”Mateo, get your ass in here right now!” his mother screamed as she tried to balance twins in both of her hands and open the door.
Mateo Kryish was a capitolite who was born into a family who praised the games for their constant ingenuity and beauty. Over the years, they would gather around the TV and simply fawn over the games as they went on. A tradition as old as time, seeing as when his parents were children they had done the same thing with their families.
It was just a normalcy that Mati grew up with. He did not question it, because at the end of the day, to question his family was to question to capitol, and the last thing that he wanted to do was piss off the wrong people.
Mati was a quiet child, and most of this had to do with the fact that he had a hard time learning how to speak. People said it was because he was shy, but Mati knew that wasn’t the case. He just didn’t feel the need to open his mouth when his parents pretty much decided most things for him. Most of the time he just needed to show up to things, even as a young child he was expected to always behave himself even when he wasn’t in his parents presence. They cared about appearances after all, and all press that wasn’t good press was bad to them.
He eventually grew out of his lack of speech problems, slowly articulating incomplete sentences to his parents as they took him around the capitol. Every year they would go to watch the new batch of tributes enter into the capitol. Mati could only remember glimpse of these days, mostly because he was young, but also because his parents went absolutely nuts over each tribute that came out of the train. Mati was always affixed on his fathers head so he could get the best view of each of them. Some years Mati got so overwhelmed that he ended up crying at the top of his lungs, which caused his father to put him down and scold him for acting such a way in public. Mati learned quickly that when it came to the games, his parents loved them more than they loved him. A truth that would stick with him for years and years to come.
School was never a bother for Mati, well, the academic part. Learning how to talk to other children and even adults was the difficulty. He tried his hardest to fit in with the students around him, even offering to help them with specific assignments. Mati was a people pleaser, trying his hardest to win the approval of others because he did not want to disappoint them as well. It was enough that his family thought he wasn’t as important as the games, a disappointment that he grew used too after the first couple of games had passed.
He was a lonely boy for the most part. He wanted the world but he could not find it because no one would give him a chance to search for it. His parents wanted him taught certain skills as he was enrolled in school. Most of it was rudimentary, but some things that stuck out to Mati was things like, how to sew, or stitch a piece of fabric. Interior design and the history of furniture and all the different types that existed over the years. When most kids were learning about the inner workings of the games, Mati was out and about looking a different fabrics to use for his homework assignments instead. In the capitol, trades were taught early after all, and that’s when Mati learned that those trades were often dictated by the parents of the children, because they were the ones paying for the education. The parents wanted the most out of their money.
Mati though didn’t mind it too much, because being able to make things with his hands was better then having to worry about killing teenagers on the daily. He sort of fell in love with the idea of being able to become a stylist. If there was one thing that he did enjoy watching during the pre-games, it was the parade, because he loved to see what the people working with the tributes would come up with. So when he would go home from school for the day, he would try to recreate and innovate past designs that other stylists had put forth. Of course, he couldn’t do this in public, because if the stylists got word that he was innovating their ideas, then he surely would have been thrown in the slammer.
You never copied a stylist in the capitol, it was always bad news.
At least that was what he was told by his mother.
You see, his mother had a bit of trouble before, her love of the games was always so passionate, and her mother had also aspired her to be the best new stylist of her generation. However, back then they didn’t know that innovating was something that most stylists would take such offense too. At first it was harmless, an inspired look here, a piece of fabric that was cut a very similar way there, but nothing that would be noticed by the masses as a truly copied look. That was until Mati’s mom was in line to take over another stylist’s position due to retirement. They had her put on a show, a collection of her own would be shown, and she would have to prove that she deserved the position over every other capitol hopeful that wanted a piece of the glory that would be shared if a tribute from their district won.
And it all went well at first, each look was different from the rest, but then a simple blue dress came down the runway and everyone had begun to chant a past tributes name to the model. Something that Mati’s mom was horrified to hear. She rushed the girl off stage, ripping the dress off of her and trying to hide the evidence, but it was too late. The damage was done.
