Disclaimer: I do not own the Hunger Games

This is an AU fic that I just have to write, so enjoy. I can't seem to move forward with Gladiolus, not until I've finished this thing.


Don't worry, Gladiolus is still a go!


"Katniss, move!" the shout has me scrambling out of the way. The ball bounces off to the side.

We're playing dodgeball and at present, the only one left standing from the red team is me. Gym is a real hassle but I find myself enjoying stuff like these as long as I get to piss off the other team.

I'm currently in my junior year, 16 years old and attending the local high school here in Greencove. Greencove is a remote area down south with rows and hectares of greenery whether its grass or trees or rows of other shrubs, we have it. That's partially why its called Greencove.

Most of the class wanted to get away from here. They wanted something more fabulous, more advanced technologically, and just some place where cows don't override the number of residents. But that's Greencove for you.

I mean the iPad is already in its fourth generation before it was introduced here and even then, the locals wanted nothing to do with it. Microwave was just recently introduced but heating up a meal still means using the stove. Digital music is better downloaded online but vinyl records sounds much better. Besides, its not like we have great internet connection this south of nowhere.

Yet, despite the small size and equally small-minded residents, I can't see myself leaving this place. When I was thirteen years old, my parents took me and my little sister to the city for a movie that I was dying to see and the hussle and bussle was so overwhelming that we found ourselves heading back to our quaint little house in Greencove. This was after spending two hours waiting in line for a movie ticket, an hour waiting in line for the ladies room, and another hour waiting in line of the food court.

That's the summary of our great adventure, waiting in line. And I called my summer essay as such. I got an A because my teacher said that nothing good comes from the big city, better to just stick to your own here in Greencove.

And so I did and nothing can convince me otherwise. I'm dating a great guy, his name's Peeta and he's had a crush on me since I was young. He confessed during Home Economics. He baked a big batch of cookies and on the side presented the whole class with this big cake with the icing exquisitely written, "Will you go out with me? Please?"

All the girls ooowed and aaawed, cheering me to accept. I did because Peeta has always been nice to me. Their family owns the local bakery and he's been helping out his dad in the kitchen since he was four years old. His mother's a verified witch, though and she never liked me.

The blue ball comes towards my form yet again, I dodge to the side. I only need to hold off for five more minutes and we'll get an automatic A in Gym.

Blue team scowls at me and I throw a smirk in their direction. The opposing team is mostly filled with the popular kids, those a bit more financially higher than us because their daddies have their own farm while my dad is simply the head foreman for the family that rarely visits their plantation in Greencove; the biggest one, which is called Greenbrier.

Doesn't matter that my dad brings him home almost as much dough as them and manages acres of land ten times bigger than theirs; all that actually matters is that he doesn't own it.

Nonetheless, he's not really affected and so neither should his family. As I think this, I jump high to avoid the ball hitting my feet. Glimmer's getting frustrated and is now stomping her feet in irritation. She passes the ball to Marvel who winks at me before hurling it fast.

Moving only slightly to the side, I avoid the ball with a mere centimeters to spare. Before they have a chance to puck another one over to me, the coach blows his whistle.

It's over. The red team screeches and jumps at me to congratulate our success while the blue team continues to scowl. As I look, I see Clove frowning at me for a minute and then winks fast so as not to be seen.

Clove is a good friend of mine and has been the class know-it-all. She's only 15 years old but since she's really smart, she got to skip a grade. Peeta doesn't like her for some reason, saying that no girl should be such a smartass.

I just think she's fun and really too good for these losers.

If Clove was fierce, Madge is the opposite. She's the Mayor's only daughter and was spoiled to death by her parents. Leading a sheltered life made her more insecure when confronted with other people, otherwise she's cool.

The last of the group is Gale. Gale is the head football captain and is also the quarterback. All the girls wanted him despite his rather depressed family circumstance. His father's a drunkard who died early, leaving their mother to care for his two other siblings. His mother works as the maid and was rumored to be promoted to head housekeeper in Greenbrier.

It seems a bit old fashioned but being a maid is a really tough job and besides, it pays well. Gale should be proud of her.

But he's not.

Gale doesn't want to be reminded of it. He's too proud for his own good and as soon as he graduates, he's heading straight for the city. Or so he says. I'm not so sure he'll enjoy it, though.

I shrug, what do I care?

"Hey, Katniss, Gale's been staring at you again during gym." Clove says while taking off her gym clothes. "Seriously, he should just ask you out… it's getting pretty creepy"

"He doesn't like me Clove, he's just a friend. A protective one at that. He's like the overbearing brother than you never wanted to have"

"Oh please, if my brother stared at me like that, I'll be calling child services along with Dr. Phil" she scoffs

I look at her weirdly, shaking my head. Never really know what will come out of this girl. Her brother's name is Carlton and he's twice her size but has half her guts. Their the most awkward twins that you can imagine.

Back in primary school, they use to tease her that they came from different fathers but one tongue lashing from the small nasty brunette has all of them retreating fast. No one can actually match Clove's wit around here. Even the teachers are wary of her.

I just shrug my shoulders in response.

She looks at me in exasperation, "Seriously, do you not know how many boys out there are trying to get your attention?"

"What are you talking about?" I untangle my braid and step into the shower.

"I mean, that almost all the guys during gym weren't really staring at the ball. They were staring at you!"

"Of course, they're staring at me, I'm the one that got them an easy A in gym class"

Shaking her head in disappointment, she looks at me pityingly, "Oh, you poor dear. Must be nice in that bubble that you're constantly living in"

"I'm not living in any bubble, Clove, I'm just stating the most obvious and logical reason for the stares."

"I bet Peeta notices…" And she goes on, despite my protests. This is the thing that always irritates me. People around here say that I'm oblivious but I'm not, seriously. So what if the people in the market always hands me more meat? They're good friends with my dad. And so what, if I get a discount in the local theater? I was the only one who talks to the pimple-faced guy on the other side of the ticket booth.

Clove and Madge always says that I'm oblivious to a fault and every time they point it out, Peeta gets irritated and hurt. I don't know why.

"You don't notice it but he does. Peeta isn't as oblivious as you, he knows that once he takes his eyes off you, that the next suitor is just waiting around the corner."

"He shouldn't, I mean, we've been together for two years now, there's no reason for him to be that insecure!"

"Well, you're growing up looking like that and he's not really getting any taller."

I clamp my hand over her mouth, horrified, that was one of the more sore points in our relationship. Two years prior, I was smaller than Peeta by a couple of inches but then my period started and my growth hormones worked overtime that before long, I''ve reached a sturdy 5'7 and closing in to 5'8 in height. Unfortunately, Peeta's puberty didn't grant him the same hormones, he stayed at around 5'6 or 5'7.

This didn't bother me and to me, it hardly matters but it does to him especially since it's the main topic of ridicule when it comes to us; our height difference. I always take care not to wear heals when around him, otherwise, I'd just tower over him and if that's not awkward enough, try kissing or dancing with your girlfriend who's three to four inches above you.

I don't really mind because I prefer wearing my hunting boots. That's also one of the main reasons why I'm staying in Greencove; the hunting grounds. It's a passion of mine, I'm the captain of the archery team despite being only in my junior year and we've been state champions for three years running.

Greenbrier is filled with it and the hunting grounds there is abundant. We usually shoot stray wolves attacking the herd and chickens.

Stepping off the girl's locker room, I trod off the school grounds, smiling brightly in seeing Peeta at the school steps.

A peck on the lips and we're off. Aside from his height, Peeta also looks very strong, years of kneading dough made his arms something to be reckoned with. He has warm blue eyes and dirty blonde hair. Signature features of the Mellark boys.

Peeta is the youngest of five brothers and all of them are named after breads. Appam 'sweet bun' is the oldest, the second is Bammy 'flat bread,' the middle child and most volatile is aptly named Bolan 'Bolani' a bread stuffed with a variety of ingredients. Then there's Dose 'Dosa,' the most boring brother of all, he makes the loaf and wheat breads.

And then there's Peeta who likes baking and decorating cakes. He's also their father's favorite but who could blame him? Peeta is hands down the most down-to-earth and gentle boy around Greencove. He's the kind that helps old ladies cross the streets and retrieves pet cats from trees. Even his brothers love him most.

And as such, he gets to drive heir delivery truck to and from school. Some would call that cheap but transport is transport whether it's a chrome colored truck or a beat down delivery vehicle.

Besides, it has plenty of room for me to stash my bicycle. Bicycling and Greencove go hand in hand because short cuts are too rough for the ordinary tire, so its better to just take a the two-wheel drive aka 'bicycle' and Greenbrier is on the other side of the county so I usually go by the fields.

"Are we still on for tonight, Katniss?" Peeta asks. It's Friday night and he's been wanting to go out with his friends. Unlike me, he has friends everywhere, from the artsy group to the popular crowd. He's famous that way.

I shrug. "If you're still up for it, then I'm game."

He nods happily and drives towards the entrance of Greenbrier. However, on the outskirts, we found dozen of moving trucks going into the plantation.

"Are you guys harvesting early?" He asks nodding his head towards the number of trucks heading in.

Shaking my head, I look wide-eyed as a black stretched limousine actually goes in. What the hell?

"Wow, is that what I think it is?"

"If it's a limousine, then you're right on the money." Limousines are like fairy carriages here, no one's seen one, only in movies.

"I better go in… rain check on that hang out?" I look at him in apology, I know how much he wants me to get along with people more, but in this case, I'm actually grateful for the distraction.

I love Greencove but sometimes, nothing ever happens here.

Pecking him on the lips, I jump down from his truck. He helps me bring down my bike and before long, I'm peddling towards the main house.

When I get to my house, I see my mother and Prim outside, likewise, looking at the crates arriving in the main house.

House… I scoff, what a joke. The place is a mansion. Southern mansions usually have a wrap around porch with front columns as foundations, similar to Gone with the Wind. However, this mansion is different.

They say that it's just the vacation house of the Greenbrier owners; the Thurstons. Rumor has it that it's not even as big as their other houses throughout Panem but locals who met the family say that it was the most well-loved.

The Thurstons don't visit much but they always made sure that Greenbrier house is well tended. Furniture are constantly replaced and the gardens are always well kept with a gardener on the main grounds.

"What's happening, Mom?" I asked breathlessly.

