PART THREE: Katniss
Haymitch likes to laugh at us a lot these days. He saves his snarky remarks for when Peeta holds my hand while walking through town and his cat-calls for when he catches us making out in the swing on our front porch. Perhaps it should bother me more than it does but if the only thing I have to worry about these days is drunken Haymitch Abernathy, I'd say the odds are in my favor.
The first time I get to see the bakery, Peeta makes me cover my eyes. We've been avoiding that section of town for weeks now and I've gotten just a bit antsy.
"You ready?" he asks. I'm nodding before he finishes the question.
When I remove my hands, I'm greeted by a quaint, perfectly square, brick building. The front has big windows and a cream and burgundy striped awning that runs the width of the store. My smile is wider.
"Yeah?" he asks, taking my hand.
"Yeah." I answer as he drags me in. They are still painting. The walls are a soft tan. The artwork (clearly Peeta's) is abstract in design and are painted in the colors of fall: rusty oranges, golden yellows, deep burgundy and brown. Pendant lights made of orange blown glass hang over the counter and the work space is visible from the front. He shows me the huge fridge and the store room and his office. He beams as he shows me the iron bistro sets for outside and tells me about who has hired so he won't have to be here all the time.
"Where would you be?" I ask, teasing.
He smiles coyly, backing me up until my back hits a marble work surface. "With you. Where else would I be?"
It is well after I have been propped up on the table, Peeta between my knees and my hand down his pants that we hear someone clear their throat.
"And that would be the painters back from lunch" he says pulling me onto my feet.
There are still times where the visions will creep into my sleep, but they are far less frequent now. Dr. Aurelius told me to try to talk to Prim and the others to ease my mind, a notion I thought was insane…at first. He explained it was a method used by long forgotten religions. I cried for what seemed like hours the first time I tried to do this. Peeta wasn't quite sure what to do with me. He started talking to Finnick for me and it got easier the more I did it.
Mostly, now, I talk to Prim; usually when I'm perched in a tree or lying by the lake. I tell her about my life now, about Peeta and I tell her how much I miss her.
And after a while, she doesn't appear in my nightmares anymore but rather, my dreams.
As summer arrives, Johanna comes to visit. She's still quite the spit fire. When she saw us with our arms draped around each other at the train station, she laughed like a maniac and asked Peeta how the girl on fire was in bed. Her crassness still makes me blush. She does seem happy for us though and the encouragement seems to make Peeta a little bolder at night when he presses himself against me.
Jo teaches me to throw an axe and we spend a lot of time in the evenings going through our memory book. She even adds a couple of people herself. We sunbathe in our underwear at the lake and eat sweet bread that she and Peeta make while I'm out hunting.
While Johanna is a guest in our home, Peeta and I have pulled back with the affection a little bit and it is slowly driving me insane. At night, as soon as the door clicks closed, I cling to him. I am frantic to catch up, palming him through his jeans and scraping my nails down his chest.
The affection, the one-on-one with the person I love has healed me more than any method Dr. Aurelius wants me to try. It is raw and real and just makes me feel.
He slows me down each time though. "We have all the time in the world now, Katniss."
When Johanna leaves, it's like another stitch closes. She embraces me with a promise to be back soon and tells me, "I'm okay. And really that's all I ever wanted to be."
The bakery is up and running by mid-July. True to his word, he still spends most of his time with me. Instead he gives jobs to those who need it and teaches them his family's recipes. He comes home beaming and proud. I can't help but praise him.
The day we make love for the first time, he comes home in the early evening covered in flour and smiling.
"What in the world?" I ask, stirring our dinner on the stove.
"We may have thrown ingredients at each other like we were twelve," he kisses the back of my head and wraps his arms around me, "And then we had to clean it up like adults. Sorry you had to wait."
"No matter," I say turning into his embrace.
He cleans up and I serve our dinner on our tiny kitchen set. He talks animatedly about his day and we laugh together as the sun fades behind the clouds. He cleans up the dishes and I stroll out to the back porch to water my herbs.
As I stared at him through the window, the colors of twilight dancing across his face, something shifted in my head and in my heart. We had truly changed.
He built something himself and shared the wealth with others.
I faced days with a positive outlook, no longer the cold-hearted girl keeping people at an arm's length.
We both fought and won against something that can never hurt us again.
My feet gravitated towards him without thinking and I kissed him with such a passion that he knew it meant something else entirely.
I wanted that last wall to fall. I wanted to be his completely.
We were confidant in pulling off clothes and caressing one another's bodies the way we had perfected in the past months. Eventually, though, we came to uncharted territory. It was a strange but welcome sight to see: Peeta Mellark looking quite unsure as he hovered above me. I kissed his uncertainty away and helped guide him into me.
He stilled as our hips met, murmuring words that only half made sense. They were the sweetest sounds I'd ever heard.
We were clumsy and shy, giggling when our rhythms don't match. He apologized when it didn't last very long and I quieted him with a kiss.
"We have all the time in the world now, Peeta" I whisper. He smiles in the curve of my neck.
Many more months pass before I have the courage to write a letter I've been meaning to write for quite some time. My mind and my heart are in a different place now and the words flow out easily onto the paper:
I hope this letter finds you well.
I've been keeping up with your endeavors through the newspaper and snippets I see on television. I know your father would be proud of the leaps we have made in this new world.
I'm hopeful that you will find your way back to Twelve for a visit some time. So much has changed. It is thriving, bustling even. It is no longer gray and brooding but hopeful and content.
I think of you often while out hunting. It is very difficult not to. They are happy thoughts though. After all, I used to only smile in the woods.
I do not blame you for what happened to Prim. Not anymore. I used to, maybe just so the burden of blame wasn't entirely on me. A friend told me a while ago that okay was all she hoped to be and that really stuck with me, you know? I know I'm okay now. I hope you're okay too.
Sending my best,
Peeta rests his chin on the top of my head and I tip the paper up so he can read. After a moment, he points to my signature. "Is this your subtle way of telling him we got married?"
I laugh, folding the letter and placing it into an envelope. "Should I write him a separate letter explaining my love for you? Or maybe include some photos of us expressing our love to one another?" And then I wiggle my eyebrows.
He sweeps in to tickle my ribs sending me into a fit of giggles. "Oh, Mrs. Mellark! What will I do with you?"
I make my way over to him, brushing his wavy locks from his forehead, "What you've always done, Mr. Mellark. Love me"
He smiles and leans in brushing his lips against mine, "Always."
Title of story and chapters is from The Hunger Games sountrack: Dark Days by the Punch Brothers.
Author's Note: So many of you have left such kind words for me and I thank you whole-heartedly! For this short story to be called beautiful really blows my mind! I am humbled that you've taken your time to read! I've already got something else in the works and am excited to give it my full attention. Come see me over at Tumblr (link on my profile!)