Chapter 26: The Rise and Fall of Rebellion
Bruma bends down to pull out a broken shell from the sand. He brings it close to his face to examine it, turning the inside of the shell against the light, observing it's iridescence, and then nods slightly as if to show his approval of the shell before he places it inside his shorts pocket.
For 10 minutes he does this, walking along the shore of the Victor's Village beach – picking up a seashell, examining it, and then pocketing it. The sound of footsteps walking across the sand coming closer causes his head to move just slightly in the direction of the sound, but he doesn't turn around. The turn of his head was only for the benefit of the person walking towards him.
"Feeling better?" he asks.
"Getting there," replies Finnick.
Bruma turns to look at Finnick. For a 50-something year old man, Bruma still has a very young looking face, although he sports a peppered sort of hair, what with the gray mixing in with the black in equal amounts. Finnick wonders briefly if Bruma was ever sold to Capitol citizens when he was younger.
Ever since the night Turlach died, Bruma has been coming around every once in a while, merely to say hi, and every once in a while to talk to Mags. Sometimes he would bring his mother, Vangie, to keep Mags company. Neither Finnick nor Annie was up to talking much at the time, so it was that kindness that eventually got Finnick to acknowledge him as more than just an indifferent neighbor.
Two familiar females trail behind Finnick about 20 yards away, staying close together, and watching the waves.
"And her?" asks Bruma, nodding towards the charcoal-haired lady in the distance.
Finnick turns to look at Annie, watching the breeze blow her hair around her face. He can almost feel her arms around his waist, her face pressing against his back, holding him in comfort as his eyes gaze at her frame from where he stands. His love for her continues to grow with each day that passes. He could almost forget there is a world beyond the walls of his house when they're around each other. And it doesn't matter what they are doing, whether it is talking with each other, eating together, holding each other's hands, or kissing. As long as she is with him, he is perfectly content. A war could be waging right outside his door, and it wouldn't have mattered if she is by his side.
It is at that moment that Finnick realizes one thing that he always knew but never consciously acknowledged. And that is that without Annie, life beyond that would basically cease for him, whether or not it is physical is beside the point. He would be dead one way or the other. That realization brings a smile of pure contentment in having found a love that is rarely seen in the world they live in.
But also, a part of him holds an undeniable fear that his attachment to her could be dangerous to both him and her. Does she know how he feels? Would it be fair to her to need her as if his life depends on it, which it did in his mind? And what of her? Would she be able to survive without him, if that ever actually happened? He knows he couldn't, but could she? Looking back at all the times she's had to deal with the circumstances of her life, he has more assurance in her strength than he has of his own. And that makes him feel all the better.
"Getting there," says Finnick, this time with more confidence.
"Sorry about your brother," says Bruma. Finnick's chest tightens painfully at the mention of Turlach.
He, Annie, and Mags spent an afternoon at sea on the beach as soon as they were physically and emotionally able to pay their respects in private to Turlach. Because of Turlach being accused of Garcen's murder, Turlach's body was not only taken, but was burned. Finnick had hoped to at least get his ashes so he could respectfully spread them out in the ocean, but it never happened and it had been weeks. He supposed that was too much to hope for anyway. So, they just held a private memorial for him at sunrise.
"Thanks," is all he can mutter about it. Finnick clears his throat. "So, what did you want to talk to me about?"
Bruma picks up another shell and pockets it before looking at him again. "People have been asking about you. People in town, I mean." He fidgets a little before continuing. "I guess they're curious to know what you plan on doing. You know, now that your brother's not around. Take up the cause and all. Turlach said he didn't want you involved, but he didn't explain why," says Bruma, and then he looks past Finnick's shoulder to Annie and Mags. "But I'm pretty sure I know the reason. I'm sure everyone knows the reason."
Finnick just looks at him, a little puzzled. Bruma decides to explain everything, right there on the beach. Apparently, he didn't feel it necessary to speak in any code or whisper it in secret, but still he keeps his voice low.
During the weeks that Finnick had been in recovery, people in the district had already set a plan for revolt, and with the arrival of Katniss and Peeta, along with the news soon after about Turlach being killed and accused of attacking Annie – an accusation that no one who knew Turlach believed – and killing Garcen, those events set the revolt into action. Somehow it had been known that other districts were also in rebellion and they knew at that time it was the best moment to act on it.
