Son and daughter, bound by love and wrought by fate,

Sent on a path of fear, horror, and hate.

District 11's tributes have little time before the ties that bind are split.


District 11 | The Reaping of Rowan Clemons


I squirm around in my bed, Alma totally spread out across the small bed, leaving me no room. I don't mind she needs her sleep; it's her fourth reaping. There's a lot of tesserae under her name. Of course I have double, if not triple the average for girl my age; 19 slips with my name carelessly written on.

I snuggle closer to Alma, my only sister and only sibling in the reaping. I also have four older brothers; they all work - and two; Cliff, who is 22, and Colom, who is 20, are married. Rogue still lives with us; he turned 19 not long ago. The sibling I was always closes with is Afton. He was always another Dad to me, and I was the only one that could make them smile after a day at work.

In fact, I am the only one who could make tons of people smile. Afton tells me it's because I find the good in everything; my smile's contagious, my laughs infectious, and my upbeat attitude's hard to miss. I think people actually are happy all the time and just need a reminder to bring it out.

I get around two more hours of sleep before I feel my arm being shaken: "Rowan, we have to get ready; we're meeting up with Silvio and Forest to go to the main square!" Alma squeaks, rushing around our small room.

I drag myself out of bed and walk by our small, round mirror. I see a tiny girl with olive skin and wide, deep, chocolate-brown eyes that have a "stinker twinkle" in them, as Afton would say. I'm almost skin-and-bones, standing a mere 3'11" and weighing 49 pounds – but there're few tall kids in District 11. My curly black hair's a total disaster, leaving me to sigh and start racking through it with my fingers.

I quickly get more awake and start humming an upbeat tune until I am more dancing than getting ready.

"What are you doing?! Rooooowaaaan!" Alma drags out my name in her high-pitched, whiny voice. "You have to get dressed sweetness," she scolds and rolls her eyes as I giggle.

She pulls out one of her old reaping outfits – a purple sun dress - which is much too big for me. I twirl in the dress, gushing, "Wow, this is so beautiful; I am a princess."

Alma rolls her eyes, "I wouldn't go that far; it's old and dirty. It is a lovely color on you though. Besides, you don't like fancy clothes, remember? You'd rather get muddy with Forest," She sighs unhappily.

"Oh, but If I have to get dressed up, might as well make the best of it. Besides, we will come back and play with Silvio and Forest and be all messy then," I remind her as she groans.

After a small quarrel, my curls stay loose and not in a bun like Alma wants. I'm bouncing and humming a little nursery song as Alma tells me it's time to go; we don't have time to eat though, and I could hear her stomach growling. I feel bad; she eats the same as me, yet she's so much bigger.

I'm getting a little uncomfortable in this dress on the walk to Forest's. I can't cartwheel or run, and I like doing those things when I'm nervous. We walk hand in hand up to their house, and knock on the door forever before Silvio answered it.

"Hey guys. What are you doing here?" Silvio asks us. I sneak under his arm and plant myself on my couch.

"You told us to come over at 12:30 so we could go over to the Reaping together, remember?" Alma reminds him. He nods his head as if he did remember. "You forgot didn't you?"

"Yeah. I have kind of been busy lately. Yesterday I found out that Forest has to start officially working now," He says, and I smile sadly. It will be great they will have another source of income; maybe they can take less tesserae. Maybe he will be put in the same section as me; we can hop along the tops of the trees and pick fruit together. That would make the job so much more fun. I could tell him about all of my songs…

I decide to slip away after my pondering, and find Forest in battle against his tie - a fight he's losing. I break down and double over with laughter, and he jumps and lands on his rear. The look on his face falls between extreme embarrassment and rage. After a second, Forest joins in with my laughter and helps me up. I tie his tie the way I used to help Afton, Cliff, Colom, and Rogue get ready for their reaping.

I sit on his bed and he crawls next to me. Though 2 years younger, he towers over me at more than 5' in height. I snuggle into his side and he wraps his arm around me. There's nothing romantic about us; we're just comfortable with each other. I've always thought of him as my twin brother. One to comfort, and one to comfort you..

"Everything will be fine, when you start working you go to the very tips of the branches before they sway and launch yourself over to the next tree. I can show you so you'll fall less, that'll help a lot - then you can get more breaks! Look at it this way, your brother will never be faster than you at getaways now. I beat Alma all the time," I giggle and see him roll his eyes.

"Of course that's what you think about, you're the reminder. You wouldn't be worried about going to the main square at all," He snorts and I shrug.

I leave because he still needs to get his polo on, brushing against Silvio on my way down. I don't think he notices though; I'm so small compared to him. I walk down stairs and sit back on the couch, waiting before the boys walk down together meet us at the bottom. Alma bends down and whispers "Look who's trying to impress us."

