A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order.
- Jean-Luc Godard
Hunger Games Year 64
"Honey, are you ready yet?" Clove's mother called from the bottom of the staircase. Adjusting the weight of her elder daughter's messenger bag on her shoulder, she called yet again, "Clove! It takes ten minutes to get to the Annex. It's rude to be late, especially on your first day!"
"I can't find anything to wear," came the delayed response from the top of the stairs.
Mrs. Holloway sighed, lifting the messenger bag off of her shoulder, and grabbing her younger daughter from her place on their living room couch. Racing up the stairs, she swiftly pushed her eldest daughter's door open to find a seemingly war-torn bedroom. Sitting in a growing pile of clothing was six-year-old Clove.
Clove's mother didn't bother to mention to her distraught daughter that most of these items were not suitable for training in the first place, including a white dress that Clove had accidentally ruined at a classmate's birthday the previous school year and spotted pajamas that were too small.
Elma Holloway set her younger daughter on the floor and impatiently rummaged through a drawer in Clove's dresser, quickly withdrawing a black tank top and lime green pair of spandex shorts. Her long hair toppled over her left shoulder as she leaned into the drawer and she shook her head to clear the hair from her line of sight.
"When you're done putting on your outfit, don't forget to put on socks and double knot your shoelaces. You have two minutes, Clove, or your father will hear about this."
Clove stuck her lip out in a pout.
As Clove began to put on the tank top, Mrs. Holloway nodded affirmatively and returned downstairs to her last minute errands. She eyed Clove's messenger bag critically and added two more juice boxes and an extra bag of her trail mix for good measure. Finally satisfied, she entered the vehicle garage, placing Clove's messenger bag in the backseat of her car.
In the background, she could hear Clove trailing down the stairs with loud thumps. She placed her youngest daughter in her car seat, fastened her in, and then returned to the driver's seat. Clove appeared, pacing nervously in the garage.
Mrs. Holloway couldn't help but to smile at her daughter's reluctance. "You look great. C'mon, let's get going."
As they drove towards the Annex, all fronts were quiet. Clove gazed curiously out the window as the they took the dirt road north towards the center of town. Eventually, they made a left turn and she saw a field of green, a field so unlike where they lived.
It was an eight minute commute. When they came to complete stop, Clove gazed upward to the multi-storied industrial building. This was it. This was the Training Annex of District Two West. It was a sight. She scratched a few fingers against the tightened hair tie and looked on nervously.
Her mother's words cut her ruminations short. "We'll be back in the afternoon. Do well."
Clove pried the door open and inched out cautiously. She dragged her messenger bag from the seat and pulled it against herself. Then, she took a breath and ran into the building, waving off at her mother.
Her mother watched her enter the building, and called out from her car window, "Clove, make us-" before pursing her lips together. Her little girl had already vanished from sight.
As Clove traveled inside the building, she noticed just how far outwards the building stretched. The initial adrenaline wore off, creating a dull tension in her shoulders that made her wince. She dropped the blue messenger bag onto the floor and began to pull it along rather haphazardly, looking for any help she could find.
That's when she came upon a woman sitting behind a counter. Clove stood on the tips of her toes and asked, "Mrs, where is the room where we put our backpacks?"
The older woman looked away from her screen and down over the counter at her. She pointed hazily to the left. "You have about three minutes until class begins, so you'd better hurry, child."
Clove frowned slightly. "Thanks, Mrs." She rolled her shoulders, sighed, and began running towards the entrance of the locker rooms. As she traipsed along, her messenger bag began making unfriendly clinks as it dragged along the tile in hasty bumps.
Inside the girl's locker room was humid, brightly lit, and a bit dingy. The lockers towered high above her, with many already enclosed. Clove paced slowly, pulling a door open to place her bag. Forcefully, she shoved the blue messenger back into place, and slammed the door with as much strength as she could muster.
