Creeping through the trees, I spy my next victim talking to one of the peacekeepers. He was fat, even by Capitol standards with a mop of dark hair and narrow, snake-like brown eyes. His stomach was bulging from the tight button-up shirt and the stitching on his pants was starting to come loose. I watched him for a few more seconds, eying that chubby wallet in his back pocket like it was a pot of gold. Which of course, it was.
“You ready?” my best friend and partner in crime, Harrison Blackmore asked quietly from next to me. His shaggy blonde hair was falling in his reddish brown eyes in that annoying way it does and his shirt was about 3 sizes too big, but he wasn’t complaining. “On 3” I said, which really meant on 1. I exploded from the bushes while Harrison waited to draw the fat Mayor we were stealing from.
“Over here!” I yelled, grabbing just about everyone’s attention “That thief is over there!” I yelled. The Mayor turned bright red with fury and charged towards the forest, behind the peacekeeper. As he passed, I subtly reached out a little and slipped his wallet from his pocket. He didn’t even blink.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a few locals shaking their heads, and laughing and snickering under their breaths. They all knew of our antics, but they never complained. Even on the day of the reaping, it was good to have a laugh.
“Forest!” I whirled around, slipping the wallet into my pocket as I did. Harrison ran up from behind the Baker’s shop. He smirked through the blonde strands of his hair. “You get the wallet?” he asked. I nodded and flashed it at him before hiding it again. He laughed. “Best win yet!” he said. I nodded “Let’s do it again for next year’s reaping!” I said. Harrison’s smile faded “If you aren’t chosen.” He said, eying me sadly.
I rolled my eyes “I won’t get chosen. I’ve always been lucky.” I said confidently. Harrison shook his head “Forest, you’ve got – what? 43 entries now? You families so poor that even with the money you get from pickpocketing the mayor, you still have to sign up for tesserae.” I dropped my gaze to the floor. He was right. No one in my family has or can get jobs.
I looked up just as the first group of kids passed us, heading to the town square for the Reaping. I stared hopelessly at the crowd gathering. Harrison tugged at my arm. “Maybe you’ll get lucky anyway. We have to go.” I followed Harrison to the roped off section and waited. My instincts screaming to get out of there.
I watched with pain and sadness as the first tribute – Tasha – took to the stage, to stunned to speak. I hoped she survived. Then the male tribute was been called and the blood rushed from my face.
“Forest Hampton.” called the crazy Capitol escort.
Tasha shot me an apologetic look as I approached the stage as if in a dream, my legs moving without the permission of my mind. Harrison’s face was beyond shock, beyond utter horror. It was nothing. No expression could be shown to explain how he felt.
No more pickpocketing, no more friendship.