Hello everyone! This is my first multi-chapter fic, and I'm super excited (and somewhat nervous). :P The M rating will apply later on in the story, in case you were wondering. ;)
A super huge shoutout to my lovely betas/pre-readers tweety4be and madamemouse! Those ladies are the best! :)
The rain was coming down in sheets on the day my mother was set to become Mrs. Mellark.
The wedding was being held in the bakery, because, when all the tables and counters had been pulled out of the way, it was the largest room available to us. I sat in a front corner near a window and stared outside, unable to help thinking that the weather accurately reflected my mood.
It wasn't the Mellarks. I found Theo and his sons to be kind people, even though I didn't know them all too well.
It wasn't the situation. My sister, mother, and I would never have to worry about not eating or keeping warm while living in a bakery.
It was the fact that I seemed to be the only one thinking of my father. He had died in a mining accident years ago, but he always seemed to be in our minds. Now, my mother hadn't mentioned him at all. She seemed perfectly content with her new fiancé. I could understand her being giddy over him, as he was a handsome, caring, gentle man, but how could she possibly forget my father? They had been so in love when he was alive. I didn't know how a person could ever move on from someone after loving them that much. My throat tightened as I got too wound up in my thoughts and I pressed my knuckles to my lips as if to physically hold the tears back.
"You look great." I spun around to see who had spoken. My best friend, Gale, stood before me in some tattered brown pants and a frayed white button down shirt, the nicest clothes he owned. I stared down at my light blue dress, the one that I had worn just a couple days ago during the 74th Reaping of the Hunger Games. I found it odd that I was wearing the same attire on my mother's wedding as when I had watched a twelve year old girl and a seventeen year old boy walk up the steps to what would probably be their death.
"Thanks," I said, smoothing down the soft material. "But you saw me in it not too long ago."
"Well... this time it's for a better situation." I nodded, knowing he was right, but still feeling an inkling of sadness creep its way into my belly.
Gale and I stood there in a comfortable silence as more guests began to trickle in to the bakery. The Mellark men had a large amount of friends, many more than my family had. People in the Seam generally didn't have too many friends, only a few close ones. The thought that I would no longer be living in the Seam was almost too bizarre to comprehend.
"Gale? Gale!" We heard Hazelle, Gale's mother, calling him over the twitter of everyone's conversations. She came over to us and handed Gale his little sister, Posy.
"Watch her please," she said quickly before scurrying off into the fray. She looked razzled, as anyone putting together a wedding would expectedly be. Posy quickly got fussy, and Gale left to take care of her, leaving me alone. My little sister, Prim, was somewhere in the back of the bakery with my mother, while I had chosen to leave the makeshift dressing room early.
I felt awkward, standing all by myself while everyone around me was socializing among themselves. Just when I was about to scurry back to my mother and sister just for the sake of not being alone, I felt a soft brush of fingers against my wrist.
"Hey," Peeta Mellark said quietly when I turned around. My eyes widened slightly. He had surprised me by striking up conversation.
When we had been younger, my mother, sister, and I had been starving to the point of near death. Peeta, despite his late mother's wraith, had thrown me two loaves of charred bread when I had all but passed out behind their bakery. Those two loaves of bread had saved our lives, and I had always wanted to thank him for it. When our parents had announced their engagement to us, I had tried to talk to him, hoping to somehow thank him for what he had done, and possibly strike up a friendship.
But after I had all but said "hello", he had blushed, muttered something I wasn't able to catch, and scurried away as soon as he had a chance. His brothers were friendly and outgoing and already felt like family, but Peeta had remained aloof, and to be quite honest, a bit rude. He had done his best to ignore me any time I tried to make conversation, so the simple "hey" I had gotten just now was huge.
"Uh, hi, Peeta," I said awkwardly.
"You look very beautiful today, Katniss," he told me, not meeting my eyes. I felt my cheeks begin to burn at his compliment. Where had that come from? I assumed he was just trying to be polite, but it still caused me to feel all fluttery. I had never been complimented like that by any other man before, other than Gale, who was so much like a sibling to me that I didn't think he really counted. I found it ironic that once a man did compliment me in that way, he would become my brother almost immediately.
"Thanks," I said, biting my lip. "You look nice too." He was wearing a simple suit that had clearly been handed down many times, but I had to admit he looked very handsome in it.
"Thank you," he responded, a blush rising up his cheeks as well. "So, you've got everything moved in now?" He asked, changing the subject.
"Yes. There wasn't much to move, but everything's pretty much settled. Are you sharing a room with anyone?" Our conversation was dry and awkward, and it was strange to think we would be close family by the end of the day.
"Nope. I got the spare office downstairs. Everyone else is upstairs."
"You're the only one with their own space then." I smiled at him. "I love Prim to pieces, but I do like some time alone once in a while."
"Same with me," he responded. "My... well, our, brothers can be a lot to handle some times."
Just when we had started to loosen up with each other, music filled the room, signaling the start of the wedding. I had seen Capitol wedding on television, where they took place in huge ballrooms and everyone wore fancy clothes and sat at tables filled with expensive food while the bride and groom were wed by some sort of important person of their choice and presented each other with rings that held diamonds so large you could see their sparkle a mile away.
In District 12, people were married by whoever would do the job, while their friends crowded around to watch. Rings were presented if they were already possessed by the family, and there was usually little to no food provided. Alcohol, however, was generally present and the new couple and their guests would drink and dance and party as long as their bodies would allow them.
Peeta and I stayed next to each other as people began to gather around the front of the room. My mother entered from the back room in a white dress that had been lent to her by one of the Mellark's friends. Her hair was pulled back into a small braid that tumbled into curls at her waist, and I was stunned at her beauty after all those years of grief and hardship.
