I had been unable to stop smiling for two days now and even as I tried to consciously remove it from my face as I walked along the whitewashed fences on the street in front of my house on my way to school, an extra sugar cookie in my pack for Primrose. Every time I closed my eyes I could see Katniss and even almost feel her kissing me again. Over ten years of my dreaming of her had finally come at least partially true. I had kissed her and instead of murdering me as I had often imagined she would had I attempted, she had kissed me back. Twice. She had even kissed me on the cheek afterward. Of course, she had also told me, very seriously, that she was never getting married and...more specifically, that she wasn't going to marry me. But didn't that also mean she wasn't going to marry Gale?
I shook my head, still grinning like an idiot as I walked along. Either way, I had kissed Katniss Everdeen...and it was better than anything I could have ever imagined. I wondered if she knew how much it had meant to me? If she knew that I would marry her in a minute if she ever consented? After all, she seemed to know how willing I was when she felt the need to bring up the subject...and it had to have been a pretty good kiss for her too if it drudged up thoughts of marriage so immediately.
I would never forget the look on my mother's face when Katniss told her what she would do if she found out mom hit me again. Me and both of my brothers had laughed about it so hard that night in our room she had kicked us outside the house for waking her up...but she didn't lay a finger on anyone. Rye was convinced that she was too scared of Katniss to touch anyone...she hadn't even so much as pointed a finger in any of our directions again since that day. I myself thought that the fear she had was probably appropriate for her. I didn't put it past Katniss at all to go through with her threat after seeing the way she had looked at my mother. All those times I had thought she had been mad at me...well, those looks were warm and fluffy in comparison.
I still wondered why she didn't want to get married. Perhaps she thought a husband would be too controlling of her? Maybe she didn't want a family or maybe she thought the family she was already having to shoulder the burden of carrying for was enough for one lifetime. I hoped that wasn't the case. I had no doubt Katniss was make a wonderful mother from how I had see her treat Primrose and even the fiercely protective way she had acted on my behalf against my own mother. God help anyone who ever threatened any children she ever produced.
She ignored me at school that day...which didn't surprise me. I still gave Primrose her cookie at lunch and she sat on the wall outside and happily ate it.
"Do you like my sister?" She asked, still chewing, her big blue eyes on the remainder of the sugar cookie.
I grinned and answered honestly. "Yes."
She laughed happily. "I think she likes you too because she's always turning red whenever anyone mentions the bakery in front of her."
"Really?" I grinned wider and handed her half of my roll. She needed it more than I did anyway. Despite Katniss's efforts, the poor kid was stick skinny and still trying to grow.
"Thanks!" She exclaimed, acting as though she thought she had hit the jackpot as she ate and swung her long skinny little legs back on forth over the edge of the half way where she sat. "You know, Mama said that no decent man would ever marry her because she's too dark and manly but I told her that you wanted to."
I felt my palms get a little sweaty in my pockets at the thought of little Primrose telling Ms. Everdeen that I wanted to marry her daughter. What if she didn't approve? What if she thought it too awkward after all the history she had with my father? Did Katniss know about this? Is that why she was so quick to turn down my yet to be offered proposal? If the young girl sensed my nervousness, she didn't show it. I got the feeling that she was much too into enjoying her roll to notice much of anything.
"What did your mom say to that?" I prodded, dying of curiosity and nervousness on the inside, even though I knew that it was a bit low to be sneaking information from Katniss's baby sister.
"She said that Katniss was probably too much of a handful for a sweet boy like you to handle, but she wished you would so we wouldn't be so hungry all the time-" Her little body suddenly tensed and she stopped quickly as if just realizing that she had said something she shouldn't have. Her eyes grew wide and she looked at me a little fearfully.
I rustled her hair a little. "Don't worry, kid. It's okay...and, listen, there are extra cookies at the bakery all the time. You feel free to stop by anytime you want for one on the house."
She smiled and nodded. "Yep." She giggled. "My mom's right. You are too sweet for Katniss." As her gaze shifted from me to the figure on the other side of the room, I followed it to a glaring older sister and snorted out a laugh, waving to her.
The next day at school Katniss ignored me again...and also the day after that and the entire following week as well. It took her until the last day before winter holidays to come near me again, right as everyone was about to head home. When she did, I couldn't tell whether it was to kiss me or throw a punch and, going from her warring facial expressions, I'm not sure she did either.
"My family has insisted that I start being nice to you." She said finally, looking angry and a little defeated.
I chuckled out a smile. "Does that mean you'll marry me now?" I asked, only half joking.
She rolled her eyes. "I'm not going to marry you, Peeta." She droned out as if it were something she had already been forced to repeat a hundred time rather than just the once.
"Yeah." I scratched the hairline at the back of my neck. "I just figured I'd try."
"Has your mother hit anyone again since I was over?" She asked, clearly trying to change the subject.
I shook my head. "No, I think you've put a stop to that. She hasn't laid a finger on anyone yet, not even when she caught Rye sneaking out the window to see his girlfriend the other night. She got right close too and then right when she raised up her arm to hit him, Rye just stood there and smirked and pretended to shoot an imaginary arrow at her and she stomped right on out of the room!" I finished, laughing. Rye and I had been chuckling about it ever since and dad has been in the best mood I've seen him in years.
"Good." She managed to say through clenched teeth. Did the thought of my mom hitting us really make her that angry?
My gaze fell on her long pretty braid in hanging down in front of her shoulder and, without thinking, I reached forward to play with the end of it. She watched me with a clearly confused expression, but didn't slap my hand away as I fiddled with the silky brown strands. After a minute, my hand traveled down deliberately until it reached hers and she let me take hold of it as we began walking and I knew, somehow, that I would convince her. Katniss would marry me, someday, on her own terms, and- whatever they were- I would meet them all eagerly.