Early morning sunlight fills the room as I slowly awaken. I am still wrapped in Peeta's arms, and I suddenly remember what this day will bring. I try to block out my fears and worries and instead focus on last night, when Peeta told me we could go back to normal, that he wouldn't turn Capitol again.
I pull myself up so that our faces our inches away on the pillow, taking in the beauty of his face as he sleeps. Thinking of what he said last night, about how I could kiss him anytime I wanted, I lean forward and wake him with a kiss. I definitely wanted to.
"Good morning," I say, smiling sheepishly. "I figured you'd want me to wake you up as soon as I woke up."
"Of course," He says, pulling me closer. "That's the best way to wake up."
"Peeta, I'm scared about this week," I confess to him, wrapping my arms around his waist.
He silences me with a kiss. "No. Let's not talk about it, we'll just get stressed out and freak ourselves out. Let's just focus on each other."
"Okay," I agree, and pull myself closer to him. His strong arms around me remind me that nothing can hurt me as long as he holds me.
We sit there for hours, watching as the sun comes up, saying nothing, and just enjoying each other's company.
Eventually, Peeta nestles his face in my hair and whispers, "It's eight 'o' clock. We should get up. The prep team said they'd be over around eight thirty."
We untangle ourselves, and when we get up, we head downstairs to make some breakfast. Neither of us feels up to eating, as we barely manage to choke down a shared plate of squirrel meat and jelly bread.
Peeta then brings the cake to the table, along with a blunt knife. "You promised you'd eat some, Katniss."
"I know, just… let me capture it in my memory," I close my eyes, branding the magnificence of the cake into my mind. "Okay."
The knife cuts deep into the cake, right through the "water". Peeta places two small pieces onto plates and hands one to me. I scoop up a forkful of the chocolate cake and place it in my mouth. I immediately sigh at the delicious taste. I can't help but shovel huge bites of the chocolaty goodness into my mouth, and my piece is gone within minutes.
I blushingly hold out my plate to Peeta, and he laughs as he places another piece onto my plate.
"I thought you weren't hungry," Peeta playfully accuses me, and I shrug, mouth full of cake. "Glad you like it. It is your birthday cake, after all."
The two of us manage to gobble up half of the cake, and the rest we seal in plastic wrap and place in the freezer. By now, it is eight-thirty, and my prep team should be coming by any minute.
In fact, we are just drying the dishes when there comes a swift knocking on the door.
"Come in!" I call, and my prep team hurries in, jabbering about what all they have to do in so little time.
"See you in a bit," I mutter to Peeta before Venia and Octavia lead me into my bedroom. Flavius will take care of Peeta all by himself. The door slams behind me and Venia and Octavia circle me, whispering to each other.
"Sorry, I haven't washed my hair in a while," I apologize, all of a sudden feeling the greasiness of my hair.
"Yes, yes, let's do that first," Venia instructs, and we go into the bathroom. Because we don't have nearly enough time to heat up the water or wash my whole body, we settle for me kneeling over the washtub as Venia pours cold water over my head, working some lotion into it.
Finally, Venia tells me we are done washing, and I towel dry my hair, which now feels so satiny and smooth. I change into Cinna's outfit, reveling in how soft it is on my skin.
I am led to a chair and instructed not to move as Octavia files my fingernails and Venia braids my hair, the same way I had it for the Hunger Games. Soon my nails look like perfect ovals, and shine to perfection thanks to the clear polish Octavia had swiped over them. They dab little makeup on my face, enough to hide my scars but not enough to make me look any different.
What seems like hours later, I am declared finished and we head down to the living room where Peeta and Flavius are already waiting. Peeta immediately stands up when I enter the room, and in two steps he is beside me, spinning me around and kissing me.
"You look beautiful," Peeta whispers into my ear, drawing me close to him and weaving his hands into my silky hair. I blush, because I know that when Peeta says it, it's true.
"Same to you," I whisper back to him, and I really mean it, too. He looks dashing in the dark red fitted shirt, black trousers and leather boots, and Flavius has tousled his hair to perfection.
"Sorry to interrupt, but we really should be going," Venia says good-naturedly. Peeta and I break away, an embarrassed blush reddening both of our faces.
"It's quite alright, dears, just keep up that chemistry in the arena," Venia chuckles. "Shall we go then?"
The five of us head out the door, and we follow Venia to the outskirts of the District. Sure enough, there is a huge black hovercraft waiting, with Plutarch, Cressida, and Pollux waiting in front of it. We hurry to it, and a silver ladder drops down that Peeta and I grab, and then am instantly frozen to it. The ladder lifts us into the hovercraft, and we stumble into the interior.
The inside is eerily similar to the one we took to the arena. My heart starts beating fast, and a slight shudder passes up my spine. I feel Peeta's arm around me as he guides me to two small chairs at the far end of the car.
"Peeta…" I choke out, collapsing into the chair. "I changed my mind. I can't do this."
"Shh, I know," Peeta murmurs, encircling me in his arms. "But it's too late to back out now. I'll be with you every second. I swear."
I bury my face in Peeta's shoulder, and I hear everyone else—Plutarch, Cressida, Pullox, and my prep team—enter the car. Soon, when everyone is seated and the hovercar begins to climb, Plutarch gets up to speak.
"Okay," He says, rubbing his hands together. "We will arrive at the arena at about 1300 hours; that's 3 hours from now. So, make yourself comfortable, and there are snacks on the left and restrooms on your right."
He sits back down, and I lay my head back in the crook of Peeta's neck. Eventually, I have no idea how, I drift into sleep. Unsurprisingly, my dreams are terrorized by wolf-mutts and knife throwers, and I wake up in a cold sweat, shaking in Peeta's arms.
"Why did…you let me sleep?" I ask Peeta, angry that he would let me be terrified by nightmares.
"I'm sorry, I…You looked like you needed sleep," Peeta apologizes, pulling me even closer to him. I have just begun to relax when a shrill shriek from behind me sends me straight up into the air.
"Katniss!" Venia screeches, yanking me out of the chair. "Look at you! You're a mess. What've you been doing, spraying your face with water?"
It then hits me that because of my sweating my makeup must be a shiny, runny mess.
"I'm sorry," I say. Venia takes me to the small bathroom at the far end of the plane, and roots though her huge makeup bag until she pulls out a wad of wet tissues. With them, she virtually erases all the makeup from my face only to again cover up my scars and outline my eyes.
"There we go. Now just don't sleep," Venia says before leaving my in the restroom all alone. I turn on the faucet, and cup my hands under the steady stream, bringing the icy cool water to my lips. Just as I am patting my hands dry on a soft as a cloud towel, a cool female voice fills the bathroom.
"Beginning descent. Arriving at destination in 15 minutes."
The towel slips from my hands as sprint from the bathroom, almost colliding into Peeta as he comes looking for me. He pulls me close to him, and I turn my head so that his shirt doesn't smear my makeup at all. I can feel his heart beating underneath his shirt, and I'm sure mine is beating just as loudly.
Soon, too soon, the hovercar touches down on solid ground, and the ladder drops down.
We have reached the arena.