DISCLAIMER: Any GIFs, external images, etc. used are not mine unless specified otherwise. Credits go where they rightfully should. The GIF below is not mine. All credits go to the person who made it!
AUTHOR’S NOTE (PLEASE READ): It’s only Wednesday and I’m already ready for Winter break. Tennis starts soon, Trinity classes also kick back up again, I have to stay back for auditions and all kinds of stuff at school…BASICALLY NO TIME FOR ME TO SIT DOWN AND WATCH DRAMAS AND WRITE DAMNIT. When Scarlet Heart dropped, I was so sure I was going to be able to watch it, and then I remembered I already had assignments to complete. *cries* And every single time I do see a notification related to “Jeffrey’s Hill” I sob internally. But despite everything, I am definitely going to be regular with updates. I’ll figure it out, but I have way too many ideas to ditch this story. If you’re still reading this, THANK YOU AND BLESS YOUR SOUL YOU ACTUALLY BOTHERED HOW KIND.
“STEADY, Y/N, STEADY.”
“Aren’t you scared?” You turned to Yixing and he grinned. “Suho trained me, you learn to forget fear with him. No,” he chuckled at the horrified expression you wore, “he didn’t hurt us, he simply spoke to us about it.”
“He erased your fears by speaking to you about them?”
“Yes, he encouraged us to get rid of the silly ones, you know, fear of heights, spiders, the usual kind. The rooted fears, death, loss, he told us to talk to him about it, always. Before a mission, if we were scared, we’d go to him and just let it all out. It doesn’t make sense now, but to speak to someone who understands the feeling really helps.”
“But you didn’t speak to Junmyeon for this mission.”
“Y/N, I’ve been on missions that make this look like a field trip. This doesn’t scare me. And as much as I like talking to you,” he tapped your nose, “I think we better focus on the conversation that’s about to start.”
fan account in which i hit on high4 and got hit on back
i went to see high4 last weekend and *^* best experience ever! i saw them once in tokyo and myunghan has always been my little baby boo and omg this weekend has been magical.
first i was chosen as youngjun’s partner for a charades game because i was absolutely shameless. he held my hand and led me to the stage WAILS and i took the chance to tell him i saw them in shibuya. he was so pleased he told sunggu straight away.
when we were about to start, the host asked if i was ready and i squeaked, “yes!” and myunghan that qt pie mimicked me ;~;
anyway, WE WON THE GAME and he was so touchy with me, kept touching my back and shoulders. i guess they were impressed that i answered in korean or something but they seemed really excited during our game.
during the fansign, i gave my gift to youngjun and steeled myself:
me: did it hurt when you fell from heaven?
me: heaven, did it hurt when you fell?
*myunghan had been watching us and he starts laughing*
Lord, I ask You to bless every one who follows my blog. Pour out Your Spirit upon them and fill them with every grace they need to live their lives fully submitted to You. Bless their family and friends. Fill their hearts with joy and peace as they go through their day and give them the strength they need to do all that You ask of them. Thank You, Lord. Amen.
This one is brought to us by the amazing, and beautiful @jlalafics. Thank you dearest for trusting me with one of your precious babies! I know how hard you work on your words, and I’m beyond blessed that you not only encouraged me to actually host @winterinpanem, but then you submitted this– its so heart-felt. I love it, and I know everyone else will too! Right @smartalexy?
Summary: Peeta Mellark is a player. Three ghosts are about to change that. An Everlark version of “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” and “A Christmas Carol”.
Snapshot, An Everlark Christmas Story
“You are the most beautiful thing…” Peeta Mellark knelt down in front of the studio floor, gazing up at the voluptuous blonde before him in a fitted corset and leather thigh-highs from behind his camera lens. “What do you do for a living, sweetheart?”
“I’m a pop star,” the woman informed Peeta as she placed a hand on her hip and pushed her firm bottom out. She peered at him through her long lacquered lashes and gave the photographer a ruby-lipped smile. “Where the hell have you been?”
Peeta stood up, approaching her with an unabashed smirk before wrapping an arm around the woman.
“Waiting for you, doll,” he whispered into her ear. Her cloying perfume burned at his nostrils, but the sight of the pretty woman in front of him—all perky breasts and thick, riotous curls—caused the blood to rush down south and into his groin. “Care to have a drink in my office?”
Around them, the crew rolled their eyes.
Peeta Mellark’s staff knew his ways well and some of the men began to wrap up their equipment. The make-up artist, Enobaria, who he had just slept with three months ago, threw her make-up brushes into her bag and hurried out of the studio in tears.
Wrapping her arms around Peeta’s neck, the barely-dressed blonde pressed her front to Peeta’s, feeling his erection against her silk boy shorts.
“Sure, we can have a drink,” the popstar responded coyly. “After.”
Peeta moved her hair off his face. Beside him on his couch, the half-dressed woman giggled to herself.
Looking at her now, all disheveled with her makeup smeared, he found his fire for her slowly extinguishing. She cooed, her head going to his bare chest and Peeta grimaced.
He wasn’t a cuddler.
“That was lovely.” Peeta slowly extracted himself from her hold and stood up to pull his jeans back on. He looked to the thick, gold watch he inherited from his late Uncle Haymitch and frowned seeing that the time had stopped once again.
It always seemed to stop at 9:00.
“I think it’s time that you got going,” Peeta finished as he zipped his jeans.
On cue, his assistant Effie Trinket marched in. Going directly to the woman still sitting on his couch, she dropped the girl’s purse on her lap along with her fur coat.
“What is going on?” the woman bellowed, her once golden features going red.
Peeta went to his computer, turning it on, barely glancing at her.
“I have a meeting and you need to get out.”
“Come along,” Effie ushered in a bored voice as she helped the fuming blonde to her feet. “I have your limo waiting for you right outside the studio. “Though you might want to bundle up. It’s getting frigid out there…” She observed the woman’s flushed face. “…and in here.”
“No one drops me!” The blonde marched up to Peeta, her black heels clicking along the marble floor. “I am Cashmere Brooks!”
Peeta snorted. “You’re Cashmere?” He looked at her pityingly. “Your music kind of sucks.”
Cashmere roared, her hand suddenly swinging at his face.
Effie, however, stepped in just in time to grab the woman’s wrist and yank her towards the open doorway.
“You asshole!” Cashmere screamed as she was escorted out. “One day, I hope someone tears your testicles off and shoved them up your a—”
His phone rang and Peeta looked to his screen. It was Rye, his younger brother.
“Hey soon-to-be-shackled little brother!”
There was a soft chuckle on the other end of the line.
“Better shackled than overwrought! Hey big brother,” Rye greeted. “I hope you’re packing…or at least getting Effie to do it for you.”
Effie walked back in sans Cashmere to place his leather weekend bag on his desk along with the keys to his Jaguar.
“Done. I’ll be there tonight for the festivities,” Peeta assured him.
There was a slight pause before Rye continued speaking, “You’re going to be cool with Katniss being here, right?”
“Of course,” he responded. “As long as she’s fine with me showing up.”
“Good, because she’ll be coordinating the wedding,” Rye explained, “And is also Maid of Honor.”
“I wouldn’t expect any less. It seems that the right Mellark ended up with the right Everdeen.”
