Chapter I - Bet on You
Spring of 3189
D1F17 - Crystal Silverstone
I wake up long before I need to, the glowing yellow numbers on the digital clock by my bed reading 4:30am. I was originally planning on waking up at 5:30am and taking my time getting dressed for the reapings. But now that I'm up, there's no going back to bed knowing this will be the last time I wake up in this house. Whatever happens after today will dictate how the rest of my life unfolds. I could either win the Games, and the next time I wake up in District One will be in a sprawling mansion, or… I'd rather not think about the other possibility.
I push the fluffy comforters aside and sit up, stretching. My back arches and I press my fingers against each other, a satisfying pop sounding from each knuckle. I let out a satisfied sigh and slide my toned legs out of the warm blankets. I sit on the edge of my bed with my head resting in my palms, thinking. My long brown hair falls around my face, isolating me from the rest of the room. I let out another sigh, this one not so satisfied.
"Crystal?" I glance up at the timid voice of my little brother, Platinum, standing in the doorway.
"Are you ok?" He walks towards me, and I notice he's gripping a white teddy bear that's turned almost yellow with age. A pang of sickening fear hits me like a wave when I see it, sparking old memories.
"What are you doing with that bear?" I ask, trying to keep my voice from shaking.
"Wha- Oh. Mom gave it to me a while ago. She said it used to be yours," Platinum says, looking at me with wide eyes. "Why? Are you ok?" he asks again.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I assure him, giving him a loose smile. He returns it happily. "Aren't you a little old for toys?" I ask, rolling over and pushing cotton candy pink curtains away from a window above my bed. Faint white light streams in from the stars and the moon, but it fails to completely light up my room.
"Aren't you?" Platinum says, gesturing towards an ancient lonely ragdoll sitting in a corner by herself.
"Okay, well I haven't touched that thing in years," I say defensively. He smiles and lets the bear hang by an arm, and I watch the stitching loosen slightly. Images of my father flash in my mind and I wince, feeling the bruises on my skin as if they were given to me just yesterday when in reality it's been three years. "I'm just scared for you," my little brother adds.
"Don't be scared. I've trained for this," I assure him. I flash a sparkling white grin at him and flex my muscles. He laughs, shaking his head at me.
"You're such a hothead," he says.
"Can you hit the lights?" I ask, ignoring him. I stand up and head over to my desk. A simple black skirt and white blouse are draped over the chair, and I scoop them up and throw them on my bed. The lights flicker on but my brother doesn't leave. I swivel around and look expectantly at Platinum.
"Oh, sorry," he says after a while, scurrying away and closing the door behind him. I chuckle, slipping out of my pajamas and into my reaping clothes. I carefully tuck the blouse into the skirt and admire myself from in front of the full length mirror on the back of my door.
I snatch a brush off of the top of the dresser to my right and start fixing my hair. I braid two sections of hair by my right and left temple and tie them together at the back of my head for a braided half up-half down kind of hairdo. Satisfied with how I look, I slip on a silver ring my grandmother passed down to me. It has an elegant butterfly of the same shining silver perched on the curve, its wings unfolded as if ready to leap into flight at any second. I smile, turning my finger so it catches the light. I've been deciding on what my token would be for almost a month now, ever since the Academy decided that this year I would be the one to volunteer. Of course, I'm not in it just for the glory and the fame, I need to earn money to support my family. I don't want Platinum or Ruby, my little sister, to have to take tesserae or train for the Games like I have. I want a comfortable life for them, and that's what's going to happen.
I look around my room for the last time, decide against making my bed(what would the point be?), and quietly tiptoe downstairs. I run into my mother sipping tea at the dining room table, and she looks up tiredly. "Hello, darling," she says. I glance around the corner at the old analog clock in the kitchen, reading 4:58.
"Hi, mom," I say kindly.
"This is for you," she says, gesturing to two pieces of golden brown toast laying on a chipped plate beside her. I give her a thankful smile and gracefully sit down next to her.
"Why are you all up so early?" I ask through a mouthful of bread.
"What?" she asks, setting her tea down.
"Oh, uh… I mean, why are you up so early?" I correct myself, realizing I snitched on Platinum. Oops.
