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Tide In Nets Chapter 1
"I got three!" I yell. I wave my trident at my dad across the water. He's on the boat with the net. Even on reaping day, we work.
The powerful muscles in my arms and legs propel me forward as I swim toward my dad and climb back in the boat, sopping wet. The sun feels warm on my golden skin. I shake my head and droplets fall out of my perfect bronze hair. "Here, Dad," I say, handing my dad the trident. Three perfectly speared fish.
"Good job, son," he says. "Let's head home. I caught about 20 fish. We can sell half at the market after the reaping."
I live in District 4. We specialize in fishing. The sparkling sea is our friend. Dad ties the boat to pur private dock by our house. We hike up to beach and walk into our house. I head to the kitchen and eat some bread with seaweed sprinkled on top, and bits of tuna for early lunch.
After my early lunch, I head back to the water to calm myself before the reaping. I don't have to worry about the reaping, being one of the richer kids.
Everyone knows the reaping system is unfair. The poor get the worst of it. Every child between the ages of twelve through eighteen are entered in for the annual Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death. You are entered once, at the age of twelve, once more at the age of thirteen. Since the entries are cumulative, you'd have seven entries at the age of eighteen.
If you are starving and poor, you can opt to enter your name in more times in exchange for tesserae. Each tessera is worth a year's supply of oil and grain, but just barely enough. For people that are poor and have a big family, this is unfair. You can do this for all your family members. One person with tesserae, one extra entry.
Even if I wasn't rich, I wouldn't have many extra entries. I'm an only child. I'm fourteen, so I only have three entries.
I sit on the beach awhile, lost in thought. What will this year's Games be like? It's kind of exciting for us. We, District 4, are a more wealthy district, so we can afford to even have volunteers for the Hunger Games. The volunteers are usually people who have been training for their whole lives. They know how to use a sword, throw knives, and other important things like that. We haven't won recently. District 4's had about five or six victors before, but all of them are dead. They won the earlier Games, like the 5th, the 8th, the 11th, etc. The last victor won long ago. We lost almost all of our victors to some sickness, addiction like morphling or drinking, and suicides. Only one is still living. Her name is Mags and she's in her seventies!
I suppose I'd stand a winning chance. I'm tall and strong. I can handle a spear and throw some knives because I use them occasionally for obtaining fish in shallow water. Although I've never seen one in the Games, my best weapon is my trident, which I use to fish. I can tie knots quickly, enabling me to weave nets.
I'm so lost in thought that I don't notice her until she's right behind me. "Hi, Finnick!" she says, excited.
I turn around to see Annie Cresta, a girl with dark hair and dark green eyes. I'd know her voice anywhere. She's thirteen, one year younger than me. She's an amazing swimmer, even better than me. She taught me to tie knots and make nets. I was 12, so it was only the year before the last, when my dad said I lacked the patience to tie a decent knot. She popped up out of nowhere and taught me all the knots that exist. I had the patience when she taught me.
I have a crush on her, and I think she likes me too. The crush didn't start very quickly, though. I knew her as one of the louder, but nicer girls at school, although I never talked to her. Then, when she showed up to teach me to tie knots and make nets, we became summer friends. We were friends for a whole two years before I really started to notice her Her smile with teeth as white as pearls, her laugh like the tinkling of bells, her dark hair reminding me of the ocean at night when it's dark. These features started to really stand out to me. She became not just a nice girl, but someone precious, a pearl in a sea of green that I was lucky to meet. She's really beautiful and acts differently with me than anyone else. Around others, she's loud and energetic. She is always the one who's closed off, keeping her secrets inside, though, as if she trusts no one. Around me, she's calm and quiet. I suppose she becomes a little shy. She's funny and shares her secrets with me. I relax her, though. I change around Annie too.
Usually, I'm always the kid playing pranks, the one always flexing his muscles, the handsome boy, the popular boy. With my golden skin, bronze hair, sea green eyes, and athletic build, I don't have to try very hard. Half the girls at school are in love with me, but I don't care for their love. I only care for Annie's.