Rye chuckled. “Don’t I know it. See you soon!”
Hanging up, Peeta picked up the elegant invitation that announced the Christmas wedding of Rye Mellark to Primrose Everdeen. It was to be held at their Uncle Haymitch’s mansion where Rye was currently living as the estate’s caretaker. It would be his brother and Prim’s home for the foreseeable future.
Placing the invitation down, Peeta reached into his jeans pocket for his wallet.
Hidden between the sleeves of the Gucci wallet, he pulled out a single photo of the young girl: loose dark hair, large grey eyes, and the sweetest smile that radiated like the sun.
“You better get going,” Effie called out as he hastily put the photo back into his wallet. “It’s about to snow again.”
Nodding, Peeta threw the strap of his bag across his chest before going to Effie, a smirk on his lips. “You going to give me a Christmas kiss?”
Though at least ten years his senior, Effie was still quite the beauty. With light blonde hair and almond-shaped eyes on a peach complexion, her Pageant Queen upbringing was evident in her elegant steps and straight posture.
However, the snort escaping her perfectly-rogued lips was simply Effie, sarcasm and Chanel rolled into one.
“Oh please, Peeta,” she responded. “You could never handle me.” Her hand went to the wallet still on his desk. Opening it, Effie reached her perfectly manicured nails into the hidden sleeve where the small photo was always kept, presenting it with a knowing smile. “Also, I think that your real kisses were always for someone else.”
The Abernathy Estate was located in Connecticut in a small village with nothing surrounding it but spruces and fir trees, all covered in light fluffy snow. Peeta drove up towards the mansion, still amazed at its opulence. Rye had taken amazing care of it and as Peeta parked along the round driveway, he admired the neatly trimmed shrubbery and stone path leading to the house.
Standing at the front door, Peeta stared at the large wreath hanging from it. In the middle of the wreath was a hand-painted Santa face. This was definitely Prim’s doing as she was the artist among the Everdeens. Mr. Everdeen was recently retired from the army and Mrs. Everdeen was a high school teacher.
Then, there was Katniss Everdeen.
Correction, Doctor Katniss Everdeen.
Reaching into his coat pocket, he pulled out the keys to the house and prepared to open the door when he saw something at the corner of his eye.
For a moment, Peeta could have sworn he saw Haymitch Abernathy staring at him instead of that rosy-cheeked Santa that Prim had done.
Shaking off the chill, he entered the house to a flurry of activity. Rye and Prim had hired extra help for the wedding and they were all rushing around him either moving furniture or placing bright red poinsettias in their appropriate spots.
“Peeta!” He found himself in the tight embrace of his brother. Rye’s beaming grin warmed Peeta like nothing else. They had been each other’s only companions after their parents died and he practically raised Rye. “I’ve missed you, big brother.”
“You look good.” Peeta cupped Rye’s face affectionately. “A lot of women would love the more innocent looking version of myself. Are you sure that you want to get married?”
“Hey asshole!” He turned immediately to see Prim, the petite golden-haired girl he had known since they were all kids, glaring at him. She was wearing a cream-colored fitted dress with a thick, webby lace, her toned arms crossed against her chest as she approached him. “Did we seriously invite you?”
“Come on, Prim.” Peeta held his arms out to her and grinned. “Every wedding needs a louse. Might as well be your future brother-in-law.”
Prim let out a laugh before rushing into his embrace. He lifted her easily and twirled her around before setting the soon-to-be bride down.
“Why in the world do we put up with you?” she mused, a laugh in her sea-blue eyes.
Peeta put an arm around her and kissed her cheek. “Because I’m irresistible.”
“Not to everyone,” an amused voice called out.
Looking up, his eyes locked on to the beautiful woman descending the stairs. Raven hair resting against her shoulders and deep, slate eyes followed his gaze. The burgundy dress she wore did wonders for her athletic figure revealing the womanly curves of her body and the long, tanned legs that were obviously from the recent bachelorette party in Miami.
Katniss Everdeen had become a very beautiful woman.
“Katniss.” Peeta couldn’t help but let his lips rise into a smile. She moved towards the group, her hips swaying gracefully. “It’s been awhile.”
“Not long enough,” Katniss retorted though a grin played on her full lips. “Hello, Peeta.”
Peeta held his arms out and she looked resistant at his gesture. “Come on, we’re practically brother and sister!”
Katniss shook her head before finally going to him and encircling his waist with her arms. He could smell the sweet scent that always seemed to waft around her. Resisting the urge to press his nose to her hair, Peeta instead wrapped his arms around her back.
He chuckled into her ear, pretending not to notice how she nuzzled her nose into his shoulder.
“Wow, Katniss! You really filled out.”
Peeta was suddenly shoved away as Katniss huffed, her grey eyes raging at him before she rushed into the den of the house. Prim flipped him the finger before following her upset sister.
Peeta looked to Rye who shook his head at his older brother.
He went to him. “What do you mean?”
“Ten minutes,” Rye repeated with a slight smile. “Ten minutes in the house and you’ve already managed to piss off both Everdeen girls.”
“Technically, one and a half,” Peeta responded. “Tomorrow, Prim goes full-Mellark.” He put an arm around his brother’s shoulders. “Come on, let’s go raid Uncle Haymitch’s wine cellar. We need to catch up.”
After taking a quick nap, Peeta got up slowly from the plush California King. He had been assigned Uncle Haymitch’s room which suited him just fine. The man had elegant taste befitting a ladies man who had passed on during the prime of his life.
Apparently Haymitch had spent the night with two twenty-year olds before falling into the eternal post-coital nap.
What a way to go.
Washing up in the black-tiled bathroom, Peeta looked at himself in the mirror, a navy towel around his hips. Something looked off. However his reflection showed no outwardly changes. His hair was the same gold and he had no flaws on his 2% percent body fat physique.
He went into the room to change into his suit for the pre-wedding festivities.
“What is going on with me?”
“You’re starting to get tired of the game,” a voice suddenly responded.
However, the tell-tale snarky tone came from the mouth of someone who had been dead for five years.
Slowly, Peeta turned and was greeted by the sight of his Uncle Haymitch sitting in the wingback chair in the corner of the room, glass of bourbon in one hand and cigar in the other.
“Hey kid.” Haymitch took a puff from his cigar, blowing smoke circles into the air. “Looking good.”
“I must have drank more than I thought,” Peeta muttered to himself. Rubbing his eyes, he assured himself that the specter would disappear. However as he brought his hands down from his face, Haymitch was still lounging in the chair tapping the cigar and dropping ash on the hardwood floor. “You’re still here?”
“Yeah, I am.” Standing up, Haymitch walked laboriously towards him. “You’ve gotten taller. I’m also feeling those V-cut hips. The chicks must love it. On the other hand, that’s probably the reason your trainer worked so hard on you.” His deceased Uncle chuckled, elbowing him, surprising Peeta by the force of it. “Then, you worked her pretty hard!”
“I’ve finally lost it,” Peeta said, walking back and sitting on the bed. “Or, Prim or Katniss did something just to get me back!”
“You can ruminate all you want but I’m here in regards to the Everdeens,” Haymitch informed him. “Or, one in particular.” He lifted his pant leg to reveal a thick ankle bracelet before meeting Peeta’s eyes once more. “I’m here to save you, Peeta. Save you from one of these.”
