"On the seventy-fifth anniversary, as a reminder to the rebels that even the strongest among them cannot overcome the power of the Capitol, the male and female tributes will be reaped from their existing pool of victors..."
I was going back into the arena.
Even though it would be between myself and Katniss, I wouldn't let that happen. I wouldn't let there be a choice. Katniss had everything to look forward to; I didn't.
So here I stood, in my best and only dress, it was cream and it reached to just above my ankles it was soft and slinky with a gold belt around my waist and short lace sleeves. I paired the dress with flat cream shoes, my hair was in its signature ponytail, my long dirty blonde locks splayed down my back reaching just above my behind.
I stood with my feet apart and my hands clasped behind my back, my face emotionless. My stance suggesting that I was not in the mood to mess with people and I wasn't.
Effie Trinket cleared her throat and announced that the men will be chosen first this year for a change.
I sighed and looked down. I knew what I had to do if I wasn't chosen.
"And now the ladies", Effie announced excitedly in her shrill, annoying voice.
I looked up once again, and stared at the fish bowl that held our names. Out of my peripheral, I saw that Peeta stood in the same position that I did. His face set into a scowl that didn't match his personality. The scowl didn't suit him.
I was pulled out of my stupor when her name was called. I could see that she had accepted her fate but I wouldn't let that happen.
"I volunteer", I spoke loudly, my voice resonating across the District. I heard gasps follow my announcement. Katniss stared at me, her mouth aghast.
"What?" She asked surprised and suspicious.
I glanced around then looked out towards the stage. There, Peeta stood, staring at me, his mouth agape. Some emotion flashed through his eyes. I think it was relief and respect, and also a lot of shock.
"Well come on up, Summer Ladscrop", Effie broadcasted enthusiastically.
Before I left to go up to the stage, I grabbed Katniss's arm, looked her dead in the eye and whispered, "I will make sure he comes out alive, I promise". Shock filled her eyes, but there was relief there too. She pulled at my arm and squeezed lightly in understanding.
"Thank you", she breathed.
I nodded and pulled away from her, heading for the stairs up the front of the justice building. I stood next to Peeta and shook his hand, my fingers tingling at the contact. Although I knew that my feelings did not matter. I avoided his eyes and walked forward into the justice building without instruction, everyone else following behind me. I was determined to get in there and get Peeta out alive. I just hoped he would have the strength enough to kill me in the end. He would if he wanted to get back to Katniss. And I knew he would. He loved her. The pain in my heart snapped at the thought of him loving another, but I had accepted I would never have him. I never could. I wasn't good enough.
We were led straight onto the train to the Capitol, not giving the two minutes to Peeta to talk with his family. He sat on a chair in the corner of the compartment, his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. I sat on the other end staring out the window watching the scenery flick by. Effie and Haymitch had left at some point when neither of us had answered them. Now the compartment was filled by silence. I wasn't up for chatting but obviously Peeta was.
"Why did you volunteer?" He finally looked up and stared up to the window that I was facing, each of us watching the others' reflection.
"She has a life, I don't", I answered simply, my face staying the same expression, even though inside, I was shouting, love me!
But it was wishful thinking, of course.
"Why would you not have a life?" He asked curiously.
I didn't answer. In fact, I avoided his eyes. He could never know how I felt about him.
I stood and left the compartment.
It took three days to get to the Capitol. A place I really didn't want to be again. Crowds surrounded the train as we were herded into a car and taken to the Remake Centre. I clenched my teeth as they prepared me, plucking my body of hair, excluding the hair on my head and eyebrows, only straightening them up and shaping them, they cleaned and cut my nails, painting them a pitch black, along with the nails on my toes.
The team decided I was fit enough to be sent to the dressing room, leaving me naked for Cinna, District 12's stylist, who would decide whether I needed more work done before dressing me up for the Capitol.
I stood in the middle of the room, my arms folded against my chest to cover my breasts. I felt very uncomfortable, naked in this cold room. I waited for five minutes before the door was gently opened.
Cinna stepped in and observed me, his face impassive.
