This story takes place in a slightly different Panem with no hunger games although the Capitol is still a pain in the ass and controls everything. Life still overall stinks for the people of District 12.

Suzanne Collins owns everything.

The Trouble With Betrothals


Absolute anger fills me as I wait for the miners' shift to end, we're waiting, my brothers Graham and Rhyes and I. We must look imposing, all of us being somewhat tall and stout, like all Mellarks.

Never have I been as furious as I am today. How could he? He has just endangered a lot of reputations all for what, roll in the meadow?

I hate Gale Hawthorne, because he might just have ruined the lives of two of my favorite women. The girl I've loved, as long as I could remember, Katniss Everdeen. And Johanna Mason my cousin's widow, it makes me boil thinking about what she'll have to deal with tonight.

I love Katniss, I was not infatuated, not in lust, but real and true love with her. Willing run into a blazing fire for her, I would die for her, yet only thing I've ever been able to do for her was take a ribbing from my friends for defending her when someone talked trash about her. Actually I nearly got into a fight for her at the beginning of the school year, when heard Casper Boyle, the mine manager's son, referred to her as a 'Seam slut'.

Finally I'd gotten the nerve to talk to her some this last summer, she was on her own more often, with Gale in the mines. My dad lets me handle some of the bartering of goods for bread now that I'm older. Mostly discussing only the trade of squirrels; sometimes making small talk, occasionally even getting a small smile, but nothing monumental. Her sister, Primrose, is different though, bubbly and talkative with an easy smile, she comes in once a week to trade her goat cheese I slip in a cookie into her bread bag. I have totally selfish motives, hoping to get her to speak well of me to her sister. I've thought about trying the cookie thing with Katniss, but I have a feeling she would take it as pity or charity.

I notice everything about her. Large grey eyes, long, dark, glossy hair all set off by her olive skin. She was slender, strong but graceful, perfectly proportioned curves, with a cool expression that she wore constantly, setting her apart from every other girl. Independent and proud, not every guy would think of her as pretty, although to me she was the most beautiful thing in the world.

When I was younger I would hope that Gale and Katniss were just cousins sinced they looked so much alike. I was devastated two years ago when I heard about Gale's and Katniss' betrothal. It made sense though, they both hunted, both from the Seam. Watching jealously for years now, is all I've been able to do. Yet willing to accept our fate, her with Gale, me with someone else or alone, if it was what she wanted, because I wanted her happy above all else.

Vainly I hoped that it was not a love, at least on her part. When I watched saw them together she seemed lighter, not happier, not like when she was with her little sister Prim, but contented. Katniss would give him silly looks and the occasional playful slaps and shoves as they walked together, more like brother and sister. Never had I seen them hold hands or share any kind of embrace, maybe I was overly hopeful.

Gale finally steps out of the mine exit, covered in coal dust joking with his crew. My brothers and I wait for him to disengage from the group, the fewer witnesses the better.

"Hawthorne?" Graham calls out, he is the oldest he is in charge of bringing him in.

"Yeah?" Gale turns to see who is calling for him, his smile disappears when he sees us. "Let me guess, this is about Johanna?"

"Yes. You've been sneaking out into the woods with her." Graham answered.

"We've just been having a good time; she's been just as willing as I have." Gale measures us up. "You guys here to kick my ass? Cause, three against one does not seem like good odds."

"No, we're taking you town to talk to Rooba and Johanna. There is a lot that needs to be worked out. You and Johanna are going to be parents."

"What…me?" he sputters "are you sure I'm the only one?"

"Yeah, we trust what she says." Graham replies.

Then I lose my temper, Gale's arrogance annoys me. "You prick, you're engaged why would do this to your fiancée? You just assume since you're messing around with more than one person that everyone is?"

"Look, it's not like I'm screwing them both. I love Katniss, but I've never had so much as my hand up her shirt." Gale turns his attention to me. "A man has needs. Johanna apparently had some to. We were just taking care of each other. But maybe you wouldn't know that yet, kiddo."

Before I know what I'm doing it's done. I swing and punch Gale square in the face. He stumbles backwards, ready to start swinging. Graham grabs me and Rhyes grabs Gale.

"Calm it down here, guys, this isn't going to help anything." Graham says as he hands Gale a handkerchief to dab the blood coming from his nose. Then he gives me a 'what in the hell' look.

Then quietly we walk back to the bakery. We were met at the door by Johanna. "Hello gorgeous, apparently black market condoms weren't the best idea!" she greeted Gale. "I see that my favorite dough boys found you."

I don't know what is said down in the bakery, between Aunt Rooba, Dad, Johanna and Gale. The talk is quite now, at first there was some arguing, then some crying. Rhyes and I wait in his small apartment above the store, Graham has gone home to his wife and toddler. We've been here most of the night.

Aunt Rooba would do anything for Johanna, they were all that the other one has. She had come from district 7 a few years ago. She was eighteen and all alone, her family gone. When she went to district 7 Justice building to volunteer for the exchange program, knowing once she left she could never go back. They asked her where she wanted to go. She replied 'Anywhere surrounded by trees'. So she was sent here.

She had been part of the Capital's plan to "refresh" the gene pool of our small district. For some families finding someone who was not a close cousin was a problem. Merchants only married merchants and Seam people only married Seam people, with very few exceptions. That is just the way it is. I didn't like the status quo; I would like to buck it if I had the chance.

Johanna looked nothing like anyone from here, tall for a woman and slender yet curvy in the right places. She had short spiky dark auburn hair, pale skin, and large wide-set brown eyes. She was also known for her outragous character, flirting with every man she met, running around her apartment naked with all her windows open. Yet somehow she bonded with my aunt and stayed with her after my cousin Ward died, from a bout with chicken pox. They had been married for about a year.

Finally I hear Gale then, Rooba and Johanna leave, its no longer Saturday night but Sunday morning. Rhyes is asleep on his couch. Dad comes up the steps.

"Hey, Peeta ," Dad says to me looking tired but a little smile on his face. "What do you think about getting a chance to married to the girl of your dreams?"

A note to Gale lovers. He starts off as an ass but gets better later on.