Chapter 1

Fresh Sea-Air.

It blows through mine and the girl next to me’s hair as we sit at the edge of a pier. I turn to her and take in her full features: Beautiful dark hair; eyes that are ocean blue one day, and then sea green the next; and just a splash of freckles on her perfect face.

Her name is Silena Woods, and she is the love of my life.

“Derrick,” she says as she turns to me, “Are you nervous about the Reaping tomorrow?”

“Of course I am, I would never want to be away from you.” I answer her immediately. To be honest, I hadn’t really thought much about it. The Reaping in District 4 is never much of a surprise, the oldest children in the district either get chosen, or the volunteer to take the place of the younger tributes whose names were pulled from the reaping bowl. Tributes from District 4 are members of the Careers, special tributes who are trained from an early age for the event known as the Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games are an event put on by the Capitol to help remind the districts of Panem of the Dark Days. In the past, the districts revolted against the Capitol, and of course, were defeated. The result was one of the 13 districts were utterly destroyed, and we were blessed with the Hunger Games. Two children, one boy and one girl, are chosen from the 12 remaining districts, and are thrust into an arena where they must fight to the death until one tribute is left standing. The tribute’s district is then showered with food and the family even more so.

In Districts 1, 2, and 4, where winning the Games is an enormous honor; the children are secretly trained to be as lethal as possible during the Games. I mention ‘secretly’ since the technically it is illegal for the children to be trained prior to being reaped and brought to the Capitol, but most of the time the Capitol overlooks the Career Training since the Careers usually give the best show.

Silena smiles at me, but I can tell she’s nervous about the Games.

“Silena, it’ll be okay, you haven’t been trained, so one of the Careers will volunteer to take your place, even if you are reaped. You have nothing to worry about.” I give her a reassuring smile.

“It’s not me that I’m worried about.” She says.

I can’t help but laugh. “I’ve been training for these games for 6 years. I have a better chance than most to win the Games and come back. Plus, there are 6 other 18 year old tributes that could be reaped or they could volunteer to be in the Games.” I can tell she’s not convinced. “I promise that I won’t go into the Games unless I absolutely have to.” I stare into her eyes and she stares back into mine. I can tell that she’s still worried, but not as much now.

“You know I love you, right Derrick?” she tells me this all the time.

“And I love you too Silena.” I answer and grab her hand.

I love days like these. I get off work at the docks and immediately meet up with Silena to spend as much time as I can with her. I have to work at least six days a week to provide for my family. Even with me working this much, it still is a meager existence for us. Sure, District 4 is one of the wealthier districts in Panem, but not everyone here can afford to live as comfortably as they desire. I live with my mother, my father and my younger siblings: Patrik and Briana. My father was crippled in a fishing accident, and he hasn’t been able to work a decent job since. He is mostly limited to his wheelchair, but he rolls around and does small household jobs for people around town. So I had to become the main source of income for my family at the age of 14. At that point I had only been training for the games for 2 years, so I had more free time compared to the older tributes. I was able to get a job as a deckhand, since there is never a shortage on the need for new crew members at the docks, and between me and my father, we were able to make enough for my family to survive. But recently my father has been sick, so it’s been up to me to work even harder to provide food for the family, and medicine for my father.

I lean over and kiss Silena long and good.

“Gross, do you have to do that out in the open?” a voice calls from behind.

I turn and see my friend Nathan Haft strolling along the pier towards us.

“Only because it grosses you out so much.” I say back.

Nathan is my age, is about as tall as I am, easily over 6 feet tall. But I probably have about 60 pounds on him. His hair is dark and curly, while mine is straight and dirty blonde. Nathan lives on the better side of town, so his family is never hungry, and if it weren’t for the Training Facility, we never would have become friends.

“It doesn’t gross me out that much!” he snaps. “Ready for training?”

I guess I had lost track of time, but by the look of the sunset, I know he’s right.

“I’m sorry Silena, but I have to go.” We both stand and I embrace her. “I’ll see you tomorrow at the Reaping?” I ask. “Of course you will.” She smiles at me and gives me a kiss. She turns and brushes past Nathan and continues on down the pier.

