Thom comes to apologize.
I stand in my hallway with my arms crossed and foot tapping while he takes off his hat and twists it in his hands, looking sheepish.
Of course, Peeta forgives him immediately while I gaze stony eyed at him as he walks away from my house, his shoulders hunched in with regret.
Peeta shuts the door quietly behind him. "He really regrets it, Katniss." He says while he rubs his side.
"I would hope so." I say through my teeth.
Peeta walks over to me. "Loosen up. What happens, happens."
He folds me into a hug.
After almost losing Peeta multiple times, I finally realized that I was in love with him.
Days went by and all I could think about is how good of a man he is, and how fragile human beings are, and why on earth did I not realize it before?
Why did bad things have to happen in order for me to appreciate what I already had?
Along with my revelation, fear crept into my corners.
I have become afraid that bad things will take away all that I have left.
The world has already taken away my sister, my father, Gale, Finnick, Cinna, and it has already started to stalk Peeta.
I find I can't appreciate anything without biting my nails.
Peeta tells me to look at all the good things that have happened.
And believe it or not, he comes up with a long list. He actually wrote them down, too. I think he needed to see the words just as badly as I did. He put the page into our book.
Bird is on that list.
What Peeta and I have become is on that list.
It becomes a game.
Whenever I feel like giving up, I play all these reasons in my head.
When writing the first reason down, he had looked over at me nervously, and wrote down, "our friendship."
I had grabbed his pencil and wrote, "our family."
Because we are each others family now.
He had grinned and kissed me, pulling me closer to him on the couch.
Together we had filled up an entire page of all the good things that have happened since the end.
I started to put every good deed that I saw people do from then on onto that thin sheet of fiber.
Peeta adds Thom's apology down onto the list as we sit in my living room.
"Don't add that! He was obliged to apologize."
"He has given his entire crop earnings to that woman's family, Katniss."
"The one that...blew away?"
"Did he tell you that? Just now?"
"No. I heard it in town this morning, while I was getting the rebuilding grant."
Oh. The ice in my heart starts to melt.
"But it...wasn't even his fault. I mean...he didn't know that the tornado would...what's he going to live on..." The change of heart sits in my mouth like liquid lead.
"Exactly. The past is the past. Twelve is forgiving him."
Peeta finishes writing in Thom's deed.
We work on the book for a little while longer before Peeta says, "Do you hear that?"
I cock my head and strain my ears. I don't hear anything.
"Has Bird stopped singing? He always sings."
Peeta shrugs. "His cage is upstairs."
We both climb the stairs up to my sunny bedroom where Bird is sitting at the bottom of his cage, his tiny body moving with every breathe. His yellow feathers looking duller than usual.
"What's the matter with him?" I ask. "Is he sick?"
Peeta doesn't answer me, but he opens the golden cage's tiny door and picks up him up.
"Hey there, guy." Peeta says softly. "What's up with you, huh? Got some bad air?"
Miner Canaries do stop singing if the oxygen is tainted.
"I don't smell anything." I say, even though you can't smell most poisonous gases.
"Hungry? Thirsty?" Peeta asks, pushing his resources towards the bird.
"Maybe he's just old." I suggest. "I'm not sure how long birds live."
"I think..." Peeta starts, looking out the window. " He's sad."
"Sure. He's caught in a cage all day. Right by a window where he can see the trees and the fresh air, not being able to stretch your wings, or fly through any pretty places." Peeta says quietly. "Trapped."
We both stare out the window with Bird, his small black eyes locked on the sky.
"If I were a Mockingjay...I mean, a Canary." Peeta whispers softly as he stares at a beam of sunlight, "I would never part with flight."
I take the tiny yellow body into my hands and feel his soft feathers.
'"Don't give up now, " I call quietly to him, stroking his tiny head. "You can't give in that easy. Surely it's not so bad here with me."
Bird makes a tiny chord, almost like he's trying as hard as he can to be happy.
"Remember, how we used to sing together?" I ask him then. "All kinds of songs."
Bird flutters his wings.
"Let's take him outside." Peeta says. "We can keep him in the cage. If you want."
I nod. We slide Bird back into his cage and Peeta carries it outside.
With a soft breeze blowing Bird perks up a bit. He fills his tiny lungs completely with fresh air.
After some sunlight, we bring him inside and let him loose.
I watch him silently as he flies around the house, landing at each window and singing about what he sees. Every song is sad.
Bird picks my bedroom window to sit at overnight and falls asleep. We don't put him back in his cage.
Peeta and I eat dinner quietly, our thoughts other places.
"I didn't think they could feel." Peeta says then, looking up from his food.
"I mean, I knew they could feel. I just didn't know they could feel. That they have emotions. Birds I mean. Well, all animals really. I thought it was just humans."
"Bird doesn't have feelings. " I say then, even though now I'm not so sure.
I don't want him to die. I like singing with him.
Peeta doesn't say anything.
Peeta gives me a long kiss before bed.
"I love you." He says, not expecting anything in reply, happy with just saying it.
I snuggle in closer to his chest.
"You are my whole life now."
He wraps me into his arms as we crawl into my bed.
I begin to hum Bird's tune, and Peeta whistles along.
