Chapter 1

Tomorrow will be kinder

It's true, I've seen it before

A brighter day is coming my way

Yes, tomorrow will be kinder

Disclaimer: I don't own The Hunger Games

Third Person POV

The loud blaring of a horn jerked Rue from her sleep. That horn signaled that it was time for District 11 to wake up and get to work. Rue had woken up to that horn her whole life; it was hard to imagine life without it.

She yawned and tried to stretch in the tiny amount of space she had. Rue shared a small room with her five younger brothers and sisters. They all worked the same amount, if not, a little less, of time she did. About ten hours a day, gathering berries and various other crops. And they were too old to be enrolled into a school that goes on all day. Only the youngest of children stayed in those schools. They had a few years before they were forced to work but sometimes families pulled them out earlier to try and get more money and food. The more work you did, the more food and money you earned.

What a cruel world this was! Three hours of education that barely anyone attended, children working as soon as they can, hardly any food, harsh working conditions, long work hours...it never ended. And you couldn't forget the strict rules and the Hunger Games of course.

Being the oldest, Rue got up and went around making sure that everyone was up and getting ready. Her siblings got up lazily, rubbing their groggy eyes and yawning. They walked over to the dresser where all their clothes were kept and each pulled out their own clothes to get dressed. Their eyes were barely open and the dark room didn't help them stay awake. Rue was ashamed of the routine and how used to this her siblings were. It was like she was watching machinery rather than children.

She helped the youngest, Carine, put her clothes on while she quietly nodded off standing up. She was four years old and was being forced to wake up at five in the morning to work in a field. Rue softly shook her awake again before sighing and getting herself dressed for the day. The other children walked out of the bedroom, automatically forming a single file line as they moved towards the kitchen to eat what little breakfast was available.

The children's parents were already awake and ready, the father drinking a glass of water while the mother prepared one lonesome loaf of dry, nearly stale bread to give to her family for breakfast. It was their last loaf. Until they got paid, they couldn't buy another. The District "tried" to give the families rations for free but there never seemed to be enough.

After a few good mornings were exchanged, the mother began to cut everyone a fair share of the bread and handed everyone their own piece. Some ate as they put their shoes on and some waited but a constant and saddened silence settled over the house. Rue helped Carine put her shoes on while holding her piece of bread in her mouth. She was also the only one who hugged her mother goodbye.

"Have a good day, Mom," she said while her brothers and sisters waited outside for her.

"You too, sweetie," her mother responded as Rue walked out the door. Her father called after her that he loved her.

It was Rue's job to walk her siblings to where they worked since they were considered too young to walk by themselves.

Not too young to not work, Rue thought bitterly.

Once the group of six had walked a distance away from the house, Rue broke off a piece of her bread and handed it Carine who scarfed it down quickly. She also took Carine's hand while her three brothers and sister walked side by side.

The three boys were Castor, Javier, and Aiden. Each was a year apart; eight, seven, and six. The girl was Renalda and she was oldest at nine years old besides Rue. Rue guided them towards the place where the youngest kids worked, to the berry fields. All types of berries grew here and they had the small children farm there due to how close to the ground the plants are and how easy it is for small fingers.

The brothers took off when they got close to the facility towards some other boys they knew while Carine and Renalda hung back with Rue. Carine didn't like working but she just had to get used to it. Rue gave Carine a quick kiss on the cheek before lightly pushing her towards her brothers.

"I'll see you later, okay?" Rue said but got no response from the exhausted girl.

Suddenly, Renalda hugged her idolized sister and kissed her on the cheek with a small smile. Renalda was always the sweetest one in the group, expressing her emotions constantly. At nine years old, she would be joining Rue in the trees to pick fruits the next year. Kids ten to fifteen picked fruit from trees, the next age group worked with whatever the District placed them in.

Rue smiled and laughed at her sister and hugged her back.

"Be good, Ren," she told her.

"I will, Rue," she responded like she always did when Rue told her to be good. She then walked off towards Carine to make sure they got into the building to check-in before going to work.

Rue smiled again but sighed, turning and continuing down the big dirt road towards where she was supposed to go. The orchard. The walk wasn't long and the road was filled with other people going to work. It was kind of eerie; everyone was skinny and tired as they trudged along down the street in the dark. Almost like those zombie movies from so long ago.