Stumbling out the door, she sprinted down the hallway in search of the her classroom. She counted the class numbers in the distance, toppling over suddenly when she was hit by something strong. It took her less than a second to recover, shouting an apology to the blond blur that fell behind her as she continued to her classroom.
Her eyes caught the sign signifying she had found the right room. A gray placard adorned the wall, written in black ink, announcing 'Registered Youth: Level I.' Twisting the door handle, Clove entered. The first thing she noticed was the absence of any adult figure, the second was the comfortable mat floors.
She recognized some of the girls from school, but that was less than half of the girls in the room. Sitting a safe distance from them, Clove eyed the door with anticipatory anxiety. Less than a minute later that the door opened and the rest of the girls behind her pivoted towards their new companion.
Their instructors took no time to command them into a single file line. As the pair perused the girls, they made quick observations of each girl, some neutral, most quite critical. By the time they reached her, their observations were brief and she was tallied up in three adjectives, "She's rather small, a delicate and unrefined girl. I'm not sure how she'll fare."
They then moved onto the next girl, a girl in pigtails and red tee, whose lip quavered as they labeled her 'uncoordinated' and various other mean remarks. Her breathing was shallow, her hands winding and unwinding into fists as she bit her lip.
"Stop it!" Clove whispered to the girl.
The pig-tailed girl's response was an angry glare, crossing her arms sullenly. Clove only dismissed her tantrum and watched as the instructors continued their assessments of the other girls.
Their first year orientation began shortly after, in which the instructors assigned them positions on the mats. "Holloway, you're second row, first on the left."
She took her place and was gifted a one-inch circular red pin. It read 'cohort 64: level i' with her surname in smaller print below it. "This pin must be worn at all times. Failure to present your pin upon request will result in punishment. Are we understood?"
"Yes," the girls chorused together.
"Those of you in this group have been assigned to Class 1C. There are five first year classes — three boys classes and two girls. You will be kept separate from the boys for the first three years of introductory training until you're promoted to intermediate level, when you begin weapon's training. At the end of your third year, a skills test will be required for those of you hoping to move onto the next set of courses."
The older of the instructors spoke next, "You have been assigned to the Year 64 Cohort because each of you is six years old today. For some of you that is better luck than others. Think to yourself which of you leans closer to seven years old than six and determine what advantages or disadvantages it may bring."
Clove figured that she didn't swing either way in the pendulum of luck based on her birth date, which was more or less in the middle.
She watched as the younger instructor became more ardent, passionately remarking, "One of our district's most recent victors, Enobaria Jamison, won only two years ago and she trained here. Imagine, if an education here benefited Ms. Jamison, think of what it could do for you. If you are talented enough, clever enough, strong enough, it may be one of you who has the great honor of going on to represent our district in a Hunger Games of your very own someday."
The orientation then closed with an order to run the perimeter of the room ten times, and in that moment, Clove swore the room grew infinitely larger. In the first few laps, the girls mostly held their pace, but eventually the girls began to stagger.
Almost instantaneously, the instructors swooped in like hawk to their prey. They harped nastily at the girls. Clove hardly kept her pace, but it took a solid half hour for the laps to cease. She certainly wasn't the fastest in her class, but unlike the sobbing girls in the corner, she wasn't the slowest either.
Unsympathetically, they screeched at the gaggle of crying girls that they had a choice between returning to their places or leaving and never returning. Hastily, the girls returned to their spots and watched through blurred eyes as their instructors demonstrated elementary sparring techniques — mostly punching and defensive blocks.
After three demonstrations, the girls were split into two lines and paired up. Clove's side was instructed to punch, while the opposing side was to defend.
Clove sunk into herself with self-pity upon being paired up with the nervous girl from before. Once in the proper stance, the command came for them to begin, and Clove began punching.
They repeated the same motion of punching and defending until they were nearly against the wall. Somewhat adjusted to the motion, Clove moved forward once last time and struck the girl. Her partner fell to the ground with a bouncing thud against the mats. Immediately, Clove stepped forward and outstretched her arm to her partner. "I sorta cheated," she admitted.
