Disclaimer: I don't own anything. The characters belong to Suzanne Collins. The quote used is from Dawson's Creek.
What's A Soulmate?
Chapter One: The Red Plaid Dress
It's uh... Well, it's like a best friend, but more.
Katniss skips along beside me, her hand swinging my arm back and forth as we approach the district school. She looks up at me, smiles with her gray Seam eyes bright. Her front tooth is missing, having been lost the previous night. Suddenly I'm glad I worked on Sunday despite her pleas for me not to go. If I had I wouldn't have been able to walk her to her first day of school.
"You're growing up so quickly, Katniss," Bevan had told her last night when she took the tooth from Katniss's outstretched hand.
How right she was. When had my firstborn grown old enough to go to school?
As soon as we make it to the main gate, Katniss stops skipping and looks up at me once more, this time her face not contorted into a smile. I lift her into my arms and rest my forehead on hers, staring at her with our identical eyes.
"Don't be nervous," I say, kissing her nose. She giggles and I swear the sound has carried over the entire district. "You'll be fine."
Katniss looks away from me toward the parents and their children. "What if they don't like me?"
I have to refrain from rolling my eyes. Not liking Katniss is like not liking water. My daughter is well liked among the Seam folk. Her smile radiates among the hungry. Her giggle echoes through the streets. The Seam kids genuinely enjoy her presence and she's got a few friends. Leevy, our next-door neighbor, is Katniss's own age, bound to be in her class, and is always at our door asking if my daughter can come out to play.
"Everyone is going to love you," I tell her, pushing through the gate and into the little courtyard that surrounds the front of the school. As we get closer to the group, I stop and set her down, kissing her forehead. "I promise."
She nods her head and I give her a little push. She giggles and looks up at me, the frown replaced with a smile. I can hear her name being called and I raise an eyebrow in her direction.
"See?" I say, pointing to Leevy, standing in a group of little girls I've seen around the Seam. "You already have friends. Go make some more."
Katniss gives me a hug and then sprints off toward the group. When she arrives one of the girls must comment on her dress because she spins around as if to model it. My wife spent days sewing that dress so it fit her perfectly, not loose and hanging off her like many of the clothes she's forced to wear. I traded Sae for a bit of red ribbon which I cut in half so Bevan could tie a piece to the bottom of each of her braids. Leevy and the other girls all awe over her and I don't feel bad about leaving her to the big bad school any longer. My daughter will be fine. She always is.
Before I turn to leave, I look around to see which parents have school-aged kids this year. Storm Hawthorne's wife is standing with their oldest. I know he's in the mines today and I figure every year on this day I will too, except when it's Prim's turn to go through this. I'll take the day off then, work another Sunday, to be here for her just like Katniss. I send Hazelle a wave and she smiles, her eyes finding Katniss in the crowd before she kisses Gale's forehead. He's a few years older than my daughter, I know that. She has a toddler in her arms, their youngest who's the same age as Prim.
The shoemaker's daughter is crying profusely as her mother tries to pry her off. She's a chubby thing, clearly a Merchant. The mayor seems to have taken some time himself because he stands with a little girl who looks to be the same age as my daughter, five and ready for kindergarten. She's in a brand-new dress, no doubt imported from the Capitol, which puts my wife's hard work to shame.
Over his shoulder I can barely make out the blond hair I know belongs to Bran Mellark. Once he passes the mayor, I can see his little trio clearly. He's being led, practically dragged, by a smiling boy who looks just like him. His other two are dawdling behind him, clearly not wanting to go to school today. They start pushing each other and Bran turns around to tell them to stop. I roll my eyes at his soft demeanor. He hasn't changed a bit. The littlest one lets go and starts running toward the playground where most of the other kindergarteners have assembled. His youngest must be Katniss's age and a groan finds its way into my throat.
On my walk home, I think about what this means for my wife. She'll be the one to drop Katniss off at school, Prim on one hip, Katniss holding her other hand. I can only hope its Bran that drops off the Mellark boys every day. He would have the class to completely ignore her, maybe say a kind hello, but not cause a scene. Delilah…I sincerely hope the witch of a woman who managed to wrangle her way into Mellark's bed steers clear of the school.
I'm still thinking about their possible altercations when I walk through the front door.
"How was she?" Bevan says, pulling me out of my thoughts. Prim is sitting on her lap as she mixes some berries in a bowl. I can see an even larger bowl on the table and know she's making some sort of herbal remedy.
I think back to Katniss, surrounded by all the little Seam girls. "Perfect, as usual."
"Good. She was so nervous this morning."
Prim tries to reach for the bowl and Bevan gently holds her hand back, kissing the top of her head and whispering for her not to touch. Had it been Katniss, our little spunky child, her hand would have just reached again. Prim, even at one, is showing to have a completely different personality from her sister. She's quieter, gentler. She didn't have colic for the first year of her life, something of which Bevan and I are thrilled about having struggled through Katniss.
I sit down at the table making funny faces to Prim, who squeals happily. Bevan rolls her eyes but chuckles herself. After a while, Prim starts instructing me on the faces to make – dog, cat, pig – and I find myself under her control.
"What?" I ask when I realize Bevan's asking my opinion on something.
She laughs and runs her hand through Prim's blond locks. "I said, did you see anything interesting?"