“An ankle bracelet?” Peeta snorted as he went to the oak armoire next to the wingback chair. “I heard you can get out of those easily.”
“Not this kind,” Haymitch warned. “It’s heavy. Filled with all the bad things I’ve done to myself and to other people. And, I’ve hurt a lot of people.” He looked to Peeta. “Most of all, I’ve hurt you.”
“You saved me!” He argued with the man. “Without you, I would be some guy weeping every time some chick didn’t look his way. Now they’re crying over me.” Peeta laughed. “What am I even doing? I’m talking to a hallucination!”
Peeta went back to pulling out his Armani suit.
“I slept with Effie, you know.”
He looked over to the spirit still sitting on his bed.
“You lie!” Peeta looked at him incredulously. “She’s smarter than that.”
“I did like her,” Haymitch responded. “Maybe even loved her—but I got scared and the next thing I know, I’m shagging two co-eds until my heart gave out. All to forget someone who wanted nothing but to wake up and find me beside her. Ask her if you don’t believe me.” He met Peeta’s eyes, regret evident in his own. “So yes. I’m saving you from being me.”
“And, how do you suppose that you’re going to do that?” he countered.
“You’ll be visited by three ghosts,” his Uncle informed him. “The first will come at 9:00.” Standing up, Haymitch went to him, his dark eyes warm. “I’m really very proud of you and Rye. You two were about the only good things that I had going for me.”
In a blink Haymitch vanished, leaving nothing but the scent of smoke in the air and the warm ash on the floor.
“Peeta, take a picture of us!”
Turning, he raised the camera so that Prim’s three bridesmaids—Glimmer, Clove, and Finch—could pose seductively for his viewing pleasure.
Glimmer was blonde, busty, and about the most filthy-mouthed woman that he had ever bedded. Clove was the sharpest of the girls—a heckler in the sack, but a disciplinarian as well. Then, there was Finch who was quietest. However the old adage that the quiet ones are the freakiest was clearly invented for people like her, for she really went to town when it came down to it.
“If it isn’t the Three Bridesmaids of the Apocalypse!” he responded with a grin.
His eyes went to the doorway where Katniss was entering with her parents. Just an hour ago, Mr. Everdeen had greeted him sternly while Mrs. Everdeen was clearly flattered by his attentions though she easily fended him off.
“So which one of us do you want to take to that cellar downstairs so we can have a private toasting?” Clove asked coyly.
Through his peripherals, there was a twinkle and Peeta turned to see Katniss speaking to Rye and her sister. The diamond comb in her dark hair dazzled him as well as the woman it belonged to.
“Can you excuse me?” he said to the three women in front of him before rushing away.
Walking towards them, Peeta raised his camera to take a quick photo of Katniss. He then took another shot of the engaged couple. He had been doing that all night, planning to make some sort of present with it.
“How’s it going everyone?” he interrupted, throwing his arm around Katniss. She glared at him. “You still mad at me, gorgeous?”
“I’m always mad at you,” Katniss stated.
“No one who looks that gorgeous should be angry,” he told her. “Red suits you.”
Peeta’s eyes roved over her gown, the boatneck sleeveless dress emphasizing the elegant lines of her shoulders. The gown fit her like a glove, the dark beading drawing his gaze to her curves until the skirt flared out in a slight trumpet.
“You’re staring too hard,” Katniss warned though there was a lightness in her tone. “Your girls might get jealous.”
Peeta met her eyes squarely. “I don’t have girls.” She blushed in his stare. “Plus, how could I possibly look at anyone else when you’re right in front of me?”
Prim suddenly snapped her fingers in his face.
“For the love of God, do not screw each other before our wedding! We cannot have any drama…” She began to hyperventilate. “I can’t have anyone fighting!”
“Sweetie, calm down,” Rye interjected. His arm went around his fiancée’s shoulders. “They know better than that.” He eyed his brother. “Well, Katniss does anyway.”
Peeta glared. “Hey!”
“I’m going to check on the kitchen staff,” Katniss added before giving Peeta an apologetic smile and then walking off.
“I didn’t mean it, Peeta,” Prim said, meeting his eyes. “I know that you two have moved on, but if you let her…I think that you could easily find your way into her heart again.”
“Would that really be so bad?” Peeta found himself asking.
“You don’t get it,” his future sister told him. “You hurt her. She just started coming back here. If something happened and it didn’t work out again…she’s not only avoiding her hometown, but her sister, too. I won’t stand for that.”
Leaning forward, Peeta kissed her cheek.
“Alright…alright…I get it. In fact, I’m going to go to bed so I can avoid your lusting-for-manflesh bridesmaids.”
Prim smiled gratefully. “Thanks, Peeta.”
Rye clapped his shoulder. “Have a good night, big brother.”
Heading to the bar, Peeta quickly grabbed a brandy for his nightcap before going into the empty entryway to head upstairs.
He turned to see Katniss walking over to him.
Peeta nodded, smiling sheepishly. “Yeah. I promised your sister that I’d keep my shenanigans at bay. So, I’m taking my brandy and going to bed.”
Katniss nodded, smiling prettily. “It’s really funny, you know. Prim and Rye getting married. We were all just kids once and playing hide and seek in this house.” She looked around, her grey eyes lit up in remembrance. “Now they’re going to start this big adventure.”
“You think marriage is an adventure?” he asked and she blushed. Peeta mused over her words. “That a good way to put it. In college, I remember that Rye’s big adventure was going through Prim’s sorority sisters. He lucked out though and saved the best for the last.” Peeta turned seeing Katniss’ mouth drawn in a frown. “You okay?”
“Yeah, just thought I heard something weird,” she responded. “Anyway, have a good night.”
Peeta gave her a final nod before ascending the steps slowly. There was something in her eyes that bothered him.
His call was suddenly interrupted by someone stepping into the house. It was a handsome dark-skinned man in an extremely well-fitted navy suit.
“Thresh!” Peeta watched as Rye rushed over to greet the man and Prim immediately hugged the new addition to their party. “So glad you could make it!”
“Of course,” Thresh responded. “Happy to be here to celebrate the nuptials of my favorite couple.”
“Wait till you meet my sister,” Prim told the man.
Peeta stopped at his sister-in-law’s words. He couldn’t believe it.
They were trying to set Katniss up!
Huffing, he went to his room and slammed the door behind him.
There sitting on his bed was the girl he lost his virginity to.
Johanna looked exactly as she did in 2005.
Chunky blonde highlights on her dark hair, black tank-top, cream-colored baggy crop pants, and a shrug. On her feet were her high-heeled Timberland boots.
She stood up from the bed and rounded him before stopping in front of Peeta, a smirk on her lips.
“My God, you grew up really nicely!”
Peeta tilted his head at her. “Damn it! The hallucinations are coming back!” He looked at his still-filled glass of bourbon. “I must be losing it. Seeing that guy who is about to meet Katniss—”
“Oh God, not her again.” Johanna crossed her arms. “You know that you called out her name when you came!”
He looked to the teenager. “Sorry?”
