a/n: Thanks for the kind reviews ^^ Glad to know I wasn't the only on disappointed by the lack of fleshing out of Cashmere and Gloss. I hope you enjoy this chapter!
Cashmere felt Gloss's hand quivering when President Snow took the stage to read his sickening spiel about the dark days. He hated the freakishly engineered man, possibly even more than she did. What most people didn't know about President Snow was that he propositioned attractive female victors to come into his bed. She was one of those victors. For all the wealth she won from the Hunger Games, what power could she possibly wield against the President of Panem?
Strangely, it was Gloss who held more raw, unbridled hatred for Snow. Her brother was mellow spirited and refrained from violence when it was not absolutely necessary. But Cashmere knew that if he could, he would gladly rip the president's plastic limbs off. Instead, Gloss squeezed her hand so hard that the tips of her fingers were turning purpled and numb.
"Gloss, calm down." Cashmere whispered, and he lessened his grip with an apologetic murmur.
His hands were still shaking from barely controlled nerves though, and Cashmere stroked his knuckles. Gloss became indignant when someone wronged his sister, but any wrong done to himself he passively let slide. Cashmere loved her brother for this, but the lack of regard he had for himself worried her as well. It was very un-district 1 of him. After all, their district did have the awful stigma of being self absorbed and haughty, and Cashmere had to admit that it wasn't unwarranted.
A child dressed in sterile white suit holds out a box full of yellowed envelopes. The president leans down and pulls out the one marked 75. Meticulously, he pulls out a small square of paper and clears his throat.
"On the seventy-fifth anniversary, as a reminder to the rebels that even the strongest among them cannot overcome the power of the capitol, the male and female tributes will be reaped from their existing pool of victors."
The words don't immediately compute to Cashmere, but Gloss jerks and sends his glass of wine rolling across the table, spurting bloody red all over the tablecloth. The wine has splattered his chest, but he either doesn't realize, or doesn't care.
"Cashmere!" He gasps, grasping her hands in his again. His hands are slippery and red with spilled wine.
"I- I don't understand." Cashmere says in a small voice, though the implications of what she just heard are beginning to dawn on her. She doesn't want to acknowledge it. She almost felt as if she didn't acknowledge it, it wouldn't become reality.
"Yes you do." Gloss whispered. He saw right through her, just like he always did. "You do understand."
And suddenly she did. They would be standing in a crowd, praying not to be reaped again. Again! She couldn't bear to stand in another reaping. Not again. This wasn't supposed to happen again. She had gone to the Hunger games, and so had Gloss. They had won, and were promised immunity. And they were too old for it now too. She was 25, Gloss was 24. There must have been a mistake!
"No." Cashmere said, breaking her brother's grip on her hands. She wiped her slick hands on her dress, staining it red. It reminded her too much of blood. It reminded her too much of how blood had spurted onto her shirt during her Hunger Games when she stabbed her partner in the cheek. She had betrayed him, his teeth exposed through his face, his lips hanging in shredded scraps. She had to get it off of her!
Stumbling back, Cashmere tried to pull her soiled dress over her head, memories of murder still coursing in her mind. Distantly, she heard herself screaming, but she couldn't stop it. It ripped itself from her throat, and she was powerless against its sheer animalistic force.
"Cashmere, stop it!" Gloss ran forward, forcing the dress back over her body. Cashmere pushed him away from her as if he were an embodiment of the Hunger Games itself.
"Get away from me!" She screamed, running behind the table and grabbing her half full wine glass. "I'm not going back there! I'm never going back there!"
The glass shattered next to Gloss' head, cutting his cheeks and splashing him with stinging wine. The alcohol burned in his eyes, but that wasn't the reason for the tears that fell down his cheeks. Whatever nightmares and emotions he and Cashmere repressed normally was gushing forth uncontrollably. Cashmere reacted to it with anger, Gloss with tears.
Cashmere grabbed Gloss' empty wine glass and prepared to hurl it at him, but he was quicker. The brother upturned the table to get to her, and grabbed his sister's wrists with such strength that her fingers dropped the glass. It shattered at their feet, but she continued to struggle against him.
"We're not going back there! We're not!"
"WHO SAYS WE ARE?"
Cashmere stopped struggling at once, jerked out of her frenzy by her brother's uncharacteristically passionate shout.
She looked up at the person gripping her, and realized that it was her brother she had been attacking, not an enemy. His blue eyes were filled with tears, but his expression was contorted with frustration.