I whisper back "Yea, to you it's Mr. good-looking, do-no-wrong and his brother" I start giggling.

"We should get going," Silvio says as the clock reads 1:20. Forest and I go skipping out of the house first; Alma and Silvio following behind us.

Suddenly, Alma stops Silvio and runs her fingers through my hair: "Better." Forest makes gaging noises and I flick his ear. We continue walking until we get to entrance to the square, where the main Reaping will take place. There is a line for each age - age 12 being all the way down to the left, and 18 being all the way down to the right.

Alma bends down and smoothens my dress, handing me a stone with a hole at the top and a string around through it. Alma tugs the string carefully over my curls. People in District 11 give this to a child at their first Reaping; your mother and father then paint a small symbol on it representing you when (if) you make it through. Mine shows a million tiny silly faces all over the rock. I tuck it into my dress.

"Don't worry we've been called to the main square before," She smiles and kisses the top of my head.

"I guess this means after the Reaping we'll be having a guy party at our house, our brothers, Silvio, and Forest. We have to stick together we're out numbered!" I joke. She hugs me close and pushes me in line by some girls I chat up. Who knows, you can make best friends anywhere after all.

I am whisked through the line and stand by a bunch of other girls. They all are clutching each other as some 12 year-olds just in front are crying. "Guys you'll be fine. It's a billion to one you will be picked, and even if you do at your age and our age if you have bigger family they might volunteer. All family members love each other," I say to no one in particular. They still look shaken up, so I sing - a common sung song in District 11; one mothers sing it to their babies during the harvest. No one can rest during the harvest, not even new parents. Before anyone can truly calm down, however, the Reaping begins.

The mayor takes the stage along with our mentor, Scarlet Rose, and our escort, Vivian Black. The mayor who introduces the other two: I find it completely important; although we hear these same things every year, it doesn't mean we can't find a new meaning. The mayor asks Vivian Black to come up and do her usual speech after the short introductions.

"Well hello, District 11. What a lovely day for a Reaping, just splendid!" she starts. Like most other Capitol citizens, she fascinates me. She looks so colorful standing up there at about 5'1".

She is wearing a tight, heart-shaped dress that barely reaches her knees, with the top in cheetah print and the bottom in pink. She wears large hoop earrings and black heels that don't make her any taller than she already is. I never have understood why Capitol people always dress so different. We should all dress in between what we do - in browns and earth tones - and their color-happy outfits. Half of Vivian's hair is shaved off, only leaving one side of ginger hair. She looks so happy, and the color reflects it. I don't get why people hate them so much.

She goes on to talk about the usual Hunger Games history and rules; how the rebellions started and so on. The Capitol movie starts and we all listen carefully what the film has to say. I think I can even repeat every word back this year. We all draw silent and I fidget - I don't like people when they're quiet and sad. Before I know it, Vivian makes her way over to the girl's glass bowl.

"Ladies first!" she chants. I watch her reach her hand into the bowl and dig around carefully; looking for the perfect little slip of paper. I can see all the girls - including me - take one deep breath in as Vivian grabs the one slip and zips it out of the bowl. When she gets back to the microphone, she gently unravels the tape from the piece of paper. I pray quickly it's not Alma as she announces the name.

"Rowan Clemons," she announces. At first I am so happy it's not Alma that I forget to be sad about me. I quickly jump up to the stage and stand next to Vivian, who only is a bit taller than me. I smile out to the crowd reassuringly.

"Well congratulations Rowan! Any volunteers?" Everyone turns their heads looking for a hand to shoot up, but nobody does. I turn my head to Alma, who has now sunk down and is hiding behind the people in front of her. I turn back to the general crowd, opening my arms out and smiling; a District 11 sign symbolizing you care for someone. I don't want anyone to volunteer..

"None…thought so. Well Rowan, now let's see who will be accompanying you!" Vivian walks in the opposite direction to the glass bowl that contains the name of almost every Reaping-age boy in District 11. I hope Silvio stays safe. His name is in there - I think - 34 times. Vivian doesn't take as long to pick the slip as she did for the girls.

"Silvio Sato."

Oh no. Well, at least we have each other.

Then I see Forest. "Silvio! You can't go!" he escapes from behind the barbwire enclosed area and is now running down the aisle towards him. Before he can reach Silvio, Peacekeepers grab his skinny arms and take him away. As he is being escorted away, I can still faintly here Silvio's name still being called. I take a look and it's a surprise to see Alma standing in the middle of the aisle staring straight ahead. Her lips begin to move and I can't make it out.

