"You can't just win on brute force you idiot!" I tried to get the words through his thick skull. Riven just told me that he was going to volunteer for the Hunger Games tomorrow, and I was furious. He thought that just because he was top student he was going to win. But no; the world didn't work that way.
He didn't listen though, like usual. Riven had a cocky grin plastered on his face. He flexed his muscles and kissed his biceps, "My babies never fail me." I stood on my tiptoes and gave him a hard smack on the face.
I was rewarded with an incredulous glance and Riven balled up his fists, "Can't you just take it easy for once little-miss-uptight?"
"How can I take it easy? You are signing up for your inevitable death tomorrow!"
Riven grunted and rolled his eyes. He turned on his heels and started jogging towards the obstacle course. His head turned a little, just enough for me to notice his profile, and smirked because I wasn't following. His pace quickened as if he was daring me to catch up. Challenge accepted.
My legs naturally started to sprint and I was metres past him in no time. I heard a chuckle coming from his direction, but I didn't look back. I've never lost to him at the obstacle course since I was eight; and I wasn't planning on doing so today. The only downside was that the obstacle course was changed last week to challenge the students, and I'd never seen this one before. Having the same one for almost a decade, the students got used to it and it never extended their skills. My brothers put in a new rule to change it regularly, particularly for my benefit.
Two of my three brothers were trainers at the academy. Aries, the eldest of brothers, was a victor a few years back. He trains the students in hand-to-hand combat and taught me to be one of the best around. Leo, younger by ten months, teaches the careers with spears. He is a favourite at the academy because he is permanently relaxed but still gets the job done effectively. The youngest of three brothers, Draco, was following in my father's footsteps to be a Peacekeeper. However, instead of being a District Four Peacekeeper like father, he was being sent to District Twelve. At first he was appalled but eventually started thinking of the task as a great new experience. I wonder if Twelve is as bad as everyone says…
Jump. Duck. Sprint. Swerve. Climb. Duck. Jump. Crawl.
The obstacle course was surprisingly harder than the previous, but still no problem for someone of my calibre.
Riven; I couldn't see him anywhere!
"Riven! Riven," I yelled slightly worried. "You better not jump me or anything! You know that I hate surprises." I stood still, muscles tense. I've known this stupid boy for nine years and he always has some idiotic plan up his sleeve.
For a big guy, he made little noise. So when I caught sight of him, it was too late. Riven was running full speed towards me in an unmistakable stance. Before I knew it, he tackled me to the ground and had me pinned underneath him.
I struggled underneath his weight; he was much bigger than me by a landslide. "Bastard! I told you not to jump me."
He shifted his position so that he was sitting on my stomach. Still heavy, but probably not putting too much pressure so that he wouldn't seriously injure me. "Karina, darling, that was called a tackle; not a jump. Big difference."
Get out, I though. How do I get out of this position? Spontaneously, I kicked my leg up and hit him in his upper back. Lucky for my flexibility. Riven immediately got up and cringed, "Ouch, you kick hard for such a cupcake."
Deciding to play with his mind, I fell to the ground and made fake sobbing sounds. I barely heard his footsteps but I eventually felt his hand stoking my hair. He never knew how to comfort people and always felt uncomfortable around upset people, especially crying ones. Riven was making an effort, which was cute I guess.
Suddenly, I popped my head up and tried to tackle Riven. When he saw that I wasn't crying, he picked me up and spun me around, winning my battle for dominance. He was virtually crushing my bones and my feet were dangling inches off of the floor.
Loosing air, my laughing and squirming didn't help, I cried out, "Let me go!"
He looked me square in the eyes with a serious expression, "On one condition. Non-negotiable."
Starting to get weak and fed-up, I squeaked, "Whatever you want! Let me go."
Riven looked at me as if debating what to say next. "Kiss me," he whispered. He let me go gently and my feet met the floor. I blinked twice, trying to process what he just said. "Kiss me," he repeated, louder and more firm.
I stood on my tiptoes and tried to get as close to his face as possible. His face started to get closer to mine and both of our eyes were wide open. I sighed and rested my head against his chest. "Aren't we supposed to close our eyes or something?"
Riven's back arched and our noses brushed, he put his hands on my cheeks. His thumb brushed my cheekbones and he looked at my lips. After a few silent seconds, he sighed and shook his head, "You know what? Just forget about it. Just forget that this ever happened."