“Imagine getting laid by the hottest guy in school and as he’s humping you like there’s no tomorrow, and he screams out some other chick’s name! That’s enough to scar a girl for life!” Johanna gave him a smile. “But, Katniss is probably the reason we’re here, isn’t it?”
“What?” Peeta felt himself getting lightheaded. This couldn’t be real.
“Katniss Everdeen.” Johanna shook her head. “The bane of my existence.” She grinned at the man. “Actually, the bane of your existence. After all, I am the Ghost of Girlfriends Past and I’m here to show you what was before. Shall we go?”
“Go where?” he asked.
Johanna snapped her fingers and before Peeta could blink, he found himself outside of the Abernathy home.
Except it was spring.
They seemed to float over to a pair of children, one blond and one dark-haired as they sat side-by-side at the swing set.
It was himself and Katniss as eight-year-olds.
“I got you something,” Katniss told him shyly, fidgeting with the skirt of her dress. Her small red dress with the white collar had been his favorite. “I hope you like it.”
Handing Peeta the messily wrapped present, she turned away and grown-up Peeta could see how nervous she was.
His eight-year-old self unwrapped the small Polaroid camera that created snapshots, a smaller version of a Polaroid photo.
“Wow! Thanks Katniss!” He grinned, revealing a missing tooth. “You’re the best.”
Katniss turned to him happily, her braids swinging with her. “You’re welcome.”
In excitement, Peeta loaded the camera then jumped from his seat on the swing. “Let me take your picture!”
Looking through the viewfinder, he focused on his friend. For the first time, Peeta saw something different; Katniss wasn’t just any ordinary girl. There was something special about her. He placed the camera down.
“Can I try something?”
His friend nodded trustingly and his hand trembled as he reached to undo her braids. Her hair fell in pronounced waves around her face.
Lifting the camera back to his eye, he aimed his camera at Katniss. “Okay. One…two…three!”
Peeta took the photo and then rushed over to Katniss as he pulled the snapshot from its dispenser. Together, they watched the photo revealing his friend’s pretty face, her hair framing her heart-shaped face and her eyes glowing as she stared at the camera.
Peeta turned to Katniss, his stomach churning nervously. “You look…like a girl.”
“I am a girl!” His friend protested.
“You look pretty,” he stammered.
That was the moment. The moment where Peeta knew that it had all changed.
“I’ll race you!” Peeta’s eight-year-old self suddenly called out.
He jumped off his swing and rushed away.
Katniss hopped off her swing to follow him. “Hey! Not fair!”
Johanna stood next to him. “That was the start of your passions—Katniss and photography.” She smiled at Peeta. “You haven’t escaped either one since.”
He couldn’t focus on her words instead looking to where Peeta and Katniss were running to.
They were joining his parents, who were walking with Rye. His father’s arm was protectively around his mother and Peeta watched his golden parents turned to smile at one another before kissing quickly.
“You wanted what they had,” Johanna said and he nodded. “I bet when they died, it really hurt. Because you thought that they couldn’t survive without the other so they chose to leave you and Rye to fend for yourselves.”
Peeta wiped his eyes hastily. “I guess.”
“That wasn’t it,” the ghost said gently. “It was an accident.”
She suddenly snapped her fingers but Peeta’s stare remained on the couple until the scene faded in front of him. He wanted to remember them that way, happy and in love. It comforted him to know that they were forever frozen in time that way.
“After your parents died, you came to live here with Haymitch,” Johanna continued. “Time passed and soon you were some gangly thirteen-year-old going to a dance.”
“When love hurts It won’t work Maybe we need some time alone We need to let it breathe…”
The music of Blu Cantrell filled the gymnasium and Johanna danced to the song next to him. Peeta looked around and smiled seeing himself with Katniss standing awkwardly next to one another. This time, Katniss’ hair was loose and she wore a skirt and cardigan combo. Next to her, his shaggy-haired self stood in jeans and long white t-shirt.
“You were a gangly one,” Johanna remarked and he nodded in agreement. “Bet you’re remembering how awkward this moment was. I mean, you really wanted to dance with her.”
“It was my goal that night,” he responded. “I wanted to ask her to dance and then ask her out on a real date.”
“Didn’t work out that way?” Peeta shook his head as Johanna looked to him. “Why?”
She turned just in time to see two of Katniss’ friends run up to her.
Katniss gave teenage Peeta an amused smile before looking to her friend. “What?”
“Gale Hawthorne wants to ask you to go out with him,” Madge, her other friend informed her. “He wants us to ask you if you want to dance first!”
She glanced at Peeta expectantly. “What do you think?”
“I’m sure Peeta is cool with it,” Delly assured Katniss, not even glancing at the boy. “I mean, you’ve been friends forever!”
Peeta watched the two girls lead her over to Gale, the tall, dark, and handsome junior varsity football player. Suddenly feeling very inadequate, he turned away trying to stop anyone from seeing the burning tears in his eyes.
He never even noticed Katniss watching him walk out of the gym.
“Got somebody she’s a beauty Very special really and truly…”
Present-day Peeta watched Katniss dance with Gale to the Wayne Wonder tune. However, he could see her glancing at the open gym doors every so often before focusing on the boy in front of her.
“Wow. Her friends were bitches,” Johanna remarked. “Especially the one with the bad complexion.”
“She didn’t have to accept,” he argued as the scene faded in front of him.
“Well, neither did you,” the specter retorted. “Did you see that pathetic puppy-dog look she was giving you? She wanted to be rescued!”
“It’s all in the past,” Peeta told her. “As are you.”
She smiled enigmatically.
“That is true. So then, time passed and you decided to go to school in Los Angeles. Also, Haymitch’s business took you all to the Land of Botox and Boob Jobs. In that time, your Uncle taught you “The Ways”. He taught you how to not see women for their inner value, but as objects to use as needed. That way, you’d never get hurt again. Then some time passed and two years later, you were back on the East Coast.”
Johanna snapped her fingers once more and they were in a smelly basement filled with kids.
“Did you hear that Peeta Mellark is back?” The girl speaking was none other than Delly Cartwright. “I heard that he went to school in Sweden.”
Beside her stood Katniss who was anxiously looking at the basement stairs. She was wearing a thin halter-top with silky strings around her neck. Since her breasts had not grown in yet, it was the ideal outfit along with the jeans and wedges.
“I heard that he had an affair with one of his teachers,” Madge added. “That’s why he’s here. Like they wouldn’t allow him back in the country!”
“That’s silly,” Katniss said as she took another sip from her cup. “That’s not Peeta at all.”
“Well the Peeta you know isn’t the same guy,” Delly informed her. “Apparently, he knows what he’s doing.”
There was a squeal and everyone looked up as Peeta descended the stairs in a chocolate faux-leather jacket and fitted jeans. His hair was now cut and brushed back showing off his bright blues as well as his firm jaw.
Peeta smirked arrogantly at everyone. “I just got the latest Kanye West album.” He tossed the CD at the person next to the stereo. “Should be out in three months for everyone else.”
There was a definite buzz around him as he made his way through the crowd.
Even Katniss did a double take to make sure that her clothes weren’t stained with punch.
However as he walked over to her area, Peeta didn’t even meet her eyes, instead stepping towards the back of the room to greet some of the football team.
“Oh my God, Katniss,” Madge said. “He didn’t even look your way!”
