Author's Note: Hi all my lovely (and patient) readers! I'm finally back with chapter 18. It took much longer than I expected to get my computer fixed and I'm deeply sorry for the wait. Thankfully I had the time to finish writing the chapter by hand while I was without my laptop and this chapter is SUPER long. By super long, I mean it's the length of about 3 chapters combined!
Thank you so much Sparkleduck3, Divergentrebelfourtris, isamags2, emtyler0, music lover from district 2, Taniurceus-day, PurpleKittyFangirl, houseofme, Odestalovebaby, and Karategirl537 for reviewing. You guys have gotten me to 91 reviews, which means only 9 more until I reach 100! You have no idea how much this means to me. When I do reach 100 reviews I will have a surprise for all of my readers and an even bigger one for the 100th reviewer. So stay tuned! :)
I'm also very grateful towards Divergentrebelfourtris, Lock on Lockon, Paeppel, aLLymarieChan and Braided for following/favoriting. I really appreciate it! Sorry if I missed anyone and please let me know if I did!
An extra special thank you goes out to PurpleKittyFangirl for all her wonderful help with the arena! I love you! :)
DISCLAIMER: Most of the characters in this story belong to the amazing Susanne Collins, not me.
As soon as Caesar announces Annie's name my heart starts racing. She was so anxious earlier; I just hope that everything goes okay. I know she is capable of doing an amazing job, so long as she doesn't let her nerves get in the way.
I wipe my sweaty hands on my stiff grey suit as I wait for Annie to appear on the stage. She doesn't, though, even after Caesar calls her name a second time. My stomach churns as I try to think of what could be preventing her from starting her interview.
"Where is that girl," Reef mutters from beside me and Mags grabs my hand in hers. I furrow my eyebrows, listening to the confused chatter going on around me.
"Come on, Annie," I mumble under my breath, willing that she step out on the stage.
A few long seconds later, I get my wish. Annie stumbles out, looking sickly pale and scared. Despite the worried look on her face, she looks absolutely breathtaking and I find myself gasping in awe. Her soft auburn hair frames her face in loose curls and her sea-green eyes look stunning accentuated by a lovely green dress. The delicate white rose in her hair, creates the exact image we were going for.
"You did great," I whisper to Reef and the young lady smiles at me in thanks. Fortunately, she doesn't seem to remember how I reacted during the tribute parade, or maybe she just forgives me. Either way I'm glad she no longer appears angry.
"Welcome Annie. Please, take a seat," Caesar says, greeting Annie. She just stares at his out-stretched hand, her beautiful eyes wide in fear. I start to panic, trying to think of a way to help her.
"Go Annie!" I call, trying to get her attention. All heads snap to face me, but I keep my green eyes fixed on the beautiful tribute on the stage. She finds me in the crowd, a pleading look in her eyes and I nod encouragingly.
"I believe in you," I mouth silently, relieved when her lips turn into a small smile. She takes a deep shaky breath and perches on the edge of the red chair.
"Hello Caesar," she greets the announcer, only a slight shake in her voice. She wrings her hands in the lap of her green dress, but other than that she doesn't appear nervous at all.
"Now, tell me Annie, was that Finnick Odair we heard calling your name?" Caesar asks, leaning in as though they are sharing a secret.
"Yes, that was Finnick," Annie says, laughing slightly. "He's…something." The audience chuckles and Caesar pats her hand. I smirk at the cameras that are surely pointed my way.
"Oh, he is something all right," he exclaims, laughing loudly. The audience roars along with him and Annie smiles.
"On a more serious note," the announcer says, quieting the noisy crowd. "We all noticed that you fell when your escort reaped your name. What was going through your mind?" Annie blushes at the question, most likely remembering her fall. I'm furious at Caesar for asking her this, for she was doing so well. Thankfully, besides her flushing face, Annie appears unfazed.
"Well, honestly, I was scared. But I'm not scared anymore," Annie replies.
"You're not scared anymore? Do you believe you have a chance at winning the games?" he asks and I let out a breath I didn't realize I was even holding. Annie and I went over this question earlier this morning.
