Chapter 17 - Newlyweds

Light snuck through the wooden planks that made up the walls of the small room. Immediately Katniss knew something was different. She was naked and pressed up against someone's warm flesh. It wasn't Prim.

Then she remembered the previous evening. Peeta. She smiled when she thought about where that warm and curious feeling had led. She moved her arm over his side, resting her hand over his heart to feel its steady, reassuring beat.

He groaned and she pulled her arm away quickly as he rolled onto his back, and then sat up.

"Good morning," he said, his voice hoarse with sleep. He rubbed his eyes.

"Morning," she said shyly. She pulled the blanket up to her neck and wrapped it tightly around her. She could see him smirking at her.

"It's already light. I must have overslept." He leaned down and kissed her cheek. "Better get up, we have bread to bake."

Katniss sat up pulling the blanket close around her. She planned to wait for Peeta to leave before she dressed. She watched him stand up, admiring the strong muscles in his back as he turned away to put his clothes on. Once he was dressed, he turned back to face her.

"Aren't you getting up?" he asked, gathering up her clothes, which had been scattered around the room from the previous evening, and handing them to her.

"Yes," she murmured, her face growing warm.

"Alright then," he said, gruffly, as if he suddenly understood that she didn't want him to see her unclothed in the early morning light. "I'll start the fire," he said, leaving the bakeshop and closing the door behind him.

She dressed quickly, and then folded up the top quilt and bottom blanket and set them on the trunk that held Peeta's clothing. It took longer to comb through her hair because it was in knots. Once it was smooth, she braided it, then pinned it up.

There were already a few miners outside the bakeshop when she exited it. A few hoots and whistles greeted her. She didn't realize Peeta had customers this early in the day. He quickly sold out of the loaves they'd made the previous afternoon.

"Congratulations," one miner greeted her. He was a handsome fellow with hair like bronze and a devilish glint in his eye. "I hear you and Peeta tied the knot."

She nodded, wondering who he was. She looked at Peeta with a puzzled face.

"Katniss, this is Finnick Odair."

She nodded. So this was the Irishman who had taken over Rye and Peeta's tent. She wondered about his Annie. What was the woman going to do all day while Finnick searched for gold? Would she join him at the river, too?

As if reading her mind, Finnick turned to Peeta. "Do you mind if I borrow your wife for a moment, I'd like to introduce her to Annie."

Peeta nodded, while Katniss savored Finnick's description of her as `Peeta's wife.' It had a nice ring to it.

She followed Finnick to the nearby tent. "Annie, we have company," he called out before leading her inside. A thin girl, with a face like an angel, and long wavy brown hair, sat on the ground. She looked nervously at Katniss.

"Hello," Katniss greeted her. She wondered how much English Annie spoke.

Annie nodded toward her.

Finnick introduced the two women and then exited the tent, leaving Katniss in the awkward position of having to start the conversation. She wasn't good at this sort of thing. Besides what could they talk about? It's not like she and a former prostitute would have much in common.

"We're neighbors," she said to Annie. "I live in the bakeshop next door...well, since last night anyways. I got married yesterday to Peeta, the baker."

She wondered if the woman understood a single thing she'd said, but then she noticed her eyes light up.

"You got married yesterday?" Annie asked, a faint accent apparent in her voice. "Is there a priest in this camp then?"

Katniss shook her head. Annie was French. She was probably Catholic. "No, not a priest, a minister. But he's leaving today."

"Has he left yet?" Annie asked.

"I don't know."

Annie stood up. "We need to find him. I want to get married to Finnick," she said passionately. "We cannot continue ...like this," she stopped to wave her arms around the tent, "without being married."

"Come with me then," Katniss said. "He was staying with my cousins. He may still be there."

Annie followed Katniss out of the tent. Finnick and Peeta were drinking coffee and eating. Katniss waved at Peeta and called, "I'll be right back."

On their walk, Annie told Katniss about Peeta's role in raising the money to pay off her debt to Effie.

"Peeta is a good man," Annie said solomnly.

Amazed at Annie's tale, Kantiss nodded, not knowing how to respond. She only knew that if she lived a hundred lifetimes she'd never deserve him.

