The sound of children’s laughter filled the air to see her two young grandchildren enjoying the old tire swing. Just the sight brought tears to the rim of her eyes.
If only the others were here to see this day, she thought bittersweet.
“Kids come in for lunch,” her small voice called out capturing Maya’s attention. Her head twisted allowing her unique red hair to fan out to reveal her bright smile. Quickly Maya pushed her brother forward and raced toward the kitchen.
Murray said out of breath, “I got here first.”
“You only wish,” Maya replied smug and sat by the table that held sandwiches and sliced apples ready to eat.
Shoving a big piece of sandwich into his mouth, Murray mumbled, “Gram, what’s with the chest in the corner?”
His grandmother gave a small smile, “Your father found this box tucked away up in the attic. I think it’s all old stuff from your great grandfather.”
Their eyes both widen and asked simultaneously, “Can we look in it?” Quickly they turned to each other with smiles and said again, “Jinx. You owe me a soda.”
Sitting in her rocker, their grandmother opened the lid up and asked, “I don’t think I ever told you many stories about him, have I?”
Murray shook his head and said, “No, but we’ve heard other stories.”
Slowly pulling out an old pocket watch, their grandma responded, “That’s right I told you about Annie Cresta.”
“And what Finnick went through in his hunger game,” Maya said pensively.
“Was our great-grandfather in the games as well?” Murray asked as he rifled through the chest.
Their grandmother shook her head, “No, but he didn’t have a easy life either....” She broke off her sentence pensively.
Maya lifted out a necklace and observed the carving. “It’s a dolphin.” Her blue eyes glanced up as Murray added, “Hey look at this!”
A shiny trident weighed heavy in his hands, “This is so cool.”
Their grandma cleared her throat, “That was Finnick Odair's weapon used in the hunger games.”
Both of their eyes shifted over to her words.
“You know what let me tell you the story of Willow from the 72 Hunger Games. It'll tie in a lot of people I've told you about. Let's see, Willow was Annie’s best friend. In fact so close that people would have accepted them to be sisters if not for the physical and personal differences.”
Sitting with her legs crossed, Maya asked,“How so?”
“Well, Annie had long, wavy dark brown hair and amazing sea-green eyes,” she stroked her granddaughter’s hair, “Willow had long straight fiery red hair and blues eyes deeper than sea.”
Murray poked his finger to the point of the spear as their grandma continued to say, ”Annie was always the more reserved, shy, naive, forgiving dreamer while Willow,” she rubbed Murray head to pay attention and added, “was kind of like you. Outgoing. Troublemaker. Fast temper and lacked patience.”
Their grandmother bit a piece of apple and said softly, “Somehow they worked to keep each other in check which made them closer as friends.” She gave a small laugh, “I think the only other thing they had in common was not knowing how to swim....”
I stared out the window at dawn, which held one of the top views of the ocean in District 4. Studying the waves crashing into the shore brought a certain calmness. Peace. Happiness. Unlike my miserable life.
Sometimes I wished I could be a dolphin, I thought pensively.
Suffocating a sigh, I looked back to see Annie curled up in the fetal position as she mumbled in her sleep. I guess Annie had worn some of herself on me. To make me into a dreamer that she once exemplified as a child.
Glancing back to the window, I remembered being that innocent young age. It was a time I once saw dolphins dancing in the ocean freely. Or how my father taught me to cast out my first fishing line. Everything was simple.
Actually now that I’m thinking about it, another memory was brought to mind. One that I wasn’t so fond of, and yet, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I could remember that summer day when we decided to meet up to our normal hangout by the beach. The hot sand was blaring under my bare feet and the smell of the sea-salted air began to blow to the shore as I reach closer to my destination.
Even though I dared not to go pass knee deep into the ocean, I couldn’t help love it. I really did wish I could swim, swim with the dolphins I saw with my father that year, but I was too scared to even attempt it.
Creeping up to the shoreline, I noticed Annie’s usual sewing needle, thread and small collected shells she would use to decorate hers, but mostly my clothes. They were in a pile, but there was no sight of Annie.
Scanning around the beach in wonder, I noticed there were two kids on the dock by the fishermen’s row boats. My lips pressed together knowing kids weren’t allowed to use their stuff. Period. After all those boats and equipment, which are hard to come by, were used to keep us alive in this district.
Taking a couple steps closer, I recognized the boy standing on the dock untying the rope that held a boat. It was Erving Waters. The annoying boy that always had a crush on Annie.
My blue eyes glanced over to see who the other person he was with, but to my surprise I didn’t see anyone else on the old dock. Instead I realized the boat, he had just released, had a small person inside it.
