The Games: Making Friends
Training gear has been set out for me the next morning. When I dress, I’m surprised how comfortable and soft the fabric is. The number twelve has been embroidered across the back and on the sleeve for all to see, like a target for the Careers to focus on.
Good, I think. Let them focus on me, let them hate me, at least it isn’t Bas. If they ignore him it’ll be easier for him to win. If they’re too busy trying to figure out how to kill me, Bas can slip by and become the Victor without them even realizing they’re playing right into my plan.
I leave my room, feeling a little better about my death sentence. I’m not sure what it is, maybe the good night’s sleep, maybe I’ve finally reached acceptance, or maybe I know I’m going to succeed. Today, I don’t feel as worn down, as terrified of the Capitol as I was. The prospect of finally meeting the Careers doesn’t even scare me. I think I’m finally giving up and trying to enjoy my final days.
Is this what my mother felt years ago? This feeling of elation that comes with giving up and not caring anymore?
I take a seat at the table as Effie chatters away to my parents about their schedule for the day.
“And then you have a meeting while we’re at the trading floor at two. Until then, manners. That means you Katniss. There will be several sponsors there today.”
“Yeah I’m sure they’ll be real interested in talking to Twelve over One and Two,” my mother says.
“If you remind them of this one, here, they should make time.” Effie points to me. “You know, everyone’s talking about that dress. First time in ten years that Cinna’s used flames again. This family does bring out the best in his inspiration.”
“I’m glad I’m only learning how to kill people today. What you three are doing sounds awful.” I take a bite and see my mother hide a smile. Effie looks at me like I’ve gone crazy. “What?”
“You made a joke,” Bas says as he walks in, pulling at his shirt. “It’s shocking. This feels tight.”
“You’ll get used to it,” I tell him. He sits beside me and throws bacon onto his plate.
“But will we get used to the jokes?” Bas asks, taking a bite of bacon.
“I make one a year, so probably not.”
“How’d we do last night?” Bas asks our parents. My mother’s absent smile fades as she’s reminded of reality and of the fact that we’re tributes and she’s our mentor.
Haymitch clears his throat. “Well, you two definitely made a statement. But today, you have training and what you want to do is avoid showing them your skills at all cost.”
“Why? I mean it’s not like they won’t be able to guess what we’re good at,” I say with a shrug.
“Yeah, wouldn’t it be better if they knew? Could get us allies?” Bas asks.
I shoot him a warning look. He covers, “Or just, you know give them a reason to avoid us.”
“It gives them a reason to target you,” Haymitch says, taking a drink of water.
“You don’t want the Careers watching your every move. Trust me,” my mother says.
“Don’t draw attention to yourselves, in any way.” My father gives Bas a look and I know he’s silently reminding Bas of what he did in Twelve, not that Bas needs reminding. I’m sure, like me, he thinks about the damage every day.
“We’ll stick to traps and plants,” Bas says. I nod in agreement. We don’t need to learn how to make traps or to learn what plants we can and can’t eat. We’ve had those skills instilled in us from an early age. Even Bas, who doesn’t go out in the woods and who hates hunting, knows how to trap squirrels and how to tell the difference between nightlock and other berries.
Effie claps her hands around nine when it’s time to leave. She leads us to the elevator and shows us which button to press before leaving us. Haymitch shouts a last piece of advice as the doors shut.
“Make some friends.”
We’re silent as the elevator descends to the training floor. When the doors open I see the Gamemakers observing from their platform. They eat and drink as they watch us enter. Plutarch Heavensbee, the Head Gamemaker for this year, raises a glass to us. He was the Gamemaker for the last Quell and for five years after, but then he retired. I guess, since he was so well received during the 75th, Snow decided to bring him back for the 100th. He’s in his early seventies with a large stomach and what little hair he has left is white. Even without the usual Capitol flourishes I feel sick at his presence. It reminds me that this is entertainment for them.
The tributes from One and Two are already practicing with swords, knives, and spears. While the tributes from Nine and Ten mill about, trying to settle on a skill. The rest of the tributes have yet to arrive.
The boy from Ten, only nine years old and doing his best to be brave, is too small to fit into his shirt. I can only make out the zero on the back of his shirt. Like my father said on the train, he’s much too young to be here. Little Zero shakily takes a spear and tries to throw it to the laughter of the Careers.
