The Ocean Rolls Us Away
Chapter 1: Annie
I was seventeen, still a child in ways, an adult in others, when my brother Martin was reaped. The day was quiet and there was a chill in the air even though we were coming upon summer. I stood with my mother and father in a far corner of the town square and watched as my three brothers entered the roped off space for the Male Tributes.
My brothers had been training their whole lives for the games. I remembered watching the games as a young child and not understanding why anyone would want to be a part of them, especially my brothers. All three of them were so kind and thoughtful, and yet they spent most of their youth prepping to murder other innocents. It just didn't make any sense to me. It wasn't until later that I truly understood their motive, or rather my fathers. Still, I grew up watching them in silent misunderstanding. Now I stood watching again, but this time there was the ever-looming fear that I would never see one of them again.
I grasped my hands tightly around my fathers, searching for comfort. I was too old to be doing this, but I didn't care. His hands were rough, and sculpted like the rest of him, and that served as a level of protection for me.
When my father was young, he had been reaped at the mere age of fifteen. However, he of course had been trained like my brothers, and so he won easily, claiming the title of Victor. Occasionally he would tell stories about the games to us, I assume in an attempt to drive my brothers to train harder. Usually I just ended up running to my mother with images of children slain at the tip of my fathers' sword. Those images stayed stuck in my mind as I grew up, but today they made themselves ever more present.
"Annie," My fathers firm voice called me back to the present, and I let my eyes find his face.
"Yes, father?" I asked him timidly, hunching my shoulders as I glanced up at him.
"Let go of my hands." He stated, never removing his eyes from the proceedings on the stage. "It is time for you to learn to be brave."
I could hear the command in his voice very clearly. This was my sign to do what he said, and do it quickly. So, rather than stir up more irritation in him, I let go of his hands. Instantly my palms cooled, and I felt them aching to find a replacement, which was my mother.
I didn't even need to move before her slender fingers were wrapping around my own. The heat instantly returned to my palms, and a gentle comfort enfolded me.
A little breath of relief escaped my lips, and I returned my worried gaze to the small wooden stage. I didn't let my eyes fall upon the female tributes though. If I did, a fear would begin to rise up in my chest and eventually overcome me.
There was a reason I was standing with my parents, and not with the other girls like I should've been. When I was born, I was a very sickly child, and it took me years to recover to a healthy state. Because my father was a victor, he had the boldness to request that due to my illness I would never be entered in the reaping. To his surprise and the rest of District Four, President Snow agreed. Thus I was never entered in the reaping. However, now that I was older, I couldn't help but feel that his promise might come to an end. And if it did, what would I do?
Mitchlin Gilchrist, our District 4 escort, stood with a microphone in one hand and the female tributes bowl in the other. Mitchlin was a short man with black hair and multicolored eyebrows that seemed to me to be a very clear fashion faux pas. However, every year he came to four with great enthusiasm and always managed to crack a few mildly insulting jokes before he drew names. I had always assumed the reason for his pep was that he had been blessed with the task of taking care of Careers. Each year we won, another color seemed to compile it's self on his eyebrows, making him even less likeable. Personally I had always disliked Mitchlin, but this year he was especially irritating. He had added colored streaks to his hair and he must have felt he needed to tell us about it after every sentence.
"Well we have come to the time to choose our tributes! Of course, let's start with the ladies…" Mitchlin stuck his stubby little hand into the bowl and delicately picked a slip of paper. When his hand was out of the bowl, he lifted the paper, and read the name out loud with gusto, "Annie Cresta!"
I had been so distracted by Mitchlins eyebrows that at first I didn't even notice he had said my name. But then suddenly his words pulsed in my mind, and I looked up at the stage in shock.
Instantly I felt my self begin to rock back and forth as I tried to come to terms with the situation around me. I had been reaped. My fears had come true. Snow had taken back his promise that he handed out so lightly, and now my life was truly over.
When the realization that this wasn't just my imagination struck me, my knees became weak, and I started to collapse to the floor. I heard the crowd gasp, but my father caught me before I could hit the ground. I was barely stable when he started pushing me towards the stage. He may have been furious, but he would never show that to the people of District 4, or to the Capitol.
As I made my way to the stage, my knees began to give out again, but I couldn't let myself fall. My entire body was trembling and it was taking all I had not to burst into tears. I was just so afraid. There was a pounding in my heart that was almost speaking to me, Goodbye Annie…goodbye…goodbye…goodbye…
Fearfully I glanced around me as I walked past people, and they shook their heads and sighed. It was clear by their actions what they thought of me; that I was a puny weakling and a shame to their district. And they were right.
When my feet found the small set of stairs that led up to the stage, I felt the tears begin to break from my eyes, and roll down my cheeks.
"Congratulations my dear." Mitchlin said softly as he guided me on to the stage. As we were walking I noticed my two future mentors. One was an elderly woman named Mags, who I had grown up with in my life. She and my father had remained close after his games, and so she had been like a grandmother to me. The other mentor was Finnick Odair, who I recognized from the Victors Village and his constant appearance on my TV. I had never actually spoken to him before though. Finnick had won the games five years ago in a triumph of glory, plus he was two years older than me, so we didn't really run in the same circles.
When I found my place on the stage, I planted my feet on the wood planks as if they were roots in the dirt. Then Mitchlin started up again.
"Now, it's time for the boys…"
I watched him shakily through my tears as he dug his hand through the bowl. When his fingers found a paper near the middle, he pulled it out, and read loudly, "Martin Cresta!"
Immediately, a gasp escaped from my lips, and all in a matter of seconds I wanted to cry, scream, and vomit simultaneously. He had picked my older brother to die with me.
Heartbroken, I began to search for my brother and my eyes found him as he walked proudly to the stage. I'd forgotten that for him this moment was what he had been training for. He was ready to hear his name called, unlike me.
"Congratulations Martin!" Mitchlin grabbed onto Martins hand and shook it hard before he let my brother step back next to me.
I glanced over at Martin, and as our eyes met, I suddenly saw the true pain and sadness in his eyes.
"Well it looks as if we have a pair of siblings this year. Why don't we give them a round of applause!" The audience began to clap for us, but I felt the hesitation in the sound. It was plain to see that this situation we were in was not ideal to say the least.
Mitchlin turned towards us both and smiled a large, fake smile. "I wish you both good luck, and may the best of you win!"
Instantly I felt my lips begin to quiver, and though I'd thought that I'd be able to hold my self together, instead I passed out in fear onto the floor.