Jess had spent the day crying in her room. Laika was busy the whole day; comforting her, talking to us and preparing for the Games. It was exhausting and irritating.
Around midnight I went to Kara's room and we talked for a while.
'So, is this the life that you meant when you said it had to become better?' I asked.
'I will only get this life if I win' She said.
'Yeah' I said, while turning on my back, 'but winning seems so…impossible'
It was silent for a moment.
'We do have some advantages, you know, compared to other kids from West. We have been starving and fighting. That matters, right? That has to make a difference.' It almost seemed like she was begging me to say yes.
'I hope so' I said. Tributes from East definitely had a few advantages on survival, but some of them were in such a bad condition entering the Games they were just to weak to simply run, which was something easy for children from West. However, the place where we lived, the Main City of District 1, was almost the poorest of the whole Continent.
'Are you going to win, Abbey?' Kara asked.
'Not on the cost of your life. Not like last year. We are not going to part, ok? I think it's best if Rose and Flora die silently in the preliminaries so we don't have to worry about them.' I said.
'Well, we have to survive the preliminaries first.' She laughed.
I stared out of the window, looking at the dark orange sky. There were no stars because of the light pollution.
'Well, we must be able to train ourselves somehow..' I eventually asked.
'We'll have to do it ourselves.' She replied.
The next morning I woke up at dawn. I turned around, hit my pillow, but couldn't go back to sleep again. It was hot in my room. It was always summer in the Head City, but the temperatures were moderate and perfectly good. I once heard it could be forty degrees celsius in the southern Districts. In District 1 it was never more than twenty.
I had a light headache when I raised and didn't feel like doing something today. However, I stood up, put some clothes on and went to the living room, where the television was on as usual. I grabbed a muffin and sunk down on the couch.
After a few minutes it got through to me that this hour or the next they were expecting the train from District 4 with last year's winner on board, who would be presenting herself as a mentor. That was a weird idea. That chick, how old was she, sixteen? One year younger than me. But this sixteen year old was probably more useful than Charlotte.
Although it was still early the crowd on the screen was bigger than ever and even more enthusiastic. I sighed, fetched the newest paper from the table, crossed my legs and read some articles. I skipped the first ten pages about the newest tributes until I saw a picture of us in the corner. The article was about ways of travelling from District 1 to the Head City, but when I saw the last line, I felt something heavy in my stomach.
'The investigation on the injuries of tribute Jess Woods is still running but is temporary delayed because of a lack of possibilities to hear some people out.'
Would Mrs. Johnson know I did it? Probably yes. Suddenly I remembered what the Head Gamemaker said to me on the train station. He knew. Why didn't he help the investigation?
The paper was filled with crappy articles on dieting, interviews with stylists, upcoming events and a huge announcement of the preliminaries. Eventually I put the paper down and tried to watch some television again.
After about a quarter a train, somewhat bigger than ours, drove into the station. District 4. The peacekeepers had difficulties oppressing the crowd and protecting the important people. The president was present, along with his secretary general/gamemaker.
'They're boys!' a reporter shouted 'I can see them through the windows!'
Apparently people were expecting a lot from District 4s tributes. As if they were going to win twice in a row. When they got out of the train I couldn't help thinking that probably wasn't going to be the case. They were pale, slim and younger than me. No winners.
However, most of the people thought that of her last year.
I turned the television volume down then Indiana appeared. I hadn't seen that much of her games, but even I knew that, after only eleven months of being the first victor, she had been operationally corrected and perfected. Her eyes were bigger, the skin seemed somehow tighter and smoother. It looked disturbing and unnatural. The idea of a sixteen year old being forced to have plastic surgery was unethical and wrong.
She smiled and stepped on the platform. The Head City had their winner back –someone with more prestige than every single winner of the last twenty years in Panem. I wondered if the Capitol was jealous.
I watched District 4 cross the platform, get welcomed by the president and the Head Gamemaker and then they disappeared in a car. They would be here in half an hour. I turned the TV off and laid back. It didn't sound healthy, but here I was, in the Head City as a tribute for the second Games, bored as hell. I had nothing to do until the medical checks tomorrow.
I hadn't noticed Rose had taken a seat next to me.
'Hey' I said. She mumbled something.
'I think we should be grateful.' I said eventually.
'For what?' she asked.
'For not being best friends for years.'
I could clearly imagine how horrible it would be to be in the Games with four or five of your best friends. The only good friend that came here with me was Kara. We've been hanging out with Rose and Flora for not even half a year and Jess wasn't even a friend.
'That doesn't make it less atrocious' she said.
'I wanna win' I said 'I've got to have a chance?'
'Kill people?' Rose asked.
'Yes' I said 'There's 160 of them, many are willing to kill. The bigger your chances of survival are if you do.'
'Even if you survive the preliminaries you haven't achieved anything yet, last year the most horrible arenas still had to come.' She smiled 'which one did you think was the worst?'
'The one in District 31, probably. Those face-to-face things. I hope they won't do those this year.' I said.
'I am going to protect Flora as much as I can' she remarked.
'Only one can win.' I said coldly. She looked at me angrily.
'I'm sorry' I murmured and embraced her when she started crying.
'At least you have a chance' she sobbed 'we don't. What will mom do if we are not there anymore? She'll have to prostitute herself!'
'Winning will make me happy.' I whispered.
'No' she said 'Just you wait.'
Suddenly we heard something. We looked over our shoulders, turned the television volume down and saw how the elevator doors opened.
Some people came in. A few of them were wearing a uniform.
'Hi' said the woman in front of them. I recognized her, but I didn't know why.
'We are here to take your sizes, because your stylists wanted to know them already in case one of your survives the preliminaries.' She said, and pointed at the team behind her. They were pretty normal people.
The woman looked tense.
'Where are the others?' One of the members of the team asked.
'Upstairs' I said. Three men walked to the stairs with their tapelines in their hands and disappeared. Two others came to Rose and me.
The man ordered me to lift up my arms. I obeyed.
While they did their thing, I asked: 'Why can't they wait with this shit until after the preliminaries? It would save a lot of effort'
The woman looked annoyed because of my rudeness, and suddenly I knew why she looked familiar. She was the one who welcomed us in the Tribute Center, I believe she was called Tiara. I knew I wasn't supposed to become even ruder, but I still did.
'Why were you afraid of Laika?' I asked.
The angry grin on her face disappeared and she became pale.
'He's asleep, right? I assumed he wasn't out of bed yet' she said with a husky voice. The tapeline almost cut my belly.
'He's still asleep' confirmed Rose, clearly interested.
Tiara buried her face in her hands and took a deep breath. 'Hurry up' she told the people with the tapelines.
'To answer your first question, why we are doing this' she began 'Prul is used to maintaining a strict schedule -'
'Who's Prul?' I interrupted.
'He may become your stylist' she snarled 'and your second question; I'd rather have no contact with Laika for the rest of my life. He destroyed me.'
'Why?' Rose asked.
'That's none of your business! But I'm telling you this' she murmured 'make sure you are never, ever, alone in the same room with him'
She wanted to say more, but the other members of the team came back from upstairs. I wanted to know what Tiara had to say, but they left so rapidly I'd probably never know. It was silent again.
'Do you believe her?' Rose eventually asked.
'We can't afford to' I said 'Certainly not with a mentor like Charlotte.'
We sat down, while we heard the car of District 4 stop on the square downstairs.
I cannot believe how busy I have been. Exams, conferences, debates, competitions, amnesia :$, skiing etc. I wish I could give you all a huge cake.