Ariella Dawson, 17 - District 1 female
Outside my house there is a little shed. In that shed there are knives. Those knives are what I know best. I can escape school, after being taunted and teased about my looks and walk over to the room, grab a knife, and start throwing, imagining each bullseye is a knife in their eye.
No one knows my escape after school each day. To half the people, I am sweet innocent little Ariella Dawson who wouldn't hurt a fly. I am sweet little Ariella Dawson who wouldn't say a bad word to anyone. I am sweet little Ariella Dawson, the poor girl who doesn't look like the rest of us.
The other half of the people sees me as worthless Ariella Dawson, whose father was from an outlaying District. I am worthless Ariella Dawson, the mutt who doesn't belong. I am worthless Ariella Dawson, who thinks she is so much better than the rest of us.
I put the people who call me worthless on the target and imagine them. I smile every time I hit Glitter in the face and Diamond in the eye. I don't hate them nearly as much as I hate the imposter who came and invaded my safe-haven eleven years ago. When I put my stepdad's face on the target, I never miss. I am especially livid this morning, as last night's conversation replays in my mind.
School was crap, as usual. I was reminded of my District 10 father who didn't want me. I was reminded I was different from everyone else. I was reminded how stupid I was. At least at home I can escape the insults, or fight back. "Ariella!"
My baby sister, Crystalla, only six years old comes running over to me. "Ariella! Jayden hit me." Tears are forming in the six year olds beautiful green eyes and I give her a small smile.
"Well, baby, if you are ever going to get strong, you have to hit him back." I reach down and pull her up to my lap. "But, if you want to stay kind, you turn the other cheek and let him hit you again. That will make you strong in here." I point to her heart and she lets out a giggle. I kiss the top of her head.
"Ariella!" I hear the booming voice of my stepfather, and Crystalla becomes frightened instantly. He walks into the room with his belt in his hand. If he wants to beat me he can go for it. He can prove my point to Crystalla right there. "What kind of crap are you telling my children now?"
I don't shrink into the sidelines, as I typically do in this kind of situation. I rise up and become strong. I can be strong to my stepdad. I can be strong to this horrible man. "I'm not telling them any crap. I never tell them crap. That's your job, isn't it?"
Tapaz, in all his infuriation, grabs a hold of his daughter's wrist and yanks her over to him. He grabs his belt and uses it like a whip and beats me with it on my back. It stings, but it happens so often, I've learnt to ignore the pain. "You know what, you good for nothing little interbred mutt? I hope you get reaped tomorrow. I hope you die."
I rise up onto my tiptoes and look him dead in the eyes, my chocolate brown ones staring into his emerald green ones. "You don't have to worry about that. I'll volunteer tomorrow. I'll volunteer and you will hate it when I come home a victor and my mother and your children are welcome in my house and welcome to my money, but you are booted out onto the street. I could probably have a Peacekeeper kill you, if I want."
He smiles a cold smile. "I can't wait."
That smile still burns in my mind as I throw a knife at the target. I haven't missed once since I started to imagine him. I must have been out here for hours, just waiting for someone to interrupt me. I hear the back door to the house open and see my blonde haired, green eyed, eight year old brother come out. "Mom said I need to come get you."
I put my knives down and smile at Jayden, who looks very sad. "What if you go away, Ariella? What if you get picked?" Of course I was bluffing when I said I'd volunteer. I'm pretty sure I was bluffing.
I pull my little brother in for a hug and kiss the top of his head. "If I get picked, you'll have to stay strong for mom and Crystalla until I get back."
Jayden doesn't stop hugging me. He keeps me close until it is 7:30am. The entire District is up early today. We have the reapings at 8:30am this morning. I walk into the house, Jayden has his hand in mine, and I sit him down at the breakfast table, next to his sister. I then go down the hall and change into my clothes.
I decide to wear a tight fitting, one shouldered blue dress that goes halfway down my thighs. The one shoulder is made up of three blue pieces of fabric, swirled together so they look like cloth roses. The roses hold a piece of fabric that goes over the dress to the dress, making it look flowy as well as sexy. I smile as I put it on and then proceed to do my makeup, covering my face with natural looking powders and my eyes with mascara. I top it off with a dark red lipstick and pull my hair into an elegant side ponytail. I think I look presentable. I complete the outfit with some silver heels that look as though they could be made of glass. It looks perfect.
I walk into the kitchen at 7:45am, ready to go.
"Wow, Ariella! You look amazing!" The awe in Crystalla's voice makes me smile.
"You really, do." I hear the soft, kind voice of my mother and smile, letting her hug me.
