Chapter Four

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~~Bryony~~

"Let's get you up to your chariot," Keal says.

We walk into another room, where Marco is dressed in a gold suit, sparkling, his brown hair gelled and styled. I can't help but roll my eyes - like the boy didn't need another ego boost.

He greets me with a cocky smile.

"Looking good, Bryony. Did you have a boyfriend back home? You must've, with a face like yours," he says, in his most seductive voice. I blush, but don't answer him. Flirts don't deserve attention.

Keal signals that we needed to get going. My heart hammering in my chest, we walk into the elevator, Keal holding my hand so I don't fall over in my heels. He presses the button for the ground floor and as the lift starts to descend, I can feel my heart sinking with it. What if I mess up? What if everyone thinks I'm just a big show-off, like Marco?

Suddenly, the elevator glides to a stop and the doors open. I take a deep breath in, and follow Keal out into the open.

**Celestia**

After me and Bryony were separated, I was whisked off into an elevator, which opened at floor 12. I was to stay there with my mentor and the boy on team 12, a scrawny, nerdy kid who looked like he was still in primary school. Soon after, I was whisked off to meet my prep team. After they left, my stylist, a tall woman called Opal, came in.

I was tried in a few different outfits, including a long, red maxi dress, which both Opal and I hated. It reminded me of blood.

We eventually decided on a slightly transparent blue top, which was very light (it felt almost weightless), tucked into white trousers. I felt smart and confident, but it wasn't as flashy as costumes I'd seen in the past, and I couldn't help but feel quite disappointed.

After I was deemed able to be seen in public, we took the elevator down to the ground floor, where all the tributes have to wait until the parade starts. It's weird to think I will either kill, or be killed by one of these children. No, it's not weird - it's shocking. That people could actually force us to do this. My hatred for Katniss and the government washes over me once again.

So now I'm standing around, waiting for Bryony to come in. I was one of the first, and slowly the tributes trickled in. I recognised a few - but none that I liked that much. In fact, I even saw Violet Ackley, a girl at school that is always surrounded by a crowd of drooling boys and desperate girls. I hate her. I think she hates me too.

Then, finally, the elevator doors slide open again. We are almost all here now. It's just Bryony and her partner to come. I hope Bryony didn't get paired with someone like I did. That would be such bad luck.

Bryony floats in. That is the only word to describe it. She looks regal, like a queen, in a shimmering gold dress, with a cute boy in a gold suit striding in next to her. Thank god she got someone sponsor-worthy!

But at this rate, I doubt she'll need anyone to help her get sponsors. Looking at her like a stranger would, I can imagine she could easily win the Games. Even if she does look girly, there is a certain confidence about her that I haven't seen before. She looks like she could crush us all if she tried. Let's just hope she isn't in a bad mood.

Before I know it she is next to me.

"What?" she questions.

"You look...incredible."

"Thank you." I can see she looks relieved. "I like your outfit too."

I can see she is just being polite. "It doesn't look as good as yours though." I try to hide the jealousy in my voice.

Suddenly, a man claps on a platform above us.

"The parade is going to start soon. Team 1 will go out first, then 2, then 3. You get the picture." That means I'm going to be last...great. "Line up, get in your chariots!"

I wave goodbye to Bryony and head to the back of the line, where a simple black chariot is waiting. I climb in, palms sweating. This could be my only chance to get sponsors. With this being a special Games, I'm sure there will be more sponsors from the districts, as they have more money now, after the rebellion. I hope my partner doesn't ruin it for me. Though I'm sure Bryony will have enough sponsors for both of us - and we are obviously going to be allies in the arena.

Suddenly my chariot moves forward, and we get into position. Team One are the first to go: there is a huge cheer. I have never had stage fright, but I must admit I'm nervous.

~~Bryony~~

My chariot starts rolling. My palms are sweating; my heart is pounding. I'm terrified.

Once Team One leaves, there is a massive round of applause. Two follows, and gets an even bigger one. That's Violet Ackley's team. I saw her, dressed in a beautiful cream gown. She held a delicate golden tiara in her blonde hair, like a halo.

When Three leaves, I'm practically shaking. Keal comes over, nodding at me.

"You'll do fine. You look amazing," he says. I'm not convinced.

"I hope," I just manage, I'm shaking so badly.

Suddenly, we are by the door, about to show ourselves to the public. Keal waves goodbye, and I look at Marco. He smiles at me - but it isn't a cocky smile. It's a reassuring one. I feel my heart flutter, and it isn't because of my nerves.

The chariot rolls out, and I am blinded by the flashes of light, the bright colours of all the Capitol outfits. They are cheering so loud I'm worried I will go deaf.

All my doubts about my outfit vanish when I realise we got the biggest applause so far. I spot Violet, two chariots ahead of me, turning round, trying to get a look at the team that beat her. When she finally sees me, I see her scowl and turn away, like I don't deserve her attention.

The chariot makes a circle, and finally comes to a stop in front of President Paylor. Katniss Everdeen is there too. They both look amazing. Katniss is there with her bow - only symbolic, of course. After her stunt with President Coin, she still isn't trusted with an arrow.

The crowd is still cheering. Six more chariots have come out by now, but the crowd is only looking at me. And Marco. But, for some reason, mainly me.

We stand still, regal, like we're the king and queen, and Marco smiles at me again. I'm confused - what happened to the show-off I thought I knew before? For some reason, all I want to do is hug him. Right then, right there. In front of the crowd. But before I can, he hugs me. The Capitol, probably the whole of Panem, goes wild. No one even hears the last chariot come out, which is Celestia's - I have to admit I feel a little ashamed of myself, that I am taking her spotlight. But the feeling is only fleeting. The crowd's energy is contagious, and I'm getting giddy.

When Celestia's chariot pulls to a stop at the end of the line, the crowd finally dulls down a little. President Paylor lifts up her glass, and taps it delicately. The sound echoes across Panem.

"Welcome!" Her voice is like a siren from the stories - beautiful, but lulling me towards my death. "I am very excited to announce the beginning of the Capitol Games! As a reminder, these Games are being held to give the Capitol a taste of their own medicine, as my fellow victor Katniss Everdeen has put it. Now, let's rejoice, and let the Hunger Games begin!"

The crowd all cheers as one, and the chariots start to ride back out again, starting at twelve this time. When ours begins to move, I hear another big cheer. Somehow, above all of the voices I hear one, louder, deeper than the rest. My father. After all the arguments we have had, after all the pain I've endured at his hands, it turns out he does love me, after all.

"Go on Bryony. I believe in you. You can do it. Do it for me."

Author's note: This chapter is dedicated to katniss_prior_3 for being an awesome friend (because really what more reason do you need?) but also for voting for my book, which means a lot.

I am quite proud of this chapter, if you have any feedback for me please just say!

Please vote/comment if you are enjoying the book or have any tips for me! Thanks for reading :)

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