Deep in the Meadow

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Chapter 6

I donโ€™t hear a word of President Erika Snowโ€™s speech. All of it is just a mess of sound and air, meaningless to what just happened.

My Motherโ€™s Mockingjay, the symbol of the rebellion. What will happen now that itโ€™s back up in the air?

The carriage starts forward suddenly. I think about Rachel terrified. What has she done? What will they do to her? They killed Cinna! Will they kill her? I have only known her for about two days but she seems like my best friend.

It takes a moment for me to realise that we have stopped. I step down, shaking like a leaf. โ€œAre you ok?โ€ asks Dean.

โ€œYeah, yeah Iโ€™m fine.โ€

โ€œAre you coming to dinner?โ€ Dean says, apparently convinced Iโ€™m alright. โ€œWeโ€™re watching the rerun. Or you could go to your room. We do have training tomorrowโ€

โ€œItโ€™s fine,โ€ I lie โ€œIโ€™ll come to dinner.โ€

Then there is a big kerfuffle as Effie, Rachel and Deanโ€™s stylist Catiena come rushing over to us saying things like,

โ€œYou were great!โ€

โ€œYou looked awesome!โ€

โ€œThe Capitol residents were astounded!โ€

Weโ€™re shoved towards the elevators and are separated. I end up with some other tributes, the small girl with black hair from 9, the twelve year old boy from 7, both from 6 and the boy from 1. As District 12, I get off last. When the door finally opens at the top, I look up and down the corridor then set off at a run. I open a blue door with โ€˜Stairsโ€™ written on an old peeling sign. I open it and start to run. Up one step, then another. I only stop when I almost break my skull as I hit a hatch. I run my fingers across the handle then decide to go up.

I lift myself over the framing as wind hits me. Slowly, I look around. I am on the roof. I see thousands of twinkling lights, I stand still as music hits my ears. In the corner is a garden. It has a rainbow of flowers and different shaped wind chimes. I walk over as tears start to flow. The truth is, I donโ€™t want to die, and I donโ€™t want to watch others die. I collapse on a bench with flower engravings and start to sob in my hands. I sit there for ages, then when I canโ€™t cry anymore I sit and stare into space, thinking about home. What will have happened? Will Marley, Finnick, Dianne and Rye think I have a chance? If they do, they will realise their mistake soon enough.

Suddenly there is a bang. I flip around to see the brutish boy from 4 and his partner, the two from 1 and the pair from 2 emerge from the trapdoor. They walk towards me. Even as I duck down I know that they will have seen me.

โ€œHey, diamond girl,โ€ one says. โ€œYou can stop hiding, we all know you are here.โ€

A closer look tells me it is the boy from 1,

โ€œYah,โ€ says the girl from 2. โ€œWe arenโ€™t stupid, you know.โ€

โ€œThatโ€™s news to me,โ€ I say sarcastically, standing up.

โ€œSo,โ€ says the boy from 4 โ€œWe have aโ€ฆ a preposition for you.โ€

โ€œWhat is it?โ€ I ask, slightly cautious.

โ€œHang on, letโ€™s start from the beginning,โ€ says the boy from 4. โ€œMy name is Izack and I am from District 4,โ€ he says with a smirk โ€œThis is Coral and she is my district partner, and this is Abbot from 2.โ€ He points at the boy with black hair and light skin, he is one of the biggest, at least double my size. โ€œThis is Vinea, also from 2,โ€ Vinea is a small girl with red hair and small black eyes. โ€œAnd here are Kenji and Shine from 1.โ€ He gestures to a huge boy with blond hair and an impish grin and then to a beautiful girl with long wavy brown hair and browny-green eyes who smiles at me. Shine. Ugh. There are such weird names in District 1.

โ€œSo what?โ€ I say, slightly confused. Why are they telling me this? โ€œWhat is your question?โ€ I say warily.

โ€œItโ€™s a proposition,โ€ corrects Coral, the District 4 girl โ€œWhat is our proposition? We want you to be our allyโ€

I freeze, my brain processing what I heard. A sound escapes my mouth, something between a groan and a sigh. I am still slightly confused.

โ€œWhy me?โ€

โ€œWhy you?โ€ scorns Izack โ€œYou are the daughter of Katniss Everdeen! She won! You are a victorโ€™s child! We obviously want you as support!โ€

โ€œSo you want ME?โ€

โ€œYES! We want YOU,โ€ shouts Coral.

โ€œWho else have you asked?โ€ I ask cautiously

โ€œWho ELSE?โ€ says Venia, โ€œPleaseโ€ looking around at her fellow Careers skeptically, โ€œWho else. Really? You think we would ask anyone else? Who? Your District partner? That Dean boy? The midgets, from District 7, Jazi and Thren? The District 11s, Mici and Greg? Who?โ€

I think. Now I know the names of the twelve year olds, Jazi and Thren. By joining the Careers I will have to hunt others down. But by joining them I will have protection, and if I refuse, I will be their first target. I know what I must do. The Careers have always been the strongest and, like it or not, one of them will win.

โ€œNoโ€ I say softly

โ€œWhat was that?โ€ askes Izack โ€œWhat did you say?โ€

โ€œI said NOโ€ I shout โ€œNO, NEVER! I will never join you! I wonโ€™t ever be a Career!โ€ Oops, bad mistake. The Careers hate it when others call them Careers.

They turn to each other scowling. Turning, Izack smiles.

โ€œLetโ€™s let her have it.โ€

I step back,

โ€œThatโ€™s illegalโ€ I say shakely. There is no way I can take all six of them on at once and itโ€™s true, it is illegal. According to Panem law, no tributes can fight each other before the games.

