A few things for you to know:

1)There are NO hunger games in this story. They never existed. That changes things-more than you'd think.

2)Although the districts are just as poor as they are in the novel, and there are still electric fences surrounding the town, people are allowed to move to other districts, but its a long process.

Lastly: I do NOT own Suzanne Collins' the Hunger Games.

Peeta Mellark's eyes open as the earliest light of dawn shows itself through his closed window. The very last heat wave of the summer, along with the warm, naked figure beside him have caused him to wake covered in a layer of sweat. He considers opening a window, but instead, careful not to wake up his neighbor, lifts out of bed and heads to shower.

Peeta POV

After my routine morning shower, I change into my almost-official baking uniform consisting of denim pants and white t-shirt. As I dry my unruly hair and six-week-old beard, I contemplate waking my neighbor, but decide to head down stairs to start the day's duties and some breakfast-just as I have for the last five years.

When my older brother Roy married the gardener's daughter, I, at nineteen, became the sole heir of the Mellark bakery. This was no burden; I had always been the most skilled baker of my brothers. By that time, I no longer needed to look at any baking references; whatever I had to do was done with help from the memory of my father's teachings and my own instinct.

On the downside, I became the focus of mother's unforgiving eye. And with Mother being her special self, my days darkened in a way.

When my two brothers still lived in the house, Mother's anger was well distributed (even if for some reason I always got the worse of it). When they left, my father and I, the least likely to talk back, became Mother's verbal punching bags. If bread burned, if we lost a customer, if anything at all went wrong, Father or I were the official culprit. She never considered that her unwillingness to help and her screams heard from the outside were the reason bread burned, and customers decided to cook their own loafs from tesserae.

When she died of a heart attack six months after Roy left, I didn't cry, but I certainly didn't celebrate either (even though I'm sure the neighbors did). At the funeral, all I felt was a feeling that I could breathe bigger and fuller than I ever had. My father, standing next to me, reflected my feelings; he stood relaxed in posture he'd never let slip if my mom were alive.

The year that followed was the last year I spent with my father. That year held the best of times-and not just for me, but for my father as well. I cannot help but believe it was the happiest year my father had had in almost 22 years.

My brothers visited more often, many of our old customers returned, and although business was swamped, father and I managed to work harder without the pressure of mom's critical eye and harsh slurs. We even hired extra help for the overwhelming weekends.

It was mom's absence that allowed me to sneak small conversations with the girl I'd been in love with for over a decade.

My conversations with Katniss Everdeen were short and usually had to do with bread, but I could not be happier. At first she was extremely cold, almost angry. She looked at me with suspicion. Almost as if she expected me to bring something up, something unpleasant. But as the year went by, she loosened up; I guess she figured it was all strictly business, probably because I was always too much of a coward to bring anything else up. Sometimes, she almost smiled at me—I could see it in her eyes. Her smile gave me hope—hope that maybe one day I wouldn't be a coward…hope that one day I'd be able to tell such an important person how much she mattered to me.

Every time we were done, she thanked me for the bread, and as she walked away, her stride always hesitated. It looked like she wanted to turn around and say something. She never did.

It was a cold December morning when I went to wake up my father— my father who was usually up before me. But no matter how much I shook and called, my father never woke. He died in his sleep. The medic said as much. The cause of death isn't important in a district as poor as District Twelve. The dead are dead anyway. A blood clot, the medic guessed, maybe.

This time, I did cry at the funeral. Among my brothers, I cried for my father's life. I cried for his unfulfilled life with a bitter woman. I cried for the lost love he mentioned once. I cried from the times my father didn't defend me from mom. And I cried for remembering that.

There was no time for taking a mourning break. I set to work the very next day. My brother, Wyatt, agreed to stay the week, to lighten my load. Roy didn't. He's not a bad person—never has been—he can't handle such loneliness, not anymore.

The first morning, I didn't want to wake, but I did, partly out of responsibility, partly out of the wish to see Katniss that day.

But it was Primrose Everdeen who came in to trade that afternoon.

"Hey," he smiles at the girl. To him she is still the sweet child he saw walk and grow beside Katniss Everdeen-even at the age of seventeen years old.

"Hello," she responds. He doesn't realize it as she's walking in, but when she reaches the counter, he realized her eyes were swollen from crying.

"What's wrong?" he asks, always concerned for an Everdeen. She sniffles as she hastily wipes her tears. Peeta hands her a tissue from the counter.

"Nothing, I just—" she sniffles again. She looks like she's about to start hyperventilating. Unlike her older sister, Primrose Everdeen wears her heart on her sleeve. No held emotion fails to appear on her face, no matter the occasion. "I—I've just had to go and say goodbye to all my friends..." She stops restraining her sobs.

"What?" Peeta asks, not understanding.

"I came to tell you as well. I don't know how to say this, b-but, we're moving to a—another district. D—District 4. Our friends have family there, and there are b-better jobs, more options. We d-decided to apply for relocation, and the application was accepted...we got the letter yesterday. Our assigned train… leaves this Sunday. J-just two days left. "

"W-wait," he stutters, "how is your family moving to District 4? Don't you have to have close family living there? I-I mean, I understand your friends have family there. But you don't. How—"

"They got engaged."