The two women soon arrived quickly at Katniss' family's campsite. It was late, but everyone was still there eating breakfast. Maybe they had all slept in, too.

"Back so soon Katniss?" Rory called out. "You haven't changed your mind, have you?"

She glared at her cousin, ignoring his comment. "Did Reverend Undersee leave yet?"

Rory shook his head. "He's packing right now."

Katniss hurried to the tent he was sharing with her cousins. "Reverend Undersee," she called out. "Could we speak with you?"

Within a few minutes Katniss and Annie had convinced the preacher to return with them to the outdoor kitchen to perform yet another wedding. When Katniss and Annie arrived with the reverend in tow, Peeta broke out into a big grin and started laughing.

"It's your lucky day Finnick," Peeta said, as the Irishman choked on his coffee.

Katniss thought Finnick's eyes resembled those of prey caught in a snare. He stepped to the side to speak with Annie privately, but no amount of talking could change her mind. The Frenchwoman was determined to become an honest woman and be wed to Finnick Odair.

Eventually he gave in, and Reverend Undersee performed a brief ceremony for the two of them. After the reverend had left to finish his packing, Finnick attempted to sweet talk his new bride back into the tent.

"No," Annie shouted. "Go to the river and find some gold. I want a fine house like Peeta and Katniss."

Finnick glared at Katniss. "Stay away from my wife," he muttered. "She doesn't need to get any more ideas from you."

Katniss laughed. Finnick went inside the tent, grabbed his pan and stomped off to the river.

"Have you eaten yet Annie?" Peeta asked.

"No," she admitted.

"Well sit down, you too Katniss. I'll make you both breakfast."

A short time later, both women were enjoying coffee, bacon, and biscuits. "What are your plans for work?" Katniss asked Annie as they lingered over their coffee.

"I don't know," Annie murmured. "What is there to do here?"

Katniss explained that since the miners were mainly all young men, they needed women to do some of the same tasks their mothers provided for them at home. "Things like laundering their clothes, darning their socks, or baking their bread."

"I am a good seamstress," Annie said softly. "I worked at it in my village in France."

"You should do that, then," Katniss suggested. "My sister also does mending. I can take you to meet her."

She looked back at Peeta who was busy mixing up batches of dough, setting the loaves out to rise on the counter before baking.

"Peeta, I promise I'll be right back," she called. "I'm not trying to get out of working today."

"Take your time," he said as he put a loaf pan into the oven.

She and Annie left to see Prim, but Katniss soon returned alone.

"Where's Annie?" Peeta asked.

"With my sister. Prim had a pile of clothing to mend. Annie offered to help."

Katniss washed her hands in the bucket before grabbing some dough from the mixing bowl and pounding it into the floured counter. "I like her Peeta, she seems nice."

"She's certainly keeping Finnick in line," Peeta joked as he pulled one brown loaf out of the oven and replaced it with an uncooked one.

"I guess so," she said, forming the dough into the shape of a loaf. "Hey, where is Vick today? He still has a job here, doesn't he?"

"Well, not as a chaperone," Peeta laughed. "But he's turning into a fair baker. He came by earlier, but I gave him the day off." He pulled the last bit of dough from the bowl and began to knead it on the flour-dusted tabletop. "Anyway, I need to go to town to see about a bed. Maybe you'd like to go with me."

She turned to nod at him, her face growing even warmer in the sunshine as she thought of sleeping next to him in a bed, of the things they could do in a bed. Her memories of last night seemed like a dream.

He leaned over and kissed her cheek, startling her from her thoughts.

"You sort of drifted off there," Peeta said. "What are you thinking about?"

"You," she said calmly. "In a bed."

He was the one who turned pink now.

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It took nearly six weeks for the new bed to be delivered to Thom's store. It traveled all the way from a store in San Francisco. Thom said it had originally come by ship around Cape Horn. Once it arrived, Thom put it in his wagon and delivered it to Dirty District 12. He helped Peeta set up it up in the tiny living quarters of the bakeshop. It took up nearly the entire room. Once the brass frame was put together and the thin cotton-stuffed mattress placed on top, Katniss quickly made it up.

