your boy's been having panic attacks. can't blame him. the past few years have been brutal for the children.
I need air.
My hands slithered to my throat. Fingers shook, released - the pencil clattered from my grasp. The sound seemed to shake Damé from her trance, and immediately with a jerk of her head, she looked up towards the back of the class. Towards me. My gaze was a panic button. A panic button I would have pressed a thousand times over.
Air! I need air, now!
"Kaito-" she started, and then I shot to my feet. They shot me curious looks, no doubt, showing the same old mercy on me for my remarkable face. If it had been any other they would have been mutinous, accusing. Their visages morphed into laughing demons. You're next. I raced for the door.
In the distance, Damé shouting my name. A thousand times over. "Kaito!"
your boy is so handsome. if we weren't living in 6, i daresay he would have been a star.
My sister clung to my arm. Her fingers are numbingly cold against my skin. I tried to shake her off. A whine slipped past her lips, and I stopped, resigned. Dad's friends are so big and so shrewd, you could see the gears of their brilliant minds whirring behind their eyes. Dad is important. I would suppose so, him being a scientist and all. I narrowed my eyes, memorising their faces, painting them in the hallways of the academy. Damé wasn't here.
"Shame if they get selected, won't it?" The shortest of them all, yet with the pointiest mustache to perhaps make up for it, jerked his chin in my direction. I took it with a flawless poker face. "Those faces of theirs would be ruined in the pit."
The pit. I took that to mean, literally or figuratively, the games, the contest, the slaughter-fest, the honour. The Hunger Games. Dad growled something unintelligible. I didn't stop to listen. You're next. My heart was beginning to flutter against my ribs, and in a display of exceptional self-control I exhaled, took my sister by the hand, and turned as if to lead her away. The agitated pulse stuttered. I willed it to slow.
Niina tugged at my sleeve. "Kai, where are we going?"
Where was I going?
I gave her the simplest answer I could find. One that would, hopefully, alleviate the gripping fear that now always crosses her eyes. "Home."
We locked gazes. And I could tell, by some strange whim, she wasn't convinced.
your boy is growing up too much like his father. aren't you scared? of him? for him?
She called it a game. The number of my confessions to hers. She kept them all proudly in a softly patterned book with delicate sprigs of flowers along the edge. I kept nothing. Asked for nothing.
Hirano Niina was an exquisite thing, still is. She is younger than I am by less than a year, but for all she acts you would have thought she could be miles older. Cold afternoons, jackets snug over our shoulders, we would sit on the doorstep and bicker as was characteristic of siblings. Her hair sweeping her face like a raven's wing, she would recount every confession received in the past week with vivid detail, her eyes so alive. I would watch her more than I truly listened. She was a compelling storyteller. Prone to exaggeration.
Dad would have left his diagrams on the table and I would pore over them in the lamplight. I was always more interested than she. Good with my hands. Niina had always been more fantastical, whimsical... imaginative. All the things I was not.
All the things that were dangerous to the Capitol.
Maybe that's why they would have taken her, too.
A typical afternoon for us was shattered by a sudden bang of a door down the street like a cannon blast. I scrambled, beating Niina to the window, and watched as they pulled a man from his house, kicking and screaming bloody murder. He screamed so loud, I felt the sound right down in my bones. And there was something else there too - I only realised afterwards, when his shrieks had ceased in one fell swoop and we released a collective breath, that it was my sister. Shivering against me.
I could sense the makings of another attack coming on, but I was gripping the sill with a vehemence I hadn't known I possessed.
Her voice jolted me from my wicked reverie. "Let's go."
Later, at dinner, Dad told us to be careful.
Careful, is relative. Careful is keeping your mouth shut and your expression serene, your actions dutiful. Mindless. Careful is also ensuring my sister teeters her imagination to her flowerbooks, to the number of boys she's kissed, and how many children she's going to have in the future. Careful is safe.
My sister isn't careful.
When Dad received an inquiry at work about his wild daughter, he gave her an earful she would never forget. I huddled at the foot of the stairs and watched through wide eyes and long lashes as she cried and wept and lamented that Panem was unfair. If there was anything I learned through lessons in propaganda at the academy, it is that Panem is always fair. To say otherwise, is- "Treason!" I shouted, surprising even myself. Their heads whipped towards me. "Shut up, Niina. You'll get killed for this kind of talk. Just shut up and take it!"
She wouldn't talk to me for days following. I guess I understood.
Did I understand?
It did not matter. Niina would learn. She would learn to survive.
The odds of survival - I had calculated - were fifty-fifty. Fifty to ducking your head low. Fifty to letting slip your errant tongue. That margin only widened as we grew, roughening the pads of our fingers on rubbers, pens, paper, taught to grow and nourish and let our intellectual district six minds thrive, all under the helping hand of the Capitol.
When Mom fell ill, Niina pledged to be a medic to save her and so many others. The teachers said she was a fine student. I don't know. Student, or aspiring rebel? It was hard to tell with someone like her, sometimes, so spontaneous and tenacious, her head in clouds I couldn't reach.
I would have sworn if she had asked, to be her sentinel and voice of reason right down to the day we died. Withered away like countless others to build the foundation of the Capitol's grand legacy. Nothing I make, nothing I sketch across yellowed paper in thin, flowing ink would ever be large enough to fill this horizon, but it would have to be enough for us. Always for us.
well first of all "angsty but also memey" is a decent encapsulation of this website, so I'd say that's a solid start in and of itself--
--but more to the point, this bio is lovely writing, and in particular a fantastic exploration of how growing up in Panem has affected not only Kaito but also Niina. I love how complex and detailed their relationship is ("She wouldn't talk to me for days following. I guess I understood. Did I understand? It did not matter[...] She would learn to survive." oof), along with Kaito's motivations and feelings.
here's to for now lasting as long as it can, in District Six.