Ch 1: Reaping Day (Annie’s POV) “Seashell!” “Come on it's time!” “Annie, you need to wake up!” With the feeling of a slight nudge my eyes flicker open to see my dad sitting on my bedside with his hand on my shoulder. “Hey seashell it’s time to wake up. We don’t want to miss it!” Yawning, I stretch my legs and sit up to look at my dad and while rubbing my sleepy eyes raspily reply, “I’m almost 18, I think I’m getting too old for the nicknaming don’t you?” My dad turns to look at me with a fake pout “your never too old to be my little girl” and he leans over and places a kiss on my freckled nose. Laughing I ask, “how long?” With my question my dad turns to look out my window still darkened by the night and out towards the sea. His brows furrowed as he responds, “I’d say about 10 minutes, I’ve already made the tea so just put on something warm and meet me out there okay?” I nod and satisfied he leaves my room closing the door behind him. I grab my covers and throw them off me as I slide out of bed and walk over to my mirror. With my sea blue eyes staring back at me, I quickly glance over my face and unsatisfied with my cleanliness, reach over to a bail of water on my desk and splash my face. I then turn my attention to my hair, reaching the end of my long copper braid to untie it, letting my shiny reddish brown locks loose. After giving my hair a quick brush, I turn to my closet and pick out the only dress I have. I take off my nightgown and pull on the short cream strapless dress. Zipping the back I turn back to my mirror for a final approval. This was my moms wedding dress from before she died. I got my hair genes from her and she chose this dress because the contrast makes our firey hair pop (a unique trait for the usually blonde or brunette district 4 citizens). I gaze over my reflection, starting with the cinched white dress I work my way up, glancing over my protruding collarbones. I quickly brush my hair forward to cover them. Four was never a poor district like 12 but still food was scarce and it was starting to show. Deciding I looked okay, I left my room and quickly walked through the house and out the front door where my dad was waiting patiently with two flasks. Hearing the front door open, he turned and smiled at my outfit. “No shoes?” He laughed. “I want to feel the sand today” I reply as I look out toward the coastline. Today is the last day for our tradition. Every year on this day, my father and I watch the sunrise. The memories of previous years begin to flood my mind making me smile and look back towards my father. I see him glance at my dress and his smile weakens. “She will be watching over you today” he whispers as if to hide the falter in his voice. It's only been eight years since my mother killed her leg after my sister Nora was reaped and slaughtered. She was only 12. I decide I don’t like this memory and I begin counting all the wrinkles on his face as if I might forget them. Counting always seemed to calm me down and gather control of my mind. “I know, that’s why I wear it, I’ve been wearing it for five years now and haven’t been reaped yet” I reply confidently. My dad nods and we take off towards the beach. After a few minutes we reach the beach and I can feel the cold sand caressing my bare feet. I can smell the salt from the ocean and dispute the cold morning, I feel warm again. My mother always loved the ocean. She would take Nora and I down to the beach all the time. We would free five and collect shells so she could make jewelry to sell with the fishing nets my dad made. I learned how to work with knives to cut and tie knots for the nets and also how to hold my breath for minutes at a time to collect the shells. Cutting my memory short, my dad asks “how about here?” I nod as he hands me a flask and we sit down on the sand. I open my flask and the aroma of warm vanilla tea fills my nose and the steam caresses my frost bitten cheeks. We sat there in silence for a few minutes sipping our tea and enjoying the sound of crashing waves. I begin drawing circles in the sand to pass the time until I feel my dad nudge my shoulder. “Look seashell! Here it comes” he says excitedly as he points towards the horizon. I look up and see the sky begin to lighten. The dark blue haze giving way to the yellowish orange radiance of the sunrise. We look upon the rising sun in awe and I close my eyes and feel its rays warming me. For a moment I feel safe, protected by the sun’s warmth. But like the tide that feeling quickly recedes and I’m left thinking about today. Reaping day. Ch 2: The Odds Are Not In My Favor I glance over at my father and study