1: The Day Before the Reaping

Peeta

I sit on the end of one of the long, wooden benches in the school hall. We rarely have whole school assemblies but, as the Reaping is tomorrow, it is customary for the teachers to gather us all together in the dingy hall to be addressed by the Principal. Our school isn't large – our District being one of the smallest – yet there is only just enough space to cram us all in here, sat shoulder-to-shoulder on these uncomfortable benches.

I look around, thinking about the fact that two of the children sitting in this crowded room won't be here next week. Odds are, they won't be here next month, next year or ever again. I wonder who it will be this year…

I inwardly make a wish that it won't be my older brother. It's his last year of being eligible for Reaping; he'll soon be free. I hope that it won't be any of the little ones, the twelve or thirteen year olds. Of course, I also wish that it won't be me – selfish as that may be. Most of all, I hope that it isn't Katniss.

As soon as I think of Katniss, my eyes automatically begin to scan the room trying to find her. It doesn't take long to spot her sat slightly over to my left and two rows in front of me, next to the Mayor's daughter who is, as far as I can tell, her only friend at school.

From this angle I can see her jaw and the curve of her neck, the ever-present braid that winds down her back and the short wisps of hair behind her ears which aren't long enough to be part of the braid. She's always been beautiful to me but in the last few months, since she turned sixteen, I find myself drawn to her even more.

The Principal begins his speech. It is short, not nearly as long as the Mayor's speech will be tomorrow, but I find myself ignoring every word as all my attention is on Katniss. She, similarly, does not seem to be riveted by the speech, her lips slightly pursed in thought and her cheek resting on her hand. I can't help but wish that it was my hand, not hers, against her cheek.

All too soon, I am snapped out of my Katniss-induced trace by a lacklustre round of applause from the other students as the Principal finishes his speech. I didn't hear a word of it, but I've heard it all before anyway. I was fixated on the beautiful girl two rows in front throughout the whole speech, and have decided that it is about time I did something about my feelings.

Today is not the day. She'll be upset before the Reaping tomorrow. But tomorrow after the Reaping will be perfect. I am going to talk to her tomorrow. I am going to tell her how I feel, for better or for worse.

A/N: Just a short introductory chapter, a prologue perhaps. Other chapters will be longer! Reviews are very much appreciated!