“Prim?” There was knocking on my door. “Prim, you awake?”
I exhaled quietly, my eyes not leaving the roof. Awake? I’d never been asleep. Effie had advised me to take a nap before the prep team arrived, as they’d be working on me almost all day. Dragging myself to the door, I opened it to see a very excited Effie. She beamed happily, although that was probably little to do with me. Gold hair settled in loose waves down to her hips, and her eyelids were coated in sparkly gold shadow. Her black dress was surprisingly low-profile, but I supposed her hair made up for it.
Pulling me into the corridor, Effie shut the door and squealed, “The prep team’s here!”
The prep team, I found, consisted of a male and two females. The leader appeared to be the guy, Damien. He had luminous green hair and a purple piercing in the septum of his nose. Even as Effie introduced me, I could see his eyes raking me up and down. I shuffled self-consciously.
When Effie left, Damien clapped his hands and said, “Okay, sunshine, let’s start with taking a bath.”
I allowed the two girls—shaved headed Maria and purple-skinned Callie—to manhandle me through a bath. They liked to giggle a lot, and tell me stories about people I’d never or was hardly likely to meet. After the bath, they stretched me out on an oddly shaped chair—“It’s a chaise longue, dear!”—and Damien reappeared with a contraption in his hand. I stiffened, eyes widening. He turned it on and it started to vibrate, the centre blades moving so fast they blurred.
Seeing my face, he laughed, “Don’t worry, sunshine, it’s just a razor. Girls shouldn’t be so...hairy.”
Maria tutted at him. “Damien! The poor thing’s from District 12! They barely eat there!”
I let my eyes flicker to her body. She was plumper than any other woman I’d ever seen, but something in me told me that it was muscle that made her so bulky. Callie suddenly held my head down and smeared warm liquid over my top lip. I tensed, and she giggled, pressing a strip of material on top of the liquid.
“Calm down, sugar, it’ll only hurt for a second.”
“Wait, what? What will h—“
I squealed, slapping a hand over my mouth. Maria rolled her eyes, Callie laughed even more and Damien rolled his eyes. Once the stinging on my lip had subsided, the team got to work shaving every inch of my body. I hated being so naked, so exposed to a bunch of perfect strangers, but I couldn’t do anything about it. Once satisfied, Damien ordered the girls to tweeze my eyebrows into shape whilst he got the make-up. The tweezing didn’t hurt half as bad as the waxing. I closed my eyes as they smoothed a cream over the waxed areas.
Maybe I’ll finally get some sleep.
I drifted in and out of consciousness whilst they did my hair and face. The team were stupid, but undeniably sweet, and they worked over me gently. Careful fingers brushed over my skin, gravitating slowly towards my hair. I opened one eye, staring worriedly at Damien. He shook his head, green strands flopping, and laughed, “Don’t worry, sunshine, I won’t chop any of it off.”
Even so, I kept my eyes open as he start to plait parts of my hair. His fingers were even more skilled than my mother’s, tucking and tightening my hair into smooth braids. Once he had a finger-width plait on each side of my head, he told me to lean forwards and pulled the plaits back to tie the ends together behind me.
“Almost there,” he hummed, picking up a long, black stick. I tensed, but he simply chuckled and brought the object closer. “Just a curling iron, hon,” he murmured.
Ah, another one of those weird contraptions the Capitol had made simply because they were too lazy.
I watched warily as he began to wrap strands of hair round the wand. Panic fluttered through me when smoke started to rise, but he smiled at me and told me not to worry. Once my hair settled in waves down to my hipbones, Damien helped me up and handed me a white robe.
“You’ll get to see your beautiful self once you’ve seen Cinna,” he said, his septum ring glittering.
I smiled at him. “Thank you, Damien.”
A grin settled over his face and he kissed each of my cheeks. Eyes watering, he choked out, “Oh, sweetie, go on before I start crying all over you.”
Although the prep team was sweet, I was glad to find my designer a little more low-key. The golden eyeliner that shone against his coffee-coloured skin was the only thing that branded him as a Capitol member.
He smiled, almost shyly, as I entered. Offering a hand, he quietly said, “Hey, I’m Cinna.”
“Prim,” I replied, taking his hand. It enveloped mine.
The thing I discovered quickly was that I liked Cinna. He was quiet, speaking only when needed, but never made it awkward. I was comfortable with the silences.
The dress he presented me with was gorgeous, in an understated way. Ending just above my knees, the black material was plain, bar a glittering belt that wrapped around my waist. His nimble fingers worked over me, careful not to mess my make-up or hair.
He stepped back once he was done. Fingers pressed against his lips, his dark eyes flickered over my form. Self-conscious, I ran my damp palms down my thighs and mumbled, “What do you think?”
“I think...” he breathed. “You look amazing, Prim.”
Heat rose to my cheeks. He hooked his foot around a mirror and tilted it toward me. Blue eyes stared at me from within the shadows created by the powder smeared across my eyelids. Pink blush drifted across my cheekbones, matching the rosy gloss coated on my lips. The braids in my hair created a golden crown wrapping around my head, the rest curled into soft beach waves. The dark dress made my pale limbs look longer, more elegant. The make-up and hair made me look girly, but the dress snatched away just a little of the natural innocence. I looked a little dangerous, but still young.
My jaw slackened. Swallowing, I croaked, “Cinna, I—thank you. So much.”
He smiled, brown eyes glittering happily. “You look beautiful, kid. Like a fairy.”
Great, did everyone think I was god damn Tinkerbell?
Cinna didn’t seem to notice my annoyance, or simply ignored it. He helped me into black pumps and smiled, bringing my hair round over my front. Nerves coiled in my stomach and I closed my eyes, forcing my throat to stop seizing shut.
“Hey.” A finger tilted my chin back up and my eyes opened. Cinna, face concerned, pinched my cheek and whispered, “I’m betting on you, Prim. You’ll blow them away. Trust me.”