We walk sluggishly back into the train, Erwin gives me a soft understanding look and sighs "You could do worse you know?"
"I know." I say "It's not that, I love Cat. But…"
"I'm seventeen, I shouldn't have to be worried about proving myself to anyone, and I shouldn't have to think so far into the future."
"The future isn't that far away, Jade." He says. He walks back into his compartment taking the sweet smell of coconuts with him.
I groan quietly. I know that what he says is true. I know that my future is looming, and that one day it will be here, probably a lot faster than I think and hope it to be.
And I know I could do a lot worse than Cat, I could do hell of a lot worse than Cat, but that's not the problem. In District 12 we reserve the right to marry who we want and if we want. Yet my right has been taken from me.
It's not that I don't love Cat, because I do. But truthfully I never saw myself being married.
Once I get to my room, I change my now sodden pyjamas and put on fresh warm clean ones, I lay in my bed lying flat on my back, looking up to the ceiling.
I wonder, if President Wood, will insist that Cat and I have children (weather we adopt or not, will be left up to us, I suppose.)
If we do have children-not that I want any (I'm not good with kids)- They will have to face the reaping every year.
And wouldn't it be something if our children had to compete. The child of not one, but two victors. It has happened before, maybe too many times for it to be considered a coincidence. Robbie had a conspiracy that they rigged the reaping, to make sure that a victor's child was in the games.
With the trouble Cat and I have caused, you can bet that any child of ours will make an appearance in the games.
I think of Erwin, unmarried, and no children, he chose that life, when he won, he could have had his pick of the women, but instead he chose solitude.
I think, maybe he has the right idea. Is there a way out for Cat and I, and everyone that we love? Could we run away and start a fresh life in the woods? We could, we could take everyone we love with us and no one would know, we'd simple just vanish.
It's not an impossible thought.
I will not let President Wood, condemn me and Cat. Even if it means we have to take our own lives.
I shake my head, to clear my thoughts, this is no time to be making escape plans- or any other more permanent plans. I have to focus on the tour, too many lives hang in the balance of things, and they all depend on how Cat and I act.
A little after the thought has left my mind, I hear a light knocking on the door. "Jade." A small voice calls, and it's a voice I'd recognise anywhere. "Can I come in?"
"Yeah," I say keeping my voice quiet.
Cat slowly, opens the door until it is a jar, and ever so slowly, she enters my room. "Hi," she whispers as she takes a seat on my bed.
"Hi," I reply through a smile. I turn on the lamp at the side of my bed and allow it to cast a dim light through the room.
"How are you?" she asks.
"I'm good," I lie, my voice shaking "What about you?"
"I'm fine," she says, and she sounds it. I wonder if she has been told what I have. I wonder, if she has been thinking the same things I have. "I wanted to see you, we haven't spoken since this morning, and we didn't get much time to talk then."
"Yeah, I know." I whisper "Cat, I…"
She takes a deep breath before cutting me off by saying "I can't get this morning out of my head."
"Yeah, neither can I." I say my voice barely a whisper. "But, we can't let them know it's bothering us." I say, "No matter how bad it get's okay?" She nods but remains silent. "But, Cat, I..." I begin before she cuts me off once more.
"Well, I think I'm gunna go back to bed, I'm really tired, and we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow." She says, in a tone that mocks how the people of the Capitol speak.
"Stay here." I whisper.
She shakes her head, "I can't." she sighs "I really want to, but I can't."
"Oh," I say "Okay. Night."
"Night, Jade." She says, she leans over and places a light kiss on my lips, before pulling away and moving off of the bed. She is out of the door before I have time to say anything else to her.
I throw myself back down on my bed and cover my face with my hands. I take a deep breath. And try to sleep. I have no luck though, as dawn comes before sleeps does. That's when Bernadette starts knocking on my door harshly. Screeching about how we have a busy day ahead of us.
I pull on the clothes that are at the top of my drawers, I don't see what different it makes when I get up. Today is just a travel day, or so I thought but then I was told that the make-over from yesterday was just to get me to the station, today I will get the works from my prep team.
"I don't see the point." I grumble "It's too cold for anything to show."
"Don't be such a Crabby Cathy." Erwin says in his usually merry mood, it is evident that his tune has changed since our conversation last night, or at least that's what he wants me to think.
"Besides, the weather is much warmer in some of the other Districts." Says Bernadette.
District 1 is out first stop on the tour. I don't really mind which District we start in, so long as it isn't five. I don't think I could look down into the faces of Jareth's family and friends, knowing that I purposely killed him.
But this year, because there are two victors, we decided on a certain order of the tour, we decided we would start in District 1 and end in twelve. We will start at District 1 and work our way up to 12- I don't know why Cat decided to meet me in 12 it would have been so much easier for us to go to her.
