“Dad, can we take the long way home today?”
Harland Mellark didn’t mind. Sometimes, Peeta and him preferred to take the ‘long way’ as his youngest called the road that would deviate them at least 10 minutes from getting home, but they enjoyed the extra time and the change of scenery from the usual path.
“Sure thing, buddy. Anything you want to talk about?”
Also, whenever Peeta asked to go the long way, it usually meant he wanted to share something: His score in art class, how he had thought about a new idea for the bakery, or an event regarding the girl with the braids.
“No…I just um- Aren’t you hot, dad? It’s very hot today, right?”
“Well, yeah, it is…”
District 12 had one of the hottest summers among Panem, and that year promised no difference. It was either scorching hot or ‘penguin cold,’ as Peeta called it.
“Because there’s a lemonade stand over there, look.”
Harland turned his head and smirked.
In front of a small house stood a weird-looking lemonade post with a sign that read ‘$1 and very yummy!’ There was a girl with braids sitting down there, reading.
“Uh-huh…well, I could go and get us two of those, just so that you don’t have to walk in this sun.”
“I’m okay!” Peeta immediately exclaimed, and Harland had to laugh.
His boy had been lovestruck since the first day of school when he saw a small girl with a red dress, two braids, and a beautiful smile.
“So, you finally found out where Katniss Everdeen lives.”
“It’s not like that, Dad! I just happened to hear that she has been offering lemonade this week, and Madge asked her if it was easy selling on Seam Street because not many people pass through there…and then, because we sometimes come around this way…” His voice had increasingly lowered with every word, and Harland smiled to himself, ruffling Peeta’s hair.
He couldn’t blame his son for his crush. Katniss Everdeen was a very pretty and unusual girl, and Peeta had been cast from his own unique mold. Far as he knew, though, Peeta wasn’t exactly friends with the girl, which seemed weird because of the youngest Mellark’s popularity among his friends. At only 10 years old, Peeta was a very handsome boy, and Harland wasn’t only saying that because he was his own flesh and bones, but because it was true. Peeta had even been chosen on more than one occasion to be on the cover of the school pamphlets. Still, he didn’t like the attention all that much and would rather be in the back of the store, frosting cookies, or inside his room, mixing up new colors.
Bran was the jock of the family; he’d even earned a baseball scholarship.
Rye was the fun one, always joking and being loud. Being a salesman came naturally to him, so he was in charge of the counter on the weekends.
And Peeta was the artist. As soon as Harland and his wife had allowed him in the kitchen, he didn’t want to leave. Peeta’s hands were steady with the frosting bag, and Harland had already promised him they could try decorating a cake on Peeta’s next vacation.
Always being the one to bring sweets to class had also given Peeta extra points among his peers. However, apparently, the cat still caught Peeta’s tongue whenever Katniss was involved.
“Well then, son, we better go and get something fresh to drink, what do you say?”
°•. ✿ .•°
“Oh, honey, it was awful!” Harland tried to contain his laughter so that it didn’t reach his youngest’s ears.
“Shh! What if he hears you? Don’t be so mean!” However, Harlands’s wife, Cassandra, was also having a hard time containing her grinning.
Harland had told the ‘lemonade incident’ to his wife, and he thought one really couldn’t just come up with these things.
He and Peeta had approached the stand and Katniss had smiled, greeting them and asking if they’d like a glass. Harland had paid for two while Peeta simply stood there, trying to come up with something clever to say, no doubt.
“Aren’t you hot, young lady? Shouldn’t you have an umbrella so you don’t get sunburned?”
“Oh, it’s okay, sir. I’m already dark-skinned, so a bit of sun is no big issue.”
“You-uh…I always have sunscreen with me, in case you want to borrow some,” Peeta told Katniss.
“Why do you always have sunscreen?”
“Well, I-my skin is fair. Not delicate! Just-I get, like, super red and swell up like a lobster if I stay out in the sun for too long.”
Of course, Katniss had laughed at his son’s reasoning for having sunscreen in his backpack at all times, but she had thanked him, anyway, and offered him a glass.
“It was the worst lemonade I have ever tasted in my entire life. The lemons were too green, the water too warm, and I bet you a cake she put the sugar in last.”
“Oh, poor thing. Why didn’t her parents help her?”
Harland’s smile fell away, and he sat on a chair. “I asked her where her parents were, and she just told me they were working. I asked Peeta while we drove back, and he knows her father was fired last week and her mom is taking double shifts at the hospital to make up for that. Graham is currently job hunting.”
“Oh! Was he working in the coal factory?”
Everyone had heard last week about the huge scandal in coal factory number 45. Half of their workers had been laid off, and the other half was still fighting for their severance pay, marching in front of the gates and declaring a strike.
“The Everdeens have two girls, right? No wonder their father is job hunting instead of rallying with his friends. Perhaps Peeta could take them some bread?”
Harland smiled because his wife’s family always tried helping out with food. No wonder his pant size had gone up more than once in the years since they’d been married.
