I freeze completely, my arm still reaching toward them. They stood still, looking at each other and then back at me. The sound of 2 more shots and cheering let me drop my head onto the floor.
"It's outside." I sigh watching the explosions of color seep through the curtains. The elevator hum gets louder as the elevator begins to move, taking Nur and Spens with it. Once they are out of sight, I pull myself up with the help of the armrest. Although I wasn't looking, I could feel Ash's eyes on me.
"What?" I turn to him, and in the little light given, I could see that he wasn't happy.
"Why didn't you say yes, why didn't you let us go with them? I promised mom that we would win, and that was our chance to win.”
“No Asher, those two are going to get us killed before the Games even start. That was such a close call in the elevator, we could have been with them. I also promised to keep you safe and that is what I am doing!” Before he could answer, I pull the blanket that was draped across the couch and wrap it around my arms.
“I am going to bed, see you in the morning.” I walk to my room, ignoring Ash’s constant pleads for me to come back.
“Crimson! Wake up! Breakfast is ready.” Wisher banged against my door, giving me not a minute of peace.
“Fine! I’ll be out in a minute.” I rub my hands across the smooth blanket once more before rolling off the bed and onto my feet. I was so tempted to fall back onto the bed and sleep for an eternity, that was until Wisher would come back and bang against my door. I dig through the dresser for a sweater and I pull it over my tank top. With my head hung low, I slump my way into the dining area.
Besides the fact a messy half-asleep girl just walked into the room, it didn’t interrupt whatever conversation they were having.
I find a seat between Ash and Struve as they start talking about what we should do in training.
“So today you guys should really try to talk to the other tributes, try to be kind or you might get on their bad side, but just try to get to know each other.” Struve poured a dark black substance into my cup and the smell reeked of what I would only know as Coffee.
“Why would I want to get to know the people who might potentially kill me?” I drop some thick yellow paste onto my plate, sprinkling red spices over it.
“Well it would be a lot harder killing someone if you know things about them, if you know they are human too. Some people try to forget that they are living, breathing, people just so they can kill them without remorse, but if you tell them how much you love your family, or how you miss home, they will remember that when you are face to face and even if it is just for a second they will hesitate, that second could change your fate between life and death.” As much as that made so much sense to me, knowing that if anyone of those tributes that I call Monsters was at my mercy and I knew they had a little sister, or miss their parent’s smiles, I couldn’t do it, I just shake my head and continuing shoving the paste into my mouth.
“Fine whatever, do as you wish, but as stupid as it sounds, that second is worth it.”
“Hiyah!” I watch as Laurel slams the axe into the dummy, severing the head off the dummy.
“You know, if you actually practice instead of standing around, you could fight like that.” I turn to my side to see Talon, the District One tribute at my side, smiling as he watches the limbs of the dummies fall to the floor. Trying to follow what Struve said, to get to know them, I think of the many possible things to say to keep the conversation going.
“I despise cats, their smirky faces, their blood thirsty claws, I hate them, I hate them.” Out of all the things I said, my fear of cats was the one chosen. I spared the dirty details of the old rangely cat named Yack who nearly clawed my best friend to pieces.
“Well that’s nice, I guess. I despise chickens so.” I was taken aback by his reply. One, that he did in fact reply, second, he despised chickens.
“May I ask why?” Laurel gains a round of applause from the other tributes, it was only now that I noticed everyone was watching her. She drops the axe and bows, winking at Talon.
“No.” He laughs, turning toward a station.
I agree to the fact I should be practicing and I decide to try out the axe, the same station that Laurel previously massacred.
“Welcome, now here are the basics, never let go of the axe, and try to hit as many dummies as possible.” the Station Keeper pushes me onto the staged area and hands me the axe.
I feel like everyone is looking at me, the skinny redhead who has no idea how to hold an axe, let alone throw one. But nobody is looking, they are doing their own thing, and so should I. I raise the axe, over my shoulder as I approach the first dummy. I get closer and closer before the Station Keeper calls out to me to step back.
I stop where I am, ready to smash the axe into the dummy, but my arm doesn’t move.
“Stop shaking, you’re causing an earthquake.” I turn behind me to see three people leaning on the fence around the stage. Talon, Spens, and Rapailia. To see Spens in the middle of two career’s was odd, but I was more concerned about the comment, that send Rapailia into hysterical laughter.
“If you stand any stiller you will cause an ice age.” another career, whose name I could not conjure up joined in, and the fence slowly filled up with the rest of the tributes, staring at me, including Asher.
“Well are you going to throw it or not, because I would like to take my turn you know!” the words keep coming at me, the Station Keepers yelling at me to follow my instincts and the cruel slurs from the careers, but one voice calls out encouragement, Asher’s.
Just swing, don’t think, just swing. In one motion I slam the axe into the dummy’s neck, it’s head flying off into the direction of Velvet. She ducks as it glides past her head and into the archery station.
“Keep going, or are you afraid you are going to impale yourself?” this time it was Spens who called it out, getting high fives from the Careers and a bitter glare from Nur. I take another step and swing at the second dummy, it’s arm falling with a thud. I don’t stop, I just step and swing, going with my instinct, but instead of the faceless dummies, it was the tributes who were yelling things at me, Laurel, Rapailia, Spens, Talon. I am not ruthless, I need a reason, and behind me is Asher, the one person I will risk my life for.
One by one the dummies fall, and I am left on an empty stage, with everyone, even the rest of the station keepers, looking at me.
A clap emerges from the eyes, I don’t know who started it but a few more arise until the whole room is in an applause, except Laurel, whose dark impression sent chills throughout my body. I may have made a room full of fans, but a made one brutal enemy.
“I thought I might invite some of your new friends tonight for dinner, since the evening with Velvet and Vamos went so well.” Sturve wraps his arm around my, ruffling my hair.
“Who are you inviting? Spens and Nur?” As much as I hate to admit it, Nur seemed to be my only friend, Spens, not so much, even less so when he started shouting things at me in the Training Center but I can deal with him.
“Talon and Rapailia, they insisted on dinner tonight.” I stop and stare at Struve in disbelief.
“You are kidding me right? You are making a really big joke right now.”
“No, I’m not, they said you guys really hit it off are want to make an allience, along with the other care--”
“No.” Struve looks at me intently, his head curved to his side.
“What do you mean no?”
“I mean those two were chanting barbaric things to me when I was practicing. The only thing we hit off was the metal wall of differences.” I shove his hand off my shoulder and step back.
“I think I’ll have dinner in my room tonight. Send a servant.” I turn down the hall.
“Crimson!” Struve shouts.
“No!” I turn back around the corner. “You are not my mentor, my mentor is locked in her room, doing god knows what instead of helping me like she should, like she promised and Wisher should be giving advice but he is a no show, but you, you are acting like a combination of both of them but you are neither! You are the person who makes me look nice in front of the cameras before sending me to my imminent death, so stop acting like you care, because you don’t.” I storm back in the hall and slam my door, letting it echo in the silence.
My heart pounded in my chest, I stood in the darkness of the room. My breaths getting heavier. I hold my breath, hoping to slow my heartbeat down. I freeze, slowly reaching out my hand toward the lightswitch. My mouth still clamped shut, the breathing continues. I slam my hand against the lightswitch and stifle a scream.