"I really do," she starts, tucking an auburn curl behind her ear. "Most people would think being small is a disadvantage, but really I think it will help me in the long run. I'm able to climb trees, run, and swim faster than a lot of people. Back home in District 4 I used to help my father fish. Every day I would drag to shore a net full of fish, so I'm not lacking strength either. I even know how to use a spear."
"Well no wonder you aren't scared anymore. You sound like you're prepared for what's in store in the arena!" Caesar says. "Now, you mentioned District 4. What do you miss most about your home district?"
"The ocean," Annie answers, sighing quietly. "It is one of the most beautiful things I ever saw. Sunset is when it's at its prettiest. I used to sit on the shore each night, just staring at the way the sun reflected off it, causing it to shimmer." I smile at her description, remembering how I used to do the same before my games. I haven't just sat and watched the ocean in what feels like forever, though. It wouldn't be enjoying anymore, for whenever I leave my house I'm always bombarded by squealing girls and adoring fans. Not long after I arrived home from the games, I got tired of all the fame and I refused to leave my house unless it was necessary.
"I'll have to visit it sometime. It sounds gorgeous!" Caesar says, his voice ringing throughout the room. "I have one more question before you leave. What's going on between you and your mentor?" Caesar wiggles his eyebrows at Annie and she blushes.
"What are you talking about?" She asks and I'm wondering the same thing.
"Oh, come on now! Don't play like that! We all saw how he carried you off the train. Tell me, how do you feel about Finnick Odair?" Caesar questions, laughing loudly. Annie's face flushes an even deeper color of red and I wince. I really can't have anyone figuring out how I feel for her, for President Snow would surely make sure she dies in the arena. As far as Panem knows, I'm devoted to my Capitol lovers and Snow is determined to keep it that way.
"Um…" Annie starts, searching for my face in the crowd. She looks panicked, like she has no idea how to answer the question. Her sea-green eyes meet mine and I wink playfully, causing her to giggle.
"Finnick Odair one of the most caring, kind, and funniest people I have ever met. We have become great friends and I really wouldn't be able to make it through this experience without him. I really appreciate how much time he has spent helping me these past few days. I can't express how much it really means to me," Annie says earnestly, holding my gaze the entire time. She smiles softly and I smile back, my heart fluttering. No one has ever said anything of that sort about me before; it's nice to have at least someone consider me as something more than a vain sex symbol.
My eyes sting with tears, but I quickly blink them away. I'm sure the cameras must be pointed my way and no one would ever let me hear the end of it if I actually cried on TV.
I plaster my trademark cocky smirk on my face instead, to cover up my emotions and wink at the cameras. Mags squeezes my hand from beside me and I know she knows how much Annie's words really mean to me.
"Well, it sounds to me like something is going on between you and your mentor," Caesar exclaims, winking at the crowd. They don't seem too happy about his assumption and Annie must notice this, for she quickly backtracks.
"No, no! Don't worry, you ladies still have Finnick all to yourselves," Annie says, looking into the audience. They actually cheer and I resist the urge to roll my eyes. "Finnick and I are solely friends. He only carried me off the train that time because I had broken my ankle and couldn't walk. Besides, I'm not looking forward to a relationship before the games! I'm focusing all my time on practicing and preparing." I breathe a sigh of relief at Annie's words. She turned the conversation around perfectly; it was very smart of her to mention her devotion to the games as an end to the interview.
"I'm sure you are, Annie, I'm sure you are," Ceaser says, standing up. He reaches out his hand to Annie and pulls her up alongside him. "District 4, Annie Cresta!" The audience cheers and claps as she blows a few kisses to the crowd.
As soon as she steps off stage, I run to meet her. I'm so relieved of how the interview went. Despite her nervousness at the beginning, she really did an amazing job.
As soon as I step of the stage, I feel as though I can finally breathe. I flop on a nearby chair, gulping air. Never before have I been in front of such a large crowd and my heart still races from the experience.
"Annie," someone cries, running into the room backstage. Heads snap in the direction of the voice, only to see Finnick, his eyes sparkling with excitement.