Silvio stands at the bottom of the steps as he stops himself from stumbling up the steps. Like they have done already, the Peacekeepers that are still behind give him a rough push, causing him to trip on the first step. I can hear some of the kids in the audience laugh, causing me to let out a frustrated huff.

As Silvio climbs on the stage, I instantly run to him and give him a hug. Oh Silvio, it will be okay. It is amazing that if we both had to go into the Hunger Games, at least we're together. I hope you know I'll help you all I can; we can do this together!

I feel him stiffen under my hug - maybe he needs time. Maybe he thinks the Careers will get us. Oh Silvio, the Careers are people too; they just need extra smiles and love. They never got any; it's always work harder, fight more. We can get them to be happy again - I think.

Still he doesn't give me a hug, and Vivian gets impatient. "May you two tributes please come over here now?" she asks us irritatingly. Silvio almost has to drag me to the center of the stage as I trade my hug for a tight grip onto his arm. "Now let's say a final congrats to our two tributes!" The citizens are mainly silent apart from the clapping from some stupid boy in my grade. All of a sudden, each and every person in District 11 does exactly what I did when I hopped onto the stage.

Grateful tears prick my eyes as, Vivian and two Peacekeepers push us back and guide both Silvio and I into two separate rooms, where we will say our goodbyes.

I sit down on a couch that I barley take up a fourth of. First, my whole family piles in besides Afton and Alma, who requested separate times. I let out a quite sigh of relief; I get more time with them.

My Mom and Dad sit on either side of me and wrap and arm around me, making it seem like one giant long hug. Cliff, Colom, and Rogue sit on the floor, making a tight small circle.

Rogue and Mom's eyes are red from crying. I can tell Cliff and Colom want to be strong for me, and I have never ever seen my Dad cry. "What you guys look like you've seen a ghost," I tease.

This sends Rogue and Mom over the edge. "Y-y-you will be. You w-w-will be a gh-ghost. Dead," Rogue cries and Cliff hits him on the back of the head.

"Shut up!" He yells.

"I think that's offensive; I mean do I look as sickly and pale as a ghost?" I demand. Everyone looks shocked and I smile, which everyone returns. I even get a watery one from my Mom.

"Oh honey," my Mom chocks and strokes my hair, pulling me into her lap.

"We will miss your smiles," Cliff says.

"We will miss your constant sing-songing," Colom smiles.

"We will miss your spunky happy attitude." Rogue chocks.

"We will miss your genuine love," Dad smiles.

"We will just miss you," My mom cries.

"We're proud of you no matter what happens we'll know you'll stay you." Cliff says, and we all hug. As the Peacekeepers return, my Mom has to be dragged out, crying hysterically.

Alma walks in next, sitting on the coach "Look baby, I am so sorry. I was going to volunteer, I was. I just forgot to move my lips. I want to do it over. I swear I will take your place. Look I'm going to talk to Silvio he'll help you-"

I cut her off. "Oh my gosh, can anybody talk faster than you right now? You're faster than the birds in the sky. Besides I didn't want you to volunteer. I want you safe. This isn't so bad. The Capitol is nice; they let us get to know the tributes first. We can be friends and all protect each other," I smile

She hugs me: "I want you to win. You're my little sister; of course I want you to win. My best friend will have to die, but with his dyeing breath I will make him swear to save you Rowan."

I shake my head "We can all win, I have a plan."

She gets angry: "Even you can't be that naive!" She screams. "Only one can win."

I get mad too, and put my hands on my hips: "You don't know the rules can change; you say the Games change people. Well, I think it's time the people change the game."

I give her a hug, and she kisses me on the check. Then she leaves by the hands of the Peacekeepers. Next to come in are three girls from my school. They're all sobbing hard and engulf me in their hugs. Truth be told I have many friends, but these three work with me. They're the ones by me when we're in pain after working for hours straight. Pain grows people together; we are closer than most of my other friends besides Forest.

"You have two more visitors," a gruff Peacekeeper grunts and pulls the girls off. They leave clinging to each other crying.

Next Forest bursts in. He walks over to me, his eyes red; it's hard to remember he's younger than me. I always feel like we really are twins.

I open my arms to him and he laughs. "You're so small I feel like a little kid hugging you, instead of the other way around," He mumbles, wiping his eyes. "It's not fair, and I shouldn't be the one crying."

"We're like twins, and your older brother is going; you have more to deal with then me," I sigh, already dreading this conversation. I snuggle into his side and he drapes his arm around me like this morning. "Remember well always be best friends, Forest." I giggle. "Best friends…twins for life…and stuff."

He looks at me and shakes his head: "I'll never ever understand a girl; or maybe it's just you."

We both get quite for a minute, locking eyes with each other before saying in unison: "It's just me." We laugh, and I hug him close and smile. He always smells like fresh pines.

