The Quarter Quell: Reaping
I wake up in a chair beside a fire with a blanket over me. My neck is stiff from the position I was sleeping in. I recognize the fireplace as typical of the homes in the Seam, meaning someone must have pulled me inside. Panic sets in and I remember my daughter lying out in the cold, freezing and dying as I tried to save her.
“Ivy?” I call out, frantic.
I force myself to stand even though my limbs protest and the blanket falls. My heart is pounding as I turn to see her asleep on the dirty and worn couch. She’s covered in blankets. The bruise on her cheek is an ugly dark purple. I see her take a breath and my pulse returns to normal.
I kneel beside her and run my fingers through her hair, making sure she’s really here. That I’m not dreaming it as I lie outside, freezing to death. My heart is in my throat as I imagine all the ways I could have found her, or, even worse, not found her.
How am I going to mentor her through the Games?
I turn to see Peeta standing by the couch. His eyes are bloodshot and his hair is a mess. He hasn’t slept. There’s a mixture of relief and pain on his face that I can’t describe.
There are many things he wants to say. Things he wants to ask or shout about, but he doesn’t. He won’t. Instead he picks up the blanket I dropped and wraps it around me.
“You should keep that on.”
He sits beside me, twiddling his thumbs and rubbing his palms together. The thought of losing us hasn’t left him yet.
“What happened?” I ask.
“After you didn’t come back, I went looking.”
“He’s in the kitchen with the others.”
I look up and see him standing with Prim and two people I’ve never met. They smile kindly as I meet their gaze. I smile back, grateful that they’ve helped us when they didn’t have to. Prim brings me a mug of something hot.
“Drink this,” she orders. I take it from her. The mug warms my hands almost instantly.
“Is she—“I look at Ivy, the color drained from her, her breaths shallow, the injuries on her face. My throat tightens.
“She’ll be fine. But you need to drink that.”
I sit beside the couch, watching Ivy, making sure she’s okay. I know Prim said she will be fine but I need to be sure. Peeta understands as he always does and joins me. He twiddles his thumbs, trying to distract himself from whatever it is he’s thinking. I have an idea of what it is, I’m thinking it too. How easily it can all be taken.
“And you’re both very lucky,” Prim adds as she checks Ivy. I watch her as she waddles. Her frame is too small for how big her stomach has gotten. Prim’s going to be a great mother. She wouldn’t let her child almost freeze. She would have gotten them out.
“When did you get here?” I ask her.
Prim and Rory don’t live in the Seam and even if I wanted they couldn’t live in the Victor’s Village. So instead of leaving them on their own, I helped them get a nice house with the merchants. Even calling it a wedding present didn’t silence their protests, but I’m stubborn and I wouldn’t take it back, so eventually they accepted it.
“Abel came and got me after they pulled you two inside.”
“Prim, there’s a curfew,” I try but she waves me off.
“Would you rather I let you two die? You needed help, so I helped. The end. Drink that.” She points to the mug in my hand. I do as she says. I don’t like the thought of her risking her life for me. I don’t want anyone to risk their life for me. And yet I would do it for her. So how can I argue?
She walks back to the kitchen and I see Bas shuffle around. He looks scared. Ashamed even. His resolve finally gets the better of him and he walks in. His eyes are red and he looks like he’s been crying.
Peeta helps me stand and doesn’t let go of my hand. I look at Abel and his wife. She is cleaning up a plate that must have been for Bas. I feel bad for not knowing her name. She smiles to me once more.
“Thank you,” I say. They nod and return to the kitchen. Bas bites his lip as he looks at me.
“I’m sorry,” Bas says, shakily.
Peeta squeezes my hand and I feel like I’m waiting for the Quarter Quell announcement again.
“I painted the Mockingjay.”
There’s a long silence after he admits it. Peeta has already heard this, it’s clear by the way he rubs circles on my hand. I put down the mug and take a deep breath. I let go of Peeta’s hand.
“I didn’t realize what was going to happen. You have to understand—“
“I do understand.” I’m not lying. I get it. I know why he did it. He’s angry. He wanted to send a message and he truly didn’t know what was going to happen. How could he? He’s never experienced it first-hand. But it doesn’t stop me from being angry about it. That the thing I have given everything to stop can be restarted instantly. I’m angry that it never really went away. And I’m angry that it was my child who brought it back.
