I decide on the black backpack.
It's better to just be quick about it. And, look--there's a knife right by its side. How lovely.
Could I win this? It may be possible. I'm small, but I'm fast. I could get out of this wasteland by hiding in those mountains. I know the ways of the mountains. They are cold and unforgivable. But I love them all the same.
I look around, taking it in. How terrible. We won't last a week in this place. Doesn't the Capitol population want a good show?
Oh, well, I think. Might as well make the best of it.
Time is flying by so fast. I roll my neck and clench and unclench my hands.
Oh, no. I realize I am not ready for this. I can't do it. I can't. I can't. I won't.
But I must. I poise myself to run.
"Five... four... three... two... one."
The gong rings out and I spring off my plate and run straight for the backpack. I grab it, as well as the knife. I run towards the mountain. My new home.
When I get to the foothills of the mountains, I look up, judging the distance. I can survive high altitudes. Don't ask me why. But, first, I stop to check my pack. I sit down and look inside.
An empty water bottle. A package of crackers and dried beef. A sleeping bag. A twist of rope. Flint rocks. Iodine. That's it. Not even some matches.
I sigh. At least I have a weapon and a sleeping bag. Maybe I can get away with mediocre fires and mostly cooked meat.
It's highly unlikely, but it's all I can hold onto right now.
I continue up the mountain until I can't go anymore. I fill my water bottle with stream water and put drops of iodine in to purify it. I start to see if I can climb a dead tree when the anthem starts. I close my eyes. I don't want to see it.
I climb up the tree and into my sleeping bag, and dream of home.
* * *
I was given an hour for good-byes.
First, Benjam came in. He opens his arms and I rush into them.
"You can do it," he murmurs into my hair. "You've always..." He takes a deep breath. "Just do what you can," he says. "Get food, get water, get a place to stay. Lay low. You're small and fast. Play to those strengths. Get into small places where no one would think to look. Run fast and get away from the other tributes. Try not to get involved in alliances. That'll get you a knife in the back."
I'm nearly crying. "I can't do it," I say, my eyes tearing up. "There will always be someone better than me."
He takes my shoulders, looking me hard in the eye. "No one could be better than you, Juniper."
The Peacekeeper calls him out. One last hug. A kiss on the cheek. One long last look. Door shut. And he's gone.
Adrienne and Chilton come in next, the twin sisters. We both hug, and I tell them to watch after Percee and Thalia. Then they're crying, and I can't stand it anymore. A few tears slip down my cheeks.
Holden comes in. He gives me a lasting hug.
"I'll meet you at the train station," he says. "When you come home."
Peacekeepers order him out. He goes without objections.
When my mother, Percee, Thalia and Griffin come in, there's no stopping the tears.