his features. It saddens me to see how his once strong features are ridden with wrinkles. He too has lost a fair amount of weight in recent years. It had been five years since district four had a victor and food was growing scarcer. With this in mind, I made a silent wish that a tribute chosen from four this year would win so we can get our much needed supplies. As I finish my thoughts, my father catches my gaze, “Time to go?” he asks solemnly. I turn to look out at the sunrise above the ocean, now in full radiance. “Time to go.” I reply as we stand up and walk with our empty flasks back home. Once we are back, we sit down to a proper breakfast of capitol rationed rice and hand caught fish (fairly typical for families in district 4). After I finish eating my dad clears our plates as I rush to put on my shoes. I pick the nicest ones I have, my worn down black heels, and slip them on. Once we are ready we make our way out of the house towards the district courtyard where the annual reapings take place. As we approach the tribute registration table, I turn to hug my father goodbye. “Good luck seashell” he kisses my forehead and makes his way towards the adult standing area. After I see him reach his group, I turn and make my way towards the registration line. Once it’s my turn, I get my finger pricked and walk over to my age group for lineup. As I walk through the crowds and look for my age group, I see him sitting amongst the other victors of district 4. His curly bronze hair shimmering in the light and sea green eyes looking down at the crowd. That's him. That's Finnick Odair. He won his games a few years ago, I think he was 14, 15... I’m not sure. I try not to watch the games but I saw enough to know he won his games by trapping people in well executed rope traps and stabbing them with his trident. I remember seeing the blood thirsty look in his eyes as he took out his fellow tributes. I decide that I don’t like that image and shake it from my mind. Continuing my search I find my age group, and stand amongst my group of 17 year old girls. As I wait, I look down at my freshly pricked finger and my face flushes at the sight of my own blood. I'm glad this is my last reaping, I think to myself. I'm not a victor. I'm no Finnick Odair. I notice the crowd is especially quiet this year. There had been talk about the arena and how it will be one of the most dangerous games yet. Rumors of poisonous plants, acid rain, and newly engineered mutts guarantee that there will be no volunteers this year. After a long uncomfortable silence, our capital representative and reaper Novalina Petrie steps on the stage. Her abnormally huge yellow heels clicking is the only sound ringing throughout the yard. Her heels are eloquently paired with netted white stockings that stretch up to meet her matching bright yellow feather dress that she has cinched at the waist with a pearl belt. Her outfit is absolutely bizarre. Completing the look, her highly teased bright yellow hair bounces as she walks. Once she reaches the mic, she smooths the stray feathers on her dress, clears her throat and looks up at the crowd. Her pale faced makeup cracks as her gold painted lips creep into a smile. Scanning the crowd through her four inch feather lashes, she begins... “Hello all... and welcome to the reaping of the 70th annual hunger games! As always, the capitol has prepared a reminder of why we uphold this wonderful tradition.” That word makes me cringe. Wonderful...as if. Then the mandatory hunger games screening begins, I've seen this film before so I stare down at my shoes, counting the circles I carve in the sand with the point of my heel. After the end credits are over I looked up to see her begin to speak again, “Wow! Isn't that just wonderful!” I roll my eyes upon hearing that word again. “Now that everybody is feeling patriotic, let’s get started with the ladies this year, shall we?” she continues. Walking over to female tribute pool, she reaches her hand into the big glass bowl her long nailed, boney finger swirling around the white envelopes. I can feel the crowd holding their breath as her pale hands grasp one of the envelopes. A deadly silence falls over the crowd as she pulls it out of the clear bowl and reads it aloud. “Annie Cresta” Ch 3: Foreign Sounds “Annie Cresta darling don't be shy!” Novalina beckons as she scans the crowd for the horrified face of her female tribute. I feel my heart sink. My name sounds foreign, distant. It's not mine, It can't be. My feet are frozen I can’t move, I can’t breathe, I don’t even think my heart is beating anymore. She repeats my name one more