Reaping Day was just another day for Aero Reeves. He didn’t have to go break his back in the fields, but that didn’t mean the day was any easier on him. The blistering sun still hung heavy over the sweaty and exhausted bodies that packed tightly into the square. The dread of deadly possibility still clung onto each and every worker like a sticky sap running down their backs. It was still an inescapable hell that everyone had to endure. To the Reeves family, there was no difference.
Aero’s day had started like all the others. He turned onto his side and opened his eyes, the harsh smell of mama’s cooking filling his nostrils. The familiar sensation was what woke him up every morning. Like his own personal alarm clock. She didn’t really know how to cook good, but if she didn’t do it, nobody else would. And the smell didn’t bother him, it was a welcome comfort to always wake up knowing his Mama was always right there. He rolled his groggy body from the stiff and uncomfortable cot he called a bed and yawned, stretching his bulky arms high above his head.
April and North would be soundly sleeping on the floor near his feet, but he wouldn’t wake them like he usually would at this hour. Not today. Because today wasn’t about them, it was about Aero. And it was no secret that Aero was Mama’s favorite. And every year on this morning of all mornings, he and his mother would sit down to a breakfast all by themselves. Even though Aero only had two more reapings until he was safe, there was always a dread to be had in his mother's heart. And she would rather die than not do everything in her power to try and make sure she didn’t waste a moment she had with her son. So much of his time was taken up by working. She just wanted a few minutes to just sit with him.
He heavily drops himself onto a stool adjacent to his mother. He smiles as he looks down at the radish soup she’s poured her effort into. “Smells great, Mama” he pulls the bowl up to his lips, sipping at the warm concoction. The broth was bland, and the radish were undercooked, but Aero could taste how much she’d tried for him. That was enough in this world. He sets the bowl down, wiping the liquid from his scraggly chin. She doesn’t say a thing, doesn’t eat a thing, just sits, watching him. He frowns, picking up a crusty roll from the table and taking a big bite. “I know you’s upset Mama, I’ve got a lot of tesserae…” he trails off, looking to North and April. “But you need it, I ain’t enough for all of us. I’ll always take enough as they’ll give me”
She shakes her head at him. “I know boy...you’ve grown up so much...your father would be so proud of you” she murmurs, a tear slipping down her cheek. “No, Mama, now don’t you be crying!” Aero hurriedly stands up, kneeling by her side and taking her leathery hand. “I’m sorry...I jus can’t help it...I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you” she blubbers. “Shh...don’t cry mama...it’s all alright” he gently squeezes her hand. He couldn’t bare to see the strongest woman he’d ever known crying. It broke his heart. “I love you Aero. Don’t you ever forget that...promise me that.” she begs, tightly clasping onto his hand with both of hers. She spoke as if he had already been chosen. It scared him. But he couldn’t be scared in front of her. He couldn’t let her down like that. “I promise, cross my heart...I love you Mama” he hugs her tightly. For the first time in his life, he’d lost his appetite.
The reaping could have been considered boring. It really was. But nobody paid it any attention. The escort was ridiculously colorful and out of place like every year, but people only glared. The video was tedious and complete lies like every year, but was met with only blank stares. Tradition calls for the timely wailing of babies, as if they had a clue what lie in store for their older siblings. The whimpering and sobbing of terrified children was thunderous as the escort pulled a girl's name from the first bowl. Aero paid no attention to the name called. His thoughts were preoccupied with the imagery of his sisters standing there instead of with his mother, huddled together, shaking with terror as their doey eyes watch the pale hand pull the name of the dead. He couldn’t bare to think of such a thing and yet, there it was. Frozen in his conscious.
The caw of a bird draws his attention away from the dramatic entrance of the District 11 female tribute. His eyes narrow as he looks up to spot the fluttering cluster of black feathers. A murder of crows sat perched on the ledge of the Justice Building. ”Mama said the crows mean bad things acomin...are they?” His foolishly imagined immunity starts to break down as with widened eyes, he watches the escort pull a name from the boys bowl. No...No...no! His hands clench together, growing sweaty with the passing moments. The name is called, he watches her lips move perfectly to form the one name he thought he would never have to hear. Aero Reeves
He shuts his eyes tightly in defeat, head hung in shame. His mother’s heart wrenching cries from the pens behind tear his heart in half. But miraculously, his feet begin to move forwards. He lifts his head, holding it high, defiantly, eyes trained on the spot the expect him to stand. His mouth is twisted into a rigid frown. He refuses to show any fear or tears, just for her. He won’t go into that arena a terrified coward, he couldn’t do that to his mama. His mind was blank except for the one purpose in not dropping his strength. He plants his feet firmly on the stage, turning out to face the audience with determined eyes.
He refused to let his family die. Nothing could stop him from getting home