Annie could see it. She looks into those little eyes and she can see him in the shape of the little baby's face. He was bound to be the most beautiful baby she had ever seen, and she is determined to have him grow up as loving and caring as his father by sharing who he was.
She doesn't know if it is tears of joy or tears of sorrow that overwhelm her soon after the delivery. Most likely it's both, along with a tinge of everything else that had happened to her in the past five years, but either way, it is enough for the doctor and nurses to give her a sedative to help her sleep it off.
That night, she dreams of him and their baby. Finnick holds him in his arms and smiles, gently kissing his son on his forehead, and then he looks at her and says, "I love you both. I know you'll be a wonderful mother."
She has no nightmares that night. The next morning, she wakes up remembering that dream, and in that moment, she resolves to be just what Finnick foretells – a wonderful mother. Annie then vows to fight those moments of haziness, because she needs to be there for her son. It would be hard, and she would have moments when the haze is stronger, but she knows she could prevail, because somehow, in the middle of the night, it's as if Finnick's words seep into her heart and mind and become her words.
In the weeks that follow, she receives many congratulations in the form of letters and small gifts from people all over Panem. Many of them she doesn't even know. They know of her and Finnick from the history of the Games and from Plutarch's television programming, and now they know of her baby.
One of the letters comes from someone she had not really known that well and is surprised to hear from at all. She opens it cautiously, wondering if she really wants to read it. At first she doesn't know why she is wary about it, and closes her eyes, trying to calm the rapid thumping of her heart. She takes a breath and opens the letter to read what Gale Hawthorne has to say.
You might not remember me. I don't think we really talked that much when we were in District 13, but I knew your husband. We were in the same squad together. I don't really think there's anything I could say to make up for your loss, but I wanted to let you know that I'm alive today because of him.
I'm sorry I never told you this before now. I only just realized how self-absorbed I've been lately, and when I heard about your baby being born, I realized that I needed to let you know. This seemed the best way to go about doing it, partly because I don't think I'd say it right if I were to call.
Anyway, I just wanted you to know that Finnick was a great man to have on our squad. Like I said, he saved my life. It could've easily been me that died, but he stood between me and death and made me escape. And I did.
I don't blame you if you hate me for it. I already do myself. He had you to come back to, and a baby. As I go over the scene in my head, I sometimes wish I could've been the one to tell him to go, to help the others and be a hero. But wishing that would be like dishonoring what he did. Still, it's something that I will probably never fully accept as okay.
I obviously didn't know him as well as you, or even some of the others in our squad. But I will never forget what he did for me, for all of us in the squad. I just hope that can give you some peace of mind that Finnick was a brave man and obviously loved you more than anything else. I hope that your son will grow to be just as admirable as his father.
With utmost respect,
Annie can't stop the tears from falling down her cheeks any more than she can stop the blood flowing into her heart. But after several minutes, she pulls herself together, fearing that if she doesn't, she would be stuck in a haze that takes her out of reality, and she can't afford to do that anymore.
Her son won't be able to go with her there. And she needs to be where her son is.
"Turlach, remember to stay away from the edge," she tells her son.
"Okay, mommy," he replies in his small voice as he steps back to assure his mom he is doing just as she told him. He always does.
Annie looks on at her son as she anchors the boat. A couple of years after Turlach's birth, she had decided to try going out on a boat on her own. She suspected it was because of witnessing the wedding of Katniss and Peeta that she felt more optimistic about being able to overcome a lot of what scared her in the past. Besides, she wanted her son to be able to experience being out in the water just as his father did.
Only when she was completely confident in her ability to handle the boat did she bring her son with her. That was a year ago. They go out as often as they can, and the days that they can't, they go to the beach. Those are the times she feels the most relaxed. But out in the open water is when she feels alert enough that she can think about Finnick, often times talking to him as if he is there. Most of the time she talks about their son, how much he is growing, or how fast he is learning just about everything.