"Thanks, momma." She sits me down at the table and gives me a glass of chocolate milk and a biscuit with a hazelnut chocolate spread in it. I eat my meal and by that time, it is time to go.
We are walking out the door when Tapaz sees me. "Well, if it isn't the little mutt? Wow, you really look like a whore. Are you going to be selling yourself off as a prostitute to the other tributes?" He pauses and brings his voice down low. "I hope you die."
I look him dead in the eye once again. I am never this bold to anyone, not even him, but something in me fills me with courage. "Then I'll see you in hell." I walk out the door without giving him another look. I know I wasn't bluffing. I'm going to go into the games.
I check in and let myself be taken away by a crew of seventeen year olds. I know there were other girls who wanted to volunteer, but it is simply who wants it most. Right now, I want it the most.
Serendipity is the name of our district escort and to me he looks like someone dyed a pig green and stuffed it into a sparkly green tux. It is disgusting to look at and seems even worse than the usual glamour produced by us for the Capitol. Dazzle, our victor, appeared to be a typical District 1 citizen.
Serendipity drones on about why we have the games and talks about the war. It is a sensitive subject among many. I still remember it, being ten years old when it ended. Jayden doesn't remember a thing. He was too young. Crystalla wasn't born until after the war's conclusion. She was actually born the day Leo, from District 4, was crowned winner of his games.
Now is not the time to get distracted. I need to remember where I am at. I see Serendipity put his hand into the bowl and draw a pice of paper from inside. He unfolds it and reads the name. "Ruby Castor."
The crowd turns their attention to a small looking fourteen year old girl. She looks different, just like me, with black hair instead of brown. My decision has been made. I wait patiently as Ruby makes her way to the stage. There is a look of true terror in her sapphire blue eyes. "Do we have any volunteers for this young woman?"
There is a moment where no one does anything, and I put my hand in the air. "I volunteer!"
Ruby looks truly relived that someone called forth to be her savior. I make my way down to the stage, ignoring the looks of confusion of all who knew me. None of them knew about my knives. None of them knew about Tapaz. None of them knew what it was like at my house. The rows of green eyes just look at me, astonished. I can pick out Diamond and Glitter, the worst of all the people who tease me, and see their faces. They aren't smiling right now. They just look confused, and frightened.
I watch the escort put his chubby hand into the bowl and pull out a name. I can feel my heart in my chest. This person is who I am going against. "Franco Ludwig!"
I don't recognize the name. That isn't surprising, considering there are three schools across the district. There is the training academy where the most well off and the children with the most potential to be murderers go, the school in the district where the people closest to the Capitol go, which is the school I attend, and the school for the lowest of the low, the future Jewel Miners. I often forget about them because our paths seldom cross, but I know enough to know they look sort of like me. Their hair is lighter and their eyes are usually green, but they look more like me. That area of the District was probably where Ruby was from.
I wait for a volunteer to come up and take the spot of the young man, but I doubt any will come. I can hear the taunts coming at him. There is something very sad about it. I feel automatic pity for him. I'm sure he is nice, but he is taunted, just like me. The boy is almost to the stage when I hear two words. "I volunteer!"
I look around for the voice and see him. The boy walking forward comes from the small group of darker haired individuals in the boys section. He is a miner. I would say he was good looking, but I don't focus on that. He has shaggy light brown hair concealing his light eyes that from where I am look like they could be blue or gray. He is tall and muscular and has freckles all over his nose and cheeks. I don't know who he is at all. When he gets to the stage his name is announced as Maverick Geo. It sounds like a miner's name too.
"Shake hands, you two."
I give him a smile and try to let him know we are in this together. I'm not going to hurt him. I hope he doesn't hurt me. We are from the same District, that shouldn't stop us from being friends.
After seeing my District partner, I am put into despair. I don't know what to think about anything. I am shoved into a room inside the Justice Building where I am completely alone. There is a knock on the door and in run Crystalla and Jayden. Behind them, walking calmly is my mother. When I see the green eyes of my siblings fill with tears, my brown ones are filled also. I pull them in for a hug and don't let go for a minute or so. When I look up, I am pouring down tears. "Momma! Momma don't let them take me! I didn't mean to. I- I only did it because- because Tapaz made me so angry. He said he wanted me to die! He said so himself and –and I wanted to prove to him that he was wrong." She pulls me in for a hug and I just cry on her. "Momma, don't let them take me. I'm sorry."
