Why is the alarm ringing so early I think, as I stretch out in my comfortable queen size bed. I swing my legs over the side of the bed and look at the alarm clock. I turn it off and stand up to stretch some more. I grab my towel and robe and walk to the master bathroom adjacent to the bedroom. I turn on the shower and let the water warm up a little. Even in Victor's Village the hot water takes a little to warm up, especially now that I am the only one using the pipes now. I peel off my sleeping clothes and step into the warm water. For about five minutes I let the water just pound over my head and wake me up. After that time I finally realize what day it is, Reaping Day.
"Oh shit," I exclaim to no one in particular.
This day brings back so many painful memories. The day my life changed forever and not in a good way. The day I was ripped from my home forced to kill to stay alive. The day, for ten years after, I still dread. So many years have passed and already so much death, more than anyone should have to go through in a lifetime. The only one still alive that I care about is Prim, and she is safe with her Capitol husband. They met when he came to talk about the games one day and were soon married. I wasn't overly comfortable with it but I saw two positives to it. One, she was the happiest I had ever seen her the day he proposed, and nobody could harm a Gamemaker's wife. Everyone else was gone though, well except Effie. My mother died of an incurable disease called Fast Acting Cancer Syndrome or FACS for short. It is a mutated version of cancer but the t-cells regenerate and mutate more rapidly so any medicine wouldn't work on it. Gale died in a mining accident a couple years after my games, we had grown apart, he didn't believe me on the whole fake romance thing, so he never spoke to me. Which is fine, I never really loved him anyway. Haymitch overdosed on alcohol on the ride home from the last games where two sixteen year olds had been reaped from our district and suffered quite gruesome deaths. It was just too much for him at that point, and I don't blame him. Peeta was killed in my games by Cato, he snapped his neck before I could fire the arrow. Every day I blame myself for his death, especially when he was gone did I realize how much I cared for him. I know now that I had truly loved him, and today I have to look at two more faces when I know that one of them won't be returning. I finish my shower, step out, and dry myself off. I slip into my comfortable dress that Cinna designed for me. Cinna, I almost forgot. He has been doing really well, the Capitol has showered him in riches with all his popularity. He found the love of his life, which turns out to be Effie, and they have three lovely children together. She retired from the escorting business after I won my games, something about wanting to go out on top. It's probably because she didn't want to deal with the next Quarter Quell. Yeah, hell of a first mentoring task. The first Quells were bad enough, the first being that the people had to vote their tributes in, and the second with double the tributes. The third Quarter Quell was terrible though. The person that was reaped had to choose two contestants to go to the arena. In twelve, that duty fell to an eager girl of thirteen, with braids just like mine. Her face turned to sheer horror as she learned what the quell was. She picked her tributes to go with her into the arena, and sadly that little girl, Natalie was her name, was one of the first to die in that quell. I can't imagine what I have to go through today.
Today is the day I think as I spring out of bed
Today is the day that will change everything. The love of my life, Ron, proposed to me last night and we are getting married today right after the Reaping. I hustle into the bathroom to begin the reaping day ritual.
My last reaping day too, I think, This day couldn't get any better
. I look into the mirror and see that my red hair is a complete mess. I comb through it and put it into a Katniss braid for luck, just in case. All the girls have been wearing their hair like this ever since the girl on fire won her games coming from the Seam. After putting on a silver dress that my mother wore for her last reaping, I gather my two brothers and head over to Ron's house to meet him before going to the square. We have gone to every Reaping together and escaped so I'm not about to break that streak on our last one. Ron's little sister is still a baby, so she escapes the reaping for a couple more years, so it's just him. I walk up to his front door and knock.
His father answers and says, "Ronald, there is a very beautiful young lady here for you."
He ushers us in and I'm waiting for Ron when he calls down, "Uh KP? Can you come here for a second?"
