The journey to the Capitol didn’t take long at all, and Tara got to her feet. She didn’t notice during the travel that she had been crying on Blaze’s shoulder. When they entered the building, she was quite literally tackled to the ground by three women. One had a hairstyle that looked like it could be a treble clef, the second looked as if she had artificial wings sticking out of her shoulders, and the third’s skin was dyed a light shade of lilac. Laughing, Sheila gave them a smile. “Lucinda, you know you could easily get lost in a flower field with that skin. But I suppose it’s better than a forest.”
The lilac-coloured woman merely nodded. “Thanks for the heads-up, Sheila,” she acknowledged. Then the attention was turned back to Tara as Sheila left, and Lucinda combed her hands through Tara’s hair. “Imagine what I could do with this then! I mean, District One is all about luxury, so we’ll have to make her and her district partner look exceptional between us.”
Tara looked curiously at the other two girls, one unable to resist the urge of tidying up her nails before even getting them into the room where she was meant to be pampered. Chariot rides, of course she had to look her best. And she was sure to look the best as well, due to luxury being their district’s speciality. It wasn’t that Tara was vain, it was that they had the best quality of life other than the Capitol.
It wasn’t all that long before Lucinda and the other two, who were soon introduced as Clemence (the one with the treble clef hairstyle) and Kristina (the winged woman), had arranged her hair into several ringlets, nails painted sparkling pink and carefully rounded, and her legs were completely waxed. Clemence felt her eyebrows were already at a satisfactory state so she didn’t work on them. By that time another woman had entered, a rather breathtaking blonde who looked like she had previously sported talons though had them surgically removed.
At her command the trio and Sheila had cleared out, so Tara was left alone with the woman. This must be her stylist. Sure enough, the woman gave her a wide smile. “Hello Tara. I’m Carina Lunacris, and I’m to be the person that arranges your wardrobe. After all, you’ll -”
“Need to make a good impact on the crowd,” Tara finished for her with a smile. She was liking this Carina already. “How long have you been working with District One?”
“This is my first year here, I’ve spent a year with each of the other districts,” Carina replied.
Grinning, Tara allowed Carina to take various measurements, before watching as she drew out a very detailed and delicate design for the chariot ride outfit. The final draft consisted of a pink fur coat, purple feather boa and gorgeous high-heeled shoes as blue as the trousers she had also designed, the trousers sporting an elegant flower pattern on either side, to be created in pink as well. And the final touch was a tiara, studded with rose quartz and amethyst gemstones. She couldn’t wait until it was all prepared and fitted. It would look absolutely perfect.
She was told to wait with her mentor and escort, who entered soon after. Sheila was very impressed with what Lucinda, Clemence and Kristina had done, and Arsenios merely nodded in approval. Then someone she didn’t know entered the room, the look on his face not one that was usually the kind of presence in the Capitol. That was what got her aware to the fact that the other tributes were arriving. To her utmost surprise, Sheila stood up and kissed the stranger deeply.
A cough from one of the tributes got them to pull apart, and upon a questioning look from Tara, Sheila smiled. “Oh, Tara... this is Brandon Elphabum. He’s one of the District Seven mentors.” Brandon gave her a nod and smiled, his hand moving into his pocket. What came out made Tara stare in amazement.
No doubt about it, it was the very same one their father used to propose to Sheila’s mother before she had turned eighteen and got called out into the Games. Tara closed her eyes at the memory of Sheila, who was only a month old at the time, telling her the woman’s fate. They were half-sisters, their father had moved on after a long while and gained a new wife, and a son and daughter. Both Tara’s brother and half-sister had won their Games, Jason when he was fourteen ten years ago. And she planned on keeping up the tradition of sorts.
Sheila’s mother was the only one in the entire family that had not only been picked, but had died on the first day. Of course, it didn’t help that she was weakened by only having been in hospital with Sheila a month prior.
But now, the older sister’s eyes were widened at the sight of the ring, and she let out a gasp as Brandon got down on one knee. He didn’t need to get a word out however, because the moment he took her hand she squealed. “Yes, yes!” she cried, and she gave the man one of the biggest hugs Tara had ever witnessed. Well this made things far more complicated. She had more than just Blaze to protect in the arena...
She also had to protect those of District Seven.