"You know, you need to know this before I go; I think you always smell like very good fresh pine," I say seriously.

He rolls his eyes. "I can already feel the pity for the Gamesmaker that has to try and understand your mind."

Forest departs as the Peacekeeper returns, not wishing to be forced out. My last visitor is Afton. I waste no time in running to him, and he scoops me up and cradles me to his chest like when I was little. I place one of my hands on his face to calm him down.

"Listen Rowan, you can do this. You're special; we need you back in District 11. You bring the life, happiness; you're the only one that can make me smile. You're needed Rowan, without happiness and love, people give up on life," He looks down at me and meets my eyes. "Look, I think you can trust Silvio, and win over the sponsors." He chokes up and whimpers, actually feeling quite sad for the first time.

"Let's go," the same peacekeeper calls.

"I love you Rowan," Afton concludes.

The Peacekeeper takes me out of his arms and I squirm away from his touch. As the door shuts I scream "I love you too, Afton!"

I sigh and sit down; all I want is to be by someone right now. Someone happy and cheerful, but I'll make do with Silvio. I bang on the door until a Peacekeeper comes in; I beg and whine until they take me to Silvio.

I walk into a similar room and crawl onto Silvio's lap. I look up and am met with a look of pure determination.

We can do this – we're a great team. Mr. Serious and Little Miss Fun; a salt and pepper pair that's best together.

"Are you ready?" I ask him. "Hey look at it this way, now we know everyone else is safe for a year. We're like heroes, we're keeping them safe. Me and you we are strong, not like the Careers, but with love, Silvio." All Silvio does in reply is a simple shrug of his shoulders. Suddenly, Vivian comes tramping into the room.

"Come on guys! We've got a full day tomorrow!" She requests us to come with her. This will be a lot different from home.


District 11 | The Reaping of Silvio Sato


I toss and turn in my broken-down bed, unable to sleep. Every kid between the ages 12-18 will be doing this exact thing with the knowledge that the Reaping is tomorrow. I'm tempted to actually get up and maybe go out and work so I have enough money for the "after-Reaping" celebration. With a small pinch of energy that I have in me, I pick my body up and make my way over to my mom's clock. Her clock is the only thing we had left in the house that belonged to her.

When I see that the clock reads 2:31 a.m., I decide to go check up on Forest, since I was already up and it's way too early to go out. I peak through a small crack in his door; he is peacefully sleeping. He doesn't have anything to worry about: He's only 11. Suddenly I watch as his chest starts pumping up and down and he begins to breathe heavily. I rush into his room and start shaking him; he wakes with a slight scream.

"Are you okay?" I ask him. He shakes his head and tries to avoid eye contact with me.

"Just had a nightmare. I'll go back to sleep I guess," I grab his pillow off the ground and throw it at him. He begins to laugh and throws it back at me - brotherly love. Ever since our dad died, I've had to partially raise him and act like his dad. It's been hard for me, but I could tell it was even harder for him. He never knew our father; he died the day Forest was born.

Finally I throw the pillow back at him and make a run for the door. Before I can shut the door completely, I hear his small voice once again.

"Silvio? W-What if you get reaped? O-Or Alma? Or Row-" he begins to say before I cut him off.

"Don't be thinking like that. Everything will be fine, I promise. Now go back to sleep, we've got a big day ahead of us." Without letting him respond to my last statement, I walk out of the room and shut the door behind me. Following my own instructions, I decide that it would be best for me to go back to bed.

As I attempt to go to sleep, the questions that Forest asked me flow back through my head: 'What if you get reaped? Or Alma? Or Rowan?' If Alma or Rowan got reaped, I don't know what I would do. If Rowan, at the age of 13 got reaped, hopefully someone would be brave enough to volunteer for her. But Alma; my best friend, my girlfriend. The fact that she is my same age means that she is less likely to get a volunteer. Before I knew it, my eyes begin to glue shut and the whole question is out of my head.

"Silvio, can you go get Forest? Tell him it's time for dinner," my mom asks me as she lays on the ripped coach. She hasn't been the same since my father died. I respond with a simple nod and go check on my brother, who is up in his room playing with sticks. It seems as though he's trying to build a tower of them.

"It's time for dinner," I tell him. He jumps around in surprise, but instead of popping up and coming with me downstairs, he crosses his arms and begins to pout.

"I don't want to! Mom isn't even going to sit with us…so what's the point! It's like she doesn't even love us anymore," he begins to argue with me. I am getting irritated with him; he knows she is like this because of what happened to our father.

"She loves us. It was just tragic what happened to dad. Now let's go, after dinner maybe we can go over and play at Rowan's."

