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.


5. Replay

I appear to be the more sensible one when I decide to change my clothes and go for dinner. Chance sits in his room and sulks. It’s a talent of his. When I sit down, my mother gives me this look as if she’s studying me. I ignore her because I know she’ll never share what she’s concluded. So I look at the vast table which has a variety of food laid out. There is the lamb stew Mom loves so much, the bread rolls are in pretty flower shapes and glasses of red wine.

When I was younger and my brother was barely eight, we went to the Capitol on a train with our parents. Mom was less enthusiastic about being back there after everything that happened during the mission to take the Capitol but somehow, my father managed to coax her into coming with us. I remember the candy coloured apartments and the sky seemed bluer than at home but I remember the people most of all. They were all dressed like they were constantly on their way to a party. Their hair came in shades I had never seen before and their accents made Cal and me laugh. It was obvious the entire time we were there that our mother was reliving what had happened but she refused to talk about it. Even now, they have never explained what made her freeze as we walked down one of the streets. Her eyes simply fixated onto a single house then flickered to a place hovering slightly above the ground. She got worse as we headed to the President’s mansion, my father had to take her hand and gently bring her back from whatever place she found in her mind. I know that Aunt Prim died somewhere in the Capitol but it was only once I turned sixteen, they’d even explain that she was killed in a bombing outside the mansion. Dad refused to go into detail, saying it would upset Mom. I couldn’t even imagine watching Cal being blown to pieces just a few feet in front of me.

“Chance isn’t joining us?” I ask innocently.

My father stares at me knowingly. “I think your little scrap earlier has upset his appetite.”

“That’s a shame but that means more for us.” I grin, serving myself a plate of turkey that has just materialised. I take the silver dish holding the cranberry sauce and begin dipping the turkey into it.

Uncle Haymitch nods at me. “She’s right, more for us. We need to fatten her up for the Games.”

“You will be at a disadvantage, Ever, you don’t know how to be hungry like we did years ago. You’ve always had enough food so you need to prepare yourself,” Mom says then bites into a chunk of lamb. “First thing to do is–”

“Familiarise yourself with the arena in the thirty seconds and avoid the bloodbath at the Cornucopia. Find water then shelter. Find a source of food you know is non-hazardous and sustainable also stock up on medicines,” I finish her sentence without any trouble.

She smiles at me then Peeta. “We did a good job. We raised a fighter.”

“It’s strange. I used to spend this entire train journey trying in vain to get the damn kids ready. Now we can just sit back and enjoy the ride. If only they’d all been raised like assassins, it would have made my mentoring a lot less rushed.” Uncle Haymitch sighs, bringing the crystal chalice to his lips.

Dad looks towards the door of the carriage. “Perhaps I should try again, ask him to join us.”

“Dad, he’s being sullen and trying to make a point. Let him do it. He’ll order food to his room and probably watch the reapings alone,” I say. “He hasn’t fully understood how cooperation works yet.”

Dad puts his cutlery down. “Ever, you’re not exactly helping the situation. Chance needs us to clarify what his parents taught him and you drive him away like a forest fire.”

I look down at my meal. He’s right. My guilt slowly sets in, creeping up on me and attacking my previously felt satisfaction.

We eat the rest of the meal in silence. There is a lemon sorbet in between the starter and main course which makes my mouth ache. I indulge myself with desserts: eating chocolate cakes, strawberry ice-creams and blue creamy puddings I can’t even name.

“Comfort eating?” My mother raises a single eyebrow.

I shrug, taking my dish to the sofa where we will watch the reapings from. She’s right. My parents have proved themselves to be fortune tellers today.

“Will he come watch it with us?” I ask my father as he returns from trying to build bridges with Chance.

“No,” he says, sitting down next to Mom. “He’s asked if you will go watch them with him.”

I look at Mom who instantly says no.

“We need to size up the competition with them,” she protests.

“We can write our thoughts down, they can write theirs and we’ll compare after the reapings replay is over. It’ll be interesting to see how they see the others,” Uncle Haymitch suggests. His cane is resting against the small coffee table in front of him.

Mom sighs, closing her eyes as she finds Dad’s shoulder with her head. “Go, that’s a good idea.”

I scoop the remains out of the dish, gulp the contents down and place it back onto the table. Walking to Chance’s compartment sends my heart into frenzy. If he slams the door in my face, I will most likely snap the thing off of the hinges and throw it at him. He’s already made me swallow my pride today once; he won’t have the satisfaction of making me look like an idiot twice.

I knock.

“You asked for me?”

The door unlocks and Chance opens it. “They’re going to let us watch this alone?”

“We have to take notes.”

He nods, closing the door once I’m inside. I look around, his compartment is the exact same as mine. The only difference is that his bed sheets have been tangled and rumpled. He already has a notebook and a pen waiting on his small lavish leather sofa at the foot of his bed which I instinctively pick up. The projection of the seal of Panem shines onto the opposite wall. Chance orders some hot chocolate which appears within a minute. He places one on each bedside table.

