Seven Years Later

It feels like I have only just shut my eyes before they are wide open again as a tiny human being jumps onto the bed I share with my husband and starts bouncing up and down in excitement.

"Mummy! Daddy! Wake up! Wake up! It's my birthday!" the squeaky voice shouts.

"Aster," Peeta says with a groan. "Big girls are meant to sleep in."

"But it's my birthday! No one stays asleep on their birthday!" Aster yells as she continues to jump around.

"Huh," I mumble. "That was my plan all along."

I hear Peeta chuckle from beside me before he launches himself upright.

"Come give daddy bear a big cuddle," he says, holding his arms open wide. Aster squeals and launches herself into her father's arms, wrapping her tiny arms around his neck.

My eyes shut again, begging for just a few more minutes of sleep after being kept awake most of the night by my husband. I smile as I think about the events that took place last night and sigh in content.

"Hey! Mummy!" Aster yells. "Don't go back to sleep, Mummy! It's our birthday!"

I groan before I sit up, realising that there will be no sleeping in today.

"Happy birthday, Aster," I say with a smile and she grins back at me.

"Happy birthday, Mummy!" Aster replies in delight.

"Happy birthday, my beautiful girls," Peeta adds, kissing Aster's cheek and then leaning over to kiss me on the lips.

"Thank you," I reply. "Now, Aster May Mellark, how about you go wash up, remember to brush your teeth, and get changed into the nice dress I put out for you to wear to your party today while Daddy and I go get breakfast started?"

"Okay, Mummy!" Aster says and leaps off the bed, running in the direction of the bathroom.

Peeta and I sit in silence, watching our daughter as she goes.

"Wow," Peeta mutters.

"What?" I question.

"She is seven years old today," Peeta says.

"I know," I reply. "Damn. Time goes so fast. I can remember the day she was born."

"I can remember the day she was conceived," Peeta says, smiling cheekily at me.

"Huh. I have no memory of that. It couldn't have been that good if I have no memory of it," I tease, trying to keep a straight face.

"Well, maybe I can help you remember," Peeta whispers, bringing a hand up to cup my cheek as he presses his lips to mine. I sigh against his lips as my fingers come to tangle in his hair.

"We've got no time," I say, pulling away slightly before going back to kiss him some more.

"I know," Peeta replies, breaking the kiss. "What's the plan of action?"

"Once Aster is finished washing up, we'll give her the presents and then we'll have breakfast. You can ice her cake while I put some decorations up. She should be pretty occupied with her toys until we are finished. Then, the party begins."

"I hope you both have a good day," Peeta says.

"We will," I reassure him.

"I have a gift for you," Peeta announces, jumping out of bed to rummage through a set of drawers. He comes back over to me with a rectangular, navy box in his hands.

"I told you not to get me anything," I say.

"I know. But I wanted to get you something. Now, open it," Peeta orders.

I roll my eyes at him before I take the box gently from his hands. I lift the lid and my eyes fall on a beautiful, silver chained, pearl necklace.

It is simple... but it is wonderful.

"Oh, Peeta," I whisper. "It's beautiful."

"Just like you," he says and the wide smile on my face makes my cheeks hurt.

"Oh. It must've cost a fortune. You must take it back," I order.

"I will do no such thing. The price doesn't matter. What matters is that you love it," he says.

"I do," I reply and he smiles. I take the necklace out of the box with careful fingers before handing it to him. I turn around and hold my hair up away from my neck as Peeta places it against my skin and fastens the clasp.

"We better get out of bed now before Aster comes back and scolds us," Peeta says and I chuckle.

We both make a start by changing into the smartest clothes we own. Peeta puts on an old, blue shirt and dark trousers that once belonged to his father while I wear a dress that once belonged to my mother, which still fits my slim frame.

We wash up in the bathroom before heading downstairs.

"Aster May," I call. "Present time!"

"Okay, Mummy! I just need to get your gift for you," she says.

I smirk as I hear her stamp around upstairs. I turn to Peeta and ask, "What are we having for breakfast today?"