“Hey!” I shout as I storm over to them. They seem almost taken aback that someone not in their group is even talking to them. I want to hit them. Bas follows me, trying to stop me with a hand on my shoulder. I shrug him off and continue over.
“Is there a problem?” the boy from One says. He’s about twenty two, tall, with blond hair. His name is Stone, I remember because Bas and I spent an hour trying to figure out why his parents named him that, before thinking of different rocks we could call him. The rest of the names I’ve also committed to memory because I knew they’d be the ones to cause me the most trouble.
“Leave that kid alone.” I stand tall as the Career pack fans out to face me. They won’t hurt me here, they can’t. But I’m fairly certain the plan of going unnoticed has been shot to Hell.
“Why?” Victoria, the girl from Two asks. She’s got long dark hair and stands about a foot taller than me. Her father, Brutus, never fails to mention how proud he is of his daughter in every interview I’ve seen. I’m sure he’s beaming at what he assumes is her soon to be victory. He even named her for the title of Victor.
“Think of how it looks. Big strong adults picking on a little kid. It’s sad,” Bas answers, trying to play it off. They don’t buy it.
“Maybe he needs to understand that he’s outmatched,” Cain, from Two, with his short dark hair and lean muscles, replies as he twirls a sword. He’s the strongest out of the four of them. He turns to me. “And maybe you should care more about your stupid fire dress and next interview, than what I’m doing.”
“Are you worried that I’ll get more attention than you?” I ask, a smile threatening to form.
“We know you get more attention.” Emery, from One, picks at her cuticles. Her father, Gloss and her aunt, Cashmere, won their Games back to back, and they’re both on her mentor team. She doesn’t look like them though. She has short brown hair with natural curls. She’s slender but I can tell she’s stronger than she looks. “But, I know that it doesn’t mean shit. All they care about is your stupid mother and her love story. Frankly I’m surprised she even won.” Her snide remarks do what she intends them to, they get under my skin.
“Yeah well I’m sure you’ll be just as surprised when I kill you.” I regret saying it as soon as it leaves my mouth. They all laugh at me, like I’m beneath them, except Emery, who glares at me like she wants me to try. She’s the only one out of the lot of them that sees me for what I am, ready and willing to kill them.
“Making friends?” Beck asks as he approaches me. I don’t take my eyes off Emery. Cain and Victoria introduce themselves to Beck, it’s forced but they try to be nice. They don’t see him as any more of a threat than they do me.
“Beck. Minnow’s on her way over.” He steps in front of Emery. “Ivy, I think you and your brother should leave now,” he says, calmly. Whatever pleasantries he had the other night are gone now as I knew they would be. I’m glad I chose not to trust him, but it makes me angrier than it should.
“Good luck in the Games, both of you,” Cain says with a smile glancing from me to my brother. A chill runs up my spine. He rips the spear from Zero and throws it into the center of the target.
I want to grab the bow from the archery station and show them just how much luck my brother and I need. But I think better on it and walk away to the laughter of the Careers.
“Nice job going unnoticed,” Bas says as we walk away.
“They knew who I was anyway. It doesn’t make a difference.” I’m lying to myself. They may have known my name but I’ve given them a reason to seek me out in the arena. I don’t care if they see me as a target, I even want them to, but I know that if I’m their focus during the cornucopia there’s a chance I won’t make it past the bloodbath and then where does that leave Bas.
I try to ignore the Careers as we walk over to the rope tying station. We spend the better part of an hour learning different knots. I’m not very good at tying them, but Bas picks it up quickly.
“Shouldn’t make them see you, not smart at all,” the boy from Nine says as he sits beside us. His cropped hair covers his forehead, and he avoids eye contact. He mutters to himself before he’s lucid enough to tell us, “I’m August.”
“Ivy, this is Bas.” I point to my brother.
“I know who you two are.” Then, he adds in a whisper, “The Mockingjay children.”
We don’t know how to respond. August holds a finger to his lips like he’s silencing us, or himself. He taps a rhythm on his cheek after he moves his finger aside.
