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I woke up in the morning to the sound of things clanking against each other. For a second I thought it was breakfast on the rare occasions my aunt would make it for me. On days like my birthday, when I did something great, got an award, something that never happened quite too often. I was sure that when I woke up I would see the sun light being filtered through my dark blue curtains and I would get up out of bed, having had a rough sleep. I’d walk out of my room, because my door was always opened, and I’d walk to the kitchen, being dragged out by the sound rather than the smell. I was sure I’d find her in a heap of confusion as she read the instructions for pancakes and had the sausage beeping in the microwave and the eggs getting lumpy in the bowl. I was sure I’d walk back out of the kitchen and into my room again, this time closing the door behind me so I could get a few minutes left of sleep and so she could get a few minutes more to get herself together.
But this time, when I opened my eyes, I was stuck in the Cornucopia and I was watching James, just as frustrated, try to open a can with one of my knives. It was a can of Arizona Iced Tea—much similar to the two that cradled my arm, something he must have done—so I was confused. Why would he need to open a can that way? I blinked a few times to get the full picture and around the little area he was setting up there was already food placed down. There was a small package of cereal with a plastic spoon on top and an orange already peeled and spread open beside it with matching food across; there was a rolled up plastic thing inside of an empty can in the middle that was supposed to be the center piece; and last but not least there was him, trying to open a simple can of Arizona Iced Tea.
I sat up slowly and looked at him with still blinking eyes. He was going to make a mess of his beautiful creation but I wasn’t sure if it was my place to stop him. I was never the type to jump in the middle and do things for people, I was more of the type to let them figure it out themselves, but this was painful. I let out a small yawn and startled he spins around. He looks at me, as if defeated, and with slumped shoulders looks back to his work.
I smile softly, “Is that all for me?”
“Go ahead, laugh.”
“Laugh?” I’m confused. I get to my feet and walk to him slowly, trying to figure this one out. He must be self-conscious again. Something about his past, maybe just being a man, has stopped him from being able to appreciate the actions of romance and stopped him from realizing that romance is better failed than fulfilled. I walk next to him and with my left hand, my good hand, I bring his head into my side, since he is still kneeling down. I look over the work and see that everything looks really beautiful, really planned out. I feel a soft smile touch my lips, no one has ever done anything like this for me. “James…I love it.”
He seems to relax as my fingers run through his hair, something I always imagined doing. He looks up at me, “You do?”
I nod my head and look down at him, “It’s beautiful.”
He pulls away and gets to his feet, “Well, come on. Let’s enjoy!”
I let out a soft laugh as he begins to act as if this were a restaurant or something silly like that. He walks behind me and helps me to sit down on the grass, then he finally walks to his side and sits down too. He picks up the can he was trying to open but this time I smile and extend my hand, “Here. Let me.”
He sighs and hands it over. I put the can between my legs and pop the top open with my left hand. He takes the can from me and pours the liquid into two half container things used for collecting rain water. For a second I wonder why he’s doing all this and then I remember the condoms. He says, “I wanted all of this to be done before you woke up.”
I’m blushing softly as I try to open the cereal package. He takes if from me and opens it himself while I reply, “Most of it is done. You just needed a little help.”
“I always need a little help,” he mumbles as he puts down my package and opens his own.
I keep my face down, not wanting to look at him as I imagine us rolling around with each other like we had the other day but this time with no fear of going further. If we got to that point, would I be able to say no? Would I even want to? I wonder how I could jump from a raging lunatic, murderer, psycho girlfriend, horny teen, and shy girl in such short time. I start picking up the little pieces of cereal and putting them in my mouth, “No one’s ever done anything like this for me before.”
“No one?” he sounds confused and relieved and upset. I can never understand the things that come out of his mouth and the tones that he uses with them.
“No, “I say quietly. I don’t want to add ‘No one’s ever wanted to’ because I don’t want him to feel like he’s won by defeat. He’s had me around his finger from the door. I open my mouth to add something but all I can think is ‘box of condoms’ so I shove another piece of cereal inside of it.
“Well, there’s more to come,” he says and I can’t help but to look up at him and see him blushing too. Is he blushing because he doesn’t know what else to say or is he blushing because he’s thinking of the same exact things that I am.
“I don’t need these kinds of things,” I relent. I’d much rather have him stand over me, naked, with a condom strapped on if he wanted it—instead of wining and dining me.
“I like doing these kinds of things,” he says softly, “I want to make you feel special.”
“I already do feel special,” doesn’t he know that being touched and being wanted by him makes me feel like some sort of goddess. All I want to do is be wanted, being loved is just a bonus that I’m not sure either of us know how to deal with.
That’s when it hits me. Maybe he’s not even thinking about the condoms. Maybe he’s doing all this so I don’t think about the condoms and so that I know that he’s not just going to take advantage of me and so that I know romance isn’t out the door as soon as sex comes into play. Maybe he’s just making up for hurting my wrist. Maybe he’s making up for trying to make me feel inferior. Maybe he’s making up for the mean words. Maybe he’s making up for something I might not even remember. Maybe none of this is about sex and fighting and sorry. Maybe this is about love.
“James,” I’m blushing now because I don’t even know. No one’s ever wanted to make me feel…loved. There’s a bubbling in my stomach and a giddiness in my chest that makes me lightheaded and my face burn and my eyes feel unfocusable. I keep my eyes low, “You make me feel…I don’t know. I’ve never been this happy before. Never in my entire life and it’s so weird for me that sometimes I just have to stop and think about everything for a second. Sometimes I feel like I’m dreaming.”
“That’s how I feel,” he adds these words so quick that I have to look up at him, “I feel like you’re going to leave me.”
“I feel like you’re going to leave me,” I say, answering as quickly as he had.
He reaches over his makeshift breakfast table and takes my good hand, “But I’m not. I’m really not. I’m the kind of person that when I…” he blushes, he was going to say ‘love’ but he doesn’t want to too soon, “when I’m in something you have to forcefully pull me away from it. And I’m really…into you, Alexis. I really am.”
I can’t help but to blush softly. ‘Into’ our sub for ‘love’ until one of us gets enough courage to actually spit it out. I not my head and smile, “Well…I’m really into you too, James.”
“Really?” he asks even though he knows the answer.
“Really,” I confirm, feeling his skin contact start to burn my flesh. I pull my hand away because the content of our conversation dawns on me. We shouldn’t be thinking like this, we shouldn’t be acting like this. We’re fighting for our lives in this place, we’re not in some Romantic-Comedy. This is the kind of talking, the kind of acting, the kind of thinking that gets people killed. And the last thing I want is for one of us to get killed.
“What are you thinking?” he asks in a happier tone than my thoughts.
“This is a bad idea.”
We woke up to the sound of helicopter blades again but this time I awoke before James. I turn on my side but with his arms around me I can’t move at all. I nudge his stomach and push his shoulder and he wakes up quickly with a start. He doesn’t ask me “what” because he can hear the helicopters too. We sit up slowly and I get to my feet before him. I look past the spears and can see helicopters in the distance. James walks up behind me and helps me up again so I can have a better view.
“Who do you think bit it this time?” he asks me as he holds me tight against him.
“I don’t know. It could be anymore,”I whisper as I look closely over the spears.
Before he can finish James pushes me behind him and I tumble over the box I use and onto the floor. I grab the knives that I keep next to me and look behind but instead of an enemy it’s a man in a white outfit. He holds up a box and is saying, “I have to give you something.”
“What is it?” James asked through gritted teeth, like a wild animal caught in a trap.
“See for yourselves, courtesy of some rich citizens of America,” he answers in a mixed up voice like a robot.
James snatches the box and the man runs away just in time for Spivey to get on the loud speaker,” Heeeee-lllooooo everyone and welcome to another exciting day of the Hunger Games! Now today was a little less exciting than our first day but things are STILL IN MOTION. Today we have two surprising deaths. First Scott Adkins killed by his own “partner” Alexandra Gram in his sleep, oooh that’s cold, and in retaliation the the Tony’s and Liz both scalp her and drag her through the forest, very nasty. We also have a special treat for the contestants, something brought to the attention of the public thanks to Ms. Lopez, condoms for your enjoyment! I hope you all use them wisely. Now everyone, good night and good luck!”
Slowly I get up to my feet feeling annoyed and turned on by the fact that James pushed me to the ground in order to defend me. I stand a good distance behind him to let him know about my annoyance and I read the package in his hands. What Spivey said was true, it is a box of condoms, but not just a little one, it’s practically a life’s supply. If my arm didn’t hurt I’d be embarrassed like I know he definitely is. He’s thinking about our encounter today and the roof and his hand in my pants and my hand on his ding-dong and all the fantasies in between but I’m not. I walk to one of the Arizona Cans we dug in the ground to keep cool, and it is. I press the can to my wrist, my throwing wrist, and hope it’s not sprained.
“Well…look at that,” James says as he puts the box down by the food. I know he doesn’t mean anything by it but everything he does all of a sudden becomes a mixed signal. Finally he turns around and looks at me with confusion, “Are you okay?”
