Katniss remembered her first reaping with vivid details.
She had been twelve at the time. Everyone between the ages of twelve and eighteen were required to attend the reaping for the annual completion held by the capitol, known as the Hunger Games. She remembered standing among the hundreds of other terrified children, each praying that their name wouldn’t be called. Every year, two of them were out of luck.
She could even remember the names of the tributes; Emmeline and Flint. Unlike tributes before them, they looked strong, fearless. She had remembered seeing them with each other around school. They were almost inseparable. It was ironic how they had been sent in together.
Emmeline, seventeen, was a Seam girl, but she was one of the prettiest people Katniss had ever seen. She had brown hair like every seam girl, but her eyes were the most piercing shades of green. Eighteen year old Flint, on the other hand, had coal black hair and eyes so dark you almost couldn’t see his pupils. They would have no trouble getting sponsors.
Even though her mother had forbid her from watching the games that year, Katniss had snuck over to her best friend, Gale's, house to watch, curious as to how the tributes would survive. She took every detail that Emmeline and Flint had used to survive in the snowy arena they had been placed in. She memorized how almost immediately they had separated themselves from the other tributes. They had managed to make insulating jackets by killing rabbits and skinning the fur off, using it to line their jackets.
They had finally been killed when Emmeline was so cold and sick, that a fire was the only way to warm her. Flint had put up a pretty good fight, but in the end they were both killed by a tribute from district two with spears.
For some reason she couldn’t quite put her finger on, that game stuck in her mind. Maybe it was because it was the first time she survived the reaping, even though her name was in there over ten times.
Now at sixteen, Katniss was terrified for the reaping.
This time she wasn’t worried about herself though. Now she had her twelve year old sister, Primrose to worry about. This would be Prim's first reaping, and she was scared to death, even though her name was only in there once. Katniss tried her best to reassure her younger sister that she would be fine, but Prim wasn’t convinced easily.
"You'll be fine. They wont pick you" Katniss said, reassuring prim for the thousandth time. She gave her sister's hand a soft squeeze. "I'm going out to the woods for a bit, but ill be back soon" she said, giving the young girl a small smile. Prim nodded and nuzzled back into her mothers side on the bed that they shared.
Katniss quickly threw on her hunting jacket and boots, and headed out the door to meet Gale in their hunting spot. She had been hunting with Gale ever since she was twelve years old, after both of their fathers had died in a mining accident. They were both forced to grow up quickly, having to provide food for their families. They didn’t like each other at first, but once they discovered their similarities, he grew on her.
Ducking under the fence, she jogged over to the log where her precious bow and arrow was concealed. She always hid it under a layer of sticks and leaves. She couldn’t afford peacekeepers finding it.
"hey Catnip" she heard behind her. She smiled. The only one who called her that was Gale. She turned around and looked up to meet his eyes. Gale was 6 inches taller than her, so (much to her distaste) she had to look up at him.
"You're actually gonna hunt today?" he asks, following her through the woods. She inspects the tip of one of her arrows. "well, yeah. The animals don’t know its reaping day". He taps her left shoulder, signaling for her to step to the left to avoid a snare he had set up. "you know what I mean"
And she did. It wasn’t the animals that he had been talking about, but rather the peacekeepers that patrolled every street of the district for the reaping that would take place later that day. "I wont kill anything too big"
As soon as she said that she spotted the brown fur of a deer. "get down!" she whispered, grabbing her best friends arm and ducking behind a bush. He spotted it almost immediately. "Katniss are you insane? There's no way you can sneak that into town on a day like today. Might as well just let it go". As much as she hated to admit it, he was probably right. If a peacekeeper saw her coming out of the woods with a huge deer like that, she would be in unimaginable trouble.
She stood up, reluctantly placing the arrow back into its quiver. Gale looked up at the sky. "come on, we have some time. Lets go sit in the meadow"
"Katniss, I…can I ask you something?" gale asks, breaking the silence. They're sitting next to each other in the meadow, looking out into the mountains and snacking on wild berries from the bush Katniss discovered 2 years ago. She could sit here with him forever. It was the only place she could be herself.
An hour later Katniss stood amongst a hundred other girls her age. She could almost smell their fear as they shifted in their spots and bit their nails. She looked to her right, searching for gale on the boys side. If there was anyone who could make her less nervous, it was him. She found him and put a confident smile on her face, as if she wasn’t nervous at all. He replied by sticking out his tounge and making a stupid face. She had to stop herself from giggling.