So, with their anger fueling them and the amount of people, not only in the main town, but in other zones, far outnumbering the Peacekeepers, they had done it. They had fought back in their own way and refused to work for the Capitol. At first, boats would leave the pier as usual, but they didn't bring back as much as they normally would. However, the fish, crab, shrimp, and any other food the Capitol demanded from District 4 were never packaged. When the trains came to pick up the required quota of seafood, they returned with boxes of rotting scrapes.
Word came back through secret messages that the Capitol reported the lack of seafood was caused by severe weather and raging storms. It was certainly a victory for District 4. Eventually, the citizens of the Capitol will notice. Eventually, they would see that the districts will not be slaves to their needs. That was the hope anyway. If not, well, that was just the first step for District 4. There are plans to take it further if they had to.
Finnick thinks over all the information for a few seconds. "I want to help, but I can't allow her to be involved in that, nor will I leave her again. She's been through enough," explains Finnick, nodding in the direction of where Annie and Mags are.
"I know," says Bruma. "Just thought you should know." He shrugs. "It's not like they need us anyway. I guess they were just hoping for you to take Turlach's place. Or stand in for him or something."
Finnick furrows his brow. "What do you mean?"
"Turlach didn't tell you?" asks Bruma.
"Tell me what?"
Bruma scratches his forehead. "Turlach was the one who brought up the idea. He's the one who got people talking about it."
Finnick looks at Bruma as if he just spoke another language.
"Finnick, Turlach had been orchestrating this insurgency for close to a year. And from that look on your face, I guess he didn't want you knowing about it. Or at least didn't want you getting involved," continues Bruma.
Only because I was too stubborn to listen to him, thinks Finnick. The pain in his chest pierces again, recalling the memory of his argument with Turlach. Knowing how much Turlach had done only adds another metaphorical dagger into his already wounded heart.
"What do they want me to do?" asks Finnick.
Bruma shrugs. "Well, not much else can be done right now. The other men who were helping pretty much have everything under control for the most part. However, if things escalate…well, not everyone knows how to fight."
That much is true. These are fisherman, after all. Still, Finnick is amazed they've been able to do this much so far. He had known something was going on during the weeks he was recovering in the house, but he hadn't known how much. What is most surprising is that during these weeks of rebellion, the Capitol actually had not done anything so far as to put down these acts.
A small tingle of fear brews in the pit of his stomach. He wonders if it's because his district hasn't done enough to anger the Capitol, which he feels is highly unlikely. He knows first-hand that even the smallest of defiance can irk the President to overwhelming consequences. Then more fear rises in the thought that President Snow is biding his time, waiting for an opportunity to strike at the right moment. What would he do to them if this continues? Would he dare destroy the whole district because of lack of crab?
No, probably not. But certainly, Snow is not going to let this continue. And will District 4 have the ability to fight back when things get worse? What about the other districts? Then another question comes into forethought. Why are the other districts rebelling as well? Of course he knows that all of them have reason to rebel because of the Games, but what brought it on?
"Why now?" asks Finnick. "This has been going on for years, and aren't people worried about what might happen if things don't go our way? I mean, it's not like the Capitol doesn't remind us each chance they get about Thirteen."
District 13, the one that fell. Or so Finnick thought until just recently.
"It just seemed like the right time, I guess. With that girl victor and her lover coming here for the Victory Tour, it just reminded everyone how the Capitol let both of them live because they threatened to kill themselves. They were going to deny the Capitol with what they wanted, and so the Capitol relented. And they did so with all eyes focused on them," says Bruma with a slight lift of his eyebrows still in surprise and a little bit of admiration of the two victors, who probably didn't know what they started in the first place. "The Capitol actually gave both of them what they wanted," he continues. "If they could do it, who's to say that a whole district, or several districts can't do the same, right?"
Finnick nods his head, but he still feels the uneasiness of this whole situation and he knows it won't go away anytime soon. But he also knows that his brother did something that Finnick himself wouldn't have dared to do, and that was to start a rebellion right here in District 4. "Okay, I'll do what I can to help."
Bruma gives him a slight smile. "I know you will. But rest easy. None of us are doing anything at the moment except taking care of ourselves. Even the Peacekeepers are leaving us alone, surprisingly. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing."
"Well, I suppose we just need to keep an eye out," says Finnick, turning his head sideways to look at Annie and Mags. Annie turns to look at him, as if she senses his eyes on her, and smiles. For that moment, all the fear and uneasiness that Finnick feels dissipates. But only for a moment. He smiles back.
"That won't be too hard for me. I've been keeping an eye out for years," chuckles Bruma, although there's a slight hint of sadness to that statement that Finnick understands fully.
