Chapter 6: Caleb
I press my face against to cool glass of the train window and wait for what we’ve been seeing on television for years, the capitol itself. This train must move fast, because it’s only been two days and we are already in the tunnel underneath the mountains that leads to the capitol. My sister is beside me staring through a different window. But honestly, how could you not? If the real capitol looks anything like it does on television, it has to be incredible to see up close!
“We are approaching the entrance!” Kellie smiles. Is she ever not happy? It’s just unnatural.
“Are you ready?” Mari squeezes my hand.
I nod, and squeeze her hand back. I may not actually be ready for this, but maybe it will help Marina feel more secure if I am confident, or if I at least pretend to be.
“Wow,” I breathe in awe. Nothing we see on television compares to the capitol, to this! The buildings are so tall and oddly shaped. Everything is so colorful and artificial, including the people. Many of them stare and point at our train going by, recognizing the District 4 tribute train. Marina and I smile and wave at them. Many start shrieking as they see us waving directly at them, as if they’ve been loved by a celebrity. As if. It’s more like they’ve been loved by two animals being prepared for slaughter.
We are hesitant to get off the train, but we have Mags and Kellie to push us along. “The first thing you do in the capitol is meet your stylists. They will prepare you for you chariot ride through the capitol tonight. Listen, this is very important. Tonight will be the first time the people get to know you, see you, and even start to understand you. Like I said, they will wonder what you are: quitters, wimps, or if you have the potential to be winners. And believe me, where sponsors are concerned, first impressions could not be more important. If you want to survive, then these next two weeks are crucial. You need to make your mark tonight, understood?”
Marina and I both nod, half in fear. Is she always this serious? It will be hard to take direction from Mags if she’s always intimidating us. Plus, having a good mentor is a key factor in surviving the games. Even if I don’t plan on surviving, I need to stick around for Marina. I better get to know Mags better these next few days, for our own sake.
We are escorted through the crowd and into the training center, where we will be staying until the games begin. Once inside the elevator, Kellie presses “4” and we shoot up to the fourth floor. Literally, shoot. I’ve never been in a fast, clear glass elevator like this before. I catch a similar amazement radiating in my sister’s eyes as well. Mags chuckles at our beaming faces. So she does have a sense of humor! My room is across the hall from my sister’s. We are given twenty minutes to get settled until we are to meet our stylists around lunchtime. When I get acclimated to my room, I sneak a chance to talk to Marina about something I’ve been meaning to talk with her about.
“Marina, have you thought about a district token?” I say quietly once she lets me in her room.
“Actually, I forgot all about it. I looks like I’ll be the only tribute without one.”
“Not necessarily,” I say pulling a red velvet pouch no larger than my palm out of my pocket and handing it to her.
“What’s this?” she asks, untying the strings at the top.
“Oh, Troy gave it to me as he left your room in the Justice Building.”
“Yeah he stopped in for a moment, to tell me to give this to you once you were in the capitol.”
“But why didn’t he just- oh!” she stops mid-sentence, once she sees the contents of the bag. I takes me a moment to notice Marina is shaking, and speaking in tiny sobs, “How-could you...give me-this? I shouldn’t…I’m not supposed to...have it until he comes home! That’s what he said, that’s what he promised!”
“What!? What is it?!” I instinctively out my arm around her, trying to shield her from whatever brings her pain.
As Marina stops shaking so violently, she holds up a large ring, definitely a man’s, that would barely fit around her thumb. On top of the band, there’s a clear ball filled with about five drops of what seems to be seawater inside, and the ring is on a chain for her to wear around her neck.
“Oh,” I mumble quietly as I remember the day our father was recruited to work at sea.
“I promise when I come home I’ll bring each of you one of my big rings, filled with different kinds of waters from all my adventures,” he told us that day six years ago by the docks as he prepared to leave.
“How will you get the water in the ring, Daddy?” Marina asked, only a child then.
“It’ll have a magic crystal ball on top, just for you.” He tweaked my sister’s nose.
“There’s a note from Troy in here too,” I point out to Mari, who has calmed down quite a bit.
“Oh,” she wipes her nose, and unfolds the note. It’s clearly Troy’s handwriting, written on a small piece of paper. Marina reads aloud, “Dear Marina, I took one of my father’s rings and made this for you to wear as your district token. The water inside is from the docks by home, so you’ll have a little piece of District 4 with you no matter what. It’s just what your father would have wanted. I’m proud of you, and proud to be your best friend. I can’t wait until you come home. Love, Troy. PS: Thank the jeweler’s shop in town, they helped me too!”
“Yeah,” She sniffles and I can tell she’s still shaken up, and lonely.
“You want to know what my district token is?” I perk up, trying to improve the moment.
“Sure,” says Marina.
“It’s Gwen’s,” I say, digging through my pocket for what I’m looking for. I show her the tiny blue fish earring Gwen gave me one day when I was fishing.
She sat beside me and smiled, “Here,” she said, taking off her earring, “So you’ll always know I have the other half.” That couldn’t have been more than a month ago.
“How are you going to wear this?” Marina asks, interested, “Don’t tell me you are going to try and get your ear pierced!”
“Why not?” I shrug.
“Hah! I bet you’ll cry or pass out when you see that needle anywhere near your earlobe!”
“Not true!” I defend myself.
“Yes it is,” she retorts.
“It is not!”
“I think you know it’s true, Caleb.” Mari crosses her arms.
“I think I know you’re teasing me. You’ll see as soon as my token gets cleared, I’m going to have my stylist pierce my ear for me! And I’ll be fine.”
“Good luck with that,” Marina smirks before shooing me out the door.
I sigh, She always wins these battles.
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