When Thom finally left, after Peeta gave him a loaf of bread and a meat pie to thank him for delivering it, they closed the door of the living quarters. Although it was mid-afternoon and there was still work to be done, they laid down on it to see if it was comfortable.

Neither of them had slept in a bed since they had left Oregon.

"Oh this is so wonderful," Katniss said. "So much better than the ground."

The bed was small and their bodies were touching as they lay together on their backs. Both of them turned onto their sides to face the other. The shrill squeak of the metal springs that held the mattress in place noted their change of position.

"Thank you Peeta," Katniss said, leaning her head forward to playfully kiss him on the chin. She pulled her head back and he leaned forward to kiss the tip of her nose, before extending his arm around her, pulling her tight to his chest.

As he held her there, Katniss closed her eyes and concentrated on the comfortable feeling of being held in Peeta's arms. Ever since she'd married Peeta, she hadn't been getting much sleep. They were newlywed after all and the time allotted for sleeping was often used for other activities. Not that she was complaining. But she was tired.

About an hour later she woke up with a start. Someone outside was calling for Peeta. She opened her eyes, seeing that he had fallen asleep as well. He was lying on his back, snoring lightly. She tapped his shoulder.

"I think we have a customer," she said, startling him awake.

He sat up and quickly got off of bed, rushing out of the building. Katniss rolled onto her back and stretched. She could hardly wait until this evening. Bedtime with Peeta had become her favorite time of the day. She stood up and smoothed the quilt over the mattress. She was going to find Prim and bring her here to show off the new bed.

By the end of the afternoon, every woman in camp had stopped by to see the new bed and had even stretched out on it for a moment.

"You're so lucky Katniss," Prim said. "Peeta is such a nice husband."

Katniss smiled, knowing that the odds were very much in her favor when she married Peeta.

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Summer had arrived. The weather was hot, making Madge very uncomfortable. She tired easily and complained of dizziness. According to Mrs. Everdeen's calculations, Madge's baby was due in early September, but Madge and Gale were telling everyone that the baby would arrive by the end of October. They hadn't told any family members other than Katniss' mother the truth about the baby's paternity.

But Katniss and Peeta knew. Katniss wondered if her Aunt Hazelle harbored any suspicions as Madge's belly was quite large for a baby not expected until the end of October.

Annie was also expecting. She was in the early stages, though, confined to her tent some days with morning sickness. On the days she felt better, she joined Prim and Madge in their sewing work.

The three women had set up shop in the Everdeen tent. Men would bring their torn clothing, ripped undergarments, and holey socks to them to mend. Occasionally they would get a customer from one of the other mining camps in the area. Annie also brought in additional business outside the camp because she had been trained in France to make lace. While this skill wasn't appreciated by the miners, her former co-workers at the brothel did appreciate it. As a result, Annie designed some custom lace undergarments for some of Effie's girls.

Business was booming for the others, as well. Katniss' mother and her aunt, with Posy's help, spent their days laundering the clothing of nearly every man in camp. They had strung up permanent clotheslines, which were fixed to every tree around their campsite. Uncle Samuel complained about the constant sea of wet clothes flapping in the breeze, but Aunt Hazelle reminded him that she was bringing in more gold than he by washing those wet clothes.

Peeta's bakeshop was also thriving. His was the only business selling food in the camp now. Sae's husband had developed rheumatism standing in the icy river water. The older couple had decided to leave the camp and open a restaurant in town next to Haymitch's saloon. That location would bring them more customers, as the saloon drew in men from the other mining camps in the area.

Dirty District 12 had changed in so many ways and was beginning to more and more resemble a town, and not a campground. A few other miners had erected small wooden houses on the sites where their tents had once stood. Small gardens had been planted. Peeta and Rye had built a chicken coop, and had stocked it with hens. With the addition of fresh eggs, Peeta was able to expand the variety of baked goods he sold.

But the large influx of miners to the camp also meant that the riverbed was mined more quickly. Men had to travel farther downstream to set up their mining operations. Other miners, mostly those from Mexico, had set up camps in the foothills, where Katniss' and Peeta's claim had been located. They used pickaxes to dig shafts up to forty feet deep in search of subterranean veins of gold-bearing quartz.

