A/N And we're done! I had so much fun writing these, and your words of encouragement and praise mean everything to me. Thank you so, so much to everyone who favorited, alerted and of course, reviewed. I'd love to know which chapter was your favorite (or least favorite)! Thank you so much everyone.
(Quick note: I had tons of formatting issues with the previous chapter (now fixed, I hope), so please let me know if the same thing happens to this.)
This scene: Post-MJ Katniss and her mother let go.
"I think this is a bad idea," I mutter. I lean against the counter and nibble my cheese bun before putting it down for the fourth time. It's impossible to make myself eat right now, even though I should. I don't know what Peeta would do if he found out I wasn't eating again.
"You said that already," Peeta sighs beside me, slipping an arm around my waist briefly before pulling it back. He turns around to look out the window, the sun catching his hair and turning it bright gold. Like flames. I lean against him so I don't have to see it, breathe in the scent of flour and sugar, the smells of the bakery he helped re-build once things had calmed down again. The bakery looks different from how it was, but I know it's not because Peeta can't remember what it looked like before. Just the opposite.
"Do you think this is a good idea?" I ask his shoulder. The sun is too hot on my cheek and I move my head into the shade. I feel Peeta's shrug.
"I think you need to do it. It's a little late to back out now, don't you think?" Clear blue eyes meet mine and he reminds me, "she's going to be here soon."
"I could just tell her to go back," I say. I turn back to the cheese bun so I don't have to see his face, gently reproachful, reminding me that I at least have a mother to talk to, even if I have nothing to say.
I hear soft knocking at the door and my head snaps up.
"I'll get it," Peeta says. His limp is barely noticeable now as he walks to the door and opens, smiles the kind of bright, genuine smile that I could never give, whether I was faking it or not. My smiles tend to come out as a grimace now, with anyone other than Peeta.
"Hi Mrs. Everdeen." He kisses her lightly on the cheek. "I'm glad you could make it."
"I wasn't-" she stops when she sees me in the kitchen, standing to the side of the sun pouring in through the window, "expecting Katniss to call."
"Peeta thought it was a good idea." He walks around Mom and pulls out a chair for her, then sits down as well. I search his eyes but they're clear and calm. No sign of anything sinister lurking in the horizon, so I figure I can spare a half-hour or so. "Let's go."
We walk in awkward silence, not at all like the quiet me and Peeta live in. It's not the quiet of shared troubles and joys, but rather the oppressive silence of a year gone by without word, the quiet that comes from a chasm between us that neither Mom nor I know how to breach. I know who could.
"You and Peeta are living together now?" Mom asks finally. Who would've thought Peeta would ever be a safe topic.
"For a while now, yeah. It's just easier this way." Easier to breathe, to pretend, to eat and sleep and act like maybe everything that happened, everything that we did was worth it. We tell ourselves that just because something's a lie now doesn't mean it always will be.
"Oh," is all Mom says as I move my burden into one arm to open the gate that leads to the Meadow. "I'm… glad."
The Meadow's doesn't look like it used to, before, but the people who were here during the bombings say it's incredible it looks as good as it does. It's had help, of course. People have planted seeds of their own here, hoping that some of them will take. Maybe one day, apple trees will grow here. I see the little pine sapling Johanna planted and think that that this one, at least, will do well.
I kneel in the ground and start to dig a hole with my hands.
"I hope that one day we'll be able to talk about her."
I stare at the dirt on my hands for a moment. Keep digging. One, two, three, four.
"I loved her too."
Ten, eleven, twelve. Mom kneels beside me, her white, long-fingered hands digging into the dirt. When she pulls her hands back, her nails are dark from the earth. She smells the same, like herbs and flowers and home. Our hands grip, for a brief moment, skin on skin, dirt mingling with dirt. Our hands look the same; mine are the same size as hers now.
I pick up the flowerpot from where I'd rested it on the ground when I'd started to dig. We dig out the primrose bush, careful not to rip the roots, and transfer it into the soil of the Meadow. Pat the earth gently, water it with the water jug I brought from home along with the pot.
We sit in front of it for a while, Mom's hand on mine. I sit there until the sun begins to set, painting the sky red as fire.
Then I go home.