Despite myself, I can't wipe the smirk off my face from that last comment quickly enough to hide it from Peeta. I ask him what he wants of me and he tells me he wants squirrels of all things!
"What?" He asks through his signature smile from across the table. It is clear that he is just messing with me at this point. Still, not many people can lighten my mood like that once I'm that angry about something.
I shake my head a continue to try, very unsuccessfully, to hold back my smile as I pick up a little more food on my fork. The food really does taste great.
"The food's good." I manage. "Did your dad make it?" I hazard.
He nods. "Yeah. This weekend he wants have us over with your family. He wants to make us a wedding cake and all that." As I watch him, I notice he seems a little shy as he explains. I watch as he takes another bite of his chicken and realize that his plate is still just as full as mine. "I hope you don't mind, but I told him I thought it would be better to put it off for a few days, you know...just until you've have a little more time to get used to-"
"being your wife?" I ask, a mixture of hostility and shyness permeating my voice even though I don't want it to.
The silence that follows is almost as awkward as the silence on the ride from the union post. Still, we both finish our dinners and then I get up to clear the table. I turn the tap on the sink and think of the luxury of having it to wash with without having to pump it or take it from the well. That part of living here...the running water, the front porch, the abundant food...I have to admit is going to be nice. I'm not used to any of it. Peeta immediately gets up as well to help me clean the dishes and, as he washes, I dry them. Then he shows me which cabinets everything goes into. Then there's more awkward silence. It has to be getting time to go to bed here soon...what time was it anyway? I don't see any clock anywhere to help, so I guess around eight by the sunset outside the window. Then I remember the porch I had seen earlier and the two inviting rocking chairs out on it.
"I'm gonna go sit on the porch." I state, halfway testing my bounds of freedom and halfway knowing he won't mind.
He nods and I am out the door. With the screen closed behind me I find I can finally relax. The air out here isn't nearly so suffocating as inside. I sit down in the wooden rocking chair to the right and look out at the chickens picking at the ground. They will need to be put up before we can go to bed. We. Before that word had always meant Prim and I. She is the only one I have ever shared a bed with. She has always been my mission in life. She is like my own baby. What will she do tonight without me when her feet get cold? Will she climb in bed with mom and tuck her little feet under her? Will she freeze? Suddenly I feel guilty for somehow not managing to get her an extra blanket before leaving.
Just as I am trying to work through all of these thoughts, I hear the screen door creak open and a coal oil lamp spill light onto the porch. Without saying a word, Peeta puts the lamp on the hook hanging from the porch ceiling and goes inside again only to return a moment later with two glasses of milk and a plate full of frosted cookies. I know I am probably looking at him like he has a third eye, but I'm not used to being offered an entire glass of milk so casually. Milk comes dearly and I can count on one hand the number of times I have eaten cookies before in my life.
Still, I immediately take advantage of it and nothing goes to waste. "Thanks." I manage in between chewing my second cookie. Besides, if he thinks I am being a pig it is really more his problem than mine. He is the one to pay for me. If I became a fat old bakers wife, that will just be his issue to deal with.
"I'm glad you like them. You know we have plenty to eat here, so you can always take whatever you want."
"Aren't you worried all this stuff is going to make me fat?" I ask casually as I continue to chew.
He laughs a little. "No. In fact I hope you put on a few pounds, I don't like seeing you skin and bone." I know he doesn't mean anything by it, but I can't help getting offended. It's like he's saying I'm not doing good enough for myself and my family. I do the best I can. I hunt and bring in meat that half the town buys on a regular basis. Prim sells cheese from her old nanny goat. We haven't starved yet...but then, I suppose there is a reason I'm in this situation...and, anyways, isn't just me being here like an admission that I can't do it all? Shame over the whole situation washes over me again. I am too skinny, little duck is too skinny, my mother is definitely too skinny, and here I am basically prostituting myself just to feed them both for another year or two.
I haven't even noticed that Peeta has gotten up to put the chickens away until I see him doing it across the yard. He really isn't a bad guy. I could have landed in a far worse situation than this today. Somehow though, the fact that Peeta was the one to buy my papers only made me feel worse. He had basically told me earlier that he had done it to save me and I don't want his pity. I already owed him more than I could repay from the incident with the bread five years ago. I don't want to be his charity case. This whole thing was supposed to be an equal and fair contract. The man gives my family enough money to live on and in return he got me to...to... I couldn't even finish the sentence in my mind. Okay...am I really guilting myself because Peeta didn't plan on taking advantage of me? I must be insane. But still...he had to have given up a lot to do this. He could have had anyone. Any girl from town would have happily agreed to marry him. I let out an involuntary sigh just as he climbs back up onto the porch and smiles at me for seemingly no reason at all. Could he really be this happy that I'm here?
"Well, I don't know about you, but I'm going to turn in. I've got to get to the bakery to start work by five tomorrow."
I nod. "Do you want me to come help? I don't know much about baking, but I could wash dishes or something."
He shakes his head. "I figured you would want to go see your family and assure them that you're still alive. Your sister made me promise about fifty times to be good to you when she was giving me your things earlier. I think she was worried."
"Okay." I follow him up the stairs, feeling more awkward with every step. I know he said he wasn't going to jump me...but if he doesn't, wouldn't that make this charity on his part? When we reach the top I stand awkwardly in the hall behind him. He scratches his neck, looking a bit nervous as well. I feel torn between wanting to punch him in the face and run and kissing him as a thank you for the monumental sacrifice he has made. I honestly can't imagine anyone else being this much of a gentleman. He opens the door to the one of the bedrooms and walks in, leaving the door open and me out in the hallway. I stand awkwardly with no idea what to do. Should I follow him in? Should I ask to sleep in the other room? Should I offer myself in the way I know is expected of someone on their wedding night? I cringe a little at the thought, but how else can I hold up my end of the contract?
He is sitting on the side of the bed facing away from me in the room. I'm still standing just outside of the bedroom as he pulls his shirt off nonchalantly and begins to undress right in front of me. I quickly avert my eyes (nudity is something I've never had a chance to grow comfortable with) but not before catching a glance at his naked back torso. His skin is perfect and so much unlike mine with its light creamy color and smooth, scar free surface. I listen to ruffling clothes as he finishes undressing for the night and gets under the covers.
I continue to stand awkwardly in the hall. Seconds pass that feel like hours. Even more awkwardness. Finally, I turn back to look at him again and see him shirtless as he sits in the bed, lower body under the covers, staring at me as if he can't figure out why I haven't joined him. Like this is normal. Like this isn't the most awkward moment of my entire life up to this point.
"You...uh...you're welcome to sleep in here with me if you want to. I won't force anything on you..." I remain perfectly still and try to remember how to breathe. He seems to sense how uncomfortable I am with this idea. "or you can have the other room. Whatever you're more comfortable-"
Before he even finishes the last bit of his sentence I am in the other room with the door closed and locked. Of course, its pitch dark in here since I ran in so quickly that I didn't think to ask for a lamp or candle. Oh well. I crawl into the bed, once I find it in the dark of the unfamiliar room, with my dress and socks on, only removing my shoes first. Then I spend the night staring at the whitewashed wooden ceiling...sleepless.