“August, are you bothering them?” his district partner asks, bored. She’s tall and thin, with a tan from what I can only assume is spending days outside in Nine.
“No, he’s just talking,” Bas covers. August smiles.
“This is Trina. She’s very angry.” August plays with a piece of rope, trying to tie a knot but failing. Bas shows him how to do it correctly. I want to scold Bas for helping another district but I find myself liking these two from Nine. Immediately I feel guilty. I shouldn’t like anyone. They’re just going to die or I’m going to have to kill them.
“Yeah I’m angry. You age out, think you’re safe but oh no, thanks to your family history, you now get reaped for the Quell.” Trina blows a piece of hair out of her face. I glance over at the Careers and wonder if they’re just as angry. Do they see this as a second chance to win, or do they blame my family for being here? Emery hates us. She wouldn’t be here if not for us. I wonder if Trina blames us too.
“Though I’m sure you two are probably worse.” She takes a seat and ties a knot.
“Why would you say that?” I ask.
“Brother and sister. Only one of you can win. That’s harsh.”
I nod. “We’ll figure it out.”
“She has a plan,” August adds. “And I bet it’s to save you.” He points to Bas.
“Sorry about him. August is a little out there. His mother is on a lot of morphling. I think it affected his development.”
“Can you paint?” August asks Bas. “Like your father? Or do you do the arrows and she does the painting?”
“Bas, let’s go to plants now.” I stand. Bas nods.
“Nice meeting you,” Bas says courteously, following me.
August waves before saying, “She does the arrows I bet.”
“It’s called archery, August. And of course she does,” Trina tells him, exasperated.
We spend the rest of the morning checking off the plants we can eat and the ones we can’t. Every once in a while I look over to the Careers and watch Beck throw a trident into a target. It always lands right where he wants it to. The others, especially Cain seem to be impressed by it.
I overhear Stone tell him, “I have to say, considering your mother, we weren’t sure how prepared you’d be for this, but I’m glad to be wrong.”
Beck grips the trident a little too tightly as he nods to Stone. He feigns appreciation well, but I can see through it. When he throws the trident the smack as it hits the target is louder than the others. I wonder if he’s imagining Stone as he throws it. Beck glances over to me as he picks up the trident and he smiles.
I roll my eyes and go back to my plants. I’m not playing this intimidation game where he feigns kindness to kill me. I would be more worried about him if Johanna was his mentor as she knows just how to pretend the right way before killing everyone. But, knowing that Finnick is his father doesn’t make me fear him any more than I did before and it should.
“What do you think about them? Trina and August?” Bas asks, bored as he checks off another plant.
“What do you mean, what do I think?”
“Haymitch said to make friends. Thinking they could be allies?”
“I already told you, we don’t need allies, Bas.”
“We’re gonna need someone else if we’re facing them,” Bas says as he looks towards the Career pack.
I shake my head. “We won’t be facing them. We’ll play it safe, find somewhere to hide, and wait it out.”
“Assuming there is a place to hide.” Bas checks off another plant.
We break for lunch, eating silently as the Careers spend it laughing and talking about their skill level. Zero eats with his district partner, which I’m grateful for. She seems to be protecting him after the incident with the Careers. At least he has someone to do it. Otherwise, I would have been the one watching for him and I can’t take care of him and Bas.
The loud Career conversation turns into different ways to kill. Beck feigns an interest until the topic changes to their Victor parents. He focuses on the stew he’s eating and adds nothing to the conversation. I can’t help but feel a little bad for him. All they know is his mother and he can’t talk about his father. I don’t fully understand the reasons behind him not telling people, or Finnick and Annie not telling people, but I know what it’s like to grow up with attention and cameras. Maybe they wanted to avoid that with him.
The girl from Four, Minnow is around sixteen and small for her age. Despite her size, she’s just as loud as the others and enjoys talking about her father a little too much.
“Beck, remember when my dad dropped that boulder on the boy from Ten. He had lost his weapons and was all alone and he just found this boulder and managed to push it so that it rolled and crushed the boy from Ten.” She says it in one breath. Beck nods along.
“My father beheaded three tributes during the bloodbath,” Cain says proudly. I shudder when he adds, “And completely disemboweled a fourth. He has the highest kill rate of anyone at the cornucopia.”