But another part of me, a long dormant part that’s been silenced for far too long, is laughing at this development. The same part of me that’s been laughing since the announcement. Knowing this was always going to happen, knowing that everything I’ve done to stop it has been for nothing. It’s all a joke. A lie that Snow fed me to keep everyone else in line. And, just for a moment, I’m both unsurprised that it was Bas who painted the symbol and proud of him for it.
But I can’t tell Bas any of it. The voice of the Capitol, the fragile, beaten down woman I’ve become, is the one I speak with.
“But it got people killed. And your sister, almost…” I can’t bring myself to say it. Not when I know it’s going to come soon enough. “Do you want to be in a war?”
I want to throw up when I realize I’m throwing President Snow’s words against me right back to my son. The very words that started my downfall.
He doesn’t answer.
“Basil,” Peeta snaps and Bas looks at me. His eyes are wet with fresh tears and he sniffs.
“No I don’t.”
“I know you’re angry and upset, but other people are going to be the ones who pay for your actions. Not the people you want to pay. Innocent people.” I take a breath, trying to shake the memories of the people of Eleven fighting against Peacekeepers, of the bodies lying in the snow last night.
Bas’ fists clench. “Then we should fight, and whoever else wants to should, too.”
“What?” My stomach drops. I imagine Twelve burned to the ground, dead children lying on battlefields, screams of terror as the boots of Snow’s army marches. I smell blood and acid rises in my throat. I swallow it down as I remember Districts fighting back, Peacekeepers beating people in the streets.
I can’t let it happen again. I can’t be responsible for that wave of endless violence, for a war that we can’t win. Panem is broken. There is no beating the Capitol even with the beliefs of those that want to try. They will fail and we will suffer a lot more than Games. There is no one who can change that.
“I’m tired of living like this, knowing I’m going to die, when and where it’s going to happen. I’m not going out under their circumstances. They don’t own me. And I’m tired of them thinking they do. And I’m not the only one. So a war is coming, I guarantee it, it’s just a matter of time, because they’re willing, they’re just waiting.” His eyes are clear, the threat of tears no longer there and they are angry, desperately trying to convince me of something I already know to be true but am too afraid to admit.
“What are they waiting for, Bas?” I ask, my voice cracking.
“For you. The Mockingjay.”
I’m taken aback and Peeta is the one who steps in.
“You need to stop. It’ll get worse if you continue. From now until reaping day, you come home before nightfall; you work in the bakery or go to school. Those are your options.” Peeta shudders, like he’s hurting himself with every word.
Bas laughs. “So I’m grounded until the Capitol takes me to kill me? That’s fair. I’m sorry people died for what I did. I should have thought it through better, put it somewhere else, probably, but I will never be sorry for painting it. Because that symbol is the only hope this country has.”
He goes back into the kitchen. Peeta and I are stunned silent. I want him to be wrong, but he isn’t. That symbol is the only hope this country has. It’s the only hope anyone has for changing things. But I won’t be the one responsible. I can’t be.
When my children’s names are called, I’ll know it’s my fault they are standing on that stage. And if Bas is any indication, I know they will blame me for being a coward. I shouldn’t have stopped the revolution all those years ago, but then where would I be? How many lives would I be responsible for ending?
And how many lives am I responsible for ending now because I succeeded in ensuring life went on as usual?
Will my children be added to the list of dead who blame me for their fate?
“Is keeping him from enjoying the last couple weeks really fair?” I ask quietly.
Peeta sighs. “No, but I don’t want him out with the Peacekeepers. They’ll make him pay for it. I’m not letting anyone else in this family get hurt.”
“It’s going to happen soon enough,” I whisper. His hand grips tighter and he turns to look at me, the lines around his eyes more visible. A frown running deep on his face.
“Not if I can help it.”
“They won’t let them both live.”
He breathes and shakes his head. He can’t bring himself to say whatever it is he wants to, or maybe he just can’t admit the reality. Instead he kisses my hand and gives me back the mug.
I take a sip of the warm liquid. It’s a kind of broth that’s common in Twelve. There’s not much in it to give it substance, but it’s warm, and right now, with my body still recovering from almost freezing, it’s welcome.
There’s stirring behind us and I put the mug back down, forgetting I need it as I turn. Ivy tries to sit up but she’s tangled in blankets and can’t get off the couch. She’s clearly disoriented by the unfamiliar surroundings and groggy from sleep. I shush her as I kneel down and place my hands on her shoulders to keep her still.
