Chapter one: Finnick and Annie
It's been almost three months since I've seen her face. This is the longest I've been without her since before either of our Games. Annie Cresta has been my best friend since I was twelve years old. We spent every day on the beach together playing, making sand castles, swimming, the normal things a ten and twelve year old from District 4 do. We were together every waking moment of every day. Even in school we were together. We would have lunch together in the courtyard and our classes were just down the hall from one another. Things we're all right.
When I was fourteen I was reaped for the Hunger Games. We come from a Career District where Annie and I trained together when we weren't playing together. Annie turned twelve that year. She held herself together and stayed strong for me while I was gone. I thought that that was the longest month of my life. After I was crowned Victor for the 65th Hunger Games, Annie was the first person to embrace me. I had never been so happy to see her. I immediately started apologizing for every mean thing I'd ever done to her. She laughed and told me there was no need. For the five years that followed that, we fell back into the pattern of what we did before, except now we were older and the Games changed me. Snow changed me. Once I was sixteen, I became the Capitol playboy; being called for weeks at a time where I had to let women touch me, play with me, under threat to kill everyone I loved.
When I was nineteen and Annie was seventeen, she was reaped. I was forced to mentor my best friend. I went crazy doing things that I never would have done otherwise. It was then that I realized how much I'd fallen for her, how she was more than my best friend. I was even more determined to bring her home after I'd gotten the nerve to kiss her and tell her I couldn't live without her.
Mags, the other District 4 mentor, and I were sitting on the couch watching the Games progress. Annie and her District partner Michael had made an alliance together. We watched as the female tribute from District 2 crept up on them. Michael was trying to reassure Annie that killing the girl from District 12 was the right thing to do or else she'd have killed them instead. Neither of them noticed the girl from 2 until she announced she was there. It was only a matter of seconds before Mags and I watched as Michael's head hit the ground right in front of Annie and his body fell backwards toward the girl from 2. Annie was never the same after that.
The Gamemakers got bored with everything that happened after Annie avenged Michael's death and sent a flood to wipe out the remaining tributes, except Annie. She was the only one who could swim. Annie came home to me broken, unstable, insane. I didn't care. She was home. People wondered why I kept her around after she was named the "mad Victor from District 4." She's still my best friend. That's why. Deep down, she is still Annie.
After her games, it was hard trying to fall into any sort of pattern. All I knew was I loved her, she came to love me again, and I wasn't about to let her go. It took another year before she was ready for any sort of relationship, but when she was, I took every chance to hold her, kiss her, tell her I loved her, and I wasn't going to let her go. It was then that people started calling me mad.
"Why would you date a mad girl when you could have any fish in the ocean?" I was asked.
"Someone's got to love the mad girl," I replied with a smile.
"Anyone Finnick, you could have anyone. All you have to do is ask and you'd have them all at your feet,"
"I like my feet women free thank you," I said. I moved their arm from around my shoulder and walked away leaving them speechless. There were many nights when her parents would allow me to stay over night, so when Annie woke up screaming from her nightmares, I could be there to comfort her and to bring her back to reality. Four years passed. Each year I spent a month away from her to mentor the next two children to be slaughtered by the Hunger Games.
This year is the 74th Hunger Games.
This year, there is a pair of what they were calling "star crossed lovers from District 12." As Mags and I work with our tributes we find this year's pair is a stubborn pair. The boy doesn't follow our advice and ends up getting killed in the bloodbath. The girl makes it for a few days before she is killed by the tribute from District 10.
After both of Districts tributes are dead, mentors are allowed to go home. I tell Mags I'm going to stay in the Capitol to finish watching the games and ask her to go home and be with Annie. I'm very intrigued with District 12. Katniss Everdeen, "The Girl on Fire" is a very interesting girl to say the least. I can't tell if she really does like her District partner, Peeta Melark, or if she's pretending. I don't know why she tried to save the little girl from District 11. I have to give her some credit for being able to stay strong and continue to push through to the end.
The end; where Katniss Everdeen manages to throw the entire country of Panem into chaos. She wasn't going to let the Capitol kill her or Peeta. When they are the only two left, she gives him half her nightlock berries and before either of them can bite into them, Seneca Crane, the Head Gamemaker, has no choice but to allow both of them their lives. I go home to Annie shortly after Haymitch Abernathy left to retrieve his tributes.
I'm greeted by Haymitch a month before the 75th games. The third Quarter Quell. The Quarter Quells are always interesting. Haymitch was a victor of the 50th Hunger Games, the second Quarter Quell.
"I need to talk to you," he says as I open the door to my house. Annie is over today and we are sitting in my living room floor playing a board game.
"Would you like to come in?" I ask, opening the door a little further.
"Who is it Fin?" Annie calls.
"I need to talk to you alone," Haymitch says when he hears Annie's voice, "Can you come outside?"
"It's just Haymitch love, I'll be right back. Stay inside," I call back to her. I step outside. He looks worried.
