Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.

- Dr. Seuss

Hunger Games Year 64

"Clove, honey, are you ready yet?" Clove's mother called from the bottom of the staircase. Adjusting the weight of her daughter's messenger bag on her shoulder, she called yet again, "Clove! It takes ten minutes to get to the facility! Do you really want to be late on your first day?"

"I can't find anything to wear," came the delayed response. Mrs. Holloway sighed, lifting the messenger bag off of her shoulder, and grabbed nearly three year old Magnilda from her playpen. Racing up the stairs, she swiftly pushed her eldest daughter's door open to find a war-torn room. Her six-year-old was sitting in the middle of a pile of clothes, pulling more and more clothing out of her drawers desperately.

Clove's mother didn't bother to mention to her distraught daughter that most of these items of clothing were not suitable for training in the first place, including a white dress that Clove had accidentally ruined at a classmate's sixth birthday and spotted pajamas that were probably too small for her now. Setting Magnilda down beside Clove, Mrs. Holloway rummaged through the second drawer and pulled out a pair of play clothes: a pair of green spandex shorts and a black camisole.

"When you're done putting on your outfit, don't forget to put on socks and double knot your shoe laces. You have two minutes, Clove, or your father will hear about this."

The young girl stuck her lip out in a pout.

Rushing down the stairs, Mrs. Holloway hurried into the kitchen and stuffed two juice boxes into Clove's bag and then paused, adding an extra bag of trail mix. Satisfied, she exited the house and opened the car door. Setting down Clove's bag in the passenger seat, she placed her youngest daughter into her car seat, and then returned to the driver's seat. Just as she got comfortable, Clove came running out in her course attire.

Mrs. Holloway couldn't help but smile at her elder daughter, "You look great. Let's get going, hurry now."

Clove jumped into the seat beside Magnilda's car seat and pulled on her seat belt. The three were quiet during the drive, with Mrs. Holloway lost in her own thoughts and Clove trying to memorize every inch of the path from home to the training annex of District Two West's Health and Resource Center.

It was three miles from her home. An eight minute commute.

When she got out of the car, Clove smiled at her mother, who had suddenly tensed. She grabbed her messenger bag out of the front seat and dragged the heavy bag with her into the building, waving off.

Her mother watched near the building and called out, "Clove! Make us-" Mrs. Holloway pursed her lips together. Clove could no longer hear her.

As Clove entered the building, she noted just how far outwards the building stretched. Overwhelmed by the weight on her shoulder, she dropped her bag to the floor and dragged it with her to the counter, where she stood on her tiptoes and asked, "Mrs, where is the room where we put our stuff, please?"

The woman with glasses looked away from her screen and down over the counter at Clove, and then pointed sternly to the left, "If you're in the entry level course, you have about three minutes before you're late, so you'd best hurry, child."

"Thanks, lady" Clove replied, and began running towards the locker rooms, her bag making unfriendly noises as it dragged along the floor in hasty bumps. After entering the locker room, Clove stared in fascination at the lockers. Opening the nearest locker to her, Clove stuffed her bag inside and slammed the door as tightly as she could to make the bag fit.

Soon enough, Clove ran down the hallway in search of the entry level classroom. Clove toppled over suddenly, hit by something strong, and groaned as she tried to get back up. Looking up, she saw a blur of blonde hair, but sped away, screaming an apology behind her without glancing back to see their reaction. Heaving, she reached the classroom, which had a gray placard nailed to the wall with black ink that announced 'Registered Youth, Level I'

Once inside, Clove observed comfortable gym mats that covered the floor. Taking note of the other twenty or so girls in her class, class C, she sat down a relatively safe distance away from a clustered group of giggling girls. She recognized a few of the girls from her class at school, some she honestly didn't expect to see in training courses, but she kept quiet.

When a measly thirty seconds or so had passed, the door reopened, this time much louder than when Clove entered, and the girls all turned to face their instructors.

The instructors commanded the girls to stand in a line, in which they slowly looked over each girl, making dry observations that most of the girls did not understand. When they reached Clove, she heard various words thrown around, including 'petite' and 'unrefined,' but they moved on to the next girl, who they deemed 'uncoordinated' and several other words Clove didn't fully comprehend. The pigtailed girl's lip quivered, but she bit down hastily, while winding her hands into fists and then unwinding them seconds later. The action made Clove anxious, "stop it!" she finally whispered, and the girl next to her glared.

The girls were assigned spots on the mat where they were to sit when instructors gave presentations, and then were each given a red pin. Clove reads hers, 'RY 64, Level I: Holloway' while the instructors explained the Training Annex's system, "You are in Class C. There are five classes for your cohort. Three male classes and two female classes."