“No.” I snap as I cradle my arm to my chest.
He walks to me slowly and I can see he wants to laugh, “I’m so sorry, wh-what happened?”
“You pushed me!” I yell, so aggravated by the stupid laugh he wants to let out but is too smart to even think about.
“I was trying to protect you!” Now he’s upset but he really has no right to be.
“Well look where that got us,” I say in the bitchiest voice I can muster, “You sprained my throwing wrist.”
“I didn’t do anything. You’re the one that fell on it,” he says as if he’s just waving it off.
“Yeah, I’m the one that fell on it and now we’re the one’s in danger,” I don’t say the word ‘idiot’ but I’m thinking it so much it seeps into my words.
He’s quiet and I can almost see smoke coming out of his ears, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means I’m the only real chance we have at surviving,” I regret the words as soon as they come out. They sound hollow because there isn’t any real emotion behind it, it’s just something that came out before I could stop it. “I just…I just mean you’re not good at killing anyone.”
“I could kill you,” his voice is distorted, frightening, terrifying, “Would that change your mind?”
“James…I didn’t mean it like that,” I whisper, trying to calm him down and get that voice out of his mouth.
“I know how you meant it,” he says, that voice not leaving it.
“No you don’t,” I’m getting upset now. I’m injured and I’m upset and if he decides now to realize that I’m ugly and unattractive and he’s better off with someone else he can just snap my neck like a toy, “You don’t know anything.”
“You know what I do know?” he stands over me like a massive tower and I see the sword is closer to him than any knife is to me.
“You’re so stupid!” I shout and throw the can in my hand at him, it misses of course but suddenly I’m crying and it’s a kind of crying that hurts because I’ve never cried this way before. I lower my face and try to hide the tears because I don’t want anyone, especially not him, to see the first tears I’ve cried since I was six. I’m not sad, I’m angry, and I’m afraid that no one will realize that unless I explain it but I’m working too hard to stop that I can’t form words.
“S-Stop, stop crying.”
James’ arms pull mine apart and I can hear he’s crying now too, great. He wraps his arms around me and he holds me tight against his chest but I don’t feel any better, I still feel miserable. Why is he so stupid? His hand reaches up and tries to pull my face to his but my face is strong in it’s position downward because I don’t want to look at him because he hurt my wrist, tried to make me feel inferior, and is an idiot that is making me cry.
“I’m sorry! I was just trying to protect you!”
“Well I just want to protect you!” My voice sounds like a monster creature from hell but I don’t care, he’s so dumb, “How am I supposed to protect you if my wrist is sprained! Did you think about that?! I can take care of myself but you can’t! Look at you! You can’t hurt a fly! I killed four people already James! How many people have you killed?! You don’t have the instinct to do it and just like with Alex you’re going to hesitate and one of us is going to die and then the other! You’re so dumb! You asshole! You don’t know anything!”
“Why are you being so mean to me right now!? I said I was fucking sorry!” he sounds like a baby and suddenly I’m feeling guilty and I can’t possibly understand how in the world I could have said the things I just said, “I thought someone was coming to attack us and you’re too fucking SHORT to defend yourself! Look at me?! Look at you! You’re now the shortest person here! I didn’t hesitate with Alex! And it doesn’t matter how many people you’ve killed! That doesn’t make you better than me! I can protect you too!”
“You’re still an asshole!” I shout, hitting his arms as they leave me.
“Fine! What ever! I might as well leave then and see if I can join someone who will appreciate me!”
“Fine! Go find Liz and have hot sex with the condoms that are ALL FOR YOU!”
“I’ll split them in half so you can go find Tony and have hot sex with him!”
“You’re an asshole!”
He yanks his body from the floor and he heads towards the spears as if he’s going to break them apart and a pain and desperation fills me, “Wait! You’re not going to leave are you?!”
“Why not? It’s exactly what you want!” He makes it to the first spear and all I can imagine is him being killed by one of those worse asshole out there. I scramble to my feet and wrap my arms around him from behind, crying worse than before because of the thought that just came into my mind.
“I don’t want you to die!” I’m crying harder because what if he does die. What if I’m wrong and what if I can’t save him because I’m too busy being mad at him, why would I be this stupid? He was just trying to protect me, “I’m so-rry okay? I’m sorry f-for being so meee-an.”
He wraps his arms around me and he crushes me in the only way that gives me comfort and I know he forgives me. His hands hold my face and wipe away the tears but they still come because what if he doesn’t forgive me and what if I’m left all alone. His voice is soft but it still catches in some places, “I’m so-rry for being mean to-o. You’re just wo-rried about me too. I realize that we h-ave to protect each other. Not one person can do it a-ll.”
I shake my head and hold onto him, “I don’t want you to have to do anything, James, I just want you to go to sleep and wake up and all of this be over.”
“That’s what I want for you too,” he says in a calmer voice. Slowly he gets me to sit down again but on his lap this time, “We can’t fight anymore, okay? That’s twice today, we can’t do it anymore.”
“I-I can’t help it,” my tears have slowed but they’re still there and they’re still annoying me. “I’m ju-ust a stupid gi-irl.”
He laughs softly and for some reason I’m laughing too and then we’re both smiling, “You’re not a stupid girl.”
I nod my head even though it’s trapped in his hands, “Yes I am.”
“No you’re not,” he says as he kisses my lips softly.
I smile, tasting the salty tears that have collected on his, “I am.”
“Shh. Come on,” he reaches behind himself and finds an ace bandage I don’t remember being there. Slowly he wraps it around my wrist and it feels stiff but better at the same time, “It’ll be better in the morning.”
“Promise?” I ask quietly.
He nods his head, “I swear.”
“No way, no WAY! You can’t like that movie!”
“Why not? It’s a REALLY good movie!”
“But there’s no pl- Wait…did you hear that?”
“Never mind. There’s NO plot!”
“But it looks SO cool!
“So does…so does Ligers but that doesn’t mean they work!”
“Work? Animals can’t work!”
“I mean they can’t reproduce!”
“Shut up…they can’t?”
“No, you didn’t know that?”
“Not everyone is as smart as you.”
“I’m not smart.”
“You’re pretty smart.”
The conversation slows down as my face reaches maximum blush. There’s something about the way James says “smart” that means so much more and makes my heart flip over inside my chest. My eyes are looking away to the spears that defend our entrance but I know he’s still looking at me. His hand reaches out and touches my knee and it takes all my effort to not flinch away. It’s not that I don’t want him to touch me, it’s just that I’ve never been touched like that before.
“What are you thinking about?” he asks me as his hand reaches further up to my arm. Somehow between the eight hours since we have awaken we have become completely open to each other and there is no way for us to deny ourselves from the other. It just depends on which one of us is going to take it as far as he did the other day.
I lean forward, my eyes looking up at him, “About how you can possibly think ‘Shoot ‘Em Up’ is a good movie.”
He laughs this sexy laugh that tells me he’s willing to push the envelope forward again and I really don’t mind it. His left arm reaches up around my waist and pulls me in. I don’t pull away but I don’t eagerly jump into his arms either. However I do look up at him in the most wanting way I can muster because I do want him, want him so bad. He shakes his head, “You’re not thinking about that.”
“Really?” I ask as I get up onto my right knee and my hands rest against his chest. He’s started something I hope he can finish. There’s nothing but time and space between us and both we can definitely waste. “What am I thinking about?”
“You know,” are the only words he can let out of his mouth before my lips are on his and my hands are holding onto his face. I kiss him different from how he kissed me on the roof. This kiss of mine is soft and demanding and probing and wondering, his cheeks are warm and soft under my palms but his arms are tight and fierce around me. I can’t break away but then again, who would want to?
His lips are slightly harder against mine and this frightens and excites me. I run my hands down his chest and begin to push him backward onto the floor, my legs straddling his body. I used to worry about my thighs being so big but I didn’t worry so much now because of the way he grabbed them and ran his hands down my butt and held me against me and but at my lips and held me tight.
Our mouths pressed harder and opened wider so that our tongues can escape and reach out against each other. I had kissed boys before, one or two at drunken parties, but never in this way never with the boy wanting to kiss me too. My hands pulled at his shirt and ran up his chest and grabbed at his neck and ran through his hair. He moved up a little on his elbows as I lowered myself so I could grind up against him and feel the consequences of our actions but that only awakened something in me that I couldn’t really appreciate without the use of a condom.
He grabbed me and flipped me onto my back and I knew at this moment we were going to do it, we were going to have sex, but I couldn’t allow it. I couldn’t continue. I pulled my mouth apart but he continued to kiss at my neck so harshly I wasn’t sure I could actually stop. Moans escaped my mouth as he grabbed my breast but I hit at his back lightly, “Mmm, stop…J-James…wait.”
