The 76th Hunger Games

     "Grandma?"
     "Yes, dear?"
     "Are you trying to say that we are going to be part of those games?"
     Katniss hesitates for a while, she shakes her head no but looks down so she won't have to look me in the eyes. "The odds have never been in our favor, Noah." | Note: The story follows from the third book of the series, Mockingjay. Also, this is my very first Movellas, and I'd really appreciate if you would leave a comment giving me constructive criticism or simply to tell me what you think of the story! Thank you!

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2. A Special Announcement

     The seven of us exchange looks of surprise mixed with confusion. We all get up and burst out of the kitchen and into the living room, where the television screen flashes a three-minute countdown, and letters bellow it form the words “The following message is of mandatory audience”.

     Katniss and Peeta hold hands, their knuckles white from how hard they squeeze each other's hands. Katniss steals a look at my father, he joins them, gripping Katniss firmly by the shoulder. They now glance at the television intently, without blinking an eye. Katniss's chest stuffed as if she's holding her breath. Her free hand hangs by her side, shaking badly.

     Peeta leans closer to her so his mouth is in her ear, and, almost in a whisper, says "The last time we saw one of those...''

     "The..." Katniss puts her free hand on her mouth and turns to Peeta, her eyes wide with fear for the word she couldn't find strength to say.

     Peeta grabs her other hand, looks into her eyes and say "No, the... the games... are over."

     "Over," she nods. She gulps and goes back to staring at the television.

“But do you think it could be right?” My father says in a low voice. “The letter–”

“It can't be.” Peeta shakes his head in denial.

     Jo is by my side, and she, too, looks confused by our grandparent's conversation. They seem to know what's going on, but we don't have a clue.

     The countdown and the anthem both stops and heavy silence fills the room again. So quiet I can only hear our rapid breathings.

     Where glowed the Capitol symbol now are one man and one woman, both weird and extravagant looking. The man has dark hair with streaks of blue and his lips are painted gold, while the woman has red eyes and pink eye lashes with ice white hair that gleams where the light catches it.

     "Good evening, people of Panem." The man starts, smiling widely.  "We, Pria Rosefield," he gestures to the woman, "and Kasius Everett, have the pleasure to announce, in the name of our great President Crow, the return of our most special, beloved, traditional and annual events -"

     "The Hunger Games!" Pria blurts out with him, excitedly.

     My eyes and ears are focused on the message, compelled. I hear a stump on the ground that breaks my daze. Katniss fell to her knees. Peeta is crouched beside her, holding her into his arms. Her hands cover her face, muffling her sobs.

     My aunt, worried, tries to help them up, but they stay on the ground. Peeta looks up for a brief moment, his eyes teary. He nods to his daughter and son, and tightens his arms around Katniss.

    “The Hunger Games are a celebration of the peace that hovers over our dear country Panem. Also a reminder to us all that we must not ever defy the Capitol, and by that, I mean to say the peace and order of this nation.

     “We will proceed with our 76th Hunger Games, in which tributes of every district will fight to the death in the arena until only one, and one only, remains.” Pria gives emphasis to the word one, pronouncing it loud and clear, and continues. “The one who will taste fame, glory and wealth until the end of his or her life. The one person who will be crowned a Victor. ”

     "We are also to announce the change of the rules that guarantee a fun twist to our 76th games." Kasius goes on, still smiling with his gleaming white teeth. "The President, and also Game Maker, Theodore Crow, stated the new rules as follows: Each of the thirteen districts must provide one male and one female between the ages of 10 and 18 as tributes.

      “Only one tribute can become a victor, that is, the remaining person in the arena.

     “Capitol citizens are allowed to volunteer, although their participation isn't obligatory.

     “Exciting! Don’t you think so, Pria?” Kasius finishes, looking amused.

     The woman, Pria, straightens her hair with her hand, smiles broadly, and says “Absolutely, Kasius! I cannot wait for the games to start!”

     On the floor, where now my father is, too, knelt by Katniss— who continues to sob while Peeta, also disturbed by the news, tries to comfort her. Pria proceeds.

     “The Reaping is going to happen on the following morning in each District’s town square. Every citizen is obligated to attend. Officials will go to every household before the start of the event in order to give instructions on how it will proceed, also to escort and collect the mentors that were chosen by the president himself.”

     “Oh, we must not forget, Pria!” Kasius gasps in mock surprise. “To tell them that they must be prepared for the many surprises that awaits them!”

     “You are absolutely right, Kasius!” She puts her hand on her chest. “It will be a thrill!”

      "And again in the name of our dear President Crow, we wish you a happy Hunger Games!" says Kasius.

      President Crow. The name echoes in my head. Less than a year ago our good President Paylor passed away. Old as time itself, she was still a great president for Panem until her last breath. My grandparents told me she was involved in the rebellion against the Capitol years ago. Said she was the best president this country will ever have. After her death, many of the districts, specially twelve, were left to starvation. 

     I don't fully understand what those games are, or exactly what they mean. We, and by we I mean my siblings and I, don't know anything about it. My grandparents changed the subject whenever we asked about them, until eventually we gave up asking. But if President Crow wants it back when Paylor had ended it, they told me, I know it can't be good.

     “And may the odds be ever in your favor!” Pria and Kasius say together.

     The screen goes dark, leaving the room in blinding darkness once more. The only sound we hear is Katniss’s incessant sobbing.

    

***

    

     Long after calming down, our grandparents requested the three of us children to accompany them to their house. We do so, unquestioningly.

