Chapter Two: Annie Cresta.
I feel the water rush past my face as I break the surface. I gasp and shake the water from my eyes.
"Did you get it Odair!"
Bud Grimm, head of all the dock workers, shouts from a boat behind me. I shout back as I tread water.
"Not yet! It's stuck pretty good!"
I hear the anger in his voice as he replies.
"Well you better get it this time! Or don't bother coming back up!"
I sigh. Taking a deep breath, I plunge back down into the warm water. This morning when I showed up at the docks, Bud immediately set me to work casting and hauling in nets. One of the nets got caught on a reef, and I've been trying for an hour to unhook it. I can see it ten feet down. I slide through the water with ease, Bud always sends me to get the nets that get caught, he says I swim better than any fish he's ever seen. I finally reach the net, and I swim around until I see what is keeping it caught: The left corner is hung up on a rock ledge. I sink down and grab the corner, but no amount of pulling releases it. My air is running out, soon I will have to return to the surface, and if I haven't freed the net...Well, that isn't an option. I un-strap a small knife from my calf. There's only one rope I have to cut to free the net, I begin sawing through it. I'm only halfway through when I have to go back up for air, I can't stop now, so I just keep slashing at the frayed rope. My lungs are burning when the final strand parts, and my head is pounding. I grab the net and through it over my shoulder, then kick off of the rock and swim for the surface. My strong strokes soon push me through the water. With my ears ringing I break the surface, gasping for air.
"Did you get it now Odair!"
I inhale deeply, and cough out a reply.
"Yes! I got it!"
I swim over to the boat, and pull myself over the side. I shake my wet hair out of my face. Bud stomps up, He lost his leg years ago in a fishing accident, and it's replaced by a wooden stump. He's a heavyset man, with thick bristly hair, the color of tar. I am taller than him by about an inch. I hand him the net,
"What d'ya do to this net eh?!" I stare dumbly at the frayed end of the net.
"I had to cut it, there was no other way..."
His face darkens from its usual red, to purple. A sure sign that he's furious.
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CUT IT!? He roars. "DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH IT COST TO FIX A NET?! WE CAN'T AFFORD A NEW NET!"
He slaps me hard on the same spot Surf had earlier. I ignore the pain, and grit my teeth together.
"What have you got to say for yourself?!"
I pick up the net,
"I can get it fixed, and it wont cost you a thing."
He pushes me in the chest, knocking me back.
"Go on then! And you better not show up again until it's fixed!"
I tie the net over my shoulder, and dive into the water. Within a couple of minutes, I'm walking along the beach, on my way to the wealthier part of the district. The left side of my face is completely numb, and my bare feet are sore from walking on the rough ground. It takes me almost an hour to reach my destination. I walk up to the large pale yellow house and knock on the door. It's opened by my best and only friend: Annie Cresta, her reddish-brown hair falls over her shoulders and into her face. She pushes it back, and smiles at me. Her sparkling green eyes are just a shade darker than my sea colored ones. She always seems to be smiling, even the day before the reaping. She seems surprised to see me, and why shouldn't she be? I should be working, and I'm standing at her front door in my swimsuit.
"Hey Finn! Aren't you supposed to be working?"
At that moment she spots my bruised face.
"Oh my! Are you okay? Did you get fired?"
I smile, and wince.
"I'm fine...can I come in?"
She swings the door open wide.
"Sure, sorry. What can I do for you?"
We walk over to the living room, she sits down on the plush cream couch. I remain standing since I'm in my soaking wet swimsuit.
I tell her about my day, starting from when I woke up this morning, till the net incident. She listens quietly the whole time, watching me sympathetically. I reflect on how mature she seems for a twelve-year-old.
"And I was hopping your father's friend could help me fix the net. He's the best net maker I know, and I could work for pay."
Annie takes the net and examines it, then she looks up and smiles.
"I'm sure he will help. The damage isn't that bad, we should have it fixed up in no time."
I feel relieved, and smile back at her.
"Wow thanks Annie, I don't know what I would have done if you couldn't help me."
She shakes her head,
"Finn, when will you learn, that's what friends are for. How are you doing by the way?"
"Fine I guess. Although I can't go back to work until the net's fixed, I guess I'll spend the rest of the day at the training center."
I see a flicker of disapproval flash in her eyes, and the smile disappears from her lips.
"Oh, I didn't think you would be going today."
I don't like to see her unhappy, she's the only friend I have.
"Annie, it's not like I'm training to be a career, you know I would never do that. The reaping is tomorrow and I just want to be ready, in case..."
She pushes her hair out of her face again, and finishes my sentence.
"In case you get reaped."
"But Finn! That would never happen!"
Something snaps inside me.
"You don't know that! The community home takes out tesserae on all the boys! I have Twenty slips in this year! Twenty! I would say the odds are not in my favor."
She turns on me and starts yelling as well.
"Finn! Even if you do get reaped, we live in a career district. Someone will volunteer! They always do."
I should just stop and apologize, but I am anxious, and frightened, and I keep yelling.
"You don't know that either! It's not like you have to worry, this is your first year, and you'll never have to take tesserae!"
I instantly regret what I said when I see the hurt in Annie's eyes.
"I'm sorry...I...I didn't mean it."
Tears well up in her eyes,
"Finn...I am your best friend, and I know your scared, I am too. But this is a time when we need to stick together...more than ever."
Her words almost bring me to tears.
"I...I know. It's just that twenty is a big number, that's why I have to train."
Just then Annie's brother Robbert, bounds down the staircase. He is a year older than her, and you can definitely tell they're related. Robbert has had health problems since he was a baby, he is thin as a rail and very pale. But his eyes contain the same luster as Annie's.
"Finnick! I didn't know you were here. How are you doing?"
I smile and shake his hand.
"Robbert. I'm doing well, I was just off to train."
"Ah. Thinking about volunteering are we? Do you think you'd stand a chance? No fourteen year old has ever won."
I place my hands on my hips, thrust out my chin and strike a dashing pose.
"Well why wouldn't I win? I can kill the other tributes with, charisma."
I raise my eyebrow and grin at them. They both burst out laughing,
"I can't argue with that."
Robbert says still laughing.
"I'll see you tomorrow."
I say, and with a wave I walk out into the sun. I can't really say Annie's my only friend, Robbert is my friend too. He and Annie are really close, they have no other siblings, and their father died when they were young, they only have their mom, and each other. Well, and me of course. I sigh and begin walking to the training center, trying not to think of tomorrow...or my odds.