Her eyes meet mine and she settles back down.
“It’s okay,” I tell her. Her eyes lose focus and I know she’s remembering the events of last night. I’ve done this to myself many times before. Remembering every moment of the arena and wondering what I could have done to save Rue.
She starts to shake and I see the tears coming. “It’s okay,” I repeat as I smooth back her hair. I pull her close, suddenly afraid I might lose her again. She falls into the embrace and sobs.
Bas hovers in the kitchen, pacing back and forth; alternating between glaring at me and staring sympathetically at her. I would laugh at every change in expression if not for the lead in my stomach, the weight of knowing I will have to go through this again and of knowing the damage that has been done to my daughter.
The same damage I have had done to me. In District Eleven. In the arena. Seeing someone die is not an easy thing, and it changes you.
She’s too weak to keep crying but she continues to lean on me. Peeta is beside us and rubs her back as I let go of her. She sits up on her own but won’t look me in the eyes.
“Ivy,” I try but she still won’t look at me. “It wasn’t your fault.”
I remember her lying on the ground. How she said it was because of her, and I know that blame. This wasn’t her. She can’t go into the arena with guilt when she has to fight for her life.
Sympathy is getting me nowhere and I remember how afraid I was when she gave up. How angry I was that she gave up. I still am angry. The other me, the victor, the killer, the girl on fire, she’s angrier. And I let her take control.
“Ivy.” I’m sharp and her wide eyes snap to mine. This is an old voice from interviews, with a dress on fire. A girl standing in an arena holding berries to my mouth so I wouldn’t have to come home alone. “Don’t you ever just lie there like that again.” I don’t need to tell her she can’t give up. She knows, and it would be hypocritical.
“Got it?” I add and she nods, wiping the last of her tears away. “No more crying.”
“I know what they did. But you don’t let them do it to you.”
“What about the arena?”
It’s the first time she’s asked about it. The first time anyone has mentioned it out loud. The frightened me wants to scurry away and never think of it as memories of mutts with familiar eyes resurface. The girl on fire keeps talking. The Mockingjay keeps control.
“What did I say?”
“Don’t let them.”
“Fight,” I tell her. “Prim’s gonna check on you and then we’re going home.”
I kiss her forehead and she stares at me like it’s some new action and then I realize that it is. I’ve given her hugs, quick small ones but only when she’s initiated them. I’ve never given her a goodnight kiss. I’ve tucked her in when she’s asked but I’ve never kissed her. Maybe once when she was a baby, when she was first born, but I can’t even remember if I did then.
It’s always been Peeta who’s been the affectionate one. Never me.
I stand back while Prim checks her over. Peeta watches me, a curious smile toying at him, and I feel a strength returning. I hug Bas and give him a kiss on the forehead. He allows it to happen even though he’s still angry.
I feel as if I’m finally realizing how much I love them when they are about to be taken from me. It’s a cruel feeling. I’ve done all I can to keep them at a distance but still, I am not ready for reaping day. None of us are.
In an hour we leave the house and make our way through the Seam. People are cleaning up the wreckage from the night before, rifling through stuff that was tossed hoping to salvage something.
Peeta keeps Ivy close, holding her up when she struggles to walk. She still has a blanket around her coat and she shakes slightly, but she’s moving. We need to leave before the Peacekeepers see us here. The last thing they need is a reason to tear through people’s homes again.
We reach the Victor’s Village without incident but arrive to two Peacekeepers guarding the entrance.
“Where have you all been?” one asks.
Bas is beside me and I see him stiffen, his hand curls but he stops himself from taking any action. Ivy keeps her eyes glued to the ground and Peeta has a tight hold on her. I look right at him. He’s young, maybe in his twenties, his helmet obscures most of his features but I can make out a scar on his chin.
“Walking,” Peeta replies with a smile. “Is that illegal?”
“Go on.” The Peacekeeper ushers us inside. He spits behind us as we walk through then turns to the other guard, “I can’t wait till reaping day.”
I stop. My blood boils and I feel acid rising. I turn back and begin making my way towards them, readying to give them a fight, but Peeta grabs my arm. I look and see Ivy leaning against the door of the house, Bas holding her upright.
Even from a small distance I can see her bruise glaring at me and I remember everything that happened.
I look at Peeta and he shakes his head. I nod.
“What’s the problem?” the Peacekeeper with the scar asks.
“No problem. Just thought I was going to be sick,” I reply monotonously. Peeta and I make our way inside.
