I was just a kid and you could not forgive me 'cause it's harder.
I was just a kid and all I really wanted was my father.

Petra Cameron, 15, District Ten Citizen


The word comes easily to my lips as I rush over to the weathered old man, his wrinkled face conveying gratefulness as I help him off the ground. "Thank you, Petra," he croaks out in that familiar tone I've learned to adore. "Gardening's not the nicest job, but somebody's got to do it."

"Anything," I say eagerly, nodding.

His joints crackle as he eases himself off of the grassy slope, and once he's up, he coughs and adjusts his spectacles. "Shall we go inside, then? Your mother's probably cooking up some fried chicken, maybe some corn."

Together we walk inside our meager house, where the luscious scents of supper wrap around me. I allow my senses to take over, closing my eyes and inhaling deeply. Not just fried chicken and corn, but a beef brisket, and fresh butter, and even cranberry sauce. It's a regular feast!

Mother moves to the side, her long brown skirt swinging as she allows Grandfather to move into the living room. "President Violette is going to announce the Quell in just a couple minutes," she says in a low tone so my younger siblings don't hear. "Everybody's gathered in the living room to watch it on television, but we have a bit of time. Currently, they're just having a quick interview with some victor from District One. Come, help me set the table."

I glance at the television, its bright screen illuminating the dark room. The glassy eyes of my younger sisters, Amelia and Laurel, are wide as they observe the people on screen. The baby, Jonas, lies sleeping in the arms of my grandmother. My father's thumbs are twiddling nervously as he stares blankly at the screen. Everybody's nervous, as am I.

Tesserae hasn't been brought up too many times around this household, but everyone knows that I take it. Not too much, about three or four a year, but that's just a couple extra slips in my name. Amelia the meek would never dream of it, where Laurel's a bit more daring. I'm sure that she's taken out at least one as well, so this year, at just twelve, she'll have her name in there two times at the least.

This year is a Quell, which could either be good news or bad for our family. Each time a Quarter Quell has been announced, our family has luckily been skipped over. We've never had an ancestor to go into the Games, and each night when I say my prayers, I can only pray that this year will be similar.

But it's an impending cloud over our heads nonetheless.

"She's talking!" shrieks Laurel, her already wide mouth stretching further.

"Get in here!" calls Amelia, her voice strained but still collected and calm.

I fight the funny feeling in my stomach as I make my way to the loveseat, taking a seat next to my father and Amelia and hoping, praying for good news.

"… will be a year to remember, indeed." The blurred, faded image of President Violette smiles in a funny sort of way, like she's uncomfortable. "And because of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the failed rebellion, I've decided to do something a bit different this year."

No, really, I berate her silently. It's a Quarter Quell, so why shouldn't everything be the same as last year?

"This Quarter Quell is not to be selected at random," President Violette calls airily, waving her hand, festooned in a couple of simple golden rings. "I've created it myself, and special orders are to be made because of it." A faint smile drifts across her thin lips. "As you know, I am not the monster that my father was."

"And yet she allows these wretched Games to continue!" hisses my father, clenching his fists. "If she really cared about the districts, she'd let us go free, and leave our children alone!"

"Kaden," my mother soothes him with a gentle touch. "She says that they are a way for her to maintain control. We cannot help it. We can't."

My father's lips pucker for a moment, quivering in aftermath of his outburst. With an angry sigh, he collapses back onto the cushions.

President Violette's smoothing back a flyaway strand of hair with her long, pale fingers. "On the eve of the one-hundredth anniversary of the Hunger Games, and on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the failed uprising, a Quarter Quell is in order."

Knowing that the announcement comes next, my mother hugs Laurel to her chest tightly. Laurel squirms free, struggling to get a good glimpse at the small television.

President Violette raises her head, looking blank and almost bored. "On the eve of this Quarter Quell, a twist is to be incorporated."

"Spit it out already!" shouts my father, startling me.

"Kaden!" My mother glares at him, her gaze soon after whipping back to the television.

My throat is dry as the small woman on screen calls out in that melodic, serene tone of hers, "As a reminder to the districts that the Capitol rewards those closest in ties to them, the pool of tributes shall be Reaped from only districts One, Two, Four, and Nine."

As a reminder to the districts that the Capitol rewards those closest in ties to them, the pool of tributes shall be Reaped from only districts One, Two, Four, and Nine.

As a reminder to the districts that the Capitol rewards those closest in ties to them, the pool of tributes shall be Reaped from only districts One, Two, Four, and Nine.

As a reminder to the districts that the Capitol rewards those closest in ties to them, the pool of tributes shall be Reaped from only districts One, Two, Four, and Nine.

It sinks in.

"M-M-Mother!" I scream, leaping up from my spot and trembling with joy. "We-We're spared!"

"We're spared!" shrieks Laurel and Amelia in close unison, their faces splitting into beams of pure joy and glee. "We're spared!"

I turn to my father, strands of wavy dark hair getting caught in my outstretched mouth. Fishing them free with my fingers, I assess his reaction. It's so dark I almost miss the crystalline tears that stream down his ruddy cheeks, bumping over his beard stubble and leaving streaks of saltiness. But I see them.

"Our children are safe for another year." His voice is shaky but relieved. "A-Amarin, our kids! They're secure, free!"

We're all swept up into hugs, arms wrapping around each other. I'm kissed on the cheeks multiple times, and in the corner, even Baby Jonas knows to gurgle in delight. And, with a couple of joyous tears marring my vision as I look over my grandfather's shoulder, I manage to make out President Violette on the screen. But instead of smirking quietly like I'd expected, she looks downright depressed.

And I swear she's looking directly at the camera, her piercing eyes never leaving mine. I'm snared in her gaze, unable to look anywhere but her. Even when my grandfather departs to hug somebody else and Laurel and my mother arrive, grinning like idiots, I can't stop staring at the television screen.

I'd be a fool not to notice the purplish bruises, barely concealed by makeup, that stretch under the president's eyes, the lines at the corners of her thin pink lips.

"But this is not just any usual Reaping," she announces, her voice thin. "For each gender, instead of just one, there shall be three selected. Therefore, from each district, six tributes total shall be Reaped, in divisions."

I detach myself from Laurel and my mother and move closer to the television, as if enchanted.

"One division will be twelve, thirteen, and fourteen year olds." The president nods, her eyelids nearly shut as she examines the slip of paper. "That shall be Division One. For Division Two, there will be fifteen and sixteen year olds, and for Division Three, seventeen and eighteen year olds. Those who wish to volunteer are allowed to only in their allotted division."

"Interesting," I murmur to myself, the cogs of my mind whirling as my father drapes me in a hug. Divisions, she says? Who came up with that strange idea?

But tonight, it doesn't matter. Who am I to care about this woman, who throws twenty-four innocent children into an arena every year, where nearly all of them will die? Tonight, there will be a feast, dancing, maybe even a bit of wine if my mother can spare it.

Tonight, we will rejoice.

A/N: Guilty by Marina and the Diamonds.

You know the drill, guys. Form's on my profile, no recycled or resubmitted tributes, no submissions through reviews, and please, please review if you do get a tribute in. But otherwise, well, yeah! I hope you enjoy.

Submissions opened two days early because I'm cool like that ;3 They close on January 30th. Should give you guys enough time to think of a cool tribute, write him (or her) up, and send 'er in!

Dropping a review on the prologue with your general thoughts is always nice. :)

- nevergone4ever