As soon as he sees the many tributes and mentors looking his way, he plasters on a smirk, winking to Ribbon. She smiles back seductively, waving a manicured hand in the air, and I roll my sea-green eyes.
"You did such a great job! I'm so proud of you, Angelfish," Finnick whispers, leaning in so only I can hear him.
"Only thanks to you. I would have probably fainted if you weren't there to encourage me," I admit, smiling up at him. I know that it's the truth.
When my name was first called, Kye had to literally drag me to the stage. I was so anxious and nervous that I could barely stand up straight. It was only seeing Finn in the crowd that calmed me down. I pretended that we were back in my bedroom, locked safely behind closed doors; I pretended that it was him asking me the questions.
Finnick just shakes his head, his blonde curls tumbling across his forehead.
"No, you didn't need me. You're so much stronger than you think you are," Finnick says, sitting down in the chair beside me. Our shoulders bump and I shudder at the tingling feeling that spreads through my arm.
"Thank you," I mutter, deciding not to argue. I know that no matter how much I try to convince Finnick that this fact isn't true, he would never give in.
"No, Annie, thank you," Finnick says and I'm surprised by the earnestness coated in his warm voice. I look up at him, surprised, and he tucks a piece of long auburn hair behind my ear.
"For what?" I ask quietly, hoping that Finnick doesn't know how shaky my voice is.
"What you said about me up there, well, it really means a lot. No one has ever called me caring or kind before," he says. I look up at him, searching his beautiful eyes. My breath catches as I see them sparkling with unshed tears.
"I meant every single word," I whisper, grabbing his hand in mine. He stares back at me and leans closer, so I can feel his breathe tickling my nose. I close my eyes, sure he's going to kiss me, but suddenly we hear snickering coming from the other side of the room.
Finnick jumps up quickly, practically knocking over the plastic chair and he runs his hand through his hair. I turn to see one of the tributes from District 5 looking at us in amusement.
"Anyway, Annie, I'm going back to watch Kye's interview. Emmalina will be back to get you guys as soon as the interviews are over," Finnick says, trying to cover up our intimate moment. I nod, feeling a blush creeping up my pale cheeks.
"Oh and one more thing," he says leaning down, to whisper in my ear. "I am something, aren't I?" He winks and I blush harder, watching him walk out of the room.
That night at supper, everyone is quiet, most likely lost in their own thoughts. I know I am.
Tonight is my last night of freedom; my last night before the games start. Tomorrow everything will be different; my whole life will change. No more rich Capitol meals, no more sitting on the shore watching the ocean, and no more late night talks with Finnick. After tonight, my days will consist of fighting for my life and savaging for the tiniest sip of water.
"So, Annie and Kye, your interviews went great," Emmalina says as an attempt to start conversation, but even she is lacking her usual optimism. I know that even our oblivious escort knows better than to assume Kye and I will make it out of these games. As much as I try to pretend I have a chance, as much as I recite all the information I know, there is just no way that a poor weak girl from District 4 will win the games. It's practically impossible!
"You should eat something," Finnick says gently from where he is sitting beside me. I shake my head, feeling sick to my stomach. As much as I know that I should take advantage of all this food before I enter the games, I don't know how I would be able to keep anything down. Even the smell of the warm bread and rich lamb stew makes me feel queasy.
"I…I can't," I insist, taking a sip of my cool glass of water instead. Even that is extra hard to swallow.
"Please, Annie," Finnick pleads, pushing my plate full of food towards me. I wrinkle my nose and turn away from the sight, swallowing hard. As much as I want to eat for him, I just can't bring myself to do it.
Finnick sighs and returns to picking at his salad. Even he, who could eat a truck full of tuna melts, is having trouble consuming what's on his plate.
"May I be excused?" Kye asks from across from me. I'm impressed to see that he has managed to clear his plate. The little boy is stronger than I could ever be.
Emmalina nods and Kye stands up from the table, his chair scrapping noisily on the hard floor.
"I'm done too," I say, ignoring Finnick's concerned gaze. I quickly hurry after Kye, following him to his bedroom.
