choked with tears.

"Love you too," he said quietly and looked me in the eyes. "You're coming back."

I nodded, and he put a stray of my hair behind my right ear and, with a tight smile, walked out of the room.

I took a deep breath and sat on the couch again. I was so scared now – why was I so stupid? Why did I volunteer?

Right. To make my father happy. He wasn't happy though – he looked miserable.

But he will be happy, when I'll come back with all the money and the glory. He will be happy – this was the right choice. I made the right choice when I volunteered.

Right?

Elena came into the room a few minutes later, and we also didn't really talk. She was disappointed with me, with my decision, but she didn't want to upset me. If this will be the last time we see each other – which it won't be – then she didn't want to ruin it.

"Don't let the careers stab you in the back," she said after a few minutes of silence.

"I won't," I promised. "I'm not stupid, you know. I'm not going to trust them."

"I didn't say you were stupid," Elena said quickly. "But you do trust people easily. Just remember that this is a game, and they'll betray you in the first opportunity they'll get."

I nodded my head, because really, what could I say about it. When Elena had to go, she hugged me and wished me good luck. She didn't cry, she knew I hated it when people cried because of me.

A couple of other people came, friends from school and neighbors. They wished me good luck, told me I can win this thing. I smiled to all of them and said thank you, because being rude was just not something I was good at. I hated it when people were offended by my words.

My hour was soon over and I had to get onto the train that will take me to the Capitol, to the games. There were lots of photographers next to the train, and all of them tried to take pictures of me and Shane and our escort and our one mentor – there was, after all, only one person from District Four who won the games – and I smiled my best smile and tried to make them love me. Sweet and cheerful, that was what I was good at.

Shane, on the other hand, wasn't sweet, nor was he cheerful. He was quiet and looked like a walking bag of potatoes. I really didn't like him, and it seemed like he really didn't like me.

We got on the train quickly enough, and I looked out of the window as the train started moving. I couldn't help but wonder if this was going to be the last time I see District Four.


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