Prologue: Before the Pain

Finnick Odair's P.O.V

It has been about 5 years since my win. 5 years since the explosion, 5 years since the graves were dug up, 5 years since my hurt begun. It has been a particularly painful 5 years. I don't feel like the Finnick Odair that my father would be proud of nor the Finnick Odair that my mother would kiss on the forehead. No. I am not that boy anymore. He was someone who was blinded by only what was in front of him. I am someone who knows what is underneath and the dangers that come along with it.

It has only been 3 years since my clientele started pouring in. Women from the Capitol begging at my feet for just a few moments. Of course the piles and piles of cash in their hand would go to President Snow. I'm glad he gets it to be honest…I don't like dirty money. I have to pretend like I am focused on just them and working for only their pleasure. I feel like a used rag, disgusting and disposable. Sometimes I feel like life isn't worth living.

But then, I see those eyes.

Annie Cresta; the only thing making my life worth living. I guess I have to include Mags too. Without them, I would be crumpled up like a piece of paper in the corner of the room, never unfolding again. If I lost her, as I did with my parents, I don't know where I would be, what I would do, anything. So that is why I make President Snow happy; so that Annie can live. He has threatened me, blackmailed me, with her life. I promised I would always protect her so I do what he says. If I don't… there is nothing I can do to save her.

We haven't been following the rules exactly, but no one has noticed. President Snow doesn't want us to be together anymore. Like that's going to happen. So through the years we have developed a secret way for us to be together and to see each other without the President noticing. Once a month, when I am not at the Capitol, Annie and I secretly trail off to Mags' house to be together in peace. That one moment is when the torture, the pain, and the hopelessness all melt away. That moment when I feel her heart beat against mine is when I know I am doing the right thing. But then, as soon as our fragile time has wrapped up, I go back to pain.

Mentoring has been hard. I have watched 9 innocent children die that I had come to appreciate and only one win. It's torture. I understand better than anyone now why that drunk mentor from twelve has drowned his sorrows away with alcohol. I think of doing the same every once in a while, but I know it will make Annie ashamed. So of course, I have to act like I enjoy the Games and slap on a smile every time a camera turns on. It's all for Annie though, so I follow along. But even she can't help the fact that I have piercing nightmares about bloody swords, friends dying, and mutts clawing at my vision. Those, no one can keep away. They are here to stay.

Annie let someone else buy the store off of her hands. I guess it became too much of a hassle. But she still works there, and it is getting a lot of business since it sponsored "The Famous Finnick Odair." That's the new me. I fear him taking over, but I never let it happen.

It has felt like the coldest winters, the harshest springs, the dreariest summers, and the most painful autumns since the explosion. The odds have kept Annie out of the Games, which I couldn't be happier with, and this is the last year she has. One more heart aching moment of the reaping, and the wondering of which name would get pulled. Hopefully, the odds will stick with us and let her slide under the radar for one more year, but this time is different. This time, the odds may come into President Snow's hands, and it is all my fault.

I have broken a rule.

It was last winter. It was cold, wet , and nose freezing weather. I hadn't seen Annie in weeks; the Capitol loves their Victors in the winter. I was anxious to give her the Christmas present I had chosen for her, and wanted to see the smile I work so hard for. I had thought that the train tracks across Panem would be frozen and too slippery to travel with, so there would be no chance that President Snow would steal me away. I thought I had all the time in the world with my beloved Annie. I was wrong. The Day of Christmas Eve came around, my heart aching to see her, when they arrived. The Peacekeepers bombarded their snowy boots into my house and demanded I be sent to the Capitol as someone's "present." I don't know how or why I dared to, but I refused. I exchanged a few words, kicked them off of my land, and hadn't heard of them. I thought that no one would dare do anything against "The Famous Finnick Odair", but I was wrong again. Well, not fully. They didn't do anything against me, but the President himself sent me a letter suggesting he might hurt someone else.

Dear Finnick,

It has been a long time, hasn't it? I guess the cold of the winter didn't give us much of a chance to talk. I apologize. But Finnick, there is something else completely that I would like to bring up. My granddaughter loves you, as the rest of the Capitol ladies do, and nothing would have brightened up her Christmas better than to have you show up at our door. That didn't happen, did it? No. No, it didn't. So I had to console her with words of kindness before the tears stopped flowing and told her you had refused. This made me angry, Finnick. But, I know you hadn't done anything on purpose, correct? You just wanted to spend time with you parents. Oh, I'm sorry, your 'Mags'. I would just like you to make up for it somehow. If I have to force you, I will, but please…I don't like blood on my gloves.

~President Snow

P.S: How is that darling Annie that you fancied 5 years ago? I would hate for you to never hear from her again. The loss of a loved one is so incredibly painful. Especially when you have to watch.

I read that note over and over again. I practically memorized the thing. So now, here I am, on a humid reaping day, that has me not sweating of the weather, but sweating of fear. My dearest Annie has only one year until safety. One year until she is 19, and out of the grasp of the Games. One year left. And as I open up the door to a panicked District 4, I realized I might have taken that away from her. But I will always fight for her, even if she isn't in arms reach.