Disclaimer: I do not own the Hunger Games
As I wander aimlessly around my new quarters, I think. Why is this room so fancy? We're only staying here for a day, then we're at the Capitol, so it seems to be such a waste. But then again, this is the Capitol.
I make my first stop at the basket of cakes and muffins. I know I just ate an hour ago, but as I look at all the delicious desserts, I can't help but want one. Before I regret it, I pick up a plump muffin and shove it into my mouth. As I bite down, purple juices explode from the dough, drenching my lips. As the purple liquid trickles down my face, I reach for the decorative table cloth, using it to wipe the plumb dye from my face. The Capitol people would probably aghast at my manners.
Leaving a trail of clothes behind me, I stagger over to the shower. As I get closer, I think. I hope I can figure this thing out. Stepping into the shower, I begin pushing all kinds of buttons. Maybe I should have read the manual first. Before I have time to think about my decisions, foam, steamy wax, and soap come shooting onto my filthy skin. After an eternity of scrubbing and washing, my skin is finally free of all the Capitol products, which is a relief.
Stepping out of the shower, heat instantly rushes up my body. What's going on? Looking down, I notice the flickering tile. I guess this is some sort of heating pad, but then again, where are the towels? I chuckle as my question stirs up a saying my friend Levon would say, "I wonder if the Capitol uses their mother's towels to dry off too?" It was a joke we had.
The joke developed when Axel, Levon, and I were out working in the rain one afternoon, and Axel's mother came rushing out with a towel. I remember her words like it was just yesterday. "Axel sweetheart! Here's a towel, I don't want you catching a cold." After that day, Levon would always rag Axel by calling him a 'momma's boy', but for me, I envied him. In all honesty, I would've killed for my mother to care like Axel's did.
I stand on the pad until the heat dries my wet body. As I stand there, an aroma sneaks up my nose, and that's when I smell the scent of roses. Why does it smell like those reeking roses again? And where is the grotesque smell coming from? As more waves of the stench splash across the room, I move about frantically trying to find the rotting plant.
Scanning the room, I spot a table with a vase of flowers sitting on it. Sprinting over to them, I take in a whiff. Nope, it's not them. As I turn back around, my arm knocks over the vase causing it to go crashing to the floor. With glass shattered everywhere, I quickly attempt to pick up the pieces. As I bend down, the awful smell hits me again, and that's when I realize where the vile stench is coming from. It's me!
I wobble back over to the shower, turning it back on. As the water presses up against my bare skin I can't help but think. Of all the scents, I press the one that smells like roses. As I scrub away, my decontamination is interrupted early when I hear a sudden banging at the door. My heart sinks into my stomach. Who could that be?
I quickly turn off the shower and slide back on my reaping trousers. Dripping wet, I creep over to the door. Did someone hear all the commotion I made earlier? As I slide the door open, my gaze is met by a dark skinned avox. Before I can blink or mutter an apology, he's on the floor cleaning up the pieces of glass. Watching him tidy my mess, a wave of guilt washes over me. Because of my carelessness, someone else is cleaning up after me. The Capitol already makes their lives miserable, so I don't need to add to it by acting like a child and breaking things.
After a few minutes, the avox is gone, and I'm alone once more. Stripping off my soaked pants, I make my way back over to the heating pad. I bet that avox thought I was a wreck, standing there half naked and all.
I walk over to a huge dresser, and as I open it, I see that it's full of pants, sweaters, shirts - any article of clothing I could desire. I pull out a pair of silk, blue pajamas, which look comfortable. I slid into my silk pajamas not bothering with a shirt. I always slept shirtless at home, mainly because it was always so hot. Easing into bed, I rub my fingers up and down the cool sheet of fabric.
Laying there, I can't help but think about my parents. Did they watch the recap of the reapings? Do they still think I have a chance at winning? Did my mother break down again or is she holding it together? Did they eat? And what about Axel and Levon, how do they feel? Do they believe in me, or am I just a dead man walking. I really wish I'd gotten to tell them goodbye.