Momma kisses my forehead and takes a ring off her finger. It is a simple silver band with a blue opal in it. It is simple, and beautiful. "It was the wedding ring your father gave to me. I want you to have it, Ariella. Come back to us. Now wipe those tears away from your face. You want to seem strong, don't you? You want everyone to want you to win, right?"
I nod and let my mother wipe away my tears and straighten me up, making me look presentable. "There you go. Remember Ariella, we love you."
"I love you too, mom." She walks out of the room. Jayden and Crystalla give me hugs before they are forced to leave as well.
I am escorted to a hallway where I am forced to wait with a bunch of peacekeepers. I twirl the ring my mother gave me out of nervousness. I don't know what I was thinking. I just take my breaths and make sure I don't look weak. I want to appear strong and able to win. Minutes after I arrive, a very flustered looking Maverick is pushed into the hall. "Are you alright? What happened?" I think I am showing genuine concern for him. That's alright. I want to get on his good side.
"Don't ask," he snaps back at me. I can feel the hurt come into my eyes and I turn away, suddenly wondering what I did wrong.
A group of Peacekeepers come around us, keeping a closer eye on him than me. I wonder why that is. I can't be that much smaller than him, can I? Do they already think I'm going to lose? What is wrong with me?
Cameras flash our way and I am too overwhelmed to see what is going on. I just see light after light after light. All the words are jumbled together and nothing makes sense. I just smile and wave, trying to make a good impression.
They push us into a car and we ride to the train in silence. I can feel myself shaking. I'm not sure if I am ready for this. If I am going to freak out, I better save it to when I am alone on the train. I don't want anyone to doubt me or count me out.
We step onto the train and it is lovely. It seems like the mansions of the District. I have been in a couple, but have always been surprised at their beauty. It is wonderful. We both hesitate while going in. "Go in, go in children!" Serendipity's shrill voice squeaks. "See all the Capitol has to offer you before you even arrive."
I let myself wander around, looking all the beauty in the train. There is a table set out for food for us, but I hardly notice it. I do notice Maverick staring at it longingly though. "Go on, children. Go on. Eat and be merry. Mr. Spinel's car should be pulling up any second and then we shall be off."
I allow myself to sit down and grab bits and pieces of food so I don't seem like I am eating too much. I want to appear at the Capitol looking small in stomach size as well.
When Dazzle walks in, I can feel the tension rise in the room. "Now, you two aren't the ones I hand-picked from the Academy."
I shake my head. "I'm sorry sir. I didn't know people were picked." I hold my hand out for a handshake, trying to get on his good side. "My name is Ariella Dawson."
He looks at me with distrust and disgust. I can feel a blush coming to my cheeks and let my hand come down to my side. I try to blink away the tears forming. The stress of today has made me very emotional. Hopefully I can get it under control by the time we are at the Capitol. "I'll bet you aren't even trained, are you?" I look up and grab one of the sharpest knives from the table.
"May I?" When I don't get an answer, I let myself keep talking. "I'm going to make this knife stab…" I look around the walls, trying to find an appropriate place to aim at, but find none. I draw and X on the wall with the knife. "I'll get it right in the center of that X." I let myself feel the weight of the knife. Learning the overall feel of it takes less than a second. Then I throw it, making it lodge itself in the wall, on the X, right where I said it would be.
Dazzle rolls his eyes, but there is at least a look of promise in them that wasn't there before. He turns his attention to Maverick. The two appear to have some sort of vendetta. "Mr. Volunteer himself. While it might please you to know that the rival for your girlfriend's heart isn't able to compete in these games and chance returning home to her after she ditches you for someone who deserves her-" Maverick punches the man in the face.
"You bastard! You dead-beat son of a bitch!"
Serendipity looks horrified at the outburst and I am watching, putting hands over my mouth. I cannot believe he would do that to our mentor. He is the only way either one of us can stay alive. It is one thing to treat Tapaz like that, but your lifeline, another. "You aren't a god, you are a coward! A child that walked away from a little boy that needs you and a girl that's only mistake was thinking she could fix a broken-down piece of shit like you!"
I go up to him and pull him off as best I can, considering my smaller size and muscle mass. "Let it go, Maverick. We are in a new world. The past doesn't matter if you want to have a future." I have his arm clutched in my hand and look at him with pleading eyes. "Let it go. He's not worth it."
"Screw this!" He shoves my arm off of him and goes to the couch. I follow him over there.
I hold out my hand for a handshake. "My name is Ariella Dawson."
Maverick Geo, 16 - District 1 male
My heart is breaking for my sister and the con that she called "love"
When I look into my nephew's eyes...
Man, you wouldn't believe the most amazing things that can come from
Some terrible nights...
