~Behind this door, there's peace I'm sure. There'll be no more tears in heaven~
The toe of my shoe scrapes the stones on the street as I try, and fail, to jump around the puddles of brown muck. No one really knows what the puddles are, but in a district covered in factories, I would prefer not to guess. The boots I'm wearing are too tight and covered in stains. The toes are worn in. They're a little out of place among the sandals of the other children running and screaming on the street. It's May. Most people stopped wearing boots months ago. Maybe if someone decided to donate something halfway decent to the orphanage for once….
The familiar chorus of shouts cuts through the heavy air. It's the market. A wave of good smells pours over me. It's easy to see why the Square is so crowded. The island of good smells is like a tiny island surrounded by chemicals and smog. I shove my hands into my pockets and make my way through the stalls. There. That's what I'm looking for. It's a little loaf of bread, maybe for one or two people, depending on how hungry I am. And it's so perfect. The woman who the stall belongs to is chatting away with the vegetable vendor. I never steal from him. His vegetables are often rotten. True, most people here wouldn't turn their nose up at that, but it's still cheating people. Maybe I should steal from him just to give him a taste of his own medicine…No. I take what I need, and only that.
Head down. Look away, All right, focus on the cameras someone is setting up. Reaping cameras. And just like that, the bread is inside my sweatshirt. I jolt my head around, but the odds must be in my favor today. Not a soul saw. I may not even have to make a running exit. But I do just the same. Better safe than sorry. The bread is uncomfortably warm and awkward as it hits my chest, but it's a small price to pay. That tesserae mush is disgusting. Every kid at the orphanage who is Reaping age has to take a bunch of tesserae, so we can all get fed. And since the government refuses to pay for halfway decent conditions, that's all we get.
I make my way down the now lonely streets. People are heading inside to get ready. Outside one gray apartment building; well everything here is gray, I see a girl sitting on the steps sobbing. Her thin little body is completely shaking. I'm guessing a 12 year old. Probably has to take tesserae for her family. For some reason, I find my hand out with a piece of bread ripped off. Sometimes I'm just impulsive. Besides, she looks like she hasn't had a good meal in weeks. She stands up, then quickly as a pickpocket, grabs the bread, like she doesn't quite trust me. Her frayed white dress hangs limply around her thin frame and I notice that she isn't wearing shoes. Homeless? Maybe. At least at the orphanage you get mush. "How many times is your name in there?" I blurt out.
Nice one, Finch. Way to be insensitive. Sometimes I just say too much. But the girl looks up at me with dull blue eyes. "17" she mumbles, her mouth full of bread. 17. That's a lot for someone so small. I feel like after my insensitive remark, maybe I should try to make her feel better. It's the least I could do. "Hey, that's not that much, you know." I whisper. The girl takes another bite of bread, and then looks up at me. Her blue eyes are so depressing that I have to try again. "No really. Think of all those thousands of kids in that square. And a lot of them have their name in there more than you. Like me. Mine's in there 38 times." Her eyes widen, as if she's surprised at this. Well, that's life. Especially if you were found alone in an empty apartment with no parents in sight. And they were never found again. And mine probably isn't the saddest story either.
I turn around to get back. I should probably dig around for some old skirt or something, not the fraying pants and too big green t-shirt I have on. I turn around to look at the girl. She seems fine enough finishing off the bread crumbs from her fingers. So I continue making my way down the narrow gray streets. Now that I have my parents on my mind, I can't not think about them. Just what I need now. Sad thoughts before the most tragic, morbid event of the year. But really? What kind of parents up and leave their kid behind? The headmistress once gave me the address to the apartment where I was found 11 years ago, when I was 5. At the time I was given the address, I was 12. It was the day before my first Reaping and I wanted to say a possible goodbye to my very possibly dead parents and that seemed the best way.
I remember how nice the place was. It was just your typical apartment, maybe bigger, but to me it seemed like a palace. It was still empty, so I was allowed to look around. There was no furniture, but light came through a window, which was pretty. Most apartments don't have windows, so I think they were wealthier than most. And I was found with a gold necklace around my neck. I lost it (threw it out?) years ago. I'm not the sentimental type who keeps every piece of her parents possible. Actually, I hate the people. Let's just run off to God knows where, maybe even a better district and leave our 5 year old behind! It's not like we have anything against her, in fact, we're perfectly normal. But heck, she's a burden, so let's just ditch the whiny thing! I'm sure you understand why I threw everything away now. Sometimes it's just easier to forget.
I'm so occupied with my thoughts that I don't even notice I'm already at the orphanage. That happens a lot. The sounds of plates being stacked and washed echo through the narrow hallway. Cable waves from where he's sponging a plate. I hold back a laugh at the sight of him in an apron. He's 17, one year my senior, and not exactly a small guy. He grins at me and offers a curtsy. Now I'm really holding back a laugh. I have to run upstairs before the Cook sees me. She's very big on using that wooden spoon. Actually, she probably only uses it for young kids. The last time I got it I was 9. But that's enough.
