Chapter One

I couldn't believe I let Prim talk me into this. I liked the show, yes, but to watch, not to actually be a part of it.

"Please, Katniss?" her sweet voice rang in my head as I suddenly remembered the conversation that got me into this mess.

I sighed. Not again, I thought, rolling my eyes.

"Prim, why would I want to go on that show?" I asked, turning to look at her.

She gave me a look. "Because," she started. " You've been watching it since the very first season, you make sure to always be near a T.V. whenever it's on. You're always screaming at the contestants because of how stupid they are and you're constantly saying how you could do a competition so much better if you had been doing it. Face it, Katniss." She placed her small hands on my shoulders, forcing me to look in her blue eyes. "You have always wanted to go in, but you've been lying to yourself all this time."

I opened my mouth to deny it, but I stopped myself, suddenly finding it difficult to say what I thought had always been true.

Dammit, I thought, deciding to glare at my little sister instead of speaking.

She smiled at me triumphantly. "Aha! See? You can't even deny it."

I abruptly stepped out from under her hands, causing them to fall to her sides and shrugged.

"It doesn't matter if I want to go in or not," I said dejectedly, turning away from Prim. "I still have to pass the auditions and I highly doubt they're going to want someone like me on their show."

"You're being too hard on yourself," Prim said softly, coming to stand next to me. "You are beautiful and smart and those producers would be stupid not to put you in."

I scoffed but didn't answer her. Instead, I stood there, letting the silence envelop us as what she said processed.

After a minute, Prim finally said, "At least go to the auditions. It doesn't hurt to try." And then she left the room, leaving me to my thoughts.

And that's just the beginning of the events that led me to now. In a hotel room. By myself. A thousand miles away from home. Waiting for the cameras to start rolling. Which they should be soon, if they haven't already.

For the millionth time, I cursed Prim with no real conviction. I'm half-blaming her for this. If she hadn't…Ugh! The only person I can blame is myself. Prim was right; I have always wanted to go in, but that desire had always been squashed because I never believed I'd be able to get in. And now look where I am.

I had to go through the audition process of course, but that only consisted of the producers asking me a series of questions. A month passed and, well…You can only imagine my surprise when a camera was shoved in my face and I found a too-large plastic key with my name on it in my quiver of arrows.

Then it was an hour of filming for my introduction segment in the first episode. I used to think it was all fake, because it's reality T.V., so you'd think it would all be staged. Wrong. The initial surprise, my answers to their questions…they were surprisingly all real. And the camera crew was impressed with my archery skills, insisting on multiple shots at different angles. It was almost half an hour before they remembered I had an hour to pack before I needed to be at the airport. I got there eventually.

I'm doing this for Prim. The $5000,000 reward if I won would be more than enough to get her into med school. Money hadn't been easy to come by, not since my dad died when I was eleven. Prim was seven at the time and our mother all but checked out on us. She was so overcome with grief and Dad's death that all she did was lie in bed and stare at the wall. I had to step up and take on the role of caretaker for Prim.

Before he passed, Dad taught me the basics of how to hunt with a bow and arrows. For the next five years, my hunting became the main source of income but it could only do so much. But I was stubborn and I vehemently put my foot down on any kind of charity. The only exception was my best friend and that was because his family owned the only bakery in town. He was just too sweet and too understanding to say no to. But he was only allowed two cookies and two cupcakes a month.

When I turned sixteen, Mom came back to us, but not completely. She sometimes had days where she wouldn't leave, but she was a lot better then she had been.

I didn't trust her though. I didn't trust that she was officially coming back. I couldn't get over the fact that she pretty much left Prim and I alone to fend for ourselves.

She did though. She found a nursing job at the hospital and everything was going well. We were getting money and food was being put on the table.

But then she found the lump on her breast. A trip to the hospital and she was admitted immediately. I came home in a daze, my ears ringing with the doctor's voice, saying things like, "Stage four," "No cure," and "Six months to a year."

