I manage to squeeze into the 16-year-old group with just a couple of mumbling insults and powerful nudges on my back. Effie Trinket makes conversation with the Gamemakers as they wait all of District 11 to arrive. I touch the spot on my inflamed finger where the pitiless Peacekeeper withdrew my blood. My cyan, petrified pair of eyes wander around the age groups. I take a double take on the 18-year-old cluster when I realize Granger isn't present. What? It's mandatory that everybody attends the Reaping unless you are miserable on your death bed. And he seemed pretty ok when he made an effort to threaten me. I jump out of my skin when the familiar feel of muggy, warm, breath dances across my paled neck. I fight the temptation to knock out every single warped tooth he owns.
"What's wrong, Snow? Who shook your ladder?" Granger teases nastily. I catch harmonies of snickers from my age group.
"I'm going to laugh my ass off when the Peacekeepers find out your in the wrong section.'' I growl bitterly, refraining the rest of what I want to say.
"It doesn't even matter, Niall. That's the thing your white ass doesn't get. Whatever I do, your family has to pay the price- LOOK AT ME WHEN I AM SPEAKIN' TO YOU!" He roars dramatically, causing an eruption of cackles from the 16-year-olds. I spin around briefly and try to reflect all my frustration on my face. He wears a ragged, button up, a tattered, somber, overcoat. and baggy, navy, jeans.
" Here's a fun fact, I was the one who stole that basket of wheat. We ate good tonight, we really did. And while we were having our little feast, your brother got a feel of what the whip was like. But don't worry, Niall. I'll thank him.. once I'm skinning him and wearing his bones as a necklace." Granger menaces.
And that was it. That was my breaking point. All my thoughts are put on mute as my elbow compresses with his jaw and just by feeling the way it compacted, I know I broke it. The whole Justice Building goes taciturn as all it's attention is focused on us. I hear the chime of "Ooo!" like it was them who felt the blow. Granger shoots a punch directly at my esophagus but I grip his fist exactly before it makes connection. His knee shoots up at my stomach and I'm taken aback for a little.
"I was going to leave your mother out of this, but if you insist." Granger shrugs, cupping his newly deformed jaw. I pull back knowing one move could jeopardize my mother's life.
"Peacekeepers, over at the 16-year-old section please!" Effie Trinket clamors into the mic while adjusting the back of her corkscrew, cream wig.
Right on cue, a duo of Peacekeepers scramble into the scene, both encasing me and Granger's wrists. They shove us behind a colossal, towering pillar of wheat that rise on either sides of the Justice Building.
"What in the Dark Days do you two think your doing? It is highly disrespectful to act violent when Gamemakers rode all the way here from the Capitol for you and your district." A female Peacekeeper with raven hair gathered into a bun lectures strongly. Her beady eyes flickering between Granger and I.
" The consequence is death."
The single sentence has my mind reeling. My inhales tends to become fainter as I think this through. No one will miss me I promise myself that. The issue is Keavin, mom, and dad. Even with Keavin, my parents, and my work combined, we're still teetering between life and death. I try not to picture what their lives would be like without my help, but the thought already sinks in: Death. They'll die without a doubt. But, maybe we'll all be a worry less, tranquil family when we begin our afterlife.
I allow myself a glance at a somewhat blank-faced Granger, who's noticing the pebble strewn ground is interesting to have a staring contest with. He seems separated from the situation. Good. Don't care, Granger. You will once the blade will be brought down on your neck.
The other Peacekeeper with his protective helmet still shielding his face hums an inaudible phrase to the rat-faced woman. Her button-like eyes flares with annoyance.
"But, due to the occasion today, we are forced on keeping this little breakout a..warning." She announces to us, cringing at the truth like she was actually willing to slaughter us.
I run my fingers through my aureate, mellifluous, hair as I mentally thank fate for being so generous. Granger just sighs and growls: "If you two Capitol puppets won't hurry up with this, I think we'll have to have our own little Hunger Games."
"Is that suppose to intimidate us?"
"It depends on how how much you like having your throat ripped out."
"You don't want to test me, eleven, and especially not my loaded rifle." The women Peacekeeper takes the fatal gun out of her belt and starts to aim. The tacit one stops her in her tracks. She lets out an agitated groan and calms herself.
"Very well. Return to your age groups please. If another little occurrence like this repeats, we will execute you."
I nod politely and amble back to my age division. I feel the gawking, bewildered, eyes of all of District 11 almost scorching my frigidly pallid skin. I glimpse at one of the pair of eyes and notice that it's Keavin's. He mouths a: "what happened?" but I just mirror a "Whatever" appearance on my face. Violence rarely occurs in District 11, besides from the public whipping. We're too occupied by trying to survive and maintaining our family. That's mainly the cause of our low-ranking tributes. I know I wasn't raised to throw punches, but what I did wasn't sheer violence. It was bottled up rage from the steady flow of tormenting I get daily, and threatening my family was the flame that ignited it all.
I acknowledge the actual reaping for the first time. I missed the clip sent in from the Capitol that explains all of Panem's time line and the reason why the Hunger Games exists. Effie has already reaped the female tribute. The tribute looks out on the array of people studying their her. Her ebony, lustrous, billowy waves shimmie's down down to her umber shoulders. She adjusts her floral, pink and cream dress. Effie gives her a light pat on the shoulder and struts over to the male reaping bowl.
"And now, the boys."
Her lengthy, magenta nails dives into the chasm of names.
" I hope its your name Effie Trinket pulls, Niall."
She swirls her palm inside it, increasing the crowds curiosity.
"Well if Effie reaps me, I want to make a good impression on the crowd."
Her fingers grasp a single slip and presents District 11 with it.
"You're not going to get reaped, Niall, you're not."
. She rips the black tape off and clears her throat:
I don't really know how my legs are trudging towards the stage when I feel my body's numb. The hammer of my irregular heartbeat seems like it could fill the whole Justice Building with it's jittery carol. The relieved crowd memorizes every feature of their newly reaped tribute as they stumble to make a death path for me. I target my horrified stare to count all the petite disarrayed pebbles that all escort me towards an awaiting Effie. It doesn't matter that I barely slipped through that Peacekeeper's gun, either way I'm still betraying my family's only chance at survival. Before I can descend to my deepest fears, my thoughts shatter to a halt. Effie Trinket's surgically altered eyes convince me up the stone stairs.
"There goes our chance on having a victor this year!"