Today is the dreadful day of the Reaping.
Today is the day where twenty-four tributes are chosen to participate in the Hunger Games, and only one will remain by the end of the month.
I wonder...who will be the victor of the 70th Hunger Games?
I sigh as I open my eyes. I am lying, sprawled, on my bed.
I can remember the day when my older brother, Dany Cresta, was selected as a tribute two years ago. He never came back. It had been Finnick Odair's job to keep my brother alive. He was his mentor! And yet, by the time the victor, some girl from District 2, was announced, I learned to never trust Finnick Odair.
As a matter of fact, I hate him. It was his fault my brother died.
My sister, Ellie, is nineteen. She no longer has to worry about entering her name in the Reapings. She's free.
But not me. Not sixteen-year-old me, who still has a good two years after this one. Although being picked is highly unlikely, it is not impossible.
There are Careers who would do anything to be picked. I am not like them. All I ever do is swim, read, and tie knots.
I used to read a lot more, before my father died in a boating accident when I was ten. Now, I'm responsible for getting the food we need, and to sell the extra. I don't have the "free time" that many other girls my age have.
Guess what they actually do during their free time?
They gossip. About Finnick Odair.
And that's another reason why I despise him so much. I've never directly come in contact with him—just once, after my brother's death. He at least had the manners to stop by our house, and apologize to my mother for the loss of my brother.
"I'm sorry he didn't make it," are the very words he said. They are words burned into my mind, and I'll always remember them no matter what. Then he walked out and shut the door behind us, leaving my mother stunned and speechless.
He's arrogant. And arrogant. And even more arrogant.
Okay, I know there are better words to describe him than "arrogant". "Annoying" might work, but he's never really annoyed me. "Smug" is another good one. He walks around District 4 as if he owns the place.
It's rather pathetic, in my opinion.
All the women in the Capitol love him. He's what they would call a heartthrob—handsome, strong, and a victor. What more could a girl want?
I am never going to fall for Finnick Odair's charm. I swear it.
Enough about Finnick Odair. Even thinking about him makes my stomach queasy, and I have better things to do than sitting on my bed and hating him.
"Annie Cresta!" Ellie calls cheerfully. "Wakey wakey! Don't tell me you're dreaming about Finnick Odair again!"
"I am not!" I yell back irritably. Ellie sure knows how to make me angry. I sigh as I wash and brush my hair, then dress and join my mother and sister for breakfast.
My mother is usually like this on Reaping day. By this, I mean that she seems to be in a faraway place, lost and dreaming. Dany's death had taken a toll on her. "Good morning," she says dazedly, poking at her breakfast.
"Morning, Mom," Ellie and I say simultaneously. I exchange a glance with her, and Ellie offers me a reassuring smile.
"Are you ready?" Mom asks, unfocused.
I take a small sip of my milk. "Mom, the Reaping isn't until the afternoon," I remind her. "There's still some time before then. Do you mind if I go for a quick swim?"
"Do whatever you want," she murmurs, then stands up and abandons her breakfast. "I'm going to take a nap..."
"I'll wake you in time for the Reaping," Ellie says. Because if she isn't awake by then, she'll be killed.
"Don't worry," Ellie says softly. "I'll take care of Mom."
Blinking gratefully at her, I took no time at all to dress appropriately for swimming and head down to the beach.
Unfortunately, I find that it is already occupied.
By none other than Finnick Odair.
He looks up as I approach, his famous sea-colored eyes meeting my own. He might remember me as the girl whose brother had died in the Reaping.
Then again, he might not.
"I'm sorry," he says, breaking our awkward silence.
"Is that how people greet each other nowadays? By saying 'I'm sorry'?" I ask dryly, not wanting Finnick Odair to disturb my peaceful before-the-Reaping morning.
He shakes his head. "Your brother."
Well, I guess he did remember. Perhaps he's not so bad...
I remember how emotionless he had been when he had apologized to us. And how he had mercilessly slaughtered those tributes with that trident of his during the 65th Hunger Games.
"What are you doing here?" I ask instead.
"What are you doing here?" He returns calmly.
I glare at him. He smirks. He is so infuriating!
"What else would I do on a beach?" I snarl, not in the mood to be nice. I am aware of his bare chest, but I pay no attention to it. Other girls can drool over him all they want. I don't care. "If you'll excuse me, I have better things to do."
"Do you really have better things to do...when I'm here?" He asks, winking suggestively.
I bet that, by now, every other girl will be crazy over him.
He makes me sick! "Oh, lots," I say with a triumphant grin. "I am not crazy. Unlike the hundred-something girlfriends that you have."
"I'm single," he informs me.
Like it matters whether Finnick Odair is single or not. I'm not interested. "That's good to know," is all I say. Then, a sudden idea enters my mind, and I scream as loudly as I can, "OI! FINNICK ODAIR IS SINGLE! FEEL FREE TO MARRY HI—" I never finish my sentence, because he leaps up with alarming speed and clamps a hand over my mouth.
I feel his chest pressed against my back. I try to speak, but all I can get out are muffled protests. He's strong, I admit reluctantly.
"Be a dear and I'll let go," he says.
Whatever that's supposed to mean.
I try shaking my head—and it's very hard to with his arm around my shoulder. I try struggling, and even try to stamp on his foot.
All my attempts at freeing myself are futile.
How dare he do this to me! I attempt to elbow his stomach, but he nimbly steps to the side, and carries me with him. Off my feet.
There is laughter in his eyes. He's clearly amused, and I am clearly not amused. I finally manage to bite down hard on the hand over my mouth. With a startled yell, he loosened his grip on me, and I fell unceremoniously into the sand.
"I hate you! I HATE YOU! I HATE HATE HATE YOU!" I scream.
It feels good to let my feelings, hidden for all these years, to be released. He watches me with a sorrowful expression. "I'm sorry," he repeats.
"'Sorry' isn't going to bring my brother back!" I screech at him. Tears threaten to escape from my eyes.
Finnick Odair gives me another look, stands up, and begins to walk away. "I really am sorry," he says quietly. "I'll...see you at the Reaping."
"Are you a man or not?" I yell after him, "Don't walk away from your mistakes!"
But he doesn't answer.
Still sitting in the sand, in the exact same position that I had fallen, I start to cry.
Disclaimer: I am not from the Capitol, so of course I don't own the Hunger Games.
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