I slept so fitfully that by the following morning, I looked like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards. My hair resembled a bird nest, and heavy black bags coated the pale skin under my eyes. I glared at my reflection. Already I looked like someone different—not Primrose, but Prim.
I didn’t know if that was a good or bad thing.
No one had told me anything more than to go get some sleep. That hadn’t worked, so I guess I was onto the next thing. I sat idly on the edge of the bed, stroking the cuff of the pyjamas I’d been issued. They were white and silky, but my thumb rubbed against something rough. Frowning, I looked down.
It was a tiny stitching, harmless. A capital C embroidered in gold thread.
Hm. It was a C for Capitol. How predictable.
There was a knock on the door. Opening it, I was faced with a dark-clad chest.
“Um...” I glanced up. “Can I help you?”
Cale smiled down at me. It was small, and gone in an instant, but it was the happiest I’d seen him. His dark eyes reflected my nervous expression.
“Yeah, you can. Although,” he laughed, looking down at my outfit. “You might want to change.”
I suddenly remembered what little I was wearing and blushed. His own cheeks turned a little red and he shook his head.
“Meet me on the roof after breakfast.”
I frowned. “You couldn’t tell me that during breakfast?”
Cale’s eyes flashed and he grumbled, “No. For two reasons. One is usually drunk, and the other has ridiculous hair.”
I pressed myself behind the door so that I could hide my scantily body. His lips quirked a little, but I couldn’t tell if it was because of my shyness or my body. Probably my body. At least he’d seen my thighs now.
To ease the thick air between us, Cale backed away down the corridor and called, “See you at breakfast, Tink.”
I choked, “What did you just call me?”
But he just grinned, and disappeared through a door.
My entire body flamed with embarrassment. Honestly, my skin flushed crimson from head to toe. I slammed the door shut, and stomped over to the bathroom. God damn Cale. He was giving me whiplash and I’d only known the stupid git for less than a day.
I scrubbed my skin clean and selected clothes from those hanging in my wardrobe. The whole wardrobe took up a room on its own, but I hadn’t taken more than one footstep in. The sheer volume of clothes freaked me out. There was enough material in there to clothe at least three districts.
I dressed simply, my outfit made up of a black pair of leather jeans and a knitted jumper. The jeans clung to my legs in all the wrong ways, but something about them gave me courage. And that was exactly what I needed.
The table was already full when I got to the main room. Cale had his bare feet up on a spare chair, his hand clutching at a mug as he looked out of the window. Even Haymitch had made an appearance, although all he seemed to be alternating between toast and sipping from a metal bottle. Effie was oddly make-up free, and looked extremely unhappy about it. She wasn’t saying anything, simply pouting into her eggs. I sighed with relief as I observed the normalcy of the breakfast. Compared to the previous night, it all seemed to be in regular proportions.
Haymitch looked up at me and smirked. “Well, if it isn’t the silent one.”
Cale looked at me, and nodded. “Tink.”
Effie glared sharply at him and snapped, “Cale! Why on earth would you call a fellow tribute such an awful name?” It seemed the tension between the two of them had not eased through a night’s sleep.
“First of all,” he replied, voice steady. “She isn’t my fellow tribute. Just because we’re from the same district doesn’t mean I won’t have to kill her.”
“Or that I won’t have to kill you,” I bit back, fists clenched.
He fixed me with an almost approving look. “Exactly.”
Rolling her eyes, Effie leaned back dramatically in her chair and said, “Was there a second of all?”
“Ah.” Cale snapped his fingers and said, “I wasn’t meaning the name as an insult. Didn’t your parents ever tell you the story of Peter Pan?”
Effie lolled her head to one side pityingly. “No, because my parents had better things to share with me. Like how to look stylish yet sophisticated all at once.”
Cale sniggered, “What a blast your father must’ve been.”
I cleared my throat. “Back to the point, please?”
“There was a fairy in the story,” he explained. “She was Peter Pan’s sidekick, tiny and delicate. Her name was Tinkerbell and that was always who I thought of when I saw Prim at school.”
My heart throbbed inside my chest. It was such an odd thing for him to say, and I hated how it affected me. It was also frustratingly annoying to find out that I hadn’t blended into the background whilst at school, which was essentially my plan. There had been enough loud girls surrounding me to bury quiet old me.