My mother barely lets me out of her sight for the rest of the night and when we eat we are silent. No one wants to address what happened and I’m not entirely sure I know how to broach the subject. I saw something in her earlier, an old light that hadn’t completely died and she was the mother I always wanted, not the one the Capitol gave me.
I go to bed without so much as a word. My face is sore and all I want to do is shut my eyes and forget the past day, but as soon as I close them I hear the child’s laugh and the guns.
I see the blood, feel the cold ground beneath me as I lie there, and I count the shoes.
I know it’s not real. This is a nightmare, but the bodies rise and they stare at me, their faces covered in blood. The child is laughing and kicking me with all the fury his short legs can muster.
I’m screaming as the Peacekeepers laugh over and over again before firing.
I’m shaken awake by my father. I’m flailing, fighting him, and I land a hit but soon realize that I’m not being attacked, that the nightmare has ended.
He rubs his jaw from where I punched him. My cheeks are wet from tears and I’m shaking as the remnants of the nightmare disappear.
“I’m sorry,” I croak. He shakes his head.
“I know. It’s okay.” He pulls me close and I shut my eyes. I cling to his shirt like I did when I was five and the scent of flour and baking bread greets me. I feel safe.
“Were you baking?”
He nods. “I was going to send some bread to Abel and Nina.”
“Is mom asleep?”
“No. Do you want her?”
I don’t answer. Maybe because I’m not sure or because I don’t know which version of her I will get. I want the mother who kissed my forehead and was by my side in the snow. I’m afraid of getting the other one.
I lie back down and my father leaves. I hear two sets of footsteps, his heavier ones and lighter, delicate ones. I realize my mother was waiting outside the door and regret not asking for her.
My face heals as reaping day nears. The cold winter changes to spring and the Peacekeepers maintain their watch. As the days pass without being able to go into the woods, I plan for the Games. Strategies occupy my mind and I spend hours thinking of ways to defeat one and two. After a while, even strategies don’t help my anxiety and I find myself awake at all hours of the night wishing I could hide in a tree and enjoy the peace of the woods one last time.
For how bad I am, my mother is worse. Whatever spark was growing within her is losing its power as the woods become unattainable. For all the nights I’m awake, they don’t come close to the amount of times I hear her screaming and pacing. She can’t sleep or function without a place to call her own. A place where the Capitol can’t control her.
She tries a few times and makes it through unseen, but she never brings back game. That would be too risky. I’m sure she just sits out there in the calm, with the occasional song of a mockingjay, and I wish to go out there too, but I can’t. The Peacekeepers watch Bas and me too closely. They would know if I went missing. I would rather she get to enjoy the woods for a few more days before the reaping than risk us all being beaten.
Bas goes to the bakery with my father every day. He doesn’t speak of revolution or of the Mockingjay. He rarely speaks at all. The Games haven’t even begun and they’ve already changed us.
When I sit in the bakery, watching Bas lift heavy sacks of flour the day before the reaping, I realize why my father wanted him there. I know how to hunt and now Bas has the strength to survive the arena. I’m not going to let him die, but if we get separated, he can survive on his own just as my father did before my mother found him.
Haymitch visits the night before and we have dinner just as we did the day of the announcement. I can’t eat, not when I already know what happens tomorrow. Bas overeats from both his nerves and day of working.
We don’t talk much, not even my father who can change a room with a sentence.
The screens have already been running with pre-Games coverage. Showing highlights from the past victors, making guesses as to who will be reaped from Districts with more than one Victor. One and Two are the Districts they are most excited about, as per usual.
Haymitch and my parents decide to watch some of the coverage and get a feel for who will be reaped. They want to figure out weaknesses, give us the best chance, but I can’t stand to listen to any of it. I will when the Games come around, but right now, I want one last night of peace even if my dreams will be filled with blood and gun shots.
I hear some of it as I walk up the stairs.
Caesar Flickerman and Claudius Templesmith have been announcers for what seems like forever and they don’t seem to have aged at all. I think the Capitol has doctors that can manage it, but I’m always amazed by their lack of age every year. It’s unnerving.
Caesar has chosen a shocking yellow as this year’s hair and suit arrangement. It almost hurts my eyes to look at it. I stand on the stairs, frozen when I hear my name.
“Let’s talk about Ivy and Basil Mellark. We’ve heard so much about who may or may not be in the Games, let’s talk about who will.” Claudius is the one who brings it up and he looks right in the camera before looking at Caesar.