He still stands there with a disappointed expression planted on his face: "Not until you tell me what actually happened to dad. I know that everything you have told me is a lie!" he complains some more. Why is he acting this way? My mom always told me not to tell him the real reason he's gone, because he has been "too young". But now it's affecting his everyday life.

"If I tell you, you can't tell mom - and then you have to come down to dinner. Deal?" He nods his head at my offer. "Okay, so it all started the day you were born. He couldn't be here when mom gave birth to you because that morning, he was sent away to District 12. Mom didn't want him to go, but the Peacekeepers threatened to kill him if he didn't. He told mom and I that he would be back as soon as possible." When I feel a tear poke my eye I stop. I was supposed to be his role model; he needed to grow up and be strong. Before I can begin to start once again, he cuts in.

"H-he didn't come back did he?" he lowers his head. I scoot over towards him and pat his back.

"We heard from the head Peacekeeper that he had been killed. Mom went into a coma and stayed in her room for the following month or so. I had to look after you when you were not even a month old. But look how well I did, you growing up to be a brave, strong boy. Now let's go, Mom might be getting worried." I help him off the ground and we make our way downstairs. When we reach the last step he stops and takes a deep breath in.

"Everything will be fine. Don't worry."

He follows me down the final stair to see a surprise: Our mom actually sitting at the table waiting for us. She asks us why we took so long, but I just tell her that I was helping Forest finish up his tower.

We eat in virtual silence. There is the occasion question that comes out of my mom's mouth such as, 'how was school?' or 'how are Rowan and Alma doing?' We answer the simple 'good'. Then it goes back to us eating the apples and other crops I bought this morning. Finally, the silence is broken when Forest blurts an unnecessary question.

"Do you love us, mom?" Her reaction isn't how I expected it to be. I thought she would automatically start balling and run out of the room, but instead she throws me an upset grin as if she knew I had something to do with this question being brought up.

"Of course, Sweetie! I will al-" she begins to object before Forest cuts her off rudely.

"Then why don't you take care of us? Why do you just sit in your bed crying all day? He's gone! He's never coming back!" He screams across the table.

"Forest!" I yell back at him. What has gotten into him? Mom was right; he was apparently still too young to tell him. What have I done? "Go to your room, now!" I should, but he refuses to do as I say. "Now!" I yell even louder. He stomps up the steps, and I can hear him sniffling on his way up.

"I'm sor-" my mom starts. I can't even look her in the eyes without getting emotional; either in sadness or anger.

"Just - no," I say. She gets up from her chair and goes back to lie on the couch. "Don't worry! I guess I'll clean up again…" I whisper so she can't hear the remarks I'm making. I'm 16! I'm not supposed to be doing this. As I'm washing the dishes, I hear knocking on our door. Before I could yell 'I got it!' I hear the screech of my mom lifting herself off the couch.

I totally forget that someone was even at the door to start with, until I've finished washing the dishes. I slowly trot into the living room to see my mom not lying on the couch as I suspected she would be.

"Mom?" I curiously ask. I glance around the whole house, but there are no signs of her. Before I could go make sure Forest was okay, I notice that the door is still wide open. I put on a pair of my dad's old snow boots and run outside. I run for about 15 minutes straight; my fingers turn into icicles. As I am about to give up and hope she just went on a walk to the bakery or the fields, I can see spots of red soaked into the snow.

I follow the spots until I see her - my mom. Or rather, her fragile body lying paralyzed in the snow. I run as fast as I can to her side, only to see that her skin is marked with red and bloody marks. There is no doubt that she has been whipped; far more than once. I put my frozen ears against her chest and listen for a simple heartbeat. Nothing. Suddenly, I hear the crunching of snow from behind me. I turn my head to see Forest walking in just socks my way.

"S-Silvio? W-Who's that?"

Knock, Knock!

I wake up with a scare. Who would be here this early? As I make my way to the door, I realize it's 12:30. The reaping is scheduled for 2:00 today, but we have to be there by 1:30.

We got an invitation this year. In District 11, they don't want everyone all together to give away the total population. So normally we stand in two side squares and watch it happen live. They pre pick so they know who to invite to the main square. Both our families - mine and Alma's - got an invitation for the main square this year. None of us have the relief of knowing that we're safe.

It's okay to be sent there; I was twice before, for my first reaping, and my 4th reaping and I wasn't picked: they just need bystanders. The whole family has to go, though, so Forest will be watching from the sidelines of the main square, and Rowan won't be by him; this is her second reaping.

I yawn, then before I get the door, I yell to Forest to get up. Even though he wasn't participating in the reaping, he still had to be there.

Knock, Knock!