I wanted to turn to somebody, anybody, to unload, to forget for just a moment. To cry.

Only one person came to mind, but he'd moved to another town and I hadn't heard from him in three years. I had no one.

Mom passed away less than four after she was diagnosed and I suddenly found myself wishing we'd had those five years. I wanted my mom back.

But we had to move on, because we no longer had anybody else but each other. I got a job at the Hob, a diner in town whose chef, Greasy Sae, loved to experiment with the fresh meat I brought in. Against my better wishes, Prim got a part-time job at the hospital, just to have more income in the house. And this last year I started giving archery lessons and that more than helped but it was still slow going.

The last three years since Mom's death have been hard, but Prim and I have managed to make it work.

And now I'm doing this show and I promised Prim I'd come home with that money. She doesn't know I'm doing it for her though. Her seventeenth birthday is around the time I should be done with the show if I make it that far, so the money for her schooling would be the perfect birthday present.

However, I hated being holed up in a hotel room for a week and a half. My life spent in the woods of my hometown made me an antsy girl if stuck inside. But I'll be gone from this room tonight.

The sudden ringing of the phone jarred me out of my thoughts, making me jump.

I clambered over the bed and picked it up, if not to answer it then to shut up the damn ringing.

"Hello?" I asked, bringing the phone to my ear.

"You are needed in the lobby. You are to bring all of your belongings with you. Please leave the room key on the dresser," the male voice said on the other end.

I closed my eyes and grinned, excitement spreading through me. But I contained it and replied, "Ok, thank you." I saw my hand shaking a little as I hung up.

I sat there, as silent as a still wind, letting it sink in. After a few seconds, my wiggled a little, and an uncharacteristic squeal burst from my lips. It was shrill, loud, and utterly too girly to have come from me. I rolled my eyes and laughed at myself for my stupidity. This game was already changing me.

Ten minutes later, I was lugging my two bags out of the elevator. The small black duffel hanging from my shoulder was standard for all contestants to have and was used particularly for filming purposes. And it was definitely not big enough for a month's worth of clothes. So we were allowed to bring another, bigger, duffel. Mine was forest green, my favorite color. Prim bought it for me about a week before the cameras came. When I asked her what on Earth I would use it for, since we never went on trips, she just shrugged and said that I never knew when I would need it. As I was packing it before leaving for the airport, I remembered what she said and realized she knew I'd made it onto the show somehow. I vowed to myself then that I would kill her when I got home. After getting her into med school of course.

"Miss Everdeen?" a voice to my right asked. I looked around and saw the guy at the front desk looking at expectantly.

"Yes?" I answered, walking over to him.

"The limo will be here to pick you up in five minutes," he said, his eyes already shifting to the computer screen in front of him.

"Thank you," I said, changing direction and heading for the revolving door going outside.

It was blisteringly hot outside. For a girl who has lived her whole life near and in the cool shade of the woods, the muggy heat of Los Angeles, California was something my body was not accustomed to. I'm glad I decided to pack plenty of shorts and short-sleeved shirts; I think I would have died of heat exhaustion if I'd packed my normal jeans.

I didn't have to wait long before a black limo pulled up in front of the hotel. The driver's door opened and a man wearing a black suit stepped out. He walked around the front of the car, stopped next to the passenger door, and looked at me.

"Katniss Everdeen?" I nodded. "Right this way," he said, gesturing with his hand toward the door at the back of the car.

As I slipped into the car and took in the plush interior, I couldn't help but feel that excitement from the hotel room flooding through my body again. I couldn't help but think: This is real. This is actually happening.

To calm myself down a little, I mentally made a list. Dad taught me this little trick when I was very young and it worked almost every time.

My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am 21 years old. I live in Fort Collins, Colorado with my little sister Prim. I am a professional archer and work at the Hob as a waitress.

Tonight, I will become a houseguest and contestant of the Big Brother house.