"Karina!" I heard my name being called out, probably Aries. I looked at the wall clock and saw that it was dinner time.
I couldn't look Riven in the eyes and just stared at the floor, "I guess I'll see you tomorrow."
"Yeah, whatever," he said right before he stormed off, leaving me alone.
The walk home was confusing and longer than usual. One minute Riven was cocky, the next minute playful, and the next minute he wanted to kiss me. I thought that he hated me… Weird.
But why did I feel so disappointed? Was I disappointed that he liked me or that I didn't get to kiss him?
When I arrived home, my eyes opened wide and I grew the biggest smile. I ran straight into the arms of my father and was welcomed with a very tight hug. He usually made it home on Reaping day but for some reason he was a day early. On average I saw him three days per year – Reaping, the Feast (If we have a victor that year) and the Happening. That was an annual District 2 festival where there was expensive food, dancing and parties. You had to pay to get in, not with money, but with a wrapped present. Those presents were given to the poorer children on the District. Anyways…
He spun me around in his arms a couple of times and we slowly came to a stop. We were the same height so our hips fit snugly into place.
After a few minutes of mindless catch-up banter, my father looked a bit upset. I could either let him sort it out himself or ask him if he was okay. Deciding to go with the latter, I asked my father sincerely, "Are you alright? Something happen at work?"
He looked up at me with sad, yet calculating, eyes. "Remember Richard Ellison?"
"As in winner of the first Quarter Quell?"
"How could I forget him? His Hunger Games is still my favourite to this day! I mean, he was the only eighteen-year-old that year. Practically slaughtered half-of the competition bare handed. Oh and remember-" I started to get carried away. When I saw the look on my father's face, I decided to stop. "What happened to him?"
He shook his head slowly as if thinking what to say next. He rubbed his chin and then sighed heavily, "His daughter-in-law stopped a whipping today. The Peacekeeper that I was with was not happy. Immediately sent in a request so that women under 18 with children over six months can be entered into the Hunger Games. Strange right?"
Trying to process this through my head, I came to a realisation, "He's rigging it so that she will be in the games? They can't do that, can they?"
My father gave me a grave look and I knew right away. Poor woman. The Hunger Games is great to watch, but when you know their story, it becomes a little bit harder to wish death upon them.
Today my mother cooked me the most beautiful piece of steak that I've ever had in my life. Her cooking just kept getting better. The dinner table was host to a lot of awkward conversations over the years. There was this one time were Riven and a couple of other students were over for an 'academy get-together' which my mother insisted on hosting. My brothers were all at the table too, and since I was the only girl, the felt like they had to protect me from all of the guys. Especially Riven, they hated him.
"So, Riven. If you were in the Hunger Games with my sister, would you kill her?"
"She'd be my district partner. It would be very disrespectful to kill her."
"What if she was dying?"
"So you're a liar then."
"What, no. Wait, what?"
"Do you think she's pretty."
"So you think she's ugly."
"I didn't say that."
"You implied that."
"If she was the last girl alive, would you repopulate with her."
"Wrong answer. The only people left would be your family. They would have to repopulate with each other and then the whole world would be filled with incest mutants."
Oh and this one time, it was only my father and I. My brothers and mother had finished early and all gathered in the living room, leaving us two alone.
"You got a boyfriend still?"
"Didn't work out."
"Did he… How do I put this? Fuck and chuck?"
"Oh my god, you did not just say that!"
"You don't have to lie to me. It didn't last long so…"
"Oh I get it; you haven't popped your cherry yet."
"Haven't done the dirty deed? Baked a cake? Turned the key in his Wonderland?"
"You are so embarrassing!"
"You haven't answered my question."
I loved my father but you never knew what to expect from him.
When I was finished with my dinner, I politely excused myself and went to my bedroom. I couldn't sleep because I had undiagnosed Insomnia, and it didn't help that I had a lot on my mind. The more that I thought about it, the more I realised that I hated Riven. How dare he tell me to kiss him, back out, and then run away to the Hunger Games! I don't know what would've made me angrier – Not kissing me or kissing me; he would've left anyway. And if there was a chance that he didn't survive…
Lost in my thoughts, I nearly didn't hear the tapping on my window. I looked up to see an almost crying Riven in my window. I ran over and quickly opened the window, and just as quickly Riven jumped into my room. My bedroom was on the third floor so he had to climb several metres of pipe to get up here. For a heavy guy he did well.
