Prologue

She is usually an expert in saying "no" and refusing things.

But, no, not today.

Sitting under her armchair, on the floor, are these three young rascals. All eighteen years of age though, thank heavens, not triplets. All related though not siblings. Born to three different couples from two different generations, all related through Maternal Line - the stronger line, according to her people's belief.

"So," the dark haired one - a tall, slender girl - restates. "Can we write about you for this assignment?"

As if cued, the two others look up at her pleadingly. Armed with voice recorders and those small computers the spoiled children of The Republic of Panem carry everywhere, they are more than ready for her to start the story. She can see the giddiness in the second girl's huge grin, in the bounce of the strawberry blonde ponytail. She can see the excitement in the grey eyes of the blonde boy, which he inherits from his grandfather. And, heavens, she's a goner. Who would've guessed that these three youngsters will be her weakness, one day?

"Why don't you ask your father instead?" she asks the boy. "He's the best public speaker of us all."

"Dad said he was a kid when it all happened," the boy answers, cocking his head at her. "You're older, so he thought you know more."

"Yes, older," she responds tiredly. "One and a half year older. And your father was a twenty year old kid, for your record. It's all excuses, Dough. Excuses. He's good in them, that one."

Dough, of course, isn't the boy's real name. She just likes giving them all - and all other people - nicknames. And what nickname will be more fitting than that one, for a baker's son, really?

"Pink," she then shifts to the strawberry blonde - whose hair used to look pink as a young girl. "Your other grandfather. The one who isn't married to me. How about him?"

"Busy with my other grandma," the girl answers. "The one who's not you."

"Fair enough," she says, shaking her head. "Where's my sister, in the midst of this?"

The blonde boy looks at her in horror.

"You want us to ask my Mom?" he asks. "My Mom?"

"You'd rather ask my other sister?"

Now, that actually hurts a little. She stops and looks outside her window, drawing a deep breath. Decades later, she can still remember it all.

"Tell us the story, Mama," the dark-haired girl, the one who resembles her the most, speaks up. "I can see it in your eyes. Memories. How did it all start? What actually happened? How you all ended up in it?"

Yes. How did it all start? What actually happened? How they all ended up there?

She snorts as she realizes when it all actually started.

"Alright, you overgrown babies," she tells them, throwing her head back. "Listen carefully. It all started with a Sunday excursion. A boating excursion to the Mainland."