Moon beams are falling into my room like the sunlight did this morning, turning everything blue.
Peeta's fingers trace along my arms as the song progresses.
Even after the song ends, Peeta traces my scars. They completely cover my body. Like one great maze that he's trying to solve.
My face, my neck, my shoulders, my breasts, my stomach, hips, all the way down to my toes, he caresses, and it sends chills through my body.
He finds my lips and traces them as well.
And that's when I feel it.
The same thing that I felt on the beach.
It's like someone took a lighter to my blood as it runs through me.
I grab Peeta's face softly and kiss him slowly.
I tangle my legs with his and push myself on top of him.
While kissing me he wipes my hair from my eyes so he can look at me properly.
"My Katniss..."he whispers huskily. "So mysterious."
My love for him flows, but instead of rinsing through me, it recycles itself, growing stronger with each thump of my heart.
I match my belly with his, and they glide across each other, our skin cool.
His skin feels so nice against mine that I unthinkingly slide his sleeping shirt off and slip my hands over his scars. They are littered across his skin just as much as mine.
The feeling of skin on skin is so nice that I pull my shirt off too.
I can hear Peeta's heart beat faster as I spread my fingers through his hair.
Then I realize what it is that I really want.
"Shh." Peeta says then. "Katniss, what are you doing?"
I never answer him.
Touching and kissing, I let Peeta have all of me. And he takes it gladly.
Afterwards, we lay breathing in each others arms, our hearts slowing down.
He strokes my hair and tells me how much he loves me.
"You love me. Real or not real?"
So then I say.
I feel it wash over him for the first time.
I can see the change in his face. Just knowing somebody loves you can make your life worth while.
I see it settle in his eyes, replacing any doubt with happiness.
It flows to his bones, and into his muscles as he touches me, the way he moves now completely different.
Because somebody loves him.
"You belong to me now." Peeta whispers.
"And you belong to me. We're each others." I answer back.
And for the rest of my life, I never have any trouble saying how much I love him ever again.
When the sunlight breaks through my window again, we know what we have to do.
Peeta and I wake. I slip on an old dress that is faded.
He braids my hair back, then he changes his mind, and let's it fall down my back, flowing.
Together, we place Bird in his cage and carry him down to the fireplace.
Peeta grabs the bread, and I grab the matches.
With Bird as our witness, we make our vows and toast our bread together, my heart imploding on itself.
It is the best bread I have ever tasted.
Though I'm not one for tears, water flows down my cheeks as Peeta makes his promises to me.
My vows do fine. But I stutter and run out of breathe while I try to get out how I feel and refrain myself from kissing him senseless, my blubbering and tears making it impossible for him to understand me.
I guess I'm understandable because Peeta ends up crying happy tears at my performance.
When we're finished, we dry our faces and kiss each other for a long time.
When finally I say, "Bird's turn."
Peeta nods and breathes deeply.
He picks up Bird's cage and together leave Victor's Village.
"I know the perfect place." I say, gripping Peeta's open hand.
I lead him to the fence that had been trampled down by the tornado.
Trees are laying horizontally everywhere, and no matter how hard it is to travel in the middle of the chaos, the forest is the most beautiful that I have ever seen it.
Sunlight streams through the openings that the trees left, making the woods brighter than ever.
Bluejays and finches sing their songs nice and loud, and at the sound of them, Bird begins to chirp as loud as he can, his lungs heaving, his wings flying, his body excited.
He knows what's coming.
A herd of dear prances through clearings and stop to drink from pools of rainwater that have been collecting in great swirls.
I bring Peeta to the lake.
And when I see it, the soft blue in between some bushes, my enlarged heart grows even more swollen. Where sorrow used to live, happiness moves in.
Peeta looks at me and smiles.
"The place my father brought me, yes."
He looks around, dazed by the beauty.
"Ready?" He asks handing me Birds cage.
"Just let me wade out into the water first." I say slowly.
I slip off my shoes and glide my toes through the sand.
Just before I step into the cool liquid, I feel Peeta beside me. Of course he should be beside me. We're partners.
I open Bird's door and quickly hold him in my hand.
"Goodbye Bird." Peeta calls at him, holding out his finger to him.
Bird stops and looks at him and pecks gently at it. Peeta laughs.
Bird is a live wire as I hold him close and kiss him. His feathers satiny and already more vibrant.
"Thank you Bird." I say. "For helping me."
I sing him his song, and he chirps along. He looks at me, and then I reach out my arms, Bird's adrenaline seeping through my skin.
"Don't stop singing," I say, and then I let my fingers go and then he's flying, singing as loud as he can.
He glides over the over blue water, his yellow reflection bouncing off the clear lake water.
Until he disappears into the trees on the other side.
"Do you think we'll see him again?"
Peeta laughs. "No. But at least you know another song."
That is true. I do have another song to sing.
I never did see Bird again.
But the day at the lake with my new husband proved to be one of the best in my life.
Even with the weight from our past permanently anchored into our hearts, we learned how to smile again.
I realized just how similar Bird and I were, especially now.
No longer am I a Mockingjay. I am a simple, yellow canary with a purpose in life, and I sing because I can.
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