We never really saw each other after the bombs went off. All I know is that he moved to District 2 and I haven't seen him since. But, today, I felt a strange yearning to call him. Just to see how he is doing without me. I hope he's found someone. I think over the pros and cons of calling him and eventually decide I'll call him after lunch. Peeta's made me cheese buns and I gratefully take the plate he hands me as I sit down at the table and dig in. Peeta eventually sits down across from me with his plate and we eat in silence. I'm the first one to break the silence. "I'm thinking of calling Gale," I say nonchalantly. Peeta visibly tenses up as I say this and I worry that he is having one of his episodes. I slowly reach forward and grasp his hand. "Are you okay, Peeta?" I ask, afraid that I might set him off. He looks up and slowly nods.
"I'm fine, Katniss," he says and smiles. "But I really don't think you should call Gale."
"Well, why not?" I ask. "I haven't spoken to him in years, I think it would be nice to hear his voice again." Again, Peeta tenses and I don't think it has anything to do with an episode.
"It's just that it's been six years since you last spoke to him. Who knows what's happened in that time?" he says. I get ready to pounce out of my chair and make a run for the phone, but he seems to anticipate my moves and jumps up just as my feet touch the ground. I try to move around him but he catches me and I squirm around, trying to escape his embrace. After a while I realise my attempts are futile and I melt in his arms, my head on his chest, allowing his heartbeat to soothe me. I eventually look up at Peeta and he kisses me chastely. I burrow my face into his neck and for a second I forget why I even got up in the first place. Then I remember and I take this moment when Peeta is distracted to duck under his arms. He's not expecting this, so it's easy for me to get past him and I know he's right behind me because I can hear his footsteps thudding against the wood in our hallway. I reach the phone but the second I press the phone to my ear Peeta yanks the phone out of my grip, stuffing it down his shirt. I feel like crying because it's so frustrating. Already angry tears are beginning to pool in my eyes.
"Why won't you let me call him?" I demand, trying to yank the phone out from under Peeta's shirt.
"I just don't think that these are the right circumstances to call him under," he replies simply, grabbing one of my hands as it attempts to rip at his shirt.
"What, you mean when we're not in a full-scale rebellion?" I hiss, trying to find any way to get the phone out of Peeta's possession. I've tried everything – ripping at it, sticking my hand up his shirt, tickling him. But Peeta just deflect all of my shots at his chest area and isn't ticklish at all. I stop trying to get the phone out of his reach and press my back against the wall, sliding down it until I'm sitting with my legs out in front of me. Peeta sits down next to me.
"I just don't see why you want to talk to him so badly today," Peeta says, his voice barely above a whisper. I look at him and I can see that something is eating at him, that he is guilty about something.
"I just miss him so much," I reply, tears beginning to stream down my face. "I just want my hunting partner back! You're useless at hunting!" Peeta laughs at this because it's true. After a while he stops chuckling and sighs, turning around to look me fully in the eyes.
"Look, Katniss. I love you and I can't keep this from you any longer. I'm really sorry and this is probably going to be really painful for you. But you can't call Gale because…" Peeta stops at this and I think I already know where this is going, but I hope I'm wrong. "You can't call him because Gale is dead." There it is. Right there. The thing that I had been dreading. The tears are streaming heavily now and Peeta tries to pull me into a hug, but I don't want to be comforted right now. I want to wake up and know that it was just another one of those terrible nightmares. I run out of the house, and once I hit the street, I don't stop running. I run until I'm past the Seam, through the woods and at Gale and mine's little rock. I sit there and I cry, letting the tears pour down my face as I mourn the loss of my hunting partner, my brother, my best friend. By the time I've even considered heading back it's nearly dark. I pull my jacket tighter around my frame and walk, through the forest. About halfway through the forest I hear a voice. A familiar voice. I turn around and see Rue leaping from tree to tree, her four-note tune echoing in the silence.
"Rue?" I ask, not daring to believe it. But it's not the Rue that I knew. This Rue is older. Probably around eighteen. She stops and stares at me before grinning and climbing down her tree.
"Katniss!" she exclaims, bringing me in for a hug. I have no idea what is happening but I don't dare question it, hugging her back and being embraced in her warmth. I feel as if she is shaking me but when I open my eyes again, I'm not in the forest. I look around and notice Peeta is standing over me, clutching the phone to his shoulder and shaking me lightly.
"Katniss, phone's for you," he says, handing me the phone and leaving the room.
"Hello?" I ask groggily as I put the phone against my ear.