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.
Lila took a deep and steadying breath as someone appeared in the tree line surrounding the clearing. It was a female brunette, which told her absolutely zip other than it wasn’t a Wakefield.
The figure started running towards her, waving wildly.
Oh, Ellen then. Lois wouldn’t do anything that would slow her down while crossing the open, and no-one else in the arena would wave to her. Ellen was the only one who didn’t realise what was going on. She probably thought there was going to be a party or something.
Lila hopped down from the roof. It would probably be kindest to offer Ellen a berry. She didn’t know what was going on, and it would be less brutal than killing a friend. Nobody else would fall for it, but it would be one less person for Lois to deal with.
“Lila!” Ellen called as she reached her. “Is it someone’s birthday?”
Lila thought quickly. “I think it might be the owner of the games. They sent me some fruit, are you hungry?”
Lila held out the berries but Ellen didn’t take them.
“Are they blueberries? Because Mom says not to eat them because they make my tongue blue and it’s not ladylike,” Ellen said.
Lila shook her head and affected her most snooty air. “No, Ellen. They’re imported from Sweden, so they don’t stain your mouth. They’re very exclusive.”
Ellen frowned. “Is Sweden a real place?”
“Yes, it’s in Europe.”
Ellen’s eyes lit up. “They must be very expensive then.” She reached for a berry.
They both turned in the direction of the new voice, and Ellen stepped in front of Lila. Something whizzed towards them from the trees.
Ellen said, “Raven!” in a very surprised tone, and then it smacked her in the face. Ellen fell to the ground, screaming. Lila felt sick as she realised that a baseball, heavily modified with nails poking through it, and it had socked Ellen straight in the face. The nails were digging in Ellen’s left eye and cheek.
There was another scream, and Belinda came flying out of the trees. “You killed her, you stupid, spoiled brat!”
Belinda rushed at Lila and knocked her to the ground and wrapped her hands around Lila’s throat. Lila dropped the knife and berries on impact. She grabbed Belinda’s hands and tried to pry them free. “No!” she gasped. “You…”
“You were going to hurt her!” Belinda screamed.
Lila flailed and kicked out, but she couldn’t free her throat. She gasped for air, but there was none. Her vision clouded and her ears started to ring.
This is it, she thought. This is how I die. How utterly stupid. Her stupid idea for coming up with the Hunger Games, her stupid idea to pitch it to her father who never made any attempt to take care of her, her stupid idea to be kind to Ellen, when she could have just taken the berries and let everyone take care of themselves.
Lila’s eyes rolled back in their sockets, as she choked a final time.
Suddenly there was a colossal crack and the pressure on her throat lifted.
Lila gasped and wheezed, suddenly able to breathe. She pulled in great lungfuls of air and coughed them back out. She heard a cannon boom above them, and for a second she wasn’t sure whether she was alive or dead.
When she caught her breath, she looked up to see Lois smiling down at her, hockey stick in hand. To her side, Belinda lay, completely unmoving, a trickle of blood flowed from her ear, and part of her skull was caved in.
Beyond her, Ellen was whimpering and muttering nonsense. Blood oozed from her face. Lila felt a pang of regret – Belinda and Ellen were nice enough, and they’d probably had a bond like Lila and Lois. If things had been reversed, she would have killed either of them for trying to hurt Lois.
“Are you ok, Lila?” she asked.
Lila tried to say, “About time you showed up!” but was only able to croak at her.
A light binking noise alerted them to the arrival of another parachute gift. It contained several bottles of water. Lois handed one to Lila. “Your sponsor strikes again. Do you know who it is?”
Lila nodded, but wasn’t able to answer.
“You should sip that slowly,” Lois said.
Lila did as she was told. The water was very soothing on her burning throat, but it made her cough. She spent a few more minutes quietly sitting and sipping before she felt able to talk. Her body was tingling, and she couldn’t stop shaking.
She noticed that Lois had some kind of metal gun slung across her chest on a leather strap. “New weapon?”