I knock on the door, hesitantly, afraid that maybe the young tribute doesn't want to be bothered. I want to talk to him before the games, though, and I feel as though now is my only chance.
After the interviews we had a late supper and it must be almost time to say goodbye to Emmalina and our mentors. After that we will only be permitted to see our stylists, as they will accompany us on the hovercraft to the arena.
The thought of saying goodbye to Finnick, causes my green eyes to cloud up with tears. I don't want to leave him, my only friend since my parent's death last year.
The door opens slowly and I blink the tears away, facing Kye.
"Do you mind if I come in?" I ask, relieved when he nods. He leads me to his bed and I settle down beside him, scanning his bedroom. I'm surprised at how neat it is, much neater than my own. He really is a great kid and it pains me to think of how his life will turn upside-down tomorrow.
We sit in silence for a moment, unsure of what to say. I know that nothing I will say will make him feel any better, for this situation could never be improved, but I just want to let him know that I'm there for him. I want him to know that I'm on his team.
Before I have a chance to do so, Kye speaks up.
"Are you nervous, Annie?" he asks quietly, looking down in his lap. I consider how I should answer this, but I finally I decide that I should just be honest.
"Extremely," I sigh. "Are you?" Kye nods, looking ashamed, and I rest a hand on his arm.
"Look, Kye, it's okay to be afraid. Actually I'd be pretty shocked if you weren't. I just want you to know that I'll be with you every step of the way in that arena, okay?" Kye nods again and I hug him, feeling the young boy relax into my embrace.
"Thanks, Annie. You better win," he says and I'm shocked by his words.
"No, Kye! You need to try to win. Don't give up!" I protest.
"I don't have a chance. But you do, Annie. I know you don't think it, but you're strong. You can beat all those tributes, even the Careers," Kye insists and my heart breaks at his words. How can he think I'm strong?
"Kye…," I start, but he quickly interrupts, holding up a small hand.
"Don't argue. Even Mags said so," he says, shaking his head so his white-blonde hair falls into his blue eyes. I'm sure my jaw must drop open and I'm lost for words.
"Mags told you that you don't have a chance?" I asked, my voice incredulous. I can't believe such a sweet old lady would diminish Kye's hopes like that!
"No, I mean she said you were strong. She told me that I should stick with you, because you would be able to help me," Kye explained, but I was still shocked. How could Mags be so oblivious to think that I would be able to help Kye. I will hardly be able to survive on my own; I'm not strong!
"Do mind that we are joining the Careers?" I ask, deciding not to argue. I don't want to disappoint Kye or make him even more afraid by telling him I'm hopeless. It wouldn't do any good.
"I think it's the best thing for us," he replies slowly and I nod, agreeing. As much as I may not like being a part of the Career pact, it's my best chance at mine and Kye's survival. I have to stick with them, especially now that I know Kye is relying on me.
"I think so, too," I sigh, but I'm interrupted by a brisk knock on the door.
"Kye? Annie?" Emmalina asks, sticking her head through the door. We both turn to face her, taking in her watery eyes and sad expression. I know what her words will be before she even says them. "I'm afraid it's time to say goodbye. Please come join Mags, Finnick, and I in the seating room."
I nod and follow our escort to the seating room, Kye trailing behind me.
As soon as I reach the room, Mags walks up and envelops me in a bone-crushing hug, I can feel tears springing to my eyes.
"You stick with Kye, okay?" she instructs, and I nod, hugging her back. "I know you can do this, Annie. Just believe in yourself." I nod again, not trusting myself to speak. I'm sure that as soon as I open my mouth, I'll be blubbering and crying like a baby.
Next Emmalina hugs me and I'm startled to find out that I will miss my escort. As much as she may be annoying at times, I know that she has a kind heart and is only looking out for Kye and I.
"It's been nice knowing you, Annie. You are a beautiful girl and I will miss you so much," Emmalina gushes and I can't ignore the fact that she is talking as if it's obvious that I will die. It's almost a relief to know that not everyone overestimates me and that at least someone is thinking reasonably.
