The chariots began to peel away, one by one. Clove firmly locked her glare on her feet, feeling the burn of Marvel's in the back of her head. The crowds screamed their names as loud as before, but Clove hadn't noticed. She just wanted to get away from President Snow, and away from Marvel. Cato remained silent on the way back, neither of them spoke. He held his head high and nodded at screaming girls in acknowledgement as they trotted by. Clove peered over her shoulder, not at Marvel – who desired her gaze more than anyone – but Glimmer, who seemed to be restraining herself from wildly lashing out at Cato.
"I don't think you should do that." Clove elbowed him, flicking her eyes over at Glimmer in the hope he'd understand.
"It's for the sponsors. She should know that." His voice level and emotionless. It sent chills down Clove's spine. To know how such a simple tweak to their lives, could change who they were. Tufts of Cato's blonde fringe poked out from underneath the headpiece, his forehead gleaming with sweat. She didn't blame him, the heat radiating from the crowds and the over powering street lamps was infernal. Clove heard her name hiss from behind her. Her body tensed up, making it even more uncomfortable underneath the heavy outfit and shifting the plates from where they had been set across her body. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut, as the caller persisted for her attention.
"Ignore him." Cato seethed, his lips hardly moving and his head still held facing the gaping hole in the side of the building they were about to enter. As the crowds drowned out, they were plunged into darkness. Until seconds later they reappeared in the same hall that they had grouped and set out for the chariot parade in. Her horses hadn't stopped moving, but Clove hopped out the back of the chariot anyhow with Cato at her heels. Angry voices snapped about health and safety far behind them, but they ignored the man and marched out of the hall and through the winding corridors to the lift.
"Thank god that's over." Cato sighed, shaking his head in disbelief as they boarded the lift. Clove murmured a response as her index finger drove '2' back into the control panel. The lift shot up as Clove caught sight of a pair of pink shoes frantically closing in on them.
"Don't let him up." Cato mused to the Peacekeeper guarding in the lift as he strode through the living area and towards the table.
"I'm starved." He muttered, tipping a plateful of garnish and various peppers onto the linen dining cloth and replacing it with fresh slabs of gammon. Clove was by his side scraping up the peppers and sprinkling them onto her own plate, only stealing the last slices of meat after Cato had gone. As she headed towards her room, with the plate in one hand, she used her free fingers to pick off the scales of gold across her chest and drop them around her feet, leaving a golden path leading back towards her room. They pinged off the floor and bounced in every direction and some even disappeared underneath the low cupboards. Clove swung her door open and suddenly spun round to the terrifying sound of a human in pain. Stumbling back in shock, Clove only managed to see two tall figures fighting at the other side of the fogged lift doors. Oh GOD… She thought. The doors calmly slid open and the Peacekeeper fell to the wooden floor, as Marvel stepped in. His eyes met hers and he gushed over, encasing her in his arms and trapping her there.
"Marvel! Get off! Go! Get out of here!" She shrieked, slapping his chest and writhing within his grasp, but like that was going to persuade him.
"What's going on with you Clove? You've suddenly decided that you don't love me? That you don't want to love me? What is it!" His voice was raised in anger and he shook her violently by the shoulders.
"Hey! Get off her!" Brutus materialized out of nowhere and hauled Marvel away. Bonnie wailed and shrieked in her doorway, cowering away as Brutus and Marvel fought each other, but it was an easy win for a past victor. He sent a clenched fist plummeting into Marvel's jaw, sending him on his way to the cold flooring across from Clove. Her hands were shaky and slowly drawing up to her lips, her eyes widened in horror.
"Stop it Brutus!" She yelped, her voice high and breaking. Her mentor had Marvel pinned against the wall and had a fist poised over his shoulder to swing down on Marvel, when he froze to look up at Clove. Cato marched from his room and glared at Marvel beside Clove.
"Just stop it!" Clove shrieked once more, before turning and sprinting down to her room, stomping on the golden leaves and splattering blood from her feet up the cream walls with every stride. Slamming the door and blocking out the situation behind her, she ripped the headpiece from the bun on her head and launched it at the mirrored wall, watching it shatter around her bed. Tears streamed down her face and she threw herself into the pillows, even though they were sprinkled with shards of glass. Sobs drowned out whatever was said outside her door, and the faint hum of the lift trailed off moments later. A gentle knock at her door and Bonnie was there, equipped with an embroided hankie. A quick glance at the mirror and she took a step inside, shutting the door carefully behind her.
"Oh look what you've done." She hummed, but her voice wasn't harsh, it was soothing and comforting and soft. She perched beside Clove's head and stroked her hair. After all her judgments on Bonnie, she had never suspected this side to her. She'd always assumed her head was filled with Capitol air, but it wasn't. Maybe Bonnie did understand. She stayed with her until she stopped crying, and when Clove began muttering and spluttering into the pillow.