But he didn’t, somehow thinking my pleads for stopping made me sexier. His hands reached for the zipper of the tight jumper we wore and he was going to pull it down and I didn’t want to stop him. He was moving his hips against me and my legs wrapped around his waist again because I wanted him, I wanted him completely. But then I started thinking again.
What if…What if I got pregnant? What if our actions were too much and I got pregnant and then he died or I lost the baby or something horrible I was NOT prepared for in this primitive state we were in, “Ba-” I couldn’t say the word, ‘Baby,’ he might think I was asking for more, “Stop! Pregnant!”
It was as if someone pressed pause on his actions and he froze into place with his lips on my neck, “You…You’re…preg-?”
“NO!” I shout, pushing his face up, “Don’t be an idiot. I don’t WANT to get pregnant. We don’t have a condom!”
“Is that really why you’re stopping me?!” He yells at me in this voice that doesn’t excite me so much but makes me feel dumb.
I sit up as he pulls back and I zip up the front, “Yes! That’s why I’m stopping you! I don’t want to get pregnant HERE. Obviously!”
I use a voice that matches his because I’m offended that he doesn’t think it’s such a big deal. But he responds, “Who said I was even going to have sex with you!”
My face blushes at the word and I look away from him. He’s being a jerk but I can’t understand why. I fold my arms over my chest as I try to calm myself. We could die at any second, I tell myself, maybe I am being stupid. But I have to think again, if we win, when we win, if I’m pregnant, how will I survive the other Games? I decide to turn my back on him, “Go have sex with Liz then.”
I can hear the ghost of a gasp and James move as if he is going to stand but there is a pause. I don’t push him any further and I try not to pay attention to anything he’s doing. The comment was stupid of mine, it literally made no sense, but I wanted to say something, anything, to get him back for that comment that really upset me.
Time lapses, maybe three minutes, and I’m beginning to give up hope that he will apologize. But then something great happens. His arms wrap around me from behind and he pulls me against him so that my back hits his chest. He rests his chin on my shoulder and whispers, “I’m sorry. I just…”
“I don’t mean to reject you,” I say quickly, hoping I can answer him without making him any more embarrassed, “I WANT to do it. I WANT to do it so bad. From the first second I saw you, to the roof, to your hand down my pants, to now. I want you SO BAD, James. It’s taking everything to not focus on how badly I want you inside me. But we have to be serious. I KNOW we’re going to win but if we win this time how are we going to win again if I’m pregnant.”
“You’re right,” is all he says before he kisses the side of my cheek. He wraps his arms tighter around me and he kisses my cheek yet again. “Can we talk like this, figure things out like this every time?”
I nod my head, my hands reaching up to grab his, “Okay. I promise. Now you promise too. Okay?”
“Okay. I promise too,” The way we say ‘I promise’ is like the way other people say ‘I love you’ and it just makes me think that when we actually do say those words, they will mean so much more.
We are quiet again. I think about what has just happened and slowly I begin to get embarrassed again. We just met each other, just REALLY met each other. Sure we’ve “been love” since the first meeting of our eyes but we don’t really know each other, not really, almost not at all. I know a lot of little facts about him, a lot of little trivia, and I trust him with my life, but is this all enough to have sex with him?
“What are you thinking about?” He asks me again, making me think he’s thinking the exact same thing.
But I don’t want to say it out loud. I don’t want him to REALLY question our brand new relationship. I kiss at his hand and smile, “I still can’t believe you REALLY like that movie.”
He let’s out a real laugh, “Oh come on! You know it’s good!”
“I only know one thing and that’s definitely not it.”
“Well what is it?”
“What’s the one thing you know?”
“I’m so happy to be here with you.”
The sound of helicopter blades awaken me in the middle of the night. My eyes open and I see bright spot lights shifting from place to place. James is already up and is at the mouth of the Cornucopia behind the spears. He’s peaking through the holes in the net we made in an attacking position. I stand up wearily from my position on the ground with sore muscles. I walk behind him and touch his back gently. He spins around as if he were going to attack me but calms when his eyes meet mine.
“What’s happening?” I ask as I try to look up around the spears to see him.
“I think they’re collecting the bodies,” he whispers as he keeps looking.
“I can’t see,” I’m beginning to feel stressed, thinking that this is the most important thing that I am missing.
“Here,” He grabs me and lifts me up onto one of the boxes so I can get on his back. I’m too tired to feel self-conscious so I just hold onto him and look.
There are men like rescue workers that come down from the helicopters. They wear white and grab a slab that is connected to the helicopters. There are four men in total and they all work together to but the bodies of Kim, Lee, and Alex onto it. There is another helicopter from far away and we can see then lifting up a single body from the forest.
Spivey comes onto the loud speaker, “Heee-LLO everyone! I hope not to have awaken you! We have here our Scavengers picking up the bodies of your dead. You’ve all had a very eventful first day, the first in Hunger Games history with Alexis Lopez taking out THREE competitors within the first five minutes and shocking the nation with that surprise tactic with surprise teammate James Adoub. Being collected now are the bodies of Alex Sherrit, Lee Harvey, Kim Lee, and Dianna Nucci, leaving only eleven competitors left in the Games. Good night and good luck!”
The helicopter blades fade away and all I can do is hold onto James with all my might. I made Hunger Games history…this means a target is on my back. We stay in the same position for a few minutes and everything goes dark again. Finally James whispers, “Let’s go back to bed.”
I nod my head and whisper, “Okay.”
When I wake up I’m almost half convinced everything was a dream. It’s dark around me and I think I’m in my room with my aunt being a bitch somewhere else and yet again I just can’t sleep. It isn’t until I turn around and see James with his arms on me that I realize where I am. I’m in the Hunger Games, what a stupid name, with three people under my belt and this boy in my arms. James looks like an angel with his face so soft and calm and relaxed. I can’t believe that he is the one that has kissed me twice and he is the one holding onto me and he is the one that rubbed my back and gave me water and wants to be with me.
My hand reaches out from between us I touch the bridge of his nose gently. His skin is so soft, just like the skin of his cheek, just like this skin of his chin, just like everything else about him. My fingertips ache to paint the features of face and I can’t believe, still, that he wants to be here with me. My fingers run up through his hair and that’s when I realize he is awake and blushing.
I begin to blush too with embarrassment but he only smiles and whispers, “Good morning.”
I let out a soft laugh, not like the fake giggles from the interview, and reply, “Great morning.”
“That’s what I was thinking,” he let’s out a little yawn but he’s sure to do it away from me. Somehow I’m blushing again from how adorable he’s acting, even though we’re in this stupid place.
“Did I miss anything?” I ask in a half-joking tone. I still remember the events of last night but I can’t believe it.
“Other than the news, no. I still can’t figure out how Dianna died though,” his eyes are furrowed slightly as if to think.
The simple action does things to me I can’t believe. Probably because he’s so close to me and now that he’s so close to me I can do what ever I want. Where his brows furrow I lean in and kiss softly, a little peck.
When I pull away he’s blushing and he smiles, “Um, thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” I say before pulling away and yawning myself. My yawn is loud and obnoxious because I like to stretch out and scream as I do it.
“That will definitely get us killed,” he says in a quiet voice that wants to be teasing but isn’t sure if it’s an appropriate time in the relationship or if it’s the appropriate time at all. I laugh softly and dig my face into his shoulder.
My body is tired and I feel like last night was a restless kind of sleep, the kind of sleep that makes me want to sleep more and more. I groan softly, “I’m so tired.”
“Me too,” he yawns again but it’s over my head so it doesn’t matter. For a second I wish he would just breathe in my face so we can get over this shyness but then I realize this initial shyness only leaves with sex.
I pull away from him again and sit up so I can look around the Cornucopia. It’s dark still, even though a few lights drift in through the holes from the barrier we have created from everyone else. My mind is clear, the clearest it has ever been, and I realize we have nothing to do. We’re bored. Or we will be.
My stomach starts to rumble but quickly I wrap my arms around my stomach to suffocate it. James leans up slightly and grabs my arm, gently untangling it, “Are you hungry?”
I shake my head, “No.”
It’s a lie that I’m used to giving. Because of being the only over weight kid in class I’m used to having to lie about the hunger pains I get. But James opens my hand and starts to trace the lines, “Come on. I’m hungry too.”
I feel uncomfortable with his answer, like it reduces me to a child in some sense. But he looks so cute with his fingers tracing the lines of my hand that I can’t give him the normal attitude I would give anyone else. I sigh softly, “Well, if you’re hungry then I guess I’ll eat with you.”
He lets out a soft laugh and sits up properly now. We stand and walk further in the Cornucopia to the pile of cans we had tossed aside. There are also bags of chips and even some candy and cans of Arizona Iced Tea and lunchables and I wonder how Tony had made all this possible. I start to feel guilty about finding him so likable all of a sudden but I know I wont have to kill him. Most likely he’ll get killed out there.
“What looks good to you?” I ask with my hands on my hips.
“I don’t know, what can you make?”
I look at him quickly and sees he’s laughing. I roll my eyes at him playfully, “I don’t know. If we had some eggs I’d make a five course meal.”
