It was a normal day in my home, which is District 4. It's actually really nice here, if you like living near the ocean. Personally, I do, considering I've never lived anywhere else. The sunsets are exceptional, and it's never cold. It can rain though, and the clouds outside today made it look like it would. Despite the bad weather, I'm sure the reapings would proceed as usual.
Oh, hi. I'm Katar Isiris, a 15 year-old girl from District 4. In case you're wondering, I have bright red hair, and pale blue eyes. I think I'm about 5'6, and that's judging by wooden rulers that I stand against every year, so it might not be accurate.
Anyway, before the reapings, I head down to the beach to my friends and my secret hideout. Every year before the reapings since we turned 12, we've come down here to say goodbye and good luck, in case one of us gets reaped or volunteers. The volunteering would most likely be done by me.
The thing is, my father is a victor of the 80th Hunger Games at 12. Naturally, the Games changed his perception of the world. He's very kind to me, but he just wants to prepare me in case I do get reaped or volunteer (he knows I'll only do that if a younger girl or a friend gets reaped). I do have a few skills though. My dad taught me how to throw knives, and my mom taught me how to use medicine and make it out of herbs. I'm also a very good swimmer. My final skill is one that Dad drilled into me with all his heart, and that is having very keen eyes and ears, and a very good intuition.
It's a very useful skill if used right. Considering that my memory is photographic, I'll see something or someplace, and remember it very well, and I'll know if something's off. Dad would even test me when I slept at night, but he didn't do this too much.
Anyway, this year, I'm here early, so in my pants that ripped when a hook got caught in them and my white shirt that has been washed lots of times, I watch the sun rise.
The next person to show up at our hideout is Hayner Anchorage.
Hayner is attractive in his own way, though I don't have a crush on him. He's athletic, with short blonde hair and brown eyes. He loves to surf in the ocean, and is handy with nets, so if he was reaped, it would be a huge deal of course, but we'd have faith in him as long as there were nets and a water source.
"Hey, Katar," he now says in his casual tone. "You think any one of us'll be…?"
"Save it until we all show up, Hayner," I interrupt. "For now, just shut up and enjoy the sun rise."
This is a running joke between all of us. We all know that Hayner can NEVER shut up even if he's playing the silent game. Another joke between us is if the Hunger Games was changed to the Silence Games, Hayner would be dead in a minute.
Then, we see a shadow coming toward us.
Hayner and I immediately freak out, but then, as the shadow gets closer, I look up and see…
"Don't kill me, Hayner," I now look at Hayner who has a net in his hands, ready to throw, "It's just me."
"Yo, Pence," Hayner says casually. "Sorry about the nets. Thought someone had figured out our hideout."
"They won't. Ever." Pence smiles.
Pence is a short, chubby kid, with spiky black hair that he gels himself, and he always wears his favorite sweatband. He often also wears this thing he calls a "basketball jersey" from old America. It's worn, but he doesn't care. He's very peaceful, and unlike Hayner, knows when to shut up.
"Hey, guys!" The last face in our group arrives.
"Hey, Olette! Come and join us!" I announce.
Olette is the other girl in our group. She's kind of pretty, with brown hair that she cuts herself and bright green eyes. It's no secret that Hayner's got a crush on her, but his "macho-ness" stops him from admitting it. She and Pence are both very unlikely candidates to win the Hunger Games, and Hayner and I have promised them that if they get reaped, we will volunteer if no one else will first, like a Career for that matter.
"So, time to say goodbye for now?" asked Hayner.
"Yeah, I guess," I said.
One by one we all said the same thing, "Goodbye, and may the odds be ever in your favor."
Then we all watched the sunrise together and left.
I changed into my dress for the reaping a couple of hours later. It was sea-foam green, and was poufy, which I hated. After my dress was tied at the back with a big sea-foam green bow, I put on my only pair of shoes, which were brown, and headed down to the town square.
The town square is the nicest place in town, obviously it has to be since the reapings are held there. It has a marble floor and a stage set up every year for our escort, Gretel Buckingham, to pick the names out of the reaping bowl. The stage is also one of the nicest, or so we hear in District 4. It has shining brown wood and is always tested for stability so that Gretel won't fall over.
As usual, the 12-18 year-olds were sectioned off from their parents and siblings that were too young to be reaped, and Gretel would show the video that described the Dark Days, and how Katniss Everdeen failed with her rebellion. They added that part in at the start of the 76th Hunger Games, I think.
After the video finished, it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. We all knew it was time for the reapings. In other words, it was time to send two kids from our district to go and fight to the death.
