WARNING: SPOILERS - If you haven't read all three books in the Hunger Games series, my story will be full of spoilers. Also, you might not understand what's being talked about, nor understand the significance of each reference to the original books.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Hunger Games series and I am not making any money by writing this.
Even with the curtains drawn, I can tell by the pounding against the windows and on the rooftop that the rain hasn't died down one bit. It has been raining on and off all spring, but today it's coming down especially hard. I even woke up in the middle of the night not because of nightmares, but because of that incessant pounding, but Peeta just wrapped his arms around me, tucked my head under his chin, and held me safe, sound, and warm in his arms until I drifted back to sleep, listening to the rain just like back in our little cave in the arena.
There are no arms around me now, however, and there doesn't seem to be any weight on the other side of the bed. When I turn around, I find Peeta's side of the bed empty. Sometimes I wake up this way since he has to leave early for work at the bakery, but today is Sunday. There's nowhere either of us have to be. Just as I begin wondering where he is, I smell the sweet scent of something cooking wafting through the cracks of the closed bedroom door. I'm about to pull the blankets off of me and head downstairs to the kitchen when the door opens and Peeta comes in carrying a tray laden with food.
"Glad to see you're awake. Good morning," he says smiling.
"Good morning," I reply, allowing him to quickly kiss me on the lips before returning his smile, but there's another reason why I'm smiling. There, on the tray, I see two big steaming mugs of hot chocolate, my favorite.
As he carefully places the heavy tray in the middle of the bed and goes back around to sit on his side of the bed, I take time to notice all of the other goodies he's piled on the tray as well: plates full of fruits, cheeses, and spreads, and a basket of something covered with a white linen napkin. Curious, I remove the napkin and immediately find the source of the sweet smell that I had woken up to. It's just like the bread basket at the training center that Peeta had used to teach me about the different breads from each district. I immediately grab my favorite, the cheesy bread buns, but as our meal progresses, I realize that this bread basket isn't telling the story of the different districts, it's actually telling Peeta's and my life together: There is the same rich raisin and nut bread he had purposely burnt so that he could give it to me...The seaweed bread that belongs to the district of our long since gone friend, Finnick...The crescent bread that District 11 had sent me during the Games in thanks for being Rue's ally and for loving her. And of course, the buns with cheese baked on top that Peeta knows are my favorite. As I empty out the bread basket to observe each piece of bread, I notice something else sitting at the bottom of the white linen basket: a simple gold ring with a diamond on top.
My heart stops then begins to race as Peeta gently picks up the ring and takes my hand into his. Even though I know what he's about to do, I don't pull my hand away. Instead, I let him slide the ring onto my left ring finger. It's a perfect fit.
"I know this is a lot to take in first thing in the morning," Peeta says quietly, "But this is a long time coming and I just wanted you to know that I want to spend every possible minute of the rest of my life with you."
His words sound familiar and it takes me a minute to place them, but then I remember. I remember him saying these very words to me a few nights before the Quarter Quell when we both thought one or neither of us were likely to survive. We were so sure that we were at death's door that I finally let him in again and we spent that night in each other's arms void of nightmares.
Getting married now feels like the most natural next step in our lives. I had even expected his proposal. I didn't know exactly when or how he was going to do it, but I just knew that it was only a matter of time. It's the way it was when Gale and I were growing up and inseparable and the entire town thought that it was just a matter of time until we got married. But ever since District 12 was blown up, rebuilt, and Gale had moved away to District 2, it was Peeta and I who became inseparable, neither of us having any family left with his all dead and my only family left, my mother, having moved away to District 4.
I remember asking Haymitch, when Peeta had proposed to me the first time, why Peeta didn't seem happy about it. Haymitch explained that Peeta had wanted it to be real, not under false pretenses in front of all of Panem. His proposal now is the one Peeta had meant for us. There's no one here to watch, not even a fly on the wall, and he already knows that, this time, my love for him is real.
To top it all off, my main reason for not wanting to get married, the old Capitol, is no longer around. I didn't want the prospect of the Games looming over the heads of whatever children my husband and I would have, so why tempt temptation and bother getting married at all? Then, when I became the subject of President's Snow's despise, I didn't want to get married because it was by force. Besides, back then I wasn't even sure about how I felt about Peeta or even Gale. It was then that I envied Finnick and Annie of their certainty of each other, but now I am as certain of Peeta as Finnick and Annie were of each other.
With everything that was ever holding me back from marriage gone, so have whatever reservations I had about it.
"I want to spend every possible minute of the rest of my life with you too," I say in return. And it's true. As I hear myself say it out loud, I know that deep down I actually mean every word of it.
A huge grin spreads across Peeta's face, making me smile too. Then we both lean in, close our eyes, and softly, slowly kiss.
When I was little, I grew up knowing how good marriage could be because I had witnessed the best example of it between my mother and father. Just watching them be so kind, sweet, and loving to one another made me want to have the same thing for myself someday. I guess I had just shut that part of me out when my father died. He left us all devastated by his death, most especially my mother. And while the love between my mother and father was something I desired for myself, the heartbreak that came with it was something that I did not. Having to sign up for the Games and tessera did not help lighten my view about marriage and children either.
But as much as I had buried that desire, it never truly went away. It was always there deep inside of me, and with every kiss from Peeta, every embrace, every act of unselfish kindness, that desire came closer and closer to the surface until it had no choice but to return full force, burning deep in my heart and mind, making me wish for something more. And now I get to have it. I get to have what my parents had. I get to have it with Peeta.
I've heard it said an infinite number of times: Life hardly ever turns out the way you plan it. But being stubborn and naive and overly confident, I thought I could circumvent that cliche. And yet, like everyone else, I eventually succumbed to it. I had never planned on getting married, not even to Gale, but neither did I foresee the Capitol actually coming down along with the Hunger Games and arenas. I didn't foresee how Gale's fire would actually frighten me. I didn't foresee my sister's death, the Rebellion, and the huge role I would play in them. There was so much about the future that I could not have predicted, like growing so close to the boy with the bread that I'd eventually fall in love with him.
So even as I accept Peeta's proposal in our makeshift cave of a bedroom, I have no clue what the future holds for us, but it couldn't possibly be worse than what we've already had to go through in the past. All that's left for us now are better tomorrows.