Chapter Twenty-Two

One Month Later

"Nothing fits!" I snap, lifting the shirt over my head and throwing it angrily across the room, forgetting my modesty.

"Hey, it's okay! It's perfectly normal for pregnant women to become big. Think positive - it means our baby is big and healthy," Peeta says, obviously trying to soothe my frustration.

"You're calling me big? Thanks a lot, Peeta. You're meant to be supporting me and, here you are, calling me fat!"

"I didn't say that, Katniss!"

"Yes, you did! You think I'm fat and ugly! You don't know how this feels! You just get to watch while I suffer," I snap at him.

"I don't think that. You are stunning. Tell me, Katniss. Tell me how it feels," Peeta presses.

"It feels awful. Horrible. The worst experience of my life. This will never happen again. Ever. I mean it. I am fat. I am uncomfortable. My feet are swollen. My back is aching. I need to pee every half hour. My bump is so big I can't see my toes. None of my clothes fit me. I feel constantly tired. My breasts are tender and have doubled in size. All of this and then, at the end of it all, I have to push the thing out of me! Not only that, but I have no freedom! I can't go to the woods because I'm too big to fit under the fence. I can't go for long works because I get tired too quickly. I am sick of this house. I am sick of you!"

The hurt flashes in Peeta's eyes but I don't care at the moment. All I can think about is this awful experience. "It sounds awful, sweetheart," he says, attempting to calm me. "If I could take away your discomfort I would in a heartbeat. I'm sorry you feel this way. You're beautiful, honestly. You're glowing," Peeta says, taking my hand and guiding it to his lips.

"I'm not glowing! There is no glowing! It's just a stupid old myth. Go! Leave me alone! Go to school! You're going to be late! Just get out! Now! I don't want to see you!" I yell, beating my fists against his chest. "Go! Go! Go!"


"Go to school! Go to the bakery! Go anywhere! I don't care. Just leave!" I snap, the anger I feel making me tremble. I drag my feet over to the bed and bury myself under the covers as I hear Peeta's retreating footsteps.

I'm left alone to calm down and, once the anger dissipates, I can't even remember what got me so angry. I instantly feel guilty. Peeta was just trying to help and I snapped at him like a wild animal. I'm a monster. He must hate me.

I fall asleep to these thoughts.

I wake up hours later to the sound of heavy footsteps coming upstairs. My eyes open as Peeta walks into the room. He eyes me wearily, probably afraid I am going to snap at him again. I'm just relieved he came back.

He comes to sit next to me and starts smoothing my hair. "Hey, sweetheart."

"I'm sorry," I whisper.

"Me too," he replies.

"I don't mean to get so... so..."

"Hormonally, terrifyingly, scary?" Peeta finishes.

I roll my eyes but nod anyway. "I'm sorry. It's just, this last month I have suddenly ballooned and I am so uncomfortable. I want to rip my hair out. You must know that I don't mean what I say." My voice becomes quiet as I continue. "You know how I feel about you."

"It's fine, Katniss. I know you don't mean what you say. I left today to give you some space. I knew you would calm down eventually. I'm always going to come back, Katniss. Always."

I smile at him and we sit in silence for a while. Finally, Peeta looks up at me with a sheepish look in his eyes. "Um..." he starts.

"What is it?" I ask.

"My mother," is all he says.

Oh no. This cannot be good.

"What do you mean?" I press.

"She wants us both to have dinner with her and dad. She's asked a few times and each time I've come up with an excuse, but I'm running out of things to say," he explains.

"I thought she didn't want anything to do with me," I say.

"She still doesn't. My dad spoke to her and she's slowly starting to warm up. If we have a girl, it would kill her not to be able to see the baby. I know it, and so does dad. Mother was always bitter towards me and my brothers because we were all male. She hated that your mother had two girls. A girl is all she's ever wanted."

"The sex of our child shouldn't matter. What if we have a boy, huh? I'm not going to let her treat him like she treated you. I can take it if she hates me and doesn't want to look my way, but if she so much as looks at my child in a horrible way I will make sure she never sees us again," I warn him.

"I wouldn't let her say anything horrible to you, never mind our child. I'm just saying, I think if we do have a girl, that it may change her. For good. I feel kind of sorry for her," Peeta admits.

"You what?" I snap.

"Mother was my fathers second choice. He loved your mother. They would have probably married and had kids if yours had never met your dad. My mother has always envied your family."