"Your favourite - cheese buns," Peeta announces, uncovering a tray carrying several balls of dough that he had left out to rise overnight. He sprinkles the dough with cheese before placing the tray in the oven.

"Thank you, Bread Boy."

He rolls his eyes at the nickname and I laugh.

"I got it! I got it!" Aster yells, stamping down the creaky stairs into the kitchen, forgetting to hide the present from me properly. I pretend to be oblivious about the bunch of flowers in her hands.

"Come on. Let's go into the living room to open your presents," Peeta says, leading the way into the living room.

We take a seat on the carpeted floor and Peeta hands Aster the first present. She excitedly rips the paper away from the gift before she holds it up in the air to show us what she's got.

"It's a dolly," she says, her eyes wide with happiness. She clutches the doll to her chest and kisses its head. "I'm going to take good care of you."

"What are you going to name her?" I ask as I reach over to grab another present to give to her.

"Rue. I think her name should be Rue," Aster replies as she rocks her dolly to sleep.

"That's a lovely name. Here's another one," I say, before handing her the other gift.

She rips the paper to reveal a yellow dress and white shoes that are decorated with bows. Aster gasps. "These are princess clothes. Can I wear them today, Mummy?"

"Oh, alright. You can change into them before the party starts, sweetheart," I say and she cheers with joy.

"Last one," Peeta announces as he hands her the final gift.

"Yay!" she shrieks, a large smile on her face as she finds out that the final gift is art supplies; a book, paints, chalks, pencils... anything a mini-artist would want. "I can draw with daddy all the time now!"

"That's right, sweetie," Peeta says, a happy smile on his lips as he watches our daughter.

"I can give your present to you now, Mummy!" Aster says and pulls the bunch of dandelions that I had pretended not to notice her carrying down the stairs from behind her back.

"Oh, wow! Aster, they're beautiful. Thank you," I say as I take the dandelions from her. "Shall I go put them in water to keep them alive?"

She nods and I stand up to take the dead flowers into the kitchen. I fill a cup with water and place the flowers inside, knowing full well that they won't survive.

Peeta comes into the room. "I'm sorry that they're dead. When we picked them in the meadow she insisted that she hide them under her bed in her room so you wouldn't see them."

"It's fine. I love them," I admit as I take the cup of flowers and place them at the center of the table.

Peeta walks over to the oven, where he takes out the cooked cheese buns. "Aster," he calls. "Breakfast is ready."

I set the table and pour us glasses of water to drink with our food. Breakfast time is filled with chatter as Aster tells us that she is going to draw a pretty picture for us later on.

Once breakfast is finished, Aster runs off back to the living room to play with her new doll while Peeta pulls out the cake he had baked the night before. He makes white icing up and spreads it around the cake as I start decorating the house with party decorations.

As I carry out the task at hand, I think back to the day Aster was born, the day she took her first step, the day she said her first word. Then I think of the times to come... the day Peeta and I stop walking her to school, the day she finds it uncool to kiss her mum and dad goodbye, the day she turns twelve...

I swallow hard.

The day Aster turns twelve makes her eligible for the reaping. Peeta and I have five more years until we have to worry about the possibility of our daughter having to fight to the death in the Hunger Games.

I have to blink back tears at the thought and I shake my head to clear my mind. She won't get reaped, I tell myself. Peeta and I would never allow her to take out tessera, so her name will not be in as many times as my name had been when I was young.

But, if her name is ever picked, we will take off and go live in the woods. I bite my lip as I think, 'we wouldn't make it five miles'.

"Katniss," Peeta says from behind me, interrupting my unpleasant thoughts.


"People are going to start turning up soon. Are you ready?"

"Yes," I reply, brushing off my clothes.

I force myself to keep the topic of the reaping out of my mind as Aster's party starts and I do everything I can to make sure she has a fun, carefree day.

"It kills me to have to throw away this food," I say as I scrape cake off a plate and into the bin.

"Well, only get rid of the leftovers on the plates but we'll keep the food that hasn't been touched and we can give it out tomorrow," Peeta says and I smile at how thoughtful and caring he is. I honestly will never deserve him.

