Title: Jessica vs Elizabeth
“Oh, Lizzie, isn’t it romantic?” Jessica squealed.
Elizabeth gaped at her twin. “They’re expecting us to kill each other.”
“Yes, but we get new clothes and we’re paired with a boy!”
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
Notes: I am going to post this, unbeta’d as it gets written for NaNoWriMo2017. I will post a clean, edited (hopefully coherent) version when it is finished, but if you want to see the raw, error-laden process of my word-vomit, here it is.
Elizabeth looked up from the mangled corpse of Ken Matthews. He hadn’t been an easy kill. He and Todd had started running in the same direction, then split up. Elizabeth had realised that Todd had longer legs than her, so had chosen Ken as her victim.
Ken had darted around the trees, and to be honest, she had nearly lost him at one point, but then he had tripped and fallen down a slope, and she had pounced.
She was going to take a trophy, and she was kicking herself for not thinking of it earlier. After a moment’s deliberation, she decided to take a finger. Perhaps she could collect one from every kill, and wear them as a necklace.
Taking a finger off was a lot harder than it looked, she realised, after about ten minutes of ineffectually hacking with a knife. Next time, maybe she’d do something simple, like hair, or –
Elizabeth stopped sawing at his finger and instead turned her attention to his name sewn onto his uniform.
She looked around for a camera, but couldn’t find one, they were all hidden away within the arena. She settled on looking dead ahead as she announced, “In a few days, I’ll have one of these for everyone.”
Ellen and Belinda huddled together in the falling dark. They had managed to find some thicker trees to hide in. At one point they thought they heard a group hiking past, but they had stayed silent and still until they could no longer hear movement in the trees.
Belinda was worried. The cannon hadn’t fired for several hours now, and she remembered what Mr Patman had said: if they didn’t kill each other, the arena would start killing them. She and Ellen had done nothing of interest.
And now they were cold, hungry and thirsty, and it was getting dark.
“Look! A fairy!” Ellen exclaimed.
Belinda clapped her hand over Ellen’s mouth, before she could say anything else at such volume, but looked where Ellen was pointing. There was a wispy sliver thing in the sky with a slow-blinking pin-sized light. It was making a light “bink” noise periodically.
Ellen knocked Belinda’s hand away. “We should wish on it!”
“Ellen, it’s not a fairy, it’s even better than that. It’s a gift from a sponsor.” Belinda got to her feet to catch the parachute. Under the parachute was a small metal cylinder with the initials “B. L.” on the lid. “It’s for me,” she told Ellen. “Any guesses what’s in there?”
“I hope it’s the Johnny Buck album,” Ellen said. “It was so cool meeting him. I wish I hadn’t forgotten we were supposed to kill people though.”
Belinda twisted open the lid and tipped out the contents. Very grudgingly a… baseball of some kind rolled out. It had been modified heavily though, with nine inch nails driven through it. It looked like the head of a mace.
“Oh! A Koosh ball! I love those. I have six at home. My favourite is called Alfred. He’s purple,” Ellen said. “Can I hold it? What are you going to name him?”
Belinda handed over the ball and the box it had arrived in. “Be careful, it’s not a Koosh ball, Ellen, it’s a gift from my dad. He’s sent me a weapon – it’s a message that he wants me to win. And that he still loves me, whether I’m boyish or girlish! Isn’t it wonderful?”
“I think it’s an angry Koosh,” Ellen decided. “Who’s Raven?”
“Raven?” Belinda shrugged. “I don’t know, why?”
“Because there’s a note. It says ‘Keep slinging, slugger! – Raven’.”
Belinda felt hot tears prick her eyes. “It’s not from my dad then?”
Ellen stroked the weapon gently, so as not to hurt herself. “We should call it Raven.” She held it up for Belinda to see. “It looks like a Raven, right?”
Belinda felt the crushing disappointment harden and solidify into a seething resentment, mixed with a dollop of hatred. Her parents didn’t think to support her, but a random viewer somewhere in Sweet Valley had cared more than her own parents. She had a strong urge to hurt people. A strong urge to win. And to go home. And to show her parents that she was fantastic, with or without their support.
“We’re heading back to the cornucopia,” she decided.
“And call me Billie.”