I squinted my eyes to see who the second idiot was that was dumb enough to go out their alone. Maybe it was Gannet Murdock. He’s was one of his friends that would do anything to get attention.
With the sun gleaning down, I placed my hands over my eyes to notice the person had peep up over the side of the boat. They had long brown hair and eyes that had reflected the same color as the water they were surround in.
My mind fled with panic, Annie!
Annie waved to me from the boat and my stomach dropped. I subtle waved back in shock and was trying to figure out how to get her back to the dock.
Maybe the rope was still there?
I quickly sprint as fast as I could to the dock to find Erving smiling and watching Annie float away. “What the hell are you doing?” I asked in rage.
Erving too caught up in his amusement jumped at the sound of my voice. He shuttered under my glare as he said innocently, “Annie said she wanted to be in the ocean, but couldn’t swim. So I offered the idea to let her go in the boat. She’s safe and happy.”
I glanced around the dock to see the rope to pull her in was now floating on the watery surface. With my temper rising I said, “You think it’s safe to let Annie, a girl who can’t swim, drift in the middle of the ocean after you let the rope drop into the water?!”
Erving gave me a look of being offend and said cocky, “I’m not that stupid to let the rope go, I have it lying on the floor….” He glanced down to the ground to see the rope had fallen into the water. Erving said hopefully, “She could always row with the oars?”
I was on the verge of bursting when I noticed two oars lying on the floor of the dock. Grabbing him by the shirt, I yanked him over the oars. Hissing into his ear with annoyance, “You mean these oars, idiot!!”
“Willow?” I heard Annie call out breaking me away from the idea of shoving Irving off the dock.
My blue eyes found Annie was now further out into the bay and I turned back to face him. With my ridged body, I lashed out, “The only thing your ever good at is making things worse than it has to be. So why don’t you make yourself useful and leave.” With tears in his eyes, Erving stormed pass to go back home.
Clamping my fist tight, I marched off the dock and aligned myself across from where Annie was floating. I yelled, “Annie pull in the rope.” Annie nodded her head and I could tell she was scared by her wide eyes.
I asked, “Can you throw the rope as close as you can to me?”
Annie threw it pretty far, but not at a distance I could reach, especially when I was slowly walking into the water until it was to my torso.
She reeled in the rope and threw it again, but it was short. Annie confessed to me, “I’m scared. I can’t do it.”
She began to cry and I said as I started to go back out of the water, “I’m going to get help.”
Annie yelled in panic, “Don’t leave!”
As I turned back around I saw Annie stand up in the bow to throw the rope as hard as she could. I yelled terrified, “Annie don’t stand!”
But it was too late, the boat rocked from the unbalance placement of her body and Annie tumbled into the water.
A screamed of fear fell out of my mouth as Annie splashed to keep herself a float. With determination my body charge into the water, but my legs seemed to be glued to the floor when the water was close to my shoulders.
I couldn’t reach her, my thoughts started to swallow me whole.
Only thing I could seem to do was yelled and scream for her. And then cry and screech more for any soul to help her.
I should have made Irving swim and pull the boat back, I thought with regret.
Watching my best friend slip from my view, I suddenly noticed something quickly splashing through the water toward her. It then dove under the deathly water where Annie had disappeared.
I was still and stared waiting in hopes it was friendly and not some kind of animal that was charging for her.
"Annie?” I shouted back into the silence.
It was in those few seconds Annie resurfaced the water with someone I didn’t know. He swam Annie back where I was waiting and I helped him move her to the shore.
Observing her body, Annie laid limp on the ground and I panic when I realized she wasn’t breathing. “Annie!”
The boy quickly began to kiss her and I smacked him hard on the head. I scolded, “What are you doing?!”
He stared at me fiercely with his eyes and reviled back, “Saving her life.”
He went back to what he was doing and I just sat on the sandy ground and waited. I don’t know why I let him continue at first. Maybe I trusted him because he was trying to help her. But more so, it might have been because he held the same eyes as Annie that gave me this connective trust.
The boy continued to switch back and forth from breathing in her mouth to pushing on her chest and before long Annie began to cough up water.
Her beautiful sea-green eyes opened up and I clung my one hand onto Annie’s arm while pushing her matted hair out of her face with my other hand. I said calming, “Its okay. You’re safe now.” Annie cradled her arms around me as she cried horsed from the sea water.
I glanced over to the boy that saved my sister’s life and mouthed with sincerity, “Thank you.”
From there on, all three of us had become close friends. Inseparable really.
