As my dreams linger, dancing in the way that dreams do, I arise to the light of the new day. My feet are ready for the ground, for whatever comes my way. Soon the greetings begin, the chorus of voices in my home, each as sweet as the birdsong. Soft light filters in through the gap in my curtains and you can hear the leaves rustling in the faint breeze outside. Climbing out of bed, I make my way to the bathroom.
The bathroom had an earthy feel. The walls were large format tiles of white honed travertine and the floor was made of dull brown tiles. The vanities were of a dark wood and the counters were a brilliant white quartz. There was no bath but instead a huge walk in shower with two shower heads. I close the door and turn the knob till I hear a satisfying click then turn the water on and step in. The water pours down, it drips by my side, as my mind fades into dullness and everything is a foggy illusion. The sensation of the steamy water calms me; it takes my mind of things. All the things I honestly don't care about. It's the water. My mind swirls, and it's like I'm standing under an everlasting waterfall. Ever so beautiful, but it can never last. "Saf, are you in there?" Eliza calls knock on the door. I sigh, disappointed that my shower was disrupted "what do you want?" I call back. I turn the shower off and wrap myself in a fluffy pink towel. My wet feet slap against the tiles leaving water puddles as I make my way to the door and unlock it. "Mother wants you to come down for breakfast so hurry up and get changed." With that she smirks at me and walks back down the hall. I chuckled softly to myself before returning to my room and getting dressed.
I applied some fine chalk powder to my face. Extract from rose petals was used as rouge while I took a stick of kohl and gently lined my eyes with the black powder. Beeswax and red dye were mixed together and rubbed on my lips. I observed herself in the polished silver mirror. My cherry-red curls contrasted with the purple of the amethyst beautifully. The kohl made my turquoise eyes brighter than usual. I wore a white top with a floral skirt, edged with white frills. Pearl earrings were fastened to my ears and a pearl head band completed my beauty preparation. Standing, I smoothed my skirt again before pulling on my heels and making my way to the dining room.
The dining-room was exquisite. The walls were covered with a shimmering gold paper and in the middle of the ceiling above the carved oak table was a candelabra. Down the centre of the table was a runner with Celtic design woven in gold and green into the fabric itself. At the end of the table were floor to ceiling French doors, left slightly ajar to let in the scented summer air. The polished silver cutlery was heavy to the hand and shone brightly in the early evening light. At each place stood a tall empty wine glass and there were beautifully folded napkins to match the runner. All that was missing was the food and the guests. Just as this thought crossed my mind, mother and father pushed the door open and took their places, father at the head and mother to his left. Eliza trailed on after them and sat to the right of father. I sat next to her. A small servant’s door opened and out came Megrahi, our maid, carrying four plates. She placed them on the table accordingly and we muttered our thanks and she left. "So," my father began as I tucked into my maple and bacon pancakes. "How many people do you think you'll kill in the bloodbath?" I smiled wickedly, pausing a moment to swallow. "At least 6" I replied. My mother tutted. "Your uncle killed 8 in the bloodbath. He had the most skills of all the tributes."
My uncle had volunteered when my mother was 12 and had made it to the last 5 before his only remaining ally, District 4's Alfred Harcourt, slit his throat while he was asleep. My mother was devastated when he died. He was my closest friend and he's my role model. Growing up, he was always the standard I was expected to live up to. But I was to win.
"And he was very talented for it," I praised making my mother smile, "but I couldn't live up to that. If I kill too many in the bloodbath, it'll ruin my hunting." I grinned. "Besides, the deaths in the blood baths are always too quick. Boring even." I said, forking a rash of bacon. My father smiled at me "that's my girl." With that, the table fell silent until the plates were removed by Megrahi. "Father, May I be excused? I am meant to be meeting Bruits in the park before the reaping. In about..." My eyes flick to the clock. "15 minutes" My father nodded his consent and I bowed my head to the rest of my family. "The next time I see you, I'll be a victor!" My sister raise her glass of orange juice. "To winning" she said taking a drink. I nodded and left.
I trudged along the pavement at a sedate pace, my mind focused on the gentle footsteps that seemed to echo throughout the desolate street. I have walked these streets my whole life, I know them just the same as if they were etched in my head with a sharp knife, scored in deep like some strange work of art. These are the streets I grew up on and for the most part I'm calm here, at home, on the down low with a steady heartbeat. Not today though. Today my heart wants out of my chest. It wants to beat free of its cage. It sounds like it's going to crack a rib. My senses are on high alert. Every colour is brighter, every noise louder, every stranger a cause to make my heart beat more fiercely still. It's been like that for the last few days as the reaping drew near. So now the streets that were my salvation spike my adrenaline as good as a shot to the arm. It only took me ten minutes to get to the wrought iron gates of the park, they get closed at night to keep people out.