Once in my tiny room, I frantically begin throwing things out of the clothes box. Gray pants in the exact same style as my navy ones. Jackets. Socks. Not a single dress or good pair of shoes in sight. A book lies on my small iron-framed bed. It's a huge one about plants and their purposes. Ever since I was really young, I've had an obsession with plants, seeing as how there are none around here. I might even own an apothecary when I get older. But I have to focus on right now. And a skirt.
A high voice makes me whirl around. "I have a skirt in my bow that's too big for me. It's gray, like everything here, but better than nothing. And Mora, across the hall, turned 19 three days ago and she has a pair of nice shoes that are way too small for her." It's Trisa, the girl I share my room with. She stands in the doorway, long black hair hanging in front of her pale face, grinning. The whole raven hair with ghostly pale skin makes a lot of people a little scared of her, along with the fact that she's considerably different make all the girls her age stay away from her. What can I say? 13 year old girls can be real bitches, can't they? I run up to Trisa and hug her so tightly her feet leave the ground.
"Thank you so much! You're the best!"
Trisa flips her hair back and grins again. "Hey, anything to help you impress your boyfriend." She giggles. I don't even answer her on that one. Practically every girl here is convinced Cable and I are a couple. How about, ummm, just friends? He really is a good guy and a good friend. I mean, we've been friends since we were Trisa's age. Call us a couple if that's what floats your boat, it's just something we both feel weird about. And with that I take off into Mora's room to get the shoes.
A cold wind whistles through the silent square. That's fitting. A girl next to me shivers, and then starts to cry. I see a single tear make its way down her face. Sometimes I just wish no one ever cried. Because I want so badly to comfort this girl I don't even know right now. But I can't. So I just settle for clenching my fists and listening to our escort whose name I can't even remember prattle on about the Dark Days. I lift my head for a little to search for Cable among the boys, but there are too many. So I settle for just keeping my head down.
"Let's start with the gentlemen!"
There is something in this woman's voice. It's almost a purr. In fact, if I get a close look, she does seem a bit cat like. Her fingernails are so long they could be claws. Ready to snatch children to their death….Oh, cut that out Finch. No more morbid thoughts.
Please don't let it be Cable. Don't let it be Cable. Please. Why is this taking so long anyway? Oh, right. Give those Capital monsters a good show.
A gangly boy, all knees and elbows comes out of the 16 year old boy section. I have never seen him before. And I am undeniably grateful.
A girl in front has started to cry too. At first I think maybe she knows him, but I recognize the girl as Astatine Saunders. Astatine is a bit sensitive. Well, really sensitive. Usually it bothers me a little, but not today. Our escort has just called for the "Ladies." Sometimes I wish I could cry like that. Head down.
That's it. No last name. That's how I know it was mine. Every face in front of me turns around to look at me. Astatine's sobs rise above the silence. Crunch. The gravel beneath my feet is loud as a gunshot. Crunch. And there I am, up on the stage. Another cold wind whistles through the Square. Now a second sob cuts through the air and I whip my head around. It's Trisa. Trisa. What is she going to do without me?
The escort, in her fuchsia suit, looks at me with a disbelieving expression. What is it? I guess people don't have feeling in the districts then? She just instructs me to shake hands with Atom. His hand is cold.
"You can't go!"
Trisa cries as she runs into the room, where people come to say their goodbyes. "Please don't go!" She throws herself into my arms. I lift my hand to rub her back a little, like I did when she was younger and had just come to the orphanage, but I find myself crying too. I try to be this perfect person who can always comfort, but sometimes I'm the one who needs comforting, I guess. Trisa curls up on the couch beside me and rests her head on my shoulder. "I'm sorry Cable didn't come." She whispers.
It doesn't matter. Yes, we are friends, but not as close as I am to Trisa. And everyone has a way of dealing with their grief. Actually, I am silently thankful he never came. It's hard enough already. Trisa looks me in the eye, her black hair falling in front of her face again.
"You have to try not to kill anyone, okay? Finch, I want you to go to heaven."
Heaven? It's been so long since I last heard that word. Most people don't use it, especially not in its right way. Usually it's just sort of an idea; like "this weather is heaven" I've never heard a kid use it as the place before. And what is it? But Trisa's face is lined in tears and she starts to quiver. "Please. I want to be able to see you again, even if it's there." Heaven. Where I can see Trisa again. And my parents. What it would be like, way up there in the stars? I lean over and out my arm around Trisa's bony shoulders.
"If I don't come back, Trisa, I want you to remember something."
She looks at me with wide blue eyes. They are so blue. What will it be like never to see them again?
"There are no tears in heaven."