The day of the Reapings is suffocatingly hot.

Though it's still early in the morning, heat wraps around my shoulders like a blanket, and the humidity makes it hard to breathe. My Reaping outfit doesn't help; the cloth sticks to my skin and the pant legs are too long. Still, it's the only thing I have, and I get dressed hurriedly.

Paprika is up already, giving me a silent nod from the kitchen table. Her brows are pinched together like they always do when she's worried, and I can tell she barely slept last night. It's her third Reaping, but it's not exactly something you get used to.

"Where's dad?" I ask, pulling on my shoes. "Is he awake yet?"

Paprika shakes her head. "I don't think so."

"He did come in late last night," I say, pouring myself a glass of water. "He deserves to rest."

"Yeah," she replies, her voice muted.

We both glance at the door to our father's room. These days, it's almost like living with a ghost. He barely ever has free time anymore; a quiet hello in the morning and the muffled footsteps of him coming home at night are all the interactions that we have now.

"I miss him," Paprika says softly and I glance over at her. Mom's death probably had the biggest impact on her schedule than anyone else's. Suddenly, with both dad and I needed in the fields, she had to learn to cook, to clean, to run a household without falling apart at the seams.

"I do too."

My little brother, Bryon, clutches my hand tightly as we weave between crowds towards the Justice Building. Paprika and dad walk with my other siblings, Cassia and Minty.

I try to keep the mood light, to find something we can talk about, but exhaustion aches in my shoulders and all I can do is muster a smile. It seems like no time at all has passed before we're standing by the check-in stations, and dad pulls the little ones away to find a spot outside.

Paprika and I soon have to split up, too, and we glance at each other.

"Um, well… see you after the Reapings," is all I can muster. Any reassurance I could give her would be a mere hope, and I doubt either of us wants to hear false promises, especially after what happened three years ago.

The mayor's speech seems longer than usual, but that may just be the heat dragging things out. Our escort, Briarly, is wearing long sleeves with furs draped dramatically over their shoulders. It's a wonder how they're surviving in this heat.

As they walk over to the Reaping bowl, a noticeable shift settles over the audience, as if everyone's holding their breath.

She calls up a small, dark-haired girl named Jasmine, and I breathe a sigh of relief for Paprika.

But it's not over yet. Briarly heads over to the other bowl and reaches in a gloved hand.

Everyone is coiled tight in anticipation.

Briarly grabs a slip and, squinting, calls out:

"Basil Hopper."

Terror.

That's the first thing that grips me as I realize what just happened, what it means. My world reels and I stumble as though someone's just pulled a rug out from under my feet.

I vaguely notice the other boys moving out of the way, and I focus on my breaths to try and get a hold of myself.

Don't cry, I think to myself. Whatever happens, just don't cry.

I repeat this over and over to myself, as I make my way up to the stage; as the escort says something that blurs before it reaches my ears; as I'm pulled away from the crowd and led into a dusty room where I'm told to await my family for goodbyes.

They file in, faces ashen. Paprika has silent tears running down her cheeks. Minty hugs me harder than she's ever had before. Cassia sobs loudly. Bryon just looks up at me with wide eyes.

"Don't worry about them," Paprika whispers roughly. "I'll look after them."

My stomach twists as I realize the extra responsibilities that Paprika will now have to take on, too much for a fourteen-year-old to have to worry about.

I want to say something, to tell them how I might be able to come back, but I can't seem to get the words out.

"I love you guys," is all I say instead.

"Want to be allies?"

I look up in surprise at the District Three boy, who I've barely spoken a word to. I thought I'd remained rather inconspicuous in the large Training room, but it seems as though this boy has been watching me for a while.

"Um… why me?" I ask. "I barely know you."

"I'm Vector Ithims. And you're Basil Hopper, correct?"

I open my mouth to reply but he continues.

"I think we'd work well together. I'm good at engineering stuff. Studied it in school. Would probably be useful for traps, no? And you're from District Eleven. You must have some experience with plants, and you look pretty strong too. Plus, we're both sixteen."

I consider his proposal. District Three wasn't one of the places I'd thought to turn to for allies, but his skills would come in handy. And it's not like I have many options; alliances are forming already, with clusters of people forming all over the room.

"Sure," I say at last. "We could get someone else, too. Three seems like a solid number."

Vector shrugs. "I'm good with that. Who would you want to invite?"

Looking around the room, I spot Ilumine Yarrow from District Seven over in the corner, doing something with wood. Vector follows my gaze and nods.

