The switch is actually pretty easy. We do it while Prim is still asleep on the couch, the two of us still grinning from ear to ear in a post-sex euphoria. I move my shirts, and a half-dozen dresses, from my closet into Peeta's while he transfers all of my pants into his dresser. Neither of us have a lot of garments, so the closet isn't exploding by the time we finish up. Everything has a place, fitting perfectly and harmoniously.
My knickknacks and pictures lie easily alongside Peeta's on his—our—shelves and desk. My bow and arrows hang easily on two hooks on the wall behind his easel in the corner. The paintings that Peeta gave me are placed sporadically on the walls, next to his own. After all the moving and shifting is finished, I pull the sheets off Peeta's bed and throw them into the hamper as Peeta remakes the bed in my old room into a guest bed that Prim can sleep in while she's here.
That is all that needs to be done, really. My bookshelves can stay in that room. Maybe we will turn it into a library—or just keep it as a guest bedroom. I don't know yet. But we have plenty of time to decide. Forever, actually.
"Okay, everything is all set," Peeta says as he enters the bedroom, his hands behind his back. He walks until he's only two feet or so from me; his eyes glitter with mischief. "You forgot one thing in the bedside table, though." Then, he removes one of his hands and reveals why he had them behind his back in the first place. He holds, in his big, beautiful hand, my vibrator. Pink, glittery and shining in its embarrassing glory.
Blood instantly floods my cheeks. "Uh, thanks," I stammer, swiping it from his hand. "That, uh, would have been awkward if Prim had, uh, found it."
Peeta's eyebrows infiltrate his hairline, and I know that means he's curious and wants me to continue, but I ignore it.
"Are you hungry?" I ask instead.
"For information," he replies.
I roll my eyes, feigning indifference, but my cheeks are still hot. "Peeta, come on. I am a woman and I had needs. Let's move on."
"No, I don't want to. I'm curious." He is adamant—and oblivious to why I don't want to talk about it.
"Peeta, it's private. I don't ask you about your old masturbation habits, do I?" My whole body flushes at the thought. Whenever Peeta touches himself when we are together, even if it is to stay hard for a moment as we switch positions, it always causes a rush wetness between my legs. It's sexy. An image pops into my head of Peeta rubbing himself to completion, erupting on his stomach and panting with relief; I squeeze my thighs together.
"I'd tell you, though. If you asked, I would tell you."
"Well I'm not asking." I put my foot down. I understand how natural it is, but it's still a little awkward. The last time I used the vibrator was a day or two before Peeta and I had drunken sex and started this whole situation to begin with. It isn't something I need now that I am with Peeta, so there is no need to discuss it. What's past is past. Isn't that what we've been trying to do with our relationship anyway?
"Come on, baby," he coos. Peeta takes a step towards me, his hands landing on my hips, and he bends his knees a little so we are the same height. "It turns me on thinking about you getting yourself off. Fuck, what I wouldn't do to see it in action." He dips his head suddenly and nips at my neck.
"Peeta..." I trail off, not knowing how to respond. Because that actually sounds kind of tempting. I mean, if it turns me on thinking about Peeta touching himself, why wouldn't he feel the same about me?
"I always thought of you, Katniss. Whenever I jacked off, I always imagined I was with you instead." His tongue lashes against my pulse point. "And if I could watch you fuck yourself with that vibrator, I would touch myself and imagine it was me again."
A groan escapes from my lips unexpectedly. Fucking A. This kid in insatiable.
"And after you came, I would lick up all your jui—"
"PEETA! KATNISS! You guys still here?"
I sigh, both angry and happy Prim decided to interrupt. I have a feeling that was going to head in a direction we wouldn't be able to come back from.
"Yeah, we are in the bedroom," I yell back at Prim breathlessly, distracted from our conversation.
Before I know what's happening, Peeta snatches back the vibrator from my hand and takes off down the hall, almost knocking Prim over as she walks through our door.
Shit. That's not going to end well.
Prim looks behind her as Peeta ducks into the hallway bathroom before turning to me. "Why was he in a hurry? Was he going to pee his pants or something?"
I just shrug my shoulders, refusing to answer with words. The truth would traumatize her for life.