District 7 has a strict policy where they only allow family members to say goodbye. The rule was developed after a tribute's friends tried to break him out of one of the windows. Instead of being like a normal district and just putting bars on the windows, Mayor Vine just decides that the goodbyes will only be a luxury for that of the family members. I wasn't surprised when she made this new decree, because Vine has a habit of brown nosing when it comes to the Capitol. She's always scheming or attempting to do anything that can grant her a higher social status among Panem.
Wrapping the sheets over my head, I know now is the time to cry if I need to. No one can see me, and if I do, the bloodshot look in my eyes will have faded by morning. Now is the time for me to be weak. This will be the only time I will be granted that luxury. I wait for the tears to streak down my cheeks, but they never do, instead my eyes flutter shut and exhaustion overtakes me.
When my eyes flip open, I know it's eight o' clock, because I hear the beating against the door. I must have over slept! Was I supposed to set an alarm? Because if so, I had no idea. I've never slept this late before. Usually I'm up when our neighbor's rooster crows.
"Get up! It's time for breakfast. Gabby won't like it if we're late!"
Dashing out of the bed, I yell, "I'm coming!" I rush over to the dresser, pulling out a pair of pants and a navy shirt. After fighting with my rugged shoes for a few minutes, I finally bolt to the door. When I get there, I swing open the door and standing there is Blight, tapping his foot impatiently.
"What took you so long?" snaps Blight.
"I had to get dressed," I answer defensively. I don't see why he's frustrated, it wasn't like I was taking my sweet time on purpose, I just over slept, which makes sense considering yesterday's circumstances.
"Well, we need to hurry," instructs Blight. "We'll be at the Capitol before you know it."
Before I can answer Blight starts walking. His pace is so fast that I nearly have to sprint to catch up. When I finally reach him, he waste no time making small. "You got any friends back home?" he asks. I nod, I only have a few but that's all I need really. "What about a girl?" Blight gives me a sly smirk. I blush, but shake my head. I don't have a girl back home, well not yet, anyways.
"You're a quiet one," remarks Blight, as we make our way to the doorway leading into our destination. I just nod and smile, but before we enter through the door, I grip his arm tightly, which causes him to stammer to a halt. "I have to win; there is no other option in matter, and you have to show me, I mean teach me, how." Blight looks at me, his hazel eyes staring into mine, "I will teach you everything I know."
As I enter the dining cart, I see Johanna and Riley both sitting at the table. They seem to be engaged in a conversation or maybe an argument. I watch as an avox fills their bowls with an orange soup.
"Well look who decided to join us," laughs Johanna. "It's sleeping beauty."
"Don't be shy," nudges Blight.
As I sit, I notice that the table is decorated with a feast of food: eggs, sausage, bacon, toast; anything Riley or I could crave is on this table.
"Well help yourself," says Blight. "O' and if you want something that isn't on the table, just ask."
As I stuff my face with fluffy eggs, I glance around the table to only realize that someone is missing. Where's Gabby? And as if on cue, Gabby comes prancing into the room, her outfit of choice being more flamboyant than yesterday's. Her face is still the same, powdered white, but her green spikes are now braided and covered with pink, yellow, and orange flowers, which match her floral blouse.
"Good Morning everyone! We have a big, big, day ahead of us," exclaims Gabby as she takes a seat at the table.
As Gabby sits at the table, I shovel in more food. With each spoonful, I feel my stomach stretching. When I decide I've had enough, I snap out of my feeding frenzy. Leaning back in my chair, I watch Riley as she sips on some type of clear, yellow liquid. What is she drinking?
"It's called apple juice," mutters Johanna. I guess she noticed me staring.
Apple juice? I wonder what it taste like, because apples are one of the few fruits we have back home. I've eaten plenty, but I've never drank their juice. To be honest, I didn't even know apples had juice in them.
"May I have some?" I ask.
Without hesitation an avox fills up my glass with the clear liquid, which I gulp down ruthlessly. It tastes really sweet, not how imagined it, but still, it's delicious. "Can I have another glass," I beg. The avox smiles, then refills my glass, but this time, I drink it slowly, letting my taste buds examine the flavor. After my second glass, I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't taste like the apples back home.
"I wouldn't drink too much Oakley dear, because then we'll never get you out of the restroom," giggles Gabby. "The Capitol's apple juice has the tendency to run right through you."
