Hello! So first of all I'd like to say thank you for taking the time to read this if you do, and that this is the very first time I've completed a story to the best of my ability. I apologise for any spelling/grammar errors in advance, because sometimes I might accidently miss them! And of course, if I was Suzanne Collins, I would not be writing fanfiction for my own book. Enjoy! :)
The portly man on stage, named Alastair, taps the microphone a few times, and a resounding echo fills the reaping spot.
"Welcome! Residents of District two!" His voice is sickly sweet, like honey, making me want to gag.
"It is time, as many of you may have guessed," He grins slightly, baring two golden teeth at the front of his mouth, "To choose, this year's tributes for the chance to compete in the 74th annual Hunger Games, and all the honour and the glory that accompanies that."
He finishes his sentence, and closes his mouth in a satisfied manner.
"So!" He exclaims suddenly, causing several people in the audience to shudder, "Shall we say, gentlemen first this year?"
Several people in the crowd cheer, but a few of the girls in the eighteen year old pen jeer. Most people in District two, are trained in what are called 'Career academies', until they're eighteen. Then, the strongest among us volunteer, hoping to bring yet another victory to our district. One and four do the same however, so at least there's some competition for us in the arena.
I've been trained in the academies since I was ten. They say that when I'm eighteen, I'm to be the one to volunteer. My teacher says I have an aptitude for knife-throwing. I'd say it's more than that, in fact I never miss.
Alastair hobbles up to the glass bowl, containing the male reaping slips, with a knowing smile. Whoever gets chosen, they won't have to compete. Someone will volunteer.
He walks back up to the microphone and unfolds the slip of paper.
"Ahem." The crowd goes silent in anticipation, "Marcus Mattington!"
The cameras on the screen focus in on a scrawny looking boy in the crowd, he doesn't look worried. Marcus Mattington doesn't get the screen time for long though, because sure enough, someone's shouting "I volunteer!" from behind me. I don't even bother to turn around to see who it is. I'll see them soon enough anyway.
The blonde boy makes his way up to the stage, his face shown on the screen. A gasp escapes me when I realise who it is.
Alastair greets the boy with a handshake and the boy tries to look as intimidating as possible.
"And what might your name be?" Alastair asks the boy. I already know the answer though.
"Cato," the boy sneers at the crowd, "Cato Harley."
I start to feel drowsy, as memories work their way through my brain. Like cogs in machinery.
Flashes of Cato and me when we were kids, running through the town square. Our mother's talking and laughing. The first day of the career academy, looking to Cato for a reassuring smile as I throw my first ever knife. His reassuring laugh as I hit it. Dead on target.
But then other memories force their way through, Cato laughing and pointing at me with his friends. Being ignored whenever I tried to speak at him. Cato running in to the academy late with whoever took his fancy.
No, this is the Cato I knew. That I know. The Cato that was once my friend is now the Cato that is my enemy. We haven't spoken properly for years. Why should I care if he dies?
Alastair's voice snaps me out of my stupor.
"Well, after that no doubt shocking turn of events," He pauses for the audience to laugh, clearly it was anything but shocking, "Now is the time to choose the lucky lady that will be joining Mr Harley here!"
His hand hovers over the female reaping bowl for a moment, as if trying to taunt us. He then chooses a slip of paper and reads it out aloud on the microphone.
There's a weird ringing in my ears for a moment. One of the girls next to me pokes me hard in the ribs.
"Clove, dear?" Alastair's voice rings out again.
I look around helplessly, for someone, anyone, to volunteer. No, surely someone has to. There's a volunteer every year. I'm not ready yet. I'm not ready.
I see my face on the screen; I look anything but the ideal career. My face is a sickly shade of green, my eyes darting around carelessly. This won't do. I have to pull my act together. I'm not a hopeless case. I still have a chance.
I force my legs to walk through the crowd, doing my best to put on what I hope is a menacing smirk.
I reach the stage and, making sure my legs are steady, I climb the steps.
"Clove, dear! How lovely to meet you." Alastair sticks his hand out for me to shake it.
My palms are sweaty, but I know I'll have to take it. I do so, and he immediately wipes his hands on his silver suit. They don't even let you keep your dignity.