"What are you doing here?" I harshly whispered. Only Lord knew what time it was.
Riven didn't respond, but instead lead me to my bed. He sat down and wiped away some stray tears. Never in my life had I seen him like this. He wasn't his usual cocky self. "I don't want to enter the Hunger Games."
I wore the most confusing glance and stated sceptically, "But you've wanted to since you were eight."
"No. I needed to since I was eight. Never wanted."
"I-I don't understand. You are the top of the class. You're a guaranteed victor."
He laughed coldly and shook his head, "I'm sick. As sick as a dog. I'm rich enough to prevent the disease from killing me now, but not rich enough to stop it from bringing me to my inevitable death. I need the victory money to live. If I don't enter, I die. If I do enter, I have a small chance of living. But I'm scared to be perfectly honest."
This left me speechless and I didn't know what to say. So I did the first thing my body told me to do – I kissed him square on the lips. At first he was surprised, his body was rigid and stiff. And then he melted into the kiss and gently placed me on top of him. The kiss was long, passionate and sweet; perfect.
I was sitting on his stomach now and lightly chuckled. "Looks like the tables have turned," I gestured towards me being on top now. This caused him to laugh softly and he quickly flipped me over so that he was straddling my hips.
"In your dreams, Vega."
Riven stayed for a little while longer, talking, hugging and kissing a little bit more. We tried to keep positive, and I never asked him about his sickness. I wanted to know but I decided it was better left unsaid. When I woke up, Riven was gone and I was lying comfortably in my bed. Hey, I actually slept last night.
I looked at my clock and cursed underneath my breath. I only had half an hour until the Reaping – barely enough time to get ready and talk to my family or Riven. Why didn't my family wake me up earlier?
Deciding against a shower, I rarely had one anyway, I gave myself an once-over in the mirror. My hair was already nice naturally so I didn't have to do it up. I would describe my hair as a midnight black colour with the occasional dark brown strands. It's long and straight, falling to mid-back and cut in layers. I found it easier to maintain this way. I also have a side-swept fringe that almost covered my right eye. If it got in the way, I usually pinned it back, but it wasn't bothering me today.
My eyes were a unique amber/gold colour which Leo, Draco and I inherited from our mother.
I hated dressing up, so I just slipped on a simple white sundress and black flats and headed downstairs.
When I got downstairs, my mother almost vomited at the sight of me. "Karina Vega! Change into the outfit I laid out for you. You are barely representable to the public like that!"
Mothers always had the best intentions but no way in hell I would wear that outfit. "Why? I'm not going into the Hunger Games though. No one is going to see me."
"Just do it! Or I'll take away your knife supply for one month."
I gasped, "You wouldn't."
"Oh yes I would, so go change right now!"
On any other day I would just storm out, but I had to change into her stupid outfit to keep my babies. Behind my white Husky, Pollux, my knives were the most important possession of mine. I reluctantly reached my bedroom and found the outfit that my mother gave me one month ago crushed in the corner. It was a short, formfitting, sleeveless midnight blue dress with a wide black leather belt. She had also given me her black knee-length boots which I actually liked. I slipped on some matching black hooped earrings and peach lip-gloss and I was ready.
Cupcake. Riven was right, I was a cupcake. Well at least a death flavoured cupcake… If that can even be invented.
When I went downstairs, I had a bad feeling in my stomach. My whole family wasn't in the house, but that wasn't the reason why I felt bad. It was probably because I had just realised my feelings for Riven and today he would leave me. If I sprinted to the Reaping, I would have two minutes maximum to say goodbye to my Husky.
"Pollux! Pollux! Where are you?" I called out. He came racing around the corner and licked my boots ferociously. "Baby boy, how are you always so gorgeous?" I cooed. No one ever saw me like this with my dog. I was supposed to be a tough, future victor; not a soft dog loving cupcake.
I bought Pollux on my tenth birthday, and I witnessed him grow from a little, pure white fur ball to a horse-dog. He was so big now but he was still my bubba.
