Here's the next chapter! Thanks to everyone who reviewed, they meant a lot to me.
*We were able to get to the Hob without being tailed, but I knew either Gale or Katniss, maybe both, would be here in a matter of minutes.
Thankfully, people don't take notice of me. They all know I'm Gale Hawthorne's little brother, and they all seem to like Gale a lot. I quickly lead Prim to the ragged booth in the back of The Hob.
Slumped against the wall, passed out cold, is crazy old Greasy Sae. She sort of creeps me out, seeing as she puts dog limbs on a stick, roasts them over a fire, and then tries to sell them. On normal circumstances, I wouldn't have gotten within a mile of her, let alone talked to her, but this is different.
"Greasy Sae?" Prim whispers. I nudge her with my foot slightly. "Greasy Sae…."
She snorts and rolls over, opening one eye. "Hu-what?"
Prim looks a little flustered to see the old woman open her eyes. I suppress a snort of laughter at her innocence.
She blinks twice, rubbing her drooping eyes and standing up. "Oh, well if it isn't little Rory Hawthorne." She squints at Prim, and her eyes disappear under layers of loose skin. "And a new girlfriend!"
I roll my eyes while she isn't looking. Greasy Sae often confuses me with Gale - the girlfriend department is no exception. Gale and I are polar opposites when it comes to getting girls, though.
I'm pretty odd-looking, and I know it. I'm too lanky, almost taller than Gale, with no muscle whatsoever. It doesn't help that Mother decided to shave off nearly all of my hair in the summer. "This is Prim. My friend." I emphasis the word with a wild hand gesture. Prim blushes.
Gready Sae waves a hand, a smug look on her face. "Of course, of course," she says. "Now what do you want with this old bag of bones?"
I grin. "I need you to hide us from Katniss and Gale. It's really, really important."
She laughs, then ushers us under her booth, which is covered by a ragged tablecloth. "Stay there as long as you want, sweets."
I pull up the curtain and try my best to stay hidden. "I need something else, too."
Greasy Sae smiles wider, showing just how much she resembles a demented jack-o'-lantern. "Dating advice?"
I resist the impulse to roll my eyes again. "Uh, no." I rummage in my pockets. Earlier in the day, Prim and I had filled it with what we thought would be necessary for our pranking escapades. "If Gale or Katniss comes, or both, I need you to give them some stew."
I nod enthusiastically. "Yeah. But," I feel a smile spreading on my face, "You need to make it…special." I pull out the contents of my jacket pocket.
Greasy Sae cackles maniacally, shaking her head. "Oh, well, I suppose I could arrange that."
*Under the table, Prim is giggling, eyes shining and cheeks flushed a deep red.
I look at her with a confused expression. "What are you going on about now?" Why can't girls be more like boys? I have a feeling there would be a lot less squabbling and confusion.
She giggles again, blushing even harder. Her eyes drop to the table cloth, which forms a wall on our left side. She touches the cloth with nimble fingers. Artist hands, Mother would call them. "It's just…" she breathes. I lean forward expectantly, but am met with silence.
"What?" I ask.
She bites her lip. "Too embarrassing."
See what I'm talking about? "Oh, geez, Prim," I say, leaning on the table leg. "It can't be that bad."
She takes a deep breath, shaking her head and smiling a little it. "It's just…I never imagined that my first time alone with a boy would be quite like this."
Oh, crap. That is embarrassing…for me. Was this really the same Prim who had gasped when I had suggested Gale and Katniss were doing the yankee doodle in the woods together?
"Really?" I say. Now I'm the one blushing. "That's what you were thinking?" Does that mean I'm attractive, or something? Wait, no, probably not. She would have imagined an attractive guy…that's why it was different.
She nods, avoiding my gaze.
"Well, if it's any consolation, we're technically not alone. In fact, Greasy Sae has probably been listening to this whole conversation."
"Yep," comes a crackling voice from above us.
I grin. "Come on, Prim. I'm sure your first boyfriend will be a great guy. Not some guy who enjoys playing pranks on other people's sisters." I reach out a hand and put it on her own. It is soft and warm, the pulse under it beating quickly.
Her face splits into a smile, blush fading. "You really think so?" she whispers.
I nod. "I know so." And I also know that's true. She'd never go out with a brickhead like me…
Why am I even considering this? I mean, sure, she's Prim. And Prim = hot, in math terms. But I've only really known her for a few hours. And besides, we're, like, eleven. Now I know what Gale means when he says I have no sense of what love really is. But I doubt he does either.
Suddenly, Greasy Sae's face is under the table with us, excitement in her eyes. Prim stifles a little scream. "Gale's coming!" the old woman whispers excitedly before pulling the tablecloth back down.
Prim squeaks a little, whether in excitement or terror, I can't tell. A goofy smile lights my face when I think of what's to come next.
"Ready?" I whisper.
She nods solemnly. "The most ultimate prank of all time."
We shake hands on a job well done.
I can hear footsteps coming near us, each hammering thuds on the dirt floor. I recognize Gale's boots as he comes to a stop at the table.
"Hi, Greasy Sae," he says, his voice a little less than pleasant.
Greasy Sae gives her trademark cackle. "Gale Hawthorne. Where's that girl of yours?"
Like me, Gale is usually dismissive of Greasy Sae's old people antics when it comes to romance. "We split up. She's looking around town for…" he stops short, taking a deep breath. "Well, we're looking for Prim and Rory. We need to…have a talk with them. Any chance you've seen them?"