Theo beamed at his bride, as did the rest of the room. Yet another friend of the Mellark's friends was doing the job of wedding the two, and the room quieted when he raised his hands to the crowd.
The vows were simple and finished within minutes. A simple pair of gold, beat-up wedding bands were exchanged between the two. They weren't from our family, of course. We hadn't had any rings to pass down, and if we had, they would have been sold for food long ago.
After the rings and I do's, the man announced them married and gave Theo permission to kiss his bride. An applaud erupted from the surrounding crowd. I clapped softly but averted my gaze. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Peeta do the same.
The crowd broke up as people began to socialize and congratulate the new couple. Peeta and I stayed near each other, not saying anything and letting the uncomfortable silence build. My eyes scanned the room for Gale, but he was no where to be seen.
"Um," Peeta began, swallowing awkwardly. I looked at my new brother. Calling him my brother was the strangest thing. We barely knew each other, even though he had saved me from dying once before. I wasn't even sure he remembered that instance, or fathomed how much it had helped my family and I. I wished this was easier for us. I hated how he seemed like he was being ordered to talk to me, and was doing it only because he absolutely had to. I hated that he seemed to hate me.
"You, uh, want to see the cake?" I wanted to say "no" because I hated this uncomfort we both seemed to be feeling and I just wanted to walk away, but I knew I was being foolish. No problems were ever solved by being ignored, and I knew that if I was going to be living with him I should get to know him better, at least be nice. Even if he didn't like me, I had to give him credit for trying. And after all, he had saved my life.
"Okay," I said, and followed him through the crowd and into the kitchen. He opened the doors to an enormous fridge and pulled out one of the trays. Sitting atop it was the most ornate, exquisite cake I had ever laid my eyes upon. Prim and I had always loved to walk past the bakery and admire the decorated cakes displayed in the window, but this one put all the others to shame.
Every inch of it was covered in delicate and very detailed flowers of all kinds. Roses, daisies, lilacs, poppies, and every other flower I could imagine had been recreated in frosting. Even the colors were breathtaking. Each flower's color was perfectly matched to the real thing, making me wonder how long it had taken to mix and test dyes until the right shade was found.
"Wow," I said, unable to fully convey how amazing I found it to be. "It's really, really beautiful." Peeta ducked his head, a sheepish grin overtaking his face.
"Thanks. It was pretty time consuming to make, but luckily it came out how I imagined."
"You made this?" I asked, surprise blossoming on my face.
"Yes. Is it so much of a surprise?" A small smile played on his lips.
"No!" I said, not realizing until then how rude that question had sounded. I wanted to smack myself. The last thing I needed was to give him a reason to dislike me. "I mean, what I meant was... well, I knew you were good, but not, you know, that good." He chuckled, slightly shaking his head. I felt a blush creeping up my neck into my cheeks.
"Well, thanks. My dad offered to make it, but I wanted to. I usually don't do cakes, but for some reason I had a picture in my mind of exactly how this one should look."
"You should do them more often, because you're really great at it," I told him. He opened his mouth to say something else, but Terence, his (our!) older brother, interrupted us.
"Hey, little sister!" He said with enthusiasm, wrapping me in a hug from behind. I laughed as he lifted my feet off the ground for a moment before setting me down and leading Peeta and I out of the kitchen. I had gotten to know him and Benvolio, Peeta's younger brother, fairly well. Peeta was the only one who had shut me out.
The rest of the evening was filled with partying and laughter and fun. It was the biggest dose of any of those things either member of my family had received in a very long while. I enjoyed everything despite myself, and I had danced with Gale, my new brothers, and a vast assortment of their friends whom I had never met before that night.
It was well after one by the time everyone had gone home for the night. With only two bathrooms for seven people, it took a while for everyone to get their turn. While I waited, I prepared myself a cup of tea and sat in the small living room downstairs next to Peeta's bedroom. The soft pajamas I had put on felt amazing after having worn a dress all day. Exhaustion was coursing through my viens, and as much as I wanted to just go to sleep, I still had to use the bathroom to wash up a bit before bed. I stared out the window at the rain that was pouring out of the sky as hard as ever when I heard footsteps fall into the room.
"The bathroom's emp-" I stood as Peeta spoke, lifting myself out of the chair I had been seated in and into his line of sight. He stopped speaking immediately, and his eyes widened slightly. I felt myself blush when I realized that I was wearing the skimpy, revealing, linen clothes I normally wore to bed in the summer. The only people who had ever seen me dressed like this were my mother and Prim.
"Emp- it's empty. You can, um, use it." He stammered, regaining his voice but still staring at me. I didn't say anything; just stood there staring back at him. I had always scoffed at people who talked about reading others' emotions just from looking at their eyes. All I saw when I looked at someone's eyes were, well, eyes.
But when I looked into Peeta's eyes, I saw everything. I don't know what it was that he saw in mine, but there were so many emotions running through his it nearly overwhelmed me. But the way he looked at me was one that I would expect someone to use if they came across something bizarrely out of place- like if one were to come home and find strangers living in their house instead of the person's own family. I was curious, wondering why he was looking at me this way, when I saw a flash of red, hot anger pass through his mysterious, blue eyes.
I broke away then, angry with him as he was with me. Who was he to be mad with me for my mother marrying his father? None of this was my fault. And why had he been nice to me earlier today but was now upset and irritated with me? I clenched my teeth, wishing that if he was going to dislike me he would just dislike me all the time, and quit being nice in intervals and making me think I liked him.
I brushed past him, muttered a brief "night" and stalked into the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind me. As I splashed my face with warm water, I wondered how on earth I was going to live with someone who was so undecided about me, and who I couldn't seem to quit worrying about, no matter how hard I tried.
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