You can do this, Katniss, I tell myself. My toes nervously twitch in my boots, my feet eager to start running and take me away. I force myself to stay in place, my hands clenched in tight fists.
I place my hand on the door softly, trying to feel the life contained behind it. I am unable to move as I stand there, contemplating my next moves. I take a deep breath and knock on the door.
I wait there for a few minutes and start to feel relieved. He's not home. I should leave.
Suddenly the door swings open, and he's standing there. His face registers surprise as he sees me, and then his features rearrange themselves into the familiar look he always has around me. Hurt. Longing. Sadness.
"Peeta," I say, nodding politely. I avoid looking into his eyes, knowing I won't be able to handle his pain.
"Katniss," he replies, his voice strained. "Um, can I help you with something?"
"My mother wanted me to give you these." I shakily hand over the bottle of pills.
Gratefulness spreads across his face as he realizes what they are. "Thank you," he says sincerely. But those words are for my mother, not me.
"You're welcome." We stand there awkwardly, unsure of what to do.
"I'll see you around," Peeta says, obviously ending the conversation. He closes the door softly.
I sigh, walking down the steps. I think about the Peeta I knew in the Games. I think about how we were forced to play star-crossed lovers, in order to provide entertainment to the Capitol audience. How I acted like I truly loved him, that I would sacrifice my life for him. I try not to think about the fact that for Peeta, it wasn't an act. He loved me. I cringe as I think about all the lies I fed to him, all the kisses I carelessly gave away.
When we returned to District 12 after the Games were over, I did the worst thing I could've possibly done: I shut Peeta out of my life. I pretended to believe that his feelings weren't real, that he was only putting on a show, just like I was. I pretended not to see the obvious hurt in his eyes every time we passed on the street. It was cowardly, but I just wanted things to go back to the way they were before the Games. Before I even knew Peeta's name.
Back when he was just the boy with the bread.
"Did you give them to him?" my mother asks as I enter our house. She flits around the kitchen, cleaning the place until it was spotless. We were still in shock from owning such a large house, one of the advantages of being a victor.
The houses in the Victor's Village were some of the best in the District, falling second only to the Mayor's. Even the wealthier merchants who lived in town could not compete with the lavish housing the victors received. Three-story houses with lush, green lawns and heated water. Gas stoves where you only need to press a button to light a fire, air conditioning to keep you cool in summer, a large fireplace to keep you warm in winter.
I nod, collapsing into a stool. I stroke the cool marble countertops, staring outside the window absentmindedly. Trying not to think of Peeta.
"How is he?" my mother asks nonchalantly, not wanting to upset me even further.
"The same." I watch the birds hop from branch to branch, enjoying the warm spring day. "What were those pills for?" I ask suddenly, still watching the birds.
"They were sleeping pills," my mother replies, making herself busy with washing the dishes. "To help him…cope."
I understand. I myself took the pills sometimes, when the nightmares were unbearable. Now that Peeta's arms weren't here to hold me like they used to, the pills were the only things that could relieve me from my disturbing dreams.
Peeta was always so much better at handling his nightmares. He was the one who calmed me, the one who stroked my hair until I fell back asleep. Now that his arms were empty, was he having trouble sleeping as well?
Was I the one who caused this? I shake my head; Peeta's always had nightmares. They would get worse eventually, whether I had left him or not. At least that's what I tell myself.
"Katniss," my mother says softly, resting her arm around my shoulders. "I think that you should give him a chance."
I sigh. Not this again. "A chance for what?" I snap. "There was never anything between us! It was just another part of the Games, just some strategy to help us stay alive!"
"That's not what I'm implying," she says, crossing her arms. "You should at least make an effort to talk to the poor boy, instead of avoiding him! Neither of you are benefiting from this type of behavior." She sighs sadly, leaning onto the counter. "I just don't think you really see how miserable you both are."
"I'm not miserable!" I retort, my voice shaking. "This is how it's supposed to be! Nothing is supposed to change. The Games are over, mother. Why don't you understand? I just want everything to be the same." I storm out of the house, making an effort to slam the door on my way out.
The Games are over, I tell myself.
But this is one thing that I cannot ignore. My mother doesn't understand why I am so on edge, and it's not just because of Peeta. The Capitol has not forgotten me. My act with the berries was not popular with President Snow, and he will have his revenge.
No, the Games are not over. In fact, they have yet to begin.