"You'll be fine," reassures Blight.
"Stop babying him," moans Johanna. "If he wants apple juice let him drink apple juice."
"I wasn't babying him," retorts Gabby. "Besides, maybe someone should've babied you more, because you're making quite a mess."
As Gabby's obnoxious cackling fills the room, my eyes find Johanna. Her face is red and her brow furrowed. She looks mad. And then the questions start to flow in, like: What is she about to do? Am I about to witness my first murder?
"I think it's best if I excuse myself, because if I don't, I fear that I might attempt to kill Aster," growls Johanna.
"Anyways, if you need Riley and me, we will be in the next cart over talking strategy and such," adds Johanna before she dismisses herself from the table.
"Very well," says Blight.
As Riley and Johanna exit the room, Johanna and Gabby exchange death stares. It's more than obvious that Johanna and Gabby hate each other. If I had to choose a side, it would probably be Gabby's, just because Johanna scares me.
"Well that was handled in a mature manner," yaps Gabby. "For a second there I thought she was going to go all savage on me."
Gabby chuckles nervously before excusing herself from the table. Well our first breakfast has gone great.
"Well that was a lovely breakfast," I say.
"Trust me, there are many more to come," laughs Blight as he adds another piece of toast to his plate. I watch as he takes a sip from his coffee mug. I guess he needs something to help him function in the morning.
My father's the same way, but who could blame him since he gets up at five o' clock in the morning. The woodcutters have to be out in the pines right before daybreak. The reason behind this is the Peacekeepers like for them to start chopping as soon as light fills the sky. Thinking about it, being a woodcutter is what I've had to look forward to my whole life, but not anymore. My career choice changed as of yesterday.
I smile as I watch Blight smother his piece of bread with think purple jam. "Have you tried this jam?" asks Blight. I guess he caught me staring too. I need to be more nonchalant when I'm observing someone. "No," I answer.
"Well you should," suggests Blight. "It's amazing, especially on this honey, wheat bread."
"I'm actually full, but maybe I'll try it tomorrow morning," I say, allowing the avox to take away my plate. If I try to fit any more food in my stomach, I'm going to explode. I have a feeling that I don't want to see food for a…while.
Noticing we're alone, I think. Should I take this time to ask for some advice or would it be better to wait until we get to the Capitol. What should I do? Should I just ask? I might not get another chance to be completely alone with Blight. Well we're not completely alone right now, because Gabby is sitting in one of the leather chairs reading over her schedule.
"How do I get sponsors?" I blurt out, my voice echoing louder than I hoped.
Blight nearly chokes on his toast. I'm guessing my question caught him off guard. Gabby, on the hand, just giggles, "Blight, I agree with what you said before, I too see potential here." The kind compliment brings a smile upon my face – maybe Gabby isn't so bad after all.
"I'm going to go get Johanna and Riley because we'll be at the Capitol soon," instructs Gabby. "If you plan to talk strategy, I suggest you do it now."
"First, before I can help you, I need to know everything about you. Do you have any hidden talents or skills? Are you decent with an axe?" asks Blight.
"Well, I know a little about plants, mainly just the ones that are indigenous to District 7. And yes, I'm decent with an axe, considering I've been using one since I was ten."
I remember the day my dad handed me a small hatchet and instructed me to cut a few logs for the fire. Being ten at the time, I was a little frightened, but I gripped the hatchet and went to chopping. Sadly, it took me the whole day to just cut four logs. After, I was so exhausted that I nearly collapsed to the floor. My dad chuckled at this before saying, "Son, you made me proud today." That day is one of my favorite memories.
"Well, then I expect you show off your axe skills during training," answers Blight. "Now back to getting sponsors. Well, you have to get people to like you."
I look at him, confusedly, before asking the most obvious question, "How do I do that?"
Blight chuckles, "You have to treat the Games like the Capitol civilians treat them. Be just as excited as they are. Also, a little praising doesn't hurt."
"Praising?" I ask.
"Like compliments to the Capitol civilians. You could start with Gabby, your prep team, and stylist," says Blight. "The plan behind this is that they might brag enough about you that it will cause someone else to sponsor you." He pauses, "Does that make sense?"
