I wake up. It's early. So early I can see the short amounts of sunlight through the charred roof of my house. It's still in the charred wreck it was when I was nine, and when the fire burned down most of the house and killed my parents. I had a nightmare last night. A nightmare where I was back in the fire, and I watched as my little sister Iris was burned and inflamed to death. I'm glad to have woken up. It distracted me.
"Clove!" I hear her voice.
Iris. She runs in, still in her pyjamas. Her short, blonde hair is starting to grow a bit longer. It used to stop at the bottom of her ears, but it's now slowly and gradually getting to her neck.
"What it is?" I ask.
If Iris needs me, I'm there for her.
"Today is the Reaping. I know I'm thirteen now, but I don't want to enter the Games." She says.
Oh Iris, I hate to see you scared.
"Look. Iris. Your name is in that Reaping Bowl twice." I say.
Iris takes in a deep breath. She exhales.
"But you're fifteen. Your name's in the Reaping Bowl...once...twice..." Iris goes to counting how much of the Reaping Bowl has 'Clove Kelly' in it.
"Five times!" Iris says.
"Four." I correct her.
"Oh yeah." She says.
I giggle. I look through the massive hole in the wall to see how much the sun has risen. Not much. I turn back to Iris.
"Iris." I begin, "Don't worry. This is District 2. And you know what that means." I say.
"Lots and lots of volunteers." We both say at the same time.
"You got it kiddo." I say.
I get out of my night gown, slip into a white shirt and green skirt and before I can grab my token, I hear the pitter-pat of feet. Iris appears, wearing a grey-and-white gradient dress with black sandals.
"I feel out of place." Iris says.
I want to make Iris feel safe. I pretend to faint.
"Sorry about the faint there Iris." I say.
Iris looks up at me, and she stops ruffling her dress.
"Your dress is just so damn good!" I say.
It's true. It's better than mine. Mine's so plain.
"We should go." I say, holding Iris' hand.
We leave the house. We don't need to worry about locking it, I mean, a robber or burglar could just get in through the burned-through walls. I have my token, a bracelet with 'D' on one charm, 'I' on another, 'S' on one, and it keeps on going on until it spells 'District 2.'
We're on our way to the square, holding hands. It's awfully silent.
"Clove." Iris asks, breaking the silence.
I look at her.
"What is it?" I ask.
Iris stays still. I continue to hold her hand, though I'm a few steps in front of her. She shakes her head and comes to me.
"It's nothing. Never mind." She says.
"Okay." I say.
If Iris doesn't want to say anything, I won't bug her. But I'm a little worried for her. This isn't her first Reaping. I know she's scared, and it's because last year, she was Reaped. Luckily, another girl called Molly volunteered for District pride.
I am really concerned about Iris, she's so scared.
"Ok, I'll say it." Iris randomly says.
"No, Iris, if you don't want to talk about it I understa-" But Iris cuts me off.
"No. This isn't about me." Iris says.
"It's about you." She says.
"What if YOU get Reaped?" She asks, "What will I do?"
I pause and think for a moment. Damn. I never thought of what Iris would do, where'd she go to, if I got Reaped. I keep pausing, but Iris is walking ahead.
"Come on." She says, ushering me forward.
Damn it. I never thought about that.
I follow Iris, we're near the square. Just silence after silence, no talk or conversation what so ever. She's really worried. Though she looks miserable, like she doesn't care, I can tell she's worried. Petrified even.
"Not long until we reach the square." Iris says.
"Yeah." I say awkwardly.
We're still silent. We just keep walking. Walking, walking. It's getting a little dull. I need to break this silence, I must keep Iris in a sense of security.
"Iris, look, my name's in the Reaping Bowl FOUR times, like I'll get picked!" I say, turning to Iris, unintentionally shouting.
"Yeah right." Iris says.
"Stop being so stubborn!" I shout.
"I'm not being stubborn. I'm just pointing out YOU never made a plan for me in the event of your death!" Iris shouts.
