I'm greeted by the soft spoken green of the forest, past the fence. Here I find peace... This is where I hunt, my father had taught me how before he got sick, too sick to venture outside. And now I provide, I feed my family... My mother, who cares for my father, and Prim... Sweet innocent Prim. Only twelve years old.
The woods, though filled with flesh eating animals, is the only place I feel safe.
I hear footsteps, rustling the grass behind me, it could only be one person.
"I see you're still as noisy as a bear" I turn towards him, and his crystal blue eyes light up.
"Hey! I tried really hard you know"
"Sure Peeta, sure" his eyes widen.
"Really, I did"
"Ok, whatever you say" I lean forward and kiss him quickly.
"Seriously Catnip? In front of my innocent eyes!?" I jump back, searching for the voice.
"Gale!" unlike Peeta, Gale can tread silently through the trees. He can sneak up on just about anyone.
"I didn't come here to see you two make out, I came to hunt." Gale turns to Peeta. " you gonna scare the game away Mellark?"
"I'll try not to" Peeta pulls out his sketchbook. "I was just going to draw anyways, leave the hunting to the masters"
"Good" I say. "it'd be better if you two can stay on good terms"
"And why is that?"
"I'd rather not have my best friend murder my boyfriend"
"Hey! Do you really think he could kill me? I'm just as strong as him"
"Whatever you say Peeta"
The three of us make our way into the woods until we find a clearing. Peeta pulls out a pencil and sits down.
"You guys have fun, I'll be here"
I'm so lucky to have Peeta, he's so kind and caring. Always looking out for others. I couldn't ask for someone better. I know I don't deserve him, I'm way below him. But he doesn't seem to care. He's so perfect.
After a minute me and Gale stop, listening intently for any sign of life.
We do pretty well, catching about a dozen fish and as a bonus, we gather up some strawberries.
Gale tosses one of the ruby colored berries towards me.
"Happy Hunger Games..." he smirks as he speaks.
" ...And may the odds, be ever in your favor" and then I is the day, the reaping...
"How many do you have Catnip?" Gale asks seriously, he's nineteen now, and safe from the reaping.
"I don't know" I lie.
"Don't lie to me Katniss, I'm your best friend" he stares at me intently.
I know I have a lot, but I wouldn't let Prim take any tesserae, she's just twelve and with only one slip, the odds are in her favor more than anyone. I couldnt have that change. The moment I had turned twelve, I had upped my chances at the reaping by five, my monthly tesserae ration.
Peeta helps out too, although I told him not to. I didn't want his chances to be higher, especially for my sake. He doesnt keep his tesserae. He gives it to my family, Gale's family. He does it for me though, so I don't have to take so much. I don't like him risking himself for me, it only makes me owe him more. I can never stop owing him for saving my life.
"I have 34" I whisper.
"27" I answer.
"God Catnip," he lets out a sigh "Are you guys trying to get picked?"
"You know why I do it. And I know you had more than me last year. You had 42 slips! I don't know why it's ok for you to risk yourself but I can't" I say angrily.
"ok, I'm sorry. I just don't want you to get hurt"
We meet up with Peeta in the clearing, and he has a brand new sketch in his hand. This one is a mockingjay... I feel as if I can hear its song, imitating the tunes off my father's tongue.
"it's beautiful Peeta" he looks down at it, a soft grimace on his face.
"Not really" he pulls his hand down trying to redirect attention from his drawing.
"You're too modest, it's amazing" I stand up on my toes, placing my lips softly on his cheek. He's too hard on himself.
We continue into town, trading some fish for a couple loaves of bread. We stop by the Mayor's with the strawberries.
His daughter Madge, opens the door. Since she's the Mayor's daughter, you'd expect her to be a snob, but she's alright. She just keeps to herself, like me. We get along well, we don't really talk much, which suits us both fine.
Her normal dreary school outfit had been replaced by an expensive white dress, her blonde hair is done up with a ribbon. Reaping clothes.
"pretty dress" says Peeta.
Madge smiles. It is a pretty dress, but she would never be wearing it ordinarily. She presses get lips together. "well, if I end up going to the Capitol, I want to look nice, don't I?"
Gale looks confused, trying to place her words.
"You won't be going to the Capitol" says Gale coolly. His eyes flicker to a small golden pin that adorns her dress. "What can you have? Five entries? I had six when I was just twelve years old"
"That's not her fault" says Peeta.
"No Mellark, it's no one's fault. Just the way it is" he says angrily.
"Gale" I warn. "Please don't"
"You know, I'm just gonna get home. Help Rory get ready" and with that he walks out, leaving me and Peeta with Madge.
Madge's face is closed off. She puts the money in my hand. "Good luck Katniss, Peeta"
"You too" I say, and the door closes.
We walk in silence up to the bakery. I don't like that Gale took a dig out of Madge, and although he's right, the reaping system is unfair, his anger at her is misdirected. He knows this, if its anyone's fault, it's the Capitol.
We stop outside the bakery, so Peeta's mother doesn't see us. She doesn't approve of Seam trash like me.
"I love you" Peeta whispers quietly. I turn fully towards him, kissing him passionately, letting my actions speak instead of words. I worry about him, I can't imagine what I'd do if he got reaped.
When finally we need to breathe again, we part. My whole body tingles, my head spinning from the kiss.
"Wear something pretty" Peeta whispers into my ear seductively as he heads inside.