“Going to try to go for the new record, Cain?” Stone asks.
“Well if anyone’s going to beat him, it should be someone in the family.” Cain laughs.
“I’m going to be the third person in my family to compete. And to win,” Emery announces. The other Careers take it as a joke but continue to add veiled threats under the guise of laughter.
“Not if I can help it.” Victoria smiles as she takes a bite of some braised ribs. It’s the first time I’ve seen her smile or heard her speak since this morning. It’s not a kind smile, there’s a dead space in her eyes where it doesn’t reach.
I imagine her as a little girl training, her father teaching her the best ways to kill someone and how to inflict maximum damage. She’s probably known how to cut someone down since she was old enough to hold a sword or throw a spear. I’ll have to kill her from a distance. I don’t stand a chance against her in hand to hand. The same applies for Cain. Emery and Stone might be easier, but I won’t actively seek out a close fight with any of them.
Beck would be useless without his trident, which he may stand a chance of hitting me with. I have to be faster than him. Minnow doesn’t concern me as much as the others, she’s small but I make a note not to overlook her and to pay attention when she picks up a weapon. She hasn’t yet today and I hope maybe she doesn’t have one she’s particularly good at. I imagine what it would be like to kill one of them, for their laughter to stop, for their eyes to go cold. I can’t see it.
I go to refill my plate, somehow feeling hungry despite my thoughts. Beck joins me a minute later as I scoop some potatoes onto my plate. He’s the last person I want to talk to, especially after planning how I need to kill him.
“You should try the fish,” he says as he puts rice on his plate.
“Careful, you don’t want your new friends to see you talking to me.”
“They’re not my friends. They’re tools for survival.” Beck follows me down the line.
“Well those tools are going to try to kill you. And when they try, I’m not gonna help you.” I face him.
“Who said anything about you helping me?” Beck asks, an irritating smirk on his face.
I’m starved for words as I go back to putting whatever food I can on my plate as quickly as possible.
“Do you want to help me, Twelve?” he asks, suddenly too close to me. I feel my cheeks flushing red.
“No, in fact I can’t wait to kill you, Four.” I hurry back to my table, hoping he can’t see how red my face is.
“Making yourself more noticeable?” Bas asks as I slam my tray down. I sit across from him and take a bite out of the fish I haphazardly threw on my plate.
I glare across the room at Beck and the Careers. I really wish we were in the arena and I could shoot them all.
After lunch, Bas tries his hand at camouflage. He’s good at it, probably just as good as our father, which he proudly tells me after he paints his hand to look like a rock.
I swirl colors in a bowl and try to paint tree bark on my hand but fail to make it resemble anything other than a grey, brown mess. I wipe off the paint as the girl from Eleven, Callie speaks to my brother.
“You’re good at that,” she says, impressed.
“Thanks,” he replies, “I have a lot of practice.”
“We know,” Callie says pointing to her district partner across the room. He’s tall and surprisingly quick as he practices hand to hand combat. “That’s Teddy. He thinks he needs that over survival skills.” Callie rolls her eyes.
“You shouldn’t overlook them. What happens if you need to eat and you don’t know which plants are good,” Bas says as he wipes off the paint on his hand.
“That’s what I keep saying, but he doesn’t want to listen.”
“My sister’s similar. She thinks she’s always right.” Bas looks at me.
“I’m right here,” I say, annoyed.
“I know.” He laughs. Callie joins him.
I look over at the fire station. There’s only one person there, the boy from Seven with his shaggy hair and glasses. He’s small for his age, fourteen, and as I watch him struggle to get a fire going, I can’t help but see my brother in him.
“You should try it like this.” I take the stick from his hand and show him how my mother taught me. The fire lights, smoke billowing from the tree stump.
“I don’t think my mentor would advise you to teach people how to survive,” he jokes. I smile as I take a seat.
“I don’t think my mother would care.”
“I can respect that. I’m Grover,” he introduces, holding out his hand.
I take it and we shake. “Ivy.”
“Both your parents are your mentors?” He asks. I nod. “That’s hard. I can’t imagine having one here, let alone two.”
“You don’t have a parent?”
“No. My mother, she died like a year after I was born. I live with my grandmother.”