Lila couldn’t sit still, the urge to pee was overwhelming. This was exactly what she dreaded happening.
For the moment, Lois and Winston had decided that they were safe. They had walked for hours up a hill. At first, she had done her best not to look too dishevelled, then she had tried not to complain, then she had focussed on not panting too hard. By the end of the day her only priority was not falling on her face.
Being outpaced by a fat girl and a nerd was embarrassing.
Once the hill had become steep – around the same time they’d all switched over to calling it a mountain – they had tried their best to keep to a rock face. Lois had cheerfully announced that if there was a wall behind their backs, they were less likely to get a knife in the back.
Once they had reached a height that Winston and Lois had both agreed on, Lila had sat down, only to be pulled to her feet once more by Lois. They spent the next hour searching for somewhere “safe” to settle.
Amazingly enough they had found a gap in the rock face that they could fit into. It wasn’t big enough to be called a cave (it wasn’t even as big as Lila’s closet), but the three of them could all sit in there without much overlap.
Much. Lila couldn’t sit still, and she could tell that Lois had noticed her fidgeting. After a few minutes, Lois said, “It’s ok, Lila. I’m sorry if I scared you. Most people won’t climb up this high, you probably won’t get a knife in the back.”
The bladder situation was getting painful, and Lila couldn’t help but blurt out, “I really need to pee!” She felt oddly close to tears at that admission. Winston and Lois had already pee’d – with an annoying lack of embarrassment.
Winston’s face and ears turned red. “So go.”
“I can’t. I can’t pee on TV!” Lila jiggled, but she was now at the point where even that hurt.
“You’re going to have to at some point,” Winston said. “What’s the big deal? We all have to.”
“The big deal,” Lois said, “is that Lila is a pretty girl. Everyone at school and at home, even Lila herself, judges Lila on how pretty she is. Pretty girls don’t pee. Not even behind locked doors.”
Lila wasn’t sure if Lois was laughing at her or not, and was in too much pain to get into it.
“What’s that?” Winston said, suddenly pointing at the sky.
On its way down to them was a large bundle attached to a silver parachute.
“Sponsorship. I bet it’s for me,” Lila said. Then she realised she probably couldn’t get up without putting pressure on her bladder. “You can open it, Lois.”
Lois got to her feet and fetched the bundle. It looked a lot larger and heavier than the gifts had been in the movie. Lois detached the package from the parachute and held the items aloft for them both to see.
In the dying light, it looked as if someone had sent them a bucket and a shower curtain.
“It’s a gift for you,” Lois said.
“But what is it?” Lila asked.
“Someone sent you a bathroom, Lila.”
“You probably don’t know this, Jessica, but your dad, like, changed my life.”
Jessica made a disinterested sound. Ever since she had saved Bruce, he had been following her like a puppy, and telling her how much he had changed. And while the compliments he occasionally threw her way were nice enough, it was kind of… weird. Like that brief time when Rick Hunter had been sickeningly romantic to her. In movies, this kind of thing made her melt. In real life, it was just plain embarrassing.
“You see, when Elizabeth and I were together for the marriage project, I didn’t realise that you could be a real man and a family man at the same time. Then your dad told me how he works hard all day, and then comes home to spend quality time with his kids.”
“He does?” Jessica asked. She thought about it for a moment. “Well, I suppose he taught us ithig.”
“And he taught me about the kind of man I want to be,” Bruce continued.
“Someone who practices a hundred and thirty-seven different types of law, and occasionally gets accused of cheating on his wife by his kids?” Jessica asked.
“The kind of husband I want to be,” Bruce clarified. “I can be just like him. I can work all day, and then come home to my wife and kids and a hot meal, and give advice and help with homework–”
“I don’t really remember my dad ever helping with my homework,” Jessica said. “Actually, the one thing that really sticks in my mind is when he told Elizabeth and me not to bother him with our complaints about our teachers – even if the teacher was a massive sexist jerk.”
“And I think your dad would give me permission, so Jessica, will you be my wife?”
Jessica stopped walking and goggled at Bruce. He couldn’t possibly be serious, could he? They were only twelve. And only one of them was getting out of the arena alive, so why was he even asking? Still… he was Bruce Patman – he was the cutest boy in the seventh grade and fabulously wealthy to boot. The Unicorns would be so jealous if she got engaged – she would be the first Unicorn to get engaged, and Bruce was so rich that the ring would be exquisite. But he’d be dead.