I collapse on the bench, utterly exhausted. Prim is shopping machine. I don't know where she got it from exactly, but it's annoying. My heels are throbbing and my hands have dark red marks from the heavy shopping bags I've carried for hours now. I practically throw Prim's bags on the linoleum floor and stretch out on the hard, wooden bench. Prim wanted to try on just one more pair of shoes—but I had to get out of there. She lives in one of the shopping capitals of the world but she wants to go shopping here, too? She's insane.
I pull out my cellphone from my front pocket and see that I don't have any texts or calls from Peeta. He's at the bakery today, working away on his dream. He's hoping to have it up and running in a month. A month. I have no idea how exactly, I know there are about a billion hoops to jump over in order to start a business—especially one with food. But he's a determined little bastard and I have complete faith in him.
Still. I'm worried. I'm trying not to be because Peeta is absolutely capable and he works his ass off, but I'm his girlfriend—and his best friend. Double whammy. That means I have to worry two peoples worth. I want him to have everything he hopes for, but businesses are difficult and time sucking and cost a lot of money. So I'm worried.
I put my phone back into my pocket and release a big breath. He was supposed to text me an hour ago to tell me when he would be home for dinner. Or, more accurately, to make dinner. Prim has the same amount of cooking talent as me: zilch. We can dehydrate deer meat with the best of them, but not a lot else. Unless it involves a camping stove.
"Okay, I'm done. I promise."
Prim plops down next to me and exhales heavily, similar to what I did. But we only stay there for a moment before heading towards the exit. I need to get out of this stupid place. All the giggling and the kids screeching and the snooty sales people that glare at me when I don't buy anything. It has to stop.
We throw Prim's bags into the trunk and hop into car. We drive in silence for a while, just listening to the radio. But Prim breaks in eventually.
"Are you happy, Katniss?" she asks.
I glance at her briefly and see that she's serious, not asking a question on a whim. She's concerned.
"Yes, Prim. Of course. I love Peeta."
She shakes her head. "No, that's not what I'm talking about—not Peeta. Are you happy with your life? The choices you made towards your career and school and everything?"
I think about that for a while, mulling it over. "I mean, yeah. You know it wasn't my first choice. I thought it was going to be music for the longest time. But I had to change my dreams."
I scan through my emails again, but I know I won't find anything. It's a hopeless cause.
Peeta plops down beside me and throws his arm around my shoulders; his fingers rub my bicep in small, comforting circles. And no matter how much that usually relaxes me, it's not working this time.
"Peeta, please," I say shrugging his arm off. I can't handle his support right now—not when everything is falling to shit around me.
"Kitty…" he trails off, hurt obvious in his tone. I've never dismissed him like that, never not let him comfort me since we first broke the ice as friends.
"Just forget it! Leave me alone," I bark, jumping off the couch. Forget comforting me. Forget helping me. Forget pretending that everything will be okay when all of evidence proves that it won't be.
Peeta jumps up too, unable to do anything I ask of him. "Katniss, come on. Don't be like this, everything will be o—"
"Shut up!" I scream. Peeta stares at me, his jaw agape in shock. But his eyes—his eyes aren't shocked. They're full of anger.
"Dammit, Katniss. What the fuck is your problem?!" he shouts back.
Now it's my turn to be stunned. Peeta has never raised his voice at me before. But that feeling only lasts for a second before I'm more pissed than I can even fathom.
"Right now, you are at the top of my problem list, ass-face. Stop being optimistic, stop patronizing me, stop pretending everything is fine! It's not fine! So shut the fuck up!"
Peeta grabs me suddenly and gets right in my face; anger is pouring off him in tsunami sized waves. But still, his grip doesn't hurt at all; it's firm but gentle.
"Don't you dare take this out on me, Katniss. I'm the only one you've got right now," he whispers, his voice menacing, his warm breath skipping across my face.
He releases me just as quickly as he grabbed me and walks out of the room. He slams his bedroom door so hard, I jump.
I fall back onto the couch, suddenly drained. I glance again at my open laptop, but my inbox is still empty. No gig offers. Nothing. And the bills are coming. Not for the house with Peeta—which I know he would pay if needed—but for Prim. For school. For Paris. For her dreams.
