How I ever mustered the courage, I'll never know exactly. All I know is my heart felt something when we were standing there. My heart said to kiss him. It practically begged for me to kiss him. So without fretting over it, I reached out, gave a gentle tug on both his hands to pull him down where I could reach him and then standing on tip-toes, I very quickly kissed him.
It wasn't until I was standing flat on the ground again that nervousness found me and a full swarm of butterflies made a home in my stomach. I stood there like an idiot, staring at him, blushing and feeling extremely vulnerable. He stood there, staring at me for a split second himself, his dark eyes full of mystery and excitement. And then I felt his hands on either side of my face and he leaned in to kiss me again.
"You have no idea how long I've been waiting to kiss you again." He says in near whisper as he pulls back, his hands now finding mine.
And I'm sort of at a loss for words. That floaty feeling I felt after our library date is back, consuming me once again and stealing my words, my thoughts. All I can do is stand here blushing.
"You okay?" He asks, worry tinged in his voice.
Geez, say something Madge, you're freaking him out. "I'm okay." I manage to squeak out.
He stares at me for a few seconds then offers up a smile. "Well good. How about we go have that breakfast then?" He asks giving his head a nod towards the stairs.
"Sounds good." I tell him as he leads me up the stairs.
As we walk, it's quiet but in a good way. I can't believe how kissing him just made me feel. I can't believe I was just sharing a kiss with Gale Hawthorne. Me, kissing Gale. And it was utterly amazing. Nothing like kissing Tripp. Not even close. This, yes this felt like more than just a kiss.
I mumble something about having something to do before breakfast and leave before I completely crumble in front of them. Really, I had nothing to do. So I went back to my living quarters and flopped down on my bed. What the hell happened? Where had it all gone wrong? I have a great date with her, baking a pie and having a great conversation. I walk her home, kiss her goodnight. Come back the next morning and find her and Hawthorne exiting her place. Together. While holding hands. How'd he do it? How did he steal her all over again? What'd I miss? She was falling for me this time! Me dammit! I punch the flimsy mattress with my fist and throw my pillow at the wall. What is it that she sees in him that she can't see in me?
I lay here sulking for as long as I can before I have to go to work. If Marah was here, I'd get her to switch shifts with me today because the last thing I want right now is to go scrub dishes next to a gloating Gale Hawthorne. But Marah's gone and I have no clue when she'll be back so I have no other choice.
In the kitchen, I find Hawthorne already busy scrubbing away. I put on my apron and grab a dish towel to start drying. I don't say anything as I walk up. Just pick up a tray and start wiping it down.
"Just for the record, it wasn't what it probably looked like." He finally says quietly without looking at me. I don't know if this is his way of flaunting it or if he's throwing me a bone. Either way, it pisses me off.
"Wasn't you coming out of her place holding hands and stealing her all over again?" I spit out at him angrily. I know exactly what I saw this morning.
"Stealing her?" He echos, his own voice sounding angry now.
"Yeah, stealing her. Everytime I get close to her, you waltz in with your damn good looks and your charm and sweep her right off her feet. We had a great date last night. A great one. And then somehow you managed to make her forget about that and now you've got her wrapped up in your little hand all over again."
"Let's get this straight. I'm not stealing anyone. Madge is my wife. And I think it's fair to say I've been way more easygoing about all of this than I had to be. You think I don't know what you've been doing? You think I'm too stupid to see you making your little moves on her? And I know all about your date last night. The kiss too. But you're outta your sleezy little mind if you think for one second that I'm gonna sit back and just let you have her. I'm gonna let her decide and I know she'll pick me."
"You don't deserve her!"
"Nope. I don't. Never did. But that doesn't mean she won't love me. What I had with her, I'll find it again. We will find it again. In time, she'll come back to me, heart and soul. And I won't have to fight you for her. I won't have to pull any stunts. Her heart will remember me. She'll remember us." He tells me with a confidence that's almost unnerving.
"Yeah? We'll see about that." I tell him, faking what confidence I can. I can't be here. I throw down my dishtowel and I get the hell out of there without looking back.
I'm halfway back home when I run into Madge. Fabulous. Just freaking fabulous.
"Hi." I say not really making eye contact with her.
"You not working today?" She asks.
"I was but I left."
"Oh. Well, what are you doing now?"
"Going home." I tell her. I feel angry with her but I know that isn't fair.
"Maybe I could come with you? I'd like to talk with you about last night." She asks gingerly.
"Sure. Come on." I tell her with a sigh. She follows me back to my place and thankfully, my family's still out so we can talk in private.
Once we're in my room, she sits down on Marah's bed, I sit on mine. "So talk." I tell her, my voice still a little angry.
"Well, I think it's safe to say you surprised me with that goodnight kiss last night." She begins.
I shrug. "And you wish it hadn't happened?" I ask.
"Yes and no. What I really wish is that I knew how I felt about you and how you felt about me. I've been desperately trying to figure out where I belong, be that with you or with Gale or no one at all and honestly, I'm just starting to figure it out."
"You want to know how I feel about you? I'm crazy about you! Head over heels in love with you! I have been for as long as I can remember! I volunteered as tribute because I love you so much!" I boldly tell her as hot tears form in my eyes.
"Oh Tripp…you put yourself in the games for me?" She gasps and covers her mouth with her hand.