time, this time looking directly at me. “There you are miss Annie, come on up now” she says as she beckons me to come forward. I must have looked pretty terrified to give away my identity by looks alone. Taking a step forward, I glance around me to see the girls in my age group staring at me sharing the same face; Pity. My hesitant step triggers the peacekeepers to come and latch themselves on my shoulders grabbing me and dragging me forward towards the stage. They guide me all the way to the stairs and then letting go, push me forward to climb the stairs alone. I hear Novalina’s voice echo as I near the top, “come on dear, we don't have all day now!” I feel my knees buckle as I try to climb the stairs and im glad I do not fall. Once I’m fully on the stage I glance over to the victors sitting behind Novalina. I see Finnick and next to him, I see a very short elderly lady, both with their eyes fixed on me. For a brief moment I locked eyes with Finnick who looks almost sad, his once confident smile replaced with pursed lips and a frown. Great. Even he knows i'm dead. Ashamed I tear my eyes away from his disappointed gaze. Having already crossed the stage, I stand next to Nora. She wraps her cold fingers around my bare shoulder and I think I flinched because she chuckled and slid her hand down to my upper arm eliciting a sickly chill from my already trembling body. Squeezing my arm she looks at me and says, “why what a wonderful tribute we have this year you must be very proud!” I let my eyes scan the crowd as I nodded slowly, remaining silent. She takes this as a cue to draw for the boys. She releases her cold grip on me and walks over to the boys bowl to pick another envelope. Then, envelope in hand, she calls out his name. “Thomas Keller!” A few seconds later I see a tall, but shockingly thin, curly brown haired boy guided up to the stage just like I had been a few moments ago. I can tell he’s shaking because of his knees wobbling as he walks up the stairs to greet me and at the stage. Novalina glances at him and repeats, “what wonderful tributes we have this year. May the odds be ever in your favor! Shake hands now” she says as she inches us closer. I look at him and I can see my own fear reflected in his wide hazel eyes. I reach out and we shake hands. With that, Nova ushers her parting words “Happy Hunger Games!” and she begins to walk off the stage. Following her cue, the peacekeepers latch on to me again and rush us off the stage and into the visitation building. Before I know it im sitting on a cold black leather couch waiting for my father to come in and say goodbye. My leg is shaking with anxiety and I begin to think about Dani and how scared she was when we visited her. I can't believe I got chosen. Why is dad taking so long? How is this possible mom? I say aloud. As if she could respond. Suddenly I hear the door crack open. My father rushes into the room. “Annie! My girl! I'm so sorry!” His voice was worried, too worried for a playful nickname I guess. I then realize, I’ve never heard it this shaky before. Not even for Dani. I begin to think about my father, the games have taken everything from him; my sister, my mother, and now me. He must be feeling so lost. I cant get up to greet him, my legs are too weak. Sensing this, he kneels in front of me and grabs my hands. “I wont lose you too” he whispers definitely looking down at my hands. “I can't do it dad, Dani was stronger than me and she...she…” He cut me off, “Your not Dani! Your your own person and your strong too. You can do it. You can hide…” “Dad” “You can use a knife, pretty good at throwing them too! To cut the nets and release the trap! Get him to help you, uhh the Finnick guy, get him to teach you how to trap the tributes like he did!” “Dad” “And you can swim...I heard this year they will have a da…” “DAD! Please stop. Okay? Please. I'm not going to win. Im sorry” I yell back. He looks down, lets go of my hands and sighs. I see a tear roll down is tired face. “Please Ann...You can't leave me alone. Please at least promise me you will try to come home.” I see his face when we looks back up at me. He looks so broken. A man on the verge of losing everything. “I promise” I say back with more confidence than I feel. He smiles back at me and leans over to pull me into a hug before the peacekeepers barge in and escort him out. The door shuts coldly behind them and I am left alone in silence. Chapter 4: Cruel Intentions Now that visitations are over, the peacekeepers escort me out of the building and towards the door of what I can only assume is the bullet train to the Capitol. They let go of me