There are a lot of misconceptions about District One when it comes to most day-to-day operations, but more or less, when it comes to days like today. Along with District Two, we are seen as the villains of the games, thanks to the fancy Training Centers the Capitol themselves sponsored after watching our weak and frail die bloodied and horrid deaths at the hands of children from poor, rebellious Districts three years in a row. We are the favored Districts, the lapdogs that have it so easy. The luxury state where we crap diamonds and fart glitter. Life is grand and we never know hunger.
Yeah. Tell that to us jewel miners.
True, starvation isn't an art form here, like I've heard it is in Districts 10, 11, and 12, but we are far removed from lavish outfits and proper training. We are ostracized, looked down upon by those with the money and power, who ride their high horses while we toil away in the darkness, bringing them their precious colored gems and stones, all so we can go to bed with food in our bellies and clothes on our backs. While they bathe in golden tubs with warm water, men like my father spend twelve hours a day with his flashlight and pickaxe in nothingness, day after day, week after week, year after...well, I think you get the picture.
Like today. The Districts are supposed to shut down on Reaping Day, but we are not among the Chosen People. Today, we work earlier; harder. If we expect to have the, dare I say it, luxury of having a day off to spend with family that hasn't spent time training to slaughter other children in a fight to the death, we have to get our workload done in half the time. Guided by the moon, at least two hours before the sun is set to grace us with its presence, my family is at the mines, hammering away at the unforgiving walls, looking for little glittering stones that mean the difference between cabbage water or gooseling eggs for Reaping dinner. For me, it means the difference between my nephew having a life that is better than my own.
Jadeite Maverick Geo. He is the reason why I am going into the Games.
Clink! My pickaxe is like an extension of my body, just another appendage that I am in full control of. The rock walls that surround me burst and crumble at my feet, covering my Reaping pants with dust. Great! Just what all of Panem wants to see. No matter, maybe it will make more look like more of a threat.
"Head in the game, Geo!" Franco Ludwig, fellow miner and best friend of yours truly, stood behind me, smiling a toothy grin as he drove the point of his pickaxe into the wall and turned it into rubble. "What would Amber say if you didn't supply her father with colored stones for his shop?"
My dark gray eyes must have lit up, as he stopped working just long enough to point and laugh at me. "At least I have a girlfriend, slim."
"This is neither here nor there. But the sun is rising, Mav, so you best get your little cart going and be a good mule for the Luxury District."
Outside of the mines, the light of the morning hits my eyes, making them sting, despite my good mood. This was the part of the day I used to dread; hateful words and spit are usually thrown my way, but now it is my favorite, thanks to one special girl.
Amber Prestige, the daughter of the biggest jeweler in the District and future Hunger Games victor herself, was the woman of my dreams. We had met in this very fashion, I was pulling my cart full of jewels to the back of her father's shop when she walked into my life and took the very air from my lungs. With her wispy wheat-colored hair and pale blue eyes, she was like an angel here in Panem. And when she smiled...forget about it. I was like putty in her hands.
Her father had all the money in the world, more so than even the mayor, and he paid through the nose to train Amber in the newly built Training Academy. Yes, the same one that produced our one and only victor, Dazzle Spinel; one of the driving forces behind my desire to volunteer.
"Watch it, cave dweller!"
This was another reason. No one respects us miners, only seeing the dirt caked beneath our finger nails and the thick layer of dust that never seems to leave our clothes. We are the unwashed masses, lower than the cobbled stone streets, and we are not to be treated like equals. Yet, we are the ones busting our bodies and generally killing ourselves to bring riches from the earth to their doorsteps. We are not allowed to step foot in the Training Academies, as they are for the children of the elite. Us poor children are only good for dying in the first four games.
Like Granite Jax, who was Reaped when we were both just twelve years old. Franco and I watched in horror as a Morphling addict from District Six tackled him to the ground and snapped his neck just hours into the game, turning our trio into a duo in an instant. We knew he was doomed from the moment Serendipity plucked his name from the bowl, but that didn't make the sound of his neck breaking any less harsh to our ears and it certainly didn't stop his wide, dead eyes from staring into our souls. He was just another miner's child to 1, but to us, he was our best friend and a fallen soldier in a war our parents and grandparents started by standing up to those enslaving us; the faraway enemy known as The Capitol.
A place, if luck is on my side, I will be seeing in a few hours time.
