Reapings: Districts 7 and 5
District 7 Reapings
"I want you to report to station 4."
"Yes sir, what is at that station, sir?"
"Lumber, just like every other station."
"Oh, alright." I say as I grab my ax. I've worked at nearly every station since I started work in the lumberyard, but never 4. I wonder what it looks like. I find the answer to my question when I get there, the station is smaller than the ones I normally work at. There are only two tree stumps for chopping lumber, my usual job. I'm not great at it, but I need to do it, ever since my brothers were born my family has had a tough time putting enough food on the table, even with me getting the maximum amount of tessarae.
Another unique thing about this station is who else is working here. Usually since I'm small, and honestly not the strongest person in the district, I'm paired with some huge lumberjack. Today, strangely, the person standing at my station is a girl about my age. She greets me with a kind "Hello" and a smile.
"Hey, what's your name?" I respond.
"I'm Tawny, nice to meet you." It seems a bit like she is in some kind of dream world, I wonder what thats like. I set up my piece of lumber on the block and bring my ax down. It isn't exactly the cleanest cut ever. Tawny does the same, with similar results.
"So do you know why they paired the two of us together, usually there is at least one strong person?" I ask. Was that question rude? Sometimes people think I can be a bit insensitive, but I really don't mean to be. Apparently the question is fine, because Tawny doesn't seem fazed by it at all.
"My shift manager said he was going to stick his two biggest annoyances at station 4." she tells me.
"Do you know what your manager meant by that?"
"I think he meant you and I, not to put too fine a point on it."
"Oh," I say. I had never really thought of myself as that much of annoyance. This girl seems pretty nice, I don't find her to be annoying at all either.
"Why does he think we are annoying?"
"As far as I go he thinks I am too...distracted, and I ramble too much about the serious ecological implications of the lumber industry in District 7."
"The consequences of the deforestation that goes on here. Destroying all of our natural recourses has had disastrous affects for humanity in the past, and it is ignorant to think that would not occur again." The two of us continue to talk for the rest of the shift, apparently she is from a poor part of the district too. She too took up this job to help support her family, but unlike me doesn't have to work full time, so she got to stay in school. She tells me that she thinks that I shouldn't worry as much as I do though, she thinks the world has many more lessons to teach than school does anyway. I never really thought about it that way before.
Tawny never gets tired of all my questions, which is often not the case when I meet a new friend. The only other person who puts up with my constant questions, aside from my family, is my best friend Parea. In fact I think Parea actually enjoys to answer all my questions. People think it's weird that my best friend is a girl, and assume that there is something going on between us, but it isn't like that. She practically is one of the guys herself.
We close early today, because of the reapings. I say goodbye to Tawny, and I think that I may have made a new friend. Anyone who puts up with my questions must be cool. Maybe we'll get paired up again tomorrow. That is if one of isn't reaped.
If there is one good thing about the reaping day, its that we get let out of work early. Well, not that early, I have just enough time to get to the reapings. There waiting for me in the fifteen year old section is my best friend, Skye. Well, she is more than just my friend, she's practically my sister. Years ago, a peackeeper committed a crime, the Captiol needed a scapegoat, so Skye's parents were put to death. I convinced my parents to take her in afterward. She turned out to be more of a blessing than a burden, she got a job and brought in tessarrae. Without her support I probably would have had to quit school.
"Welcome everyone, may the odds be ever in your favor today!" I hear the escort over the loudspeaker. Her Capitol accent is somewhat ridiculous, and so is her notion that the odds would be in out favor. I do my best to think about the injustices of the Capitol, but thats very difficult when they are about to take two children away to be murdered.
"We'll start with the girls," she says a high pitched voice. "Our Female tribute is...Tawny Russet." I see Skye begin to open her mouth, I know what she is about to do.
"No," I say as calmly as I can, "I can't let you go in there, you've been through enough." I do my best to not portray the panic that is inside me. Instead I make myself look like I'm a million miles away.
"No, I owe it to you." she says.
"It isn't the same, please, just promise you'll take care of my sisters." Skye has tears in her eyes now. She seems conflicted, but doesn't say anything more.
As I walk to the stage, I suddenly remember a conversation that I had with my grandmother this morning. My grandmother made her living as something called a seer. She would charge people and tell them their fortunes. I've always thought of it as a bit of a scam, but my grandmother insists that I've inherited "the gift." I always dismissed this but last night I woke from a nightmare. In a panic, I told Skye my nightmare, and Skye mentioned it to my grandmother. My grandmother said it was no dream, but a somber prophecy. I told her she was crazy and went on with my day.
