Kindergarten

So if you've read any of my other stuff you know that my favorite thing to write is probably one shots, which is kind of how I got this idea. There is so much Peeta has to say that we just don't hear in the Hunger Games, so I wanted to explore a bit deeper into what I think are the most pivotal moments in his life that we read about in the Hunger Games. However, I didn't want to rewrite the whole story from his point of view (tried that one, did not work out well) so I just decided to do a series of one-shots about these moments that aren't necessarily connected. If it goes well, I might do one for Catching Fire, too, and maybe for Mockingjay (which comes out next month!)

By the way, in case the title doesn't exactly make sense, it comes from a line I thought of a long time ago. "Each time I see her, I live again." Kinda cheesy, I know, so I probably won't use it, but I liked the idea of it for a title. I don't literally think Peeta has nine lives :)

Please read and review! All comments are appreciated!

I was bouncing on the balls of my feet in anticipation, already waiting at the front door for my father, though school didn't start for another hour. "Father!" I called out impatiently, then strained my ears to hear the dull thump of his steps that told me he was on his way.

"Hold your horses, Peeta!" he laughed as he made his way down the staircase. "No one will be there at this hour!"
It didn't matter to me that he was right. I had been looking forward to my first day of school for as long as I could remember. My oldest brother was already in school when I was born, and the other started just last year. I remember the intense jealously that flooded me when my father brought home a new book bag for him, filled with a notebook and four still unsharpened pencils. Now, with my own book bag slung around my shoulder, I couldn't imagine anyone not feeling jealous of me.

Not to mention the fact the school meant five hours I was out of the house and out of the reach of my mother's hand.

My father regarded me for a moment, the chuckled again. "Alright, Peeta. You're so eager, I see no point in keeping you here, though your brothers won't even be awake for another half hour!" He reached out for my hand, and I clutched his as if it were the only thing tethering me to the earth.

We walked up to the dilapidated school house—which even so was one of the nicest buildings in District 12—and, as my father predicted, were the first ones there. We sat against the wall for about fifteen more minutes before more children started arriving, sometimes with their parents or older siblings, sometimes alone. She came alone.

My father pointed her out for me as she walked up the path from the Seam. He tapped my shoulder and gestured in her direction, bringing to my full attention the little girl in the red plaid dress. Her hair was done in two simple braids that she kept pulling nervously.

"See that little girl?" my father asked me, and waited for me to nod. "I wanted to marry her mother, but she ran off with a coal miner."

Only this surprising revelation could get me to remove my gaze from the girl and stare in utter shock at my father. I couldn't understand how anyone could have not wanted my father. Chock it up to boyhood idolization, but still. My father was handsome enough, and I assumed he had been even handsomer before three kids and ten years with my mother. He was well off, as far as District 12 goes, and an undeniably kind man.

"A coal miner?" I asked incredulously, "Why would she want a coal miner if she could've had you?"

The corners of his mouth twitched up in a sad smile as he continued to watch the little girl. I wondered if he was remembering the way her mother looked on their first day of school. "Because when he sings…even the birds stop to listen."

I wanted to laugh and tell him that of course the birds didn't listen, but at that moment the voices of the teachers called us inside for the start of the day. I gave my father a fleeting hug and hurried inside.

There were two kindergarten classes, and to my dismay I was placed in the opposite one from the little girl in the red dress. Yet later that day, I found myself behind her in line to a music assembly. I started to talk to her, but a teacher shushed me and told me I had to be silent in line.

We all were herded into a room and sat in a circle around a stool where the music teacher sat. She smiled at us, bringing the wrinkles on her haggard face to greater relief. She couldn't have been more that fourty, but even at my young age I knew that the unfriendly conditions of our district would wear on us before we reached even our tenth birthdays.

Still, she seemed nice enough and led us through some simple activities. Singing our ABC's, some silly song to the same tune about a star, and finally asking us who knew the valley song.

Music wasn't common in my household as my mother claimed it gave her a headache, so I had no idea. I looked around for who might know it, and to my surprise—and glee—the girl with the red dress's hand shot up in the air. A few other hands straggled limply up in the air after hers, but the teacher seemed hardly to notice. She motioned for the girl to walk forward.

"What's you name, sweetie?"

"Katniss," replied the girl with a soft, yet determined voice.

"Katniss," the teacher echoed, "Would you be willing to sing the class the valley song?"

The girl—Katniss—looked slightly nervous, but with the skill of a born climber mounted the stool the teacher gestured to and began to sing.

I hadn't believed my father when he said hers could make even the birds be silent. Now, I had no doubt that could be true. I swear, no one even breathed as she sang. Her voice was sweet and melodic, obviously still maturing, but to me she sounded like an angel. She didn't focus on any one person as she sang, but more of us all as a group. I didn't know more than two or three of the other kids in the room, but in that moment I felt connected to all of the by our admiration for the girl in the red dress. Her face lit with a joy that I had never experienced in my own home, and I knew then I was a goner. I wanted to talk to her, for her to be my friend. I wanted to see her home, her family, a place that could bring her such joy, even if her father was only a coal miner.

Of course, as time went on my feelings would change. I would want to be more then just her friend, though that made it even more impossible. Still, whenever I saw her, running around with that boy Gale who every girl seemed to love, or holding her little sister's hand as they traveled through the Seam, I was reminded of that moment I heard her sing. She seemed perfect to me, then. As the years have gone on I've witnessed her temper and her pride, her determination to remain apart from everything and occasionally even her cruelty. All of these make her seemed flawed to everyone else. To me, they make her seem human.

And she is still perfect to me.