"Good idea. There's bound to be wood in the arena, and District Seven is usually pretty strong. Let's go ask her."

I follow him over to the shelter-building station. We quickly introduce ourselves and our idea for the alliance. She agrees readily enough, and soon enough our group is set.

"Basil, welcome," the interviewer, Dolly, gushes. "We're so pleased to have you here. How are you today?"

"Good, how are you?" I ask politely. I fidget a bit in my seat, squinting in the light of the spotlight.

"Oh, I'm amazing!" Dolly beams. "I must say, you look wonderful!"

"Ah… thank you," I say, glancing down at my speckled red and black suit. It's certainly nicer than anything I had back home.

"And is that a daisy in your lapel? That's a fashion choice I haven't seen. How marvelous!"

"They were my mother's favorite," I say quietly, looking at the flower. My stylist had scoffed when I asked for it, but having something that reminds me of mom is comforting.

"Oh! Oh, dear," Dolly says sympathetically. "Is your mother no longer with us?"

"She died of childbirth. Three years ago," I say, and I'm not faking the tears that I blink away from my eyes. "The doctor said she'd make it, but he was wrong."

"Awwww," Dolly says. "I'm sure that was very sad."

"Yeah."

There's a beat of silence before she continues.

"Do you have any siblings?"

"Paprika, Cassia, Bryon, and Minty," I say. "I'm the oldest."

"How wonderful! I'm sure they all look up to you."

"I hope so," I mumble. "My job has long hours, but it's the only way we can survive after mom's death. They've all had to pitch in, too."

"And I'm guessing that you want to get back home for them?" Dolly asks, smiling brightly.

"Yeah," I reply. "I'd do anything for them."

"Awwww," Dolly says again. "How charming!"

She's starting to get on my nerves, but I force a smile instead.

"They deserve a better life."

Dolly nods knowingly. "I'm sure they do. Well, thanks for coming today, Basil! I hope you have a smashing time in the arena!"

The first thing you should look for is a backpack or a knife. If there are none in your path, grab anything useful. Make sure to find your allies. Do not get distracted; do not run too close to the Cornucopia. Keep a close eye on the Careers, especially those with long-distance weapons. Most importantly, do not panic. Do. Not. Panic.

I think I may be panicking as I nervously repeat instructions over and over in my head. Our bloodbath plan is a simple one; get in, get out, get together. We'd all agreed that surviving depended on being able to get resources from the Bloodbath. Still, as the launch draws nearer, I can't help the impending feeling of dread. My stomach is twisting itself inside out; I barely ate anything at breakfast even though I knew I'd regret it later.

The uniforms for the arena are simple, plain clothes; a white t-shirt and shorts, sturdy shoes, and a belt.

The glass of the launch tube is making me strangely claustrophobic. I brace myself as I slowly rise up into the arena. This is it. The Hunger Games are about to begin.

The first thing I notice is the Cornucopia. It's a brilliant, gleaming, gold, shining so brightly in the sun that it almost hurts to look at it. Piled around it are all sorts of weapons, crates, and bags, but I'm not planning to run that far. Instead, I look around for Vector and Ilumine. I find the latter two spots to my left, but Vector is nowhere to be seen. He must be behind the Cornucopia.

The timer is ticking down, and I hurriedly try to plan my path; I note a backpack to my right, hidden beside a crate about halfway in, and set my feet to run there. Unfortunately, the backpack is directly in the path of Turquoise, the District Two girl; she'd run right past it on her way to the Cornucopia. I grit my teeth and decide to risk it; hopefully, she'll ignore the backpack and I can get a good distance away before she comes back with a weapon.

Just as I've decided this, the countdown ends, the gong sounds, and the Bloodbath begins.

I run as fast as I can, jumping off the podium and speeding over the harsh white concrete. I barely register Ilumine behind me, going for a backpack of her own somewhere, and though I keep an eye out for Vector, I don't see him.

I hadn't prepared myself for how loud the Bloodbath would be; everyone seems to be shouting at once, trying to grab supplies in a whirlwind of chaos. In my haste, I accidentally stumble into the EIght boy, who has an arrow protruding from his shoulder. I nearly gag, shove him away, and continue running, my heart pounding harder. It seems as though at least one Career has gotten their hands on a weapon.

