"Is this seat taken?"
Katniss turned to the right only to look into the bluest eyes she had ever seen. A man who looked to be her age was standing next to her at the end of the row of chairs, waiting to see if he could sit. He was blonde, with unruly hair, a kind smile, and was of tall, stocky build with broad shoulders that were well accented by his charcoal suit jacket.
"No, by all means," she replied, gesturing that the man should sit down.
"Thanks." The man took the seat next to Katniss, and she turned back to face the aisle where the bridesmaids were walking slowly toward the grapevine arbor where the minister and groom stood waiting. The quiet music of the processional was accompanied by the sounds of sparrows and running water of the many fountains surrounding the venue. As the flower girl and ring bearer made their classically adorable and chuckle-worthy trek down the aisle, the crowd began to shift slightly to turn and see the bride.
As the beautiful tunes of Canon in D began to drift in the warm spring air, Annie, ever looking the part of the blushing bride, began to make her way toward her waiting groom. Katniss turned to look at Finnick, and the look of pure love and adoration on his face melted her usually stony heart. She felt the man on her right shift a little, and out of the corner of her eye saw that he too was observing Finnick's sea-green eyes begin to turn glassy at the sight of his bride.
Katniss watched with joy as her closest friend from childhood vowed to love Finnick for the rest of her life, and was glad she could be part of this day. Annie was positively glowing, and Katniss couldn't help but get a little teary when Finnick, normally composed, said his vows in a voice thick with emotion. When the minister declared them husband and wife, Finnick immediately cupped Annie's face in his large hands, and leaned down to kiss her sweetly. Then, in classic Finnick style, he fist pumped in the air, conveying his excitement to be married, and was rewarded with chuckles from the audience.
Once the happy couple made their way up the aisle amidst applause from their guests, the minister told the congregation to begin making their way over to the reception area, a large white tent set up about 100 yards away from where the ceremony had just taken place. Katniss turned to her right, and saw that the latecomer was standing there, looking at her with an odd expression on his face. In keeping with her usual lack of social skills, Katniss exasperatedly asked "What?" with a slight huff. The man just smiled, a crooked grin that gave his countenance a boyish look, and said, "Nothing, just trying to figure out where I know you from. I'm Peeta Mellark by the way. And you are...?"
"Katniss Everdeen," she replied. Katniss wasn't one to make small talk, and decided that the best way to answer, and ultimately ditch this guy was to give her normal short answers.
"Well, nice to meet you, Katniss. That's a name you don't hear very often, but I guess most people also don't know that it's a plant, either. Of course, who am I to talk? Peeta is not exactly a common name either."
"Yep. Well, I'm going to head over to the reception now, so..." Katniss mumbled, not knowing what to make of the man in front of her, and waited for him to move so that she could make her way to the tent.
"Oh yeah, of course, sorry. I'm kind of a talker, in case you couldn't tell," Peeta responded while stepping aside. His cheeks were slightly pink, and the way he nervously reached up to rub the back of his neck made Katniss smile a little. She couldn't figure out why her stomach seemed to suddenly be filled with butterflies. What was she, 13? She just met this guy, and besides, she has no time for that right now. So she simply nodded, gave Peeta a small smile, and began to make her way to the tent.
As Katniss was walking, she went over the quick list of excuses she could make for departing early, after congratulating Annie and Finnick, of course. Weddings, people, and parties had never been her thing; so the prospect of an entire evening of all three, when the only people she knew were the bride and groom, was grim, indeed. Once Katniss reached the reception area, she saw that not only were Annie and Finnick still off getting pictures taken, but they had actually gone through with a seating chart for this event. Really? Katniss could never understand why people did this for weddings, shouldn't guests be allowed to sit where they want? Oh well, Annie's superior attention to detail is one of the things that endeared her to Katniss as a child, and clearly she hadn't grown out of it.
With a sigh of defeat, Katniss bypassed the chart that displayed who was to sit where and began to roam among the tables looking for her name card, not paying attention to any other names at the table once she found hers. As she sat down, she felt eyes on her, and looked up to see that guy, Peeta, staring at her from where he stood at the entrance of the tent. Once she caught his gaze, though, he quickly ducked his eyes to look around the tent. Torn between annoyance and some other feeling Katniss couldn't quite name, she scowled and began examining the flowers at the center of the table.
She was in the middle of counting the number of purple Gerber daisies, her favorite flower, in the vase of beautiful spring flowers when she heard a throat clear behind her. Looking over her shoulder, she was again met with those impossibly blue eyes. 'They have to be contacts' she thought to herself, 'no one has eyes that blue.'
