"I sometimes find that in interviews you learn more about yourself than the person learned about you."
Miri Ismail-Pignati, District One (15)
"And how are we doing today, Panem? I know, I know, you all want to get right to the tributes, don't let me stop you. Let's just say I have a feeling these Games will be the spectacle of a lifetime with this bunch! First of them all, we have our lovely Miri Ismail-Pignati from District One!"
The crowd cheers, and I swallow twice, shaking my head to try to clear it. My throat is dry. My mouth is dry. I should've practiced more for this with Aphrodite. At least I look amazing. I brush a few stray curls under my shimmering pink hairband. Then, wobbling in my glittery gilt-bedecked high heels, I ascend the stairs to the interview platform with all the dignity I can find in myself.
The audience cheers again, thrilled for the first interview, and I force myself to smile. Who knew an interview would be more terrifying than my private training session?
I spread out my sunset-sheened silk halter dress and sit down. I'm trying to smile charmingly, but it probably looks like a grimace. I'm trying so hard. I'm trying. I have to do this.
"Hello, Miri!" says the interviewer, Tanye Mickel. He's wearing a horrendous combination of orange and purple. I never thought I would meet someone with worse fashion sense than my friend Momo back home, who likes to wear bile green clothes, but Tanye proves me wrong.
"Hello, Tanye! I'm so excited to meet you," I answer without a waver, hiding my stage fright. Is it working? I think it's working. I hope it is.
"Oh, I am too, you can count on that. I have such high hopes for you! Let's get to business immediately, shall we?" he says with a cheery grin, displaying gold teeth. I hate him. I hate this. He's like a painted idol. "Miri, my dear-" I want to slit his throat with a rusty dagger- "Could you tell the audience what your best skills are? They must be quite something, judging by your score of nine. Nine, I'll repeat. That is a feat, I can tell you."
"Well, Tanye," I say with a girlish giggle, instantly despising myself, "I would say I'm excellent with first aid and a few other things, but I can't reveal too much."
"No, we couldn't have that." Glint go the gold teeth. "First aid, huh? I'd sure like you to be my nurse." There are some shouts of agreement from the crowd. Nausea bubbles up in my stomach.
"So who are you going to come home for, eh? Who's waiting for you? Family, a lucky boy?" He slides closer to me, and I slide backward.
"Certainly my aunt. I live with her and I love her very much." My tone implies to not ask about my parents. At least, I hope that's what it implies. "And my friend Momo, of course. He's just a friend, though. I don't have any boyfriends at home."
"Well, that's too bad," Tanye says with an exaggerated sigh. "Well, then, how about anyone here? A citizen from our lovely Capitol? Or, dare I say, a certain district partner?" He waggles his eyebrows suggestively.
Kill me now.
Marcus Nosa, District One (16)
After Tanye asks Miri if she likes me, she closes off. The rest of her answers are more clipped and quiet, noticeable, but at least not like some sullen outer-district. It still obviously disappoints the crowd, used as they are to flirty and talkative District One girls. It's not Miri's fault she has stage fright. But she wouldn't have to say anything to me. I could just stare at her all day.
She leaves when her three minutes are up, and I start to swagger up to the stage. The confident, swaying gait makes my bruises ache, so I have to stop and walk normally. The bruises are from...well, let's say Topaz was not happy that a girl scored higher than I did. He made me spar with him for a few hours using some heavy wooden practice swords. Extra training. Extra training for the failure of a Career.
Tanye smiles. He's probably relieved that he's got a tribute who's smiling too. Stage fright? Not me.
"Nice to meet you, Marcus- may I call you Mark?" he asks as I straighten my trademark gray fedora. I've seen people all over the Capitol wearing copies.
"Call me Marcus, please, Tanye. Nice to meet you too." I take a seat, biting my tongue to concentrate on not wincing. Topaz isn't exactly a weakling. Thankfully, Tanye doesn't seem to notice. Although it is his job. I hope he won't point anything out. Oh, damn, wincing when sitting down- he won't think I'm a- please don't let him think I'm gay. Did gay things. Oh, no. I beg with the universe for him to not mention it. I'm definitely not. Not like Eight boy probably is, and Tristan. Bloody pretty boys.
"We had quite the adamant response from Miri about romance, didn't we?" he says with a knowing look in his eye, drawing me back.
