For our world's little christmas angels, rest in peace.
Peeta Mellark had been putting finishing touches on all the Christmas cookies that he had each carefully baked into different figurine cut-outs for the holidays. It was a tradition that his father had passed down to him through their family bakery.
This batch of cookies weren't the only ones being delivered to grateful recipients that year. There were many holiday cakes and cookies and loaves of bread, all lined up for the Children's Cancer Centre that he was going to give to, like his father would.
He had also wanted to add toys to the growing list of gifts he was giving to the centre, but those weren't ready yet. Since he discovered in shop class that he wasn't too terrible on the wood saw, he nurtured the notion till he was creating toys out of boring blocks of maple.
He shut the cardboard box-lid gently down and made sure it wouldn't pop open. He then headed towards the back of the room coat-rack and slipped on his thick fleece jacket before placing his old worn Santa hat passed down from many generations ago.
He gathered all the boxes in his arms with his truck keys in between his teeth, and headed out the back door of the bakery.
After he had carefully locked the door behind him, he made the short trek to his old 1983 Chevy truck, a gift passed down from his dad, and he loaded the sweet-filled boxes into the front bench beside him.
After he slid into the driver's seat, he did a quick check for safety and strapped on his seat belt before starting the truck. When the soothing roar of his baby sounded, he pressed on the gas pedal and the tires rolled on down the snow covered alley before he turned onto the main city road filled with its usual congestion.
He turned on the Christmas music that played on the radio and the first song he heard was a jazzy, more modern rendition of Old Lang Syne.
When he arrived at the Cancer Centre, he parked his truck and carried all the boxes inside. He signed in at the Security centre and headed up the elevator to the Children's Cancer ward―from age zero to eighteen. The nurse at the front desk smiled when she saw his face.
"Peeta! You're here! Oh, the children have been waiting for you! They're in the rec room," the nurse said.
"Thanks Effie. Oh, here, have a cookie," Peeta said to the nurse, and placed a box down on the counter.
"Oh you didn't have to, but thank you! I'll pass along the rest of the cookies to the other nurses. Go on ahead now, you know that they love your cookies," Effie said and opened the box before she took a hearty bit out of the cookie.
Peeta smiled and turned the corner. He was a bit nervous, which surprised him. He had known all these children and teens for years since he started to deliver the only baked goods that they could tolerate with their Chemo meds from when he was a little boy with his dad.
Perhaps it was the fact that the most beautiful girl in the world whom he was in love with was at the hospital too, and in that ward.
But she didn't know that he was in love with her.
When he entered the commons room, all the children and teens looked up and were happy to see him. The little children ran up to him and gave him a big hug. His favourite of the little ones was Rue. She had a big imagination. The older kids who were around Peeta's age stood and greeted him―the guys with handshakes and slaps on the back, the girls with hugs, and some of the girls who had crushes on him even dared to give him a quick kiss on the cheek. His face would turn red at that.
But none of them who greeted him were the one he wanted to see the most, Katniss with her striking grey eyes.
He handed out boxes of his cookies which were eagerly passed around and eaten with delighted fervour. He sat with the large group and joined in with their conversations like old pals. Some of the patients were new additions to the group, they all were close and had a special connection.
He found out there was a Christmas pageant being put on at the Hospital by the Children's Cancer Ward and each of the patients would have a part. Peeta was flashbacked to a time when he was a part of the Ward's annual pageant as the angel Gabriel since he looked like an angel with his boyish innocent face.
At a moment when the others were distracted, Peeta snuck away from the group with a goal in his mind. To find his love.
He had memorized the path to get to her room. She didn't get out of her room at all due to her condition, so she didn't talk to many of the other patients.
He got to her room, and all he had to do was turn the corner, but he was frightened. He had never really spoken to her before. He would just give any cookies he'd brought to the nurse to give to her since she couldn't have any visitors. But his time, she was accepting visitors.
He gathered his courage together and gently knocked on her door.
"Hello?" she called out.
His heart leapt at the sound of her voice.
He entered her room. His heart dropped when he saw her. There, the most beautiful girl that he was in love with lay in her hospital bed with the palest face and shallowest eyes. On her head was her usual beanie hat to keep her unfortunate bald head warm.
This was not like the girl he had seen before, eyes filled with life and more humanly looking. But all that didn't change his love for her. In fact, it made his heart hurt for her.
"Um, hi Katniss," he said, unsure of what to say.
