Chapter 22- An Unwelcomed Visitor
I wake up to the sound of many heavy footsteps from downstairs. I look to my left to see that Annie must have risen early this morning. I can feel her warmth from where she was, so I can assume I didn't wake up much after she did. I lift myself up on my shoulders and let my eyes adjust to the sun coming through the windows.
"Sleeping Beauty finally woke up," Annie says with a smile as she dries her damp hair with a towel.
I grin. "Maybe you're just an early riser."
I walk over and place my hand at the middle of her back. To my surprise, she puts a hand to my chest, pushing me away.
"At least brush your teeth first, Mr. Odair."
She and I both laugh as I flee into the bathroom.
I do as she says, but something unbalances me. The bathroom smells as if it hadn't been used since I left. It smells like dust.
I turn to Annie with a raised eyebrow. "You didn't stay here did you, while I was gone?"
She blushes and sinks her shoulders, "It was too lonely here. I didn't think you would mind if I stayed at your place. Your parents offered."
I smile and shake my head, "No, I don't mind. I just hope my room wasn't disgusting."
She giggles and, to my surprise, enfolds me into a hug. I don't hesitate to return it. It feels so painless, so effortless, to entangle her close to me. It feels like the way things were before my darkest nightmare came into play. It feels…warm. I don't know how I went through such a terrible time without feeling her heart strongly beat against mine. I honestly have no idea how I did it.
When she pulls away, she tilts her head up to meet mine. "I think we better go downstairs. It sounds like a party is going on down there."
I roll my eyes, "It's probably just my prep team coming in for the cameras." I smile and add, "They would love you."
"But, you aren't supposed to be seen with me," her eyebrows knit together in frustration. I hate it when she has that look on her face.
"Then let me go down first," I mumble. She sighs and nods. I kiss her forehead and walk towards the door.
When I escape into the hallway, I automatically hear dozens of voices. My father's, my mother's, and Mags' are the only ones that I can put a name to.
I make it to the end of the staircase, and stop…unable to breathe. 3 peacekeepers stand stiffly in front of a closed door while Mags and my parents are nervously chatting in the corner. All six of them immediately snap their heads in my direction.
My mother practically runs towards me with a spastic tone to her voice. "Oh Finnick, you're up!" She sternly grabs my shoulders and hugs me a little too long for a normal morning.
"Don't keep it from the boy, Mariana. He deserves to know why these men are here." Mags interrupts from behind and gestures towards the peacekeepers.
My mother nervously smiles and turns towards Mags. She sighs and starts explaining, "President Snow wants to see you." Her gaze shoots up to the top of the staircase and says in a louder voice, "Both of you."
Annie's widened eyes appear from the top of the stairs. As she starts coming down, I can see her nerves start to shake her small frame. When she finally makes it down, I put on a calm face even though the anxiety is eating me away. Why would he want to see me?
"It's just about the Victory Tour," I say to everyone.
"I wouldn't be so sure, ," a peacekeeper announces from in front of the door.
Annie shoots me a worried glance before we head into the small office room. I've seen Mags use it numerous times for her reading, but other than that, I have never step foot into the place.
As we walk in, the putrid smell of blood and roses suffocates us both. Sitting so unusually in the middle of the room is nobody else but President Snow. It feels like a nightmare. His surgically altered lips form a crooked smile as he sees us.
"I just love District 4's design for their Victor's Village. It really stands out amongst the others," he says as he puts down a book from Mags' collection.
Annie looks stunned, so I answer, "Thank you. I will make great use of my own home here."
"Lucky boy. Sometimes I wish I could live in the districts and see what it's like," he answers.
It's a nightmare because of such an evil president like you.
"President Snow, what is this all about?" I ask. I am not a huge fan of small talk.
"Oh, yes of course. Well, go ahead and sit down you two, we have much to discuss."
It feels strange to get permission to sit in my own home, but I go along.
"Now Finnick, you are quite popular with the people of the Capitol."
I nod and Annie casts me a glance to my left.
"I love to please my people. I love to give them what they want. You Finnick, are what they want."
"Why do they want him?" Annie asks in a quiet voice.
