It had been weeks since I had last seen Peeta. After he'd told me he'd wait for me, I had locked myself away in my house. Keeping to his word, he hadn't pushed me. He hadn't been round, he hadn't called, but I often found loaves of bread left on the table on my porch and sometimes I could swear I would see his curtain swishing as he closed it whenever I looked out of my window. I wasn't doing this to hurt him. I would never intentionally do anything to hurt him. But if I did not go away, I could not come back.
Maybe it was wrong, to test him like this. But I liked the security I had with Peeta; I wanted to be sure of that. This was one of the hardest things I had ever done, I thought to myself, as I sat dejected at my kitchen table, Buttercup purring in my lap. I was literally counting the days since I had last seen his face. There were moments, when I just wanted to pick up the phone and call him, just to hear his voice, to keep me going. Whenever I felt like this, I went hunting, or for a walk, or anything which distracted me. But even then, my mind would wander back to Peeta.
When I fell asleep at night, I felt him with me. Although he was not there, it felt like he was. The feeling was weird, knowing he was only next door and I could easily have him over here, but I was holding him at bay. The door to my house remained locked and all the curtains were closed. I didn't want Peeta to see what I was planning.
I was so excited, which was rare for me. I held on to this feeling because it felt good. It filled me up inside, warming me to my core. I was determined for this to work, which was my motivation for driving a wedge between me and Peeta. I kept repeating mantra's in my head, such as 'absence makes the heart grow fonder', but the longer I left it; the harder it became to convince even myself that this was a good idea.
I hadn't told Gale about the idea whenever I spoke to him on the phone, because he knew he was still not happy about the image of me and Peeta. I wondered if I would ever truly resolve things with Gale. I knew it was selfish, but I just wished he would find somebody in District 2 to fall in love, so he didn't have feelings for me anymore. It was just too difficult. I didn't want to keep hurting him like this. I knew how painful it was for him to be just friends with me. On the other hand, he sounded happy, and what he didn't know couldn't hurt him. I knew eventually he would find somebody. He was too wonderful not to. I took solace in this fact.
Both Haymitch and Greasy Sae had visited and they both knew about the idea, but I had sworn them both to secrecy. Greasy Sae was checking up on me, like she still did from time to time. Evidently, District 12 had heard about my recent reclusive behaviour. She was excited as I was and promised to keep it a secret. When I told Haymitch, he seemed taken aback, which made me happy. It took a good idea to surprise Haymitch; he had seen a lot over the years.
It had been 40 days since I had last seen Peeta. I felt like I was about to lose my mind. Everything was prepared. It hadn't taken long, but 40 days was my target goal. I wanted to know I could last 40 days without him. I wanted to know I had my independence. I was only human, and all humans had reservations. I wondered how he was doing without me. I wondered what was going through his mind. I wondered if he was angry with me. It was time to find out.
I put Buttercup in his cage as gently as I could, but he mewled at me for it. His eyes glowed through the steel bars as I lifted his portable cage up and picked up my suitcase in the other hand. It was pretty pathetic that all the belongings I wanted to keep could fit in one suitcase. I kept all of Cinna's creations as a memorial to him. That was what had taken me the longest, deciding what to take with me and what to leave behind. Today was the start of a new chapter in my house. I didn't know how house sales worked within Victor's Village, but then I had simply decided I didn't care and I would abandon it.
One of the most emotional things was sorting through all of the belongings which were not mine. Prim's things, the things my mother had left behind, Cinna's clothes. I had mailed the things my mother had left behind to her. I had asked her about it first and now she felt strong enough to have them in her possession. This made me happy, to see my mother, the healer, finally healing, after spending all her time focusing on everybody else. She sounded happy. Healthier.
I'll admit, I had cried plenty of tears when I was sorting through Prim's belongings. That had took the most time. I had sniffed every piece of clothing and inspected every toy. It was an almost impossible task, but I had finally managed to narrow down what I wanted to keep of her. I couldn't carry around mindless crap for the rest of my life and I knew she would understand that, I kept telling myself as I threw away toys she never played with and clothes she never wore. I decided to keep only her favourite things.
I took one last final look around my house. This had never been my home, not really. It had been a great escape from the Seam, but that was all. It had provided security for my family, but now it was of no use. I didn't need it anymore. Turning off the kitchen light, I laid the keys on the table and shut the door behind me with a dull thud.
