I have not forgotten Struggle With Love! I really apologize for not updating sooner. I have been very busy with courses and as well with other personal writing projects. In addition, I had a little bit of writer's block on this story, however, finally I am updating. I hope you all are still enjoying this story, and please let me know what you think of what's going on and how the story is in general. It allows me to understand what my readers are thinking. Thanks for your patience! Now, on with the story!
Thanks to beta moonlightrurouni!
Disclaimer: I do not own The Hunger Games.
After dinner, Gale wants to go for a walk. I don't want to go, and when I voice no, and that I want to go home, he brings up my agreement for this evening from earlier and hangs it above my head like something I really want, mocking me.
On our walk, I notice that we're not in my usual surroundings and I begin to worry.
"Where are we?" I ask him, tightening my grip on my cold and goosebumped arms.
"We're actually at my house. Why don't you come in? It's starting to get cold out. My car keys are in the house; I'll drive you home," Gale says, already unlocking his front door.
I panic. He wants me to go into his house?!
"No, that's alright. I'll walk home," I say, trying to keep my voice light and unafraid. I don't want him to see my weaknesses because I hate being vulnerable.
"Come on, it's a far walk for you. Women should never be left along in the dark by themselves. Besides, my car is just in the garage. It's the least I can do since you are keeping up your part of the bargain." he insists.
I shake my head no, but he almost looks like he's pleading. And I can't help but break out into laughter as he lowers himself on both knees and clasps his hands together.
"Please come in. This is my last chance. You're making me look like a fool in front of my children!" he says.
I look over his shoulder and spot the two children from mszy that were with him in the front window peeking through the curtain.
"Fine! But just because of how dark it is. But really, I've dealt with living through the war, and there were some vicious people out there," I reply with exasperation. "and I'm still here." I might as well just take the ride, even though my mind is telling me the total opposite.
"Great!" Gale says and nearly jumps up to grab my arm and leads me up the steps.
He unlocks the door and walks in first, making me follow in second.
"Cato! Clove! Glimmer! Jestem w domu!" he calls out into the house.
The two children from the window walk into the hallway where I stand, feeling out of place as Gale walks further into his home.
Cato and Clove stare at me, as if sizing me up. I turn to them and try to smile at return my smile with glares as sharp as daggers.
I feel uncomfortable suddenly; my hard shell coming around me to protect myself.
A woman slightly younger than I am enters the hallway with a smile on her face. Though, it seems a little too fake to be genuine. "Dzieńdobry, you must be Katniss. I'm Glimmer, Cato and Clove's Ciocia on their matka's side. Gale has said so much about you, it's great to finally meet 'the woman of his dreams' as he labels you," she says with almost a too happy tone.
My eyes widen at what she says.
"Oh! You two aren't that far in your relationship yet? I'm sorry; I have to learn to shut my mouth sometimes. Hahaha," she laughs.
I try to not have a twisted look of confusion on my face.
Gale shortly enters the room and kisses his children on the bows of their heads, even though the oldest, Cato shies always angrily. "Stop Tata. Jestem nearly a teen," he says and swats away Gale before standing up straight and setting his bony jaw tight.
Gale just sighs in exasperation. "You're only nine years old, Cato. I really appreciate your help Glim; I hope the mały krasnoludki aren't giving you a hard time…I'm taking Katniss back to her house now. I shouldn't be gone too long. When I get back, you two better be asleep. Dobranoc. Dowidzenia," Gale says and leads me out the door.
"Dowidzenia Tata, dobranoc," Cato and Clove say in unison.
"Dowidzenia Gale," Glimmer says.
And the door slams shut behind us.
I am kind of shocked at the fact that the children didn't really acknowledge me. Or the fact that no one really said goodbye to me. However, I didn't really make a move to say goodbye either, so I guess it's alright.
I slide in the Chevrolet car that Gale owns, and he shuts the door behind me.
He sits in the driver's seat beside me and starts the engine. We drive off while I look out the window and start to reflect my night.
I started the night with a promise to myself about getting out of this awful dinner early. Now I'm answering somewhat personal questions. I don't even know how I answered them, seeing as I never talk to anyone I am not really close to about my personal life. Now I'm at the point where I am going to his house―even for a short time―where I am in his car and he is driving me home. Perhaps I am sick; I never act this way around anyone…ever.
Gale interrupts my inner monologue.
"You know, we are really similar," he states, testing out the waters and quickly turns to look me.
"Oh? How so?" I reply, not trying to make eye contact.
