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.
I begin to raise my hand up to shield my eyes from the bright afternoon sun when a shadow looms over me, taking care of the job.
"Peeta, what are you doing?" I ask.
"I'm practicing my knots," he replies.
I squint my eyes and make a face up at him. He just grins down at me. After all these years, that's still his excuse.
Eventually, I close my eyes again, simply enjoying the feel of Peeta's fingers as they play with my hair while I lazily lay on his lap.
With my eyes closed, it seems like my hearing has become more acute and I can hear everything: the soft breeze rustling the leaves of the nearby trees, the birds chirping to each other, but most importantly, the children laughing. Even with my eyes closed I can still see them clearly in my mind's eye: The dancing girl with dark hair and bright blue eyes, and the younger boy with blond curls and gray eyes trying to keep up with her.
How could Peeta and I have known on that leisurely day up on the training center rooftop that someday we would truly have children of our own, free from the threat of the Hunger Games and the old Capitol?
Back in the arena, I had tried to imagine such a world, only back then I never imagined that both Peeta and I would actually make it out alive. So instead, I imagined that world without me in it, and Peeta's children belonged to him and some faceless, nameless woman unknown to me. The mere thought of it now makes me feel like someone is clutching their fingers around my heart, squeezing it so tight as to break it. The only thing that releases that strain on my heart is knowing that that faceless, nameless woman turned out to be me. I definitely did not see that coming. It was just one of those things that I was afraid to dream about out of fear of it not coming true.
It reminds me of a saying I remember hearing somewhere: "Expect the worst. That way, if something falls short, you won't be disappointed." It's a cynical way of looking at things, but with all the bad things that had happened in my life, it sounded like the best advice I had ever heard. Apparently, one of its downfalls, however, is that it prevents you from dreaming, from believing and pursuing the impossible. After all, without a dream and a goal to pursue, what meaning does life have?
At this particular moment in time, however, all the dreams that I was too afraid to dream have come true. My only goal now is to keep those dreams alive by making sure that they are alive and well and happy.
To think that the mere idea of starting a family with Peeta began with a ruse, a lie, a weapon to use against the Capitol by playing on people's sympathies, but now it has evolved into something much greater than that. My little family now is what keeps me grounded and sane. Without them, I probably would have lost my mind a long time ago the same way Annie had before she had Finnick to act as her anchor. Or maybe, I would have tried to drown out my nightmarish memories through alcohol and morphling like Haymitch and the Morphlings.
Without Peeta and the family we've created to make up for the families that we've lost, who knows how far we would have disintegrated ourselves? Maybe by this time we would have already wasted away to our own deaths.
But instead, like the dandelion in spring, Peeta planted the seeds for a new beginning. He gave me a new purpose in life, a new reason to go on living, and they're here, laughing and playing without a care in the world. So innocent and pure. And because of the sacrifices of countless people (People who, because of their ultimate sacrifices, my children will never have the benefit of meeting) my children and their children, and the children of many more generations to come, don't ever have to worry about living in a world hellbent on reaping their innocent lives away.
No, this is no longer a lie, no longer a deception. It is what makes what would otherwise be a horrible reality bearable. More than bearable...a gift. One actually worth living. It is one of the few redeeming things about my otherwise tormented life.
When I was visiting my mother at the hospital in District 4, Peeta and I were often stopped by a great number of people glad to see us still together and beside themselves in joy when we told them that I was pregnant "again" when in truth it was more about me being pregnant for real this time around with my swollen belly as proof. There was even a courageous fan who risked to ask me if she could touch my stomach. When I said "Yes" she was rewarded by a strong kick, making the woman squeal in excitement. Even my unborn child knew how to play up to the audience. It was but a prelude to the happiness and joy my children would bring not only to strangers' lives, but to Peeta's and my own.
"Are you hungry?" Peeta asks, waking me up from my reverie.
"No, why?" I ask, my eyes snapping open at Peeta's seemingly random question.
"Because you were rubbing your stomach," he says, and sure enough, there's my hand gently caressing my now flat stomach.
"I didn't even realize I was doing that. I was just remembering what it was like when I was pregnant." I admit.
I feel Peeta gently put his hand on top of my now still one.
"Is that your way of hinting that you want another one?" Peeta asks with a smirk on his face.
"No!" I exclaim. "At least not right now. Right now I just want to enjoy the two we already have."
"I'm just teasing." Peeta says, leaning down to give me a light kiss on the lips.
We smile at each other as our lips part, but almost immediately Peeta lets out a huff as our son comes running up from behind him and jumps on his back. Peeta is half strangled as the toddler fiercely hugs him around the neck.
Our daughter is much gentler, quietly curling up to my side and using my shoulder as a pillow. I bring my arm across my chest to gently stroke her hair, and raise my head slightly off Peeta's lap so that I can kiss her on the crown of her head.
Yes, I think that even if I had dared to dream it, I don't think anything I could have ever imagined could have been as good as how things are now.