Around Annie, I'm more quiet too. I still joke around, but I don't dare be mean. I laugh at her jokes, even if they're not funny. I don't flex my muscles or anything like that.
"Going to the reaping?" I ask with a laugh. You're required to attend the reapings or you'll be imprisoned. The only exception is if you're dying. The Peacekeepers, the district officials sent by the Capitol leave us alone as long as we keep our industry going. However, on reaping day, there is an exception. If you're not at the reaping, they'll be how they have to arrest you publicly so you'll be humiliated and bring you to the small jail we have.
"Yeah!" Annie says, laughing. Then she becomes her calm, serious self that no one but me knows exists. "I'm scared you'll be picked."
"Don't worry about it! I'm scared you'll be picked!" I say, and throw my head back, soaking in the sun as I laugh. She's watching me carefully. "C'mon! Let's go swim."
The worried expression wipes off her face. "Okay, Finn."
I run cool water with her, hand in hand. I let go of her hand as I dive into the water, the green, foamy waves. When I come back to surface for air, I notice that she's just sitting at the edge of the water, not as excited as me. I join her, shaking my head and spraying her with seawater.
"Hey, Annie, why aren't you comin' in?" I ask.
She laughs and says, blushing, "I like watching you swim."
I blush and say something smart, like, "Uhhhhh..."
"Oh, never mind!" she says, blushing even deeper to a bright red.
"No, I want to hear it!" I demand.
"You know, Finn, I used to think, since you're the popular boy, that you're self-centered, just a guy showing off and trying to be better than you are. But Finn, you're not. I don't want you to get reaped. You might turn into a monster, killing people like you kill fish. So, please promise me, Finnick, that you'll try hard to come home, but only kill when you have to!" Annie's voice is turning into a pleading one.
"Ah, yeah Annie, I promise! I'm only 14! Relax!" I say, grabbing her by the head and shaking it teasingly.
I walk to the water's edge with her. "Come into the water with me," I say, jumping back in. The water's cool as always, and I open my eyes in the water. I swim to deeper water and tread, waiting for her to join me.
She hesitates, and says, "All right, Finnick." She leaps into the water beside me.
She surfaces and her dark hair floats around her. I go back under and don't come up for a long time. I notice that Annie starts to panic, searching the area. I pop up next to her, scaring the life out of her.
She whacks me on the arm really hard and screams, "Don't do that, Finnick Odair! Don't you ever scare me like that again!"
I just say, "Ow!" I laugh and whack her back, lightly. I go back under, looking at the sea floor. I see a few shells and surface. "Look at these shells," I say. "They're beautiful, just like you." I press the shells into her hand.
She blushes and can't look me in the eye. "No more than you," she says, quietly.
She leans in close to me, her forehead touching mine. She's about to kiss me, when my dad calls me from the house. "Finnick! It's time to leave for the reaping!" It's a good thing he can't see us.
I flash a smile at Annie as we pull apart, and she's blushing a deep red. "Good luck, Annie," I say.
"G-g-good luck, Finn-i-ick," she stammers, still blushing.
"C'mon, Annie! Don't be like that with me, alright? What's there to be blushing about?" I ask.
"N-n-nothing, Fi-i-in," she stammers out. "See you l-l-later."
I flash her another smile. "After the reaping, ya wanna come back again to swim? Just the two of us?"
"L-l-like a d-d-date?" she asks.
"Yeah, sure, whatever. See you at the reaping! Hope you wear a nice dress. You don't have to try so hard to be pretty, though," I say casually.
"Okay," she says, smiling. Her teeth shine, dazzling in the sun.
I get out of the clear, green water and walk up to my house.
"What took you so long, Finnick?" my dad asks.
"Oh, I was hangin' out with Annie." I say.
I walk into my room and change into a white shirt and blue shorts. Here in 4, it's always hot. Normally, in other districts, long pants are required, but they're not so strict about it here.
"Oh, well, then let's go!" my dad replies.