Reapings: Districts 6 and 10
District 6 Reapings
"...forty-eight...forty-nine...fifty!" I grunt the last number as I put the barbell back on the upright. I grab my towel and wipe the sweat from my forehead.
"Here honey," my mother said as she hands me a sports drink.
"Thanks Mom." I chug about half the bottle in one swig. "How much ...time ...till the reapings?" I say panting.
"Looks like..." she checks her watch, "about three hours."
"Good" I still have time. "Tell Dad I'll see him after the reapings"
"Alright honey." my mother says with a smile. I wonder if she knows how I spend my time. I haven't told her, but then I'm not exactly subtle about what I do. I know she's aware that my father sells stolen goods on the black market, even though she pretends she isn't. I do more than just selling stolen good though. When someone interferes with my business, in a way that I don't care for, I teach them a lesson. And by teach them a lesson, of course I mean break their legs. Like I said, I'm not so into subtly.
It's more important to be feared than liked. If someone likes me, then he might do me a favor. If someone thinks I might break his bones, he will do me a favor. Today however, is not a day where I get to inflict harm on someone, just a day for making some money. I head upstairs, wash up, and change out of the clothes I work out in, putting on something more presentable. And more intimidating. I grab the watch sitting on my counter, I don't know who it was stolen from. because I don't ask those kinds of questions in my profession.
I've managed to line up a buyer and have arranged a meeting with him at the black market. When I arrive I'm greeted by a few peons who want to sell me something, but I just wave them away. They know this means today I'm not interested in buying. I find the creep who wants to buy the watch hanging around some abandoned laundry bin.
"I've got your watch." He jumps at this, apparently he didn't notice me walk up next to him. Makes sense, my training has done more than just build muscle, I'm very good at getting around undetected. "Do you have the money?"
"Umm, y-yeah," he stutters "It was thirty-five right?"
"Excuse me?" I say grabbing the boy's shoulder. I hear him let out a squeal of pain. "It was forty, but now," I squeeze tighter, and I get another squeal, "Its fifty, or would you like to keep negotiating?"
"No" he lets out in a small voice.
"What was that?"
"No" he practically begs.
"Good." I don't let him go until the money is in my hand, then I toss him on the floor and place the watch next to his crying body.
"Pleasure doin' business with you."
The black market has almost cleared out now, almost everyone has gone to the reaping, I'd better head over too. As I walk, I let my mind imagine a scenario where I am reaped. Thats the real reason I have been training so hard. Anyone can be reaped, and I have to be prepared. While I would never volunteer, winning those games would be my ticket to fame and glory. If I was picked I'd have no trouble taking down just about everybody. Seventeen of those tributes would be easy pickings. What worries me are those from 1, 2 and 4. The careers. They haven't been lifting weights in their basement with their mom as a spotter. They have been professionally trained.
I can feel the fear begin to creep in, and I have to remember to shut it out. I can't dwell in my emotions, that will only weaken me.
By now my feet have carried me to the sixteen year old section. The reapings will be underway soon, the mayor is in the middle of her speech. My thoughts keep drifting back to the games, would the careers take me in? Stop thinking about that. The escort has walked up now. Why wouldn't they take me in? It won't matter in a second, once he picks another name. He has his hand in the bowl. I can almost stop worrying ...he has the slip in his hand...its...
I stand on my toes to get a better look at the boy. There he is, he's got kinda brown hair, with maybe some grey. He is sorta tall, and his skin is the same dull brown of my father's coffee. Nothing really stands out to me about him until he gets to the stage, when I see his face.
He is completely devoid of emotion, like he doesn't care at all that he's been reaped. I feel a chill run down my spine. How can someone act like that? What's wrong with this guy? He is about to face his death and he isn't afraid, or sad, or anything. The escort asks him some questions, and he starts talking about crushing his opponents.
I've never gotten these psychos who go into the games with a bloodlust. How can they not be absolutely appalled by death? If they knew death the way I do, then I guarantee they would not be so nonchalant about it.
Marius has stopped his rant about the murders he will commit, and it's time for the girl to be reaped. I grab my hair and without thinking put it over my shoulder, its almost a nervous tick I have. The escort reaches in and... "Amata Natea"
NO! This is impossible. How could this happen to me? Before I know what I'm doing I'm sprinting through the crowd of people, trying as hard as I can to get away. If I can just escape, then...then I'm not sure, but anything is better than the games.
