Chapter 3: The Capitol

Standing in the Justice building, I think what my final words to my love ones will be. I have never underestimated how difficult it would be to say goodbye to my family and friends, but being in the situation is an entirely different concept. I have no other choice but to think the unthinkable. What will I say to Troy and Mandy and mother? It's not like some test I can study for; I haven't planned and written out a scripted speech. I don't know if it's the panic or the shock, but nothing comes to mind.

I look out of the window, out at the cracked floors of District 12. I guess I'll just wing it…

After some time, my loved ones start to come through the tall oak double doors. First in is my mother and Troy. Troy runs across the room, trodding dirt on the purple carpet, shouting my name. And this time I can hear him. I can hear my little brother shouting, desperatly shouting my name as if his life depends upon it. Troy crashes into my torso and wraps his arms around my sides. I squeeze him once and crouch down onto my knees till we're face-to-face.

"Don't be upset, Troy," I say.

Troy shakes his head, "But you're going. They're taking you away." A small sob shakes his small body. "They can't take you away!"

"Stop," my voice is firm. "Troy, they're going to. They're going to take me away any minute now. There's nothing we can do about it. If I could, I would."

His watery eyes look into mine and he nods his head. "I know you would. I know." And suddenly, he stands up straight, as strong as a ten year old can, and turns to mother.

I look up and see her slim frame stood by the large oak doors. Her now dull green eyes find mine, and just for a second, her pale lips curl up into a small smile. I stand, squeeze Troy's shoulder, and walk over to mother. My arms are around her, safe and sound. Not a sob escapes her lips, not a noise. But warmth, a motherly warmth I've been starved of so many years, radiates from her. And I'm happy, just for them few seconds, that I got to see my mother again, as much of her that's left, even if it is for the last time.

Slam! The oak doors bang open, skimming my mother's back. Peacekeepers swarm in. I pull my mother away quickly, trying to protect her from the armed peacekeepers attempting to pick and pry and snatch her away from me. I hear Troy's shouts and turn and see him trashing in the arms of white masked peacekeepers. Then, as quick as a blink of an eye, mother is ripped out of my arms and her and Troy are being draggout out of the door, Troy's feet scraping across the already muddy purple carpet. Mother's face is calm and composed, her cracked lips frozen in the echo of a smile. But Troy's face is paniced, his mouth open, ready to speak - until it's too late. The doors close.

I'll never see my family again.

I stand in the middle of the large room, frozen with grief.

A little while later, in what could be minutes or hours or years, the doors open again. Mandy walks into the room and closes the large oak door. She isn't surrounded by peacekeepers; there aren't grown men and women in white masks holding guns on each of her pale arms. She's on her own. We're on our own.

I fall to my knees and kneel before her. Mandy looks down at me, her eyes a pool of green. Those emerald eyes I'll miss so much. My hands find hers and my lips brush against the back of her palm, my tears soaking her pale skin.

"Haymitch," her sweet voice croaks. She sinks to her knees, down to my level and brushes her lips against mine. They're wet with tears: with grief and loss that can't be contained.

"Mandy..." I caresses her cheek. "I'm so sorry, Mandy."

"I love you, Haymitch." Her emerald eyes glow, "Don't forget that. In and out of the Hunger Games. Even if it is a Quarter Quel..."

I nod my head pathetically. "I love you. So much..."

The oak doors open, but no peacekeepers appear. I look around in panic. I don't want Mandy to go. She can't. But she does. Mandy stands and takes a few steps backwards towards to door, keeping her eyes on me.

Before she turns, I stand, too. "I'm going to come back!" I shout. "I'm coming home to you, Mandy."

She smiles her coy smile one last time and turns her back to me. As she walks out of the door, I sob. But Mandy doesn't turn around again.

The doors close for the last time.

The next few hours are a blur. I'm marched down to the train station by Peacekeepers. The streets are empty now, quiet, all families locked in their homes, grieving or celebrating. Most have another year with their children. Some don't.

When I reach the train station I'm pushed into a sleek, silver train. It's elaborate, the most expensive thing I've ever seen. Cakes resemble jewls; bottled drinks contain what must be liquid gold. But it's hard to apreciate anything material when my whole life has been taken away from me. And it's impossible to appreciate anything on the train when it's very home is the reason my life has been taken.

I'm greeted by an over enthusiastic Clethra Lutem and three silent tributes: Andrea-Lea Hepburn, Edward Richards and Maysilee Donner. Clethra sits us down at a long, grand, mahogany dining table decorated with every food imaginable: enough food to feed my family, let alone my whole district. But I don't touch anything. Neither do the other tributes. Our stomachs can't take it. And we sneer at the decorative food that probably wont be eaten. How the Capitol people take such things for granted when each of our families and our district - our home - goes through such hardship with a lack of food every day.