"Yes, we quite adamantly did. I'll allow that I'm disappointed," I admit, while hiding how disappointed I really am. "She's a pretty girl, Tanye, I can't be blamed. But hey, I'm not too shabby either," I joke, standing up and striking an impressive pose. Multitudes of Capitol women applaud. Now, probably plenty of Capitol men will wear versions of my outfit to impress their wives: dark green shirt, black dress pants and shoes, a gray vest to match my fedora. I am good.
"So, Marcus," Tanye says, returning to the interview when I sit down again. "Your score certainly wasn't bad." Despite the other positive qualities he lacks, at least he's tactful enough to not mention that Miri outscored me. I don't need to hear the Topaz tirade all over again.
"It's a wonder that a capable boy like you was beaten by his district partner."
Making myself shrug it off, I cast around in my mind for an answer.
"Eh, well, the Gamemakers must have been in the favor of a pretty girl instead of me. I didn't flash them any assets, if you know what I mean. I don't know why they didn't prefer my...sword skills." I make a ferocious face, amusing the crowd. "Don't think the less of me for it. Nobody's going to be any real match against the marvel that's Marcus!"
Thalia Bronx, District Two (15)
Marcus steers the subject away from Miri with more skill than I expected.
After Marcus answers some questions about his family and home, gets a huge laugh when he almost falls out of his chair at 'So are you involved with anyone else? Girlfriend, boyfriend?', it's time for me to go up. Tristan gives me a quick kiss on the cheek.
"Good luck, Thalia. You, uh, you'll do well. Don't get aggravated. Remember what Shantelle taught you. I know you'll make me proud."
I nod, setting my black angel wings bouncing. "Thanks. You'll probably make it too. I won't get aggravated, I promise."
With that, I take a big breath, I hike up my floor-length white dress to ascend the stage. I take a seat as far away from Tanye as I can without being rude, and resist the urge to loosen my hair from its curly updo.
"Hello, Thalia," he cooes. I catch a whiff of cologne, and nearly gag.
"Hello, yourself," I say uncertainly. The audience laughs. I have no idea why.
"Why don't you tell me all about what you can do, now? What's your strategy? What've you got in store for the show?"
He's prying and making me uncomfortable. Well, just being near him is making me uncomfortable.
"I'd tell you, but I wouldn't want to spoil any plot twists." My nostrils flare a little. I can't help it. I hope I'm not getting aggravated.
He draws back from me and tries a different approach.
"Could you tell me about how you feel about being here with your brother?"
"I'm shocked, to be honest. It's really terrible. I'm obviously not going to die."
"You're going to kill him?" Tanye gasps theatrically. The rest of the Capitol murmurs to each other. What does this bloodthirsty girl mean, they must be wondering. It's not like they'll mind, since it'll be great television, but we've presented ourselves as an unbreakable team so far.
"No, besides surviving everything else, I'll have to work out a plan to smuggle Tristan out of the arena, on the side of me winning!"
They laugh again, and Tanye sighs in relief.
"You look lovely tonight, Thalia," he says, like he won't say that to every girl who comes up. "I bet a lot of people like you. At home, you have your parents, right? Any siblings besides your cargo Tristan? A significant other?"
"Nope. My parents, they're dead. No other siblings, cause just Tristan is enough, thanks very much. No boyfriend, because seriously? If I were my own boyfriend, I would have left long ago. I can hardly stand looking in the mirror. It's like, dear mother of Panem, not you again!"
Tanye and the crowd are in hysterics. How strange.
"What weapons are you good with? Something besides that tongue of yours?" Tanye finally manages.
"A halberd. I've trained with them so much, I could use one in my sleep, I swear."
This is going a lot better than I thought. Maybe I really will make Tristan proud.
Tristan Bronx, District Two (18)
Thalia spouts off more confident answers, then it's my turn. I wish she hadn't said she'd break me out of the arena. Not that it makes me look weak, but someone might think she's serious. These Games have already been teetering on the edge of treachery.
"And next up, we have Tristan Bronx!" Tanye calls out.
I step up to the stage, and I'm met with an explosion of fangirl cheers. My outfit is really simple, though, it's just a black tuxedo with my hair slicked back. I suppose my natural appearance is helping. Marcus has muttered 'pretty boy' about me often enough.
"Hello, Tristan! Your sister made quite a splash, didn't she? Does she often do that at home?" Tanye inquires when I sit down.
"It's more of a question to ask when she isn't getting the attention of the whole district," I admit.
"Well, I'm not sure I would like to be her big brother! It must take a lot of patience!" he says. "Now, on the subject of your patience, what other skills do you have?"