I don't make it far, the peacekeepers close in and snatch me up. They drag me on stage, and I just give up. What's the point? I shake Marius' hand and hang my head as I'm walked to the justice building.
I don't have a lot of friends, actually, I don't have any, so the only ones I that come to see me off are my sisters and father. My sister Mina is too young to get that I won't be coming back, and my father only tries to give me advice on survival. The one I really need to talk to is my sister Lanni.
"You know what you have to do" I say as she walks in.
"I can't take care of them, I'm only thirteen, I'm not ready."
"I was the same age when Mom died, and I had you, and Aly was a newborn." Lanni has tears in her eyes, she always gets emotional about Mom's death. "You know Dad can't work all day and watch a six and a two year-old."
"I...I know" she says to the floor more than me. "Maybe..." she says, quickly snapping her head up, causing the tears to fly off her face, "You'll make it back, you have as good of a chance of making it back as anybody else."
She is so filled with hope, and I would do anything to not to crush that, but our family has to survive. "No, I don't," Am I crying now too? "I don't have a shot against the ones who've trained, you have to be strong now." She nods, and it's like I can see her spirit being crushed before my eyes. Apparently the peacekeepers decide that our time is up and take her away.
I'm left wishing I could say goodbye to the last member of my family, but Aly can barely talk, so what would be the point? Aly has always been sort of a symbol of hope for me. When my mother died we thought we would loose the baby too, but by some miracle he survived. I wonder, is there any chance that my death could bring something beautiful into the world as well?
District 10 Reapings
The rooster wakes me as the sun rises. I can see the sun creeping through the windows of the barn now, as I pick the pieces of hay out of my hair.
"Ashlyn," I hear my father's voice call from the house, "You in the barn?" The first couple times I slept out here my parents took exception, but by now they have gotten used to finding my bed empty at dawn.
"Yeah Dad." I answer back.
"Well get over here, its time for breakfast."
I leisurely stretch out and yawn, picking the last few pieces of hay out of my dirty blonde curls. I pat my favorite horse, Mortekai, on the head as exit the barn. It only takes a few seconds to get between the barn and the house, but I pause for a moment to breath in the morning air, letting the day's first light warm my body.
"Hey goldilocks," my father greets me as I walk inside and take a seat between my sisters at the family table. This is the one time my family is always together, breakfast. Of course we all see each other throughout the day, but the five of us aren't ever in the same room, except right now. Soon my parents will be out on the farm, heading the cattle, I'll alternate between doing chores and learning the ropes of the farm, and my sisters will be in town. Normally, I wouldn't think of heading in town with them, I know what they do there, even if my parents don't, but today going to town is mandatory.
I still have plenty of time to kill before the reapings, an advantage to rising with the sun. Normally I'd grab some feed and make sure the stables were clean, but Dad insists I take the morning off, and I don't fight him on it. I decide now is a good time to grab Mortaki; it's been a long while since we had a morning ride.
Our pasture really is a beautiful place, but when you see a place everyday you can forget that. Today though, something, and I'm not sure what exactly, reminds me just how breathtaking it can be. I've reached the silo finned with the hay, and stop to let Mortikai take a drink from a trough. I decided to take a load off myself and lean against an old wooden fence.
I can still remember when my father built this fence, cutting the wood, driving the poles into the ground, hammering the nails. I think of how much I loved the smell of lumber fresh from 7. I couldn't have been any older than six, but it may as well have been yesterday. The fence looked so sturdy then, and the wood was such a beautiful shade of brown. Today, it looks like a strong wind might blow it over, and the elements have sucked out any color once there.
Mordecai must have had his fill of water, because he nudges me with his head and snaps me back into the present. I hear a voice yelling from the other side of the pasture, and see my sister Vira waving to me in the distance. How long has she been trying to get my attention while I was thinking about the glory days of a fence? "Come on Mortaki, lets ride back." I know he doesn't really understand me, but that doesn't stop me from telling him everything from "Hello" to my deepest secrets. For me, a horse is better than a diary.
My sisters and I talk all the way into town, now that were out in the open Vira has put on her dumb blonde facade. Lyra is acting pretty arrogant and braggy, but thats something she does with or without an audience. Once the square's in sight Vira wishes us luck as she goes to rejoin our parents, while Lyra heads to the eighteen year old section and I'm off to my own. Once I'm there I instantly have a peacekeeper at my side.
