Disclaimer: I do not own these characters or make any profit from this story.
"Pretty dress," I mutter when Undersee opens the door. She's got on this white dress that only her family could afford, the Mayor's family. Of course she'd wear it to something as terrifying as the Reaping. Of course Undersee would make herself as pretty as possible for the ugliest day of the year. Long blonde hair tumbling down her back in ringlets despite it being held back with a ribbon. A pin of gold attached loosely to her dress. Her cheeks instantly spring with pink and I can't help but lock her gaze.
She recovers quickly though, spouting out: "Well, if I end up going to the Capitol, I want to look nice, don't I?" On the inside I'm laughing, Undersee doesn't attend the Capitol unless she's showing off a group of freaks her talents, which range from absolutely un-useful things to the piano. I hate delivering to the mayor's house. Whether I'll admit it or not it makes me squirm. The risk is ten times greater but Katniss assures me that Undersee wouldn't rat. Not even her father. Still makes me squirm. She doesn't look down on me which is the strangest thing. I almost want her too. It would be normal. Make sense. But she just looks at me like I'm trading. Which I am, I guess. Katniss next to me smirks at her friends answer, but it's not funny to me.
"You won't be going to the Capitol," I tell her, locking my jaw. Why should the Reaping scare her? It shouldn't. Yet still she makes her best effort to look nice. "What can you have? Five entries?" I bet her daddy makes it so she has even less. "I had six when I was just twelve years old."
"That's not her fault," Katniss shoots at me, telling me to stop with her eyes. She hates when I'm like this. Especially inside the District.
"No, it's no one's fault," I mutter lamely. "Just the way it is." Katniss is satisfied with my answer and her and Undersee make the trade while I stand back and watch. Polar opposites, Katniss and her. Brown hair to blonde. Tanned skin to pale. Gray eyes to blue. Undersee looks at me once with eyes filled with unspoken anger and I know that I've won. I always do.
"Good luck, Katniss," she says gently.
"You too," Katniss replies, turning away and motioning for me to follow. We walk the rest of the way back to the Seam in silence, I know she's angry at my comment. But it's true, why shouldn't I have said it? And it's all thanks to none other than the Capitol, the way they divide us between rich and poor so easily. Not that I'm saying Undersee and I would get along much better if she had been from the Seam, she's too quiet, but that's not what matters. What matters is the division they've created among us.
I tell Katniss to wear something pretty sarcastically and I can see the annoyance in her eyes. I make my way back to my house and toss my game bag on the floor. Posy runs to me and attaches herself to my leg.
"Gale, Momma's been worried!"
"I'm fine, Pose," I smile back. "Is Rory ready?" A lot of what Katniss talked about this morning was how it was Prim's first year for the Reaping, but it somehow slipped her mind that it was Rory's too. I didn't mention it though, Prim must be a lot more terrified than Rory. She nods and scratches at the dress she's wearing. "You look nice."
"It's itchy, Gale."
"Well it looks nice," I laugh, picking her up and hanging her upside down by her toes.
"Gale!" Posy giggles and tries to break free of my grasp. "Let me go!" I spin her around shouting something about the older-brother-monster and she continues to laugh.
"Gale Hawthorne," my mother's voice is what gets me to stop. She's standing at the top of the stairs with her arms crossed and her brow furrowed. "You have to get ready."
"Right, Ma," I nod as she rushes back into her room. She's not very prepared for the day either. Now instead of just me she's got two sons going in. Vick's still too young, thank God for that, but she's worried for sure. I hear the splash of the water upstairs and know I have to go rub my skin raw. I wonder what would happen if everyone showed up to the Reaping covered in soot, none of us looking presentable. I bet Effie Trinket would flip out, give the entire District a lesson on appearances.
After I'm clean and dressed I make my way back downstairs. My mother, now waiting for me sighs and straightens my shirt. "Last year," she tells me gently.
"First year," I place my hand on Rory's shoulder. "Nervous?"