Bruma picks up one more broken shell before walking back to where the houses are.
"What're the shells for?" asks Finnick.
"My mom. She loves shells," shrugs Bruma. "She loves making stuff with them, although she hasn't made anything in years, but she still likes collecting them."
"Thanks, by the way," says Finnick. Bruma cocks his head to one side. "For letting me know about Turlach. For helping and all."
Bruma sighs. "It's nothing. I should've done more. Honestly, we all should've done more for each other, don't you think?" He gestures at the houses alongside the shore, to where the victors live. "We stand in the sidelines watching as things go on around us, ignoring it all, acting like we've done enough and we don't need to get involved in other people's lives. But something about that kind of thinking just doesn't seem right, does it? It almost seems kind of… Capitol. You know?"
"Yeah, I do know." They give a final nod to each other before Bruma walks away and Finnick joins Annie and Mags again.
"What were you talking about?" Annie asks curiously.
"I just wanted to thank him for being a friend," says Finnick. He smiles at her, but she stares at him oddly.
"You always try to keep me safe," says Annie in a sort of rather-of-fact way.
He gives her a playful smirk, one that he usually saves for his days in the Capitol, but there's something different in his eyes. "What better way to spend my days than being protector of all things beautiful." Annie tilts her head to one side. Mags huffs and looks away, grumbling about silly boy antics. "That means you, too, my dear Mags!" Mags laughs slightly waving him off with her hand, and even though she's not looking at either of them, he knows she's blushing.
Annie places her hand on the back of his neck and pulls his face close to hers. "I see you." She places her other hand on his chest, where his heart is.
This time, his smile is serene, and his eyes follow. "I know. Because you know where you look."
A day later, Annie laughs.
Annie grips his hand tighter as they walk into the town square. He squeezes her hand back to give her reassurance. It's been a few months since anyone but those in the Village has seen or heard from either of them, mostly from Finnick since he did come around more often than Annie to purchase supplies and food when needed.
"Everyone's looking at us," she says, eyeing the passerby as they stare at them.
"They're astonished to see such beauty is all," he jokes, trying to ease her tension, or distract her.
"They look anxious," says Annie, ignoring his last statement. He looks around and has to agree with Annie's assessment. He knows why.
"Don't worry about them. They're probably thinking about tonight's programming," says Finnick.
There was an announcement earlier that there would be mandatory programming at seven-thirty. Finnick had not really paid attention to the television the last time there had been mandatory programming, but apparently, the District 12 victors had gotten engaged. Being that he was incapacitated and not exactly in the celebratory mood at the time, he didn't really know about it until this morning when questions of what the programming was came about.
When Finnick heard about the District 12 so-called lovers, he almost gagged at the thought. He honestly couldn't believe they were actually going to get married because he never really believed that they were in love in the first place. Even when they visited the district on their tour, he could see Katniss' fake smile from a mile away and the way she tried to smile at Peeta, her co-victor and fellow partner-in-crime at the love game. He knew Annie could see the falseness of Katniss' affection, too, but she didn't say it outright. All she said was, "She's confused."
Finnick had to stifle his laugh. Confused? He would've never thought that either about 'the girl on fire.' But being that Annie said it, he realized he had to believe her. Annie could see right through anyone. He could make a case for Annie being some form of scientific project from the Capitol, and that she was born with specially powered eyes that sought out people's true character. He wanted to ask Annie what she thought Katniss was confused about, but that's when the crowd started becoming irate and they had to leave.
"C'mon, we just need to get some stuff at the store and we can go back home," he says.
The store is where Bruma told Finnick to go if he wanted to help. Usually, it was Turlach who would go there when there was a message from outside of their district or if a message needed to go out. It was actually very dangerous and slow going as they had to make sure the message went through the right hands, and sometimes the right hands wouldn't come around for weeks. Bruma figured if Finnick could help with anything, it would be this.
When they got back home, Finnick opened the note that was hidden in a roll of toilet paper and read it three times before burning it over the kitchen stove flame.
Dstpd. PKvrwhr. 13wtg.
When Finnick meets with Bruma on the beach that afternoon, Bruma tightens his lips upon hearing the message, which translates roughly to this: Districts stopped. Peacekeepers everywhere. District 13 waiting. The full meaning being the rebelling districts have been contained and are no longer fighting. Reinforcements were brought in from the Capitol to control and purge the districts of the rebels. And District 13 hasn't made any move to help, but obviously are in the know.
"I think your brother knew that was going to happen," says Bruma.