The past stylists decided not to fully confront his mother, but her name was decently tarnished throughout the community. There would never be a chance for her to aspire to her own dreams, which is why she pushed Mati into that direction.
His twin sisters were a whole other story, but they all got along for the most part. His father took an interest in them, trying to push them to learn something useful to support the games. One of his sisters took to the complexities of designing arenas, while the other simply wanted to be a writer. They all walked down different paths, but each one was supported by their parents as long as they did something related to the games.
Mati had met a boy while he was learning everything about being a stylist. This boy was someone that he thought was interesting to say the least, mostly because his words were never simple. Each time he spoke, they dripped with double meanings that Mati couldn’t really keep up with.
Simplicity was always Mati’s best friend, and as much as he wanted to understand the boys complicated riddles, he chose to just nod and smile, because that was always going to be easier than trying to wrap his brain around that didn’t have to do with what material would match the dress he was making.
But that didn’t stop the boy from trying to spend time with Mati, and truth be told, he didn’t mind it as well. There was something poetic about an artist and his muse, something that Mati didn’t quite fully understand. They didn’t spend too much time in public because people in the capitol would have gotten the wrong idea, or at least, that is what Mati thought. He enjoyed the complicated nature of their relationship, something about it being hidden was more than enough for him to keep coming back to him. After all, complicated things were just better to Mati, even though his presentation was always something simple. He didn’t question himself about it, like most people would have.
However, Mati began to realize that his lovers mouth ran a little too much, and sometimes he would get into verbal altercations that didn’t need to transpire. The more it happened the worse it got, and sometimes Mati needed to get involved, which made it even worse because he didn’t want to be involved in messes that he didn’t need to be. But that didn’t stop Mati from trying to clean them up. A fate that his parents asked him not to be a part of because it could affect his future. Love blinded him though, or at least what he called love. It broke him down to his bare bones, and he simply accepted it for what it was. That is what he told himself every time it happened, and the boy he fancied simply thanked him for staying by his side.
Until one day he disappeared and Mati didn’t have a choice but to move on, simply because that is what his parents willed him to do. That didn’t stop him from vowing to find out where he went though. His heart would say one thing while his body did others, and that was just the way he ran.
A fate that he accepted.
He began to rise in prominence as he continued to create garments that made everyone turn an eye. His suits were always well tailored, and his dresses were simple, but elegant in execution. Most of the time he had his sisters wear the dresses because it would have looked asinine for him to be walking around in a dress. At least with his build. When people asked him who made what he was wearing, he would simply smile and state himself. To which most people were impressed because they all thought they had seen it all. His parents had owned a clothing store that they hadn’t checked in on for a while, mostly because it ran itself every year as long as they stocked the most recent essentials with pictures of the victor on it.
However, they saw an opportunity to capitalize on Mati’s talents as well as give him the push that he needed in order to make a bid for a stylist position once it became available. He did not refuse, because Mati’s secondary goal was always to find out what happened to the boy he lost. He thought that maybe if he gained more popularity, he would come out of the woodwork to find him. So he started to create clothing that were each one of a kind, but never to the standards of what a victor or a tribute should be held too. He called them casual wear, and it blew up around the capitol. People flocked to his parents shop to get what he put into stock. Most people could tell when his restock days were because Mati hated to see the store so bare each week when he came in.
It did put a smile on his face though to see people so excited to see what he could do. His name was in a lot of mouths now, and when a stylist position opened up, he was certain that he would have a chance to take it out from under someone’s feet. A dream of his would come true, and he could begin to focus on other things while trying to innovate the way the capitol saw tributes in a whole new way.