Every single day.

Even Maysilee, as innocent and charming as she may be, doesn't touch anything. She kindly says no to any food offered but can't keep the look of disgust off her small, heart shaped face.

After what seems hours I leave the table, awkward and silent as it was, and find my temporary room; I don't feel like bonding and making small chit-chat with people I'm aiming to kill. Kill. It's going to happen... I bury my face in the fluffy, soft white pillow and prepare myself for the nightmeares to come.

The train ride is quick as I anticipated. I spend the first day and night grieving loved ones. But when morning comes, I'm woken with a scream. Maybe it's another tribute waking from a night terror, or maybe it's me... Oh, well. I don't bother showering because it's only a traveling day. I just change into something comfortable and go to breakfast.

The dining cart holds a large wooden table with all the food imaginable towering upon its surface. The smell is enticing; my mouth waters. Hurrying over to the table, I fill my plate with as much food possible and sit down. And while I'm helping myself to seconds, Maysilee silently walks into the room. She freezes for a second when she sees me, as do I, but eventually she hesitantly piles fresh fruit onto her plate before taking a seat. And even though she sits as far away from me as possible, I can still feel the tension.

After a while of awkward silence, I look up, and her pale blue eyes meet mine. I'm shocked; she doesn't look the other way when I find her staring at me. Instead, she looks right at me, and seems to be deciding whether to say something.

Eventually she does. "Rough night?" Maysilee asks.

I'm taken aback. What kind of question is that? "No, Maysilee, believe it or not I had the best night's sleep of my life!" I smile sarcastically. Oh, you've got to love sarcasm.

Surprisingly, she just laughs, revealing the lonely dimple in her right cheek. "I just wondered... Was that you this morning? I heard someone scream."

"I don't know," I say honestly. It's true, I still don't know if it was me this morning. Maybe it was. But this year we have another two tributes to consider. "You like to ask a lot of questions, don't you?"

Now she looks down at her hands.

In a matter of minutes Clethra and Andrea- Lea are both placed at the table. Clethra sips her coffee while Andrea-Lea gawks at the piles food, no doubt confused on what to try first. Edward's nowhere to be seen but it's still too crowded for my liking, so I leave the table without saying another word and lock myself in my room, slamming the door to make it clear know I don't want any company.

I fall to sleep, probably from boredom, and wake with another scream. So maybe it was me this morning... It's almost eleven at night and my body's stiff from staying still all day.

I decide to take a walk through the train. As I'm walking through the thin corridors with no aim of where I'm going, I run into Edward. Considering we're not the small-talk kind of guys it's not as awkward as it could be, but what with the corridors being so thin, and us both being quite big, we couldn't cross. I looked to my side and saw a door, I don't know where it goes, but, to be honest, any unknown room seems more pleasent than this situation, so I open the door and step out of the way for Edward to walk past.

But I was wrong. Walking into Maysilee's cabin in the dead of night is much more awkward than a squeeze with Edward. Maysilee's awkwe, sat up on her bed, looking out of the window. She's dressed in a soft, petal pink silk nightgown and her hair falls in blonde ringlets and waves down her slim back.

As silently as I possibly can, I open the door. But it's not quiet enough. A small creek breaks through the silence; it sounds a lot louder than it actually is.

Maysilee spins around and gasps, "Who's there?" Her eyes meet mine. "Oh...Haymitch. What are you doing?"

"I - I ran into Edward - it was a little awkward so - so I just opened the door. I'm sorry I -"

Maysilee softly shakes her head. "It's fine, Haymitch," she smiles weakly. "I understand." Strings of light hair fall across her face, and as she moves them out of her eyes, I notice her face is shining with tears. "It's okay."

"But are you? Are you okay, I mean?"

"I'll be fine," she whispers. Maysilee catches my eye and I know we are both thinking the same thing - the only thing we're certain of anymore is that it's never going to be okay.

We're silent for a second. The only light in the room is from the white moon outside, sending sliver beams through her cabin and shining off her light hair. "Couldn't sleep?" I ask.

"No, Haymitch, believe it or not I had the best night's sleep of my life!" Maysilee smiles sarcastically, her voice soft and sweet. "Actually," she continues on a more serious note, "I wanted to see the stars. I've heard the Capitol's atmosphere prevents you from seeing them. I just had to look. One last time..."

I walk forward and peer out of her small window. Now she mentions it, the sky is quite beautiful tonight. Peaceful. I nod my head in agreement and we stay like this for a while, Maysile sat on her bed, chin on knees, and me standing, not saying a word.

- End of part one -