The dark-skinned girl with purple hair gave a low whistle as the holographic projection came to an end. "Wow. He was really shuai."
Several other students in the group of young teenagers tittered, their agreement obvious. The museum docent, a friendly, round-faced woman with pale skin and silvery eyes, smiled gravely.
"It definitely wasn't without reason that Finnick Odair was known to be one of the most sought after men in Panem. Unfortunately, his physical desirability was not a characteristic that did him much good once his Games were over. In fact, it was later revealed that as a Victor, his body was sold, against his wishes, to the highest bidder. Though records on the matter are few, those ledgers that do exist seem to indicate that, adjusting for currency and inflation, the funds exchanged for Mr. Odair's attentions would be enough to run a small town or, in those times, one of the poorer ancient districts, for an entire year. The contemporary propaganda materials," she gestured behind the group to some posters preserved in glass, "suggest he was thought of as somewhat of a lothario, but in reality, most, if not all, of his conquests were forced upon him."
A tall blond boy with skin the color of cinnamon scrunched up his nose, "That's disgusting."
"And so sad!" a tiny red-haired girl piped up. "The way he just read that poem! It sounds like he really loved someone."
"Excellent observation," the woman raised her eyebrows. "The fact is, there was an entirely different love story playing out, while the Star-Crossed Lovers of District Twelve were in the public eye."
While many of the students sighed blissfully at the romance of it all a few of them looked at each other and then to the docent with skepticism
"How do you even know that?" one asked. "It was hundreds and hundreds of years ago."
The docent's eyes lit up, "Well, that would lead us to the next item, one of the most prized in our collection." Gesturing them forward, she led them toward a large, squat, black cylinder. It looked like nothing, but as they gathered around, she pressed a button and slots appeared in the otherwise unbroken surface. A soft blue light filtered out, and they could see, within the cylinder, an impossibly old piece of paper was suspended.
"For obvious reasons, little evidence exists concerning any of the Victors' activities outside of the Capitol before the Third Quarter Quell. Their lives were kept as low-key and untraceable as possible. This next piece is literally the only evidence we have that the rebellion was organized in any way before District Thirteen's more obvious involvement."
She paused and gave them a sad smile before pushing another button.
"And it makes me cry every time I listen to it."
A woman's crisp voice emanated from the speakers embedded in the cylinder, making the students jump. "Could you tell us your name and why the document you're about to read is significant to you, please?" she said briskly.
"My name is Marcus Cartwright," the gravely voice of an elderly man responded. "And I'm going to read something written by my great-great-great grandfather to my great-great-great grandmother."
"You can start whenever you're ready…"
I write this knowing that in two days, I go into the Games for the last time. Although there is hope, and a plan, the likelihood that I will be killed is very high. I've given this letter to Haymitch, and he has given it to the rebels who are on their way to bring you to Thirteen, where you will be safe. You must go with them, Annie. You must.
I've tried to write this letter dozens of times since I boarded the train that took me away from you. I stared out of the window at the sea as it broke against the rocks of our district, hoping for inspiration but all I could think of was your sweet face. What I would do if I had one last day to spend holding you in my arms. The thought has haunted me to the point of distraction.
But there has been one thing in all of this horror that drives me, that allows me to eat, and to sleep. No matter what happens after I enter the arena, Annie, you will be free.
If I die, Snow will have no use for you. You can live in your little house by the bay and walk on the sand every morning with the sun in your hair. There will be no cameras to watch you when you leave the house. There will be no fear of being overheard. There will be no one who wants to hurt you anymore. And you will be happy, Annie. You will carry on without me because we both know that, out of the two of us, you are infinitely stronger.
And if I live… oh my sweetest Annie, if I live, no man who has ever existed before or since will know the joy that I will experience, seeing you again.
But for now, two days before my likely death, I wish that day was now.
Despite what I know, and the absurd cruelty of his situation, I find myself unbearably jealous of Peeta Mellark. You would like him, I think. He sees the world in different shades of beautiful, like you do, and you both share the same understated courage. The same courage that allows him to act out this farce of a romance with the woman he really does love, knowing that as long as he is forced to have her, he can never really have her at all.
The only reason I can even write this now is because what I saw him do a short time ago.
They're on the roof of the Training Center, the two of them, and when I saw them from the window on the door, her head was in his lap. She was sleeping, her hair in dozens of tiny little braids that spread across his lap like the tentacles of a jellyfish. He was wearing a thick crown of flowers wound through dark, flaking vines, and, ridiculous as it might sound (well, not to you, of course) I have never seen someone look quite so regal.
I couldn't look away, even though I know that the moment I was watching was something new and entirely different than any interaction between them has ever been, a beautifully tragic birth. The sun was setting, and his hair was turned into pure gold.
When he woke her, she looked into his eyes as though she had never seen him before, and together they leaned into each other and watched the sunset. I saw her hand flutter, as though she wanted to wrap it around his waist, but didn't know how because she had never done so before just because she wanted to. In the end, she used it to push a few of the drooping flowers away from his face.
And he was king, if only for a moment, of an orange-colored day.
Wherever this place exists, Annie, this place where day and night meet in an explosion of peace and love and the momentary happiness that bleeds into the eternal.
Whatever happens, that's where I'll be waiting for you.
With every ounce of my heart and soul,