"Well, that was a surprise! No volunteers this year for the girls? My, my. That certainly was a shocking turn of events!" He repeats his earlier words.
I see my mother in the crowd, she's clutching my father, not even looking at me. My father's looking at me, nodding his head. My sister's curled in to my mother, I can't see her face. I look around, and see familiar faces everywhere. My friend, Pip, whom I've known for years. The boy who used to tease me about my height, staring determinately at the ground. Even the woman who served me in the shop, she's looking like I'm a lost cause.
But I'm not a lost cause. Do they not understand? I never miss. Ever. And they're all treating me like I have no chance. Is it because of Cato? Sure, he's strong and brutal, but even after all we've been through, he'd never hurt me. Would he?
"Well, shake hands you two!" Says Alastair in his oh, too happy way.
Cato grabs my hand a little too forcefully. He looks in to my eyes. A look that says, I don't care who you are, or what we've been through, I will kill you. I swallow down the tears that had been forcing their way up my throat. Don't cry Clove, don't.
"Well, ladies and gentlemen!" Alastair begins to talk through the microphone again, "Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favour!"
He smiles gleefully, and pushes us through the doors to the justice building.
From then on, I decide I have to put on a new persona. I will not shame my district, just because I'm not eighteen yet. I will show them. I will show Alastair. I will show Cato. I will win.
It's funny. I think I've always known I'd be in this position the moment I threw my first knife. Although I thought I'd be eighteen. I thought I'd volunteer. I thought I'd be ready. So when my mother bursts through the door, I just let the tears fall. Now's the last time I might ever see her, or my family. I'm not putting on an act now.
My little sister, Clara, hangs on to my side weeping, while my mother just embraces me.
"Where's dad?" I managed to choke out.
"Oh, he w-wanted to come in separately," My mother tells me. Why would he want to do that? He's probably got something to say, and he doesn't want to embarrass me.
"C-clove!" My sister wails, and she clings harder on to my side. She's only nine. And now I have to leave her.
We stay like this for however long, until the peacekeeper comes to fetch them. Clara's screaming again, but my mother remains silent. She backs out the room, her face blank.
"Clara!" I grab my sister, "Clara listen. It's gonna be okay. Don't cry. You'll see me soon okay?" I sniff.
"Hey, come on now little girl. Time to leave." The peacekeeper grabs Clara forcefully by the shoulder.
"Hey! Don't touch her!" I slap the man's hand away from my sister.
The peacekeeper however, regains his grip on her and drags her away. Clara's screams echo through the walls, and I have to force the tears not to fall down my face.
The time for crying is over. The fight has already begun. From now on, I am a tribute in The Hunger Games.
There's a five minute wait, and I dry my eyes. The door clicks behind me, and I see my father's face. Pointed and stern. I already know I'm not about to face another tearful goodbye.
"Clove, sit." My father orders me on to one of the wooden chairs, and he sits opposite me.
"Now, I know this is a bit earlier than expected. But you're still in with a chance!" His voice sounds fake. He's trying to sound optimistic, but I can see right through it.
"Dad, don't say it like that."
"I know what you think. You think I haven't got any chance!" I spit. I can feel my temper rising, and my face reddening.
"Clove, that's not what I-"
"Yes it is! And I know why you think it! Oh yeah sure, I'll be fine, until it gets down to Cato and me, but then you think I won't have the nerve to kill him, don't you?"
He doesn't say anything and I continue anyway.
"We haven't been friends since we were twelve dad! And if killing Cato's what's going to get me on my train ticket back home, then so be it! I can't belie-" I cut myself off, my father's smirking.
"What?" I snap.
"That's my girl. With that temper in the arena, I know you'll come back."
I can't help it, I start to smile too. My father was only trying to make me see that I can win. That I have a chance. I feel more relieved than I should.
"Come here," My father embraces me in a gentle hug.
"Love you dad." I says, but my voice is muffled in his sweater.
The door bursts open again, and a peacekeeper is telling my father to leave.
"I love you too Clove." He says, smiling, just as he's dragged away.
I know now that he has faith in me. And I know now that I have faith in myself. I will win.