"You are not to deviate from the technique!" the younger of the instructors was upon them in an instant. "What is your name?"
Out of breath, Clove replied, "Clo—Clove Holloway."
"You were told not to deviate from the technique, were you not?"
Clove bit her lip. "Yes."
"Ten extra laps, Holloway. Make sure you're not in the business of making this mistake again. Are we understood?"
The instructor then turned towards her partner and violently yanked her by a pigtail, "And you?"
"I'm… I'm… I really am sorry," she winced at the instructor's warm breath.
"You are dismissed, Miss Winthrop," the older instructor said, appearing much calmer than his colleague.
The girl's eyes began to water, but with a quick gesture for the door, she ran outside of the room.
"Where are those laps, Holloway?" the instructor grit out.
Trembling, Clove began her laps around the gym, determined not to stop in fear of retaliation.
After several hours their class was dismissed for a short break. Feeling her energy in a peculiar sort of flux, Clove nearly skipped her way towards the girl's locker room. Along the way, she managed to soak her tank top when a mishap with the drinking fountain left her a dripping.
Walking along the path to the girl's locker room she thought wistfully of all the things she could have been doing besides training. Her kindergarten teacher had told her she'd be a great candidate for Two West one day, and her teacher had promised to never lie to them.
Toeing the edge of an underpass, Clove began to watch the various groups of older students making their way through the Annex. Some groups of friends began to challenge each other to various physical challenges, while others discussed what workshops they'd take in their free hours.
It was another minute along the way that she noticed a younger blond boy closer to her age leaning against the wall of the Victor's Hallway. He didn't look like he wanted to be bothered. Clove understood the feeling. He was pouring over a bag of trail mix and she glanced over him enviously, suddenly excited for her own bag.
It was then she noticed the teal ribbons laying wastefully on the floor beside him. Her eyes tightened in response and she mad her way over to him.
"Hello!" she said brightly.
The blond boy looked up, as if unsure she was talking to him or not. When he ascertained that she was, he watched her suspiciously. "What do you want?"
When she didn't reply right away, he turned away, eating another handful of the trail mix. Clove begged her mind to come up with something more to say. Instead, the boy broke the ice with a snide remark, "Nice shirt, newbie."
Clove took a seat beside him. His glance over in response made it abundantly clear he hadn't welcomed this move. She chose to ignore his disdain, sitting next to him in silence.
There was no tactful way to broach this topic. How did she start? 'Hey, what were you doing in the girl's locker room?' or 'Hey, you stealer, why did you take my trail mix,' or 'Hey! that's mine, dummy!'
Clove supposed she could let it slide, but she was still so curious as to why he'd stolen the trail mix from her messenger bag. She hesitated, softly grabbing the familiar ribbons, her mother's signature ribbons, and clenching them in her hand.
Finally, she smiled at him, deciding what to say, and he looked back at her just as suspicious as before. "I can bring you more trail mix tomorrow."
The boy looked up, a ghost of a flush on his face. He scowled at her as if to be threatening, but when that didn't appear to work he let out a sigh a moment later. He rose and looked down on her now, remarking, "Fair enough. I'm Cato Elroy. I'm in Cohort 63."
From this new angle he seemed much less intimidating.
"See ya' round, new kid," he said, mockingly waving as he stalked off.
Author's Note (2017) - This scene takes place on July 1st, 64. In editing, I modified a few sentences for grammar. I also changed the paragraph stating that Enobaria is the most recent victor for District Two. I contradict this later on when I state District Two won the 63rd Games as well. I'm currently working on a third round of revisions and am really trying to do more "show" and less "tell" this time around.
Even though this story is complete, I still actively read any reviews, and I really appreciate any comments, even if it's to tell me something you liked or had questions about.
Written: May 6th, 2012
Edited: September 14th, 2014 (grammar); April 29th, 2017 (content)