"Well, because we have similar interests like: we both love the wilderness, we're not big fans of crowds. Um, same music, we love literature but never seem to have the time for it. As well, our lives were both affected by the war, as you said about your Tata." he says.
I look up to him in question after spending a moment wincing after the mention of my Tata.
"My Tata had gone off the war at the very beginning, and unfortunately, he didn't make it. So it was just me, my mom, and my three younger siblings.
I had to take up the role as the man of the house. Unfortunately, the only way I could get good money was through the army, so I signed up probably towards the last year when everything else that I tried to do to support my family didn't work. And in addition we had to uproot our family to another part of Poland when one of the countries who tried to control us stole our land," Gale says.
I take in his words. "Um, sorry for your loss―wait a second. You said you entered the army in the last year. How old are you?" I say, suddenly curious about his age.
"Ah, I'm twenty-two years old. Four years older that you, if I remember correctly what you told me on your birthday," he says with a smile.
I nod and look out the window. I swallow a nervous and uncomfortable gulp in my throat. He is four years older than I am. But that's quite a common age difference.
The car slows down.
"I presume this is your street?" he says looking through the windshield into the dark night and then turning to me.
I look around. It is. "How do you know?"
"When we talked last week, I saw where that little girl turned. Which house is yours?" Gale asks.
"It's coming up. Stop here," I say, and we stop a ways back.
"Katniss," he starts, gaining my attention. "I had a real nice evening with you. We are a lot alike. And I really like you, and at the same time, I think you like me. I would love to do this again. What do you say?" he asks with a hint of hopefulness in his voice.
I don't answer.
"You don't have to know right now," Gale says in reply.
He suddenly leans over towards me to kiss me. Whether it's on the cheek or on the lips, I don't know. I duck away. Gale realizes this and nods.
"I'll see you around, Katniss?"
I step out of the car with all the grace I can muster and begin to walk away from the car after shutting the passenger side door quickly. He slowly starts to drive off and he turns the corner, out of sight.
I reach the house and let out a sigh of relief. I go inside and everyone's asleep. Perfect. As I fall asleep though, I can't help but think about Gale, and I know I'm far from breathing out relief.
He was right about us seeing each other later on. And we do go on another "date". He's right; we have a lot in common. I feel that I can be open with him, of course, that happens after many occasions of spending time with him. He grows on. Before I never liked him, but now I do. Hopefully, that's what he's meaning when he says that he really likes me.
As I spend more time with Gale, I spend more time with Clove and Cato. I believe they are warming up to me, as I do them. There are some issues that I have with them―we don't see eye to eye all the time, but I believe they've accepted my new presence in their home.
As the months go on from the day I set foot on Capitol One grounds, so much has changed. Perhaps for the better. Gale and I are even closer, so when he suddenly asks for my hand in marriage in November, I surprisingly agree. I mean, we can talk about anything with each other. I really, really like him, perhaps love him as a best friend. We can relate very well, so, why not? Isn't that what marriages are based upon? His proposal is quite small, while we were on a day trip out to the nearby beach in the county side with the lake in the backdrop.
After the proposal, I assume that we will have a traditional Polish wedding. That's what my family plans for when I tell them of my new engagement, something they expected shortly once I introduced Gale to them as my very close friend. My mother is even planning on travelling to Capitol One since her health is gratefully improving. As well, my friends Johanna, Madge and Annie from the Sanatorium are coming across the Ocean to attend my wedding.
Except there is no wedding. And in any other situation, I think I would like that since I am not a fan of large crowds, get-togethers and when I am in the spotlight, but I really thought that since we're both from the same background, that we'd celebrate with the traditions that our ancestors celebrated in the past with.
We are married in December in a quiet ceremony, in front of a priest at our church, even though he instinctually looked down upon our request for our secret wedding. Against my better judgement, it is too soon.
Not long after we are married that day, I realize my life-destroying mistake.
It's been a little over several months since I've gone to spend some time with Ciocia and Wujek and Prima and the rest of our "extended family" (including Rue and Rory and Thresh).
Since getting married, I spend most of my time at my new home with Gale and Clove and Cato. As their step-mother, I take up the role of their deceased matka. I take care of them when they're sick with the flu, or when Clove was playing in the kitchen and―only God knows how―got into the locked knives drawer and nicked her finger. I picked her up as she began to bawl and calmed her down in my arms. It's a strange feeling, this young girl in my arms, and I'm comforting her as though she is my own daughter, but really, she's not. But when occasions like that arise, I simply push away my personal feelings and put the children's best interests first.