"Do I know you?" she asked, and tilted her head slightly to look at him.
"I-I bring the cookies. I'm Peeta," he said, feeling nervous.
"Oh," she said. She looked like she wanted to say more, but thought better of it.
"How are you feeling? I uh, brought you a cookie. I uh, made it myself. I make all the cookies myself. Um, can I help you with anything?" he rambled on, and he mentally kicked himself for ignoring the things he should have said to stop focusing on her pain.
"No. I don't need your pity. I don't need anyone's help. Go away. And take away your stupid cookies too," she suddenly spat, a total difference from her demeanor not two minutes earlier.
Peeta felt shame and guilt fill him. He just ruined his chance of at least making a friend out of Katniss.
"O-okay. I'm sorry for bothering you. But please, keep the cookie. I'm not giving it out of pity. Really, I understand what you're going through. Just keep the cookie. Please. I'll go now. Uh, bye Katniss," he said, and ducked out of her room.
As he left, she had taken a weak bite out of the cookie he gave her with her name written in green icing, and she had to close her eyes. Her whole body was filled with the cookie goodness from the delicious taste of the cookie.
Even though she knew he couldn't hear her, she said weakly, "Thank you Peeta."
Every day Peeta would arrive at the Cancer Centre bearing cookies after daily pageant practices.
He would always try to deliver Katniss a cookie, but her door was closed from witnesses. He got the chance for a glimpse of her and seeing her like she was ate away at him. Vaguely, somewhere in his mind, he knew this wasn't like her usual self. Far from it. It was like she was giving up this battle. Something he wanted her to stop doing.
One day closer before the pageant, the twenty-third to be exact if he remembered correctly, he had gone to see her, even if she didn't want him there. He knocked on her door and opened it. Katniss sat on her bed lethargically. Peeta cringed, and felt her pain.
"What do you want?" she asked harshly.
"I'm here with cookies," he simply replied.
"I told you, I don't want your pity," Katniss said.
"It's not pity, it's a gift," Peeta said, and held out the cookie for her to grab.
She just looked at it.
"Go on," he said.
She narrowed her eyes at him and then snatched away the cookie.
He watched her.
"Don't look at me like that. I have cancer, I'm not some animal at the zoo for all you people who are perfectly healthy to look at," Katniss said defensively.
"I'm not! I don't think of you like that! I never could! I know what you mean," Peeta said.
"How would you know?"
Peeta sat down in a nearby chair. "W-well, because I had cancer too. Same with my dad," he answered.
Katniss almost choked on her cookie, and with help from Peeta patting her back awkwardly, she stopped her choking hacking. "You had cancer?"
He nodded. He unbuttoned the top few buttons on his flannel shirt and moved the fabric of the shirt and undershirt away slightly from where his heart was. There, was a pinkish scar. The only scar that would be given from a shunt for Chemo.
Katniss, in a reverie, leaned forward and lightly brushed the soft pads of her pale and frail fingers against the scar tissue. Peeta's breath slightly caught in his throat.
"How long?" she asked, after she pulled her fingers in an instant when she felt an electrical surge, something he felt as well.
"Six years remission," he answered. "My dad, he didn't make it," Peeta looked down.
"Oh, sorry," she sheepishly said.
"He gave up shortly after he found out. I fought for both of us."
"Oh," Katniss said.
"And I know it's not my place, but I can see you doing the same thing that my father did and I can't stand to see you do this to yourself," Peeta said.
"Why do you care?"
"I-just-um…because. Alright? So, how was the cookie?" he said, and changed the subject.
"It was great. Thank you for it. Um, I need to repay you," Katniss said.
"No, you don't owe me anything. It's what friends do. Can we be friends?"
Katniss seemed surprised at what he said, but what surprised him was that she agreed.
"Alright, friend, what's your favourite colour?" Katniss asked, totally not like her intrapersonal self.
"Orange, you?" he replied, and tried to not let on that he was excited for this conversation.
"Green, and orange? That's a very strong colour," Katniss said intrigued.
" More of a sunset. When I stayed at the hospital during my treatment, my window was on the west wall and so that was a soothing sight to see during my worst periods of the chemo treatment. Why green?" he explained and asked her.
She looked out of her window. "Before cancer, I lived in the country with my mom and my sister. The wilderness was like my second home. I would spend any free time I had in the forest," she said. "It was my dad's favourite place too before he got in a car accident…"
"I'm sorry," he said.
They settled into a comfortable silence before he had to leave.