“Damn it. Why didn’t you swing for the eggs?” he leans over and grabs two lunchables but as he leans over I lean against him so he can fall. He doesn’t really stumble but he stands up and hip bumps me and I stumble like he should have. He looks to me and shows me the lunchables, “How does this look?”
“This looks delicious,” I smile as I take the pizza one. We find a seat and sit down on the ground. I look at it and see it is grass, just pure grass, and I realize it could have bugs.
“Yes, there probably are bugs,” he answers without me having to say a word.
“But what if the ants get at our food,” I ask as I open the package.
“Well it’s all closed,” he opens up the crunch bar.
“But where do we put our garbage?” I ask, painting the pizza.
“In one of the crates,” he takes a bite.
“But where do we put our…garbage?” I ask, looking up at him.
He looks away with the slightest bit of a blush, “Oh…um…I guess we can designate a box for that.”
I nod my head as I take a bite of the round pizza, “Okay. We can figure that out after the other stuff.”
“What other stuff?” I laugh because he looks a little nervous.
“Like…I don’t know. What’s your favorite color?” I ask.
“My favorite color?” he asks a little confused.
“Yeah, I figure we have nothing but time to REALLY get to know each other,” I say and as I say the words he smiles and I smile too. I wonder if he’s thinking about that time he had his hands in my pants because I’m thinking about that too and I want it back.
“Well,” he smiles, “Alright.”
Steaz looks at me with a weary smile. She helps me into the outfit we are supposed to wear. It’s weird material and tight and there’s a jacket over it and there are some pockets in the jacket just in case I need to shove some weapons into it or something. I’m allowed a bra, a very tight sports bra for my breast, and some underwear to make me feel comfortable. We are given boots to wear and socks under it. My hair is tied into a braid that I keep at my side just in case someone tries to grab it.
Steaz looks sad but I reach my hand up and hold onto her hand. She’s so thin and she’s so nice I think she’s really sad to see my die. But I wont. I speak to her with a smile, “Don’t worry. I’m not going to die. I’m going to win and you’re going to be my stylist forever.”
She nods her head and pats my hand, “I know. I just…I want to meet the real you and I’m afraid this killing might change it.”
“The real me will always be here,” I promise and she nods again. She guides me onto the platform that will propel me into the Games above. I can almost taste the dirt that could collapse down on us but it’s going to be the dirt that I will run across. I think about how this place was built, a little dome area for all of us tributes to get ready with for the last time.
Steaz steps back and asks me, seriously, “Is…is everything you said…are you going to do it?”
“Of course not,” I smile and I can see the timer in the room reach 00:10. I tap at the side of my head, “I’m too smart to be that stupid.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Me and James are heading for the Cornucopia,” I answer honestly, my heart beat slowing down just like the ticks on the clock.
“James?” her face is confused.
I nod my head as the top above opens, “I’m kind of in love with him.”
Suddenly I’m being lifted up into the air and all I can see of Steaz is a soft smile that tells me she thinks I’m kind of amazing. There is a soft woosh of air and my knees shake but I’m firmly planted on the platform and my body promises not to move. The motion isn’t fluid as I go up, it’s rickety which makes it scarier but they don’t want me to die before the Games begin.
Slowly my brain shuts off and I stop thinking and I just feel the pump of my heart in my ears so hard I feel like I’m going to pass out. My eyes find James instantly and he’s already breathing hard. We’re positioned in a half moon with the Cornucopia behind us and the forest all around, everywhere, except in the large clearing we stand at the edge of.
There is a voice of the head announcer for all the Games. I don’t know his name but it’s something Spivey. In the air he calls out, “Hello! And welcome to the Hunger Games New Jersey addition! The rules of the Games are simple. Stay alive. Only two can win the Games. And have fun. The Games will begin in Five, Four, Three, Two, One.”
There is a gun shot or a cannon fire and before I know it I’ve turned around and my legs are flying threw me and ahead to the Cornucopia. I don’t even look back to see if James is following but I hear footsteps following me already too late. I breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth and suddenly I’m there, tumbling into one of the crates filled with weapons. Out of the crates falls my knives and I grab a fist full with my left and turn around, throwing with my right.
It’s James behind me but he must have known that I was going to throw it because he jumps in the opposite direction and the knife slices Kim’s forehead but doesn’t kill her. She screams and I see more people coming and I realize I have to throw harder like she is the wall in my room and I grab the knife and propel it forward with all my strength and watch it slam into the side of her head. She falls backward and Lee is there with his eyes open but before he can look up at me and swear revenge I throw another one and hit him between the eyes. Already I know the exact strength I need to break through the human skull but I need to do more.
Alex runs around Lee but before I have my knives ready a spear flies forward from beside me. I watch it fly through the air and I think too much, too much, it’s going to far, but Alex has stopped running to watch and it skims over his forehead, taking his scalp with it. He falls backward, screaming in pain, but I don’t focus on him, I look up at the others who are just standing at the edge of the forest in shock and appearing almost betrayed. So betrayed I start to feel a little bad.
I look to the three bodies in front of us, not close but if they had gotten closer they could have done damage to us. The ten other tributes stare at us still, waiting for us to run after them or one of them to run after us, but nothing happens. I watch Chris grab Grace and they slowly disappear into the woods. The others start to follow but the last face I see is Liz who promises we will meet again.
I don’t look at James yet but I look at Alex still screaming. I run over to him, knowing that I am exposed but I can’t take his screaming. I take one of my knives and shove it in his milky forehead and watch his brains fly out onto the ground behind him. Throw up follows after and mixes into the brains which makes me throw up again. I feel disgusting like a murderer and I think this is cruel and we shouldn’t be here. But a big tan hand is on my shoulder and I look up at him and either because of throwing up or what has just happened I’m crying. He wipes my tears and I lean into his side, wanting to feel his warmth and still thinking that he looked so good.
After a few seconds though I pull away and grab the knife, not finding the sight so disturbing. James grabs the spear and I look down at Alex, alive one second and then not the next. I find it weird more than anything else now. I find it so weird. We grab the knives from Kim and Lee and I’m happy they at least died together but I feel crappy that George, where ever he is, has lost his boyfriend.
We make it back into the Cornucopia and I see that the mouth is so wide and if we sleep we’ll have no protection. I open my mouth to talk but vomit comes out again. This isn’t the first impression I wanted to make in front of James, now that we were officially together, but he holds the braid from my face and rubs my back while it all comes out. I don’t know why I’m vomiting.
He finds me a bottle of water and I clean out my mouth and drink it til theirs none left. I wipe my face and say, “We need to protect this.”
“The Spears, “He says quickly, “How many did you order?”
“We’ll do three rows of five and we’ll have the other five on the outside,” he answers quickly, it’s such a good plan that I’m impressed.
“What if they come and take them,” I ask, not to be mean but just to improve the plan, I’m already sweating.
“What else did you order?” he’s so calm but he’s breathing hard and I’m afraid he’s going to have a panic attack.
“Flat mines, we can put them around the perimeter. I also ordered fishing wire and rope. We can make a net over the mouth of the Cornucopia with empty food cans so we can hear them and we can tie the fishing wire through the spears and have it move something so we know someone’s here,” I answer quickly, everything working itself out in my brain.
“How will we get out?” he asks, looking around the inside. It’s tall enough and it’s large but there are boxes everywhere.
“We wont. Here…let’s clear out some of these boxes an-“
Before I finish my sentence his lips are on mine in a kiss so deep and so hot, just like the one on the roof. I wrap my arms around his neck tightly and he lifts me up and I use one of the boxes and I kiss him back hard and frightened. I don’t think of this being a bad idea but I want to kiss him so hard because we both looked so good and we’re going to look so good again in our winning interview and we’re together right now and we don’t have to pretend that we’re not and that bitch Liz can probably see this from the woods and he is MY man and I’m HIS girl and we’re together forever and we will literally kill anyone that tries to get in the way.
He pulls apart again and I’m breathing so hard and so is he and he really might have a panic attack so I calm down. I hold his chin in my right hand as my left holds him tight against me. His eyes are on mine but I show him my mouth and I breath in through my nose and out through my mouth and slowly he starts to follow. I gently caress the side of his face until he looks calm again. He closes his eyes and rests his head on my shoulder while I bury my face in his hair. This is a bad idea and we’re vulnerable. But we’re together and that feels too good to pass up.
It must be four minutes by the time we pull apart and he helps me on the ground. I look down at the crates and we touches my braid with a smile, “This looks nice.”
I blush brightly but I try to hide it from him because we’re supposed to be serious and trying to survive, “Thanks.”
He grabs my hand and my heart starts beating crazy wild again. I wonder how he can still be so cute while we’re here and I just finished killing three people with his assistance. Maybe that’s why they were looking at us. Maybe they thought it wasn’t fair to have that many people under your belt so soon.