"Who says we are?" He repeated. "There are dozens of winners in district 1. It could be anyone else!"
Cashmere shivered, and he brother held her closer to stifle her adrenaline fueled quiver.
"Please, let's not do this. Let's realize that the odds of either of us being picked are against us."
Cashmere encircled her arms over her brother's neck. The siblings clung to each other like that as the program continued in the distant background. Cashmere knew his words were spoken only for her benefit. Somewhere deep in both of their minds, they knew that both of them would be chosen this year. They knew that reaping were not always at random, and they were both attractive and brother and sister. Siblings thrown into the arena and pitted against each other, how dramatic of a showdown would that be? And everyone knew the Capital loves scandal.
Cashmere couldn't remember when she and her brother had stopped embracing. She didn't remember ever laying down and falling asleep, but she must have. The next morning, she awoke on the floor of the living room, wrapped in a thin silk blanket. The smell of sizzling bacon and potatoes was wafting over from the kitchen, and she knew that Gloss must have, for once, awoken before her.
She stood and made a direct beeline for the bathroom. Her own reflection terrified her. Staring back at her was a haggard woman with hollow cheeks and sunken eyes. How could one night affect her so much?
After washing up, she stumbled into the kitchen. Gloss was bustling around the stovetop, frying potatoes with garlic and butter, crisping bacon, squeezing fresh orange juice. He moved incessantly, as if his very sanity depended on it.
"Hello, Cash." He smiled and waved in between flipping the bacon.
Cashmere nodded groggily in acknowledgement, and sat down at the table. She noticed that her brother's eyes were puffed up and bloodshot. He must have been up crying long after she fell asleep.
Gloss set a heaping plate of food and fresh orange juice in front of her, then sat down with some for himself. Normally, neither of the siblings had large appetites, but in the fatalistic mindset Gloss had sunken in to, he wanted them eat, live, and laugh as much as possible. After the reaping, there certainly wouldn't be much to laugh about.
"You look like you've aged ten years, sister mine." Gloss said, waving his fork in teasing disapproval.
Cashmere was undeniably vain, and was defensive over her physical looks. Gloss was the only person she permitted to make fun of her beauty, but that didn't stop her from throwing a piece of bread at his face.
He caught it, and chewed it with a knowing smirk.
"Hey, don't get mad cotton ball, just make sure to catch up on your beauty sleep."
Cashmere laughed. Cotton ball was a nickname Gloss used, only when he wanted something from her, or to defuse her temper.
"I'll make a note of that."
Cashmere looked down at her imposingly large plate, and giggled when she noticed that Gloss had already cut up the bacon and potatoes into small bits. She dug into the food, and only after the first few bites did she realize how hungry she really was. Tying her hair back to keep the strands from getting in the way, she tucked into the food in a way that would put a cow to shame.
"What's the point in me cutting up your food into dainty pieces if your just going to inhale it like that? You might as well dip your whole face into it."
"Leave me alone." Cashmere said before momentarily stopping to chug down orange juice. She dug in again, and Gloss gave a hearty laugh at seeing the piece of potato on his prissy sister's chin. He decided he enjoyed her eating company when she was like this. Of course, he knew she would revert back to her 'I'm a princess' type eating habits soon enough.
Cashmere slowed down and took the time to savor her food. Chewing on a piece of bacon, she fell into a thoughtful silence.
"What are you thinking of?" Gloss asked, instantly somber.
"I'm thinking…." She swallowed and pushed the plate away. "Gloss, what do we do now? What do we do with ourselves until reaping day?"
Gloss also set down his utensils, folding his hands underneath his chin.
"Well, the obvious answer would be to train, wouldn't it? Of course, there is the large chance we won't be chosen, but nonetheless..."
"Yes, you can never be too prepared."
"Even if the odds of being chosen are grossly against us."
"Yes, of course."
They looked at each others solemn face before collapsing into laughter. They laughed because their denial was hilarious and sad. They laughed because they knew they were kidding themselves. They laughed because they desperately wanted to cling to the marginal chance that they would not have to enter the arena again. They laughed because their situation was so earth shatteringly devastating that their only viable option would be to laugh or fall apart at the seams.
"Are we being stupid right now?" Cashmere asked, wiping the tears from her eyes.
Gloss reached over and took her hands in his.
"It's never stupid to have a little hope."
Without saying anything more, they finished their breakfast, and went out to train.