Not wanting to be late to the Reaping, I kissed my dog on his nose and ran as fast as I could to the Reaping in this stupid outfit.
I just had enough time to check in before the District Two mayor began his speech. Riven's father was the mayor, but oddly enough, I didn't see much of him around town. Before I knew it, the district escort was up on stage and looked even stupider than usual. She had shiny gold hair and metallic purple streaks. She was also wearing this weird asymmetrical, geometric dress made of pastel colours. Was this the new fashion in the Capitol or something? Oh and don't even get me started on her makeup and shoes… Freaky!
"Okay, ladies first!" She chirped, looking overly excited. "Karina Vega!"
Karina Vega. Me.
I was going to volunteer next year but this was my chance. Now or never. And I could win this thing, for my family, my district, Riven. For Riven.
Instinctively, I walked strong and confident towards the stage. Many other girls volunteered, but I wouldn't let them. I glared with menacing eyes at any girl who stepped forward and eventually made it to the stage without a problem. I looked up at Riven and pleaded with him mentally not to volunteer.
Thankfully, he didn't.
Blood rushed to my cheeks and my lips wouldn't change its expression from a frown. I hated this world and this world hated me.
After watching my mother being beaten bloodily to death when I was ten, I turned from a sombre kid to a full on pessimist. I built a thick shell to the world and am fiercely protective of those who managed to gain my trust. The only person so far being my little sister, Anjelene. Being from District Two, I was expected to have a luxurious life, but never told anyone about my drunken excuse of a father. He used to be a brilliant man when coherent and a role model to me when I was younger. I missed those times.
After my father went MIA, I ended up cleverly working and manoeuvring my way into a sturdy life with my young, still innocent sister. Everyone still believes me to have a working mother and father who simply don't make many appearances. Luckily, we were always rather secretive and kept to ourselves in the first place.
Everyone still believes that I am pampered like all the other fifteen-year-olds. It disgusts me how they all blindly take advantage of what I was deprived of- my father's guidance and my mother's love.
Tomorrow was the Reaping, and the only thing keeping me from going into the Games was Anjelene. If I left, our carefully crafted lives would fall apart. She depended solely on me. She thought of me as her hero. She thought that I did this all by myself, but I secretly took tesserae.
Well, Anjelene was at school the current moment, probably laughing and smiling like she always was. Everyone loved her optimistic and naïve attitude. I forgot how it felt to smile without faking it…
My life wasn't very interesting – Clean, practice, lift, cook and sleep was basically all that I did. I had just finished cleaning the house and it was now time for my daily violin lesson.
I picked up my violin bow and sat in position. I wasn't playing any song in particular; I just let the notes come to me. I thought of anger, death, heartbreak and lust. The song came to me fast and in no time I was playing a harmonic tune full of passion and hatred. I freestyled a lot, because I already bought all of the violin songs the music shop had to offer. My mother taught me how to play as a child, and being alone for so long, I had a lot of alone time to pick it up and increase my skills.
To get money, I did a lot of manual labour and bricklaying. At first this was alright, but Anjelene deserved more, so I started busking in the streets and eventually landed deals to play at rich venues around town.
There is a saying that has been around for year - music could charm the savage beast. People say that I could play a violin that would hypnotize the President himself. Those were the same thing in my opinion. No wait, I just insulted a bear.
When you love something, you get lost in it. It sucks you in and you invest all of your time in it. My violin was my outlet to the cruel world in which I lived in, which is why I loved it.
After I revised some of my easier songs, I decided to work out a bit. I didn't do this to look better, or impress desperate gold diggers; I did this to get stronger and better at my job. Being fit helped you do things more efficiently, especially if your job relied on how strong and proficient you were.
I was only five foot three at thirteen; so many people didn't take me seriously. So over the years I started to lift weights and build up my muscle. Now, every time I walk down the streets, people cleared the way. They knew that I wouldn't hesitate to kill them if they fucked with me. The stoic look on my face that never vanished also helped with that.
My routine every second day was a strict circuit – Pushups non-stop for five minutes, lift ten kilograms and add five kilos every minute until I couldn't handle it anymore. I then jog to the school at a constant speed, not getting slower or faster, to pick up Angel.
There was a constant stench emanating from me and I decided to have a shower before my jog. Showers, for me, weren't a time to clean myself – it was a time to think about life and contemplate the world around me.
