I was 7 the first time I was hastily shoved into the District 2 training centre. Mum, victor of the 56th Hunger Games, didn't take me any further because it brought back too many terrible nightmares. Ones that even Capitol medicine couldn't control. So my totally short-ass self stood awkwardly in the humongous doorway soaking up my surroundings. Lean and mean older kids in the corner getting a pep talk, 10 years slicing dummies up like peanut butter, kids only a year older than me sprinted past at 100 km/h. Each was learning a different skill but all had the same quality-muscles. I can remember looking down at my own battered and bruised body, black and blue from dads rampage last night and think how much I wanted to be anywhere but at the cold, relentless, merciless training centre.
I remember I didn't do very well the first training test. Even the weakest kids could at least pick up the spears or swing the swords. The trainers slowly stopped paying attention to me. By the last station I was sick of it. I grabbed 3 knives when it was my shot and let them all go simultaneously, they hit the dummy in the neck, heart and head. I am still not sure whether it was my vicious anger or hereditary skills that drives my precision and speed with knives , but it was enough for the trainers to let me attend the Academy.
That was the year a short, wimpy, sniveling 14-year-old from the desolate District 7 won the Hunger Games. It turned she was a ruthless killer. This girl, Johanna Mason, is what drove me to train harder, longer and faster. By the age of 13 I could beat every girl and boy a year older than me. Except one.
"Next up in the Arena for the final fight of the 13-year-old division….Cato and Clove!" Brutus, the go your absolute hardest or get lost, trainer boomed. This fight was going to be the best one yet. We were fighting for ranks down and this time she was NOT going to walk all over me. This fight mattered. This fight I was going to win.
The day before the reaping, the Academy has a fight off to find the best fighter in each age division. These fights mark the end of the year, and we have a holiday during the games. For the older age groups, this determines who will volunteer, but for every one below 16 it is just a chance to get out grudges and try skills taught in throughout the past year.
I shake my blond hair out of my piercing blue eyes and squeeze my muscular body between the ropes that barricade the arena. I stretch up to my full 5"7 and stare arrogantly into the crowd looking for that midget. I find her pushing her way through the intrigued youngsters that make up the crowd. Her caramel eyes are already glazed over, you can practically hear her thoughts of tactics she is going to pull out on me. Ha, I think, good luck today. I try not to think of how hot she is when she is focused and angry, as I pull on my suit, you know the ones that are secretly brought in from the Capitol with special weaponry that will affect your body when the touch. One time they made me versus a 16-year-old and I ended up only being able to move my eyes. I try not to stare as she gets into hers then we stand 5 metres apart and stare each other down.
Brutus gives a sharp blow on the whistle and we start. She crouches down low, whether to defend or attack I'm not sure. I lower myself too. I know she likes me. All the girls do. I have certainly had my fair share of girlfriends. They just love me and I know Clove would love to be next. So I wink at her and put a casual smirk on my face. It catches her off guard and she straighten up slightly. I pounce and before she knows it I have her pinned below me I grab my sword and paralyze her arms and legs, I don't want to put my sword on her heart because it know how much that hurts. Then I look straight at her and grin thinking the fights over.
Wham! She just head butted me! I grab my throbbing forehead and fall backwards off her.
It's tough moving when your arms and legs feel like lead but I rip my knife out of it holder with my teeth and chin crawl, with the assistance of my feet, to Cato and paralyze his legs while he is groaning about his head. I make it a bit further and manage to get to his abdomen and paralyze that too. Before I know it he has hold of my neck and is strangling me. What?! He can't do that! I look at Brutus but he has already started the 3 quick sharp blast which signal the end. That isn't fair, he cheated, and I should have won! Enobaria comes over and releases me from my suit. I immediately get feeling back into my arms and legs. She releases Cato and grabs him by the scruff of his collar.
Enobaria growls at me "With me. Now" and gives me a full view of her gold-plated sharpened teeth. Oh dear. I glimpse back at Clover and she her grinning mischievously, then winks at me. That smile is quickly wiped from her face as Brutus grabs her by her collar aswell. Enobaria and Brutus' office is small and their yells echo giving more reason for my head to throb. They verbally assault us for being bad role models, stupid and dangerous. I actually thought the fight was fun and I can tell by Clover's distant look on her face, she doesn't really care what they have to say either. They soon enough dismiss us and ban us from watching the older kids fight. Never mind, it was worth it.
We stand up together and walk out the door, back inside the training centre once more. I turn to her a massive grin on my face and am surprised to see her wearing one as well.
"Well, that was fun" She speaks first, surprising me again.
I nod in agreement before adding "Wanna walk home with me?" So quickly I barely understand myself. It's her turn to be surprised. Her caramel eyes widen and her brown pony tail swings.
"Because you're beautiful Clover. " That whole sentance is so stupid. Why oh why did it have to come out?! I am Cato, I don't do beautiful, I only look at women who are sexy or hot, not beautiful. And that last word. Clover. It was supposed to stay in my head and my head only. Great job, Cato, you just completely fucked it up. I see her face contort into a smile and laugh. Laugh? Why is she laughing?
A thousand thoughts swirl in my head but I very quickly come to the conclusion that Cato is mucking around. Yet he called me beautiful, Cato doesn't do beautiful, and what about that nickname, Clover. Where did that come from? If he thinks I am just going to fall straight into his arms like every other girl that sets eyes on him, he has another think coming. I don't do dates or friends or love, I am Clove, the lone wolf. So I put a grin on my face and say "oh Cato, you are funny!" and walk away before he decides to say anything else.
My walk home is short. My mother and I live in a very small housing unit on the out skirts of town. Although my mother is victor, my father bashed us both until I was 9 and then took all the money and left to live on the other side of the district. We haven't seen him since and I don't want to. My mother and I are very close and I know she tries her hardest but going through the games is tough. We rarely have hot water and the Peacekeepers shut off our electricity often too.
I walk in to our compartment and sit down at the table, my brain is starting to hurt from over analyzing this confusing day. Cato likes me? No way. The thoughts start to swell and I decide to call it quits. I don't bother looking in the fridge, no point disappointing myself. I call out to mum before collapsing into an uneasy sleep on the couch.