"Get up children! School is waiting for you,"An obnoxious voice screeches.

I'm about to let out a groan when I hear a thud coming from under my bed. I roll to the edge of my bed and look over the side to see Daytona laying in a heap on the floor, letting out a groan.

I smirk.

"Good thing you didn't get the top bunk like you wanted,"I say. She throws her pillow at me. I block it with my hand and it falls back down and hits her in the face.

I let out a bark of laughter as I jump off my bed.

I walk to the bathroom, but it is already filled with other kids trying to get ready. So I decide to make up my bed while I wait. After I'm done, I decide to go ahead and get dressed, placing a knife in each boot as I had always done before.

When I get to the bathroom,t he waiting line for the sink is considerably shorter. Eventually I get to the sink. After the five minutes it takes for me to get ready,I go downstairs and wait in the kitchen.

I am not all that surprised to find that there isn't usually breakfast here, and when there is oatmeal.

Not knowing what else to do, I go outside and sit next to Theodore, who is lying in front of the door.

Finally, all the others come out and we all head to school together.

When I get there, Shae, Estacia, Keely, and Abby immediately jump at me, demanding that I tell every detail of my travels.

Of course I don't tell them everything, but I let them think I did.

At lunchtime, I skip lunch because the only food that was left in the house I sent with the younger children, so I just head to my table without food.

As I head there, passed the "Popular Girls" table.

"And for Christmas break, daddy is taking us all out to the beach,"I hear the head winch brag.

Then, out of nowhere, she turns to me.

"Where is your dad going to take you for christmas break, Ari?" Elexia asks me, with a smirk so small that it's almost non-existent.

I surprised,and too enraged to even look it...

What is she trying to do?

"Where do you think?"I ask,slowly,my voice dangerously low.

"Oh, yeah, I forgot. Your dad died,"She continues,seemingly oblivious, taunting me with her eyes,"Pity, now your pathetic, and an orphan."

There is a deafening silence as I stare at her, nearly breathless, all eyes in the cafeteria on us. I take step closer, then another, and another until I can practically feel her breath on my face.

"I may be an orphan, and I may not have any parents to love me,"I say,barely above a whisper,"But my parents are dead. What's your excuse?"

She stands there, staring at me as the full meaning of what I just said sinks in.

"I... How dare ... "Her hands go up to her cheeks, her eyes filling with tears, then she gets up and runs from the cafiteria.

Watching as she runs, I almost begin to feel bad. But then I stopped myself. She talked about dad.

No one talks about my father like that.

No one.


Jacob's POV

I freeze in my seat.

Elexia did not just say all that.

The table directly in front of me is where Ari usually sits. To my right is where Elexia and her group sits.

Across from me, Finnick is sitting with his eyes wide, and his mouth hanging slightly open, no doubt wondering if Ari is going to kill Elexia, or just permanently disable her.

I stand up and move a little closer to the two opposing girls in case I have to hold back one, and since Ari is one of them I wouldn't be surprised.

But when I see Ari's face, it's calm. Like the calm right before a hurricane hits. Yet her eyes, they hold a dangerous glint.

She steps closer to Elexia, who is visibly tensing, until their faces are only inches apart.

"I may be an orphan, and I may not have any parents to love me,"She says, her voice low but full of venom,"But my parents are dead. What's your excuse?"

Wow.

Elexia looks like she might cry, but even I can't help but think she deserves it.


Ari's POV

By 3:50 I'm back at the Orphanage with Daytona and the others.

While they go and do who-knows-what, I go and look for Welda the Witch. I find her in the study, reading some stupid looking novel behind her desk.

Time to set motion to my plans.

I walk in.

"Morning, Miss Welda,"I say in a business-like tone.

"What do you want?"She she moans,seeing me.

"I am here to make a proposal to you."

"I'm sorry, I don't recall being in need of anything,"She replies flatly.

"It's not a matter of need, but of want."

She raises her eyebrow. "And what could I possibly want from you?"

I plop down into a seat across from her desk. "Look, it's obvious you hate us, and we aren't to fond of you either. So how about you just leave? I'll put in a good word for you with the big-wigs, and pretend that you are taking wonderful care of us, when in reality you don't even have to be living here. In fact, that would be prefered."

Welda furrows her brow, thinking this over.

"And if a government official happens to come check on you?"She asks.

"I'll tell them you went out for groceries or something,"I shrug.

"And I never have to come here again?"

"Never. Unless a peacekeeper does show up like you say, then i'll go get you and when he's gone you can leave."

She purses her lips.

I stick my hand out. She hesitates, but takes it, and we seal the deal.

Later that day, I am walking towards the training center. I spot Tralden, the head trainer, trying to teach some girl to throw a heavy battle-axe. It was red and silver, about two and a half feet long, with a double edge. The one I always used.

She throws the axe toward the target, and misses miserably.