“I’ll ask him. I’m sure he’ll want to do something nice for her.”
°•. ✿ .•°
For the next two weeks, Harland made sure to take the ‘long road’ home and always stopped at the lemonade stand. He always bought two lemonades, although he never drank his, but Peeta would valiantly finish the whole thing in front of Katniss; he said he didn’t want to make her feel bad.
Then, one day, Peeta seemed more excited than usual and urged his dad to actually drink his glass that day. Surprisingly, it tasted quite good, and the water was cool to the lips.
Katniss was so happy; Harland didn’t even know the girl could smile so much. She went to hug Peeta, to his son’s immense surprise, and profusely thanked him, saying his lemonade was free today. Apparently, Peeta had finally gathered his courage and suggested to Katniss she change the way she was making her lemonade. It was a resounding success, and she’d even started getting a few more sales, if the jar of dollars was any indication.
Peeta started to take on his brother’s duties back home just so he could get his allowance. He wanted to pay for his own lemonade, and Harland couldn’t be prouder. It was good to start learning about the value of money as soon as possible.
However, something he learned about the Everdeen’s oldest girl was that she had pride in spades. Not in the bad sense of the word, no; she was more the kind to repay a drop of water with a fountain. Apparently, her father had taught her that, and even if they didn’t have much, she always insisted on Peeta’s and Harland’s lemonade being free on any day Peeta would take bread or pastries to her at school. There was no way to even slip her a dollar while she wasn’t watching; the girl had the eyes of a huntress.
Fortunately, after a couple of months of constant afternoon lemonades, Katniss told them she was closing the stand as her daddy had gotten a new job and she needed to concentrate more on her studies, which Harland took as an opportunity to offer Peeta as a study partner, for he was very good in his classes. Katniss then brought her father from inside and, finally, Harland was able to introduce himself.
What happened after that was pretty much textbook. Both families got to know each other; Peeta’s brother’s would tease him mercilessly whenever Katniss came to the bakery, and the eldest and youngest of the Everdeen and Mellark families became the best of friends for the years to come.
°•. ✿ .•°
“But I don’t know if Mom is going to let us, you know?”
“We lose nothing by asking; I mean, the worst thing she can say is no.”
“What are you two plotting, hmm?” Harland surprised both youngsters in the kitchen.
“Nothing!” They answered at the same time.
“Really? Because it seemed as though you were scheming a secret plan. Come on, won’t you let me in on it? I’ve been bored.”
The young girl and the slightly taller boy looked as if they were considering it, and then they showed Harland their drawing. It was a lemonade stand with glasses and all, lots of people around, and some dollar signs as well.
“You want to sell lemonade?”
“I want to be able to buy things on my own without having to ask Mama or Daddy…” Alyssa looked at Harland with those big puppy eyes. The man never thought he would ever love another woman as much as he loved his wife, but his granddaughter had simply taken his breath away from the moment he saw her bundled up in her white blanket 8 years ago in the hospital.
“And what do you think, Emmer?”
“I could help her, Grandpa. If Mama says it’s okay, I’ll look after Ali.”
Harland wore a big grin on his face; he ruffled the hair of both his grandchildren and told them to go play, said that he’d look into their plan and help them later when they spoke with their parents.
Truth was, they would surely smile about it, remembering how all of this started for them many years ago‒with an awful glass of lemonade and a school crush that turned into a marriage.
“We’re home!” Harland heard his younger son exclaim as he opened the door. “Hey, Dad. Were the little ones too much?”
“No, son, we had fun.”
“Please, Harland, tell me you didn’t fill them up with sugar, or else I’ll leave them with you all day today,” Katniss told her father-in-law with a playful glare.
“Just a couple of cheese buns and then yogurt with cereal, nothing crazy.”
“Good. Thank you so much for taking care of them; we really wanted to make sure the cake arrived okay.”
“No problem at all, dear. I know how the business goes. Cassandra wants you to come later for dinner, though. That way you can both rest a bit from the kitchen.”
“That’d be lovely. Prim is arriving later; she’s staying for a week.”
“Oh, right! College vacation.”
They talked for a bit more before Alyssa and Emmer came down the stairs after playing God-knows-what.
“Mama, Mama, you know that I love you very, very much?”
“And I you. Now, what do you want?”
Alyssa asked her grandpa for help and started to explain how she wanted to sell some lemonade this summer, just so she could start saving her own money. Ever since that piggy bank project in school, she had been adamant about starting to save her pennies.
“Really, a lemonade stand?” Seated next to his son, Peeta was grinning like crazy.
“Yeah, Dad. I mean, we saw it in a movie, but it could be cool, right? People are always hot and going around in summer.”
“You should probably ask your dad about your mom’s lemonade stand.”
“What?!” both children exclaimed, and their parents laughed, surely recalling those weeks a long time ago.
“Well, son, sometimes life gives you lemons, and others, a beautiful girl gives you lemonade.”