When Rue reached her building, she saw her best friend, Savanti, standing under their tree. They had met under that tree back when they were younger and ended up calling it theirs. They were supposed to meet there before and after work. Rue smiled and ran up to her, exchanging a hug.

"Hey! How's your morning so far?" Savanti asked her.

"Same as usual. Woke up, ate, walked here. How about you? Anything out of the ordinary?" Rue asked, kicking a pebble with her shoe. It skittered across the dirt until stopping a few feet away. Savanti leaned against the tree, watching Rue as she watched the rising sun. The sky was turning a pretty pink.

"Same old. Woke up, ate, walked here with my brother," she answered, shrugging.

Savanti's older brother was Thresh; he was a big, muscular guy that looked rather scary if you didn't know him. He was a big sweetheart though. He was always looking out for the people he knew and loved Savanti to death. Thresh worked multiple jobs, he worked the grain fields where he harvested the crops there and he also loaded the shipments onto the trains that were sent to the other districts.

"We doing anything after work?" Rue asked, turning to look at Savanti whose eyes had never left Rue's face.

"Other than skipping school? I don't think so, you want to do something?" The two girls watched as the crowd of kids who were going to check in walked by. They usually waited for the crowd to dwindle before going to check in.

"Yeah, of course. You wanna come over?"

Savanti smiled and tried to hide it.

"Of course. Not during work though," Savanti answered and it was Rue's turn to smile.

"Not during work? Just maybe..." Rue said through her smile and Savanti nudged her shoulder.

"Shut up, you know what I meant," Savanti said but Rue laughed anyway. Savanti chuckled and rolled her eyes.

"I mean, I think I'm busy during that time but―"

"Oh, shut it," Savanti laughed, avoiding looking at Rue in embarrassment. Rue just smiled at the other girl before lightly punching her shoulder.

"Come on, let's go inside to check in," Rue said, eyeing the Peacemakers who were hovering around the building.

Savanti slipped her hand into Rue's and they walked into the building, walking straight to the check-in table rather than stopping to have conversation. Check-ins were mandatory in District 11 and so were check-outs, it was their way of making sure people got to work and did what they were supposed to. If you didn't check-in, they came to find you. You were supposed to go to work at all times unless you were on your deathbed or seriously ill. And if you were, you were to notify the District or there were consequences. It kept people from skipping work.

Obviously, District 11 is strict. There are watch towers everywhere with blaring lights that shine down on the citizens. The citizens are also not allowed to have any of the food they produce, it's punishable by death. The food must go through the government before being distributed back out. So, as much as you wouldn't think, the people of the agriculture district are starving. The main priority for the authorities is to keep everyone healthy enough to continue to produce food for the Capital.

The single file lines where people lined up to check-in were already starting to disappear so it didn't take long for Rue and Savanti to get to the check-in woman. The woman looked tired and aged; she had been doing her job for much too long.

"Name?" she asked in a dull voice. She most definitely hated being here, thought Rue.

"Rue Antiyeh," Rue answered, watching as the woman scrolled through her small, hand-held device for a few seconds. She clicked on Rue's name with a pen and after a beeping noise came twice from the machine, the woman didn't give Rue another glance.

"Section five, row three," she said, announcing where Rue would be placed that day. "Next," she called out and Savanti stepped forward while Rue stepped off to the side. "Name?"

"Savanti Aya." Once again, the woman scrolled through her device and checked off a name.

"Section five, row ten. Next."

The two girls, one twelve years old and the other fourteen, walked to the Equipment Section. The Equipment Section contained everything the children needed for the day and you had to return it at the end of the day. Everything had its own place and if something was missing, the place went on lockdown. The equipment consisted of gloves to help grip the trees (if needed), multiple big, brown, burlap sacks, rope (for some sort of safety precaution), a large water jug, and a satchel that held a lunch box of food that was expected to last you the whole day. There wasn't much in there.

The District had kids whose jobs were to collect full sacks in exchange for empty ones throughout the day. This way, the children were constantly busy and more food could be harvested. It was quite a sound system despite the cruelty of it.

Once the girls grabbed their equipment, they headed out to the orchard where the rising sun was already warming the air.

"See you later? And remember to whistle," Savanti said, nudging Rue lightly.

"I will, and we'll go to my house after. Meet me by our tree," Rue replied but Savanti was already walking away. Savanti just brushed her words away as if she had heard them all the time.

