My eyes spring open. I blink twice, focusing hard on the haze before me. The cries of the gulls outside my window bring me back to reality. I think for a moment and then realize. It's the day I dread each year. I exaggerate as I exhale and then rise from my bed. The mirror above my dresser reflects the image of your typical pretty boy.
I fix my hair with an old comb that once belonged to my father. People say I look just like my father did; I just shrug in response. I have his bronze hair and light green eyes. Sea green.
I get dressed. A light green tee and tan colored shorts should do the trick. I put them on and then sit down on my bed again. I continue to think. I look at the picture of my father, right next to the mirror. Did he look like this when he was fourteen? He probably did.
My father was a hero when he was fourteen. He was a hero when he died ten years later. My father, to me, is still a hero. I just wish he didn't leave me behind with only my mother. She's good-hearted and kind, but she says I'm too much like him.
When the Capitol lost power fourteen years ago, in what we now call the Republic Revolution, President Paylor abolished the Hunger Games. She did not foresee that there were still plenty of Capitol loyalists, especially in Districts 1, 2, and 4. Now we're on the brink of another war between the richer districts and the poorer ones.
Why can't things stay peaceful? Why must we fight?
I go downstairs and see my mother cooking. Usually one of the servants cooks. There must be some special reason. Of course, it's my father's birthday. Even though he's long dead, my mother never forgets to celebrate.
"He'd be thirty-eight," she says. I know, I think, you remind me how old he'd be every year. But I don't say anything. As painful as it is to watch her reminisce about him, I can't stop her from thinking the things she does.
"What did you make for breakfast?" I asked, trying to stray from the topic.
"Fish fry," my mother says. "His favorite." I silently groan to myself. For fourteen years now, she's mourned. Luckily, she's never had to work. The Republic pays for a lot because my mother is "emotionally incapable" of holding a secure job. They give us slightly more money than they should because both my parents fought the Capitol, but my father died in the process.
"Thank you," I say. There's not much I can do without upsetting her, especially today. So I eat my breakfast in silence and look up occasionally to check if she is still staring at me.
"Sterling," she says my name. I make a small glance briefly and see the sadness settling itself in her green eyes. I look away before she notices. She repeats, "Sterling." I still don't look up. She says it one last time, "Sterling. Look at me." I do. "I love you. Just know that. You remind me so much of your father."
"And it hurts," I say. It's a bit too harsh, but it's true.
"It does," she admits. "But you have all the good things about him. You have his beauty. You have his gentleness. You have his caring and kindness."
"What don't I have?" I ask. When my mother gets her normal stints, I try my best to wring out as much information about my father before she goes into crazy mode.
"His cockiness," she says. "Of course, it was an act for the Capitol. Believe me, every woman was in love with him."
"So why'd he choose you?" I ask. Oh no, did I just cross the line? I stare at her. The sadness moves through her, I can tell. The first tear forms. I open my mouth to apologize, but she just smiles.
"I used to ask myself that," she explains. "I used to ask him that. He would say 'Annie, why wouldn't I choose you?' and we'd leave it at that."
"How did he die?" I ask. In all these years, she's never once mentioned his death. All I know is that the Capitol was responsible for it.
It starts with slight shaking. I did cross the line. In my fourteen years with her, I have finally picked up on what calms her down. I get up and give her a big hug and pull her in tightly as the shaking turns to trembling. I shush her lovingly as she sobs. Close contact with a loved one, the psychiatrist used to tell me. He never got close enough to her to try, but I am close enough with her. After all, I am her son.
"I'm sorry," I say. She calms down a bit and rubs her temples. She leans her head into her hands and I know my part here is done. I clear off the table and leave to meet my friends so we can walk to school together. I take one last look at my mother. She's trying her best to collect her thoughts. She's unreachable until all her thoughts restore order.
I look up to the heavens and ask, "Why'd you have to leave?" No answer.