What would you be willing to do to protect the ones you love?

How could you choose between two you desperately want to protect?

I look at the man sitting on my left and the boy sound asleep on my right, and I'm lost. I don't know what to do. But there is going to come a time where I must choose. There are five left. Two of them are right next to me, no idea what is going through my mind, what decision I am struggling to make, and with the numbers dwindling, I have hardly any time. All I can do is pray that when I choose, it's the right choice.

But how can you send someone you love to their death without shattering inside?

Rubbing my eyes, I sit up slowly.

I push the plush comforter off and stand up, brushing the wild tangles of my curly hair out of my face with sleepy hands. Having used poor judgement and deciding to sleep with my hair wet, the curls in my hair are wild, sticking up in hundreds of different directions. My naturally curly hair does not react well to a night of tossing and turning.

After a few minutes of trying to style it, I give up on my hair and decide to take a shower. There's only so much effort you can put into something before realizing it's a lost cause. Pulling my silk pajamas off, I step gracefully into the shower. Turning the handle, I hold my breath in anticipation of the first freezing blast of water. As the water hits my bare skin, I shudder. Gradually the water heats up, becoming a more bearable temperature. I wash the sweat of the evening off of my body and relax as it swirls down the drain. However, becoming completely relaxed is impossible due to tomorrow's events.

Tomorrow is the final reaping I will have to endure. 65 Hunger Games have come and gone. Five of those years I was a possible candidate. My name is in the crystal bowl six times as of tomorrow. Tesserae is conceived as a joke here; less than 5 percent of us put our names in for the coarse grain and oil. The odds are in my favor, I suppose.

Halting my thoughts, I massage different oils and creams into my golden brown hair. Grabbing a bottle of purple soap, I pour a generous amount into a metal bowl. Inserting the bowl into a slot in the wall, beeps sound as my fingers graze over the buttons to select my morning scrub routine. Soap spurts out of jets in the wall, like one might see in an old-fashioned, coin operated car wash, coating my body in purple suds. Brushes extend from their positions on the walls and scrub up and down my body. Just as the suds go down the drain, my peace is interrupted.

"Sapphire, Emerald and I are headed to the factory!" I hear the deep rumble of my father's voice carry up the stairs. "Watch your siblings, will you?"

Sighing heavily, I push the handle towards the shower, causing the water to immediately cease. I pull my hair up into a towel and cover my body, rushing to the top of the stairs. My fathers stands at the bottom with my mother at his arm.

"Father, why are you and mother leaving?" I protest, "It is my last week home for the rest of the fall!"

"Saph, you know why. We can't just leave the business to spend time with you kids. That's why you are here; to take care of them."

"But, sir, can't you just-"

"No arguments, miss. You know the rules. Let me attend to my business," my father commands, narrowing his eyes.

I sigh in defeat. "Yes, sir. Enjoy your time at work."

"We will be back before the tenth hour of the evening. Tell Amber to cook, and make sure Cendal is nice to Glimmer."

"Of course, sir."

My father turns his head away from me, taking my mother by the arm as they walk out the door without another word. Our relationship is formal and strained. Apparently my father had a friend die in the Games and ever since then he has been cold and heartless. At least, I think he is cold and heartless.

Quickening my pace, I walk to my room, eager to put some clothes on and take these towels off. I pull the heavy double doors of my walk-in closet open, wondering what outfit I will wear today. As I start ruffling through dresses and skirts, I notice a note on the first shelf of my shoe organizer. The bright pink stationary can be nobody but my younger sister Amber's.

Reading the words out loud, my brows furrow in confusion. "Hey sis, glad you finally woke up. Listen, I decided to sneak out the window, so please don't lock it. In exchange for you not telling, I've left you a totally glam outfit. You're welcome!" Typical Amber, taking advantage of my forgiving nature. Exhaling heavily, I look at the outfit she has left. A short silver miniskirt and lavender tank top face me, complete with lavender stilettos and a silver headband. Extremely flashy, but I have no doubt it will look nice on me. All of the outfits she gives to me look flawless, perfectly form fitting and accenting my best features.

Amber is a designer. She works at Lancourt Capitol Wear, even though she is only 15. When my parents discovered her ability to put together the cutest outfits, they enrolled her in Design Academy. Amber seemed to excel at everything; cooking, cleaning, designing, even walking. But along with these talents come the strain from my parents. Amber complains often because of the work that Dad makes her do. She is never allowed out of the house to hang out with her friends or go on dates with her "boyfriend". Technically, they're engaged, but they ignore the fact because it wasn't their choice. Of course, Amber is head over heels for this guy, but he is cold towards her. To me it seems as if her feelings aren't mutual.

But I know how that feels. My fiancee Onyx is such a pain to deal with. If I had my way, I would never speak to him, let alone date him. My parents have simply decided what our lives will be like, and I have to stick to it. I have no doubt that if I went against them I would be disowned, and what chance would I have of marrying better, or simply marrying at all? They've been planning this wedding since I was born. My parents had just been starting a business when my mom found that she was pregnant. After finding out the baby was me, and definitely female, they went searching for a betrothal. Marriage is treated as business here in District 1. The cosmetics that my parents were producing were very popular in the upper districts and the Capitol, but they needed an extra push. Onyx's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Corundum, are extremely wealthy owners of a fragrance company. They also own several jewelry lines and, needless to say, they are loaded. My parents promised my hand in marriage to their 3 year old son in exchange for a joining of their companies, split 60-40, in favor of the Corundums. They agreed to it, unfortunately. I doubt they could have found anyone to marry their son without a betrothal, especially now.

Tracing the bruises on my hip, I feel tears well up in my eyes. I will have to live the rest of my life hiding bruises such as these.

Getting a grip on myself, I pull the shirt over my head, feeling the soft, silky fabric as it settles over me. I finish dressing and walk downstairs to the salon next to my brother's wing. Opening the door to the salon, Eliena and Cara, my stylists, jump up and bow gracefully to me.

"Hello, madam. I trust you slept well?" Eliena asks, as I sit myself in a cushioned blue chair facing the mirror that stretches from wall to wall. I place my hands on the counter and breathe in heavily.

"Yes, I did, thank you," I reply calmly.

"What would you like done with your hair today?" Cara inquires, holding a pair of scissors and a straightening iron.

"Anything really. I don't believe I will be going out today. I'm on babysitting duty."

"Yes, ma'am. And what for your makeup?" Cara asks.

"Would you like something simple and neutral, or something dramatic just in case?" Eliena calmly questions.

"Whatever you feel like doing. Treat me like a blank canvas," I say, smiling.

After sitting for what feels like an eternity, my chair spins to face the mirror, and I examine myself. Beautiful as usual, but no amount of makeup can hide my too-large nose or the mole on the right side of my face. All the split ends in my hair have been cut off and Cara has added nice volume to my hair. The curls she has constructed are small, but appealing to the eye.

"Thank you, ladies. You have done an amazing job once again."

"Have a great day, miss." They both say together. I don't reply but all I can think is how unlikely it is. I can already hear the screams of Glimmer and Cendal as they quarrel. Sighing, I straighten my shoulders and enter the hall, ready for another boring day at home. However boring, though, it will not compare to the horror that I face tomorrow.