How hard could it be, really? That was what I had asked myself at the beginning, before all of this.
They had told me what it meant to be a stylist. They had told me it was hard. Not everyone was up to it, the hard work, the lifetime of dedication, or the more… emotional side of a job that was primarily dressing up an endless succession of children to be killed. In one of the incredibly rare moments in which the Capitol allowed itself to be honest, my 'advanced careers advisor' had asked me if I considered myself 'psychologically strong enough' to cope with the 'emotional trauma' of being personal stylist for 'the tributes'. He didn't say 'children'. Even then. I didn't call them children either.
Tributes. A little word. An easy, comfortably impersonal word. That was the word I had used, before all this. I'd been a different person, then. A person who'd thought it would be easy to ignore the fact that these were real human beings that were being forced to murder each other…
And it had been easy.
At first, it had been all too easy to ignore what, exactly, I was being trained to become a part of. When you watched them you focused on yourself, not them, on their bodies, not their faces, on their clothes, not the words coming out of their mouths…
Then it was easy.
Easy enough to keep the tributes nameless, faceless, empty frames to hang clothes on, until they had names, faces, personalities, families… then it was hard.
Katniss. Strong, brave, indomitable, fierce in love and hate, full of her own unquenchable spirit.
Peeta. Kind, sweet, funny. Brave in his humble, quiet way. A real gentleman, I found on the first day I met him. Both so full of their own fire that all Cinna and I had really had to do was find a way to let it all out… the fire of the tributes from District 12.
Because they were people. Real, flesh-and-blood people, human beings, children.
Why is it only now that I begin to realise this?
I've known for a long time, of course. Since I've known Cinna, been caught up in his fire and passion… his convictions have become mine. That was why I signed up to this crazy scheme with Haymitch and Plutarch and everyone… Rebellion. The word itself could be written in flames.
Isn't that why I chose to join Cinna, and not report him? After that night when he explained to me that the conversations we'd been having late into the night, these well-maybe's and what-if's, all this speculation… it had a purpose. All this had a direction - a direction that led right off the beaten track, away from everything I'd ever known, everything safe and comfortable and accepted… from everything wrong.
So I'd chosen that direction, thrown in my lot that way, with District 13, with change, with rebellion.
But now, only now, am I starting to understand. I thought I'd understood, before, but now I see I didn't. Back then, the tributes were just tributes. Children, yes. Innocent victims of the Capitols cruelty, but now…
Now they're people. Names, faces, personalities.
Two living, breathing, wonderful people.
And one or both of them is going to die.
Now I know the real reason I chose the dangerous way. Why I chose the flames rather than my safe warm bed and safe warm life.
Not because the glamour of mystery and danger attracted me. I know it's not like that – I've got no illusions.
Not for love of Cinna.
Not even because I made an objective moral decision.
I did it for Peeta and Katniss and every other child murdered by the city I was raise to love, follow, and obey.
I did it for the tributes.