Sometimes she invites Mrs. Everdeen to go on the boat with them. Mrs. Everdeen, or as Annie came to learn her first name, Gwyneth, was adamant about going anywhere near the water at first, since she didn't know how to swim, and was actually quite fearful for Turlach being on the boat as well. She eventually convinced her by lots of coaxing and presenting Gwyneth with a life jacket.
It takes about six months after she started going out in the water that Gwyneth finally gives in, both out of curiosity and the need to take a break from her long hours at the hospital. Gwyn only goes out a handful of times, but Annie can see she is getting comfortable with being out there. So, when Annie asks her to come with them to celebrate Turlach's birthday, Gwyn agrees without hesitation.
"Stay here close to me, Turlach. You can protect me," says Gwyn to her surrogate grandson.
Turlach immediately moves close to her and reaches out to put his little hand in hers. "Are you scared, Gamma?"
"Not anymore," she says as she smiles down at him.
"Don't be scared. You have a lifesaver on like me!" he explains as clearly as he can, pointing at Gwyneth's bright orange life jacket. He speaks as well as a kid twice his age, with only a slight lisp.
Annie smiles to herself, watching them as "Gamma" reaches down to wrap her arms around Turlach in a bear hug as she finishes anchoring the boat. This is about all they will do today. Spend time having lunch and relaxing on the boat in their own private picnic.
She cherishes days like this, just as she did before with Finnick, sometimes with Mags in tow.
She looks at her son, and sees how beautiful his eyes brightly shine green in the sunlight. His hair is still as dark as hers, but she can already see Finnick in his facial expressions. If she thinks too hard about it, though, it will cause a heavy thrumming in her chest.
One time Gwyneth asked her, on a day they were both feeling a bit melancholy, why it was that she didn't name her son after Finnick. It took a minute for Annie to respond, because she never said it out loud before and wondered if she could talk about it without tearing up.
Annie took a big breath and told her of the morning that Finnick spoke to her. Whispered to her was more like it, as he apparently didn't want to wake her. He did not know she was awake already as she kept her eyes closed, but she heard every word he said, about how much he loved her, and how he wanted to name their children after their lost loved ones.
"But you didn't name him after Finnick," Gwyn said.
"No," she paused, her brows furrowed in thought, "I didn't remember what Finnick had said until after… but I think that… to me, Finnick was still so much alive in my thoughts and in my heart, that the Finnick in my head made the suggestion and I agreed with him. So, I named him after Finnick's brother and my father. Turlach Alister Odair."
Gwyn looked at her with a faint smile. A minute later, she asked another question. "Is Finnick still there in your thoughts?"
"He is, but not in the way he was before. When I was pregnant, he dominated my mind constantly. But now that I have Turlach, each day is getting easier for me to not dwell too much in here," said Annie as she pointed to her head. "Our son reminds me that I'm still alive."
Gwyn smiled wider this time. "It definitely shows. You've changed a lot, and for the better. Seeing you like this… it reminds me that it does get easier over time, to overcome the past, to remember the lost instead of mourn them all the time."
Annie saw that it did ease the tension in Gwyneth's face, and she hoped that it would soon be easy enough for her when the time would come that Turlach asks more about his father.
"Mommy," he son calls, bringing her back to the present. She looks at him. "Are you going to talk to daddy now?"
She laughs lightly at him, slightly embarrassed at his suggestion, knowing that Gwyneth doesn't know what Turlach is talking about. Annie looks at her hesitantly and explains her unusual routine. Mrs. Everdeen thinks about it a moment and nods in understanding.
Annie then focuses on her son. "Do you want to talk to daddy with me?"
"Okay, can I tell him it's my birthday?"
Annie and Gwyneth chuckle. "Of course, honey. You can tell him how old you are now."
With that, they speak into the ocean air, against the breeze, telling of the events of the week, with Turlach explaining that he's five years old and that he misses his dad, just like his mom does.
