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I stand still, utterly lost, in the depths of the classroom. The woods were a safe haven in comparison to this place. The stories of how my mother was bullied brutally at school play vividly in my head as I scan the faces of my new classmates. None of them look particularly unkind, but I know that bullies are unpredictable creatures, similar to jabberlizzards, the first crossbreeds created by the new Capitol. One minute, they’re crouched under rocks harmlessly. The next minute, they’re sinking teeth into anyone that might support the old Capitol. I am more afraid than I was when my mother lost her sanity for the second time. Where should I sit? What should I do? My mother, Annie Cresta - Odair, gave me next to no advice about starting school except from warning me that there’s more to butterflies than it seems. Yeah, her mental condition hasn’t improved. It doesn’t anger me like it did when I was younger. But it would have been nice to have some help. What’s especially hard is that I’m starting late. Whilst most children start school at four or five, I’m already ten. Annie wouldn’t let me leave her until now because she’s scared she’ll lose me. That used to annoy me, but I guess it makes sense now. Finnick Odair, my dad, was a rebel against the old Capitol, and was killed by savage mutts. He wouldn’t hurt a fly, but that Capitol murdered him brutally. How could my mother bear to let me go out after that? She would only allow me to come to the District Twelve school because she knows that Rue Mellark lives here and that she’ll look out for me. The school at home in District Seven is full of strangers.
“Class Six, this is Annick Odair.” our teacher, Posy Hawethorne, declares loudly. I realize that I will have to call her Miss. Hawethorne from now on. I smile nervously at her. Some of the other kids in the class laugh nervously. I spot Rue Mellark, one of my best friends, sitting beside an empty seat. She smiles reassuringly.
“Sit with me!” she mouths. Nodding gratefully, I sit down. The rest of the class is still muttering, although I can hear that they’re not talking about me. Interested, I try to hear what normal kids my age talk about. Mostly stuff about fashion or hunting. Shallow, really. I bet none of them hunt to stay alive or wear clothes to protect them from the heart-stopping heat. Not like I do. Not like I have done ever since Annie lost her sanity along with her job. I half-listen as Miss. Hawethorne reads out the names of everyone in the class, and draws a huge bird on the whiteboard. I don’t recognise it, but everyone else stops talking and listens intently.
“Can anyone tell me what the Hunger Games were?” Miss. Hawethorne begins the lesson. Everyone knows, of course, except from me.
“They were... uh... Games!” offers a tiny girl with big brown eyes. The class laughs at that.
“Well done, Haria. I think that deserves a round of applause.” Miss. Hawethorne replies with twinkling eyes. I clap loudly, but then notice that no one else is applauding. It was a joke, I realize. My cheeks burn bright red as everyone else giggles.
“Primrue, do you know?” our teacher looks pointedly at the dark haired girl opposite me. I can tell that she is as clueless as me.
“Who are your parents, Primrue?” Miss. Hawethorne asks.
“Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen.” she replies, confused. A loud chatter breaks out at the mention of Katniss, who is famous for her involvement with the rebels against the old Capitol.
“And you still don’t know about the Hunger Games?” Miss. Hawethorne sounds somewhat shocked.
I don’t get why she’s making such a big deal about Rue’s parents. Posy was never exactly normal but she was completely going off the subject.
“What about you, Annick? Who were your parents?” she turns to me.
“Finnick Odair and Annie Cresta-Odair, madam.” I reply.
“And you, Gallia?”she turns to a huge redheaded girl.
“Enobaria Huwitz and Jatus Huwitz, madam.”
“Harnah?” she speaks to a girl with midnight-black hair tied back tidily from her honey-coloured skin.
“I don’t know. Rebels.” she answers quietly. Miss. Hawethorne gives an exasperated snort.
“So many died and yet you don’t know? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you know. Your parents were murderers.”