"That's a great idea. Where's Aster?" I ask as I carry on with the task of cleaning.

"She's taking a nap in the living room. Parties really do take the energy out of us," Peeta admits and I laugh.

"That's because you were both running around. You were the goofball of the party that ran around after all the kids, acting like a clown," I explain.

"Hey, they were practically begging me to swing them around and all," Peeta says. "And while I was doing all the running around you were relaxing with all the mother's and playing pass the parcel with their babies."

"Madge's baby is adorable," I admit.

"All babies are adorable," Peeta says. "Our babies are just the most adorable."

I laugh and shake my head. "Don't go there, Peeta."

"I didn't say anything, Katniss."

"You said, 'Our babies'... we only have the one and it'll be staying that way," I say.

"But I didn't even say-"

I cut him off. "You were thinking it."

"Yeah. You're right," he admits.

"Aster is enough," I say.

"I know and I am happy with just her. It's just... I was never really close with my brothers when I was growing up and how you are with Prim, I would really love that for Aster," Peeta says.

I feel my resolve weakening and I scowl.

"I would, too," I admit. "But I don't think I could handle it."

"Handle what?" Peeta asks.

"Worrying about two children," I say.

"Worrying is natural for parents," Peeta replies.

"I know that, Peeta," I snap.

"Hey, calm down," he says and I sigh.

"I'm sorry. I was thinking about the reaping today. It's five years until she is eligible and I just can't bear to think..."

"We will do everything we can to make sure it doesn't happen," Peeta says.

"The reaping isn't the only problem. There's poverty, starvation, disease. These are the reasons I never wanted children, Peeta."

"But we have a child. We can't change that," Peeta replies.

"Maybe I'll change my mind one day, when things hopefully start to change. But right now... I just can't see another child happening."

"Okay," Peeta says.


"Yes, okay. What do you want me to say, Katniss?" Peeta asks.

"I don't know. I thought you would put up more of a fight," I say.

"I don't want to fight."

I swallow hard. "I know. Neither do I. I'm sorry," I apologise. "The older she gets the more I worry."

"I do, too," Peeta reassures me. "But I try to think of the good things and they always out weigh the bad."

"You're such a good person," I tell him.

"I'm not. You are," he replies.

I shake my head. "I'm really not. I'm selfish and stubborn."

"You're probably the most selfless person I know, Katniss," Peeta says.

"You would say that," I say with a huff. "You've got to - you're my husband."

"And you're my wife," Peeta adds, coming closer. He wraps his arms around my waist and leans down to press his forehead against mine. "The last seven years have been so hectic, that we never did get to have a toasting."

"You're right. We'll just have to fix that."

"I hope you've had a good birthday. I'm sorry about our little argument," Peeta says.

"It has been a great day. If you and Aster are happy, then so am I. And it wasn't an argument - it was a heated discussion between two people that love and care for their family."

"I do love you very much," Peeta says.

"I love you very much, too," I say back and reach up to kiss him softly. I pull away and hold his hand, walking towards the living room.

Peeta leans against the door frame and I rest my back against his chest as we check in on Aster. She's asleep on the old rug in the center of the room, her new dolly clutched to her chest and a colouring pencil still in her hand.

"Once upon a time," I start to whisper. "A young boy and girl made love under a sky full of stars in an overgrown meadow. They didn't expect the events that took place after to happen. But they did. Everything clicked into place, they married, the child was born, and everything seemed like it was meant to be."

"Do you think this would've happened without that night in the meadow?" Peeta asks.

"I'd like to think it would have... But I guess we'll never know. You know, for a long time I thought that night was a mistake. I thought of Aster as a stupid mistake, something I regretted and wished hadn't happened. And now..." I trail off.

"And now..." Peeta repeats, waiting for me to finish. I smile at him and, once I have replied, he flashes a smile at me in return that takes my breath away and makes me fall in love with him all over again.

"And now I like to think of her as the perfect creation, a rainbow in the sky, the first dandelion of the spring, an unexpected surprise."

The End