Surprise! I'm back with another update… if any of you are still interested in reading this fic after two months without an update. I apologize profusely for the unreasonably long delay. School turned into a bitch, then I was on vacation, then I was busy w/other projects, then I had an awful case of writers block. Fingers crossed that things are back on track now.
Thank you all so much for continuing to read, follow, favorite, and review. It really does mean so much to me. I love responding to reviews, but I got really terrible about making time to do it when I was busy w/school last semester. Please let me know what you think of this chapter, I am going to try very hard to get back into the swing of responding to reviews.
So without any further ado, I will let you get to it. :)
When You Were Young – Chapter 15 "Sometimes I Hate the Line I Walk"
I jolt awake at the sound of loud pounding on my door accompanied by my mother's shrill scream from the other side. "Peeta! Are you not even out of bed yet?! Get off your lazy ass and get to school!"
I am disoriented for a second while I try to make sense of my surroundings. My mom never wakes me up. She isn't even usually here when I'm getting ready for school because she runs the storefront in the mornings while my dad is busy baking in the back. In addition to the slamming against the door and her unpleasant voice, the alarm on my phone is blaring and I can't find the damn thing amid the tangle of my sheets.
Being bombarded by this cacophony of noise immediately upon waking has set my nerves on edge and I finally snap. "I'm up! Fuck! Give me a minute!"
My mom goes silent instantly and I am able to isolate the incessant beeping of my phone so I can locate and silence it. I roll over and groan into my pillow. This is going to be bad. Not only did my mom just happen to be home on the first morning I've overslept in a long time, but now I have raised my voice and cursed at her. She is not the kind of woman to tolerate that.
Looking at my phone I am surprised to see that I slept through the alarm for nearly an hour. I bolt out of bed and, grabbing the first pair of jeans and shirt I can find, race down the stairs and into the bathroom. School starts in twenty minutes so I barely have time to brush my teeth and throw on some deodorant. I wet my hands and run them though my hair, trying haphazardly to tame my curls as I rush through the house trying to locate my shoes and school bag.
I don't even notice my mom sitting silently on a stool at the kitchen island until I hear her speak quietly. "You were out late. I assume you were with that… girl," she says and her voice is laced with disdain. She may have said 'girl,' but it is clear that she wanted to use a much nastier term.
I sigh loudly and try to remain calm. I don't have time to fight with my mom and I learned long ago that nothing good ever comes from it anyway. "She has a name, mom. It's Katniss. It's not like saying her name is a dirty word." My mom raises her eyebrows dramatically, as though she thinks that is exactly what Katniss' name is, and my temper spikes. "And, you know what? Yeah, I was out late with Katniss. But I'm 18 years-old. Don't you think it's about time I get to decide how I spend my time and who I get to spend it with?"
"No, Peeta, I don't!" she says, raising her voice. "That girl is having a bad influence on you and I don't like it. You're out all hours of the day and night, you threw poor Madge over like she meant nothing… and I know you had that little slut in my house while your father and I were-"
"Enough!" I yell, slamming my hand on the table near where I stand. "Don't call her that! You don't know a damn thing about Katniss. You don't know about anything in my life!"
She narrows her eyes and purses her lips, breathing in sharply. I see her open one of the island drawers and I worry that she is searching for the wooden spatula; her wielding this particular utensil at me is not out of the realm of possibility, although she hasn't for several years. I experience a fleeting moment of relief when all she produces is a manila envelope, until I see the logo emblazoned on the upper left corner. "I know about this," she says softly.
It is from Johnson & Wales University and the return address clearly indicates "College of Culinary Arts." I applied to a couple of culinary programs, but I've actually been kind of leaning towards this one since it would mean I would only be a couple of hours from Katniss. Judging by the fact that they sent a thick envelope rather than a simple letter, I think it is probably an acceptance letter. Of course, I can't bring myself to feel the excitement I should feel with my mother glaring at me, waiting for an explanation.
"Don't you even have anything to say for yourself?" she finally asks when it is clear I'm not going to say anything. "I can't help but think that girl has something to do with this. You would have never considered something so irresponsible before she exercised her influence on you."
"What do you want me to say?" I answer in exasperation. "I applied to a few culinary schools… It is something I might be interested in pursuing and I wanted to see what my options are. And, I'm sorry, but yeah, Katniss fully supports me in this. She wants me to do what makes me happy. Why should I base my whole future on what you want? Out of some sick sense of obligation?"
