***DISCLAIMER: Please note that this is a FAN FICTION. Suzanne Collins and her associates own everything concerning The Hunger Games franchise. This fan fiction does not claim to be original in characters, plot, or setting. This fan fiction is not for profit. This fan fiction is simply for entertainment purposes. KaylaAnn Author does not claim ownership over these characters or ideas. This is a piece of fan fiction that is not a part of the authentic series. I am grateful to Suzanne Collins for creating a wonderful narrative that compels her readers to examine the darkness within the world and themselves and how to combat it. If you love this fanfiction at all, it is because of the world that Collins created and I encourage you to go and read or reread The Hunger Games trilogy.***
The warmth from the oven seeps out onto my hands and face. I hear the slight crackle of the flames, the only sound in a silent town. The rest of District 12 sleeps in. The reason? Reaping Day.
Mother woke us as usual before dawn, my brothers and I quickly followed suit. If we attempted to sleep in, even on Reaping Day, she’d grab the broom or worse. My brothers work up front or out back as usual while I retrieve the freshly baked bread from the stone oven. The warm, spiced scent of pecans and raisins fills my nostrils. Just thinking about the stale bread we will eat for breakfast causes me to wince in discomfort, but then I remember that there are some people worse off than us. Inadvertently, my mind thinks of her and that day in the rain. Yes, there are some people worse off.
“Is that bread done yet?” Father walks in from one of the back rooms, his voice gentle and low.
I can tell by his demeanor that he does not want mother hearing him. No doubt, he is making a trade that mother would not approve of. Before I can help it, I find myself leaning around the door to see who is at the back.
It’s not her. It’s her friend, the other boy from the Seam who hunts with her from time to time. I hand off the bread to my father who makes the trade for the squirrel.
No doubt, that bread is off to her. The thought of it makes me smile.
Before long, mother is back and my brothers and I pick up the pace. Reaping Day or not, there are chores to be done, dough to kneed, and bread to sale. It is only after the floors are swept down once again, that father steps in.
“They need to go get ready for the reaping,” he says.
He means myself and one of my older brothers. The other is nineteen; he no longer has to attend the Reapings, but he will still be there, standing in the crowd with out parents. Watching and waiting, just like everyone else in District 12. You see, in the country of Panem, there are twelve districts and one Capitol. Every year, the Capitol holds the annual Hunger Games and every year, each district must present one male and one female between the ages of eleven and eighteen to participate in the Games. Twenty-four tributes arrive at the Games, but only one makes it out.
“Peeta, hurry up and go change,” my father says.
I nod, struggling to swallow the lump in my throat. This is my sixth year in the Reaping. Since we are luckier than most, I have only had my name placed in six times, my older brother has had his name in eight times. This is his last year and then he will no longer have to worry. Even knowing that the odds are in my favor, I cannot help ease the knot in my stomach.
I change into my best clothes which just means that the pants have no holes or patches and that the shirt is white and clean. Using some water, I brush back my hair and hope that it stays.
“Time to go,” Mother says, her voice more gentle than usual.
I guess the Reaping Day really does effect everyone.
They direct us to the Justice Building that stands at the far end of the square. Since we live in town, it does not take us long to find the check-in area. This is where the Capitol splits family members. Parents cannot go any further with the children and even siblings must stand apart, ranked by age. Every child must go into the Reaping alone.
More children and parents arrive, splitting off into their assigned areas. The boy next to me is in several of my classes. He smells slightly of shoe polish even though his wet hair shows that he recently bathed. He spares me a single glance before staring back down at his feet.
None of us are very talkative.
My eyes gaze over the crowd, more for something to do than anything else. I notice that the boy from this morning, her hunting partner, stands only a few feet behind me. I’m pretty sure that I’ve heard her call him Gale. Following Gale’s gaze, I find her.
My breath catches in my throat.
She is beautiful. Unlike her traditional braid down her back, her hair has been done up in layers of braids and she wears a soft blue dress. She’s worried. I can see it in her eyes. She’s looking at Gale, but her mind is elsewhere. Is she worried about Prim?
It’s Prim first year, I want to comfort her. There’s no way that they’ll choose her.
Effie Trinket, the Capitol attendant dressed like a violet bird, arrives and warbles on about what an honor it is, but that’s before Haymitch makes his way across the stage, drunk and belligerent as always. Soon, too soon, Effie’s hand is dipping into the giant glass bowl that contains hundreds of names. I hold my breath, thinking, not her, not her.
And it’s not her.
“Primrose Everdeen.” Effie Trinket calls out.
Even a few feet behind me, I can hear Gale’s sharp intake a breath. My eyes scan the crowd and find Prim. It’s hard to see her because she is so much shorter than everyone else. Although her face is pale, her blue eyes are steady. Slowly she makes her way forward, tucking in the back tail of her shirt.
“Prim!” Shouts a strangled cry.
She runs through the crowd that easily parts for her. Shoving Prim behind her back, she calls out, “I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!”
There is stunned silence and then mass confusion as everyone turns to one another and whispers. We’ve never had a volunteer. Over the crowd, I cannot make out what she is saying to Prim, but Prim is shaking her head and crying. Then Gale is there, lifting Prim into his arms.
I realize that I’m shaking, from fear or from anger. She is on stage and Effie Trinket asks her name.
“Katniss Everdeen,” she says.
Effie Trinket calls for applause but there is only silence. We know that the odds are against her. With one hand, I raise three fingers in a salute of respect. All around me, others do the same. It is an old sign that is usually reserved for funerals and I can see that Katniss is struggling not to cry.
At that moment, Haymitch staggers across the stage, shouting something at the cameras. When everyone turns to look at him, I stare at Katniss. She seems to let out a silent sob and then pushes back her shoulders looking out over the crowd, over the market place. Is she looking at the mountains? Is she wishing she were there? I can still hear Prim softly sobbing in her mother’s arms somewhere in the crowds.
“Now for the boys!”
Effie strides over to the other bowl and before I can even consider my own safety, I hear her say, “Peeta Mellark!”