After I finish the simple, yet filling breakfast, I went up to my room to get ready to go to the… Reaping and try to understand the situation that Claudette had put me in.
I found a long-sleeved dark green dress with a pleated skirt, matching ballet flats and ribbons for my hair which I used to pull my hair into two low ponytails. Apparently in the Panem version of my life, my family was able to afford nice clothes too.
There's something good about this situation at least…
When I looked out the window again, the sun had come out fully and the early birds had begun to head out to the large English-looking building where workers had been setting up screens and speakers earlier.
"The stage for the Reapings…" I said quietly.
"Violette, it's time…" My father called up.
Starting to feel myself shake nervously, I left the room, hoping that even though I didn't want to be in this universe in the first place, that I'd be free to see it again afterwards.
As my mother and father walked with me, Louis joined us.
"Hey sis! Let's hope the odds are in your favour, huh?" he ruffled my hair and even though I hated when he did that in my own universe, it felt mildly reassuring here…
Nah, I still hate his guts…
But hey, it's Reaping Day. Temporary truce, right?
When we reached the square, more people joined us, talking idly about random things, but I could tell that they were all nervous.
I wasn't. I was pretty sure I would survive this reaping. I mean, surely little Claudette and her bitch of an aunt wouldn't have enough power for that…
Mom, dad and Louis gave me big hugs as I joined the processing line.
Where I received another unpleasant shock.
Ginger was in front of me…
Oh my God, that little twerp Claudette brought her here too? If I make it back, I swear she'll have a more brutal death than Cato!
Wait a minute though. Where's Gina and Meli-
I held out my finger for the female Peacekeeper at sign-in to prick and winced slightly as she did.
The hand-held scanner read: Gardener, Violette. 17 y/o.
"Go on ahead, Violette." She waved me in casually- almost as if I wasn't potentially going to my death. What kind, loving and sensitive people these Peacekeepers are…
I joined Ginger in the 17 year old girls' section and took in my surroundings.
All around me, I could see parents hugging their children, siblings hugging siblings and friends hugging friends as the reaping area became full.
Soon enough, we were all assembled and waited as the Mayor- apparently by the name of Orpheus Maplewood came onto the stage, followed by previous victors and…
Dominique is the District 9 escort? Granted, she looks remarkably different, but still, I can tell it's her beneath that garish getup that escorts seem to like to wear…
This just keeps getting worse and worse! Now I'll be picked for sure!
The mayor runs through the history of Panem (which is actually pretty fascinating in full! I must write about that when… if I get back home…), the uprising, the Treaty of Treason and the beginning of the Hunger Games.
I snap out of my Panem History lesson as Dominique steps up to the microphone.
Her red hair is tied in a series of large loops across her head; she wears a flowing sleeved dark blue dress with puffy shoulders and black under-sleeves, black leggings, dark blue flared ankle boots that looked like something people in futuristic movies would wear and matching gloves with little frills around the wrists.
Her eye shadow, lipstick and even blush are the same colour as the dress…
Ginger and I looked at each other nervously, not daring to speak about what or rather, who had brought us here.
"Welcome to the 73rd Annual Hunger Games, everyone! I am Medusa Pearl…"
Who knew she'd use an alias? And one that suited her too…
"…your District Escort! It's time for the drawing! Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favour!"
Why do those words sound even worse coming out of "Medusa's" mouth?
Two glass bowls atop shiny marble columns rise up out of the stage on either side of her, filled with all the slips that have all us potential Tributes' names on them.
"Let's see… Ladies first, right?" Medusa/Dominique chuckled.
My heart was practically in my throat as I waited for her to draw the name.
She reached in, drew out the slip, unfolded it and…
I knew it. I knew it would be me. I hoped it wouldn't be but still…
I heard screams and cries coming from what could only be my mother.
I myself was stunned; after the initial noise of my mother's cries, I went temporarily deaf.
"Where is the lucky lady? Violette, where are you?" She calls out, all cheerful-like as if I've just won some sort of wonderful prize.
