Delly rakes her fingers through his blonde curls and coos. "I wanna make you a flower crown!"
"Why'd you do that?" Peeta asks. "Those are for girls."
"But your hair's so pretty, Peeta! Please?"
He shrugs and returns to his task, his head down. He'd been practicing tying his shoe laces for the last 45 minutes, quietly singing the song his oldest brother Bran had taught him to walk him through it, and he thinks he almost has it mastered. Delly continues to tease his golden tresses, and he allows her because it makes her happy and she's his friend.
The seamstress emerges from the bakery with her purchase, and Delly momentarily abandons the crown of yellow flowers so she can run up and greet her. "Mrs. Fowler! Mrs. Fowler! Have you met my brother Peeta?"
Peeta grins as he makes the second bunny ear, puts it through the hole, and pulls. He knots it again, just to make sure it holds.
"Your brother? You don't say? Well, Peeta, it's a pleasure to meet you." She smiles warmly at him and pats Delly on the head, then rushes off back to her shop.
Peeta doesn't mind when Delly says he's her little brother. Sometimes, when his mama is in a particularly foul mood and is holding his hands against the hot oven, he even wishes it were true. Delly's mother is as kind as she is.
"Done." She places the crown upon his head, and he thanks her. "Peeta, you're a prince!" she announces proudly.
It's getting late so he bids her farewell and heads back into the shop. His father smiles down at him as he rounds the corner of the counter. "It's almost time for supper, Peeta," he reminds him gently. "Wash up soon, okay?"
Peeta nods just as the bell above the door jingles. His breath catches in his throat.
There, next to a tall man covered in soot, is the little girl with two braids and a beautiful voice. Katniss. He smiles timidly at her but she doesn't look up from her feet.
He continues to watch her as their fathers exchange pleasantries and then money for bread. She mostly hides behind her father's leg.
"Hahaha, why've you got flowers in your hair, Peeta?" It's Rye, laughing obnoxiously as he runs at his little brother. "You look like a girl!" He grabs at Peeta's hair as he brings his hand to his chest and bats his eyelashes dramatically. "Oh, Patty, you're so pretty! I just love your style."
Peeta gapes at him, eyes wide and face red. "Don't call me that!"
"Patty Mellark! Little Patty Mellark. Aren't you just the cutest girl in all the district!"
"Shut up!" He risks a look toward Katniss, worried she's laughing along with his brother, but she's too busy trying to burrow under her father's coat.
"Hush, you two," their father commands. They quiet immediately, both obedient lest their mother hear their acting up.
As the Everdeens leave the bakery and his father and brother head back into the kitchen, Peeta rips the crown of flowers off of his head and throws it in the trash. He'd trade Rye Mellark for Delly Cartwright in a heartbeat, but he'll never let her dress him in flowers ever again.