I can see Nathan watching her leave. “That Silena Woods, she’s a real looker.”

“I know she is, but she’s all mine.” I give him a playful punch on the shoulder. He pretends to act hurt. “Save that for training, killer.” He says as we laugh and make our way along the pier.

The Training Facility is located toward the center of town, underneath District 4’s Justice Building, as to increase the secrecy of our training. We pass a couple of Peacekeepers, but they recognize us with a nod and let us into the basement.

Compared to the rest of District 4, the training facility looks like it was brought straight from the Capitol itself. Everyone is neat and clean, and the technology there is astounding. There is never a shortage of training weapons or practice dummies.

The Training Facility is already jam-packed with other kids of various ages and skill levels. I see the other Eighteens across the room hacking at dummies, but I don’t really see eye-to-eye with them. I actually care about the younger kids, while they would rather just use them as movable practice dummies. Nathan makes his way over towards them as I approach some of the younger Careers. Nathan doesn’t agree with everything the other Eighteens think, but he grew up with most of them, so that’s the group he hands around with the majority of the time at training. Nathan isn’t the best at any one category, but he’s pretty decent at all of them. Though he doesn’t say it in front of the other Careers, I know that he’s afraid of the Hunger Games. I can tell by the way he talks about them and how he behaves at training.

I say goodbye to Nathan and make my way over to the spear training area. I train here first during every session, and the instructor, Birch, and I have become pretty close.

“How are ya doin’ Derrick?” Birch says.

“Oh I’m pretty good, just ready to wipe the floor with you in sparring.” I say back.

Birch and I laugh as we each pick up the training spears. We start off slow to get a warm up, eventually increasing in intensity. By the time the sparring session is over, we each have our share of bruises and are both glistening with sweat. I thank Birch for the sparring session, and make my way to the center of the facility, where I stand wondering what to train for next. Most of the others are running around trying to train in as many categories as possible, since they could have a chance of being thrown into the arena in less than a week. I notice two of my favorite young Careers standing a few yards away from me.

“Finnick! Annie! Why aren’t you guys cramming in training exercises?” I call to them.

Both Finnick Odair and Annie Cresta are first year trainees, and they are already inseparable of each other. They make their way over to me with giant smiles on their faces.

“Because we know that even if our names our chosen, one of the older Careers will volunteer to take our place.” Finnick answers. He stares at me with those deep sea green eyes.

“I guess that’s true, you two won’t have much to worry about for another couple of years. And I’m just glad that I’m not gonna be in the same Games as you two!” I say.

That gets a laugh out of both of them. I can tell that they think I’m lying, but only partially. Annie has a lot of work to do, but Finnick is already one of the deadliest trident wielders that I’ve ever seen. I would honestly hate to be any of the other tributes when he finally makes it into the Games.

I leave behind Finnick and Annie, and I get lost in my training. For the next hour and a half, I skip around from station to station. I am just dispatching my third opponent, another 18 year old named Griffith, when a voice comes over the facility’s intercom. It’s the Head Training instructor, Vita, stating that today’s session has officially ended.

“And for those of you lucky enough to be reaped tomorrow, may the odds be ever in your favor!” Vita ends the announcement with the Capitol’s catchphrase for the Hunger Games.

As the other Careers and I make our way out of the basement of the Justice Building, I locate Nathan and ask him how his last training session went.

“Oh, you know, it went pretty well.” He says, but I can tell he’s nervous. He shoves his hands in his pockets to keep them from fidgeting. “I’m totally ready for the Reaping tomorrow.”

He walks me to the end of my street, and we depart with a “goodbye” and a “goodluck”. I barely make it halfway down the street when I notice the crowd of people in front of my house.

I break into a run and I reach the crowd within seconds. I start shoving my way through the crowd, and by the time I make it through the front door, it’s too late.

My father is dead.

This is the end of the first chapter of my story! I will try to get another chapter up in the next couple of days or so! Please stay tuned if you like it so far!

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