"Not in the least," Rory shoots back. He's got this thing where he thinks he isn't allowed to be afraid of anything. I heard him tossing and turning in his sleep last night. That's the thing. If Rory were to get reaped there's no way I'd let him go. I'd volunteer in a heartbeat.
"Yeah well," I pound his back, "we should be going."
"Good luck, Gale," Vick says quickly, gripping my leg much had Posy had. "You too, Rory," he turns to his other brother.
"See you soon," I smile at them, Rory doing the same. As we walk toward the square Rory fidgets in his pants. "Would you stop," I mutter. "You're gonna mess them up."
"They're too tight," he tells me. I laugh because they were too tight on me the first time I wore them too. "Gale, I'm nervous." I knew he was. I even said I knew.
"You've got no reason to be," I tell him gently. If anyone can get me to soften up it's my damn siblings. "I'm not gonna let anything bad happen, alright?" He nods, knowing I mean I'd volunteer. It's not even a question. "Besides, you've got to be strong for Primrose, eh?"
"Shut up," Rory blushes, shoving me away. I grin and hang my arm over his shoulder. The mention of Prim, however, gets me thinking about Katniss. Of course Katniss would volunteer if Prim were Reaped, just as I would for Rory, but then what? Would I volunteer too so I could go in and protect her? Would she volunteer to go in with me? The thoughts get my stomach knotted angrily.
We reach the square and God help me if it isn't Undersee checking in right in front of us. "Wow," Rory smiles. "She's pretty."
"Shove it," I mutter to him, Undersee turning to look at us as Rory flushes. She even offers him a quick smile before running off to her sectioned off area. "Mayor's daughter, idiot."
"Well I know that," Rory grumbles, lining up in front of me. "She just looked nice is all. You talk about her like she's a monster."
"I don't talk about her," I hiss, shoving him forward in his step. By now Undersee's long gone, maybe talking to Katniss. Maybe she's just awkwardly standing next to her. I wouldn't know.
"Sometimes you do, and you never make her out so she sounds appealing." Appealing, what a word to describe her. I'm not going to lie and say that Undersee's ugly, she's not. In fact, she's really pretty. Maybe even as pretty as Katniss, but she's not… I don't know the word. Not suitable to be pined over. Not that I pine over people. I'm just saying if I did it wouldn't be her. Quiet, that's the thing. She's so quiet and shy whenever I see her. That just isn't appealing to me.
Rory gets his finger pricked, then I get mine, and then we part ways to our sectioned off areas. I peer through the crowds and see him waving at Prim who timidly waves back, then looks back at her feet. I glance around for Katniss and when I spot her she's talking lightly with Undersee. I try to catch her eye a few times but it never works out.
"Last year," I hear Thom's obnoxious voice over the chatter of the crowd, and turn to face him. He grins and I grin back. "Now, Mr. Hawthorne, how does it feel to go through all seven years without being Reaped?"
"Don't speak so soon," I mutter, dropping my grin and shoving him away. "Last one isn't over yet."
"Might as well be," Thom replies, scouting out over the crowd. "Who do you think it'll be?"
"I don't know, Thom," I roll my eyes. He's always like this, never scared of the Reaping. Even I'll admit I'm nervous. But not Thom, he's never nervous.
"I wonder if they'll cry,"
"Enough, Thom," I cut him off. "Just stop, would you?" His smile drops and he nods.
"Whatever," I snap, turning back to look at Katniss. This time she's looking at me and I try to smile; only it doesn't work. Nerves are getting the best of me. I glance toward Rory who's finally losing his superior attitude and staring at his feet. I swallow slowly as Effie Trinket takes the stage, prancing along like she's excited to be here. Honestly, she's not, but not for the same reason we aren't. She hates District 12, we're the worst. No winners since Haymitch Abernathy, who manages to fall off the stage as I think of him.
