Deep in the Meadow

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Chapter 9

Before I can move Iโ€™m grabbed, bundled off the stage and into the wings, before I can even blink. I struggle against the arms holding me and find they are Grandpaโ€™s. I stop struggling and just lay, limp in his grasp. My dress is taken off me and Iโ€™m brought into the elevator dressed in only my tiny shorts and singlet. At the twelfth floor Iโ€™m shoved into my room and locked there. I change into a top and jeans. I wash all of the makeup off my face but keep the diamonds in my hair. Willow, the Diamond girl. I walk around my room, too agitated to sit. I am there for at least three hours when I hear the lock turn. I run to the door. I launch myself into the opening and hit something solid. A closer look tells me itโ€™s Dean. You would think Iโ€™ve learnt my lesson but it still is good to be comforted by someone, even if Iโ€™ll have to kill them.

โ€œYou can come to dinner,โ€ says Dean when I let go of him.

โ€œOk,โ€ I reply.

He leads me to the dining room and sits down on a chair.

โ€œSo,โ€ says Grandpa โ€œWillow, would you like to see Deanโ€™s interview? You missed it.โ€

โ€œYes I did, no thanks to YOU.โ€ I say, still peeved about how he shoved me.

โ€œI had to get you out of there!โ€ says Grandpa, starting to shout.

โ€œYah, that worked FINE, you take me into the probably MOST BUGGED AND SUPERVISED PLACE IN PANEM!โ€ I scream. Dad, Dean, Effie, Racheal and Catiena look between Grandpa and me, their heads swiveling between me and him. Only Mum speaks up.

โ€œWillow,โ€ she says. โ€œWe acted wrong, we will admit that. Right?โ€ she shoots a dirty look at Grandpa. โ€œSo, do you want to watch it?โ€

โ€œSure.โ€ I say, still seething. Racheal tentatively walks over to the television, picks up the remote and turns it on. As sheโ€™s fast forwarding to after mine, Dean starts to speak up. He turns to Dad.

โ€œCan I talk to you, in private?โ€ he asks. Dad gets up without a momentโ€™s hesitation. They walk to the hallway and go into the first room, I look around, Effie, Racheal and Catiena are meddling with the TV, Mum is looking at me. She nods and I slip after Dad.

I place my ear against the door and I hear Dean talking.

โ€œ - donโ€™t want her to see it,โ€

โ€œSheโ€™ll find out eventually somehow, I want to see how she reacts.โ€

โ€œI shouldnโ€™t have done it, she just came onto the stage and I just -โ€ Dean whispers the rest of the word so I canโ€™t hear. What did he say? And why does my father want to see my reaction? My reaction to what? I have barely a seconds warning, I hear footsteps and sprint to the dining room. I dive onto the couch as they come into the room. Racheal has gotten it to the end of my interview, I watch myself transform and Grandpa run onto the stage to grab me. I watch as Dean walks onto the stage. I watch as he and Julie exchange witty banter, I watch as, when the other tributes come out onto the stage, Dean takes Shine in his hands, and kisses her.

Hatred boils up inside me as I stand up and run to my room, tears flowing in rivers down my face, I hear the others calling me but I ignore them. When I get to my room I bolt, and lock the roomโ€™s door. Then, I lay myself down on my bed and sob. I donโ€™t know why I am like this, I shouldnโ€™t be like this. I canโ€™t be crying over some jerk who Iโ€™ll have to kill. But then I realise he isnโ€™t a jerk. And he shouldnโ€™t die, not even Shine should die. I donโ€™t hate them, I hate myself, for letting myself get close, too close so I actually cared. Every touch we shared has been an invitation to my deathbed. To leave the world forever, and to never come back. But I realize that I wouldnโ€™t care if Shine kissed Dean, itโ€™s the fact that Dean kissed Shine that makes it worse. I cry some more and eventually fall asleep.

I wake up to just feeling sad, but frightened. Why am I frightened? Then I realise, today, I am getting put in the arena. Today, I will watch the other tributes die. For the first time, today I will kill. I jump out of bed, pacing, at least I got a good nightโ€™s sleep but that was only because I forgot what was comingโ€ฆ I walk out of my room and dash back in. I need to get dressed. After I get dressed, I walk out and into the dining room, good, no one else is up yet. I eat breakfast, two poached eggs with an assortment of spices and a fruit salad. I am almost finished when Dean walks into the room. I purposely knock the grapes onto the floor as an attempt to not look at him. It doesnโ€™t work. As both he and I bend down to pick them up our fingers touch and Iโ€™m thinking, are you as scared as I am? That you might never see the light of day again? That you could be dead and bleeding within a few hours? And then Iโ€™m thinking how I probably looked like an idiot last night. Running out of the room. I stand and leave the room. I donโ€™t think he even noticed.