As per usual, Amber is waiting outside the back door of her father's shop, Prestige Jewellers, her shirt just low enough to do some damage to my self-control. Her kisses are like none that I have ever had the luxury of tasting on my lips; with each one, she plants a smaller one, like she was marking her territory or even more likely, giving my lips a reason to return to hers. It took everything inside of me not to give into the lust I was feeling at that very moment. However, I had to keep my urges to just that.
She pulled away from me.
Her jaw hardened, her eyes went from lively to cold. "What do you mean, you're volunteering? Dazzle has the potential volunteers hand-picked, just as he did last year and you aren't even trained!"
"Dazzle's a toolbox!"
"That may just very well be, but he's still a victor! Our ONLY victor-" She paused, her darkening. "You are doing this because of my father, aren't you?"
I can't help but stare at my feet sheepishly.
"We just have to keep it secret for a little while longer, once I volunteer and win-"
I cut her off. "I'm sick of your father looking down on me, on my family and neighbours. I'm not ashamed of who I am or where I come from. I pull this cart and work every day in those mines so that one day, my nephew doesn't have to, that your father would respect me for knowing what a days work is. It's like you are ashamed of me, Amber."
She wrapped her arms around me. "I'm not ashamed, Maverick, you know what. It's just...complicated."
Behind her, the backdoor to the shop opened, revealing the 'complication' keeping us apart. He is a stern-looking fellow, with raven-colored hair and dark eyes that always seem too angry to be in the jewellery business. However, he did manage to give his daughter the harden-jaw stare that she seems to gravitate towards whenever we argue. Other than that, you couldn't tell that she came from him.
"Amber...be a dear and see to the customers in the front. I'd like to have a chat with our jewel donkey."
Just to be a smart ass, I bowed to Amber and let out a convincing, "Hee-haw!"
She giggled and headed into the shop, but not before blowing me a kiss once her father's back was turned. It took everything in me not to return that kiss, but instead stare down her prick of a father. He turned to make sure she was gone before starting on me.
"I know what's been going on between you and my daughter-"
My cheeks went crimson at the thought of all he knew about us. "Is that so?"
"Not particularity, but you just confirmed it for me." Shit. "My Amber is going places; she is in the top of her Training Class, has men like the Mayor's son and even a victor pining over her hand, and a knack for business. You are just a play thing to her and it would be best for her to put her toys away for good, if you catch my meaning."
"Dazzle wants her? That asshole!"
"Mr. Spinel is not an asshole, as you so bluntly proclaim. He brought pride and victory to our amazing District, which is nothing we could ever expect for a miner's child like you."
"I might be just some lowly teenage son of a miner, but I am more of a man that Dazzle could ever claim to be. If he was any type of man, he would take care of his own."
Quartz Prestige looked confused, yet still maintained a look of pure anger. Only he could pull that off. "What do you MEAN take care of his own?"
"It doesn't matter. He knows what he did."
"Whatever you say, cave dweller. You just stay far away from my Amber if you know what is good for you."
"I bet you'll be changing your tune after today."
With that, I turned my cart around, and made my way back towards my life in the dark. It is the people of this District like Quartz that make the people of the Capitol look human.
Before long, my workday is through and I was leave with less than an hour to be at the Reaping. Usually, Reaping morning is spent in awkward silence over a scarce breakfast of oatmeal and maybe some type of fruit to off-set the bland taste, but today is worse than usual. My nephew is giving my poor sister Amethyst a run for her money; his chubby toddler legs working overtime to run away from her as she attempts to clean his face, while my father is made to stay in bed, due to another coughing fit. The way it's looking, he won't even be able to see me off when I volunteer.
"Get him, Mav," she pleads before collapsing on the couch. "I can't keep up with him anymore."
With a smile on my face, I snatch my nephew up and burry my face into his exposed tummy while he laughs echoed in my ears and drooled on my head. It is moments like this that I wish that tool Dazzle was around, just so he could see what a real man is like. The little money that my parents and sister make goes to keeping our household running; food, clothing, my father's medicine, but mine...that goes to the wants and needs of Jadeite. Little Jad, as I call him, is the good that came out of some terrible, terrible nights.
Dazzle wasn't always a toolbox. At one point in time, he had been my sister's best friend, despite their being from different sides of District 1's social ladder. To them, it didn't matter, they enjoyed each other's company. And then, the Fifth Annual Hunger Games came between them. Dazzle beat out twenty-three others to make it home.
Once the novelty of our first winner wore off, no one was there to clean up the damage the games caused. Dazzle was left to fend for himself, through the nightmares and bouts of crippling depression. It was Amethyst that picked up the pieces and it was Amethyst that stopped him from his suicide attempt two months after he came home.
Jadeite is the result of those terrible nights.
