"The Capitol is thrilled at the warm welcome today, I know it's not easy when you all have preparations to be doing for a certain big wedding, but we felt that we couldn't delay the news," Scara Maccabee can hardly contain her excitement as she speaks. "To mark the 25th year of the entire country of Panem being free of the Hunger Games, the Capitol has decided upon one last reprise for the Quarter Quell but this time with a new twist..."
The swirls of panic and pain begin to ripple amongst the crowd in front of her.
"No, please listen!" Scara begs. "This will be the final games, the Mercy games; tributes will be between the ages 13 and 17 this time. They shall not be harmed, they will simply be killed virtually and sent back to the Games centre where they shall be treated for minor injury and then sent back home to their district. This is simply a character building game which our children shall learn from."
"Miss Maccabee, what my husband and I went through twice was not character building; this is an insult to the lost tributes memories!" My mother's outcry is cheered; I knew her bitter tone would appear at some point during this announcement.
My father stands, taking her arm. "Katniss don't do this now, please?"
She pulls away, looking at me, knowing it just as well as I do.
My brother takes my hand. "Excuse me? Miss Maccabee?" he calls.
"Yes?" She sounds annoyed under her fake happiness.
Vic is interrupting her tightly scheduled visit to the new District 12. It's rebuilt, bigger and better than ever according to my parents but Scara Maccabee still feels out of place here. The bricks are beginning to show their age but it's nicer than what my father had drawn previously to show us what District 12 used to look like. Then there's the footage they shot when mom was seventeen, the ruins of the nightmare home she'd grown up in with dad after President Snow had sent the bombs. There's now hope in this place. There's a hospital, Primrose Medical, named after my mother's sister, now to go to rather than going to my grandmother's kitchen table for help. Not that she has ever returned to District 12, mom explains to us that our grandmother is not like us, that she can't simply put the past in a box to focus on the present. The mines closed as well, they found coal in another part of Panem so they mine there instead. It's safer, it's not as deep. District 12 has a large medicine factory too; it complements the hospital I suppose. Patients come from all over Panem for help, especially since my parents gave them a copy of the family apothecary book.
"Were you even alive for any of the Games?" he grins as the words register on Scara's overly made-up face.
Laughter breaks out amongst the crowd. It takes Scara a good five minutes to gain the audience's attention once more.
"You must be Victor Mellark, delightful," she coughs a little. "Now, for the Reaping,"
She waltzes over to two bowls. "Ladies first!"
Effie would always say that after her famous catch phrase according to mother. Apparently Effie has been replaced for this one off of the 'Mercy Games'. I can see my parents muttering their conspiracies already. The reasons of why this is happening, Uncle Haymitch isn't here so he can try and contact the Capitol to see what the hell was kicking off. There had been some unrest recently but mother was sure it would settle down soon as Uncle Haymitch and father were too. Boy, were we wrong.
But their eyes are trained to look for the immediate threat and that, right now, rested in the very bowls in front of us. I know as her hand dips in, it will be my name printed on the paper. Of course, Vic is safe; he is my father's son, innocent and in no way to blame for what happened all those years ago. Just a baker's boy. I am my mother's daughter, guilty of rebel crimes, the girl on fire's ashes and embers.
"Well, would you look at this?! A tribute's daughter! Miss Ever Mellark!"
I sigh; I'd trained for this moment my whole 16 years of life. Dad would laugh and often called me a Career at home. Mom had slaved away making sure I was always ready. Ironic how I'm the exact same age as mother was when she entered the 74th Games.
"Any volunteers?" Scara asks.
Silence is her only reply.
I jump over the barrier separating the V.I.P. families from the stage then straighten my new dress before carrying on. I stand behind Scara, hoping this is all a nightmare mom would wake me from. I wait for her to ask for volunteers, but she never does causing me to consider it was all planned.
"And now for the boys!"
She plunges her hand into the other bowl which is shining in the premature sunset.
"And would you believe it, District 12?" Scara begins to say.
"We probably will," I mutter under my breath but it's still enough to throw Scara off for a few seconds.
Finally, she finishes the sentence. "Your male tribute is Victor Mellark!"
And that is when my heart stops dead. My little brother, no, the silly woman must not have read it right.
Vic is the innocent baker's son, isn't he?
I glance over at my parents, both open-mouthed with shock.
Vic squeezes my mother's hand and follows my path onto the stage. He joins me; he looks almost relaxed by it all. He inherited my mother's ability that enables her to wipe her face clean off emotion. He takes my hand gently, giving it a careful squeeze.
Scara smiles at us then turns back to the microphone. "Hard luck for the Mellark family today, isn't it, District 12?"
"It won't be a lucky day for you either in a second," I muttered, clenching my free hand into a tight fist.
Vic laughs a little which causes Scara Maccabee to frown at us.
"Would anybody like to step forward to volunteer for Victor Mellark?" Scara says with her voice like nails down a chalk board.
Secretly, I pray someone will. I can't be put into an arena with my brother and my parents can't lose two of their children.
"I volunteer!" someone shouts from the front, where the seventeen-year-olds are rallied.
I watched as the crowd split for him, the voice. Scara gestures for the boy to come up to the stage, he's not in my line of sight but I can tell Vic has seen him as he turns slightly pale.
Scara rushes the voice to the microphone, I never see his face. "What is your name?"
Vic glances at me, realising I'm swaying a little so he pushes his side into mine to force me to stand but Scara pulls him up to the front of the stage. I'm left to support myself using the tall, silver brackets for the cameras.
"Shake hands, boys," Scara nods at them both, she takes a step back.
Chance clasps Vic's hands. "I'll look after her."
Vic nods. "I know you will."
Then Vic goes back to our parents, both of them embrace him.
"Well, maybe we shall have another pair of lovers in the games, just like your parents, Ever!" Scara seems far too happy about this as she claps her hands mockingly.
Chance finally places himself next to me for a second, nods to the crowd, and then takes me into his arms. I know I should pull away, make some stand against this but this will be live across Panem and I can't afford to be letting out the big secret.
"It'll be okay," He mumbled into the top of my head. However, these new games weren't as innocent as they'd made out. We both know that, we can feel it.
"Let's hope you can put your wedding plans on hold!" Scara laughs merrily. "District 12, Panem proudly presents to you your Mercy Games tributes!"
I don't think she sees the arrow my mother fires, the one that is heading straight towards her. It narrowly misses her neck; instead it drags her backwards towards the bricks of the Justice Building. The arrow snags her scarf. Scara is bewildered. The crowd claps.
Mom stands holding her bow, the sheath of arrows slung over her shoulder and she admires her work. She then smiles approvingly, curtseys at the series of cheers but then she catches dad's badly disguised disapproving look.
He shakes his head with a hint of approval creeping into his forming smile. "You expect our children to be civilised when their mother does things like that?"
"Oh shut up Peeta, you know I always carry my bow," my mother smiles and then she looks at me. "We'll find a way through, Ever."
Hey, I'm not even sure if anybody is reading this story.
But if you are, thank you.