"You've been the best escort I could ever ask for," I tell her, my voice shaking. A tear escapes her eyes and I swallow the lump in my throat. I will myself not to cry, for I know if I do I will never stop.
Emmalina pats my shoulder a final time and then heads over to say goodbye to Kye.
There is only one person left to say goodbye to, and I'm dreading it the most. How am I supposed to say goodbye to my best friend, my only confident, when I know that I will never see him again. I'll miss his jokes terribly; I'll miss those stunning sea-green eyes.
"Can I walk you to your room?" Finnick asks quietly, walking over to where I am standing. I nod, biting my lip. Finnick takes my hand in his and my heart aches like it's never ached before.
We walk to my bedroom slowly, putting off our farewell for as long as possible.
Finnick drops my hand as soon as we reach my bedroom door and turns to face me, tears sparkling in his green eyes.
"Annie," he says slowly, seeming to savor the way my name sounds coming from his lips. I've never heard anyone say my name the way Finnick says it, with such passion and sweetness.
I throw my arms around him, breathing in the beautiful smell of sugar and sea salt, a scent that can only be described as…Finnick. I'm going to miss this scent terribly during my time in the games.
It's this thought that makes it impossible to stop the tears from falling and the next thing I know, I am sobbing into Finnick's chest, my tears dampening his green dress shirt. Finnick's arms tighten around my frail body and we stand in front of my bedroom doors for what seems like forever, neither one of us speaking.
There is nothing to say that could begin to express how much I am going to miss Finnick, anyway; I could never find the words to tell him how much he means to me. I may not have known Finnick for very long, but I have never felt this way for anyone else before. What Finnick and I have is special and my heart aches at the possibility that it is about to be torn away from us in a day's time.
Finnick takes a deep shaky breath and I know he is trying to stay strong for me. Despite this, though , I can still feel small tears tumbling upon my dark auburn hair.
After a few more minutes, Finnick pulls away, his watery eyes searching my tear stained face.
"I believe in you, Annie Cresta. Don't you ever doubt that," he whispers earnestly only making me cry harder.
I press my lips to his with much more force than the first time we kissed. He kisses me back, passionately.
Unlike last time, I'm filled with hunger and the more I kiss Finnick the more my hunger strengthens. This time we don't make any effort to pull away and soon I am lying in my bed, Finnick resting over top of me.
Our mouths never leave each other's even when we are gasping for breath and panting heavily. Finnick tangles his fingers in my long hair and I run my hands underneath his dress shirt, along his bare chest. I can feel him shudder under my touch. As quickly as possible I work on unbuttoning his shirt with my shaky fingers, desperate for more.
As soon as I start on the third button, Finnick sits up, breathing heavily. I look up at him, confused, tears still clouding my sea-green eyes.
"I-I'm sorry," Finnick gasps, holding my gaze. "But I don't want this to happen like this, not right before you leave. It will only hurt more." A tear escapes from his eye and I gently wipe it away with the pad of my finger, understanding exactly what he means. We would only miss each other more and it will already be nearly impossible to leave Finnick.
"Please stay with me," I whisper, pushing his blonde curls back from his bronze forehead. Although I know that the time is coming to say goodbye, I don't want it to be tonight.
"I don't want to be alone." Finnick's green eyes instantly become even more troubled, reflecting my own pain.
"I can't Annie. As much as I wish I could go with you to the arena, I just can't," he cries miserably, running his finger through his golden hair.
"No, I mean stay with me tonight. That is allowed, isn't it?" I ask desperately, grabbing Finnick's warm hand. He considers this for only a short moment, before nodding vigorously.
"I don't know if it's allowed, but honestly, I don't care," he answers, squeezing my hand. I sigh in relief and climb under the covers, not even bothering to get ready for bed. I can't stand the thought of spending any time away from Finnick, even if it's just to throw on some pajamas.
