Disclaimer for this Story: I do not own The Hunger Games nor am I Suzanne Collins and unfortunately am not making a penny for this endeavour. No characters you recognise are mine, I am only borrowing them and promise to return them when finished unscathed…mostly. :D
When the Odds are Against You
Chapter One: One more year too late
The wind was particularly strong that day, she noted.
Walking silently, her long hair streamed out behind her, tugged by the wind and fighting against the constraint the worn piece of string offered.
She had arrived late and had little time to ready herself for the Reaping. Hurriedly she scrubbed herself clean with a bucket of cold water and a cloth, her hands coated in oil and grime from the factory.
It was her mother's birthday in a few days and when no one was looking she had been hiding away bits of left-over metal and soldering it together with a hot iron, in an attempt to make her a new hair pin. She was not so advanced in the factory to work with the more technical matters.
It was for this reason that she had arrived home late. Her mother had been waiting at the door for her; face tight and drawn.
"Where have you been, Stephanie?"
"Hurry and get ready. You haven't time for anything fancy."
"You can go on. I promise I'll follow straight after."
Her mother gave a brisk nod as Stephanie leapt up the last of the few steps to their porch.
Her mother gave her a strange look and Stephanie paused, eyebrow arched questioningly.
Her mother raised a calloused hand to her daughter's cheek and smiled fondly. "How grown up you are." Stephanie gave a small smile, a faint dusting of pink colouring her cheeks.
"But you need to clean all that oil of you, now go on," her mother reprimanded kindly as she watched her daughter enter the house with sad eyes.
Just one more year, her mother thought fiercely.
In the house she scrubbed fiercely at her skin until it was almost raw. Throwing on the black skirt that brushed her knees and the greying blouse hastily, she had rushed out the door. And now she had joined the steady flow of people heading towards the town hall square.
After she had been officially registered she went to stand in the designated area, waiting.
Her eyes sought that of her family and she saw her mother, father and older brother and sister standing behind the line; waiting.
Her sister gave her a tight smile, her hand resting on her bulging belly; she was due in the next few weeks. Stephanie returned her smile back as her sister's husband appeared behind her sister, a struggling child with a mop of fair hair in his arms.
Stephanie felt a bitter taste in her mouth at the thought, that one day the sweet little girl in his arms would stand where she was now, and even her unborn niece or nephew.
The escort for District 3 appeared on the stage smiling too brightly and gaudily clothed. She tottered dangerously on ridiculously high shoes with eyes a little too green to be natural. Her dusky skin was decorated with gold and purple swirls and a lilac wig shaped like an ice cream cone balanced precariously on her head.
Her voice boomed out across the silently gathered crowd. Stephanie didn't bother to pay attention. She forced a calm façade for her family who were gathered behind the corded off area.
She was the last one of the family to be safe, so to speak. Her elder sister was 24 and her brother 26. It was only her; the baby of the family. She was 18. It would be her last year.
She focused on the faces of those around her, all of them waiting.
A manicured hand dove into the crystal globe of names with exaggerated dramatics.
She knew it was a cliché, but the silence was deafening.
There was the collected holding of breath among them all, as painted nails pried open the piece of paper that would seal the fate of another.
She looked up and a single magpie flew overhead. One for sorrow, she thought to herself.
And then it was as if all the air had been knocked out of her.