Disclaimer: I do not own The Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins is the owner of this amazing trilogy and incredible characters
"The wind is picking up," Gale mutters as we trudge towards the village laden with an abundance of game and berries. I gaze at the afternoon summer sky which has been torn and holed by the wind, a worried golden light casts itself down at all angles, transient, flashing out and then fading. Despite the erratic weather, the woods have so far this year been generous. As a result, Gale and I are able to trade liberally at the Hob and with the merchants in the village. However, on weekdays, and most Saturdays, I hunt and trade alone. Gale's only day off from the coal mines is Sunday, which makes it my favorite day of the week; we get to be together, just us, like old times. I grip tightly onto the warn leather of my game bag as the strong wind thrusts against us, whipping spirals of dust and dirt into our faces. I never did get a job after I left school, didn't seem necessary since hunting was the only real thing I was good at, and I wasn't too bad a trading either. The people in District 12 have come to somewhat rely on my weekly trade of meat and forest fruits and so this has become my main source of income to support Prim and my mother, and also to help Gale and his family.
"I wonder if there's a tornado coming," Gale ponders aloud as I rapidly blink dust from my eyes.
"I hope not," I grumble.
"It is early in the tornado season, maybe we should head back," Gale looks at me earnestly.
"Since we are so close to the bakery, we might as well trade with Mr. Mellark." I point towards the greying shabby building across the road. Gale shrugs undecidedly and I lead him to the back entrance and knock hastily on the worn wooden door; loose strands of my dark hair dance haphazardly across my face. Usually Mr. Mellark, a kind and generous man, greets us, but this time it is one of his sons. I recognize him, not just because we went to the same school, but from a particular incident, an act of kindness, that has forever been imprinted in my memory. Funnily enough, we have never spoken before, or after, he threw me the burnt bread that prevented me, Prim and mother from starving all those years ago. My eyes graze across his right cheek remembering the large welt he brought with him to school. He was not allowed to do what he did, to give bread to a Seam girl, and as a result his mother made him pay for his moment of weakness. He is a merchant and I am from the Seam, consorting in any way is frowned upon, except when it comes to illegal business and trade. Sadly, I realize I don't even know his name. I am taken aback by his bright blue eyes which remind of Prim; they exude the same gentleness and a similar honest warmth. This recognition makes me smile, something I do not often do, especially with strangers, well, if you can call him that. He smiles back and for some reason my stomach jolts with nerves. Gale nudges me and I step forward hesitantly. The wind whistles loudly and I brace myself as a particularly strong gust drives into me like a cattle prod. I feel Gale's hands steady me and I bat them away.
"My dad asked me to wait for you and make the payment," Mr. Mellark's son's voice is raised in order to be heard over the howls of wind. He grabs two large paper bags filled with freshly baked goods, most probably a loaf and a few bread rolls. Gale takes them from him. I had almost forgotten that Gale was there and he looks at me strangely, a discreetly raised eyebrow and the ghost of a smirk contort his usual stony features.
"Give him the squirrels and berries, Catnip," Gale nudges me again, I open my bag and pull out two dead squirrels and a small handkerchief of berries. I pass them to the blue eyed man and our fingers touch causing me to whip my hand back as if I had been burnt by a scorching hot flame. To my relief, the baker's son seems unfazed by my bad manners. At that very moment it dawns on me, as it has many times before, that I never thanked him for the burnt bread and, by the way this exchange is going, his past kindness will remain ostensibly unappreciated. I inwardly berate myself for being so reticent and so inexplicably awkward; not one word has yet passed my lips and I feel terribly uncomfortable.
"Thanks, Katniss," he smiles warmly and nods an acknowledgement to Gale, "My dad will be really pleased with the squirrels." I stare, open mouthed - he knows my name. "I'm Peeta, by the way," he smirks, "My dad did say you were good with a bow and arrow." Peeta looks impressively at the puncture made by my arrow through one of the squirrel's eyes. I feel heat rise into my cheeks, but before I can reply, Mr. Mellark comes running towards us, holding his hat to his head and clutching his coat tightly, fighting against the wind.
"Both of you need to go home immediately! There is a tornado watch, everyone is being told to stay indoors," Mr. Mellark practically barks at us. Gale grips my arm protectively.
"Come on." He begins to direct me away from the bakery. I turn to see Peeta standing at the door, watching us recede. He smiles and waves at me, I shyly wave back and stumble slightly as Gale continues to pull me in the direction of the Seam. After finding my footing, I search again for Peeta, but he has closed the door and I, for the life of me, cannot understand why disappointment twists through me like a raging whirlwind. A loud gust of air pulls me out of my thoughts and Gale's grip tightens on my arm. We don't speak as we hurriedly walk back to the Seam, the wind is too strong and we spend a lot of our time battling against it. We stop outside my house and stand just before the wooden stairs leading up to my porch. "Stay indoors and I'll see you later," he smiles, thrusting one of the paper bags of bread into my arms. I notice the bread inside is still warm. There are no other people about and a loose window shutter clunks and squeaks loudly in time with the wind.
"Stay safe," I shout as Gale walks away. He turns to look at me and smiles, gripping tightly onto his own bag of bread. Gale begins to jog towards his house and I watch until I lose sight of him. I take the wooden stairs quickly and open the rickety front door, knowing that Prim and my mother will be relieved to see me.
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