“Did you bring them up because you know they’re my favorites?” Caesar jokes and Claudius laughs along.
“I’ll let you talk about them because they’re your favorites.”
Our pictures flash up on the screen.
“Well, District Twelve hasn’t seen a winner in twenty five years. If anyone’s going to break that streak I think it’ll be one of the children of the very Victors who won the last time. Over the years we’ve watched them grow and I’m very excited to see what they can do. But I also think it’s a very fitting bookend to the star-crossed lovers that both their children go into the arena together.” Caesar’s so casual that I want to throw up. It’s fitting, a bookend, entertainment for the Capitol, a message to everyone else. My nails dig into my palm as Claudius speaks.
“Yes, the interesting thing about this Quell is it’s all legacy tributes. We don’t know whose skills they will favor, if at all, and with the Mellarks there’s no telling if one of them will use a bow or not. That’s honestly very exciting.”
“I agree. Even with interviewing Ivy over the years there’s no telling which way she will go. But I do believe the odds are in her favor.” Caesar smiles wide, taking up half his face. My stomach turns.
“But Twelve is not the only District we’re sure about. Let’s look at Four. Now, the female tribute is up in the air, as we’ve discussed, but the male tribute is definitely going to be Beck Cresta.”
Beck’s picture is shown. He has dark hair down to his chin and golden skin, with green eyes. He smiles in his picture like he’s without a care. I wish I could feel like that. I’ve never met any of the other Victors, but I have heard the story of his mother and how she went crazy after the arena. I wonder what that must be like growing up. I’ve dealt with my share of nightmares and screaming parents because of the arena, but not like him. He looks strong.
“That was a bit of a scandal, remember that, Claudius?”
“Never named the father, poor boy, let’s hope he’s better suited for the arena than she was.”
“Or that he’s as good a swimmer. Maybe he’ll get lucky like her.” They laugh and it’s clear they’ve discounted Beck Cresta from District Four as nothing more than another dead body.
I don’t know if I should be relieved that I’m considered worthy of analysis or not. I sit down on the stairs, wondering if I will have to kill Beck Cresta from Four, if I will be the one who ends the smile.
“Enough.” My father shuts off the screen.
“Peeta, we have to know who,” Haymitch starts, but he’s cut off.
“We will after the reaping. I can’t hear about it anymore, not when we know those kids’ parents.”
“And they’re probably doing the same thing right now. Who gets coverage. Who doesn’t. Who’s a threat.” Haymitch takes a drink. My mother sighs.
“We saw enough. They’ll do the same thing tomorrow night and we can watch it on the train. Goodnight, Haymitch, we’ll see you tomorrow,” my mother tells him. Haymitch nods and walks himself out. He stops at the door and notices me on the stairs.
“See you tomorrow,” he says with a smile and I return it. He takes the bottle with him and shuts the door as he leaves.
I look over into the living room and watch as my father slumps on the couch. My mother takes his hands in hers and they touch their foreheads together. They are silent like that for a while. I turn away and watch the door, counting the minutes until I will have to leave this house and join a long history of dead tributes from Twelve.
I lose track of time until Bas sits beside me. He nudges my shoulder and hands me a cookie. It looks like a leaf, painted perfectly in shades of green.
“I made it.” He smiles and I take a bite. It’s under cooked and over salted. I eat it anyway. I give him a thumbs up as I try not to grimace, but he knows I’m lying. I finish it anyway. He plays with the laces on his shoes. Neither of us says anything. We’re both enjoying these last hours of peace before we’re rushed off to the Capitol and made to kill for sport.
He stands. “Well, I’m off to bed. Good luck tomorrow. Don’t fall.”
“Don’t cry,” I retort. He indicates his face with his hand.
“This face and tears, not gonna happen.” We laugh as he walks up the stairs. I wonder if I’ll laugh again before the end comes. I shake my head to try and will the morbid thoughts away. There’s no point in dwelling on my inevitable demise, I’ll just have to try and enjoy the little things. That is if there’s anything to enjoy before the arena takes me.
My mother quickly takes my brother’s place next to me. She rests her chin on her hand, propped up by an elbow on her knee. She looks at me, asking if I’m ready without needing to voice it aloud.