But, I'm not one to complain about it, it means I got to see her sooner.
This is the first time since Erwin won, that a Victor has been from 12. I think they wanted to start in District 1 because they usually have the best event and 12 usually have the worst. Though this year, the capitol will pay for both the stops in 1 and 12. Meaning they will both be extravagant.
I try my best to enjoy my food. Laid before me is a profuse meal, including my favourite beverage, coffee.
A large glass bowl is set in the middle of the table, it's filled to the brim with fruit. I ignore the rest of the food and instead, I grab a peach. It's been a while since I ate one, though I don't really know why.
I look around the cart, and a wave of annoyance washes over me. Harley isn't here nor is any other member of my prep team. "Where is everyone?" I ask, looking between Erwin and Bernadette.
"It's hard to say, most likely sleeping." Says Bernadette "Harley was up all night working on you outfit for today."
"Oh," I say, wishing that he more than anyone else was here.
"But you'll be seeing him soon enough." Says Bernadette, I can tell she is trying to brighten my mood.
"I know but…"
"Jade don't be a Whining Willy." Says Sikowitz, what is it with him and stupid names that are alliterations? "Eat, be merry." He says smiling like a mad man.
"Fine," I huff.
I feel ragged, and my prep team seem to be in a worse state than usual they knock back coffee and hand each other brightly coloured pills.
It is obvious that they never wake before noon, unless there is an emergency, like my make-up and hair.
They strip me of any hair that may be rouge on my legs, they stuff me in a bath full of a horrible smelling thick, gooey concoction, two more baths follow in quick procession, though they are far less offensive.
I am left feeling raw- though I have been massaged and anointed.
"It's a real shame that Harley told us no alterations on you," says a tall slender woman, I vaguely remember her from last year, though she had bright pink hair, now it's neon blue. It dawns on me I don't know her name, or any of their names to be honest, either that or they told me and I just didn't care enough to take any notice.
"Yeah," a male agrees, in a deep voice. "We really could have made you something special." he places his hand under my chin and tilts my head backwards to get a better look of my features. he sighs and removes his hand.
What would they want to do, plump my lips up, dye my skin a strange colour, enhance a specific part of my body (though they don't really need it)
"Wait until you are older though, he has no choice then."
"Actually," I say, "There is something you could do." They all eye me eagerly. "And this is my choice, so Harley can't say anything right, and even if he did once it's done it's done, right?"
"What is it, Jade? Spit it out." The tall woman says enthusiastically.
"You could pierce my eyebrow."
Their faces fall, as if what I have asked for isn't good enough "Are you sure, you don't want something bigger?" The male asks.
I nod "I am sure, well you could give me a tattoo as well."
"Okay," they all agree simultaneously.
It doesn't take them long give me my 'alterations' I look at my face in the mirror, and smile at them.
I turn to them "Thanks," I say. I look down at my forearm, and gaze at the star tattoo they gave me, it's small but noticeable.
"That's fine." One of them says. "Now leave, before we do anything else to you." She jokes.
I walk into the dinner cart and I notice they have all started without me. Harley sits in between Erwin and Bernadette. They all look towards the door as I walk in, and Bernadette lets out a gasp, while Harley shakes his head. Erwin, on the other hand just smiles at me, and greets me by shouting my name and waving.
"Jade, what have you done to your face?" she asks, which is rich coming from her. Since last year she has had some 'modifications' her nose is much thinner than it was, and she has had so much work done that her septum has almost disappeared. And her face is much tighter than it had been.
I shrug "Nothing," I say "I just wanted to do something different."
"Why?" Harley asks, his voice soft, "You didn't need to do anything, you looked amazing before."
"I didn't do it to look better."
"Then why did you do it?" He asks still shaking his head slightly.
"Because I wanted to," I explain.
"Jade, that wasn't wise, I think you have made a huge mistake, I can't believe you did this just before the tour, what were you thinking."
Before I have time to answer him our train comes to a halt, not because of a scheduled stop, but because of a malfunction.
Bernadette begins to panic, she pulls out her schedule and reads frantically informing us, how much of an impact this will have on our lives.
"I don't care!" I yell. They all look at me shocked "I don't care." I say again softly. I don't know why I snapped at them. I know they aren't to blame for my problem, it's not their fault I have to start working on my future now.
I haven't really been happy all morning in fact what made me feel slightly better was getting my piercing and tattoo, and then when they saw it they all hated it, and seemed disappointed in me. Which brought my mood back down again.
I stand from the table and walk away, the stillness of the train making me ill. I move down the train, as I pass one of the carts, Cat catches sight of me, and looks at me worried, I stop briefly and look at her, before walking away again.