I still had a while to pick up Angel so I opted for a nice, warm bath. It only took a few seconds for the bath to fill up, so I ripped my clothes off and slipped into the bath. The first topic on my mind was people that I had met.
Anjelene is growing to the age where she becomes interested in love. She hears of stories about innocent, sweet puppy love and dreams of it.
"Do you like a girl?" She asked almost daily. Well the answer was no. I didn't like anyone. Well, except her of course, but that was different.
There was a few girls that I had met that were pretty I guess. There was Britannia – Long, curly blond hair, bright green eyes and a cute little button nose. The only thing wrong with her was the fact that her voice was so high-pitched and annoying. Raleigh – Cropped black hair and cute puppy dog eyes. She was quiet, that's not bad, but she was way too quiet. Heck, she was so quiet that most people around town though that she was mute.
"What's your dream girl?" Was another question that my sister asked, usually paired with, "Can I set you up?", which I constantly declined.
What was my dream girl? I liked long hair, long hair was good. But not too long, maybe shoulder-length at maximum. The hair colour didn't matter, and I guess the eye colour didn't matter either. If I had to choose, she would have red hair and grey eyes. I wanted her to be my height or a little bit shorter. Bigger girl wouldn't take me seriously. Freckles were a must; I thought that they were extremely attractive.
Personality wise, she had to be the opposite of me. Wait no… If she was too angry and sceptical like me, we would just be a fireball of hatred together. If she was opposite of me, she would try to change me. Make me happier. That's not what I wanted, but maybe what I needed.
Enough about stupid love, another topic on my mind was the Hunger Games. I liked to make predictions on who would die first and who would be in the top five. My bets this year for the first dead… District eleven female. Top five… One, two and four male, one female and seven male. I could make a proper decision when I saw the Reapings.
What happens if I got reaped? A thought popped up in my head. Well, first, I would make a plan. The perfect equation in the Games – Strength, strategy and sponsors. I already had the strength part down pact, so time for strategy. Don't be a Career, unless the most useful tributes were in the pack. Make allies, but don't trust anyone. Kill quick and without mercy. Twenty-three had to die anyway. And lastly, make the audience want you. Be mysterious, cunning and reel them in. Wink and respond with a sense of mystery. Don't tell them your life story but make it so they want to know it. Scare off the other tributes, but don't make enemies until you have to kill. Think of all the variables.
What happens if they don't find me attractive enough? What happens if I don't get any sponsors? What happens if everyone is faster than me? It didn't even matter anyway; I wasn't going in to the Games any time soon.
But I would have a chance. My bets were, no matter the odds, that I would make it until the final three. I just had to.
Shit! I had taken too long in the bath and Angel was still at the school which was miles away. I jumped out of the bath quickly, and drained the bathtub of its water.
I put the two closest pieces of clothing on and ran outside. Stuff the jog today; I had to steal a bike or something.
My body ran for what seemed like hours but I came to a stop when I saw a shiny bicycle. I had tremendous endurance but the speed of a slug. The bike was right in front of a shiny brick house covered in lilac paint. Rich bastards. Their fault for not chaining up the bike.
The bike was really good so I made it to the school in no time. Turns out that everyone was still in class and I stole a bike for nothing.
"Will?" I heard a voice call out unsurely. I turned around to see Raleigh Shaw. Funny, I was just thinking of her.
"Yeah," I answered, unsure of what to say. This was the first time that we actually talked.
She started giggling sweetly and pointed at my shirt.
"It's inside out, you know…" She smiled and placed a flower in the button hole. "Orange suits you more than green. You should wear it more often."
She started to walk away before she turned around and looked at the bike I was on. She shook her head slightly and there was a hint of a smile behind her words, "Please return my bike before nightfall. It was a birthday present."
Oh, so it was her bike. She took it pretty well I guess. If someone stole my bike, I would cave his head in.
The school bell rang loudly and a few students came running out. After about six dozen, I saw Anjelene. "Hey Angel."
"What are you doing so early, doodoo head?" For a ten-year-old, she was pretty bad at name calling.
Deciding to answer honestly, I said, "I thought that I was late. I think I need a new clock for the house. "Sort of stole a bike too. Wanna go return it with me?"
