The anthem ends, and we are immediately brought into the justice building. I’m taken through a hallway, and into an elevator, all the more aware of Katniss’ presence. Once inside, I’m moved into a room, and left alone. The carpet is thick and deep, and the couches and chairs are velvet. My family doesn’t own anything this nice, but a couple of my friends do. Tears sting my eyes and slowly drip down the side of my face. I know there will be cameras at the train station, but it’s not like I have much chance at winning this anyways. Actually, I’m hoping I won’t win. After a little time, my mother and father are the first in the room. Dad comes toward me and gives me a hug that I can’t help but never want to let go of. He pulls a small bag out of his pocket and hands it to me. I open it to find a cookie. We make them often at the bakery, but my family doesn’t eat them much. It’s a luxury we don’t get very often, and just that my father is sparing one for me is enough to send another tear down my cheek. He is the only one in my family that knows of my love for Katniss, so when I hand the cookie back to him, he knows exactly what I mean for him to do. He nods and leaves the room quietly, and I’m hoping the peacekeepers will allow him to see Katniss.
My mother stands awkwardly to the side. “I guess this is it, mom.” I say, trying to keep my voice steady. She nods her head slowly like everything is suddenly dawning on her.
“I’m so sorry, Peeta.”
“It’s not your fault mother. I was reaped. It’s not like you could do anything about it.” We stand in silence once again, but I know time is almost up and I have to say my final words. “I won’t be coming home, you know.” I whisper.
“No, but district twelve might finally have a winner.” She doesn’t really think I can win does she? There will be competitors that are far above my skill level there. They have been training their whole lives for The Games, and I’m just a baker’s son. You’re not supposed to train before The Games, but the richer districts do it anyway. And they get away with it because they are the capitol favorites. “She’s a survivor, that one.” So she doesn’t mean me. She means Katniss. Maybe my mother has known of my love for Katniss. Maybe she saw me toss the burnt bread to her instead of giving it to the pigs as she instructed. Then, she didn’t beat me because she knew I loved her. Probably not though. My mother and I don’t have a very close relationship. A peacekeeper comes in the room, and starts to issue my mother out the door. She gives me one last peck on the check, and she is gone. Out of my life forever.
The next few minutes go by in a whir. A few friends of mine come to say goodbye to me as well as my brothers, but I try to forget them all as soon as they leave the room because there is no use in remembering them. It will just make sacrificing myself for Katniss that much harder. One girl, Delly Cartwright, comes in crying hysterically. She is a friend of mine, and has always had a little crush on me. I’ve never seen her so upset. She is usually happy with her blonde hair, and white toothed smile, but today she is crying, which makes me cry as well.
Finally, I’m ushered out of the room with my last goodbyes to everyone hanging in the air. A car picks Katniss and I up from the Justice building. Despite my ‘upper class’ upbringing, I have never ridden in a car before. Most people in twelve walk everywhere, and all I’ve ever needed to get to was the square, which is right outside my house, the school, which is only a couple blocks away, or to a friend’s house who usually lives right down the street. There is no need for cars. At the train station, there are more cameras whizzing about. I don’t try to cover my tear stained face. There is no point to it, and perhaps I can use it as an advantage. I’m not sure how, but I can figure that out later. Katniss on the other hand looks bored. Completely and utterly bored. I don’t know how she managed not to cry in front of her mother and sister, and I’m sure Gale saw her as well, but I’m glad she isn’t. There is no need to put an easy target on her back before The Games even start. Cameras manage to get a few good headshots of us walking into the train until finally the door shuts mercifully, and the train starts rolling immediately. The speed makes me stumble and I put my hand on the wall for support. I don’t think anyone noticed. This is definitely not an average coal train. This is a top notch capitol train, and at this speed, the journey to the capitol should only take a day or so.
In school they tell us the capitol was built in a place once called the Rockies. District twelve was in a region known as the Appalachia. Even hundreds of years ago, they mined coal where we are. That’s why our miners have to dig so deep into the ground. School is rather boring to me because it always goes back to coal. I knew I would never be a coal miner. I would eventually take over the bakery or start my own business, so other than basic math and reading, I’m bored to tears. Everything else is how we owe the capitol for Panem and all we are given. Like I said, bored to tears.
The tribute train is fancier than the justice building rooms. We are each given our own chambers that include a bedroom, a dressing area, and a bathroom. Just before I slip into my room to shower, I catch one last sight of Katniss. Even in distress, she is beautiful. Then I notice a gold pin that wasn’t on her dress earlier. It’s a mockingjay I think. Mockingjays are somewhat of a slap in the face to the capitol. They come from Jabberjays which are genetically engineered birds the capitol used during the rebellion. Jabberjays could replicate exact human sounds and enunciate words like a recorder. Once the rebels found out about them, they fed the capitol endless lies to the birds. The centers creating the birds were shut down, and they jabberjays were left to die off.