I get to the door at the end of the train, push it open, and jump off of the back. And then I begin to run. I have an hour to get back, I could run for twenty minutes and be back again in plenty of time. But after only ten minutes- maybe less- I stop and slump to the ground.
I hear footsteps behind me, and my first thought is Erwin, coming to call me a 'Negative Nancy' or any other stupid name he can think of. "I'm not in the mood for a lecture." I spit.
"I'm not here to give you one." Says a soft voice, I turn and see Cat standing behind me.
"I thought you were Erwin." I say.
She shakes her head and sits next to me. The wind is chilly on my bare legs. I wish I hadn't dressed in a skirt this morning.
I watch as her eyes scan my leg, and lock on the scar where the metal was placed. "Had a rough day?" she says. Her eyes finally find my face.
"It's nothing I've had worse." I say. I notice that her eyes are focused on my piercing. "You hate it too." I snap "Well I didn't get it for you." I snarl "Or anyone else for that matter!"
She shakes her head, but doesn't seem taken aback by my outburst "No, I like it." She says. She grabs my hand and our fingers entwine. "I want to talk to you." She says. And then her eyes find the tattoo on my arm, and traces it lightly with her fingers. "Did they hurt?" she asks, trailing off.
I shake my head "Not really, it was a nice pain." I say truthfully. She arches an eyebrow at me in confusion. "I don't know how to explain it. But it was." she smiles at me, she still traces my tattoo with the fingers on her free hand. "So what did you want to talk to me about?" I ask, bringing her back to the point of why she is out here with me in the first place.
She shrugs "Anything." She says, through a smile. "I mean, I know we talk about things, like major things, but not about little stuff." I look at her confused. "Like we would risk our lives for each other, and we know big things." She says again "But I don't even know what your favourite colour is."
I smile at her absentmindedness, I feel better already, having her out here has sent my mood on a 180 degree turn. "You go first then." I say.
"Pink," she says with a shrug "What about you?"
"Black," I answer honestly.
"Why?" she asks smiling at me.
"I don't know, I just love it," I pause "I mean it's such a happy colour." I joke.
She chuckles lightly. I wonder, if she knows about us having to get married, has anyone told her? Or should I? She knows about President Wood, she was with me when he arrived, but does she know the full story?
I think about bringing the subject up but, everything is easier when she's around me, or it seems it and I can't really bring my self to ruin this by bringing up what we are being forced to do, when what we have right now, at this minute is so natural. I sigh.
"Are you okay?" She asks in a soft, worried voice.
"Yeah, I'm fine." I say, though it is partially a lie.
"Come on," she says standing up, and pulling me with her, "We need to get back on that train."
Cat and I walk back to the train hand in hand. It feels nice to be doing this, and not have to worry about anything else, not have to worry about people watching us or scrutinizing our every move, why can't it always be like this?
When we get back to the train, I look at Cat and sigh "I really need to do something." I say.
"What?" she asks.
"I need to apologise to Bernadette."
"Well, let's go then." she chimes she pulls me down the carts until she see's Bernadette's hair through the window. She opens the door and smiles at the people who sit in the compartment. "Jade, has something she wants to say."
She gives me a slight nudge, and I say- reluctantly- "I'm sorry, for the way I acted."
Bernadette heaves out a sigh and then smiles at me "That's fine." she says. And then she goes silent. I appreciate that she didn't make me explain anything.
Cat and I turn around, and walk down the train briefly.
The train lurches forwards. "Jadey," she says- Jadey is a nickname she gave me, not long after the games, she doesn't use it often, and I hate nicknames, had anyone else given me it, I'd probably hit them, but I don't mind when it's Cat. "We're almost at 1, come on."
Cat and I walk to one of the end carts, the cart if filled with chairs, and tables, with a huge window at one side, you can see everything through it. Cat and I take a seat, and look out the window.
District 1, is beautiful, I regret not going sooner.
There are very many buildings, all tall, and clean. Some are made from white marble some from black. It is very different to how District 12 looks. The buildings are where the jewellers are, or where the perfume shops are. We drive past a small group of people, who stand idly by a tall dark building. They turn as the train passes them, and smile as they catch sight of our faces.
A tall bridge rises above us, this is made of a shiny freshly polished metal, there doesn't seem to be any defensive mechanism on it, but then again, who'd want to leave this place?
It makes District 12 seem silly and childish.
"What do you think?" Cat asks from the seat opposite me.
"It's amazing." I say, I don't look at her my eyes stay fixed on the scenery outside the window.
I am still staring out of the window when Bernadette and another woman, called Lena arrive to tell us to get ready neither of us object.
I walk back to my compartment, as Cat does to hers.
My prep team do my hair and make-up, they are cautious around my new piercing, not wanting to rip it out accidentally. When they are done, Harley arrives with a pale pink, lacy dress. I hate the colour, but I know Cat will love it.