Katniss gulped down the rest of the cup.
“That was a moment of triumph for you, wasn’t it?” He turned to Johanna. “You really got her back for dissing you.”
It didn’t feel so good watching her stare at him longingly as his fifteen-year-old self tried to act nonchalant.
“Oh my God!” Johanna suddenly yelled. “IT’S US!”
Peeta watched as Johanna’s replica launched herself at him, her arms going around his neck and her leg wrapping his hip. He looked surprised by her intrusion but his younger self looked over at a reddening Katniss before continuing to kiss Johanna.
“That was an amazing five minutes, wasn’t it?” Johanna gushed. “Look at us!” Their flashback selves disappeared into a backroom. “You managed to touch your first set of boobs while I got to tell everyone that Peeta Mellark was well-endowed.” She put an arm around him. “In all actuality, you lasted about a minute inside me and screamed out Katniss’ name.”
“A minute?” He met her eyes. “It couldn’t have been that short!”
“Look, we’re back.”
His eyes went to his younger self quickly rushing out of the room as he zipped up. Johanna followed a few minutes later awkwardly but with a cool smile on her lips.
“I wasn’t that upset and you were made a bona fide sex god. So how many girls did you nail before we graduated?”
“About everyone except Katniss,” Peeta responded hollowly. He watched his younger self glance once more at Katniss, who was nursing her drink in a corner.
“So let’s get to the good stuff,” Johanna continued.
Around them, the setting faded until they heard the sounds of glasses clinking and the two were in a bar in Manhattan.
There was a round of laughter and Peeta followed it to where he sat amongst a group of waif-like women in short dresses. He was wearing a peacoat and a deep v-neck t-shirt with his hair swept back. On his face were a pair of horn-rimmed glasses that weren’t even prescription. He just thought they made him look smart.
Present time Peeta let out a gasp as Katniss walked by him dressed in leggings and buttoned GAP top. She looked exactly as she did now, her hair just a little longer.
His past self rushed over to the woman and he hugged her happily. Katniss responded in kind and he could see her bright smile over his shoulder.
Turning to his group, Peeta presented his pretty childhood friend.
“Everyone, this is Katniss Everdeen. The girl who broke my heart by dancing with Gale Hawthorne instead of me at our first school dance!”
“Peeta!” She socked him good-naturedly on the arm. “That totally didn’t happen that way!”
“Fine,” he responded and looked at her. “We’ll let bygones be bygones. As a peace offering, I’m buying you our first adult drink together.”
Katniss gave him a smile. “Sure, I’d love that.”
They walked over to the bar and she ordered a glass of white wine as he got an old-fashioned.
“So where have you been?” she asked him. “I know Rye just went back to the Abernathy mansion. He and Prim have been spending a lot of time together. You, however, have not been there in a while.”
“I’ve been interning with Beetee Latier, the photographer,” he explained. “The man doesn’t believe in sleep.” He clinked his glass to hers on the bar. “But he believes in a good drink.” Taking a sip, his eyes roved over her. “And yourself?”
“I’m a doctor,” Katniss responded with a small smile. “Not exactly an attending, but I’m working on it.”
“Aren’t we a little smarty pants?” he teased and she blushed under his gaze. “But really Katniss, you’re doing something good. I always knew you would though. You have that people-saving thing going on.”
“Oh really?” she questioned as she took another sip from her glass. “And, who did I save that you know?”
Peeta pulled the digital camera that he always carried with him and showed it to her.
“Me.” Katniss beamed as he continued. “You got me my first camera and well…I sort of fell in love.”
“Katniss?” A group of girls were suddenly behind her. “We’re going back to the apartment. Were you coming with us?” They all eyed him, smiles on their faces.
Katniss looked at him for a moment and he gave the most charming smile he could.
“Now how can I resist that?” she said before looking to the group. “I’ll be home later. Peeta is going to walk me home.”
Peeta smiled at her. “I am?”
“God, you two were disgustingly adorable,” Johanna remarked as they watched his past-self and Katniss laughing and talking at the bar. “You told yourself that you were not going to mess things up this time.”
“I wanted to be a better man for her,” he responded, almost to himself.
The scene faded as he and Johanna watched his past-self with Katniss walking down the street towards her apartment. Peeta watched himself take Katniss’ hand as they strolled and how she shyly entwined their fingers. By the time they were at her place, her head was resting on his shoulder.
“I think the wine is getting to me,” Katniss hummed at him.
“One glass is all it takes, huh?” Peeta joked. “Should I take you upstairs and tuck you in?”
She shook her head. “No. You’ll come check on me tomorrow night.”
Katniss turned to him, her hands reaching to his cheeks before she drew him into a light kiss. He wrapped his arms around her waist pulling her closer, not wanting to let go of the taste of wine and warmth.
Pulling away, he grinned against her lips. “I will.”
“Now comes the fun part,” Johanna declared. “We get to watch a montage of you two doing sappy things with one another—going to brunch, blowing kisses at each other from across the room, and such.” She turned to him. “What was your song?”
“Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol,” he said with hesitation.
“Really?” Johanna snorted. “Remind my present-self to find you and kick you in the face.” She snapped her fingers and the beginning chords of ‘Chasing Cars’ started around them. “Now watch your little lovey-dovey clip show.”
“We’ll do it all Everything On our own…”
Together, Peeta and Johanna observed his past-self with Katniss.
He had forgotten how beautiful she looked whenever she laughed as they watched him and Katniss at a theater, his arm around her and her head on his shoulder.
“If I lay here If I just lay here Would you lie with me and just forget the world?”
“How long was it until she let you up to her apartment?” Johanna asked.
He continued gazing at the couple who were once again in front of the stairs to Katniss’ apartment. “Almost two months.”
They watched as Katniss pulled Peeta up the stairs and towards her apartment. He felt his heart pound remembering that first time with Katniss. There were no awkward pauses as she brought him to her room, her lips on his as they slowly removed each other’s clothing.
It was nothing short of beautiful.
“I have to say that I think you improved in the bedroom,” Johanna remarked with a grin.
The scene changed.
Suddenly, they found themselves watching himself and Katniss in her bed. He was gently kissing her forehead.
“That was great,” Peeta whispered. Almost begrudgingly, he sat up and started to gather his clothes to get dressed. “I should probably leave before your roommates get up.”
Katniss sat up. “Where are you going?”
Peeta looked to her. “Home.”
“No,” she stated. “I’m not the girl you leave in the middle of the night. I’m the girl that you wrap your arms around and you fall asleep to. I’m the girl you wake up to. We are better than all of that. You are better.”
“Why do you think so much of me?” he asked, his eyes suddenly burning at her words.
“Because to me, you’re everything,” Katniss said softly. “Now come back to bed.”
Peeta put his clothes back on the floor and turning back to her, brought her close as they laid back together.
“This is kind of nice,” he whispered.
Katniss put her head to his chest and closed her eyes. “I know.”
“I don’t want to watch the next part,” Peeta told the ghost next to him.
“Why?” Johanna responded softly. “Just because you weren’t there to see it, doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.”
He watched the room become lighter as the sun rose over Katniss’ room until it stopped and she shuffled in the bed, unhurriedly coming to.
Her hand sleepily reached to search for his.