Annie wakes up sweaty and trembling. She had not had a nightmare in some time now, but when she does have them, they shake her to the bone. She feels the cool wetness on her cheeks and groans in frustration. She hadn't cried in years, forcing herself not to when it came to nightmares. That also had taken years to control, to numb herself to. But this one is different. She wonders if she had screamed herself awake. That is one thing she can't control. Sure enough, she can hear Turlach's footsteps just outside her slightly open door.
He doesn't come in, but just stands out there, waiting, listening for any sign of distress. Turlach is familiar with Annie's fitful nights, and she hates that she can't stop the bad dreams from coming, if only for her son's sake. How it must feel to see his mother cry out from nightmares and not be able to do anything about it. Were it the other way around, she would be by his bedside comforting him back to sleep. She did do that when he was younger, but she finds him a much stronger, much more mature boy than a 12-year-old should be.
Her boy is twelve now. It is his birthday today. It can't be a coincidence that she had a nightmare on that particular night. It doesn't matter if the Games no longer exist, the memory of them still linger, holding on to any part of her subconscious, threatening to break her again and again. Over the years, she learned to control them, but again, it was the dreams that got her. So, of course it would happen on this night, when she remembers what turning twelve meant years ago.
The images of her nightmare aren't quite fading fast enough just yet. She remembers standing in the town square with the other surviving female victors. It was weird, because she knew Mags was there, but there were no details in the faces of the others. It didn't bother her in the dream, though. Her eyes were focused on the one boy in the boys section. She couldn't see Finnick's face, but everything about the way he stood and the way he looked from the side or the back told her it was him. There wasn't a glass bowl with all the names to choose from, but someone called his name, because he started walking forward. She called out to him, and when he turned around, she realized it wasn't him anymore. It was another boy. A boy that looked so much like Finnick, he had to be related to him. And she knew why, because this time they called Finnick's son's name. Her son. Turlach. And that's when she screamed.
Being the only District 4 victor left alive keeps memories of the reaping, the games, her torture, Finnick's death, everything that was wrong, in the forefront of her mind. There are also the good memories. The beach, Finnick's sea green eyes, their wedding, Turlach's birth, too, sometimes they would twist during her times of slumber.
Twelve years ago is too significant in her life, and though she has friends in other districts who can understand what she is going through, she has to deal with these moments on her own. Mrs. Everdeen isn't even around anymore for her to talk to, as Gwyneth was called to help out in the hospital in District 2. That district was the last one to be completely free from all the fighting and devastation it had suffered. Even after the war, there were still small insurgent groups that refused to accept the way things had changed. But she had made it through those times, and so had her son.
"Turlach?" she whispers, knowing that he can hear her. She sees him hesitate at the door, turning his head slightly in. She smiles sleepily. "It's okay. You can come in." She sees the relief in his face as he walks in with more confidence.
"You okay, mom?" His eyes are full of worry, which is always the case after nights like this.
"I'm fine. Just a bad dream. I'm sorry I woke you." She bodes him to sit on the bed next to her. When he does, she smiles again at him and gently touches the top of his head, running her fingers through his dark hair first before pulling him close for a hug. She can feel his small, but strong arms wrap around her.
"You didn't wake me, mom. I was just about to go for an early swim."
For a minute, her heart beats fast, the remnants of her nightmare giving her unnecessary fear. He had been going out for swims on his own about a year now. Nothing is going to happen to him. She isn't the only one who watches over him and teaches him how to be out in the water. Many of those in District 4 who were still alive after the war had eventually grown fond of Turlach, seeing the beauty and the utmost sincerity in him. She restarted her life in District 4 with no one, but now everyone is her friend, including Pearson, the former Head Peacekeeper. So many things had changed in the past twelve years, and there was practically nothing to fear anymore.
So, she takes a deep breath and reminds herself of just how good a swimmer Turlach is now. He even teaches the smaller kids in the district how to swim. And just as the older fisherman taught him, he knows how to fish with nets, too.