"Are you coming to the pageant?" she asked.
"Yeah," he said in the doorway. "I'll see you, bye."
When he got home, he ran up the stairs to his art room where all the toys and presents for the Cancer Centre were. There was one present that still needed to be done. And his inspiration had just come during his well-progressed afternoon.
By the time that he had finished her present, it was four o'clock the next day. He hadn't gotten a wink of sleep after he tried to make her present as realistic as he could.
He stood up and stretched his strained, stiff muscles and looked over at the clock in the corner of the room.
He had about half an hour before the pageant would start―wait, was it at four or four thirty? He reached for his phone and checked his calendar. Four o'clock sharp. He cursed under his breath. It was four fifteen.
He ran to his room to change into something different and more dressy for the pageant then drove out to the hospital, hoping to catch the end of the pageant after placing all the presents in his truck.
When he walked in, all the seats were taken so he stood at the back of the room, and looked at the stage. He heard an angelic voice singing a song, one that he knew all too well, one that was played at a few funerals of his friends he met at the Cancer who unfortunately didn't make it. He peered up at the stage, looking for a standing singer, but instead it was Katniss, the girl he loved, in a wheelchair, wearing a fiery dress and singing Angel. If he could love her more than he already did, then he did at that moment.
Katniss had looked up at the audience, braving her fear of stage fright, and even though she had denied it multiple times, she had been hoping to catch Peeta's eye. So when she was nearing the end of her song and saw Peeta watching her like he was in a dream, her suddenly thudded with joy. She didn't know why she had let Peeta affect her so much.
He had finally caught her eye and she caught his. This song was no longer for the pageant but sung for him.
In the arms of the angel,
Fly away from here,
From this dark, cold hotel room,
And the endlessness that you fear.
You are pulled from the wreckage,
Of your silent reverie,
You're in the arms of the angel,
May you find some comfort here.
You're in the arms of the angel,
May you find some comfort here.
He felt a tear pull away from his eye and he saw a matching glistening drop slide on her cheek as well.
The crowd that was silent and mesmerized by her voice stood, as if controlled by a greater force and began a deep clap, which overwhelmed all the senses.
After a moment, Katniss seemed to be frightened and signalled to one of the nurses, Cinna to bring her back to her room. When Peeta saw this, he quickly darted through the crowd to catch up to Katniss and Cinna.
He just made it before the elevator doors began to close.
"Wait, Katniss, wow, you were amazing tonight, and you look beautiful, like you always do," he said breathlessly from his run.
Katniss blushed, a rare occurrence and looked away.
Cinna smiled and when they reached the floor, said, "I'll let you two go on ahead by yourselves. Peeta, I'll take the bag?"
"Sure, but hold on a moment," he said and wheeled Katniss onto the floor.
He fished around for Katniss' present, a dark green rectangle with an orange bow on it, his trademark.
"Alright, thanks. Katniss, here, hold onto this, will ya?" he said, placing the present on her lap.
She looked at him curiously but obliged.
He wheeled her off to her room when she stopped him at one point.
"I don't want to go back yet," she said to him.
"You sure?" he looked surprised and worried.
She nodded and pointed down a hallway on their right.
He turned the chair down there and rolled her down the desolate hall, at one point, pushing her at a fast speed and him riding on the back of the chair. Their laughter rang out in the hall. His heart swelled at the sound of her laughter. He smiled.
"Stop here," she said, and they were at a sunroom, sunset colours lit the room up warm. "It's your sunset, isn't it?"
"Yeah, this wasn't here when I was going for treatment. Wow, it's gorgeous. Come on, I want you to open your present," he said, pointing to the box in her lap.
"I didn't get you anything! I-I'm sorry, I can't have this," she said quickly.
"Stop, I don't care. I made this for you," he insisted.
She hesitated, but carefully undid the wrapping paper.
He pulled out his camera from his pocket and took a snapshot of her face when she saw her gift.
Mixed emotions filled her face. Hints of longing, sadness, shock, happiness, sweetness, joy and much more were revealed.
"I-I don't know what to say! Thank you?" she said, flabbergasted.
In her hands was a painting of the woods where she had grown up in, painted perfectly to every single fir needle on the trees in the painting.
Peeta smiled and chuckled when her eyes lit up. This was the look that she had been missing for a long time.
"How did you know what they looked like?" she asked with a smile.
He chuckled sheepishly. "I may have done some research on your online profile," he said.
