He was staring at me.


The constant burn of Peeta Mellark's eyes on the back of my head during our Panem History lesson should be something that I'd gotten used to by now. Maybe I would have if there was any logical reasoning behind it, but there wasn't. As far as I could remember, Peeta had never spoken a word to me, aside from asking if I had a pencil he could borrow back when we were like, twelve. Even then, he hadn't made eye contact. He hadn't even said a word the day he gave me the bread. Part of me wished that he had acknowledged it at some point over the years, simply so I could thank him for it without having to be the one to initiate the conversation. The other part of me was thankful for his silence because I knew there was no way to properly show my gratitude. I've never been particularly good with words, and wouldn't even have known where to start.

Peeta Mellark and I couldn't have been any different if we'd tried. Sure, we were the same age, had most of the same classes at school, and had lived in District 12 our entire lives, but those lives were like night and day. He had grown up in town; his family living cozily above the bakery that they ran. I didn't doubt for a minute that he'd never known what it was to be hungry. Just his stature alone pointed to that much. He and his two older brothers were all well-built, not quite stocky, but each exhibited a muscular frame that most kids from the Seam were never able to achieve. His blonde curls, bright blue eyes, and fair skin were so very opposite of the dark-hair, grey-eyes, and olive skin that I possessed. It was those few physical traits that separated all town kids from those of the Seam.

Peeta was also well liked in our school. I'd even go as far to say that he was one of the more popular kids. He was athletic, polite, and always surrounded by a group of was almost always seen with a smile on his face. My smiles were much more guarded, and seldom seen in the school hallways. They were reserved for the few people that I kept close. I was, by no means, considered popular. Another reason I could never wrap my head around the fact that I, more often than not, caught him staring at me during most of our classes together.

As soon as the bell signaling the end of the period rang, I was out of my desk and at the door. Lunch was next on the schedule, followed by our gym class. These were the two high points of my days at school. I would not only be able to check on my little sister, Primrose, but also spend some time with Gale. I allowed myself a small grin as I spotted them already sitting together at our usual spot near an old oak tree. Prim was talking animatedly to Rory, Gale s little brother, about something and it didn't take a genius to recognize the look of pure adoration on his face. Prim and Rory were both 12, and had practically grown up together after both our dads were killed in an accident at the coal mines when we were younger. The fact that Gale and I had practically been thrust together by our need to keep our families alive was the only good thing that had happened to me since then.

Gale, at 18, was two years older than me. He was a head taller, with tanned skin, dark hair that hung down to his chin, and a broad, muscular build. I know I said earlier that most Seam kids never were able to achieve a build like this, but over the years, Gale's genetics had won out over the odds. He was my best friend. I wasn't stupid, though, nor was I deaf. I had heard the girls at school whispering about him; talking about how handsome he was, how strong he looked, and how much they disliked the fact that I was always hanging around him. I didn't put much stock into what other people thought, however.

Like I said, he was my best friend. That was all. It was hardly my fault that he didn t pay attention to those girls, and I was content to let them continue thinking whatever they wanted about the two of us.

"Hey, Catnip," He grinned at me once I got closer to the tree. He scooted over to make room for me to sit on the narrow bench beside him, and went back to watching Rory and Prim the same way that I had been doing on my walk over. He nudged my side after I sat down, and nodded his head in their direction. "I think Rory's in trouble."

"Oh?" I replied, pretending not to know what he was talking about. I took my lunch, however measly it was out of the brown paper sack I had been carrying it in, and laid it on the table in front of me. "Why's that?"

"Rory's not in trouble, Gale!" Prim exclaimed from across the table. "I mean, he may not understand the point of the story that Ms. Whitmer has been reading to us in English, but I doubt he'd get into trouble for it."

Not wanting Gale to embarrass his little brother by outing his crush on Prim, I leaned forward on my elbows, pretending to take great interest. "And what story is that, Prim?"

"It's called Romeo and Juliet. Apparently, it s a really old story that some guy wrote centuries ago..."

Prim kept talking, but I drowned her out as I looked back over at Gale, and then to Rory again. Sure enough, Rory's eyes never left Prim's face as she went on about the beauty of the love that the story told. I thought it was sweet that Rory had a crush on Prim, despite my general views on the dangers of relationships and love in general. I was about to whisper that to Gale, when he placed his hand so close to mine on the table that the sides were touching, causing me to freeze. I sat up straighter, and turned my head to my right, away from Gale and the rest of the table. My eyes almost immediately locked onto a pair of crystal clear blue ones across the courtyard, and I suddenly felt stifled by the intensity of them, and the heat radiating from Gale's hand beside mine.

I stood quickly, nearly knocking my thighs against the edge of the table, and mumbled something about having to get something from my locker before gym. I pushed my lunch toward Prim, and gave her a quick, small smile.

I was only a few feet away when I heard Gale's voice, directed at Rory.

"These Everdeen girls are going to be the death of us, aren't they?"