Once training became the norm for the elite children of 1, he became a cockier version of his old self, leaving the self-loathing and alcohol behind him. And, in turn, he forgot all about my sister and his child that she was carrying. He won't even look in her direction when she walks on by, though a few times I did catch him trying to sneak a peak at Little Jad. He allowed the social hierarchy and dirty looks keep him away from the child he helped bring into the world. The child that I am loving.
The child that I am volunteering for.
"Are you planning something today, Mav?" My sister can read me like an open book; I'm just glad she waits until Mom and Dad were out of the room to spring it on me. "You have that look on your face, like something big is coming up."
"It's the only way, Am. Give me another way and I will gladly take it."
Her face grows crimson and her voice starts to raise. "Do you really think that risking your life and facing a possible death sentence is what is best for Jadeite?"
"Keep your voice down, I don't want mom and dad to know." I hiss. "And yes. If I can go in and win, not only will I have the money to give him the world, but people will respect the miners. Hell, I can buy the mines if I wanted to!" I sigh. "Think of all the good I can do."
"You could die."
"I could die in the mines."
"Bullshit. You are doing this for Amber."
She had me. "Yes, part of me is doing it for her. And for every single person that spat at me as I pulled my cart through these streets. And for dad. And you. And even for me. I need to prove that I am more than just a jewel-jockey."
"Don't do this, Maverick. Please... just think about it for a year. See how these games go and how the trained tributes do." She grabs my hand, which forces me to look her in the eyes, the same eyes my nephew has. "Don't leave me, ok? Don't leave Jadeite."
She uses the baby against me. Great.
"Fine, I'll give it a year. Then...I am going in."
If there is one thing I am known for, besides being the jewel-jockey of the District, is that I can't say no to Amethyst. With everything she has been through, plus the fact that she was always the one person I could always count on to have my back if the chips were down, she is my hero and I worship the ground she walks on. If she wanted me to burn myself with a hot iron, I probably would. It's been this way since we were children, but it grew immensely after her falling out with Dazzle and the birth of Jadeite. She took the strange looks for being so young and unmarried, huge with child and never gave them the satisfaction of her tears or words. She just continued to hold her head up high and do what needed to be done, for her son.
Judging by the light of the outside world, I know I have to get into high gear if I want to look somewhat human at The Reaping. My bath is lukewarm, which is better than the usual ice cold one we are forced to suffer, but today is special. Special enough to warrant slightly warm water to wash off the dust and grime of a hard morning's work. Before I know it, my golden brown hair that is usually hiding my dark gray eyes is slicked back and my only nice outfit, tan pants and button down black shirt, are covering my larger than most sixteen year old's body. As I exit my bedroom, I find Jadeite waiting for me, dressed in his best clothes that almost mirror my own.
"Hey, J-Man, you are looking good." His toothy smile brightens my mood. "You ready to go to the Town Square?"
"YES!" His screech hurts my ears and he leaps into my arms, hugging me. "Good luck, Uncle Mav-wick."
Reaping day in District 1 never changes. We wait in line for what seems like forever, only to have some bastard Peacekeeper take blood like he's bleed a stuffed pig, sent to our numbered pens like the good piggies we are, and wait for some poor child of 1 to have their name called. Before the Training Centers were build in our District, that poor kid would before forced on stage, shown off to us one last time before they were sent to be slaughtered for entertainment, but now, thanks in part to Dazzle's win, we have trained volunteers, just itching to get to the stage first. It's quite entertaining to watch, actually – they will punch, kick, and even bite in some instances, to get to the stage before the rest. From what Amber says, Dazzle hand-picked this year's volunteers, but if I can get there first...
No. I promised Amethyst that I would wait.
This year, there isn't a line of barbarian-looking eighteen year olds, inching their way closer to the stage as the Reaping gets underway. Strange, for the past three years it has looked like a madhouse even before Serendipity takes center stage.
Speaking of Serendipity, his pompadour was even more distracting this year than it has been in years, this time blinding us with its neon green tint. Our feminine escort, Serendipity is as tall as he is fat, with tiny legs that I am surprised can support his large frame. He is like a caricature of what all Capitolites look like, I bet. His suit, which is bedazzled with tiny gemstones colored to match his hair, is form-fitting, leaving little to the imagination, and is milk-white. His overall look is so distracting, that I missed the female volunteer completely.
Staring at the crowd with a glint in her dark eyes is the girl that stands out among the golden-haired beauties of One. Her skin was slightly darker, her hair darker than that. She didn't give off the air of being a properly trained tribute, not like the other girls I've seen rush the stage, but she gave off a vibe of one not to be underestimated.