… but she would be his fiancée. Maybe she would be entitled to some of his wealth.
“Yeah,” she said. “Ok.”
“Great!” Bruce raised his face upward and stretched his arms out. “Ok, so we’re engaged! Can we get out of here now?”
“What are you doing?” Jessica hissed. “And lower your voice, we don’t want the others to know where we are!”
Bruce pointed at the sky in confusion. “That’s how it works, isn’t it? If we’re in love, we can leave, just like the movie?”
Jessica sighed and shook her head. “No, Bruce. Everyone else has to be dead, then you get to leave.”
“So we have to outlive everyone else and still get engaged before we get out of here?” Bruce asked.
Jessica opened her mouth to correct him, then realised it was much safer for her if Bruce didn’t understand the rules. “Yeah, that’s how it goes.”
“Man, that sucks.”
Jessica started walking again.
To keep herself occupied, she started planning her wedding.
With her bladder emptied, Lila felt much better. She also discovered her sponsor had sent over toothbrushes, toothpaste and mouthwash for all three of them. Actually, the three toothbrushes were in a single pack with a large red “SALE” sticker on them.
Lila’s heart plummeted. She suddenly remembered something very important about Melissa: she was poor. And she was good at being poor. When she had been Lila’s “poverty advisor”, she had insisted that Lila only buy what she needed, and only if it was on sale.
Lila had the nasty feeling that Melissa was still shopping by those rules, despite having access to a credit card you could buy a small country with.
“Gosh,” she said to Lois. “I hope my sponsor is going to be more generous in the future. They should remember that they’re not on a tight budget.”
Lois rolled her eyes. “What if they are? What if someone spent all they had sending you those things? Don’t be a snob, Lila.”
Lila felt her pre-Hunger Games self claw her way to the surface. “Oh, please! Anyone who sponsors me knows what they’re getting into, and needs to up their game. They should send over some food and drinks next, since we’re starving!”
“No, that’s what it said on the note enclosed with your gifts. ‘Don’t be a snob, Lila,’” Lois said with a grin.
Lila glared at her, and Lois didn’t even look bothered. It made Lila rather miss the days when an imperious glare from her would send Lois skittering away in fear. Without the pressure on her bladder, Lila was now very aware of her other discomforts – she hadn’t eaten all day, she had walked for most of it, except for when she was nearly being murdered by a savage version of Elizabeth Wakefield, there was nothing to eat or drink and her feet were killing her.
Moments later, another parachute made its way to them. Lila reached for it, but it sailed right past her to Lois. “Sorry, Lila, it’s for me.”
“What is it?” Winston asked. “A sink for our bathroom? Or maybe a living room, maybe a TV? We could watch ourselves watching ourselves.”
Lila fought a smile on that one.
“The note says it’s from someone called Ro$ey. She used a dollar sign for the S in her name,” Lois said. She stuck the note in her pocket, then opened the package. “Score!” she exclaimed. “Thank you, Ro$ey!”
Winston elbowed Lila. “It’s a TV.”
“Better,” Lois said. “It’s dinner. From DeSalvio’s. For all three of us.”
The three of them settled down in their cave with dinner and watched the sky for death announcements.
“And as Day 1 of the Hunger Games draws to a close, six people are dead – four of which are down to Elizabeth Wakefield, one to her sister, and the other to pure idiocy. I think it’s very clear that Elizabeth has an obvious advantage in the games,” Beau Dillon said cheerfully.
“If she doesn’t starve to death,” Johnny Buck replied. “Of everyone in the arena, only Lois and her team have food and water.” He coughed and straightened up. “I have no idea who sponsored her, but what a sensible person they are! Elizabeth hasn’t had any sponsors yet, has she?”
“No, but Belinda–”
“–Layton has received a weapon as a gift.”
“All but Elizabeth have broken off into small groups, and Billie may be hindered by her choice in partner – Ellen Riteman – but she does have the skills to do something amazing,” Johnny said.
“So, that’s it for tonight’s coverage of the Hunger Games, join us tomorrow, bright and early for Day 2!” Beau finished.