Only Katniss found nothing but a cold, empty spot next to her. She sat up and present Peeta walked forward watching as she slowly digested that he had left in the middle of the night. Her grey eyes, usually so strong, slowly filled with tears and her face crumbled as she let herself cry in the loneliness of her room.
“Oh, Katniss,” he whispered watching what he had done. “You never deserved this.”
Her phone rang and hastily she answered, wiping her eyes.
“Hello, this is Dr. Everdeen.” Katniss listened for a moment and then nodded. “I’ll be there.”
Turning to Johanna, Peeta felt a rush of anger. “What the hell?”
However, she was gone and Peeta was back on his bed.
Sitting up, Peeta found himself still wearing his suit. Looking at the clock, the number reflected saying that it was only 9:30.
“Holy shit,” he breathed out.
Had that really happened? Did he just go through his early years with his first tryst? It seemed so real and there were memories—like the one of Katniss, that would be impossible for his mind to create. He had avoided painful things like that.
Throwing open the door, Peeta rushed down the stairs and was surprised to find Katniss along with Thresh, dancing around the entryway. She was laughing, that special kind of laugh that made his stomach turn excitedly. However, the feeling quickly turned to jealousy seeing Thresh’s hand on her waist.
Katniss suddenly spotted him, her face slowly tensing in worry. “Are you okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
He stopped his descent to look at her. “What?”
She rushed over, forgetting her dance and her hand reached to his forehead as her eyes roved over him.
“No fever,” she mused. “You just look paler than usual.”
“You shouldn’t care about me so much,” Peeta told her. “I don’t deserve it.”
“Of course you do,” she said to him sincerely. “We’re practically family.”
He swallowed the hard lump in his throat. “Yeah, family.” Peeta turned to Thresh. “Peeta Mellark, Rye’s older brother.”
The man gave him a handsome smile. “Thresh Holbrook, Rye’s Fraternity brother.”
“I’m going to go get some fresh air,” Peeta told the two.
“It’s snowing!” Katniss protested.
He gave her an assuring smile. “I’ll be fine.”
Peeta went to the door, opening it, and quickly leaving the potential love connection alone. Who was he to interfere? Katniss deserved more, especially after everything that he put her through.
The cars were parked in a circle along the driveway, all unlocked with the keys still inside. He spotted his car and got in quickly.
“You’ll kill your car battery if you turn on the heat.”
He jumped to see Effie sitting in the passenger’s seat.
The Second Ghost had arrived.
“Of all the people,” Peeta grumbled as he looked at his assistant. “Was this because you didn’t get your Christmas bonus yet?”
Effie chuckled. “Please! I already found the Tiffany box in your desk drawer. You are the worst at hiding things.” She folded her hands on her lap. “I’m here because no one has watched you screw up as much as I have.” Her usually bright eyes dampened with unshed tears. “Also, I told Haymitch that I’d watch over you.”
“I didn’t know,” he said to her. “I’m really sorry, Effie.”
“Thank you,” she responded. “Not like I’ll remember that you said that.”
She snapped her fingers and they found themselves in Effie’s elegant Upper East Side apartment. Together, he and specter Effie watched her live-self turn on her tiny Christmas tree then go to the couch where she turned on the television and grabbed the Cup O’Noodles on the coffee table.
“Wow, that’s sad,” Peeta responded. Her ghost-self nodded in agreement. Finally, he sighed. “So, where else are we going?”
Once more, Effie snapped their fingers.
This time, they were inside the Abernathy Mansion where Prim and Rye sat with her bridesmaids in the den. A roaring fire was built and the group sat, all holding their champagne glasses and laughing at a story that Rye was telling them.
“What is with your brother, Rye?” Glimmer suddenly asked. “I was so sure that one of us would be warming his bed tonight. Instead, he went up alone!”
“My lovely bride-to-be smacked some sense into him,” Rye explained and then kissed the top of Prim’s head. “She wanted to keep it a drama-free few days.”
“And, I’m the bride,” Prim told them. “So he has to listen. I’m expecting all of you to do the same.”
“Yes, Mom!” Clove responded. She giggled drunkenly. “It’s just weird because Rye and Peeta are totally different. You’re so squeaky clean and well your brother…isn’t.”
Peeta watched as his brother sat back and smiled softly. “I know that he can piss people off sometimes but Peeta has always taken care of me. He would pick me up after school and make sure that my homework was done. He taught me how to shave and how to drive. When I went to prom, he taught me how to properly tie a tie.” Prim smiled adoringly at her future husband. “He’s my big brother and I love the guy.”
“Totally want to sleep with him even more now,” Glimmer responded as she took another sip from her champagne glass.
“Well, you might not get to,” Finch said. “I mean, he’s totally following Katniss around. Didn’t they have a thing?”
“Once,” Rye replied. “Neither of them talk about it.”
Finch took the bottle of wine and pour herself another glass.
“Anyway, I’m sure he has a chance to get her,” the girl said. “Did you see her when she was out there with Thresh? When Peeta came down the stairs, she completely forgot about her assigned date and went to check on him. It’s a little pathetic.”
There was a cough.
From where he stood, Peeta saw Katniss at the doorway in her red gown.
Clearly she heard Finch’s words because her eyes watered.
Prim started, her own eyes worried. “Katniss—”
Katniss disappeared through the door and Peeta, in a panic, followed her. She went to the kitchen, her eyes going to the tray of cupcakes. She took the tray and hopped onto the counter as she went to unwrap her first sweet.
He remembered that she would stress eat, especially with sweets. She had told him once that while studying for her MCATS, she went through nothing but Krispy Kreme donut holes.
She sat there staring blankly out at nothing as she finished off her first cupcake.
“I really am pathetic,” Katniss whispered to herself as she grabbed her next helping.
“Is she?” Effie asked, suddenly behind him.
Even with frosting on her face, Katniss was beautiful.
“No, never,” he told his assistant, still gazing at the girl at the counter. “In fact, seeing her like this reminds me why I fell so hard for her.”
Katniss looked up to see Thresh at the kitchen doorway.
“Not him again,” Peeta groaned as the man joined Katniss at the counter.
“I’m just feeling a little bit like a loser,” she admitted, reaching for her next cupcake.
Thresh gave her a sympathetic smile. “So you have a thing for Peeta, huh?”
Katniss laughed, the sound making Peeta ache inside. He waited anxiously for her answer.
“Maybe I always have since we were kids,” Katniss said to the man. “I even remember the first time that I had actual feelings for him. We were eight and I gave him a little Polaroid camera. Before Peeta took his first photo of me, he took my hair out of their pigtails and it gave me tingles…” She looked to Thresh. “Kind of pathetic, huh?”
“Not one bit,” Thresh responded. They went quiet and the man looked to three-tier buttercream wedding cake in the corner of the kitchen. “Want to see if we can steal a piece of the cake without Prim noticing?”
“She’ll totally notice,” Katniss said as the man held his hand out and, to Peeta’s annoyance, she took it. “My sister pays attention to detail. It’s why she’s a designer.”
“My dad is a baker,” the man informed her. “He taught me a few things—like how to cover my tracks.”
Katniss’ laughter surrounded Peeta until he found himself closing his eyes.
He couldn’t stand to see her smiling that smile at Thresh.
