I can feel my legs burning as I run fastly through the dark alley. I hear him following me, well I guess chasing me is the better term to describe it. Faster Peeta, you need to run faster. Just a little bit more, the station is right in front of you. Please, you have to free yourself from his clutch. As I desperately pump my legs to run faster and faster, I suddenly got tackled from behind.
"And where do you think you're going?"
I jolt awake. A light sheen of cold sweat covers my skin. Oh God, it was just a dream. A very realistic one. I don't know is it because of the dream or anything else, I suddenly have a big urge to pee. When I try to move my body, I find that I can't move it even for an inch.
"Sleep." Cato's voice makes the hair on my neck stand up. His massive arms hold my waist really tight, stopping me from getting up.
"I need to pee, Cato." I squeak. I don't know why but he always has this aura that makes me scared shitless whenever I'm around him.
"You think I'm so stupid, huh? Believing you is the last thing that I will do after the last stunt you pulled!" Oh great. I remember now. It wasn't a dream, it was more likely a little reminder about my pathetic attempt to run away from Cato.
"N-no I swear I'm not lying. I really want to pee." I say meekly.
Cato jerks my body roughly, pulling my face closely to his chest. He whispers slowly in my ear, "If you ever think about running away again, I promise I will break your sexy legs in two. I give you three minutes to pee. If you don't come back in time, your ass will suffer all night long. Understand?" He grabs and squeezes my ass roughly to emphasize his threat.
"Y-yes Cato, I understand." I hold back a sob as I try not to cry. How did this become my life?
Maybe I need to introduce myself. My name is Peeta Mellark. Up until six months ago, I was just an ordinary boy from District 12. Although I come from the poorest district, my old life was actually good enough. I never had to be a coal miner like the majority of men in District 12. My family ran a small bakery, so I spent most of my time baking breads in the kitchen.
Despite of my good life, I never felt fit in. Maybe it's because of my appearance. Most people in District 12 have a similar physical appearance, black hair, dark eyes, tanned skin, and strong cheekbones. On the contrary, I have dirty blond hair, light blue eyes, and fair skin. In short, I stuck out like a sore thumb. My parents said that this was a blessing for them to have a 'pretty' son like me for there would be many people out there who wanted to claim me. Well you see, as the poorest district in Panem, District 12 has to find a way to keep its inhabitants alive. To solve this problem, children from the age sixteen will be 'sold' to the careers - rich people from other districts. Once a career claimed a tribute – a person who gets claimed by a career –, this tribute will lost his freedom forever. They are basically owned by the careers. And this is where all my nightmares begin.
"Hey Peeta, wait up!" Katniss yelled from across the school yard. "Have you heard the news?" She asked me excitedly.
"News? About what?" I asked rather dumbly.
"Geez, where do you live? Under a rock or something?" She said incredulously, looking at me from head to toe.
"Hey, don't blame me for not caring about stupid gossips! Besides, right now all that I can think about is my math test. It was such a disaster."
"Well I'm sure this news will cheer you up. I just heard from Madge that today there would be a career from District 2 coming!" Katniss was literally jumping like a 5-year-old girl as she told me the news.
"So? That won't make me get a better score in math."
"Ugh, you're so unbelievable! He's going to claim someone. That's why I'm so excited. It's been such a long time since the last time Anna got claimed by Finnick Odair." She said. "And the fact that he comes from District 2 just makes this news even better!"
"Because that means he's not just rich, he's super rich! You know that the careers from District 2 are always the richest ones, so that means he will pay a high price for the tribute that he will claim. People won't be starving this winter." She explained it to me slowly as if I were a kid. "How come you don't feel happy over this news?"
I rolled my eyes and began walking faster. "Because although his money will save our district from starving, his claim will suffer a lot more. Can you imagine how it feels to be owned by a stranger for the rest of your life?" I shuddered as I think about it. It's not a secret that the richer the career is, the slimmer the tribute's chance to get back their freedom.
"I'm home!" As I walked into the kitchen, I noticed that there was something off in the air. To say that my mom and my dad looked happy was an understatement, their faces were literally glowing. "What's the matter?" I asked suspiciously.
"Have you heard the news?" they asked me back at the same time
"Ugh, not you too." I groaned. "Seriously, what's the matter with all of you? It's just a career, it's not like he will give each people from our district a new house or something."
My parents exchanged glances with each other, my mom then started shaking her head and went upstairs.
"Have you heard the whole news, son?" My dad asked me. He sighed when I shrugged nonchalantly. "The career that's coming today is not just an ordinary career. He's our president's most powerful accomplice."
"Oh no, don't tell me that you're talking about-"
"Yes son, I'm talking about Cato Hawke."
Well, I pity whoever the tribute that he will claim even more.
My whole family, even my two older brothers, went to the mayor's house that evening to see Cato claims his tribute. My mom had forced me to wear the tightest clothes that she could find. The prospect of Cato claiming me seemed like a dream come true for her, that's why she tried so hard to make me look my best.
The mayor's house was so full that day, well I guess people were so curious why a man like Cato Hawke would want to claim a tribute from our district. I got squashed between my brothers because I couldn't find any empty seats. Standing next to my older brothers, Reed and Wyatt, made me look even shorter and scrawnier. At 5'6", my head was just about their shoulders.
"So kid," Wyatt nudged me, "Who do you think will be the lucky tribute?"
"I don't know and I don't care." I said sullenly. Truth be told, just thinking about it gave me an uneasy feeling in my stomach.
"Stop pouting, it only makes your lips look fuller." They smirked to each other. Bastards. Besides my height, they also always teased me about my 'ducky' lips. "It can be you, you know?" Reed grinned so hard I thought his lips were going to split. What a jerk, as if I needed more reminders about the possibility of me getting claimed. But based on his look (his gorgeous face, hot body, blah blah blah...), I bet he wouldn't want a tribute like me. I wouldn't be enough for an arrogant prick like him. In fact, I was pretty sure that Cato would claim Glimmer, the prettiest girl in our district. Cato and Glimmer, the Panem's version of Ken and Barbie.
As I was deep within my imagination, I suddenly heard a young girl gasped and pointed to the front door. The room went eerily silent. I looked to the door and I immediately regretted doing that, because that time I saw the most handsome and scariest man that I'd ever seen in my whole life. It was Cato Hawke standing with all his glory.