I can't help but smile at Blight's words. I never thought of it like that, I always thought that a set number of rich people were the sponsors, but in reality anyone is. Sponsors are the people who supply gifts to tributes in the arena. In many situations, a sponsor can save your life. Say that you're starving and you need food, well they can send it – though it isn't cheap. So I need to make a note to be genuinely nice to every Capitol person I see, because these people know fake like the back of their hand.
"Can you give me some more advice?" I ask.
"All you have to do is ask," answers Blight.
"How do I find shelt-"
Blight's words cut me off. "If you can get to the Cornucopia, there will be tarps and tents for you to use, but if you can't, than your best bet is to sleep in a cave or up in a tree. Virtually anywhere you can stay dry and alive."
"Should I light a fire?" I ask.
"Heavens no!" scolds Blight. "Especially not at night. A fire would attract tributes and you don't want that."
Confused, I blurt out, "So how do I stay warm?"
"You go to the Cornucopia and get supplies, or you make do with nature," answers Blight. "The choice is yours."
"But doesn't the bloodbath take place at the Cornucopia?" I ask. "Besides, I think I'd rather live without supplies then die trying to get them."
"You say that now, but when you're freezing, starving, or weaponless you're going to wish you had supplies," he pauses, "But hey, what do I know, it isn't like I've went to the Cornucopia and survived."
"I just don't want to be a bloodbath," I mutter.
"As long as you get in and get out, you won't," answers Blight. "Besides, you have me, and I don't plan on letting you die in the arena."
It's a relief to hear my mentor say that, because I too have plans of not dying in the arena. Besides, for all its worth, I can't win this alone. It's going to take the wits of my mentor and the money from some generous sponsors if I want to make it out alive.
I go to ask my next question, but I stop when I hear Gabby's voice. Well, they're back earlier than expected. I wonder what Johanna and Riley talked about. Did they discuss strategy like Blight and I, or did they just sit and stare at each other? I could see the later happening since Riley isn't that talkative.
"We'll have to continue this talk later," says Blight, which I nod in agreement to.
I watch as Gabby, Johanna, and Riley walk back into the room. Johanna seems more frustrated than she was before, which is surprising. Did Gabby and Johanna get into it again, or did her mentoring session not go according to plan?
There's a loud thud as Johanna flumps into one of the chairs. "This mentor business is going to be the death of me," snarls Johanna. "Especially when I have to deal with tributes like her." She glares at Riley, who's blankly staring out the window.
What did they talk about? Did Riley say something to Johanna, or is this some type of strategy?
I shift my eyes over to Blight, searching him eagerly for an answer. He doesn't speak, just shrugs his shoulders. Looks like he has no idea what Johanna means either. Surely he knows that she's clever and would do anything to keep her tribute alive so maybe this is all just an act.
"Hello?" growls Johanna. "Is anyone listening to me?"
"To your whining," asks Gabby. "Yes, we're listening. It's kind of hard not to dear."
Here they go again. Can't they go five minutes without making a snide or rude remark? I have a feeling that in the end District 7 is going to lose more than just a tribute. Besides, I'm almost to the point where I want one of them gone. It's only day one and it's this bad. I can't imagine four more days like this.
"Don't you have a schedule to memorize?" teases Johanna. "Because from the looks of yesterday, you seemed a bit clueless dear." I watch as a smile perches upon Johanna's pale lips. She knows she's succeeded in ruffling her opponent's feathers.
"Well, I believe it's safe to say that we all don't have the luxury of winging it," snips Gabby, "Some of us have standards in which we must abide."
"That's what you call standards?" jokes Johanna.
Instead of commenting, Gabby just strides over to the table, plucking one of the wilted flowers from her hair along the way. When she gets to the table, she's slings it at Johanna.
"So we're tossing flowers now?" mocks Johanna. "What's the occasion?"
"I just thought you'd like my gift, seeing as you and that flower share something in common." giggles Gabby.
"And that being," asks Johanna.
"You're both useless to me," laughs Gabby. "Can't you see that the flower's dead."
"Awe, looks like you and it will have something in common soon as well," snarls Johanna as an evil grins sweeps across her face.