The sections and rows of the orchards in District 11 stretched for miles so there was always fruit to be picked. Rue had a row that was closer to the building than Savanti so it looked like she would be the one waiting today.

Rue was one of the best climbers in the whole District and she put that to use at the end of the day. To signal the end of a work day, the District put up a flag so workers could see it and return home. Of course, this wasn't the best way to do that as most of the harvesters and planters couldn't see the flag. So Rue always climbed to the very top of the trees and when she saw the flag, she whistled her very own four-note tune. Her friends, the mockingjays, picked it up and soon everyone across the orchard knew it was time to go home.

Rue walked to her row and began to set up, knowing exactly how the routine went. She hung her satchel on one of the lower branches and decided to leave her gloves in the satchel. Her small hands gripped the branches better without them. With a burlap sack in hand, Rue began to ascend into the first tree. It was an apple tree.

Her body was quick and nimble on the branches, familiar with which ones she could put all her weight on and which ones she couldn't. Rue would scurry to the top of the tree before being back on the ground in seconds. Her slender fingers were snatching apples at the same time she moved and soon her bag was full.

Rue always did a very good job in the orchard, she enjoyed climbing the trees and it made picking apples easy for her. She never fell and never worried about falling. She put her bag on the ground next to a tree trunk before beginning again.

As she continued higher into the tree, she sat still for a moment; enjoying the breeze in her hair and the feel of the morning sun. And mockingjays began to gather around her, playing in the leaves and getting close to Rue. Rue would just smile and laugh at them before humming a tune to a song her mother taught her.

It wasn't long until the birds repeated what she had hummed. The sound was beautiful as it spread across the orchard and it provided a nice background sound while the children worked. It lasted for quite a while before the song wore off and the mockingjays returned to their normal melodies and Rue returned to her work.

Rue always loved to play with the mockingjays; they were her only friends besides Savanti and her family. She enjoyed their company and their musical ability. Sometimes Rue thought about being a bird, wanting to be able to fly and be free but she knew it was a silly dream.

And onto the next apple trees Rue went, knowing she was in for a long day.

X

After hours of working and the sun was getting closer to the horizon, Rue finally spotted the flag. She turned towards the vast orchard and whistled the four-note tune. The mockingjays seemed eager to hear the whistle as they spread it around immediately.

Rue hopped down from the tree and placed the last two bags of apples she had onto a truck that someone was driving. The truck was already filled with bags of fruit so she assumed it had already collected the other children's bags. She didn't think about it and grabbed her satchel and water jug.

The District kept track of how many sacks of fruit you harvested in the orchards. They asked for at least four bags of whatever fruit we were picking and Rue always managed to get six bags. The more bags you filled, the more money you made. It was never a lot but it would help her family. The Peacekeepers would ride around in the trucks with the workers to make sure they weren't just giving out money and counting the bags of fruit correctly.

Once Rue reached the building, she dropped off her equipment and wasted no time going to the check-out lady. She wanted to be waiting for Savanti when she got out of the building. After another bored woman asked her what her name was, she was free to go.

A feeling of relief and exhaustion spread through Rue's body. She was done working for the day and going to school would not be a problem she needed to worry about. Rue sat under her and Savanti's tree, trying to get some shade. Her skin had grown accustomed to the constant sun but every once in a while, she would burn.

As Rue waited, more and more kids started to exit the building. Some looked tired while others looked ready to continue on with the day. Savanti was soon spotted in the crowd and she had to shove her way through the people to get to Rue.

Savanti looked exhausted as she trudged over to Rue. She plopped down next to Rue and let out a sigh before wiping the sweat off her brow. Rue watched her before chuckling.

"What?" Savanti asked, turning to look at Rue with a tired look. Rue answered by pulling a leaf and a few twigs out of Savanti's hair. When Rue laughed, Savanti just scowled and rolled her eyes.

Rue's eyes then saw the traces of blood on Savanti's hands and arms. Her laugh faded with her smile and she quickly grabbed Savanti's hand to examine the scratches on her hands.

"What happened?" she asked with concern. Savanti just scoffed and pulled her arm away.

"Slipped. Got a few bruises but I'll be fine. You should've seen what happened to Nessa. Fell off the top branch, it wasn't pretty," she said and Rue grimaced at the thought.