I pull on some actual clothes so whoever is at the door won't have to see me in only my boxers. As I open up the door, I quickly pull a shirt over my head. Luckily, I'm happy to see the faces that are greeting me at this time in the day. Alma is the first to come forward as she kisses my cheek.

"Hey guys. What are you doing here?" I ask both of them. Rowan sneaks under my arm and plants herself on my couch.

"You told us to come over at 12:30 so we could go over to the Reaping together, remember?" Alma reminds me. Oh crap, I totally forgot about that. I nod my head as if I did remember. "You forgot didn't you?" Apparently she could tell that the nod of my head was false.

"Yeah. I've kind of been busy lately. Yesterday I found out that Forest has to start officially working now." I ask her if she wants anything to eat but she refuses because she claims she had a biscuit before she left. "So how as Rowan been?" I ask Alma, knowing that last night was probably rough.

"She was all perky until about five minutes before we came over here. I don't blame her," I can see tears begin to drip down her face. I grab her by her waist and pull her into me, holding her in my arms firmly.

"Everything will be fine, I promise. I'll make sure everybody will be okay, and then we can come back to my house after and celebrate. I have a little money left over from last week's earnings, so I could maybe go out and get some sweet potatoes and buns," I release her from my grip and I stare into her deep brown eyes.

"Really?" I answer in the affirmative as I slowly take my finger and drag it across her soft cheeks, removing the one tear that was running down it. "Actually a biscuit would be nice…" she adds in.

"Of course; one biscuit coming up!" I run into the kitchen, grab the last biscuit and bring it back to her in less than ten seconds. "Here you are, Your Majesty." She chuckles as she removes the biscuit from my hand. Only Alma - and sometimes Forest and Rowan - can get me to joke like that.

"Thank you," she replies. I quickly run up stairs and put some nice clothes on. Every year, I wear the exact same thing to the Reaping. Some nice gray pants, with a pale blue button down shirt; it's the same thing that my father is wearing in the only picture we have left of him. Before I head back downstairs, I quickly check up on Forest, who has been in his room for a very long time now. When I open the door, I see him struggling to get his new polo over his head. I begin to laugh at him as I make my way into his room.

"Need some help buddy?" I can see his head nod from underneath his shirt. I try pulling his head through the neck hole, but that doesn't seem to work well. Then I decide to unbutton some of the buttons on the front of his shirt. I try pulling his head through again, but this time his frustrated face comes out. "You've got a big head, don't you," I comment. He glares at me, threatening me to continue.

We walk down the stairs together and the girls meet us at the bottom. Rowan is giggling; I don't know how that girl can giggle, it's the Reaping day after all. Just then - and I don't know why - I can't help laughing with her. Next thing I know, we're all laughing together.

"We should get going." I had to stop the laughing when the clock read 1:20. Forest and Rowan go skipping out of the house first; Alma and I just follow behind them. Suddenly, Alma stops me and runs her fingers through my hair.

"Better." We continue walking until we get to entrance to the square where the main reaping will take place. There is a line for each age, age 12 being all the way down to the left and 18 being all the way down to the right. I watch as Alma says her goodbyes to Rowan who runs to meet up with her "friends" in her line.

"Now go stand over there, this will be over before you know it. Remember, don't talk to anyone." I lean down and give Forest a big hug and push him on his way. Alma and I meet back up and we make our way to our designated line. It feels like less than a second before I am in front of the line and the Peacekeeper is asking for my finger.

The prick of the needle only hurts for a bit as she forces my finger onto a piece of paper. She gives me the 'okay' and I slowly walk forward, waiting for Alma to get the 'okay' as well. I give her one last hug and wish her good luck. I watch her walk over to her section for sixteen year-old girls, but it's not long before a peacekeeper is shoving me over to my area.

Being the tallest for my age, I feel awkward standing next to all the other guys my age. I have a couple friends, but they're down a ways, or in the other squares. Every once in a while I can sense that the two guys standing next to me are staring at me. Trying to ignore them, I glare over at the section of parents and look down to see Forest just standing there. It's hard for me to imagine that he'll be in this next year.

After about fifteen minutes of uncomfortably standing, the mayor finally takes the stage along with our mentor Scarlet Rose and our escort Vivian Black. The first to approach the microphone
is the mayor who introduces the other two. I find it completely pointless, because we hear these same things every year. Then the mayor asks Vivian Black to come up and do her usual speech.

"Well, hello, District 11. What a lovely day for a Reaping, just splendid!" she starts. Like most other capital citizens she annoys me. She just looks so strange standing up there at about 5'1". I never have understood why Capitol people always have to look so unusual. She doesn't even look like a real person with the amount of makeup smudged across her face. She just looks pathetic standing up there as she goes on to talk about the usual Hunger Games history and rules.

