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 3

Saying Goodbye

I hear a strange, strangled noise and it takes me a moment to realize that I'm the one who made it. I feel a hand give me a slight push forward and somehow I find it in me to continue the walk up to the stage until I'm next to Effie. She is simply grinning from ear to ear and welcomes me as though I am her long-lost daughter.
“What a beautiful young lady!” she exclaims, patting my shoulder gently. “And how old are you, my dear?”
“S-sixteen,” I say. And that is probably how old I'll stay, considering I will die in this tournament, is what I wanted to add onto my statement. Somehow, though, I don't think Effie would appreciate it.
“Excellent, excellent! Now for the lucky gentleman!” She moves swiftly over to the boys' glass case just as I actually have to stifle my laughter.
I don't know what kind of deluded world Effie Trinket lives in, but “lucky” would hardly be the word to describe a Hunger Games' tribute, unless lucky somehow translated to “I hope you enjoy dying a long, slow painful death by either hunger, thirst, or murder.” And for some reason, I don't think it does.
She dug her hand in just as she did the girls and pulled out a name fairly quickly. Perhaps it went that quickly for me as well and I just didn't notice. I was too caught up in my own thoughts. She returns to the microphone and another name is given.
“Kipp Hagen.”
After another moment of complete and dreadful silence, an older looking boy leaves the crowd to join me on the stage. He has a lean physique and appears to be suave with his slicked back blonde hair and charming hazel eyes. Something about his appearance told me that he was a debonair type. Although, he appeared to be anything but calm and collected right now.
Once Kipp was on stage near me, Effie says, “Now, let's have a hand for our two tributes from District 6.”
There was a light applause from those who didn't know me or Kipp and didn't care whether we lived or died. I used this moment to make eye contact with Mother, with tears building in her fading green eyes. She put a hand on her chest and mouths the words, “I love you.”
All I can do with the threat of breaking down into tears is put my hand over top of my locket and mouth back, “I know.”
I am thankful that Effie calls my attention back to her by instructing me to shake hands with Kipp. It gives me an excuse to pull myself together. After all, Kipp is now my competition and competition must not see your weaknesses.
We shake hands briefly and I catch a glimmer of fear in his eyes, which probably matches that in mine. It's comforting to know that I am not the only one that is so scared by this. I wonder if he feels like he could vomit at any point as well. I make the wise decision not to ask as Effie keeps talking, introducing the audience to the mentors – our mentors. I turn my attention as politely as I can to them.
Kipp and I have two mentors. They both look strung out, angry, and worst of all, deadly. They seem to have a permanent glare stuck to their faces and remind me strongly of Father as he's coming off of a high. My instincts tell me that, like Father, they are addicts to morphling as well.
Soon, Kipp and I are escorted into fancy rooms that I didn't even know existed with plush furniture and soft carpeted floors. Once the door closes behind me, secluding me in this environment, I throw myself onto the couch, hug a pillow, and break down. I am not thinking of what the cameras will think once I am shown again or what my family and friends will think when I walk in. At this point, I only am thinking of my fate locked into place by the Games.
I don't even jump when I feel gentle hands pull me away from the pillow I am clutching to. Through the tears, I barely see an image of Mother and I fling myself at her. She is who I feel most sorry for because without me, I know that she'll surely die.
“I'm so sorry,” I kept repeating until Mother finally pulled me back from her shoulder to look me in the eyes. This is the first time I see how pale and fragile this shock has left her.
“You have got nothing to be sorry over, Gem. This isn't your fault,” she tells me. Mother wipes the tears from my eyes and I bow my head. “We love you so much. I know that you can make it through this.”
“Do you promise?” I whisper.
She gives me another hug and says, “Cross my heart, babydoll.”
As we separate I turn to Father, who seems to have surprisingly been sobered by this situation, feeling as though I needed to say this or I'd forever regret it. “Don't you dare kill Mom.” He is shocked by my outburst. “If I come back and see that she is dead, I will never forgive you, Dad. Ever.”
Father's eyes grow wide and he nods rapidly. “Gem, I would never --”
