Those two hours we had have gone now. Now we have two minutes. Tweena has given Annie a sheet of card with the speech on. That's one advantage, that she didn't have to write it herself. 'Finnick, we will have to go soon, we will have about twenty minutes before the train to do the eulogy' Tweena says. I look at her, she too looks in some way, unsure and worried. 'Very well, we should go then' I say. Annie is sat in the corner of the first step of the stairs. She lays her head against the wall to her left. As I approach her, I see she is still shaking. When I hold her hand she willingly stands up. 'Are you ready?' I say. A tear is visible in the corner of her eye and she blinks it away and looks to the floor. 'Have to be' she says quietly and I hardly hear.
I suddenly realise we are approaching the crowds of people in our district. The crowd is parted down the middle to provide a path for us to walk down. On the stage is our mayor, people look up to him, I don't see why, really he is only there because the Capitol appointed him to enforce the law and host the reaping and the tour. He is Mayor Kamaka, he is a good Official, he has a son, Jonathon, he used to be in the year above me at school and he also used to help the workers at the fish markets, their whole family are very selfless. Kamaka has dark brown hair and it has grown outward around his face, when we walk down the path I notice age has hit him as his forehead is creased with wrinkles. On the stage there is large metal stands holding up a screen showing a picture of Annie in the clothes she wore for the games. Then I wonder when this picture was taken, I assume during training before the games, before anything happened, before she became vulnerable and weak. I look at her beautiful red hair draped into a bun that is visible at the side of her head and a lock of red hair hangs from either side of her head. The look on her face shows bravery and in some way anger. I compare this image by looking at her beside me. Everything is different her image is now weak and vulnerable, she clings to me which doesn't make her seem like an independent Victor, but I know she can be. I look behind us and see another large screen held up by metal stands. This one provides us with an image of Raff, he looks completely different, young and innocent. The district four crest is in the background of the image and Raff's Mother and Father stand on a podium underneath. The words 'Victory Tour' are plastered on a large screen above the stage. Every step I take closer to the stage, the more I dread what will happen. 'Annie' I say looking down at our linked hands, 'be strong, just keep your eyes on the cards and read everything on them' I say quietly. It takes her a while to nod to what I said, but I am not convinced as she looks so distressed. 'Please everyone welcome our Victor, Annie Cresta' mayor Kamaka says. I walk onto stage with her, letting go of her hand as she approaches the mic. She stands in front of the people and I stand just behind her. The people look up at her, many with a look of sympathy. She doesn't look up at Raff's image, she keeps her eyes on the cards like I said. 'Thank... You' she says, her voice is quiet, too quiet. She clears her throats and wipes her forehead with the palm of her hands brushing her hair back. 'Thankyou, f-for being here... Today' she says slowly reciting the cards. 'To share... With... Me' she is clearly struggling, especially with saying 'me', I assume she still can't come to terms with the fact Raff is gone, like she thinks she should be saying 'us'. She continues 'with me... My, my... V-victory, I give my gratitude... To the... To the... The... Capitol' she says, struggling to say Capitol, because it's the Capitol that caused everything to happen, she hates the Capitol and I don't blame her. 'My gratitude for presenting me with my victory...' She goes on for a while following the cards but stuttering between the sentences as she is clearly not ok with being here. I stop thinking about it when she gets to the fourth card. '... Raff Canvar was a–' she says and suddenly stops when she realises she said Raff. Everyone watching seems to be understanding like they expected Annie to get upset when she had to mention Raff. They all know Raff's death affected her as it was awful and unimaginable. Raff's parents look at her, waiting for her to talk about there son, they have a lot of respect for Annie they know how much she cared for Raff during the games. I suddenly realise she hasn't said anything else since she mentioned his name. She lowers the cards and she is looking at it, the screen that presents the image of Raff. I can't see her from behind but, I assume she's crying. I don't know what to do, I don't know what I can do. She pulls one arm up and clasps her palm over her mouth. Without thinking I walk to her side. I take the cards from her hand. I look across the stage at Tweena and she doesn't seem to reject my interruption. 'Raff was a noble tribute, he brought honour to our district. He was a brave and talented warrior and made the people closest to him extremely proud' I say and Raff's parents nod in agreement. I look back at Annie she has tears down her face but she has to be strong. I hand her the final card and she looks at me. I look at the card I gave her and she steps in front of the mic. She wipes her cheeks. 