It's hereeeee! This chapter largely covers Plutarch's largely discussed anniversary special on the rebellion. Let me tell you, it is difficult to narrate a television program in writing! I hope the writing style doesn't wear down on you too much!
I'd also like to announce my new satirical blog discussing everything Hunger Games, victorsvillage[dot]wordpress[dot]com is in full swing! Please feel free to visit, comment, or friend the website on Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr! If you think you'd be interested in contributing a blog, either one time or regularly, send an e-mail to me at thevictorsvillage[at]gmail[dot]com!
All we've got left after this chapter is the epilogue! I know I've been writing this for months, but it's gone by so quickly! I thank you again and again for all of the amazing support, especially those of you who have followed the story and given me feedback since the early chapters. You're so incredible!
In his weary state, Peeta drops a box to the floor with a resounding thump. He lets out a long sigh before settling down next to me on the couch.
"Was that the last of it?" I ask.
An even louder thump echoes from behind the couch, making me jump.
"No," Peeta says. I put one knee on the couch and whirl around to see Thom standing there with a sly smirk on his face. "That was the last of it."
I'm happy to see Thom, but too weary to speak to him. I know he's been meaning to talk to me about his campaign for mayor, which is exactly why I can't look him in the eye right now. What could he possibly want from me? I can't be anyone's Mockingjay again.
"I didn't know you were still helping," I offer lamely, brimming with false enthusiasm even though Thom has been carrying boxes into my house for the last hour or so.
"I'm just heading out, actually," he shoots back, unaware of my strange mood. "I'm going to watch the big program from home! I was just hoping to grab a quick word with you first."
I try to keep the muscles in my brow from tensing into a look of discomfort as I nod my head.
"As you might have heard, I'm on the ballot for mayor in a couple weeks-"
"I don't think I'd be much help," I blather out before I can stop myself. I've told Peeta the same sentiment so many times on this topic that it slips out naturally.
Thom jerks his head back quizzically. "I don't really need help," he says. His voice is thick with confusion. "Last I checked, I'm the only person running."
The weight of my own sheer stupidity tumbles down over me like an avalanche. "Really?"
"Yeah. The government requires you have a job to run, which narrowed down the field pretty significantly." Thom does several quick, tiny nods as he speaks, making him look as flustered as I feel.
Thom and I engage in the most awkward of staring contests for a few breaths until he finally feels it's safe to get back to the point.
"Anyway," he breaks the silence, "I was thinking about all the officials I'll have to hire now that the new Justice Building is open. I was thinking you might be good for some of the positions, if you're interested."
I only shrug a little in response, so Peeta keeps the conversation going for me. "What are you looking for?"
"Oh, almost everything!" Thom's enthusiasm is evident. "Researchers, project managers, inspectors, clerks, event planners, secretaries... I can't even keep track of it all." He focuses his eyes back on me. "I know none of it sounds particularly glamorous, but-"
"I'm not looking for anything glamorous," I cut him off a second time. Realizing how rude I've been, I give him the most genuine smile I can manage in such a situation. "Thanks for telling me, Thom. I promise I'll let you know soon."
"Great!" He replies.
Thom exchanges a few more words with Peeta before saying goodbye and letting himself out.
When the door clicks shut, Peeta snuggles into the cushions of the couch, resting his feet on a cardboard box containing bits of his belongings, all of which he's just brought over.
"I live here now," he sing-songs smugly.
"Not until you unpack," I tease back. At the same time, I can't help but take in the rightness of it all. Peeta spends nearly every waking moment outside of work in my home. It's only fair that the place he treats like home actually becomes his home.
The urge to ask him to move here for good came late one night as we headed up to bed. I was so frightened that Peeta would cower away from the idea of something so permanent, but he showed no hesitation. Instead, he smirked and said yes. It took some convincing to stop him from lugging all his stuff over that night.
"I'll unpack tomorrow," Peeta says, allowing the memory to float away. "Tonight's a big night. I've been distracted enough."
A dark, sinking feeling settles in my chest. I too had momentarily forgotten what would happen tonight, even though the television is on and the National News is giving reminders every fifteen minutes or so. There is no mandatory viewing anymore, so the government is hyping it up as the "can't-miss television special of the year".
Plutarch's one-year anniversary special is upon us.