Twisting away from the window, I placed the blanket over Annie’s body and kissed her forehead. She again was talking in her sleep with incoherent sentences mostly about water, the scars that the games left in her delicate mind and Finnick.
I softly moved out of the room we share and check in on my little brother, Reid. Unlike my bond with Annie, Reid was actually related to me by blood.
Opening the door quietly, I noticed Reid was still fast asleep with his brown hair covering his eyes. Studying his innocent face I had a bad feeling, like down in the pit of my stomach bad, for weeks that something was going to happen. And no matter how much I tried to shake it off, it seemed to linger in the back of my mind.
You see a week ago my brother had just turned twelve. Twelve is a big deal here. It’s the age where you have the honor of putting your name on a slip of paper. And if the odds were in your favor you could be chosen to win a life of glory or an honorable death.
At least that’s what people tried to believe to make themselves feel some control in their lives, I thought with a headache on the horizon.
Trying to shake my head from my constant worry, the image of the young girl with pigtails popped into my mind. Her name was Olivia and she was picked at last year’s games. This skinny twig of a twelve year old had no chance at winning. Everyone knew it, but still no one volunteered to take her place. It would be a disgrace not only on the kid’s family, but the district itself.
So not even her older siblings offered themselves in exchange, instead they sentence her to death.
I felt more sick now at the thought of the reaping was today. It wasn’t because I was scared for myself; if anything I had Mags, a wonderful woman, to look after Reid and Annie. No, if anything it was my brother I worried about, even though I have been reassured that his name had only been place once in the bowl.
“What happened to her parents?” Maya asked while help cleaning up the kitchen.
“Her mother died after giving birth to Reid and her father had been killed in a sea excursion. So it all laid on Willow’s shoulders to support her brother. I think I remember Annie saying Willow exchanged her name for tesserae until age 15. That's when Willow had the privilege to met Maggie Dew, the first victor in District 4, and was blessed with Mag's help."
Scratching the top of his head, Murray said, "I thought tesserae couldn't really sustain your life. How did she make it those years before Mags?"
"Well it was a struggle. She did have a job making snares, traps and nets for a fishing shop. But it wasn't until way later when Annie had won the 70th Hunger Games, Annie's father, given her a raise. Anyway, Willow began to return back to the stair well of Mags’ mansion...."
We weren’t suppose to live here, but that seemed never to stop her persistence. Mags always told us with a wink, “Technically you’re not living here. Your just everyday visitors of mine.”
The pots and pans were beginning rustled in the kitchen and I knew Mags was making breakfast for us all. Pushing the door open, I found her struggling to bend over in her older age to pick up a pot that she had just dropped. Briefly walking over I picked it up and handed to her. Mags chide in good humor, “I could have gotten it. I’m not that old yet.”
I laughed and replied, “At heart you are not Mags.”
She glanced over to me with her warm smile, but then observed my demeanor, “It’ll be over soon sweetie. Reid should be fine. One out of a million.”
Correction. More like one out of eight hundred, I thought.
Around here, not many people either wanted kids or had time for kids. We were an industrial place which meant time was money and money meant not starving and starving lead to living a comfortable life.
“Want some eggs?”
Mags version of eggs were fancier and way more delicious than anything I could ever cook. Though getting the ingredients would bankrupt my life saving in one fellow swoop. The last time she added lobster with scrabble eggs. I replied, “Sure.”
Taking out the smoke salmon she prepared last night, Mags threw the meat into the frying pan with different spices and eggs. Finally when the meal was ready, she said proudly, “Smoked Salmon Dill Benedict.”
I took a bite in my mouth and it was indeed good. Mags was washing some dishes and I reluctantly asked, “So Finnick will be coming to town again?”
Mags stopped her motion for a second and then nodded. “Yes, he has to be present for the reaping. After all he’s a mentor like me.”
Footsteps paddle toward the door and Reid entered with a sleepy expression. He yawned out loud stretching his arms up and said, “That smells good.” I waved him over and gave him a larger portion of my food. He asked questioning my appetite, “Aren’t you hungry?”
I shook my head even though I knew acid was eating a new layer of my stomach. “Nah, you go ahead and eat it.” He knew that I was upset with what day it was and he placed his hand over mine in comfort.
Unlike me, Reid seemed at eased, as if he had accepted this life style of being sentence to death as a matter of fact. That’s one thing I’ve always envy him about; how Reid could accept change without it upset his being.
I subconsciously watched him eat the whole hardy meal like it was our last supper before our death. Kind of like the guy named Jesus, who was arrested and was supposed to be put to death. Was he I will never know?