When I returned the bike, Raleigh wasn't home. After that, my sister and I strolled all the way home. She told me about her day, and this cute new boy that transferred from another village. Sampson or something.
For dinner, we had Groosling stew and pita bread. Dessert was my favourite – Chocolate Bavarian and profiteroles. I bought the Bavarian from the local bakery, but cooked the profiteroles myself. The outside tasted like crap, but the expensive custard that it was filled with made up for it. Never again was I hand-crafting pastry or chocolate again. I couldn't cook very well, but did it anyway.
Angel insisted on staying up to watch cartoons, so I gave her a limit of half an hour before bed. I didn't want to stay up late tonight, I just didn't feel good. I basically collapsed on my bed and slept a peaceful sleep. Nothing ever woke me up, besides my alarm. I didn't know if my heavy sleeping was a curse or a blessing.
Today was Reaping day so I got a present from under my bed and went straight to Anjelene's room. She was ecstatic to see that I had bought her something and opened it straight away. It was a pretty pink and white flowing dress. When she had the dress on, I brushed her hair back and pinned it with a jewel flowered clip. Mum would be so proud.
My sister then shooed me away to get ready myself and I did. I combed my Raven black hair, and spiked tips slightly. They have their own complicated swirl or "natural style," as I like to say, but looked better spiked. I put on a casual grey-black dress shirt and black dress pants; simple, makes my bright cerulean eyes stand out even more than usual. My eyes were the most attractive thing about me, but that was just my opinion.
Anjelene and I made our one hour walk to the town square hand-in-hand. She was smaller than me, which meant that she was almost smaller than everyone. Her little legs got tired so every once in a while I gave her a piggyback ride.
When we made it to the square, she was rudely ushered into the regular citizens' space while I had to line up. I gave my blood and then stood with all of the other kids my age. A lot were scared, a lot were confident. How many were going to volunteer this year? Two? Five? Twenty? One year, we got thirty-six in total.
I zoned out for a while and came back to reality when the female tribute was on stage. I had seen her a couple of times before, Celina was her name. Or was it Karina. I don't know.
The escort ruffled her hands in the male bowl and pulled out a name.
"Will Galasia," She announced. Me. Heh, time to show the world what I had got. I walked up to the stage proudly and was surprised to find out that no one volunteered. I was smirking until I looked up and locked eyes with Angel. She looked pained and terrified. Suddenly, I realised what she was doing – She was crying while running through the crowd. She made it within metres of the stage before some Peacekeepers came and hit her with some sort of weapon. I sent electricity through her body and immediately made her drop to the floor, unconscious.
"Angel!" I tried running towards her, but two burly Peacekeepers held me back. "No…" I saw her limp body being dragged away.
I elbowed one Peacekeeper in the ribs and punched the other in the jaw. I tried running some more but another Peacekeeper came out with a gun and pointed it to my head. "Get back on stage and behave. Or your little girly will be skinned alive and your intestines hung from tree-to-tree."
I stomped back to the stage and was forced to shake my District partner's hand.
Blood rushed to my cheeks and my lips wouldn't change its expression from a frown. I hated this world and this world hated me.
Sorry this took so long :( There were a lot of unforeseen circumstances that prevented me from updating earlier. One of them is my pure laziness, and another is that I got the tiniest cut on my finger from sawing it, and it wouldn't stop bleeding for half an hour. It's okay now though. Just if any of you care, I moved to the big city so… yeah XD Also, I can't stand the excruciating heat, there was flooding and bushfires in Australia and school started up again… It's pretty weird to be socialising! :P
Oh and just so you all know, I come up with 97% of my story ideas in the shower or my dreams. When I physically type them I am almost certainly watching TV or listening to music. I rarely work in silence. Since this is a SYOT, I feel like we are like a little family together so I want to know more about you in return for a bit about me :D I'm going to say something about me in every chapter now on and I would like you to do so in your reviews. UNLESS you are very uncomfortable with that. I don't see how you could be though; I don't want you to tell me your credit card details or anything…
I have a guilty pleasure in yaoi but don't write any.
I have soft spots for boy bands.
I have a Lhasa Apso that means a lot to me.
So how about you all? Anything interesting about yourself? If you don't know what to tell me then just state your country of residence or age :P
P.S. Sorry for the grammar and spelling mistakes.