I can't help but worry about how he's manipulated us, turned our innocently spoken words onto their heads. But even more than that, I worry about the other faces I'll see staring back at me from the screen. The lost shadows of my vicious past will appear, attempting to pull me down back into a world of death and disorder.
They've been sporadic and unpredictable over the last couple months, but I know the nightmares will come tonight. Part of me fears them, but another part welcomes them.
Lost in my thoughts, I nod to Peeta wearily.
"Hey," he says, his voice a little sharp as he tries to catch my attention. I look to him and see his piercing eyes searching my facial features in concern. "We don't have to watch this, you know."
I let out a little undignified snort, half laugh and half whimper. "Watching is the easy part. We've already lived through at all."
Peeta still looks a bit worried as he gives me a weak smile and takes my hand in his.
Dinner is a thick rabbit stew that's been simmering on the stove for most of the afternoon. Usually, it's my favorite meal, packed with a myriad of sharp flavors so delicious that I eat it up in no time. Tonight, the flavors go unnoticed as I manage to pass a few spoonfuls through my lips. Peeta eats better, but only slightly.
We return to our spots on the couch before the program begins. The next ten minutes of waiting feel tense and frigid. All I can do is hope that Plutarch, despite all his flaws, has kept his word. Hopefully he'll show the nation that I'm not some demented monster.
The program begins with the theme music of the National News, tweaked slightly by the use of additional instruments. An announcer tells us that this is a special news program and a fancy graphic pops onto the screen; a map of the districts encircled in a crest with the words "THE NEW PANEM" written across it.
And then we are met by a very unpleasant close-up on Plutarch's face. I involuntarily cringe at the sudden change.
"It's been nearly a year since the end of the peoples' victorious rebellion against a cruel and vindictive government under the reign of Former President Coriolanus Snow. In that time, Panem has reached great new heights in the quest for freedom and social well-being for all citizens. Yet many of us have been left almost entirely unaware of the tireless efforts of those leading the rebellion and how our newfound freedom came to fruition," Plutarch explains through the television.
"Someone else wrote this for him," Peeta states from where he sits next to me.
"Clearly," I agree.
"My name is Plutarch Heavensbee. I am a Capitol-born citizen who joined the rebellion to rid our nation of tyranny. Over the last several months, I have traveled tirelessly throughout Panem, interviewing my former rebel companions about our fight against injustice and the sacrifices they've made along the way. Tonight, the entire nation will discover the truth."
Peeta chokes back a laugh. "Truth!" He exclaims with disbelief.
It's easy to tell that Plutarch has set up the whole special around himself and all of his "friends" in the rebellion. There's a quick flash of each of us with him after the opening speech. Paylor, Cressida, Gale, Beetee, Johanna, Annie, and a few faces I recognize from District Thirteen but can't name are among them.
The shot of Peeta and I features us standing on Haymitch's front steps with Plutarch's back to the camera. I remember the moment well. Peeta's arm is outstretched close behind me as he holds Haymitch's door shut, but it looks as if he's casually leaning against it. He's smirking and I'm smiling devilishly, but only because I'm threatening to put an arrow through the camera that shot this footage. Without sound or Plutarch's shocked face on tape, it looks as if we're having an exciting conversation.
Plutarch's recount of our rebellion starts 75 years prior. He narrates the tale of the Dark Days over ghastly images of the districts destroyed. Finally, he gets around to the story of District Thirteen's secession from Panem, allowed by the government to avoid a nuclear war.
"Though Snow's regime was known to dispose of anyone caught spreading the rumor, word that District Thirteen was still alive and well in an underground complex spread from the Capitol through the districts. Decades later, the rumor would reach me and lead me to seek out the underground society created to strip the former government of its power."
Plutrach launches into extensive detail about District Thirteen, giving Panem a tour of the underground facilities where we were once forced to hide. He interviews a leader of the infantry in Thirteen, a man who I've only seen in passing who recounts the rebels extreme efforts and losses from the time they first began to fight right up until the fall of the Capitol in City Circle. His story is augmented by a more familiar member of the district: our drill instructor.
"Do you think that President Coin always had the best interest of District Thirteen in mind?" Plutarch asks them.
There's a close-up on a confused, weary face. Then the other soldier gives a vague response. "It's hard to say. We know she had some interest in uniting the districts, but-" The shot cuts out before the rest of his answer comes to light.
Plutarch paints a convenient picture of Alma Coin as a power-hungry politician who bided her time in a plan to take over the districts. It was the perfect set-up.