I shake my head. "You knew that. Before your memory loss."
"Did I know that you loved me?"
"Not until we were leaving for the games."
"Tripp, I don't know what to say…"
"Just be honest with me. Tell me how you feel about. I mean, am I wasting my time trying to get you to love me back?"
She moves over to sit next to me. I can see it on her face though, this won't end well for me. He's already got her heart.
"Tripp, I can tell you that I love so many things about you but I don't think you're the person I'm meant to be with forever. Not in that way." She says as she gently places her hand on my arm.
"But how can you be sure? You can't even remember him yet you think you're meant to be with him? We could have something really great together, you and me, I know we could."
"I don't know how to explain it. I don't know how to make sense of it. All I know is that when I'm with him, my heart feels something different, something deeper. And I know this isn't what you wanted to hear at all and I'm so sorry."
I shrug and shake my head. I knew it. I knew it was over the minute I saw her holding Gale's hand this morning. I think that's why I was so angry seeing them together this morning. Because it brought the realization that memory or no memory, I'm always going to come in second. I'll never be the person she loves most. And now, having her confirm it just seals it all up.
"No, it is what it is. I understand. I appreciate your honesty. But if you don't mind, I think I just want to be alone right now." I tell her, not looking up, not wanting to see her blue eyes right now. Not wanting her to see the tears that are coming.
"I'm so sorry Tripp." She says again. Her voice is genuine and she leaves without another word.
When I get off work, which is later than usual thanks to Tripp skipping out mid-shift, I find Madge waiting for me in the stairwell. Sitting cross-legged on the bottom step, smile on her gorgeous face. Just the sight of her sitting here, waiting on me, makes my stomach flip flop.
"Hey! I've been waiting for you." She greets me as she hops to her feet.
"You could've come back to the kitchen. Didn't have to sit out here by yourself."
"Nah, I didn't want to distract you. Besides, I don't mind sitting out here by myself. Makes for good thinking time."
"And what might you be thinking about?" I ask her with a teasingly raised brow.
"Just stuff." She teases back. I love how she's getting more and more comfortable around me now. Like she just needed to relax and be herself and then it's as if everything else is starting to fall into place.
"Well, what are you up too now?" I ask. I realize she was waiting for me but we didn't have specific plans or anything and I'm not sure what she'd like to do.
"Just thought we could hang out for a bit before dinner. Nothing in particular." She shrugs as we make our way up the stairs.
She seems comfortable so I reach over and take her hand. She smiles up at me, biting her bottom lip. And it feels like I can breathe again. I have a chance. She's letting me back into her life. I couldn't possibly be happier about it. Short of her getting her memory back, this is the best thing that could be happening.
"Okay. Well, we could go visit my family. Or Peeta and Katniss maybe. Or maybe go back to the library if you want."
"I've got a better idea." She tells me with a grin.
"Yeah." She says very matter of factly.
I laugh. "You planning on clueing me in?"
"I was thinking about it."
"Well, lead the way." I say with a smile, giving in to the fight to know what it is we're doing.
We walk for a while, quietly. Occasionally stealing looks at one another. Trading smiles. Hands folded tightly together. When we stop, it's in the agriculture center. They have a whole area of trees, bushes and all these benches you can sit on and little pathways. On the tour I took in orientation, they said it's called a park. I have no idea how they managed to grow all this underground but they did. Ever since the tour, I'd been meaning to come back over here but never got around to it.
"The park?" I ask.
"Thought you'd like it. Close as I could get you to the woods. Figured you went to all that trouble to take me to the library, the least I could do was bring you here, let you get a little dose of nature. I know it isn't nearly as spectacular as the woods must be but I was thinking that if you were to close your eyes and inhale, it would be kind of similar." She starts rambling as if she's afraid I don't like it.
"Madge, stop. I love it." I tell her softly as I sit down on one of the benches and pat the spot next to me for her to sit down.
"I also brought you here for another reason. I wanted to tell you something. Something important." She begins as she takes a deep breath.
"I'm listening." I tell her as I take her hand in mine again. Why does she look nervous all of a sudden I wonder?
"I went to talk to Tripp today. I wanted to tell him that I didn't think he was the person I was meant to be with."
"How'd that go?" I ask as I swallow a lump in my throat. Please let her be about to say what I think she's about to say. Please let her say she's chosen me.
"It wasn't fun and it certainly wasn't easy, but it was necessary. You see, I don't want to continue wavering between the two of you, wondering whom I want to be with. I've made up my mind. I want to be with you, Gale."
"You do?" I ask as it really sinks in what she just said to me.
"Mmhmm. I do. Now, I don't have my memory back yet and a lot of this feels very new for me so I will need you to be patient with me at times, but I do want this. I want you."
I lean over and kiss her softly. Once, lightly on the lips. "I'm really glad you chose me." I whisper.
"Me too." She whispers back.
I pull her a little closer to me and kiss her again, our fingers intertwined. She chose me. I feared she wouldn't. Hoped, pleaded and prayed that she would. And she did. Someway, somehow, she found a way back to me. And I can't wait to make her fall in love with me all over again.
A/N: Well, there you have it. Thanks to all my readers for reading along with this short story and for all your input along the way! You guys are the biggest part of what makes all this writing so enjoyable, so thank you for that!