James lets go of my hand and starts taking all the spears out of the crate and he puts them by the edge of the mouth. I find the ropes and fishing wire and I put them there too, making sure not to get them tangled. I get all my knives and put them in a different section so we don’t confuse them, I realize these knives are easier to use because they’re sharp and not made for butter. By the time we’re done we have all the boxes to one side and all the weapons and other things to the other. Tony decided to pick things that I didn’t think about, toilet paper, water bottles, chips, backpacks, compass, lighters, silly things we didn’t need but I was grateful to have.
Me and James began working with the mines and we sprinkled them all around the perimeter and at the edge of the forest. We stuck together and I kept my knives in my pockets and he had a sword on his hip. We were silent as we moved and we didn’t bother to make conversation but did keep contact the whole time through. We took some of the crates and put them in front of the mouth like obstacles and I thought we might be doing too much but I didn’t have the heart to stop. We made the net together and begun digging in the spears to the ground, then we hung the rope just over it and worked our way back inside for the final phase. We tied the fishing wire through the spears and then tied them to seven noise makers Tony had ordered, I guess he wanted to celebrate his victory at the end.
When we were done with everything James and I were exhausted. We shared a water bottle and then fell asleep in each other’s arms for the night, not pulling away once. But before we drift to sleep I manage to whisper, “You sang so good.”
There is some silence before he whispers, “Thanks.”
The song that I chose to come out to was Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. I figured, for who ever knew, they’d equate the song to me and my sadness about killing that woman. But the truth was pretending to care was making me care a little bit. I tried to smile to the crowd as they cheered for me, every single one, but the lights were too bright and I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t want to trip on my heals that weren’t really a problem but my shaking knees were. The heals were black and seemed to melt into the blackness of the stage but the shine of both made this white spark every time shoe met stage and it gave off the appearance that I was walking on light or something. My dress also had sleeves like Kim’s but they were different. They went down just above my elbow and went up to my shoulders and a deep V neckline. It wasn’t crazy deep but it started at my shoulders and went down between my breast where plenty of cleavage was showing. But it wasn’t bad, it was more Marilyn Monroe classy. I liked the look of my collarbones and the look of my neck and I didn’t have too much cleavage, I made sure of that, but Steaz did insist that if you have it, flaunt it. The dress was a light blue color like James’ jacket that also made my skin stand out and had a similar pattern that was just barely visible, but instead of flowers it was little green vines. Around my waist was a black belt the same material as my shoes and it made my waist look small and my hips pretty big but she assured me, even if they don’t admit it, men love big hips. My hair was put up in a fancy braid that twirled into a bun and I had to admit I looked GOOD.
Flickerman didn’t say a word to me as I sat down, straight up and not slouching, and the crowd continued to clap as I REALLY blushed from all this attention. I didn’t dare look around at anyone, let alone James, for fear that I’d turn into a big puddle and I had to have my wits about me. Flickerman just stared at me, up and down, but not in a creepy way, in a satisfied way. He lifted his hand up and the crowd quickly shut up.
“Alexis…wow,” he said in a way that was kind of upset with how “wow” I was, “How old are you again?”
“Eighteen,” I answered shyly.
He simply nodded his head, “Thank goodness. You’re going to have plenty of suitors after you now and I’m not afraid to say I might be one of them. Come on men, who agrees with me?”
I turned around and blushed as they all nodded with amazed. James looked confused as if he wasn’t sure he should go beat everyone up or if he should nod his head and keep his mouth shut. I looked back at Flickerman and grinned, slowly getting more and more comfortable, “Well, how old are you?”
“Twenty-Seven,” he hands his head and shakes it, “I know I know. I’m old.”
I reach my hand forward to touch his hand but only touch air. I don’t want to be flirty, I want to be sweet as I say, “No, that’s not old at all. And look at you here. You’re already so famous! You have your whole life to do so much. I’m actually jealous.”
The crowd gives a soft “awww” and he looks at me and smiles, nodding his head, “You are truly a sweetheart, Alexis.”
I look down and blush, “I try to be.”
“Not too hard I hope.” This isn’t a question and I know it. I only laugh and wait for him to continue, “Now, Alexis, on to the real stuff. Tomorrow you will be facing off against the fourteen people behind you for a fight to the death. How does that make you feel?”
Feel. I haven’t given myself a chance to do that but I know my answer, “I feel…I feel scared! Look at the people behind me. They’re all so strong and smart and fast, I really wish now that I was in Vermont or Alaska so I can play chess or take a test or something else to win.”
“Oh, Alexis, don’t say that. Anyone in battle can tell you that your enemy can smell fear. Do you really think you’re going to be a sitting duck?” he asks. He seems to be upset by my previous answer. I think he really wants me to win.
I sheepishly shrug and look down, “No. I’m smart. I’m not Kim smart or Lee smart but I’m smart in the way that matters.”
“And how’s that?”
“I’m people-smart. I’ve spent most of my life studying people without even knowing it, I think that gives me a pretty big advantage,” I say, trying to sound like I’m fighting for something to make me look strong again.
Flickerman seemed impressed again, “So you have a battle plan?”
“Yes. I have the most important plan,”I answer quickly. Knowing he’ll ask for what and I already have a decoy plan ready.
“And what is that?”
“Well…everyone has paired up. Everyone has a friend, and since I’m the last one and we’re an odd group, I don’t. I think that’s the best thing I can do for myself. To be alone and hard to find. I think with that I can really win.”
“And what about if it comes down to the final three and let’s just say it’s the Tony’s or Kim and Lee, and they’ve killed everyone else but you. What then?”
“Well then…they either have to come find me or kill each other. I think it’ll be easier if they just kill each other.”
There is something behind his eyes that tells me he is considering this and thinks it’s a wonderful plan and is terrified by me because of my brilliance. He looks to the people behind me, “I bet you wish you had her on your team now, don’t you?”
There is no answer but I can see their faces on the screen behind me and they all look terrified. I think to myself, “Good. That’s what those fuckers get.”
Flickerman smiles and looks to me, “And what’s your talent today, Alexis? I hear it’s an unusual one.”
I jump up a little as if I’m so excited I can’t stand it, “Yes! It’s pretty unusual. My talent today will be lying.”
“Lying? How does that work?”
“Well, you’re going to have to work with me. Do you mind?” I ask with the most hopeful eyes I can muster.
“How can I say no to a face like that. Of course I don’t mind!”
“Perfect! Now. We’re going to have a regular conversation and in it I will insert three lies and by the end of our conversation you have to figure out which are the three lies.”
“This sounds like fun. Who should begin?”
“Why you of course!” I smile as if he’s being so silly I can’t stand it. There is definitely some sexual tension between us.
“Well, Alexis, how was your day today?”
“Ehh, it was alright. We had to change hotels this morning at about 6:15 and let’s just say I was not too happy. I didn’t get much sleep last night because I was so nervous and I didn’t even have time to change so this morning I looked horrible.”
“You never look horrible.”
The crowd laughs and gives us an “awwww” and I can’t help but to really blush. I wasn’t expecting that. I give a little laugh giggle and smile, “You are so mean.”
“That’s not nice of you to make me blush in front of all of AMERICA like that.”
“Oh, common. Everyone loves it! Am I right?”
The crowd nods and cheers and I can’t help but to let out another laugh giggle thing. I shake my head and look down, “Back to the conversation.”
“Right. Well, tell me about everything that happened with your day.”
“WELL. I explained about how we had to leave right? Well I got into the van with the Tony’s and the other boys and it was so crowded. I’m pretty sure they didn’t know I was there but that’s alright. I’m usually looked over since I am the shortest one in the group.”
“That’s alright. Kate Moss is short too and look at her.”
“But Kate Moss is a beautiful model.”
“And you’re a beautiful person.”
“You’re killing me here!” I say, my hands reaching up to cover my face but he only laughs. “Well, anyway, we came in and Terry, you know Terry right? He’s sitting over there.” The camera zooms in on Terry who had been eating a sandwich in the back and he drops it from shock. We all laugh and he waves with embarrassment, “Well, he split us up into boys and girls and we got our stylist. Steaz is mine, and she’s wonderful absolutely wonderful I want her with me forever. And Kim has Jamara, as you all know. Dianna got Patty. Alexandgra got Tara. Liz got Rebeeka. Grace got Tammy. And Denise got Sara. I don’t know about the boys but they got their stylists too.”
“I feel like there’s enough detail there for you to lie about it.”
“The day’s not over. I met up with Steaz and we went to the dressing room and I told her about my talent and she helped me perfect it. We spent all die finding the right outfit and now I’m here with the most HANDSOME man in the world and I didn’t get to eat once,” I spit the last part out with a huff as if I’m terribly upset by this.
“Alexis, you are most certainly a talker but you entertained the hell out of all of us!” the crowd goes wild with this but I think they only agree because they like the flirty thing me and Flickerman are having.
I giggle, “Well now you have to find the lies.”
“Well I’ve already found them.”
My face falls a little, “You have?”
“Yes. All three of your lies are with the stylists.”
“Not even one?”
“Not even one.”
