Adara pulled her knees up to her chest and leant backwards on to the hedge, which was surprisingly sturdy despite being hollow. It was only just sundown and she was already beginning to feel the cold, but nothing could make her ask for the jacket back from Nicholas. The boy was curled up beside her, seemingly more comfortable, and both the tributes were watching the sky. Sure enough, before too long the anthem started playing and the two tributes from Twelve began to see all the faces that had died in the arena so early.
The girl from Two was a surprise. Adara had just assumed she would be part of the Career pack, but now that she thought about it, she hadn't even noticed her absence in their confrontation earlier. She felt a brief pang of guilt, then shook her head. She hadn't known the girl, and the tributes from Two were always Careers - how was she to know that this year would be different? Besides, if she started to feel bad for every death in the Games, she'd never get far.
Throughout the day, Adara had counted thirteen cannons. Twelve more faces to get through. The next face was the boy from Three, then the boy from Four. The girl from Five. The boy from Five, whose death Adara decided she was allowed to feel guilty about. She saw a flash of him falling to the ground with her knife lodged in his back, and then he was gone.
The girl from Six. The boy from Seven. Both tributes from Eight. The sick boy from Nine. Both tributes from Ten. The girl from Eleven. Then the Capitol seal flashed across the sky, the music faded, and the two tributes from Twelve were left in darkness again.
There was silence for a while, as both tributes adjusted to the lack of light. Then Nicholas's voice rang out in the night.
"Are we going to survive?"
For a moment, Nicholas's voice sounded so small and thick that Adara was forced to remember just how young he really was. She had two choices. She could either baby him and tell him that everything would be all right. She could reassure him, and send him off to sleep with false hopes of seeing his family again. Or more likely, he would be sent off to sleep feeling patronised and younger than ever. She could do that, or:
"I don't know, pipsqueak."
They sat in silence for a little longer. If they turned to each other, they would have been able to make out the other tribute's outline, along with a few little details. But they sat with their backs to the hedge, both still staring at the spot in the sky where they'd seen the faces of late tributes only minutes earlier. Nicholas spoke again.
"I guess you could say" - he paused briefly, putting in a Capitol accent - "the odds are not in our favour."
Despite the tricky topic, Adara couldn't help laughing. "That was good, pipsqueak! You sounded just like Effie." She sighed, shaking her head at Nicholas's talent she'd never heard before.
"Thanks," Nicholas grinned into the darkness. "I used to make my friends laugh by doing impressions of all our teachers at school. I got told off about it all the time, but it was worth it."
"I bet you were really popular, weren't you?" Adara turned her face to Nicholas, just making out his mad curls surrounding his head.
"Kind of, I suppose. There weren't a lot of us, so everyone just got along with everyone, really." Adara could see the outline of Nicholas's shoulders shrug, but he was still smiling. "What about you? Were you popular?"
Then it was Adara's turn to shrug. "I took the last year of school off after my parents died, and I didn't really see anyone for that time. Before that I guess I had a few friends. Like you said, there weren't a lot of us. The amount of people from school that turned up after the Reaping, though," Adara laughed to herself, though it really wasn't that funny. "You'd have thought everyone was in love with me or something."
"I can imagine that," Nicholas replied. "The way you charm everyone, half the school probably thought you were their girlfriend."
Adara couldn't help laughing again, and this time Nicholas joined in. The idea of every male in District Twelve lining up at Adara's door seemed so ridiculous that it took them a few minutes to recover, and realise that it probably wasn't a good idea to laugh so loudly in the arena at night.
"Come on, you should get some sleep," Adara started to get up, ushering Nicholas towards the door in the hedge. "We should both be safe to sleep at the same time, as long as no one else has figured out the hedge trick yet. But I'll stay up to keep an eye on things just in-"
"No, you won't," Nicholas interrupted, turning to face Adara. "We're both sleeping. Even if someone has figured out the hedges are hollow, it would take them ages to check every hedge in this place. You're sleeping." His voice was firm again, making Adara smile. He seemed so different to the boy she'd met at the Reapings only a few weeks ago.
"All right, pipsqueak. We both sleep." She shook her head, still smiling, and hustled him into the hedge, following after him. As she turned to pick up the door, she checked around one last time. Her first day in the arena hadn't been as bad as she'd expected. But she knew the worst was yet to come.
Haymitch lay on top of his bed, fully clothed, staring at the ceiling. He knew the people in the rooms around him were probably fast asleep, worn out from the excitement of the first day of the Games. But, as usual, Haymitch was avoiding sleep. The first night after the Games began always brought with it the worst nightmares. He knew Effie would be knocking on his door at seven o'clock sharp, so the longer he could put off drifting away, the better.
