You can always tell when a woman has been recently engaged: cheeks constantly flushed pink, a shy yet beaming demeanor about them, modest.
My dear sister is quite the opposite. Within an hour of Rory Hawthorne's proposal, I am sure the whole town knows. She has sashayed through the house, singing songs of love and inviting everyone who stops by to congratulate her to have tea. My sister does not like to hide her emotions. She embraces them to the fullest and shouts them from the mountain tops.
I am not nearly as jubilant about anything.
But I am happy for Prim. Even if my actions are a tad restrained. I approve of the union; after all, the Hawthornes have been long time family friends, but the boasting I could do without.
"Such a fine choice for a husband!" My mother exclaims.
"As if she had a choice," I snort, "That boy has had his claim on you since you were twelve."
"Don't delude it. Katniss. It has been true love from the start" Prim squeals again. There's another knock on the door. Another admirer I'm sure and I'm quite sick of tea by now, so I excuse myself to the veranda.
My Uncle Haymitch is sitting on the steps, nursing a glass of amber liquid. I sit beside him, tucking the skirt of my dress around my knees.
"She's already told me the date they wish to marry," He tells me.
"Yes. Midway into April. I think it should be an affair worthy of a queen!"
I laugh, "But dear Uncle, I forbid you pay for this celebration…"
He cuts me off, "I will have none of that, Katniss. I promised your mother I would take care of you and that includes weddings. I shall have nothing short of the best for our Primrose. Which reminds me…" He pulls out a small drawstring bag from his pocket and places it in my hand. "When you take your afternoon walk, you can drop this very last payment off to Mr. Thresh."
"The very last?"
"The very last indeed." He stumbles to his feet and makes his way over to the door. "I await the day that I may pay for your wedding, Katniss. That will be a man among boys!" he exclaims, the door slamming behind him.
I collect my closest friend, Madge Undersee on my walk into town.
"What shall be the purpose of our walks now?" She asks after I tell her the news about the contents of my purse.
"Good company, my dear friend."
She laughs, "I will accompany you back to your house this afternoon, as I understand congratulations are in order for your sister."
"Yes, yes. Please do make a fuss over her."
Madge is the sole keeper of a very big secret my family has kept for the last few years. While there is always speculation of the events that followed my father's death, Madge knows the truth. My father, unbeknownst to myself or my mother, was in a lot debt due to gambling, a very new diversion that usually is reserved for the rich, as well as a few bad investments. My father was wonderful man, though he made many mistakes. Upon his death, we were flooded with the debts he owed and simply did not have the money to pay it. His half-brother, Haymitch Abernathy took us in before any real damage could be done to our reputations, although the rumors had slowly started to churn. Most were ridiculous; some held truth. Haymitch has amended the debts slowly but surely. In between all of this, he has provided my family with a comfortable living and the offering of a dowry for my sister and me.
He has also given us the proper care that my mother could not after my father's death. She did not take it well in the least and fell ill almost immediately after we had buried him. It was weeks before she moved from her bed and months before she even went into town. Prim tended to her as she always had, with love and patience. I, on the other hand, became distant from her, unforgiving for the selfishness of her actions. She did not care for our grief, only for her own. It is only recently that I have been able to carry on conversations with her.
My uncle's faithful housemaid, Miss Effie, is one of decorum despite her being the help. She helped Prim and I continue with our reading and writing studies when mother would not. She also taught us a few skills: sewing and embroidery, cooking and the occasional lesson in French. Prim delights in all these while I am clumsy at all of them.
After dropping off the heavy purse to an exuberant Mr. Thresh, I stop by the florist to pick up fresh flowers for Prim. She enjoys them so much on the table at dinner and I cannot think of a better occasion than this to have them. While browsing, there seems to be an absurd amount of chattering about a bachelor from London coming to stay here with family. I sigh. The ladies in this town love to hear when a bachelor is on his way.
Madge whispers to me, "This poor boy from London will loathe being here with all this attention. That is why boys from London stay in London."
I laugh. "He must not be here quite yet or he would smell the desperation in the air."
Madge pulls on the shawl of our fellow neighbor, Clove Chetwood. "Pray tell, who is this boy everyone whispers about?"
"Oh, Madge! Mr. Peeta Mellark, of course," she answers.
"Who is Peeta Mellark?" I ask.
"Katniss, I swear you know nothing of families of stature. He is Winston Mellark's son. The banker?"
We stare at her. Clearly we are not in on the latest gossip. Clove turns from us, exasperated. "You two!"
Making our way to the cobblestone path to my home, we notice the well-poised carriage of our neighbor across the way, Sae Sherbourne.
"Seems the news has made it to Mrs. Sherbourne. I'm sure Prim is beside herself."
"And of course she will insist on a party," Madge adds.
As soon as the door is opened, I can hear Prim chattering about the events of this morning for the hundredth time today. Mrs. Sherbourne is enthusiastic as ever. Effie takes the flowers from me at the door and scoots me in towards our company. We enter the sitting room, removing our bonnets and bowing before we take our seats across from my sister and our guest.
Mrs. Sae Sherbourne is a robust woman with a distinctively loud but calming voice. She knows everything about everyone and indeed loves to throw parties and have large dinners where half the town is invited.
Her eyes are practically twinkling. "This is such wonderful news. Such a handsome man. And I wager you'll have even more beautiful children."
Prim blushes. "You are too kind Mrs. Sherbourne."
She pats Prim's hand, "You Everdeen girls with your manners. Please remember to call me Sae. I shall not have these formalities like we are merely acquaintances!" She turns to Madge and me, "Perhaps my old ears could hear of two more engagements before the year is out? It would do them good and it is only March."
Madge giggles and I smile politely. Out of the two of us, Madge's engagement will come well before mine and I believe we are all aware of it. But Sae keeps hopeful, just as my mother and Prim and Haymitch do.
"Well," Sae continues, "I do believe this would be a perfect excuse for an assembly!" Prim, of course cannot hide her enthusiasm.
"Oh, but…" She stops me.
"I will not take no for an answer. We will have it on Thursday. That way my nephew will be here for it."
"You're nephew?" Prim asks.
"Oh, yes. He seems to be the buzz about town. Mr. Peeta Mellark. His father is my brother. And while I do not care for his mother, Fanny, I am quite fond of the boys. He hasn't visited in years. Just before you moved here with Haymitch, I believe."
"Oh how lovely! What does he do?" Prim carries on, too nosey for her own good. I shoot her a look.
"He is a man of the arts. A very good one for his age. He writes and paints and such."
"And how old is he?"
"Prim, do not pry," I scold her.
"No, no, quite alright. He is two and twenty, just a year older than Katniss. A very charming fellow but very particular. It has always baffled me as to why he has no wife."
This intrigues me. Men of that stature with a pocketful of money usually do not have to be very particular. And they know it.
As I walk Madge back home, she brings up Mr. Mellark. "Perhaps he will be a man that will tempt Katniss Everdeen?"
"Oh, hush! I am far too boring. And the rest of the girls here are far too concerned with ribbons and bonnets to fit his 'particular' taste. I'm afraid that Mr. Mellark will be sorely disappointed in the stock he finds here."
"Oh, Katniss! I know you believe in love. You read far too many stories about the subject not to."
"I do, indeed. But you cannot think someone as stubborn as I will just throw myself at anyone now do you?" I change the subject to Gale and his return home from his tour with the Militia which always makes Madge blush. Mr. Mellark is all but forgotten.