Katniss and I just stand there for a while, taking in the sight of Haymitch in a pool of his own vomit, mouths agape. Every time he tries to get up, he slips back down into his own filth. He’s absolutely pathetic, and unfortunately for us, he’s all we’ve got. Katniss and I look at each other in silent agreement and each take one of Haymitch’s arms and pull him up.
Once he’s back on his feet and somewhat steady, he looks down at the pile of vomit on the floor, as if forgetting where it came from. “I tripped?” He asks. “Smells bad.” For once I’m in agreement with him, and I make an effort to breathe through my mouth.
“Let’s get you back to your room, clean you up a bit,” I say between gritted teeth. We haul Haymitch to his compartment and drag him to the bathroom, drop him in the tub, and turn on the shower. By the look on her face, I can tell Katniss does not want to be here, cleaning up our hopeless mentor. I don’t either, but somebody has to get him back on his feet. Maybe he just needs a little bit of fixing up so that he might actually be able to help us when the Games arrive.
“It’s okay,” I say. “I’ll take it from here.”
Katniss seems relieved. “All right.” She pauses, as if wanting to help in some way but not exactly wanting to be so hands-on, either. “I can send one of the Capitol people to help you,” she offers.
The train servants are supposed to be at our beck and call from now until the games, doing almost anything we ask them to, but I want to do this myself. To make a good impression on Katniss and Haymitch, to do what I can while I still can.
I respond, “No. I don’t want them.”
She just nods and leaves the room. Haymitch is still lying in the tub while the water pours down on him. He still smells terrible, and probably will for days no matter how much lavender body wash and cherry shampoo I use on him, but I have to start somewhere.
After scrubbing him down and changing him into a clean set of pajamas, I help him to his bedroom. He gratefully falls into his bed and drifts straight to sleep. Feeling like an overworked babysitter, I finally head back to my own room.
As I walk back to my compartment, I pass Katniss’ room. I am tempted to peak inside, see if she’s still awake, but I keep walking, respecting her privacy. Best to not get too close now, it will only make things harder.
Back in my compartment, I change, brush my teeth, and fall into bed, more exhausted than I allowed myself to realize. I lie awake for a long time, running the day’s events over and over in my head. Just this morning I was up early at the bakery, delicately piping colorful flowers onto soft, fresh baked sugar cookies. It feels like ages ago. Maybe this was all a bad dream, and I will awake soon warm in my bed at home. My family, the Games, Katniss, what I will do, if I will fight, if I will kill, these thoughts consume my mind until pure exhaustion finally overtakes me and I fall asleep to the sound of the world whooshing past me on my one-way train ride to the Capitol.
I awake to the sound of my mother tapping at the door. No, it’s not my mother. It takes me a moment to remember where I am and recognize the overly peppy voice outside my door: Effie Trinket. “It’s a big big big day for you. Rise and shine!” I awake grudgingly, still tired from a restless sleep.
The sunlight is seeping through the window. I swing my legs over the side of the bed, stretch my arms, then walk over to the drawers and select something to wear. I pull on some black pants and a gold button down shirt. Then I walk down to the dining car, hoping for some breakfast.
Haymitch and Effie are already there, and I take a seat next to them, helping myself to a roll from a basket in the middle of the table, thinking of home. Has my dad opened up shop yet, putting our own rolls in the oven? That was my favorite smell, the first batch of the morning when the warm aroma of freshly baked bread overcomes the perpetual smell of coal dust.
“I see you managed to recover from your… incident last night, did you, Haymitch?” Effie accuses.
Haymitch grudges, probably struggling to remember how exactly he ended up in clean pajamas in his bed this morning. “Sure did,” Haymitch says, probably the clearest I’ve ever heard him speak. “Good to know that this one isn’t too squeamish,” he gestures at me, “It’ll come in handy when he’s cleaning up his own blood in the arena.”