Cale’s dark eyes locked with mine and I felt my lungs tightening inside my chest. Haymitch broke the silence by banging his palm off the table. I jumped, cheeks hot. The mentor pointed a sharp knife at Cale and shook it approvingly.
“That,” he announced. “Is what we need from the two District 12 tributes.”
Cale had the decency to look as confused as I felt. I kicked his bare feet off of the chair and slid into it, leaning forward on my elbows.
“What do you mean?” I looked at Effie, who was deliberately avoiding my eyes.
Haymitch coughed, spreading butter onto another slice of toast. “What we’re saying is that you two really need to appear united.”
The both of us spluttered, “What?!”
“I told you they wouldn’t understand,” Effie sighed, rubbing moodily at her bare cheek.
Before we could say anything, Haymitch continued, “The Capitol is insanely sold on the two of you. Prim more than you, Caledonian.”
At that moment, I’d taken a deep drink of water to clear my dry throat, but at his words I spat it out across the table. Effie shrieked, leaping away from the spray. Haymitch glared at his soaked slice of toast and Cale just sighed. My sides ached with the laughter shaking through me.
“Your name is Caledonian?” I wheezed when I could finally speak again.
He scowled down at the table cloth and grunted. I wiped the tears from my cheeks and giggled into my glass. Caledonian. Good God, I thought Peeta had been a bad enough name.
Casting a glare at me, Haymitch leaned forward. “As I was saying, the Capitol has fallen completely head over heels with Primrose. They like her...innocence, or whatever. I don’t care about specifics. All I know is that Panem’s favourite is our very own little Prim. And that, Peter Pan, is where you come in.”
Cale scowled, but thankfully said nothing.
“We want the two of you to appear as one, as a force to be reckoned with,” he continued. “Admittedly, that does seem very unrealistic right now, what with her being silent almost ninety-nine percent of the time and with you being a giant asshole. But I’m prepared to work with what I’ve got. The friendship will create a sort of pocket for the both of you. A safe haven. Trust me, the Capitol citizens are total suckers for a cutsie-pie couple.”
My stomach clenched. “Don’t you think I’m already a weak enough target?” I whispered, my skin crawling. All three of them looked at me in confusion. Flushing, I mumbled, “I’m small and weak. Adding in a love interest just puts me at another disadvantage—I’m practically handing them a target that’ll hurt me.”
Effie paled at my revelation. Cale’s jaw tightened, the muscles flexing under the tan skin. It was only Haymitch that remained unaffected. He scratched at his stubble and grunted, “You don’t think we’ve thought about that, princess? I wouldn’t have been offering this proposition if I hadn’t planned it down to a T.”
“Then, explain to me how this will benefit either of us.”
“Appearing as a pair will interest people. More often than not, tributes hate each other and that dislike comes across during the interviews. Not good for sponsors.” He popped a berry into his mouth. “A bond, however, or a love interest sparks something in a place like the Capitol. It sparks admiration. And trust me, princess, the more sponsors the two of you get the better.”
“Okay, fine,” Cale said slowly. “But what about when we get to the arena? What happens then?”
Haymitch rolled his eyes. It was already clear that Cale wasn’t making a great impression on either Haymitch or Effie.
“Avoid each other and hope someone else kills the other.”
The way he said it was so casual, so nonchalant, that it almost sounded possible. He was oddly convincing for an alcoholic. I picked up a buttered slice of toast and shoved it into my mouth, hating how good it tasted. I hadn’t realised how hungry I was.
Cale scowled at the mentor and said, “Right. Well, I think I’ve lost my appetite.” He pushed away from the table and got to his feet.
As he left, Effie said, “Be ready for the prep teams at twelve, Cale.”
No one heard his reply if there even was one. I anxiously chewed the last of the toast, jaw working slowly. The kid was extremely unbalanced, and it was already beginning to wear on me.
And I’d only been in close contact with him for less than twenty four hours.
He was like a hurricane—existing in gentle winds most of the time, but when angered, banded together in a vicious circle and destroyed everything around him. All I needed to know was when Hurricane Caledonian would strike.