Kids suffered all types of injuries from working in the orchards, some even died. Rue pushed the images of broken bones and blood out of her mind and

"Hey, look. It's your boyfriend," Savanti teased. Rue whipped her head around to look towards the building to see a boy named Kaden. Rue and Savanti knew Kaden since they were little and had remained good friends throughout their lives.

"Shut up, he's not my boyfriend," Rue returned, her voice defensive. Savanti always teased Rue about Kaden ever since he admitted he had a small crush on her. Rue sort of liked Kaden back but she wasn't sure, she liked him more as a brother. Savanti teased her anyway.

"He's coming over here. Quick, act natural," she said and Rue rolled her eyes at her. Kaden walked over to Rue and Savanti, joining them under the shade. He had been looking at Rue the whole time, smiling brightly at her.

Rue could feel a slight blush creep into her cheeks at the attention. After all, Kaden was very attractive and popular. But Rue wasn't nearly as affected by his charm as all the other girls were. Savanti was even less impressed with his handsomeness, she treated him the same she did her brother.

"Hey, Rue. Hey, Savanti," Kaden greeted, giving another gorgeous smile to Rue. Rue smiled back. Savanti just waved.

"Hey, Kaden," Rue responded and Savanti said nothing.

"What's going on?" Kaden asked, wiping away some sweat that had dripped down his forehead.

"Nothing much, just chillin' under this tree," Savanti answered, her tone slightly sarcastic as if the answer were obvious. Kaden rolled his eyes at her and Savanti smiled brightly. Kaden then turned to Rue.

"So, Rue, do you want to, like, go out with me tonight?" he asked, sounding a bit self-conscious. He tried to smile but was too nervous. Rue's eyes widened in shock and Savanti's jaw dropped slightly. Neither had been expecting this.

"Are you serious?" Rue asked, raising an eyebrow at him. Savanti was biting her lip and her gaze had dropped to the ground. Even if Rue had bothered to look at her best friend, she wouldn't have been able to see her expression.

"Yeah, I'm serious," Kaden said, chuckling at Rue.

"Um...sure, I guess. Where will we go?" Rue asked, her answer unsure. Kaden smiled but Rue didn't smile back.

"I was thinking we could go to the meadow. We could have a picnic and just hang out," he explained, "if that's alright with you," he quickly added.

"Yeah, sure! I'm fine with it," Rue said, hoping her tone conveyed some sort of enthusiasm. "Will seven be okay? I have to make dinner for my family. We can meet after."

"That sounds perfect. I'll see you then," Kaden said, looking quite proud of himself. He had that dreamy look in his eyes and he smiled one last time at Rue before walking away.

It was silent between the two girls after Kaden had left. It seemed that they were both at loss for what to say.

"He's so into you," Savanti said, trying to laugh about the situation. But her voice was a bit shaky and her smile forced.

"I guess he is. I didn't expect that to happen…" Rue said but there was silence from Savanti. Rue turned to look at her best friend in concern and saw a sort of sadness etched across her face. "Savanti, what's wrong?" she asked, putting a hand on her shoulder.

"Oh, nothing. Nothing's wrong," she said but Rue didn't believe her for a minute. Savanti smiled anyway and stood, brushing the dirt off her pants. "Come on, we have to get you ready for that date," she said, holding her hand out for Rue to take.

Rue chuckled and let Savanti pull her to her feet. She brushed the dirt off her pants too and the girls began the walk back to their houses. They needed to stop at Savanti's house to leave a note about where she would be. Once that was done, they began the walk to Rue's house.

The walk there was quiet and Savanti kept her distance from Rue. Every time Rue commented on something or tried to start conversation, Savanti was lost in thought or responded with one word answers. After a while, Rue just stopped talking.

They arrived at Rue's house and they could already hear the shouting and laughter of Rue's siblings. Rue rolled her eyes while Savanti chuckled, Savanti loved Rue's siblings and they loved her. It was always a treat for them when she came over to visit.

"Alright, get ready to be stampeded," Rue said and Savanti chuckled as Rue opened the front door.

Here are the names of Rue's siblings in case you lose track:

Renalda - 9 years

Castor - 8 years

Javier - 7 years

Aiden (eye-den) - 6 years

Carine - 4 years

How you pronounce Kaden is kay-den.