"Bekah Webber," Effie read from the neatly creased small parchment.
The small group standing near Bekah shuffled aside, a few girls giving her sympathetic looks. Bekah avoided making eye contact with anyone as she maneuvered through the other girls her age. She was at the edge of the crowd before she exhaled the air she had held since she heard her name.
"Bekah Webber!" Effie called again. She took a deep breath then stepped out into the clear makeshift walkway, and headed toward the stage, counting her steps, 'one, two, three…seven, eight, nine…' Bekah couldn't believe this! She was turning 19 in only a month; she was so close to making it without ever being chosen as a tribute. She lifted her eyes briefly from her feet to scope out where she planned to go after signing her death sentence by stepping upon the platform. She tried to focus, but the sun was too hot and the air too dry. Bekah pushed her wavy auburn hair out of her sapphire colored eyes to look at the stage once more, and stopped mid-step, faltering. He was there, sitting in a chair on the stage, looking entirely unamused.
"Dear?" Effie asked, attempting to feign concern; she failed dismally.
'Of course he's here! Bekah thought 'Why wouldn't he be? The only thing that could possibly make this worse!'
Bekah dropped her gaze immediately when Effie's third call caught his attention and he looked at her. Bekah headed toward the stage once more, extremely aware of him watching her.
"Congratulations, Miss Webber," Effie said, then motioned for her to stand off to the side while she selected a boy tribute. Bekah felt a bit overwhelmed, scared, and stunned, but mostly she was nervous.
"Logan Hemlock," Effie announced.
'Nervous…because he was watching her!' Bekah let out a short, very loud, laugh.
Everyone looked at her oddly, probably assuming she was laughing at the poor Logan boy being chosen. She shook her head apologetically, feverishly attempting to cover up her faux pas by twirling her finger in the air by her temple and making a goofy face; the cameras would love it – she would be the slightly unbalanced tribute this year.
As Logan, a slender boy two years younger than Bekah, stepped onto the stage, she met him halfway to shake his hand at Effie's direction.
Bekah barely remembered the farewells that seemed so final when her family came to give her at the Justice Building, although she did recall her older sister, Annabelle, bawling telling her she loved her repeatedly. It was all so surreal that Bekah half thought she was having a nightmare. However, she soon learned it wasn't - she was practically barricaded in a bedroom on a train. Now she wished she had said she was sorry for this happening, apologized for all of her misdeeds, or just said something. She couldn't recall uttering any actual words.
Bekah only crept out of her room at night, praying no one would see her. She would hurriedly grab some food, then rush back to her too-tiny train-car bedroom to eat her scavenged snacks alone on her bed. She would probably never noticed the train's arrival at the Capital had Effie not viciously rapped on her door, repeatedly announcing it.
Effie corralled them all, Logan, Bekah, and Haymitch (looking especially drunk) to their hotel floor; the tributes were assigned floors by their district, which meant District 12 got the penthouse suite; it had multiple bedrooms, a living area, a gourmet kitchen, and a formal dining room, all of which were lavishly decorated. Logan and Effie immediately started jabbering about presentation tactics and the like, Haymitch staggered to his bedroom to collapse in a drunken stupor, and Bekah, thinking of nothing else better to do, began to listen in on Effie and Logan's conversation. After trying to add her own views and suggestions, and getting a rather disgusted look from Effie, Bekah gave up and left to explore her own room, making a mental note that she was not very fond of Effie.
Bekah was very impressed with her room; it had a California-King-Size bed, a mini-fridge, yet to be stocked - she frowned at that –, a television that covered two-thirds of one wall, and a bathroom that was equipped with so many shiny gizmos she had to shut the door before she got a headache from the glare. Bekah then decided to take a page out of Haymitch's book and nap, so she stripped off her clothes, which were sweaty from the long day, tossed them in the bathtub, then laid on the wonderfully comfortable bed.
It felt like she had just dozed off when Effie rapped on her door in the overly-frantic way that Bekah would never get used to, "Come, come, come, everyone is waiting!"
Bekah sat up groggily, "Who is 'everyone'?"
Effie made a clicking with her tongue, "Logan, myself, your stylists, Haymitch-"
-"Haymitch is sleeping, Effie"
"Haymitch is up now," Bekah heard Haymitch's voice from the hall, "he had a very nice nap, but knows when to get up."
Bekah cracked her door just wide enough for her to grab Effie's wrist and pull her through the door, "Effie! What's going on? Why do I need to go out there?"
"You are meeting your stylists-" Effie seemed to suddenly realize Bekah was in just her undergarments, "Where are your clothes?"
"I was hot, so I took them off and laid down."
"Hop in the shower and I will bring you your bag," Effie said with a surprisingly kind smile.
Bekah nodded, went to the overly-reflective bathroom, and adjusted the water temperature on the shower, unintentionally overhearing Effie explaining, "She's getting a shower; she'll be right out. She forgot her bag, too."
