A/N: Hello my lovelies I hope you're liking the story so far. Just so you know, I've had parts of this chapter written since I began Kai's story! There's still so much more for her to come, so keep reading and reviewing! Love you aaaall!
Micah doesn't even flinch. He glances at the bow, perhaps recognizing the scene. For I've been planning on recreating Scarlett's death so that the last moments of his life are as terrible as I could make them. Psychological terror is so much worse than physical pain.
It's infuriating how calm he is. I want him dead, but my hand does not let the arrows fly. Why isn't he breaking down like he usually does? Is he just too stupid to realize what I'm pointing out with my method of execution? That must be it. No other explanation.
He takes a step towards me, using his hand as a visor to shield his eyes from the firelight. To see me better. "Oh," he says. There's a strange tone to his voice…relief? "It's just you. Not that…thing." He shudders, and for a moment I'm confused. But I quickly realize what he's saying. He was visited by Capitol mutt tonight, too. Who did the mutt look like? Not that I really care.
It's a strange face-off between me and the boy. I could kill him so easily. He's so insignificant. All I need to do is let the arrow go, and watch it fly into his heart. Watch the blood splatter on the ground and hear his cannon blast. Then I can board a hovercraft and go to the Capitol. Then go home.
But my hand will not relax. My brain screams at it to just let go. To end it. Then Micah begins to speak, drowning out my mind's wise words.
"You know Kai, I've had a lot of time to think since we last met," Micah begins. "And I don't hold myself responsible for what happened to Scarlett. She made the decision to go on her own. I know you never cared about her. If it had come down to the two of you, you would have lopped of her head or whatever with no hesitation. " He takes a deep breath before stepping towards me again and continuing.
"You always said Derick was such a terrible person, even before the games started. But guess what? You're the one who's really screwed up. At least I've kept my morals. I never killed anyone who saved my life. " It's a direct hit. To my heart. No, I didn't kill Lehma, and I don't know who he's thinking of, but I feel directly responsible for Lehma's death. "So go ahead, kill me." He flings his arms out, leaving the path to his heart clear. "The life you'll have after this is over will be just grand. I can guarantee it.
"But every night, you'll see my face in your nightmares. You'll see Derick, you'll see the boy from eleven and the girl from three. You'll see everyone you killed. And when you wake up, no one will be there to comfort you. All of Panem's seen what you've done." He says his last words with a remarkable sense of finality. "And I hope you burn for it."
Now's the moment. The moment that the arrow should fly and pierce his lying heart. But he's right. I've become a monster. He's the one who should win. Who will want me when I arrive home? They all loved Derick, and I killed him. Even my own mother wanted Derick for a child. He seemed like such a nice boy. Every adult loved him. And I killed him. Who wouldn't think I'm a monster now that I've killed eleven people? Twelve, if my stupid hand would just let go of the arrow.
Micah looks almost amused as he watches the conflict play out on my face. "Come on, just do it," he pleads. "Everyone knew I couldn't win this. And may I just be the first to say, congratulations on being the world's most celebrated serial killer." He bows down low, like I was a queen. Once again rage fills me. Terrible, beautiful, blind rage.
As he stands up straight again, I finally let the arrow go. For once, the odds are in my favor. The weapon finds its mark, flies straight into his weak little chest, and ends the beating of his heart. It takes just a few seconds for him to fall to the ground, for the cannon to blast. Then I am left, the victor of the first annual Hunger Games.
I must look like some fierce warrior right now, with my slightly dirty face, torn clothing, and with the flames burning hot and red behind me. Inside, though, I feel like what I really am. A monster. Someone who's only alive because they're terrible. Regret burns deep inside of me.
Right now, the cameras are probably tight on my face, recording my reaction. I try to look happy, to look proud. To look like a victor. But really, I've never been more terrified in my life. My future seems so bleak now.
Eliseo Clemens voice begins to speak, echoing all over the arena. "Ladies and gentleman!" He shouts, hurting my ears. I resist the impulse to clap my hands over my ears. "May I present the victor of the first annual Hunger Games, Kailaini Moana!" I lift my arms into the air like a victor should, dropping the bow to the ground. I've done it. I survived.
The Gamemakers give the crowd to see me in all my glory before the ladder to the hovercraft appears overhead. I scramble up it gratefully, taking one last look at the arena. The fire has disappeared mysteriously, leaving the city covered in strange shadows. This is the place I will see in every one of my nightmares from here on out. From up on the ladder, I can see through the hole in the roof of the Justice Building. I can see part of Derick's masterpiece. I soak it in, for it is the last piece of humanity in the world.
The second that I am safely on the hovercraft, a woman in a white coat comes over, carrying a sinister looking syringe. She sinks it into my arm, and I happily drift off into oblivion, hoping that reality never troubles me again.
Of course it does. I wake up some time later in my room at the training center. I didn't realize how much I hurt when I was in the arena, but now that I'm all fixed up, the absence of the pain is sweet relief. Actually, I feel better than I ever have.
