In the dark he holds me, a strong pair of arms around my waist. An anchor I never knew I needed but would surely float away without. I’d always been a bit lost.
He presses a kiss to my temple, short and dry but it lingers all the same. My fingers rub a pattern onto the skin of his arms, a meaningless tattoo but they aren’t really meaningless, are they? The swirls mean nothing, but there are words behind them, words that whisper into the dark the way my mouth doesn’t have the courage to.
In sleep his breathing evens out, but he’s not silent. During the day we hardly speak, but at night he makes up for that. The most common noises are snuffles and grunts, sighs and murmurs, but sometimes he hums and those are the sounds I like best. It’s almost like he’s singing to me, a little lullaby of my own. I never have nightmares when he’s humming.
In the light of day he bakes. Sometimes cakes, sometimes tarts, sometimes he makes row upon row of carefully frosted cupcakes. He hands these out to the children who run through the streets, wild vagabonds that have vague memories of what was. And I envy them this. They don’t know that they get cupcakes on his bad days. They don’t know that the days he frosts those cakes he is really try so, so very hard not to let bad memories swamp him. Some days I think he wants to die. Some days, so do I.
In the waning light of the sun, we wash the dishes. Our lives are made up of a set of routines. He washes, I dry. We put them away together, moving around each other in a dance that is not beautiful but is comforting. And then, when all is said and done, we look at each other for a moment, before a silly, twisted smile crosses his face. He holds out his hand and I take it, unable to believe now that I would have ever denied this action before. But we don’t think of the past.
In the dark, Peeta falls asleep beside me. We may not be married, it may be unacceptable, but a lot of things are facts. And one of these facts is that Peeta is the only thing that grounds me. Maybe he was the only thing that ever had.