Making breakfast in the tiny kitchen, I heard Emelie's footsteps running down the stairs. The twelve year old grinned as she saw her favourite meal; eggy bread. She sat down at the table and waited patiently for me to dish up.
I slid the pieces of bread onto the plates and laid one down in front of her. I sat opposite her, smiling at my little sister.
"It's the Reapings today, Nathan," Emelie said quietly, her enthusiasm quickly dying.
"It is," I confirmed.
"What if you get chosen?" she whispered.
"I... don't know."
"What if I get chosen?"
"I won't let them."
She didn't say anything, though she knew I meant I would volunteer; she wasn't stupid. I would do anything to spare my little sister; she was the only family I had.
"Come on, eat your bread," I said encouragingly, smiling to try and reassure her.
She looked at me but did as I said. Eating quickly, I told Emelie I'd be back in a minute, and hurried upstairs. I entered my room and pushed the door to behind me. Upon pulling open the drawer, I found what I was looking for: the small photograph of Emelie. I'd always kept it with me for the past three years.
I smiled at the picture, folded it carefully and put it in my pocket. I rushed back down the stairs, to see Emelie's little teddy bear sat in front of her. My eyebrows pulled together. She pushed the bear forward.
"I want you to have this. Whatever happens, it'll remind you of me," she murmured, trying to hold back some tears.
I stepped towards her and touched her arm. "It'll be okay."
"You don't know that. You can't possibly know that. I'm not an idiot, Nathan. I know that anything can happen."
"You're anything but an idiot."
"Take the bear," she commanded, not meeting my eye.
I reached out for the bear and took it. Reaching down to hug my little sister, I heard her sob. It had been three years since I'd heard her cry.
The Reapings... The time for families to be torn apart, the time for lives to be entertainment for the Capitol. I didn't listen as the first name was read out. I didn't care who else went up; I didn't have any friends, except maybe Anastasia.
The box started spinning again and my grip on Emelie's hand tightened. Then I heard the name. The name I never expected to hear.
When he stepped forward, I realised exactly who it was; Emelie's beat friend. Emelie looked at me with an expression of distraught and hopelessness.
"I volunteer!" I shouted out.
"Oh, two volunteers, how wonderful!" the Capitol woman laughed.
I walked past Emelie and gave her a kiss on the way. Gripping the teddy bear tightly in my pocket, I took a deep breath as I walked towards the stage.