"Hm," my mom says, narrowing her eyes suspiciously. "How could I sleep the night before my eldest daughter leaves?" she says, a broken smile gracing her worn lips. My mom's been cracked before, but she's never let it break it her. She only gets stronger. Three years ago she divorced my abusive father and moved away with me, and she's only gotten stronger.
"Mom," I say, placing my hand on hers. "I'm not leaving forever."
"Hm," she says again, turning away from me and looking into her nearly gone tea.
I scrape the edges of my toast with a finger, not knowing what to say to make her feel better. I eventually decide to give her some space and carefully get up from the table. "Are you going to finish that?" she asks pointedly.
"I'm sure there's going to be plenty of food on the train," I assure her, smiling. She shakes her head at me but doesn't object when I slip back upstairs. I knock on Platinum's door and it swings open to reveal my little brother trying to get his hair to lay flat. I laugh and he makes a face at me.
"Shut up," he says in mock anger.
"Okay, okay, I'm sorry. Let me help," I say. I reach out and ruffle his hair, giggling.
"Hey!" Platinum says indignantly, slapping my hands away. He tries to fix it but gives up, shooting me a glare. "Jerk," he mutters.
"Looks better, trust me," I say, shrugging. He wolfs down my leftover toast when we get downstairs, mom still sitting silently at the table. I wash her empty cup and leave it out to dry, then pull on my only clean pair of shoes. "Hurry up," I say to Platinum. "I wanna see Spark."
"I'm going to take my time," he says, slowly rinsing his plate off.
"I swear to God," I growl jokingly, grabbing the back of his shirt and practically dragging him out of the house.
"Bye, mom!" we both say in unison. In about ten minutes, we get to Spark's comfy one-story house. I knock loudly on the door, and Spark's dad answers.
"Hey Mr. Alston, is Spark here?" I ask politely. He opens his mouth to answer but is interrupted by my best friend.
"Sure am, Chrissy," Spark says, peeking out from the dimly lit hallway behind his dad. "See you later, dad," he adds, ducking under his arm and following my brother and me. I glance back to see the door softly close as Mr. Alston heads back inside, probably to get ready for the reapings himself.
Spark and I talk the whole way to the town square, him cracking jokes that never fail to make me smile and me filling him in on all the latest gossip going around school. The constant chatter makes the long walk feel like a measly five minutes, and it isn't long before we arrive at the square. Platinum is visibly nervous once we get in line, and I wrap an arm around his shoulders. "You okay?" I ask. He nods.
"I just… what if I get picked? And nobody volunteers? Why are you volunteering? You don't have to, you know," my brother says, green eyes wide. Spark chuckles from the left of me.
"You'll be fine. Someone always volunteers, you have nothing to worry about," I say. "You've done this before." I'm about to defend myself volunteering but the Peacekeeper sitting at the pearly white desk holds his hand out and impatiently demands my finger. "You know where to go?" I ask, making sure.
"Yeah, I'm not dumb," Platinum says, rolling his eyes. I smile sweetly at him, then scruff up his hair again, much to his annoyance. The line moves forward, sectioning me off from Platinum and Spark, and I silently go to my assigned section near the stage, right behind the 18 year olds. In the minutes I have before the reapings start, I glance around at the cameras stationed around the square. I chuckle to myself. It's odd to think that none of the cameramen or Capitolites know what I'm about to do. A rustle of nervous chatter sparks suddenly in the crowd of teenagers, and I look at the stage to see the victors and mayor taking their seats and the extravagant new escort stepping up to the microphone. I hope mom and Ruby got here in time, I think.
The escort introduces herself as Ambrosia Clyde and laughs nervously. The obnoxious sound echoes around the square and I wrinkle my nose in disgust. I'd rather have our old escort, no matter how old and boring he was. Ambrosia adjusts her immense vomit green wig, a wide toothy smile plastered on her powdered face. She clicks a button on a small remote in her dainty left hand and steps back. Her mouth moves quickly, as if she's running lines, while the usual video reminding us of the Dark Days and the failed rebellion plays.