After a moment of hesitation, Finnick lays back with me on the bed, turning off the nearby lamp. I try to keep my distance, knowing that being close to Finnick will only make me ache for him more, but eventually I find it impossible. My body aches to touch him and I slide closer, resting me head on his chest. He wraps an arm around me and we stay like that for the rest of the night, neither of us daring to speak. We don't want to interrupt one another's only chance of sleep.
My sleep that night is fitful and as much as I will myself to drift off, I only end up falling asleep for short moments at a time. As soon as my eyes flicker shut, I am met with the haunting images of death and blood. I calm myself with the sound of Finnick's breathing each time, the reassuring sound the only thing that keeps the panic attacks at bay.
Eventually I must fall asleep, for I am woken up by a loud knock on the door. My stomach drops violently and I immediately start shaking uncontrollably. Today is the day; I will be in the 70th Annual Hunger Games.
There is no way to stop it now.
Finnick must have awoken at the knocks also, for he rests his hands on my shoulders, looking me straight in my eyes. He wipes away a tear that I hadn't even realized fell with the pad of his thumb. I feel numb with fear; I can't feel anything.
"Annie?" a voice calls from outside my doors. "Annie, it's time to get ready. We must leave soon." I realize that it is likely Reef, ready to escort me to the arena.
I am unable to reply and she knocks on my door once again, but I hardly hear the sound. My ears are ringing and I feel quite dizzy.
"She's coming!" Finnick calls, coming to my aid like he has so many times before. I'm sure Reef must be confused as to why Finnick is in my bedroom, but she doesn't say anything and I can hear the sound of her heels clicking against the cold marble floor.
"Annie, look at me. We don't have much time!" Finnick says, pushing my messy auburn hair out of my eyes. My skin tingles at his touch and I turn to face him.
"Stay with the Careers, okay? Don't leave until there are only a few tributes left besides your pact. Then you need to run. Hide. Don't seek out anyone and remember everything you learned from training. Make sure that you don't eat anything that you aren't absolutely sure is safe." I have a hard time focusing on his words, for it is all so overwhelming. How am I going to do this? I can't possible win!
"I can't," I choke out, my heart seizing in panic. Finnick's grip on my shoulders tightens and his green eyes are pleading.
"You can do anything you set your mind to, Annie! You need to try, okay? Don't give up! I'll be with you every step of the way. I will get you sponsors; I will provide you with what you need. But I can't save you on my own. I need to know that you will be fighting your ass off in that arena," Finnick says, surprising me by the strictness in his voice.
"I just don't know how!" I say bitterly. "How can I kill people? What are the chances that I will really survive?!" Finnick shakes his head, his green eyes looking troubled.
"Don't do it for yourself," Finnick tells me.
I look up at him, confused as to what he is saying. Finnick must see my confusion, for he quickly explains.
"When you are in that arena, Annie, think of the people you want to live for. Think of what it would be like for them if you don't return home. You'll be only acting out of selflessness and it may give you the reason to…do what you wouldn't normally do for yourself. Fight for Macaulay!" I nod slowly, taking in Finnick's words. They make sense and I know that thinking of my loved ones in the arena will give me the strength to fight.
But despite what Finnick may think, I won't only be thinking of my brother. I'll be thinking of the young man that never ceases to put a smile on my face.
I'll be thinking of Finnick.
The thought of leaving him pains me, but not only because I wouldn't want Finnick grieving over me. It pains me, because I don't know what I would do if I couldn't see those stunning green eyes ever again. I don't know what I would do if I couldn't feel his soft lips on mine. I don't know what I would do without Finnick Odair, even if I was dead.
"I'll miss you, Finn," I choke out, staring into his green eyes for the last time. I want to remember their exact shade. If I do happen to die, I no longer want the sea to be my last image. The last thing I want to see are Finnick's beautiful eyes and I refuse to forget them.
"I'll miss you too, Angelfish, but I'll see you again," he whispers quietly, staring back at me. He plants a final soft kiss on top of my auburn hair and walks towards the door.
I trail behind him, not wanting him to leave.
"Stay strong, Annie," Finnick says earnestly, before turning and walking down the hallway, his head down and his hands buried in his jean pockets. I stare after his slouched figure, until he turns a corner, disappearing from my sight.
