Hot Water in WinterMature

            In the short-lived solace of my private compartment, the first thing I want to do is relax. I sit on the edge of the bed and lie back, sinking into its softness. The pallets on our bunks at the District 8 Home for Girls are nothing like this. They’re thin and lumpy, made from leftover material and filled with shredded scrap textile. The tops are quilted and are meant to soften them, but it doesn’t help much. Some of the richer residents of 8 have mattresses more like this one, though still not as luxurious. Mayor Ruben Card has one, for example. Suddenly he’s in my mind: his pale skin slick with sweat, the strawberry blond hairs on his body glinting in the low light, his upper-class hands carefully tracing my contours… Wouldn’t he just be so pleased to know I’m thinking of him in bed? I turn my mind from him. Only to run straight into Marcus Flint. He had a nice bed, too. Marcus is an arrogant, perverted pig, but all said, it wasn’t bad being with him. He was never overly rough like I’d expected him to be and in fact, much preferred those roles reversed. I learned a lot from him. Maybe even something I can use. Violet was right.

            It feels like Marcus is on top of me now, so I rise from the bed and check out the private bathroom. It’s only now that I realise just how much sweating I must have done at the reaping. I feel grimy. I strip off the dress I had so carefully tailored for this day and it makes me feel both sad and relieved. I can’t explain. I don’t want to ruin Maddylin’s expert hairstyling, so I search amongst the cabinets full of Capitol bath and beauty products until I find a plastic shower cap. Arranging it carefully over my coif, I step into the shower and turn on the water. It has both hot and cold.

            About three-quarters of District 8 has hot water, more than some of the poorer districts, but the Home for Girls and its equivalent for orphaned boys were not included in that three-quarters. For most of the year that’s just dandy. The weather from mid-spring to mid-autumn is hot, with the summers sweltering. No one much fancies stepping in from a hot, humid factory and the hot, humid streets to a hot, humid bath. But there were times in the winter when it wasn’t such a pleasant thing to have to scrub up in cold water. See, it’s chilly enough in the normal winter months; but every three to four years or so, District 8 has a sort of freak winter, where the temperatures stay below zero for almost the entire season and the snow falls thick. In the narrow streets and jetties that thread between the factories and other buildings, this causes a lot of congestion. The factories all work a skeleton staff to the bone, while everyone else, young or old, work in droves and shifts to shovel the snow. Production and shipping must never stop, it must always be on schedule. When our shifts were finally over, us kids somehow still found the energy to find the snow exciting. We would build snow shelters and even sometimes sleep in them between shifts. We got really good at making them. It should be a winter like that if - no, when - I’m on my victory tour. I figure this because the last one was four years ago. I was glad of Marcus that year. He has hot water. So does Card, but I rarely meet him in his own home, and when I do, I’m never allowed to stay for long.

            After my shower, I experiment with some of the lotions and potions in the cabinets. I find some makeup and apply my mask. I find a blushing pink lip gloss that boasts of youthful charm. For my eyes I’m spoiled. I use a deep violet eyeliner with indigo mascara and an eye shadow palette of blue, purple, and silver. In effect, it makes the colour of my eyes intense. I head into the dressing room and open the drawers. I linger for a long time on a beautiful yellow dress, but in the end I decide to double-up the eye enhancement and opt for a sky blue affair. I make it up to myself by donning a pair of high-heeled mary janes in buttercup yellow.

            I’m barely finished buckling the second shoe when Pontius’ voice floats through the door. 'Supper is being served!'

The End

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