In my dream Skye was reaped.
Well since it was a dream, it wasn't entirely clear it was Skye, all I knew that it was a good friend, but it felt like Skye. Now it's obvious that the dream was wrong, it isn't Skye or any other friend going in. Its me.
I hear all the comments about me when I walk up to the stage.
"Its that strange girl."
"I've seen her at the lumberyard."
"She took in that girl who's parents were traitors."
I don't let any of their words get to me, I just stroll forward and pretend I can't hear it. On the outside I remain calm, despite the fact that inside I've completely lost it. Without me will my family be able make it? The best case scenario would have Skye quitting school, just like that boy I worked with in the lumberyard today, what was his name?
Yes, that was it. Wait! Who said that? Oh no, I look forward and see the inquisitive boy heading to the stage. My heart sinks like a stone. The escort greets him and rather than seeming mortified he asks the escort why she decided to pick the exact paper she did. We are instructed to shake hands and I find myself giving him the same smile I did the first time we met this morning.
"At least I'll be going in with a friend" he says. The last word sticks in my brain for a moment, and I'm not sure why. Even though we have only known each other for a short time, I do consider him a friend. I look to the crowd and see my family, when I see my grandmother's face and I get it. My dream wasn't about Skye. It was about Kairen.
Or maybe it was just a coincidence, who knows?
District 5 Reapings
The sound of the bell signals its time to exit class; school is out. "You comin' over before the reapings?" Violet asks.
"No, I'm gonna have lunch with the family." Violet nods, she knows how important family is to me, and for all I know this could be the last meal as a complete family we ever have. "But we could hang out for awhile before that," I add.
"Yeah, lets find the boys." Violet says. The boys of course meaning Zane, Lysander, Dale and Alex. I know that's a lot of guys, it's just that aside from Violet, I've always had male friends. I guess it's because I'm so feisty and temperamental, which I inherited from my dad. Alex is the same way... which is may be why we used to date. But, he isn't my boyfriend anymore, it's better that were friends, no one can get hurt. Violet, on the other hand is more like Dale. They are both pretty quiet, reserved people. Well, that is when Dale isn't being sarcastic.
We meet the boys at the large Oak tree outside the school, our usual meeting place. "Well my day just got better," Alex says as we walk over.
"Calm down Casanova," Dale adds without looking up from his book. I swear he is constantly reading something
"Hey guys," I say, as I shut Dale's book.
"No, it's okay, I wasn't in the middle of a sentence or anything, I wanted to loose my place, thank you."
"Your welcome" I say without looking at him, this banter back and forth is automatic after years of friendship.
As the four of us continue to talk someone inevitability brings up the reapings, which sets me off. I begin to rave about the injustices of the Capitol, about how their regime is harsh and oppressive, and the people who live there, our escort included, are tacky and shallow. I leave out how I am terrified of them. Violet pulls me back though, as she is the only person who can consistently calm me down.
If I am going to make it back home in time to eat and get to the center of town for the reapings, I'll need to split soon. Before I go I, as casually as I can, I ask Dale how his family is doing. His family isn't exactly as...harmonious as mine.
"Same as always" is his reply. Same as always isn't good. It means things with his siblings, Ash and Holli, are rough. It seems that all three of them are perpetually jealous of each other. Unfortunately, that isn't the worst thing "Same as always" means. It also means his dad is still drinking, and still hits them and his mom when he does. Dale says his dad feels terrible about this when he sobers up, and he really loves them. Doesn't stop me from hating the guy. "Seeya Zee," Dale calls me by the nickname Lysander gave me years back, which stuck in our circle of friends, as I head off.
We all split off, Violet one way, me another, and all four boys stick together. Soon enough I'm at the family table, there with me is; my father Leon, mother Amber, and my siblings; Kleo, Isobela, Harry and Hayden. Everyone is especially quite tonight. The number of children who could be reaped has doubled this year. Hayden and Harry just turned twelve. Isobela and I have both been eligible for a few years now. The only one who is safe this year is little Kleo. I reach over and take her hand. She has been sick for so long, and is so frail, I'm glad she is safe, at least for a few more years.
I can't help but think about Dale's family as I sit here with mine. We may not be rich, but we always manage to put enough food on the table, without having to sign up for teressae. Dale's family on the other hand is one of the poorest in the district.