"Arm, please," a woman in a long white coat orders, a scary looking needle in her hand. I gulp nervously and hold out my pale and bony arm, glancing around at all the surrounding tributes. All of us, along with our stylists, had just boarded the hovercraft for our short trip to the arena.
Although the small hovercraft is filled with 24 teenagers, the only sound is the demanding voice of the attendant and the sound of the tracker being injected into tribute after tribute's arms.
No one wants to talk to their enemies and I'm sure most are too nervous to make conversation, just as I am. My heart feels as though it could beat its way out of my chest and it's a struggle just to breath. Not even the stylists dare to speak and break the cruel silence.
I flinch as the needle is injected to my arms, gasping at the cool tingling feeling that spreads throughout it.
The strange orange glow that can just barely be seen underneath my skin reminds me of Macaulay's letter and Clarissa and Chaplin's plan. It's the later that makes my stomach clench in guilt and I make the mistake of catching Clarissa's eyes from where she sits a crossed from me.
The female tribute winks an icy blue eye in my direction, only adding to my guilt. I attempt to smile back at her, but I'm sure it looks more like a grimace, for I can't muster a single act of contentment. Hopefully Clarissa won't think anything of it.
My conscious nags me, telling me that I should run off with the District 11 tributes, but I do my best to ignore it. I focus on the feeling of my hand, being squeezed in Reef's, ignoring the tiny voice in my head that insists I'm a cruel, cruel person. I bite my lip, clenching my eyes shut as an effort to erase my mind.
I have to go with the Careers, I must. I promised Finnick that I would live for him. This thought is the only thing that keeps the guilt away, the only words that ease the panicky feeling that sweeps over my body.
So I focus on 2 words, chanting them over and over in my head, for the rest of the flight.
For Finnick, For Finnick, For Finnick, For Finnick…
As soon as the hovercraft lands, we are all ushered into our own small chambers, Launch Rooms they call it. Reef doesn't loosen her tight grip on my hands and I'm starting to think she must be almost as nervous as I am. Surely my stylist knows that my chance of survival is not high, for tears glisten in her large brown eyes.
"I'll try my best, Reef," I say softly, not wanting to see the young woman cry. I've shed enough tears for the both of us the past few days.
Unfortunately my words don't stop a lone tear from tumbling down her face, leaving a damp path in its wake. Reef quickly wipes it away, sniffling.
"I know you will, Annie; I know," she sighs, taking a deep breath and fanning her face dry of her tears.
"Now, enough with the crying. I have to get you in this uniform, or else you'll be entering the arena in your jeans and sweater!"
I nod my head as I watch Reef fetch my awaiting clothing from a nearby table, nervously wringing my hands. The uniform consists of forest green nylon pants with a matching green and grey vest. There is also a pair of hiking boots, a tight grey long-sleeved shirt, and a wool tuque.
As Reef helps me dress in the clothing, I wrack my brain, trying to think of an arena that would fit these articles. There must be mountains, for why else would I be forced to wear hiking boots?
"Any ideas about the arena?" I ask my stylist as she zips up the vest and slides the hat over my dark auburn hair.
Unlike all the other times Reef prepped me in beautiful outfits, this time I don't have to work to contain my excitement. Instead of feeling giddy with her work like last time, I feel sick and my hands are clammy with sweat. I know that any time now I will be told to enter the large tube at the back of the room; a tube that will surely lead me to my immediate death.
Reef rests a long orange fingernail on her chin, taking in my outfit before replying. "It must have a rocky terrain with lots of mountains. Snowy mountains I assume, because of your wool tuque. Your vest, pants, and shirt are all made of nylon, which causes me to believe that there will be quite a bit of bugs. Expect a rough, rocky terrain, for nylon is known for its durability," Reef says, surprising me by her knowledge of fabric. Then again, she is a stylist.
Her words cause my nervousness to escalate, for the arena she described sounds quite challenging. Living in District 4, I am not familiar with the cold or rocky ground, for that matter. I was hoping the arena would be a beach with lots of water, but I was foolish to think the gamemakers would make these games easy for me. Knowing the act that my mother committed in her games, I should have realized that President Snow would make sure I am out of my comfort zone.
