Chapter 1

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Chapter 1


 “Stay away from me,” I hiss, my nails digging into the wood of the window sill.

“Why would I do that?” he asks.

Get away get away go away leave me alone

“Go away!” I shout. My fingers are poked with the slivers of wood but I don’t even wince. I’m not in any pain.

“You can’t run away from me, Miss Kimber.”

My throat tightens and my chest is throbbing. I turn to the man – President Snow – and watch as his lips curl into a sneering smile. My head is thick and foggy, and I can feel the pressure of the room caving in on me. It’s almost as if I’m being choked, or suffocated.

“Don’t do this,” I whisper. “Please, please just let me be.”

“Why are you making this so difficult?” he asks gently.

I shake my head, and it ends up moving in little jerks back and forth. The word ‘no’ falls over and over again from my lips.

“Paint the roses,” he commands, all traces of friendliness lost in his sharp voice. I turn away from him and watch the outside world moving.

“You don’t even need my help,” he says. I am afraid to turn back to him. “There’s already blood on your hands.”

I freeze, and then slowly move my eyes to my hands. Minuscule slivers of wood are jutting out of my fingers, but no blood. I grit my teeth and look back out the window.

President Snow is still standing behind me. His eyes on me send chills down my back. I feel defeated under his gaze.

I let out a few jagged breaths, and then just as I begin to turn to face him again I feel myself falling. I latch onto the window sill.

I blink my eyes, once, twice, before looking around the room.

President Snow isn’t anywhere. I am alone. Wearing pajamas. Leaning against the window sill.

There is no blood on my hands once again, but my head becomes clouded with the scent of them. It is so potent that I feel myself becoming nauseous. When I look closer, though, I see the slivers of wood embedded in my skin. And when I look at the window sill, I see nail marks all over.

So then I wasn’t dreaming.

Or was I?

A chilling thought occurs to me: the same thing happened this morning. I had a nightmare. I woke up in one of the empty train cars, in front of Asher. The same thing happened.

Am I going crazy? Am I turning into one of the broken victors? I can’t. I won’t.

I won’t allow myself to show a weak front on the cameras. My name, my face is implanted in the minds of everyone in Panem. If there’s anything I can do to hide this, it has to start now.

My stomach lurches, and I only have seconds for my feet to carry me to the bathroom before I empty the small contents of my stomach into the toilet. I retch a few more times before the tears glistening in my eyes drip on my cheeks.

I smell the blood everywhere. It floods through my nose and I want to scream. Instead, I squeeze my eyes shut and curl my fingers around the rug on the ground. I slowly rock myself back and forth, praying that my stomach is empty. I hate this. I hate all of this.

“Layla?” a voice asks, and I shake my head slowly. No, stay away from me.

It’s just Finnick, though. His brows are furrowed and he bends down while reaching an arm out to me. He pulls me into his arms and I cry.

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