Dinner ends and we delay as long as we can, but the reapings are fast approaching, and to miss it would cause severe punishment. So we go, each into our various sections. I spot Dale and Alex in the boy's section and give them a wave. They both wave back, but Dale looks incredibly somber. Who can blame him?
I fall flat on my face. "Owww" I say sitting up. I look back at what tripped me, and I see a rock. My ankle hurts, and running is what caused me to trip in the first place, but I can't slow down now, I'm late for the reapings. If I'm not there then there will be trouble.
I can see the town center, and it appears that they haven't started yet. Good. I slow down a bit as I approach the thirteen year old section, but I'm still breathing pretty heavily. I almost collapse by the time I get to my section, the run has exhausted me. "Hey guys," I pant to my friends.
"Hey, we thought you might not show up, or something," my friend Iggy says.
"No..." I take a deep breath "I just like cutting things close," I say with a smile.
"Shut up guys, they're about to pick the girl," someone else in our section says. We do shut up, and I see the escort drawing a name from one of the two balls on stage.
"Azeika Brooke" she says. I think that name sounds familiar, and I when I see the girl walk on stage I recognize her. She is the older sister of my friends, Harry and Hayden, twins a year younger than me.
The escort asks for a volunteer and the only response is the wind. Now it's time for the boys to be reaped. She reaches in and... "Blaine River"
That's it, my life is over. The stupid Capitol has killed me, I'm done. Soon I'll have to say goodbye to my family, I'd better start thinking of what I'm going to say now, I have nine siblings to say goodbye to. The only one who I can think of now though is my big brother Aly, my best friend. I'm doing my best not to cry as I walk to the stage, but its only half working. I'm shaking a bit, and I feel tears run down my cheek but I've somehow managed to not just fall over and burst into uncontained tears.
I get on the stage, and the escort introduces me, "Baline River, our male tribute...that is unless anyone would like to volunteer?" Why even bother asking, I know no one will. I have seven sisters, so none of them could, as for my brothers, well Aly is nineteen, so he isn't allowed either and my other brother is only twelve, even younger than I am. Nope, no volunteer for me.
What? Who said that? I wipe my nose and try to see what is going on. Then I see him. An older boy, I don't know his name, but I've seen him around. After a couple minutes he makes it to the stage.
"What's your name son?" the escort asks the boy.
I'm so confused now, why would this guy, who I don't really know save me? As she introduces the tributes, the peacekeepers direct me off the stage. I take one last glance over my shoulder at the tributes as they shake hands, and I can tell they know each other.
After everyone has cleared out, I find my way to the Justice Building. I am directed to a bench where I wait with the others saying goodbye to Dale. I want to ask him why he saved me, but more importantly, I want to thank him for it. I look at the others on the bench. There are three guys around Dale's age, two younger kids, a quiet lady, and a crying guy who smells like alcohol.
They enter the room to talk to him, one by one, each leaving after the building after the allotted time. Pretty soon it's just me and a guy who's name I think is Alex. We don't say anything to each other until after he comes back out, when he is rubbing his arm. I musta make some kind of face cause he says to me, "He punched me, but I deserved it." Uhhhh...what?
I go in and Dale looks surprised to see me. I don't say anything so he starts. "So, you wondering why I took your spot?" I nod. He gives me a smile and says "Two reasons really. First, you just a kid, thirteen right?" I nod again. "Right, so its not right what they were gonna do, send a kid to his death, its still not right, but its better if I die." He stops.
I wait for about a minute and then I ask "What's the second reason?"
"That girl, the one who got reaped, well she is my...my very good friend. I'm going to protect her." I smile for a second, but then I figure something out.
"But you can't protect her? Both of you can't make it out!" How could he not have known that?
"Why do you think I said its better if I die than you?" I get it now. He isn't planning to live, he is going in to protect her knowing he won't come out. I start to cry again, this is the saddest thing I ever heard. He pats me on the back, which reminds me of Aly. I force myself to stop crying to ask him a question.
"That boy, Alex, who was in here, he said you punched him, and he deserved it, what did he mean?"
Dale sighs, and I wonder if that was too personal, but he tells me anyway. "He told me he admired me, that he could never do something like that." Seems like a weird reason to punch your friend. "When I asked him why, even though he... he fells the same way I do about her, he said it wasn't worth his life."
I don't get exactly what any of this means, but maybe I can ask someone older later, I don't want Dale to be any sadder. "One more thing," I say.