Greasy Sae says nothing, so I suppose she has shaken her head. "No, sweet, I' m sorry." A chair scrapes across the floor, and she sits down heavily. "Come sit down. You look tired."
Gale sighs, but obliges, pulling up a chair of his own. "It's been a long day," he says, kicking his feet back. "Very long."
Greasy Sae gives a sympathetic click of the tongue, then takes a bowl of stew from the table concealing us. "Have some stew. On the house, for such a hard-working young boy."
Gale makes a noise of disbelief. Even though the people of District Twelve relied heavily on each other, we rarely got anything for free. "Are you serious?"
Greasy Sae gives a rusty chuckle. "Just this one time."
Gale grabs a spoon of the table and digs in emphatically, all the slurping noises and clattering of dishware involved. Prim gives me a blazing grin. I return it.
Gale is almost to the bottom of the bowl before he pauses eating. I imagine him looking down with an exaggeratedly confused expression. "What…is this?" He abandons his spoon.
I can't help it, I want to see it so bad. So I peak out from under the table, just a little.
Gale is holding it up with an extremely confused expression. It wiggles in his hand, twisting away from the light. It's fleshy pink skin is smeared with stew.
"Is that a worm?" Gale drops it back into the bowl, pushing his chair back and standing up quickly. He looks ready to throw up, his face oddly clenched. I am about to stand up and scream something along the lines of "Gotcha!" when I realize that he is shaking…with anger. Greasy Sae gives an ominous laugh.
"Crap," I mutter under my breath. "Prim!"
She gets up quickly, hitting her head on the table, and it rattles the bowls, sending one clattering to the floor. We both scramble out from under the table, slipping in the spilled stew. I get it all over my pants.
"RORY!" Gale roars, tearing after me. "Get back here!"
I know that I'll never be able to outrun him, so I give up when we hit the street, coming to a stop. Prim, still running, looks back confusedly over her shoulder. "Go!" I yell to her. "I'll meet you later."
Gale is on me less than a second later, wrapping his arms around my waist to make sure I didn't get away.
"I'm going to kill you!" he yells, spitting in my ear. "How many worms were in there?"
I decide to play it cool. What did I have to lose? "Oh…ten," I say casually. "Maybe twelve."
"Twelve!" he shrieks. "I just ate twelve worms!"
I shrug. "Maybe." It's not like worms were that bad. Us Seam kids had eaten a lot of crap in our lives.
Gale seems at loss for words, but he releases me. "I'll get you back," he says, eyes threatening. "Don't worry, Rory. This won't go unpaid." He stalks away, toward the woods.
I taught him a lesson. I expected to be paid back in full. I grin at the thought of what he'd try to do.
I catch up to Prim a few minutes later. She tells me that Katniss probably already went home to take a bath. I tell her that Gale probably won't be going home anytime soon. Heck knows that storming around in the woods when he's angry is his thing.
"Do you want me to…walk you home?" That seemed like the right thing to do. At least, it's what Gale would've done.
But she nods, smiling. "I'd like that."
We walk to her house in comfortable silence, and I know we are both reliving Katniss' and Gale's expressions when they'd realized they'd been pranked. I replay their faces over and over in my head, an endless loop of hilarity.
But another thought pops into my head. "Prim?" I ask hesitantly.
She looks over, a happy smile still lighting her face. "Yes?"
I take a deep breath. For a moment, I realize what she meant when she said that her thoughts were too embarrassing. "When you said you're first time alone with a guy wasn't at all what you imagined…" I look away, toward her approaching house. "Was that because I'm ugly or something like that?"
Prim looks at me with a shocked expression for a moment. Then she doubles over with the loudest laughter I've ever heard, great booming ones that I had never thought could come from an eleven year old girl. "Rory Hawthorne, you are such an idiot!" she gasps, clutching her sides. Her eyes shine with tears of laughter.
"What?" I ask. "What did I do!"
She manages to stop laughing, wiping her windswept hair out of her face. "I just meant that I never thought I'd be in The Hob playing a practical joke on our older siblings." She smiles. "But that was fun. You're fun, Rory…and pretty cute," she says the last part quietly, but it still warms my insides.
In my mind, I'm secretly happy that she thinks I'm okay-looking. But I didn't want to sound like a jerk who only cares about looks (A.K.A Gale when he has a girlfriend). "Yeah, National Prank Month was pretty fun," I say.
Prim raises an eyebrow. "You mean International Prank Day?"
Oh, crap. And just when I thought I had a shot with her. "Um, about that…"
She laughs lightly. "It's okay, Rory. I knew you were making it up about two seconds after you said it." Her eyes sparkle. "I thought it would be fun to make you sweat, though."
I sigh. Really? Why am I so stupid all the time? I shake my head. "Gee, Prim. Thanks." We stop in front of her house. Inside, I can see her mother and Katniss talking. "Well, I guess I'll see you at school…" But would I? After this, I think we're friends, but you never know.
Prim smiles. "Sit with me at lunch?"
I nod. I can feel a blush creeping onto my face. "Sure."
She nods happily, leaning closer to me, until we are inches apart. "Thanks for a good time, Rory." She gives me a kiss on my burning cheek. "It was fun for way more different reasons then I first thought."
And then she's skipping out to her front door, leaving me completely baffled.
I guess I really never am going to understand girls. They're the enigmas of life, meant to enjoy, not to try to figure out. It's nice to know that we're not as different as I had thought, though. At least, me and Primrose Everdeen aren't.
Now, click and tell me SOMETHING. Pretty please with unicorns on top?