Johanna Mason had come to the conclusion that she alone made the sun rise in the morning. It was the only explanation. She woke, invariably, while the great ball of fire was still ducked behind the horizon of District 7 in the dank gloomy mornings that her people were accustomed to. It was summer. The fresh coat of dew still paved the grass around The Branches, the Felling Quarter of District 7 where Johanna and her family lived, and the rising scent of pine and damp was unpredictably refreshing. Johanna once heard the rumor that people in the Capitol had created the scent in a lab and used it to freshen the air in their automobiles and houses, but she doubted this. Of all the scents the Capitol could brew in vats, why on Earth would they choose something so humble, so basic and so natural as pine needles? Unless of course, she had thought after calling Georgia Thomas a brainless airhead for voicing the fact, it was to demean the people of District 7. Sure, The Capitol get the pleasure of inhaling the smell of pine without the discomfort of finding the blasted needles in their every crevice after a full day of working in the woods.
Breakfast. Johanna's mother was already up, nursing her younger brother in her arms while preparing the standard morning meal, a bowl of oatmeal with a spoonful of tree sap bunged in for taste. It wasn't much, but it lasted until lunch which was usually more of the same except coupled with a slice of bread to help clean the bowl with. This was the first year Johanna had taken tesserae which had surprisingly increased the amount of oatmeal she was allowed for breakfast as Baby John was too young to eat solids. It was his fault his sister had to put her name into the Reaping an other five times. Her parents were hesitant about it at first but calculated the odds were still in their favor, District 7 was huge, and the number of eligible kids for the Hunger Games was practically double what they were in other districts. Still Johanna's older brother was too old, her younger brother too young which meant that is was her name in the Reaping. Which in her mind entitled her to more oatmeal.
"Hey, I might even volunteer this year!" she said between spoonfuls, watching her mother's lips purse "I'll be a Career if I keep eating like this."
"Not funny Johanna." Her mother said, staring up from her own bowl
"You're still too scrawny to be a Career anyway, Brainless," came the voice of her older brother Joshua still groggy from sleep "The kids from District Two start training for the Games from Birth, you're sixteen already. A lot of catching up skinny."
Her response was a scrunched up face and a stretched out tongue.
After breakfast she returned to the room she shared with her brother. One of the three rooms that made up the generic log-made homes of The Branches. In a mirror she glanced at her reflection. Her hair had been cropped short earlier in the month. A safety procedure the Peacekeepers had enforced after several of the girls in The Trunk had got their stuck in the wood chippers. Legend was they were scraping bits of them off trees in District 9. Unlike the other girls, Johanna liked the change, or more accurately she was passive toward it. It wasn't a Capitol made wig by any stretch of the imagination, but it stopped her from dying, which was a plus.
- - - - - - - - - - To be Continued- - - - - - - - - -