"Perfect", he commented. He stalked over to the large wardrobe and pulled out a short, strapless, sequined dress. The bottom of it started off black and it built up to an orange colour, the colour of fire. It was quite beautiful and elegant. Until I saw the 4 inch black heels I was forced to wear with it.
Half an hour later I was all dressed up ready for the tribute parade. I had the dress and shoes on, my lips were painted a bright red, my eyes were smoky and my hair was curled and flowing down my back. I stared into the full length mirror, my expression not changing.
"Try and smile", Cinna offered.
"This is me smiling, I don't think I've ever smiled in my life, I have nothing to smile about".
I stalked over to the chair in the corner and sat, my shoulders slumped as a wave of depression weighed me. This happened sometimes. I normally shook myself out of it within a day or two, but now I don't have the time to fall apart. I took deep breaths and pulled myself together a little. It was still there on the edge, but controlled enough to deal with what was coming.
"That's the reason you volunteered?" Cinna guessed.
I glanced up at him. "One of the reasons".
I stood up and paced in the too tall heels.
"What's the other reason?" Although it looked like he knew.
I didn't answer. "How long until this thing starts?"
"We have time, a few more minutes until we need to leave for the carriages". He cocked his head to the side. "Now, what's the other reason?"
I didn't answer, and continued pacing.
"I think I can guess why", he clarified.
I stopped, angrily turning to him, "then why keep asking!?" I glared.
"You're in love with him". It wasn't a question.
"And it doesn't matter". Heartbreak panged through me, and my eyes filled with tears. I shook my head violently, pushing my feelings back until I was the usual, numb.
Cinna studied me for a moment, "so you're just going to die for him?"
I didn't answer. What was the point? He knew the answer.
"He would have died if Katniss went into the arena, he would have given up his life". Cinna read my mind. I clamped my mouth shut and nodded in resignment. Silence followed for a few minutes, both of us digesting what was said.
A sharp knock on the door brought us out of our stupor, and in entered a very perky Effie in a bright yellow suit, with a matching orange wig. "Ready?" She clapped, squealing excitedly.
I nodded stiffly and stood, making my way out the door, Cinna and Effie following behind me.
Peeta was wearing a suit much like my dress, the only difference was he wore no sequins. The suit was the colour of fire. It was extremely downsizing from what he wore in last year's games. I avoided Peeta's eyes as I stopped at the foot of the carriage.
"You look lovely", Peeta complimented.
I blushed. This was the second time I'd blushed in my life. The first was when Peeta saved me when I was eight. I was being bullied by the other kids in school. That was the day I fell in love with Peeta Mellark. I couldn't bring myself to say thank you. "I look like a fool", I said coldly and turned away, hearing him sigh behind me.
Cinna took one last look at both of us, declaring us perfect and told us to get onto the carriage.
"Ladies first", Peeta gestured.
I scoffed at him. "I'm no lady". I watched him sigh and roll his eyes before stepping onto the carriage. I felt something build up in my chest, an unfamiliar feeling, and then I made a noise that I only heard little girls make. It was a giggle.
It was unusual. It startled me and I suddenly stopped and frowned. That was very strange. But… good in a way. Peeta had turned to me, Cinna, Effie, Haymitch, and even some of the other tributes turned, completely startled that I had made such a… human noise.
I was suddenly embarrassed. I ignored everyone and clambered up onto the carriage, I stood beside Peeta (who was still looking at me with shock) and stared ahead, determined to get this over with. My face was set into a scowl, and my body was set into a numb-mode again.
The week in the Capitol passed in a blur of meals, sleep, training and more training. I avoided everyone, especially Peeta.
During the training sessions I'd focus on using a sword on the dummy, being careful of not showing off too much of my strength even though, we had all been in the Games and all knew each other's strengths and weaknesses through videos.
Today was the interviews, the day before we were sent into the arena to fight to the death.
The interviews, in my opinion, were the worst. Having to sit there and act happy about dying for the Capitol's entertainment.
The last time I had pretended to be happy and ready for the upcoming battle for my life. But this time, I wouldn't act happy; this time I would tell them exactly how I felt, since I was going to die.