The Importance of Being BeautifulMature

      When Maddylin is finished styling us, she floats around the dorms helping out other girls. It always impresses me how she manages to do so many girls’ hair and still has time to make herself look fancy, too. Vi and I throw ourselves into the frenetic business of makeup. Here at the Home, we don’t have a lot between us. We all work shifts after school, but most of what we earn goes back into the running costs of the Home. We all apply for our tesserae every year, too. They don’t make us; we choose to. Months before the reaping, we scrimp and save whatever we can spare from our factory wages, collect donations, and work extra oddjobs in order to buy some beauty products at the market. We all chip in what (if) we can and then when the reaping comes, we pass everything around the dorms. It’s share and share alike here. I guess it’s silly to worry about it, but otherwise we feel a little shabby next to the potential tributes with family incomes. And we all know that looks can go a long way in the Games.

      Violet never fails to remind me this every year. We’ve hunted down our most suitable shades, waited our turn, and are applying lipstick when she tells me this time. ‘Let me do your eyes. We got some stuff this year that will really bring them out. More than usual,’ she says. ‘They’re your best feature, so it’s good to show them off. You know, just in case.’

      Violet and I both have blue eyes, but while hers have the greenish tint that a lot of the girls have, mine are a shocking electric blue. Although I think half the reason they stand out so much is because of the contrast with my hair, which is black. We have pretty much every hair colour you can think of here in 8, and most people have some shade of green, blue, or amber eyes; but one thing nearly everyone has in common is pale skin. We spend most of our daylight hours indoors, all our lives.

      We do each other’s eye makeup and Violet does Maddy’s when she finally joins us. We head over to our bunks and pull out the trunks we keep our worldly possessions in. We hung our reaping dresses off the posts, though, so they won’t be wrinkled. Our finery is always handmade from factory cast-offs. We take or buy scraps, discontinued prints, hand-me-downs, and irregular items to repurpose. Like I said, everyone in the district knows their way around a sewing kit. Some of the girls buy a pair of second-hand shoes to wear for such occasions, the rest of us just sew a pair of slippers.

      This year I got a hold of some cloth I really like. It’s a pale blue linen, patterned with big yellow flowers. I think they're evening primroses. When I was younger, I was modest. My first reaping dress fell below the knees and had a cowl neck and long sleeves, despite the heat. But years of being complimented and told how pretty am I has made me bolder and – I admit it – a little egotistical. I’ve learned to play on it. Every year, I watch the handsomest and sexiest tributes receive dozens of little silver parachutes. They don’t always win, but they usually last awhile. At least they spend their last days in more comfort than the others. And it isn’t limited to the Games or the Capitol. It applies just the same in the districts. Wherever you are, people will do anything for a pretty face. Post-pubescence, I’ve learned that goes for a good body as well. Maybe even more so. I’ve pulled out all the stops this year. I’ve tailored the waist and flared the skirt to make me look curvier than I am (like most of the orphans I’m a little skinny and my build is naturally narrow). The skirt is as short as I could make it without being overtly provocative. Just flirty. The top accentuates what little bust I have, and the straps are a come-hither off-the-shoulder design. The slippers this year are exceptional: yellow silk with intricate embroidery in gold thread. I didn’t make them and I certainly couldn’t afford to buy them.

      They were a gift.

The End

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