Finnick Odair and Annie Cresta were both victors, so each of them could lay claim to a house in District 4's much-used Victor's Village. It was a wide semi-circle of twelve great homes just behind the dunes, with a view of the sea that no one else in District 4 could boast of.
Annie does not remember much of the aftermath of her Games, but she remembers Finnick furtively bundling her into the house farthest away from his. Their hands were wrapped tightly together, and Annie couldn't count how many fingers each of them had. It should have been a simple task, but in those days she was bad at simple tasks.
"I should be closer to you," Annie whispered. It was the one thing she was sure of. She wasn't even sure if the beautiful houses were real.
"We can't risk it," Finnick said. He pulled her a little closer for a moment, and she tried to remember why he wore a look of guilt on his face. Something about why she'd become a tribute. It didn't matter. She didn't like the look of guilt on his face. She touched his mouth, not daring to kiss him.
"We'll find ways," she said.
They found ways. The hidden cove, half-covered by the surf. The hollow in the dunes cradled in bay leaves. Beneath the loneliest pier. Between two damaged boats left out of the sea in a lot for later repair. But the best place, the one that made Annie feel most at home in reality, was the great cabin by the dunes that had once served as a fishermen's meeting place before the fishing patterns changed and the piers were moved. It was fallen into disuse, and parts of it were dangerous to explore, but danger was a constant companion to Annie and Finnick. So that wasn't so bad.
When the war is over and Finnick is gone, everyone expects different things of Annie Odair. They expect her to move far inland, perhaps to District 2, where the sea won't plague her with memories. They expect her to go back to her house in District 4's Victor's Village, because she's familiar with it, and familiarity is supposed to be a good thing for the unstable. They expect...she can't keep track of what they expect. She focuses instead on what she needs. She needs the cabin by the dunes.
There are plenty of people looking for work in the aftermath of the revolution, so it's easy enough to find a few of them to help her put the cabin into a livable condition. It doesn't even take that long. At least, not that Annie can tell. She's still not good at measuring time; it slips and slides away from her...but now she holds onto it by the life that grows in her own body.
At first it only happens at night. She lies in bed, unable to sleep, until she feels Finnick's touch on her, his head resting on her shoulder, one hand cradling her belly. "Look at what we made, Finnick," she whispers, and thus contented, she drifts off to sleep.
But when the cabin is finished and ready, it's like a gate is opened. Finnick is there, waiting to greet her when she unlocks the door for the first time. She can't embrace him, but she can smile gratefully at him, glad for his approval of her choice of home. A few of the workers are still there, so she doesn't speak to him, but she thinks: This is a good place for us, Finnick. You'll see our child grow up here.
He makes no sound when he wanders the rebuilt house, but he's there, even if the others can't see him. And there are others. One of the carpenters who repaired the cabin becomes friends with Annie, and he drops by at least once a week to make sure she's doing okay. She knows better than to tell him that Finnick is there to see that she's doing okay, but she's grateful that he comes, because sometimes there are little things about the real world she forgets. An old fisherman who remembers gathering with friends in the previous version of this house comes by to thank her for rebuilding it, and they grow close. He's retired, but sometimes he fishes for her anyway. There are more. Sometimes Annie has trouble remembering their names, but they understand, and they forgive her. She can see Finnick's smile grow as they come. He's glad she isn't lonely.
It's a difficult birth, so she ends up in the hospital. It's all right, because Mrs. Everdeen is there at her side, making sure all the proper preparations are made, and at her other side is Finnick, holding her hand. She can't feel his touch anymore, which is a little sad, but she can sense it, so it's enough. And he can see how beautiful their son is, when it's done and she's exhausted. She knows he can.
After that, Mrs. Everdeen moves into the cabin with them. "It's not so far from the hospital," she says, and that's all the explanation she'll give. She doesn't pity Annie; she just helps her. Taking care of a child is very hard work, and Finnick can whisper in Annie's ear advice about how to do it, but he can't actually hold the baby. She apologizes to him for that, sometimes. One day Mrs. Everdeen catches her doing this and stares for a little while. Annie doesn't turn away. She's forgotten that she's supposed to, like she forgets so many things. After a while, Mrs. Everdeen gives her a strange smile. Is there envy in it? Then she hands over the latest load of newly washed diapers, and Annie gets to work.
There are rhythms to her son's life that keep Annie grounded. His bubbly, incoherent baby speech makes sense to her. His first steps remind her of how to walk on her own two feet. And she knows that Finnick is guiding him, even if he can't see his father the way Annie can. That's a shame. But other people will be there for him.
And Finnick will always be there for Annie, even though he no longer leaves footprints in the sand.