He sighs. "Maybe you should go try archery,"He suggests. She drops the axe and nods.

After she leaves, he turns to pick up the axe and spots me.

His face lights up as we make our way to each other.

"How's my little career been holding up?" He asks bringing me into a hug. Tralden was originally been the head trainer of District 2, but was later converted to a rebel. After the rebellion he moved here and became the head trainer. When I was only six my dad had taken me here for the first time. That day, Tralden suggested that I start out with knives. We soon found out that I had a natural skill for handling blades. In one day, we had went from knife throwing, to fighting with a knife, to practicing swordplay with a rubber short sword. Ever since he had called me his little career.

"Still kickin',"I smirk.

He chuckles,"Well I can see that. I take it the woods have been good to you." He gives me a knowing wink. "So what can I do for you?"

"Yeah, I was wondering if you knew someone who had some work I could do."

He looks at me in surprise. I guess he had been expecting me to ask him something related to his job.

He thinks for a moment, before nodding.

"There's this old man I know. His wife is dead, and his children don't want to have anything to do with him. Last I heard, he's having a little trouble doing some things for himself."

Tralden gives me directions to the old mans house, and i'm on my way after thanking him.

"Any time,"he replies,"Come see me again soon!"

When I reach the address that Tralden gave me, I find it to be a small, though nice looking house. I climb the steps and knock on the door.

An elderly man with a walking cane opens the door.

"Yes? How may I help you?" His voice is gentle and full of kindness.

"I'm Ari, and I was looking for some work. Is there anything I can help you with?"

He smiles and nods. "Well, come to think of it, there is."

He opens the door wider and motions me to come in. Once inside, he leads me to the kitchen.

"My hands aren't what they used to be,"He starts,"And washing dishes has become a hard, slow task for me. Do you think you could do it for me?"

"Yes, sir,"I reply willingly.

He smiles and turns to leaves me to work. "Oh, and my name is Dub,"He says,before exiting.

I turn to the pile of dishes in the sink and gulp. I had always had a deep loathing for doing dishes. When I was younger and still had a family, I had always chosen to do outside-work over indoor cleaning. Be I especially tried to avoid dishes.

Nevertheless, I pick up a bowl and start working.

In an hour, I walk into the living room to inform him that I was done.

"Good!"He says. He begins rummaging through a drawer next to his old rocking chair with an old, feeble hand.

"Oh dear,"He frowns,"It looks like I'm out of money for the moment. But do you think you could stop by here and clean around every week or so?"

Poor old man, he can barely take care of himself.

I just can't help but take pity on this man. Maybe I could work for him for free?

Darn, I hate myself!

"Okay,"I agree with him. For some strange reason, I feel better. A smile unintendedly makes it's way onto my lips.

He smiles,"Wonderful!"

He grabs his cane and walks me to the door.

"You know, if it's a good paying job you need, you should go try the victors village,"He says, opening the door for me,"I'm sure there is something you could do between the Abernathy's and the Mellark's."

I thank him and get on my way.

I knock on the door of the first house in the victors village I come to. I hear heavy footsteps coming towards the door.

Haymitch Abernathy answers it.

I hope he doesn't remember me. Then he might just give me a job out of pity. How miserable that would be,to work for someone who feels sorry for you...

I put on my most charming smile.

"Hello, Sir,"I say.

Talking to people I don't really know about business matters, or even in general, was always a weak point for me.

He looks me up and down, as if sizing me up. He doesn't seem to recognize me.

Good.

"What do you want?"He asks in a not-quiet-welcoming voice.

"I was looking for work, and someone suggested I try the victors village, and your house was the first one. So...You interested?"

He leans back on his heels and crosses his arms.

"So your looking for work, huh?"He says, looking slightly amused.

I stand up straighter, starting to feeling dumber by the second.

"Yes, sir, I am."

"Well you know what,"He says,"I actually had a room I was planning on painting."

He opens the door wider and walks deeper into his house without actually inviting me in with words. But he opened the door in such a way that I just assume he wanted me to follow him, so I do.

I follow him upstairs, down the hall, and then to the left, where he leads me into a medium sized room, which was completely empty of all furniture.

"The walls were this color when I got the house, but they never really were to my liking,"He says, indicating the beige walls,"I never really got the chance to paint it when I was mentoring, being the town drunk and all. And after the rebellion, I didn't really have much time, between helping run the country and being married to Effie. And also I just never liked painting,"He adds with a shrug,"So, i'll pay you fifty dollars and give you 24 hours to finish. Every extra hour it takes to finish, I will deduct ten dollars. Do you think you can handle it?"

Fifty dollars is a lot of money here, enough to feed everyone in the orphanage for two weeks. Besides, 24 hours should be plenty of time to finish.

"Yes, sir, I think I can,"I answer confidently.

"Good, now wait here one moment."