Someone changed my clothes when they patched me up. I'm wearing a clean, soft, white shift. I climb out of the bed and go to my window. A soft light is either just beginning to come out, or the sun is sinking beneath the horizon. Judging by the lack of activity in the streets, it's early morning. At least I have a clue about something. There's no telling how many days I've been asleep, but I'm not stiff, so it can't have been that long.
I press my face against the cold glass and feel it leech the heat away from my body. Cold seems good right now. Warmth has some sort of tie to remembering and that's the last thing I want to do. I never want to remember. Anything. Ever.
The great thing about whatever they gave me was that it staved off the nightmares. I'm going to have to find out what it's called and get some before I leave the Capitol. Maybe I don't need to leave the Capitol though. They surely love me here.
As I ruminate on my future, the door opens just a crack. Someone peers around the edge and spots me at the window. Leonel practically flings himself across the room and gathers me up in his arms.
"You did it!" He says into my hair. "I knew you could." He stops, as though expecting me to say something to him, maybe even joke around. By I just stand there unmoving, hands still pressed against the cold glass. "Kai?" he says, gently shaking me into consciousness. My eyes find his and a tear escapes from the corner of my eye.
"What day is it?" I ask him. He tells me it's been five days since I left the arena. Five whole days. Meaning it's been exactly three weeks now since I left home on the train. Then why does it feel like five lifetimes? Like I've been fighting for my life since I was born? I guess that in a way, I was.
Leonel hugs me tightly, letting me take as much time as I need to get better. I'm just glad that there's still one person on earth who cares for me. If I had my way, I'd never see another human being again.
"So what's on the agenda for today?" I say softly. My breath fogs up the window, so I use the sleeve of my shift to buff it clean.
"The prep team is going to get you ready for your presentation," Leonel explains as he lets go of me. "The president just came up with the idea. So that everyone in Panem can see you again." This translates to: Rivera wants to make sure the Hunger Games are kept alive as much as possible.
"This isn't over yet, is it?" I ask, turning and burying my head in his shoulder. He wraps his arms around me again, comforting me. It's cynical, but I can't help but think that nothing will ever comfort me again.
"It is for now," He says. For now. It's not a guarantee. Far from it actually. "In a few months, the President would like for you to visit all of the districts. As part of what they're calling 'the victory tour.'"
"Isn't that rubbing it in their faces?" I whisper. "I don't want to go there. It's like saying, 'hey, this girl killed your children, and now we're going to make you cheer for her.'" I break away from him and flop onto my bed, facedown. He doesn't leave the window when he responds.
"I think that's the point." We let the words sit in the air for a few minutes. Of course. The Capitol is cruel and manipulative. One of the main reasons the rebellion was so intense. It wasn't just a whim of the people. It was a necessity.
"Well, I have to go let everyone know that you're awake," he says, then leaves me to my thoughts. Who else is there but Leonel who would want to see me? I'm surprised they let me live. In district four, what I did would be considered the most atrocious of crimes. But then I remember that this is the Hunger Games, and rules don't seem to apply here.
It only takes a minute for the prep team and Antone to arrive. One of the triplets jump onto my bed next to me while the others just jump up and down in excitement. I lift my head slightly and look around at them. "You've got to be kidding me."
"Whaaat?" The prep closest to me asks. He has bright pink hair. Unless I have a new set of triplets, they've all dyed their hair.
"Which of you is which?" I ask, trying to look for some feature other than their hair that could discern one from another. Nothing.
"Oh gosh, she means the hair!" Giggles the one with golden hair. The last one hair black hair, with blue tips. "Kai, we dye it all the time. You're gonna have to get used to it. And I'm Harlan. Blue hair is Horatio-"
"And I'm Hubert!" pipes up the one with pink hair as he bounces up and down on my bed. "Is this a water bed? I have wanted one for soooo long!" I nod, then try and reach the safety of the pillows at the head of the bed. In no way I am going to allow myself to be 'prepped' for another interview or whatever.
"Oh no you don't!" Antone shrieks, grabbing my ankles and pulling me towards him. "I created the world's most beautiful dress just for you. It is not going to waste." He snaps his fingers once. "Boys, get her ready!" Then he spins out of the room in a cloud of glitter and sparkles. I bet he designed his own jacket today.
I give in to their begging and let them get me ready for tonight's disaster. Apparently I've become a bit unkempt since our last meeting. Murder can do that to a person, I suppose. One of them frets over my newly shorn hair, but finally breaks down and cuts it more fashionably into an A-line bob. I actually like this new look.
The mix of perfumes and nail polish fumes nearly chokes me to death. I spend most of my prep period gagging. Wouldn't it be just so ironic if I died from beautification after surviving the arena? I wonder how the Capitol would spin that.
It's nearing lunch when they finally let me free. I've been letting them poke and prod me for over six hours by that time, and practically run from the room. A huge lunch is spread out for us to all share, but Leonel stops me from eating as much as I want to. Apparently, due to how little I ate in the arena, stuffing myself now would only result in a very sick stomach later.