"Ah, now wasn't that lovely?" she says, laughing nervously again. I feel the need to face palm, but suppress it. I can feel nervous sweat breaking out, knowing my moment is coming up. I barely hear her when she says the typical, "Ladies first," and parades over to the large glass bowl, wig bobbling with every step. My stomach flips as she reaches a pale hand into the bowl, picks a neatly folded piece of paper and brings it to her face so she can read the name. For a second I wonder who folded the papers and whether they fold new ones every year, but then I'm snapped back to reality when Ambrosia nervously asks for volunteers. Shit. Everyone around me is staring expectantly, judging. I glance at Spark and see he's looking at me almost the same way, but I know he's not judging.
"I volunteer as tribute!" I say, my voice embarrassingly high. I had planned to sound confident, but I guess now I'll have to work just a little bit harder. I flash an intimidating smile in the direction of the stage, and step out of the crowd, into the walkway, feeling all eyes on me. I somehow make it to the stairs without tripping, and start the short climb to my future. Each tap of my shoes on the old wood hits me, reminding me of the choice I just made. Swallowing my fear, I step in front of my designated microphone and answer Ambrosia when she asks for my name. "Crystal Silverstone," I answer, my voice lower and thankfully more intimidating. I spot Ruby and my mom in the far back of the square, and my smile grows softer for a second before I fix it. I'll make it back, I promise to myself.
D1M18 - Topaz Trinity
"Right hook! Now go for the stomach! Sweep!" my dad calls from the side of the platform. Alessandra goes down as I deliver a swift kick to the inside of her knee. She lands flat on her back and lays there, stunned. My typical easy smile blooms on my tanned face, and I reach down an arm to help her up. Huffing, she glares at me with her smoldering brown eyes and refuses to take my hand. I shrug and turn to my dad.
"How was that, dad?" I ask. He claps his hands slowly, then cracks a grin. I see Alessandra get up out of the corner of my eye, but I don't see when she deals a quick but deadly kick to my groin.
"Ow," I whimper. She flashes a satisfied smirk at me.
"Don't let your guard down, dick," she says, her eyes alight with mischief. I turn to my dad, who's busy trying to stifle his laughter. The motion light outside flickers on and I see my training partner, Sphene Philip, elegantly rush through the immense glass double doors in the front of the Academy.
"Glad to see you, Sphene!" my dad says, his voice echoing in the empty building. Sphene huffs and pulls her sleeves over her hands.
"You too, Mr. Trinity," she answers, her voice muffled by her covered palms hurriedly rubbing her face to warm it. I give her a casual nod as she approaches, now tying her silky brunette hair into a ponytail. Alessandra mumbles a greeting through the mouthful of water she's downing.
"Wanna throw some hands?" Sphene says, tightening her ponytail.
"Just did," I say, motioning to Alessandra, my longtime best friend. She sets her water bottle down and leans against the wall next to my dad, her short blonde hair a tousled mess atop her head.
"You wanna… have a sword fight?" she asks, turning around and tapping the hilt of a sword with a carefully painted fingernail. She's wearing black leggings that hug her curves perfectly and a tight fitting pink and white athletic shirt with long sleeves. I flash her a cocky grin when she catches me staring and she returns it flirtatiously. I move closer to her and put a hand on a particularly pretty sword. I pull it out of its sheath and admire it, turning it around in my hand. It has gold designs on its hilt and the blade is a perfect silvery steel. I run my finger down the side to make sure it's blunt as Sphene steps up onto the platform, her sword swinging playfully in her grip.
"Ready?" my dad asks from the side. We both nod, not daring to break eye contact with each other. "Begin!"
I attack first, like always, with a lunge forward and a strong slash at Sphene. She jumps back, blocking my attack with her raised weapon. We continue on like for this a while, both already knowing how each other fights from years of training together. She ducks and blocks each of my blows while I keep pressing forward. Sweat breaks out on my forehead and I step back, taking a quick breath. Sphene uses it to her advantage and dashes forward, jabbing quickly at my stomach. I block it messly and she swivels, dealing a crippling blow to my left leg. It gives out and I fall sideways, but manage to roll and kick Sphene's legs out from under her as well. A yelp escapes her mouth and she lets go of her sword on the way down. I awkwardly get to my feet, my left leg aching slightly, and sweep her weapon to the other side of the platform with the tip of my own sword. Her green eyes widen and I flash a cocky smile at her, then bring my blunt sword down on her stomach.