'Panem today... Panem tomorrow, Panem forever' she manages to say and relaxes her arms lowering the cards. She turns to me and I slowly see her break down, tears filling her eyes and biting her bottom lip to stop her from sobbing. Thankfully the people don't realise as they all clap, they know she has said enough. I wrap my arm around her back and lead us off the stage, increasing the pace of my steps as I see her get worse. She has now stared let herself sob, her ears are covered by her hands. Once we are off the stage I check there is no one around us. 'Annie! Look at me' I say as she has now covered her eyes with her hands. 'It won't go away! It won't stop!' She says shouting, which is why I checked We were alone. 'What won't stop?' I ask desperate to stop her from panicking. She calms slightly when she says 'from... The pain'. I knew this would happen. Raff's death is what damaged her, any memory of him just reminds her of being there in the games with him, seeing his decapitated body and knowing she didn't do anything to stop Drew. She can't keep blaming herself for that, there was nothing that she could do, she just can't accept that. No matter how much I tell her, she won't understand. But I have to try. 'Annie' I say warping my fingers round her hands and pulling them from her face. 'It can stop and it can go away, you need to fight the pain. I know it's hard and I know it hurts but, we just have to accept that he is gone' I say and she lets out another cry, but I am slightly convinced that she agrees with what I'm saying. 'Its... It's.... My fault' she says. I shake my head in disagreement 'Annie it's not your fault, there was nothing you could do' I say. She falls against me and wraps her arms round my neck. 'I can't believe this is happening... I-I can't believe... He's gone' she says crying against my shirt. This keeps happening, she keeps getting upset about it, like it just happened, it's been a long time, but clearly she remembers it like it happened yesterday. She breaths heavily against my chest. I place the palm of my hand on the back of her head and my other hand on her back and hold her close to me. That's the only way she calms down, only if I am with her.
She calms down after a while, but she is still crying and her cheeks have blossomed into a rose colour from the amount of tears that have dropped down her face. We are soon joined by Tweena and she suggests we make our way to the train. It's not far away to the station, a short walk. I used to watch the train arrive for the reaping before I was chosen, before I was old enough to be considered. It was a long time ago at least seven years ago. My life was so different then, the games changed everything which is one reason I hate them. Even though i dislike the Capitol and the games, I am also thankful for them, without the games I would never have met Annie, it's hard to imagine life without her now, she's all that matters to me. That's why I have to protect her.
We arrive and we follow Tweena to the platform where the train has already arrived. A few people are there as usual, I assume to watch us, Annie's mother is among the crowd, close to the front. She looks at Annie and I see her emotion change, it must be hard for any mother to see their daughter this way, but extremely hard for her as she knows there is nothing she can do to help. I see Annie in her, they have the same eyes and nose but their hair is completely different, Annie's is red and naturally curly and her mothers is dark brown and straight down to her collarbone. I nod at her as a sort of goodbye for now. 'We need to get going now if we are going to be on schedule' Tweena suddenly says in front of me. The prep team and Urina went straight to the train after the Capitol TV welcoming, so I assume they are already on. 'Annie we need to go, your mom has came to say goodbye' I say pointing at her mother. She looks over at her and slowly walks to her. I can't hear from here but It doesn't look like she says much, her mom brushes her hair behind her ear and pulls her into an embrace. She walks back to the train entrance and wipes her eyes with her wrists to dry the tears. As I get on the train, I look back and see her start to panic, her eyes widen and she starts breathing faster. 'We aren't going back Annie, were going to district 5 remember?' I say and she looks at me confused at first, but when she takes the step on I assume she understands. We will have to go to districts 5 to 12 first and then we go to 3 to 1 and then finish off at the Capitol, at the final celebration of her victory at the presidential palace, where we will have the pleasure of president snow's company.
The train starts after everyone is on and heads for district 5. Tweena disappears to another compartment and the prep team join Urina in the food compartment even though it's not a long trip and they could probably go the whole journey without any food. It's just me and Annie so I suggest we go to the main compartment. I push the button and the door slides open. Annie walks in and when I join her I see large windows and fine sofas and chairs with blue velvet cushions. Then I realise something. 'Annie, this is where we met' I say linking my hand around hers.