The mockingjays carry a tune today. It's the valley song. I hum along as I walk past various shops, wondering who sang to the birds. I come to a halt at the smell of fresh bread.
As I walk in the bakery, a bell chimes overhead. There are a couple of people strolling about, putting pastries in bags.
"I'll be with you in a minute!" I hear Peeta call from somewhere back inside a door.
I walk over to where the cakes are on display. Only one has been bought this week. Cakes are too expensive from most people in District 12, but there's the occasional large gathering or Capitol visitors.
My eyes are immediately drawn to a bright yellow cake. The swirls on the cake and the green trim sends me on a flashback. The rain, the burnt bread, the dandelion...
"Sorry about the wait! How may I help..." Peeta's professional voice fades out, "Oh, it's you."
"Hello to you, too." I say drily.
Peeta tries to kiss me, but I swat him away. He opts for my forehead instead. "How was your day?"
I shrug. "I killed two rabbits and a squirrel."
He grimaces. "Fun."
I point to the cake. "I love this!"
Peeta takes a mock-bow. "Thank you. It reminds me of you."
I have to laugh. "Yeah, bright yellow reminds me of me, too." But I know what he means.
"No one has bought it, yet." He says, his face morphing into the closest it can get to pouting.
I pat his shoulder. "It's okay. The shoe maker bought the green cake, yesterday."
"Right, I almost forgot!" Peeta says, "I named it 'Green with Jealousy'."
"I think the expression is 'Green with Envy'." I correct.
Peeta flicks a hand of indifference. "Whatever."
Suddenly, a thought hits me: is Peeta able to get jealous?
This strange thought stays rooted in my head as the bell chimes again. Peeta leaves with a squeeze to my hand, hurrying to greet the customer. I barely notice.
What gets Peeta jealous?
This thought does not leave my head the entire day. Even when I've sat down for dinner at Peeta's house, I'm only half there.
I think of the various times Peeta has pulled practical jokes on me. Leaving Buttercup in my shower (Peeta ended up with a bruised arm), painting his face with mud and putting it inches from my own before I wake up (he was lucky that I didn't sleep with my knife on), even getting down on one knee, like they do in the Capitol, taking my hand and saying, "Katniss, will you..." and as I'm having my heart-attack, "bake with me?" (he was lucky to have survived that one).
Maybe it was time for a little payback.
"Peeta," I say, cutting him off in the middle of a sentence, "I...I need to talk to you."
He's all "concerned Peeta" now. "Yes, Katniss?"
"Do you..."I try to conjure up a blush, "do you know that coal miner that lives beside the slag heap? Jason?"
I can see the wheels turning in Peeta's head. Coal miner beside the slag heap...the slag heap he passes on his way to the bakery every morning...which coal miner is Katniss talking about? Which one would make her blush? Wait a minute...the tall, broad shouldered one? The only Delly perhaps had crush on? That coal miner?
Already there is a frown on Peeta's face. "Yes...what about him?"
"Do you think he's good looking?" I ask.
His frown deepens. "No...I mean, I wouldn't know."
"True..." I nod, "You're a guy, after all."
"Am I good looking?" he asks.
I have to bite my cheek to keep from laughing. I pretend to consider him. "Hmm...I guess so. But not as good looking as Jason..." I say his name with a sigh.
I see Peeta's hands clench. I almost smile. I try to think of the things that the girls at my school used to say about Jason.
"The way his grey eyes light up when he smiles," I say, swallowing a grimace, "the way he runs his hands through his hair..."
"Why are you telling me this?" Peeta says, rather harshly.
"Because...Peeta, I think I like Jason."
His eyes narrow dangerously. His face is as red as the apple I crunched on this morning. "You WHAT!" he says this loud enough to wake Haymitch (and that's saying something).
I blink, as if noticing for the first time that something is wrong. "I didn't think you'd mind..."
"Well I kind of do, Katniss!" He looks extremely agitated, "I..." He runs his hand back though his hair, but the blond locks fall right into place.
"You really like him?" His face crumples; the look in his eyes hurt.
I know I should stop, but I'm having too much fun. On the spot, I add, "I think...I think I love him."
Okay. Not funny. I can tell by the look in his eyes. I've gone too far. I've just toyed with the emotion he has felt for me for the past 13 years.
I'm about to apologise, to tell him I was joking, when Peeta abruptly pushes away from the table, his chair falling to the floor. I just have enough time to hear his sob before the door slams behind him.
I groan, pushing back in my chair as well. What have I done?
I step out of the house, shivering against the cool, evening air. I see him beside my house, standing in front of the primrose bushes. I quicken my walk to a run when I hear his sobbing.
Before I can say anything, he turns around. His face is tear-stricken. "Katniss," he says, "I...I'm fine. If you love him, if he makes you happy, I'm happy. Just..." his voice breaks, "Don't forget about me."
I am stunned. How can he think that there is even a chance that I will forget about him? After all we've been through...the boy with the bread has a special place in my heart.
"And if he ever treats you badly," Peeta continues, trying to smile, "You come straight back to me, alright?"
My face burns in shame. It was supposed to be a joke! Nothing like this!
I take both of his hands in mine. Peeta brings them to his lips and leaves a soft kiss. His face crumples, and tears start streaming down his face again.
"Stop!" I say, "Don't...don't cry."
"I'm sorry," he whispers, "I...I thought I finally had you...I...I don't want to lose you..."
"Peeta," I say weakly, "I...I was joking."
The statement causes his tears to stop, but a mystified look crosses his face. "You...what?"
My cheeks feel hot enough to fry an egg on. "I...I thought I would pull a prank on you. Like you always do to me. I don't love Jason. I don't even know him."
I don't look up. I don't think I can bare seeing the look in his face. There is such a long silence, that more words pour out, "I'm sorry! I-I know it wasn't funny, well, it kind of was, but not to you, and I just thought that maybe, if I got you back, you wouldn't really mind, and—"
Peeta's lips cut me off. I'm surprised by this kiss. It's not the usual, sweet and flirty kiss, but urgent and deep. I respond, no matter how bewildered.
When we pull away, Peeta pulls me close, and we stand there for a long time. Then, wordlessly, he pulls me along, starting to walk back to his house.
"So," I gulp, "You're not mad?"
Peeta smiles. "I'm just glad you're not in love with Jason. It wasn't funny, you know."
"Don't do it again."
There is a comfortable silence. There are still a few mockingjays flying around, despite the darkening sky. They're still singing the valley song.
Peeta has one last question before we step inside his house: "So, am I good looking?"
And for a moment, my laughter and the mockingjays' song mingle together, sweet and high in the darkening night.