"No, no you can't limp dear."
Soren tells me this as I try to shuffle around in a pair of high heels he's given me to practice walking in.
"I know I know, tall and straight." I sigh
"With grace, like you're walking on air."
Soren makes it sound easy but I doubt he's ever had to walk in a pair of three-inch heels. I would rather walk around in flat shoes but as Soren tells me, tonight is all about presentation. I have to look better than I ever have in my life. That seems like a lot to live up to, especially since we'll be broadcast all across Panem. This will be also the first my family sees of me in days. Corin too. All dolled up ready for the slaughter.
Soren makes me walk until I have an acceptable stride and hands me over to Johanna. Essentially it is Johanna's job to mold us into something the audience will like. We try a few personas like funny or sexy, which is a total failure and turns out to be more humorous. Judging by my performance at the parade Johanna says I should be able to charm the audience to no end so we settle on charming and charismatic. They like the bubbly, sweet personality a lot in the capitol. I have to think of it as an extension of my actual personality, I'm not that over the top in real life. Whatever gets you sponsors though.
Frankly, this probably goes against all my ethics and morals. Right now I have to look past that. I don't want to, I don't like these people, I don't like the games, and I don't like anything about it. I hate it! I hide it well though. I work with Johanna until I've got the perfect laugh and smile down to a fine art.
That night we have a relatively quiet dinner. No one has anything to really say and there is only small talk. It's not awkward it's calm. It might be Lucifer; he seems to thrive in silence. Perhaps everyone is taking an example of him. His calmness seems to stay with me for the rest of the night because I fall into a peaceful easy sleep.
I am woken by the sound of my prep team nocking on my door and bustling themselves into my room until I can even invite them in. Prospero tells me once again that I'm going to look fabulous. The process is long and tedious and I find it hard to sit still and cooperate with them. I need to get up and move around, my legs fall asleep more than once.
They make up my face so that it's as smooth and clear as porcelain. They do up my eyes with long eyelashes and bright eye shadows dotted with green gems. Nori comes over to work on my hair, she leans over with a hand held contraption and I can see the heat radiating off it. I jump out of my seat alarmed.
"Relax, it's a flat iron, it makes your hair straight." She says.
I laugh sheepishly and sit back on my chair. Nori straightens my hair so it falls in a soft, glossy sheet down my back. Then she pins on a hair ornament that resembles an oak leaf.
Finally Maria comes with my dress, the bag it's in almost the same size as her. As she takes it out of the bag I can see that it's in lovely silk greens. She helps me into the dress and a pair of heeled sandals. She turns me around to face the mirror. I gasp; the woman looking back at me is not my self. She is not the face that I recognize with her wispy auburn hair and simple flannel shirts.
I want to say something to Maria but no words make it out of my mouth. I touch my face, hair, and the beautiful dress, which is a stunning halter style; to make sure that the person I'm looking at is actually me. Maria can most certainly work magic.
"You look stunning," she tells me.
"Fabulous" adds Prospero one more time.
"Give me your best smile" Says Maria "Like you're on stage already"
I turn around and flash them a winning smile.
"You're ready! Let's meet up with everyone else."
Everyone follows me out, Maria fixing the end of my gown as we shuffle out the door. Everyone else is already waiting at the elevator. Lucifer looks fantastic dressed in a slick dark blue suit. He smiles at me and raises his eyebrows.
"You clean up well!" He says
"Same goes for you."
Maria suddenly jumps as we ride the elevator down.
"I almost forgot! This is just goes perfectly with your dress."
She pulls out the little emerald necklace that was my mothers and puts it around my neck. I thank her.
We are lined up in district order back stage before we are to take our places on stage. I hear music starting and the infectious laugh of Caesar Flickerman as he welcomes the crowd. We are herded on stage to take our seats.
"Welcome, welcome!" Caesar says.
He tells a few jokes before he welcomes Opalescence from district one to join him for the interview. She looks dazzling, her tanned skin dotted with jewels. There are all kinds of personas this year, Luster, the District one boy is big and burly with muscles that could snap you in half. I get the feeling he's got a brain the size of a toddler's fist though. Anemone, from district four tries to pull the cute angle, but it doesn't work well, even with Caesars help. I have a feeling it wasn't what she was supposed to do. Kingsley's interview slides along flawlessly and pulls some jokes that even I laugh at. Like when he asks Caesar if he should have gone into modeling and does a strut down the stage in a somewhat goofy fashion, his suit jacket slung over his shoulder. The crowd eats it up nonetheless, hooting and hollering his name.
Even though the interviews last three minutes exactly, I can't help but want to fall asleep. It feels like forever until my name is called and I'm making my way up to Caesar. I do my best to play up the crowd. It's easy and I don't feel nervous, something about it feels right. The crowd is in a hush as I walk up. I take a seat.
"So Forsythia, what do you think of the Capitol."
Oh. That's easy.
"Where do I begin Caesar? I think the food is anything more than I could have dreamed of!"
Caesar laughs, "The food is excellent isn't it?"
"And the clothes are the loveliest things I've ever seen!" I say as I smooth the front my dress.
"Aren't they!?" Caesar says fixing is collar and doing that outrageous laugh of his again. I laugh with him. "Might I add how absolutely stunning you look tonight."
I blush and laugh and ask him if his eyesight is going bad.
"Look how charming she is! How did you get like that with a surly mentor like Johanna Mason?"
