Finnick Odair wanted his freedom. He wanted to be able to travel freely between districts, he wanted to take his sister to see what mountains looked like, and he desperately wanted to see what the people in the capitol looked like. Finnick was tall and strong at only fourteen, and a great source of pride to his parents. And yet Finnick's greatest fear was that he would never be able give his parents the thing that they all needed most; freedom. Yes, Finnick wanted what everyone else in District Four wanted, but like everything good in Panem, they could not have it.

One afternoon, when the rains had forced all the fishermen back home from the shore early, Finnick was there to greet his sister as she came home from school. Keeva, only twelve, was much like her brother – tall for her age and very strong. She could best many of the boys in her class at tests of strength and speed. She was the other source of great pride to Finnick's parents.

"Oh, you're home early!" she called upon seeing him as she marched through the front door, thoroughly soaked.

"Yeah, you can see Poseidon didn't want us out today." Finnick sighed.

"Well what would you like to do with your afternoon off?"

"Huh?"

"There are all sorts of things we could go do, now that you're home for the day!" said Keeva, looking at her brother eagerly.

"Keeva, it is absolutely pouring. You know mom would have my neck if she caught me dragging you out in torrential rains", Finnick replied with an air of finality. He could tell that she had already hatched some sort of plan in her head..

"Oh, but Finny!" she whined, "Annie Cresta is making me a new bracelet today!"

"Who is making you a what?" He tried to sound disinterested.

"Annie Cresta! You remember her, she's in my year at school? Anyhow, she promised to make me a bracelet out of these old beads she found at the market, and I want to go over today."

Finnick could honestly say he remembered no such girl from school, but then again he had never paid much attention to anything in school. He had spent most of his time staring out the window at the rolling sea.

Keeva looked at him with pleading eyes. Finnick's attention flickered from her soft face to the rain lashing the window, and back again.

"Does it absolutely have to be today?" he eyed her suspiciously.

"Yes! Annie is such a scatterbrain, if I don't go pick it up today, I know she'll give it to someone else. Please Finny?"

Knowing he had already lost this battle, Finnick sighed. "Alright, alright. But if you catch your death of cold, you gotta swear to tell mother that this was all your idea. Since it was."

Keeva promised him by doing a funny sort of hand motion over her heart that she and Finnick had once invented, and raced out of the room to find her rubber boots, grinning all the way.

Sloshing up to Annie Cresta's house, Finnick was most definitely regretting this decision. Most everyone else in the village was inside their huts, with the storm shutters battened tightly, waiting for the rains to pass. They stamped up the stairs to a hut that looked much like every other one in their village – small, dirty, and rotting slightly around the edges. Keeva hammered on the door with a trident-shaped knocker. It was opened by a petite, freckly girl, whose face was partially obscured by locks of long, flaming red hair. She smiled and airily invited her two guests in.

Once seated across from each other on the chairs in the small main room, Keeva and Annie began chatting about school. Well, Keeva was really speaking at Annie, who was busy fashioning the bracelet out of fishing line and some truly lovely old wooden beads. Annie seemed interested in the conversation, but never spoke much - she was very much preoccupied with her work. Finnick watched her hands as she deftly wove knot after knot, pausing occasionally to slip a chunky wooden bead onto the line. She looked as if this was the sort of thing she had been doing for a long time.

When Keeva was finally quiet for a moment (Finnick was fairly certain she hadn't stopped to breathe in twenty minutes), Annie spoke for the first time.

"Reaping's coming soon," she said softly. "Two weeks' time."

A flash of panic crossed Keeva's tanned face, which Finnick noticed she quickly surpressed.

"I know Annie…" Keeva whispered quickly.

Finnick and Keeva were both nervous for her first year being eligible for the reaping, but since no one in their family was much for sentiment, nobody brought it up.

Annie looked up at Finnick, "Are you nervous?"

Finnick noticed her wide, emerald green eyes seemed to be studying him.

"Well, not really," he lied, "I guess there's no point in worrying before the day gets here."

The truth was, Finnick was always nervous about the Reaping. Like every other kid in every district of Panem, he was afraid of being chosen, and even more afraid of his little sister being picked.

"I'm nervous. Not because I don't want to die, but because I don't want to die in front of all of those people." whispered Annie. "It's not the death that bothers me, it's the public humiliation."

Finnick felt a wave of sympathy for the quiet girl. He could picture it in his mind's eye, her red hair on the big screens projecting her image across all of Panem, waving goodbye to her district before being ushered off to her execution. She was right; the public humiliation was the real point of the Games, not extermination. He hoped for her sake that she would never have to go.

Finnick was snapped out of his reverie by Annie announcing that she was done, and striding across the room to fit the bracelet on Keeva's wrist. Keeva held her wrist proudly in the air.

"Oh it's lovely! Annie, you are a true artist!" she jumped up to hug a faintly blushing Annie.

"Anytime, I've lots more where those came from." she mumbled by way of a thank you.

Finnick glanced outside. The sky seemed to have lightened, and the rain was much less intense.

"I think we'd better head home for dinner, Keeva."

After waving their goodbyes they clomped back down to wooden steps and on to the muddy path leading back between the huts. After a few minutes, Keeva broke the comfortable silence: "I think the worst part of the Games is the fact that they don't take our abilities or strengths into account. They don't pick the strong kids, or the fast kids, or the smart kids. They just pick whoever, and it's not fair. How is a little scrawny young kid supposed to compete against the big burly older kids?"

"They're not", sighed Finnick. "They're just supposed to die quickly and be an embarrassment." He immediately regretted being so blunt, as Keeva now looked very upset.

"Well it's wrong!" she half shouted, "one day I'm going to change that! I'll change everything so that no kid has to be ordered to die ever again."

Finnick smiled sadly at the back of her head as she marched up the stairs to their house. He had always felt the same way, but had long since learned it was pointless to mention it out loud. The adults would laugh bitterly and say things like "wouldn't it be nice" or "maybe so, in a perfect world". He was almost to that level of cynicism himself.

That night however, Finnick dreamed of red-haired girls crying from capitol screens and his blonde sister reaped. He woke in a cold sweat with a singular thought – he wanted The Hunger Games to end.