"They're moving in…"

"What!?" I was astonished, the family owners are only ever here for a week or two and even then, it's only to look at accounts and see to the fields. Thurstons are a rich sort—the old money kind—and their main business isn't even agriculture, it's industry.

The Senior Thurston is an industrialist. They're hotel chains, factories, and even consumer electronics.

They're like royal family in Panem and now, they're moving in Greencove? Why the hell for?

Seeing my expression, she hurries to explain. "It's just their son… they say that he wants to be close to Greenbrier because his mother loves this place."

"Mrs. Thurston's dead?" I ask, surprised, simultaneously feeling remorse and sympathy for my thoughts of for their son.

My mom nods somberly, "I'm just hearing it now, you know how slow news comes in here… it was cancer. There was nothing that they could've done"

What she means is, nothing money could've done. Despite technological advances and the billions of money that the Thurston family has to back them up, life is still something too expensive to be bought.

"Is he there now?"

"Yes, he just came in carrying his mother's ashes, he wants to scatter it here."

Prim sniffs a bit, looking infinitely too sad of someone she's not really related to, but my little sister's like that. She feels sympathy even for the wild wolves that we shoot. She's already adopted a goat, an ugly cat, and is now petitioning our parents for an old horse that was retired from the stables.

"But why does he need to stay here?" Before the whole question is uttered, I already see my mother looking at me, reprimanding.

"Because he misses her and this is the closest he can be with her…" My mother shakes her head to me, I guess what I said is another faux pas.

Bending my head, I feel my face heat up...

"He'll be starting school in your high school on Monday, try to be friendly and show him around."

"What!? He's still in high school?" I thought that the Thurston heir is already an adult, but I guess I never really saw him visiting.

Nonetheless, since I still feel embarrassed for my tactless question earlier, I just nod in compliance.

Going inside our small house, I see Prim following closely. "Katniss, what do you think he's like?"


"Their son?"

"Haven't really met him, Prim but really what does a boy who's a billionaire look like?... Probably, spoiled like hell." I smirk when I see her scowling, "Oh don't look at me like that, come here…"

She goes over to me and I hug her "I think he's handsome, I once saw a painting over the fireplace in the main house of a small boy and he looks really cute!"

I snigger, "You're entirely too young to be thinking those things" Ruffling her hair, I go up to my room. It's small but it gives the best view of the forest.

Changing into my hunting gear, I go back down, yelling a hasty goodbye to my mom and dad, who just came in.

"Gale! What the hell are you doing? I could've shot you!"

He just smirks back and languidly leans over a tree, the bark of which has an arrow sticking out of it. "What? No greeting? I thought that you're gonna be joining the greeting wagon."

"What do you mean?"

Rolling his eyes at me, "You know, to greet the Thurston heir… my mom and siblings are there now, doting on him" He spats out the last few words in contempt. Gale hates people being higher than him, unfortunately, the Thurston heir is something that he won't be able to beat in that category no matter how much he might want to.

"It's only normal, your mom's gonna be the head housekeeper soon, being in good terms with the owner is kind of a pre-requisite."

"Kissing ass, you mean? No thanks"

"You better adjust that attitude, he's going to be attending with us in this school"

"What! Why the fuck for?"

"That's his business" I'm getting really irritated with Gale now, this constant feeling of competition whenever a new resident comes in has to stop. Doesn't he know that he's going to be encountering hundreds of new faces when he gets out of Greencove? "Let's just hunt, okay? I'm not in the mood for another one of your rants."

We go about our business in silence after that, I was able to shoot a stray wolf that's been dragging the carcass of a cow across the field while Gale keeps a running commentary on how unfair it is in society that there's such a wide gap between the rich and poor.

In other words; he's envious and threatened that this new boy will be reining in as the new king of our high school.

It was a definite possibility.

I guess if I prize public adoration as much as him, I'd be worried too.

By nightfall, I felt more exhausted because of Gale's general hatred for rich people than the actual hunting. I'm pleased to see him go.

Crawling towards my bed by midnight, I surrender to blissful sleep.

I never caught a glimpse of the new resident but it seems that Prim did and she couldn't stop talking about how tall, or how handsome, how generous, and all other great adjectives she can think of, all throughout the weekend.

It turns out that after I went out to hunt, the Thurston heir stopped by our house to eat dinner getting to know the youngest Everdeen and my parents.

Prim wouldn't stop praising him even on our way to school, Peeta looks like he's suffering indigestion when she went on to describe in great detail the physique he has, which is turning out more and more like a greek god.

By the time we arrived to school grounds, she announced quite loudly that he's the perfect embodiment of the Michealangelo's David that they're currently researching for their arts project.

Me and Peeta are glad to wave her in… as the door closes, both of us bursts out laughing.

"I think someone has a little crush?" He quirks his eyebrow at me.

"If that's little, I don't want to see how she looks like when in love"

"If you're anything to go on, she'll still look beautiful…" He says softly, I smile a bit uncertainly. True, we've said the three words, but assuming that I'm in love with him is stretching it. That's stupid, I know, but 'I love you' and 'in love' is different in my dictionary.

The corridor of the high school is buzzing with activity, it seems that news of the Thurston heir has reached the gossip column of our esteemed alma matter. Clove and Madge waves at me wildly.

"What's up?"

"What do you mean, what's up? We just heard that the Thurston heir is shacking up at that mansion! Did you meet him?"

I shake my head in negation, "He met my parents and Prim but I was out at the time, but Prim did say that he's the most beautiful boy that she's ever seen…"

They squeal. Well, Madge does but Clove just raises an eyebrow. "This might just be what we need to spice up this place, seriously, it's getting so boring that I'm growing roots while sitting in the classroom."

"Is it true that he's here to stay?" I look at Madge and nod once, not offering any more explanation, saying that he's here because he's grieving is too intimate, if he wants it known, he'll say it himself.

Hearing the bell ring, we go to our first class, which just turns out to be calculus. I groan, it's too early to torture myself with numbers.

Sitting down beside Clove, we see Gale striding in with a new girl under his arms. Peeta follows and smiles at me, going to his seat behind me.

The teacher strides in and he's wearing his own version of a uniform, a polo buttoned up to his neck and corduroys. His overly large glasses perched precariously over his bulbous nose. Our math teacher is a stout man with a bulging stomach and stumpy fingers. He has his hanky hanging off his side pocket and the books he's carrying is always falling down.

I liked him. Too bad the subject is boring as hell.

As I prepare my doodling kit, a pencil and my trusty notebook, he clears his throat.

"Class, I know that you've been hearing that we have a new student in Greencove High, he just transferred here from Excelsior, so he might be a bit new to this, please make him feel welcome."

The class looks on in anticipation. We hear footsteps and then he appears.

I hear a collective intake of breath from the female side of the room. And why not? The Thurston heir is… for a lack of a better word, beautiful.

Prim was right, he stood easily above 6 feet. Light blonde hair hanging off with clear blue eyes, the shade of which so uncommon that it looks otherworldly, roman nose, a strong chin with a cleft.

He's wearing normal clothes but despite its simplicity, it still looks more expensive than the formal dresses being sold at Marie's—our local seamstress. The shirt is light crystal blue, almost similar to the color of his eyes, V-neck and paired with a gray-colored hoodie, swinging over his shoulders is a tattered looking backpack, which is the only thing that looked shabby in his whole ensemble. His faded pants, looks fashionably faded, unlike the ones here that were intentionally bleached.

But the most noticeable is his smirk and the fact that he's staring right at me.

My heart starts beating faster.

Clove leans over me and murmurs through the side of her mouth, "That's going to be living across your house from now on…"

"You may seat there, Mr. Thurston…"

"It's Cato, actually, and I'd much prefer to be seated there" He nods arrogantly towards my direction.

Heading casually, he stops at the guy in front of me and nudges his foot to signal him to get out of the chair. He does so hastily.

I scowl at him. His smile widens.

"What the hell does Prim mean about kind and generous! The guy is an asshole.

"Okay class, now let's discuss…" And the teacher drones on. Turns out, Cato is a genius at math, he even beat Clove to the equation. I guess coming from a family of engineers doesn't just give you a load of cash, they also give you a good head to stay ahead of everyone else.

When the bell rings, I'm pleased to be away from Cato, he's been giving me these looks and it always makes me a bit uncomfortable because every time his gaze shifts to my form, I feel a shiver coming up my spine even though I'm not facing him.

What the hell is happening?

This goes on the rest of the day and people are starting to notice. Peeta is clearly pissed off while Clove and Madge simply laughs at my predicament.

"It's high time that you realize your potential… Cato's not really afraid of Peeta or anybody for that matter and he looks like he's majorly into you."

Clove catches on, "Just think, the hottest guy in school or in Greencove or maybe even Panem is crushing on you, be proud!"

"There's nothing to be proud about! Peeta is seriously getting pissed." Crossing my arms, I scowl. What the hell is this guy doing? He's obviously trying to stir trouble.

By the end of the school day, I was ready to just call it quits. Peeta and Gale has been hounding me all day, complaining about the new guy and how he looks at me. They take turns trying to reprimand me.

Katniss, I thought you didn't meet him?

Katniss, stop looking at him! You're only encouraging guys like that

Katniss, why are your classes always with him?

And on and on it goes, what do I know about the guy except that he likes smirking and he's apparently good in math. I was so angry at the two of them that when the class ended, I went straight to my bicycle, pedaling home on my own.

When I reached the wooden bridge, I hear a car horn behind me. Looking over my shoulder, I see another weird thing. A Ferrari.

It can only mean one thing, Cato. Seriously, does the guy not want to fit it? I ask myself incredulously.

Scowling at the driver's side of the car, I kept of pedaling. I paused again when I hear someone shouting my name.

Looking back, my eyes widen at seeing Prim, leaning out the door waving wildly at me.

"Katniss, Katniss!" Tilting my head to the side, the question forms on my tongue but I find myself speechless.

I stop and prop my bike on the side, going towards the two-door car, I look inside and there she is. She's currently in the passenger's seat, eating milk duds. As she chews, she asks Cato if I can ride with them.

He looks towards Prim softly and nods. She scrambles off the passenger seat and goes to the back.

Cato looks towards me in barely suppressed laughter, he knew that I didn't want to go with him, I mean I've been avoiding the guy since homeroom, can't he take a hint?

Our staring contest was interrupted by Prim shouting, "Come on, Katniss!"

He smiles at me smugly, knowing that I'm cornered. Silently seething, I'm suddenly granted a brilliant idea.

