When the Home for Girls comes into view, Violet comes with it. She’s outside waiting for me. She knows where I’ve been and why. Well, everyone does, I guess. I know I’m late this time, though, because she’s giving me The Look.
‘Don’t worry, Renore,’ she says when I’m close enough so she doesn’t have to shout, ‘I covered your chore list today. Laundry duty – my favourite! Good thing we were on the same lot today or I’d have had to split myself in two.’ But her scolding is all bark without bite. She knows as well as I do that working helps keep her mind off the reaping just like dancing does for me.
Even so, I apologise. ‘Sorry, Vi. Were there many wet sheets this morning?’
‘You’re terrible!’ she says, but laughs and pushes the door open, motioning me inside. ‘Have a good dance?’
I can honestly reply, ‘I did.’ I step inside and she follows me, letting the door swing closed behind us. ‘Where’s Maddy? She pull cleaning duty again?’
‘Kitchen. She should be done soon. Said she’d bring us some bread. She’ll meet us in the dorms.’
Vi and I head past the kitchen and cafeteria and slip down the back hallway toward the dorms. Our bunks are on the third floor, so we have to climb a few flights on a wobbly ironwork staircase to reach our room. We have to manoeuvre around a lot of other girls going up and down. Most of them have finished their duties and their breakfast - if they could stomach it - and are now getting ready for today’s main event. One thing about living in District 8, there’s always spare cloth to be found and everyone knows their way around a sewing kit, so our tributes are always well-dressed. Even us orphans. When we come out onto the third floor landing, we turn right and head into the washrooms. When we’re both scrubbed and combed, we cross the hall to the bunks. Maddylin is waiting for us with the promised bread.
‘Thanks,’ I smile, accepting the loaf she hands me. ‘You going to scrub up?’
‘Nah. I washed before duty. Sit down and I’ll get started on your hair. You can eat while I style.’ Maddy’s a whiz with hair. She does mine and Violet’s every year without fail, and always has a waiting list of other girls. She’s taught us a few tricks, but it’s better when she does it. ‘What are we thinking this year? Up? You always look great in up-dos, Renore.’
I nod. ‘You’re the Queen of Coif. Just watch where you stick those pins this time.’ I tear a chunk off the flatbread and chew while she twists and teases my tresses.
‘Oh, come on! You only bled for an hour,’ she rebuts, feigning scandal. ‘You act like we haven’t all been pricked with pins and needles every day of our lives.’
‘We haven’t,’ Violet says around a mouthful, ‘You’re just clumsy.’ Then, ‘Oops!’ realising she’s spat out a flax seed.
‘Manners, Miss Violet,’ I say, putting on my best Capitol accent. It just makes her blurt out more seeds.
‘Better a clutz than a slob,’ Maddy snarks.
‘Says you. At least it won’t be my bruised shins they broadcast across Panem today,’ comes Violet's self-satisfied response.
‘…You want your hair done, or not?’
‘I’ll be good.’