"What do you mean?"
"He had to convince his fellow conspirators that attacking and destroying everything was only going to bring in more forces. People would be killed and punished. He almost lost the argument on that until he told them about you."
Now it is Finnick's turn to be confused.
"He told everyone that your parents were killed because you refused to be part of the President's slave convoy," says Bruma, looking down at the sand between his toes. "Is that true?"
Finnick didn't even know how Turlach had found out, but there was no use in keeping it secret from Bruma now. He nods.
"Turlach was all I had left after that, so…" he didn't complete his sentence, but Bruma understands.
"Well, after that, they all agreed to go with Turlach's plan. Luckily they did, or we would've ended up like the other districts."
"It still doesn't mean they won't come here and bring reinforcements. There's just something about them leaving us alone that's not sitting right with me," admits Finnick. He turns around, looking at the two figures standing twenty yards away, just as they did before when he last spoke with Bruma on the beach.
"I know, but maybe the other districts' acts of rebellion saved us. At least for now. Maybe they don't consider us as much of a threat."
Whether or not District 4's involvement in the rebellion helped instigate such a thing from happening, they couldn't say. One thing is for sure. They didn't expect this.
President Snow had just announced the third Quarter Quell for the 75th Annual Hunger Games. This year, the male and female tributes will be reaped from the district's existing pool of victors.
All throughout the Village, screams, shouts, things breaking, and even silence can be heard. It is too much to take in and somehow things are breaking around Annie, too. First the plate that she's holding suddenly smashes against the wall. Other items follow suit. And screams of anger echo in between sobs of despair.
Even the arms that wrap around Annie do nothing to quiet the painful sounds of the wailing she hears.
"Tell them to stop," screams Annie, not even recognizing the sound of her own wail. With the arms wrapped around her, the sounds of shattering items do stop, and she can do nothing more with her hands but put them up against her ears. Still, she says it. "Stop. Stop. STOP!"
Finnick's soft sobs penetrate through her covered ears. "It's going to be okay," he says, repeating it over and over again. She holds onto the arm clutching her tightly over chest. His lips press against her temple, moving across her skin and hair as he repeats his words. He rocks her back and forth as they sit on the floor. Her wandering thoughts linger to how they ended up on the floor, then to why there is such a mess all around them, and finally to wanting everything to just end already.
"No, Finnick, it's not. It's not going to be okay," she says dejectedly. Still, he tells her different. He's telling himself, too, she thinks to herself. She decides that maybe it's better to be quiet and think to herself more, to just drift into that haze she's been fighting against…
Finnick's hands are on either side of her face before she can let herself get caught in the haze.
"Annie! Look at me! Don't do this, please!" begs Finnick. She shakes off the haze, startled by the directness and determination in his voice. "I need you, more than you know. Don't hide from me, please."
"I can't do it, Finnick," she says, her voice cracking. "I can't go back-"
"Listen to me," he says as he kisses her forehead before continuing, "I will try to find a way out of this, I will. But I promise you, I promise you, I promise you, I will be with you if that happens."
Her face breaks into more sobs, but she holds onto him. She lets her sadness overwhelm her, and lets Finnick's arms comfort her until she cries herself to sleep that night. When she wakes up, she endures it all over again. But not once does she let herself get lost in her mind. Finnick needs her, and she holds onto that truth for each and every day to come.
Later that night, the phone rings. Finnick knows what a call means. He pulls himself closer to Annie as she suffers through another nightmarish dream Annie. He calms her down with words of compassion, strokes her hair and back, and kisses her lightly on the top of her head as she lays it against his chest.
For all the times he's been with other women, even the kindest of them could not compare to half of the one he's holding in his arms now. Sure, he knows Annie is broken, having lost her mother, separated by her father, being abused by Garcen, getting thrown into the arena, and having to experience almost all of that over again. But maybe it's all of what she's gone through that makes him love her all the more. Not out of pity, but out of having similar experiences. Feelings of loss and abuse in particular aided in forming that common bond between them. It certainly isn't the ideal way to fall in love with a person, but it doesn't matter to Finnick. It happened and he will take her as she is.
He vows that from that point forward, he will never be a part of Snow's agenda. He will never make himself available to any other woman. He knows Snow may threaten him with Annie's life, but he won't allow that to happen. He will not and cannot live his life in fear of the President and his threats any longer. Turlach's death, however horrifying it was, made Finnick realize just how important it is to always remember that.
His life is his own now, and he plans on living it with Annie.