My mom just stares at me for a long time. I almost never talk back to her or bother to defend myself, knowing it will just make things worse in the long run. When she finally speaks her voice is thick with contempt and disappointment. "Your father and I have worked ourselves into the ground to provide for you, to secure your future. You have never wanted for anything in your entire life, Peeta. I have pushed you to succeed so that you would have the best possible opportunities in the palm of your hand." She walks over to where I am standing by the small kitchen table and throws the envelope at my feet as though it is garbage and continues to walk to the staircase that leads down to the bakery.
She pauses for a moment in the threshold before she begins descending and turns back to me again. "Do what you want, Peeta- I'm sure you will anyway. But before you throw away a top-notch, Ivy League education, think about all the sacrifices this family has made for you. Think about Rhys supporting his family by doing menial manual labor. Think of Rhian, putting his life on the line and serving overseas hoping to come out with a prospect half as good as the one you seem willing to throw away. Don't you think they would have liked to have gone to college? To have it paid for? That wasn't an option for them because we couldn't send you all. They gave up there place because you showed so much potential. Wasted potential it seems." She lets this all sink in for a moment. "And also consider that while you are off gallivanting across the county with your Seam trash, your father is toiling in front of blistering hot ovens, working his muscles to the edge of endurance for 14 hours a day… For you."
I can't meet her eyes. I don't want to look at her and see if there is any truth in her words. I don't want to believe in the possibility that my brothers didn't just choose not to go to college, but that they sacrificed the chance to go so that my parents could save for me. I know that there is some truth to her words, at least where my dad is concerned.
"I know that girl probably seems exciting and alluring to you. I have seen how girls like her work, how they hook their tentacles into men and lure them in. But before you make any decisions, I want you to think very hard about how ungrateful you are being, and decide just how much your conscience can endure. And you're a fool if you think for a moment that she would sacrifice her own opportunities for you."
I drop in the dining chair after she turns and leaves before I can even formulate a response. I know my mom well enough to know how she operates. She is a manipulative bitch, but her words have unsettled me. If what she says is true, than I really am an ungrateful little shit.
I lean down and retrieve the envelope at my feet. The first page is a typed form letter that begins "Dear Mr. Mellark: Please allow us to congratulate you on your acceptance to the prestigious College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University…"
My shitty morning is quickly turning into an unbearably shitty day. I'm a half hour late for my first period PE class so, in addition to Coach Boggs riding my ass about it, I have to run extra laps, which is excruciating since I'm running on 4 hours of sleep.
Katniss and I went to a movie in Asheville last night and didn't get back to Meadowglen until after midnight. We sat in her driveway, intermittently talking and making-out for at least an hour before I finally gave up on the hope that Katniss would consent to anything beyond making-out as long as we were in my car. It was well after 3am by the time I arrived home, showered- and… relieved myself- and finally gotten to bed.
Sleeping with Katniss for the first time on New Years was, without a doubt, the most amazing experience of my life so far. But, as much as I love spending time with her no matter what we are doing, the two completely sexless weeks that followed have definitely left me feeling… frustrated. I know Katniss feels the same way, but her refusal to do anything anywhere other than in a bed, in a room with a locked door, has left us bereft of opportunities to be together.
By the time I am heading to second period I still cannot shake the uneasy feeling from my fight with my mom. I know she is crazy and that she has no qualms about lying and manipulating to get her way- or even just to make people feel like shit for her own amusement- but the more I think about it, I begin to recall stuff that I haven't thought about in a long time. Like Rhys talking about wanting to be a veterinarian when we were growing up, and Rhian attending a wrestling camp his junior year because he thought it would increase his chances of getting an athletic scholarship. What happened to those plans? I never thought much about it, but it seems weird that they would just vanish from my brothers' plans for no reason.
I have a few minutes before second period so I decide to text Rhys. Hey I wanna ask you something. Did you ever have any plans to go to college before you moved to Asheville?
My teacher has just entered the class when my text tone goes off with Rhys' reply. She cuts me a sharp look, but the bell hasn't rang yet so I go ahead and read it and respond.
R: That's random. Why do you ask?
P: mom and I got into a fight this morning and she spouted a bunch of shit about how you and rhian couldn't go to school so that I could go
R: What were you fighting about?
