Their applause is scattered, polite, and mixed with pity. She is small, she is fourteen, her eyes are big and her lashes are long and they think that they are sending another child off to die.
She wants to prove them wrong, but she isn’t sure that she can, yet.
She needs a strategy, and she barely hears the boy being called. She’s strong and she’s feisty, and fire runs alongside the blood in her veins.
She’s ushered backstage, and she thinks that she would like to win, but she isn’t sure that she can, yet.
Her dad grips her shoulders, and he doesn’t cry. She doesn’t either, but neither of them speak. They watch each other, silent.
He pulls her into a tight, brief hug, and murmurs things that she pretends not to hear into her shoulder.
She’d like to correct the name they call, but she remembers her dads’ warnings, and she stays silent, lips pressed together like her life depends on it.
The token that she will bring into the arena is a gear- small and silver, and well-cleaned. The sunlight glints off of it, cupped in her sweaty palm.
They gave it to her and she could see her reflection if she tilted it just right, but she doesn’t.
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