Chapter 2

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  ~Fourteen years later~

''Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the victor of the seventieth Hunger Games, Vivianna Everly of District Twelve!''

I hear the unmistakable voice of Claudius Templesmith boom out through the arena, the fog still clearing. I look down and see the knife in my hands, the fallen tribute of District Seven still waiting to be collected by the hovercraft, his side stained red with his own dark red blood, pools of it on the floor, underneath my shoe. I suddenly feel dizzy and sick, swaying dangerously before collapsing on the floor. Black spots appear in my eyes as I try to focus on someone in the distance, blurred in the fog, drawing closer and closer with every pound of my throbbing heart. As they come nearer, I notice it's a man, strong built and lean. I can't see his face but he's calling my name. Over and over.

Then they attack.

The dead tributes jump on me, long nails growing from their fingers, clawing at any open skin they can reach, wanting revenge for me winning. They tear and tear, large chunks of my skin ripped away, blood spilling freely from the cuts. My whole body is on fire, sizzling almost as if someone's rubbing salt into them. I scream, my voice endless and pain-filled. I call out to the mysterious man in the fog, some distance away now. For a minute, I lock eyes with him, his beautiful sea-green eyes boring into mine for a brief second before he turns and fades into the fog. The pain from the tributes becomes unbearable and soon I black out.

I wake up with a jolt, my arms and legs suddenly searing with pain before easing off. I rub them quickly, trying to get rid of the feeling the tributes were still attacking me. Sighing, I get up out of my comfortable bed, stumbling over to the bathroom and splashing my face with ice cold water, shaking the nightmare from my mind. I look up at the and sigh again, thinking about how much I've grown. I've had nightmares ever since my time in the games, four years ago. They change often, but there's always the fog from my last day in there. Sometimes my old parents are there from when I was a young girl. Sometimes Rosalind is there, my new ''mum'' from District 12 before she died a year after I won the games. I moved from the Seam to Victors Village, next door to District 12's only other victor, Haymitch Abernathy. He became my mentor when I was reaped as tribute, guided me through the tactics and different strategies. He then became a sort of father figure when Rosalind died and I was on my own. Three years on he's still my only adult friend and I take care of him and his drinking problem. He'll probably be drunk today, too.

Effie, the District 12 escort, left me specific instructions for today - look good and be good. Simple as that. She tried to get my stylist from the Capitol over but I told her it wasn't necessary just for the Reaping. Instead, my stylist - Cinna - sent over a pretty red dress and just told me to make myself look nice. I hop in the shower, spending as much time as possible to delay the Reaping at two. At the minute it's twelve but Effie wants Haymitch and I to be on the stage in front of the Justice Building a few minutes earlier.

When I get out, I wrap a towel around my body, another around my hair as I step back into my room. I slide open the large wardrobe on the side of the room, pulling out a plastic wrapper, unzipping it to reveal the stunning dress. I grin at Cinna's amazing work and hang it up ready for me to change into it.

Drying off quickly, I think back to the dream. That man...he's familiar. Well, his eyes are - I didn't exactly see his face. I rack my brain trying to think of who it could be but come up with nothing, so instead, I change into the dress, the soft material flowing nicely to the perfect length on my bare legs - Cinna's instructions - and unwrap my long hair from the towel. I spend a long time on my makeup, getting it right as my hair dries in it's usual dark brown curls. Once I've finished, I move on to the lipstick, going for a similar shade to my dress and applying lots lip gloss, again on Cinna's orders. I braid my hair up into a messy but formal bun, pulling out a few lose strands and letting them fall by my face. Moving over to the wardrobe again, I pull out the shoes Cinna sent and smile. He knows me too well, seriously. I unbuckle the clasps and pull them, buckling them again before standing straight and looking in the mirror at the finished Smiling at my reflection, I nod before glancing at the clock - one thirty. Time to go get Haymitch.

Stepping through the gate to Haymitch's house, I begin to get nervous, just like I do every year. Ever since I won the games, I've had to help Haymitch mentor the new tributes and honestly? I hate it. I hate giving whatever knowledge I may have in the games to two people who, in fairness, have barely any hope in comparison to other Districts - especially the Careers. It was honestly awful watching when the tributes died, thinking of their families, sometimes I knew them, mourning the loss of their innocent child. I can't imagine what parents go through when they see their child being slaughtered for fun on television, then when their child turns up home in a wooden box because the Capitol wanted 'entertainment'.

I notice my hand is shaking as I knock on the front door, praying Haymitch is ready because I cannot deal with an annoyed Effie today. After a while of nothing, I bang on the door again. Nothing. Sighing, I abandon Haymitch's house and make my way over to the Square myself. I pass lots of people, some of whom smile at me but out of kindness, not happiness. Nobody here in District 12 is happy today.