For the first time since she'd arrived in California, Katniss was content. Her life had taken on a satisfying rhythm. The days were long. She and Peeta rose early and spent the entire day baking. But the work was interrupted constantly by customers who would regale them with stories about their gold finds. They ate dinner most evenings with her family; Peeta contributing some kind of baked item to the meal. Occasionally Katniss would provide the meat after going hunting.

Six days of hard work, but the seventh was a day of rest. One of the miners was the son of a minister and he offered to conduct a weekly service, since Reverend Undersee hadn't returned to the camp yet. But later, after their big meal, there were long walks, picnics with the other married couples, sometimes Katniss and Peeta simply excused themselves to spend the afternoon relaxing in private.

It was hard to believe that she'd ever had regretted coming to California, difficult to believe she had resisted Peeta's affections for so long. She couldn't imagine any other life than the one she was living.

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They left Vick in charge of the bakeshop one August morning so they could go hunting. Katniss wanted to shoot a deer. Peeta wanted to try a new recipe making pies with the roasted venison. They took the horse and cart so they could easily transport the carcass back to the outdoor kitchen.

It was warm already, and judging by the clear blue sky it was bound to get even warmer. Peeta directed the horse toward the foothills. They'd both seen deer in that area previously when hunting, but Katniss had never attempted to shoot at one because she didn't want to drag it all the way back to the camp.

As Katniss and Peeta traveled, they noticed that a few other encampments had been established. More men were flocking to the gold fields, setting up small campsites. Many of these men were not Americans. They had traveled to California from Mexico, or South America, or even China. Most of these men avoided mixing with the American miners because of the prejudices that existed.

As a safety precaution, Peeta steered the horse and cart away from any grouping of tents they saw as they traveled. So he was surprised when he heard someone call out to him.

"Stop amigo," he heard. "Peeta, stop."

He slowed the horse and turned to see who was calling. It was Jaime.

They hadn't seen him since Christmas Eve, since they'd delivered gifts and food to him, his wife Marîa, and son Pepe.

Peeta halted the horse and he and Katniss dismounted to greet him.

"Your little friend, he is gone?" Jaime asked as he looked for Vick.

Peeta nodded. "Katniss and I are married now. We don't need a chaperone anymore."

Jaime laughed and slapped Peeta on the back. "Congratulations my friend."

"How is your family?" Peeta asked.

"We are well. I have a new son," Jaime bragged. "Maria gave birth to Carlos last month."

"Maybe you will have a son soon, too." He smiled at Peeta and glanced at Katniss.

She blushed and shook her head. She wasn't expecting, although it wasn't from lack of trying.

She was surprised to note a wistful look cross Peeta's face when Jaime was speaking, as if he was hoping what Jaime said was true.

Oddly, they had never even discussed having children, despite the fact that two of their friends, Madge and Annie, were expecting. She wasn't opposed to the idea but she wasn't in any hurry either. She was enjoying her time alone with Peeta very much. Being responsible for a child would take away from it.

Peeta continued speaking with Jaime and learned that his family had left their claim during the heavy winter rains and traveled toward the coast to wait out the winter. They'd only recently returned to the area with some Sonoran miners that had formed a group to mine in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

He pointed toward to a small cluster of tents off in the distance. "We live there."

After a while, Jaime said his goodbyes. He was walking to Dirty District 12 for supplies.

It took a long time for them to find a deer and even longer to get it back to camp. The creature was large and heavy. Peeta was strong, he could lift one hundred pound flour sacks with ease, but the deer was much heavier than that. Katniss eventually had to cut the limbs off before they could lift it into the cart. It was hot, sweaty work. When Katniss and Peeta arrived in camp, they were both covered in blood.

They didn't expect to be away from the bakeshop for the entire day and were concerned about how Vick had handled things. But the boy had done a good job. He'd sold most of the bread they'd baked earlier in the day. As soon as they arrived, though, Vick said he wanted to go back to his campsite.