"Yes?" she said politely.
"Um, I believe that the place next to you is where I'm supposed to sit." Peeta stated. Katniss looked at the chair, trying figure out why he felt the need to state this fact, and saw that she had set her clutch purse and jacket on that chair when she sat down.
"Oh, sorry. Let me move my stuff so you can have a seat."
"No problem, I just wasn't sure if you were saving that chair for your date or something."
Katniss couldn't help but laugh lightly. "No date for me. Besides, it would've messed up Annie's seating chart, to spring an extra guest on her today. She might've killed me."
Peeta smiled, a smile that lit up his whole face, and sat down. "So, how do you know Annie and Finnick?" he asked. Katniss knew there no way to avoid this guy, so she figured she might as well talk to him, to help the time pass a little faster until she could make her escape.
"Annie and I are from the same hometown, we went to school together until sophomore year of high school, when she moved. We were basically best friends, and we stayed in touch over the years." Katniss explained.
"So you're from Indiana too, then?" Peeta asked. Katniss gave a nod. "Wow, so did you come down here for the wedding? How long of a drive is that?"
"Um, well, it's a 7.5 hour drive. But actually I moved here to Knoxville 3 months ago." Katniss said.
"Really? What brought you down here?"
Katniss made a concentrated effort to not narrow her eyes at this guy's persistence. "I had a hard time finding a job in Indiana, so when Annie offered to put in a good word for me at the hospital she works at, I jumped at the chance to move here."
"Annie's a great person like that, I keep telling her she's too good for Finn. What do you do at the hospital?"
"I'm a nurse in the ER. Nursing jobs are pretty scarce in Indiana right now, especially for a new grad. Nobody wants new nurses, but how else are we supposed to get experience? But I love it, here." Katniss found herself shocked at her own ramblings, she'd never said that much at once to a stranger ever, other than her patients. "So, how do you know Annie and Finnick?"
"Well Finnick and I grew up together, went to college together, basically have known each other our whole lives. When Annie came here in high school, I knew Finnick was a goner, followed her like a puppy everywhere, and she never gave him the time of day. It was funny, since up to that point he'd been something of a ladies' man. Of course, he loves Annie, but can still be a huge flirt."
Katniss laughed quietly as she remembered the first time she'd met the man that was now her friend's husband. He was so flirtatious and overly cocky that Katniss had genuinely been afraid for Annie's sanity. But once she saw them together, how protective Finnick was of her dear friend, and how he looked at her like she was the rarest gem, she knew he was a good man. But it had still taken some time to get used to his personality, and even then, Katniss could only handle so much of the dazzling Finnick Odair.
"How have I not met you yet? It seems like, since we're friends with them, I would have run into you sometime?" Peeta asked.
"Uh, well I work nights, so I'm kind of nocturnal for part of the week. Then when I'm not working I spend time with my dog, call my family, relax. I don't know, guess our schedules are probably different. What do you do for a living?"
"I'm a baker, which means I'm up at the crack of dawn, so you're right about the schedule thing. My family owns a little bakery downtown; I went to college to get a degree in business so that I could take over when my dad decided to retire, but some things changed and I own it now. So, I bake, decorate cakes, and fight crime on the side." Peeta stated nonchalantly. But he had to chuckle as Katniss's head snapped up from where she'd been studying her hands as he spoke, and had a confused look on her face. "Just seeing if you were listening."
Normally Katniss would be annoyed at antics like that, but something about Peeta made it difficult for her to be made at him, and, against her will, she cracked a smile. At that moment, the DJ began to announce the wedding party's entrance, cutting their conversation short. As the members of the wedding party, along with the bride and groom took their places at the head table, the crowd hushed. The best man and maid of honor gave their traditional toasts, and Katniss began to, again, think of a way to duck out early. She felt a little bad about it, but Annie understood how Katniss was around crowds and new people. That's why she was so okay with Katniss turning down the role of bridesmaid; Katniss was touched that Annie had even asked her. They hadn't seen each other in quite some time, so to say Katniss was shocked would be an understatement.
Eventually, Katniss decided that once the party started, she would politely leave. Until then she continued to talk a little with Peeta, and the other people that had made their way to the table. Once an acceptable amount of time had passed, Katniss quietly made her way to the head table where the happy couple were perched, congratulated them, and took her leave. Katniss felt somewhat bad that she hadn't said goodbye to Peeta, but he wasn't at the table when she decided to leave, so she wasn't sure what to do, or why it really mattered. But once she got to her house, changed out of her soft green dress and heels, into sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt, she couldn't get thoughts of those blue eyes, and the way they had looked at her, out of her head.