After what seemed like an eternity, Serendipity waddled over towards the other bowl and with much gusto, announced the name for all to hear.
Franco. Sweet, effeminate Franco. The boy that wouldn't hurt a fly because that would be unfabulous.
Please, for the love of luxury, someone volunteer!
Dazzle hand-picked his volunteers this year. According to Amber, he had specially trained a pair just for this. How did this girl get through without the chosen girl taking the glory that was promised to her? And, worst still, why is no pompous rich asshole taking Franco's place?
The taunting gets worse and worse as Franco reluctantly makes his way towards the stage. And that's when I see it. Or, rather, him.
Citron Golding. The mayor's son and closeted former boyfriend of Franco -slash- supposed wooer of my girlfriend. And judging by the smug look on his face, he was Dazzle's pick to go into the games. He's refusing to volunteer, which is fine for him, since he still has a year to go before he's no longer eligible. Out of spite, he is letting Franco walk to his certain death...I can't let that happen, not to my best friend.
A scream erupts from just outside the pens and I recognize it right away as coming from my mother. I can't bear to even glance in her general direction, and I quickly make my way towards the stage, but not before getting a hug from Franco. My mind is racing as I go through the motions of what a good volunteer should be doing, especially since this is being broadcasted to all of Panem.
"Shake hands, you two."
Ariella Dawson. The outcasted daughter of a District Ten man and a local woman. Why I didn't see it before, I'll never know. She was a looker, that's for sure, but a trained killer? No. She didn't seem to have that in her. Like the jewel-jockeys, she is on the lower end of the District One social standings for not fitting into what they consider "typical beauty". Girls like Amber are put on pedestals, while Ariella is shunned and teased and made to feel like she is less than nothing. Some things never change in the town of luxury.
Serendipity leads up into the Justice Center, babbling on and on about what an honor it is for him to be here, representing us. Of course, he is babbling about having another pair of volunteers, but I can tell he's upset that we aren't older or a flashy as the past two years. Before I have chance to say a word, I am shoved into a luxurious room, complete with leather couch that probably came right from a factory in Ten. Note to self, thank District Ten tributes for the comfy couch.
After a few minutes, the door to my luxury suite flings open and I am met with a hard slap to the face.
Amethyst. The hurt look in her eyes makes me stare at the floor with a sheepish little boy look plastered on my face. On her hip, Jadeite is crying because he has no idea what is going on. It breaks my heart to see my sister in this state and my soul is shattered from hearing my nephew wail like this. I can handle a lot of things, but this isn't one of them.
"I know, Am, I know. But...it's Franco!"
She sighs, knowing I am right. From an early age, we all knew Franco was gay. It was a running gag between Granite, Franco, and myself since we were kids and something that we, as a duo, keep up with in memory of our fallen comrade. Sure, Franco worked in the mines, same as I did, but he wasn't the strongest guy around, plus his sweet nature and sexuality would make him an easy target to a goon from 2 or even an outer-district kid.
Besides, I couldn't stand by and watch another of my friends die in these games.
"Dad didn't make it to the Reapings, he won't be able to see you off."
As I thought. Dad can barely get out of bed once the workday is through and I knew the Peacekeepers would give him a free pass, due to his health problems. Once I win, those problems will be a thing of the past.
"And Mom? Amber? That walking hard-on I volunteered for?"
She laughed. "Mom and Franco are outside, arguing over who gets to be the one to slap you. Seems I beat them to it."
With that, she starts to sob. It's the only time I've ever seen her cry and all I can do is hold my hero until she is pulled from me by Peacekeepers. This triggers in me the primitive, built-in need to protect my sister and I slug the Peacekeeper manhandling my sister and nephew.
"I'm the volunteer here, boys. Touch my sister like that again, and I will make your lives hell when I come back here." I pull my sister up off of the ground and pick up my nephew one last time.
"Jadeite...I need you to take care of Mommy, ok? Can you do that?"
He nods, almost as if he understands what I am saying. "I wuv you, Uncle Mav-wich."
Tears pepper my eyes. "I love you too, J-Man."
Amethyst kisses me on the cheek and exits the room, but not before stepping over the Peacekeeper I knocked out cold.
Seconds go by. They quickly turn to minutes, which turns to a half an hour. Surely, my mother and best friend aren't too far behind? Even the Peacekeeper with the glass jaw has pulled himself together enough to leave in a defeated huff.
The door opens once again, but instead of Franco or my mother or even the love of my life, it's the last person I want to see right now.