I sigh and Reef must sense my worry, for quickly she gathers me in a tight hug.
"You can do it, Sweetheart. I know you can do it," she assures me, rubbing a hand over my back. I nod into her shoulder, breathing in deeply her smell of raspberries and honey.
"30 seconds until launch," a voice echoes around the room, interrupting our hug. I pull back, adjusting my hat and start to walk over toward the tube, unable to say anything. I'm sure I wouldn't be able to get any words out past the large lump in my throat.
"Wait, Annie," Reef calls after me, placing a hand on my shoulder. I turn around as she pulls a rope out of her dress pocket. "This is for you." I watch, eyebrows furrowed, as Reef ties the small rope tightly around my wrist.
"What is it for?" I whisper, running a finger over the rough materiel. I recognize the rope from somewhere, but I can't think of where I saw it before.
"It's from Finnick. I'm pretty sure it was his district token from his games. He said it would bring you luck," Reef explains, causing me to gasp. This rope was the one he tied around the ice on my ankle the night I broke it; it's the one that I almost left behind in the train! I can't believe I almost lost Finnick's district token!
I twist my wrist from side to side, extremely grateful for this small gift from Finn. It will remind me of who I am fighting for when things get tough in the arena and it's good to have something from home with me.
"Twenty seconds until launch," the voice says again. I drop my wrist back to my side, gulping down air.
"You know you were right," Reef mutters and I turn to look at her in confusion.
"Right about what?" I ask.
"Finnick; he does care about you. I could tell when he gave me the rope this morning. It looked like he was crying. Finnick Odair isn't supposed to cry," she explains, smiling at me softly.
I smile back, fresh tears stinging my eyes at her words.
"He is different then he appears to be."
I'm extremely relieved that someone else beside Mags and I know that Finnick isn't just a vain sex symbol from District 4; I'm thankful that Reef knows that there is another side to him. A sweet, kind side; a side where he would do anything for those he cares about. Finnick Odair would give up his district token for poor weak girl; he has enough of a heart to cry over a useless tribute. I'm overjoyed that Reef knows this.
"He really is," I agree, my voice full of adoration. I'm sure Reef must notice, for she gives me a strange look and pats me on my shoulder.
"You come back to that boy, Annie. He needs you," she says and before I am able to reply the voice announces 10 remaining seconds until launch.
My legs feel heavy and numb as I slowly make my way towards the glass tube, stepping inside.
The door closes behind me and I gasp, feeling claustrophobic at how little room I have inside the tube. Reef walks toward me, pressing her hand against the wall. I line mine up to hers, feeling the cool glass under my touch as I take deep breaths.
It feels like forever before the tube starts to raise and everything goes dark, but it isn't long enough. I'm not ready to enter the arena, I'm not ready to hunt for food, and I'm not ready to fight to my death.
My nervousness soon changes to terror and I beat against the glass screaming for everyone I know. I scream for Finnick, for my brother, for Reef, and I even find myself screaming for Emmalina.
A metal plate from underneath me suddenly rises, forcing me up into a stunning bright light above. The light blinds me and I can't see anything. A cool breeze tickles my face, blowing my auburn hair and my screaming dies down.
The air around me smells fresh and I almost feel peaceful, until I can hear an all too familiar voice ringing in my ears.
"Ladies and gentlemen, let the Seventieth Annual Hunger Games begin!"
The games are about to start! Are any of you as excited as I am?! If you have any ideas for what should happen in the arena please let me know. I would love to hear them all!
I would also like to let you all know that I won't be able to update as often as I was at the beginning of this story. I'm very busy with volleyball now and until it is over, my free time is very limited. But don't worry, I'm not giving up on this story!
Thanks again for being so patient! I love you all! :) xo
I'm also curious to see if any of you watched the movie Divergent. I just saw it the other day and it is so AMAZING! It is definitely the best book to movie film I ever saw! I would love to chat about it with you and hear what you thought of it!