I sit down on his bed out of habit. I look up at him and see he’s surprised I didn’t pick the sofa. I put the notepad on my lap and take the pen into my hand. I know I have to break the icy silence somehow. “I like what you’ve done with the place. Did you have hire a room stylist?”

“No, I handcrafted this entire room from a single plank of wood,” he replies, matching my sarcasm.

The music signals the start of the reapings so Chance sits next to me. Caesar Flickerman hasn’t aged a day since I saw my parents with him.

“That guy is still alive?” Chance echoes my own thoughts. “He has to be at least eighty by now.”

“You know what they say. In the Capitol, you can erase the effects of time.”

Chance stares at the tanned, silver-haired man whose face appears to be crease free. “He’s silver this year, perhaps because it’s going to be the best and last.”

“Or he’s run out of colours?” I suggest as I finish noting down the districts on the page along with two subsections for each.

Caesar comments on how it has been a spectacular day with plenty of drama to keep the audience entertained for the durance of the broadcast.

“When asked to take part, District 13 couldn’t be contacted to participate in the Mercy Games so they have been excused along with the Capitol,” Claudius clarifies.

Chance picks up his cup and takes a long drink from it.

“The hot chocolate is good,” he remarks offhandedly.

District 1 flashes onto the screen, we both shoot up and are watching eagerly. The pen is hovering lightly above the paper.

A girl is reaped first, we’re informed she is fourteen but she looks fierce and greatly above her apparent age. She looks about the same age as me. Her name is the complete opposite of what she is: Dainty. She looks like she could crush somebody’s hand just by shaking it.

I scribble down ‘threat’ before I even speak to Chance about it.

“She looks like competition,” he says.

“Already noted,” I reply. “Dainty doesn’t really suit her.”

The boy from their district is a volunteer, I don’t catch his name but he looks egotistical. I jot down a few notes about his size, strength and how he looks but Chance and I agree his own bigheadedness would be enough to wipe him out quickly.

District 2 presents two more potential Careers. But it’s when we move to District 3, I begin to realise the trauma in the non-Career districts. A girl, who is around my age, is pulled from the reaping bowl and her younger siblings scream as she mounts the stage. It’s made obvious that she is needed at home as their sick mother sits in a wheelchair, she is almost paper white. She doesn’t look at all capable of fighting for her life. Esma is her name, she’s sixteen. Nobody offers to take her place. I write ‘Ally?’ next to her name, hoping Chance won’t see it until after the reapings.

I’m too focused on how bad I feel for the girl to notice who they reap for the boy for District 3 or for the next few districts. It’s only when we reach District 11 I pay attention and realise that Chance has taken over writing for me.

“That girl really affected you, didn’t she?” he queries as he jots something down about the girl who has just been reaped from the current district.

“She has her family to support and she might be gone for weeks or go back dead,” I say as if I say the words too loudly, Esma would drop dead there and then.

Chance looks at me. “We can ally with her if it means that much to you.”

“Thank you.”

He goes back to his notes whilst I sit and think about how I’d want someone to do that for me if I was in this alone and had no training.

When I finally push the thought from my mind, I see our district on the screen. I notice that they’ve cut out Cal’s comments and have cut straight to my reaping. Caesar comments about how gracious I am for accepting the result. Then he comments about my brother, how much he looks like my father and how he also accepts his fate. That’s until Chance comes into the mix. Caesar makes a point of showing various happy pictures of Chance and I for when the Capitol forced us to announce our engagement on every magazine cover in Panem.

“Tragic.” Caesar sighs then speaks again. “They will have to postpone the plans until after The Mercy Games.”

“What I’m interested in is whether they stick together throughout and what will happen if one of them is eliminated?” Claudius asks.

Chance puts the notepad down. “What would happen if one of us is killed?”

“The other carries on and only gives into grief when they get killed themselves or they return home, agreed?” I decide. “Grief will weaken both of us.”

He nods and turns the projection off after the anthem has played. “I wanted to explain what you saw earlier today.”

“I don’t want to hear it.” I shake my head. “Not now, there isn’t time for that. We’re just going to have to patch over the cracks for the Capitol.”

Chance takes my hand; it’s the first contact I haven’t hated him for. “I love you, Ever. I don’t want us to fight over petty things.”

“The wedding isn’t exactly petty.” I sigh.

“We should get married for real one day, have a big house in the Victor’s Village near your parents and have so many children we can hardly count them,” he says.

I look at him like he’s lost his mind, I can’t tell if he’s being sarcastic or not. “As long as you’re giving birth to them, do what you like.”

“But I’m being serious, Ever. We’re good together, you and I. We fight but we love and hate each other in the right doses. We could make this work.”

My smile forms on my own face, we could. I know we could.

He’s less than a few centimetres from my face when he smiles. “So you just want to go back to the days when we were happy?”

I nod faintly in reply and await his lips on my own.

A cough interrupts us.

“You are wanted in the living compartment,” somebody says. “And we’ll have less of this after dark. I’m trying to keep this civilised.”

We both turn to look at her.

The woman we haven’t seen since the reaping.

Scara Maccabee.

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