As she blabbers on and the Capitol's movie begins to play, I glance over at Alma, who is standing just as I am. She doesn't have many friends, just like me. Then I move my eyes over to Rowan, who seems to be antsy and wanting to talk to all her friends, and cheer them up, not one for ever being sad. Before I know it, Vivian is making her way over to the girl's glass bowl.

"Ladies first!" she chants. I can see all the girls in unison take one really big deep breath in, as Vivian grabs the one slip and pulls it out of the bowl. I close my eyes as tight as possible, as she announces the name.

"Rowan Clemon!" No. That can't be! I automatically turn my head to Alma, who is standing frozen. Her face has dropped with shock, and I can barely see a tear prick her eye. Is she going to volunteer? I want to yell to her Volunteer! She's your sister! But as shocked as I am, I can't say anything as well. I can't even watch as small, innocent Rowan nervously runs up to the stage. As she stands up there next to Vivian, she reminds me of a small toothpick.

"Well, congratulations Rowan! Any volunteers…none…thought so. Well Rowan, now let's see who will be accompanying you!" Vivian walks in the opposite direction to the boy's bowl.

My name is in there I think…34 times?

Next year will have to put my name in a lot more times, because there is no way I will let Forest take any tesserae. Out of my peripheral vision I can Alma lift herself back up, tears still flowing through her bloodshot eyes. Vivian doesn't take as long to pick the slip as she did for the girls, but to me, it's the longest ten seconds of my life.

"Silvio Sato." What? What did she say? My vision goes blurry and everyone around me begins to stare up at me. "Silvio? Come on up!" When I am 100% sure my name was the one called, I slowly begin to make my way to the center aisle leading to the stage. As I walk up, my legs begin to shake, causing me trip on up. Suddenly, I hear my name being called in a small but powerful scream.

Forest.

"Silvio! You can't go!" he escapes from behind the barbed wire-enclosed area and is now running down the aisle towards me. Before he can reach me, Peacekeepers grab his skinny arms and take him away. As he is being escorted away, I can still faintly hear my name still being called. I take one more look back, and it's a surprise to see Alma standing in the middle of the aisle staring back at me. Her lips begin to move and I can make out, "I'll handle it." Then she hesitates before opening her mouth again but all I see is "I-" before the peacekeeper shoves my head back forward.

I stand at the bottom of the steps as I delay myself from stumbling up the steps. Like they have done already, the Peacekeepers that are still behind give me a rough push, causing me to trip on the first step. I can hear some of the kids in the audience laugh, but I still force myself up the remaining steps.

As I take my first hesitant step onto the stage, I feel arms instantly curl around me. I want so badly to return the squeeze, but my body still numb in shock; not just from my Reaping but Rowan's as well, and what they did to my brother. Would they hurt him? Though I don't return the hug, nothing causes Rowan to rip away from me; her arms stay permanently wrapped around mine until Vivian gets impatient.

"May you two tributes please come over here now?" she asks us irritatingly. I almost have to drag Rowan to the center of the stage, as she is still holding a tight grip onto my arm. "Now let's say a final congrats to our two tributes!" The citizens are mainly silent apart from the clapping from some stupid boy in my grade. In a domino effect, each and every person in district eleven lifts their arms up – like Rowan had done as she'd taken the stage.

Before I can make any kind of reaction, Vivian and two Peacekeepers push us back and guide both Rowan and I into two separate rooms where we will say our goodbyes. Luckily for me, I only have two people to say goodbye to: Forest and Alma. Rowan on the other hand, has her numerous amount of siblings and her parents, and maybe some of her friends. It's less than five minutes before I hear a low voice, and Forest comes barging into my room. He runs straight into my arms and, out of anger, he begins to punch my leg.

"Why you!? Why Rowan! You said everything was going to be fine!" he shouts. I did promise him. Crap. Now what?

"Okay, I don't know how long I have with you so I don't want to spend this time fighting. Now when I'm gone, I'm gonna see if I can get Alma to watch you. You need to behave, and she might say something about having to work; listen to her. I promise, I will try my hardest to get home safety, but if I don't get home, I promise it will be Rowan."

By the time I finish with my speech, he has stopped punching me. I want to cry so badly, but I can't. I am the only person Forest had left he can call family, and there's about a 4% chance I can win.

"Just stay safe. Use your skills that nobody knows about; it's the perfect time! Remember, don't trust everyone," he says.

Am I actually taking survival advice from an eleven year-old? I guess I am, because he was the only one that really understood me; knows things about me that nobody knows: "I will."

