In the midst the Great Depression eighteen year old Katniss needs a miracle. Her Papa is dead, Mama has just been hauled off to the asylum, soon she'll be evicted, and Prim put into the child's home. WW1 Veteran, Peeta Mellark, offers her the means to save Prim, he offers to be her husband 'in name only'. The only hitch is; Katniss thinks she loves him…
I would like to give my sincerest thanks to kismet4891 and katnissinme for being my betas. Kismet has been in on this from the start and has made me the beautiful fan art.
In Name Only
The sky was clear and a lovely shade of robin's egg blue, the trees were newly freed of their red and orange leaves, which now littered the ground and it may have looked like a beautiful fall day to anyone looking at it from inside of a window. Unless you happened to be outside, as Katniss was, you never would have known was cold it truly was, or perhaps the chills she felt were from the sight she beheld. Her heart raced as she pulled into the drive way. The white truck, emblazoned with 'Panem Co. Insane Asylum' written on the side, was visible to Katniss as it drove through town and she instantly knew that they were headed to her home to collect her mother. Katniss watched in horror while the men in white coats hauled her lethargic mother away, "There was nothing you can do," they told her, "Mrs. Everdeen is a ward of the state." Damned nosy Mrs. Cartwright. The shoemaker's wife thought she was doing her "Christian" duty by reporting Mrs. Everdeen to the insane asylum, but Katniss didn't see it that way. The only thing that made it the situation bearable was that Prim was in school and did not have to witness it. The scene would have been too much for gentle-hearted Prim.
Oh, why did Prim have to be so sweet and honest with everyone? Prim had dutifully told the plump church lady about how her mother had been staring at the wall for the last year, despondent after the death of their father. After all Katniss had only told her not to tell anybody at school, Prim had deducted that anybody else who asked could be told the truth. Katniss did not care so much about her mother being taken away, maybe the doctors there could actually help her snap out of it, because goodness knows that everything her daughters had tried had not. But the thought of Prim being taken to the children's home, did terrified her. Although she had just turned eighteen last May, things did not look good for them. Katniss had consulted a lawyer, Mr. Odair, who had informed her that the state would not give an eighteen-year-old custody of a ten-year-old, the case against her being made worse by the fact that she was behind on rent, and making little to no money. They had no relatives to take her in, they were all suffering from the economic depression, too. Prim could be taken by the county people any moment now.
It was hard to imagine that not so long ago they - her mother, father, Prim, and Katniss- were all happy. Life was good, their farm was thriving, and the Everdeen family was content. Then the market crashed, although they were okay, the mid-west had not been hit as hard as other areas, but still things were difficult. They may not have had much, but they had each other and the farm so they wouldn't starve.
That was until the following fall, when her father had gotten caught in the threshing machine during harvest. Katniss was there and watched on in horror as he was ripped to shreds while he screamed. Despite her age, she had been brave and held tightly to his hand during his last moments on Earth. The farm hands efforts to free him from the works were in vain, and he died grasping his daughter's hand. After the funeral, her mother's last cognizant action was to sell the family farm and livestock to , the biggest landowner in the county, for pennies on the dollar. The money was enough to pay off the creditors, but left nothing to live off of. Mr. Snow was 'generous' enough to allow them to stay in the house, keep some chickens and Prim's nanny goat, as long as rent came in on time. But, he had upped the rent every month and now they were three months behind- they were to be evicted any day now. Katniss had to quit school to work. She worked as a milk maid at Mrs. Sae's Dairy Farm down the road. It was the only job she could find that would allow her to earn money and still be able to care for her family. She walked there every morning before dawn to save on gas, and milked ten Jersey cows by hand. The work was hard. But at least Mrs. Sae and the other farm hands, made it tolerable. Plus Sae gave her all the milk they could drink and a chance to do the evening milking if one of the night girls couldn't show up. After milking, Katniss would walk back home and care for Prim and her mother.