She lets her arm slack and Turlach sits back up and faces her. Annie can't help but move the strands of hair away from his forehead. She had remembered how often Finnick had done that for her.
"You look so much like your father."
Turlach smiles a little. "So you tell me, mom."
"Well, it's true. It's almost… well, you just remind me of him so much." Turlach looks at Annie with a slight frown, almost too subtle to notice, but she does. "What?"
"Is that why you—sometimes you don't look happy, like right now. Do I—do I remind you too much of him?"
She lets out a small gasp in surprise. She only just realizes what it must sound like to him. That looking at him would make her sad because he reminds her of Finnick. She tilts her head in sympathy for her son.
"Oh honey, no. I mean, yes, you remind me of him, but not too much. I do miss your father sometimes, but it's been so long ago now that most of the time, I only remember the good things about him. That's why you remind me of him. He was the gentlest and most loving person I had ever met. I'm only sad that you never got to spend time with him. Turlach, he would be so proud of you if he were alive today." She cups the side of his face. "So proud. And I am, too. I love you, okay?"
"I love you, too," he murmurs. Even though no one else is in the house, he says it as if to avoid from anyone else hearing him. She laughs to herself. Boys.
She starts to get up out of her bed when her son looks as if he is about to say something and isn't sure.
"What's wrong, Turlach?"
"Uh, well, umm, can I ask you what you were having a bad dream about? I heard you. You said dad's name… then you said mine."
She never really talks about her nightmares to anyone. She doesn't like trying to pull out the memories from her subconscious, sometimes because they turn out worse than what had actually happened. There were times, not so much now but when Turlach was still a baby, when she had dreamed about Finnick's death. Even though she wasn't there and she never asked for details, she had a feeling her nightmares on the matter were worse than the real thing. She always dreamed that he was being tortured, being made to stay alive while they did whatever they wanted to him. Sometimes Snow was in the picture, but that was a ridiculous thought. No, she didn't know if she could ever talk about those bad dreams. But what about this one? Nothing had even happened, or at least nothing violent. The reaping scene played out fairly clearly in her mind. The thought made her shudder.
One of the things she knew about Turlach's education is their teaching of the Hunger Games. When she first heard they were going to teach that, she wanted to take Turlach out of school. But Gwyneth, as much as it saddened her to think about them as well, felt that maybe it wasn't such a bad idea to let the children understand their history and how it came to an end, seeing the effects of it all. It ended up being one of the most interesting subjects in the children's history portion of their education that many of the kids tried to befriend Turlach just because he was the son of a two victors, one being a hero.
Of course, Turlach took it all in stride, not letting the popularity of it all get to his head. And yes, the history class taught them that Finnick was one of the soldiers in Squad 451. Everyone knew about Squad 451, because if they didn't hear about it in school, Plutarch's special programs on that specific squad were bound to air at least 4 times a year.
She wonders if she should explain her dream. It might scare him to know what her dream was about, especially since it is his birthday. But she knows he is more mature than the average 12-year-old. She can't deny that fact.
Annie looks at him, in his sea green eyes and notes how they seem to brighten at that moment, as if waiting in anticipation for what she is going to say.
"Sorry, honey. I think your turning 12 affected me a little."
"Well, how much do you know about the Games?"
The brightness in Turlach's eyes seems to fade, growing somewhat darker in concentration before a look of understanding washes over his face. She knows he is smart enough to figure it out.
"Did you dream about the reaping?"
Annie nods, pursing her lips before drawing out a long sigh. "Even though we haven't had to deal with something like that since before you were born, it doesn't stop my mind from going there, especially now that you've reached that age… where you would qualify for the Games."
There is a long silence before either can speak again, but his hand holds hers, helping her feel safe.
"I miss him," says Turlach.
