R-i-i-i-p! I grit my teeth as Venia, a woman with aqua hair and gold tattoos above her eyebrows, yanks a strip of Fabric from my leg tearing out the hair beneath it. “Sorry!” she pipes in her silly Capitol accent. “You’re just so hairy!”
Why do these people speak in such a high pitch? Why do their jaws barely open when they talk? Why do the ends of their sentences go up as if they’re asking a question? Odd vowels, clipped words, and always a hiss on the letter s. . . no wonder it’s impossible not to mimic them.
Venia makes what’s supposed to be a sympathetic face. “Good news, though. This is the last one. Ready?” I get a grip on the edges of the table I’m seated on and nod. The final swathe of my leg hair is uprooted in a painful jerk.
I’ve been in the Remake Center for more than three hours and I still haven’t met my stylist. Apparently he has no interest in seeing me until Venia and the other members of my prep team have addressed some obvious problems. This has included scrubbing down my body with a gritty loam that has removed not only dirt but at least three layers of skin, turning my nails into uniform shapes, and primarily, ridding my body of hair. My legs, arms, torso, underarms, and parts of my eyebrows have been stripped of the Muff, leaving me like a plucked bird, ready for roasting. I don’t like it. My skin feels sore and tingling and intensely vulnerable. But I have kept my side of the bargain with Haymitch, and no objection has crossed my lips.
“You’re doing very well,” says some guy named Flavius. He gives his orange corkscrew locks a shake and applies a fresh coat of purple lipstick to his mouth. “If there’s one thing we can’t stand, it’s a whiner. Grease her down!”
Venia and Octavia, a plump woman whose entire body has been dyed a pale shade of pea green, rub me down with a lotion
that first stings but then soothes my raw skin. Then they pull me from the table, removing the thin robe I’ve been allowed to wear off and on. I stand there, completely naked, as the three circle me, wielding tweezers to remove any last bits of hair. I know I should be embarrassed, but they’re so unlike people that I’m no more self-conscious than if a trio of oddly colored birds were pecking around my feet.
The three step back and admire their work. “Excellent! You almost look like a human being now!” says Flavius, and they all laugh.
I force my lips up into a smile to show how grateful I am. “Thank you,” I say sweetly. “We don’t have much cause to look nice in District Twelve.”
This wins them over completely. “Of course, you don’t, you poor darling!” says Octavia clasping her hands together in distress for me.
“But don’t worry,” says Venia. “By the time Cinna is through with you, you’re going to be absolutely gorgeous!”
“We promise! You know, now that we’ve gotten rid of all the hair and filth, you’re not horrible at all!” says Flavius encouragingly. “Let’s call Cinna!”
They dart out of the room. It’s hard to hate my prep team. They’re such total idiots. And yet, in an odd way, I know they’re sincerely trying to help me.
I look at the cold white walls and floor and resist the impulse to retrieve my robe. But this Cinna, my stylist, will surely make me remove it at once. Instead my hands go to my hairdo, the one area of my body my prep team had been told to leave alone. My fingers stroke the silky braids my mother so carefully arranged. My mother.