Peeta Mellark watched her from the other side of the fence. She was walking with her sister, hand in hand, toward the schoolhouse. Her dark hair fell in a braid over her shoulder. She didn't see him looking at her, since she was much more preoccupied with tucking in her sister's shirt. He saw her smile and laugh, and say the words, "Little duck," like she always did. And now they parted ways, and the smile was gone as she started walking towards him. Well, not towards him, really, just in his direction. She probably didn't even know he was there. He counted the steps as she got closer and closer, and he turned away suddenly, embarrassed, hoping she hadn't seen him eyeing her. She glanced at him quickly, and he had almost screwed up enough courage to say, "Hi," when somebody clapped a hand on his back suddenly.
"Peeta, what are you doing out here?" It was one of his brothers, Ryden. "Are you staring at that girl again? Katniss?" She was gone. Off into the schoolhouse. "She's not interested, you know. Why would you want a girl from the Seam, anyway?"
"None of your business, Ryden," he shot back.
"Are you going to get married and have little Everdeen Seam babies? Work in the mines?" Ryden teased. "You're not getting the bakery, you know. Over my dead body."
Peeta walked away to his first class, frustrated. His brother may have been older, but he didn't understand. Only his father truly understood what he was going through. He had fallen in love with Katniss's mother, but she fell for the coal miner from the Seam. The one who quieted all the chirping with his singing. And that was Katniss too.
He stared dreamily out the window, waiting for the end of the day, so he could see her again, and have the chance to talk to her. Sometimes he caught her watching him, when he was surrounded by friends. Those were the times that he wished they would all just disappear, leaving just her. They weren't good friends, anyway. He didn't ever really have time to have good friends. His mother kept him cooped up in the bakery every day after school, late into the night, and early in the morning before school began.
When his final class ended, he tore from the room. He looked around the hallway, but didn't see her. He had to talk to her this time. He just had to. It was eating him up inside.
"Prim, let's go!"
His eyes shot to where her voice was coming from. She was always in such a rush to leave. He supposed she was going out to hunt, maybe with that older boy, Gale. He leaned against the wall as she neared him, clutching his books to his chest. As she passed him, their eyes locked. He couldn't read her face at all. She just looked confused. He felt his face flush, and he couldn't find any words. He managed a small smile. She didn't return it, but narrowed her eyes, as if she was trying to read him too.
"Come on, little duck," she said, quickening her pace. She turned to look at him after they had gone a ways down the hall. Maybe she didn't remember that day, three years ago, when he threw her the bread so that she wouldn't starve.
He walked out after her, counting the steps, not ever getting too close. He sat on the tree stump, behind the fence, and watched her disappear down the path.