P: I applied to a couple of culinary schools. She found an acceptance letter for one
P: plus she doesn't like my girlfriend and thinks she can use this as an excuse to be a bitch about that too
R: I thought you were all set up with UPENN?
P: …. I don't know if I want to go to upenn
The bell rings and I really need to put away my phone, but Rhys still hasn't answered my question about him and Rhian. I flip the switch on the side so that my phone is silenced and tap out another text.
P: so is she telling the truth? Did you and rhian give up school so I could go to upenn?
R: look, Peet, I wouldn't think too much about this, but mom isn't exactly lying about that. Can I call you?
I stare at my phone in disbelief as I feel the color drain from my face. This can't be right. How could they be so stupid? I never wanted this. Nobody ever even asked me what I wanted, and here is everybody making life altering decisions on my behalf without even consulting me?!
My hands feel unsteady as I type my response. No I'm at school. I'll call you later
I have just hit send when I hear my teacher's gravelly voice. "Mr. Mellark. I am sure that whatever you are texting is of grave importance, but I am equally sure it is likely to hold just fine until after school."
When I look up at her she is holding her hand out expectantly. Fuck. I know Mrs. Paylor is a total hard ass about this shit. I sigh loudly and walk up to the front of the class and place my phone in her outstretched palm.
"Thank you," she says as I sulk back and slump into my seat. "You may retrieve it from the office at the end of the day. And I hope you have a passcode set up on it. I have heard that Principle Coin finds scrolling through students' texts and pictures to be particularly entertaining."
I know she is just fucking with me, but I still breathe a little sigh of relief that I do use a passcode. I sent a few pictures to Katniss the other night that I don't remember deleting.
As I walk into the lunch room a few hours later I can't decide what is making me feel worse the exhaustion from my lack of sleep, the hunger from not having eaten yet today, the guilt from my texts with Rhys, or the anger coursing through me for both my mom and Mrs. Paylor. Oh, and let's not forget disappointment with myself for bombing the pop quiz Mr. Latier gave in third period. It was on the chapter we were supposed to read last night, which I, of course, did not do because I was out with Katniss.
I spot Finnick and Annie at a table in the corner and begin making my way over. They are sitting so close I don't think I don't think a flea could squeeze between them. I would normally smirk and make some teasing comment about their whole 'just friends' thing, but I am in such a shitty mood that I just set my tray down and dig in without acknowledging them. They are so wrapped up in their whispered conversation that I don't think they even realize I am here, which just serves to piss me off further.
I have barely swallowed my first bite of the cafeteria's runny instant potatoes when I hear someone speak behind me in a voice I recognize, but am not used to hearing sound so unsure and tentative. "Um, Peeta… Could I talk to you for a second?"
I glance over my shoulder at Madge and try really hard to repress my exasperated sigh. "I'm pretty hungry Madge. Is there any way it can wait till later?"
"It's kind of important," she returns. "I tried texting you, but you didn't answer."
"Yeah, I got my phone confiscated this morning." Madge doesn't respond, but she doesn't go away either so sigh in resignation and use my right foot to push a chair out for her.
She glances at the chair and then back at me before speaking again, "It is kind of private."
I look longingly at my food one last time before pushing away from the table. Finnick catches my eye with a questioning look but I just roll my eyes at him and turn to follow Madge toward the doors leading out to the patio where extra tables are set up in nice weather. It is empty now since it is only averaging about 40 degrees outside this time of year, so I guess she is serious about not being overheard.
I have barely thought about Madge since we broke up over three months ago. I have been so wrapped up in Katniss that I find it hard to believe it has been such a short period of time. Everything before Katniss feels like a lifetime ago. I am noticing for the first time that Madge does not look at all like her normal well-dressed, put together self. She still looks really pretty, but I can tell she has put on some weight. Not unexpected after the holidays I guess, but Madge has always been such a nut about staying in shape, even in the off season. And I am astonished to see that she is wearing yoga pants and a baggy sweater. I never in a million years would have expected someone like Madge to go anywhere in public in comfy clothes.
She leads the way to a raised flowerbed that rests barren and snow dusted, and sits herself on cement ledge, shivering already. I remain standing looking down at her expectantly, my patience wearing thin as the cold breeze seeps through my thin shirt.