"Oof," she gasps, her hands wrapping around the sword. Alessandra lets out a long whistle from the sidelines, clapping slowly. I laugh an easy laugh, and help Sphene up, who scoops up her sword and puts it neatly away on the rack.
"Well done son," my dad adds, clapping me on the back as I put my own beautiful sword away next to Sphene's. "Looks like you're finally ready for the Games."
"Finally? I've been ready for this ever since I stepped foot in this place 10 years ago," I answer, running a hand through my messy sun-bleached blond hair.
"12 years actually," my dad corrects me, chuckling.
"What? Oh, right. 12, that's what I meant," I say, only a little embarrassed.
"Who's house?" Alessandra asks, following me and Sphene out the door. I glance back to see my dad busily cleaning up and turning the lights off.
"Kian's?" Sphene suggests, her gaze shifting between Alessandra and me.
"I guess," I respond, holding the door open for both of them. The cold early morning air hits my face and I let my breath steam out in front of me as we walk, twirling into graceful spirals and then disappearing. Sphene mimics me, giggling and Alessandra rolls her eyes, trudging along beside Sphene with her hands pushing into her pockets.
It doesn't take long to get to Kian's mansion, and in a few minutes Alessandra is knocking loudly on his huge red double doors. They fling open after the 16th knock, revealing Kian's tall, lanky figure. "What do you want?" he asks indignantly.
Alessandra shrinks back, her face scrunching up. The stench of alcohol stings my nose and I cough uncomfortably. Kian glances at me and then at Alessandra and takes a swig of whatever he has today. "Really, Kian? The sun's not even up yet," she says, crossing her arms over her chest. Kian burps obnoxiously in her face and shrugs. He throws the best parties, so I'd never complain about his drinking problem, but Alessandra doesn't hold back anything.
"It's Reaping Day," he says, turning around and receding into the dim lighting of his mansion. The three of us follow him to his unkempt room, empty bottles littering the floor. Alessandra starts to pick them up and toss them unceremoniously into an overflowing trash can in the corner. I stretch out on one side of his bed, Kian sitting next to me, and Sphene lounging elegantly in a large armchair on the other side of the room.
"I'm thinking of having a party today," Kian says, setting the alcohol down on a wooden nightstand. "I mean it is Reaping Day and you're volunteering…" he adds, gesturing to me.
"A little jealous, but okay," I mutter. "Have fun, I guess."
"Why are you jealous? You get to volunteer," Sphene says, her eyes sparkling. She's only 17, so it explains why the trainers didn't pick her to volunteer. However, she also just learned that the chosen female volunteer is the same age as her, so she's been somewhat irritated for a few days. She's been training almost as long as me, but obviously, I'm better.
"It's not exactly a party out there in the Games," Alessandra mutters, sliding down against the wall next to Sphene's chair.
Sphene scoffs. "I mean, it sure looks like one."
"Yeah, he's trained for this like his whole life. I'd be kind of excited if I were him," Kian says pointedly. "Right, Topaz?"
"Uh, yeah," I drawl, not really caring. Alessandra blinks at me but Kian and Sphene both shoot her an I-told-you-so face. All four of us jump when there's a sudden pounding knock on the door.
"Are you kidding?" Kian mutters, getting up and stomping to the door.
"Hey, man!" I hear Ralph say. "You wouldn't believe what happened. You know that party that Jenna Kay threw last night? Yeah, I know, I didn't think it'd be that great either. Anyway, Paloma Opal was there, dude. Yeah, and - Oh hey, guys, didn't know you'd be here - she looked like really lonely right? And so I was like 'Aye, what's wrong?' and she was like, 'My boyfriend dumped me, wanna bang?' and I was like, 'Sure, babe," and it was hot, dudes."
Alessandra snorts and Kian stares at Ralph as he plops down in Kian's spot next to me. "Bro. You messed up. She's gonna be looking for commitment now," Kian says. I chuckle quietly.