“Oh this? Yes. I don’t know who sent it or who it was for, but I found it in the trees, completely unused.”
“What does it do?”
“It’s a flame-thrower. I’m going to flambé the twins,” Lois said.
Ellen let out another moan of pain. Lois frowned and moved to her side and gestured that Lila join her.
“Ellen, it’s ok. Lila’s here,” Lois said. She then pointed to Ellen’s hand and gave Lila a kind of raised-eyebrows nod thing. It took a moment or two to realise that she wanted Lila to take Ellen’s hand. The Unicorns weren’t really that kind of friendly, but she quickly realised that Lois wouldn’t understand a friendship based purely on wanting to be around attractive people.
Lila took Ellen’s hand. “Ellen, it’s Lila. I know you’re in pain, I’m sorry.”
“Is Belinda ok?” Ellen whimpered. “She’s my friend, she’s been taking care of me.”
Even though Ellen’s eyes were covered by a vicious baseball and blood, Lila moved between Ellen and Belinda’s body. “Yeah, she’s ok. She thought you and I were arguing.”
“It hurts, I want my Mom,” Ellen said.
“I know it hurts, Ellen.” Lois moved to Ellen’s head and held her hockey stick aloft. “It’s going to stop hurting real soon, I just want you to think of kittens and rainbows for a minute, it will help with the pain, ok?”
“I like kittens and rainbows,” Ellen said.
Lois brought down her hockey stick sharply and Ellen said no more.
A cannon boomed and Lila turned away to hide her tears. She herself had said that she’d wanted to stab Ellen, but the friendship between Belinda and Ellen had… touched her, weird as that was. Of all the people in the arena, she hoped those two were ok, wherever people went when they died.
Lois put a hand on Lila’s shoulder. “It’s just the twins now, Li, we’re nearly out.”
Lila let out a sob, which she quickly tried to cover with a cough.
“You called me ‘Li’,” Lila said. She hoped viewers would think that her voice was all squeaky because she’d just been choked, and not because she was crying.
“I’m sorry, Lila. God forbid a fatty give you a nickname.”
“I like it! We’re friends, aren’t we?” Lila burst out. “Because for years I’ve secretly been friends with Melissa McCormick – she’s poor, and she’s a terrible shopper, but she’s kind and funny.”
Lois crossed her arms and gave Lila a look that was part exasperation and part… fondness? “You really do say the worst things.” She paused for a moment, then added, “Li.”
“And you! You’re fat, and this uniform is really not flattering, and could your glasses be any bigger? Are you trying to hide your face or something?”
Lois tapped a finger on her arm. “I’m assuming this is going somewhere?”
“But you’re – pretty! Not in a Sandra Ferris makeover way, but in a way that is so much better.”
“You’re trying to say you like me?” Lois guessed. “That despite my wobbly bottom, you see value in me?”
“I’m saying that I see so much value, I haven’t thought about your wobbly bottom for days!”
Lois let out a snort. “You are really bad at talking about feelings. But to use your way of talking, you’re awful, you say things without even knowing they’re offensive, you have the stupidest ideas ever – next time you come up with something like the Hunger Games, run it past a smart kid, ok? – and you think being pretty and wealthy–”
“Fabulously wealthy,” Lila corrected.
“Yes that, you think that makes everything ok. You’re terrible. But I like you anyway.”
Lila sniffed and slid her bag off her back. She pulled out the slightly mushed box of remaining berries, the others were in the dirt beside her, and while she was ready to die, she wasn’t going to eat dirty berries. “I think we should take these,” Lila said. “I don’t want to fight the twins. You know that a Wakefield always wins. It’s just how these things go. At least we get to choose that they don’t kill us.”
Lois sat down beside Lila. “They’re the berries from the movie? They’ll kill us instantly. Where did you even get them?”
“My sponsor,” Lila said.