"You sure your in the right section, what are you fourteen?" he says with a grin that puts me off ease.
"No," I say as neutrally as I can.
"Really, you're sixteen? Well in that case are you're old enough to follow in your sisters' footsteps." He gives me a glance that I really don't care for and I can feel the rage building up within me now. I've always resented my sisters a bit for their willingness to sell their bodies to the peacekeepers, and the implication that I'm "Following in their footsteps" is a bit much to take.
"Why, do you like girls who look like they're fourteen?" I say back. Once burying my emotions fail, my attempt at wit makes an appearance. Apparently this works because the peacekeeper just laughs and heads back to the front of the section. Good, I'm done with the Capitol for today, they've already cost my family half a day at work. Oh well, I'll be back on the farm within the hour.
"Lets go Finch!" I hear my big sister Robyn yell.
"What's the rush?" I say back, taking a bit of my apple.
"The rush is," my friend Rhona has chimed in now, "That the reapings start in twenty minutes."
"Yeah, yeah okay." I take one last bite and toss the core in a trash bin. "Fine lets head over."
"Oh, well thank you for gracing us with your presence," Robyn sarcastically says.
I wouldn't have delayed if it we didn't live so close to the town center, so were at the reapings in five minutes. I've found some of my other friends in the fifteen year old section and I take my place with them. Even around those who I consider my friends, my guard is back up. Aside from my mom and sister, Rohna is the only person I really trust. They are the only people who I can really be myself around, because the fact of the matter is that it's almost impossible to really trust someone. It took Rohna and I years to build up what the two of us have. The really ironic thing about me distancing myself from everyone is that it seems to make everyone want to know more about me. I suppose the mystery is always more interesting than the reality.
The mayor introduces the escort and I think of how perfect an example she is for what I've been thinking. The Capitol escort comes pretending to be our friend, our ally, and then she sends two of us to die in the most gruesome way I can conceive. But no matter how deep my hatred for the Capitol runs, I don't harbor any delusions of rebellion. That kind of thinking would only serve to get myself and those I care about killed.
"Time to begin," I hear the escort say. "This year I think we should start with the boys." She is honestly acting as if this is some kind of celebration. I don't like my chances this year. I've had to take tessarea a couple of times, not as often as when I was younger, before I could do manual labor, but being older only worsens my odds. Here we go, escort babbling, hand in the bowl, she has a name and it's "Finch Andersen."
Damn. Okay, I take a deep breath, I've gotta hold it together, at least while I'm in public, with every eye and every camera in 10 trained on me.
Now I regret my delay earlier, I have to walk past every other boy my age to reach the stage. My mentor grabs me as soon as I'm on the stage and says how I look like a winner. Its time for the girl to be reaped now. I almost forgot I won't be going in there alone. When the escort reads the name, it rings a bell, at least the last name does.
The Plains own the largest ranch in the entire district, I've delivered feed there a ton of times. I guess sometimes the odds just aren't in your favor, because that family isn't one that would need to ever sign up for tessarae. Just goes to show you that it doesn't matter who you are in the eyes of the Capitol.
I try to get a look at her apparently her first name is Ashlyn, but I have no idea which daughter that is. I know that two of the Plains girls have a bit of a reputation for spending their time with the peacekeepers. There is the tall blonde one, and the mean brunette with green eyes. But no, I can see her now, the tribute isn't either of these, its the short one.
I've never really noticed how pretty she is before, probably because I've only ever seen her at the ranch, covered in dirt. She's isn't pretty in the way her sisters are, its a different, more unconventional and rare beauty. I don't even know how to describe it. She has a delicate frame, yet somehow still looks strong. And then there is that freckle on the left side of her chin. Its too bad I'll be trying to kill her soon.
We shake hands and we're ushered to the Justice Building. I'm left alone to sit and wait for my friends and family to visit me. Thats when I break down. I can't remember the last time I cried, but I'm making up for lost time. The betrayal that torments me is not a fresh one, but one that happened just days after I was born. My mind goes to that dark place where it always goes during troubled times, and I ask myself the questions I've asked a million times before. What did my father abandon me? What was so wrong with me that he would leave? People tell me he wasn't ready for a child, and it had nothing to do with me personally. If that was the case, why did he stay when my sister was born the previous year? No matter how often I ask myself, I don't have answers for any of these questions. There is only one question about my father I've managed to come up with an answer for. What would I do if I ever saw him again?
I'd kill the bastard.