It was the day we all had been dreading. And it was today.
Most of my friends were old enough now that they were no longer eligible for reaping-- but I was. I was eighteen years old that Reaping Day, my last year of eligibility, and three of my friends were also within the age group. Lili Zwingli was thirteen. Im Yong Soo was sixteen. And little Peter Kirkland, who I had had the absolute pleasure of caring for since he was a baby, was facing his first year of eligibility at age twelve.
My friends and I came from a considerably wealthy sector of District 12 (but still pretty bad off), I being the poorest of the group, determined by my having to place my name in for the drawing in order to obtain food for the underage portion of my unofficial family (my name had been entered a total of sixty-four times by now). The ones who were old enough to work stayed at the coal mines all day every day while I went to school--like everyone else my age--and went straight to the woods to hunt afterwards. I was told regularly by the people I sold to that I had wonderful aim, always penetrating the animals’ soft spots at one shot.
We all approached the gates to the square and were separated by age group, the older ones staying back. I was placed with all the other female, eighteen-year-old citizens of District 12, waiting anxiously for the names to be called and half-expecting mine to be one of them.
Effie Trinket, a colorfully dressed, hyperactive woman from the more prestigious sector of District 12 stepped lightly onto the stage in a bright lime-green dress that reached just above her knees. Her feet were high off the ground in the tall platform heels she was wearing, and a gaudy yellow sunhat covered her head.
“Welcome, welcome!” she chirped, a toothy smile crossing her neon green lips. “The time has come to select one courageous young man and woman for the honor of representing District 12 in the annual Hunger Games!”
She paused a moment, then continued. “Now to draw the names!” She skipped over to the two giant glass bowls that held the names of all the eligible citizens of our district, saying, “Ladies first,” before dipping her hand into one of them. Her hand wandered around the interior of the bowl for a moment before she finally took hold of one of the small slips of paper and unfolded it. She approached the microphone stand as she read the slip, pausing before reading it aloud. The next words that passed her lips sent my heart up into my throat.