“I’m sorry,” I say.
“It happened too long ago for me to know.”
I don’t remember his mother’s Games. I was about a year old when she won. I do remember being around five and hearing a report on her death. Apparently there was an accident in Seven, some kind of freak thing where she was walking in the woods and a tree fell on her. The Capitol took the loss pretty hard. I think her name was Natasha.
I remember my father shaking his head at the report and my mother consoling him.
“How’s Johanna doing?” he had asked my mother at the time. I don’t remember what the answer was or if they even traveled to Seven for the funeral. But judging by their reactions I doubt the story is true and I’m sure she died under different terms. Terms the Capitol doesn’t want getting out, because then the people might stop seeing the dead Tributes as sacrifices for the glory of the Capitol and start seeing their Victors as damaged individuals who aren’t as lucky as people think they are.
Grover doesn’t have a father either. That I remember, and the Capitol didn’t have much of an interest in him.
“Hey, don’t feel bad for me. It’s not like I’m fighting for my life…oh wait.” He smiles at his joke. I don’t understand how some of them can still find the time to smile, but then I remember how I felt this morning. How I had given up and known, believed, my plan would be successful. I look around and realize the ones with smiles are the ones who share that feeling. He continues, “Besides, I have Johanna. She’s kind of like an aunt.”
“I’ve always found her to be kind of scary,” I tell him.
“She’s pretty intense, but she cares, and when she cares, be glad you’re the one she cares about.” Grover manages to light a fire on his own. He looks up at me, proud.
The Careers have settled into their chosen weapons by now. Stone favors swords and spears, though he’s not as good at them as Cain, who has much more versatility with weapons than all the others. At one point he picks up an ax and throws it dead center into a target. Emery, like her father and aunt, uses knives while Victoria settles more on watching the others. She throws spears just fine, and like the boys favors a sword, as I thought she would, but she doesn’t show off as much as the others. She leans against the wall watching as her allies practice combat training and I can see the gears turning. She’s working out everyone’s weaknesses and strengths just as I was doing during lunch. I wonder if she has a plan for me, if she knows exactly how she’s going to kill every single one of us.
Minnow tries her hand at combat training. She’s quick enough to avoid being hit, but doesn’t strike as hard as the others. Victoria barely watches her. She’s already counted Minnow amongst the dead.
Grover says something to me that I don’t catch. “What?”
“I asked if they scare you.” He indicates the Career group.
Minnow falls and Cain rolls his eyes. He whispers something to Victoria who nods in agreement. They may be loyal to each other now, joking around and smiling, but they’re all too eager to win, desperate to be the one who ends this. They’ll fall apart quickly. I shake my head, “No.”
“They scare me.” He pauses, debating whether he wants to continue before saying, “You’re a lot like Johanna said you’d be.”
“And that is?” I ask, taken aback.
“Really good at lying to yourself. But also, really brave and kind of frightening, in a good way. She likes you.” Grover smiles warmly. It doesn’t make me feel better to know that Johanna Mason likes me. It just makes me think she’s going to order Grover to kill me first.
I mill about going to useless stations, bored out of my mind. I want to go back to the room. I can’t shoot. I don’t want to make friends. I’m done with training. I can’t imagine doing this for another two days. I wonder how my parents are doing with their meetings.
I’ve always hated trying to convince people to help my Tributes. Even more, I hate how the sponsors walk around like they’re precious commodities. They are and they can be what stands between life and death, but Tributes aren’t items to be purchased. My children aren’t things to be coveted. I’m reminded once again of the desire to end this.
The large trading floor bustles with mentors trying to sell their tributes to the best sponsors. We each have our own small section with chairs and during the Games there will be screens on the wall devoted to each of our Tributes. Right now they display each face with a number above their head. Their odds of winning keep shifting as more sponsors sign up. They will change after the scores are released, providing a more definitive look at possible Victors. As usual, the sponsors flock to One and Two. They take time to talk to Finnick, but largely ignore Four as potential Victors.
Finnick does his best to put on a smile, even when the women and some men of the Capitol come up to him just to touch him. I hear him try to sell them on Beck, some make excuses, while some genuinely consider him as long as his training score holds up to Finnick’s praise.