"Who? Who got engaged?" he asks, suddenly afraid he knows the answer.

"Katniss. She's marrying Gale Hawthorne."

If Peeta was devastated from simply knowing they were leaving, he must've died when he got the latter of the news. He feels as if his throat has caved. There is something chokingly horrible about your tomorrows being ripped away by your inaction. He wants to go. He needs to run. As much he adores Prim, he can't handle her broken gaze. He might break too.

"Oh, well I'm sorry you have to leave. It must be hard to leave all your friends." He can only say what is easiest at the moment; he tries his hardest change his pitiful expression to one of sympathy. "Is there anything I can get you, anything I can do?"

"Well, you've always been kind to me and my sister, Peeta; it seemed right that I come to say goodbye. I know you're going through a hard time, and I don't want to worsen it with my woes." Her tears have still flow, but she smiles softly. "I'm sure Katniss would have come too, but she has to help pack; she's busy. I mentioned I would visit you, and she told me it was a good idea, and to thank you for everything."

"There is absolutely nothing to thank me for, Prim. I-I've only done my job." He tries to add a laugh. She looks at him in a way that tells him she doesn't quite believe him.

"Speaking of your job, I'm also here for some bread; the next few days will probably be meatless. Six loaves of rye, please?" She smiles, as she ignores his previous comment. Peeta brings her back the freshest loaves he can find. Prim starts to pull out coins from her pocket, but Peeta pushes the bagged bread toward her hands.

"It's on me." He manages a genuine smile, always in a giving mood when it comes to the Everdeens. Besides, it's no trouble; he only has one mouth to feed now. Unlike her sister, who would have probably refused and have forced the coins into Peeta's hand (or cash register), Prim smiles and accepts gracefully.

"Thank you so much Peeta—for everything," she says. Her tone almost makes Peeta believe she's thanking him for more than six loaves of bread. But he leaves it.

Before she turns to leave, Prim leans over the counter to embrace Peeta. "Thank you so much," she whispers in his hear.

And with that, she grabs her bag and heads out the bakery door-for the very last time.

I am jolted to from memories when two slender arms wrap around my chest.

"Blye," I shudder as she kisses the back of my neck, "Good mor—"

"You didn't wake me up, bread boy." She whispers.

"Sorry, I thought you needed rest; we were up for a while." I reach behind me to embrace her. "I made breakfast."

"Well. I guess I have time for some breakfast—but a quick one; I need to get back to the kids. Their aunt can't babysit them forever."

Blye, at thirty five, is nine years older than me. Her husband passed a couple of years ago. When she gets especially lonely she'll show up at the bakery's side door in need for distraction. I, of course, never fail to entertain her for a few hours. It's not exclusive, as both of us have over the last few years developed more than a few relationships with the opposite sex.

"That's fine; Darla said she needed to stop by for lunch today."

"Oooh, aren't we busy?"

"Ha, it's not what you think. She needs help with her senior essay," I laugh, already knowing what her response will be.

"What horrible pretense. Darla isn't known to study, Peeta. How old is she, by the way?"

"Don't worry, she's nineteen. She's still in high school, which is precisely why she needs my help."

"You are loose man with absolutely no manners, Peeta Mellark. Have you always been this way?" She starts a kettle on the stove.

"As long as I can remember," I lie, not interested in yet another woman trying to dig through my "hardened shell."

"Well, 'm not the best person to preach. Sugar in your tea?"

"Yes," I respond.

We sit at the table, and begin to eat my famous cinnamon buns (well-famous, at least, to the merchant women of District 12). My tea tastes too sweet in my mouth, but I don't complain. Blye is content with her meal. We eat in a comfortable silence, sporadically interrupted by Blye's appreciative sighs and moans reminiscent to those of the night before.

"Delicious," Blye says when the meal is over. "I've gotta dash, sunshine. Train's here, gotta go get us some supplies. Wouldn't want to stop our quality time any time soon, eh?"

"Wouldn't want that," I respond caustically.

Blye lets herself out after giving my hair a ruffle, and I'm left to finish breakfast on my own.

At seven thirty, I open for the day. I am in the kitchen when the bell at the front chimes. I grab a towel, and wipe my hands as I walk to the counter.

I drop my towel, when I see my very first customer of the day.

The girl I have loved for more than twenty years.


Okay, confession time. This is the very first time I've EVER written anything for fun. So, obviously, this is my first fanfiction. At 19, I've only experience in essays (yuck), but I decided I want to try some creative writing, because I love stories and reading. So yeah, there a probably TONS of rookie mistakes in this chapter-especially with the dialogue, which I've zero experience with. REVIEWS ARE APPRECIATED.

Also, I'm not gonna lie-this story was sort of inspired after I watched The Notebook. It will not share the same plot or anything; I just wanted to experiment with Peeta as a bachelor, the way Noah was when Allie left for seven years. It was really hard not to imagine Peeta as Ryan Gosling while writing this.

For snippets and fandom fun, join me on tumblr: dauntlessbuttercup