It’s the silent conversations between us that I enjoy the most. She drops her arm and makes to reach for me but pulls back. She’s building a wall. One that won’t be so easily broken when I’m faced with absolute death. She needs to be strong from this point forward. A mentor readying to keep her tributes alive for as long as possible and hoping one will be a victor.
A part of me, the logical part, understands what’s happening, but the scared child craving her mother’s love and affection isn’t so mature. She’s railing against the rules set forth by this world. She’s begging and crying not just to keep her life but to get a new one, a better one. A world where children aren’t killed for entertainment or to settle old scores. I feel tears, but I swallow them. I can’t allow myself to cry, not now, not ever from this point forward. I’m in the Games starting tomorrow and tears are weakness. I have to get over it without showing it.
My mother senses it. I can see it in the way she watches me. She nods, because she knows. She’s done it for years.
“You should get some sleep,” she says quietly.
“I don’t think I can.”
“You should try. Maybe you’ll get lucky.”
“I don’t think luck really runs in our family.”
She smirks but lets it fade. I hear my father shuffling around in the kitchen.
“What’s he doing?” I ask as I look towards the noise.
“He’s not going to sleep, so he’s baking. Stress reliever.” My mother smiles absently, like she’s remembering days gone by where she first learned all the things that my father did when he was scared, or stressed, or angry.
“Are you going to sleep?” I ask after a minute. I don’t often see my mother smile like that and I wish I could. I feel bad for breaking it when I speak.
She shakes her head. “I’ll just have nightmares.”
I don’t know how to respond. She doesn’t talk about the nightmares, not to me, not out loud. But if there was ever a time to start it’s now, in the breath before the fall.
“What are they about?” I ask quietly, scared to continue but wanting to know more.
“Different things. A lot from the arena. But lately, well since you were born, it’s been about losing you. All of you.” She looks away like she’s ashamed to be scared. I rest my head against her shoulder. There’s a comfort that I get and I’m sure she feels it too because she rubs my shoulder and pulls me closer. She kisses my forehead and rests her chin on my head.
I shut my eyes and let myself feel safe. I don’t think I’m going to feel this again.
“Guess the nightmares came to life,” she whispers and I almost don’t catch it. She lets go of me and I slide away.
“Do you think I should wear anything special?” I change the subject quickly and she laughs, short but genuine.
“I don’t think it’s going to make them change their mind,” she quips.
I shrug. “I was thinking more along the lines of like sponsors or whatever.” My voice fails after that and we’re both brought back to reality.
She nods, before getting up. “Come with me.”
I follow her to my parent’s bedroom. She rifles through drawers, trying to find something. I sit on the end of the bed, looking at a painting that hangs on the wall. My father often paints the Games but this is of a lake that I recognize out in the woods. There are birds in the trees and a bright orange sunset. The trees and outlying grass are a deep rich green.
It looks so real. I wish I was there now.
My mother finds what she’s looking for. It’s small, wrapped in a piece of old cloth that hasn’t seen the outside of the drawer in a while. My mother sits beside me and un-wraps the cloth delicately. I see a flash of gold as she opens it up before laying it on the bedspread before me.
“You can use this as your token. It’ll keep you safe.” She holds up the Mockingjay pin and I forget to breathe.
“Really?” I ask, scared. I remember what the Peacekeepers did. I don’t want that to happen again over a pin.
She nods, determined, the light in her eyes back. “I want you to wear it.”
It’s settled. I take the pin from her. It feels too light for the weight it carries. The symbol. The spark. The hope. I feel like I’m holding it all in my hand and I regret ever wanting to carry it in the first place.
But I will carry it, because my mother needs me to and because if I do, she will return. I won’t let the Capitol kill the fire so easily again. The embers are catching and they will regret ever trying to stomp them out.
The Mockingjay is returning.
I manage to catch a few hours of sleep to my surprise. I wake with the pin resting on a simple white dress beside my bed and the smell of baked goods throughout the house.
I bathe then dress, pinning the Mockingjay where it will be visible as well as close to me.
My hair is drying as I walk into the kitchen. Bas is in a collared shirt and slacks with his hair slicked back. I sit at the table as my father places a cheese pastry in front of me. I smile, gratefully and pick at it.
My mother is in an orange dress with yellows and reds along the bottom in a wave pattern. It almost looks like fire. I wonder if it’s a dress Cinna sent. My father is dressed similarly to Bas, only his shirt is the same color as my mother’s dress.
I swallow a few bites of the cheese pastry but can’t force myself to eat anything else.
