"You look nice."
It takes me a moment before I blink and come to my senses enough to take in Peeta's words. "So do you," I reply. I grasp at his invitation to conversation like a lifeline, anything to distract me from the herd of Capitolites pressing down on us as we slowly make our way through the crowd in front of President Snow's mansion. I can't wait to get this banquet over with so I can get home and on with my plans to run. Until then, time must be killed somehow.
"Thanks," Peeta says calmly. I wish I could ignore the crowd as thoroughly as he does. "Do me a favor and let Portia and my prep team know, will you? They almost got into a knock-down drag-out over my outfit tonight."
"Really?" I ask, genuinely intrigued. I seize this distraction with all my might. "Why?"
Peeta has to laugh a little before he explains: "Apparently, all three of them wanted to cover my skin in some gel that would make me sparkle 'like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in my skin' or something like that whenever light touched me, but Portia wouldn't stand for it."
There's a pause where I stare at him wide-eyed and speechless before I burst into laughter. We have to stop walking because I'm doubled over. People must be staring, Effie must be having a nervous breakdown, but I don't even bother to try to stop laughing because I know it would be a losing battle.
"What's so funny?" I eventually hear Peeta say.
By some miracle, I find the strength to stand up, take a few deep breaths, and calm down. A few more giggles escape me, however, before I answer. "You remember the tracker jacker nest I dropped on the Careers in the arena?"
"That was funny?" Peeta asks incredulously.
"No," I answer laconically. "When I cut the nest down, I got stung a few times and started hallucinating."
"That was funny?" he repeats.
"Not exactly," I say truthfully. "One of the things I hallucinated was, when you ran up to me to save me from Cato, you were sparkling from head to toe like a dewdrop in the sun."
"Oh," is all he says in response to that. He shrugs and adds, "I guess that's kind of funny."
"Not at all," I clarify. "The thought of seeing my fiancé sparkling again, on the other hand..."
Peeta grins. He seems to get it. "I see," he says. "I'll be sure to tell them that Katniss prefers her fiancé without sparkles, thank you very much."
"You can say that again. I should include that in one of my next speeches to our adoring fans." I straighten up and clear my throat before giving Peeta a demonstration of what I'd say: "Remember, girls – if the boy you love starts sparkling, the proper response is not, 'Wow, that's so sexy!' but, 'Yikes, that is so crazy, I must be hallucinating!' "
I've never really appreciated Peeta's prep team before, but I'm beyond grateful to them tonight as we walk through the doors of the mansion. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed by my current situation, I just think of their ridiculous fashion suggestion, and I can't stop grinning. Where would they get such a ludicrous idea? Who would invent something like that? Who would buy it?! Somebody should tell whoever made sparkling skin popular that real men don't sparkle.