The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games 1) - Page 22

Now I've done it! Now I've ruined everything! If I'd stood even a ghost of chance, it vanished when I sent that arrow flying at the Gamemakers. What will they do to me now? Arrest me? Execute me? Cut my tongue and turn me into an Avox so I can wait on the future tributes of Panem? What was I thinking, shooting at the Gamemakers? Of course, I wasn't, I was shooting at that apple because I was so angry at being ignored. I wasn't trying to kill one of them. If I were, they'd be dead!

Oh, what does it matter? It's not like I was going to win the Games anyway. Who cares what they do to me? What really scares me is what they might do to my mother and Prim, how my family might suffer now because of my impulsiveness. Will they take their few belongings, or send my mother to prison and Prim to the community home, or kill them? They wouldn't kill them, would they? Why not? What do they care?

I should have stayed and apologized. Or laughed, like it was a big joke. Then maybe I would have found some leniency. But instead I stalked out of the place in the most disrespectful manner possible.

Haymitch and Effie are knocking on my door. I shout for them to go away and eventually they do. It takes at least an hour for me to cry myself out. Then I just lay curled up on the bed, stroking the silken sheets, watching the sun set over the artificial candy Capitol.

At first, I expect guards to come for me. But as time passes, it seems less likely. I calm down. They still need a girl tribute from District 12, don't they? If the Gamemakers want to punish me, they can do it publicly. Wait until I'm in the arena and sic starving wild animals on me. You can bet they'll make sure I don't have a bow and arrow to defend myself.

Before that though, they'll give me a score so low, no one in their right mind would sponsor me. That's what will happen tonight. Since the training isn't open to viewers, the Gamemakers announce a score for each player. It gives the audience a starting place for the betting that will continue throughout the Games. The number, which is between one and twelve, one being irredeemably bad and twelve being unattainably high, signifies the promise of the tribute. The mark is not a guarantee of which person will win. It's only an indication of the potential a tribute showed in training. Often, because of the variables in the actual arena, high-scoring tributes go down almost immediately. And a few years ago, the boy who won the Games only received a three. Still, the scores can help or hurt an individual tribute in terms of sponsorship. I had been hoping my shooting skills might get me a six or a seven, even if I'm not particularly powerful. Now I'm sure I'll have the lowest score of the twenty-four. If no one sponsors me, my odds of staying alive decrease to almost zero.

When Effie taps on the door to call me to dinner, I decide I may as well go. The scores will be televised tonight. It's not like I can hide what happened forever. I go to the bathroom and wash my face, but it's still red and splotchy.

Everyone's waiting at the table, even Cinna and Portia. I wish the stylists hadn't shown up because for some reason, I don't like the idea of disappointing them. It's as if I've thrown away all the good work they did on the opening ceremonies without a thought. I avoid looking at anyone as I take tiny spoonfuls of fish soup. The saltiness reminds me of my tears.

The adults begin some chitchat about the weather forecast, and I let my eyes meet Peeta's. He raises his eyebrows. A question. What happened? I just give my head a small shake. Then, as they're serving the main course, I hear Haymitch say, "Okay, enough small talk, just how bad were you today?"

Peeta jumps in. "I don't know that it mattered. By the time I showed up, no one even bothered to look at me. They were singing some kind of drinking song, I think. So, I threw around some heavy objects until they told me I could go."

That makes me feel a bit better. It's not like Peeta attacked the Gamemakers, but at least he was provoked, too.

"And you, sweetheart?" says Haymitch.

Somehow Haymitch calling me sweetheart ticks me off enough that I'm at least able to speak. "I shot an arrow at the Gamemakers."

Everyone stops eating. "You what?" The horror in Effie's voice confirms my worse suspicions.

"I shot an arrow at them. Not exactly at them. In their direction. It's like Peeta said, I was shooting and they were ignoring me and I just. I just lost my head, so I shot an apple out of their stupid roast pig's mouth!" I say defiantly.

"And what did they say?" says Cinna carefully.

"Nothing. Or I don't know. I walked out after that," I say.

"Without being dismissed?" gasps Effie.

"I dismissed myself," I said. I remember how I promised Prim that I really would try to win and I feel like a ton of coal has dropped on me.

"Well, that's that," says Haymitch. Then he butters a roll.

"Do you think they'll arrest me?" I ask. "Doubt it. Be a pain to replace you at this stage," says Haymitch.

"What about my family?" I say. "Will they punish them?"

"Don't think so. Wouldn't make much sense. See they'd have to reveal what happened in the Training Center for it to have any worthwhile effect on the population. People would need to know what you did. But they can't since it's secret, so it'd be a waste of effort," says Haymitch. "More likely they'll make your life hell in the arena."

"Well, they've already promised to do that to us any way," says Peeta.

"Very true," says Haymitch. And I realize the impossible has happened. They have actually cheered me up. Haymitch picks up a pork chop with his fingers, which makes Effie frown, and dunks it in his wine. He rips off a hunk of meat and starts to chuckle. "What were their faces like?"

I can feel the edges of my mouth tilting up. "Shocked. Terrified. Uh, ridiculous, some of them." An image pops into my mind. "One man tripped backward into a bowl of punch."

Haymitch guffaws and we all start laughing except Effie, although even she is suppressing a smile. "Well, it serves them right. It's their job to pay attention to you. And just because you come from District Twelve is no excuse to ignore you." Then her eyes dart around as if she's said something totally outrageous. "I'm sorry, but that's what I think," she says to no one in particular.

"I'll get a very bad score," I say.

"Scores only matter if they're very good, no one pays much attention to the bad or mediocre ones. For all they know, you could be hiding your talents to get a low score on purpose. People use that strategy," said Portia.

"I hope that's how people interpret the four I'll probably get," says Peeta. "If that. Really, is anything less impressive than watching a person pick up a heavy ball and throw it a couple of yards. One almost landed on my foot."

Tags: Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games Science Fiction
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