"That's why she hates me," I say.

"She doesn't hate you. You're just a reminder to her that my father loved your mother first."

"I get that. I do. But I don't think I can handle having dinner with her. If she says anything to me that makes me angry, I swear, I will-"

Peeta cuts me off. "We'll walk away. I promise. We'll leave the bakery and you'll never have to see her again."

"You mean it?" I ask.

"Yes, I mean it," he confirms.

"Okay. Fine. We'll go to dinner. When does she want us to go?" I ask.


I twirl the end of my braid around my finger as I look at my reflection in the mirror. I look awful. I had walked to my old home this afternoon and asked my mother for something to wear as I have nothing in my wardrobe that fits. She told me I was in luck, before she presented me with a long, green dress.

It's beautiful, but it looks hideous on me.

Peeta walks into our bedroom and comes up behind me. I look at us both in the mirror. Two teenagers. That's all we are.

"You look beautiful," he whispers in my ear.

I swallow before I turn around to face him. "Liar."

"I'm not. You don't understand how much I want to kiss you right now." My face heats up at his words. He's never said anything like that to me before. Despite my shock, I find myself leaning in to press my lips quickly against his.

I pull back and Peeta smiles. "Let's go."

As we head towards town, I become more and more nervous. I am dreading having to sit at the same table as Peeta's mother. It seems that lately my hormones have been all over the place. I don't know what I will do if she says something that I disagree with.

For her sake, I hope she keeps her mouth shut.

It's a pleasant walk to the bakery, despite my nervousness. There is a slight breeze in the air that cools my warm body. Peeta keeps a tight grip on my hand as we go and I find myself often looking over at him. He smiles at me, a nervous curl of the lips, and I smile back reassuringly.

"Are you okay?" I ask him.

"I'm just a little nervous. But I should be asking you that question. Are you okay?" he asks me.

"I'll be fine as long as you don't leave my side," I say.

"I'll be right beside you," he promises.

When we finally arrive at the closed bakery, we go around to the back entrance. Peeta doesn't knock the door, just walks right in and holds the door open for me. The kitchen is still warm after having the ovens on earlier in the day. The room is void of other human beings.

"We are eating upstairs," Peeta explains, noticing my curious gaze.

I nod and follow him as he leads me to a set of stairs that we slowly climb, trying to drag out time. Peeta knocks the door at the top of the steps. "It's Peeta! We're here!" he calls before he opens the door.

We walk into a nicely furnished living-dining room. One side of the room is occupied with a large TV and a black, leather couch. A dining table made from shiny, brown wood occupies the other half of the space.

Peeta's dad walks into the room with a welcoming grin on his face. "Hello!" he says before he envelopes Peeta in a hug and then moves to shake my hand.

"Where's mother?" Peeta asks.

"Oh, she's in our room, fixing her hair and makeup or whatever these women do," he explains. "Go relax on the couch while I check on the food. It won't be too long. I hope you are hungry."

My stomach rumbles loudly as he leaves the room and Peeta chuckles. I elbow him in his side as we both take a seat on the couch. "This room is nice," I say.

"Yeah... My mother likes to make out that we are extremely wealthy when her friends come over."

"Well, you work at a bakery. You do have a lot of money," I comment.

"Not as much as you think. All the money we get mostly goes on ingredients for the bakery. When I lived here we would eat bakery food, but not the fresh stuff. We had to wait until it was stale and no one else would buy it," Peeta admits.

I'm shocked. I always thought living in a bakery would mean you have nice, rich food to eat whenever you want. Obviously, that isn't the case. When I lived at home and would bring back game from the woods, it was always fresh and nice to eat, even though there wasn't very much.

Peeta and I wait in a comfortable silence for his parents. They come into the room together a short while later and I instantly tense at the sight of Mrs Mellark. She doesn't greet us with words, but instead nods in our direction as she sets the table.

"How are you, Mother?" Peeta asks, being his usual, polite self.

"I'm fine," is all she says. She doesn't even ask how he is back. I hate her.

I feel like an idiot, just sitting here and doing nothing. I clear me throat. "Would you like help with anything?" I ask. Peeta's mother looks at me, but doesn't reply.

"Thank you for asking, but you are our guests, just relax," Peeta's dad replies.

I nod and sit back.

Peeta's witch of a mother is the one who invited us, yet she isn't even making an effort to speak. I feel myself get hot with anger but I keep my lips sealed. Peeta squeezes my hand as if to reassure me, but I remain tense.