"hello ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the reaping for the 74th hunger games!" this years escort, Effie trinket, begins excitedly. Katniss scoffs. Capitol people were monsters for actually finding this exciting.
Effie plays a short video about the capitol, and then the actual reaping begins. "ladies first." she says, hobbling over to the huge glass bowl on the side of the stage. Katniss' heart skips a beat as Effie's hand disappears into the bowl. Everyone watches, holding their breath as she tottles back to the microphone. "and the girl tribute is…..Primrose Everdeen!" she says excitedly. Katniss cant believe her ears. How could her little sisters name be picked? Her name was in there once!
She watches in horror as her little sister makes her way up to the stage and before Katniss even knows what she's doing, she's pushing her way through the crowd.
"stop! Stop! I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!" she yells, running towards her sister. Two peacekeepers grab her arms and pull her back.
"oh how exciting! A volunteer!" Effie exclaims in her sickening capitol accent. Prim runs to hug Katniss.
"prim go find mom" Katniss whispers, pushing her sister off of her. "no!" prim screams, clutching on to her sister. Katniss watches as Gale comes out of the crowd and pulls prim off of her. She meets his eyes, and barely manages to keep it together. He looks like he's about to cry.
The peacekeepers shove Katniss up to the stage and position her next to Effie, who puts a multicolored hand on her shoulder. She fights off the urge to shrug it off. " so dear, what's your name?" Effie asks, smiling brightly. "Katniss Everdeen" she whispers, staring down at her feet. "ill bet that was your sister" Effie says. Katniss rolls her eyes at her foolishness. who else would I volunteer for?
"alright. Now for the boys" she says, moving on to the other glass bowl on the other side of the stage. Katniss silently prays that its no one she knows. She watches as Effie pulls the small white paper out of the bowl and carries it back over to the mic. " Gale Hawthorne!"
My legs suddenly weakened, and I felt dizzy. This had to be a dream. That was the only explanation. I must have dozed off in the meadow and Gale would wake me up any second. That had to be it. It was a nightmare.
I watched as he climbed the stairs to the stage and stood to the other side of Effie. i quickly darted my eyes away. i couldn’t bare to meet his eyes right now. "Well here they are district twelve, your tributes for the 74th hunger games!" Effie yells. She expects everyone to cheer, but the crowd is silent. Instead, I see a man at the back of the crowd raise three of his fingers in a sign of hope, and before I know it, the whole crowd follows his lead. "alright then" our escort says. "shake hands tributes". She steps back, and I finally meet Gales eyes. Whatever bit of emotion he had before is gone. All I can see now is determination. I feel his warm hand close around mine. There's no way I can go into the hunger games with my best friend. If he were to die I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. I look up at his face, tears rushing to my eyes. "you'll get out Katniss, I promise" he mouths.
"you get 5 minutes" the peacekeeper says as he practically throws my family into the room. Prim runs to me as soon as she sees me, throwing herself into my arms. "prim, prim, listen to me" I say, holding her at arms length. "as much as you hate it, you need to start going into the woods. Take dads book and study it. Learn which plants are safe to eat and sell them. Sell milk from your goat. Anything you can do to keep yourselves alive do it." I say to her. This time I don’t try to stop the tears from flowing. This might be the last time I ever see my little sister. "come here" I say, pulling her into my arms. She sobs into the shoulder of my dress."shhhh" I coo, stroking her golden hair. "y-you h-have to w-win Katniss" she sobs. "y-you have to come back to me".
A lump forms in my throat as I think about prim starving, home in the districts while I'm off to my death. My father would have cried at the thought of this fate for both of his girls.
I release Prim and turn to my mother. "you have to support her. You cant clock out again" I say. She stares at me wide eyed. "I won't" she says, and there's something in her eyes that actually makes me believe her. "stop crying" I tell her, pulling her into a hug. She silently cries into my shoulder, just like prim. Even as angry as I am at her, I'm going to miss her. It breaks my heart that I'm never going to see my family and district twelve again.
A minute later a peacekeeper comes and collects my small family, pushing them out into the hallway. I feel the tears running down my cheeks. I quickly wipe them away. The last thing I need is the cameras picking up on my shame. Sponsors will immediately think of me as weak.
