Thanks to moonlightrurouni for beta-ing!
I look in the mirror and stare at my face. I have so many bags under my eyes it's not funny. Ever since the war and what I saw there, and after my father's death, I've had nightmares every night. But last night wasn't a nightmare. I was up all night thinking about my dinner with Gale which is only a half hour away. I can't believe I agreed to dinner with him. A married man! I'm turning into one of those sinning women who go after married men. I never wanted to involve myself with a man. That's not my plan for life. However, it's not a date, so in this case, it means nothing and will never mean anything to me.
I stare at my selection of dresses in front of me and I come to the conclusion that I am clueless about this subject. After discarding probably my entire wardrobe, I find a sweet yellow sleeveless dress with white diagonal criss-crossing stitching.
There is a small bow at the front of the waist and large pockets on both sides of the flowing skirt. I don't like dresses and this is my least favourite dress―perfect for this awful dinner with my least favourite person. I keep my long hair in its uniform braid, a much different look from all the other young women with short haircuts. On my feet are uncomfortable yellow kitten heels and I have small yellow clutch in my white lacy glove-covered hands. I look like corn. Ugh.
I sit on my bed and consider my options that have been floating through my mind since I made the stupid decision just over twenty-four hours ago. I can pretend that I forgot about the dinner plans, and then have to go seem him the next time in kościół and explain that to him in front of the other parishioners, or I can go and leave early. I groan and bring my hands up to my face, using the rough rubbing motion of the glove fabric on my face as a distraction and turn to the clock, spreading my fingers apart and peering through them.
It's a quarter to six. I'm meeting him at a small restaurant on the main street. He wanted to pick me up the house, but I refused. Luckily it is Saturday, a week from the first time we met, so it will seem like I am going to the dance at the Polish Hall, but I'm not. I don't anyone from home to find out that I'm going to dinner with him. If I want to move on from knowing him, the best thing is to have more people not knowing about the event.
When I get to the door, Prim spots me leaving. "Wow Katniss, don't you look all dressed up. Meeting someone at the dance?" she says with a book in her hand. It's some English book, probably extra practice for her schooling.
I look at her in shock, but try not to show it. "N-no, I'm just going to the dance to have fun and to enjoy myself, that's all," I reply with a steady voice.
Prim nods, seeming satisfied with my answer. "That's good, I'm happy for you; you need some time to spend for yourself."
I say goodnight to her and tell her to pass along to the others not to wait up for me. And then I leave.
When I reach the tree on the front yard, I stop and rest against it. I take deep breaths and am surprised to feel my heart beating fast slowly start to reduce to a normal rhythmic flow.
I can't believe I lied to Prim, my own sister.
I find him sitting at a small table for two, occasionally checking the leather watch on his wrist.
I take a deep breath and walk towards him. He looks up and watches me.
"Katniss." he breathes in greeting and stands up, moving towards my chair. He wears a somewhat worn, but nicely tailored suit.
I don't let him help me with my chair though; I don't need help from anyone.
He looks a bit surprised at this but shakes it off and I swear his ego's brick walls that just crumbled at my previous actions have rebuilt in a split second.
A waiter comes over to us and we order our food. I mostly eat my lamb stew that I ordered in silence and so does Gale. Huh, we're both not much talkers. Well, that's something we have in common.
"I have some explaining to do, Katniss," Gale finally says.
"You do not need to explain anything; this nearly a repayment dinner for saving my neighbour's child's young life. And I thank you greatly for your help." I simply say, not looking into his similar dull grey eyes.
"It doesn't have to be, Katniss, it could be more, I can see that you would want more than acquaintanceship." Gale insists.
"And what do you even know about me? Huh? Nic! You don't know anything, so don't you dare say that. What part of not wanting to be the 'other woman' don't you understand?" I say angrily, my nerves slightly getting wound up.
Gale chuckles. "The 'other woman'? Boy, you're dense. If you had seem my hand or if you had listened to the upcoming list of Sunday prayers in two weeks, you would have realized that I am by all means not married. I am not a sick man like that, by you thinking that, it hurts me. My wife, she died for years ago due to tuberculosis. A bad case of it. It's just me and my two other kids, Cato―who's actually my past wife's son from her widowed marriage―and Clove, my girl." Gale explains with a small smile playing upon his lips.
Oh. Well that's a surprise. My cheeks flush with embarrassment, but I hide it by drinking some water from my glass. I swallow my water and sheepishly look at Gale. "Oh, um, sorry for your loss." I say, beating around the bush when it comes to me being wrong.
"Well, now that the elephant is out of the room, can I say that you look beautiful tonight?" Gale says, trying to make light of the conversation.
I don't say anything. I look elsewhere and bite the inside of my cheeks to keep me distracted.
Gale sighs annoyed. "Let's just get it out there. I like you Katniss. A lot. And as much as you try and hide it, you like me a lot too. So why don't we drop the hostility and enjoy the rest of the night like two people who like each other or at least have some interest in each other, okay?"
I look at him for a moment. I didn't like the sound of this. But I nod my head yes. Oh God, what am I getting into?