The picture of Coin fades into a video of a very familiar memory. Effie has been cut out, but we see Peeta walk up the steps of the Justice Building. The next shot is me holding back Prim and yelling "I volunteer!" I looked much younger back then.
"Alma Coin's opportunity to strike came when Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark won the 74th Annual Hunger Games." My stomach churns at the first mention of my name, followed by an image I've never seen before. Peeta and I staring at each other cautiously, a few nightlock berries in the palms of our hands.
I glance over at Peeta a bit uneasily, but his eyes are still locked on the television.
Shots of our Victory Tour were juxtaposed against shots of the uprising in District Eight. There's a voiceover over it all, too honest and familiar to be Plutarch.
"Snow didn't believe that we were in love," the voice explained. "He thought we acted the way we did just to start a rebellion. He said we needed to calm the rebellious districts and if we didn't, he'd kill us. When we didn't somehow stop the uprisings, Snow did his best to live up to his word." By the end of the small speech, the camera have focused in on Peeta, looking a bit bleary-eyed yet speaking as sharply and persuasively as ever.
Guilt floods my senses as I think back to the beginning. Peeta was probably playing to the camera when he suggested we were truly in love during the Victory Tour, but it may have been wishful thinking as well. I wish with all my heart that I has been strong enough to love him back then, but I know that I didn't. There were too many obstacles at the time.
Plutarch launches into the tale of the Quarter Quell, but his narration is punctuated by comments from important rebels along the way. Anne Odair speaks of Mags and Finnick with a quiet dignity. Johanna Mason's voice us harsh and bitter as she discusses being forced to kill other victors she'd befriended over the years. Beetee questions why it took 75 years before the people stood against such senseless killings. Peeta talks about never feeling safe.
I never get a chance to discuss my feelings on-screen, probably because I refused to delve into my feelings in front of the camera crew. Instead, a familiar face does it for me.
"Katniss did all that she could to keep up appearances, but I could tell she was hurting so badly through it all." He looks into the camera confidently, his eyes smoldering under the bright lights. Below his name, his fancy government title is listed. Next to it, added almost as an afterthought, was the title "Katniss Everdeen's best friend." But he isn't. Not anymore.
"Snow threatened to kill her family, Peeta's family, and my family if she stepped out of line," Gale tells the nation. I immediately regret not being more open with Plutarch, because this part of the story isn't Gale's to tell. It's mine.
It is, however, a natural segue into the firebombing of District Twelve. There's a small shot of me shooting and arrow toward an unseen point, the force field, before the camera goes black. His story begins there.
Gale's begins to tell the tale of watching us break from the arena and the consequences of my actions. The images shown are the grotesque aftermath of
the firebombing. Smoke rises from collapsed buildings. The dead are piled up against the fence in the meadow, where they were trying to escape into the woods. A child's doll lay blackened and alone in the middle of a street.
There's a flash of Peeta holding up his portraits of his family members from the memory book.
When I finally look over to Peeta, he looks as if he's about to be sick. My hand grabs for the television remote, desperate to end the horrid images. Just as my fingers curl around it, another hand clasps over mine.
"It's not our fault," Peeta says with fervor, clearly trying to convince himself as well. Gently, he pries the remote from my hand and places it on the top of the couch. I search his face for a long moment before turning back to the television set, where Plutarch is narrating his way through my journey into District Thirteen.
"We were supposed to save as many victors as we could, naturally!" Our drill instructor from Thirteen tells the cameras. "But the Capitol forces came in thick and fast. We needed to get whoever we could help and get out of there."
With Finnick, Beetee, and myself safe, the story focuses on Peeta, Johanna, and Annie becoming victims of vicious torture in the Capitol. They were beaten, starved, and forced to watch suspected rebels die. For some reason, Enobaria is cut from the story completely.
"I was bait," Annie explains quietly. Her brown hair falls in soft curls over her shoulders. She looks healthy, stronger than I remember. "Finnick and I loved each other so much that they knew he would come for me." She smiles morosely.
"Peeta and me became very familiar with the sounds of each other's screaming." Johanna repeats a similar sentiment to what she'd once told me with cool consistency, but her face sinks before she adds "But I never knew what they were doing to him."
Plutarch doesn't immediately explain what the Capitol was doing to Peeta. Most of Panem doesn't know, so a prompt explanation would ruin all the suspense. Instead, Gale and the soldiers from Thirteen explain their mission to rescue the captured as if it were a well-thought, easily approved plan. In reality, it was forced by my inability to perform as The Mockingjay without Peeta.