Lois shook her head. “We can’t. I don’t know what your sponsor is playing at, but that’s not the way. I’m not choosing to die. I’m going to kill the Wakefields. You said so yourself, one of them always wins, and they never have to make an effort – remember that lie Jessica told about being related to a football player, and it turned out to be true? Typical Wakefields. I can’t live in a universe where they always get their own way. I am going to destroy those blonde twigs!”
Lila wiped her eyes. “Ok, good, but even if you do that, only one person can win.”
“So I’m going to take these, to make sure it’s you.” She was sure her voice would shake, but it came out firm and decisive. She straightened up and nodded, proud that she had finally committed to her decision.
“Lila, don’t. Maybe once we kill the twins, we can break out or something?” Lois offered.
“I really want you to win, Lois. You deserve it.” Lila gazed at the dark little berries, and took a deep breath.
“Please don’t!” Lois said.
“Burn those blonde brats!” Lila said.
Lila suddenly found herself in Lois’ arms. “Oh, a hug!” she said. “Melissa taught me about them. They’re nice.” It was awkward because they were both sitting, but it was comforting. Lila decided that if she ever got the chance to live again, she would be friends with more people who hugged. Maybe have parents more like Melissa’s dad who didn’t earn as much, but was around for dinner almost every night. She’d be nicer to fat kids and poor kids and nerds, because they were better than the pretty elitist sociopaths she had befriended in this life.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Lois asked. Her voice was all tight and squeaky, as if she’d been strangled too.
Lila really didn’t want to die. “Yes, I’m sure.”
Lois moved behind her, so Lila could lean against her. Lila took a berry between her thumb and forefinger. Her hands shook. Lois’ arms around her were comforting, and she tried to move the berry closer to her lips.
“Close your eyes, Li,” Lois said.
Lila did. She placed her free hand on Lois’ arm and tried to breathe deeply and calmly.
“Now, imagine yourself on a beach somewhere…”
“Not a beach, the tidal wave is still too fresh in my mind,” Lila said.
She felt Lois nod. “Ok, where do you want to be?”
“Maybe high in the mountains, in a ski lodge, looking at the snow – no, wait, poor Winston!” Lila searched her brain for places that were soothing, but nothing came. She didn’t want to be at home, because that’s where her father was going to live long after she died. She didn’t want to be by a pool, because of the water. She didn’t want to be anywhere in Europe, because that’s where she’d seen that stupid movie that had given her the “brilliant” idea to start this up.
“It’s ok, Lila, you’re at my house,” Lois said. “We’re sitting in my room, listening to Johnny Buck’s Buck: Naked album. You’re telling me the latest gossip from school, and I’m rolling my eyes because you’re being awful, just like normal.”
“Is Melissa McCormick there?” Lila asked.
“Yes, she is.”
“Oh, so it’s a Unicorn meeting?” Lila said. She couldn’t believe she’d forgotten to tell Lois something so important.
“Yes, I killed Janet and made myself president, you’re vice-president, and we’re changing the rules on who can join.”
“Ok.” Lois started again. “So we’re in my room – which doesn’t have a single purple thing in it, you know–”
“Yes it does. I bought you a purple unicorn ornament for your birthday. You hate it, but you put up with it,” Lila corrected.
“I do. It’s on my desk, and you’re looking at it and smiling, because you know how much I hate it. And the three of us are just talking about our plans for the weekend – we can’t agree, because you want to go to the mall, I want to go bike riding, and Melissa wants to go roller skating. And all the while we’re arguing, we’re eating these expensive sweets that you’ve brought with you – imported from Europe, no doubt. They’re a little bitter, but we still like them.” Lois’ voice caught, and she had to take a moment before she could go on. “And you reach into the box and take one, and you put it in your mouth…”
Lila did so, picturing herself laughing with Lois and Melissa, sure that she was going to get her way over what they did that weekend. After all, they couldn’t roller skate or go bike riding if Lila had neither, they’d have to go to the mall first…
She bit into the berry, and in the distance she heard thunder.
Well, that settled it, no bike riding at least.
No, wait, that was a cannon.