Spending the last two months scouting the woods with Taryn, away from the commotion of the railway, had been very good for Mel. So much had happened to her in the past year that she hadn’t ever really had time to process it, and the once lively girl had transformed into a timid shadow of her former self. It had started with her little brother’s death in last years’ games, yes, but she had slowly been returning to her former self before she’d joined the railway. Mel had thought it would help, but a year away from her family under the constant fear of being discovered and killed had only served to drive the old Mel even farther away, to a place where the blonde couldn’t even find her anymore.
But being out in the woods had given Mel a lot of time to think, and she’d decided that she was okay with the change. Because if she hadn’t changed, she would just be back in District 11, working away in the orchards and constantly aware of the empty space where her brother should have been. Now, she was doing something. She was fighting against the people who had killed not only her brother, but countless other children, and she was done being a scared little girl. So what if she was the youngest railway recruit? So what if she even looked younger than her actual age? If anything, that was an advantage, yes? Who would suspect a cute, innocent fourteen year old of being a member of the rebel railway?
Yes, Mel was slowly becoming more confident. It would take a while, she was sure, to fight off all her fear, but at least now she was making a conscious effort to try, and that was what mattered. So when the train stopped outside of District 5 and Mel was not given an assignment (she needed to rest, apparently), she decided to take matters into her own hands and slipped out of sight and into the District. What she was looking for, she had no idea, she just knew she couldn’t stand to sit around for one more day.
Unfortunately, upon finally sneaking her way into the town square, Mel immediately regretted this decision. Because there, in the center of the town just as it was in District 11, was a large screen. And playing on that screen, was the 16th Annual Hunger Games. In her time away, Mel had managed to push the Games far from her mind and nearly forgotten that this years’ had already begun. She stared at the screen, transfixed, an expression of shock and horror on her face as her mind was transported back to this time last year, watching her baby brother get killed by an arrow. She might have stood there forever had something else on the screen not caught her attention. Wasn’t that - ? Mel gasped. Yes, yes, that was the boy from District 7! The one she’d run from the peacekeepers with. And now he was in the Games. A slow feeling a dread spread through her body as the realization sunk in. Sure, she'd barely met the boy, but it still stung, seeing someone she knew in the games. He'd been nice, she thought, and now he would either kill or be killed - or both. And she hadn't even seen the two tributes from her own district yet - what if she saw one of her friends? One of her sisters, even?
The thought was too horrible to consider, so instead she focused on another problem at hand: The fact that she’d just gasped at a boy from a district that was not the one she was currently in, when nothing particularly exciting had just happened. Oops. The blonde quickly clapped a hand over her mouth and glanced around her, hoping against hope that no one in the square had noticed her reaction.