Two Truths Peeta Didn't Tell Katniss
001. He didn't fall in love with Katniss the day she sang.
Peeta is a boy who makes beautiful, sweet things, but he's never tasted a cupcake.
He almost did once. When he was six he stuck his thumb into the vat of batter. He thought his mother wasn't looking, but she always was. She beat him so hard his skin was as mottled and dark as burnt pastry.
He lost his taste for sweets soon after.
This is why he didn't love any of the Merchant girls. They are all frosted with politeness.
Katniss was different.
She was like summer bread warm from the oven. Peeta was allowed to eat that, and it was always his favorite kind even though it had a bitter aftertaste from too much thyme.
He was eating stale summer bread when he fell in love with her. She was coming in from the hunt, face streaked with dirt, dead rabbit tossed over her shoulder. She was so unlike anything he had ever made, so fierce that he knew instinctively that she was not of the Capitol.
Of course he remembers giving the small little girl bread, but that girl is the girl Peeta saved, not the one he loved. And he remembers the girl who sang too, but that's not the one who made him burn with want either.
As she stood up in class, lip trembling, looking for the first time young and nervous, her voice did something else though: It convinced him that maybe she could love him back.
So, he feared her and loved her, or perhaps he loved her because he could fear her.
He doesn't fear her now as she lays against her chest trembling from a nightmare whispering, "Rue, you sweet thing, they took you. Prim."
Outside it thunders and rains, lightening whipping across the sky.
A heart has only so much room to be afraid of something, and the Capitol owns all of Peeta's fear now.
The Capitol takes everything, sweet, sour, dirt, family. It is death and it swallows every speck of home Peeta's ever known. He learned that lesson when they called Katniss's name, when they dressed her up in ruby red dresses and waxed her legs of every hair, and sculpted her into the Girl on Fire.
He fears for her.
But she can't be a goddess as she lays her head on her chest, captured in an arena of the Capitol.
So he lies to her about how he fell in love.
Perhaps worse, he lies to himself about the feelings in his chest. He tells himself he would do anything for her. That she is still the same girl who came in the woods face smeared with dirt.
But the truth is different, and bitter.
002. He is afraid to die.
It is the end and Peeta pretends that he's not, but he is afraid to die. He wonders if the cameras can pick up on it. Even more he wonders if Katniss can tell. He thinks she can't.
He thought for a long time that her eyes could see everything, but that was before he really knew her, back when his love had been abstract and not a matter of life or death.
He understands her well now. He wishes he didn't. Because then maybe he would still believe that she understands him. .
He understands why she runs up to him and beats her hand against his chest when he forgets to whistle back that he's alive and safe, but it doesn't stop the pain from reminding him of her mother, the way she used to hit him.
Maybe it wouldn't be so hard if he could tell Katniss this, but he can't. She is already so ready to run, to distrust him, and there are eyes everywhere. He is so afraid of losing her to the Capitol, that he will let go of everything else—even his love for her.
It doesn't make sense.
But when you're pitted against hunger and death the heart beats strange rhythms.
When he holds out the berries, he hates that he almost yearns to die. He wants to give all the violence purpose.
He remembers his words to Katniss.
"I want to still be me."
It was true, but it wasn't the Truth.
The truth is Peeta wants to kill himself so that she doesn't have to kill him first.
He loves her for her strength, but he knows all to well that strength comes at a price. And he would rather pay the toll up front than have her extract it from him in an arrow.
His eyes narrow as she draws her bow at the announcement that she'll have to kill him.
He hates her for it.
She couldn't just shoot him, but she couldn't drop the bow right away either.
She was always making him wait. Drawing him closer and beating her fists against his chest.
He knows he will always be the one to drop his sword first.
And he's kind of glad that he'll get to die and not have to think about that fact anymore.