"I hate seeing him hurt Marvel, I hate it! It's my fault he hurt him, I didn't warn him about what had been said, that's why he came! It's my fault!" She yelled, but Bonnie didn't flinch. She nodded as she listened, her fingers carefully stroking Cloves loose dark waves. The sky began to lighten, and the birds started chirping, but Bonnie still stayed, even though the tiredness hovered over her like a buzzing fly.
"Go Bonnie, get some sleep. I'll just get a bath or something." Clove pushed her hand away and waved her out the room. Bonnie smiled, behind Clove's ignorant tone and arrogance, she knew she cared. When Bonnie had disappeared through the door, Clove sat up and caught a glimpse of herself in the shattered remains of mirror. From what she could understand, she was a wreck. Skipping on the balls of her feet, Clove felt the dried crisp layer of blood crumple underneath her feet and she winced as she shifted weight from foot to foot. Turning the hot tap on as far as it would go, Clove leant out of the doorway as the steam rolled out and grabbed the portable radio left on her dresser, flicking through the stations she finally settled on one that she liked. Stripping off the last of the clothes from the night before, Clove delved into the scorching pool, not caring, or unaware how hot it truly was. But she stayed there and let the water burn her body right through to her bones, soaking and zoning out, letting the music carry her away…
"And now! We will go to Jimicia Suzarland with her new single, Away!" An over enthusiastic man called through the speaker. No, Clove hated this song. She leant over and tuned the radio onto the disk sat within it, relaxing as the ballads rang through the room. Impatient, she flicked the songs through, leaving one on for a few seconds before continuing.
"I liked that song." A soft voice came from behind the door. Her head fell back in dismay against the tiles, before she surged from the water and hopped onto the bath mat beside her.
"This CD is exclusive to this floor." She mused, trying to keep her cool, "How would you know what it sounded like."
"Because you leave the balcony unlocked." He countered. Clove wrapped herself in a towel and dabbed her entire body down until she was dry, slipping into the under dress again with her soaking hair plastered against her back. She opened the door and the steam that had been trapped in with her burst out and fogged her vision. As it evaporated, she saw him. All battered and bruised by his encounter with Brutus, yet his temper seemed to have simmered and all that filled his eyes was heavy sorrow.
"You shouldn't be here." She sighed, slackening off her body and shaking her head as if she'd given up. He burst up and took a step towards her.
"But why?" His fingers ran along her jaw bone, "Why shouldn't I?" Clove felt a sharp pain drive through her stomach; she knew he wasn't going to just leave it. He wanted to know. He had to know. His fingers titled her chin towards him, but her gaze was not his just yet. Clove stared into the framed photos on her bedside cabinet, avoiding any eye contact with him. Marvel ran his right hand softly up her jaw bone, cupping the side of her head within his hand.
"Look at me." He whispered, and her eyes lifted up to his. He scanned her face for any sign of emotion, but found nothing. Her lips were firmly closed together and her eyes bored into his. She swallowed hard; knowing what she was going to say next was going to crash down on him like a ton of bricks. She watched him closely; his beautiful blue eyes seemed to glow in the dim light, his milky skin flawless, and the stray strands of mousse hair curling around his face… Clove lost her train of thought and her eyes fell down onto his lips, intently staring at them when they opened slightly and closed in on hers. The kiss they shared that night wasn't like the many they had shared before. His lips were warm on hers and she tasted the slight tang of blood from when Brutus slammed his fist into his face earlier. His eagerness was apparent, he pulled her closer and his hands found her waist and the back of her neck. Clove then wrapped her arms around his neck and closed her eyes. All the stress of staying as far away from him as possible melted away, and all she wanted, was Marvel. For a minute, she didn't care about President Snow's threats, Brutus's reaction or even The Games. All she cared about was her future with Marvel. She pictured him in the streets of District Two with a ring on his finger, returning to her from a day of heavy work with the masonry, wrapping him up in her welcoming arms in their kitchen, whilst the sun oozed into the horizon and they grew old together. Soon she felt hot, salty tears leak down her cheeks and disappearing into her hair. A low sob cut through her and Marvel immediately pulled away to examine her.
"Oh Clo." He muttered, enveloping her in his arms with her cheek pressed up against his warm chest. He rocked them slightly on the balls of his feet as they cuddled in silence. Clove forced herself to be silent, listening to the steady pace of his heart incased in his rib cage.
"Why can't it stay like this?" She whimpered, losing all hope of ever regaining a reputation.
"Because of The Hunger Games, love." He cooed, resting his head on top of hers as his fingers entangled within her hair. Soon heavy boots crushing the golden flakes that Clove had discarded the night before, and the rasp of knuckles against her door.
"Clove? You descent?" Brutus called, and the door knob turned fully as the door began to swing open. She leapt from Marvel's arms, limping slightly before throwing her entire body weight onto the door, sending a thundering crash echoing through the floor when she slammed it shut.
"No! Uhh, no I'm not! You'll have to wait!" She snapped, spinning around with her back pinned to the door and waving her arm frantically at Marvel to get the hell out of there.