"Listen," he pauses and looks around for something, "Plutarch Heavensbee is the new head Gamemaker this year. He's tipped a few of us off about this year's quell. They're reaping victors." My thoughts go to Annie. My Annie has a chance of being reaped again. I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm the only male victor from District 4, so I know I'm going in again. Mags and Annie are the only two female victors. I don't want to lose either of them, but I know I can't live without Annie.
"Don't lose your mind, listen," Haymitch says to me breaking through my thoughts, "There's a plan to get most of us out. I'm going to be on the outside here at home. The moment Peeta and Katniss hear about it, there's no way Peeta's going to let me go in with Katniss. He'll want to. You can tell Mags, but you can't tell Annie. I know you care about her, but the less she knows the better off she'll be. I hate to tell you this. She'll be among the first targeted when we rescue Victors,"
"I won't tell her anything. What's the plan?" I ask. He continues to tell me how we're going to be rescued from the arena. Some of us will have to die in order for it to work. Those who die will hopefully be the ones who are not in on the plan. I'm allowed to tell Mags. I hate this. I hate this more than when I hated Annie getting reaped the first time. No matter what, Katniss and Peeta are not to know about the rescue mission. I'm not sure who else knows. The Districts that only have a few remaining Victors probably know, like District 7. Johanna Mason probably knows. She's the only female Victor from her district. Haymitch tells me that we'll know who the others are when we see them wearing a gold wristband as their District token. When Haymitch leaves, I go back inside. Annie's curled up on my couch reading a book. I lean against the doorframe of the entryway.
"What are you reading?" I ask. It startles her. She shows me the cover of her book. Some book I've never heard of.
"What did Haymitch want?" she asks.
"He just wanted to have a man to man chat, nothing to worry about," I've crossed the room to her and I extend my hand.
"I've got to talk to Mags, let's get you home. I'll come by and have dinner with you," I say. She eyes me suspiciously.
"I don't believe you," she says.
"What don't you believe?" I ask.
"What did Haymitch want?" I hate lying to her. I'm so bad at it.
"Don't worry about it, nothing important,"
"Why do you have to go talk to Mags?" Annie has always been good at seeing through me. He shouldn't have told me this while I was spending the day with her.
"It's nothing that you need to worry about Annie, I promise you. Everything is going to be okay," What am I going to do? She can't live without me either. She'll probably have some sort of breakdown when I have to leave her to return to the Games. She eyes me angrily.
"I love you," I tell her and then lean in to kiss her before her thoughts go any further. I don't normally use my influence over her against her but right now, I need her to forget she's mad I won't tell her what Haymitch wanted. I need her to not worry. I pick her up off the couch without breaking our lips. I walk backwards fully prepared to walk over to the door where I will set her down and talk to her again, but my foot catches on the table leg and the next thing I know we're in a pile on the floor. She's laughing, and her laugh is enough to make me laugh. She's forgotten what happened already, at least for now.
The Quarter Quell is announced. The Districts are to offer one male and one female tribute that has already survived the Hunger Games. When I told Mags the plan, she quickly agreed Annie did not need to reenter the Hunger Games. When Annie hears this announcement her eyes find mine and her hands find her ears. She's usually in the crowd up front where I can see her and she can see me. Mags and I are usually on the stage because we mentor children every year.
The District 4 escort starts with me first.
"Since District 4 only has one male tribute that has already survived the Hunger Games once, please welcome Finnick Odair!" she says. I smile at the camera like nothing is wrong. Except, everything is wrong. The girl I love, her world has just shattered into a thousand tiny pieces and this time I can't put her back together.
"Now to see which one of our lovely ladies will be returning with him," she says. She puts her hand into the glass ball and closes her eyes as she mixes the two slips of paper.
"Annie Cresta!" she calls. This doesn't surprise me. As agreed before, as the Peacekeepers make their way to Annie, who is now sitting on the ground rocking back and forth sobbing and holding her ears, Mags taps the escort on the shoulder.
"Wait, we have a volunteer!" the escort says looking at Mags.
About a year ago, Mags had a stroke and lost all ability to talk, but she has found creative ways to communicate. I watch a teary eyed Annie look up at Mags. The look on Annie's face says she doesn't know if she should be happy that she's not going into the arena again, or terrified because I am.
"How lovely, shake hands you two!" the escort squeals. I shake Mags hand and nod my head at her. We're going to get through this. We're led back into the Justice Building where we will now await saying goodbye to our loved ones. My parents died a few years ago after my father refused the Capitol what they wanted. Annie is the only visitor I get.
"I love you Annie, don't forget that for even a second. Promise me that?" I ask, "I'm going to come home to you. I promise you, I'm going to come home. Be strong, I know you can be," I tell her. My arms are around her waist holding her tightly as she sobs into my neck.
"I know you can do this. Stay strong for me Annie, I love you so much," I tell her. I pull her away from so I can see her face and crush my lips against hers. I need her to stay strong. I need her to realize she's going to be all right and I'm going to be all right. The peacekeepers' come much too soon and pull her out of my arms.
"Stay strong Annie, I love you!" I yell back to her shrieks of my name. It breaks my heart to see her like this and not be able to do anything.