The girls around me start shoving me out before the Peacekeepers come to look for me. Gee, thanks guys. So much for District unity. Why couldn't you be for me like District 12 is for Katniss?
My legs quiver as I walk up the steps and I feel sure that I will fall and humiliate myself.
As I finally find myself on the stage after what feels like forever, I venture a glance over to the esteemed District Escort, who smiles at me in what might seem like a "friendly" smile to some watching, but to me is a "I shall enjoy your brutal demise" smile.
Then she turns back to the bowls, going over to the boys' one.
"Next, we have the gentlemen." Medusa reaches her gloved claw into the bowl.
A cute little 12 year old boy who looks as if he could be my brother walks up to the stage, looking as if he's struggling not to cry. The camera goes over the other 12 year old tributes and I see another little boy who looks exactly like him.
His twin brother.
Looking out into the audience, I spot a little girl, about six or seven years old who has burst into tears as her mother and father hold her close.
The rest of Graham's family…
He walks onto the other side of the stage; coming to stand on Medusa's other side.
"I present to you District 9's Tributes for the 73rd Hunger Games: Violette Gardner and Graham Fields!"
The audience claps, although certainly not like how they would clap if I were up there singing and dancing for them…
With one final glance at the outside world as Panem's anthem finishes, we are ushered into the Justice Building by the Peacekeepers, likely never to see it again.
"Oh, my little baby!" My mother weeps as she wraps me in a bone-crushing hug
"Violette, you've got to go win this thing, for us all!" Louis said, in a strained voice.
Wow. He really does care. I wonder if he does back home as well…
No, no… I shook my head. I can't think about home. I have to think about surviving here and now…
I felt the tears start forming in my own eyes and try to wipe them, but my father wipes them for me.
"Violette, you will always be my precious little girl. I want you to know that I love you very much, understand?" He put his hands on my shoulders.
I nod tearfully.
"Here's your District token, so you'll always be reminded of us at weak spots in the Games, okay? It will give you strength." My father fished a small box out of his pocket and opened it.
Inside, there was a small leather necklace with a little wooden pendant shaped like a flower.
Shaped like a Violet.
They all come in for another hug.
"Be careful at the Cornucopia, okay? We know that's where the most Tributes are killed at one time." Dad said.
"It's kill or be killed in there, Sis. Remember that if you hesitate in a fight, it'll be the last thing you ever do!" Louis.
"Remember that we all love you, okay? Don't just fight for us, fight for District 9!" My mother said through her tears as Peacekeepers come in to announce their time is up.
I started to waver even more then, realising that that was the last time I'd ever see them.
I may be a lot of things, but I'm not a Hunger Games winner.
Sure I can do karate, swim, cheerlead, dance and I developed somewhat of an obsession with archery when I was ten, but that's not good enough to win against the likes of Careers who've been training for brutality like this all their lives!
The door opened again and in came Ginger, who cried even more than I did.
"Win this for us! Please! Show Medusa and that awful Capitol of hers what's what!" Ginger gave a half-hearted cheer.
"When I woke up this morning and realised what had happened, it was both a dream and a nightmare come true. Please don't let it be a nightmare even more! I love you, Violette! You're like my best friend in the whole world! We've known each other all our lives! Don't let it end now!" She wailed.
We hugged for a while and then, all too soon, it was her time to leave as well.
The car that I'm riding in to the train station looks like one of those little retro cars from the fifties or sixties on the outside, but isn't.
The seats are made of a lovely, comfortable material I cannot identify and what I can see from the backseat looks pretty high-tech as the driver fiddles around with it.
In my car besides the driver and myself are Graham and the male Mentor, Dagan Granum.
Medusa's in the car behind us with the female Mentor, Ceres Oakley.
It only takes about fifteen minutes for us to arrive and by then, Graham and I have wiped away all our tears, but you can still see that we've been crying as our eyes are still red.
The flashes of the cameras all around us as we step from the cars are nearly blinding.