I used to consider Finnick nothing more than a Victor, proud of his title. But Tributes aren’t the only people the Capitol covets. It’s a rumor to others who haven’t experienced it, but I know, especially after seeing the reactions when we arrived, if it weren’t for Peeta, there’s a chance I would have become like Finnick. If Ivy wins, she very well could. I feel cold thinking about it. If Bas wins, would that be better? Would he be safe? No, there is no safety. I can’t comprehend losing either one of them.
Peeta, Haymitch and I get a few interested parties as the day wears on, but nothing serious. Even being branded the girl on fire’s daughter doesn’t have the amount of attention Cain from Two gets. They don’t consider her victory a sure bet. I expect the same rule’s going to apply to my children as they do for Beck. If their training score is high enough, we’ll get requests. Until then, Haymitch drinks steadily while talking with Johanna.
Whatever he tells her seems serious, though he plays it off with a smile. She does the same but I’ve learned to recognize the signs in Haymitch. He doesn’t want attention, he’s planning and it can’t look like he is. I need to know the plan. I need to have hope that I can save my children.
I take a step towards them but am almost immediately stopped by Finnick.
“Katniss,” he says, smiling.
“Finnick. You look cheery.” I take a step back.
“You know as well as I that looks can be deceiving.”
“Any takers yet?” I ask, expecting Effie to run in at any moment and drag us to our meeting. The clock reads five to two and she’s nothing if not punctual.
“You know how it is. First day’s the hardest. Unless you’re One and Two. Cashmere and Gloss sure are generating a lot of interest.” He directs my attention to the two blondes surrounded by Capitol sponsors. Two men practically get in a fight trying to speak to one of them. “And here I thought it would be them fighting over you.”
I don’t want to be in this room. I don’t want to be in this city. I hate the smell, the blood and roses that follows me wherever I go. I hate the constant attention and the extravagance. People are starving all over the country and these people eat meal after meal made of the grain and meat taken from the people in the districts. And they throw it away when they’re done like it’s nothing or throw it up to stuff more in.
I remember my Victory party, Peeta was just as angry as I when we witnessed the Capitol’s way of life. It only got worse as the years went on, as we spent more time here. We play our parts, we pretend to be grateful, to love the Capitol and our way of life, but even though we’re well off in Twelve, we’ve never taken more than we need.
I remember that Finnick is standing beside me and I shake myself back to reality. I check the clock. It’s after two. Where’s Effie?
“Well, I’d love to stay and chat, Finnick, but I have--”
“A meeting? Yeah I know. It’s with me.” He smiles before adding, “And Annie.”
“What about River?” I look around for the third Victor from their district. There used to be four Victors, but Mags died years ago. She was nothing but kind and one of the few Victors I actually liked being near. The year after she was gone, the 80th Games, it was just Finnick and River, who won two years before.
“He’s not interested in allying his daughter with your kids. Thinks it’ll get her killed.”
“And you want to ally Beck because…you think someone should? And if he dies, whatever?” He’s not usually interested in allying with Twelve. He hasn’t been for some time. I don’t know why he would start now. Unless he thinks because these Tributes are my children they’ll have some kind of advantage.
All the tributes have the same advantage, they were raised by Victors and while some bear the scars better, we’ve all lived with the same fear. That one day our children would become like us. Even Gloss, who’s normally composed with a superior attitude, has a wild look to his eyes as he speaks to sponsors. He wants to give Emery everything he can to ensure her win. I don’t blame him for it. I would be doing the same thing if we had more interest, but no one cares when you don’t have a victory in twenty five years.
Finnick’s jaw tightens and he grinds his teeth. The mention of Beck hits him harder than I think it should. He pulls himself together and the playful smile returns. The illusion of the careless mentor he so often plays.
“Beck wants to ally himself with Ivy.” He shrugs. “I’ve told him to stick with One and Two, but he’s chosen not to listen to me.”
“They do that.” I think of Ivy and her unwillingness to listen. Finnick silently agrees, understanding my meaning much better than I expect him to. I wonder how much he knows Beck, if this is more personal than he wants me to believe it is.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” I try, but he doesn’t take no for an answer.