She wondered if she'd stay with the same class each year, as the instructors continued on: from age 6 until 9, they fell under the designation of Registered Youth, and could be permanently dismissed at any time. At the end of level III, should they pass their skills test, they'd be promoted to Intermediate Trainee, where they'd remain until reaping age, and then would be subsequently promoted again following an intensive exam.

The oldest of Clove's instructors then spoke boisterously, "You have been placed in the Year 64 cohort, because each of you will be seven within one year of today [1]. Whether that is tomorrow or next summer is not important. What is important is that you work diligently and pay attention. Only two years ago, Enobaria Jamison of Cohort Year 50 won the 62nd annual games. She trained here. If you are talented enough, clever enough, strong enough, one of you may have the opportunity to represent District Two at your very own Hunger Games."

The instructors commanded all the girls to run 10 laps, and in that moment, Clove swore the room grew larger. After the first few laps, several of the girls began to stagger. Almost like a hawk to its prey, the instructors began barking at these girls nastily. Clove kept her pace, and finished after about a half an hour. She certainly wasn't the fastest in her class, but unlike the sobbing girls in the corner, she also wasn't the slowest.

The instructors then told the girls to sit in their spots, while snapping to the crying girls that they could either get into their places or they could leave and not return. Hastily, the girls returned to their spots, and the instructors began giving a display of some basic sparring techniques, including a punch, and a defensive tactic against that punch.

Paired up, the side opposite Clove was told that they would be defending and that they were strictly forbidden from deviating from the technique. Clove groaned to herself when she was paired up with nervous girl from before, but got into position. The instructors then yelled for them to begin, and Clove began punching. They repeated the motion of punching and defense until they were nearly against the wall. Finally somewhat adjusted to the motion, Clove punched one last time and her partner fell to the ground. Immediately, Clove stepped forward and outstretched her arm to her partner.

"You are not to deviate from the technique!" the younger of the instructors ran over and glared directly at Clove, then scoffed at her partner, "What is your name, registered youth?"

"Clo-Clove Holloway" she said, out of breath.

"10 extra laps, Holloway," the instructor snapped, and then turned to her partner, grabbing her by one of her pigtails, "and you?"

"I'm-I really am so-so sorry" she said, wincing at the instructor's warm breaths. She choked a sob when he demanded her name, and quickly squeaked out, "Noemi Winthrop."

"You are dismissed youth Winthrop," the older instructor said in a much calmer tone than his partner. Noemi rose, and quickly ran outside of the room hysterical, "where are those laps, Holloway?" he grit out. Trembling, Clove began her laps around the gym, determined not to stop in fear of retaliation.

At about one in the afternoon, class is briefly dismissed. Feel much more upbeat, Clove headed toward the lockers, but not before taking several sips of water. She exhaled a small whine when she spilled some on her tank top and thought wistfully about all the things she could be doing instead of training, but this is what she wanted, wasn't it? Mrs. Astrid said she'd be a great candidate one day, and Mrs. promised never to lie to Clove.

Continuing on her path to the locker room, she noticed groups of older students walking and laughing together, then saw a much younger blonde boy sitting against the wall. He looked like he didn't want to be bothered. Clove knew the feeling. She looked at his trail mix enviously and was suddenly very excited to eat her own. It was then that she noticed the teal ribbons on the floor beside the boy.

"Hello," she said, suddenly.

He looked up at her suspiciously, "What do you want?"

She bit her lip nervously.

He turned away from her, eating more of the trail mix, and Clove begged her mind to come up with more dialogue. This became unnecessary, as he snidely remarked, "nice shirt, new kid."

She sat beside him and his glance clearly showed that she was unwelcome, but she chose to ignore that. She pondered to herself for several minutes in silence, aside the blonde boy. The question plagued her and she just had to know, but mother said to be respectful of everyone in the training gym. Clove supposed she could let it slide, but she was still so curious as to why he'd stolen the trail mix from her bag. She hesitated, but softly grabbed the familiar ribbons, her mother's signature ribbons. She hoped her mom was proud.

Finally, she smiled at him and he looked back at her just as suspicious as before, "I can bring you more trail mix tomorrow."

The boy looked up, a ghost of a blush on his face. He scowled at her, but let out a sigh a moment later. He rose, "Well, then you better know how to find me. I'm Cato Elroy, cohort 63." She found it strange that he seemed much less intimidating looking down at her, but it didn't matter, she mused.

"See ya, new kid" he mockingly waved as he walked off, and Clove couldn't help wondering with intrinsic joy if she'd made a possible ally already.

AN -

[1] - Today being July 1st, 64. Students in Clove's cohort have a birth date range of July 2nd, 57 to July 1st, 58.