"What? Nah…" Ralph says, looking at the rest of us for help. Sphene and I shrug and Alessandra's face lights up in laughter. "Well, shit," he mutters. "I guess I'll just ignore her then."
"Great idea," I say, flashing a thumbs up at him.
Kian saunters over to a small window behind Sphene and flings open the curtains, letting a few early rays of sun break through the thin layer of dust on his window. "Hey, Topaz, shouldn't you be like, spending time with your family?" Alessandra says.
"He'll have plenty of time for that when he comes back," Sphene says, untying her long brown hair and letting it bounce gracefully around her shoulders.
"I dunno, I think I should go," I say.
"See?" Alessandra says, laughing quietly. Sphene grumbles quietly to herself, but doesn't say anything.
"Aight, see you at the reapings," Ralph says, nodding at me. I return it and stroll out of the sprawling mansion, running a hand through my short hair.
"Wait!" Sphene calls from behind me after a few minutes of walking quietly by myself. I lazily turn around to see her jogging to catch up with me. "I'm not gonna see you in a long time, Topy, you sure you don't wanna…" she trails off, smirking up at me.
"Uh, sure," I say, never one to reject an offer from Sphene(or any pretty girl for that matter). "Wait no, the reapings are going to start soon," I add.
"Oh, I guess you're right," she says, skipping ahead of me.
"Wait, not what I meant," I start, but give up, not really caring enough to explain.
"You coming?" she asks, turning around at the corner of the street. I swagger over to her and casually throw an arm around her shoulder. Sphene and I aren't technically dating, we're more like friends with benefits I guess.
"I'm home," I yell as soon as I open the doors to my house. Not as big as Kian's mansion, but we're getting there. It used to be smaller when my mom was still married to my dad, but then they divorced when I was four. My mom cheated on my dad with my now step-father Jasper and when the twins were born, my dad left. Money's been slowly getting better.
"Hey, Topaz," my half-sister Sylvia says, stomping down the stairs in clean white jeans and a blouse. Her striking red hair is pulled back into a braided bun at the back of her head. Her blue eyes, the same ocean blue as mine, narrow when she sees Sphene. Sphene waves obliviously. "You brought your side hoe," Sylvia says, fixing me with a glare. She looks Sphene up and down, makes an annoyed face, and then retreats into the kitchen.
"I don't think she likes me," Sphene says, pouting.
"I don't think so either," I answer, wondering why Sylvia has such a problem with her. "You want something to eat?" I ask. She shrugs and I take that as a yes, so we follow Sylvia into the kitchen.
"Hey," the other twin, Goldie, says through a mouthful of cereal.
I give her a casual sup-nod in response and then fling open a cupboard. "Aight, we got cereal, bread, an-" Sphene interrupts me, pointing to a jar of peanut butter.
"You wanna make me a sandwich?"
"Uh, if you want it, you're gonna have to make it yourself," I answer, closing the cupboard and sitting down across the table from Goldie. Sphene frowns but starts to put her breakfast together. Meanwhile, Sylvia quietly wolfs down apple slices, staring out a window above the sink.
"I don't get how you can want to go into the Games," Goldie says, swallowing a mouthful and waving her dripping spoon around while she talks. "I mean it's all dirty and gross. Like, you wear the same pair of underwear for days. And what about deodorant? Like, everyone must stink. Ew." She wrinkles her nose in disgust. "It takes a lot of effort to look this gorgeous," she says arrogantly, swishing her brunette locks around.
"I guess I'm just not devoted to looks," I lie. Of course I love looking nice, and it's obvious.
"How'd you get that?" Sphene asks suddenly, pulling up a chair next to me and gesturing to Goldie's left arm currently in a sling. I take a slice of her sandwich and bite into it, much to her annoyance.
Goldie glares over at Sylvia. "I got in a fight," she answers bluntly. Sylvia stifles a laugh, spitting out a few chewed-up chunks of apple into the sink.
"Ready for the reapings, kids?" my step-dad, Jasper, calls from the bottom of the stairs.