“Then…I’m not the most HANDSOME man in the world?” The way he says this makes me and the crowd laugh.
“That’s not it either!”
“Well then, Alexis, you’ve got me!”
I grin wildly as I uncover the truth, “We didn’t leave at 6:15 am we left at 6: 10. I didn’t go in the van with the boys I went in the van with the girls. And last but not least, I’m not the shortest one here. Kim is just slightly shorter than me by half an inch.”
Flickerman claps his hand and so does everyone else. I really didn’t think they would be that impressed, “Fabulous! You are just amazing in every way shape and form! You are so entertaining and beautiful an-“
I reach out and touch his arm, “I think you might be better off writing me a letter.”
Everyone laughs at this comment and now he is blushing. He stands up and I do too so I can walk to my seat. Flickerman looks at the crowd and says, “Now it’s time to vote. The lines will be open for FIVE minutes so start dialing the numbers and you in the crowd, vote here. Will it be Kim Lee! Tony Feriollo or Tony Buffer! Dianna Nucci, Liz Ferrer, or James Adoub! Denise Christians, Alexandra Gram, or Alex Sherrit! Grace Kim, John Smith, Chris Wojik, or Lee Harvy, Scott Adkins or Alexis Lopez! Who is your favorite and WHO GETS THE ADVANTAGE?!”
I take my seat and nearly collapse in it. I’m exhausted and I look at Flickerman with so much appreciation. I don’t know how he can do this and keep doing this and still be so excited about everything we say. Liz leans forward in her chair and snaps, “You’re a fucking cheater! I’m going to take soo much fucking pleasure ripping your heart out!”
It isn’t James that says this, James was just about to stand up and hit her, but it’s Tony F’s voice, the only voice we collectively listen to that shuts her up.
“We’re all fucking nervous for tomorrow Liz. Don’t be a fucking jealous cunt because she played the game better than you did. You should be fucking impressed.”
“You can’t talk to me like that!”
“What are you going to do about it?” Tony B asks.
“Jaaaaaaames,” Liz pouts.
“I agree with them, “He says in a bitter voice.
“You bastards,” she mumbles, folding her arms over her chest.
Tony F leans forward and gives me a thumbs up, “You did a really nice job out there.”
“Yeah, fucking awesome,” Tony B agrees.
I smile and nod my thanks. I know James is jealous, burning with jealousy, but what can I do. It’s not my fault everyone thinks I’m hot all of a sudden.
Before we know it the show is back on and Flickerman comes out with an envelope, “Ladies and gentleman at home and in the audience. You voted and now, let’s see who you voted for.” He opens the envelope and grins, “It’s a tie between Tony Ferollio and Alexis Lopez!”
The reaction shot of me is priceless because I’m really surprised. I stand up and Tony helps me get across the stage. Normally I would be blushing because these two hot guys are looking at me like they want me but I’m so turned on by James and his jealousy I don’t even notice. Tony asks, “What did we win?”
“You both get to pick what’s in the Cornucopia! Follow me!” we follow him to two Deadmau5 looking cube things with a list of weapons and food and survival stuff. “Go ahead, you have 30 seconds to pick what you want. Go.”
I waste no time.
sleeping bags, 6
rope, 20 ft
fish wire, 20 ft
matches, 6 packs
cans of food, 100
flat mines, 15
poison darts, 12
gasoline, 1 gallon
“Times up!” Flickerman yells and the screen goes dark in front of us. He calls us to him and again Tony helps me down the steps, “Now. That is not your only advantage. You two are the only ones that know what’s in there. It looks like America wants this pair to succeed.”
I smile at the crowd but look over at James and see his fist are balled tight. I think his jealousy just might work to our advantage.
The stage is black and reflects all the lights although it is dark and nothing is on yet. We wait behind the curtain like models ready for the fashion show but no one is ready. This is the first time everyone looks so human and nervous—none of us are ready for a live audience. We watch as the people fill in all the seats, this place is huge. The stage is large and there are fifteen seats that line stage left and at the center are two seats for Flickerman and who ever he interviews. There is a large screen in the background where things can be projected and little screens around so people with sucky seats can see too. The right side, the side we have to cross to reach our seats, is empty. That’s where we are to perform, well, those of us that have a talent.
The show begins with Flickerman—who is a rather young and sharp dressed gentelamn—addressing the crowd and making them smile and laugh. He’s such a natural act and everyone can see him on all screens and no one minds. First up is Kim Lee and she walks out to Gamma Ray by Beck, which is an odd choice but who can blame her. Her dress is short and shows her long legs that are toned to perfection. The dress is black and classy, laced with gold to accent every feature, and has quarter sleeves with no dip into the cleavage. Her hair is in a nice up bun and she looks stunning.
“Wow,”Flickerman says,”Aren’t you lovely?”
Kim smiles, batting her eyelashes as she looks down, being all coquette.
“You look so stunning. Who was your stylist?” he asks, looking around the crowd with his hand together.
“Jamara, she’s sitting over there,” Kim motions to her with the slightest of ease and her face fills the screen.
“Jamara? There you are. What a wonderful job but we can’t thank her so much, you must have been very easy to work with.”
“You’re too kind.”
“Oh no, not kind enough. Kim, I have to ask, how is all this attention making you feel?”
“I don’t mind it so much. I’m used to being the center of attention.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, I’m the only child of my parents.”
“What’s that like?”
They laugh at her honest answer but recover quickly, “Of course. Now, Kim, we understand that you volunteered. Can you tell us about that decision?”
“My friend Lee and I are both black belts and thought it might be fun to join a competition to teach criminals a lesson.”
“So you joined for the justice aspect.”
“You can say that.”
“And what about Lee? Is there anything between the both of you?”
“We’re best friends. That’s really all there is to it.”
“And for him?”
“I’m not sure. You’ll have to ask him yourself.”
He chuckles and nods, “And ask we will. How do you feel about your competition?”
She seductively raises her brow and looks back at us all waiting for her, “What competition?”
Flickerman lets out a hoot and the crowd goes “Ooooooooh.” It takes only a second for them to recover and Flickerman says, “Coming out of the gate hot, are we? I like it. Everyone keep an eye on her. She’s a black belt with an attitude!” The crowd claps “Now, what is your talent today?”
“I’m going to sing.”
“Beautiful. What song will you be singing for us?”
“The House of the Rising Sun.”
“Ooooo that’s a favorite of mine. Go on.”
She gets up from the stage and with the light on her everyone can see her heals look like something out of Lady Gaga’s closet. They’re gold like the lace and they make her look like she’s gliding. She gets to the mic and sings like Zooey Deschanel. I think I have to kill her because perfection like that shouldn’t exist.
Next is Tony Ferollio and he gets a big applause as he comes out to Motto by Young Money. He does a back flip over the stage and lands it and looks so cool when he gets up because he pretends it doesn’t bother her. For some reason Tony Buffer is called with him and this time he does two back flips and everyone loves their little rivalry. Tony B and Tony F share the seat, both falling off at one point or another but that makes everyone love them. They’re funny and they talk about how they met here and how they’re best friends and how they have to win because friendships like that only come once in a lifetime and they’re not missing out. They’re talent is acrobats and juggling and they don’t drop a single thing. I decide then if anyone is going to kill me it will probably be those two.
Next comes out Dianna Nucci and she wears a tight blue dress with one sleeve and lots of shimmer and comes out to Lights by Ellie Goulding. She looks like a godess or a closet lesbian but everything about her screams “too pretty to die” but she’s here. I think that if she weren’t such a bitch I’d have a lesbian experience with her. Maybe. But she doesn’t have a real personality. It seems too actorish, as if she’s been pretending to be too many people that she doesn’t know herself. Her talent is also acting and she does a scene from Hamlet in which Ophelia hands out her flowers. She’s really good.
Liz Ferrer comes out in a dress that’s long and pink and flows downward and makes her also look like she’s floating and comes out to Sexy And I Know It by LMFAO. Her hair has been straightened and is up and she looks like a princess but when she talks she sounds like the devil. Each of her pointed expressions says that she’s going to kill me and she’s going to go out of her way to do it. Her talent is singing and she does a Paris Hilton song. “Stars Are Blind or something but I can’t pay attention because James is next.
James wears the most handsome suit I have ever seen and comes out to Jesus Walks by Kanye West. The jacket is kind of light blue and you can just barley make out the light flowery pattern on it. The color makes the brownness in his skin and eyes and hair pop out and my heart beats crazy in reaction to the classy look he has going on. Who ever his stylist is needs to be there for us when we win. Somehow, with him looking so good, I know we’ll win.
“James! You look so dashing!” Flickerman yells, giving James a pat on the back, “I didn’t think you could do it but look at you! Who’s your stylist?”
“Senna-lee,” he answers, blushing because he does think he looks good.
“Well she needs a pat on the back! How was she able to take away your signature basketball shorts?” he asks, leaning in with intrigue.
James shrugs, trying to hide his shy smile, “She promised me the girls would love it.”