The park was nothing like those of the Lesser Districts. Theirs were miniature formal gardens for the elderly that had retired there for the quiet life. They had broken benches, weeds and plants, half dead from lack of care. Our park is an expanse of grass, beloved and familiar place, straight gravelled paths lined with deciduous trees, round or rectangular flower beds thick with discordant petal colours, statue slightly green, dogs exercised with balls and Frisbees, games of soccer, clumps of tall rhododendrons, wooden benches with brass dedication plates, fenced area for lawn bowling club, tennis area and a small play area in the middle. The air was cold and wind was strong as it slapped me in the face whilst I made my way over to sit on the swing. I could feel the hairs on my body raise as the cold wind hit my face. Small children were playing on the various, colourful, play equipment, as their parents kept a watchful eye on them. The noise of dogs barking at each other playfully as they chased each other in circles almost drowned out the cries of a baby whose mum was too busy talking to her friends to notice the baby had lost its dummy.
I smiled as I saw Brutus enter the park and make his way over to me. He glided like a waiter in a five star restaurant and his footfalls made no sound at all. He was always good at that sort of thing. He was amazing at stealth. He was always top in the tests. I smiled at him as he sat on the swing next to me, his medium length hair whipping him in the face like a thick brown rope. "Hey" I say as he flicks his head in a futile attempt to get it out of his face. He huffs in response. "Who do you think will volunteer as male tribute?" He asks. I shrug. I didn't know and didn't care. I would eliminate everyone and he knew it. That's why he was going to wait till next year to volunteer.
We sat there for an hour or so in comfortable silence just mulling over things and enjoying each other’s presence. I look up and realise the park is empty. I flicked my wrist over and my digital watch lit up displaying the time as 9:47. "Shit!" I exclaimed jumping up. Brutus looked up confused. "We have 13 minutes to get to the reaping!" I tell him and completely in sync, we start running, our feet pounding on the pavement and echo of each other.
We get to the town centre with minutes to spare and sign in. My sister looks at me funny when I arrive "where have you been?" She hissed "you can be late you your own reaping!" I gave her an apologetic looks and she sighed. Our attention was drawn to the stage. On it stood my father. He looked me in the eye before beginning the history of Panem and the Hunger Games.
"Ladies and Gentlemen
I will present you respectfully the important of the legendries Hunger Games.
Once we lived in peace and in fairness together. Till our 13 districts, which were in an inferior position, tried to rebel and we had to fight for our good position. District 13 had to deleted, because they can’t give up. And after a terrible and very long war our Capitol won and we established a fair and authoritarian lordship. But we couldn’t forget the horrible traitors who wanted to destroy our wonderful Capitol. So our forefathers had the perfect idea to arrange the legendries Hunger Games. These Games should have the effect to show our power and that the Districts don’t do such a big mistake. For the Hunger Games every District has to choose one girl and one boy between 12 and 18 years as volunteer or allotted. The 24 Tributes, so the fighters of the Districts are called, have to fight against each other till only one girl or boy survives. The winner gets a lot of money and is honoured. But all the others have to give their lives. That’s a very important point to keep respected."
When he finished everyone applauded and Marisa Malik, our escort, took that as her que to enter.
She strutted out onto the stage almost falling over in her 6 inch heels. Her makeup is every shade of wrong. It looks as though she just stepped out of the uncool part of the nineteen eighties. Against her dark skin the lipstick is garish too, making her smile all the more insipid. She beams out at the crowd and begins, in her stupidly affected voice, "Hello District One!" This alone is meet with tons of cheering and you even here some whooping from the 18 year old section. "Ladies and Gentlemen, Today we will select the 24 tributes, which will fight for their lives and their districts to win the 44th annual Hunger Games. I’m happy to be here. Some time ago, our nation had to stand earthquakes, floods and storms, but we were strong and our country originated from the ashes. But then, the Capitol and its 13 districts, which are surrounding it, grew and the districts rebelled. So the capitol had to defeat this rebellion and district 13 was destroyed. So that anything like that will never happen again, we invented the Hunger Games. Each of the 12 districts has to offer a boy and a girl in the age of 12 and 18. I hope that one day our children can live together in peace and without violence. Now I wish good luck to the districts and its tributes!" The cheering which had slightly died down as she spoke now renewed with amazing vigour. Everyone started stamping their feet as a massive drum roll as she stuck her pink claws into the first bowl labelled females. I took a deep breath and prepared myself. Everything fell silent as she cleared her throat "Mil-"
"I VOLUNTEER!" I yelled surprising even myself at how loud I was. Beaming from ear to ear, I made my way up the stage and walked over to the microphone "My name is Saffron Singer, 14 and I am your new Victor for District one!" With that, I turned and sat down to defending applauds. Marissa now moves onto the male bowl and again dodges her claws around till she clasps a slip. "Al-"
"I VOLUNTEER!" Screams a male voice from the very back. My jaw almost drops as I see the most humanly attractive male emerge from the 18 sector. He marches up to stage and there is something commanding about his stride. "I am Carter Billings, 18" he says as he blows a kiss to the girls side of the town centre and winks to what I can only presume are his friends in the male sections.
"HAPPY HUNGER GAMES, AND MAY THE ODDS EVER BE IN YOUR FAVOUR" Marissa tells over the adoring crowd as we are escorted to the peace building.