She meets my gaze briefly before her eyes flit away again and my restraint snaps again for what seems like the millionth time in one day. "Jesus, Madge. What is it? I'm fucking freezing."
I can tell she is astonished to hear me being so short with her as she swings back toward me. I see that she is pretty shaken up and I immediately feel like a giant dick. I sit pushing down my impatience and sit next to her picking at a fraying rip in my jeans and wait for her to get up the gumption to speak. Out of the corner of my eye I can see her throat working as though she is trying to swallow a lump in her throat.
It takes her I long time to speak, and when she does her voice is read thin and strained as though she will start crying at any moment. "Peeta, I have to tell you something, but I know it is going to make you hate me."
I finally relent and place my arm around her shoulders, drawing her shivering body into my side. "I don't think you could tell me anything that would make me hate you, but if you are worried you should just say it quick. Like ripping off a band aid."
After a moment she takes a deep breath and says, "I'm pregnant. I have been since July. I've known since August."
Holy shit. That is not what I was expecting. I don't respond as I let all of the implications of this sink in. She has been pregnant since July? What the fuck? She was pregnant when we got together. Suddenly I remember the night we got together, when she climbed into my lap out of nowhere and started kissing me. She had been muttering about how I was a nice guy and she needed to be with a nice guy.
Holy shit! She got with me because she was pregnant?! Madge started dating me specifically because she was pregnant. Things that always seemed odd start flowing into my mind and this new piece of information starts to make a lot of things make sense. How determined she was to make things work between us even though it was clear that our feelings were platonic on both sides, her pushing the issue that we should have sex at Finnick's party in September, her missing so much school the following week…
I can't hide the appalled look on my face as it hits me that she was going to try to sleep with me so that she could say her baby was mine. I take my arm from around her shoulders and Madge buries her face in her hands. Her shoulders start shaking and I am torn between the urge to comfort someone in distress and the rage I feel that she could even consider doing something like this to me.
She starts muttering into her hands and I can barely understand what she is saying. I do make out the word 'Katniss' though.
"What?" I ask. She looks up confused so I clarify, "What did you say about Katniss?"
She stammers for a moment before she can get it out. "I… I just… I thought Katniss might have told you. The rumors are going around now, and I wanted you to hear it from me, but I honestly thought that Katniss would have said something to you about all of it…"
"What does Katniss have to do with anything?" I ask, my voice rising.
"She… nothing, um. No," she falters, her eyes moving back and forth frantically as though she is trying to think quickly what she should say next.
"Madge," I say, my voice dropping to a deadly calm. "You are freaking me out now. Just tell me what Katniss has to do with any of this."
Her eyes still and she buries her face in her hands again. But this time when she mutters into them I can hear what she says clearly. "She knew. She is the one who told Gale. Katniss is the first person I told."
Katniss knew. Well, I guess now I know what happened between her and Gale the night we all had dinner at Katniss' house. She must have told him and that is why he stormed out like an asshole. Katniss knew that my ex-girlfriend was going to try to pin a pregnancy on me. And she never bothered to say a word about it.
I hear the final bell ring and I truly could not be any happier to have this god awful day be over. I make my way to my locker ruminating on the tremendous raft of shit that has been heaped on me in a matter of eight short hours. My head is pounding and my stomach is turning, all from the combination of bad news, warring emotions, and a lack of sleep and food.
I have my book bag propped in my locker and am shoving books and binders into it when I feel two small hands slip over my torso and a slight body pressing against me, hugging me from behind. My muscles instinctively relax at her presence and I lean back into the hug, closing my eyes and savoring her touch. I only allow myself the briefest moment of pleasure though, before I lean away from her again and resume filling my bag.
"Is everything okay?" Katniss asks, clearly perceiving that something is amiss.
I am sure she was expecting me to turn and kiss her as I normally would. And even despite the fact that I am pissed about the whole Madge thing, I want to. I really want to. But I won't just ignore this and pretend it didn't happen. I can't help but feel a little betrayed by the fact that Katniss has been keeping something so important from me the entire time we have been together.
I squirm out from her arms and close my locker, turning to walk toward the main office. "It has been a colossally shitty day. I just want to go home and forget every single thing that has happened today."