When Peeta opened his eyes, he was back in his car.
Walking back into the house, Peeta was surprised by the silence.
That was until Prim came tearing into the entryway. Her face was streaked with tears.
“Stay away from me, Rye!”
His brother followed quickly after her along with the rest of the party. Rye went to him, his blue eyes angry. “What did you tell Katniss?”
He was confused by the question. “I don’t understand!”
“It doesn’t matter,” Prim sobbed before she turned to Rye. “You slept with Clove! While we were together! You cheated on me!”
“I didn’t!” his brother argued. “Once we got together, I swear that I was faithful.”
“I never met Clove until my last year of college and according to my sister, you have gone through most of my sorority—which included Clove. So, of course you slept with her.”
Peeta saw Katniss walking with Thresh in tow. She looked at him coolly. “The Mellark brothers are exactly the same.”
“Bullshit!” Peeta argued. “My brother is nothing like me! Rye is better.” His eyes swept over the three bridesmaids. “And, let’s be honest, you three don’t exactly act like you’re spotless. At least I admit that I sleep around, but you three!”
“It doesn’t matter,” Prim declared. “The wedding is off.” Her eyes turned coldly to Peeta. “Ever since you got here, it’s been nothing but bad luck!” She rushed up the stairs with her family following closely behind.
The three bridesmaids simpered off, leaving only Peeta, Thresh, and Rye.
Peeta looked to his brother helplessly. “Rye—”
The look that Rye gave him ripped his heart right out of his chest.
“You got what you want. I’m not getting married. Now I’m alone—like you.”
Rye turned and walked away from him. Thresh followed to make sure that Rye was alright.
Peeta sat down at the bottom of the stairs, tired from the upturn of events that occurred in only a few minutes.
When he looked up, a beautiful woman stood in front of him. Her skin was dark, rich, and unblemished. Her eyes were hazel and deep with long lashes framing her lids. She was in a black robe and as she walked towards him, she held out her hand giving him a perfect smile.
“You’re the Ghost of Girlfriends Future,” he stated and she nodded. “You have a name?”
She reached for the neckline of her robe to undo a bit of it where a gold necklace rested against her skin.
In beautiful cursive, her name shone against her skin: Rue.
Peeta stood up and took her hand. “Let’s get this over with, Rue.”
He opened his eyes to a beautiful, flower-filled church.
The pews were crowded with guests, all happy to be in attendance. He stood at the front along with Rue, who stood out in her dark robe against the pure-white building.
A violinist at the altar began to play the wedding march and Peeta turned to the open entryway of the church to see Katniss in a dazzling white gown beginning her walk down the aisle, her smile bright enough to be seen through her gauzy veil.
Looking at her in that gown, Peeta realized that all that time he spent worrying and fearing marriage was all for naught. Having Katniss as his wife would make it all worthwhile. He wanted to stand in front of all their friends and family and declare his love for her.
As she got closer to the front, Peeta could see their future: their brick home with its fireplace large enough to make s’mores in, the comfortable worn-in furniture and the dining room where they would have family dinners.
He saw their little girl with his blue eyes and their chubby son toddling after his sister, his springy curls bouncing as he rushed after her.
It could all be his.
However as she made her way to his side, Peeta felt the cool rush as someone walked through him.
Instead of himself taking her hand, he watched as Thresh took it instead as they walked to the officiant in front of them.
“No…” He looked to Rue who pointed to the couple. They were putting their wedding bands on one another’s fingers. “Katniss, wait! “ Peeta went to Katniss who was staring at Thresh in adoration. “Don’t marry him! Marry me!”
“You may now kiss the bride,” the officiant declared, his face lighting up in a happy smile.
Peeta backed away as applause filled his ears. “I can’t see this!”
His eyes closed just as the couple closed in on their first kiss as man and wife.
When his eyes opened, the church was empty.
Save for one person sitting in the last pew.
Rue stood by the man, her eyes urging Peeta to hurry. He could tell that their time was running short and so he went to the lonely man.
It was Rye, his mouth trembling and his face haggard.
“What happened to him?” Peeta asked the ghost. She pointed to Rye’s left hand. There was no ring on his finger. “He never married Prim.”
Rue shook her head.
Peeta watched helplessly as his brother stood up and walked out of the church with heaviness in his gait. He and Rue followed him up a grassy hill and before Peeta’s eyes, Rye became older. His brother’s hair turned a snowy white and his posture worsened, hunching over in age until he was hobbling to get to the top of the hill.
There waiting for Rye was a priest, a headstone, and an open grave.
Rye nodded at the priest before sitting in one of three empty chairs. “I think it’s going to be just me.”
“Very well,” the man said before opening his bible. “We are here today to say goodbye to Peeta Mellark.”
Peeta went to the open grave seeing a plain, wooden coffin. His eyes went to the two empty chairs next to his elderly brother.
“Where is everyone?” he asked Rue.
“That’s the name of the game.” Peeta turned to find Uncle Haymitch. “You push everyone away and you’re bound to be alone in the end.”
Then he gave Peeta a shove into the grave.
Peeta landed on the coffin with a loud thud. He looked up to see Rue and his Uncle looking down at him.
“What is going on?”
Rue blew him a sad kiss.
“Sleep well, Peeta,” Uncle Haymitch said with a wave.
Then he was buried alive.
“I don’t want to die!”
He felt himself fall, hitting the hard ground with a resounding thud.
Peeta opened his eyes. He was back in his bedroom.
However, it was day. The sunlight shone through the frosty windows.
Rushing to the window, Peeta opened the window seeing a man load flowers into a van.
“Hey you! What day is it?” he called out.
The man glared at him. “It’s Christmas, you jackass!”
Peeta ignored the grumbling man and closed the window. Quickly he changed and rushed down the stairs to see if he could make amends with his brother and Prim before they completely shut him out of their lives.
Rye was at the foot of the stairs, a bag next to him.
“What’s going on?” Peeta asked his brother.
Rye looked torn, his eyes bloodshot. “Prim is leaving with the girls.”
“No…” Peeta put his hands on his brother’s shoulders. “Where is she?”
“Her Dad is taking them to the airport,” Rye responded, his voice thick with tears. “I messed up, Peeta.”
“No.” Peeta pulled his brother to him. “I messed up. I should’ve been a better Best Man to you.” He could hear the car starting up. “Wait here.”
Opening the door, Peeta ran out just as Mr. Everdeen began to pull out of his space. Without thinking, he ran in front of the car, banging on the hood and ignoring the fact that Mr. Everdeen could care less about killing Peeta with his 4Runner.
“You get out of my way, Peeta!” Mr. Everdeen bellowed.
“Make me!” Peeta responded.
Mr. Everdeen was a large man and when he stepped out of the vehicle, he looked even larger.
Prim sat in the front seat, her arms crossed while Katniss along with the worst bridesmaids of all time were settled in the backseat. He could feel Katniss’ glare from where he stood.
“What do you have to say for yourself, boy?” Mr. Everdeen growled as he met Peeta in the middle of the driveway.
Peeta drew himself up to full height. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what?” The man in front of him asked.
Swinging forward, Peeta clocked the man in the jaw and Mr. Everdeen fell to a heap on the ground.
Rye rushed out of the house in panic. “What did you do?”