at the door to one of its many cars and once I step inside they slam it behind me. Looking around I feel so out of place. The train is so elegant with velvet carpets and silver plates filled with expensive pastries and fruits. I see a seating area with two double seat black leather couches. One is propped up horizontally against the back of the train with a small end table of candies to the left with the other black leather couch stretched vertically to the right. In the center of these couches is a black monitor. I decide that the monitor will probably be important once I meet my mentors so I sit on the horizontally placed leather couch on the left cushion distancing myself from the oddly tempting bowl of candy. I sit down for a few moments silence still taking in the sights of this train as I hear the door open. The peacekeepers shove Thomas in the room and slam the door. Scanning the room he catches my stare and breaks the silence, Clearing his throat he mumbles “Fancy stuff huh?” glancing at the plates and back towards me. “Yeah, fancy” I reply awkwardly. Chuckling at my awkwardness he walks towards the dessert display and hovering over it he looks up at me, “Have you gone in yet? They wouldn’t try to kill us before the games would they? It would be too merciful” he questions with a smile. Smiling back I shrug, “Never can be careful.” We both looked at each other for a second after my remark and simultaneously break out into laughter. Our merriment is soon cut short when we hear the car door open once more and see Finnick and the elderly lady entering the train. “Hellloooo Lucky Tributes” Finnick greets crossing the room to sit on the couch adjacent from me. “Why all the frowny faces?” He laughs as he glances at me. He is wearing a purposefully unbuttoned white blouse tucked into way too tight black pants and dress shoes. He totally knows he is hot and this thought of his conceit edges me to retort “Oh trust me I’m smiling on the inside.” This elicits a playful smirk from finnick “I'm sure you are” he adds with a wink turning to Thomas, “and what about you? Trying to bulk up last minute?” He smirks as he looks at Thomas chomping down on the sweets. Thomas is not thrilled with this comment and just grunts as he shoves more pastries in his mouth. “Well…” Finnick begins as he looks back at me. “I guess I better introduce myself. I'm Finnick Odair, victor of the 65th Annual Hunger games and The Capitol jewel” He turns to look at the old lady who is still deciding on where she should sit. “And this is Mags, she is also a victor and will be mentoring you guys as well.” Mags looks up and smiles at Thomas and I, which makes Finnick clarify, “Oh and by the way Mags here is mute due to an injury during her games, but don't worry she doesn't need words to let you know what's on her mind.” Mags rolls her eyes and decides to join me on my couch. As she sits to the right of me and swiftly picks a hard candy from the bowl next to her and offers it to me. “No thanks” I say politely. She nods promptly gets to work unwrapping the candy. I watch her for a moment and realise just how small she is. I'm not very tall, maybe 5’6 but mags is probably not even 5’. Then suddenly, for the first time today, a confident thought passes through my mind. If she can win, so can I. Breaking the silence, Finnick continues, “Okay great, now that we are all friends, let's talk strategy shall we?” Standing up, he walks over to the monitor on the wall and turns it on showing the reaping video of the District 1 tributes smiling and waving at the camera. Turning back to face us, Finnick begins describing each of the tributes by their district. I take mental notes of what Finnick says about each of the tributes. District 1: Titus (the male tribute, 18yrs, very tall and brawny with dark hair and blue eyes) good at hand to hand combat like any career but especially dangerous with an axe. Conclusion: Very Lethal but most likely as smart as a potato. Shayra (the female tribute, 18yrs, also relatively tall and muscular, pixie cut blonde hair and dark brown eyes that seem almost sinister) also good at close range combat but especially dangerous with dual swords. Conclusion: Very Lethal and intelligent. Then Finnick adds possibly psychotic. District 2: Oliver (the male tribute, 18yrs, similar build to Oliver D1 but with long brown hair pulled back into a ponytail) Specialty: climbing and very skilled with a spear. Conclusion: Lethal but Possible Ally Raven (the female tribute, 17yrs, a stark difference from her male counterpart, she is relatively short and thin) Specialty: she is apparently good with