"Oh, I'm sorry Little Duck, I brought my bike with me, don't really want to scratch the paint job on this thing, right Cato?" I smirk right back knowing that he'll probably balk before consenting to hanging my dirty bike in his 100 grant car.


However, instead of leaving me behind in a cloud of dust, he does the opposite. Opening the driver's door, he goes to my bike, hiking it up as if it weighed nothing and proceeds to deftly tie up the boy onto the engine part of the his sports car.

"I guess, I'll have to replace this car with a bigger one to make you more comfortable… what is your style, by the way? Farm betty?" He asks eyeing my outfit from top to bottom.

My surprise was replaced instantaneously with indignation. How dare he?

"None of you business"

I got it the car and cross my arms sullenly, pissed. He slides in deftly beside me and we're driving back to Greenbrier.

I've never ridden in this kind of car before but it feels refreshing, the breeze ruffles my hair and I feel myself getting more and more comfortable. Cato reaches in and turns on the radio but instead of the radio station that's mostly filled with self-help doctors droning on—the only radio station available in Greencove—we get music.

And not just the usual songs heard from record stores in town, this was real good music. I don't really know the singer but I find the songs just right for this drive.

The 40 minute drive feels like ten because I enjoyed it, which surprised me to say the least. When he goes in Greenbrier's driveway, I'm again marveled at the sprawling lawn opening to the grand house.

Greenbrier might not be the biggest of their property but I've no doubt that it was the most beautiful. It's a three-story house, if you could call it that, with ivy vines crawling up the sides. Some of it are made of bricks, easier for the hanging vines to go up while other parts are painted and the others filled with big windows for the sunlight to go in freely.

"Your house is beautiful…" I say before I could stop myself.

He looks to me sideways and murmurs quietly, "My mother decorated it, personally, this was the only house that she designed… all the others were made by architects, designers, and light experts"

"Light experts?" I ask, confused.

"They're the ones who pick which light to use on which room or corner."

"I like the bay windows better than some artificial light, natural is the way to go…"

He laughs at that, "She would have loved you, she had guts and loved outdoors more than indoors"

"I'm sorry… about your loss" what he said about his mother reminded me yet again that he's grieving.

He shrugs, "It was better this way, that last month in the hospital… she- she didn't look like herself anymore"

Cato by passes his house, going directly to the foreman's cottage. As he parks, I see my mom and dad outside, waiting at the porch. They stand up when they see their two daughters riding with the owner.

Before I can protest, he goes around and opens my door for me and then he reaches in and pulls Prim out, carrying her by the waist. She giggles as she's swung around leading up to the porch where my parents waits.

I stand a bit to the side and when he notices me, he jogs back fast and slowly, carefully disentangles my bike from his hood.

"Oh my goodness! Cato, you didn't have to do that, we could have just picked the bike later… no one's going to steal it, I mean, look at your car"

"It's alright Mrs. Everdeen, I insisted on carrying it…" saved by the rich boy. I've no doubt that my mom and dad would have been horrified if I told them that I dared Cato into bringing along my bike.

"Well, the least we could do is offer you a hot meal…" My dad offers.

"Cook might be setting up a feast, how about you guys join me?"

"Oh, we couldn't" my mom declines.

"Nonsense, I ate here yesterday, I want to return the favor." He insists.

Our decision was made when Prim pipes up, "Oh, can we?" she pleads and no one can actually say no to that puppy dog face.

He smiles down at her, "Well, then I guess I'll see you guys later, dinner's usually ready by seven but feel free to come in earlier…"

Last goodbyes and he's off again in his black Ferrari.

Going up to my room, I close it firmly and then proceed to strip off my 'farmer betty' attire. Not all of us can afford designer clothes that looks like expensive rags.

I'm not necessarily mean but something about Cato just triggers something inside of me. Maybe it's because he looks so different… I've already decided early on to stay in Greencove, sure maybe I'll travel a bit and go off to school after graduation at the community college in the next town but I've already made up my mind on where to settle and that's here.

But Cato looks like someone from another planet. His scent is different, the way his clothes fall on him looks different, he treats people differently as well. He looks like he doesn't belong here.

Standing up again, I go into the bathroom to shower. Rinsing off the dirt and carefully disentangling my braid, I feel refreshed once again.

The next part is the hardest, choosing what to wear. After about thirty minutes trying to decipher the most acceptable outfit, I became irritated. Why should I dress up for that guy?

So, instead, I just fling out a pair of old blue jeans and white shirt. Getting a dark blue cardigan out finishes my ensemble. Looking at it once again, I shrug and dress.

When I got down, I see that Prim has dressed extra carefully, she's donned on her Sunday dress and is currently trying to pin her hair up at the sides.

I smirk, leaving my hair down. "Hey, what are you doing?"

She squeaks and puts down her arms, reddening fast.

"Stop teasing your sister, Katniss. She just wants to look nice, which you could also do… what are you wearing?"

"What's wrong with my outfit?" I say gesturing down at my clothes "it's just a casual dinner, right?"

My mother looks at me, frustrated, no matter how much she wants to give me a makeover, she knows that I always manage to ruin it. Don't really see the point of it.

When my dad comes down, he's wearing a stripe polo shirt but jeans as well. As the Everdeen's step out, we're halted as we see Gale coming to our house.

"You guys go on ahead, I think he wants to talk to me" Looking at me for a bit, both my parents usher Prim forward.

Propping my hands over my waist, I glare at him. "What are you doing here? I'm not really up for another one of your lectures"

"I'm here to apologize, I didn't really mean it, Katniss" He pleads his case, looking remorseful, which irritatingly, looks suspiciously like the ones he puts on when one of his girlfriend's catches him cheating. "You know that I'm just worried about you… that guy" he gestures towards the mansion "is out to get you"

"I can take care of myself"

He scoffs and I scowl once again.

"You know what? Let's just not do this" I say and I mean it, this is just gonna be another one of those conversations that will turn into a fight and I'm just not up to it today.

As I try to go past him, he stops me with a hand on my arm. "Where are you going?"

Looking at him in anger, I break away his hold "I'm going to dinner with my family"

"Where? At the main house?" He accuses.

My silence confirms his suspicion.

"I thought you can handle yourself, is this your way of handling it? You're already going into the belly of the beast"

"First and foremost, you barely know Cato, second, I'm going with my family, third and most importantly, it's none of your business Gale!" I exclaim.

Pushing him out of the way, I stomp towards the mansion angrily, pulling my cardigan over my shoulders to fight off the night breeze. The walk to the main house is a bit long, since the cottage for the foreman is located about two kilometers from the actual mansion.

Nonetheless, I enjoy the peace and the sounds of the wind as they rustle the leaves around the property. I'm astonished to see almost all the outside lights opened. It illuminates the path halfway towards the mansion.

As I go up the mansion steps, I fiddle yet again at my outfit, now feeling a bit self-conscious. Greenbrier has a way of making you feel intimidated and welcomed at the same time. It's the weirdest combination.

Pressing the doorbell, I hear footsteps rushing towards the door. It was flung open in front of me and I was astonished to see Cato slightly out of breath.

And of course, the first thing that came out of my mouth is "Where's the butler?"

"Are you alright?" He looks at me up and down yet again.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean your parents said that you stayed to talk to that Gale guy and I also know that the walk here is quite a bit… so are you okay?"

"Yes, why did you expect bandits to come out of the bushes? Greencove is one of the most friendly neighborhoods around and Greenbrier is like a fortress, no one goes I without notice"

"Okay, okay, I get it… well, I guess… ah- come in" He gestures for me to go in.

Walking in the hallway of Greenbrier is like being transported back in time, paintings of known artists line the walls and sculptures of animals and people line the sides as well. The carvings on the walls are also a work of art.

When I was young, I used to wander around this house but most of the rooms and even the hallways are covered with a white sheet, effectively, protecting them from dust. Yet now, everything is revealed and I'm astounded.

Cato and me look a bit out of place, with our scruffy boots and casual attire. Amusingly enough, I could almost picture him here. Cato's features looks too refined to be placed in a rougher environment.

As I observe him in the corner of my eye, I notice that he's also wearing something similar to mine. He retained his faded jeans but swapped his light blue shirt with a white one.

And it also looks like I'm not the only one who noticed, Prim sniggers as she sees the two of us approaching the dining room.

"You two look like a couple" She says innocently.

Cato smirks in return while I turn red in embarrassment. Shit. Escorting me to another chair, he seats me down nearest to him.

"How do you feel about pork chops?" He whispers in my ear. I flinch away and stare at him astonishment. He smile widens.

The table can only seat five and that's how I know that this isn't the main dining room. Seeing my confused expression, he hastily explains.

"This is actually the breakfast nook and it's for the use of the family, guest dining rooms are too formal and big, you can barely hear me talk if we use it"

I nod and conversation flows easily after that, Cato seems really interested in the estate and so it turns into a report of some kind after that. And I'm surprised to know that he does know a lot about farming, he talks about the advantages of raised beds for the barren areas and ridge farming system… I get lost when they started debating on spacing and stand density for the fruit trees.

It's nice to see my dad so engrossed. We have great family dinners but it's usually about what we did in school or what happened to this person or that. Seeing him so engaged and animated makes me smile at Cato. I also see my mother smiling at dad sappily. He's in his element here.

It doesn't take long before the food is served and instead of individual dishes, most of the food are piled in a plate—similar to an actual family diner. When Cato said pork chops, I was thinking of the good old-fashioned barbeque, but this looks like something out of that food magazine that's decorated atop of the small tables in that coffee shop in town.

Oh, don't get me wrong, it's still barbequed but the meat looks excellently cooked and wild herbs decorates the sides and peaches are topped over the meat. The sauce oozes out delicately.

It looks mouthwatering, really. The next plate served is seafood, skewered shrimp scampi. Cato smiles "For Prim" and he takes one stick and offers it to her. That's when I remember that Prim told him casually on the drive over that her favorite seafood are shrimps but that it's so hard to peel off the shell. A stick has seven shrimps on it, all peeled.

I feel really appreciative of his thoughtful gesture, first he entertained my father and now, he's indulging a casual request from a 12 year old.

We eat a bit in silence but before long, conversation starts once again and we learn then that Cato was actually already working with his father before he came here. When he's not in school, he's usually in their main office looking at prototype blueprints.