He remembers. I try to ignore him, but I can feel my face turning red and my stomach tying itself in a knot upon the mention of blood. Effie continues to express her frustration with Haymitch, using a few choice words that I don’t think she realizes we can hear. Just then, Katniss enters and takes her seat across from me. Soon after, a server enters carrying a giant plate full of eggs, ham, hash browns, as well as a dish full of fresh fruit, setting it on the table. Another server dressed, fills three cups in front of me, one with orange juice, one with coffee, and the last with hot chocolate. Fresh fruit is a rarity in District Twelve, so I’ve only had juice on special occasions when my dad splurges on oranges to use the zest for icing. Coffee, something my family is lucky enough to be able to afford, is a typical Sunday breakfast accompaniment at home. As for the hot chocolate, I’ve had it a few times when the bakery had a good sale and my dad made some as a treat using leftover cocoa, sugar, and milk. It was especially good on the chillier winter days, and pairs well with sugar cookies.
Katniss seems confused as hers is poured, starting at the stream of creamy chocolate filling her cup. She wraps her hands around the mug, taking in the warmth, unsure what to think of it. I doubt she’s ever had it before. “They call it hot chocolate,” I say. “It’s good.”
She brings the cup to her lips and takes a sip, her body immediately relaxing. She continues to drink, not even pausing to set her cup back down on the table in between sips.
I’ve already begun working on my own breakfast, devouring every bit until I’ve cleared my plate, not a crumb remaining. Full, but still craving more, I reach for another roll, tearing it apart and dipping each bit in hot chocolate, a weird habit that I’d picked up from my dad. Finally satisfied, I sit back in my chair and rub my very full belly. They feed us well, I’ll give them that.
Looking over at Haymitch, I can tell he’s used to this luxury and thinks nothing of it. Victors are rewarded with fortunes unimaginable; he probably has more money than anyone in District 12 has ever laid eyes on, but I imagine he spends a great deal of it on booze. Haymitch won the 50th Hungers Games, so he’s been living this life of luxury for longer than I’ve been alive. His victory was special. Every 25 years, there is a Quarter Quell, a special Hunger Games with an additional adjustment. In the case of the 50th Games, or the Second Quarter Quell, there were twice as many tributes two girls and two boys from each district. Out of 48 tributes, Haymitch was the last one standing. For 24 years he’s served as district 12’s sole mentor, each year seeing two new tributes come and go, never a single one returning home. Watching him knock back another glass of booze一 a combination of juice and some alcohol he poured out from his personal flask一 makes me suddenly angry, angry for all of the innocent souls lost in the Games because their mentor was too careless to be sober for their sake. Unless we do something about it, we won’t have a mentor in his right mind to provide us with life-saving advice, set us up with gifts from sponsors, or even someone we can relate to that’s been through the same thing.
Katniss says what I’ve been thinking. “So, you’re supposed to give us advice,” she says to Haymitch expectantly.
Haymitch considers this for a minute, clearly in no hurry to jump into our “training.” He takes another sip of his concoction before sarcastically answering, “Here’s some advice. Stay alive.” Apparently he finds his own comment very amusing, because he begins to roar with laughter, leaning back in his chair and nearly tipping himself over.
I’ve had enough of his jokes. I look over at Katniss as if to say who does this guy think he is? I would hope that someone in his position would have some empathy for us, some desire to help us, but instead, he sees this as a big game. He’s just another product of the Capitol, drunken by luxury and privilege, with little regard for anyone but himself.
“That’s very funny,” I say, fed up. I stand up suddenly and smack Haymitch’s glass out of his hand and before he even realizes what’s happened, the glass shatters on the floor and the liquid stains the baby blue carpet. “Only not to us,” I finish triumphantly.
Haymitch seems to be considering my words, almost impressed. The next thing I know, I feel his fist hitting my jaw with such force that I’m knocked off my feet and back into my chair, feeling the throbbing pain immediately. I guess I never realized how strong Haymitch was; he had to have been to survive the Quarter Quell.
As if nothing had happened, Haymitch reaches for another glass and bottle of spirits to replace the one he’d just lost. He is stopped almost immediately as Katniss jabs a knife into the wood table, nearly missing his hand. Instead of giving Katniss the same punishment I received, he calmly sits back in his chair, this time looking more impressed than before.