a bow but nothing physical. Conclusion: One of the worst female volunteers from District 2, definitely Not Lethal and alliance is most likely not worth the effort. District 3... Finnick is cut short when Thomas elicits a very obvious yawn of boredom. This action does not sit well with Finnick as he crosses his arms over his chest and asks “Oh I'm sorry, am I boring you with this potentially life saving information?” Thomas pops another pastry in his mouth and explains, “I have no intention of joining the career pack, so sorry if I’m not that interested in learning about them.” Finnick raises an eyebrow in surprise, “okay, what's your angle then?” He questions with a very obvious tone of criticism. Thomas swallows his food and thinks in silence for a moment. Then he looks up at me and continues, “im better off on my own, no one to slow me downI want to be on a team with Annie and only her, District partners are the only ones you can trust in the arena”. Finnick glares at him and then directs his gaze towards me and his face turns to concern. “Is that something you would like to do as well?” He asks me. His gaze is intense and his sea blue eyes are piercing but also soft. I don’t think I’ve ever been this close to him before. I’ve heard rumors about him and I’ve seen him from afar upon on the reaping stage with the other victors, but having him here in front of me is surreal. I can see why he has so many capitol lovers, he is beautiful. Catching my thoughts before they get out of hand, I look down and away from his face so that I can think clearly about my next move. I think im better off with since I don't have much combat experience to protect myself” I say with a hint of uncertainty. I mean seriously, I was just reaped like an hour ago how can he expect me to have a survival plan already? “Fine then I’ll be alone” Thomas retorts almost hurt. He grabs a few more pastries and asks MAgs if she can show him to his room. Mags nods and they walk out of the main car together leaving Finnick and I alone in silence. Short Finnick POV: BEEP BEEP BEEP “Awe already?” Kuvira pouts as I check my watch and begin to slide off of her. Grabbing my arm she pulls me back on top of her and moves her hands up my bare chest latching them around my neck. “You sure know how to make an hour fly by lovely.'' Sighing I begin removing her hands from my neck, sit up and hold her hands up to my sore lips, “Sorry sweetheart you only get what you pay for, now pay up. Any good secrets for me this time?” I ask playfully kissing her corpelsy hands. This better be worth it. “I heard from my friends friend who is the daughter of the GameMaker this year that the arena is going to be set in the snow. How fun is that?!” she squeals cheerfully bouncing up and down on her bed. Holding back a scoff, I release her hands and stand up making my way towards the door. Right before I exit I reply, “How fun indeed” and I shut the door behind me. Now that my pre-games client list is finished, I have been given permission to return to District Four to make an appearance for the reaping of the 70th Annual Hunger Games. I was not excited at all. I had been a mentor for five years now and none of my tributes won. To make things worse, watching them die hasn't gotten any easier either. I sigh as I get on the bullet train to head home. Upon arriving, I am greeted with Mags. She always likes to meet me at the station once I arrive. I rush over to hug her and plant a kiss on her silver head. “Missed you” I whisper as I pull her closer. She is the only family I have left after Snow killed my parents. She is the only reason I continue to serve the Capitol “clients”. We break away from our hug and holding hands we walk to Victor’s Village. After my much needed shower, I have dinner with Mags. We sit in silence after our meal as she applies aloe vera to my overly scrubbed skin. I feel disgusting. She gets that. She gets me. The next morning I wake up rather late (I never sleep much in the Capitol) and rush to put on whatever clothes I can find. I end up having to go with the Capitol clothes I wore the day before with Kuvira. I hate these tight pants but I have no choice, the reaping will be broadcasted and the Capitol needs the presentable (desirable) version of me. Once ready I meet Mags outside and we walk towards the reaping yard together. We arrive and take our seat up on the stage among the other district four victors and wait as the crowd arrives and finds their place. After some silence, Novena walks out in another one of her stupid outfits and announces the name of the female tribute. I look at the crowd and