He's not really involved with the business side but he's already learning well. "Right now, I'm more interested in the estate and I think we can boost harvest by 30% this year if we…" and he's off again with my dad.

Cutting into the meat, I was surprised at seeing the sauce oozing out. I smile a bit crazily and dig in. The first bite is… heaven. The meat melts into your mouth and the sweetness of the peaches blends perfectly with the cooked meat. I groan in appreciation and that's when I noticed that the conversation has stopped.

Looking around, I see Cato staring at me, his eyes darkening a bit as he looks at my lips and neck. I gulp audibly.

Good thing that my dad and mom are too busy also eating their share, otherwise, it would have turned into a very awkward dinner. It's funny because we're in this expensive room, eating expensive looking dishes but all of us are casually dressed. The white shirt further emphasizes Cato's broad shoulders and I'm also mesmerized by the way he stretches his hand to offer more food over to Prim. The white material stretches as well and further molds into the contours of his arms, emphasizing muscles that not too big but not too small too.

Aside from the shrimp and pork chops, there were other dishes made with unfamiliar sauces and smells deliciously and don't get me started on the dessert.

An hour or two passes by in a blur and reluctantly; my parents suggests going home soon since it was still a school night. When it was time to leave, we all bid Cato goodbye when he suddenly suggested tagging along to see us safely back home.

It was a hilarious suggestion but Cato insisted and so as a small group, we trod back to our little cottage. Pulling on a black coat, he walks beside me and smiles. "It was a great evening, I'm glad that we ran into you going home"

I nod in agreement, despite the weird way that it happened, this evening is still a success. "I'm happy with the turnout, it's been a while since I've seen my dad that enthusiastic about something"

He laughs "He's a great man, my father always told me that we could actually leave Greenbrier for years before visiting because the most competent foreman is stationed here"

I'm pleased to know that they think highly of my dad. "Are you really gonna be staying here until you graduate?"

"Yes, this is where she is and it's nice to experience the public school system for a bit. It's really different but same at the same time… it's a weird conundrum"

Looking to him sharply, 'conundrum' doesn't seem like the kind of words associated with guys who looks like him. When I tell him my observation, he laughs again with a two-word answer.

"Late bloomer"

The rest of the walk was in silence and I'm grateful that he's the kind of person who can appreciate silence. A lot of people always associate my quietness with shyness, loneliness, or plain being snobbish bitch—as Glimmer often enough throws my way. But it wasn't, they don't get that I like the silence. That's why I hunt so much because I always have an excuse to shush whoever's with me.

When we get to our front door, my parents turns again to Cato to thank him for the wonderful dinner, he shrugs as if it was nothing and suggests that we do this again but during Fridays.

My parents consent to it readily, he also asked my father and me to show him around the estate.

"I've not been here since I was four or five, I think. I'd want to get to know everyone and everything again"

Father readily accepts and offers to make it an outing this weekend. We'll start on Saturday and continue on to Sunday. The Greenbrier plantation was big and it would really take two to three days to explore every corner of it fully.

"No problem, I've got nothing but time"

With a final wave, we close the door on him.

"Nice boy… the Senior Thurston was a bit uptight but it looks like Cato inherited a lot of qualities from his mother" Father says as he hangs up his coat.

Mother agrees "Yes, I can see a lot of his mother in him. Aside from his coloring, Cato's penchant of casual clothes really did come from his mother"

At my confused look, my mother further explains, "It used to drive his father crazy. When he invited his business associates, Mrs. Thurston would burst unexpectedly into their meeting dressed in farmer's clothes with dirt smudges all of over her clothes and most of her face… he was furious but not embarrassed because despite all those dirt, she was one of the most beautiful faces around"

"He adored her." My father informs me.

Prim says that its really romantic, all the while yawning her way towards her room upstairs. My mother ushers both of us quickly to bed and before long I found myself asleep.

The next day promises to be another eventful one. It started with the shower becoming clogged, then my monthly visitor (flow), followed by my toast getting burned. Peeta calling to say that he can't pick me up because his mother wanted him to deliver something over to the Cartwright's.

Delly Cartwright was the daughter of the owner of supply mercantile store and Peeta's mother loved her to death because she gives them discounts whenever Peeta is with her.

It doesn't take a genius to know that she has this huge crush on him and it was pointed out multiple times by his mother that without me in the picture, she was sure that Peeta and Delly would suit each other very well.

The first time she said this, Peeta looked over to me worriedly. Looking uncertainly at my expression, when he saw no hurt or embarrassment, he breathed a sigh of relief. However, that feeling quickly turned bad because he also wondered why I never felt any anger or jealously when it comes to him.

I tried pointing out that this is a good quality for girlfriend to have; it means, I trust him wholly.

He wasn't convinced and continued to pout the rest of the day. It took me a week and a pretend confrontation with one of Peeta's closest girl friends to get him to stop moping.

After the whole debacle, Clove raised up her hands in exasperation "He's more of a girl than you"

Tuesdays has always been lethargic in school but the series of unfortunate events leading up to the start of this day has me wary and irritated even before I stepped inside the local high school.

I'm still waiting for the next disaster when Peeta appears in my peripheral vision, he holds my cheeks and kisses me soundly.

Once we separated, I looked at him confusion and that's when I noticed both Cato and Gale looking towards us and fast turning away.

Gale looked like he always did these days, pissed off while Cato simply stared at me blankly.

The rest of the day, Gale won't even look at me while Cato is still his usual flirty self but turned up a notch. I wonder why does that outside Greenbrier only. I mean he was the perfect gentleman when were within the estate.

Why turn into a douche outside of it?

He was by my locker, he wanted to carry my books, he leaned over me in the hallways, and he's always behind me, beside me, and in front of me during our classes together.

It was maddening, by third period, Peeta is again hounding me, and Gale's glares increased from 20 per minute to fifty. During lunch hour, I've had enough. I confronted Cato on his attitude.

Pushing Cato into the janitor's closet, I lock it firmly behind me. The room is cramped and smells of wet rags and liquid detergents.

"What's wrong with you?" I ask, hands akimbo.


"What? So you just decided to follow me around for 24 hours?"

"I don't really get what you're trying to say here"

"I mean, what's with all the innuendos!" I poke a finger onto his chest. "Peeta is getting really angry and I've officially reached my fight quota this week"

"So, that's it? You're blowing me off because your Peeta doesn't like it? What the hell is this, the 18th century?" He asks back getting into my face.

"No, I just don't want to fight! So get it through your thick head that I'm with Peeta. I've been with Peeta for years now and I don't plan on breaking up with him in this decade, get it rich boy? stop following me like lost puppy!?" I say scathingly, all the while poking my finger repeatedly onto his chest.

I knew that I crossed the line, even before uttering that last statement, I see Cato's expression closing off fast.

He straightens to his full height, which is quite impressive, mind you and turns away from me. "You don't have to tell me twice, I don't go where I'm not wanted"

Turning his back on me, he leaves me inside the janitor's closet, a bit devastated and feeling guilty on whether I've actually crossed a line.

When I stepped out, I see Clove and Madge swooping down fast. Each one of them grabbing my arm on either side and dragging me towards an empty classroom.

"Alright, what happened?" Clove demands.

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, don't play coy with me, Cato's expression looks thunderous after your confrontation, what did you say to him?"

I stay quiet but both Madge and Clove keeps to me until I spill. Recounting what happened from the night before to this moment, both of them gapes at me disbelievingly.

"Holy shit! You said that to him?"

I nod stoically, I'm not going to apologize for what I did despite how wrong it seemed now.

"You're not going to apologize, are you?" Madge asks quietly, instinctively knowing my reaction to feeling guilty but the disappointment that I see in her eyes almost has me retracting my decision. Yet, I hold fast.

"What I don't understand is why all these" Clove gestures wildly over me "… so suddenly? You were okay yesterday and it's obvious that you guys had a good time last night… so- so why this?"

"I don't know, okay!"

"Are you a bipolar and we never knew of it?" Asks the smaller, more fiercer one.

I shake my head, "This doesn't help, I don't want to talk about this anymore, I'll talk to him one of these days just not now"

Unfortunately, that few days turned into a few weeks. Cato avoided my like the plague, oh, he still picks Prim up but he makes sure not to bump into me or Peeta for that matter.

In addition, he's now living up to his reputation as a bad boy rich kid. He punched someone on the nose for saying something about him being a spoiled brat, smashed the gym hoop because the buzzer irritated him, and almost broke the clavicle of another football player as he was barreling towards the goal.

He was out of control. Gale couldn't even control him. Cato and him started a sort of truce when he saw that Cato wasn't vying for the quarterback position. Rather, he wanted to be running back, which worked out well because Cato's the only one who can actually dive and roll and run fast enough for Gale's volatile passes.

That's another thing, Gale might be the Quarterback but his throws were sometimes off and he has a tendency to change his mind in the middle of it. With Cato in the field, it was balanced.

We're now winning games and are fast approaching the state semifinals.

This also means that Cato's popularity also shot up exponentially. He's now the king of the halls, the prince of the hills, and the god from Olympus—as the local newspaper dubbed him.

"Gorgeous, rich, smart, and a football player? He's the jackpot" That's what the old ladies are saying in the beauty shops. If the coffee shop is for students, the beauty shops are exclusively for the HWC: HouseWives club.

My mother wasn't a part of it because she thinks gossiping about other people is a serious waste of anyone's time. She works as a midwife and has been actively part of the health community for as long as I can remember.

All of these happenings also meant that I couldn't go near him, he's either at this party or that. He scowls at me darkly if our gazes do meet, prompting me to glare at him just as fiercely, which makes both Clove and Madge stare at me in horror.

The reconciliation never materialized.

The only saving grace here is that he never took it out on my parents or little sister. He's always polite to them and has been exploring the estate with my dad without prejudice.

They're now trying to improve irrigation and expand the fruit trees to shrubs as well. Before, the plantation only has oranges in the higher lands because of heat, apples in another area, and some mangoes wherein seeds are imported from Asia.

Now, they're thinking of utilizing the lowlands. It's cooler there and he thinks that its perfect for strawberries and grapes. There's technology here and there that can be utilized to Greenbrier.

My dad is ecstatic.

It's now been three months since Cato and mine's confrontation and since then, we haven't uttered one word to each other. Polite or otherwise.

My relationship with Peeta hasn't really changed but I've taken to hanging out with him more to avoid Cato in the plantation.

