Chapter 1: Amber's POV

Swish Swish Swish

The sound the grain makes right before harvest is the most calming sound I've ever heard. Ever since I was little, I've been coming out to the grain fields to clear my head. Sometimes, late at night my father would come out with me, carrying me on his shoulders. He would even bring his violin. My father had a dream to become a musician, instead of just the simple grain farmer he was. That would never happen of course. I guess everyone here in my district home has dreams that are impossible. At one time, my grandmother wanted to become a doctor. She knows more about medicinal plants than anyone here. However, since we're considered quite poor, she has to settle with teaching her granddaughter everything she knows.

Suddenly, I hear the grain behind me rustling. I expect to see my father coming here to join me, but instead I see my cousin Sage. "Hey, Amber," she calls out. She moves toward me. "Why are you sitting in the dirt? You'll ruin your nice outfit," she gently scolds, in a very good impression of my mother. Now, we may not own the biggest house or the nicest clothes, but my mother is obsessed with cleanliness. I laugh. "You are coming over tonight, right?" I ask. Sage smiles at me, "of course, the whole family will be there." I'm talking about the meal we have after the Reaping, where we celebrate another year of being safe. We also celebrate the harvest coming the next day. By whole family, I mean Sage as well as her younger sister and brother; my cousins Roy and Maize, and her parents, my aunt and uncle. My grandfather from the other side of the family, my uncle's father, lives with them, so of course he'll be there too. "I can't wait for your father's violin playing!" Sage exclaims. I don't respond though. My thoughts have wandered toward the Reaping, when I'll be forced to watch another boy and girl get torn away from their family. This year, my name is in the bowl 26 times. Sage can probably guess what I'm thinking. "Come on, Amber, let's go back. I've learned a new braiding technique, and I've been dying to try it out." She grabs my hand a little too forcefully, and leads me out of the field. She's taking me to my house, so her family must have already arrived. By the time we get back, I'm back to my old self again. As Sage thrusts open the door to our little cottage, we're both cracking jokes about what kind of outfit Calcius, our district escort, will be wearing. She bets on eye watering yellow, while I insist it will be pus green. We both are laughing now, and we wave to our grandmother who is just pulling her famous bread out of the oven. I spot half a chicken next to it and my mouth begins to water. We only get meat around once a year, but most families don't even get that. However, the butcher here knows that a loaf of my grandmother's fresh bread is worth the meat. We hardly ever have bread to spare, though. No one here in 9 does anyway.

Sage leads me towards the only mirror in the house, and proceeds to put my hair back in a hairdo that consists of four tiny braids leading into a ponytail. My mother and aunt come into the house, likely after gardening, and smile my hair. My mother compliments Sage's nimble fingers. I guess you could say I'm nimble too, but I don't really care much about hair to be honest. I know that Sage actually looks forward to the chariot races because she likes to see what crazy hairdos the stylists have come up with. The Games always make me a little queasy, but we watch the Parade together every year. Now my father and uncle have arrived home early from the fields. Neither comes into the house, for fear of dirtying the immaculate carpet, but they call for us to head to the square. Sage takes my hand and smiles. My mother puts her hand on my shoulder, and my aunt wordlessly places one on Sage's. Grandma doesn't follow. She can't stand the sight of children getting lead to the death, so Grandpa stays with her. We exit the house. It's time.

As we make our way to the square, I can't help but wonder if I'll ever see that little house again. I try to push the thought to the back of my mind as Sage and I join the other thirteen year old girls. Sage immediately goes over to a group of girls, and they all talk in hushed voices. I stand alone. I'm always the odd one out. I don't really have any friends at school besides Sage. You would think that I would be friends with her friends too, but I'm not. They seem to shallow for me, and they're always giggling about something. I know I should really smile more, but I just don't want to seem superficial. Because today's the reaping, they don't laugh at all though. Calcius walks on stage that almost forces a laugh out of all of us though. He's wearing lavender with blue peacock feathers sticking out of random places. His lips and eyebrows are electric blue. "Happy 63rd Annual Hunger Games!" He calls. Sage and I mumble " May the odds be ever in your favor" together. Her fake accent is rather good. "Let's start with the gentleman!" Calcius echoes. He reaches into the bowl. "Chase Earl!" A very thin sixteen year old walks up. His eyes look unafraid though. He probably won't die in the bloodbath then. "Now for the ladies!" Calcius grins a sickly sweet smile. My heart feels as if it's rising to my throat as he reaches into the bowl. Somehow, I know what will happen right before it does. "Amber Willis!"