The clock read 5am. I usually met Gale, my hunting partner and best friend, around 5:30 in the woods outside District 12. I only had thirty minutes so I decided to get up and ready. I yawned and stretched, being careful not to wake my little sister Prim. She was 12 this year; it was going to be her first reaping. The odds were definitely in her favor because she only had one slip among thousands that read, Primrose Everdeen. I had quite a few slips of paper with my name on them. One of the reasons being I was 16, and another because during the few years our family was starving I had taken tesserae to help keep us alive.
I slipped into my sturdy leather boots and my Dad's old hunting jacket and quietly snuck out the back door. The morning air was cool and crisp and felt wonderful as I ran to the weak spot in the fence nearest my house where I always went through to the woods.
I arrived at mine and Gale’s meeting place first and sat down to wait for him. It wasn’t long before I saw him walking towards me, taking long strides. He was so handsome, and tall and muscular, the list could go on and on.
We have known each other for four years. We met in the woods when he was 14 and I was 12. He thought I was stealing the game that was caught in his snares.
It took a while before we could fully trust one another, but after that we became best friends, and have been hunter partners ever since; helping each other feed our families since both of our Dad’s dies in the same mining accident.
Gale had two brothers and a sister to take care of, and I had Prim and my Mother who had given up on her part to care for her kids.
“Hey Catnip.” I turned around, startled at the voice coming from behind me.
“Daydreaming again?” I nodded. Lately I’ve been caught daydreaming and I’m not sure why.
“Ready to go?” I asked and stood up, brushing myself off.
Gale took my hand and together we went to our hiding place where we kept our bow and arrows and extra snares and things.
We took our usual route through the forest, Gale checking his traps from the previous day and me trying to shoot whatever looked good enough to eat or sell, either to the Bakery or the Hob.
“Today’s your last reaping.” I mention to Gale.
“Yeah, if I get through it with having to go to the capitol.” Gale hates the capitol even more than I do and is always trying to come up with plots of revenge.
“I sure hope you don’t get reaped.” He says to me. “I don’t know what I would do if you died!”
This is a first. Gale never says anything like that to me. I wonder if he shares the same affection for me as I do for him, or if I am just his hunting partner.
He’s had a crush on the mayor’s daughter for as long as I’ve known him, but still hasn’t had the guts to even say hi. I’m the only one he’s ever told, and we never really talk about our social lives outside of hunting, not that we even have social lives, or friends for that matter. Madge is my friend, but that’s about it.
“I’m scared Gale.” I don’t know where that came from, but I hadn’t been able to tell anyone my true feelings lately.
“You’ll be fine, I promise.”
He pulled me into a tight hug and I held on for dear life, never wanting to let go.
Gale is different from anyone I know, and it’s not just because he is also a poor Seam kid that I like him so much.
We were never more than hunting partners but everyone at school seems to think we are a couple. I don’t mind but Gale gets mad every time he hears the gossip.
“You were daydreaming again.”
“Oh, sorry.” I would try harder not to go off into la la land when I was in his company.
“Were you saying something?” I ask, giving him my full attention.
“Yeah, I said that if we are finished here we should head into town and see if we can trade one of these squirrels for a fresh loaf of bread.” I nodded and began following him out of the woods. We squeezed through the weak spot in the fence and were on our way into town. I could just taste the Bakery bread now.
The baker’s son met us at the front counter. Peeta I think his name is.
“Good Morning.” He greeted us with a smile.
“What can I do for you?”
Gale opened his sack and pulled out a squirrel. He held it up for Peeta to examine. A minute later Peeta took the squirrel from Gale and in return handed us a warm loaf and a small paper bag cookies.
“But this is too much.” Gale argued. Peeta put up his hand.
“It’s reaping day.” He smiled again. I had noticed he smiled a lot.
“Thanks Peeta.” I said on our way out.
“Bye Katniss.” Was his quiet reply.
“What was that?” Gale accused when we were on our way home.
“I was just being friendly!” I shot at him. “Good grief!”
“See you at the reaping.” I said as we parted ways to head to our separate houses.
“Where something pretty.” Was his reply. I laughed, and hurried home. Mother would be angry if I was late.
When I arrived both my Mom and Prim were all scrubbed clean and wearing new dresses. They weren’t fancy but nice enough; it was all we could afford.
“You look gorgeous little duck.” I complimented my little sister. “All the boys will be looking at you.”
She blushed. “Do you really think so?”
“Positive.” She blushed again, and grinned.
I hurried to the room we shared and climbed into the tub Mom had ready for me. I scrubbed myself until every speck of dirt was gone. I then dried myself off and slipped into the clean blue dress that was spread out on my bed.
I don’t usually like to dress but this was a must. You had to look nice if you were picked and had to go to the capitol. I was all ready and going out the door with Mother and Prim in record time.
Everyone has to attend the reaping unless you are on your deathbed. Otherwise you will be thrown in jail, or the capitol will purposely try to make your life miserable.
Our walk was a short one, and when we arrived in the town square we parted ways. I went to the roped off section that was for the 16 year old and Prim to the 12 year old division.
I tried to find Gale. I finally located him; it actually wasn’t that hard, him being so tall. We locked eyes for a moment, wishing each other the best of luck.
Just then Mayor Undersee stepped up onto the stage and gave the Hunger Games speech that we had all memorized and was getting quite boring.
Then Effie Trinket took over. She was handed the two glass bowls with all of District 12’s children’s names from ages 12 to 18.
“Welcome to the 74th annual Hunger Games.” She said in her strong capitol accent. “May the odds be ever in your favor!”
“Ladies first.” Her voice rang out.
When Gale and I are alone we like mimic the capitol accents that sound so weird to us. Gale is better at it than I am though.
Effie’s delicate hand went into the bowl with the girls’ names. Please don’t let it be Gale! Or me! Or Prim! Or anyone that I know! Oh Please!
“Madge Undersee.” Oh no! Not Madge! Why does it have to be my only friend?
I watched Madge walk confidently up to the stage and shake hands with the mayor, who was her Father, and Effie. She didn’t cry, just stared off into the distant like what had happened hadn’t quite registered in her mind yet.
The mayor handled it surprisingly well too.
“Now for the boys.” Effie again took the glass bowl with the boys’ names and swirled her hand around in the midst of thousands of slips of paper. Please don’t let it be Gale! I’ve already lost my only other friend. I would just die if he were picked.
I don’t really know any other boys but the baker’s son Peeta had always been nice to me so I hoped his name wasn’t on that piece of paper that Effie was about to open.
The entire town held their breaths.
“Gale Hawthorne.” No! This can’t be happening! Why him?
I heard his Mother Hazel sniffle while trying to comfort her three younger children. Rory was the same age as Prim, but the other two were too young for the reaping.
Gale also walked up to the stage with masked emotions. He shook hands with Effie and the mayor and then with Madge.
I noticed Peeta staring at me, when I looked at him he gave me a sad smile and mouthed, I’m sorry. I don’t know why he would be paying any attention to a girl from the Seam but I was glad for the little comfort he gave me.
“I give you our two District 12 tributes, “Madge Undersee and Gale Hawthorne.” Effie said.
No one clapped. It was the one thing we could do to show our disgust at the capitol and the Hunger Games.
The tributes were then ushered off the stage by a group of PeaceKeepers and I got in line to go say goodbye to my two best friends.