Unfortunately, by the time I get there, the backpack is gone, and I groan in frustration. I didn't think anyone else would notice it—it was well hidden by the crate—and now I might have to leave the Bloodbath with nothing to show for it. Gritting my teeth, I look around for anything else that I can grab, but the closest thing is a mace, of about medium size, ten steps away from me.

It's far from an ideal weapon, but I go for it anyway, and I barely manage to snag it before an arrow grazes my arm. Panting, I sprint away from the Cornucopia, not caring about the direction. I've lost track of everyone—my allies, the Careers, the other tributes.

Thankfully, Vector spots me and runs over, a green backpack slung over his shoulder.

"Where's Ilumine?" I ask, but he just shakes his head and pulls me along. I turn back to look for her, but all the tributes look similar in their tan and white uniforms, and I can't spot her mahogany hair anywhere.

"Gone," Vector says grimly, wiping sweat off his forehead. "Beheaded. I saw it. Run!"

I stare at him in shock. "Gone?" I echo, confused. How could she be gone—just like that? Just A minute ago I saw her on her podium, a determined look on her face—how could she be dead?

"RUN!" Vector shouts again, and this time I start moving. In the blur of confusion before, I hadn't noticed the concrete ditch that looped around the podiums, about three feet deep and six feet wide, almost like a moat. We have to cross it in order to get away, and thankfully it's dry. It also provides cover from the arrows that seem to be flying everywhere. Clambering over the other edge of the ditch, we run along a pathway, swerving around carefully placed bushes and strange plastic trees with spiky leaves.

We finally collapse in a clump of bushes far from the Cornucopia, and we both take a look around the arena, which doesn't look like anything I've ever seen. Various, brightly colored umbrellas are scattered around, and massive structures of steel support a series of strange tunnels that spiral in the sky. Looking around, I notice an area that reminds me of a child's playground, with slides, stairs, and a giant bucket on top of the tallest tower.

I frown, confused.

"What do you think those are supposed to be?" I ask Vector, pointing at the tunnels in the sky.

"They kind of look like… slides," Vector says, squinting up at the sky. "Like a giant slide for children to play on."

"It doesn't look very sturdy," I observe. "And it's so tall, too. Maybe we should stay away from there."

"The bucket is weird, too," he says, pointing at the one hanging over the playground. "The slides I can get, but a giant bucket…?"

I shrug. "Beats me. We could go take a look at it, though."

Cautiously, we climb up the structure, crossing bridges and spiral staircases, but none of them reach all the way up to the top.

As Vector studies the bucket with a puzzled look, I take another look around the arena. Being higher up lets me see more of it; the concrete park stretches out as far as the eye can see, with various twisting slides, little buildings scattered about, and a big empty rectangular hole that looks like it would be a pool of sorts. The whole place is a riot of color, and it takes me a while to notice the big sign to my left.

"Welcome to the Splash Zone," I read out loud. "Splash? Like water?"

"Splash Zone?" Vector asks, turning around. He sees the sign and his face lights up. "Oh! Could this be a water park?"

"A… water park?" I ask.

"Yeah. Apparently, they were places where children went to play on water slides and go swimming."

"But there's no water."

Vector shrugs. "Guess the Gamemakers didn't want us to have easy access to it."

"That reminds me," he says, swinging his backpack off his back, "We should do an inventory check. Did you get anything else besides the mace?"

I shake my head apologetically. "Sorry. The backpack I wanted was taken. This was the first thing I saw."

Vector dumps out his backpack and we spread the contents out on one of the platforms. There are two bottles of water, a plastic container full of trail mix, a pair of sunglasses, a pair of goggles, two oranges, a banana, a hat, a small towel, and a container of something white and gooey.

"...is that sunscreen?" I ask, smearing some of it on my hand. I vaguely remember some of the richer people back home putting it on when the sun became too hot.

"This is kind of useless," Vector says, sighing. "I was hoping for maybe some tools that I could work with, but sunscreen? A towel? And swimming goggles, when the pool's not even filled with water? Not too helpful."

"At least there's food," I point out. "And water."

"True," he says, stuffing everything back in. "I don't know how much food we're going to find out here."

"If this was a water park, there would've been, like, refreshment stands, right? Maybe we could find some food in those small buildings," I suggest, but Vector doesn't seem to be listening.

"There's another pocket!" he exclaims triumphantly. "Maybe there's something… oh," he says, as he pulls out a pair of flip-flops. "Great."

I can't help but laugh at Vector's disappointed look.

"Who knows? Maybe they'll be useful. Let's go look for food."

