"You love me, real or not real?"


Who knew that an 8-word conversation could cause a change in your life? I certainly didn't. I had been fighting with my emotions for the past couple of years, and I finally gave up the fight. And, honestly, once I gave up was when I felt my life was going to turn into something I have longed for in all my years of living after my father's death: I felt there was going to be peace in my heart's storm. I was at peace with myself, with the pain and the confusion that had brought me into a downward spiral. And it was all in someone I never thought would be the cause of it. It was in that blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy named Peeta.

Since that afternoon we spoke those words, the days have grown longer, warmer, brighter. I felt better about not having my mother or Gale around. I had accepted the deaths of the two people I loved the most in this world, and realized I cannot continue my life with the false hope that they could somehow reappear by my side. I now have Peeta, and he has me. We have started a new daily ritual together: the mornings consisted of us doing what we do best, baking and hunting, on our alone time; the afternoons were dedicated to his paintings and my watching him as he painted; and the late nights were our special time to sit by the fireplace at our home, either in silence or discussions of our morning event. Still, the silence wasn't really silence because I always had my head laying on his chest above his heart, a way to reassure me that I was able to at least keep him alive, my main goal ever since the last Hunger Games. We'd sit there wrapped in an old quilt, the room filling with the smell of the forest. And our meals were always spent together, no matter what. I guess we just love each other's company.

This has been going on for a few months now. But something funny has been going on with me. I feel like I need something more than what we have right now, more than just the very presence of being around each other. I don't know exactly when it started, possibly during the end of fall/beginning of winter. My hunts have grown shorter, and I've begun to visit Peeta at the bakery. At first, he was surprised, however I know he loves that I have an interest in seeing him work. I don't know why, but I do love to see him work. He makes amazing bread, no doubt about it. But that isn't what intrigues me. It's the way he makes the breads. He kneads the dough with strong, muscular arms, and you can see the way his chest bulges and relaxes. Watching him gives me some kind of pleasure, and ignites a fire within me that I cannot seem to extinguish. God, I wish he knew, but I feel too embarrassed to let him know, to tell him I want to be that dough, to touch me that way. Sadly, I'm just not that kind of girl.

Painting has also gotten me flamed up in this way. He may be strong with the dough, but he's so delicate with the brush. His fingers carry the brush from paint to canvas like it's a flower, and the way he strokes it makes me wish I was the canvas. A part of me wants to say, please! Make me your portrait! Touch me the way you touch the painting! But the timid, Katniss part knows restraint and fears Peeta wouldn't want to do that. He's such a gentleman, I doubt he would ever want to take advantage of me in that way, which wouldn't even be taking advantage since I am freely giving it up for him. But, I know Peeta. I'd have to seduce him in some way, and I think I know just what would help in my pursuit.

"Peeta? I have a question."

He doesn't look away from his latest artwork, which is a picture of us on the beach, the pearl in my hand, when he responds, "Yes?"

"Would you ever be willing to paint a portrait of me?" I inwardly wince at the thought of a negative response coming from his sweet lips. Lips I've kissed every night and every morning.

"What?" He stops painting and looks directly at me. And I don't know what the expression on his face is, if it's confusion or shock or what. Maybe this wasn't a good idea…

"I was just wondering. I mean, you always paint me into your paintings, but you've never just painted one of me. But forget about it, it was just a—"

He puts his fingers to my lips, and I can see the passion in his blue eyes, the smile playing on his lips. "Of course, I'd love to paint you. That would be a dream come true!"

Now I was shyly smiling at him as my mouth responds before my mind processes its words, "Then can we do it tomorrow afternoon?" Great, I hope I didn't sound too eager.

"What? Yes, yes that's perfect, my love! I honestly cannot wait to paint you! Just come dressed like you want and I'll do the rest," he says, a smile as big as Panem itself now overcoming his face. I never knew I could make someone smile like that before.

After that, Peeta looked like he was walking on clouds the whole rest of the day. It was pretty interesting, but I hope tomorrow he starts walking on stars.