Haymitch is drunk, obviously. At least this Reaping is partially entertaining considering Effie's hair isn't on correctly anymore and Haymitch has stumbled off the stage. "Ladies first!" Effie cheers, sauntering toward the bowl near the edge. God, please don't let it be Katniss. Don't let it be Prim. Don't let it be any of the girls I may or may not have messed around with over the past four years of high school. And then the crowd exhales all at once and I snap my head, realizing I've missed the name. Prim stays in her spot and I sigh gratefully, looking back at Katniss who isn't moving, but rather pale. That's when I notice who's moving, the girl who's making her way timidly to the stage. I'll be damned if it isn't anyone other than Undersee.
She doesn't cry, she doesn't fidget, she stands tall, straightening her dress over her knees. Her blue eyes glare daggers at the crowd. Her father the mayor has gone pale behind her, paler than I thought possible. She doesn't look scared, yet I know she is. Her hands are shaking, her entire body's shaking. And then my heart lurches into my throat as I realize what's actually happening.
Undersee. Undersee was Reaped and she only had 6 damn slips in that stupid glass bowl. The mayor's daughter was Reaped. The girl who I told this morning wouldn't be going to the Capitol. Damn if I don't feel like an ass now. I've already started writing the apology in my head I'll say to her when I go visit to say goodbye when Effie reaches into the boys bowl. I'll tell Undersee I never meant anything I said. I'll tell her I actually thought she was really pretty, and I'll tell her how I'll be rooting for her. I'll tell Undersee that I always saved the best strawberries for her family over mine because I know she liked them so much…
The apology I'm writing in my head comes to a stop as my name rings out over the speakers. It echoes off the buildings. Gale Hawthorne. I look toward Katniss who looks like she's going to be sick, up at Rory who's shaking his head, his eyes widened, back at Thom who has never looked more in disbelief in his life… the Peacekeepers yank me out of line and shove me forward, I almost go to snap at them and tell them I'm walking. I glance up at the stage where Undersee continues to shake, even her foot taps nervously as she locks eyes with me. She looks… upset. I'd be upset too if I were her, considering the things I said to her earlier in the day.
Out in the crowd I hear Posy calling my name and my stomach sinks as I hear Vick try to shush her. My knees threaten to give out as I climb the stairs, my eyes instantly finding Rory in the front row who gnaws at the inside of his cheek and stares at the ground. I'm sure he's trying to stop crying. I glance toward Undersee who looks away instantly. Now that I'm closer to her I can see that she's fighting off tears.
The mayor, her Goddam father, has to return to the stage and recite the Treaty of Treason while his daughter's the one that'll be going into the Games. The strangest thing of it all is that his voice doesn't shake. It doesn't quiver. He only looks at her like he's confused, like he doesn't know what to do. If I had a kid and had to be doing that I'd have to excuse myself or something, I wouldn't be able to make it through the whole thing. But he does it, not one teary eye, and she doesn't look at him, instead glares right into the camera. I'm so focused on Undersee that I don't realize we're supposed to shake hands until she mutters my name under her breath angrily.
I lean forward and grab her hand lightly, shaking it once and letting it fall. "District 12's Tributes for the 74th annual Hunger Games! Madge Undersee and Gale Hawthorne! Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favor." I go to glare at the pink headed freak who coos it, but am pleased in the fact that no one claps. No one. And then I'm ushered into the Justice Building next to Undersee. Undersee. Fragile, weak, quiet little Undersee is going to have to compete in the Hunger Games. She's going to die. I might be the one to kill her. I shove the thought out of my head and cringe as a Peacekeeper shoves me into the room across from hers. Just minutes ago I was planning an apology to her and now I'm not sure if I'll ever get the chance to say it.
As I sit in the empty room waiting for my visitors it finally sinks in. I'm going to kill someone. Someone's going to kill me. I'm going to die. I'm a contestant in the 74th annual Hunger Games.
A/N: So I decided to go with Gale's POV because I like it. He's kind of angsty a lot and fun to decipher. Not sure how often I'll be updating this but knowing me it'll probably be at least once a week. Let me know how you like it.