We find that the little kiosks stationed by the pathway are stocked with food, ranging from peanuts and crackers to big, pink, fluffy candies that seem to be made out of pure sugar.

"This should last a while," Vector says, satisfied. "We can even sleep inside the little building. This is perfect."

At nighttime, we climb up onto the roof to watch the recap. I shiver, not particularly wanting to see Ilumine's face in the sky.

We counted nine cannons after the Bloodbath. The Three girl, the Six pair, Ilumine, the Eight pair, the Ten girl, and the Twelve pair all died.

"Nine down," Vector whispers. "Fourteen to go."

When we wake up the next day, our food supply is gone.

The culprit is a flock of white bird mutts, who are still gathered around, munching on crackers.

"Hey!" Vector exclaims. "Shoo!"

"Um, Vector," I say, eyeing their razor-thin beaks. "We should get out of here. They might atta—"

The birds start swooping at us before I can even finish my sentence.

"Agh!" Vector yells, grabbing the mace and swiping at the birds. I reach into the backpack and try to find something that might help. The birds are attacking more ferociously now, and we both already have multiple shallow cuts.

I rummage through our supplies, but the only thing I can find is the flip-flops, which probably won't help much. Still, I pull one out and throw it at the birds, and surprisingly they all give it a wide berth and fly back.

"Seriously? The birds are scared of flip flops, of all things?" I mutter. I grab the other one and start waving it around. To my relief, they back off quickly and we're left alone again.

"I am really starting to hate this arena," Vector grumbles. We look over the empty boxes, which were stuffed full just yesterday.

I sigh and sit down on one of the crates. "Of course the Gamemakers would do this. They would want us to move around, to have to try and find food."

Thankfully, the food that we put in the backpack is still intact, and we each have an orange for breakfast before heading out to find another stand.

We continue like that for a while; moving around each day, taking as much food as we can. Another tribute dies on the third day, and most of the action seems to take place in the other half of the arena, with the slides. On the sixth day, an explosion nearly topples one of them. Four people die, including a Career, the One girl. The eighth day brings another death, leaving only nine of us left.

We run into another tribute soon after. The Three girl crouches over her crate of supplies, hissing and swinging around a splintered wooden plank. She's injured; there's a deep cut on her leg that's still oozing blood.

Vector, who's in front, holds the mace up. I shift the backpack to my other shoulder, feeling rather useless. I wish we had two weapons; though we take turns carrying the mace, being empty-handed makes me feel vulnerable.

The girl, Marita, scuttles back a few steps, but she doesn't run away.

"Back off," she says. "These are my supplies."

I pause and consider our options. We would win if we fought her, but she could also possibly injure one or both of us.

"What about an alliance?" Vector suggests, smiling brightly.

I'm surprised, but I like the idea. She's clearly resourceful and fierce, and we're supposed to have three in our alliance anyway…

Unfortunately, Marita still looks skeptical.

"I don't want an alliance," she says. "This close to the final eight?"

"There are still five Careers left. And, um… we have food. And a mace," I say. "We could work better together."

I offer her a smile and reach into my bag for a water bottle. She watches me with wide eyes, and when I toss the bottle at her, she catches it.

"Thanks," she says. "And I guess an alliance could—"

Before she can finish her sentence, Vector swings the mace into her head.

With a muffled shriek, Marita collapses. She brings her weapon up, but it's too late. Vector continues with brutal efficiency, smashing her head again and again until the cannon fires in the distance.

"Vector, what in the— why would you—she was just about to agree to an alliance! You didn't have to kill her!" I exclaim.

"She's not useful," Vector says simply. "Did you see that cut on her leg? And she's only thirteen. An alliance with her would be a waste of resources. It was better to just kill her."

I stare at him in shock. I didn't think he could be so harsh. He's methodical, but the way he killed her so easily unnerves me. What will happen to me when he no longer deems me useful?

Vector notices my uneasy expression and gives me a reassuring smile.

"Hey. Don't be too upset, okay? If we want to survive, we're gonna have to kill people. It's just the rules of the Game."

The Capitol seems to agree because a sponsor parachute comes floating down just seconds after the body is taken. Vector reaches up and snatches it out of the air.

"A knife!" Vector says, grinning. "Now we can both have a weapon."

He hands me the mace and I take it, holding it at an arm's length so as to not get any blood on me. I'd prefer the knife over the mace, which is heavier and unwieldy, but the knife was clearly sent as a reward for his kill. I thought I'd feel less vulnerable now that both of us have weapons, but instead, I just feel shaken. Now that he has resources, a weapon that he can easily use, and the tribute pool down to eight, how long will it take until he decides to kill me, too?

