This story chronicles Annie Cresta's time in the Hunger Games and her relationship with Finnick Odair

WARNING: Contains mentions of swearing, drinking, violence and sexual assault.


3. Advice

I wake up to grey light streaking through the blinds on the window I never properly closed last night.  I am curled under my bed sheets when there is a curt rapping on my door. Raven peaks his head around the corner and gasps loudly when he sees me in bed.

            “Wake up little girl! We have a lot to get through!” he proclaims yanking my covers off me. I dislike how he calls me little girl, like he can’t even remember my name. I yelp with surprise and try futilely to keep the soft, warm blankets around me but he is surprisingly strong for such a stringy man. If I can’t even take a blanket of a man whose only goal in life is to look good how can I possibly hope to… to hurt someone whose been training their whole life for these games? I try not to think his name but an image of Kier pops up in my head. I rub my red-rimmed eyes and hope no one notices that I’ve been crying.

Raven eyes the clothes I’ve slept in. After I returned to my room yesterday I just crawled straight into bed and didn’t bother changing so now my dress is crumpled and smells of yesterday’s and last night’s sweat.

            “There are clothes in the wardrobe you can wear” he says and when I begin to protest he holds a hand up as if to clamp my cheeks together, “Your dress will be perfectly safe. I will have it washed and ironed and sitting on your bed by the time you finish breakfast. Now hurry up”

I change quickly in the simplest thing I can find. Most of the clothes are the ridiculously exuberant designs only a Capital person would ever wear. I pinch the fabric of one such dress made of a stiff material in the brightest pinks and yellows I’ve ever seen in my life. It seems to also come with a matching veil. I can just see Finnick’s face if I tottered into the dining carriage with this get-up on. I laugh but once I remember Finnick is not speaking to me the laughter dies in my throat.

When I exit my room I almost bump into Kier. He excuses himself and walks ahead of me in tan trousers and a pale green shirt patterned with faint gold leaves. He is so tall, taller even then Finnick. He also walks similar to the way I’ve seen Finnick do when he’s on the phone to someone from the Capital and he thinks I can’t see him; shoulders back, chest puffed out, a swagger of the hips, so much confidence it practically wafts off of him.

In the dining carriage the carpet looks perfectly clean and normal. You would never have guessed that someone had vomited there only a couple of hours before. Kier and I sit opposite from each other in the dining carriage with Raven perched at the top chair. The plates in front of us are soon piled high with eggs, sausages, bacon, pudding, beans, fish-sticks and fruit by waiters from the Capital. None of them will look us in the eye. That seems to be happening to me a lot recently. I feel like a lamb being fattened up for slaughter.

I eat all of it anyway feeling hungry again from emptying my stomach last night. Half-way through breakfast Isla and Finnick join us. Isla settles down to eat a huge bowl filled with something from every plate on the table. All Finnick takes is a single peach. He ignores me and I start to wonder if we talked at all last night.

I’m still stuffing my face when Kier begins to speak.

              “You are supposed to give us some advice” he puts down his knife and fork and looks calmly from Finnick to Isla. I immediately feel sorry for them. They have to relive their games again and again every year and help send children to their deaths. Isla grunts into her food and Finnick takes a bite of his peach, chewing it slowly, juice dripping down his chin, staring Kier down.

Raven titters and waves his fork to get everyone’s attention. “That can all wait until after breakfast, sugar. We are going to have a little movie marathon!”

Once our plates are cleared we head to the sitting area. Kier instantly claims the leather sofa propping himself up with foam green pillows in the shapes of various shells. Clearly the designers really wanted to hammer home that this is the sea districts train. Isla sits in the armchair next to Kier and sits rigid with her arms crossed firmly across her chest. She and Kier begin to speak to each other in whispers. I sit at the edge of Kier’s sofa but even at that proximity I can’t hear what they’re saying.

Finnick enters last and stands at the back near the door. I try to smile at him but he still refuses to meet my eyes. I’m beginning to think I am invisible. Hurt, I turn around and Raven turns on the three huge screens in front of us.

            “This is the footage from the Reapings in all the other Districts yesterday” he says with flair and plays us the recording.

In District Two a huge brute of a girl volunteers and roars as she runs to the stage. Her escort titters behind golden-gloved hands and remarks that the girl certainly has her war-cry down. In District Three a small boy who looks like he just turned twelve walks numbly to the stage when his name his called. Everyone in his District is silent, even his escort looks sombre. Even she is aware the mortality rates of someone his age and stature in the arena. The boy lets out an involuntarily sob and my heart wrenches out to him just as the screen cuts to us at District Four. I close my eyes so I don’t have to see myself being chosen. I don’t want to relive that moment. Beside me Kier tenses as I hear the shouting and cheering for him. I peek open my eyes and see again his mother screaming and crying before being dragged away. Just as suddenly as we were chosen I’m on screen frozen as Raven waves the mike in front of me and makes a face at the crowd like he’s just found someone entirely dim-witted.

             “Do we have to watch this bit?” I mutter.

Raven waves his hands in the air. “Yes darling, of course. I look fabulous” he smiles to himself admiring himself on the screen like a bird preening into a mirror. The screen cuts to the two commentators. They both give each other funny looks and laugh.

            “Well let’s hope she has more to say when she’s interviewed!”

My face burns and I don’t even have to look at the others to know they are looking at me with pity in their eyes.

            “Can we fast forward through this?” I say through a clenched jaw but Raven only fast forwards when the Mayor starts to read out the Treaty of Treason. The rest of the Districts Reapings pass quickly. In District 8 a boy who looks closer to thirty than eighteen with his huge beard is chosen and in District Twelve the two dark headed Tributes look so similar the commentators speculate on whether or not they are related. When the show is over Raven shuts the TV off and turns to us, hands on hips.

            “Well what do you think of our chances?” Kier says pushing himself up from the comfort of the pillows.

Isla looks us both up and down slowly. “You, pretty good” she says pointing at Kier, “Her? Not so much”

            “Enough!” Finnick growls from the back of the room, “Our job is to train both of our Tributes, Isla. Not speculate on who will survive”

Isla tsks her tongue and roll her eyes. She’s twenty-eight years old but she acts like she’s fifteen. I try to remember how she won her games. If memory serves she was incredibly vicious snatching and gutting her competitors like fish.

I feel my jaw clench involuntarily and I glance at Kier. By pure accident our eyes meet and Kier laughs. Not just a polite chuckle either. Kier knocks his head back and guffaws. His laughs are too loud and booming. They seem to echo across the carriage but eventually they tune higher and higher till he’s sitting there squeaking, tears rolling down his face. He’s hysterical. It’s an unusual break in what he’s presented so far as his character and if I’m honest it puts me on edge. Isla reaches over, slaps him across the back of the head and the laughter gives way to a coughing fit that ends as suddenly as the laughter began.

            “Are you finished?” Finnick says but all Kier can manage is a nod, “Okay then. I’ll start” He moves to the front and stands next to a tittering Raven. He nods to Isla and she reluctantly joins him.

            “As I’m sure you’ve all gathered so far, our District has the strategic advantage of being essentially an ocean district. We have shit tonnes of water and we know how to swim in it. Unfortunately for the other districts they don’t have the kind of access we do. Some of them, One in particular, have pools but no one, repeat, no one can swim as well as we do. That is your best chance at surviving in the arena. Find water, stay near water, don’t leave water. That” he glares at Kier, “is my advice”

He storms from the room, slamming the door behind him leaving the rest of us to cringe at the bang. There’s an awkward silence until Kier asks Isla if she has any advice.

            “Yeah, sure kid. Don’t die”


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