"You should know that better than anyone, dear. Have you seen him?" President Snow chuckles as Annie looks down at the floor. "I have a great idea that will hopefully solve everything. You just pose for the cameras and do whatever the ladies of the Capitol want you to do. And when I say whatever they want you to do, I mean everything they want you to do. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
I have to admit, I did see it coming. I was just too much of a fool to stop lying to myself.
"So you're selling him?!" Annie raises her voice.
"No, no. I wouldn't word it like that. 'Selling' is such a strong word. I like to think of him more as a prize to my people."
"And if I refuse?" I ask in a whisper.
President Snow glares in my direction. "Oh, I was really hoping that you wouldn't be opposing to the idea. Then I would have to get some more blood on my hands, wouldn't I?" His eyes dart in Annie's direction and I tense up. "And you have such a wonderful family here, Finnick. Would you like to see them go?"
Blackmail. That's all he is doing. I won't let him get to me.
"A prize," I mumble. A prize is an object. I am a person. What he is saying is sick and twisted. I have to be an inanimate object. Even though I am out of the Arena, I will never be out of the game. He will make sure of that.
"Yes, a prize. People will bid at popular parties and the largest amount gets you for as long as their money lets them. The more money, the more time. Do you understand?"
Get Annie out of the room. She can't be here. This is something I would never want her innocent ears to hear or her eyes to see. She is too fragile. I honestly have no idea why he called both of us in here when he is only directing the conversation towards me.
"Now, of course they can't touch you yet Finnick. You're only 14! That would be completely inhumane. When you reach 16 is when the game will start. That seems more appropriate."
Oh yes, I think in sarcasm. So much better.
"In the meantime, you two-" he gestures to both of us. "- are strangers. You may see each other, but not in public, not in front of ears, and certainly not in front of eyes. But, when you turn 16, you two are no more, nothing."
No more, nothing. The words make me cringe as they settle in. Annie and I. That is what I fought for. He hasn't only taken her away from me, but my victory too.
"You can't control that." I say with a whole lot more strength than I feel.
President Snow sighs and takes out a pen. He pushes the top, and a slight ding comes out. As if nothing happened, he puts the pen back in his pocket.
"Actually I can, Finnick. I can control that in more ways than you can imagine. Please, don't make me show you how."
Annie's eyes fill with tears and she shakes her head.
"I really like how you think you have a choice. The fact is, you don't Finnick. For some reason, you think you do. If you go against my word…" he trails off and looks towards Annie's direction. I mess up, and everyone dies.
He sighs and gets up, "I really hope you don't go against my word Finnick. But, it was very nice seeing you two." He nods his head and places a white rose on the desk. He leaves Annie and I alone, too stunned to speak to each other.
I wait until I hear the door close before speaking. "You think I'm disgusting don't you?" I ask.
Annie looks at me, tears cascading down her cheeks. "Of course not Finnick. I think the whole thing is disgusting." She buries her face in her hands. I crouch down in front of her and take her hands in mine.
"Shhh. Annie, you said you wouldn't give up on me right?" She nods her head and I continue, "I'll find a way out of this. We have been through a lot. And we will never give up on each other, right?"
She nods. "It's just that, when I finally got you again, they ripped you away from me. I promised myself that would never happen again."
I lean my forehead against hers and whisper, "We will never be ripped apart, Annie. I promise you that no matter what they say, we will never be ripped apart."
I hear the door slam and Annie and I unfold. I open the door to the study and find Mags all by herself.
"Where is mom and dad?" I ask her.
"The Peackeepers wanted to help them move out of their house, so they brought them over there. What's wrong? What did he say?"
No. The pen, the button…the trap.
I rush out of the house and blindly sprint towards my old one. How could I be so stupid?! If I get there in time, maybe nothing will happen! Maybe-
The explosion stops me in my tracks. I look up and see my old house in flames…with my parents inside.
Mess up..and everyone will die. My parents are dead because of my stupidity.
I bury my face in the dirt, trying to mask the scene before me. Wake up, Finnick! Wake up!
No. This isn't a dream. I must face this head on. I must face evil without a cringe. I must take this personally. This will not happen to Annie. I have to follow the President's orders. And with the smoke engulfing all the air around me I know that I have no choice. I have to do this for Annie.
It is all for her in the end. I will never stop fighting for her.
END OF BOOK 2
N/A: Oh my goodness! 2nd book done! I really want to know what you guys thought! And now...the third book.