I watch so much more intently than everyone else. Clenched fists, sleepless from the past weeks. I look around, a few mentors are dotted around. I hate being here, in the sickening Capitol when she's in there.
The once crowded room is now littered with empty bottles. I sit amongst the other mentors, none of them care for their tributes the way I do for her. Most of them are drunk, laughing. My usual willing armies of sponsors desert me, as soon as the boy Normak, is beheaded. I watch Annie for a while and I realize, she is not right. She looks terrified, lost. Annie..
I am doing everything I can to keep her alive.
The ground crunches when she steps, as she reaches toward him. His body is shaking although, unattached from his head. She blinks, her long eyelashes curling over. And slowly, bending down slightly, she looks at the severed head of Normak and realizes what's happened. it is a horrible sight, I feel sick to my stomach. His head rolls over. The boy had potential. She screams, loudly, cries as the ground begins to shake harder.
I call out to her, as I have for a while now, and yet again they all laugh at me. I grit my teeth as they all start talking.
"Why you so attached to Cresta? She's mad." one of them says chuckling. My fists tighten.
"It's Annie. And she is not 'mad'."
"She's just some girl Finny." the mentor for two says.
"She's my girl." I say.
I feel like punching them all, but I have to be calm.
I think about the Capitol, as always. I glance quickly at the room next to me, visible through glass. The control room. I see a man, a capitol man, pushing buttons to murder people and finding joy out of it. The pay he gets, the laughs he enjoys. It rots me to the gut. How is everyone in this room enjoying themselves? They know what it's like. But perhaps that's why they drink, to forget.
Haymitch sits in his yearly chair, swigging his liquor by the bottle. He's too watching the screen, eyes red. He itches his head, exhaling. I cast my focus back to the television to see her. The earthquake is still heavy, she grips a tree branch to stay stable. Another tremor.
The idea is to bring everyone together. Snow's bored of this, everyone hiding out, nobody had died in days. He just wanted action, to 'entertain'.
Annie is weak. She wraps her arms around herself, holding on as she cries. Tears. Everything is too much, and I know. I want to comfort her, hold her, help her through. And she falls down again, the earthquake making her collapse. She holds her head with one hand. The earthquake continues for what seems like twenty minutes. The whole time she is motionless, whilst her fingernails grip to tree bark.
Everyone looks up as we hear a boy yell to the girl beside him, "Run!"
The camera zooms in onto the boy and girl from two. And suddenly water is beneath their feet.
It's then that I realize that the earthquake causes a Gamemaker's dam burst. I hear laughs from the next room and a man shouts as the girl is surrounded by water to the waist.
"I cant swim," she wails to her friend. The boy looks back from a few meters but he does not stop, he keeps running through water, dragging his body. It makes me realize how unfair this all is. In a few minutes the girl is taken under and slowly drowns.
Her cannon goes off, she's dead.
It was coming fast, flooding the entire arena. I feel my heart lift slightly. This was good. If we were not District 4 this would be terrible news. But now, she had a chance, we both did. Even in her crumbling, poor, troubled state, Annie Cresta had the most chance now, District 4, home of fishing.
Annie is floating, thank god. I see the madness inside her head, storming over her as she realizes she is surrounded by water. Her reactions seem to have slowed since Normak died. Her body begins to rise, she floats.
"Swim, Annie, swim." I whisper slightly almost crying, saying those three words over and over again.
I'd taught her to swim myself, all those years ago, when we were too young to even be part of these horrible, horrible games. And she did swim. As fast as she could, she swam, an urgency in her. She was fast, her mind spinning, whirling, messed.
I watch as the boy from two drowns also and his hands wave in the air as he goes under and a cannon sounds.
The mentor next to me bangs his fist on the table, taking another drink.
"Both of mine out in less than 10 minutes. Brilliant." he grumbles. "Oi, Finn, she may be mad but she sure as hell can swim."
I ignore him, she's not mad. And even if she was, I'd love her anyway. I'd wait a life time for her to recover.
The girl from one lasts longer as she is taller but she drops the knife she beheaded Normak with into the water. The water is stained a deep red that chases after Annie. It's a horrible sight. Another cannon.
Annie is swimming faster, her legs kicking, as a boy from ten chases after her. I am watching her easily escape, hoping the camera will stay on her for long enough this time. I'm smiling.
