The Mercy Games

My name is Ever Mellark and I'm a District 12 Tribute for The Mercy Games, along with Chance Hawthorne. I refuse to let Snow's granddaughter win. Things have changed and are corrupt once more. All of the eyes in tainted Panem are on what the star-crossed lovers' daughter will do in the face of a new Games created by Kerra Snow. I have one promise I will keep: Save Chance or die trying.


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7. The Capitol

After discussing the reapings with my parents, Uncle Haymitch and Scara, we realise they have the same hunter instincts we do about the other tributes. Uncle Haymitch gives us details about the older mentors and Scara tells us about the escort for each district as well as the stylists and the mentors Haymitch cannot name. Some districts have had to pull in replacement mentors from the Capitol as most of the districts have lost their previous victors such as District 7. Johanna Mason had sent herself to an early grave from morphling, Mom said, and there weren’t any others to take her place. She had this sad glint in her eye as she said it. I think she was friends with Johanna in a roundabout way.

It’s late by the time we finish so we all go off to our compartments to get some sleep before we arrive in the Capitol tomorrow morning. I fall to sleep in my clothes rather than finding something to wear from the drawers.

But my dreams are haunted by what the Mercy Games could be.

My plate is rising. It stops moving and I’m in the arena. The sixty seconds begins to count down. I’m blinded by the sun temporarily. Once my sight adjusts, I begin my observation. The arena is vast, filled with flowers. The flowers are like nothing I’ve seen before. There are giant red roses growing around the base of my plate. The colours take my breath away. Lilacs, pinks, blues, yellows, whites all meet my eyes. The arena is beautiful, indescribably beautiful. It reminds me of the Meadow back at home. The gong goes and tributes stare haplessly at the flowers, even the Careers aren’t fighting. I find Chance; he’s stood waiting for me.

“We need to get out of here,” he says, tossing a pair of knives at me which I catch effortlessly and slide into my belt.

“But why? It’s not dangerous. They’re easy pickings whilst they’re so engaged with the flowers.”

He forces a backpack onto my shoulders then pushes me to move. We’re at the edge of the garden, furthest away from the Cornucopia, when it begins. The flowers start exploding; the red roses aren’t the only splattering of red now. Blood flies everywhere. Chance stands next to me, unmoved by the whole scene. I’m amazed about how calm and relaxed he is about watching people be ripped apart by something so beautiful.

Sometimes, beauty can be the thing that kills us.

Chance then turns to me, as the explosions are still happening. He smiles then strokes a stray hair behind my ear. “I’m so happy we’re in this together.”

He moves closer, wrapping a hand around my waist. “I mean, only one of us comes out.” Then his lips are on my ear. “I suppose Panem will love the heartbroken boy who was forced to kill his fiancée to get home to his baby sister.”

The sharp pain registers in my lower back.

“Talk about stabbing somebody in the back.” He smirks, waving the knife in front of my face mockingly as I sink to my knees.

He’s stabbed me with my own knife and he looks satisfied by his actions.

I’m awoken by my own screams in the end. An arm is draped around my waist. I panic until I realise I’m awake and the arm doesn’t belong to nightmare Chance because he doesn't exist, he can't exist. Even if it is Chance, he won’t hurt me because he loves me, right?

I move gently so I don’t disturb the person. I grin as I think about Scara walking in and seeing that it is Chance, she’d have a heart attack at the sight. But it’s not Chance. It’s my mother. She looks so young while she sleeps, her scowl is absent and she even smiles. I would love to know what she dreams about. I wonder if she dreams of my father, Aunt Prim and my grandfather, maybe even Rue appears singing. I hope she does. Mom deserves to be happy with the people she loves the most. She has Dad but I can see the empty void in her chest where the deceased once sat. Her eyelashes flutter open and she smiles at me.

“You were screaming,” she tells me. “I used to have bad nightmares too but they hardly appear when I’m with your father.”

I return her smile. “You look peaceful in your sleep, Mom.”

“I do?” She raises her eyebrow. “Peeta tells me I lose my frown when I sleep; he told me that during our first Games.”

“Most people have first dates.” I grin, climbing off of the bed to pick an outfit for the day.

She sits up, a huge smile forms on her lips like she’s about to laugh. “Our first kiss happened when I found him and I was cleaning him up. It wasn’t on my list of top ten places for my first kiss to happen. Then our second date was on a giant clock arena, again, not exactly fun when you’re pretending to be married and pregnant. Nobody knows that baby was fictional and they still think the real wedding was just a way of reaffirming our love after the war.”

I’m taken aback by my mom’s story. She seems genuinely sad for lying to people about everything. “But everything is real now, right?”

She laughs. “‘You love me, real or not real?’ For years, that was what your father asked me after the mission in the Capitol. But he saved me, more than once.”

Mom hasn’t answered my question but I know it’s all real. A knock at the door and my father walks in. “Katniss? Are you in here?”

“Ever was having nightmares, I wanted to check up on her,” Mom says.