Thankfully, there was no documentation of Peeta and Johanna's arrival in District Thirteen. I will forever remember their frail, practically lifeless faces and their scars; Johanna's were physical, but Peeta's were emotional. I can't help but shiver uncomfortably at the distant memory. No, the nation doesn't need to see that.
What they don't get to see, they hear from Plutarch's narration. I wince as he describes how eager I was to see Peeta, how much I feared for his safety, and how quickly he gripped his hand around my throat and slammed me into a wall. Plutarch tells the audience that Peeta's behavior was due to a form of Capitol torture known as hijacking.
Next to me on the sofa, Peeta's rough hand grips mine firmly. I don't know if it's for his sake or mine.
"They injected me with tracker jacker venom," Peeta explains via the television. The shot goes wide and I can see his leg shaking uncontrollably. "It makes you paranoid and really impressionable. They'd get me that and tell me that Katniss never loved me; she was a just mutt created to destroy the rebellion. They showed me footage of her attacks and kills during our first games. They killed two avoxes in front of me, claiming Katniss wanted them dead."
There's a long distinct pause during which Peeta looks lost in agony before he adds "Death would have been better."
"Peeta Mellark was locked away in a private hospital ward, confined to visit from strange doctors who had no cure for him," Plutarch plays narrator. To make it worse, there's security camera footage of Peeta sleeping fitfully, handcuffed to the hospital bed. "But as word of his condition spread throughout the underground districts, a cure would come from an unlikely, very special source."
My interview makes its first appearance on screen, but I say nothing. Instead, I hold up Peeta's beautiful portrait of Prim in the memory book and stare at it longingly. There's footage of her dancing about at the wedding. The shot cuts away and there's a testimonial from everyone but me exclaiming just how special Prim was. Sweet. Innocent. Talented. Loving.
"Prim saw how the doctors used morphling to numb physical distress in other patients," Peeta says on-screen, his throat tense and his eyes suspicious. "She thought it could be used to calm emotional distress too. So the doctors started to give me morphling and talk about Katniss, let me watch the games again with a clearer head. When I wasn't so anxious, it was harder to believe the things Snow and his men has told me."
"Peeta Mellark got well enough to control his life. So well, in fact, that he was able to give a very special gift to two of his fellow victors," Plutarch tells the audience while the camera pans up from the bottom of a white linen tablecloth to Peeta's elaborate cake on top of it.
The District Four wedding song begins to play over beautiful edited footage Annie walking down the aisle toward Finnick, then the two of them covered in a seaweed net, exchanging the traditional vows from their district. Everyone testifies to how beautiful the wedding was, how special a couple Finnick and Annie were. Then an upbeat tempo rattles through the television and we're all dancing, the rebels and refugees alike. Everyone is there except Peeta.
A dramatic note rings out as Plutarch announces that the rebels happiness was only fleeting, because soon every available soldier was sent off to the Capitol, to war.
"We all know how the rebel militia slowly overtook the Capitol forces to free the people of Panem, but there's an untold story buried deep within. The tale of love, pain, and sacrifice among the most elite of rebels, the consummate survivors known as The Star Squad. Tonight, the survivors tell their story."
The video footage from the Squad 451 propos play, pausing briefly on each of our faces as we shoot at unseen targets and "strategize" amongst ourselves. Our names and faces are introduced to the audience one by one, with Peeta and I showing up last. Then finally, we speak.
My interview shows up on the screen again, but this time I finally speak. "It was a simple enough mission. We were to check an abandoned neighborhood for possible threats. We weren't expecting to actually find any, but we did."
In typical Plutarch fashion, the acted out shots of the Star Squad flattening out and hiding in doorways to avoid fake gunfire are shown. Then the angle moves to the view we all saw on Capitol television, taken from a security camera high above it all.
Even though I know he's going to do it, something inside me begs Boggs not to step backwards. When he does, Peeta and I are forced to relive the chaos. Nothing is cut out. Boggs is there with me, bloody stumps for legs, reprogramming the holo. A wall of dark gelatinous ooze begins to rise. Peeta almost lodges the butt of his gun into my head, then throws Mitchell into a pod. Gale and Leeg trying to shoot him down until eventually Finnick pushes us all into the nearest home.