"Something's wrong with Madge's baby," he told them. "It's coming early."

Katniss exchanged a glance with Peeta. The baby was probably fine. It was only a week early at most. But Vick didn't know all that.

"You should go," Peeta said. "And thanks for all your help today."

After the boy had left, Peeta asked Katniss if she wanted to pay Madge a visit.

"No," she said. "My mother will have things under control. Besides we need to take care of the deer right now."

The warm weather meant that the meat would have to be prepared and cooked immediately or it would spoil. It took several hours to dress the deer and cook it. While it was roasting, they took turns washing up in their living quarters.

When they finished bathing, Peeta told Katniss to take a break and visit her friend. "Maybe the baby is already here," he suggested.

The sun was going down as Katniss stopped at her family's campsite. As soon as she arrived, she could sense something wasn't right. For the first time ever, there was no card game going on at the Hawthorne's campfire. Instead Uncle Samuel was sitting at the fire with Vick and Rory. They were talking quietly. The atmosphere was somber, formal almost.

Uncle Samuel got up, and walked over to Katniss. His face was grim. "There were complications," he said. "Madge died." There were tears in his eyes.

A wave of dizziness overcame Katniss. She grabbed at her uncle's arm to steady herself. How could that be even possible? She had been joking with Madge only yesterday over dinner. Her friend had been the very picture of health with her round belly and pink cheeks. Uncle Samuel must be wrong. Very wrong.

"Where's my mother?" she asked sharply.

"Down at their tent," he pointed toward in the direction of the tent where Gale and Madge lived, the tent that had previously belonged to Reverend Undersee.

She turned quickly to leave. Because her uncle must be wrong.

"Katniss," he started, but she ignored him and left. The light was almost gone from the sky now, and the camp was loud with the sound of conversation, laughter, and occasional curses as she made her way down a dirt avenue lined with tents to reach her friend's home.

She'd remembered taking this same walk less than a year earlier when Gale had escorted her to the sick tent when her father had died. The memory of it brought back the same emotions she'd experienced then – fear and hopelessness.

Gale was sitting on the ground outside the tent when she arrived. He was bent over, his head resting in his hands. He was rocking back and forth slightly. Aunt Hazelle was squatting next to him, talking quietly.

As soon as she saw them, her heart skipped. Could Uncle Samuel be right?

She rushed past them and entered the dimly-lit tent. The canvas room was warm and the smell of blood was overwhelming. The air was hot and sticky, and Katniss found herself gasping to breath. She had spent most of her afternoon covered in blood from her kill and it hadn't bothered her much. But this was different.

Her mother's face was drawn. She looked like she had aged at least ten years. Prim was biting her lip to keep from crying, but tears were running down her cheeks. They were dipping rags into a bucket of water. Katniss looked more carefully and saw that they were mopping the blood off the lower part of Madge's body.

No. Uncle Samuel's words suddenly became real. She looked away quickly. It seemed wrong to stare at this sight of her friend. She heard a shrill cry and saw on the other side of the tent that Annie was cradling a baby. The baby was sucking on Posy's extended finger.

The baby, Katniss suddenly remembered. In her thoughts of Madge, she'd forgotten all about the baby. She knelt down next to Annie.

"How is.." she began, but Annie interrupted her. "It's a girl," she whispered. "Her name is Lavinia. Madge named her for her grandmother."

Katniss nodded, looking carefully at the fussy infant.

Annie continued speaking. "She's fine. But she needs to be fed. Finnick and Rye have ridden into town to get some milk from Effie's cows for now, and to see if anyone knows of a nursing mother who would be willing to take the baby on. Do you want to hold her?" Annie held the infant out to Katniss.

Katniss nodded, putting out her arms, but quickly drawing them back. All of a sudden the tent seemed to be spinning. She didn't want to take the baby and drop her.

"I…" she began before everything went black. In the darkness, she heard Prim gasp.

Author's Note: In the mid-nineteenth century one out of every 150 women who gave birth died in the process.

Death can occur in less than two hours after the onset of bleeding associated with childbirth. Anemia is common in pregnancy and women with anemia and heavy bleeding after delivery are at high risk of death.