The Mocking-jays sang their wake up call early that morning. My tired green eyes flickered open to see a warm shape beside me. The little dark skinned girl was lying at my side, clutching the pillow. I hated my sister, but I didn't want to disturb her. If she woke, she'd most likely wake our father. He needed all the sleep he could get, especially during the months of the Games.
Slipping into my leather boots, I creaked the door open. I rarely sneaked out of house, but today was a special occasion. A long trek across the district summoned an appetite. It was an uncommon journey, made only once every two years. The workers in the fields, like my father and I, lived in the east. The orchard workers, like Maria and Sean, lived in the west. Maria had been my friend since my first day of school. Sean was considered an add-on to our friendship. He began to play with us when we were eight, due to the crush on me that he had developed. As we grew older, both of us chose to ignore it.
As planned, Maria and Sean were waiting by the weeping willow just outside one of the gigantic orchards. Both of then had faces like wet Wednesdays, and they had every right to. This could be the past chance we see each other. If one of us were picked, everything would fall apart. Even worse, two of us could be chosen. Few people made friends of the opposite gender, so there wasn't any chance of them going to the Games together.
I smiled. "Lovely morning." What had happened to me? I was turning into the optimist. Never mind, someone had to lighten the mood. "You hungry?"
We spoke very little that morning. How could we? In a week I could be trying to murder the boy that's fancied my for the last 6 years.
Finally, Maria said something unexpected. She wasn't particularly superstitious. "I've got a bad feeling about this, Ash."
"What d'you mean?"
"You know what I mean!" She snapped. I blinked. So did she. In all of our years of friendship she'd never shouted at me. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..."
I shook my head. "It's okay." They were talking about me. She was worried about me. Not Sean, not herself. Me. "I'll be fine." I said, trying to smile.
Sean handed me something I'd cherish forever. "Take this anyway." It was beautiful. Two silver charms, a perfectly shaped apple and a bird in flight, hanging on a leather thread. I smiled for real. If I was chosen, this would be my token.
Tears silently ran down our cheeks as we said our goodbyes. Maria and I would stand together at the Reaping, but I wouldn't be able to talk to Sean. A tinge of sadness flushed through me. This could be the last time I ever see him.
Before I turned to return home I stood on my toes, kissed his cheek, and told him to be strong.
My father was distraught when I returned. "Where have you been!?" He shouted. "We've been worried sick!"
"I went across the district to have breakfast with my friends." I replied in a calm tone. "I told you I would be."
"Go and get your sister ready for the Reaping."
* * * *
The wind chilled us though the sun was strong. My white hair appeared silver as it shone. Maria's shaking hand was locked with mine.
Then the name was read.
Kokia... Kokia, no! Not my sister! It was her first year! I know I hated her, but I didn't want to see her slaughtered either. I forgot to breath.
Someone nudged me. "Ash? It's you." It was my friend, eyes glittering with tears.
My head spun as I realised what she was saying. That wasn't Kokia's name. That was mine. I felt sick.
Standing on the stage I saw it all. The peacekeepers trying to restrain him. They couldn't, he was too enraged. Many were out cold before he was pinned to the ground.
That was the last time I saw my father.