“Not intentionally, maybe, but when you're on morphling you do absolutely nothing. You indirectly kill her,” I interrupt him harshly. “I want you to give it up while I'm gone. You're only going to kill yourself and Mom without me here to take care of you.”
There is a flicker of hesitance in his eyes before he nods again. As much as I want to believe him, I know better, even when he promises, “I will, Gemma. I'll stay clean for us all.”
I don't voice my doubts and instead let him pull me into a hug as well. We don't stop until they are forced to leave the room, too soon in my opinion. By the time that Judd enters, I am worse off than ever. He kneels in front of me and takes my hands in his.
“We don't have much time, Gemma,” he tells me.
“I know,” I reply. I know what I must do in this short amount of time we have together, even if Judd won't like it. “And we have to talk fast.”
“I agree.” He sighs and pulls me into a tight hug. “I love you so much, Gem.”
Ignoring the tears sliding down my face, I respond, “I wish I could say the same, Judd...”
He pulls back from me and the hurt I see in him is enough to make me want to die. Hurting him was the last thing on my mind. I remind myself, though, that I am doing this to make him happy in the end.
“What are you talking about? Y-you don't love me?” Judd stutters out. His confusion and sadness are slowly mingling into his expression. I don't think I can handle speaking, so instead I shake my head. “But – but we've been together two years. You've said you love me too many times to count. This is just the Games getting into your head. If you're worried about dying or something, then --”
“No, Judd. I'm not worried about dying or anything else. I love that you are my stability when everything else is falling apart. I love that you love your little sisters like they're your own kids. I love that you would give anything to help me in times of need. I only wish that I could love you...” When he doesn't respond, I look to the floor, hoping some form of what to say next will come to me. All I can think of is, “I'm sorry,” which only causes him to release my hands, stand, and stagger back toward the door a few steps.
He looks at me one last time – probably the last he'll ever see me – and I can tell he's trying to think of something to say to me. Something damaging, perhaps. But Judd isn't that type and everyone knows it, so instead, he says, “Good luck in there, Gemma,” and walks out.
That ended my visits and left me alone for what felt like hours. I continued to cry and got up to pace occasionally, hoping to calm myself down. I kept thinking of Mother and Father and Judd. How they would fare without me, what they would do, how they would get by. These questions were all the ones that made me feel worse and worse the more time passed. I also wondered how Kipp was doing during all of this. He clearly had more visitors than I did, or else we would have been gone by now. He may have had more heartbreaking goodbyes and tearful moments than I.
Finally, after a long while of pacing and calming words said to myself, more guards came to get me. In a tight huddle, either to protect me or keep me from running, they help get me to the train station. Once I saw all of the cameras, I instantly regret all the tears I'd shed. I know my cheeks are red and puffy to the cameras and the other contestants would work that off as a weakness of mine. But when I look over to Kipp, I see his cheeks stained red, too. Again, the fact that I'm not the only one comforts me.
I board the train and am escorted to my room by a worker. I don't even have the time I want to talk to Kipp, get his take on events, get to know him and possibly align with him early on. But I know that we have an entire train ride to get to know each other, so in my room, I am in no rush..
I sit on my bed for a long while, taking in what is happening and decide to eventually climb into the shower. I take as long as I please, soaking up the unusually warm water, lathering with the wonderfully scented soap into my skin. It feels refreshing and much different than the showers I am used to back home.
After the shower I dry my hair and my body fairly quickly. My hair begins to fall in annoying waves around my face, so I put it up in a bun again. I pick out an outfit after spending a considerable time in my wardrobe. There were many options. Dresses, skirts, dress pants, jeans, overalls, khakis. And that was only the pants drawer.
I slide on the black hunting pants I had been so fortunate in finding and grab a simple white t-shirt from another drawer. I almost don't put back on the locket Mother gave to me, but decide otherwise at the last minute. Not even a moment later, there is a knock on the door. I assume it is Effie until I open the door and find myself staring into the stony, snake-like eyes of one of my trainers.

Gemma's outfit:

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