He, of course, is ecstatic about this. Reintroducing me to our classmates, going to movies, bowling, karaoke… everything and anything that involves groups were done that by November when they asked that I join them in caroling individual houses for Christmas, I had to put my foot down and decline.

Peeta, of course, made use of another one of his puppy dog eyes but I was immovable in this. Don't get me wrong, Peeta is a really sweet boyfriend, he never forgot a monthsary, three-monthsary, six-monthsary, our yearly anniversary, the day he first kissed me, the day that I said I love you… and all of those things. We practically have an every three days, it's one of Clove's sources of amusement because each week, I receive a different kind of cake.

One tiered, two tiered, shaped like a heart, shaped like a cloud, shaped like a bike… it's almost daunting. I never realized how excessive it was before but now I'm starting to.

When I asked Clove if she noticed the numerous cakes or cupcake that I've been receiving, she snorts and says "It's about time you noticed!"

"I think it's sweet" Madge says, smiling at me encouragingly but I also see that she thinks that it's excessive as well.

It's in the middle of November and I'm now wearing some mittens and a black coat along with my trusty boots. Breathing into my hands to warm them, I see that a commotion is breaking out at the quad. Following the screaming, I elbow myself within the circle and see Cato and Gale practically beating onto each other.

They keep slipping on the wet pavement and personally, I found it hilarious. My laugh stops them and they both quickly look to me.

I stop once I noticed that their attention now shifted over to me, scowling at them again, I stride confidently across and push the two of them off each other. Their surprise renders them easy to ply off. Not waiting for their acknowledgement, I continue on forward.

The tension escalates so much between the three of us that people and teachers are starting to notice and thus, avoid us. What the hell is happening?

"Katniss, will you be my Winter's festival date?" He declares, holding out a white bear with a single rose.

"Sure…" I say a bit hesitantly. Sometimes, when Peeta does grand gestures like these, I find myself at a loss of what to do.

His forlorn expression has me wondering whether he expects me to jump onto his arms screeching like a banshee how happy I am to be going with him. Peeta seems to have this idea of how couples should be and he seems to get his dating advice from cheesy chick-flicks. I mean, he likes it more than me.

I think I've sit through all Nicholas Sparks premiers because he likes it so much. Clove once told me that Peeta wasn't dating me, I was the one actually dating Peeta because he picks all the movies, where we hang out, the flowers.

He's really sweet and at times, I feel that I don't deserve him. His thoughtfulness is one of his more endearing qualities. He's an average person, with average looks, average intellect, average family, yet he tries so hard for me.

When I consult Clove and Madge, their answer is the same "That's because he knows that you're beyond us."

As I open my mouth to protest, they stop me. "Katniss, no matter how much you say that you're gonna be staying here, we all know that you're meant for something more, way beyond Greencove"

Madge concurs "You're already the best archers around, state champion, in fact, you've got a great singing voice, enough that you got that card from an agent during your 'couple's karaoke' disaster and you regard everyone the same."

"You don't treat people differently, whether they're popular or not, Peeta has plenty of friends from different cliques, true, but that's because he goes out of his way to be friendly to them. But you… you- you're gravity." Clove concludes "they automatically gravitate to you… have you not noticed how many boys in this school stares at you as you walk by?"

I shake head, "I'm ordinary"

"Keep telling yourself that and it might come true"

We're currently inside the small coffee shop, sipping the specialty hot chocolate served only during the last quarter of the year in Greencove.

"Have you noticed that Peeta isn't that persistent before Cato?" Madge asks me softly.

Now that I think about, I'd have to agree. Peeta started acting overly affectionate and demanding when Cato first appeared.

"That's because he's intimidated. The other guys in Greencove is almost similar to him; a dead end, but then this outsider comes in and it's obvious that he's also way beyond this little piece of secluded area." Clove looks at me intently, "And, he set his eyes on you."

"He's insecure that you'll leave him for Cato…"

"You know, the first time that I saw that boy, I immediately knew that you've met your match and I also think that's the reason why you hated him so much during those first few days because he's an image of you… stubborn and too gorgeous to be ignored, hahhhahahahah" Clove laughs, "must be frustrating getting turned on by someone so similar…"

"What!?" I exclaim, "I am not turned on when it comes to Cato"

"You don't have to be ashamed of it, most of the girls at school along with the teachers are already drooling after him. We're always running out of chocolate pudding because the lunch lady reserves five cups for him!"

Yeah, I noticed that… Cato seems to have a sweet tooth and he especially likes the chocolate pudding in Greencove, he says that chocolates from here should be packaged and exported.

"I'm not. I love Peeta"

"We're not saying that you don't and we're also not suggesting that you jump onto the Cato wagon but maybe you should try reflecting on the fact that loving Peeta isn't the same as being in love with him" Clove touches my hand.

Madge nods and echoes Clove's suggestion. "Don't break up, just cool it off with him… this way, at least, you won't have to wear a dress during the coldest month of the year!"

We all laugh… but I'm also starting to feel a bit relieved. My relationship with Peeta has been plaguing me since the day that we lost our virginity to each other. Something didn't seem right. Such an intimate act should bring us closer to each other, instead it made me more self conscious and wary of his touch. We've only done it a handful of times since last summer and I have to say that it didn't really improve.

"Oh, and don't forget Gale too… you need to deal with that as well" Clove mentions as an afterthought.

Shit, just when I thought that it's going to be a peaceful holiday.

The confrontation with Peeta was messy, he literally bawled when I suggested a cooling off period. He punched the tree, ripped out the grass and at one point, wanted to smash the truck headlights. It's a good thing that we're in the middle of nowhere. Somewhere between Greenbrier and the town proper.

And all the while, I kept thinking, I've never seen Peeta this violent before

I wasn't joking when I said that Peeta is one of the most thoughtful people there is. He's also the most gentle, I associated his love for girly movies to that side of him.

But this is just ridiculous, I mean, we're only in high school, it's not like I broke something irreversible like wedding vows.

"Why are you doing this now?" He demands, kneeling by my feet, I try to reach down to get him up, he doesn't. "Just tell me what I need to do…"

"Peeta, it's not you… it's me… I need this. And I think that this was long overdue" I say quietly.

"Up to when?" he whispers brokenly.

"I don't know" my answer devastates him anew, I'm basically saying that I might not get back together with him.

"Is this about Gale? Or Cato?"

"No, its not about them and no, I'm not getting together with them, okay?"

He looks like a lost puppy. "I love you, Katniss"

"And, I love you, Peeta, you're like the best guy friend around here" okay, wrong thing to say.

"Guy friend!? Is that how you see me? You kiss your guy friend on the lips and loose your virginity to him?" He demands sullenly.

Okay, we've moved on to vindictive. True, that he was my first and I was his, but that doesn't mean that we're gonna be that way forever. "I'm not gonna answer that because I think you're really unaware of what you're saying right now"

"I just can't believe this, we've been together for what…"

I interrupt, "Two years."

"Two and a half" He snaps irritably, okay, so maybe I don't count the months but seriously, this conversation is convincing me more and more to break it off.

"And it was a good two and a half years… Peeta, you will always be my first but maybe it's time we consider that may not be the last"

He bows his head, "I want to be your last… we're meant to be Katniss. I've known it ever since I've heard your voice in pre-school"

Wow, well that's devotion for you.

Holding out my hand, I squeeze his tightly, "I'm sorry, Peeta"

I don't really know what else to say so I leave him. Peeta doesn't follow but I distinctly hear a kind of wail as I bike away.

And of course, by the time Monday comes around again, everyone would have heard the news. Gale has been smiling at me cheerily ever since but Cato remained cold and distant.

So, I guess, the next confrontation would have to be with Gale. "I just can't take a break, you know!" slumping over the bleachers looking over the football practice routine.

As I watch, I see Gale throw sloppy pass and Cato almost falling face first in the dirt trying to catch it. He would have attacked Gale had the coach not blown off the whistle and reprimanded the boy in full view of the team. Threatening him with the loss of his Captain badge should he do that again.

"You know what? I never realized that Gale was this awful at this sport before…" I wondered out loud.

"Maybe, because the rest of the team equally sucks but now that Cato is in the team, they're starting to improve, Gale's just too arrogant to see that he's not top dog anymore… I mean, most of the members are already treating Cato as their captain" Clove says flippantly, staring at her nails. "Don't even know how they made it to finals"

"Gale improves when he's under pressure, I've watched them and he's really good in the second half" Madge defends, I've always thought that she harbors a bit of a crush on the brown-haired playboy, poor Madge. She's a really good person and I don't want that innocent optimism crushed by someone like Gale.

"Hey, Hawthorne, beat it if you're just gonna stink up the place!" Clove suddenly shouts, both Madge and I stare in horror as the whole team turned to us simultaneously.

Gale looks a bit constipated. His expression changed from indignation at Clove's dig, pleasure at seeing me, irritation at realizing that we also saw that horrible pass and he coach's very public reprimand.

I haven't been a very good friend these past few months to Gale so instead of ignoring him, I smile back encouragingly.

His expression brightens audibly and he throws a smug look over at Cato.

Cato's expression remains unreadable and blank.

Clove groans, "Why did you have to do that?"

"What do you mean?"

"Now, he's gonna think that he has a chance with you… good luck with that"

"What!" my head whips back to the field and I see Gale winking at me once before securing his helmet once more.

I hear Clove laughing uproariously in the background and Madge smiling a bit nervously at me.

After that, Gale's form improved immensely and Cato now has no problem catching any of his long throws.

"Hmmm, maybe you should date him, I mean until the state finals are over…?"

Looking at her incredulously, she shrugs "What? It's for the betterment of school spirit… the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" And then she goes to make the Trekkie salute.

Only Clove can pull off inserting a geeky comment in relation to football. Both Madge and I stare at each other helplessly.

Okay, I am fast approaching deafness. This is the second time a guy's shouted at me close range.

Gale is now stomping away angrily. I knew that this confrontation was coming but I never thought that it'll happen so early.

It was Sunday morning and a banging was heard around the house. I crawl out of bed tiredly and see a familiar outline blearily. "What the hell are you doing here so early?" I snarl.

"Thought we could hunt early today and maybe hit the theaters after?"

The second suggestion is like a cold water waking me up. I approach it delicately and tell him that I'll be ready in a few minutes.