She leaned close to him and lightly pressed her blue pale lips against his warm and soft sweet smelling cheek. She surprised herself doing this and Peeta was shocked by it too. His dream come true.
"I love you," he blurt out.
She stared at him in shock as he stared back at her with the same expression.
"You don't have to reciprocate, but I do love you," he repeats.
"You shouldn't love me. Don't love me!"
"What? Why not?"
"Don't love me. I'm not deserving of your love. You deserve to love someone who can love you back! Don't waste your time!" she began to scream.
"Whoa, okay, it's okay, calm down. Forget I even said anything, alright?"
"Take me back to my room please, I suddenly don't feel well," she said.
"If it's because of what I said, don't let it affect you. Don't let it stop us from being friends, Katniss, please?" he pleaded.
"There is just too much excitement for me today; I'm ready for bed," Katniss simply said.
Peeta knew, she was shutting him away.
When he headed out of her room once she was settled on her bed, he looked back and watched her stare at his painting that leaned against her television set.
"Goodnight Katniss, Merry Christmas," he called softly.
Katniss stared at the painting and almost felt Peeta's love radiate off of it like a fire. Then she remembered something that her father told her.
She turned to her window and looked outside. With his blond hair against the snow, the streetlight and the dark sky, she knew it was him down on the sidewalk below. She banged on her window, hoping he would hear her.
He looked up and saw her wave and mouth Merry Christmas. He smiled and waved. It was something, an improvement from her attitude moments ago and he'd take it as an apology.
Katniss sat back in bed. Her heart tingled. She felt the urge to write. She searched for a pen and pad of paper and wrote through the night after Cinna thought she was asleep, and all the while unnoticing the bright star that shone in the cloudy, snowy sky, just outside her window.
On Christmas morning, Peeta felt the need to go to the hospital to go see everyone bright and early, but when his mother made him stay home for the morning, the trip was pushed to the afternoon. And after his extremely relaxful sleep, something he hadn't got in a long time, he decided not to argue with her.
When he walked in, there seemed to be a change in the air, but he didn't notice it. When he greeted Effie, she seemed as if she wanted to say something, but she didn't.
He bounded his way to go see Katniss when he entered her room and stopped short.
Her bed was neatly made, a note was on the bed, along with the painting he had given her.
He looked around, his eyes in question, but the only answers were on that sheet of paper. He picked up the paper and stared at it. Messy scrawl handwriting to him.
I'm not very good with words, so bear with me.
I'm sorry we couldn't say goodbye, but anything that happened was not your fault.
This painting you gave me was amazing, too amazing to be locked away somewhere. I want you to start a gallery at the hospital filled with all of your paintings so everyone can see them and feel at peace. To start off, use my Christmas present. As much as I may have seemed hostile, you are an amazing person and you have made a large impact on my life. That's why I don't deserve you and you shouldn't have spent your your time with me. But I remember something my father said. He said that if you find someone unique who loves you and you love them, then to keep a hold of them. But I can't keep a hold of you. I can't hold you back from a life of your own. So I must let you go. This year, I was lucky to meet you, someone who cared about me; I think of you as my Christmas angel. You definitely look the part. Maybe this calls it even seeing as when we used to go to school together when you were sick, I came to see you. You probably don't remember this. I didn't even remember it until I began to write this letter for you. Thanks Christmas angel. This has been the best Christmas by far. I know that this letter isn't enough, but like I said before, I'm not good with saying things.
I love you, Peeta. I don't know why, I mean, I barely know you, but I do. I'm scared, and I know I have to let you go, and I don't want to, but I will.
He broke down in tears then and there. Katniss was gone. His body racked with sobs. His Katniss was gone. He didn't care that he cried. He cared about his love, gone.
That was her, he thought, she had come to see him during the Christmas that he was sick. At that time, he didn't really know her, and any memories of her were vague due to his Chemo brain.
He thought of her as his Christmas angel.
God, she did love him. The words were right in front of him. How he wished to hear them from her lips.
He lay his forehead on her pillow. There were no traces of her left. He banged his hand on the bed in frustration and pain. He clutched the note in his free hand tightly.
To the day, he swore he felt the presence of a hand on his shoulder that had the same electric feel that Katniss' had. It was possible that his nerves were shot, but when he felt the presence of arms wrapped around his waist, he knew it was Katniss. Because the next thing he heard told him truth.
You're in the arms of the angel,
May you find some comfort here.
Angel by Sarah McLachlan.