I pout around for a little while, clutching a piece of bread in my hands, but it's not like I really have something to complain about. I'd rather not get sick in front of all of Panem today. I did that enough in the arena. Thinking of those times gets me in an even worse mood, so by the end of lunch I've stormed off to my room again.
When Leonel tries to coerce me into coming out with promises of delectable foods, I refuse point-blank. Even if that's what got me in here in the first place, I want to be stubborn. Yes, I'm acting like a child, but once I leave here, I'll never have the chance again.
I can hear a heated conversation going on in the hallway. Leonel is telling Antone to let me mope around if I want to; I've just gone through the most horrifying thing he can imagine. I guess Antone wins though, because he barges in a moment later with a massive dress bag draped over his arm.
Oh no. I forgot about this part. If I thought throwing up in front of everyone would be the most humiliating thing possible, I was wrong. Antone's designs frighten me. He makes me close my eyes before he'll unzip the bag. I refuse for a few minutes, trying to put it off, but I can't do that forever. I hear the zipper sliding down slowly, but I wait for Antone's command before I open my eyes.
He's really outdone himself this time. I mean it. He's abandoned the mermaid look for a much more atrocious design. Tonight, I will be a rainbow in a dress made entirely of tulle and ruffles. A red veil will be draped over my head, hopefully obscuring the look of terror that will grace my visage. The bodice is made of a red material too, and so is the first layer of tulle ruffles. Then the ruffles go in descending order from orange to purple.
The shoes are simple and white, since they won't be seen. But the make-up is an actual masterpiece. Antone works on my face for a full hour, swirling the most beautiful jewel tones onto my eyelids, and carefully painting my lips. The result is a wonderful mess of color, lighting up my whole face, making it look as though I'm not actually the most depressed person in Panem. Even my lips are a candy-coated rainbow.
"Wow," I manage to utter as I gaze at myself in a full length mirror. "This is…really something Antone." I finish lamely. There's really nothing else I can say. I don't think it would be as bad without the veil or ruffles, but I have no say in the matter.
"Isn't it just?' Antone exclaims, more gleefully than I've ever heard him before. "You know, I started working on this the day you left? I just knew you would win!" Aw. I'm really touched. I didn't know there was anything inside Antone's head but glitter and butterflies.
"Did you really?" I say, spinning around in my gown. Maybe I can forgive him for this mess. Leonel walks into the room then, and looks at me a bit concernedly. He composes himself before Antone notices anything, though.
"Kai, would you like to go over a few sample questions before the interview?" He asks, shuffling a stack of cards in his hands. I hadn't even thought of questions.
"I guess," I say warily, and he leads me to the couches. "I was hoping they were just going to parade me around on stage, show me off." I shrug as I try to sit down without crushing my skirt. It's impossible. I sit heavily, feeling the tulle crumple beneath me. It's pretty satisfying actually.
"No, no." Leonel shakes his head, and then strokes his mustache tattoo. "The people want to know their victor, and how she felt at her moment of triumph. Okay. First question- What was your first reaction when you saw the arena?"
I know the answer to this one. I can't say that I figured out that it wasn't the real thirteen. The citizens still probably think that it was real. "I was shocked," I say carefully, as though this were the real thing. "I uh, never expected it. But I think I dealt well with it." Leonel gives me the thumbs up. Okay. That question wasn't so hard. But there are so many more questions they could ask me. And all of them are worse.
"What were you thinking when Scarlett died?" He asks next. Now I don't know what to say. Partly because I honestly don't know what was going through my head right then. So I answer honestly.
"I have no clue," I say, looking at my hands. I hadn't noticed that my nails were painted rainbow, too. "I uh, don't know. We had just gotten into the arena. Well, it was after my first night. It was just all a product of fear. Panic, I guess." I look up to Leonel.
"That's good enough," he nods. "Just don't look down. You don't want to look scared up there, do you?"
"But I am scared," I respond, confused. I'm about to argue with him when Antone and the preps poke their heads into the room.
"Come on guys, it's time to head down!" Hubert says. They're all practically bursting with excitement. I probably would be too if I weren't so ashamed of myself, and frightened of how the crowd will treat me.
We ride the elevator all jammed in together. Derick's absence is strangely tangible in here. The short ride down to the lobby takes too long in that metal box, and I'm the first out. A man in a dark suit waits for me by the doors, and gets us safely loaded into a long, black car.
The streets are filled with the thousands of Capitol citizens heading out to see my interview. A few surmise that I'm in the car, and point at it. One man even runs at the car, but the driver skillfully maneuvers around him. All too soon, we're at the stage. The whole team is going to be presented tonight, even the prep team. I wonder where Florence went. I guess she's not very important because her tribute died. As if it was her fault.
We line up on the stairs, preps first, followed by Antone, and then Leonel. I'm last, of course. We can hear Saamir Flickerman greeting the crowd, telling a few jokes. They don't sound very angry out there. Saamir introduces the preps and Antone. Right before his name is called, Leonel gives me a final hug.
I feel as if I'm going to die when I'm introduced to the crowd. My feet move themselves mechanically onto the stage, and into the blinding white lights.