I walk down the hallway and enter the dining room of the train - where Mum, Grandpa and Dean are already sitting - Grandpa is sleeping on the table, a bottle in his grasp, already flat out drunk. Mum is staring out the window so Dad must be with Effie in another compartment talking about tactics. Dean is the only one who looks up as I enter, “Hi,” he says, I grunt in reply. “Oh come on, we should get a bit more social,” he reprimands me, “So,” he directs a question at my mum, “Any tips? Or advice?”
“Stay alive,” she says. Grandpa murmurs something inaudible and then falls off his chair. I walk over and heave him up back on his chair, taking the bottle as I go.
“You don’t need this anymore,” I say and then chuck it into the bin where it shatters. He moves. I react instantly, ducking and rolling to the ground as his arm comes flying at me from above. I roll across the floor, spring up to my feet and kick out at the hand. Shoot. I forgot he always has a knife clutched in his fist when he sleeps. He cuts off my shoelaces as I pull my foot back just in time to roll under and swing a kick from under. It knocks the knife into the corner of the carriage, where a startled Dean picks it up.
“Teach me how to do tha-” Dean says in an awed voice and then stops abruptly, “DUCK,” he shouts. I fall to the ground as Dean throws the knife behind me.
Terror. That’s the first thing I feel, terror that he may have killed someone. Elation. That he can throw that hard. Fear. Because I will be his competitor in the games and why not admit it, jealousy. Jealousy that he is able to do that without a shadow of doubt, I bet he could kill in the blink of an eye whereas me… I think I could kill if I had to, but I would have guilt around it for the rest of my life. I grip the necklace Dianne gave me as I stand and slowly turn around.
Grandpa is pinned to the wall, pinned by the knife in his belt. In his belt?! Dean can throw so hard that a knife can make it through two layers of leather and still drive so hard into the wall that only the hilt is visible. Now I know I have no chance. Mum and Grandpa are staring with disbelief at the knife but I look at Dean, his eyes are looking right into mine, he smiles and turns away but suddenly I want him to look back, to look back and never look away.
Mum has freed Grandpa by now and he looks at us, so does Mum. Suddenly I hate them both, for having that moment when it seemed that they didn’t care if I live or die in that stupid arena.
“So,” I say, trying to keep my voice level “Are you actually going to help or are we just going to have to figure it out ourselves?”
“Ok.” replies Mum “Ok, training starts tomorrow after the parade, now let’s have dinner before it gets cold.”
Dinner? I didn’t realize that there was food coming, and what food! I have just finished the starter, fruit salad and puffy bread from District 3 when Dad and Effie come into the carriage just in time for smoked salmon potato cakes, roasted shrimp, and then there is creme brulee with a side of raspberries in chocolate-toffee sauce for dessert. If this is how they eat at the Capitol all the time then it must be amazing.
After dinner we watch the other district’s reaping playbacks, compulsory for all of Panem.
A few stick out to me: a huge boy from District 4 and his beautiful partner, a small girl with deep black hair who smiles mysteriously when she is chosen in District 9, a giant of a boy who leaps forward to volunteer from District 1, a pretty girl from 1 who I notice Dean staring at, and worst of all a pair of twelve year olds from District 7, the girl with brown wavy hair and green eyes, and the boy with blond hair and green eyes though the girl’s are brighter, they both could be 10. Then there’s me, volunteering for Dianne, and Dean walking up to the platform. The reporter gasps dramatically when I say my name and then faints with a loud thunk when she hears Dean’s.
After the reapings, Dean asks if he can show me to my room. I accept his offer while thinking about where I will sleep, probably on a cat bed in the spare room. It is exactly the opposite of what I was expecting. Light blue walls surround the huge, spacious bedroom. On the left side is a small pool that I could stand in surrounded by a bunch of taps with different coloured jewels on the top and a small box sized room with ‘Shower’ written on it in sparkly gold writing. There is a closet next to the shower. The bed is on a raised platform next to the pool with a light purple blanket and plush pillows. The opposite wall is all glass.There is a sign and a button pad, the sign, in bold red letters says ’Do not press number 88, marked as official capitol business. Erm… Okay. They should know that if you put ‘please do not press.’ It just makes you want to press it. Right, let’s get back to pressing buttons. First I press one marked ‘One’ next to the window and gasp. The window now has a mountain scene. I press ‘Two’ and, there’s the Capitol, shining buildings and colorful windows. Ugh. I press the next one over and over, a glorious sunset, a beach view, a castle, and worst of all, all the Hunger Games victors. I see my father and grandpa among them smiling out of their frames. I notice they don’t include my mother. Curiosity overwhelms me and I press 88. I stumble back, shocked, there are pictures of known rebels like Finnick, Johanna Mason, President Coin, Cinna, but what makes it worse is the people like Finnick or Cinna who have red writing over them saying ‘Terminated’. Shuddering I move on to 89 and gasp. It’s a forest, beautiful and calming with the chirping of birds and the rustle of leaves coming from tiny speakers concealed in the room. I move towards it, transfixed until I hear a voice.
“I did that one as well.” It’s Dean. He’s standing at my doorway staring at me. “Reminds me of home. Anyway just thought I’d say hi. Well, bye then.” Then he’s gone. I wonder how it reminds him of home and then everything works itself out in my brain. Him throwing knives, his kindness, saying the woods remind him of home, he is Gale’s son. Gale has probably brought him to the woods since he was two, and one more thought enters my head before I fall asleep, ‘How am I going to kill him?’