Between Love and Warfare (A Hunger Games Fanfiction)

This is the story of young love, murder, betrayal, warfare, and learning to live again. This is the story of the the 68th Hunger Games.

Chapter 2

The Reaping

I wake up the next morning, cold sweat plastered to my brow. I'd had a nightmare last night of my mother dying, myself getting thrown into the arena in the Games and destroyed by each other contestant while Father laughed like a madman, injecting more morphling into his arms.
I sit up slowly and pull my legs to my chest, resting my head on my knees and drawing in a deep breath.
“It was only a dream,” I tell myself out loud. “Stop worrying.” I give myself a few moments to relax before I pull on my jacket and boots and go into the backyard to fetch our breakfast.
We've had our simple chicken coop since I was ten years old. Father wanted to eat all of the chickens immediately, but I cried and whined until I convinced him to use them for eggs instead. That was when he actually cared for my well-being, though, and didn't only care for his precious morphling. If he wasn't so strung out all of the time, these chickens would be dinner by now.
After gathering the eggs quickly and carefully, I reenter the house and set the pail of fresh eggs on the table. I peek into the living room and see Father still sprawled on the couch in the same position. With a heavy sigh, I walk over to him.
“Dad,” I say louder than necessary, shaking him awake. “Wake up. You need to get ready for the Reaping.”
He mumbles something incoherent and opens his eyes slightly, revealing the tired redness surrounding the naturally hazel iris. I don't bother to fake a smile.
“What time is it?” he asks, squinting and sitting up slightly.
“Just past ten,” I tell him, gathering up the old syringes littering our floor and standing up. He does as well and runs his hand through unkempt dark hair. “Go get ready. I'll make breakfast.”
He grunts and goes to his and Mother's room , leaving me to toss out the disgusting needles. I wash my hands thoroughly afterward and begin making breakfast.
Plain eggs was all we could really make for all of us. We didn't have much meat left from our trades since Father let some spoil last night and bread was a real rarity to us these days, other than the stale pieces I could steal from the baker's garbage. Eggs were the only food we could depend on.
I finish making everyone's breakfast after about fifteen minutes and can hear Father supporting Mother back to the living room. I serve them both their plates and then rush off to get ready.
I am always the first to get ready on Reaping day, even if it means that my breakfast is a bit cold. Since I am the only eligible one to become a tribute in our home, Mother always wants me looking my best. It isn't like it matters anyway, though. Even if I am chosen, no amount of nice clothes will make a person sponsor me. I'm just too...me.
I take a quick, icy cold shower and return to my bedroom. The dress that Mother must have gotten Father to lay out for me was a pale blue with small designs and a thin red belt. The shoes are flats with a matching color to the dress. I recognize both as clothes Mother used to wear before she became ill.
I change into the outfit and pull my hair back into a low, neat bun, small strands of curly hair falling out on either side of my face. I apply a light shade of red on my lips to complete the image of innocence. Mother, sitting on the couch, grins at my presence when I reenter the living room. She pats the tattered cushion next to her and clutches something small and bronze in her hand.
“You look beautiful, babydoll,” she tells me, her voice weak and cracking slightly.
I smile and sit down next to her. “Shouldn't you be getting ready, Mom? The Reaping is going to be starting in an hour.”
“Oh, it won't take me that long to get ready,” she says. “Besides, your father's already occupied our bedroom and I think we both have a vague idea of what he's doing.”
“Before the Reaping?” I ask, shocked. “What if an official sees him in that – that state?”
Mother puts a comforting hand on my shoulder. “Relax, Gemma. Your father can take care of himself.” As I'm about to add a rebuttal, Mother opens her palm, revealing a bronze chain attached to an oval locket with an intricate flower design on the front. I gasp at its beauty and Mother smiles wider.
“Do you like it?” she asks, holding it out to me. I can barely manage words at this point, so I just nod. “My mother gave it to be when I was eighteen, for my last Reaping. I was planning on doing the same, but then I thought that you should have it now for everything you've done this year. I don't think me or your father would be alive without you. We're so proud to have you as a daughter.”
It takes me a moment to realize that there are tears on my face. I wipe them away quickly and hug my frail mother with as much love put into it as though she were healthy again. As though we were all normal again.
“Thank you so much, Mom. You really shouldn't have...”
“Don't thank me. Thank your Grandma.” She looks to the air surrounding us and smiles. I grin appreciatively and nod, understanding what she was saying.
She gives me a kiss on the forehead and clasps it around my neck. I put my hand over the locket protectively and squeeze Mother's hand with the other.
“I'm glad you like it, Gem,” she says. She stands carefully, and I jump to my feet to help her. “Thank you, babydoll. You're father is probably just about finished by now. I'll go and get ready.” I nod and watch as she exits, using a walking cane for support.
It takes another fifteen minutes for Father to come out of his bedroom. He looks like he's mental and if I wasn't so used to this, I'd be afraid to go near him. Instead, though, I direct him toward the couch and sit him down with a cup of water. Fixing Father during these trips he goes on has basically become second nature.
Mother joins us after another twenty minutes. I hardly have time to admire how beautiful she looks – her blonde hair wrapped into a bun that clearly outdoes mine, her cherry red dress matching her shoes and lips perfectly – before I rush us all out of the house, my breakfast remaining untouched. With fifteen minutes to go until the Reaping, I am stressed beyond belief, though I know we'll make it there on time. We only live ten minutes away from our town square, after all.
When we arrive, I am directed toward a section where every other sixteen year old in the district stands huddled together, all nervous as to whether one of us would be chosen. I stand on the outskirts of the huddle, not exactly having many friends that I could stand with for comfort.
I scan the crowd and see Mother heavily supporting herself on her walking cane while Father looks like he's about to burst out into laughter at the simplest things. He sees the things no one else can – his own hallucinations – that's what morphling does to your body.
With my heart pounding in anticipation of somebody seeing Father in this state, I turn away and find Judd in the crowd. He smiles at me encouragingly and turns back to the front. I can't help but bitterly think that he won't be chosen for this. He only had to enter his name once.
But I am just twenty of over a thousand names. The odds are in my favor to not be picked.
“Happy Hunger Games!” says the perky Effie Trinket at the microphone stand on top of the stage. I can hardly notice her, though, with all that's going on in my mind. “And may the odds be ever in your favor.”
They are, I think in hopes of calming myself down. I close my eyes and start to think of all of the other possibilities of girls that could be chosen. There are plenty older than me. Poorer than me. Plenty have had to put their name in so many more times than I. Yes, surely it will be one of them rather than me. Surely it will be anyone but me.
“It's time for the drawing!” Effie trills. “Ladies first!”
I watch, my heart pounding as she crosses to the girls' glass ball. Tons and tons of names swim in the glass. Only twenty were mine.
I'm going to be fine. Her hand reaches in the glass ball carefully. I only have twenty slips in there. She digs around a bit, plucking up one and throwing it back without really looking at it. There's no way that I'll be chosen. She finally selects one and goes back to the microphone. I'll live the rest of my life taking care of Mother and Father and pretending to love Judd. She enfolds the paper and leans into the microphone to say the name. There's nothing to worry about. I'm safe. I'm fine.
When she says the name on the slip of paper, I feel my breath catch in my throat and every eye turn to me. “Gemma Weiss,” echoes throughout the entire square. I could have heard a pin drop miles away it was so silent.
I'm going to die.

Gemma's outfit: http://www.polyvore.com/gemmas_outfit_chapter_reaping/set?id=46502526

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