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Peeta Mellark, Part ONE
I stand, hands clenched, waiting for the woman to pull the slip out. Her fingers close over a slip of paper, and I hold my breath. Not her. Anyone but her, I plead in my head. Then I hear Effie Trinket say ‘Everdeen.’ My heart beats uncontrollably, as if it’s determined to break out of my chest. I catch a glimpse of the girl nervously making her way up to the stage, and my heart stops for a second when I suddenly realise it’s not Katniss. My hopes lift, but then drops to my stomach as I realise who the girl actually is. There’s no way Katniss is going to allow this.
To prove my thoughts, I hear Katniss’ voice, scream out in the crowd.
“Prim! Prim!” She’s shouting, but there’s no need for it in the silent crowd. Her volume just adds to the sense of desperation. The crowd splits straight away, leaving a clear path for her.
“I volunteer!” she shouts. “I volunteer as tribute!”
People start murmuring around me, clearly confused. No-one in our district has volunteered in a long time. Some had even forgotten that it could be done.
“Lovely” says Effie Trinket, and I ignore the rest of what she says in disgust. It’s far from lovely. The mayor is saying something to Effie, but I really don’t care what it is. Everyone’s distracted by the agonized, pleading screams of Prim. Her begging tugs at my heartstrings. I may not know Prim well, but she’s as pure as you can get, and it’s hard not to love her. Katniss turns back and I can tell she’s trying to keep a brave front. Gale grabs Prim and drags her back, which makes my heart hurt more. The reminder that Gale is closer to Katniss than I could ever be will always hurt.
Effie Trinket is talking again, and I turn my attention to her just in time to hear her say “Lets give a round of applause to our newest tribute!” with a great big grin on her face.
The silence of District Twelve wiped the smile off the despicable woman’s face almost immediately. Then, something special happened in the crowd. Something that you weren’t able to see, but everyone simultaneously was aware of. It started with one person, then two, and soon enough, every person in the crowd lifted the three middle fingers of their left hand, raised it to their lips, and held it out to Katniss. It’s an ancient gesture, a sign of respect, a sign of goodbye. I can see that now, Katniss is truly close to tears. As if on cue, Haymitch staggers up drunkenly to the stage, and flings an arm around Katniss. I can hardly make out what he’s saying, he’s that drunk. Pointing at the camera for some reason, he starts shouting unintelligible things, which sound like insults. I hear a few people snickering, but I’m not in the mood to laugh; if this is who Katniss is relying on to survive, then she has no chance.
Suddenly, Haymitch disappears off the stage and falls to the ground, completely out of it. As he’s dragged away on a stretcher, Effie Trinket tries to seize control of the situation again. Adjusting her wig, she quickly addresses the crowd again.
“It’s time to choose our boy tribute” he trills out in her incredibly annoying voice. I brace myself, waiting to see if it’s me whose life has effectively ended. I focus on Effie Trinket, who is clearly in a state as she holds her wig steady in one hand, and grabs the first slip that comes to hand.
Looking down at the paper, she reads the name.
My heart is suddenly beating too fast and too loud for me to register what’s happening. I force myself to walk up the stage and act like I’m not scared out of my wits. As I take my place on stage, Effie Trinket asks for any volunteers. Obviously, no-one steps up.
The mayor clears his throat and begins to recite the tedious Treaty of Treason, like he does every year, but I’ve heard it so many times that I don’t bother to listen. Instead, I remember the first time I came close to Katniss. That day, when I saw her aimlessly wandering the streets, desperately looking for food, and I risked a smack with the cane to send some bread her way. I felt it was the best thing I could do, maybe because I was scared to do anything more.
I snap back to reality as I realise the Mayor has finished reciting the Treaty, and is motioning for me to shake hands with Katniss. My heart picks up pace again, but for an entirely different reason to when my name was called. I gently hold Katniss’ hand in mine, look her straight in the eye, and give her hand a small squeeze. We turn back to the crowd of District Twelve, and I try not to dwell on the fact that only one of us can come back.