"Look at her."
"I know, her clothes!"
"What does she think she's doing, walking around like that?"
"That excuse for a dress should be put in the poor bin."
I'm not the prettiest girl in my class, nor the richest. If I lived somewhere else, it wouldn't matter so much, but I don't live somewhere else. My home is in the center of the Capitol, in the bustling heart of the city where everybody whose anybody* lives. That's why it matters so much to me to always look my best. Dress to perform, my mother tells me. Dress to impress. My parents own a clothing store, full of the latest variety- from the plain: 'District Chic', to the breathtakingly glamorous: 'Diamond Glow Collection' and 'Eupraxia Ephemeral'. They let me wear some of the cheaper clothes that have been on the rack for a while, so I always have nice things to wear. Unfortunately, they're always last month's style. This is the same with my hair. Though I have all sorts of clips to put in my blond curls, and I can color it any way I want, it never seems to be what's popular.
The girls at school always taunt me about my clothes, and have since the beginning of high school, but I try not to listen. I tell myself that one day soon I'll have a better job than my parents do. I'll be able to afford luxurious fashion. My hair will actually match my clothes. Better yet, I promise myself, I will be one of the important people in the Capitol. I will make things happen, and I will show those girls that with a little hard work, even a girl who isn't as rich or as popular can make it in the world.
The idea hits me the day I go to my senior prom. I'm walking by one of the fountains and admiring the way the water changes color in midair. I sit down on the edge of the fountain, carefully smoothing out my skirts. This dress is the most amazing thing I have ever worn. For the prom, my mother let me choose anything from the store- and this is perfect. It's brand new, and one of the most popular styles: an asymmetrical neckline and hem. The bottom of the dress pools in golden ripples on the ground as I sit.
Staring into the fountain, I think over the day. From the moment I woke up and had a relaxing shower that was just perfect- not too hot, and scented with a blend between lavender and mint, all the way to getting ready for this dance- my day has been fantastic. I trail my hand in the water. I want to share this experience. Not prom, but the whole Capitol. It's so beautiful, and everyone's up to date, and well-
I know what I want to be for my job.
"I'm going to be a person who organizes the tributes!" As I say the words my career choice sounds foolish, even childish. Who wants to be the person who prepares tributes for their deaths?
"A district escort," my mother corrects me. "You really want to be that?"
I explain my idea, and eventually my parents come around. Well, they don't really approve, but my mother tells me that it's my life, so I can really do whatever I want. They help me find the right people to talk to, and soon I'm called in for the proper training.
There are five of us undergoing training, including me. All the others are much older than I am. The youngest is in his second year of college. I sigh, despite myself. How am I going to compare against people so much older than I am? I'm only nineteen!
We introduce ourselves to the District One escort one by one. I'm nearly trembling by the time it's my turn. This is Gareth Silversmith, the oldest and most well known of all the district escorts. He's been with District One for nearly fifteen years, after starting his job all the way down with District Eleven. He's the best of the best, so he is the one I need to impress if I am to get this job.
"I'm Evelyn Trinket," I say, shaking his hand, "but you can, um, call me Effie. If you want."
"Excellent," he replies, stepping back to address us all. "Now, you five, this year we have two spots open, and we'll have one more next year, as people are retiring. The Reaping is in two weeks, as soon as schools are out. Now, as to your tasks-" Mr. Silversmith leads us through all the basics in the job. We pull the tributes names out of the glass bowls in the Reaping, unless someone volunteers. Then we travel with the tributes and make sure that they get to every place on time. We also coach them on their speeches. "Now, the two spots that are open this year are Eleven and Twelve. The tributes from these districts usually need more help adjusting to Capitol life than others. They come from a rough life, you see, so you'll likely have to teach them some manners before they're seen in public." I nod and try to remember everything he's telling us. I begin to understand why there are only five of us here- this job is hard.
"For your full application," Gareth Silversmith tells us, "you need to write out the schedule that you think you'll have, starting from the Reaping and ending when the Games are finished. Then I'll meet which all of you individually."
We are dismissed, and I immediately start planning the schedule. It's due in a few days, but I have to get started quick. Finals are next week, and I have to pass them if I'm to graduate. However, I don't think I'll actually be there for graduation! Not if I get this job. Instead of celebrations and parties, I'll be in one of the districts. Ohhhhh well. This is what I wanted, after all.
My schedule takes a while to create, and some of the parts I'm not quite sure of, but in the end I'm quite pleased with it. I've added in some extra details that I don't think I'll need, but I've heard that since Twelve is the poorest district, the tributes will need extra help. If I'm going to be assigned there, then I'll need to give them more training before they appear before the Capitol. The finished result doesn't seem quite long enough but it'll have to do.
"Congratulations, Effie." Gareth Silversmith rises from his chair. "Welcome to the board of district escorts. You've got your post, so you'll need too be packed and at your train by 8:00 am on Friday."
I thank him and turn to leave, but remember one last thing.