Katniss aged 12
"Isn't she beautiful?" whispered Primrose in awe.
The two sisters studied the glamorous woman from their vantage point behind the cleaning trolley. School was cancelled due to yet another teacher's strike, and their mother had had no alternative but to bring her two young daughters to work with her at the hotel. They were on strict orders to keep quiet and stay hidden. If the manager saw them their mother risked losing her job.
"I want to be just like her when I grow up," pronounced Primrose.
"Tsk," their mother tutted, emerging from the hotel room a bundle of sheets in her arms. "You most definitely do not want to be like her," she said dumping the sheets in the laundry trolley.
Katniss looked back to the woman at the end of the corridor, she could have been a model straight out of one of the magazines that she and Primrose loved to look at, the ones that guests sometimes left behind in the hotel rooms. The woman was stunning; she wore beautiful stylish clothing, her long tanned legs balanced on incredibly high heels, and gold flashed at her neck and around her wrists. She was laughing, waiting for the gentleman she was with to open the door. Clearly drunk in the afternoon, he was having problems with the room's key card.
"But why not mama?" asked Prim.
"A girl like that hasn't done a decent day's work in her life. Happy to live off the riches of men like that." Her mother replied casting a disdainful look in the couple's direction.
Katniss looked at her mother, thin and tired looking, aged beyond her years from working long hours and struggling to raise her two children alone. She considered the red skin of her mother's hands, sore and dry from cleaning all day, and wondered whether a life of luxury, never needing to work, was really such a terrible thing.
"I don't see why I should have to work if I were married to a rich man like that," pouted Primrose.
Their mother laughed then. "Oh, I expect he's got a wife alright, but that's certainly not her. I'd bet my life that's his mistress, she's a gold-digger if ever I saw one. Why else do you think she would be with someone old enough to be her father? And she works for that money, believe me!"
The meaning of her mother's last comment might have been completely lost on her younger sister but Katniss understood what she was implying. Uggh, the thought of the beautiful young woman sleeping with that man made her stomach turn, he looked old enough to be the woman's grandfather not her father.
"Well I will marry a rich man," Prim declared "and he'll buy me jewellery and gifts and beautiful clothes."
"The only reason rich men like him buy their wives presents is when they're feeling guilty about the time they spend with women like that." Her mother retorted nodding back to the couple.
The man had managed to open the door and now leant in close to whisper in the woman's ear, his arm slipped around her waist and then lower to rest on her behind. For a second Katniss saw something flicker across the woman's face that the man could not see, a look of disgust or perhaps self-loathing, before the woman again plastered the look of enjoyment on her face.
Katniss might join Primrose in fantasizing about a life of riches, where they never had to worry about being able to afford the rent and they could buy clothes from the expensive designer stores they dreamily window shopped in, rather than from second hand charity shops. But she did not want any of those things: the clothes, the jewellery, the lifestyle, if it meant having to be with a man like that. She swore she would never end up like that.
This was inspired by the French romcom Hors de Prix which stars Audrey Tautou - which is a very cute film if you can cope with the sub-titles.
Thanks massively to Kismet4891 for betaing this.
As always I'm keen to hear what you think so feel free to leave a review!