“Mom?” I take a breath. My question is strangely heavy. “Can you braid my hair?”
She pauses, almost shocked that I asked before nodding. “Of course.”
We sit in the living room, only the sound of her brushing my hair filling the space. She goes through the process easily but delicately, like she’s savoring every second, memorizing every moment. Clinging to the last moments of her daughter before the Capitol breaks us apart.
It’s over too soon and my hair is braided just as there’s a knock on the door. My father answers it.
He returns a few seconds later, somber, with Haymitch behind him.
“Time to go, kiddies,” Haymitch announces. “The uniforms are getting restless.”
I see Peacekeepers waiting at the door, shifting from one foot to the other, staring at us expectantly.
“Is that really necessary? We’re not gonna run.” Bas glares at them.
“It’s a show.” Haymitch smirks.
We slowly make our way to the door before being forced into a line and marched out of the Victor’s Village and through Twelve to the square.
The stage and the cameras are all set to go. The District is gathered but they lack the enthusiasm of places like One and Two. Even Effie lacks her usual attitude and fervor. Over the years she’s maintained the lilt in all the right places, but I’ve learned to recognize an act and she puts one on. She’s still Capitol, still views this as slightly entertaining and an honor, but I think she’s learned to see the tributes as people since my parents became Victors.
She’s watched us grow, given us gifts. I think she loves us more than someone who’s only a fan would. I think she thinks of us as family, or whatever passes for it in the Capitol.
We are marched to the stage. Each bowl only contains one slip of paper. My parents and Haymitch stand to the side as the Mayor and family walk out. I stand beside the bowl with my name. Bas does the same with his.
Effie works her way through the usual speech, pausing to take a breath and compose herself every once in a while. The same video plays about the rebellion that’s played for a hundred years. I see my aunt Prim in the crowd with her husband, Rory. She’s crying and he’s holding her for dear life.
My grandmother is beside them, clinging to my aunt and fighting back tears. I want to cry too but I know I can’t. I nod to let them know its okay. Bas stares at the ground in front of the stage. His hands shake, which he tries to hide by curling them into fists. I pray the cameras don’t catch it. That One and Two aren’t watching and making note of his fear.
Effie takes a deep breath and says, “Ladies first.” She looks to my mother, and I notice her lip quiver. My mother nods before Effie turns to me, her eyes watering, hand shaking, and I smile. She pulls the slip of paper with my name on it.
I step forward and I stare right into the camera. I have to be strong. I have to make sure they see me as the threat. Focus on me, forget about Bas. Fight me, not him. That’s the plan. Keep him alive. It starts now.
Effie swallows her tears as she calls, “Basil Mellark.”
He steps forward and makes eye contact with the crowd. He turns to look at my mother and kisses his three middle fingers and raises them to honor her.
All of Twelve follows and I do the same.
I don’t care that the Peacekeepers drag us inside the Justice building and that we’re thrown onto the train in a hurry. I don’t care that I get no goodbyes. I want them to see. I want my mother to see. I want these Games to matter, to count and I hope my mother makes Snow pay.
We’re silent as the train makes its way closer and closer to the Capitol. Tomorrow we’ll be there. Tomorrow I meet the other tributes and I will make sure they come after me. Tomorrow I begin to plan how to kill them all and make sure my brother wins.
Tomorrow I forget the girl from Twelve who went hunting with her mother. Tomorrow I truly live up to my name. Ivy Mellark, daughter of Katniss and Peeta, tribute of the 100th Hunger Games.
And when it’s over it will read Ivy Mellark, top three, Basil Mellark, Victor.
I just hope I’m brave when the moment comes for me to die and I hope my family understands when they bury me. I don’t want Twelve to come. I don’t want them to honor me because I won’t be me when it happens. I’ll be the arena me. The one forged in fire and war, surrounded by death. I just hope they remember me as I was, not as the killer I’m going to become.
I shut my eyes and try to remember growing up in Twelve. How I used to run through the Seam with Bas and other children. I remember when I learned to hunt and track, the feeling of peace in the woods with my mother. I recall the smell of the bakery and the cookies we used to sneak. I remember my aunt Prim teaching me about healing methods and being too bored to listen. I wish I had now. I might need them. I remember my father’s hugs and my mother’s smile and how she ran her hand through my hair every so often. I even remember Effie dropping by with presents, going on and on about how much the Capitol loves us and how much we are growing up.
I already miss it all.