"Dinner is ready," Peeta's father announces a short while later, and Peeta and I stand up and walk over to the table. Peeta pulls a chair out for me and I sit down. He sits beside me while his mother and father sit directly opposite us. The food is already set before each of us in bowls and it smells delicious, though I have no idea what it is.

"Lamb stew," Peeta says. "It looks great."

"Have you ever tried it, Katniss?" Mr Mellark asks me.

I shake my head. "Never. It smells delicious though. Thank you," I reply.

We all start eating in silence. The food tastes heavenly and I have to force myself to eat slowly, despite having the strong urge to scoff it all down.

"So," Mr Mellark starts. "How have you been feeling, Katniss?"

"Just a little bit tired," I answer. "Thank you for asking."

"You felt tired all the time when you were carrying the boys, isn't that right?" Mr Mellark asks his wife.

She nods. I don't expect her to say anything, but she surprises me by speaking. "I had awful morning sickness, too. Peeta was the worst. I couldn't keep anything down when I was carrying him," she says.

I don't really know what to say, but I don't want to come across as rude by not answering. "I don't have morning sickness as often as I used to. It just happens randomly sometimes." I eat a spoonful of the food, chewing slowly as Mrs Mellark speaks again.

"How far along are you?" she asks.

"Nearly seven months," I answer.

"You're extremely big. I was very small with each of my children until I hit eight months, and then I ballooned. And each and every one of them were boys," she says, bitterly.

"I wouldn't mind having a little Peeta around," I say, smiling up at Peeta. He takes my hand under the table and squeezes it.

"Boys are hard work," she says.

"All kids are hard work," I retort.

Silence falls over us, the only sound heard being the scrape of spoons against the bowls. I take a sip out of the glass of water that sits in front of me once I have finished eating.

"How is that victor friend of yours?" Peeta's mother suddenly asks.

"Gale? He is, uh, good," I say, my brows furrowed.

Why would she ask that?

"Do you still meet him in the woods?" she asks.

I shift uncomfortably in my seat. "Not lately, I'm too big to hunt. But before now, yes, he is my hunting partner."

Mrs Mellark looks at her son. "And this doesn't bother you?"

"Of course not. I trust Katniss completely," Peeta responds.

"Huh. I see. I just find it difficult to believe that she is six months and is that big," Peeta's mother says.

"What are you suggesting?" Peeta asks. I can feel my face burn in both anger and embarrassment.

"Oh, nothing. Nothing at all," his mother replies in a sickly sweet voice.

I take another sip of water.

"Have you thought of any names yet?" Mr Mellark asks, quickly changing the subject. I smile thankfully at him while Peeta shakes his head.

"We haven't discussed it much," he says.

"Lilly, Katniss and Primrose. You even have a cat named Buttercup, right?" Peeta's father asks me. "Do you think you are going to carry on the plant names?"

I look at Peeta. "We haven't really thought about it. What do you think?" I ask him.

"It's a good idea. I wouldn't want to break a tradition," he say with a smile. "But what if it's a boy? Can you think of a plant name that will suit a baby boy?"

"We could name it after bread," I tease him.

Peeta chuckles. "Let's not," he says.

Mrs Mellark coughs loudly and all eyes turn to her. "When your child grows older, and wants to know how you two met or how it was conceived, what are you going to tell it exactly?" she asks.

"Does that really matter?" I ask.

"The truth," Peeta says. "We'll tell he or she exactly what happened."

"I'm sure the child will be saddened to find out that its parents only married because of a fuck that resulted in a mistake," the witch says.

Peeta stands up, his fists clenched in anger. "We're leaving."

I stand also, my hands shaking slightly. My eyes lock with Mrs Mellark's. She smiles slyly at me. I want to say something harsh. Something that will feel like a stab in the gut. But I can't do that. That would only make me look childish and immature.

"Peet-" Mr Mellark starts.

"Thank you for the meal, Father. It was great. I'll see you in the bakery tomorrow after school," Peeta cuts him off. He then turns to his mother. "As for you, I hope one day you will pull the stick out of your ass and realise that you have a nice family around you that cares for you even though you're a nasty piece of work. You are lucky to have everything you have got. It isn't going to last forever, Mother."

With that, Peeta once again takes hold of my hand and leads me to the door, down the stairs, through the bakery kitchen, out the back door and into the dark night.