I shrug, mentioning the mayor's daughter. Her breath catches a little and I realize that maybe I should have been more concerned with the little girl who looks just like Maysilee Donner than with Bran Mellark. I mean, it was Bevan who ran from Bran to me when Maysilee was killed in the Games. Quickly, I add in about the Cartwright daughter who wouldn't let go of her mother and that seems to take her mind off of Maysilee.
"Do you know anything about Bran's boys?" I ask, pretending to be nonchalant while really looking for her reaction.
She keeps her eyes on her mixture. "Mellark?" she asks, as if she's forgotten who Bran is after all these years. I know she hasn't, but perhaps I'm more worried about this than I should be. She ran away from the baker, not the other way around. "Oh, I don't know. He's got three, right?"
I nod my head, assuming the littlest one is their last. "Yeah, I think the youngest is Kat's age."
She looks up at me for a moment, her emotions concealed on her face, and then looks down into her mixture. She uses her finger to judge the consistency and grabs a few more berries to mash. "Oh," she says, trying not to sound interested, but I know she is. She may not be in love with Bran Mellark, but she's still got a little bit of the Townie gossip personality despite living in the Seam.
"Looks just like him."
That's all we say about Bran Mellark and his trio of boys. Prim distracts us by grabbing a berry and beginning to mash it against the table. It makes us both laugh as she lifts her hands, her little pale skin dyed blue. In fact, for the rest of the day that Katniss is at school Bran Mellark doesn't enter my mind at all. I take Prim for a walk in my attempts to tire her for a nap. She pets a cat, reaches for flowers in the meadow, and falls asleep on our way home.
Then, I go get Katniss.
"Daddy!" she shouts as she runs out of the school. The kids are supposed to walk out in a line behind their teacher, having to be dismissed before they can go their own ways, but Katniss is like me. She's not exactly a stickler for rules. Upon seeing her sprint away, most of the other kindergarteners follow her lead and I roll my eyes. My daughter and the effect she has. I lift her into my arms and kiss her cheek.
"How was school, Kat?" I ask, setting her down. I kneel to be eye level with her, knowing that we shouldn't go anywhere until she's talked her way through her day. Prim's napping and I don't want Katniss to wake her.
She grabs my hands and begins to tell me, in full detail, the entirety of her day. She tells me about how Leevy and the other girls played on the playground with her, how she colored with a little girl named Madge, how she helped Delly stop crying. She's proud of herself and I'm proud for her.
"And then, in music assembly, Miss Teacher asked if anyone knew the Valley Song!" She looks up at me, wanting me to fill in her story, but I'm still chuckling at the fact that she doesn't know her teacher's name and she can't wait any longer before launching into her story. "I raised my hand and I sang for the class. Miss Teacher told me I had a very pretty voice, Daddy. And then we went to recess and Peeta told me when I sang the birds stopped singing to listen to me. He said my dress was pretty too! We're going to be best friends."
I laugh softly and pat her cheek. Oh boy, the first day and my daughter already has the boys crushing on her. I try to think about the boys I know that are her age in the Seam but the name doesn't sound familiar. "Who said it, Kat?"
She turns around and looks through the crowd before pointing. I follow her finger and my heart drops.
"That's Peeta, Daddy," she says, before grabbing my hand and trotting off toward the Seam. "He's got really pretty eyes like Mommy and Prim."
Luckily Katniss still has more to say because my stomach is churning. This is not going to end well. Not at all. I can just imagine it now. Peeta will no doubt tell his father about Katniss, just as she's telling me about him, and Bran would be kind enough to let them be friends. But Delilah? She hates the Seam, and our family in particular, more than anything. She'll tell the boy that Katniss is Seam trash – I can already hear her voice saying it – and my daughter's little heart is going to be completely broken when the boy tells her about it.
Why is it always the baker?
"Mommy!" Katniss cries when we reach home. She sprints through the streets to envelope Bevan in her arms. My wife was smarter than I would be, waiting outside so Katniss won't wake Prim. "I had so much fun at school!"
"You did?" Bevan asks, tugging on her braids. "And now, what did I tell you this morning?"
Katniss giggles and Bevan asks if she made any friends. She obviously hasn't seen my motions to stop behind Katniss's back.
"Peeta's my best friend!" she exclaims.
Bevan apparently knows more about the Mellark boys than she let on earlier. Her face drops and the happy smile is replaced with a fearful frown. Her eyes are wide as she looks up at me over our daughter. I can't think to do anything but shrug. Bevan asks Katniss to go inside to change and the second the door closes, she's standing in front of me.
"This isn't happening," she says, shaking her head.
"She's five," I tell her, taking her into my arms. "Tomorrow she'll have a new best friend."
"Yes, because she's Seam trash – "
"Hey!" I lift her chin to look at me. I tell her the same story Katniss told me about music assembly and Bevan shakes her head.
"I just don't want her to get hurt."
I took Katniss's mother's name from Silvanus Bevan, a noted apothecary. I named her father Hunter because I love the play on words, since he's an illegal hunter. Peeta's father's name Bran comes from the hard outer layer of grain. His mother, Delilah, gets her name from the Bible since Delilah cut Samson's hair, thus depriving him of his strength. I used Storm for Mr. Hawthorne to foreshadow his early death.
This story will go back and forth between Mr. Everdeen and Mr. Mellark's points of view, so next chapter will be from the baker and be based around the next sentence of the Dawson's Creek quote.
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