I walk to the end of the hallway then turn around. I reach the door to the roof. I hesitate before going up. The Careers canโ€™t hurt me more than Dean has last night. I get to the top of the stairs and find the roof deserted. Good. I sit on the bench. I sit and the time seems to go superspeed. Eventually itโ€™s my mother who finds me, I donโ€™t realise she is there until she touches my shoulder. I dart away from her.

โ€œItโ€™s time,โ€ she says in a hollow voice. I look at her red eyes, her wet face, sheโ€™s been crying. A lot. I get up and follow her to the hatch. I grab her hand.

โ€œMum,โ€ I say, terrified.

โ€œItโ€™s okay.โ€ she says. What empty words. It will never be the same again.

As we walk down the stairs time seems to go slower. The world seems slower. Shallow, empty, not remotely real. Dad, Mum and Grandpa will be with me till the hovercraft to say goodbye. I donโ€™t want to say goodbye to Dean. Racheal will be with me in the stockyard. The place animals go before slaughter. As I walk to the elevator the world begins to spin, blooming in alarming ways. Of course, itโ€™s not real, and itโ€™s nothing to what will be happening in about half an hour. I step outside and a car draws up in front of me. I get in. The world seems to be going in chunks, Iโ€™m in the car, then Iโ€™m out. Iโ€™m climbing stairs to the roof with the hovercraft. Then Iโ€™m hugging my Mum, then my Dad, then Grandpa, trying to stop the tears from spilling. Their mouths move but I canโ€™t hear the words, Iโ€™m just staring at their faces and taking in every tiny detail as if I will never see them again. Which I wonโ€™t. A ladder drops down in front of me and I know my time is up. I reach out a hand but before I touch it, stop. What would happen if I simply ran, ran and never looked back right now. If I didnโ€™t touch the ladder. I deliberate, then make my choice.

I touch the ladder. Instantly an electric current freezes me in place, no matter how hard I try, I canโ€™t move a muscle. I am pulled up into the hovercraft. I expect to be released but a woman comes at me, carrying a needle about the size of my face.

โ€œItโ€™s just your tracker, Willow ,โ€ she says, โ€œNothing to worry about.โ€

Nothing to worry about, itโ€™s just my tracker. I feel a sharp prick and know that the tracker is in me, directly connected to my heart, thatโ€™s how they know if youโ€™re dead in the arena. If youโ€™re dead your heart stops, and your tracker stops. Then they know youโ€™re gone.

After the woman takes the needle out I collapse to the floor. I then stand up and make my way to the chair marked โ€˜District Twelve Female.โ€™ I sit down and wait as the rest of the tributes get lifted up.

Soon, we touch down at the arena. Iโ€™m lifted down. I walk down the stairs and into a door marked โ€˜Willow Mellarkโ€™. I am the first and the last to use this room. Capitol citizens can visit the arena, take part in reenactments, even tour the catacombs. The food is supposedly excellent.

I open my door and find Racheal. She jumps up and leads me to a couch to sit. She then helps me get dressed, a pair of sturdy brown pants, a green shirt, and leather boots with good, hard soles. Last comes my jacket, a long one that slightly puffs up. She asks if I would like food. I refuse but ask for water. Juice comes. Apple juice. With a straw. I donโ€™t talk. I sip my drink. I wait. When Racheal pats the couch beside her I donโ€™t hesitate. I walk over and sit down next to her and lay across her lap. She strokes my hair. Then stops.

โ€œItโ€™s time,โ€ she says. I get up off her lap. Already, half my soul seems to have left my body. I step onto the platform that will lift me to my death.

โ€œRemember,โ€ says Racheal, โ€œYou can win this if you believe that you can.You are just as good as them.โ€

She takes something out of her pocket and puts the chain over my head. Itโ€™s my necklace, my Mockingjay. I'd forgotten about it. She puts her finger to her lips then lowers it over my head and under my shirt.

I canโ€™t win but I nod anyway. The glass separates us, and I am lifted upwards. The crisp coldness hits my skin as the voice of Claudius Templesmith fills my ears.

โ€œLadies and Gentlemen, let the One hundred and twenty-fourth Hunger Games, begin!โ€

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