"Shit, I need to get changed," I say, standing up and lazily sauntering to the stairs.
"Topaz, hurry up, we don't have all day. Do you even want to volunteer?" Jasper says, moving aside so I can get past.
"Sorry, you guys can go, I'll catch up," I say, then hop up the stairs and start going through clothes in my closet. I slip on somewhat skinny black jeans and a tight fitting grey T-shirt. I glance around my room, decide against taking a token(there'd be no point, I'll be back here in a couple of weeks at the most), and stomp back downstairs to where Sphene is still waiting patiently at the table.
"Ready?" she asks. I nod, giving her my usual lazy smile. I throw on a leather jacket hanging by the door and slip on my combat boots, then follow her to the square as she skips along in front of me.
It takes longer than I thought it would to reach the square, but eventually we do. Kian and Ralph are nowhere to be seen, but Sphene quickly spots Alessandra and ditches me to go join her after her finger is pricked. I get my blood drawn and then take my place at the front of the crowd, nearest to the stage.
"Hey," I hear Kian's familiar drawl from behind me and turn around. Ralph stands next to him, hopping back and forth on his feet.
"Ready to volunteer?" Ralph asks, smiling excitedly.
"Yeah, I guess," I say, putting my hands in my jean pockets and leaning back, relaxed.
"Shut up, it's about to start," Kian says, glancing up at the stage. Ralph and I both turn to watch Ambrosia talk nervously about the usual video and how happy she is to be the new escort for District One. I yawn, zoning out until she pulls out a name from the girls' bowl.
"Paloma Opal," she says, her voice shaking. I hear Ralph snort beside me, and a few curious faces turn to look at us. Paloma, taking her five seconds of fame in stride, walks out and gracefully floats down the aisle, a prim smile gracing her perfect features. She reaches the stairs and exchanges a puzzled look with the escort. "Um, any v-volunteers?" Ambrosia asks. Paloma pauses and looks around at the crowd, trying to find Crystal Silverstone, the selected volunteer.
"I volunteer!" a shrill voice echoes desperately around the square. Ralph exchanges a glance with me and I peer around the turned faces to see Crystal make her way out of the crowd and stride towards the stage, flashing an intimidating grin at the stage, her gaze not wavering from straight ahead of her. Paloma walks back, the same tight smile on her face, but all the attention is on District One's female volunteer. She's pretty tall and has long brown hair framing her face. She reaches the microphone and her bold green eyes pierce the crowd. A smattering of freckles litter her face. She's a simple kind of pretty. Not my usual type, but I'd probably hit that if it weren't for the Games. Ralph whistles next to me and I smirk.
"And what's your name, dear?" Ambrosia Clyde asks, smiling.
"Crystal Silverstone," she answers, although most people in the district already know her. I've seen her train and I could easily beat her. The Games are going to be a breeze for me. I almost wish I had more competition, but I guess I'm not here for the competition. That's too much effort.
"Well, that's just lovely!" Ambrosia pauses to laugh nervously again and I wonder if she can tell how annoying it is. "Now for our male tribute!" She picks a slip out of the bowl and starts to read it, but I interrupt her.
"I volunteer!" I confidently shout. I casually step out into the aisle and swagger to the stage, taking my place next to Crystal. I look her up and down, trying to be obvious for the cameras. Ambrosia asks us to shake hands and I wink as I grip her slim hand. Her cheeks turn red and my lazy smile gets wider in satisfaction. These Games are going to be a party.
A/N: so, i totally scrapped that thing about two districts in one, that seemed like a lot once i actually started writing, lol. anyway, there's only one spot left as of now: the district nine male. thank you so much for all the tribute submissions! updates will be *hopefully* once every week unless i have an unusually relaxed week then i might update sooner, but idk man. i'm so happy that we started on the actual story, my dudes. i'm really sorry if i didn't write your tribute well, it turns out it's a lot harder to write other people's characters than your own haha. anyway, thank you to iridescenteverdeen for Topaz Trinity and Mewkitcat for Crystal Silverstone.
don't forget to leave a review! who do you like more? how far do you think these two will get in the Games?
shower thought of the day: babies are the biggest STD