Peeta appears on the screen, looking bitter and remorseful. "I don't know what happened to me in that moment."
To my surprise, it's Gale who shows his face next. "It's easy to understand how Peeta got confused," he says very stiffly, like a government official explaining a new policy. "It got dark and hazy very quickly. We didn't know if the Capitol forces were coming for us. He'd already been captured once. He thought Katniss was a Capitol soldier attacking Boggs, then he fought off Mitchell because he thought he was being attacked himself."
Peeta's voice rings out in surprise from where he sits on the couch next to me. "Why would he make all that up to cover me?"
Because he cares about you, I think. I can't think of any other reasons, but I can't bring myself to tell Peeta that the one man who almost stood in the way of our relationship is looking out for him. I stare at him innocently as Cressida describes our escape to another apartment and the revelation of my "real mission" to assassinate President Snow on the television.
"I don't know," I tell him meekly.
I turn back to the television with a lump in my throat just as Gale finishes explaining Pollux's expert guidance in the sewers. Footage of Castor and Pollux by the lake is shown as President Paylor's voice condemns the creation of avoxes in the former regime. She promises that no more suspected criminals will be forced into such a life by the new government.
"Believed to be dead and making tremendous progress, the Star Squad thought it safe to rest." Another ominous note plays after Plutarch speaks. "But they were wrong."
The face on the screen switches between myself, Peeta, Gale, and Cressida as we all do our best to describe the vile mutts that mercilessly attacked rebels and Peacekeepers alike. My breath hitches and I hold the air in my lungs, refusing to breathe in through my nose for a moment. I swear can I still smell the roses.
Something about this bit of the show makes me terribly uneasy. It's cut together to sound fast-paced and dramatic, but it glosses over the event's significance and every death... until the last one.
"Finnick was fighting so hard. There were just too many of them," i hear myself say on the television. It's surreal to watch tears well up in my own eyes at a distance.
"I really thought he was going to make it." Gale stares at the ground, his eyes as wide as saucers.
There's a short but powerful break from our story as the cameras show Annie Odair, odd and unsettled but still magnificently happy as she introduces the world to the baby boy bundled in her arms.
"This is Finn," she sighs, "and someday he'll know that his father was a hero."
A few more minutes pass as Annie describes Finnick's best qualities and comes to terms with his death as best she can with a camera glaring in her face. I want to reach out to Annie, to hold Finn. I'm glad that I've already processed most of my feelings about this amazing child, otherwise I'd start blubbering right now.
It's the greatest, most tragic love story in Panem's history. Plutarch has done his job well.
Slowly, we travel back into the story. We're hiding out in Tigris' shop. Cressida describes the dingy space we called home as the rebels moved in on City Circle. The distorted face of Tigris appears, describing our behavior during that time as "too worried and too quiet".
Finally, we're in City Circle. Capitol security cameras replay the whole scene from a safe distance that keeps things from looking too graphic. The square is packed with citizens and soldiers from both sides. Pods go off indiscriminately, taking whoever is closest down with them. I try to find myself in the midst of the chaos, but I can't make sense of the images before me. The only thing I can see is the children penned up in front of Snow's mansion, reaching for silver parachutes as they fall from the sky.
The screen goes black before the parachutes reach their hands.
When a picture finds the screen again, it's Plutarch and I in my living room.
"And that's where you lost your sister."
I wish I had said more. Thankfully, I'm reading for the memory book in the next shot, talking about my conversation with Prim in the emergency shelter deep inside District Thirteen. The one when she told me how happy she was, how much hope she had for the future, and perhaps most importantly now, how she wanted to see me happy.
Peeta lets out a strangled noise next to me. I save him the embarrassment and choose not to look over.
The special celebrates the capture and eventual death of President Snow, but it also highlights a dark element of what would have been Coin's new government: Another Hunger Games featuring Capitol children.
"Just before Snow's execution, she told the victors what she planned to do," I tell Panem. I still feel a bit guilty about twisting the true meaning of my words.
"It was Coin's idea of getting even with the people who killed children from the districts," Johanna explains, looking more confident than nervous.
Peeta looks panicky when his face appears on screen. "I begged them not to do it," he says. "I told them it would make us no better than the people we've been fighting against."
"She was corrupt!" I appear as fierce as The Mockingjay again in that moment, totally in control of the nation's spirit. "She was no better than Snow!"