“Take care of him,” Peeta said. He hopped into the driver’s seat, slamming the door, and turning the child lock on before looking to the girls. “Sorry but I’m hijacking your car.”
Pressing his foot to the gas pedal, Peeta sped away from house.
Prim glared at him. “What are you doing?”
“We have to talk,” he told her. “I know that you won’t listen me at the house so I’m taking you somewhere where we can have an actual conversation.”
“And, if I don’t talk?” Prim responded petulantly.
“Then you’ll be making a huge mistake,” he told her bluntly. “And, I know all about mistakes.”
His eyes met Katniss’ in the rearview mirror.
Peeta drove them down to the bottom of the mountain that led up to the Abernathy Estate, stopping at a frozen river bank.
Turning to Prim, he gave her a stern stare. “Get out.”
His would-be-sister looked at him in shock. “What?”
“I said get out or I’ll drag you out,” Peeta instructed.
“For fuck sakes, get out before he goes psycho on us and drives this car into that river!” Clove yelled at Prim.
Prim glared at the girl before pushing her door open and jumping out of the car. He followed, locking the door, and turning on the alarm so none of the girls would think of getting out.
However, he saw from the corner of his eye that Finch lowered the window.
“What do you want?” Prim asked him, her blue eyes frosty.
“I know why you’re doing this,” Peeta said to her.
“You were there,” she responded. “Of course you know.”
“I know the other reason,” he continued, approaching her. “You’re scared.”
“Why would I be scared?” Prim, despite her response, trembled at his words—and it wasn’t from the cold. “I’m angry. Rye slept with one of my bridesmaids!”
“Yet, you’ve forgiven her!” Peeta argued. “That’s your issue! You love Rye so much that you forgave him even when you knew and you did it without a second thought. That scared you! Because doing something like that leaves your heart open to more hurt. But, sweetheart, leaving your heart open also lets you experience some of the greatest joys in life. Like being with the one you love. You need my brother. You love him.”
Prim blinked back her tears. “That’s not true.”
“Then, why are you crying?” he responded. Peeta looked to the car, his eyes meeting Katniss’ before looking back at Prim. “I was in your shoes once. I loved someone and I got scared, so I ran. I thought, ‘What if she leaves me?’…’What if she falls out of love with me?’…‘What if she dies?’”
He put his hands on her shoulders to steady the trembling Prim.
“That kind of thinking will only cause heartache. Because you’ve got to take the good with the bad when it comes to love. You and I are birds of a feather. We love so much because we think our hearts are the most valuable things. Trust me when I tell you that Rye will protect your heart with everything he has. And, you’re a lot braver than me, Prim.”
Peeta looked to Katniss once more.
“I should’ve trusted her more. Because the girl I lost would have fought tooth and nail to protect my heart.” He met Prim’s eyes. “Prove me wrong, Prim. Show me that people like us can have a happy ending.”
Giving her space, Peeta waited for her response.
After a moment, Prim spoke.
“Okay.” She was grinning from ear to ear, her tears rushing steadily down her cheeks. “Let’s go back!”
Peeta rushed over to her, picking the girl up, and twirling her. She laughed, the sound of it watered with happy tears. The girls in the car clapped, all wiping their eyes.
As Prim got back into the car, Peeta caught Katniss’ eyes.
‘Good job,’ she mouthed, beaming at him.
He nodded before getting into the car.
“Hi, I’m Peeta Mellark,” he began. “And, I’m the Best Man.” There was a series of whoops and hollers. “I guess my reputation precedes me.” The wedding party rippled with laughter. “I’m supposed to give a speech about love and such.”
Peeta looked around before his eyes fell upon Prim and Rye, who were glowing. The ceremony had gone off without a hitch and even his eyes misted seeing his brother slip the wedding band onto Prim’s finger.
“But, I’m no expert,” Peeta continued. He looked to Rye. “My brother, however—he embodies the word. Rye loves without fear or restraint. He does it unrepentantly. Big brothers are supposed to teach their little brothers things. I did the best I could and tried to give him the wisdom that I knew. I never realized that he was teaching me, too.”
He took a breath before raising his glass.
“So this is to my brother, Rye,” he said, choking back his tears. “The best teacher I know.” He looked to Prim. “And to Prim, because she is oh so brave to be taking the Mellark brothers on. I love you both. Salut!”
The crowd clapped uproariously as his brother and Prim hugged him. He whispered his ‘I love you’s’ into their ears before sitting down next to Katniss.
“You owe me a dance, Everdeen,” Peeta said as he met her eyes.
“Later, Mellark,” Katniss responded, her own stare steady and her smile teasing. “If you can find me.”
Peeta left Effie with Plutarch, an old comrade of Mr. Everdeen’s and as they continued their conversation, he stepped out of the crowded ballroom using one of the trick doors that led into the courtyard.
The night was clear, the zenith of stars spread above him and he wished for hope on all of them before approaching Katniss, who sat on the old swing set.
She looked up hearing his footsteps in the snow and smiled softly. “I knew that you’d find me.”
“You find comfort in good memories,” Peeta said as he sat on the swing next to her. “I wanted to show you something.” He pulled his camera strap over his head and turned on the DSLR camera. Pressing play, Peeta shuffled through the photos before stopping on the one he wanted to present to Katniss. “This is my favorite photo out of all of them.”
Katniss laughed seeing the picture. “You should’ve been paying more attention to the ceremony.”
It was a close-up of Katniss smiling at him during the wedding. The green gown complemented her complexion. However, her smile was what made his heart leap from his chest; it was lovely and full of hope.
He saw their children in that smile.
“I thought I’d print it out,” he said carefully. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his wallet and rifled through it before presenting to her the most priceless thing inside of it. “And, put it next to this photo.”
Katniss took it, her eyes staring down at the faded photo of her eight-year-old self.
She swallowed slowly. “You kept it,” she whispered thickly. “I thought you let me go.”
Peeta shook his head as he placed his camera on the ground. Standing up, he faced her before kneeling down.
“I couldn’t,” he said. “You were always in my heart, Katniss. I think I protected it for so long because you filled most of it. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I swear that if you decide one day to spend your life with me, I will be there for you every waking day. I made all the choices when it came to us. Now it’s your turn. “
Peeta lifted her chin, seeing the crystalline tears.
“Tonight after this wedding is over and we go to bed, I’ll leave my door unlocked for you,” Peeta told her. “If you come in and lay down with me, then that’s it. We can both expect to spend the rest of our days in that very same way…together.” Peeta took a nervous breath. “And, if you don’t, then it’s okay. But, I’m never going to stop pursuing you, Katniss. I’m always going to be hoping that you come to me, lay your head on my chest, and let me hold you till we’re both asleep like that first night. I’m not letting you go. Not now. Not ever.”
Peeta waited, the air still around them.
“They’re playing our song,” Katniss suddenly said. She stood up, tears rolling down her cheeks and a gentle smile on her lips. “You owe me a dance.”
“Those three words Are said too much They’re not enough…”
Peeta smiled, his own eyes watering as he pulled her close. “I’ve been waiting for this dance.”
“Me, too,” she replied thickly as they began to sway.
“If I lay here If I just lay here Would you lie with me and just forget the world?”
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