"Oh, ok. Well, be ready for six." Brutus began to turn away from the door and walk off.
"Because we are playing hosts." Brutus called, Clove's brow creased in confusion, she turned to look at Marvel but he'd already retreated to his floor.
"To who?"
"One." She didn't know whether to be extremely excited that Marvel would be entering their floor without the risk of being battered by her mentor, or terrified knowing that she still hadn't told him and they'd have to play the 'just friends' act in front of everyone.
"Why is there a problem?" Brutus's voice was right outside the door again, almost snide and expecting Clove to be shaking in her boots.
"Ha, no." She scoffed, folding her arms over her chest and smirking.
"Well, you and Cato need your nasty faces on tonight. The Capitol is sending in cameras to film the meal for the whole of Panem."
"Meaning, that if you play all lovey dovey with Marvel in front of them, for all of Panem to see, after President Snow had warned you…" He had a major point. Clove nodded in agreement, even knowing that Brutus wouldn't actually be able to see.
"So look pretty, make a good impression." Were his last words before the scuffs of his boots grew distant as he distanced himself from her door. Her cocky and proud expression dropped and she shuffled along the floor to face the clock, which read 5 'o' clock. One hour. Clove wasn't going to wait for Piper to make an appearance, she was going to have to do her make-up herself. Plopping down onto the dressing table stool, she stared down completely clueless at the masses of cosmetics laid out before her she randomly grabbed at a familiar tube she'd seen Piper use when coating her face with foundation. Squirting out its contents into the palm of her hand, she roughly drowned her skin in the stuff, lathering it unevenly over the surface of her face and totally hiding her sprinkling of freckles. Throwing the empty bottle away, she scrubbed her skin with both hands until it blended in and didn't make her face look like she'd just had a bucket of water thrown over her. She raked through Piper's boxes until she found what she knew to be mascara. She'd never worn it herself – unless her mother insisted – before coming to the Capitol. But she had the general gist of how to apply it, after seeing her mother caking her eyelashes in the stuff, and experiencing to herself when Piper had done her make up. Untwisted the brush, she swiped the bristles along her lashes. Dabs of black dotted her eyelids, but the actual lashes looked pretty good. Wiping away the mess around her eyes, Clove then grabbed out some lipstick. Rubbing it across her lips, and examining her overall face, she threw it back in the case it had appeared and dove off towards the wardrobe. Swinging the doors open, she tore out the closest dress. It was a floaty sky blue number, whilst one side of her body was decorated with hand-made rippling roses that faded as the skirt went on, but covering the left side of the bodice entirely. It covered her feet, and this time she had no second thoughts about not wearing shoes, the soles of her feet couldn't take it. Now, her hair. The only ever thing she could do with it – knowing it would turn out perfect – was a ponytail. Without hesitation, she eyed a brush and began dragging it through her now sleek and dry hair, scraping it all up and tying it back, using some of the hair gel found in Piper's bags to make the loose strands stay back against her head. Returning to the clock, she found it to be 17:54. Sighing with relief she moved over to the door, swinging it open and swiftly making her way to the living space, where Cato sat alone in a silver suit.
"Because this isn't going to be the slightest bit awkward." He ran his fingers through his hair as he gave her a tired look. She knew just by observing the dark rings under his eyes that he hadn't slept that night – it wasn't like him to miss a wink of sleep let alone a full night's worth. Clove shrugged off what Bonnie would say when she slumped down in the stunning dress next to her district partner.
"You saw Marvel today, didn't you." He mumbled, staring coldly into the wooden floor. Clove choked on her breath and quickly regained herself.
"I don't know what you're talking about." She seethed. Cato glared at her and inhaled to snap at her, but the lift doors interrupted him and out stepped Glimmer. She had brought all of her wavy golden locks round to one side of her face, pinned there with a huge pink flower glistening under the light. Her dress was a slim fit, bright pink with golden gems decorating the skirt and dancing as her feet moved forward towards us. Her eyes were locked on Cato, probably working up some conclusion as to why he'd suddenly began ignoring her. Clove couldn't help but feel sorry for her, she was poised with her shoulders back and her spine straight as if this world bowed to her feet, but she didn't know the truth. Marvel hopped out after her, his hands in the pockets of a midnight blue suit, as he strode over to them, a smile fighting its way onto his lips. Cashmere was welcomed by Brutus loudly as the four tributes hung in the echoes of their mentors conversation, not breathing a word. She cringed, frowning to herself away from the others. Bringing her eyes round, she watched each tribute in turn, analyzing each expression. Cato wasn't even looking at her, just down at his shoes with such disgust that she'd have thought they'd been worn by a tramp. Marvel met her gaze hopefully, a faint smile on his lips and his eyebrows raised as if he was asking her to begin conversation. And Glimmer, eyes seething into the coffee table as her tongue ran along her teeth behind her lips. Oh damn, she thought, this is going to be a looong night.