"Take as long as you like…"

I dress in my usual attire; a simple long-sleeved loose shirt and cargo pants paired with my heavy boots. Stopping near the closet, I take out my bow and arrow.

As he sees me coming down, his expression changes to a frown. "You're wearing that?"

"What's wrong with my outfit?" I ask testily.

"Nothing, nothing, just thought you'd dress up better, I guess we can always come back here so you can change outfits"

I stay silent because I won't be changing my outfit. I'm gonna confront Gale on this matter here and now… well, maybe not here but definitely in the now.

As we trek further in, he started setting up traps here and there while I keep a look out for any predators or small game.

"So, I was thinking of watching that new movie on …" He starts and I see my opening.

"I won't be going to the movies with you, Gale" Gale whips around to stare at me in astonishment.

Okay, maybe that was too direct. But really, how can you actually say, 'sorry, I'm not interested' with poise.

"What do you mean? We can see another movie if that's what you want or we can just park up somewhere" he waggles his eyebrows suggestively. I want to hit him on the face. I'm not one of his bimbos.

"Not interested." And that's when it went downhill. Him, flinging things around, almost getting injured in his own traps and generally calling me a tease.

"Whatever" I say flippantly. I guess it is easier to deal with a jerk than a nice guy when you're letting them down. With a jerk, you don't really care if they're getting hurt…

Before long, he shouts that there're other fishes in the sea and that he's better off with them.

Smirking a bit, I turn away and march back to my home…

This has been a productive morning I yawn tiredly, crawling carefully inside my bed cocoon.

"Okay, so they're now starting to call you maneater" Clove says as greeting "it's a good thing and a bad thing because first, most of the guys now wants you and second, well most of the girls now hates you"

"What!" I shout.

She shrugs in reply, "Just ignore the jealous bitches and focus on the man paradise"

As she says this, I see Peeta looking at me sadly and imploringly while Gale simply glares at me along with his posse.

Cato remains stoic and unreadable. And he's still avoiding me. I sigh.

I haven't really talked to Cato since that janitor closet. Months hindsight, I feel ashamed of my words. Since I'm now perfecting the art of dumping, I'm starting to notice that my approach then was uncalled for and definitely nastier than any all else.

Cato has been nothing but generous and kind to my family even when their daughter—an employee's daughter—gave him a verbal lashing that was underserved.

The hallway looks like a freakin battlefield. A guy here or there starts to approach me but Clove and Madge, thankfully, runs interference. A girl would at times shout some unsavory word, i.e., slut, whore or what else and Clove would be off.

One such incident during lunchtime, a girl whose name I don't really remember, splashes her cool aid onto my face. Madge and Clove gapes because the girl that did it was normally shy and keeps to herself.

"You're polluting this school, good thing that Cato's not enamored with you anymore, witch!" And her verbal assault getting nastier.

"That's enough!" The voice behind me says, looking over my shoulder I see Cato striding fast towards us and stepping in front of me.

Good thing too, because I was just about to deck the girl hard.

She stammers at seeing Cato, her idol, it turns out and flees the scene before a catfight broke out.

Cato turns slightly to me and apologizes quietly about her attitude, before I can respond, he likewise leaves the cafeteria.

"Yeah, I've been hearing that Cato's been badgering the guys to give you space and getting the girls to back off." Clove says musingly.

"I don't need a knight in shining armor"

"I don't think that's up to you, besides I wouldn't call it shining armor, more of Armani and Calvin Klein, with a bit of preppy thrown in, yes, Ralph Laurent."

Sometimes Clove is really weird, nonetheless, I feel an unwanted gratefulness towards Cato. And I think that that's the main reason why I started following him.

Before long, I noticed that Cato isn't really a douche. It was obviously a smokescreen to keep unwanted people at bay. Being rich does earn you a lot of fake friends and acquaintances and right now, he's just trying to get through high school in a place that his mom adored.

When he doesn't have practice, he hangs out with Prim at the local ice cream parlor and orders a big helping of strawberry milkshake for her and chocolate for him. Aside from that, they indulge in a humongous bowl of rainbow delight, an ice cream tower high up using different colors of the rainbow.

The jukebox plays old songs that's been hits before their time and the red leather seats are weathered with use but they look as if they're having fun. I was mesmerized. "What the hell are we doing here?" Clove hisses then looks at me in surprise, "are we spying on Cato?"

I don't answer her, too engrossed with the scene of my sister and Cato goofing off.

And once I've started looking, I couldn't seem to stop. I see him everywhere. One time, I see him handing a paper bag to another student; a star athlete in the sixty meter sprint. The school mostly ignores him because he never really competed but Cato said that his speed is extraordinary.

They were sneakers. And not just any sneakers, this was the ultimate lightweight that's only been out for a few days. It must have been delivered from the city.

My insides warm a bit at this… "Huh" Clove says as she sees the contents of the paper bag. "Never though that rich boy will be like this"

After he hands the paper bag, he also hisses at the boy to better win or else, he's going to beat him to a pulp.

Madge, on the other hand, looks at Cato a bit dreamily. Eyeing her sharply, she bows her head in embarrassment. "Sorry, can't help it…"

"What? Why? What happened?" Clove asks speedily when Madge looks in my direction, I know that I'm screwed. "Oh ho ho… Ms. Maneater, is that green that I'm seeing in those grey depths?"

I don't really know what they're talking about so I mostly just ignore them. All I know is that my stomach knotted a bit at seeing Madge looking at Cato in that way.

What the hell is happening to me?

Thanksgiving with the Hawthornes were awkward. Cato had to fly out to celebrate it with his father in the big city but us, normal folks, spend it in Greenbrier.

The Hawthorne's invited us especially since my mother is actually a very good friend to Hazelle. The spread is done outside the house with lanterns lighting warmly the cold night.

We gave our thanks and Gale and me finally made our peace.

It turns out that what he really wanted was the fact that I've never been attracted to him… I personally, already know this but its good that he also realized it.

Peeta brought over some bread, looking so sad and forlorn that I had to close the door at once before my parents could invite him to dine with us.

And Cato's not in Greenbrier.

The tablecloth is red and gold, striped and the cutleries were fresh out of the main house, Cato donated it to the cook when he replaced them. The turkey was also exquisitely cooked, the cranberries tasteful, and the company, warm.

Thanksgiving is usually a big affair in Greenbrier, all the staff would pitch in and bring their own dishes made from the harvest fresh out of the plantation's soil.

Too bad Cato's not in Greenbrier.

I sigh for the nth time that my parents are starting to look on worriedly. Prim also looks towards me in confusion and worry.

I smile to show that I'm okay but inside, I feel as if something's missing.

When December rolls in, I step out happily. The crispness in the air is palpable, reflecting the change in weather. The chimney is roaring in the mornings and my nose starts to get red.

Sitting down for a hearty breakfast, composed of toasted bread, soft scrambled eggs, bacon strips, and some hot chocolate, we tuck in.

"You'll be getting a ride from Cato… Katniss, I know that Peeta hasn't been picking you up…" He leaves that hanging and looks over at me for confirmation, I nod slightly, "so Cato offered to drive you guys over to school, it's too cold to pedal and the roads are slippery. I don't want you girls out there alone"

Prim claps, she never really like public transportation and now, Cato's offered to basically act as her chauffer. I mean, he's already bringing her home, taking her to school is almost the same.

"Why not Gale? I can hitch a ride with him."

"No, Gale's truck is already occupied because he has to drop off Posy at the pre-school first." And the pre-school is on the other side of the county. No point being late.

After thirty minutes, we hear a soft knock on the door. Getting up, I open it to see Cato.

His shirts are gone and he's now wearing a thick double breasted coat with a blue-black scarf slung over his neck and tucked within his jacket.

I stare at him too long but we don't really notice because he likewise stares at me. A hint of a smile and my heart starts to pound like jackhammer.

"Umm, uh, come in" I mumble a bit incoherently, willing the blush creeping up my cheeks to retreat.

"… Thanks… you look good, by the way" he mumbles in the same quiet tone.

"Thanks…" Shoot, awkward, awkward, awkward, Peeta's courtship and subsequent relationship with me was never this awkward but maybe that's because we basically never moved up from the friends zone, I just never realized it at the time.

I look down again at my outfit and had to scrunch my nose, I never really cared about my clothes before but since my weird fixation with Cato a month ago, I find myself contemplating more and more my wardrobe.

Right now, I'm wearing a faded T-shirt with a monogram of a snowman in front with a skateboard going 'ho ho ho' shit and over it is my very well used checkered polo. Compared to the boy standing in front of me, I look like a charity case.

Prim jumps out of her seat and barrels straight towards Cato, no hesitation whatsoever. She puts on her thick hoodie while I grimace as I slip into mine which is just my father's old coat colored green.

I've never felt more self-conscious as I did now. Tugging a bit at the front of my shirt, not looking at him, we say our goodbyes to my parents and off we go.

Prim goes in the back while Cato stops in front of me. He doesn't move, I guess he's waiting for me to look up at him. Doing so, I marvel again at how tall he actually is.

"I like this" he tugs at the hem that I'm clutching and as our fingers touch, I feel electricity zing towards my arm and spreads to my chest. Silently, he slips off his scarf and hangs it over my neck, securing it so that my neck wouldn't be cold. "Your parents said that you love this weather… so I'll be keeping the top down"

Reaching in, he brings out a big box, it's another garment—a hat and not just any hat. This was similar to the ones you see in fashion magazines, a beanie hat colored bright blue. Almost as blue as his eyes. "It's a late thanksgiving present"

Okay, this moment is too intimate to be shared out in the open with my sister looking on excitedly.

He opens the door and I slide in, arranging the hat over my head. The scarf and hat almost offsets the horrendous jacket and shirt. I see that Prim also opens her own late thanksgiving present and squeals like the 12-year old she is when she spots the backpack of her dreams—a really fashionable pink bag.

The drive reminded me of the first time I hitched a ride with them… and now, I remember how nice the wind feels with the top down.

When we park outside Prim's school, she's already transferred most of her items into her new backpack, saying that she wants to show it off. Cato promises to pick her up later with me.

She waves goodbye and now, were on our way to our destination. My heart beats erratically.

Something changed. Our relationship dynamic changed over break and I don't really know how to approach this boy anymore.

Being my socially graceful self, I start with. "I'm sorry…" I whisper.

"What?" He asks leaning over closely to hear me better.