"Using a morning star is my greatest talent. It's like a mace, but it has a bunch of spikes, and it's heavier. More difficult to use. That doesn't stop me. It can cave a head right in."
"That sounds dangerous! So, Tristan. Your sister said your parents were dead. Could you elaborate?"
I shift in my seat. "I don't really like to talk about it, but...I guess, just this once, I could."
I take a practiced shaky breath. Careers don't usually do the sad angle, but at least it'll make me stand out.
"It was when I was eight, and Thalia was five. Ten years ago. She doesn't really remember, but I do. Our mother was addicted to morphling, and it made her waste away until she looked like a corpse. She used to be so pretty too, she's where Thalia got her looks from. One day, it killed her." I take another shuddering breath.
"My father loved her. He loved her so very, very much, he couldn't live without her. I was little, but I knew what he would do. I begged for him to live for Thalia and me, for his own children who wouldn't have anyone else, but it didn't work. He just gave up and went on a rampage in the town square. He tore down part of the justice building, screaming 'Nerys!' the whole time. You know, I guess. Nerys was my mother's name."
I have to pause and wipe my eyes. Some of the audience is weeping as well. Even Tanye isn't grinning anymore.
"Ten peacekeepers brought him down and shocked him at the same time with their batons. It killed him, like he had wanted. He couldn't bear to live after she died." My voice breaks. "So Thalia and I were shunted off to a community home, because our relatives wouldn't take us in. Apparently they thought suicide might be catching. So we've been by ourselves ever since. Thalia is all I have, and I will make sure she wins, because I love her."
Erica Jones, District Three (16)
Tristan Bronx's interview made my throat catch. I had to bite my lip to keep the emotions in. It was terrible to listen to, so I can't even imagine going through it. I never thought a Career could move me that way. It somehow felt like Careers couldn't even have horrible experiences. I guess their lives aren't always as perfect as they seem.
"Well, wasn't that something. Now we have, from District Three, Erica Jones!"
I have to take extra care to not trip on my lovely dress. Quite the challenge, owing to my clumsiness that's increased with the stress of tonight. The dress is strapless and electric yellow to match my eyes, and it poofs out at the end like it's being electrocuted.
"Hello, Erica!" Tanye says as I take a seat on the opposite end of the couch. "Oh my goodness. Your eyes are stunning."
As in terrifying, I think, but smile sweetly. "Thank you, Tanye. They fit right in here at the Capitol."
"That they do. Tell me, Erica, do you have a tragic story like poor Tristan did? An accident that separated you from your parents?"
"No. I have parents, wonderful ones, and a little sister, Isabelle. My parents work in the factories, doing what they can to help us. Isabelle works at driving me mad, but I still love her."
He chuckles. "Sounds like you have fun at home. Now, could you tell us about your skills? We want to sponsor nice-looking girls like you, but we need proof that you're capable."
What a barefaced liar. We both know I'm nowhere near that unattainable region called nice-looking. I suppose it's nice of him to say.
"Well, I can hide."
He looks unimpressed.
"I can scavenge for food," I offer weakly.
"I can build things, like fires or shelters."
"Well, I suppose that could be useful. Now, Erica, you're going to try to win, right?"
I don't know. Will I? I can't imagine what my family would think of me if I came home with deaths on my conscience.
I jerk my head up, and realize Tanye is staring at me, eyebrow raised. I must have drifted off in my thoughts.
"Oh, sorry. I- I'm not sure. I don't want to kill. I'll most likely die in the bloodbath, anyway."
I've come to terms with it, I guess. I am going to die. I'm going to die tomorrow. I can't do anything to help it. I best be cheerful about it while I can.
Narui Chahyne, District Three (14)
That she will. Erica Jones is going to die in the bloodbath, I'm sure of it.
I slump up to the stage. I hate my boring attire, which is just a black suit. How will I stand out and get sponsors?
"Hello, Tanye," I mumble, collapsing into the seat. He looks put out, reasonably, since I don't exactly exude a welcoming aura.
"Hello there, Narui!" he says brightly, trying to get the ball rolling. "Your district partner doesn't seem too optimistic about her chances, does she? How about you? Think you'll win?"
"No. Well- I don't know. It wouldn't really matter if I did anyway."
"Aw, that's no way to be. We've all got things to live for. How so?"
"I don't have anyone to come home for. I'm a scavenging orphan. I actually don't have anything to live for. My parents died in a lab explosion, okay? That's all."
The crowd seems sympathetic. Another sad tale. Many children of Panem have theirs to tell.