Walking past the twelve to eighteen year olds practically breaks my heart, knowing that two of these kids are going to fight to the death, with the high chance of never returning - one of them definitely not returning. I hate the fact knowing that some of these kids are in their more times than I want to know, having signed up for tesserae to feed their families. I shake my head and climb up the small steps to the stage where four chairs are waiting. In the first seat is Mayor Undersee, in the second is Effie. She beams at me and pats the seat next to her gently. I smile back at her and gracefully walk over to the seat and sit down in it, facing all the stony faced children awaiting their fate.

''You look simply stunning today, Vivianna!'' Effie compliments me, excitement dripping from her voice.

''Thank you, Effie!'' I thank her, making sure I'm perfect with my manners in front of her.

''No Haymitch?'' she frowns, glancing at the empty seat next to me.

I shake my head. ''Not yet. I have a feeling he'll make an appearance soon, though,''

Then the clock strikes two and Mayor Undersee stands and walks over to the podium. He begins to explain, as always, the history of Panem and everything it has endured. Then he describes the Dark Days where the Districts rebelled, twelve falling under Capitol control and the thirteenth completely destroyed and how the punishment was the Hunger Games. He finishes off by talking about the rules of the games before moving onto a list of past victors. In seventy four years, there's only me, Haymitch and some other guy that died a long time ago. When Haymitch's name is mentioned however, he stumbles on stage, shouting something I can't even understand. I feel Effie tense beside me and I roll my eyes at him. The crowd breaks into applause quietly then Haymitch attempts to hug Effie, much to her distaste. He then moves on to giving me a huge bear hug. I groan as he does, knowing this will be aired on television for the whole of Panem to see - and laugh at us. The mayor hastily introduced Effie as I push Haymitch off of me and onto the spare seat as Effie rises and trots up to the podium.

''Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favour!'' she says as usual, energy radiating from her. She begins to talk, too, about what it is to be here. Then the worst part comes. ''Ladies first!'' Effie sings, wandering over to the glass ball on one side of the stage with the girls names in. She reaches in, her hand closing on a slip of paper. I close my eyes as she draws it out, no doubt opening up. I'm not ready for this again. Not yet.

''Primrose Everdeen!'' she announces clearly. I open my eyes to see a very scared little girl slowly step towards the stage. My heart splits in two completely as I take her in. Pale, fists clenched, walking stiffly closer to the stage.

''Prim!'' someone calls out in the crowd. ''Prim!''

The girls sixteen year old section suddenly splits, allowing an older girl to rush towards Primrose just as she reaches the stage. The older girl pushes Primrose behind her, calling out the words we've not heard in a very, very long time. ''I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!''

''Lovely!'' Effie says, still cheerfully. How can she be that cheerful?! ''But I believe there's a small matter of introducing the reaping winner and then asking for volunteers, and if one does come forth then we, um...'' she trails off, looking unsure.

''What does it matter?'' the mayor chips in. He looks pained, and I can imagine why. It's awful seeing this happen. ''What does it matter? Let her come forward.''

By now, Primrose is screaming, wrapping her frail arms around the other girl. ''No, Katniss! No! You can't go!''

''Prim, let go,'' the girl - Katniss - tells her harshly. I can see in her eyes she's trying to stay strong - not crying. ''Let go!''

An older boy in the crowd made his way through the Katniss and Primrose, lifting up Prim and telling Katniss something I can't hear before walking over to another woman in the crowd - probably Primrose's mother. Katniss looks forward and climb up on stage. I lock eyes with her for a second and in that second we come to an understanding. She knows I wont pity her.

''Well bravo!'' Effie gushes. ''That's the spirit of the games! What's your name?''

''Katniss Everdeen,'' Katniss croaks out, trying to mask her voice as normal.

''I bet my buttons that was your sister. Don't want her to steal all the glory, do we? Come on, everybody! Let's give a big round of applause to our newest tribute!''

Instead of applause comes something that makes me gasp. Almost every member of the crowd touches three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips before holding it out to Katniss.

As usual, I stand and walk over to Katniss. ''Congratulations, Katniss,'' I force myself to smile through gritted teeth, holding out my hand for her to shake. She shakes it, and I think she notices how forced the smile was.

I groan again though when Haymitch stands and staggers over to Katniss to congratulate her. I step aside. ''Look at her. Look at this one!'' he shouts, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. Oh no, Haymitch! ''I like her! Lot's of...spunk!'' he announces. ''More than you!'' he releases Katniss and makes his way to the front of the stage. ''More than you!'' he repeats, pointing directly at the camera.

I have no idea if he's talking to the audience or the Capitol - my vote going on the Capitol - but then he falls off the stage and knocks himself
out. I roll my eyes as he's carried off on a stretcher. I'll be talking to him about that soon no doubt.

Effie tries to divert attention away from Haymitch by announcing that it's an exciting day. ''But more excitement to come! It's time to chose our boy tribute!''

She reaches into the bowl for another slip of paper, pulling her hand out and opens it. ''Peeta Mellark!''  

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