I take it all in. The fresh smell of pine from the trees towering over my head, the blue poking through the tops of those trees, the flowers sticking up in the grass, the soft hum of the insects buzzing around, the scampering of animals as they awaken from their winter slumbers…It's all beautiful. It's like another home to me, the woods. I ponder why it has taken me so long to return. The memories are everywhere, of course, I see Gale laughing, I see him adjusting a snare, everywhere, he is there. I expect it to hurt, but it doesn't. I just feel comfortable, as if he is still here, watching my back. I settle down onto our old meeting place, and remember the last time we were here. We were filming propos for the war.
I sigh and will away the memories. It does no good to dwell on the past, you must simply find a way to move and keep going.
I had been back to the woods a few times since returning to District 12, but each time it felt wrong, and I left as soon as I arrived. Today it felt right. Maybe it was because the day was the warm, sunny days I've always loved so much. Maybe it's because I can see past the haze that held me for so long.
The air is full of life here. Each breath revives me. The air had once been terribly scary to breathe, full of ashes of those I once knew. Don't think like that. I tell myself, trying hard to forget the many days I refused to leave the house, fearful of whose ashes blew with the wind. Much after the reconstruction began and the air was clean, it still haunted me. It's gone now, becomes my mantra for the next few moments as I suppress the thoughts.
I make my way to the tree where I stored by bows, realizing I forgot the one left in the closet at home. The bow feels both strange and completely normal in my hands at the same time. My first few shots are terribly off, but I haven't used a bow in so long. The skill comes back quickly, though not as strong as it once was. I take down a few squirrels, and I am delighted to see two of them are shot right through the eye, just like I used to do.
Fatigue suddenly takes over. I decide to lie in the soft patch of moss under me, for just a moment, for just a rest. I briefly wonder what time it is, and if I should be going home, but I am much too tired to even begin to process the thoughts.
There's still green everywhere, but the green feels wrong. It feels artificial. I take a look around and realize where I am- the arena. Why am I back here? I thought I escaped…I look around frantically for Peeta. I have to save him again, maybe I can even find him earlier this time…we would both suffer less then, right? As I am about to call out his name, I hear my own being called. At first, it is soft, like a whisper, but it becomes louder, more urgent, and I realize, filled with desperation. It's not Peeta; it's a girls voice screaming my name. A young girl. It's so familiar…who does it belong to? I try to place the sound, and run after it. Who is it, who is it, who is it? Then it clicks, it's Rue, screaming my name. I arrive to her spot, just like I did in the games, just in time to watch her die. She screams my name one last time.
I wake up suddenly. I have to remind myself it wasn't real. I turn to look for Peeta when I remember I am still in the woods. The sun is beginning to go down, and I realize I've been out here much longer than I intended. I hear my name called again, and I jump, but this time it wasn't Rue. It was Peeta. I shake my head to rid myself of the sound, thinking it's a dream, but it finally clicks that he is looking for me. I quickly stand up, and try to find him as he shouts my name over and over, Katniss? Katniss are you out here? Katniss, where are you?
I race towards the sound; I have to get there quickly this time, before Marvel arrives. No, I don't. This is not the Games. Peeta is safe, just looking for me. I shake my head, but call out any ways, trying to alert Peeta that I am safe as well. I finally make it to the entrance of the woods, where he is standing. He looks relieved to see me, and he takes me into his arms.
"Oh, Katniss where were you? I was so worried, worried that maybe you left me again…" he whispers softly, more to himself than to me. I feel terrible for staying here, I should have told Peeta I was going before he left this morning, but I didn't. I never think ahead like that. I take his face in my hands, forcing him to look at me.
"Peeta, I would never leave you, okay? I wasn't…I wasn't right then, but I'm better now. I promise. I just came out here, and I guess I was tired since I haven't been here in so long, I feel asleep," I explain. "I would never leave you, Peeta…" I say, repeating the words. It seems to make him feel better.
"Should we go home?" He asks.
"No, not just yet. We should go to the meadow. Watch the sunset." I say, knowing he would enjoy it, even if the thought of sitting on the grave slightly disturbs me. Peeta nods and gives me a smile, which I have to return, since his are almost always contagious. He takes me by the hand, and we walk to the top of the meadow together. We end up sitting just like we did the day on the training center roof before our second games, I realize. My head in his lap, watching the sunset.
"We can stay in the moment forever, Peeta. I never thought we could, but look at us. Just like that day…" I say, knowing he'll understand what I mean. His fingers brush my cheek as he smiles.
"So you mean it then? You won't leave?" His voice sounds so worried, as if he thinks I am going to flit away at any second. I laugh slightly.
"I could never leave you."
"I love you, Katniss," he tells me, but I don't respond. At least, not with words, but instead I pull his head down to my own, giving him a soft kiss. I think about our kisses then. They aren't frequent, really, only sporadically, but they are ours. They are not the false kisses forced upon us by the Capitol. They are my choice. I cherish each one, live in that moment brought to life with the feel of his lips on my own.
The sun begins it show then, slowly falling behind the horizon line. The sky is lit up all sorts of beautiful colors. Dark blue at the top, where the sun has already left, pink and orange and red light up the clouds, shimmering off the clouds. I gasp at the beautiful sight. I had forgotten how beautiful sunsets were. I hadn't watched one in so long. Then it's all gone, the colors melted away into one dark blue.
We walk back to the house in silence, but it's the good kind of silence that comes only when you don't want to ruin a perfect moment. When we arrive at the door, Peeta turns to me.
"Can we do this every day, Katniss? Watch the sunset together? We can put chairs on the porch," he asks.
"That sounds lovely," I say. Everything with Peeta sounds lovely to me.