But what about mine? I was supposed to make it. I was supposed to be in the two percent that made money with their voice. But I haven't had a show in five months. Even my usual gig was scooped up by another act when I was grieving for my dead father. I have nothing. The money my mother didn't take with her from my father's insurance is all used up, and my shitty job bartending has changed to me busing tables part-time—again because I lost my father and missed so much work. And it's not like my Dad had a savings account for either of us. He figured my mother would take care of everything if he died suddenly. He didn't think that she would become a shell of the woman he loved and run away from her two daughters—one that still needed her support and care and food provided for her.
What do I do?
The anger quickly changes to fear, and I can't help the tears that begin to pour out of me like a faucet. I fall onto my side on the couch and curl up into a ball, my chest jumping and bumping against my knees with every loud sob.
What do I do?
My Dad wanted this. My Dad wanted me to achieve my dreams. He wanted me to be a musician, better than he was; get farther than he ever did. I don't know who I am without music, without my dream. Without my Dad.
What do I do?
Warm, strong arms are unexpectedly around me—and everything feels a little less terrifying. Peeta lifts me up, cradling me like a baby, and sits back down on the couch.
"Shh, Kitty, it's gonna be okay," he whispers into my ear, all of his previous anger gone into thin air.
I don't have the fire in me to tell him he's wrong again. I don't have the fire to do anything anymore. All I do is come home from work, and lay on the couch and watch TV. I haven't made dinner in a four months. Or washed the dishes. Or laundry. Or slept well or cleaned anything or made my bed. Hell, Peeta has to remind me to shower.
I lost my Dad. My hero. And I'm not coping well.
All this living shit is just nonsense when I don't have the one person who always understood me. He was my compass. Without him, I'm wandering through the woods, lost, with no idea what direction I should go.
It could be an hour, or maybe ten, but I finally run out of tears. Peeta isn't in a rush to stop holding me, though. His arms are strong bands, holding me together. He's running the fingers of his right hand up and down my right side, calming me and causing shivers to erupt all over my stomach.
I feel a little stronger in his arms. When I've only been weak and absent for the last few months, feeling stronger isn't just anything. It's kind of everything.
"Look, I don't know if this is going to help you feel better at all, but I found a job for you could apply for," Peeta whispers.
I remove myself from my cloud of despair and meet his eyes. Blue, pure and full of love. "A job?" I croak, my throat dry.
"Yeah. It's at this alternative medicine place, not far from here. It's for an herbalist. I think you could be amazing at it."
A spark of hope erupts in my stomach, causing my frozen bones to unthaw some. "That could be great," I muse aloud.
Peeta removes the hand from my side and brushes my hair behind my ear. "I hope it could make you feel closer to your parents—no matter where they are. At least, that's how I feel when I bake. Like my father is with me, in spirit or whatever. I don't know. I just feel like he knows what I'm doing somehow and approves."
I nod my head, knowing he's right. That's how I've always felt when I sing.
So maybe I won't a professional musician. But maybe this could make me feel something. Not to mention it would help pay the bills.
Prim nods her head, but turns away from me, her gaze to the window.
"Are you happy, Prim?" I ask, now suddenly concerned. Prim has never seemed anything but jovial when it comes to her life in Paris. She has about a million stories that she's will yap about at any minute—and she does. This last two days she's been here the only time she has stopped speaking was when she was asleep.
"I think so," she whispers. "I love it in France—I really do. It's an incredible place to be. But I always wanted to be a doctor. And France isn't the place for that. It's just temporary."
I nod my head in understanding, but my heart hurts for Prim. If she wants to pursue her dreams to be a doctor, she needs to leave the life she has created in France for the last two years. She needs to be back in her small town in a less than six months to graduate high school.
"This is why I came home, actually. I needed to talk to you about this—about everything. I have to be in the U.S. for college, I know that. But I want to be closer to you than across an ocean."
"Okay…" I fade off hesitantly, waiting for her to continue.
"But I got accepted to John Hopkins."
"What!" I scream, almost slamming on the breaks. I mean, I knew she would want to apply for some top tier medical schools, but honestly, I wasn't sure she would get in. Nowadays, it seems as if it's impossible for a low income student to get into somewhere so prestigious.
