Bread 101: Lessons with Peeta
I listen to the sound of raindrops pattering against our kitchen window and sigh. The sudden rainstorm started only moments before, trapping me in my house, with only the smell of fresh bread and Buttercup to keep me company. Those, and Peeta. I sigh again, kicking my arrows away dejectedly.
I hear Peeta smirk behind me. "Is someone sad?"
I turn in my seat to glare at him. "Have fun making dinner tonight without food."
He rolls his eyes, leaning against the counter. "We do have food."
"Yeah, rabbit food."
"Salad isn't rabbit food!"
I roll my eyes. "Whatever. It's not the same as fresh game."
"Cheer up, Katniss." Peeta says, "You can't control the weather. It should clear up soon, anyway."
This is Peeta talking logic. So I turn my back to him, going back to staring out the window. I hear him sigh behind me.
"Do you wanna learn how to make bread?"
His question causes me to turn around and raise an eyebrow. "What?"
He shrugs, peering at me through his wavy blond locks. "I don't know. I just thought that you might like to learn, instead of pouting out the window all day."
"I do not pout!" I say, forcing my lips down into a scowl.
Peeta grins. "Whatever you say."
"Peeta, shut up."
"Okay," he says, "Seriously though, do you want to learn?"
No, I think. I then think of the pouring rain. It's not going to let up anytime soon. I don't have anything else to do today, either. And Peeta's face looks so hopeful...
"Fine," I say.
"Great!" Peeta beams. He shuffles out to the guestroom, saying that he will be back in a second. I sigh and get up, walking to the counter. Peeta has set up bowls: the large ones filled with flour, sugar, and milk; the smaller ones filled with fragrant powders. I lean over and smell some of the bowls. I can make out dill and rosemary. I hear loud footfalls and turn around, just in time to see Peeta arrive.
His smile stretches from ear to ear. In his hand, he's holding a large, dusty brown book. He sets it down in front of us.
"What's this?" I ask, perplexed.
"It's the Mellark recipe book." Peeta explains, "It's a family secret. I never thought I would get to pass this on to anyone...but here you are!"
Peeta looks so genuinely happy, that I try to make an effort to be happy as well. I am suddenly hit with a vision of a younger Peeta, a little boy or girl he could teach recipes to; someone he could pass the book on to. I give my head a slight shake. It's only been two years since the war. Not this soon. What am I thinking? Not ever!
"Katniss?" Peeta's eyebrows furrow in concern.
I smile. "No, I'm...thank-you. Thank-you for sharing this with me."
He beams. "Don't thank me. You're a Mellark now."
I blush, recalling last month. The cake, the train, the wedding... "Well, officially, I'm Katniss Everdeen Mellark."
"A Mellark all the same." He grins, like he always does when he says my name...my new name.
Peeta flips the book open. Its set up much like my family's plant book, or the memory book. It has a picture of the finished product, along with materials and procedures. I trace my hand along the page, realizing the writing is of Peeta's father.
Peeta's hand encloses mine. "Pick one," he says quietly, "We'll make whatever you want."
I give a small laugh. "What I want to make doesn't matter. It's what I can make. Let's start off easy."
"How about cheese buns?" Peeta gives a teasing smile, dropping his voice seductively, "I know you crave my buns."
I give a laugh, but it cuts off as soon as I make the connection. It was almost like Finnick was in front me, holding out a sugar cube. Inexplicably, my eyes tear up.
Peeta's hand touches my cheek. "Hey," he says softly, "What's wrong?"
I shake my head. "Nothing." My voice catches. "Nothing." I repeat louder, forcing a smile.
Peeta looks sceptical. "Okay..."
"So what do we need for this recipe?" I ask enthusiastically, trying to veer off this topic before I start bawling.
Peeta gives a smirk. "Cheese."
I stand facing the counter, Peeta pressed against my back. Peeta has this recipe memorized, so we won't be needing the book.
"Alright, Katniss Mellark, we—"
"Stop that," I hiss.
"The whole 'Mellark' thing. I get it. All of Panem gets it. I'm a Mellark."
I can practically hear him grin behind me. "I know, sorry. It's just that...I used to be the only Mellark left. It feels good to have family."
It's comments like this that make me feel like I've been shot in the heart. Guilt and shame battle through my stomach. I quickly change the subject. "So what do I do?"
"It's really simple," Peeta says, "the ingredients are already measured for you. Just do what I say."
"Yes, sir." I mock salute.
"Okay, first, mix the flour, baking soda, sugar and salt together."
I do what he tells me. I pour in the flour, followed by the baking soda. Then I add the salt, but as I'm adding the sugar, Buttercup leaps up onto the counter, resulting in sugar all over my face.
"Buttercup!" I shriek, "You lousy, filthy, no-good, mangy—" I continue, using some of Haymitch's choice vocabulary. Buttercup hisses at me, then stalks off.
I turn to Peeta. "Look what that beast did!"
Peeta tries to repress a laugh. I cross my arms, scowling at him. "You think this is funny!"
A burst of laughter escapes him. "S-sorry, Katniss! But your face..." He's has another fit of laughter.
Anger rises in me. I'm trying my best and he's laughing? He's taking that scruffy furball's side? My fist meets his arm before I can stop it.
I know it didn't hurt – I'm no where that strong – but Peeta's eyes look wounded. "Katniss—"
"No, I'm sorry," I mutter. I walk over to the sink and rinse my face off.
Peeta is at my side. I turn to face him. "You missed a spot." He declares.
I touch a hand to my nose. "Where?"
His lips meet mine. The kiss is sweet – literally. He pulls away. "There."
The rest of the time, Peeta bakes and I watch. Once he's done with the ingredients, he tells me, "Do you want to size up the pieces?"
I shrug. "Okay."
We resume our previous position, with me facing the counter and him behind me. I see that he has already made swooping orbs with the dough. I place my hands on the remaining dough, unsure where to start. "Peeta, how do I...?"
"Like this," his whisper is breathy against my ear. Peeta places his hand above mine, guiding it along. His other hand is placed at my waist, and this tiny touch causes unexpected warmth to rush through my spine. I do not understand this boy. All those other kisses and caresses form before meant next to nothing to me. But these smallest gestures now...they mean the world.
"Katniss," he whispers in my ear, "The rain's stopped."
I think of us now, entwined with each other, the smell of fresh bread forever lingering in his skin. I think of the warm touches and the sweet kisses, then I think of hunting alone in the damp woods. The choice is clear.
"We're having rabbit food tonight."