"I'm sorry for what I said before…I mean, you didn't deserve it… in the janitor's closet" Okay, kill me now.

"There's nothing to forgive, I've already forgiven you for that before I stepped out of the school that same day"

"Then, why were you avoiding me since September?"

He looks down a bit embarrassed. "I couldn't control myself when around you… I was becoming creepy and I didn't want you think of me that way"

"What!?" I was surprised, this was definitely not what I expected.

"You were right… I was being pathetic and desperate, following you around. I don't want you to feel that way about me"

"What?" I repeat my first question because I'm still astonished as to where this conversation is going.

"What do you mean what!?" Okay, now he's scowling, "I'm telling you that I've liked you since the start of school"

"Oh" We really need to deal with that temper of his.

"Is that your answer?" he demands.

"No! actually, I've just been thinking that we really need to work on that temper of yours." I start to smile, his answering grin has mine brightening significantly.

As he parks the car, he jumps out and goes around the car to open my door for me. Holding both hands onto my waist, he leans over me so that I'm trapped between him and the car "Does this mean what I think it means?" he whispers.

"If you mean, taking it slow then yes… we're definitely taking it slow"

"We? Officially? Exclusively?" Cato looks down at me in wonder, tucking a stray dark curl back into my new hat.

"Yes" I answer a bit breathlessly.

Smiling until our cheeks hurt, he holds out a hand and tucks both our hands into his jacket.

As we enter the school, the hallway noise fades down to nothing and we're now subjected again to another intense scrutiny. Clove and Madge have their hands over their mouth, obviously, suppressing their squeals while Gale looks over at us, nodding in greeting.

But Peeta storms to one of the rooms, Delly Cartwright at his heels. Well, you can't really please everybody.

The time inside the school passes by in a blur, I distinctly remember Cato sitting with us during lunch and me stealing some of his fries and a cup of his pudding. Otherwise, everything takes on a dreamy quality. Soft-edges everywhere.

I feel high but then again, I don't really know what high feels like but if its like this, I get why they come back.

Twice, we bumped into a wall because we're too engrossed looking at each other. The teacher throws Cato out when he keeps on looking at me instead of his notes and I almost blow up our chemistry experiment because I put too much of the liquid colored blue into the beaker.

After that, Clove and Madge cornered me, "Okay, this has to stop, we love that you're in your really shiny bubble with your modern day prince but it has to stop, you're gonna get me killed, Madge killed and eventually the whole school killed with your accidents" she air quotes the last word.

"Are we really that obvious?" I say a bit shakily

The two of them gapes at me disbelievingly "Obvious?" they say together.

Clove puts her hands on her waist, "You're as obvious as the giant squid, yes. The girls are grinding their teeth behind your back, they want to string you up and have their way with you like a giant piñata!"

Madge touches my hand consolingly "What she means is that you have to stop rubbing your relationship in their faces"

"What relationship!? Cato and I decided to take it slow, we're not together, like together yet"

"What!?" They exclaim "Okay, Katniss, slow means not making goo-goo eyes at each other every five minutes, slow means no handholding in the hallways and him waiting on you hand and foot, slow means not tripping over people every time you catch a glimpse of him, and no sharing of milkshakes either!" she points out accusingly, shuddering at the memory.

I nod, "Okay, I'll tell him that we have to tone it down a bit… but this is really new, I've never experienced something like this…"

"We understand, but does your dad even know about this?" Madge reprimands gently, pointing

I shake my head, wide-eyed. "Well you'd better chop-chop on that or else he'll catch you guys in a very compromising position, the way you guys are going at it, and I don't think you'd like your boyfriend slash his boss shot in the ass this soon in your so-called not-yet relationship"

"I will, don't worry… it's just weird. I mean, Cato's basically, my dad's boss, right?"

"What?!" My dad exclaims, what is it with people and loud voices these days?

"With your consent, I'd like to ask permission to date your daughter" He says seriously albeit a bit nervously.

What's with the language? Is this the Pride and Prejudice era?

"When did this start?" my dad addressed the question to the two of us.

"Just recently… we didn't really get along all that well in the beginning, but we're think of making it work now" I inform him, my hand slowly but surely inching towards Cato's.

His fingers are also extending a bit toward mine.

"Okay! None of that here!" He points at our shifting hands. I tuck mine at once back to my side while Cato clasps his between his legs. Leaning forward a bit to look imploringly at my dad.

My mother, meanwhile, can be heard humming in the kitchen. At least, the other pair is happy for us.

"I'll permit it, can't really stop teenagers from doing what they want but there will be rules" He says sternly. "First, she has to be home by 11PM on weekends, 9 during weekdays, and two, you will not be going up her room or her up your room, third and more importantly, you have to attend a family dinner at least once a week with us"

The last condition has Cato and me looking up in startled pleasure at my dad's demands. We smile and nod, agreeing to his terms.

"We haven't really been to a date yet but I promise that I will have her back safe and sound and within the specified hours" Cato says, smiling at me.

Inching our bodies closer to each other until we're able to touch, we smile yet again at seeing our clasped hands together.

My father in the background sighs in resignation while my mother consoles her husband saying that her daughter is really growing up.

Later when I asked them why they never gave Peeta the third degree, they answered quite truthfully that mine and Peeta's relationship seemed like puppy love as compared to what they're seeing now.

They never thought that I'd be together forever with Peeta but with Cato, they're seeing a real high possibility of it lasting for a long long time and maybe even beyond.

That night, I look at the ceiling in wonderment on how everything changed this year. I sleep with a smile on my face… wouldn't have changed it for the world.

Our first date was outside Greencove, it was on a Saturday and he picked me up early morning, saying that the traveling time will be a while.

I take care of my outfit this time, choosing a long-sleeved knitted cream turtleneck with dark leggings and I'm wearing my beanie hat again. At exactly 6AM, Cato knocks multiple times with a rhythm on the door, announcing his arrival.

Opening it, his smile widens at seeing me. "You look delicious enough to eat" He leans down to nuzzle his nose over my neck, now covered at the neck.

My dad's cough interrupts our moment and I feel him stiffen over me. I rub his shoulders and back soothingly, my chest rumbles at the coincidence.

Cato straightens back once he regained some of his composure, "Sir- uh Mr. Everdeen, thank you again for allowing us to go out today"

My father simply looks at him blandly, so I had to step in and push Cato out the door, snickering at his frightened expression.

Pulling him out, I plop myself comfortably onto the passenger seat while goes around the driver's side. "The trip's gonna take awhile, it's a three-hour drive but I found this really good diner that's serving fantastic pancakes, you'll love it. We'll stop there for a bit of grub before heading on…"

"It looks like you really planned this…" I smile, touching the hair at his nape and gently tugging at his ear. When he shifted to drive, he took my hand and kissed it, keeping it in his as we drove out of Greenbrier.

Cato is also wearing a knitted sweater with the neck folder down but colored black and wearing casual jeans with his boots. An hour into the drive and I find myself looking out eagerly at the passing sights. The roads to Greencove are lined with tall trees on both sides and they're just starting to shed. The overwhelming smell of pine is gratifying.

I laugh in enjoyment, "So this is what roadtrip is all about!"

"Yeah, I guess, though next we'll have to invite everybody and really go out of state, we can visit monuments and even universities or colleges along the way"

At the word college, I start to bite my lip. I've always wanted to stay in Greencove and maybe get in some subjects at close by community college.

When I inform Cato of this, he looked surprised. "There's a lot more out there, Katniss and I have no doubt that you can take all of them on" he says quietly, then sighs, "Well, if you're staying here, then I guess I'll have to relocate as well"

"What! What do you mean?" I ask surprised.

"It means, I'm staying wherever you are…"

"That's not necessary, Cato, I know that you're just here to finish high school"

"What the hell do you mean by that!?"

"What do you think I mean"

"Well, it suspiciously sounds like you think this relationship will only last until the tassels are turned" He tightens his hands over the steering wheel.

I remain silent. He continues on…

"Have I ever led you to believe that this is temporary? If so, then I really need to grovel…"

"I don't want to hold you back…" I whisper.

"You're not! I've never felt this feeling of limitless with others. When I'm with you, it's like I can do anything…"

I look towards him hopefully, he holds my hands into his, lightly playing with my fingers "We're gonna be together for a long long time, Katniss… better get used to it, whether its here to nowhere, I promise that I'll be by your side."

I smile and I feel a bit of moisture escape the corners of my eyes, swept away by the wind caressing my face as we drive by. This boy, right now with me, could really be the game changer.

And I can hardly wait for it… I throw back my head to laugh, feeling infinitely free for the first time in my 17 years on this land.

We park by the famous diner and I notice that its similar to the ones that I see in movies. Same red leather seats and same greasy smell.

I love it. It's different and everyone doesn't know anyone. We're just two tourists stopping by, similar to the people here.

When we go in, I notice that most of the diners stopped to stare. As we walk towards one of the booths, I stop to stare in astonishment at the our reflection.

Cato, who's solidly at 6'2 or 6'3 is impeccably dressed, as always but what actually surprises me is the fact that I don't look like a drowned cat beside him. We, surprisingly, match.

My 5'7 nearing 5'8 frame with the boots, is just close enough to his height… we look like advertisement models in winter collection.

We choose a booth near the middle so that we can see the trees outside… the diner is smack in the middle of wilderness and I found it really refreshing.

Cato orders a number of dishes from the famous pancakes to the big breakfast platter that has bacon, hotdogs, shredded port, and different eggs from scrambled to omelets.

I glare at him at the waste, but he just smiles cheekily; forking a piece of egg and offering it up to me. I return the favor by spreading some butter and jam over the toast and popping it into his mouth. Clove and Madge would've killed me if they saw me doing this in school.

Our little bubble was popped when a car full of rude college students enters the diner. One particular punk leans over our table, winking at me and ignoring Cato and as such, doesn't see the murderous glint in his eyes. "Hey gorgeous, why don't you ditch this lightweight and come back home with me?"

"Ummm, dude, maybe its better if we left" His friend tries to tug him off.

"What?" he shouts irritably, and that's when he notices Cato's expression. "What you gonna do tough boy, huh?" He pokes Cato with a fork.

My boyfriend and yes, I'm now ready to call him that slowly stands up to his impressive height and looks down his nose at the drunkard. "I'd suggest listening to your friend now"

The college boy looks up and down Cato, clearly intimidated but too drunk to fall back. Stupid.