She was anything but 'right out'; Bekah found standing in the steaming shower with the water running down her back to be a great opportunity to contemplate her situation. Not only was she going to be made up like a little girl's doll and paraded in front of the country, but she surely wasn't going to ever make it back home alive; to make matters even worse, he was going to be there until she entered the arena. Bekah hit her head on the wall several times, Why does it have to be him? Anyone else would've been better! Anyone!
She was jerked abruptly from her thoughts by Effie tapping on the door.
Bekah immediately shut off the water, jumped out of the shower, wrapped a towel around herself, and let Effie in, "Effie, can you help me with something?"
Effie was very glad to help by powdering Bekah's face to cover the redness the hot shower caused, "You know Cinna will take care of all this."
"Yeah, I know."
Within 5 minutes, Bekah was dressed, no longer red, and leaving her room, granted her hair was still dripping. She took a seat in the overly large armchair, facing the group of people: Logan, Haymitch, and three people she did not know, one of which she assumed was Cinna.
"You could've gotten your own bag, you know," Haymitch said.
Unsure if he was being rude or joking, Bekah shook her head and muttered, "I wasn't decent."
Haymitch snorted, and, was she imagining it, or did he turn a little pink? "Trust me, sweetheart, it's nothing I haven't seen."
"Haymitch!" Effie exclaimed, taking a seat on another chair.
Bekah was now definitely red in the face, and not from the shower.
"No, no, not her," Haymitch stumbled over his words, trying to clarify.
"Obviously," Effie scoffed.
"Just in general," Haymitch ended, trying to be certain everyone was clear.
There was a very uncomfortable silence for a minute, then Haymitch said, "So, uhm, these are your stylists."
After the introductions, the stylists led Bekah toward the exterior hallway. She looked back over her shoulder, wanting to say thanks to Effie, but instead caught Haymitch's eye. They both immediately looked away.
When Bekah had been scrubbed a total of 9 times, had her legs waxed twice, her hair in elegant half-updo, and had full makeup done, she was wrapped in a towel that was soft, but still irritated her now raw skin. The stylists led her back to her hotel suite, where Effie and Haymitch were waiting. When Bekah saw that Haymitch was there, she tightened her grip on the robe covering her body. She didn't know why, but she felt as though everyone now had the impression he had seen her in less-than-decent attire, and somehow, the robe was her shield against those assumptions. She was relieved when she was led around behind the couch and upstairs, not even pausing to say hello to the pair in the living area. They entered a large room with closets up and down the walls. After circling Bekah several times, Cinna went to a closet at the back of the room, and emerged with a dusty-rose knee-length halter dress. Bekah knew it had to be expensive, and so she very, very carefully stepped into it, letting Cinna clasp the hook behind her neck, so she wouldn't destroy her hairstyle. She stepped into silver high heels, and looked at Cinna with uncertainty.
"Beautiful," he said.
They headed back downstairs, and Effie was on her feet before they even got halfway down the staircase, "Let's see, let's see!"
As Bekah and the stylists entered the living area, Effie squealed, "Oh, dear, you look wonderful!"
"Jesus, woman, what are you shrieking about," Haymitch had clearly dozed off. He stood, turning around, "What's the –" he dropped off midsentence when he had turned 180 degrees, his eyes focused, and fell on Bekah.
"Haymitch?" Effie nudged him.
"Yeah, uh, I liked you better before," he said, taking a sip of his drink.
"Oh, Haymitch," Effie shrugged him off, "you're just being rude."
He collapsed onto the couch to resume nursing his drink.
"Alright, alright," Effie announced, "The tribute parade is in a half-hour! Then, you will do your introductory interviews."
"Interviews?" Bekah asked,
"Yes, yes, it's all very simple; Caesar will just ask you one or two questions; he does most of the talking, actually"
"Good," Bekah was relieved at that news.
Logan and Bekah were stationed in a chariot to be introduced to Panem. Bekah tried to make idle chitchat with him, but was unsuccessful at getting him to say much. After all, what were they going to discuss? Their families they would never see again? Their school they would never go back to? Might as well just ask him how he thinks he'll die in the arena. Their chariot pulled off and led them into a stadium packed with people who were cheering, waving, and, in Bekah's opinion, acting altogether too excited about seeing 23 sacrificial lambs in top hats and lace. The image of a sheep in such attire made Bekah smile, which was good so the audience didn't think she was entirely unfriendly.
The introduction was all too ceremonious for Bekah's taste, like a 10 minute blessing of thanks over a meal of dried apples. Too much embellishment, too much theatrics, it was just all too over-the-top. And this Snow guy? How pompous! She did not care for the president. Luckily, the tribute parade was over soon thereafter he finished his speech.
In the apex outside the stadium, Logan and Bekah had more time to deal with pre-interview jitters than the other tributes, as they would be last and second-to-last.
Bekah tried to listen in on the interviews, hoping to gain some clues as to what Caesar would be asking, but the crowd was too noisy and she was too nervous to really pay attention.
Before she knew it, her name was being called. Bekah braced herself, preparing for the worst.
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