I look at my brothers and say, "Don't break anything while I'm gone. I'll be back in a couple of minutes, he probably just needs help with his bow tie again."
I start to climb up the stairs to Ron's room to find that my assumption is true. Ron is struggling with the small amount of length that a bow tie has and some how wrapped itself completely around his body.
"Having trouble?" I ask, a tint of teasing to my voice.
"Nah, no trouble. Just wanted to talk to my beautiful fiancé." Ron said with his trademark goofy grin. "I don't even remember the bow tie being this long," he complained.
"Well, while I do enjoy talking to my guy, I'm gonna help you anyway," I said laughing.
I untangled Ron from the "bow tie of death" as he called it. It was almost time for the reaping so I gathered Ron and my brothers and headed towards town square for the reaping.
I scan the crowd to look at the faces of the children that will have two of their kind plucked from their homes and have their lives induced with horror till their last breath. My mind flashes back to last years games, the one that drove Haymitch over the edge.
The arena was a nightmare. It was a rocky desert terrain, the gamemakers told us that it was molded by the Mojave Desert, a place in the country before Panem. My two tributes were doing surprisingly well. They both had made it down to the final eight, and had great promise to win. Then the boy was killed by another boy from district four. The girl, Tara, blonde and surprisingly agile found the boy from four just as he was pulling the spear out of my boy. A quick knife to the temple and the boy from four was gone as well.
The girl was quite grief stricken at that point, just as I had been with Rue. She kept moving on and had made it down to the final four when it happened. She was traveling down a rocky path, headed for the small pond of water that she had found, when a giant of a man jumped out from behind a rock ambushing her. He had caught her by the braid she had been wearing, as does all the other girls from twelve. They call it the Katniss braid because they think it is lucky for them. Turns out when she had to cut off the braid, that is when her luck ran out. She had started to run, when she fell into a pit. When the boy found her he was almost ready to jump in when he heard the sound. The sound of a thousand rattles going off at once. Watching the live broadcast that I keep on my mentor screen for extra info I heard Caesar mention the name of the creature called a rattlesnake. I pulled up the research center the Capitol provides and found the animal. A snake that had a rattle on its tail and diamond pattern on its back. I told Haymitch that this creature was called a Diamondback Rattlesnake and that its venom was very toxic. Sure enough when they showed her on the screen, I saw the very same animal that was on my computer screen. Except there wasn't just one, there were hundreds. She had fallen into a den of sorts and all of the snakes were pissed off. Before she could even think she had been bitten several times and was slowly dying. Haymitch and I frantically searched for the antivenom. Finally Haymitch found it and was about to hit send when his screen went black. When a tribute is seconds away from death, no sponsor gifts may be sent. Tara looked up at the stars that were in the sky directly above her and horsley said "help me," and then she breathed her last.
Haymitch blamed himself so hard that on the train ride home, he killed himself. I can't blame him, even throughout 34 years of mentoring the games, he has only brought out one victor. He has seen 68 tributes die and there is only so much alcohol can do.
The mayor is walking up to the podium to begin the glorious celebration of the Reaping.
The mayor is giving his usual talk about the Capitol and the war between the districts 84 years ago. The obliteration of thirteen and the creating of the games ends his speech and he begins the drawings.
"Ladies First," he says with a tiredness to his voice. The man that is head of the slummiest district, that has two children mandatorily killed every year warrants some despair. "The female tribute for the 84th annual Hunger Games is, Jennifer Rockwaller."
My stomach immediately lurches and I look to the girl that had her name just called. Jennifer was a sister to a friend that I went to school with. Jennifer had just turned twelve today.
Damn I thought. This is the thinnest girl that I have ever seen. She looked like she was barely four foot tall and maybe eighty pounds soaking wet. There would be no bringing this girl back, absolute no chance. A big career could toss her twenty yards if he or she wanted to. Plus, I knew this family. I often traded game with this family for clothing for my family. She had three older sisters, one still eligible for the Reaping, but I knew that she would not. Family only goes so far in the Hunger Games plus Bonnie was a bitch that only thinks for herself. I almost put an arrow through her head, that is how annoying she is. I have already accepted her fate. I guess that the scream of "I VOLUNTEER" caught me so off guard.