Before long, he throws the first punch which Cato easily blocks with his arm, retaliating by a fast right hook and the guy is down for the count.

He looks over to me apologetically but I just smile. It's funny. I've never been in a barroom fight before and this seems a bit close, so that's okay.

"I'm sorry for these" he gestures towards the passed out drunk, "Wanna go now?" he asks softly, throwing a couple of bills on the table.

The two of us going out of the diner without looking back. With Cato escorting me over to his car, we see the college students gaping astonished as they beheld that someone so young owned the sports car that they were, in fact, drooling on before going inside the diner.

Katniss smirks at their faces and holds up the one finger salute, universally known to all assholes.

Cato laughs as he sees the angry faces of the college crowd, he bolts out of there and makes use of the how many cylinders that his car currently carries.

Back on the road, we laugh the event the rest of the way.

"Where are we going?"

"I heard that you liked singing, thought I could treat you to the theater"

"We have theaters in Greencove…" I pointed out.

"Not the movie kind, the other that bursts into song… you might like it" He pauses, "… or I could also scar you for life" and then he laughs.

I punch him lightly on his shoulder but nonetheless feel excitement come over me. Of course, I know this kind of theater, I've just never attended one. The town that we drive in looks really classy. The people walking around are wearing white pants and polo shirts with little monograms on their upper chest. Their hair shiny and looked styled straight from the parlor.

"What is this place?" I ask in wonderment. Never realized that something like this existed so near Greencove, I mean, I knew that we went downward rather than up which means the weather is less harsh but still this is ridiculous. It's so different, people here are walking around using the latest cellphones, their shoes neatly polished and wearing one of those expensive watches that we make fun of on TV.

We park and he gets out the car to open my door. As we step in the sidewalk, he explains the place.

"It's kind of a retreat for people from the big city… it's how my dad met my mother. She was originally from Greencove, you know and she was waitressing at a restaurant here when he found her, wanted her and married her in that same next week"

"Your dad was a romantic"

"With her? Yes, he was" Cato smiles at me "I'd like to think that I inherited some of that lothario blood to trap you to me"

"So far, I think it's potent" I say cheekily. He throws back his head and laughs out loud. He slings an arm over my shoulder and we walked in the sidewalks huddled together looking in at shops. All of them are designer brands with labels as high as five figures for a piece of bag.

The show doesn't start until 3PM, so we have a couple of hours to burn and in that time, Cato has managed to buy me a couple of outfits that I gawked at when I saw in the store, a ridiculously expensive watch, a bubble jacket for Prim, a pair of boots for my dad, and some scarves for my mom.

"Is this a Christmas gift?" I ask in wonderment.

"No, not really, it's a gift but not necessarily for Christmas, besides I've already done some Christmas shopping when I visited my dad in the city"

"Well, then this is too much, Cato" I try to turn back to the stores "We should return some of these…"

Laughing, he tugs me back to his side. Keeping me trapped "No, we're not. Let me do this Katniss, I like giving you stuff"

"I don't want people to think that I'm with you for the money"

"I know that you're not and your closest friends know that you're not. Your parents and my father knows that you're not. Those are the only people that you need to be concerned with" He assures me, rubbing his hands up and down my arms.

"You talked about me to your father?" I ask curiously.

"Yes, the first day back in the city, I was moping around so much that my dad at last confronted me and I kind of spilled the beans about you"

"He must've hated me… what I said to you…"I mumble.

"No, he didn't. He was actually impressed, he thought that I'd never find someone that can resist my charms." Tilting my chin up, he looks straight into my eyes, slowly leaning down. "He thinks you're perfect for me… in every way" he breathes to my lips.

I know that I was going to get kissed and I also knew that it would be wonderful. The first touch of his lips feels like electricity zinging throughout my body, as he molds his body and lips onto mine, heat shoots up and before long we're clasping at each other desperately. Me, running my hands through his hair while he holds onto me tightly by putting one hand on my waist, another one in my upper shoulder, everything else falls away.

We ate a hasty lunch at a fancy restaurant that served great dishes but too much sauce for my taste and then went straight to the theater.

I loved it.

The sounds reverberating from the theater acoustics, the expression on the actors' faces and the songs and oh, the songs, the songs were all wonderful!

When the curtains dropped, I was one of the first to surge up to give them a standing ovation. In my leggings and dirty boots, I stood up and clapped tirelessly.

Cato bought me the CD, book, and took me to the back to have it signed. A shirt was also thrown in to remember my first experience in the theater.

I was so pleased by the outcome that I couldn't help but throw my hands around Cato's shoulders, hugging him tightly outside the theater door.

The whole day was wonderful and as we head back to Greencove, I can't help but feel a giddy excitement to share the experience with them. Cato covers the roof and we pop in the CD, listening to their tunes as we race back to Greenbrier.

My mom and dad are waiting outside, sitting side by side on the porch. We both look at the watch again and was relieved to see that we still have five minutes to spare before curfew.

The loots were a big success, my mother hugged Cato and Prim jumped on him happily. My father simply patted him on his back but I could see him admiring his new boots happily.

"Katniss was the one who chose those things actually…" Cato said, deferring some of the adoration my way.

That night, I slept in the souvenir T-shirt that we bought at the reception of the theater.

And for the first time, I imagined a life outside of Greencove.

It's been a week and the projects due before Christmas break was heavy, so Cato and me mostly stayed indoors or at his house. Greenbrier is so big that it actually feels a bit like a museum.

We mostly stayed by the fireplace, Hazelle would bring us some treats and sometimes, Prim would also join us.

By the end of it, both of us joyously went out and I invited Cato to have picnic with me outside the house.

It was my tradition to greet the first snow outside. I like seeing the first white particles drifting down, slowly coating everything in white.

So on the 20th of December, I dragged Cato to the woods and within those woods is the clearing that I haven't really shown anyone. I spread out the blanket and opened the basket prepared by Greenbrier's cooks.

We stretch out on the blanket, huddled close because of the cold but I wanted him to greet the first snowfall in the woods with me. Everything seems really magical when you're beyond the town proper.

The fireflies become your twinkle lights, the Christmas trees decorated with ornaments, become looming pine trees. And I don't really need a mistletoe to get kissed.

And we do so with abandonment, as we come up for air, by cosmic coincidence the first snowfall also appears. I point it out excitedly to him and was surprised to see him staring at me instead.

I tilt my head to the side. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing, everything's perfect, especially, you" He says this with awe. I was mesmerized by his gaze and before long, we lean towards each other again, laughing at the small puffs now clinging to our hair and clothing.

"I love you, Katniss"

Looking at him, I smile a bit sappily "… I love you, too, Cato" and that's how I knew that this three words were similar to the in love with you version. I'm in love with this boy in front of me. It took months but the important thing here is that we made it.

Christmas was a happy event, Cato's father will be visiting for Christmas but would have to fly out early the next day. The decorations to Greenbrier was opulent, no expense was spared. The garlands hang in the grand staircase and doorways, twinkle lights litters the driveway and the windows.

It was a grand event and in the morning, we exchanged gifts. Cato's father left him with a fat check, it really is quite impersonal but Cato said that his dad has always been the practical one.

My mother got an earring from my father while my father got a nice coat from my mother. My parents gave me a laptop computer and an extension of my curfew—Cato and me were actually more pleased with the latter gift, much to my mother's amusement and my father's consternation. They gave Prim the horse after Cato said that he'll have a small stable built behind our little cottage for all her pets. It would be his Christmas gift to her. Our family gave Cato a pair of mittens engraved with his name. It was silly, compared to his other expensive clothing, but he loved it a lot.

Cato wanted to be alone with me before he gives his gift to me. When everyone else has retired to the rooms prepared within Greenbrier, Cato pulled out a small square box.

"You're not going to propose to me, are you?" I ask a bit incredulously.

"What!?" he asks, "No… but maybe… don't worry, it'll be soon"

My look must have been horrific and hopeful at the same time because he laughs shortly after. "Just open it" he advices.

As I open the lid, I gasp in surprise at the ring nestled within the velvet. The band was metallic, platinum with a single diamond resting in the middle, it wasn't a really big diamond but it more than made up for the in the triple Cs.

I'm not a jewel hugging girl but I also know that this would've cost a pretty penny. A very pretty penny at that.

"It's beautiful, Cato, thank you." My throat feels clogged and he hugs me to him tightly.

"I tried to get something that embodies you but there's no ring that exquisite, do you really like it, love?" He whispers softly to my ear.

"Yes, I like it but I love the man that gave this more" At that, I step onto his shoes to reach his lips. His startled laughter is muffled by my enthusiastic kisses that I peppered over his face.


Summer in Greencove was really a thing to behold because it wasn't really that hot, still we like to pretend that it is, which is why I'm now walking down the street in just a razorback shirt and some shorts and of course, my trusty boots. I'm also wearing a shades to shield from the not so bright sun.

Beside me, my boyfriend of two years, four months, and ten days is sipping a frappuccino, which I occasionally sip in as well. Also wearing a shades, wearing a casual white shirt that actually costs more than the ordinary long-sleeved polo displayed at the stores here in Greencove, and a cargo short.

We're both wearing our trusty boots. Sometimes, people would gape at us but we mostly ignore them, totally lost in each other's presence. We'll be moving out soon and heading off to our respective universities.

He's gonna be taking up engineering and double-majoring in business management while I'll be going into liberal arts, I'm not really sure whether I'm gonna be a star but Cato says that everything is possible for me.

Despite going off in the outside world, I know that Cato and me will still be coming back here… after all Greencove or more specifically, Greenbrier is our home—Cato's father transferred the deed to him on his 18th birthday.

Looking up at him through our shades, I rub my promise ring lightly again, moving it around. He props his shades up and also removes mine so he can look into my eyes.

Leaning his forehead over me, his hands join mine as our fingers carefully touches the other ring that's now in my left finger. This one has a bigger diamond and has also been featured in the local and nationwide newspapers.

'Country Girl marries Thurston Heir', or 'Thurston heir gets hitched', their captions said. I much prefer the headline in the Greencove newspaper, which is 'Cato Thurston officially engaged to Katniss Everdeen.' And for once, since Greencove was established, the locals were the first to hear the news… instead of the rest of the world.

The End.

I wrote this story over the weekend because I couldn't get it off my head. Sorry for the delay in Gladiolus. I'll be going back to that story now, nonetheless, hope you like this story.