"I'm sorry, you think I'll get killed?" I say.
I don't know what Iris is being like, but it's not how you speak to parents. And I've had to parent Iris since our parents died.
"Yes!" Iris shouts with a cocky voice, "You'll die! Because you don't train hard enough! You think you can get away with that and still survi-"
"IRIS KELLY!" I raise to full volume, "I am technically your parent! The reason I stopped Training was to raise YOU! You show me respect! How many times have I been invited to fancy does, like a friend's party, but I neglected it to pick you up from school?! How many dates have I planned as Training dates, only to find out you're not even in school!? Show me respect!" I shout.
I huff and puff. That beat-down took the breath out of my lungs. I look at Iris. Iris runs off.
"Don't run off!" I shout.
But it's too late. Iris is gone now. Fine.
"I HOPE YOU GET REAPED!" I shout at her, and she runs quicker.
I enter the square, enter the line for getting my finger pricked. Stupid Iris. She wouldn't survive a day without me. I'm not far from the end of the line. Getting bored, playing that conversation through my head. She's stupid. I progress through the line. "Next." I hear someone say.
A Peacekeeper with no one to prick. I step out of my line and into his.
"Hand please." He says.
I hold my ring finger on my left hand to him. I feel a jolt as the electric blood-taking device jolts blood from my finger. My finger gets pressed onto a page in an attendance file that shows who's at the Reaping and who's not.
"Next." The Peacekeeper says, releasing my hand.
I walk over to the line for 15-year-olds, where a Peacekeeper shoves me into place. Prick. I look around, trying to find someone. I don't know who exactly I'm looking for. Something tells me to look around. I hear a random booming noise from nowhere, then look up to see District 2's escort, Kendra Buttermeadow, is onstage, and ready for this year's Reaping.
"Welcome, welcome!" Kendra says, over-stretching her smile, and looking like the smile is actually causing her physical pain.
"This is the District 2 Reaping for the annual, 74th Hunger Games!" She says, giving a slight clap.
She looks like this happiness she's attempting to bring to the Square is killing her, piercing her soul.
"Before I pick the two courageous tributes for these Games, there is a clip, bought to you, all the way from the Capitol! Cheers!" Kendra says.
She's really over-trying this whole escort thing.
"War." A voice booms over the Square.
It's the Capitol video shown at each and every video.
"Widows, orphans, Motherless children. This was the effect of war." The video says.
"Is that President Snow's voice?" A brown-haired boy asks me.
I turn to him. I usually like to watch the Reaping video so I can make fun of it later.
"I think so." I say, turning my attention back to the video.
"The 13 Districts of Panem fought against the hand that fed them. Brother turned on brother. The Capitol defeated the uprising Districts, and made peace with them." The video says.
I kind of lied to the brown-hair kid. I don't even know what President Snow's voice sounds like. I haven't watched any of his mandatory speeches. It's because Iris and I don't have a television. I mean, I don't have a television.
"But freedom came at a cost." The video is still rolling.
"Yep." The boy says, "Definitely Snow."
"Uh-Huh." I say, kind of not paying attention.
So that's what Snow sounds like.
"In tribute of this rebellion, the now 12 Districts of Panem must offer one young man and young woman, to enter a pageant where they must fight to the death, until one alone Victor remains. The lone Victor bathes in riches for life, as a token of our generosity, and our forgiveness." Snow says on-tape.
"Heh. Generosity. As if." I say.
I don't know who I'm talking to.
"Yeah, I know right?" A boy says.
It's the same brown-haired boy as earlier. He thought I was talking to him.
"So fricking generous. Killing off 23 children each year." He continues.
"And that, is how we as a nation, have healed." The video ends, the screen goes black.
Kendra is still bored.
"Now, to select our female tribute for the 74th Hunger Games!" Kendra says.
She goes towards the Reaping Bowl with a pink ring on it, to symbolise how sexism associates the colour pink with women.
"Aha!" Kendra says, as she finally selects a slip of paper and walks over to the microphone.