It takes me a couple of seconds before my brain registers what I have just done. I stand there in place, my head getting dizzier as the moments go on. I couldn't take that little girl going into the games, she had zero percent chance of surviving the games. I gather myself and walk towards the stage, trying to keep my cool. When I get to the stairs, Jennifer rushes over to me and gives me a big hug.
"Why?" she asks, confusion in her voice.
"Because," I say, "everyone needs somebody in the end." I say and silently climb the steps. I notice just one thing, Katniss is studying me very carefully.
Who is this? I think to myself as the girl with the red hair climbs the steps. She threw herself into the games, for what? Glory? Respect? Judging by her clothes, she doesn't seem to be in so bad of shape financially. By my initial reaction, this girl despises me. Why do people willingly volunteer for these games, seeking fame and fortune. The look on her face as she climbs the stairs, however, changes my entire view of the girl. She has a look on her face, not of some happy go lucky, arrogant, thrill seeker. No, she has on a grim face of determination. I put two and two together and figure out that she stepped up to protect this kid. I take another look at the girl and start to scan her physical features. About as tall as I am, and a thin but muscular frame. She brings an aura about her that she can accomplish anything. I see what I have been looking for in a long time. Potential.
My first look on the stage was Katniss. People have told stories about the physique that Katniss has and the power that surrounds her. While I see that, I see something else in the Seam grey eyes of hers. She looks exhausted, like a girl that was deprived of everything near and dear to her heart and had her childhood stripped away from her. Then suddenly she had a spark to her emotion, and she sat up taller. I turned away from the girl on fire and looked out across the crowd. Of course the first person my eyes land on is Ron. He is looking up at me, with a sad and determined look on his face. I know what he is planning, and I try to do anything to stop him. I stare at him with pleading eyes and even pull out my secret weapon, the puppy dog pout. It doesn't seem to have an effect so when the mayor asks for my name, I use my last chance effort to catch him off guard so he can't volunteer.
"Kim Stoppable," I say, loud and proud. My voice resonates over the town square and I glance at Ron, and know that there will be no changing his mind on this matter.
"Now for the boys," the Mayor says, even though I already know the outcome.
"Wade Load," the Mayor says, and not even seconds after he says it, Ron calls out his volunteer. With this the tears begin to flow.
Two Volunteers I think, well the media will certainly be around 12 this year. I look at the boy and take him in. Tall, lean, and strong, with a look of determination to his eyes. This sandy haired boy has a protective nature to him, I can tell. When he gets to where Wade is standing, he brushes right past him. He certainly wasn't volunteering to protect the boy, but he was protecting someone nevertheless. It isn't until I look at the screen that I know who. Kim is crying profusely and when Ron goes to stand by her, she leans on his shoulder and continues to sob. These two are either a couple, or very good family members. I am completely unprepared for what comes next though. When the Mayor asks him his name he replies plainly,
It hits me like a brick wall. For the first time in Hunger Games history, two tributes will be married. I can't imagine what could go worse when the Mayor says that before the anthem, President Snow has sent us all a very special message.
Congratulations Tributes! I know you are all pleased with receiving the honor of representing your district in the 84th annual Hunger Games. Before you are escorted to the luxury of the Capitol, a little history lesson. 10 years ago, a girl from district 12 won these very games. Katniss Everdeen, or as most people know her as the girl on fire, had pledged herself in the games to one thing, and one thing only, protecting Peeta Mellark. Sadly he was killed in the final minutes of the games as she was trying to save him. So in the memory of her sacrifice, this year two tributes may be allowed to win if they originate from the same district. No catch, no tricks. So with that happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favor.