Cat and I are both gathered together by Bernadette and Lena- Lena is so much different to Bernadette, she is smaller for one, and her face seems so much more natural. Her hair does too; she has silky, black hair- it is obvious that this his her first year being an escort.
We are told the days programme once more.
In some of the districts the victor will ride through the city, while the residents cheer.
The main appearance however, takes place outside their Justice Building. It's a beautiful stone structure that is huge. I can't seem to peal my eyes away from it. It's exactly the type of place, I would want to live- if it were a house.
The stone is dark, and has small patches of ivy that climb up the walls, they add to how it looks. The square is ringer with more buildings made from marble.
Our public performance will be staged on a terrace. Cat and I will be introduced by the Mayor of 1, who will read a speech in our honour, and then we will thank them with a script that has been provided by the Capitol.
If a Victor had any allies in the games, it is thought to be good form, for them to be mentioned in the thank-you speech. I should really mention Beck, but every time I tried to write something about him at home, I failed to find the words, leaving me with a blank sheet of paper staring me in the face.
Luckily, Cat has worked on something that can count for both of us. Once the ceremony is over, we will be given a special plaque then we will withdraw to the justice building and eat dinner.
As the train pulls into the station, Harley adds some finishing touches to the way I look; this includes fixing my hair, and adding the mockingjay pin to my dress.
There is no welcoming committee waiting for us, just eight peacekeepers. "Really," Bernadette complains, "You'd think that we were renegades."
Two of us are, I think.
We are rushed to the front doors of the Justice Building; I can smell a mixture of fine food, and detergents, as I pass through the building. As we stand by the door, someone clips microphones on Cat and I.
I take Cat's right hand in my left, and the anthem plays. We stand in silence for a moment or two, and then we are being announced.
The huge doors open with a creak. "Smile," Bernadette reminds me, and Cat.
This is it, I think, it all boils down to this, Cat and I must prove our love for each other.
I don't really know how we are going to do this; the ceremony is pretty tight on time. We don't have time to kiss. Well maybe we could squeeze one in there.
There is a long applause, but there response is nothing compared to what we received from the capitol. We walk to the end of the stage, and stare out into the crowd. It's packed. Many people look up at us smiling.
I look into the designated area, for the families of the dead tributes. Only two people sit there; a man and a woman, Cat's grip on my hand tightens as she looks at them. I know that they are Beck's mum and dad.
Cat does her part with the speech, and for lack of a better word, she kills it, once again the audience love her. I conclude the speech as best I can thankfully; my mother and Taylor helped prep me for it.
But then I decide to add something, something that wasn't scripted, because my allies were in District 1.
"I would like to give my sincerest apologies to Beck's family." I begin. "If it weren't for Beck, I'd be dead." I take a deep breath, and look down at his parents, "I didn't know him, but he saved my life, for the sake of Cat. And for that reason, I would like to offer his parents one month of my winnings a year, for the rest of my life. I know my gift will not bring your child back, and it will in no way compensate your loss, but this is my way of saying thank you." I explain.
I know that Beck's family have money that much is obvious. But their son saved my life, so it is only fair that I can change theirs in some way. A month worth of my earnings will provide for his family for a year. As long as I am alive, they will be provided for.
I don't know if my actions are legal, they probably aren't.
Cat smiles at me, sweetly. As the Mayor walks on stage, holding our plaque and handing us our bouquets something happens.
The exact thing that Cat and I should be avoiding. Someone somewhere in the audience, chimes out the four note tune that Cat made for us, our signal of safety. I scan the crowed, looking for the person who did it. And then our eyes lock onto each-others he is an aging man, and he just stares at me, with a dead expression on his face.
And then simultaneously, the people of 1, place their middle three fingers on their left hand to their lips, the way I did when Robbie died.
I try to say something, to defuse what I have caused but all I can hear is the static rustling coming from my microphone, I have been cut off. Cat and I are whisked away briskly, to a final round of applause.
When we get inside the justice building Cat looks at me "Are you okay?" she asks.
"Yeah," I lie "It was just really bright out there, I feel a little dizzy." I look down at Cat's bouquet and realise mine are still on the stage "I left my flowers," I mumble.
"Wait here I'll get them." She says.
I shake my head "No, I'll do it." I say.
Cat and I would be safe inside the justice building now, had I remembered my flowers, but instead, we see the whole thing; a pair of peacekeepers dragging the old man who sang to the top of the steps.
They force him to his knees, before placing the barrel of their gun against his temple, and firing a bullet through his head.
A/N: I updated this chapter much faster than the last for you- Sorry about the length, I hope it didn't drag out and become boring. Please read and review, tell me if you love it or if you hate it.