Don woke up, his head pounding. Although he had awakened, he didn’t open his eyes. If he could freeze time right now, lie warm and protected, safe and sound, he would. No question. But he couldn’t. He had to get up and face the day after the reaping.
He still couldn’t believe that he had even chosen. But after all, a small part of him had always told him he would die young. But… But what if, what if he actually managed to kill some, enough as to he would live…?
No, he reminded himself firmly. You are not going to live. So snap out of it!
He replayed the scene of yesterday in his head. His name, pulled out, him walking to the stage…
A shudder ran through his body. This… Wasn’t something he expected. That Margarita Jones girl, the other one from his district, hadn’t seemed scared at all. In fact, she looked so excited as she jumped up, and ran to the stage excitedly. How could some people expose such excitement to a cruel game like this?
He quickly ran over the other people he though of. Those two young girls from four and five. That muscular boy. That tall girl. That volunteer from twelve. And that beautiful girl from from eleven. With the fluffy brown hair. He’d memorized her name. That Aderyn girl.
He opened his eyes to find sunlight streaming through the window. For a few moments, he took in everything, and then sat up.
With a quick look at the clock on his nightstand, he discovered it was seven. Don trudged towards the closet, pulled out white pants and a blue shirt. That was good enough. And then he showered.
With his blonde hair dark gold from the shower, he pressed a button and one of those mute servants, an Avox, brought him his food on a platter. He recognized the eggs, and the orange juice, but nothing else.
With one agonized look out the window, at the train speeding across mountains, towards plains, he stabbed his fork and began eating. He had no desire to see anyone today.
I nervously wait for my stylist, a man who I had heard was called Jared. The prep team, which consisted of three women with purple skin, had smothered me with lotions and ointments. My hair has now been put in red curls all around me, making me appear bubbly and bouncy. And subtle hints of green here and there compliment me, as I never though makeup would. And I sat here now with a thin, white robe, and nothing else. This troubled me very much.
This morning, I had unwillingly gone to breakfast, where Mallory was annoyingly cheerful. She wouldn’t let me grieve in peace. “Elle, are you excited? Elle, I can’t believe it! Elle, can you wait?” And finally, I had snapped “You’re wearing out my name!” and left. An hour later, my prep team, Kendall, Fabia, and Waterlee had come squealing to me.
My thought is interrupted by a man who comes in. It must be Jared. He looks in his twenties, with dark skin, gold eyes, and close cropped hair. I stand still as he surveyed me. Then, he finally says “You’re beautiful.”
“Thanks,” I mutter, looking down. He’s not as bad as I originally believed him to be. He dressed modestly, in all lime green.
“If you could step into the bathroom, and put this on.”
Obediently, I nod, and take whatever he handed me and step into the bathroom. Then, I take off my current clothing, and state at what he have me.
My first assessment is shock, because I don’t understand. But then I realize it is only the undergarment.
I strip myself, and slide into a white bikini. It’s soft and velvety, and I step out feeling self conscious.
But Jared nods, and says “Perfect. Now… Let me help you.” He turns around, and takes an outfit covered in a black protector off, and then tells me to close my eyes. Curiously, I do, and then I feel him as he leads to the mirror. Then, he says “Open.”
I open my eyes. And at first, I can’t believe it. It can’t be me, can’t it? Because that person in the mirror… She’s tall, and beautiful, innocent , but powerful.
The hair and makeup now make sense. But the main exhibition is the dress I am wearing. The white bikini is no longer visible. Instead, I am wearing an evergreen dress, completely the same, yet completely different to the one I wore yesterday.
It’s short, only reaching to my knees. And it has thin straps around my neck. But the shape is stunning. Tightly fitted at the top, and comes to a poof at the bottom. I look… Like a fresh meadow. It’s evergreen in color, true, but has dozens of tiny sparkles, reflecting all the colors of the rainbow. My mouth opens in shock. “I’m… strong,” I say, still staring at myself.
“Yes,” Jared agrees. “Innocent and pure, a green leaf. Light, District Five. And color, a girl of the sky. Good luck, Ellie.”
A smile, for the first time, breaks through my lips, and I thank him. How stunning I look!
But then fear settles in, as I remember I have one hour until the chariot ride.
The chariot ride is the official entrance to the Capitol. All the tributes ride in, and make the Capitol audience theirs.
“What do I do?” I whisper, suddenly trembling. Jared, noticing my distress, tells me to sit down. I sit, and breathe in deeply.
“You just have to stand, Elle. Stand in the chariot, and do whatever you feel is right. If I tell you what to do, then it won’t be right. So just calm down.”
Listening to his soothing voice, I nod, and clench my teeth to keep them from chattering.