โ€œItโ€™s only illegal if someone sees us,โ€replies Izack. โ€œAnd nobody knows we are up hereโ€

I gasp knowing that is true, nobody saw me come up here and by the way the Careers are acting, nobody saw them either. I chill to the bone, frantically edging around the bench trying to find a way out. There is none. Izack jeers โ€œTrying to escape, diamond girl? You canโ€™t leave. Weโ€™ll stop you,โ€ then he attacks.

His fist comes at me, knocking me sideways over the barrier. There is a sharp zapping noise and I am catapulted down to the ground. I shake myself gingerly, nothing seems to be broken but everything hurts. Itโ€™s too late, they are coming. My eyes dart to each side of me. The trapdoor! Still open from when the Careers entered! It is about three or four metres to my right. The Careers are coming from my left. Without pausing to think, I run sideways and trip on the opening to the hatch. Successfully escaping but falling down every single stair afterwards, I pick myself up, moaning.

I hear footsteps, obviously someone heard me falling. The door opens and I gasp, it is a woman, a Capitol woman but she looks so normal. She has wavy blond hair and bright blue eyes, she isnโ€™t wearing any make up and doesnโ€™t have any weird alterations except for some jewels in her hair, she looks like a girl. She must be twenty at least. She is wearing a sort of uniform, a white dress and boots.

โ€œWho are youโ€ I ask, staring at her face. She smiles and points to her mouth indicating silence. โ€œOhhh,โ€ I say โ€œAn Avox,โ€ an Avox, a traitor to the Capitol, the Capitol cut out their tongues so they would never speak again. I think about the punishment my mother received. They were going to either kill her or make her an Avox, but they came up with a supposed worse punishment. All the people who reminded her of the lives that had been lost were moved to District 12, like Gale, Rueโ€™s family, Annie and her son Finnick, Marvelโ€™s family, Cloveโ€™s family, Catoโ€™s family, Glimmerโ€™s family and Threshโ€™s family, and of course just some random people from other Districts to make a sizeable population. Of course they were right, it is worse, nobody talks to us except a few, like Rueโ€™s sisters and mother, Annie, Finnick, my friends and some of the Hob traders.The Avox reaches into her dress and brings out a notepad and a pen. She begins to write:

Are you alright?

I nod in reply

My name is Maryanne, she writes. I am an Avox, and you are Willow Everdeen? Arenโ€™t you? I nod again.

Would you like me to help you find your room or would you like to go to your dinner?

โ€œCan I just go to my room?โ€ I reply

Ok, I would do the same. But first letโ€™s clean you up a bit.

I take a step and wince, my fall undoubtedly made the aches worse. Maryanne slowly leads me to a bathroom. I catch sight of myself in the mirror, I flinch, my hair is chaotic and my face is pink from crying, I have lipstick on my chin and eyeshadow on my forehead and cheeks. Maryanne first washes my face and then brings me to my room to change.

It is full of buttons, so many of them I could stay for a hundred years and not press them all. The shower has heaps of contractions, from the exact degree you want the water to be, to the fifty different types of shampoo and conditioner. I undress and step in, choosing a passionfruit smelling soap that immediately makes me glow and a mix between rainbow and black water that is exactly fifteen point three - six degrees. I step out onto the mat, it senses that my hair is wet and sends a rush of warm air down that unravels, dries, and naturally waves my hair. It also dries me from head to toe. I go to the plasma screen on the wall next to the shower and program an outfit to my liking. Moments later it appears, smooth black jeans and a black singlet with gold lining. I step into it and examine my room, there is a small white bed and lots of different devices around the room. I wander around examining them. There is a speaker that I only have to whisper a food into, then it appears on a platter, hot and steaming, ready to eat. I walk around for a while, eating sliced turkey wrapped in bacon and jacket potatoes with melted cheese.

Tomorrow is my first training session. I fall on my bed and think, I am not afraid of Izack but I canโ€™t take all six of them. They have trained all their lives to be here, though technically, so have I.

Every day since I was at least five my mother and my father would take me beyond the fence into the woods. They would teach me a different skill in turn, as the other parent would look after Rye. I learnt camouflage and how to lie from my father, how to hunt and shoot from my mother. On certain occasions Grandpa joined us, he taught me to perform and to strategize. But I learnt how to throw and use a sword on my own. It was the first time I went into the woods alone. I only had a few knives, a pack with ropes and a coat, and a sharp stick, I was further than I had ever been into the woods when I saw it. A huge mountain lion. It was at least three times the size of me at the time. My first instinct was to walk slowly backwards. But it had seen me. I froze as it came closer, it bent into the long grass so I couldnโ€™t see it. Then I heard a twig snap behind me. I turned just in time to see it jumping through the air towards me. With a smooth movement I unearthed my sharp stick. I slashed at the beast. It was caught in the stomach and leapt away growling. Then it attacked again. This time I caught it in the throat. It limped away whimpering. I followed it, wanting to see where it went and if there were any more.

I followed it for some time until I came across a cave where the footprints stopped walking into the cave. I found the lion, dead on the floor about halfway to the back of the cave. I tied the paws with rope. I would be able to make coats with the skin. Then I heard squeaks, I went to the back of the cave and found a mountain lion cub. It must have only been at least two or three years old. I picked it up and held it, it was just light enough for me to do that. I looked at it. I would keep it. I walked out, dragging the lion behind me, the cub followed happily. That is when I decided to use a sword. The lionโ€™s pelt was made into several coats, all given to those in need or my family, and the cub died of old age a while ago. I sort of miss it.

I flop down on my bed and I fall asleep almost instantly. Into a dreamless sleep, dreading what events will come to place in the days ahead.

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