Oh Laika, you little psychopath, you. How I love you so~. I also love Nico and Skada's characters. Especially Skada.
What’s it like being reaped? What’s it like for thousands of eyes to be on you, you, and only you? What’s it like to know that you are going to your almost certain death?
I can’t say. I really, truly can’t. I walked calmly, quietly toward the stage, like a robot. People parted for me, staying a good distance back, as though my emotionless demeanor was contagious. I mounted the steps and halted in front of Farina, who grasped my hand.
“Congratulations!” she told me. I glared at her.
“Thank you,” I said flatly, squeezing her hand so hard she flinched. Farina quickly withdrew her hand from my death grip and composed herself.
“Any volunteers?” Farina asked. No one raised their hand, which I found strange. People usually volunteered in this District.
“Alright then....so now for the boy!” our district escort shrieked. I inconspicuously took a few steps back so she wouldn’t be wailing in my ear. After a second of rummaging, Farina withdrew the boy’s name.
“And our boy is….Nico Raine!”
Now, this may surprise you, but I’m not a social person, so I had no idea who the hell this kid was until he came up here. Nico was at least two years older than me, and about two feet taller. You could see his muscles through his shirt. His blond hair was thick and flyaway. His green eyes were hard and cold. No one volunteered, obviously. Nico was Career material through and through, and he was expected to win these Games.
Farina turned toward us, grinning. “We now have out two lucky tributes! Please shake hands!”
Nico’s hand was surprisingly soft, like he was trying on purpose not to break me. He whispered something softly to me.
“I was hoping for some better competition,” he said. “But oh well. I’ll just have to count on the other Districts. Have fun dying.”
I dug my fingernails into his hand. “Do yourself a favor, and go to hell. I’ll be the one to come home.”
We withdrew our hands and glared at each other the whole way to the District Building, where we would say our goodbyes to our families as we waited for the train to take us to the Capitol.
I didn’t expect any visitors, so I was surprised when Lyla, my twenty year old sister came into the room. Her blue eyes were wide with distress. She drew me into a tight embrace, her brown hair tickling my nose.
“Oh Laika…oh, my Laika,” she muttered as she held me. Lyla drew back and stared me in the eyes. “I’m so sorry, Laika, for everything. I’m sorry for leaving you to fend for yourself. I’m sorry for the actions of our other siblings, too. You were so young, so innocent. You didn’t deserve any of it.”
“It’s okay,” I said. I realized it was true as I said it. “Lyla, don’t blame yourself. It was a hard time for us all. I don’t blame any of you.” I hugged her, my dear older sister. “I promise to come home. I’ll win the Games. I swear it.”
“I know you will,” Lyla told me. We let go of each other, and Lyla took something out of her pocket. “Take this as your token.”
I picked up the bent, silver locket. Inside was a picture of my mother, and a folded piece of parchment.
“This was Mum’s last gift to you,” I said.
She shook her head. “It was Mum’s last gift to you, Laika. I was only to hold it until the right time, which is now.”
The Peacekeepers came and told Lyla it was time to leave. She kissed my forehead and left crying. The rest of my siblings and their families came to visit, but none seemed as sincere as Lyla had. I didn’t pay attention to any of them. The only thing I could focus on was that Lyla was and had always been my best friend.
Eventually, the Peacekeepers ushered me out of my room and on to the overcrowded train station. Nico and Farina were with me, surrounded by crowds of random people with cameras. Nico blew kisses and waved at the cameras. I flipped them and then skipped onto the train.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” Farina told me severely. “You won’t get sponsors or anything like that. You’ll be labeled as a troublemaker, just like Katniss Everdeen.”
I ignored her. “Where’s the food?”
Farina rolled her eyes in exasperation. I think she realized, though, that she wouldn’t get anywhere with me, and led Nico and I to the dining cart for lunch.
Two more people were waiting for us there. I immediately recognized them: Skada Hunt and Frost Leigh, two victors of previous Games. Our mentors.
“You did well,” Frost told Nico, clapping him on the back. “Perfect, in fact. You have a great chance of winning these Games. Second to none.”
I knew then that I didn’t like Frost any more than I like Nico. He’d won the games six years ago when he was seventeen, and not only did he look like an older, more muscled Nico, he obviously favored him over me. Without so much as a glance in my direction, he had chosen my rival to win the Games. Woo hoo.
“Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Skada spoke up. She had won the Games three years ago when she was eighteen. “Laika has some spirit in her. She definitely has a big chance.”
“I like you,” I told Skada. She smiled and laughed. She was very pretty, with long, wavy, expertly styled strawberry blond hair and warm pale green eyes. I stiffened slightly when she put her arm around me, but quickly relaxed. Something told me that I could trust her.
Skada whispered in my ear as she guided me to my seat, “Do you plan on joining the Career pack?”
I shook my head ever so slightly. “No. They’d just slow me down. Plus, Nico’s obviously going to join. I’d end up killing him within the first hour if we made an alliance.”
She flashed me a grin. “Awesome. You’re hardcore and smart. You’re gonna kick these games into next year.”
We all situated ourselves around the table and dug in. The food. Oh my God, the food. It was amazing. I ate as quickly as I could while still being civilized so I could eat as much I wanted. Nico made jabs at my quick pace, but I ignored him. It wasn’t until we got to the soup that Farina went and spoiled my good mood.
“I’m glad I got District Four,” she mused, almost to herself. “A barbarian District like Katniss Everdeen’s would have been awful.”
Really, I’m not sure what it was. Maybe it was my irritation at Farina for always using Katniss’ name in vain. Maybe I’m just rebellious like that. But at her words, I plucked my straw from my drink and used it to drink the rest of my soup, making a point to slurp it.