My breaths speed up. Then they stop. I feel like I'm going to faint. Tears fall down my face as I stumble up on the stage. I search the crowd for Eli. I see him, pushing past people. Peacekeepers hold him back.
"I volunteer!" he yells.
"Sorry, young man, but you cannot volunteer for the female tribute," says Effie.
"No!" He struggles to be released by the burly Peacekeepers. "Then I volunteer for the male tribute!"
"No, Eli-" I sob. "No!"
Eli walks up on stage. He grabs my hand and whispers. "I will do everything and anything I can to keep you alive."
"I will do everything I can to keep you alive, even if it means killing myself."
"No!" I yell. Effie and the rest of District 12 stares at the fight.
"Well, Mr, um, Eli, could you tell me your last name?" Effie asks.
"Oh, brother and sister? Well isn't this interesting!" She smiles wide. They take us to a room.
"You've got to separate, now," she says. Our hands are still together.
"Says who?" growls Eli. Effie purses her blue lips in frustration leads us into a room together. We wait for visitors. After a while, Dean walks in.
"I can't believe this," he says. "It makes me mad. How can they just throw a little girl like Tegan into an arena of trained killers? Sick, just sick." He hugs us, then the Peacekeepers tell him his time is up.
"I wish I could have taken your place, Tegan," says Eli.
"I'm going to die," I say distantly. The realization hits me like a mallet to the chest. Well, I guess I'm not a little girl. I'm about 5'8 already. But, like everyone else in the Seam, I am skinny from lack of a proper diet.
"Don't say that, Tegan," says Eli. "I'll protect you, I can. Then we'll be the only ones left, and I'll die for you."
"No!" I shriek.
"Come along, children," Effie pops in the door. "Time to go to the Capitol."
That's the last thing I would like to do. But I leave, because I have to make the most of my last days. I'm not letting Eli die for me, I'm stronger than that. I wouldn't be living if he died. I can't hunt, I can't kill. I'd die of starvation and loneliness.
If anyone is dying, it's me. Not that Eli knows.