I give him one last hug before the Peacekeepers come and grab him from me. He screams and tries to rustle himself out of their grip, but he fails and the door slams shut behind them. Suddenly, someone I didn't really know walks into my room. "Who are you?" I ask him. I guess he looked somewhat familiar, but how? By the way he was built up; I could easily tell this guy was older than me, and ineligible to be Reaped.

"I'm Rowan's older brother, Afton. I need you to get a grip and listen," He begins. I invite him to sit down next to me, but he denies my offer. He looks intimidating as he takes one big, deep breath in and starts again.

"You've got to make Rowan win," He spits out. "She's only thirteen; she is just an amazing girl and deserves better than this! I know you want to win as well, but there's like no chance anyway. You can get her through it. She makes people happy; she gets this whole town more willing to be here. She keeps people from acting up so there's less Peacekeeper involvement. She can win over sponsors. I know she can, her smile even melts my heart." A tear slowly slips down his face. "If she's alive, we'll keep Forest alive too, I can promise that. She is so oblivious, and naïve; keep it like that."

"I have every intention on having her win. I will do everything I can to make sure she lives. Ever since she was Reaped, I knew that there was no way she was going to die in there. If I die, though, remind Forest I love him."

He nods his head at my request and just escorts himself out of the room. Well, he seemed nice. Any other unexpected guests who were going to talk to me? Then a Peacekeeper pops his head into my room and says this is my last guest and I only have three minutes. He pushes the most beautiful girl into the room.

Alma.

"Oh Silvio. I-I don't know how. Why? I can't! I just can-" She starts but I pull her into my chest and tell her to take deep breaths and calm herself. Tears are flowing out of her like rain on an April morning.

"I am going to miss you so much. And I will promise you I will do whatever it takes to make sure that your sister gets home safe," I release her from my grip and stare into her eyes. "Keep Forest safe. If I don't live, I promised him you would be his new home." All she does after I say this is shake her head. I thought we were friends? Well more than friends, family even.

"You will live. Silvio, I want YOU to be the one that comes home. You're the nicest, sweetest, smartest, most caring person I have ever met in my life. I don't know if I will ever find another you….ever. Yeah, Rowan is only thirteen, but she was Reaped for a reason, and I have plenty other brothers and sisters. And Forest needs you." My face drops in shock for the third time today. She wants ME to win? She didn't care about her sister?

"B-but she's your younger sister! There is no way you can like me better than her…she loves you. And what about everyone else in your family? They want her to live too!" I begin to raise my voice. She moves her body closer to mine and stares deep down into my eyes.

"I love you Silvio," She steps onto her toes and presses her lips gently onto mine. The kiss contains passion beyond anything I've ever known, and there's was no way I'm ever going to let her out of my arms. I finally realize that this girl that has been my friend for almost my whole life, has truly been my love. I can't imagine life without her, as she probably feels the same as me; hence why she asked me to win instead of Rowan.

"I love you too," I bring her in for one last hug. I softly begin to whisper in her ear. "I promise. But if it happens not to be me, it will be Rowan." She nods her head at the deal I have made with her. We spend the last couple seconds left together in each other's arms. It only feels like a second before the Peacekeeper comes in to grab Alma.

"At least try. Rowan can get you sponsors; be friend her until the end. Let others take her then. Just try, please!" These are the last words that come out of her mouth before the door shuts furiously behind the Peacekeeper. I desperately need someone to come and get me, because I couldn't stop a million thoughts from storming through my brain.

How could I only find out right now that Alma loved me? She still believes that I am capable of winning. But how could she not volunteer?! I'm not just going to let a thirteen year-old that I have known her whole life die just so I can live. That would be the most selfish thing I could ever do. But what about Forest? He wouldn't have an official family, and would Alma's family really take him in and make him feel like family? My emotions are uncontrollable and unknown to me. Luckily my thoughts shift when the peacekeepers let Rowan into my room before they come for me.

She enters and cuddles on my lap. Now there's no way that I can let Rowan die, but I promised Alma. What am I going to do? I look down at Rowan and almost begin to cry at the sight her curly black hair and her chocolate-brown eyes. Her eyes still sparkle with trust, and twinkle with her flare for mischief. Even through the goodbyes, she still holds her warm smile. Afton was right about a lot.

"Are you ready?" she asks me. I shake my head. "Hey, look at it this way, now we know everyone else is safe for a year. We're like heroes, we're keeping them safe. Me and you; we're strong. Not like the Careers, but with love, Silvio." I didn't know what to say so I shrug my shoulders. Suddenly, Vivian comes tramping into my room.

"Come on guys! We've got a full day tomorrow!" she requests us to come with her. I'm in for a long trip.


Writers for this chapter: Rowan Clemons written by HAPPY KID 21 | Silvio Sato written by maggiemoo1113