see the peacekeepers hauling a terrified ginger girl up towards the stage. Her green eyes are wide with fear and her legs wobble as she makes her way up the stairs. As she crosses the stage we make eye contact and judging by her face she looks defeated. Of course there would be no volunteers for the poor girl this year after all the arena rumors. She's also probably not thrilled about having such a young mentor who has had a five year streak of failure. As she stands next to Novena it hits me how naturally beautiful this girl is compared to the overly extravagant capitol style. This girl, Annie I think it was, has long wavy red hair that contrasts perfectly with the beautiful cream dress which hugs her rather frail body. I must have been staring too long because the next thing I know the boy tribute is already up on the stage and they are being escorted to the visitation area. Walking down the stage towards the bullet train I hear an old man shouting behind me, “Hey you! Hey Victor! I need to speak with you! Please!” I turn around and see the peacekeepers trying to drag away an old copper haired man with familiar bright green eyes. I tell the peacekeepers to let him go and we walk together to the visitation area while he pleads with me, “I know you probably don't care, but my daughter Annie just got picked as the female tribute. Please I beg of you, don't let her die in the arena, do whatever it takes to keep her alive!” I nod but that doesnt satisfy him, “and when she wins...” he adds slowly, “make sure they cant have her.” I stop walking and look at the man in confusion, “what do you…” He cuts me off, “you know exactly what I mean...darling of the capitol”. His words shocked me, and I freeze as he continues into the visitation center to speak with his daughter. I stand there for a second in silence. How does he know... My thoughts are interrupted by Mags who tugs on my shirt beckoning me to come to take a walk with her around Four before we hop on the train. I tell her about what was just said to me and we begin to come up with a plan. This has to be the year that I train a Victor. Ch 5: Testing The Waters I debate what's worse, asking Finnick so show me to my room...or continuing to sit in this uncomfortable silence. As if guessing my inner turmoil Finnick turns to me and asked, “would you like me to show you to your room? It's been a long day for you and I'm sure your tired.” Eager to leave this uncomfortable atmosphere I nod and taking the cue he stands up and walks toward me. “Okay it will be right down this hall here, two cars down, first door to your left” He says as he gestures for me to walk forward, “after you” he smiles. Careful not to stare too long at him, I turn and walk. As we approach the door of my room, I turned around to face him. “I have a question for you…” I ask slowly keeping my eyes planted on my shoes. “If you were in my place, would you join the careers of go off with Thomas?” After I finish my question, I look up to meet his eyes. He is staring down at me with his forehead scrunched in concentration. Then he begins, “I would go with the careers, you were right when you said they were your best bet since you don't have much combat skill. Plus, despite being from the same district Thomas is still your enemy. At least with a career pack there will be more than just one vote when deciding to kill you or not.” “Won't I have to leave them in the end anyway” I add confused. “Yeah but let's cross that bridge when you get there. My main concern is getting you through the bloodbath. Thats where most tributes die, but if your with a career pack, you have a good chance of making it” he answers as he crosses his arms and leaned against my door frame. I can't help but stare at his arms. They are so muscular, so chiseled, but so deadly. Then I see it, those arms throwing a trident through the chest of a fellow tribute in his games all those years ago. Beginning to realize how long I was staring, I quickly looked up to see if he had noticed. The smirk on his face says he had. Damn it. With the lingering smirk on his face he starts down the hall while saying, “Well, all this mentoring is truly hard work. I'm going to shower and hit the sack…” Then he stops as he reaches the door into the next cart and turns to smile at me, “unless you want to join me that is...” My face instantly heats up as I retaliate with a way too high pitched, “NO THANK YOU” before swiftly retreating into my room. I can hear him laughing as he exits the train car and I can't help but smile like a fool. Idiot. I think to myself as I change into my pajamas and lie on my bed.