Katniss would take Prim to school, often not having time to clean up properly or change out of her overalls. She would drive their old Model T truck, filled with tradable goods: eggs, goat cheese and vegetables from their large garden, which Katniss reverently tended. After Prim was dropped off Katniss would try to barter, with money practically worthless at the moment bartering kept them fed. Unfortunately a lot of people had the same idea, the market, so to speak, was flooded. The only folks would could afford to give much were the merchants and most of the merchants didn't want to trade with the dirty farm girl who reeked of cows. The Undersees would trade if they had a need, but Mrs. Undersee was stingy, much of her household allowance went to buying "headache" remedies. The Cartwrights would buy, but always wanted to talk about how was doing, so much so that Katniss avoided going there if she could. Both families always thought that they had to report to Katniss about how their daughters were doing; Katniss would have graduated with Madge and Delly, if she had not been forced to drop out. It annoyed Katniss to hear about how Madge was doing in college and she could really have cared less about Delly's upcoming wedding.
Thankfully Katniss had found one person who was will to deal with her fairly, who would not rub their good fortune in her face. The thirty-one year old bachelor baker, Mr. Mellark, had been a friend of her father's. Peeta Mellark was a veteran of the Great War. During his service, he had been caught in an explosion, shrapnel had ripped through his body, leaving a long, jagged scar down his left cheek and leaving his left leg permanently damaged causing him to limp noticeably. He had always been good to Katniss, as a child he indulged her with treats. In the present, he often sent her home with day old baked goods, which Katniss swore were really fresh. Every time she walked into the bakery he would hand her a cup of tea, a cheese bun or another type of treat, and tell her, "Eat this, you're looking too thin." More times than not it would be the only thing she ate until her meager dinner at night. Sometimes he would sit with her and tell her stories about Europe, or discuss books or the upcoming election, taking her mind off her troubles for a little while. His kindness annoyed her at times but she couldn't complain, it would be ungrateful; and she was very grateful for Mr. Mellark. Her father had always said he was one of the best men he ever knew. If Papa had thought so highly of him, then so should she.
There was a knock at the door and Katniss's heart stopped. They're here already? She had assumed that she'd had a few days before they would come to take Prim. Katniss cautiously answered the door when she opened it and was surprised to find the last person she expected. It was not the Sheriff, or people from the county, as anticipated. However, it was a familiar tall, broad man leaning lightly on a cane, with wavy blonde hair, striking blue eyes, and a pale purple scar running down one side of his face.
"Mr. Mellark!?" Katniss exclaimed, taken aback by the sight of Mr. Mellark in his Sunday best suit on her door step. "What are you doing here?"
"Katniss," Mr. Mellark took off his hat. "I have something I want to talk to you about. We don't have much time, and Deputy Darius said that the people from the county will be here this afternoon."
Katniss hesitated for a moment. Her heart sank knowing that Mr. Mellark knew about her troubles, for some reason the thought of him pitying her made her feel sick. She didn't want pity from anyone, least of all him. "Please come in Mr. Mellark." Katniss said shakily and opened the door wide for him and he stepped in and set his cane against the door frame, he did not rely on his cane, but he carried it with him in case his leg started to bother him. Katniss motioned her hand towards the old wing chair in the small parlor for him to sit. She stood before the old fire place and asked. "They're coming for Prim, aren't they?"
Mr. Mellark sat and took a deep breath, "Yes, they are. It would save them a trip to evict you and take her at the same time. Sherriff Thread is nothing, if not efficient." He stopped and looked at her hesitantly. "But I think I know a way that she could be kept with you. I hope you don't mind, but I already took the liberty of speaking to Mr. Odair and he told me about a possible solution to your problem…I tried to find out if there were any other fixes, but none could be found that could help you and Primrose, today."
"What's that?" Katniss was hopeful. The news was unexpectedly welcome.
"First, let me ask you something." He paused, stared at the hat in his hands and fiddled with it. "Do you have a fella?"
"A what?" Katniss questioned, thinking that she'd not heard him right.
"You know - a beau, a sweetheart." Mr. Mellark elaborated.
"No," she said softly, "No I don't. I never have, Papa said no courting until I was eighteen."
"Yes, Harland used to tell me that," Mr. Mellark chuckled a little then caught her eye, and breathed deeply."I know that this will sound crazy…I would ask nothing of you; it would be in name only." He paused and Katniss gave him a look to urge him on. "I-I would be willing to marry you and have you and your sister come live with me."
Katniss turned away from him and grasped on to the mantel of the fireplace simply so she wouldn't risk falling. A marriage proposal, let alone one from Peeta Mellark, was the last thing on her mind when she woke up this morning. The fireplace to which she clung was yet another reminder of how poor they really were, it was chilly outside and they had nothing to burn but old news papers and fallen sticks that she and Prim had collected. If by some miracle they were allowed to stay in the house, they would have no means to heat it come winter.