He leaves the room, then comes back in a minute holding three cards. He holds them out to me. The first one is a bright yellow, the next a beautiful sky blue. The last one is a mesmerizing green, the color of young leaves growing on poison ivy vines in the early spring, my favorite color.

"I can't decide which color I want this room to be,"Haymitch says,"Which do you like best?"

I immediately point to the green.

"That's always been my favorite color,"I say, then realize that that was sort of an odd and irrelevant thing to say.

He studies the card.

"Nah, I think I like the yellow better,"He says shoving the cards in his pocket.

What the heck?

Now I really feel like an idiot.

"Come back tomorrow, and i'll have the paint ready for you,"He says, leading me back toward the front door,"What time can you make it here?"

I shrug,"What time do you want me to come?"

"Will 7:00 do?"

"Perfect,"I say.

He nods,"Good."

And with that, I leave, with fifty buck floating around in my head.


Haymitch's POV

I walk downstairs to answer the door.

When I open the door, a young girl stands there.

"Hello, Sir,"She says, giving me a decidedly winning smile.

I study her from head to toe.

Where have I seen this kid before?

I can't help but feel some connection, but then again, there's lots of kids I see around, so I push it out of my mind.

"What do you want?"I ask her, a little more gruffly than I had meant.

Great, now I sound like I did after I won the quell.

"I was looking for work, and someone suggested I try the victors village, and your house was the first one. So...You interested?"

"So your looking for work,huh?"I ask. Wow, thats a first. I've been asked to buy cookies from young girls, been asked to donate to charity, and even been asked to make a showing at some little girl scouts type meeting. But never have I been asked to give a job to a girl.

But I don't know if it's from years of living under the thumb of the old capitol, or if i'm just a paranoid old man, but I have to know if I can trust this girl before I let her loose in my house. I need to know that she will be a faithful worker, not some conniving thief.

A plan starts forming in my head.

"Yes, sir, I am."

"Well you know what,"He says,"I actually had a room I was planning on painting."

I open the door wider and head upstairs.

She seems to hesitate at first, but eventually begins to follow me.

I lead her to the room upstairs that had barely ever been touched since I first got this house, almost forty years ago.

"The walls were this color when I got the house, but they never really were to my liking,"I tell her,"I never really got the chance to paint it when I was mentoring, being the town drunk and all. And after the rebellion, I didn't really have much time, between helping run the country and being married to Effie. And also I just never liked painting,"I admit truthfully,"So, i'll pay you fifty dollars and give you 24 hours to finish. Every extra hour it takes to finish, I'll knock off two dollars. Do you think you can handle it?"

"Yes, sir, I think I can,"She says,looking quiet sure of herself.

If only she knew.

"Good, now wait here one moment,"I tell her.

I walk to a closet which was just down the hall and rummage through a toolbox that I kept there until I found some color cards that me and Effie had picked out a few years ago. Fortunately for me, I had gotten out of painting somehow.

I walk back to the room where the girl was waiting for me and show her the cards.

"I can't seem to be able to decide which color I want this room to be,"I say,"Which do you like best?"

She points to the green card without a moments hesitation.

"That's my favorite color,"She says.

Is that so?

I think to myself. This is going to be more fun than I thought.

"Nah, I think I like the yellow better,"I say, pocket the cards.

She looks quiet surprised, but covers it up impressively quick.

"Come back tomorrow, and i'll have the paint ready for you,"I ask as I lead her back to the front door,"What time can you make it here?"

"What time do you want me to come?"She asks.

"Will 7:00 do?"

"Perfect,"she replies.

"Good."

And she leaves.

I smirk.

We'll see how perfect you thinks this is once you get started.


Ari's POV

I move on to the next house in the victors village and knock on the door. Katniss Mellark answers the door.

"Yes?"She asks.

"Hello,ma'am,i'm Ari,and I was looking for work."

A spark of recognition lights in her eyes.

"Oh yes, I've heard of you,"She says, then she rolls her eyes,"Well of course i've heard of you, your the talk of the town."

"Aww,"I say, playfully,"Am I really that popular?"

She laughs. "Yes, my son came home talking nonstop about you."

I feel myself blush, and hope she doesn't notice.

"Anyway,"She continues,"I don't have anything you can do here at the house, but maybe you could go by the shop and Peeta could find something for you to do."

I nod. "Thank you."

"Of course,"She smiles.

I go to the next lived in house in the victors village, which was actually three houses down from the others,next to a small pond.

This is where Victor Anne and her son live. Of course Finnick is probably down at the training center by this time, like he usually is, so I don't sweat it.

So I knock on the door.

"Coming,"I hear a muffled voice say from behind it.

In a few seconds, the door is pulled open, and I am met face to face with none other than Finnick Odair Jr.


Finnick's POV

There is a knock on the door. I pause the TV and get up.