"This is the last of our water."

"What? That can't be right." Vector takes the backpack and rummages through it, but there are only two bags of peanuts and a water bottle left in our food supply.

"We should have rationed our food better," he says, frustrated. "And why can't we find any more? All these buildings are empty."

"Well, that's not my fault," I say calmly. "You were in charge of the food supply for the most part."

"How was I supposed to know we wouldn't find any more? And besides, I would've let you do it if you hadn't been so busy with your map. Not that it's helped us much," Vector says.

I frown. Making a map had seemed like a good idea at the time, though the heat has frazzled our nerves and our sense of direction, and I'm pretty sure we're back to the water playground where we started.

"The arena's huge, and all the slides and playgrounds and pools look the same. How else were we supposed to know that we weren't going in circles?" I snap back.

We both glare at each other for a second as tension rises, sizzling like the sun on concrete.

"Fine," Vector says. He takes a long swig out of the water bottle. "We'll just have to find something today."

It's two days after the incident with Marita, and I haven't slept easy since. We haven't found food, either, and the lack of water and proper rest is making my head hurt. I can't go on like this for much longer.

Vector takes the first watch when we finally settle down to rest. He leans on one of the fake plastic trees and gazes out into the darkness as I settle in, using the backpack as a pillow of sorts, and try to get some rest.

The air is hot even during the night, which further contributes to my restlessness. I'm acutely aware of Vector, sitting just a few feet away from me, fiddling around with his knife. It's for this reason that I notice when he suddenly stands up and walks over to me.

My eyes snap open. Vector stands over me, his knife pointed at my chest.

I roll over quickly, my heartbeat rising. I grab the backpack and swing it upwards, trying to knock the knife out of his hands. He gives a shout of surprise; he thought I was asleep.

He keeps a firm grip on his knife, but by then I'm able to grasp my mace. I swing it upwards and it grazes his jaw.

He grits his teeth and backs away, holding his knife up. He's breathing hard, and his eyes dart back and forth, but there's no mistaking the guilty look on his face.

"Look, Basil!" he exclaims as I swing the mace towards him again. "I don't want to kill you, but I think this alliance is pretty much finished. We should go our separate ways." He tries to smile at me, but he winces instead, rubbing his jaw.

I glare at him. I recognize that grin; it's the same one he wore when he offered an alliance to Marita, just seconds before killing her. If I let him go now, how soon before he succeeds in stabbing me in the back?

I can't let him get away.

I swing the mace again—the awful, heavy thing— but I miss as he darts out of the way.

"Basil, let's be reasonable," he says, eyes narrowing. "You don't have to—"

I brandish the mace again, this time managing to hit his shoulder, drawing blood.

"Ow!" he says. He starts backing away, but I can tell that he doesn't want to leave the backpack.

He stumbles a bit as he accidentally steps on a rock behind him and I take the chance. I knock the knife out of his hands. As he dives after it, I bring the mace down, hard, on his head.

There's a sickening crack, and Vector sprawls on the ground, unconscious. I smash the mace into his head over and over and over. His blood sprays on my face, warm and sticky. A wild panic has taken hold of me, and I don't stop until the cannon sounds.

By the time the hovercraft arrives, I'm completely done. I sink to the ground.

What did I just do?

It was a life or death situation, I remind myself. He wouldn't hesitate to kill me. I had to—I had to kill him first.

Vector's gruesome death keeps replaying in my mind. My hands tremble as I try to get the blood off of them. What is wrong with me? How could I do that to another person—my ally?

The alliance was over. I could've walked away, but I chose to kill him instead.

I bury my head in my hands. My mind keeps flitting back to Paprika, to my family back home watching this. What would they think, watching me bash Vector's head in? Watching me become a murderer?

And what would mom think?

My mouth feels dry. My limbs feel like rocks, dragging me down.

I close my eyes. I just want to sleep.

Time passes in blurs. I'm not quite sure how many days it's been since Vector died, but the water ran out a long time ago and I haven't moved at all. It feels impossible to get up, to keep moving.

I'm going to die at this rate, and I can't seem to make myself care.

I just wish I wasn't here, in this concrete monster of an arena. Waves of homesickness wash over me, and sometimes I dream of my family, but their faces are hazy at best and I can't make out what they're saying. Are they disappointed?