With this top secret information in mind, Plutarch explains, I had no other choice than to kill Alma Coin before she too became a tyrannical dictator. My trial and eventual release into District Twelve is discussed briefly.
Before coming to a close, there's a brief round-up of our new lives. Paylor discusses our progress as a nation. Johanna talks about the state of District Seven and her new job providing aid to those affected by war. Cressida highlights how life in the Capitol has changed for the better, though I'm not certain she means it. Plutarch gloats about his new position and the joys of traveling throughout Panem, but makes up for it a bit by mentioning that Pollux also works for the Department of Communications.
Gale and his new job are located in District Two. He recently won an award for his work tracking down Snow's loyalists. There's footage of him entering the event in a tuxedo, clean-shaven with a smug grin. A tall, thin woman in a ornate ball gown walks arm-and-arm with him. It takes me a moment to realize who she is: Leevy, a girl who grew up with us in the Seam. I let out a little laugh. I knew she'd made it to District Thirteen, but I never knew she'd made it into Gale's arms after that.
"I never thought I'd be as happy as I am right now," Gale confirms through the power of television, "but I'm really happy."
A tear trickles down my cheek. His name will forever bring up conflict in my memories, but right now I can't help but be happy for him. I'm so incredibly elated by his happiness. Deep down, I know he still deserves it.
Then something interesting happens. Peeta and I go back and forth describing life in District Twelve, the bakery, and briefly, each other. We weren't speaking at the time, yet Plutarch's edits make it look as if we're thinking the same thoughts, finishing each other's sentences. I know it's partly camera magic, but it feels so right.
The television goes silent as a close-up of Peeta's face appears on-screen. He's twirling something in his fingers, held up right in front of his eyes. With a begrudging smirk, he holds it out further and the fuzzy image becomes clear.
I gasp, unable to control myself. My body leans in as close to the television as possible without moving off the couch.
It's my pearl. The one Peeta gave me during the Quarter Quell. But it's been placed is a stunning swirled white gold band, simple yet elegant.
"I was thinking about giving her this," Peeta explains to Plutarch, though his voice sounds unsure. "To show her I love her. To make a fresh start."
"Do you want to marry her?" Plutarch asks.
Peeta's ice blue eyes nearly pierce through the screen when he looks up, covered in a watery sheen. "I've always wanted to marry her," he says.
The footage changes as my dizzied mind tries to connect and reconfigure everything I've seen in the last minute or so. It's now accompanied by a video of Peeta kissing me passionately in my doorway the night we finally made up. Neither of us knew that the cameraman had been there.
Plutarch falsely reports to the nation that Peeta and I are blissfully engaged, though we've not yet set a date for the wedding.
With that, it's over. Plutarch gives a short, righteous speech and thanks to nation for watching and discovering the true story of the new Panem. The television flashes brightly before clicking off. Peeta sits next to me with the remote in hand, looking slightly dumbfounded. We stare at each other, neither of us moving or speaking for ages.
"I don't know why I showed him that," he finally pipes up.
I know I shouldn't press my luck. I should be grateful just to be in love, but I ask anyway. "Why didn't you show me that?"
"I didn't know if you'd want it." Peeta shrugs and looks away, baring all his insecurities for me to see. "At least not now."
"Of course I want it," I let out in a high-pitched whisper. "After all this-" I gesture towards the television as my words fail me. "Of course I want to be-"
"Engaged?" Peeta finishes for me. All I can do is nod.
Peeta stands up from his spot on the couch and looks down on me. I'm immediately confused, unsure if my words somehow conflict with Peeta's true emotions. Maybe the whole thing was a tactic he'd used to make me jealous. Maybe I'd imagined it.
But if that's the case, why is Peeta fishing a small silvery band out of his pocket and kneeling down in front of me?
"Then marry me," he challenges me. His voice is thick and raw with emotion, but his sincere intent is clear. "Promise you'll marry me."
What was once a trickle of a teardrop is now a steady stream down my face. I try to control it, but it's useless. I lean myself into Peeta, kissing him with every ounce of energy I can muster. I lose my balance and we topple backwards onto the hardwood floor, but we're too busy laughing and crying all at once to care.
"Yes, I'll marry you," I tell Peeta. "I promise I'll marry you."
Slowly, gently, Peeta reaches for my hand and slides the ring onto my finger. It's a little big at the moment, but it doesn't matter.
For once, it feels like everything is going to be okay.