Flickerman looks back to the girls seated behind him, “And what do you ladies think?”
They nod their heads and clap their hands. Liz even screams, “That’s my man!”
And I feel hatred boil inside me. HER man? No that’s MY man. It takes everything to not kill her as I watch.
“Your man?” Of course he noticed. Flickerman looks to James, “Is their anything going on between you?”
“No!” James shouts and I feel so good but I remember he has to pretend to be her ally, “Not physically, I-I mean, we’re just friends.”
“Ooh, quick cover up. Is there another special lady out there for you?” he asks, he’s probing and I’m afraid James may crack under it.
“It’s just, she does have a boyfriend, she told me,” somehow James is brilliant.
“A boyfriend?” Flickerman signs and shakes his head, “How sad to hear. James, I understand you also volunteered. Can you explain your decision?”
“Yeah…well…the thing is I got a football scholarship but…it wasn’t much. And to go to college my mom would have to take out a second mortgage and get a loan and I just thought…it wasn’t worth everyone to go to so much trouble for something my heart wasn’t it. My younger brother though, he’s a genius, he’s so poetic and reads all the time and has great grades but even with scholarships he wouldn’t be able to go to a really good school. And I just thought with the money I get from entering and from actually winning, it will be enough to make his dreams come true.”
There is some silence and I feel my heart breaking. Oh, James. I look at his face and like everyone else I want him to win. But unlike them I can MAKE him win. I can help him do it. I can help him give his brother a better life.
“James, you are so admirable,” Flickerman begins to clap for him and the crowd follows. They aren’t being sarcastic, he is a really admirable man. “Now, James, what is your talent?”
“Singing?” Flickerman seems to be mirroring my thoughts. I had no idea he could sing. “What song?”
“Scar Tissue by RHCP.”
James stands and walks to the microphone and the song begins to play. My knees melt by the touch of his voice in my ears and I have to hold on to the walls next to me. He can’t get any better. It would be too much if he did.
Denise Christians comes out to Alabama Song by the doors and looks so cool, so rockin. She has on a leather jacket and a white sequence short dress with big black heels I could never try to sit in. She’s charming in a cocky way and her talent is singing too but she sings I Love Rockin Roll so it’s not really like singing but it makes me like her, the kind of performance she gives.
Alexandra Gram is next and she’s a cunt if I ever saw her coming out to Call Me Maybe. Her dress is long in the back and short in the front and is so cute it looks like Forever 21 designed it. She looks like those girls that try to be hipster and succeed the first time around. I want to slap her with a rock but I have to wait for the Games which don’t seem so bad anymore. Her attitude is sweet and confident and her talent acting too. She acts out a scene from Moulin Rouge but somehow I can’t place this one.
The rest seems like some kind of blur. Alex Sherrit comes out and Flickerman picked up on the homosexuality about him but he denied the implied question. Grace Kim comes out in a tight cat suit like outfit with long boots and another leather jacket that looks so new and different on her. She does a dance routine that must give all the boys chubbies and I don’t mind if James has one because I would have one too. John Smith swallows swords and Chris Wojik does a rubicks cube in two seconds and Lee Harvy sings Feeling Good by Michael Buble and Scott Adkins tells jokes and then..it’s my turn.
A yawn escapes my mouth as Terry explains that today is crunch time. It’s six am and we’re supposed to be moving to another hotel, a BIGGER, hotel so that we can prepare a talent. We will be having an interview with a new reporter, something Flickerman, and we are to perform right after. We have all morning to think about it and all afternoon to prepare it and perform it. The floor is open to any and all ideas. We have a lot of room to wow America.
The Tony’s begin to ask nonsensical questions but I don’t pay attention. James stands right behind me and everyone is either too tired or too focused to see what he’s doing and he knows it. His hand slips around me and pulls me up against him but I try not make a sound. There’s something about getting closer to our Games that is making him crazier and crazier about me and I can’t say I don’t love it. His right hand is around me and it slips into my pants, missing my deflated muffin top because I’m wearing a tight tang, and it rests just over my underwear. Like a flower my vagina blooms into a yawning wet cavern that aches for the arrival of his hand and he can feel it with his long fingertips. My cheeks are on fire and I wonder if he can feel that too.
“Are there any other questions?” Terry asks.
“Yeah, what did you say?” James blurts out, making some awake people laugh but everyone else groan. He’s a mad genius and he knows exactly what he’s doing.
Terry says something about us having to be serious. I think he’s scared to see us die, he’s never done this before. But he begins to talk in a more urgent tone and James’ actions mirror his tone. His middle finger begins to rub me over my underwear and my eyes start to roll to the back of my head as I bite my lip and feel my breast get hot. I want him to grab them and take me from behind and stop all this teasing and to go insane but he’s too smart. He’s knows that I want this so he wont give it to me.
I reach my hand behind me and grab his crotch and his hand stops instantly. Through his basketball shorts I can feel he’s not wearing underwear and he’s already rising to the occasion. I rub him slowly, not really holding anything but just making a general action. I haven’t had much experience but I have hooked up once or twice and what ever I haven’t done in actuality porn has filled in the spaces. His arm was weak against me and just hung in the waist band of my underwear and I used the opportunity to push it away and lean away from him.
Just then the group dispersed into boys and girls. I wasn’t sure why but instead of asking I just moved. James stayed in one position, still locked in confusion as he looked around to the others. He shouted,”Wait, what!?”
And got a laugh out of us. He was adorable but I didn’t want the other girls to see that. Terry walked up to him and threw his arm around his shoulders with a heavy sigh, “Please, for the sake of your own life, pay attention!”
I smiled a little. James was smart, now everyone would think he was dense and couldn’t focus on little tasks at hand. Boy, did I pick a winner. Now a far more serious challenge presented itself…my talent…or lack there of.
Terry ushers us into three vans and with my bad luck, or good luck, I’m stuck in the van with the girls that I hate. Liz, Dianna, Alexandra, and Grace. They talk about me but they don’t know my name. I can’t help but to think ‘Are you fucking serious?’ Two weeks together, we were going to have to kill each other, and we’re going to have to kill each other, and they don’t know my name. They call me the “Fat One” but I’m starting to think it’s a distraction tactic, so I don’t let it work.
I think about my talent and how I don’t really have one. I’m not a good singer, I’m not a good actor, I’m not a good dancer, I’m not particularly strong, and I don’t have any good balance. I’m really, really useless. But I’m people smart. I know people want a show. How can I give them a show?
At the new hotel, which looks just like MSG, we all get out and James is there looking for me. I make eye contact with him and I see him about to smile but I look away so that he doesn’t smile at me. I feel bad and hope he doesn’t think I’m doing it on purpose, but this close to the Games we can’t afford to let anyone know our plan. We enter the hotel and around us are photographers and screaming fans. I don’t know why but apparently we’re famous.
We make it in and Terry separates us again into boys and girls but I steal a glance at James and see he’s gotten the point and he wont look at me again. I keep thinking about what show I can give the crowd. They already like me, my personality that is only slightly exaggerated, and my style. If only I could have a longer interview or something. If only I could make them laugh.
“Alright, we have a team for each you. Dianna go with Patty. Alexandra go with Tara. Liz go with Rebeeka. Grace go with Tammy. Denise go with Sara. Kim go with Jamara. Alexis go with Steaz.” Terry begins calling out where the men go but I find Steaz. She is a blonde but the bottom of her long her is Kool-Aid died pink and blue. Her eyes are the same bright blue and she wears a long skirt and some accessories. She’s so hot.
“Hey, I’m Steaz,” she says with a brief smile as she shakes my hand.
“I’m Alexis,”I smile in return.
She reaches her hand out behind me and runs her fingers through my hair, “This is so beautiful. So natural. I love it.”
“Thank you! You’re hair is beautiful too! I really like the colors,”I grin. She seems nicer already.
She looks at me apologetically and motions for me to follow her. We walk through the halls and the conversation does not continue. I can already tell she isn’t happy about having to work with me. I keep thinking about my talent. What am I really, really, really good at? Nothing. I’m not being down on myself there’s just nothing good I can do…except lying. I’m a really good liar…a really, really good liar.
“Sit here, Alexis, have you figured out your talent?” Steaz asks me as she guides me into a swirly chair with many lights around a mirror and people start to enter the large room.
I shrug slightly, “I think so. Somethings are coming together.”
She makes some motions behind me to people and they move back and forth,”What it is?”
“Lying,” I say, liking the sound of it as it comes out of my mouth.
“Lying, “she looks at me through the mirror and seems impressed. She begins to smile as if she likes me now, “So. You’re not going to be moving around a lot right? Do you want a wardrobe change?”
“No. I think I’ll stay with this guy and talk to him the whole eight minutes,” Eight minutes, that’s a long time.
“You know what. I think you can too. Alright. Let’s see what we can do,” She smiles and teases my hair.
I got a note under my door two days after the filming—the day after the promotions were showed—to meet James on the roof again. I knew it was a bad idea but I couldn’t resist.