"I know, I know. It's incredible. But it's so expensive and so far away. I miss you like crazy, Katniss. I don't want to be that far away from the only family I've got anymore."
I nod my head—God, I feel like I've done that a million times today—but that's a school that's hard to pass up.
"So I need your help, your opinion. That's why I'm here," she finishes as we turn down our street.
I park my car in front of the house, and the two of us unload ourselves and Prim's bags. We carry them up the small steps and through the front door. I drop them down next to the couch and plop onto it; my sister follows my lead.
I tug at the end of my braid. "Honestly, Prim, I don't know what to tell you. I can't make this decision for you because it would be selfish of me—and because it's your dream. Not mine. But I want you to achieve your dream, no matter what it takes. Just because I wasn't able to get mine, doesn't mean you shouldn't get yours."
"Okay," she says, but I can tell she wishes I would have given her a better answer. But I can't. This isn't a decision for me to make.
"I would miss you like crazy, though," I say. "I hate being so far away from you. I'd love to have you here—in this house even, if you wanted. But do what you think is best, Prim. Don't let money get in your way. Just focus on what you want."
She leans over the cushion between us and wraps her arms around me. I return her hug, vehemently. I'll miss my sister and the calming, innocent smell of her rose shampoo. But Prim is gonna do what's best for her. And down deep, I know what's best for her is to move away from me again.
Not even a half an hour after Prim and I return from shopping, Peeta walks through the front door.
"Hey, baby," he greets me as he drops his messenger bag on the floor. He leans over the back of the couch and drops a wet kiss on my forehead.
"You never texted," I say.
He removes his windbreaker and throws it on the arm of the couch before coming around and sitting down next to me. Prim is in my old room, trying to shove her new clothes into her suitcase. I guess now she regrets backing so light.
"I know, and I'm sorry. The bakery was crazy today. I was interviewing and sanding and painting and upholstering—it was a lot. But, if it makes you feel any better, I called your favorite Indian place on the drive home. The food should be here within in the hour."
"That does make me feel better," I reply, deciding not to tell him how worried I am. He doesn't need extra stress right now. I can worry myself without worrying him.
Instead, I lean forward and capture his lips. One forehead kiss is not enough after being apart from him for a day, worrying my brains out. His hand lands on the side of my neck and he melts into the kiss, returning it with love and a fire that I've never felt with anyone else but him. I don't know how I stayed with Gale so long, with Peeta right there in front of me the whole time.
He breaks the kiss, breathless. "I have a confession," he says, his blue eyes shining.
"What is that?" I reply, not really focused. That kiss left me a little dazed, and all I want to do is continue it.
"The best part of my day today was that, whenever I got stressed, I thought about you and that pink glittery vibrator."
My eyes bulge out my head. Shit. I was hoping he would never mention that ever again. I mean, I figured he would, but I was hoping that he wouldn't.
"And look, I know we have to be quiet now because Prim will be right across the hall, but baby, please, I have some fucking sexy ideas with that thing. And I would love to do them tonight."
I release a heavy sigh. He's never gonna give this up, is he? It's a fantasy of his. And maybe, yeah, I have to admit that I've thought about it too these last couple of days. Maybe we should try this out.
"Okay," I agree.
His eyes burn at me, no longer hopeful, but aroused. Fuck. This man is so incredibly appetizing. "Really? Are you sure?"
"Yes, Peeta. Let's try it."
He kisses me again, and that fire from before is instantly back, and it engulfs me. His hand are everywhere, caressing everything from my left earlobe to my inner thighs. And my hands are in his hair, tugging at the soft strands.
"Ugh, get a room!"
We break apart and find Prim standing by the couch, her hands on her hips.
"Jeez, when is the honeymoon part of your relationship gonna be over? You guys horny all the time. And so loud about it, too."
"Prim!" I shout, completely mortified that I just heard that word come out of my sister's mouth.
But she just shrugs and heads into the kitchen.
"Okay, we'll have to be really quiet," Peeta whispers in my ear.
I just roll my eyes at the pair of them. These two will be the death of me.