“I was worried when I woke up and you were gone.” He kisses her cheek. “Breakfast is ready anyway.”

I turn my face to look at them. “You two go ahead, I have to shower and find some more clothes to wear.”

They nod but then my father frowns and my mother approaches me. She tilts my head to survey it.

"I think you must have caught yourself in your sleep," Mom says as she strokes the skin alongside it. "I'm sure the prep team can cover it and you'll come up with some concoction to heal it quicker."

My father squeezes my shoulder as they leave to get ready for breakfast.

When I look in the mirror, I see what they were so concerned about. Three long claw-like scratches along my cheek are bleeding. I must have done it during my nightmares. I decide to wash off the blood in the shower. I punch a few commands into the system and soon, I’m drenched in the smell of Christmas. My hair is washed and dried and I’m ready to assess the damage. Three long angry red marks are left when the blood stops. I consider asking an attendant for a first aid kit but I remember how Uncle Haymitch would react to my face being bandaged. He will only tell me I should display them, battle scars from a war I wasn't caught fighting.

I find a floral print dress in the drawers. It’s almost like someone has put it in the drawers knowing my nightmares would be so flowery. I walk over to the window, open it and throw the dress out.

Take that dream, I’m not afraid of you.

I pull on a blouse and a high-waist skirt so I look presentable for my stylist and the few Capitol residents who will see me between now and then.

I go to open the door and find Scara Maccabee’s hand threatening to knock on my face.

“I was just about to wake you for breakfast.” She looks embarrassed by the near miss. Scara’s expression suddenly changes to one of utter shock when she sees my cheek. “Is Chance in there with you?”

“No? He should be in his room,” I say. Then I see a deeper look of horror on her face. I realise how she could possibly perceive my comment. “No, no! My mom was with me, I wasn’t sleeping well. I haven’t seen him since I said goodnight to him.”

“He isn’t answering.” Scara sighs in annoyance. “You can wake him up if he won’t get up for me.”

She walks away towards the breakfast which I can smell. I walk to his door and knock on it.

“Chance! Wake up! You’re late for breakfast and now you’re making me late. I swear if Uncle Haymitch has all of the bacon, I’ll blame you!” I shout through the door.

But when there’s no answer to my shouts, I go ahead and open the door. I can see the bed has hardly been slept in, the curtains are open and Chance is nowhere to be seen. Turning back to walk out of the door, he’s waiting behind me.

“Are you looking for me?” he asks.

He’s still in his clothes from yesterday and looks incredibly tired.

“Breakfast is ready.”

He nods, sitting on the arm of his sofa.

“Where have you been half the night?” I question him, folding my arms.

“You were screaming, I wanted to come and comfort you but your mom beat me to it. I’m glad really,” he says. He doesn’t elaborate on why he was glad which annoys me because I want to know what he means. “I spent the night playing poker with the attendants. I think I’ve made enough money to buy Brae a new collection of dresses.”

I roll my eyes at him. “I promised Brae I’d send her one pretty dress back not a collection.”

“My baby sister deserves more than one dress,” Chance says, walking around me to pick something up.

He stands in front of me then opens his hand. He’s holding an identical bracelet to mine; it even has a compass attached to it. But on closer inspection, I realise his only shows north and south. I look at mine and it has the remaining two directions on it.

“Cal designed them with a little help from Brae,” he informs me. “He had them made as a wedding present. He called last night, asked how you were.”

I can’t talk about Cal, I’m trying to push him to the back of my mind so I won’t feel guilty potentially killing anyone that reminds me of him. “Breakfast, it’ll be getting cold.”

*

My skin is still burning when I’m waiting for my stylist to appear. I lay completely naked on the table. I do wish stylists weren’t late. My prep team, my mother’s old prep team since somebody thought it was a nice idea, have torn every hair from my body except ones they deemed acceptable. Flavius, still with his bright orange hair, was upset about the claw marks on my face. Octavia and aging Venia tried to ignore it but kept looking at it like I’d ripped a gaping hole in my face.

I sit up, swinging my legs over. I try to imagine Chance’s prep team plucking and washing him down and it amuses me greatly. He hates it when Brae wants to brush his hair and play stylist but he suffers through it because he loves her.

The door opens.

A woman appears; her hair is violet and falls in soft curls to shoulders. She’s smiling like she’s accepting a prize. Her dress matches her hair. It’s short, strapless and there is purple net over the bottom of the dress which appears like purple fire.

“Hello, Ever. I’m your stylist, Adorabella. Call me Adie. I'm here to make you stand out tonight and for your interview.”

I shake her outstretched hand.

“Cover yourself up, you must be freezing.” She hands me a dressing gown of white cotton to wear. “Now, I'm hoping to make a statement with your chariot costume. Now I have slaved over these designs for you and Chance with my co-stylist, Lora. We decided to look at the broader picture and we created this.”

Adie stands up, walks over to a cover which she pulls off in one swift movement.

“Wow” is all I can manage.

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