No. The camera pans out to a shot of them all then to the left. The girl from nine called Jade is close on camera and tries to climb a tree out of the water before Logan, a boy from eleven, grabs her and stabs her straight in the heart. She lets out a wail and a whimper, drops into the water with a splash adding to the red.
Two mentors of eleven and nine argue about the events just displayed. It's the same every year.
Logan drops down from his position around the bark and then Jade's body is floating past him. He lets out a cackle and proves to be a good swimmer too, taking after the others.
I go through the remaining tributes in my head. Now there was Logan, the boy from one, the lanky one from ten, the bulky girl from eleven...
The boy from one, the girl from eleven both gone.
So three? Annie, Justin, Logan.
This is good.
The lanky kid's going splashing about, but slower. I figure his name is Justin as his mentor cheers him on.
Justin from ten is slow, too slow. Logan's hot on his heels. The two fight momentarily and Justin struggles. He's a goner. The camera shows the rising water over their necks. The boy grabs Logan by the throat, dragging him under. Logan kicks him, punches. I look at their faces, Logan's the real threat here.
I realize that I'm nearly the only one here now. Only those who are beside me are Logan and Justin's mentors, Haymitch and a few drunks.
Logan comes back up and Annie watches from afar, he punches the boy in the face and he falls back, a broken nose for sure. Logan's handy dagger stabs Justin and he coughs up a pool of blood clawing at Logan's face as he falls.
Annie turns, hair hitting her in the face. She looks on at Logan bobbing in the water. I see the look of confusion and hope on her face. Who'd died?
The camera shows Logan dive underwater, knife in hand. I know what he's doing. Annie is unaware of Logan coming toward her. Logan is just by her now and she tries to swim away.
Before I know it, the knife is in her. It pierces her fair skinned stomach and her mouth falls open. I'm on my feet, screaming at the massive television screen. I yell. Curse. Scream out.
"I'm sorry." Logan says as their eyes meet. "It's just the way the games work."
"SORRY?" I yell. "SORRY?"
He's saying sorry for what he's done? He's almost killed her!
Annie almost falls backward, her mental state taking over. The water is bleached even redder. She is screaming. Years of watching the Games and taking part in them I'd seen enough blood and gore. Much worse than this, burning alive, ripped to pieces. This was the worst, it was like I was being stabbed.
I see the confusion and fear register in her eyes. She looks directly at a camera. And her lips form a word. 'Finnick.'
I jump up, in front of the screen Haymitch watching me closely, "YES! YES! I'M HERE, ANNIE, I'M HERE!" I feel stupid, she can't see me. She can't hear me. Tears roll down my cheeks and I'm on my knees.
She had maybe twenty seconds left? Fifteen? And I'll never get to say goodbye. She does not even see her wound, or say anything else. She reaches one shaking hand under water. With a slight groan, she pulls the bloody knife from her stomach.
"NO!" I am screaming again, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
I know now she has just out-shortened her life by a few seconds. Logan begins to turn his back waiting for the cannon to sound. Then she does something brilliant, marvelous, mad.
She sighs, lifts the knife in two tough hands and plunges the knife into his heart. She's crying.
He dies instantly. Logan's last few seconds on earth were spent looking at Annie and smiling at her. That's how I want to die.
"I'm so sorry.." she says to his dead body. "But someone needs to see me."
I am shocked, sitting here. She's coming home. To me. We'll be together. Okay. Forever.
A microphone crackles, and booms out the voice saying, "Ladies and Gentlemen, The winner of the 66th Hunger Games, Annie Cresta."
She looks up, smiles at a camera. Annie, beautiful Annie. Her long brown hair may be messed up, tangled and her glossy-green eyes might be blank, but she is my Annie, the one I promised to protect forever when we were younger. I never break promises.
I'm looking at her, I almost think she can see me. And then my whole world goes black and she falls over, splashes into the water. And I know she's not dead, but she's not far from it.
If they don't hurry and get her out, she'll die in there. I know, as soon as she's in the ship, they'll revive her, mend her, treat her well. Like they did for me. She played fair, obeyed. The ship was taking forever.
I storm towards the glass doors, banging them, shouting.
"Get her out of there!" I yell at nobody. "NOW!"
I look back at the screen as a ship comes into view in the distance. Finally, I breathe.
She is the one I promised to come home from the Games for and she is doing the same for me. She's not leaving me now, not ever. My beautiful Annie.
"You're coming home." I whisper. "You're coming home Annie Cresta."