The crowd laughs and Johanna sticks out her tongue at the cameras. I wave it off laughing. Caesar compliments me on my nine in training and asks me what my biggest strength in the arena is. I don't want to give anything away
"You have to be able to reach me to kill me." I say raising my eyebrows and smiling a little smug.
"Now, Forsythia" Caesar's voice has taken on a more serious tone "what do you think of your district partner, Lucifer?"
Oh no. No. I wasn't expecting a question like this. They've caught me off guard and I stumble through my words. Who is he asking about again?
. he's my best friend. We've been friends ever since I can remember
There is a gasp among the crowd. I can tell even Caesar wasn't expecting this answer because he looks taken aback. The crowd sighs in sympathy.
"That's a stroke of bad luck," says Caesar as he places his hand on my shoulder. I nod. The buzzer goes off. My time is up. I stand up and give a final curtsey, as Caesar holds up my hand.
"Ladies and Gentlemen! District seven! Forsythia Lind"
The crowd cheers as I make my way back to my seat. Lucifer puts his hand on my shoulder as we pass each other. Lucifer's interview goes well. Caesar and him have this sort of witty banter and Lucifer has this dry humour that the audience loves. When Caesar asks him about me he addresses the crowd as a whole and says he couldn't have asked for a better friend. The crowd gives a collective "Aww". Before I know it his time is up and they're bringing up the district eight tribute girl, Chiffon, who is ironically dressed in chiffon.
The rest of the interviews seem to fly by. I watch the screens between flashes of the interviews and Kingsley dressed in ocean blue, it mostly alternates between myself and Lucifer sitting side by side.
Last to go is Gagan, from district twelve who refuses to cooperate in any way. He does not answer any of Caesar's questions and only nods his head once or twice. Even Caesar can't make him shine if he doesn't speak at all. His buzzer goes off and Caesar looks relived. The anthem plays and we file off stage.
The whole crew meets us backstage to congratulate us on a job well done. We file into the elevators with some other tributes. As we step off the elevators for some reason I feel guilty about reveling the friendship between Lucifer and I but Johanna assures that with will get us sponsors. I'm not going to be working with Lucifer in the games though! I don't want to be anywhere near him! How are we going to get sponsors that way?
We have an exceptionally decadent dinner to celebrate. The thought that the games are just around the corner though makes me sick to my stomach, so I barely touch my fillet mignon with peppercorn sauce. I excuse myself from my table and retreat to my room. I spend almost forty-five minutes in the shower just standing under the warmth of the water. It gives me this feeling that I'm some how safe. I dry myself and slip under my covers and coax myself into sleep.
My dreams that night are especially horrific. The games feature in everyone each in a different location. There are faceless people slitting my throat and stabbing me in the back. The careers hunting me down the whole games, stranding me to the tops of trees until they shoot me down. Twisted images of my friends and family cheering on my brutal death. I wake shaking and sweaty, wishing I had Lucifer here to calm me.
The sound of Soren knocking on my door wakes me up. Today is the day it's finally here. I crawl out of bed and dress myself. Some clothes have been laid out for me the night before. It's not anything I'll be wearing in the arena except for a long sleeved brown turtleneck. The rest will be given to me right before. We are up early even though the games do not start until ten. There's a lot to prepare for. Actually, all the preparation in the world couldn't make me ready for this. I slip on my mother's necklace and wait until Johanna, in silence, escorts me to the roof. Soren has taken Lucifer separately.
The hovercraft is there already waiting for me. Johanna places a hand on my shoulder. She looks the most compassionate I've seen since
"Don't accept your death until it's looking you right in the face. You can do this."
She looks sincere.
I nod, "I won't"
She waves goodbye and I am brought up to the hovercraft. A peacekeeper inserts a tracker in my arm with a large needle, which makes me panic. Then I am led to a sitting area where breakfast has been laid out. I eat as much as I can, who knows when I'll eat again. Out the window below I can see a long river and thousands of trees. I can't imagine where we could be going.
We ride for about two hours before the windows black out and we touch down at the arena. I'm lead to my launch room, which is right underneath the arena, but two big and burly peacekeepers. Maria is there waiting there for me. She's happy to see me but is not as bubbly and chipper as usual but she reassures and comforts me. She brings me my arena out fit and helps me with it.
There's a pair of beige cargos with a thick belt. I have boots that lace up to just below my knees. They're an odd combination between gumboots and hiking boots, water resistant with good grip. Then there is a pair of fingerless gloves that have grips on the palms. Maria brings me my last piece, a thick green raincoat complete with a hood. She tells me it's been wonderful working with me and that she couldn't have asked for a better tribute for her first year in the games. I can't help but smile. She may be an airhead and a Capitol citizen but I think her heart is in the right place.
Maria puts my hair in a messy bun, keeping it in with pins. It looks much nicer than when I do it. She takes out one of the bright yellow flowers that are tucked in her braid and secures it in my bun. I hadn't noticed what they were before, now I realize that they are Forsythia blossoms.
She swipes some mascara on me.
"For good luck." She tells me.
A voice comes over the speakers in the room "Sixty seconds to launch."
I begin to shake. I don't want this. I don't want to do this. She tries to keep me calm but it doesn't work. I close my eyes one last time and try to imagine home, hoping that this has been one long terrifying dream.
"Ten seconds to launch."
It's no use. What would happen if I missed the launch and didn't rise up into the arena like everyone else? Probably kill me right here down in the launch room they would. I step into the glass cylinder that will take me up to the arena. Take me to my death. The door slides shut and the tube begins to move. I bang on the glass, scream, cry but it is no use. I will not get out. My fate is sealed.