“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight. Again!”
On the count of her dance teacher, she twirled, jumped, landed and pose gracefully, over and over again.
“Very good Joules!” her teacher exclaimed as she clapped her hands. “One more time and we’re done for today.”
Joules did the sequence once more and as she posed she smiled widely, before breaking into a squel.
“I can’t believe I’ve gotten it! Do you think I have a chance at winning?” Joules asked her dance teacher excitedly.
“I don’t see why not.”
“Mother would be so proud,” Joules said to herself.
“Yes, your mother would have been so proud,” her dance teacher replied before pointing to the door, where her father stood.
“Thank you Ms. Carly. I’ll see you on Saturday!” Joules said as she jogged towards her father.
“Come prepared. And good luck with the reaping! You better not be chosen now,” Ms. Carly said jokingly as she waved goodbye.
As Joules followed her father to the car, she expressed her day’s accomplishments excitedly. While her father merely smiled and patted her on her should.
“Mother would be proud, so very proud, don’t you think?” Joules asked as they entered the car and made their way home.
“Yes, she would be.”
“Did you take the weekend off for my performance?”
“Of course I did,” her father said as he kept his eyes on the road.
“Great! I can’t believe I have finally mastered mother’s routine. Now I can show it to the world!” Joules was still pumping with excitement, that she did not even worry about the reaping that would take place the next day.
Being that Joules grew up in a wealthy home, where her father co-owned the biggest electric company in the district, she never had to put in her name in for tessarae, and every year, during the reaping, she never once thought she would be chosen.
This year was no different. To her, the reaping was just another boring day where she had to assemble in front of the justice building while they chose the poorer children who never really had a life to begin with. You could say she was a pretty spoiled brat, especially after the death of her mother, as her father began showering gifts just to please her.
But it was strange that this year, her father had been acting rather uptight and jumpy when the reaping came up in discussion. Joules had the urge to ask, but she decided not to upset her father any further, until she heard him over the phone that very same night.
“I’ll have the money, just leave her out of it!” her father whispered harshly over the phone.
Leaning closer to the gap in the office door, Joules strained her ears, hoping she could catch what the person on the other line was saying.
“I SAID I would have the money by tomorrow! I’ll give it to you after the reaping!” her father continued.
Peeking through the gap, Joules watched as her father started pacing up and down the mahogany themed office.
“Don’t threaten me. You know I only have one daughter, she’s all I have left.”
At the sound of her involvement, Joules immediately burst into the office, staring at her father who looked shock at her presence.
“What is going on father?” Joules quickly asked.
“I’ll call you back,” her father said on the phone before hanging up.
“Who was that?” Joules continued.
“That was,” he hesitated.
“Is everything alright?”
“Joules, we are in trouble,” her father simply replied.
“What kind of trouble?”
“Money troubles with the capitol.” Her father looked away in embarrassment, trying to keep his composure as he continued in a whisper, “I have failed you Joules. I have failed your mother. Now they’re going to take everything from us, they even threatened to take you!”
Her father was shaking and Joules quickly helped him onto the velvet sofa before he collapsed.
“They can’t take me from you,” Joules said, hoping it would comfort him.
“They can. They say if I don’t give them their money, they are going to put you into this year’s hunger games.”
“What? They can’t do that? How much do you owe them?” Joules tried to hide the panic in her voice. She had never trained for the hunger games her entire life, and she knew she wouldn’t survive one day in the games.
“A lot of money,” her father replied as he buried his face in his hands.
“But you told them you have the money right? Father, I can’t go into the hunger games, I won’t survive! All I know how to do is dance. Father, you…” her voice trailed off when she saw the look on her father’s face as he looked up at her.
He was at a dead end. There was no more hope in his eyes. They were finished.
“We can run away,” her father suddenly spoke urgently, as he stood up and grabbed her by the wrist. “We can leave and they won’t find us!”
“What? No! They will kill us both if they find us! There’s no way we can outrun them,” Joules said as she tugged her father back into reality.
As he finally turned to face her, he fell on his knees and wept. Embracing him in a hug, Joules didn’t know what to do. Through his desperate cry, her father apologized, “I’m so sorry Foxie, I’m so sorry.”
It looks like she wouldn’t be performing on Saturday after all, nor would she ever dance her mother’s unperformed routine. She was going to have to take this one for her father. And maybe, just maybe, they might not read her name tomorrow, during the reaping.
But if they did, she knew she was a smart one, after all, she always thought herself to be as sly as her father and as sneaky as her mother. They did not nickname her Foxie for no reason.