Author's note: Hi there! Nice to meet you! Or, if I already know you, nice to see you!
Welcome to the story of Finnick Odair, from his games to right after the reaping of the 70th Hunger Games. This story covers his growth from an innocent boy to the slightly broken yet lovable victor we know. I hope you enjoy the story. :)
Reviews mean the world to me, and each one warms my heart and makes my day. :)
Change of Tides
Chapter 1: Dare
"Young people don't always do what they're told, but if they can pull it off and do something wonderful, sometimes they can escape punishment" - Rick Riordan, author
To someone who isn't from District Four, throwing a trident at a fish in the water and one at a target are the same act, but as any fisherman knows, they are two completely different skills. For targets, the thrower has to just throw straight with enough power and good aim to hit their mark while a fisherman has to know the right angle to throw the trident in order to hit the fish because of the reflection on the water. Some people can hit a fish but not a target, and others vice versa. Luckily for me, I can do both.
"I'll get you next time, Odair!" my best friend, Sitka Holland, says after losing yet another throwing challenge to me.
"Yeah, right," I laugh, "and someday I'll beat you in maces and hand-to-hand!" Sitka is huge for being just fourteen, and can kick my ass in about a minute, although I'd never admit that to him. Then again, he already knows.
Sitka grins. "Sure. When dolphins rebel and start eating sharks!" he says with a laugh, and we head to our usual lunch table where a group of eighteen-year-olds are just sitting down, laughing and talking amongst themselves.
"What a geek!" one is saying. "What is he doing here?"
"I know," Bronson, the guy who is rumored to be volunteering this year, scoffs. "If he is reaped tomorrow, I won't even volunteer for him."
The others add words of agreement. "And waste all your training?" Bronson's girlfriend asks.
He nods. "In a heartbeat."
I glance in the direction the group came from and am not surprised to find Nyle Degardi sitting alone. A year older than me, Nyle isn't particularly talented at anything here. To make matters worse, he has a very obvious stutter, causing him to be ridiculed by most of the training center, other than the younger kids. He's a nice guy though, and I'm probably the only friend he has, other than his older sister. He certainly doesn't deserve to die though.
"I would volunteer for him," I say. Bronson laughs. The older trainees never take anyone under sixteen or seventeen years old seriously, which annoys Sitka to no end. I honestly couldn't care less what they think.
"Oh yeah?" Bronson smirks. "Why?"
Because there's no reason for him to die, and I have a better chance than he does, I think, but instead I shrug and say, "It's the Hunger Games. If you guys aren't going to volunteer, why shouldn't I?" This of course, is an act. While I do have a better chance than Nyle, I'm not so arrogant as to believe that I'd have no problem winning the Games at fourteen. Any fourteen-year-old to volunteer against seventeen and eighteen-year-olds better have a good reason other than "I want to win and be famous". There's so much that can be learned in four years.
Bronson smirks. "Alright. If Degardi is reaped, we'll let you go in. But otherwise it's going to be me in that arena. Deal?"
"Deal," I say. He holds out his hand, and I shake it. It's a dangerous deal to make, one that puts my life in jeopardy. Chances are though, Nyle won't be reaped, and Bronson will volunteer. And if he is, I know these guys. They've been training for the games for most of their lives. This is not something they would so readily give up.
"Finnick, where have you been?" my mom asks as I rush into the house the following afternoon with bare feet and wearing nothing but a pair of shorts. "You're not even dressed, and the reaping is in an hour!"
At the other end of the table, my dad laughs. "Come on Meredith, don't you know the look of a young fisherman when you see one?"
Mom smiles slightly despite herself. "Alright," she says, "just hurry."
A half an hour later, my parents and I leave for the reaping. As we walk, we are greeted by several "Good afternoon, Mr. Odair's" and "How's it going, Aberdeen?"'s My dad is the most recognizable man in the district, other than the mayor himself. Dad is in charge of the fish distribution, and decides how much fish goes where. Within reason, of course, since the Capitol has set strict restrictions, maximums, and minimums he must follow. Many people fish for him, and then Dad distributes the fish as equally as he can. Many people in Four either work for him, are friends with him, or both. Because of his high-up position, my family is one of the wealthiest in the district. My whole life, my parents have taught me to treat others equal or better than myself, and I try not to take anything for granted.
When we arrive at the sign-in station outside the Justice Building, my dad stops to talk to one of his fishermen, Mr. Cresta. Meanwhile, I get in line behind Mr. Cresta's daughter, Annie.
"Hey Annie," I say cheerfully.
Annie jumps. She turns to face me, looking very flustered. "Hi Finnink. Sorry, you kind of scared me."
I laugh slightly. "It's okay," I reply. I may not know her well, since she's two years younger than me, and we've only spoken a few times, but I do know she's a nice girl, quiet, but still friendly. Although I'd never admit it, she's really kind of pretty, with wavy, dark brown hair and dark green eyes. She's prettier than most of the girls my age that I've flirted with or kissed, a number that isn't as much as Sitka says.
Annie is smiling, but I can still tell she is nervous. "Hey, don't worry," I say. "This is your first reaping. Your name is only in there once, right?"
