This whole issue with the dandelions, memories, and Peeta is starting to mess with my nerves. I haven't been able to go to the bakery since I’ve heard of his engagement. I’m afraid to run into him. Not only have I stopped going on Sundays, although Gale might notice something, in fact I think he has already. Today at the forest I needed three arrows to kill a squirrel, then I apologized telling him that I wasn’t feeling okay, and I went home. Before, during the week, when I needed some flour or bread, or when I had caught something special, I went by the bakery too. At first, the necessity forced me, then because I wanted to see him, although I always tried to keep my visits to the minim. But that’s three weeks now that I haven't stopped by.
Sunday comes again, and with the morning comes a new gift: Carved in wood, a dandelion flower. But not any wood.
It is fir, I know that because the orange color of the wood differs from the whitish tone of the pine. But most of all, is that the pine grows inside the fence that surrounds town and fir grows outside. I’m filled with rage. What was he thinking? Going outside is dangerous and he knows it. He promised me, he promised he would never do it without me.
I’m so angry I could yell at him if I saw him now. Everything I’m doing is to keep him safe, and if he does this nonsense, I won’t be able to protect him, all this will have been for nothing.
Since Peeta told me about the woods, that rainy night, I began to form a plan to take him and show him the forest. We would go one Sunday Gale had to work because once a month his crew rested Monday instead of Sunday. I surprised him in the shed the first Friday I could.
“Do you think Rye could open for you on Sunday? I have a plan in mind.”
“Rye doesn’t like to work on Sundays, I don’t think it’s going to be easy to convince him. Most likely it will cost me a lot of free Saturdays. What do you have in mind?”
“Do you remember a few weeks ago, when you told me that you’d like to spend more time with me out of the shed?” Peeta nods, with a smile as wide and bright that is contagious, “On Sunday we could spend all day in the forest, I have a place to show you, What do you say?”
“I don’t care if Rye asks for a full year of my Saturdays, count me in.”
“Then I’ll see you at seven, it will be a long road.”
Sunday dawned clear and radiant, a beautiful spring day. When I arrived at our meeting point on the meadow, Peeta was already there, sitting with his back to me, looking at the river.
“Hey stranger,” I said, startling him.
“Katniss! One of these days you will scare me to death, no one should be so quiet.”
“A hunter needs it. I’m glad Rye agreed to change his day off with you.”
“I’m glad too, it also took less than I expected.”
“How many Saturdays did it cost?”
“I will work on a Saturday, and I’ll rest the next one, and so on until Christmas.”
“Peeta! That’s outrageous!”
“You don’t know Rye, this is a gift coming from him. I told him that I had a date with someone very special and he softened.”
“You told him about me?” I asked, startled.
“Of course not, I believe he thought I was talking about Delly,” he laughed, “Shall we?”
Peeta got up, and we approached the fence, south of where we were, as it is one of the most remote and hidden spots, so it is usually also the safest.
“Peeta was about to walk through but I stop him.”
“Wait, first we need to check if it is electrified.”
“I thought you said it was never electrified.”
“I said: it is not usually electrified. Look, you have to bring your ear closer , and if you hear a buzzing, like a swarm of bees, then we’ll leave it for another time.It is off, we can move on now.
“What if they turn it on just when we are crossing?”
“So,” I stare at him with the pertinent solemnity, “ odds aren’t in our favor.”
Peeta looked at me doubtfully, and he crossed quietly until we were on the other side.
“You know? I usually tell myself that you are safe out here, and that I have nothing to worry about, but I’m not so sure anymore.”
I kissed his cheek instinctively, touched that he cared so much about me.
“I’ll be fine, this is safer than to be under the peacekeepers radar, or Cray’s. At least I feel free in the woods, I know what I can face and I accept it, inside the fence I feel I have less control over my destiny, “we keep talking while I led him to the hole where I keep my arrows and bow, “Let’s go, we have a long road ahead.”
The road took us longer than usual since Peeta wasn’t used to walking so many hours nor the rough terrain of the forest.
“Katniss, this is amazing, I had no idea there was this lake out here.”
“My father showed me this place,” I said slowly, carefully choosing my words, like every time I talk about my father, to contain the emotion that his memory brings me, “he taught me to swim in here, to fish and shoot with the bow...I wanted to show it to you, I knew you would like it, that’s why I told you to bring your sketchbook and pencils.”
“Although you didn’t said anything, I also brought a picnic,” Peeta said, winking at me.
We spread the blankets and the large amount of food he brought: meat pie, apple tart,bread, and cheese buns.
“Where did you get so much food?” I asked worried because the last time he gave me two loaves of bread he was beaten by his witch of a mother.
“It’s part of the deal with my brother. I thought of everything, I told you that the arrangement hadn’t been so bad.”
He reassured me with his words, and from that moment we began to really enjoy the day: we ate, we lay in the sun, play in the lakeside, I taught him how to make knots with vegetation and he tried to learn how to shoot with the bow.
Late in the afternoon, I had my head on Peeta’s lap. I was making a flower crown while he was busy playing with my hair when suddenly, he stood still.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I wish I could freeze this moment, right here, right now, and live in it forever.”
Usually this sort of comment, the kind that hinted of his undying love for me, made me feel scared, because I aware that in this world in which we live in, this, our relationship, had to end at some point. Although I always postponed the moment, thinking that if I was about to spend the rest of my life without him, at least I was entitled to enjoy a little more of his love and company. But I was so relaxed and beyond worrying about a future I’d never have, I just let the word slip out.
“So, you’ll allow it?” he asked and I could tell, by his voice that he was smiling.
“I’ll allow it.”
His fingers automatically went back to caress my hair and I fell asleep, but he woke me up a little later.
“Maybe we should go back if you still want to catch something and not come back empty handed without an alibi,” he said seriously.
“You’re right, I have to catch something for the Hawthornes as well, since Gale couldn’t come.”
We arrived at the rock that was my usual meeting point with Gale and where we began our hunting routine.
“Wait here,” I said firmly, “and don’t move while I check the snare line and see if I can catch a squirrel or rabbit.”
“Don't worry, I’ll be here drawing,” he replied taking out his sketchbook.
As I was alone, I was soon able to hear the sounds and I got carried away by them, farther than I intended. Once I had caught two squirrels and a fat rabbit I went back to Peeta, but when I reached the stone I didn’t see him and I got scared.
There was his backpack and a widespread blanket full of strawberries and berries. No, not berries, but nightlock.
“Peeta!” I screamed in panic, “Peeta, where are you?”
I ran into the woods screaming his name when I heard a noise behind a bush and he appeared. I angrily walked to him.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I yelled at him.
“I thought about doing something practical and collect some strawberries and berries so you could share with the Hawthorne.”
“These are not edible berries, they are nightlock, they’re mortal. I thought you were dead. You haven’t eaten any, right?” I asked, although the answer is obvious as he is still breathing.
“No, no. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m no good for you,” he said, angry with himself, hitting his head with his hand as he said so.
“Don’t say that,” I reproached, feeling guilty for yelling at him... like his mother. In that moment, I jumped into his arms, and hugged him tightly, “Promise me that you’ll never do it again, promise me you’ll not come to the woods alone or you’ll never put yourself in danger, you’ll stay close enough to me so that I can protect you.”
“Always,” he said.
And until today, I thought he would keep his promise.