Rue; if you're going to win you've got to learn to keep yourself alive. The words of my father ring in my head as I stare blankly at the rabbit in my hands, its brown pelt soft to the touch, eyes narrowed and head bent in recognition. It's already given up, and my grip on its rib cage isn't even as tight as my father would have wanted it to be. I move one hand to its neck.
"God Rue, if you can't break the neck of a stupid rabbit, how the hell are you meant to break the neck of another tribute?" Jay's voice is as hard as stone. I turn to face him, ceremoniously releasing the rabbit, which pauses in confusion for a moment, before quickly hopping off in any direction. Jay is not my brother, I'm an only child, but 4 years my senior and my mentor for all things horrific and bloody, he might as well be.
"Rue, you are unbelievable!" Jay hisses angrily, I can't hold back the grin that is trying to shape my face. "Do you even know how hard it is to catch a rabbit without killing it? Why don't you ask the seven dead ones in the kitchen? Wait, make that fourteen because that's how many are going to have to die before I manage to catch you another one!"
Before he storms off to get his traps and whatever other boy toys he's got stashed in the shed built off the side of his house, I reply. "Jay, for heaven's sake, I'm not going to get chosen as a tribute, my names only been entered 3 times. And I'm twelve, so if I do get chosen I'm sure that somebody will take pity on me and volunteer. I don't have to learn how to kill because I never will have to kill."
That shuts Jay up. I laugh, and his face reddens. He stalks off unnoticed. Serves him right.
I round the corner of the house, pace building as the footing suddenly seems to get better with every twisted and unsteady step that I take. I'm going to go somewhere today. As far away as I can get. It's all too much for me, right now. Brown curls frame my face, and my eyes dart back and forth warily. Nobody can see me leave. I will be careful not to leave a trace.
I'm not going to be away for that long, just a few days. I will be back in time for the reaping.
"And where do you think you're going, Daisy?" Says a familiar voice. I relax. I can trust her. I know I can.
"I was just about to ask you the same thing, Erin." I reply calmly. Red curly hair, blue eyes, sweet smile that lets you know everything's going to be okay, even on the darkest of days. I turn to Erin, and she flashes me one of her killer smiles.
"Daisy, too many questions," she replies. "I'm going somewhere I've been meaning to go for a long time." I smile back. She calls me Daisy because they're also yellow flowers. I know where she's going to go. She's going to try and run off again.
"Erin, don't," I say calmly. This is the way it always goes. "If you run over to another district with your tail between your legs again they're not going to be so easy on you. If you're not careful they're going to cut off your tongue and you'll be stuck as an Avox serving somebody in the Capitol for the rest of your life."
"Relax, little yellow one, why so worried? I've got places to go, people to see, and a brother to avenge. Giving up just isn't mentioned on my schedule, and was not included in the job description. I am Erin Miller, and I will be victorious." I remember Jay telling me once that she was going to get caught one day, and she was going to get proven wrong. I told him he was a lunatic, and then quoted something she had said which made him stalk off.
"Well, maybe you'd make a good Avox, Erin." I reply slyly. She looks at me angrily, blue eyes narrowed, her tongue running over her teeth making her look like she's about to eat me. Instead, she laughs.
"Oh yes, Erin Miller the Avox who was known for her incapability of keeping her mouth shut long enough for people to make sense of what she was saying." She says sarcastically.
"Well," I begin, "if we're going to go off somewhere then we better make good use of the daylight we have left, it's almost noon by the looks of things, and remember, we've got places to go and people to see, as you put it."
Erin smiles. It's an odd smile for her, it's an evil smile. She runs her tongue along her teeth again. Erin, also four years my senior, like Jay, could just as easily be my sister. But she's not. Erin Miller is nobody's sister, or brother, or child. And if her parents still live here, they've cared enough to forget her. Maybe if she had some real family, she wouldn't be running away again. And I wouldn't be coming with her.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The normally busy streets of District Eleven are surprisingly empty as Erin and I quietly make our way down them. The only eyes to watch us leave are those of the sodden brown and grey dog that sits outside the bakery and the odd elderly man sitting on a bench too lost in his thoughts to be able to recall us passing him by.
Then I see Willa, the seamstress of the Eleven. Dirtied hands, wild curly brown hair coming out of her ponytail that is long over-due for replacing. Unfortunately for her, not many people can afford her clothes, and the few that can don't make a habit of buying a new dress or pants every week. She is as poor as the rest of us.
"Erin Miller, trying to sneak off again, are we? You're bloody sixteen girl, you shouldn't be running off and think that nobody's going to notice, ha! Foolish, foolish girl. And you've gone and dragged a young girl off with you. Stop living in your own little world, Erin Miller, and get off home! And don't hang your head low, no! Go with some pride knowing you got this far and then you were stopped by little old Willa, who was carrying nothing but the clothes on her back down the road." Voice raspy and harsh, combined with the ugly scars running down her cheek, Willa is definitely not the kind of person that you'd want to hang around.
Though Erin apologizes profusely, I know that she's not going home. She's got a plan, and I just happen to be a part of it.