Staring off thinking about my recent purchases at the black market, locate in the wood area in an abandon shack. I had bought at dirt cheap cost, pages from books before our time. Some held parts of interesting stories; some had information on things I never even heard of, like white blood cells and how when you have an infection they go up in count to fight the infection.
What this things looked like or how to find them I’ll never know. Maybe the Capital kept them locked up for their beyond medicines?
Other papers just contained numbers and formulas. These were once apart of books I am told, but after disaster struck, the Capital burned all of them. They said they would poison our minds with the pre-historic knowledge that led to extinction of the place once called America. I do wonder at times, what that place must have been like. Did they have games to kill innocent children too?
Pushing those thoughts a side, I told Reid, “You should get dressed up and ready for today.”
He rolled his eyes and complained, “Do I really have too? The jacket is so itchy.”
It was my turn to roll my eyes and I said sternly, “Yes. Now go.”
Grumbling at the turn of events, he pushed the swinging door with hard force. It was hard enough to injury the person behind it. “Owwff!”
Reid recognizing the man, who was about to enter through the kitchen, said, “Hey Finnick! Sorry about that. What are you doing here?”
Opening the door, Finnick wipes his nose from blood coming down and replied with a smile, “It's okay. I came to visit you squirt. Here give me a high five.”
Reid excitedly responded with a slap to Finnick’s clean hand and said, “I'll be back. I have to get changed.” Reid quickly climbed up the stairs and disappeared.
In the mean time, while watching my brother idolize Finnick, I had grabbed some ice from the fridge and placed it into a towel for his nose. “Here.” I said catching his attention.
Finnick had change again from the last time I had spoken to him. That had to be about eight years ago, after he was reaped.
For one, he had somehow grown taller and more muscular than I seemed to recall. His hair was now grown out more and not the buzz cut he loved so much. The only thing that I could recognized was his eyes, which use to reflect Annie’s until the hunger games. Now hers held a glassy look to them.
He walked hesitantly closer taking the cloth of ice in appreciation. “Thanks.”
My eye’s shift down as I moved past him to get ready for the reaping. I knew it was unfair that I directed my anger at him, but I couldn’t help it.
Finnick didn’t have to take care and watch everyday Annie be not the person I used to love. She was gone most of the time, except with Finnick.
I think that’s what made me most sick. I, her sister, wasn’t remembered and couldn’t get one respond out of her while, Finnick, who come by once in a blue moon had somehow brought Annie out of her stupor for a little while.
I truly envy him to have that ability.
I bit my lip harder than I should have as I ripped off my sandy and ragged clothes. Clapping hands caught my attention as I was about to slip into my navy blue dress I borrowed from Mags childhood years.
Sitting up in bed, Annie was staring off and clamping in the air as if to catch a bug flying around her. Fixing the seam of my dress to lay flat, I walked over to her and said, “Good morning Annie.”
I kiss her head and there was no response that my presence was even heard. I suddenly felt guiltier and angry at myself more.
Could she be punishi….
The door knocked breaking my thought. I asked, “Who is it?” as if I didn’t already know.
Finnick a jarred the door and asked, “Can I come in and see Annie?”
Just with the sound of his voice Annie somehow lit up and said in her dead pan tone, “Hey Finnick.”
It pained me to hear her voice once again. It used to have life and happiness run through it. I ducked my head away and tried not to make eye contact with Finnick.
I think if I did I would cry.
Closing the door behind me, I felt trapped in this feeling of wretchedness and I needed to get out of the house. I quickly sprint to the front door and sat on the porch to clear my emotions and mind.
Honestly, I’ve gotten pretty good at it since Annie came back home. Heck, I think I’ve grown more patience than I ever thought I would achieve too, my mind seemed to babble on trying to find my calming comfort zone again.
Reid stepped out onto the porch in a green button down shirt and tan slacks. He asked, “Do I have to wear the jacket and tie?”
I evaluated him with my blue eyes and responded, “It’s too hot out for a jacket, so leave it.” He was about to jump for joy until I added, “But the tie is a must.”
His face pulled down, “Ahhh…come on. The other boys don’t wear one.”
I rolled my eyes and just let this argument go because I already felt worn out. “Fine.”
Reid ran over and hugged me as he exclaimed, “Thank you, thank you, thank you. You’re the best sister ever.”
A smile reached my face at those words. I replied sarcastically, “You better not forget it.”
Mags stepped outside with Finnick and Annie following behind. Mags told us, “It’s time.”
I glanced over at Annie, who began to giggle uncontrollably and Finnick stated to Mags, “I’ll take Annie home and meet you there.”
We all stood up and I could still feel something looming in the back of me. I had a terrible feeling it was death.