He pleads. “Will you come with me to see Annie? She might convince you.” There’s a look that reflects Gloss’s, the same one that I’ve seen in Peeta and in the mirror. Desperation to save someone you love.
“I’ll find Peeta,” I tell him. He looks relieved.
Peeta and I follow Finnick down the hall to the door marked Four. Each district gets its own suite on the trading floor. It’s smaller than the rooms we’re given during training, but each suite has a dining area, a small lounge, and two bedrooms. Most districts take shifts during the Games, with one remaining on the trading floor while the other mentors sleep. Sponsors are never brought into the suites. They are reserved for conversations between districts, usually involving allies. Even when both tributes are dead from their district, the other mentors help the ones left standing. We’re not allowed to leave until the Games are over so it’s easier than doing nothing.
We walk inside the suite. Annie sits on the couch, staring at the glass table. The door shuts but she doesn’t look up.
Annie doesn’t usually mentor in the Games, she’s always been considered too damaged to be helpful. Or so everyone but Finnick says. Since this year her son is in the Games, nothing, not even her fragile state, would keep her away. She’s kept to herself and stayed in the suite all morning. I don’t think the sponsors want to see her, to be reminded of what happens after what they call glory. And if they don’t want to see her, she wants to see them even less.
Finnick sits beside her and coaxes her back to reality. She snaps out of it quickly, her green eyes finding mine.
“How is it out there?” she asks Finnick.
He shrugs. “What we expected. Do you still want…?” He never finishes his question. She nods, standing and walking to the dining table. Finnick takes the seat beside her while Peeta and I take the two across. An Avox brings us glasses of water.
Finnick looks to Annie. She nods. He starts, “Like I said Beck has asked us to request Ivy as an ally. Now before you say no, you should know that his skill set would be desirable in the arena. And I’m sure it would make it easier on your children.”
“That’s all well and good, but, Ivy isn’t looking for allies,” Peeta says, quietly.
“Are you sure?” Annie asks.
I nod. “She’s said, repeatedly, that she doesn’t want them.”
“Why are you here, then?” she asks, her voice on edge.
“We’re hoping she might change her mind,” Peeta answers.
“She might change her mind. And if she doesn’t? You’ll just let her enter the arena naïvely believing she doesn’t need help. I expected more from you, girl on fire.” Finnick takes a sip of his water.
“Don’t call me that,” I threaten.
He ignores me, leaning forward in his chair, that desperate look back on his face. “Anyone who has ever won has won with an ally who’s either died for them, or killed for them. And yes, even been killed by them. We all know this is temporary and no one wants to admit that there’s a very real chance one of them might kill the other, but as of right now, it’s good for all of us.” Finnick takes a breath before continuing, “I’m assuming Ivy has an affinity for a bow and arrow and if she does, she can’t face the Career pack alone.”
“She’s not alone,” Peeta says.
“Worrying about Basil is going to be a distraction for her. She’s going to need someone else to watch her back besides her brother.” There’s no smile on Finnick’s face anymore, this is the business like mentor prepared to do anything to keep his Tribute alive.
I’m barely listening to Finnick. I’m too focused on his earlier words. About every Victor winning with an ally. “I didn’t.”
“What?” he asks.
“You said anyone who has won, won with an ally. I didn’t.”
He stares at me, a sardonic laugh echoing through him. “Have you really forgotten? Of course you did. Rue.”
I clench my fists under the table at the mention of Rue. The truth is I have tried to forget. I see her all the time, but I’ve pushed the memories away, even as I’m haunted by them. Peeta takes my hand silently.
“And later Peeta, who you defiantly refused to kill.” Finnick glances between the two of us.
“You know it wasn’t defiance,” I say, glaring at him.
“No, you were so in love,” he says disbelieving, his voice tinged with anger.
“Finnick,” Annie warns. He looks to her, she shakes her head. I’m surprised how much he listens to Annie and how well she’s holding herself together during this conversation. From the brief stories I’ve heard about her I didn’t think she would be able to sit through half as long as she has. I should have known the stories were exaggerations. The Capitol loves their gossip almost as much as they love their Victors. His tone diminishes into a defeated, business-like one.