“Well, what’s this?” He says, crossing his arms and setting his feet up on the table. “Did I actually get a pair of fighters this year?”
I ignore him, frustrated by his comment, and reach my hand into the bowl of ice in the middle of the table, scooping some to administer to my aching jaw.
Haymitch tries to stop me. “No, let the bruise show. The audience will think you’ve mixed up with another tribute before you’ve even made it to the arena.”
“That’s against the rules,” I protest.
“Only if they catch you. That bruise will say you fought, you weren’t caught, even better,” says Haymitch confidently. He turns to Katniss. “Can you hit anything with a knife besides a table?”
I know Katniss to be good with a bow and arrow, so what happens next surprises me, even frightens me a little. She yanks the knife out of the table, gripping the handle carefully, and throws it, sending it spinning into the wall and sticking perfectly.
Haymitch smirks. “Stand over here. Both of you,” he says, and directs us to the middle of the dining room. He circles us, inspecting each of us carefully, taking us in. He grips my shoulders hard, assessing my muscles, runs his finger along my jaw, which is beginning to bruise. He looks at Katniss too, who is much more built and stronger than most girls. He feels her braid, delicately swung over her shoulder, then takes a step back for one final look at both of us. “Well, you’re not entirely hopeless,” he says finally. “Seem fit. And once the stylists get hold of you, you’ll be attractive enough.”
Everyone knows that the Capitol tends to favor the better-looking tributes. Image is very important to them, as evidenced by Effie’s perfectly manicured nails and extravagant makeup. They treat us like dolls, dressing us up and making us pretty, but it’s nice when you have a decent canvas to start on. That is what lies in store for us tonight: the tribute parade, the Capitol’s first glimpse of this year’s lineup, and our first chance to make an impression. We’ll be assigned a stylist team, whose job it is to doll us up in fancy costumes and eccentric makeup and hair for all of Panem to see.
“All right, I’ll make a deal with you,” Haymitch continues. “You don’t interfere with my drinking, and I’ll stay sober enough to help you, but you have to do exactly what I say.”
Now we’re talking. “Fine,” I say.
Katniss is more eager, wanting to get started right away. “So help us. When we get to the arena, what’s the best strategy at the Cornucopia for someone-“
“One thing at a time,” Haymitch cuts her off. “In a few minutes, we’ll be pulling into the station. You’ll be put in the hands of your stylists. You’re not going to like what they do to you. But no matter what it is, don’t resist.”
“But一“ Katniss protest.
“No buts,” Haymitch cuts her off again. “Don’t resist.” With that, he picks up his bottle and leaves.
Immediately the cabin goes dark, and I suspect we’ve entered the tunnel through the mountains that leads up to the Capitol. I can’t see much, other than Katniss’ eyes darting around, looking uneasy. Then I remember her father, killed in a mine collapse when she was a girl, and I understand. The darkness, the feeling of entrapment, it’s enough to make anyone afraid.
Finally the compartment is flooded with light again, and Katniss and I eagerly run to the window for our first glimpse of the Capitol: live and in person. I’m awestruck. Gleaming skyscrapers tower nearly to the height of the mountains surrounding the city, sleek cars zoom across the cleanly paved, jet black streets, people dressed in brightly colored, tight fitting suits and dresses with wigs even more extravagant than Effie’s walk their equally-pampered dogs. It’s not long before they recognize the tribute train rolling in, and they excitedly begin pointing and yelling and running over to get a look at us. When Katniss sees this, she steps away from the window, not wanting to show her face like some animal in a zoo. But I stay there, excited to see so many new people in a new place, and they’re excited to see me too. Plus, it’s never too early to attract sponsors.
I see Katniss glaring at me, seeming annoyed with my enthusiasm. I shrug. “Who knows? One of them may be rich.” My attempt at a joke doesn’t seem to lighten her mood; it only appears to make her more upset.Add to favorites