"Well, do you have some things you're good at, to help you? Don't count yourself out already!"
What can I do. Hmm. Is there a point to telling him? Maybe some random Capitolite will take a shine to an unusual talent.
"I'm good at climbing, and I'm fast. I can make things out of wood."
Tanye seems slightly intrigued. "Like what? Weapons?"
I pull an engraved wooden cup out of my pocket. It has swirly patterns on it and pretty designs. I whittled it after the design of my one back home. "And this."
From my other pocket, I pull out a knife. It's wood, but so sharp, it's like metal.
"Very good!" Tanye says, touching his finger to the tip of the blade. He jerks away and sticks his finger in his mouth. "Ow. Sharp indeed, Narui. You have quite the talent."
"I'm sure you'll have a chance."
Really? You really are? You're certainly more sure than I am.
Elizabeth Shore, District Four (16)
"Next, we have Elizabeth Shore!"
I make my way up to the stage, moving gracefully. My flowing blue skirt swirls around my ankles, cool and light as a sea breeze. The top is the same material. I feel so light, I could almost float away.
"Hello, Tanye," I say, smiling brightly. Irvette said my angle should be capable and charming. I will try to portray that to the best of my abilities, though I'm almost hyperventilating right now. So much wide open space. The area where the audience is just happens to be humongous. I have to force myself to not look.
"Let's begin, Elizabeth."
"Please, call me Liz," I interject.
"Right. Liz, you must be very proud of obtaining the highest training score, correct?"
What a silly question. Why wouldn't I be?
"Of course. An eleven was around what I expected. Nobody scores twelves, do they?"
"No, I suppose not. Now, Liz, could you tell us how you got that score? Surely not just with your siren allure?"
"I'm good with all weapons, honestly. I can use swords, spears, bows, pretty much anything."
"Very impressive. I bet your family is proud of you."
"They definitely are. My parents have been training me for this since I was five. I'm prepared to do anything it takes to win for them, and I will."
The words sound flimsy and false. Why am I boasting? I'm not a boasting person. I don't like boasting. I don't want to brag about how I'll kill everyone in the arena.
Tanye looks concerned. I shake my head and smile again, trying to hide my discomfort. "Sorry, Tanye. I'm fine."
"Oh, good. Now tell me, how did you like your chariot outfit? It's very similar to the outfit you have right now. And very beautiful."
"I loved it. My stylist, Sugar, is amazing. I can't wait to see what she makes for my victory outfit."
"Confident, are we?" he says delightedly. "I would be too, in your shoes! Liz, anything else you would like to wow the crowd with?"
I prepare myself, getting ready to say the final words. The words that Irvette taught me. She thought they would stun the crowd, make them pile over each other to sponsor me.
"It would be hard for me to not win, since I've got a victor for a father."
And they're entirely false.
Nurturew Quetile, District Four (13)
Zeus in a cloud! I never knew that Elizabeth's father was a victor. Come to think of it, there is a victor in District Four with the last name of Shore, though it is a common name. He doesn't look that much like Elizabeth, but they have the same face shape. I guess that's him. Well, there go all my chances of getting sponsors.
"Next is Nurturew Quetile! What a long name for a small boy!"
Being mocked before I've even come onto the stage. What a great start for an outmatched underdog!
Adrian didn't give me very good advice. He said I should appear helpful, polite, and humble. Very good tactics, for an outer district. I'm from a Career district! I should be fierce, brutal and skilled! So thanks a lot, Adrian.
"Hello, Tanye!" I say, sporting the biggest grin I can muster. "It's so nice to meet you at last!"
"Why, I'm flattered," he says, hiding his face and pretending to blush. "It's nice to meet a District Four boy who isn't like most of the rest."
Here it comes. He's going to say something demeaning.
"Is there something wrong at your home?"
My mouth gapes open and my eyes bug out. How could he know this? Past his cologne and pudgy fingers with thick gold rings, past his disgusting orange and purple clothes, he must be very perceptive. Too perceptive.
I try to compose myself. "Er, actually, well..."
"Come on, spit it out," he tells me, patting me on the shoulder. Waves of strong cologne scent wash over me, and I almost do spit out.
"My big sister Mandelle- well, she's a tyrant. Our parents work in the Capitol, so they're barely ever home to know about it."
"Aww. That's too bad. Well, you volunteered to prove how good you are, right? Prove to her that you deserve her respect?"
"Actually," I admit sheepishly, "I just volunteered to get away from her."
That was the wrong thing to say.