Chapter 26: Cole
The entire crowd gasp in shock at Stella's outfit. The most unorthodox interview attire I have ever seen is an emerald jumpsuit. But this makes it that look like an elegant ball gown. Some of the audience cheer while others murmur disapprovingly. Michie smiles as she gets her close up in the stylists section. She looks a bit uneasy, realising that this rebellious move will be seen as either bold and brave or a slap in the face of tradition, depending on how the next three minutes play out. I wring my hands with anticipation.
"Wow! This is very different, Stella!" Caesar exclaims as she sits down.
"Well, I figured since the interviews are about showing everyone who you are you should wear something that's like you. I'm not exactly elegant or pretty but I'm different, like this outfit," she says, trying to sound confident but her words waver as she analyses each one, nervous they'll twist themselves into something else.
"Oh, how are you different?" Caesar asks, sounding intrigued. She thinks for a second.
"I never was into all that girly stuff, and I'm not afraid of getting dirty or playing dangerously, which I guess is a good thing for this." She smiles as the crowd laugh around me.
"That explains how you got that massive ten! What skills do you have?"
"I'm not going to lie; I can't handle swords or axes . . . not that that's much news." She says, gesturing to her small body, receiving another swarm of laughter from the crowd. "But I have quite a few little skills which I think more than make up for it."
"Such as . . . " Caesar prompts.
"You'll find out soon enough," She laughs, trying to sound fiece.
"Of course we will! Now, I'm afraid I can't let you go without answering a few questions on one of your mentors, Cole Livingstone . . ." We both tense up, dreading where this is going. "We all know that he's the father of your district partner. Is that a bit awkward?"
"Umm . . . no, not really. Jed hasn't been given any special treatment. He's helped us both equally while we were being mentored together," she answers frowning slightly, but not sounding at all angry or bitter like she has around me these last couple of days. But I don't blame her; I feel the same way about myself when I think about what I did.
"Why did you suddenly ask to be trained separately?" Caesar asks. I have to stop myself from jumping up and begging her not answer that question truthfully. If these people find out she's the niece of my long forgotten district partner it'll be all anyone will talk about, it'll be all anyone will think about, whenever the district 7 tributes are mentioned. She glances at me; I can tell she feels tempted to disgrace me in front of the entire nation, after all as far as she's concerned I deserve it. But then she turns to Jed who shakes his head, sensing what she's about to do.
"Well . . . since the private sessions and interviews are more individual we all thought it would be easier to mentor us separately." She says, shrugging, I hear Cassia make a little disapproving noise at this gesture next to me, I just breathe a sigh of relief.
"You're certainly an individual, Stella and I'm sure you'll be very interesting to watch!" Caesar declares as the buzzer goes off. "Ladies and gentleman, Stella Grimshaw!" He shouts, barely heard above the cheers of the crowd. It's one of the biggest reactions of the night. I clap with them, grinning at Torey who also applauds and gives her an approving nod as she looks her way. Caesar holds her hand up as the cheers escalate, she wears a smile that shows her relief it's all over.
But as she takes her seat with the other tributes, my happiness for her freezes and churns into nerves. How can Jed possibly follow that? We struggled to come with an interview angle for him. When we tried fierce he was too nice, when we tried funny his jokes were half-baked, and the Games have been going on too long for him to get away with clichés like "I'll fight to win." In the end, we went for humble yet strong, the only one he could do to any avail.
"Now, this time exactly 24 years ago his father was sitting in that chair!" Caesar points to the chair next to him. A camera swivels round to meet my face; I smile nervously down the lens before waving it back to the stage. "Now he's going to literally follow in his footsteps. Please welcome Jedrek Livingstone!" There's a massive uproar as Jed shuffles onto the stage, this is one of the tributes they've all been waiting for, the boy with his father as a mentor. The anxious look in his eyes matches the one he had when Erin and I dropped him off for his day at school. But this time he can't cling onto her skirts and scream that he wants to go home, he has to swallow his nerves and smile for the camera.
"Looks like Stella isn't the only fashion rebel tonight," Caesar remarks as he sits down, pointing out his leather jacket.
"Yeah, it makes a nice change to the dinner jacket, but I'm not as bold as her. She really pulled it off, didn't she?" He asks the crowd, hoping their yells of agreement will build his confidence. He always hated being the centre of attention.
"She certainly did. But enough about her, we want to hear about you!" Caesar laughs. "What did Fuchsia mean about you being able to confirm her sword skills, Jeddie?" He says, raising an eyebrow with a mischievous grin.
"Oh, nothing I just saw her train at the sword station. And please call me Jed." He squirms in his seat.
"Hmm, are you sure you merely observed her talents?" Caesar’s eyebrow goes up even more.
"Yes!" He almost snaps, silently pleading for a change of subject as his cheeks redden.
"Okay, we'll take your word for it." Caesar winks at the crowd. I hear Cashmere cackle with pleasure at Jed's discomfort. I glare at her; she wasn't kidding when she said she would make life difficult for us. "So, is it true you got no special treatment?"
"Absolutely. I admit I've had a better start than most people, and I'll always be very grateful for that, but it doesn't make me better than anyone else and I'll never use it as an advantage," he says instantly with a rehashed answer. But he means every word and you can see that.
"No of course it doesn't! However having your own father mentor you must have its perks."
"Well, he already knew some of my skills, which I guessed saved me telling him them." He gives a little smile as the audience laugh.
"They must be pretty good skills to get you a nine, still not as good as your old man though!" The audience are in hysterics as the camera turns to me again. This time I just tell them to focus on him, not wanting a single second of his time to be wasted.
"I'm only one point short and remember he was a year older me at the time," Jed giggles.
"Ah yes, age makes all the difference. I bet old Mags from District 4 will get a twelve easily now!" Caesar jokes, adding to their laughter. "How much are you like your father?" Jed has to think about this one, as do I.
"People say I look a lot like he did at my age . . ."
"Oh you do! When you came up here I thought I'd travelled back time!"
"Yes. I've also been told that I act like him too," my son continues, his fingers fidgeting like mine do when I'm struggling to think of something to say. "But I'm not him, I'm me. Some people fail to see that." His voice has an edge of bitterness to it, remembering all the times he's been pushed into my shadow. Anger flares within me. Even now his interview has been mainly about me, or that meddling Fuchsia. There's been hardly anything about him and him alone!
"Couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m sure we’ll all see that in the Games. What's your strategy?"
"Well . . . my strategy is try to survive. If that means I have to kill I'll do it, but only if I have to. I just hope that whatever happens I'll be brave and make Mum and Dad proud," He says, staring straight into the camera, just as I did when I swore I'd die protecting Nina. I feel a small lump form in my throat at his words as the buzzer goes off. “You most certainly will, ladies and Gentlemen, Jedrek Livingstone!” The camera flashes make his dark green eyes sparkle, like his mothers in the early morning sun. He finds me in the crowd and we exchange an elated smile. They’re not chanting my name, they’re chanting his. This is his moment, the first time he’s stood alone. I’m so happy for him but I can’t help but feel a tug in my chest as I realise he’s not child anymore, he’s going into the arena a young, honourable man.
He doesn’t need to worry about making me proud because he already has.
Last edited by TheFoxFacedOne
on Mon Apr 09, 2012 7:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.