"And then, when you are old enough, I would help you find a place that would allow to take Prim. Yyou would have more rights at twenty-one, and we could part ways, if that's what you wanted." He paused for a moment to allow his words to sink in. "This is the only way that Finnick and I could think of to keep Prim out of the children's home. I'm well respected, my business is doing well, and no one would meddle with you if you were my wife. I just want to help. It would do my heart good."
The small house was silent. Finally Katniss cleared her throat, trying to dislodge the lump that formed there. She asked with a thick voice, "What is in this for you, Mr. Mellark?"
"My friend's daughters would be safe and I would have some company in my home. My father died a couple years ago and I've been lonely. I just thought that it wouldn't be such a bad deal all around. My house is large and I'm alone most of the time other than Mrs. Seeder, my house keeper and her daughter, and they're only there a few hours a day."
Katniss stayed silent for a few moments. The stillness was deafening. Mr. Mellark thought that he must have totally offended and disgusted her, so he rose and said apologetically, "I'm sorry Miss Everdeen, it was only a thought, I meant nothing by it…I'll be leaving now."
She started to shake as she tried to process everything Mr. Mellark had told her. Could this be real? Would he really marry me only to keep Prim and I together and to provide him with company? If Papa trusted him then I should, too. I can't pass up this opportunity, it could be my only chance to save Prim from the children's home.
Mr. Mellark walked to the door and it was only when he turned the knob that a reply came from the grey-eyed girl. She rushed to him and took his hand in both of hers. "Please," she whispered as she choked back tears, "Mr, Mellark yes, I'll marry you. Please I would do anything to keep Prim with me. I'll cook, I'll clean, I'll work in your bakery. I'd do anything you wanted."
"Kitty," Peeta said gently, as he wiped away her tears and gripped her hand firmly, stressing his point, "I would be happy with your company and nothing more."
"Kitty?" Katniss repeated softly and smiled a little at the nostalgia. He could always make her smile. It took her back to the days when he would give her cookies while he and her father talked politics and philosophy. "You haven't called me that in a long time, Mr. Mellark."
"Please Katniss, call me Peeta." He requested kindly.
"Peeta," she said hesitantly, the name sounded strange in her voice, but she liked the sound and what she said next was not at all forced. "I would like to marry you."
"Alright, we'll do it," he agreed and let go of her hand. "Why don't you go put on a nice dress and we'll go to the Justice of the Peace? It shouldn't take long. Then we can pick Prim up from school. If we hurry we can beat the social workers and Sheriff back here."
Katniss hurriedly washed herself in cold water from the wash basin and put on her one pair of silk stockings that she had not ruined. The only nice dress she owned was her blue gingham church dress. She unbraided her dark hair and twisted into a bun and secured it with bobby pins and pewter combs that had belonged to her grandmother. I should wear a hat, she thought but she did not own any nice ones herself. So she went to her mother's room and opened her wardrobe, which contained three hat boxes. Katniss open the smallest one knowing that it contained her mother's favorite hat. The pink straw saucer hat, it was a birthday gift to her mother several years ago, but it was still in good condition. Katniss put it on her head, set at an angle like her mother used to do, and put a hat pin in to keep it in place. Next, she powdered her face lightly and dabbed on some rose water. She looked at herself in her mother's mirror. Something was missing, gloves. Katniss raided her mother's glove box and pulled a cream knit pair and forced them onto her muscular hands. Milking cows really does give you bigger hands. She located her mother's worn dress coat and gave the room one last look. It was odd to think that her mother was here just a little while ago. Tears pooled in her eyes, this was not how she had envisioned her wedding day, but she fought back her fears and concerns and told herself that she had no other option.
She had always liked Mr. Mellark and had wondered why he never married. Papa had once mentioned a sweetheart who had rejected him upon his return from the war. She had always thought it to be a sad story. Mr. Mellark had so many fine qualities that far out-shined his scars. Although now she was glad he never did marry-no one else would have given her this kind of offer. If she ever was going to marry anyone, a sweet and gentle man like Mr. Mellark would have been at the top of her list.
Sweet Jesus, I'm marrying Peeta Mellark today.
I hope that enjoyed the start. A large portion of this story is already written.
You can follow me and get sneak peeks for this and my other stories by following me on tumblr izzysamson. I'm also now on Ao3.