Annie shakes her head. "I took out some tesserae," she whispers. "Not a lot, but…"
I wince. I had forgotten that the Crestas live in the poorest part of the district. Mrs. Cresta died three or four years ago, and Mr. Cresta works as an artist as well as a fisherman to support his four children, but I guess it still isn't enough.
"Oh… well, it will still be fine. Someone should volunteer for you if you are reaped," I say in reassurance as she moves up to check-in. Then Annie goes to the twelve-year-old girls section, and I head to the fourteen-year-old boys.
"Hey!" Sitka calls as I join him in the crowd. "You should totally ask out that girl!"
"Who, Annie?" I ask in surprise as I feel my ears growing warm. "She's twelve, Holland!"
"So?! She's in to you! It's so obvious!"
Before I have a chance to reply, the mayor comes to the stage and gives the same speech he gives every year before calling Chauncey, our elderly escort, onto the stage. Chauncey is an old man in his sixties or seventies and has been escorting in District Four since before I was born. He's slightly short for a man of his age and is on the thinner side. His sky blue hair and mustache would probably be white had he not dyed them, and his eyes are an unnatural blue-violet color, probably from colored contacts. Clothing-wise, he's dressed somewhat normally in a suit the same color as his hair with a white daisy attached near his left shoulder.
"Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the District 4 reaping of the 65th annual Hunger Games!" His voice is cheerful, yet not overenthusiastic. "My name is Chauncey Eugene Katz, and I've been escorting in District 4 for seventeen years, and for fifty years total. I am very saddened to announce this is my last year, however, as I will be retiring."
The crowd claps politely for Chauncey, along with some cheers and boos mixed in. When the crowd settles down again, Chauncey simply continues.
"Firstly, let's choose a lucky young lady," he says, reaching in to the female bowl and drawing a name. "Circe Jennings!"
Before I can find out who Circe Jennings is, someone boldly calls out, "I volunteer!" A sixteen or seventeen-year-old girl pushes her way to the front of the crowd and rushes to the stage.
Chauncey beams. "A volunteer! Excellent! What's your name, miss?"
"Congratulations, Mariah!" Chauncey says, shaking her hand. "Now for the young lads!"
It seems hours have passed before Chauncey draws a name. "Nyle Degardi!"
Everyone is silent. No one is volunteering. Bronson and the other older boys are watching me. He smirks, his eyes saying something along the lines of, "Come on, I dare you. Don't be a chicken."
Meanwhile, Nyle slowly walks towards the stage, his legs shaking violently. His sixteen-year-old sister, Nala looks like she's about to cry, and the crowd is so silent, I can hear his mother begin to sob. Against my better judgment, I step forward. "Wait! I… I volunteer!"
I sit in the justice building, wondering if this really happed. Of course it did; I'm just having second thoughts.
The door opens, and my parents come in. I immediately feel guilt when I see the tears in my mother's eyes. "Oh Finn… Why?" She asks "I thought we agreed that we were only enrolling you in the training center just in case you were reaped and no one volunteered. You promised you wouldn't volunteer!"
"I'm sorry, Mom," I say, ducking my head, "but I had to." I then explain the events at the training center and why I had to volunteer for Nyle. I can see my parents begin to understand, but they still seem upset.
"I'm disappointed that you disobeyed us, especially when you are only fourteen," my dad sighs. "Yet at the same time, I can't help but be proud of you. We know you can pull this off."
I hug my parents for possibly the last time before the peacekeepers take them out.
Sitka comes in next. "Dude, I can't believe you'd actually do it!" he exclaimed.
"Yeah, well… it was the right thing to do." I say casually. For the rest of his visit, Sitka talks about how I'm going to "kick the other tributes' asses" and is still trying to talk as the peacekeepers force him to leave.
The next visitor, Annie, is a surprise. I wasn't expecting her, yet here she is.
"Hi Finnick, she says quietly, not looking me in the eyes. "That was really brave of you. I saw the way those guys looked at you, and I understand why you volunteered."
"Yeah… thanks…" I say, only because that's all that will come out.
"I brought you something," Annie says, holding out a small turtle figurine craved out of a shell. "It's not a pin, so they can't call it a weapon. It's Velcro, and will hopefully stick on your shirt. I thought it could be your token."
"Thanks Annie," I say, giving her a hug.
When the door opens for the fourth set of visitors, the peacekeeper seems to be very annoyed. "This is the last visit. Then you're leaving." He slams the door, leaving me with Nyle and Nala Degardi.
"F-Finnick?" Nyle asks timidly, as if asking permission to speak to me.
"Hey Nyle," I reply, giving a nod and a friendly smile.
"W-why did you v-volunteer for m-me? I-I'm in training t-too…."
"I know. But you don't train with plans of volunteering right?" Nyle shakes his head. "I saw how scared you were. And no one else was going to volunteer. It just seemed like the right thing to do."
Nyle considers this, and then nods. "Well, th-thanks."
"Yeah, thanks Finnick," Nala chimes in. "You're not too bad."
A compliment from an older girl. Nice. "You're not too bad yourself," I respond coolly.
"Good luck, Finnick." Nala says as the peacekeepers open the door again. Not long later, two peacekeepers take me by the arms and drag me down the hall and out the side door where the train is waiting. I know there is no turning back now. Once I board the train, I will begin the journey that will change everything forever.