The tension in the room is at an all-time high, and I can say honestly say that I've never felt so uncomfortable. Even Riley seemed a little unhinged by her mentor's comment. I think it's because we've never heard someone threaten someone from the Capitol before. Is it even allowed? Or did Johanna just overstep her boundary?
"Looks like we're here," interrupts Blight, an attempt to lighten up the mood. "Are you two ready?"
"Looks like we don't have a choice," mutter Riley. When I hear her words, I can't help but grin, because the girl makes a valid point, we don't have a choice.
I watch out the window as we head into the Capitol, my eyes scanning the glorious city. All the buildings are marvelous here. The giant white columns on the buildings are so beautiful. The water that surrounds the Capitol is so clear. The water we have back home is anything but clear. Most times, we boil our water just to be on the safe side. My mom says that the heat kills most of the impurities.
Thinking about water, I'll have to make sure my water is purified while in the arena, because I remember a few years ago back when a boy from district 9 drunk from a murky pond and got some deadly parasite, which caused his stomach to swell the size of a pumpkin. The boy didn't last much longer after that.
I watch the beautiful waterfall until my view goes black. We must be docking into the train station or going through a tunnel. As we move forward, I hear shouts, screams, and cries. These are the chants from the Capitol civilians, who sound like their excitement has turned into complete madness.
As we dock, the windows fill with light, and the screams of my crazed fans echo through the train. "That's Oakley!" one screams. Another, "Oakley, Oakley I love you!" As I watch the swarm of colorful people horde around the windows, I feel uneasy. These people are unstable. As more thoughts creep into my mind, I begin to step away from the glass. As I do, Blight's words come creeping in, "You have to make people like you." I step forward, a smile quickly plastering upon my face. I have to appear just as excited as they are. As I wave, I think, I have to work this crowd. First impressions are everything in this day and time, so I have to make a good one , this crowd could help me get sponsors and I need those to stay alive.
I put on my best smile and start waving to my fans, trying to convince them that I'm just as happy to be here as they are. I continue this act for what seems like an eternity. By the end, my face feels numb and my arm aches. I sigh with relief as the train conducts to a stop.
"Well done Oakley," compliments Blight.
"It's nice to see that one of you is enjoying the fine festivity," yaps Gabby as she directs a glare at Riley. From what she's implying, I'm assuming that Riley didn't wave or pay any attention to our crazed fans.
"Come along! Come along!" waves Gabby as she struts out the door. I glance over to Blight, who's whispering something to a bitter Johanna. I can tell she's displeased by her tribute's lack of participation. Johanna may hate the Capitol, but she knows that you need them if you want to win the Hunger Games. We follow Gabby off the train and into one of the towering buildings.
"In a few minutes, you will meet your remake crew and stylist," exclaims Gabby, her smile brightening as she sees familiar faces.
As I walk, Blight catches my arm. "Remember what we talked about Oakley, give them praises," he pauses, "O' and make sure you don't complain while they're making you glamorous." We both laugh at the thought of me looking glamorous. I would be mortified if I came out looking like Gabby.
"Hurry along, hurry along!" commands Gabby. "We don't have much time before the Tribute Parade!"
The Tribute Parade! I totally forgot. The Tribute Parade is where all the tributes dress in costumes that generally reflect what their district represents. So since our district is lumber we're more than likely going to be dressed like trees. O' the joy of wearing a tree costume. For the occasion, each tribute receives a stylist that will design their look. Our stylist will remain with us until we head into the arena.
As I get closer to the colossal structure, I think. During the parade tonight, the whole population of Panem will be watching, sponsors included. Tonight will be the first time the sponsors see us, so tonight is definitely the night to make an impression.
A/N: Wow 32 reviews! You guys are awesome!
I would like to say thank you to luvakatsuki3, who is my beta (she really does an amazing job - fixes all my tedious errors.) Also, I believe a special thanks is due to ME4427 for spreading the word about my fanfiction - they even posted my story/summary on their profile, which really means a lot. In all, thank you so much for all the lovely reviews, and I hope you guys keep them coming! :)
And like always: Read, review, but most importantly enjoy. :)