I had wrapped her finger up once I washed it and cleansed it with anti-septic for any bacteria and kissed the pain away like did with Prim and Rue. I felt that I did a good job caring for her, the daughter of the man that I believed I was in love with; but I was wrong.
When Gale came home the day of that incident, Clove began to wail loudly and the pitter-patter of her feet on the linoleum sounded throughout the house.
I looked up from where I was, chopping marchewki for kolacja and watched as Clove showed Gale her finger, her voice still wailing. Gale cooed at her, trying to calm down Clove, and observed it. As he held her finger, I noticed that the cloth wrap I had placed on the wound was missing. Gale asked her what had happened and when she had gotten hurt. Clove lowered her voice to a whisper that my ears could not decipher. A moment after, Gale gathered her into his strong arms tightly and his eyes briefly met mine. He looked angry.
That night, when the kids were asleep and we were settling in for bed, Gale spoke to me; the first time that evening.
"Clove got hurt today…do you know how?" he asked me as he unbuttoned his shirt and left a white waffle-textured tank on for bed.
"Yes she had somehow gotten into the knife drawer when I was vacuuming the upstairs hallway. I don't see how it was possible, seeing as you know that the drawer is all under lock and key, and the key is in my dresser. But when she showed her finger to me, I cleaned it up and put antiseptic on it to kill the bacteria." I replied and put on my ugly soft pink nightgown―a hand-me-down from Gale's deceased wife.
Gale observed me with a watchful eye. Then he nodded slowly and hesitantly.
"Alright…" Gale said to me. He then turned toward the bed and lay down with his back to me.
I couldn't help but feel angry at his actions. Why was he acting like that? And why did he act different after Clove said something when he got home?
That isn't the only time that something of that sort occurs. Another day, I am in the kitchen preparing lunch while Cato is in his room doing his homework. It's a school holiday, so the children do not have classes, and Clove is in her room with her friend from down the street. Gale is at work and will not be back until the usual shift work change at four.
Suddenly I hear a key in the lock of the front door. I am not surprised: sometimes if the plant's lunch break is longer, Gale will come home for lunch.
The door opens and instead of seeing Gale walk through the door in his usual navy coveralls, I see Glimmer and the kids' other Ciocia, Bernadette who has the face of a fox, walk through my house like they own the place. But then I remember that they probably did seeing as it was Gale's first wife's childhood home.
"Clove! Cato! Come here, dzieci!" Glimmer calls and walks upstairs, without even acknowledging my presence.
I watch them with my mouth wide open as they clamber up the wooden steps until I cannot see them anymore.
I hear muffled voices and I am too shocked to comprehend anything. What on earth just happened?
Not five minutes later, all five people who were upstairs are now standing in the front foyer, some talking in Polish, some in English. Then Clove's friend bids Clove goodbye, along with everyone else who is here and begins to leave out the front door. I assume that she is going to ignore me like everyone else is, until she calls out, "Goodbye Mrs. Hawthorne!" to which I reply with a farewell.
Foxface (as I call Bernadette) and Glimmer hold backpacks for Cato and Clove and the two latter bundle up in their coats―seeing as we are expecting a late spring―and walk out the door.
"Hey! Fileczke! Fileczke! Cato! Clove, stop! Glimmer! Bernadette! What's going on?" I ask with annoyance and worry.
No one answers me and they pile into a small car, happily chattering in English, using words that I am not yet familiar with. Soon, they drive away.
I lock the door and try to comprehend what exactly is happening. As I do, my thoughts are racing and I cannot even remember my own name. I take some deep breaths and wring a cloth with my hands.
I am Katniss Ev―no, Hawthorne. I am eighteen years old. I am married to ex-Private Gale Hawthorne. I live in Capitol One in the Capitol with him and his two children, Clove and Cato. Prim lives with Ciocia and Wujek many streets away. Gale loves me. I-I-I love him, I think. Cato and Clove's aunts have barged into my home and pulled them out of the house.
I repeat this over and over again until the sound of the front door unlocking brings me back to reality.
Gale walks in. "It's quiet in here. Where are they?" he states, referring to the kids.
I tell him what happened, leaving out the part of them ignoring me because he does not need to know. He proceeds to yell at me abruptly, saying I do not care for his kids, letting them leave, etcetera.
To that I up and leave the house and walk to a nearby, yet not too close, store on the main street. The bakery.
When I enter, I feel calmer, not so angry and safe from Gale. I look up at my surroundings and suddenly see blond hair and a familiar face on a person I have not seen in years back from my childhood.