Beware the Children

Alabaster has planned for this moment her entire life...soon, she thinks, she will be a District 1 Tribute, and soon after that she'll be a Victor. It should be simple for someone so strong and ruthless to win...but there are surprises waiting for her in the 57th Hunger Games.


3. Preparations

To look at us, Luxe and I are as different as possible while still being blonde and blue-eyed.  His hair is sandy, his eyes almost green.  It's permanently tousled as if a girl ran her hands through it, which half the time these days is probably true.  Mine is so icy-pale it looks like it could freeze you if you touched it.  My mother calls me Little Ghost.  Well, she used to.  Maybe she will again.  It's been a year since I've seen her.  Those who have family nearby get more recent visits.  Mine live too far to visit often, and work as jewellers doesn't leave much time to bond with their child.  It would be frowned upon anyway.  I don't want to look weak.  If I'm going to win, I'll let them hug me as much as they want.  If I die, at least I started pulling away sooner.  They'll miss me less.

In the dorms the girls whisper their congratulations to me, or high-five me.  Some are envious.  Some relieved.  Dash looks ready to murder me.  I bet she'd be positive brutal in the games.  Too bad this was her last chance.  I make sure to smile at her, a long, slow smile, as I strip down for a much-needed shower before bed.  

The next morning the mood is light.  Everyone knows they're safe.  Some are placing bets on whose name will be drawn as Tribute.  It's become a bit of a game, to see how many years it's a kid in school.  If "the odds are ever in their favor" a student gets to choose their reward as almost-tribute.  Sometimes it's someone doing their homework for a week.  Sometimes it's the best piece of meat at dinner. Our instructors ignore it, humoring us as we unwind from the hard work leading up to the Reaping.  We're all waiting for the year someone is Reaped twice, once by name, and then later as a Volunteer.  A couple of kids have tried, but no one has made it yet.

I pull on my underthings and step to my wardrobe, pulling one of the only non-uniform outfits down from a hanger.  Freshly delivered a few months ago, I bought it while on a free half-day with the birthday money from my parents.  Long and bright blue, velvety with bold grey trim, it falls in layers to the ground.  The waist is high and tight and the sleeves fall to my elbow.  A slit up the side shows off my long, toned legs and the tarnished silver boot that came secondhand from the Capitol to my parents as a gift from a former friend who was given a promotion.  It's a few seasons out of date, but I'll have a new Stylist and wardrobe soon enough.  

I brush some light powder onto my cheeks to even out my naturally pale color and sit on my bed to wait, watching the other girls get ready.  To see everyone in a riot of colors, taking full advantage of the opportunity to wear anything but dark red.  I'm amazed by Norra choosing a girlish pink, but love that Dazzle is draped in the shortest skirt I've ever seen in District 1.

"Someone is prowling the square today,"  I joke as she preens in the mirror.

She giggles."As if I'm going to waste a perfectly good opportunity.  We're all dressed up with nowhere to go, I've got to make the most of it, don't I?"

Someone jostles her out of the way to fix their hair and soon the ping sounds, gathering us to walk, two by two, to the Square.  Time to make my big debut.

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