Having grown up in District 4, Annie is no stranger to death. The sea is a fickle temptress and she’s left no family, no mother, untouched by those cold waves of devastation.
When Annie is seven, her favorite older brother dies in an accident. They don’t tell her the details, but she wears a stormy grey dress and the wind whips her long hair as they stand on the pier and release flowers into the sea.
Her mother cries. Her father reads a poem. It goes like this:
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
Annie doesn’t understand the words, but with death so cold, so close, lapping greedily at the beach, her beach, her heart, her home, she cries too.
Annie doesn’t go crazy because she witness Nikolaus’ death. She goes crazy because she feels it.
Here is Death, she thinks, with his hands around my throat.
She doesn’t win because she outruns the others. Or outswims them, if that’s what you’re thinking.
She wins because she opens her arms and says hello old friend and do not go gentle and lets Death in to tattoo his cold, dark shapes on her hands and face and heart.
Afterward Finnick is there, pushing her hair away from the sweeping plains of her nearly-lifeless face.
He looks like her dead brother and she says thank you and sinks, unrelenting, into sleep.
When she wakes up, Finnick is Finnick again and life is painted, warm and gold, over her palms and she spends a very long time retching into a beautiful Capitol sink.
He pushes her in a wheeled chair across the beach, which is nearly impossible to do but Finnick is nothing if not head-strong. He even sings, which scares the gulls and makes her laugh on the inside, but not on the outside, because here she is still a frozen tundra.
She reads about tundras from a book about geography when she’s in Year Six, but she doesn’t understand what it means until the Games.
There is so much she doesn’t understand until the Games.
In the Arena, Annie learns how to go without food.
Back in District 4, she sees how long she can dance around Death, how long it will take for her navel to cave in and her ribs to fall out. Finnick takes to feeding her, pressing bites of fish and rice against her tight, scared lips with his golden fingertips. She licks her lips and sometimes asks for more with her eyes, with the tilt of her chin and he thinks she’s teasing him, and sometimes she is.
Sometimes he kisses her, gently, and she lets him.
Sometimes she kisses him back.
And sometimes she goes to him, and melts into the warm radiance of his chest, vibrating with life and hope and futures and at these moments, she lets someone other than Death hold her in his arms.