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Aubrey Reaping

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This is it.

All of Aubrey’s life has lead up to this moment. The moment she volunteers as tribute. The moment that would be the start of her life.

She wants this more than anything, everyone tells her so. Though she can’t remember the first time she saw the games at the tender age of six, her parents tell her the story often enough. How she had begged to be allowed to stay up for the tribute parade, how she insisted she was old enough to handle the violence. Her mother had agreed. It’s tradition. Her father worried it might scare her. But, in the end, Aubrey had perched on the edge of her parent’s pristine velvet couch and watched as 24 kids competed for glory.

And she loved it. Apparently.

She had followed the action closely, glued to the television for days until, finally, a girl from District 4 emerged victorious. And, the story went, Aubrey shot straight to her feet and declared, “I want to be just like her when I grow up!”

Of course, her parents were delighted. A Victor in the family, wouldn’t that be wonderful? At once Aubrey was enrolled in classes to prepare her for the Academy. Everyone was so proud. She was a future victor. That’s all she ever wanted.

Except now, standing in an electric crowd of her peers, she isn’t so sure anymore.

The years have stripped away her enthusiasm. She became the best in all her classes because she was expected to. How could she tell her parents that she didn’t want to be a Victor anymore? That she had stopped wanting it when she was 12?

On the gleaming white stage, Flare Plenty clops out in his gaudy red platform shoes. Aubrey’s eyes wander away as he speaks. Her mind is everywhere but here. Dazzle Blair is her number one competitor for the girl’s tribute spot. They were handpicked by their instructors. Top of the class. Aubrey’s parents had encouraged her to “take care of her” before the big day, but Aubrey had just never got around to it. Neither had Dazzle, for Aubrey hadn’t met her down any dark alleys. It will be decided now. May the best girl win.

If it comes down to a fight, Aubrey will win. She knows this as surely as she knows that Flare Plenty’s grass green hair is fake. Her parents know this as well, so throwing the fight is out unless she really sells it. Maybe she could break a limb or let her head get bashed into the stage.

But as Aubrey runs the scenario in her head, she can’t find the other key player in her fantasy.
Dazzle isn’t here.

Aubrey swallows. She sucks her lip and plays with the ends of her hair as her eyes flicker around to each girl’s face in turn. Throwing the fight was a heretic’s thought. So wrong and unthinkable that it has torn a hole in the universe that swallowed up Dazzle Blaire.

The girl next to Aubrey is tall and sulky. Though Aubrey can’t even remember her name, she knows this particular girl did abysmally in the Academy. She wasn’t even in the top twenty. Of course, she could volunteer anyway, but she has no chance of beating Aubrey or Dazzle in a fight.

If only Dazzle would show up.

Aubrey swallows and leans up to the tall girl. Under the tinny mummer of Flare Plenty’s electronically enhanced voice, she whispers, “Have you seen Dazzle?”

The contempt is written all over the other girl’s face as she inclines her head slightly in Aubrey’s direction. “No.” The single syllable is spat out in a growl. “Is this some kind of trick? Did you already kill her, you bitch?”

Aubrey shakes her head violently and forces her gaze back to the front. Attempting contact was stupid.

“And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for,” Flare announces in his whiny drone. He looks bored, as if he doesn’t get paid enough for this. He probably doesn’t.

“Let’s not pretend we need this, eh?” He gestures to the round bowl full of the names of all the eligible female tributes. “Which one of you lovely ladies is going to volunteer?”

All eyes turn to Aubrey, or at least, she thinks they do. She can feel the sweat building on her brow and for the millionth time wonders where Dazzle is.

Everyone is silent. They’re waiting for her. She’s waited too long to volunteer. It’s awkward now. The surly girl at her side is glaring a hole in Aubrey’s side and she fears if she doesn’t do it soon, things are going to get ugly.

If she doesn’t do it, what else is she going to do?

“I… I, Aubrey Tourmaline, volunteer as tribute.” Aubrey almost forgets what to say. Almost forgets what she’s been practicing to say since she was six years old.

The girls around her clap with false enthusiasm as the stadium erupts. Aubrey’s feet take her forward, past her peers, past the boys, and up the stairs until she is standing over all of them, just as she was always meant to.

Her parents are cheering the loudest in the back. Aubrey can hear their voices above the din, but she does not seek them out. Instead, her eyes are trained on a disheveled figure wading her way through the crowd. Though her hair is a snarled mess and her face is a sickly pale devoid of any trace of make-up, Aubrey knows who it is right away.

Dazzle.

She’s screaming, but her voice isn’t loud enough, swallowed up by the crowd. Only those closest to her have noticed. Aubrey hesitates, longs to point out that finally Dazzle has arrived and now they can claw each other’s eyes out over the coveted tribute position.

But then Flare takes her hand in his claws and shakes vigorously. “Aubrey Tourmaline, District 1’s tribute for the 44th annual Hunger Games!”

That’s it. The deal is done.  

And Dazzle’s still screaming.
i am cutting it close to the deadline rn
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