Eventually, staring at the ceiling wasn't enough to ward off sleep and he rolled on to his side, wondering if he could sneak into the dining hall for a drink. His eyes closed as he thought wistfully of how much better he would feel after a few glasses of wine. How relaxed it would make him, the cool liquid flowing past his lips and down his throat, warming his body. How he could possibly drink enough so that he would sleep without nightmares for once...
Haymitch sat up suddenly, opening his eyes and shaking his head. He still had at least a few days left of being a mentor, which meant no getting drunk, and definitely no passing out. Besides, he'd tried that before, and all it did was make the nightmares slightly blurrier. Sighing, he reached out for the remote, and turned on the television on his wall. He immediately had to shield his eyes from the bright light.
The Capitol liked to broadcast the Games live twenty-four hours a day on its own channel, then in the evenings show a special programme, recapping the highlights. Haymitch flicked through the channels until he found the one he was looking for. The camera was focused, as it often was, on the Career tributes. Three of them were obviously sleeping, while Sparks and the girl from One sat leaning against the hedges, each looking in different directions. Though Sparks was wide awake, the girl from One was clearly trying hard not to drift off.
"You'd better stay awake, fairy girl." Sparks's voice rang throughout Haymitch's room, louder than he'd expected. He turned the volume down as the tribute from Three carried on talking. "You never know what might happen if you let your guard down."
"Oh, shut it, Sparky," the girl from One yawned visibly, "It used to be adorable when you tried to be menacing, but now it's just pathetic. I don't even know why Julius let you come with us."
"Maybe because I can actually fight, rather than just batting my eyelashes to get what I want," Sparks growled back, staying unnaturally still and keeping her focus straight ahead of her. "You're only here as eye candy."
"You say that like it's a bad thing." Even in the dark of the arena, the blonde girl's smirk was clearly visible. "There's no need to be jealous, Sparky - I could teach you if you like. We could do our make-up, our nails, braid each other's hair..." Her voice was dripping with sarcasm.
When Sparks didn't reply, she carried on. "Of course, we wouldn't want to go too far. We'd still actually keep our clothes on, unlike some I could mention." Her laugh echoed in the silence, melodic but harsh. "Call me all the names you like, Sparks, but at least I knew where to draw the line when trying to get sponsors. I can keep my dignity."
"I wouldn't call it dignity," Sparks replied in a low voice, but before the girl from One could protest she carried on. "It really gets on your nerves, doesn't it?"
"What does?" The blonde girl turned slightly to face Sparks, before catching herself and turning back again.
"The fact that the Capitol prefers her to you. You're so used to being the prettiest, the popular one, and you've always got that by being silly and giggly. But now that's not enough. Then along she comes, not only pretty, but capable, with the ability to make everyone love her, and you can't stand it." Sparks spat out the last few words, and then there was silence. It was obvious she had hit a nerve, as the girl from One didn't protest.
The silence hung between the two tributes, the topic of their conversation still ringing in their ears. Eventually, Sparks broke the silence. "Don't worry, I can't stand her either. And if only one of us can win, it's sure as hell not going to be her." The girl from One's smile could be seen faintly through the darkness, before Sparks added, "Which reminds me-"
Turning around, Sparks lunged at the girl from One, pinning her to the ground. When the blonde girl began struggling and screaming, Sparks had already brought a knife out from her waistband. Without hesitation, she used all her weight to stab it into the girl's chest, twisting it menacingly. "Sweet dreams, fairy girl." Sparks grinned as the girl stopped struggling, her scream cut off in her throat. She grinned even further at the visible change in the girl's eyes, as she gave up gasping for breath, and her head lolled backwards.
As Sparks pulled the blood-covered knife out, wiping it on her t-shirt, dark shapes around her began to move, and a sleepy voice called out, "Who died this time?"
"Fairy girl. Anyone have a problem with that?" Sparks called back, putting the knife back in her waistband and moving away from her victim. As she spoke, one of the dark shapes grew and moved towards her.
"I'll move the body somewhere else. When I get back, you can sleep - I'll guard until morning." Julius picked up the blonde girl's body and flung it over his shoulder, drops of blood landing on his clothes. He started to move away with the body, and a cannon went off somewhere in the arena.
Haymitch pointed the remote at the television and turned it off, plummeting the room into darkness again. He'd seen enough. Every year, he thought nothing in the Games would surprise him. He assumed he'd seen it all. Every year he was wrong. As he lay back, lethargy took over, and he knew exactly what was waiting for him when he slept.