Annie looks at her son, confused. But he had never met his father. Sure, he had said when he was younger, when he didn't know better. But now. "Sweetheart—"
"Sorry mom. I don't know why I said that. But it's kind of weird. I've never met him, but the way I feel when I think about him… it's kind of how I felt about Gamma Gwyn when she left. Like I miss him."
Annie can't help but pull her son to her again, kissing the top of his head. "Don't be sorry about missing him. We can miss him together."
That afternoon, they celebrate his birthday by going out on the boat, anchoring where they normally anchor. They eat dinner and specially made sweet bread delivered from Mellark's Bakery in District 12 – a gift from Peeta and Katniss. And as they have done every year for his birthday, they speak into the wind – Annie to the husband she still sees in her memories, Turlach to the father he always looks up to.
When she thinks about it, it makes her laugh.
Being a grandmother at 46. Oddly, it sounds so young an age to be called a grandmother. Yet, that's precisely what she is going to be.
Annie walks around the hospital. For some reason, she just can't sit down. She isn't sure if it's nerves or excitement, but she isn't going to just wait for the baby to be born, whenever that is going to happen.
So, she walks. The odd thing is that she didn't remember walking outside of the hospital and standing in front of a memorial in the middle of the square. Annie knows it is there. They erected the memorial on the war's 10th year anniversary. It's a reminder of what can happen with just a spark, just an image. The Mockingjay.
The Mockingjay itself is about one-third of the 20 foot tall monument. Most of the rest of it makes up the rectangular cement base. Three sides of the base is covered with bronze plates listing all 1800 tributes from each and every year that the Hunger Games existed. Each victor labeled as such next to their name. The fourth side, also covered with a bronze plate, lists the 150 tributes from District 4 specifically. Each district had their bronze plate specifying the victors from that district. She eyes her husband's name on the list. She doesn't bother to look for her name. Whoever was in charge with creating the monument made it a point to have Finnick's name stand out even more among the rest. It was the first name listed and in all capital letters. Not only did it have him labeled as "Victor", but underneath his name was the label "Star Squad 451".
When she first saw it, she laughed. People around her thought she was going mad again, probably worried that she was overwhelmed with tragic memories from the Games and the war. But that wasn't what brought about her fit of giggles. Her thought back then was an image of Finnick's reaction to his name in big bold letters. She imagined his face squinched up and it made her laugh. The last thing he would've wanted at that point was to actually stand out. That part of him was all for the Games.
"They meant well, Finnick," she whispers into the calm night.
It takes her a breath to realize that someone is calling out her from the hospital. A nurse is urging her to come back. It's time.
She looks at him, cradled in her arms. He reminds her of Turlach when he was just born. Things back then were so emotionally overwhelming for her, given that she had controlled her sorrow in the months between Finnick's death and Turlach's birth. Only until after Turlach was born did she allow her body to mourn for her husband.
"Do you have a name for him yet?" She tears her eyes away from her grandchild to look at her son and her lovely golden-haired daughter-in-law, Charlene, who looks weary but happy. Turlach smiles at his mom.
"Mom, we wanted to ask you first if it was okay, because… well…," he takes a deep breath before continuing, "we want to name him after dad."
She gasps in shock. Her eyes widen so much there's a look of concern on both Turlach and Charlene's faces.
"If you don't want-" she can hear the slight disappointment in his voice, but the corners of her mouth immediately turn upward.
"No, I do want! Oh Turlach, that's wonderful!" She moves close to her son to hold his hand. "Someone should take his name. It's perfect that it would be his grandson to do so." She doesn't realize the tears running down her cheeks until Turlach wipes them from her face.
"We hoped you would feel that way," says Charlene.
Annie moves to the side of her bed and reaches down to hold her hand now. "Thank you, Char. You've made both me and my son happy. You're going to be a great mother." Finnick's voice echoes in her head, reminding her of the same words said to her. She turns to look at her son. "And you're going to be a great father."