     My grandparent's house is right next to ours. Their front lawn has a bed of primroses Peeta planted for Katniss when she lost her little sister, Primrose, many years ago. I wonder how and why she died. All I know is that she and Katniss were very close. I can tell by the way Katniss talks about her, on the rare occasions when she does.

     In our family, we rarely, if at all, talk about our losses with each other. That’s because we've had many losses already, and talking about them makes them real. We try and ignore them, if possible. So I don’t know anything about her little sister, nor about my mother and my sister, and I don’t dare asking, either.

     I open the door and walk into the house after them. It's warm and cozy inside, while outside the breeze is cold for the night. Our aunt got here before us.

     A few dusty boxes and old books rest on top of the table and some of the chairs. My aunt is hidden by the a small pile of boxes that she rummages through on her tiptoes. She picks up a book from inside the topmost box, her fingers flip its pages furiously while her eyes are hungry, searching it. She bites her lower lip, and closes the book quickly when she sees us entering the room.

     “Oh, you’re here.” She says, closing her hands around the book. "I found the one you asked for."

     “Thank you, dear.” Katniss tells her daughter, stretching her hand for the book.

     She hesitates before handing it to Katniss, and says “Are you sure you want to do this, mother?”

     Katniss takes a moment to consider an answer. “Yes, they need to know.” She says.

     “Right, I understand.” Our aunt says, leaving the room towards the staircase. “Well, goodnight.”

     We nod in response but she is already gone before she can be asked for anything else.

     The walls of my grandparent’s house are all filled with various paintings made by Peeta, illuminated by the dim light of each room. I don’t usually pay attention to these paintings. To me, they were just a pinch of color to the blank walls. As I look more closely, a painting in particular catches my attention.

    I stop in front of it without even thinking. A blonde, small girl with golden hair stands in the middle of an explosion. Big and bright flames, golden light, and flowers involve her as if protecting her from the fire. Not just any flowers, and somehow unsurprisingly, primroses. I know who she is. The girl in the painting is Jo. Her eyes are closed as if she’s sleeping, lost in her dreams. But she’s not. She’s dead.

     I hear the chairs being dragged in the kitchen, scratching the floor. Peeta, Jo and Elliot take a seat around the table far from where I am now. Katniss, I notice, is right behind me. Her gray hair braided back as usual. She walks up to my side, where she stands and we both stare at the painting without exchanging any words. From the corner of my eye I see my grandmother sneak looks at me, trying to read my expression. I break the silence.

     “Why is she dead?” I ask, without taking my eyes of the painting.

    She gives me a horrified look, and I immediately regret asking that question. But then she says, “Who?”

     “Jo,” I say, looking around to make sure Jo can’t hear me. “The girl in the in the painting. It’s her, isn't’t it?”

     “No,” she says. Her eyes are wet, and I feel a surge of guilt rising inside my chest.

     After long minutes of silence, she looks at the floor as if to cover her teary eyes, and say, “It’s Primrose, my little sister.”

     I want to ask her, again, how or why her sister died. So many things I’d like to know, out of curiosity, only. But my father’s voice echoes in my head, his entire speech about respecting my grandparents and sparing them from being constantly reminded of how much they suffered in the past, as if they needed me to. He didn’t tell me why they suffered, though. While that, my grandparents tell us to spare our father with questions about our mother and sister, said it’s too painful for him to be reminded of them, as if he, too, needed me to remind him.

     Instead, I look down and say, “I’m sorry, grandma.”

     When I thought she would cry again, or scowl at me for touching the subject, she finds my eyes, her expression stern. “It’s alright, Noah. You didn’t know.”

     She turns back to the painting. “But it’s beautiful, isn't it?” She goes on, and I see a hint of a smile forming in the corners of her mouth. “Peeta made me this one soon after she died so I’d remember her in a beautiful way.”

     “It really is beautiful,” I say, and give her a small smile.

     “Jo reminds me of her,” she says, dreamingly.

     We go back to staring at the painting for a few more seconds. She starts humming a song she used to sing us when we were little. She called it Deep in the Meadow.

     “Grandma?”

     “Yes, Noah?”

     “Can I ask… can I ask why there’s fire around her?”

     Katniss takes a deep breath, pauses for another minute, and answers. “She died in an explosion. I was there, too. And I saw it. She was only a few years younger than Jo is now,” she rushes the words out as if they’re hurting her.

     “I’m sorry, I shouldn't have asked.” I say, looking down at my feet.

     “It’s… it’s fine, Noah.” She says. “Now help me with those boxes, dear, will you? I have some things to show the three of you.”

     Without hesitation, I take her hand and lead her towards the table where the rest of us sits. Her hand trembles a little as she takes each step. When we reach the kitchen, I help Katniss to a chair and take a seat myself next to her.

     “Thank you.” She says, with a small smile.

     Jo stops biting her own nails and looks up at our grandmother, expectantly.

     “Can you hand me that small box over there, please, dear?” Katniss asks her, pointing her index finger to a brown wooden box at the far corner of the table, where Jo is.

     Jo stands up and quickly picks up the box, she takes a moment with it in her hands, as if to feel its weight. Then she hands it to Katniss, who places it on her lap and runs her fingers lightly on top of its lid.

     Peeta looks a bit lost in his own thoughts. He gets up and leans closer to Katniss from behind her. One of his hands patting her braid, almost involuntarily, while the other points at the box on Katniss’s lap.

     “What’s in this box, dear?” he asks her, still pointing at the one box she so dearly holds.

     They both consider the wooden box for a long moment. Katniss looks up at him and stretches her hand to clean a spot of purple paint from off his cheek. When the spot is gone, she looks back at the box in her hands and sigh.

     “Our memories.” She says.

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