The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games 1) - Page 24


Effie's knocking at the door, reminding me there's another "big, big, big day!" ahead. Tomorrow night will be our televised interviews. I guess the whole team will have their hands full readying us for that.

I get up and take a quick shower, being a bit more careful about the buttons I hit, and head down to the dining room. Peeta, Effie, and Haymitch are huddled around the table talking in hushed voices. That seems odd, but hunger wins out over curiosity and I load up my plate with breakfast before I join them.

The stew's made with tender chunks of lamb and dried plums today. Perfect on the bed of wild rice. I've shoveled about halfway through the mound when I realize no one's talking. I take a big gulp of orange juice and wipe my mouth. "So, what's going on? You're coaching us on interviews today, right?"

"That's right," says Haymitch.

"You don't have to wait until I'm done. I can listen and cat at the same time," I say.

"Well, there's been a change of plans. About our current approach," says Haymitch.

"What's that?" I ask. I'm not sure what our current approach is. Trying to appear mediocre in front of the other tributes is the last bit of strategy I remember.

Haymitch shrugs. "Peeta has asked to be coached separately."

9

Betrayal. That's the first thing I feel, which is ludicrous. For there to be betrayal, there would have had to been trust first. Between Peeta and me. And trust has not been part of the agreement. We're tributes. But the boy who risked a beating to give me bread, the one who steadied me in the chariot, who covered for me with the redheaded Avox girl, who insisted Haymitch know my hunting skills. was there some part of me that couldn't help trusting him?

On the other hand, I'm relieved that we can stop the pretense of being friends. Obviously, whatever thin connection we'd foolishly formed has been severed. And high time, too. The Games begin in two days, and trust will only be a weakness. Whatever triggered Peeta's decision  -  and I suspect it had to do with my outperforming him in training  -  I should be nothing but grateful for it. Maybe he's finally accepted the fact that the sooner we openly acknowledge that we are enemies, the better.

"Good," I say. "So what's the schedule?"

"You'll each have four hours with Effie for presentation and four with me for content," says Haymitch. "You start with Effie, Katniss."

I can't imagine what Effie will have to teach me that could take four hours, but she's got me working down to the last minute. We go to my rooms and she puts me in a full-length gown and high-heeled shoes, not the ones I'll he wearing for the actual interview, and instructs me on walking. The shoes are the worst part. I've never worn high heels and can't get used to essentially wobbling around on the balls of my feet. But Effie runs around in them full-time, and I'm determined that if she can do it, so can I. The dress poses another problem. It keeps tangling around my shoes so, of course, I hitch it up, and then Effie swoops down on me like a hawk, smacking my hands and yelling, "Not above the ankle!" When I finally conquer walking, there's still sitting, posture  -  apparently I have a tendency to duck my head  -  eye contact, hand gestures, and smiling. Smiling is mostly about smiling more. Effie makes me say a hundred banal phrases starting with a smile, while smiling, or ending with a smile. By lunch, the muscles in my cheeks are twitching from overuse.

"Well, that's the best I can do," Effie says with a sigh. "Just remember, Katniss, you want the audience to like you."

"And you don't think they will?" I ask.

"Not if you glare at them the entire time. Why don't you save that for the arena? Instead, think of yourself among friends," says Effie.

"They're betting on how long I'll live!" I burst out. "They're not my friends!"

"Well, try and pretend!" snaps Effie. Then she composes herself and beams at me. "See, like this. I'm smiling at you even though you're aggravating me."

"Yes, it feels very convincing," I say. "I'm going to eat." 1 kick off my heels and stomp down to the dining room, hiking my skirt up to my thighs.

Peeta and Haymitch seem in pretty good moods, so I'm thinking the content session should be an improvement over the morning. I couldn't be more wrong. After lunch, Haymitch takes me into the sitting room, directs me to the couch, and then just frowns at me for a while.

"What?" I finally ask.

"I'm trying to figure out what to do with you," he says. "How we're going to present you. Are you going to be charming? Aloof? Fierce? So far, you're shining like a star. You volunteered to save your sister. Cinna made you look unforgettable. You've got the top training score. People are intrigued, but no one knows who you are. The impression you make tomorrow will decide exactly what I can get you in terms of sponsors," says Haymitch.

Having watched the tribute interviews all my life, I know there's truth to what he's saying. If you appeal to the crowd, either by being humorous or brutal or eccentric, you gain favor.

"What's Peeta's approach? Or am I not allowed to ask?" I say.

"Likable. He has a sort of self-deprecating humor naturally," says Haymitch. "Whereas when you open your mouth, you come across more as sullen and hostile."

"I do not!" I say.

"Please. I don't know where you pulled that cheery, wavy girl on the chariot from, but I haven't seen her before or since," says Haymitch.

"And you've given me so many reasons to be cheery," I counter.

"But you don't have to please me. I'm not going to sponsor you. So pretend I'm the audience," says Haymitch. "Delight me."

"Fine!" I snarl. Haymitch takes the role of the interviewer and I try to answer his questions in a winning fashion. But I can't. I'm too angry with Haymitch for what he said and that I even have to answer the questions. All I can think is how unjust the whole thing is, the Hunger Games. Why am I hopping around like some trained dog trying to please people I hate? The longer the interview goes on, the more my fury seems to rise to the surface, until I'm literally spitting out answers at him.

"All right, enough," he says. "We've got to find another angle. Not only are you hostile, I don't know anything about you. I've asked you fifty questions and still have no sense of your life, your family, what you care about. They want to know about you, Katniss."

"But I don't want them to! They're already taking my future! They can't have the things that mattered to me in the past!" I say.


Tags: Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games Science Fiction
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