"And you, mom, are going to be the best grandmother." She can see the gleam in his eyes, the joy reflecting in them. An image of Finnick flashes in her head, and she can't help but smile back at the resemblance. She looks down at the baby still sleeping in her arms, cuddled in a soft blanket.
"Finnick Odair, you are so beautiful… just like your father… just like your grandfather."
She didn't think it was possible to feel as much joy and love as she felt on her wedding day, but the little baby boy in her arms makes her realize without a doubt how wrong she is. And she's happy about that.
When Turlach was born, her happiness was interrupted by the bittersweetness of her husband not being by her side. Back then she was so doubtful of her ability to overcome her fears of being a caring, loving, and attentive mother. After all that had happened to her, it was no surprise she would feel that way. And yet she had done her job as a mother, successfully at that. She can't deny she still sought comfort in the images of Finnick during rough patches of raising him, or when times of loneliness crept in despite all the friends that surrounded and supported her.
But she learned to control her thoughts, never letting herself go too far into the haze that was so tempting to dwell in before. She was finally able to see the good in the true world, her son dominating most of that goodness.
Now, there is yet another reason to accept the life she has, another reason to stay in this reality. And she's holding that reason in her arms.
"Finnick Odair," she says his name again, accepting it as the name of her grandson, and not only of the one whom she lost years ago.
"Actually mom, it's Finnick Turlach Odair," her daughter-in-law corrects.
Annie doesn't hesitate for a second. "Perfect. It's as it should be," she says. Her grandson now carries the name of three men – his father, his grandfather, and his great uncle. And it makes sense to her. She looks at her son, who stands there glowing with so much joy. She could imagine so easily how her Finnick would look at this moment just by looking at her son.
"It's only right your name be included," she says to her son.
Turlach can only smile, his eyes shining wet with unshed tears.
Finnick Turlach Odair would certainly have a lot to live up to, but she would make sure that this little boy would learn of each one of them, and how their love brought things full circle.
Later that night, as Annie sleeps, she dreams of her husband.
He smiles bright at her. His sea green eyes wide with pride and joy as he wraps his arms around her the way he did so many times before. Her hair flows in the warm ocean breeze as they stand on the beach together.
The sunset is perfect in its shades of orange, red, and yellow. The water's tide is low and calming, almost perfect in its reflection of the sun on the horizon. It's as if the sun intends to stay as long as they need it to.
He speaks to her, his voice is just as she remembers it, soft and comforting and full of love. She feels her body relax in the feel of his touch and the look in his eyes. She has not felt this good in a long time.
"You did it, my sweet. I knew you could."
"It was your faith in me that helped me through. Your words. Your images…" she tells him. Annie turns and sees her son, his wife, and their baby standing there, looking at them. "They're beautiful."
Annie turns back to see Finnick and she's suddenly overwhelmed by the beauty of him. His bronze hair being highlighted by the sun, his sea green eyes wide and content, his smile welcoming.
"Of course they are. They're from us," her Finnick says in such a way that is nowhere near like the self-centered Finnick that Panem had lusted over.
Turlach, Charlene, and baby Finnick are now right next to them. Turlach hands baby Finnick to his dad. Finnick smiles at son first, and then looks down at the grandson in his arms. No words are said, because no words are needed. Annie can see it in each and every one of their eyes.
As Annie wakes, she feels it. She knows. Somehow, her Finnick has always been there for her, for them all.
She's not ready to leave this world, the world that she once didn't think she could bear without him. But there is still a full life yet to be had and she plans on seeing it through, to experience more of her family.
I love you, my Annie.
The image of the three men in her life flash before her, as clear as anything real. No pain, just love.
No, she's not ready to leave yet, but when the time comes, her final hope is that she somehow reunites with Finnick again in whatever is on the other side.
Annie stands on the bow of her boat, her face to the wind.
"I love you, too," she assures him as well as herself. "I will be with you again after this. I promise."
Another warm breeze pushes the hair away from her face.
She smiles, full of hope, more than ever, for her family and the future they all have.
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