Wiress looked through her closet and pulled out a familiar purple dress with the skirt coming down in soft ruffles. A navy blue sash went around the waist and the short sleeves were slightly puffy.. She held it up to herself in the mirror and closed her eyes as memories flashed through her brain of the first time she wore it.
"Now, smile." Wendy said as she fixed Wiress' hair in an up-do before tying a ribbon around a large portion of her hair. It was the night of the Engineering Academy dance. "Are you meeting Terrin there?" Wiress nodded before going out to the living room to her parents. She had asked Terrin, her twelve year old best friend in the fifth grade class, to attend the dance.
"Are you worried?" Wiress asked quietly as they danced to a slower song in the school gymnasium. "About next month?" The reaping was in four weeks. Terrin nodded before Wiress squeezed his hand tenderly. "I think you'll be ok, Terrin." He smiled but Wiress still saw worry in his eyes. "You don't think so?"
"I -" Terrin paused. "I just want to spend a long long time with you, Wiress." She smiled.
"We can pretend this song goes on for ever and ever." Wiress whispered before Terrin wrapped his arms around her. He kissed her cheek as they swayed with the music. Wiress looked into Terrin's eyes memorizing the four freckles on his nose and the way his bangs fell across his forehead. As the song came to an end, Wiress felt trembling lips press against hers. "I love you." Wiress whispered.
"I love you too." Terrin whispered.
Tears came to Wiress' eyes as she remembered the school dance. She had shared a kiss with her best friend four weeks before he was reaped for the Forty Seventh Hunger Games. Wendy, her sister had volunteered for one of Wiress' other friends. Tears came to her eyes thinking about her older sister who would have been sixteen years old. She looked around the small room that now only had one bed and a desk in it. The bed was piled high with blankets including a well loved and cried into blanket that had belonged to Wendy. Wiress had sorely missed pushing her and Wendy's beds together and cuddling the night before the Reaping. She never imagined facing her first reaping alone.
"Oh, Wendy." Wiress whispered.
"Wiress, honey?" Mrs. Carpenter came in. "That's a pretty dress." She said smiling before wrapping her daughter in a hug. "Honey, I know this is scary for you. I don't know how I survived my first reaping after Aunt Gloria was taken." Wiress nodded. She let her mother help her out of her pajamas and put the dress on her. Mrs. Carpenter wordlessly brushed Wiress' hair. "Wendy never showed me how exactly she did hers in that up-do."
"That's ok." Wiress whispered as her mother brushed her hair back in a simple pony tail held back by a matching purple ribbon. She followed her mother out to the dining room where her father ladled oatmeal into bowls.
"Oh -" Mr. Carpenter said as his wife and daughter sat down. "We seem to have an extra bowl of oatmeal." Wiress looked at Wendy's chair where a steaming bowl of oatmeal was waiting for nobody.
"Maybe Curie is up." Wiress said. She hurried down the hallway to her friend's apartment. Curie Bystrom's mother was laid off of work when she had to go on maternity leave taking a considerable chunk of income from the family.
"That's so sweet of you. Of course Curie can come over." Mr. Bystrom said smiling. His wife was on the couch on bedrest. She waved to Wiress before Curie came over and held Wiress' hand as they walked back down the hallway.
"Mom wants to have another girl." Curie announced. Wiress grinned. "Wanna know a secret?"
"What?" Wiress asked.
"Mom wants to name the girl Wendy." Wiress wrapped her friend in a hug. They came to Wiress' house. Curie looked around at the living room with a simple but nice cloth couch, easy chair, and a coffee table next to a bookcase. A half-wall divided it from the small dining room with a sturdy table and four chairs next to a clean U shaped kitchen. It was bigger than Curie's one bedroom apartment she shared with her parents, her cousin, and her cousin's two year old son. Curie's cousin had moved in six months ago.
"Wow!" Curie gasped looking at a bowl nearly full with oatmeal. "Thank you so much." Wiress grinned.
"Thanks for coming." Wiress said smiling. "It feels empty in here sometimes." Curie nodded. The girls walked hand in hand to the reaping as Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter followed close behind.
"Just hold out your finger." Curie said as they waited in line.
"Does it matter which one?"
"No." Curie said. "Want me to go first?"
"Ok." Wiress whispered. She squeezed Curie's hand as she registered and went over to the thirteen year olds' section. She stood by the rope fence next to the twelve year olds' section and smiled at Wiress.
"Next." The Peacekeeper said gruffly. Trembling, Wiress held out her left hand. The Peacekeeper stuck her finger with a needle before he put her finger on a slot connected to a laptop computer. "Wiress Carpenter. Twelve year old section." Wiress nodded. "Next!" He called to a sullen fifteen year old boy.
"I think battery burns hurt worse." Wiress quipped as Curie giggled. Other twelve year old girls joined her in her section. Most of them were looking terrified as it was their first reaping. One of Wiress' other friends, Melissa reached for Wiress' hand as the Mayor's speech began. Wiress held Curie's hand across the rope fence. Too soon it was time for the actual Reaping.
Eustacia stood at the front with another ridiculous costume consisting of navy blue feathers stuck to a yellow dress that had random sequence on it. "Let's try for the boys!" Eustacia screeched. "Max Jones!" Wiress closed her eyes reliving the moment of Terrin's reaping as his older brother shakily took the stage. "That name does sound familiar, doesn't it!" Eustacia asked excitedly. "Why, his little brother Terrin was on this very stage last year!"
"Wiress, ssh, Wiress," Melissa said patting the sobbing girl's back. "Wiress, focus. The girls are next." Wiress sniffled.
"Well, I wonder. I wonder." Eustacia laughed as Max stood on the stage. "I wonder if we'll have any other siblings of past tributes! What do you all think? Yes? No?" The crowd stood eerily silent. Eustacia pulled a slip of paper out of the Reaping ball and laughed for a whole minute. "Yes! Oh yes - so - so exciting!" She beamed at the crowd. "Wiress Carpenter! It's your turn now! Come one up!"