The spring day when Katniss found the haggard, unconscious boy in her meadow, she thought it was another booze-hound who had been successful in breaking into her storehouse. Stealing and emptying a jar of mead was popular between the younglings in Capitol. They often underestimated the potent stuff she brew for her mother’s apothecary and fell asleep drunk and befouled.
Bending forward to look if it was one she knew, one she had already woken up before with a pitcher of water into his face and a swift kick to his ribs, Katniss didn’t recognized this one. His curly hair was matted to his forehead and it was so dirtied with grime and soot that she she would have been surprised if he was a townie. Capitol’s citizens kept themselves clean and tidy. There was a lot of caked mud on his face too. But not enough to conceal the bloodied bruises on his cheeks or his chin. His unbelievable long lashes fluttered when she turned him around. Showing her that he was not so unconscious anymore but half awake. Now laying on his back she could see the poor clothes he wore and the prominent collarbones between his torn tunic and his stubby chin. His shoulders wide and his bony hands larger than hers. So not a boy but at least a young man.
Without thinking twice about it Katniss decided to take care of him. Not in the embarrassing way she had done with the last one she had found near her bee houses, stealing and consuming mead. Although thinking about Cato, the butcher’s braggart son, sprinkled liberally with the stolen mead and adorned with soft feathers from her sister Prim’s hens, brought a smile to her face. She was sure that he wouldn’t set foot onto her property again after he had to stumble across town half-naked, honeyed and feathered to reach his father’s workshop. Looking like a man-sized brown hen.
But this unlucky fellow in front of her needed her help. That she was sure about. And he would get it. Like her father had long ago. Long before she or Prim had been born. When her mother had set foot into Capitol for the first time and met her future husband. This man looked a little bit like Prim or her mother. A kind of coloring under the bruises not usual in Capitol. So Katniss helped herself to a bucket full of water and a clean cloth she always kept in her storage and went on the task of caring for this man.
She cleaned his face first, very carefully, and got rid of the caked mud on his head that conceal his hair. The same color than Prim’s or her mothers. A honeyed blonde. Like the clover honey some of her beehives produced. So, too, must be from out of town, Katniss mused. Maybe my mother will recognize his features from a family she once knew.
Katniss herself, her late father and all the other townies had darker hair. Dark brown or black and a few even had darker skin. Katniss herself, whose mother and sister had skin as pale as the milk of their goat Lady, had a darker coloring day in day out. Even during the winter, Katniss skin never became pale like Prim’s.
Shaking herself out of her thoughts, Katniss continued with her task. She had to change the water twice until she was satisfied with her work. At last, she carried a pitcher full of fresh water and a wooden beaker to the place where her unpredictable guest rested and waited. Like it was her habit while working, Katniss began to sing. The soothing sounds had a calming effect on her bees. Usually they would let her harvest the honey when Katniss sang. A gift she had inherited from her father who had done this job until last year.
The man looks almost clean now and his hair started to get dry and lighter in color too. Katniss noticed that he stirred into a lighter form of sleep. Maybe it was the notes of her song that finally made their ways through his foggy mind into his perception Katniss mused. Eventually he opened his eyes and Katniss moved a little bit so that her shade fell on his face, shading him from the morning sun. When he was finally awake Katniss offered him the beaker filled to the brim with water sweetened with a dollop of clove honey. She could now clearly see that his eyes were the color of a clear blue summer sky. Another feature that reminded her of her sister, who right now would be safe and sound in her family’s barn,taking care of her goat. This thought alone made her smile. Katniss couldn’t bring herself to be anything but helpful and kind to this one who obviously had seen hard times recently. The bruises and the skinny body spoke for itself.
The man returned the smile shyly and drank greedily from the beaker. When his thirst was satisfied, he cleared his throat. “ Why are you so nice to me? Am I in heaven?”
Katniss shook her head. “No you are not. You’ve made it to the Capitol. You are safe now.”
“To the Capitol.” He shake his head in disbelief. “You’re sure?”
“I’m sure. This is Capitol and you’re in my meadow on my property. So you’re in safety.” Katniss raised herself proudly and added. “You want to stay here ‘for one year and one day’ so that you will become a rightful citizen?”
“I want to. Hardly made it here with all the mutts in the wood. But at least I made it. I’m Peeta by the way. Peeta Mellark at your service.” Peeta struggled a little bit to put himself upright and offered his hand. “Do you know where I can find work?”
Katniss took his offered hand and laced her fingers through his like it was custom in Capitol. When she spoke her voice held an authority fitting for her next words. “I’m Katniss. Katniss Everdeen. I am the designated beekeeper and mead brewer of Capitol. Do you want to work for me? One year and one day so you can become a free citizen of Capitol?”