I miss them all, but I especially miss mom. It's been three years since I've seen her. What I wouldn't give for just five minutes with her, where I can let myself relax, to lean on someone again. What would she want me to do?

If I try hard enough, I can almost see her outline, descending towards me from the night sky. I reach out a hand—

And grab the silvery cloth of a sponsor parachute.

A water bottle falls into my lap.

I sit up.

I gulp down water, nearly spilling it all over. I'm nearly finished before I take a deep breath and remind myself that I should save some for later.

My mind feels clearer than it has in days, and I look at the silver parachute in wonder. Who would send a sponsor gift this far into the games? The price must be astronomical. Moreover, why would they send it to me, who had already given up?

I've never been superstitious, but this is a sign if I've ever seen one. Mom… she would want me to survive.

I have to continue. I have to go on.

I rack my brain, trying to remember how many tributes are left. We were down to seven, I think, when I killed Vector… and there was a night sometime after that where three Careers died in a row. That would leave… three left?

Only three left.

I pack up my supplies and realize that the knife is gone. Vector was still holding it when he died, and it was probably picked up by the hovercraft. I sigh in frustration and pick up the mace, which now has the blood of two kills on it. I can barely look at the thing, but I hoist it over my shoulder. It's the only weapon I have.

Just as I'm about to start moving, another cannon fires.

I'm in the final two.

My heart leaps at the prospect of making it back home, but I have to make another kill first. I try to warm up, to make my limbs move, but I keep shaking. I'm still dehydrated. There's no way I can even run very far like this, much less swing the mace with any power. I can only hope that the other tribute is injured as well.

At dawn, the water playground next to me lights up, and water starts gushing down the slides and out of various sprinklers.

I walk over cautiously and dip my foot in the water; it's only a few inches deep, and a strange, unnatural blue.

I decide to stay here. The Gamemakers have picked this spot for the finale. The other tribute should be here soon.

It annoys me that I'm not even sure who the other tribute is. I'm pretty certain that it's a Career, which is bad news for me, but it could be the Five girl or the Nine boy.

My questions are answered a few hours later when the District Two boy wobbles towards me. He holds his sword in his left hand; his right hand is covered in blood-soaked bandages and hangs limply by his side. There's something wrong with his right ankle as well— it keeps on twisting unnaturally. Despite this, when he sees me, fierce determination alights in his eyes and he starts running after me.

Any semblance of a plan flies from my mind as I take off. I still feel weak and exhausted, but his ankle slows him down. I reach the edge of the water and I have no choice but to run across it. The water sloshes around my feet and I try not to slip as I dodge the multi-colored sprinklers that cover the playground. I risk a glance behind me and the District Two boy is right on my heels, his sword hanging awkwardly from his non-dominant hand.

I'm nearly at the edge of the playground, gasping for breath when I hear the chime of a bell.

The big bucket at the top of the playground, which has been slowly filling with water for the past half hour, flips over.

Water cascades over the structure and splashes everywhere, causing me to stumble. I can barely see, and I trip over something in front of me and fall to the ground.

When the water clears, we're both gasping for breath. The other boy has fallen also, his sword skidding out of his hand. I take the chance and snatch it before scuttling backward when he tries to grab me.

I hold the sword in front, tossing the mace behind me, but he doesn't look like he'll be getting up soon. He fell onto his injured arm. The blood is already staining the water, and he lies in the water gasping from pain.

I swallow, feeling the weight of the sword in my hands. One swing and this whole thing will be over.

I can do this.

I take a deep breath and swing the sword into his neck.

I lay the bouquet of daisies on mom's grave and sit down next to it.

The sun is just setting, resting on the horizon, and I sit there for a while contentedly.

"Hi, mom," I whisper. "Today was Parcel Day. It was really nice seeing everyone get treats.

"If anyone asked, I'd say the Games were the worst thing to ever happen to me. But on days like these, it's hard not to feel happy. Especially since—well, ever since you left, we've all been so busy. Now that we've had time to breathe, I feel like we can all finish healing. Paprika has started taking voice lessons. Bryon gets to eat sweets every day. Minty just loves being the center of attention. Cassia has like a thousand new friends and dad—we get to spend more time with him.

"And I… I get to leave your favorite flowers on your grave, every single day."


Hi everyone! thanks for reading :)

I hope you liked Basil! I had a lot of fun writing him. Thanks to foxfox12 for sending him in. I hope I did him justice! and thanks also to glimmerglint for hosting the whole event!