Please don't be me, I thought, please don't be me.
As it turns out, it wasn't me after all. However, it was Olette.
Then, I remembered Hayner's promise to Pence and my promise to Olette, which was if one of the two (Olette or Pence) were reaped, either Hayner or I (depending on which one was reaped, for obvious reasons), would volunteer.
"I volunteer!" I shouted out.
"Oh, how lovely, a volunteer! What's your name, dear?"
I walked up to the stage looking proud on the outside, but shaky on the inside. Great. Now, to save Olette's neck, I had to go into an arena with 23 other kids and kill them. Wait, maybe not kill them…No, I had to think about strategy later. Right now, what I had to do was calm myself down.
I took a deep breath as they announced the boy tribute. I was too busy calming myself down to know who it was (in other words, the author had no Wi-Fi when writing this part and so couldn't check and see who was the boy from 4. The author of the boy from 4 is entitled to give me a virtual slap on the forehead). Instead of actually looking at him and trying to figure out who he was, I was still thinking, Calm down. Breathe. In. Out. In. Out.
I even missed Gretel yelling out the usual, "Ladies and gentlemen, your tributes from District 4 are…" part.
After the reapings were over, my fellow tribute and I walked into the Justice Building escorted by Peacekeepers. The building had some barnacles on the door. However, the Capitol put the barnacles in, so of course they were in colors like pink, blue, and green, like my stupid dress. They were actually pretty, especially the green ones. I was then taken away from my male counterpart into my own room, which was covered in the light green, and totally fake but pretty, barnacles. You'd know they were fake even if you hadn't seen barnacles your whole life.
Now I just had to sit down and wait for visitors. Naturally, the first people to come in were my parents. They were very sad, and it showed. My mom's dark eye makeup was running about as bad as Dad's nose.
"Katar, honey, why did you volunteer? Why didn't you let that Olette girl do it? I know she's one of your best friends, but friendships come to a halt during the reapings most of the time." Oh yeah, Mom didn't know about the promise.
"Mom, I made a promise to Olette, like Hayner did with Pence, that if she got reaped, I would volunteer for her. Guess what happened? She got reaped. You know me, Mom. I never go back on my word."
"I understand. Just make sure you come home, all right?"
"Yes, Mom. I will." I then look towards my dad. "Do you have anything to say, Dad?"
"Well, honey, unlike your mother, I have confidence in you. You know how to throw knives very well, and you know how to heal others with herbal medicine from this wonderful woman," Here he paused to put his arm around my mother, "and you have keen senses. Make sure you use them wisely."
"Thanks Dad," I manage a small smile at him as the Peacekeepers escort him and Mom out of the room.
Naturally, the next people who come in are my friends. They are all sad, and Hayner looks like he's holding something behind his back.
"Hi, guys," I say to them.
"Look, we know you can win, Katar," Hayner says to me. "You just have to be smart, you know? I think that would be my downfall, you know? Being smart."
"Don't rule out not shutting up as one of your weaknesses, Hayner," Pence smiles a little when he says this, and it breaks the tension.
We all laugh a little when Olette steps up to chat with me, possibly for the last time.
"We should never have made that promise," she says with tears in her eyes.
"Olette, if we didn't, we'd be even sadder, because we all know that, that…"
I wanted to say, "that you'd be dead at the Cornucopia in the first ten minutes.", but that would just be mean and pessimistic.
"I know. I know you were thinking that I wouldn't make it or something."
I swear, my friend is psychic.
"Anyway, here's your token!" Hayner manages to retain some happiness and optimism in the worst scenario of our lives.
I couldn't help but laugh when I saw it.
It was a photograph that Hayner, Pence, Olette, and I had taken together on the day of the annual beach carnival during the summer. There was this thing called a photo booth there, and when it was our turn, we made the goofiest poses. Hayner was giving the camera a raspberry while giving himself moose ears, Pence was shrugging his shoulders and his face was like, "What the hell am I DOING with these idiots?", and Olette and I were giving each other bunny ears. The photo wasn't framed, but that was okay. On the back, Hayner had messily scrawled, "BEST FRIENDS FOREVER" and I saw their signatures on it.
I gave them all huge hugs, and the Peacekeepers took them away. They asked for more time, but the Peacekeepers said no and shoved them out when Hayner started to resist.
Looking at the clock, I could tell that visiting time was over. The boy tribute and myself were now in the car, which would take us to the train, which would take us to the Capitol. Kind of confusing, isn't it?
Anyway, we were swarmed by cameras when we approached the train. It was time for me to put on my confident face and approach the Games with as much courage as I could muster.