"Where is my mother?"
He scoffs. "Thanks to your little outburst, you are barred from any further visits. Now, come along like a good little donkey. The Capitol waits for no one."
"Do you even hear yourself?"
Once again, he scoffs, which sends ringlets of anger up my spine. "I don't need to, I'm a victor."
It takes everything in me not to have repeat of my last outburst. Instead, I turn to my words. "Some victor. You are just a pathetic boy."
"Remember, Mavie-boy, as your mentor, I am the one in charge of divvying up the sponsorship money that you two are bound to rake in. I doubt the girl is going to make it very far, so if you want me to put my money on the victor of the 7th games, then you better bite your tough around me. Got it?"
"Fuck you, Dazzle. I knew you before you became a victor, ok? You used to play dollies because Am made you!"
His face dropped. "How is Amie?"
"You aren't allowed to ask me that."
Without saying a word, he walks out of the room with his proverbial tail between his legs. Once again, the same Peacekeeper I hit barges in and grips me up by the arm and tosses me into the hallway, where Arielle is also waiting. We make eye contact for just a moment and I notice the tears she had most likely tried to hide away.
"Are you going to be alright?" She nodded, but said nothing. "Well then, off to the Capitol!"
Even if she's supposed to be my competition, I'm not a complete bastard and still care. I mean, we are both District 1, even if we come from completely different sides of the luxurious coin. She is the only connection I have to home and I can't turn my back on that, even if there can only be one winner. If there is one thing being a poor miner's kid has taught me, it's loyalty. Even if it's blind.
Surrounded by Peacekeeper, we are whisked away to a car that quickly takes us to the train. Once there, the general circus of The Games truly begins, as cameras flash at us and questions are thrown our way. I ignore the ones directed towards me, which are generally, "Do you know the boy you volunteered for?" Meanwhile, most of them are begging with Arielle to explain why she looks different than the rest of the cookie-cutter girls in One. Why can't they just leave us alone and gather our thoughts; I mean, it's not like we didn't just make a dission that will most likely end our lives.
My jaw dropped when I saw the inside of the train; it's like nothing I've ever seen before in my life, which is sad, given my district. Next to me, Arielle seems just as in awe of it all, which is to be expected. However, I doubt that she has never known hunger or been without some form of hedonism, while the closet I've gotten was the stones in the mines that I'm only allowed to collect for others.
Well, that's not completely true.
My hand went instinctively to my pants pocket, were a tiny ruby resides. Actually, it's not even a full ruby, just part of one that chipped off when my pickax connected with it. Before anyone but Franco could see, I placed it in my shoe and planned on using it in an engagement ring for Amber, when the time was right. Since the day I found it, it has never left my pocket and today is no exception. At least I'll have a piece of her with me when I am fighting for our future together.
"Go in, go in children!" Serendipity's voice is almost shrill. "See all the Capitol has to offer you before you even arrive."
There is a large dinning table, obviously made of pure mahogany. Spread across it, much to my mouth-watering delight, is a feast fit for a king. Or, two tributes on our way to our possible death. Velvet adorns the walls and floors and another leather couch, this one twice the size of one in the Goodbye Room, faces a giant TV that stares blankly at me. Instead of taking the rest of the...beauty, I guess you could say, my focus became the meal in front of me. I've never seen so much food in one place.
Serendipity must have noticed the drool running down my chin. "Go on, children. Go on. Eat and be merry. Mr. Spinel's car should be pulling up any second and then we shall be off."
Is it bad that I hoped it would crash before it reached the train?
"Now, you two aren't the ones I hand-picked from the Academy."
Damn, so much for wishful thinking.
"Ariella...the bastard daughter of Ten and One. So much promise I see in you, so much hope. You managed to beat the girl that I hand-picked to win this thing, but no matter. You shall be good for sponsors, which will help you in the long run."
And then he turns to me.
"And Mr. Volunteer himself. While it might please you to know that the rival for your girlfriend's heart isn't able to compete in these games and chance returning home to her after she ditches you for someone who deserves her-"
He doesn't have a chance to finish that sentence, as my fist connects with his face.
"You bastard! You dead-beat son of a bitch!" Ariella watches in horror as I lunge for him again, sending Serendipity into hysterics. "You aren't a god, you are a coward! A child that walked away from a little boy that needs you and a girl that's only mistake was thinking she could fix a broken-down piece of shit like you!"
Before I know it, Ariella is grabbing me by the arm and yanking me off of Dazzle. "He's not worth it, Geo."
I slam my body down on the couch and put my head in my hands. What the hell did I get myself into?