I sit on the edge of the old, worn couch, the only furniture in the room. How must Gale be feeling right now? What was that determination he had in his eyes? What did he mean by "you'll get out"?
Before I can actually come up with an answer for these questions, the door of my small prison opens again. This time a school friend of mine, Madge, walks in.
Madge quietly sits next to me on the couch, turning something over and over again in her fingers. "here" she says handing it to me. It’s a small gold pin, with a bird in the center. A mocking jay to be exact. "For good luck."
I study the heavy, but small pin. Long ago, mutated birds were used by the capitol to listen in on the rebels plans. Soon the rebels began to figure it out, and told the birds lies to report back to the capitol. They cancelled the operation immediately, and left the birds out in the wild to die off. Instead of dying, however, they mated with regular jays and created the hybrid mockingjay.
Why did Madge have this? Why would she need a mockingjay pin?
"promise me you'll wear it Katniss. As your district token? Promise" she says, her blue eyes meeting my brown ones. I nod quickly. She gives me a small smile, and without another word exits the room. I'm left sitting there dumbfounded.
Madge and I aren't strangers, but it was definitely weird for her to visit me, let alone give me a real gold pin. This could easily feed my family for months.
A peacekeeper bursts into the room and forcefully grabs my arm, leading me out of the room. I figure that we must be heading to the train station, so I make sure my face is clear of all emotion. I needed to make my sponsors think that I didn’t care about being reaped.
I finally reached the train and climbed aboard, finding Gale, Effie and Haymitch already there. "well now that we're all here, we can get everything started" Effie says, clapping her hands together loudly. I roll my eyes at her and stand next to Gale. Any playfulness that he had this morning is gone, replaced with a look of concentration and thought. Just by the look on his face I can already tell he's formulating a plan for the arena.
"ill let you settle in before dinner. Lets go to your rooms" Effie says, placing hand on both of our backs, leading us. I try to share a glance with Gale, but he's still staring straight ahead. The joking Gale is used to know is gone, replaced with a man who is preparing himself mentally for the hardest thing he's ever done in his life.
"here's your room Katniss" Effie says to me pressing a button on the wall. Almost like magic, a panel slides over, reveling a room behind it. My jaw almost drops to the floor. This room is bigger than my entire house back in district 12.
"this is mine?" I ask in awe, taking a step into the room. This room could easily accommodate more than half of the merchants of the hob (the black market where I sold my kills).
"dinner is in an hour. I trust you'll be on time" Effie says. I just nod, half ignoring her. She shuts my door and moves on down the hall with Gale.
The first thing I decide to do is take a shower, so I strip out of my reaping dress and lay it neatly on my unnecessarily bed. Figuring out how to use the shower is another whole ordeal. There are so many buttons and dials that I don’t know what to choose. One button sends a stream of pink bubbles out of the wall, and another makes the water freezing cold. Once I'm satisfied that I'm clean enough, I step out of the shower, only to discover a pair of pants and a shirt lying on the counter near the sink. Those weren't there when I started my shower, but who knows? Maybe there's a button for that too.
I quickly dress and step out of the bathroom, a cloud of steam swirling into the bedroom and making the room look foggy. In fact, so foggy that I don’t see the figure sitting on my bed. I almost scream as the steam clears.
"Gale! What the hell are you doing in here?" I whisper-yell. I see a ghost of a smile on his face, but its gone as soon as it came. He gets up and stands in front of me, taking my hands in his. "Katniss listen to me. You're going to get out of the games. You're gonna make it back to your family." he says, and for the third time today I feel a lump in my throat. "Gale…." I start. There's no way I can let him die so I can live. No way.
"no!" I yell, pulling
"Katniss cant you see I'm trying to save you? I want you to go back to your family. You NEED to go back to your family. Prim needs you!" He yells. There's something in his voice, like he's already lost all hope for himself. I know Gale, and if he says he's going to do something, it might as well be already written in stone.
"yeah well I need you!" I yell, swiveling back around to face him. There's tears in my eyes by now, but his are emotionless, determined. There's no changing his decision now.
My best friend is going to try his hardest to make sure I get out alive, even if it means he dies doing it.
I really hope you enjoyed the first chapter of this story! don't forget to like and favorite for more!