24.2K 629 244



"Clove!" I can hear Chryssi's voice, somewhere in the distance "Clove wake up!" 

I feel myself falling, falling down.

I hit the floor with a thud and roll on to my side. "Chryssi?" I say, and I open my eyes. 

Surprisingly, I'm not on the floor of the justice building in a crumpled heap, with my brother crying beside me because of the awful fate that has fallen on us, I'm in the dorm at the Home. I must have fallen asleep after all. But now, I'm on the floor, with Riley and Donna laughing at me from their beds, and Chryssi looming over me, her small, pale face framed by the usual mass of untameable light brown curls. 

"Oh my gosh Clove, are you OK?" says Chryssi, her voice frantic as she waves her arms around in a fruitless attempt at help. I squint at the bright light filtering in through the window and haul myself to my feet. 

"Yes Chryssi, I'm fine, I'm absolutely fine." I say, smiling down at her. Not that I have to look down very much: I'm pretty small for my age. She grabs on to my arm and wipes her brow with her free hand. 

"Oh good! I thought you were having a fit or something! I was going to get Miss Cointoyke but I didn't want to leave you here! You were thrashing around in your sleep!" I notice the tears brimming in the corners of her eyes as she recalls my (literally) nightmare  morning. 

"It was just a bad dream Chryssi" I assure her, bending down to her level "I'm fine now." She smiles a relieved smile that stretches her mouth wide. How she can smile on reaping day is a mystery to me, but I would rather have her overly excited than scared out of her wits.

I take a pair of blue jeans from my closet, along with a white vest top and my usual brown zip-up hooded sweater that I wear practically everywhere, and take them into the bathroom to change. I tie my long dark brown hair into a ponytail with a stray piece of string from the floor, then I shove my feet into my boots: brown, lace-up leather ones that usually take me anywhere and everywhere, and walk downstairs, Chryssi trailing behind me, still in her pink pyjamas.

Bracken is at the kitchen table already, eating away at a stack of small pancakes drizzled in maple syrup. It must be a reaping day treat from Miss Cointoyke: we never get things like this on a normal day. "Morning!" I say, strolling in through the kitchen door. Bracken raises his head from his lavish breakfast to acknowledge me. 

"Morning Clove" he says, shovelling the pancakes into his mouth like a dog. 

"You OK?" I say, taking a mug from the cupboard and filling it with coffee. I receive a grunt in return. Shaking my head and chuckling to myself, I prepare myself and Miss Cointoyke a cup of black coffee each, adding extra sugar to mine, even though I know that we're not supposed to use too much because it's expensive. I find coffee too bitter if there isn't enough sugar in it. Miss Cointoyke has no sugar in hers. I don't know how she can drink it like that.

I leave Miss Cointoyke's cup on the worktop and take my own out into the garden, by the tree, sneaking a few knives from the drawer on my way out. Chryssi clearly notices, but she doesn't say anything, and she goes back upstairs to change. 

Once out of the way of everyone, I set my coffee down on the grass and slump at the bottom of my tree, facing the other one that serves as my target. I hurl a few knives into the wood, then stand up, retrieve them, and repeat, like always. Even on this fateful day, nothing ever changes for me.