She wraps her right arm through my left falling into step beside me and I can see her upturned faced etched with concern out of the corner of my eye, but I still don't turn to look at her. "Do you want to talk about it?" I shake my head slightly and she presses on. "Peeta, please. You know you can tell me whatever is wrong. You'll feel better once you get it off your chest."
She is giving me a cute little smile that is at odds with the worry in her eyes and it almost breaks me. I wish I could tell her everything. I can't tell her about the fight with my mom without opening up a whole can of worms. And I can't tell her about my conversation with Rhys, because then I would have to admit that there is no chance in hell that I am going anywhere other than UPENN after finding out all of that shit. But I can tell her about Madge. And I have to, because the more I think about it, the more pissed I become.
I stop abruptly and finally turn to look at her. "Why didn't you tell me about Madge?"
Her concerned expression falls as she registers my question and a guilty flush raises rapidly up her neck and into her face. "Wh- what?" she stumbles.
"Madge. You've known since before we were together that my ex-girlfriend is pregnant and was planning on pinning the baby on me, and you never thought to mention it to me?" I say sharply.
She recovers quickly and it's like I can see all of her defenses go up. "It wasn't my secret to tell, Peeta," she says quietly.
"You had no problem telling Gale Hawthorne."
"That he was going to be a dad? Yeah. I told him. It's not exactly the same thing though, is it? Besides, I didn't even know he was involved when I told him," she returns, anger rising.
"Yeah, what was I thinking? I am about to become the laughing stock of the fucking school, but that wasn't really that important to clue me in on was it. Never mind the fact that half the people in this school will think that I knocked Madge up and then dumped her to move on to you. Why would I need to be prepared for that?" I know my face must be red now and we are beginning to attract attention so I turn and begin walking again.
She stands there stunned at first, but I feel her presence behind me again after a moment. When I get to the office she reaches out and grabs my arm to still me before I can go in. "Peeta, please talk to me. I didn't even think about all that."
I look down at her again and I want so badly to tell her that I am okay and we can just forget about it. But I am exhausted and so much shit has happened today that I can't even begin to process it all. I settle on telling her, "Look… this has been such an unbelievably bad day. I just need to be alone for a bit to figure it out, okay?"
She looks so sad when I say this that I instantly feel like I'm about 3 inches tall. I am tempted to tell her to just forget it and that everything is fine and that I will get over it, but before I can say anything she just nods her head and with a murmured 'okay' she turns and walks down the hall.
I am just on the verge of following her when the office door opens and knocks into me. The secretary is standing there holding my phone. "Mr. Mellark, I have this for you, but Principal Coin would like a word with you first."
I sigh loudly, watching Katniss disappear down the hall and, nodding, turn to follow the secretary. Once I am seated in Principal Coin's office I begin to feel somewhat nervous. The only reason I can think that I am here is because of the phone situation. But surely that is not worthy of the principal's involvement. Is it possible they figured out my passcode and did find pictures on there? That would just be a lovely end to this horrific day, to know that the high school principal and all of the office staff have seen selfies I took in the mirror of me stroking my dick.
Principal Coin is staring me down over her steepled fingers and I can't help but fidget nervously in my chair. She is a very severe looking woman, with sharp features and gray hair combed and cut so straight that it seems like it couldn't possibly be real. I am just contemplating the possibility that her hairdresser breaks out a slide rule to cut it when she finally speaks. "You needn't look so nervous Mr. Mellark, you are not here because you are in trouble."
My eyes snap to hers in surprise. "I'm not?" I ask stupidly.
She shakes her head and says, "No. Although, I do think you should apologize to Mrs. Paylor for the rudeness you demonstrated in her class today, but it is hardly the sort of thing I think I need to concern myself with."
"Um, yeah. I will. Apologize I mean," I mutter, relieved but still confused.
"Good," she says simply and leans back in her chair. "Well, then, I won't take up any more of your time. I just wanted to offer you my personal congratulations, Peeta. After a great deal of consideration- and, I will admit, debate- a committee lead by myself and populated by the faculty and staff of Meadowglen High School have selected you for the honor of serving as Valedictorian of the Class of 2014."
Poor Peeta! He's having a bad day. Please let me know what you think of the chapter. I love hearing from you guys. Please come find me on tumblr too (plumgal1899)! I love hanging w/everybody on tumblr so I would love to see you over there.
I hope to update much more regularly and I think I am over my writers block (hope hope hope). So thank you once again for your patience and continued support!