“As I mentioned before, Beck isn’t interested in making friends with One and Two. So we have to look at the best options. I know he doesn’t seem it, but he’s strong and he’s loyal. I can promise you that he will defend her and your son, who I’m assuming, is a package deal with your daughter, until he can’t anymore.” Finnick’s voice cracks at the last three words. He sits back in his chair, picking at a fraying thread of the seat cushion.
Peeta and I look at each other. I want to believe Finnick. To believe what he says about Beck, but it’s too early to trust a Tribute’s request for an ally. This could be a plan to get close to her just to kill her. And even if I did trust it, I can’t make Ivy do something she doesn’t want to. And if she doesn’t want an ally, I won’t force her to have one.
Peeta voices our shared suspicions. “Why her? Its day one of training, he can’t have seen her do anything yet. Why would he choose her over a sure bet like One and Two?”
“I trust his betting luck,” Finnick replies with a smirk.
“No. Why?” I ask, staring Finnick down.
Annie shifts in her seat. “He didn’t say.” She shakily takes a drink of water, trying to steady herself, preparing to sway our opinion. “But, I trust his judgment. He’s always been good with reading people and Ivy is the ally he wants.”
“He thinks she’s pretty,” Peeta concludes. “No. I don’t trust this. I’m sorry. If she says something, we’ll come back to it, but only if she asks. Let’s go.” He stands and we head to the door.
Out of the corner of my eye I see Annie place her head in her hands. Finnick slides his chair closer to her, his hand on her shoulder.
I hear Annie say, “What are we going to do?”
“Maybe he listened to me. Maybe he’s with the others.”
“Or pretending to be,” she laments.
As the door shuts behind me and Peeta I can’t help but think we’ve made a mistake. Beck wasn’t the only one betting on our family. Maybe Ivy’s changed her mind about an ally.
When we return to our floor for dinner, Ivy and Bas shuffle in, tired from the day.
“Make any friends?” Haymitch asks, taking a bite of his lamb stew.
Ivy and Bas look at each other.
“What’s that face?” Peeta asks.
“Nothing. The plan to go unnoticed has sort of fallen apart. I think I’m on the Careers short list now.” Ivy stares at her plate. My heart jumps into my throat. I want to be angry with her, but I know how volatile the Careers can be, I didn’t truly expect them to ignore my children.
“What did you do?” Haymitch asks.
“They were picking on that little kid from Ten. I told them to stop.”
“She may also have threatened them,” Bas adds. She gives him a look that causes him to shrink down in his seat.
“Ivy, I thought you would know better than to antagonize them.” Peeta runs a hand through his hair, the color draining from his face.
Haymitch laughs and looks from Peeta to me. “You think with that one as her mother she would have the sense not to say something? Peeta I thought you were smarter than that.”
I look at Haymitch, my annoyance evident, which only makes him laugh harder.
“Sorry sweetheart, but you and I both know it’s true. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and all that.” He takes a satisfied bite of his food before turning to Ivy. “What did you say?”
Ivy shrugs. “I don’t remember.”
“You remember,” Haymitch coaxes.
She sighs. “Emery said something along the lines of being surprised that you won.” Ivy looks at me. “And I said I’m sure you’ll be just as surprised when I kill you.”
Peeta shakes his head. “They were just trying to rile you up and you let them. You can’t do that. Now they’re gonna target you and I…excuse me.” He stands and hurries out of the room.
“He’s not mad at you. He’s just scared. I’ll be right back.” I follow after Peeta, knowing exactly where he’s disappeared to.
When I walk out onto the roof, the wind causes my hair to fly in multiple directions. He sits, knees to his chest, watching the city like we did long ago when we were Tributes and he was worried about being a piece in their Games.
I sit beside him, the both of us quiet as the sounds of the city surround us. Eventually I slide closer to lean on his shoulder as he wraps an arm around me.
“I think you scared them,” I finally say, breaking the silence.
“I’m scared,” he admits, his mind far away.
“Me too.” I remember our conversation on the train. “But someone told me we will get through this.”
“That someone was wrong.”
“No, he wasn’t.”
“How can you be sure?” he asks.
“Because I have to be.”
He looks at me and smiles gratefully before kissing my forehead.
“I love you,” he whispers.
“I love you too.”
We stay on the roof for a while, keeping each other warm, watching the lights of the city change as the night wears on.