But they didn’t die off. They mated with female mockingbirds, and created the mockingjay. Mockingjays have lost the ability to make words, but they still can replicate human melodies like full songs. If they like your voice, that is. I fell in love with Katniss when she sang. It was the first day of school, and when Katniss sang, every single mockingjay out the window fell silent to listen. Then, when she was finished, they picked up her song. I became like a mockingjay. Every time Katniss would sing on the playground or down the hallway at school singing to herself, I would try to get close enough to hear, then I would fall silent just to listen.
I’m about to open the door to my room when Haymitch brushes past me murmuring as he trots along. “I’m taking a nap,” he states, and I silently slip into my room. I shower and dress in the capitols fancy clothes they have given me in the drawers of my bedroom. Eventually, I get bored and slip out of my room to explore when I bump into Effie.
“Dinner is ready if you would like it. I’m going to get Katniss right now,” she chirps in her capitol voice.
“I can get her,” I say trying to get a few moments alone with Katniss. Maybe now is my time to tell her everything.
“No, that’s quite alright dear. The dining room car is just a couple doors down. You may go ahead and sit if you would like.” She smiles and continues on her way.
Disappointment sinks in, but i do as she sais. I find the dining room and sit down at the table. Drinks are the only thing that has been served, so I take a few swigs of whatever lies on the table. Katniss and Effie walk in a little later.
“Where is Haymitch?” Effie asks.
“Last time I saw him, he was going to take a nap.” I say, remembering him bumping into me a little earlier.
“Well it’s been an exhausting day.” I smile a little, because I know Effie is glad not to have Haymitch around for a little while. She obviously is still a little overwhelmed by his drunken hug and falling off stage.
The food comes in courses. A thick carrot soup, green salad, lamb chops and mashed potatoes, cheese and fruit, and a chocolate cake. Effie is continuously reminding us to save room because there is more to come, but I’m stuffing myself, and by the looks of Katniss, she is too. I’ve never had food like this, and it’s so good. Being a baker’s son, I know a little about food, but not like this, and mostly I just know bread.
“At least you two have decent manners. The pair last year ate everything with their hands like a couple savages. It completely upset my digestion.” Effie states. The pair of kids last year was two kids from the seam who had never had enough to eat in their lives. I’m sure when they did have food; table manners were the last thing on their minds. Katniss’ mother was a merchant kid growing up, so I assume it was her who taught Katniss to properly use a fork and knife. I’m a baker’s son. We make food for a living, but the comment Effie made still makes me mad. I catch sight of Katniss who is now purposefully eating with just her hands, and smile to myself a little. I should do the same thing, but the look of disgust on Effie’s face is just too hilarious to do anything right now. Katniss finishes, and wipes her fingers on the table cloth, and now I’m choking just to contain my laughter.
The meals over, and I’m fighting to keep my food down. Katniss is looking a little green herself. Neither of us is used to such rich food, but I’m determined to keep this down. I will not look like a fool.
We go to another compartment to watch the recap of the reaping. One by one, the districts go by. I try to remember as much as possible, but there are twenty two other tributes to watch, and only a few stick out in my mind. To get the reapings started, a beautiful girl from district one is called forth. She steps to the stage confident, and obviously arrogant. I can tell almost every boy is staring at her, and not just because she is the reaping winner. A large boy from District two volunteers with a shout as he lunges for the stage like the glory is going to pass by him if he doesn’t take the chance now. The next few districts go on without me remembering much about them at all. A boy with a crippled foot steps up from District ten. And finally I’m absolutely appalled when I see a small girl from district eleven chosen. She can’t be more then twelve years old. Lastly is district twelve. Prim being called, Katniss stepping forward, Gale pulling Prim up, and finally Katniss mounting the stage courageously.
“Look at what he did to my wig,” Effie whispers furiously to me. I laugh silently, but it’s obvious Katniss did not notice. The screen then cuts to Haymitch falling off the stage, and finally my name is called. Every camera can see the shock on my face as I quietly mount the stage alongside the girl I love. Katniss and I shake hands, and they cut to the anthem. “Your mentor has a lot to learn about presentation. A lot about televised behavior.” Effie says a little louder.
I can’t contain my laughter anymore. First the comment about her wig, and now this. I give a quick chuckle and say, “He was drunk. He’s drunk every year.”
Surprisingly Katniss adds, “Every day.” We laugh together as Effie looks baffled. I honestly think she believes Haymitch can just be fixed with a couple tips about bad manners.
“Yes, and how odd you two find it amusing. You know your mentor is your lifeline to the world in these Games. The one who advises you, lines up your sponsors, and dictates the presentation of any gifts. Haymitch can well be the difference between your life and your death!” Effie hisses.
As if on cue, Haymitch stumbles in. “I miss supper,” he says in a slurred voice. Then he vomits all over the expensive carpet and falls in the mess.
“So laugh away!” screeches Effie. She hops in her odd shoes around Haymitch and his mess, and flees the room.