As I walked the steps to the roof I was excited. I always thought about it, why he like me, and I had figured the reason out. He was the reject of the handsome group, I could admit that they didn’t treat him the same. He couldn’t get any of the pretty girls so he had to settle for me and that was especially true now. Our distance had reminded me all this but it reminded me that he was still handsome. Other girls did flirt with him because of his sudden quietness when regularly he was quite funny. Girls other than me did like him.
I opened the door but he wasn’t in sight. I didn’t think I was early but maybe he was just late. Maybe this was a set up. Maybe he had told the others and I was now going to be ambushed by the Jocks. Maybe it was all a lie.
The door opened behind me and I spun around to confront him but before I could get a word out he grabbed my face and his lips were all over mine and I couldn’t breathe. But I didn’t pull away. I snatched his face and pulled it to me and I kept my arms around him to help me up because my legs had given out under me and I was weak and his lips were soft and tough at the same time because of the way he used them. My heart was on a tiny flame inside my chest and I was melting on the outside and on the inside and it was amazing and physical and wonderful but it could not last.
When he pulled away, because he was in full control, he was crying dry tears. I breathed in deeply and looked at him with confusion, realizing now that he had pushed me against the wall. I couldn’t understand the passion and desperation and devastation in his face so I touched it and kissed soft spots of his face and I felt him give a little, get a little weak in our union.
He rested his head against my shoulder and mumbled softly, “Did you see the promotion?”
I shook my head and whispered against his ear, my lips still on fire, “No, no what happened?”
“They made it seem like you and Tony had some fucking sexual tension and that you said HE would win and that..that…fuck!” He growled in this way that was so sexy and crazy that I was unable to respond, “you would pick him over anyone else to be your team mate! Is it true!?”
“No!” My arms tightened around his neck as if I were choking him to smother the doubts from his head. I realized we were screaming so I began to whisper in his ear,”It’s a lie. It’s a lie. Completely. I’m sorry they said that but they didn’t even ask me. They didn’t even ask me those questions. It’s not true at all.”
He pressed his body against me, seemingly defeated, and I felt so powerful and so in love or lust or what ever it was that you get from being wanted. He sighed, “If it’s true tell me now.”
“It’s not and it never will be,” I bite my tongue because I want to say ‘I love YOU’ even though it’s not quite true. Not quite yet.
He seems to relax against me and for the moment but he holds onto me tight like never before. Well, not that he had held me before but it was tight and meaningful and I thought I might snap in half in a few seconds but I didn’t mind. I thought about how I had thought he only wanted me because he couldn’t have the pretty girls but I imagined now it was different. Maybe he wanted me before he had a chance to be denied by them.
I fingers went up the back of his neck and through his hair. I kissed the top of his head as I had imagined doing so all of my senior year. Slowly though he calmed and rested his head against mine. Our breaths mingled in a fantastic way and he whispered, “You won’t kill me right?”
And I answered, “Never ever.”
We had to part then but I told him to leave first since he had arrived slightly later. Parting was the hardest task I had to accomplish but we did after his lips touched some part of my face for the millionth time.
I stood against the wall, not really feeling my feet as he did, as he took step by step by step. He opened the door and looked back at me, giving me a half broken and half built back up expression that both excited and terrified me and when I went to sleep that night I thought I’d never get that face out of my dreams in the morning.
At the gym I kept my eyes down on the ground and focused on what was in front of me. I didn’t want to risk looking at James and getting weak in the knees and getting lost and getting all those things I felt last night. But I did steal myself some glances and found he was having a tough time ignoring me. I felt powerful in that sense, sexy, like I could show him my new and awkward body and he would be more than satisfied to make me feel beautiful. Or so I hoped.
I listened with one ear to their conversations. Tony F would say, “I don’t know if we should go to the woods.”
And James would quickly resort back, “Why not? I think it’s the smartest thing we can do. If we go into the woods and hide the first night we can get all those losers to kill each other and we don’t have to lift a finger.”
And Liz, that bitch, would say, “He’s right.”
And everyone else would agree.
But then Liz said, “I want that one.”
But James quickly, almost yelling, said, “No!”
And Tony F asked,”Why?”
The accusation in his voice was frightening and I thought we were caught but James recovered, “Look at her. She’s lifting even more than Dianna and Alexandra can. And look, she’s getting ripped. There’s something she’s doing that we don’t know. I’m just saying we should start looking at her differently.”
The other Tony replied,”She has lost a lot of weight.”
But Alex shot back, “She’s still fat though.”
But he didn’t have the final word, Tony F did. He said softly,”Alright. Thanks James, you’re on fire today aren’t you?”
In a casual tone he said,”I’ve just been thinking about these things.”
After gym I had to do my interview for my promo. I walked to the make up room and got pampered and teased in complete silence. When it went to wardrobe the lady looked at me with a frown,”I just wish you weren’t so fat.” My heart sank, I had lost more than 20 lbs here…how was I still fat, even to them?
They dressed me in a white sundress with flowers in the design. The arms when down to my elbow and it went in at the waist to make my breast huge and my ass minimal. It was nice and a good job.
They sat me down in the large ballroom of the hotel and paid actors to sit around like there was a party. They did some shots of me dancing with people in a large circle and doing the chicken dance and waiting on line to get food and waiting on line to get in. They made me act like the cameras were my secret friends and they were trying to find me when I was really all over the place.
I sat at a table and talked to this guy, this extra, this person, and made it look natural. I asked him,”How much did they pay you for this shit job?”
He smiled, his smile was nice,”About $100.”
“You’re getting screwed over,” I said with a smile that never leaves my face. I’m supposed to be flirty and I’m supposed to be attractive.
“Not really. We all want to be here, to meet you. We all got to pick the ones we wanted to make look good,” he answered, looking a little embarrassed.
I put my hand to my chest with a little shock, “You guys picked me?”
He laughed, “Yeah!” I shake my head,”And why’s that? I’m not special.”
“Yeah but you’re not an asshole either. And don’t listen to them, you’re not fat,” he said seriously, making me blush brightly.
“Oh, thank you,” I say, looking down.
He smiled and continued,”We want you to win, Alexis. We really do.”
“Alright! Perfect! Come on, Alexis, time for the question and answer!” Some one called and I stood up.
If I were more emotional I would cry because of this guy’s genuine want of me to win but I wasn’t emotional at all, I never cried. All I did was reach down and take his hand in both of my small ones and squeeze them tightly. I looked him the eyes and said,”Thank you, very much.”
I walked over to another table and waited for the background to be set up—people dancing and talking and all that—while the interview lady was drinking her cocktail.
Finally she looked over at me and said,”Between you and me, you’re going to get the popular vote. You’re the only girl that doesn’t look like a bitch and you’re weight and story makes everyone feel bad for you.”
“Thanks,” I smile because I still need her to make me look good. Everything gets set up and then it’s down to business.
The lady asks me,”Alexis, how are you doing today?”
“I’m doing just fine today! How about you? Do you like the food?” I ask. I decide to bring up food as much as possible to make me…quirky I suppose.
“I find the food quite wonderful, thank you. Your two weeks are almost up here, are you going to miss it?”
“You have no idea. This place is great! I have a whole floor to myself with all kinds of clothes! The staff is awesome and makes me feel so comfortable and not to mention the huge bathtubs and room service! This place is a dream!”
“What’s your favorite part?”
“My favorite part has to be the large bathtubs, I just sit in them and soak all day til I turn into a little prune.”
“Aww, how lovely. What do you think of your competition?”
“They’re all nice people. It’s a shame we had to meet under these circumstance.” “A shame in deed, what do you think about the kids that volunteered?”
“In a way we all volunteered, some of us just had other options we didn’t consider.”
“And what about you? What were your other options?”
“I…I didn’t really have any other than a long time a prison.”
“Yes, we all know about why you’re here but can you please, for the viewers that don’t know the full story, explain to us what happened that night?”
I take a pause and look down as if I need to collect my thoughts. I let my eyes look all far away and I refuse to look up because of my “shame.” Finally I answer,”My aunt is sick. She has cancer…a very bad form that is already at stage four and…she’s really sick. Since my parents died when I was really little she has always been the one taking care of me and now it’s my turn except…”
I pause and let her urge,”Except?”
My voice cracks,”It’s a lot harder than I thought. It’s tough seeing your rock, your Wonder Woman so…damaged and weak…and to know I can’t…”
“You don’t have to continue.”
“It’s okay. I need to say it, to get it off my chest, finally. Well…I had made up in my mind that one day, while the nurse was there, that I would go and try to numb myself…take the edge of the feelings or something! Goodness I don’t know what I was thinking…but I went and I got drunk and it was raining and it was dark and I was driving and…I didn’t see her…I hit her with my car and when I got out it was too late…it was too late.”
I wipe at my eyes childishly with the back of my hand while the interviewer closes it up.
When we end she says,”The viewers are going to eat that up.”
I whisper to her,”I know.”
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