His rise in popularity also helped his family become more prominent in the capitol, most of them being invited to greater, more lavish events as the years went on. Most of the time they were just guests, but sometimes Mati was picked to have a private audience with some of the more elite members of the capitol, most of the time to just chat and maybe even draw up a couple commissions. He never questioned it, he just did as he was told because he knew that it would be a stepping stone in the right direction. The endgame was near, and Mati couldn’t wait to say checkmate.
After the 79th Hunger Games, Mati had heard rumors about a couple stylist’s stepping down form the position to retire. At least, that is what his intel told him. And at first, Mati had jumped at the idea of being asked to take the position, but then he realized that he needed to earn it, as the capitol always had to uphold its traditions. After all, that is how it worked during the hunger games.
So he spent months working on dresses and suits of all different varieties. He made sure that each one had their own type of spark and flare to them, tailoring them to each district to make them unique in their own right. He spent hours, with the help of his mother, on each outfit, scraping them immediately if he was not impressed with how they came out. His mothers hands did not work as fast as his, but they were useful when it came to making sure that they were copying others that they have seen before. If an idea seemed too similar, even down to just one singular detail, his mother would work to change it while Mati sewed and put the pieces together.
When he had his work ready to show, he decided to put on a fashion show the celebrate the pieces of work that he brought to life, and nothing brought him more joy then watching people go absolutely nuts over his creations. He knew that he had come a long way, and for people to respect and laud his work for what it was made him absolutely gleeful.
And then he was offered a position. The male stylist from District 10 had decided that retiring was the best option for them after losing yet another tribute to the games that they were hopeful of bring home. Mati had accepted the position, even though he knew it would be hard for him to acclimate to a district that was so low on the pole. In recent years, the tributes from ten had been putting up more and more of a fight, which excited Mati because his chances of bringing home a winner on his first go increased exponentially.
His first games was sort of a whirlwind, everything seemed to kind of blow up in his face, a snafu there, a blemish there, but the work that he created and put forth to the capitol was nothing short of amazing, at least in his eyes. After meeting the tributes, he followed them up to the apartment’s where a familiar face had made himself known as soon as Mati walked in. Mati took a deep breath as he tried to ignore his emotions, realizing that the boy that he had fallen in love with all those years ago had been in the capitol this whole time, in the district ten apartments.
However, Mati knew that he could not act on anything in front of the tributes and the capitol. There were camera’s everywhere after all, and Mati couldn’t risk suffering a fate just like him. Years passed between them, but Mati did still care about him. He left notes around the apartment for the Avox to find and reply too, knowing that discretion was going to be important from here on out between them.
He found out that he had been punished for getting into an argument with one of the presidents higher officials, something that Mati hadn’t been around for because he was too busy working on various outfits to get his name out there. The day he found this out, Mati didn’t leave his room, which was lucky for him because it was a day where a stylist was not needed to make an appearance. His heart broke for the boy who he once loved, but that’s when he realized that maybe it was time to let him go as well.
Mati wrote him constant letters, telling him about everything that happened between then and now, and how and why he got here, and the boy wrote him responses about how excited he was to see him again and how he wanted to pick things back up where they had left off. However, Mati knew better. He knew that nothing could come of what they once were, because if someone were to catch them then Mati could also suffer the same fate. He wrote this all in a note, along with a very descriptive message detailing him not to write him again. He was dead set on not communicating with him ever again, for the sake of his future as a stylist. However, he couldn’t bring himself to leave that letter for him to find, so instead he burned it in the fireplace that was at the center of the apartment.
Instead he wrote a different letter, asking his old love for more time to think about things, leaving it in the usual place for him to find. As the day passed, he found his letter and opened, with a simple Okay scrawled over the words that were written by Mati. Mati took a deep breath and looked at him and simply smiled, wanting to thank him for understanding but knowing that doing so would put them both in danger.
So instead he looked out the window of the apartments, grabbing all the letters that they had exchanged with each other.
After a small nod to the avox, Mati threw them all in the fire, signifying a better chance for both of them to live.