The spring had turned to summer, but even so, it was raining heavily. It was July and despite the rain it was quite warm out. My suitcase wheels didn't agree with the sludgy ground as I made my way over to Peeta's house. My mind was racing through scenarios of what his reaction would be. It was only as I reached his doorstep and rang the doorbell that I worried this could go horribly wrong. Peeta hadn't seen me for 40 days. For us, that was equivalent to a lifetime.
I listened for him and heard him shuffling about the kitchen. He reached the door and opened it, his expression sad. His eyes lit up as he saw me, but he did not smile the smile he usually saved for me. I wasn't sure how I looked, but the rain had frizzed my hair and Buttercup had left scratches down my arms from where I had stuffed him into his cage. Peeta's looked at me with a mix of confusion and sadness.
"I know that one day you'll turn up at my doorstep and you won't ever look back," I quoted him. These were the last words he had said to me and Peeta stared at me incredulously, as if I were mad. He probably thought I was insane again, or something. My face split into a smile as I held out my suitcase. "I'm never looking back Peeta," I said with a shake of my head. "I'm only looking forward. But I can only do that, if I know you're by my side. "
Peeta stepped out onto the porch and closed the door behind him, so it was ajar. That wasn't a good sign. My smile faltered and panic flooded through me. Standing a few inches taller than me, Peeta stared down into my eyes for far too long. If it was anybody else, I would've felt uncomfortable. But the fact of the matter was that it was Peeta and nothing he could do could ever make me feel that way. The only sound was the raindrops hitting the muddy ground behind us as we stared into each other's souls and even Buttercup waited with baited breath, giving up on scratching at the bars of his cage.
Eventually, Peeta spoke.
"Forever?" he said, his voice rising at the end, indicating it was a question.
"Forever is a really long time, Peeta."
His hands were immediately on either side of my neck, cupping my jaw and cheeks up to the sides of my face as he pulled my face up to his and his lips descended on mine. The kiss was gentle and my grip loosened on my suitcase and Buttercup's cage until I dropped them onto his porch with a clatter. Buttercup's cage broke open and he sprung inside Peeta's house, opening the door. I felt embarrassed at how stupid I'd been and went to pull away, but Peeta would not allow it. His hand slid around to the base of my neck and held me there, the kiss increasing in intensity until I was out of breath and forced to pull away. Even then, he carried on kissing me, slowly moving from my lips, across my face until he reached my ear, whispering in it with hot breath that tickled me.
"Not long enough," he said, and the desperation was clear in his voice. My heart blossomed as he pulled me into his house, the suitcases and empty cage. He placed them aside before turning to face me.
"Are you sure about this, Peeta?" I asked him, concerned.
"If someone had told me a year or two ago that every day I'd get to wake up to your smile," I smiled as he said this, "I'd have been the happiest man alive. That still applies today. So yes, I'm sure about this, Katniss. In fact, I've never been more sure about anything in my whole entire life. Like you said, forever is a long time, but I wouldn't mind spending it by your side."
I felt myself smiling so wide that my cheeks hurt and Peeta stared at me lovingly before pulling me in for another kiss. He pulled me up into his arms and held me into his chest as he grabbed my suitcase and brought it upstairs. I didn't worry he would drop me; I was too focused on how his muscular arms tensed as he carried me up the stairs.
As soon as he got me into his bedroom – our bedroom, he threw my suitcase aside and slung me down onto the bed, before making passionate love to me. I clung onto him for dear life, never knowing such realms of both pleasure and happiness. We had been apart for so long, it felt nice to be at one with him in the most natural way possible. As I fell asleep in his arms, I felt the hole in my chest the absence between us has caused heal up.
Taking a break from Peeta to move in with him had been one of the best decisions of my life. There was no looking back now. Tomorrow, I would find a place for all my things, I already knew memorabilia of Prim and Cinna would be stowed away in my wardrobe, only pulled out when I wanted to think of them. I fell to asleep, at peace.
The next day, I woke up to find Peeta smiling at me and I finally understood what he meant by waking up to a smile. It started off your day wonderfully. We looked at each other for a moment, before he asked me something.
"Yesterday, you turned up at my doorstep and promised to spend every day for the rest of forever with me. Real or not real?"
I leaned forward and kissed him gently on the nose, his eyes following mine as I pulled back slightly.