An hour goes by so quickly, I’m almost positive the clock has broken. But indeed, I am taken off the train, and I’m grateful that Jared has given me ballet flats, matching my dress, and not torture devices.
And then, I take a deep breath. Because I’m about to see the other tributes, face to face.
I walk in, and there’s about a dozen people waiting. And they all look marvelous. I almost run back to the train, but I remember what Jared told me. I toss my shoulders back, and walk to the other side.
I can feel the others’ eyes on me. Tearing my eyes from the carpet, I take a look at everyone.
I easily have one of the best outfits. The other person who I feel might be a threat is the other little girl, with dark skin, and luminous brown eyes. She’s wearing an angel costume, white with a gold sash, and pure white wings. With the pink lips and cheeks, she’s the complete package. But despite looking powerful and cute, she just looks like a scared eight year old girl.
My eyes wander around the room, and immediately zero in on Herman. He’s wearing something similar to me, only much more toned down. A black tuxedo, with a tie made out of my material. But that’s it.
The other tributes begin to arrive, one by one. There’s a boy in an ice blue tuxedo. The girl who looks like me wearing a long, green dress. A girl dressed like a bird. And then they’re all lining up. It takes me a moment to realize the rides are starting. District 1 is first. Strong, beautiful tributes, as always. The audience cheers. It all goes that way until four. I begin to hear a chanting. It sounds like… I strain to listen. “Kail-lee! Kail-lee!”
I don’t know who Kail-lee is, but I do know I’m next. Herman gives me a small smile which I return warily, and then we climb in. The chariot begins to move.
The crowd goes wild. I don’t know, but suddenly, I unfreeze. Now is the time to make an impression. I smile, and begin to wave. This causes mayhem, and so I twirl on the chariot. I trip a bit, and then laugh it off, as the audience laughs. Herman is stiff at my side, trying to smile, but not pulling it off. I feel like a bit of an idiot, standing there, and giggling, but I realize it will be the difference between life and death later. I’m so relieved that the Capitol laughing with me, and not at me, that I don’t realize the ride has stopped. I give off a big kiss, which everyone strains to catch, and I hop off the chariot, smiling.
Now their chanting “El-lie! El-lie!” I shoot a grin at Herman who looks like he’s trying not to laugh. But despite his amusement, I can see pain in his eyes. My grin fades quickly. I didn;t mean to make him feel insecure. Quickly, I say, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to.. I mean, you did gre-”
“That’s nice, Elle. But there’s only going to be one winner. And it’s not going to be me.” With that, he walks off, and my face is threatening to crumble. Closing my eyes, I remind myself, Dani, I promised you I’d win. I will win. I’ll come home. For you.
I stand with the others in a line, who shoot dirty looks at me. The tall one from three lets a laugh burst through her lips, and I smile at her. She gives me a small, sad smile, before looking away. I lower my eyes, wondering how I can be so insenitive. here I am, smiling at the other tributes, who will shprtly be killing me, unless I kill them.
It goes on. The only ones who stick out are the boy in the blue, a bird like one, and the naked, coal dust tributes from twelve.
I’ve obviously made an impression, and I try to hide my smug smile. But it breaks through. What must Dani be thinking right now? What must Anthony be thinking now? Am I finally prettier than Wendy? Or am I still inferior?
Mallory comes to meet Herman and me. Quickly, she congratulates me on a job well done, and I can’t help noticing that she doesn’t give on look at Herman. My guilt rises. She leads us to the place where we’ll be staying, to the fifth floor. We get in an elevator, and it’s a fun thing to ride.
Our floor is big, with a kitchen, servants, and seven rooms. Two for me and Herman, one for Mallory, two for our stylists, and two for the mentors who would be here, if we had any.
I walk into my room, and it’s marvelous. Big, white, and velvety. I jump on the bed, and I realize it’s a water bed.
Maybe, just maybe, I’ll enjoy the last days of my life.
Don lay in bed, after dinner and all, in his pajamas. His blue eyes reflected off the moonlight.
He knew he was one of the favorites. It had been obvious, the way the crowd had cheered for him. But he wasn’t the only one. There was that Kelly and Elle. Those two, he’d seen, had had their names’ chanted. And he couldn’t blame the crowd. Kelly, in an angel dress, Elle, in a green rainbow dress. He had to watch out for those. Though probably not strong fighters in the arena, he acknowledged. Maybe even allies, just so the others wouldn’t kill him. Yes, that was an idea. A group of three didn’t sound so good though. He’d befriend them both, and arrange for one to “accidentally” be killed off. He’d have to see how they did in the following days. A two person partnership is always best, after all.
And there has been the little birdie, Aderyn, from eleven. He smiled, as he clung to her face and drifted off into sleep.