"Coming,"I call as I make my way towards the door.

When I pull it open, the most beautiful, spunky girl i've ever met is standing there, Ari.

We both freeze.

What do I say? What do I do?

I think franticly.

Act cool, right, act cool.

I put on my most charming smile, the one that makes most girls swoon, and lean aginst the door frame.

"And what brings such a lovely girl all the way to my humble home?"I ask her, trying to keep my voice smooth.

"I was actually looking for some work,"She shrugs.

The poor girl, so hardworking and dedicated. She would make a great wife.

Holy crap! Did I just think that?S he's like, what, fourteen? Fifteen? Not good, Finnick, not good.

"So... Do you?"Her voice snaps me back to reality.

Do I what? Oh,job right! Well, lets see, what do I need that she could possibly help with?

Wait! What kind of 'work' was she talking about?

My mind goes to a corner in the back of the hob, where young girls and grown women alike, who are always wearing clothes that show way too much skin, are always able to be found. She couldn't be... doing that? No...

My head suddenly feels light. "Um,when you say work, you don't mean..."I start, my eyes involuntarily going to the ground ,but she cuts me off.

"No,not that kind of work,"She says, rolling her eyes.

I let out a breath that I didn't even know I was holding. That's a relief.

"Well,"I say,"My mother was wanting to have turkey next Saturday, and I never was good at turkey hunting. Do you think you could bring us some Friday night?"

"Sure,"She replies,"See you Friday?"

I smile.

"See you Friday,"I confirm.

And then she smiles back at me, and I swear my heart does a flip.


Ari's POV

Well that was painfully awkward.

When he first opened the door we just gaped at each other. Then he went back to his "Cool Boy" act. Then when I told him I was looking for work, he got this far away look in his eyes. Then he looked startled. Then he paled, before asking me about what type of "work" I did. Then, just before I left, when I smiled at him, he looked like the happiest person in the world.

I think for a moment, then suddenly it seems so obvious.

Does he really dislike me that much? He really that happy to get rid of me?

Oh well, at least I got a sort-of job.

I am walking into the bakery now. I walk up to the counter where Tulip, Jacobs sister, greets me.

"Hey Ari,whats up?"She asks. She's not exactly one of my friends, since she's five years older than me at eighteen. We've only spoke several times before, but Peeta and his children where the type that you could just meet once and then they would act like they'd known you all their lives. Jacob was living proof of that.

"I was wondering if I could talk to your dad,"I say.

"Sure,"She says, then walks to the back.

Peeta comes out, wiping his hands on his apron.

"Hey, Ari,"He says kindly,"What can I do for you?"

"I was wondering if you had any type of job I could do."

He thinks for a moment, leaning his weight against the counter.

"You know, I think there is. You see, there have been a lot of requests for deliveries, and things are just so busy here, with me and Jacob baking and decorating, and Tulip handling the counter. So do you think you could do the deliveries for us?"

"Yeah, that sounds great!" I say enthusiastically.

"Good! Can you start Monday?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good,"He says,"Wait here for a moment."

He goes back into the back part of the bakery, then returns, holding a large loaf of bread.

"Here, take this as a starting bonus,"He hands me the bread, but I don't take it.

"Uhhm, I don't accept payments until after the job is done," I say uneasily.

He smiles,"Then take this as a gift."

"I don't really think I should, but thanks anyway,"I smile, and turn to leave before he forces it on me.

But he places the bread in a brown parer bag,rolls up the top, then tosses it to me, Or rather at me, so that I reflexively catch it before it knocks me in the head.

"Bye,"He says, quickly retreating to the back so that I can sat no more to him.

So, not knowing what else to do, I walk out of the store.

Just before I turn the corner, I turn around. Peeta and Jacob are standing there, behind the glass window of the bakery. When I look directly at them, Jacob turns away and returns to the back.

Peeta is simply standing there, smiling with a playful gleam in his eye.

A smile breaks across my face, a happy, genuine, grateful smile. One that I didn't even have to force.

I've never known smiling could feel that good, and all it took was a simple act of kindness.

And so I walk back towards the orphanage, that same easy smile staying with my all the way.


First off,I would like to thank those who reviewed for the last chapter:

Satipheen,

Guest,

and Philippa.

I'm sorry that this chapter wasn't very eventful, but trust me, there is going to be something BIG coming up in the next few chapters.

To Satipheen: Yes, the bomb was hinting at something more. Something which you will all learn in good time.

The the unnamed guest: I'm sorry for the slow updates. I really LOVE writing this story, but unfortunately, and unlike most other young teens my age, I actually have work that I have to do. Things like washing dishes three times a day,taking care of my multiple animals, and school, as well as a part time job. Bummer. And since my mom just had another baby, I have to help out with her alot.

So,do yall think we can take it up to 15 reviews? ;)

~HGH