Sheesh. I thought the lights at the local fashion shows that my friends and I liked to go to back in Montreal were bright. But these cameras do not have just flashes. They have miniature suns in there…
Soon the doors of the train are closed and we are on our way to our doom.
Ceres comes over to me, smiling encouragingly as we walk down the corridors.
She seems like a nice sort. Dark brown hair in curly ringlets pulled up in a short ponytail, greenish-grey eyes that have not dimmed despite what she must have been through over the past few years. She's also slightly taller than I am and looks to be perhaps in her early forties.
"Here are your quarters, Violette. Everything in here is for you to use. Lunch will be ready in about two hours or so." She smiles again and turns away to go to her own quarters.
Once I shut the doors behind me, I took in the compartment, which resembles a room from an ultra-exclusive, ultra expensive, five-star hotel, like something Celine Dion would stay in.
After taking a bath in the biggest hot tub I've ever seen and getting dressed in a simple puffy-sleeved white blouse and pink floaty skirt, I flopped into the huge bed and stared at the ceiling.
"What have I done to deserve this?" I wondered. "Surely I was never that bad, right? Claudette and her bitch aunt are effing crazy!"
Just as I was swearing to strangle the two bitches when… err… if I got back home, an Avox came in to take me to lunch.
Holy. Effing. Chr-
Melissa? Melissa, is that seriously you?
A flicker of recognition passes through us and I recognise that it is indeed Melissa.
Isn't it ironic that the most talkative of us all is sentenced to a lifetime of no talking?
I mean, having your tongue cut out is just… ew…
She gestured for me to follow her and I do, wondering what other surprises are in store for me.
Son of a goddamn bitch.
Gina's an Avox too.
There she is in that Avox's uniform, looking downcast as she poured red wine into Medusa's upheld crystal goblet, the latter of whom is smirking at her.
When Gina glances up and we lock eyes, she almost drops the bottle she's holding.
"Oh look, here's our female Tribute now!" Medusa exclaimed cheerfully.
I'm getting rather foul-mouthed today aren't I?
I took my seat between Ceres and Graham, looking across my male counterpart to get a good look at his mentor.
Dagan looks to be in his mid-fifties or so, with salt and pepper hair and dark blue eyes. Unlike Ceres, the toll of being in the Hunger Games and watching all subsequent Tributes except her die seems to have taken its toll. His eyes are dull; almost lifeless and his voice sounds the same as he asks Melissa to bring him some wine too. Not to mention the wrinkles starting to appear…
Lunch soon starts and I dig in. Despite everything, I somehow still have an appetite. I'll need to eat as much and as well as I can before I face the malnutrition of the Arena…
How will I survive in there? Usually when I feel stressed, I reach for a Cadbury Fruit & Nut bar, but I doubt they will have those in those little packs they have at the Cornucopia…
"Now that that's over with, I think we should go watch the recaps. It's tradition!" Medusa giggles as she leads the way over to that compartment.
How I hate the sound of her laughter…
Graham and I are fully attentive to the television-projection thingie on the wall.
The Careers of District 1 are both rather good-looking. Beautiful, but deadly I suppose…
The girl from District 2 is pretty good-looking as well and flicks around her curly black hair with a determined glint in her eyes. I'll have to watch her.
A stocky blonde boy from District 4 strides forward.
A boy with dark-brown messy hair from District 7 who looks like a bear. Probably could kill with one squeeze too…
The girl from District 8 is thirteen and looks like she's having a nervous breakdown, crying and screaming as she's practically dragged up to the stage.
District 9's Reapings… I look better than I felt at the time… Graham looks worse than I do though- though not as bad as District 8's girl…
The girl from District 11- wow, she's tall…She looks completely stoic as she walks up to the stage, as if resigned to her fate.
District 12… I strain to see if I can see… Wait, is that Katniss in there? Nah, that's not her.
Two dark-haired scrawny-looking kids shuffle forward. Forgettable. No wonder District 12 loses all the time. They don't stand a chance…
"Though I really suppose I don't stand much of chance either…" I thought as I left the room.