Every last person on the airplane sits nervously, hoping their name hasn't been picked. Hoping that the elderly flight attendant working her way slowly down the aisle isn't looking for them. The flight was oversold and the airline asked for volunteers to take tomorrow's flight, but who in their right mind was going to volunteer to give up their seat? Anyone who's been watching the weather – anyone who even bothered to look out the window – can see that a blizzard is starting. Since no one volunteered, the airline informed us that they are going to pick some unlucky people to leave the flight.
I shrink closer to the window, as if moving away will make her less likely to call my name. Glancing outside, I can see the snow starting to come down harder. If I don't stay on this plane, there's no way I'm making it home anytime soon.
We've already boarded the plane, and it really doesn't seem fair to me that people with seats will be kicked off to accommodate people who aren't even here. I wish I had elite status with the airline. Then I wouldn't have anything to worry about, right?
The flight attendant slows as she approaches my row, squinting at the piece of paper in front of her. "23D…Primrose Everdeen. Sorry sweetie, but I need you to grab your bags and come with me."
Prim gives me a panicked look and starts to grab her things. I grab her shoulder to keep her in her seat. There's no way I'm letting her leave this plane. Tomorrow she has an interview with the pediatrics program at the hospital where she hopes to do her residency after she finishes medical school this spring. Missing that interview is not an option.
"Sit down, Prim," I whisper to her quickly. "I volunteer," I state loudly to the flight attendant. "I volunteer to give up my seat. Can she stay if I go?"
The flight attendant looks a bit confused. "Why didn't you volunteer when we asked earlier? We can't give you any compensation now, you know."
"I just don't want my sister to miss this flight."
"Alright," the flight attendant sighs. "23E…what's your name, miss?"
The flight attendant makes a note on her paper and points to the front of the plane. "Grab your things and go see the gate agent up there." Then she shuffles off to find her next victim.
"Katniss, thank you so much. I'll make it up to you, I promise!" Prim wraps her arms around me tightly before I leave, and shoves a stack of celebrity gossip magazines into my arms. "Take these! You might be stuck here for awhile," she says guiltily.
I hug her back. "Don't worry about me, little duck. I can handle a few hours of boredom." I'm secretly worried that it's going to be longer than a few hours – maybe a lot longer – but I keep that to myself. "Good luck tomorrow. Call me after!" Prim nods as I sling my backpack over my shoulders, making my way to the front of the plane.
I lean forward and peek out the window as I walk, only to see the show falling more heavily than before. Ugh. I don't think I'll be leaving this airport anytime soon.
Well, this completely and utterly sucks. The unhelpful gate agent standing near the front of the plane told me and the other non-volunteers that we needed to make our way to the rebooking line to get new flights, then sent us on our way. He didn't even tell us where this so-called "rebooking line" is.
As I look back, I feel a bit better seeing that Prim's plane has moved away from the jet bridge and is being de-iced. If I have to be stuck in this airport for who knows how long, I at least want her to get to her interview. I make a mental note to check later and see if her flight actually takes off.
I'm kind of regretting this trip now that I'm stuck. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision – I was already coming here for a work meeting, so Prim and I decided to tack on a girl's weekend at a nearby spa. This part of the country is beautiful in winter, mountainous and snow-covered. So different from home. Lovely to visit, but it is definitely not lovely to be caught here when all of that beautiful snow is actually falling.
Looking down the concourse, I spot what must be the rebooking line. I can't think of any other reason why hundreds of people would be standing there. Sighing, I drag myself and my suitcase towards the line. As my heels click on the tile floor, I'm reminded that I'm still wearing the uncomfortable suit I brought for my meeting. There is no way I'm leaving my work clothes on for this ordeal. Making a mental inventory of my suitcase, I groan as I remember that I stuffed most of my clothes into Prim's bag. The only comfortable clothes I have with me are my pajamas. They'll have to do. I'll change as soon as I get rebooked on another flight.
Pulling up to the end of the miles-long line, I pull out my phone and start tapping out a quick email to my boss, letting him know I won't be in the office tomorrow. Thank goodness I have my laptop with me – I'll just find a quiet corner and work from the airport tomorrow until my flight home. Please let my flight home be tomorrow! I don't even want to entertain the thought of being stuck here longer.
I'm staring into the distance thinking about the work I want to accomplish the next day when I feel an insistent tapping on my shoulder. I look up, narrowing my eyes in confusion as I meet the gaze of the smiling blonde man standing behind me. What could he possibly have to smile about? I'm irritable right now, and seeing someone smile annoys me.
He laughs. "You were really off in your own world! I've been trying to get your attention for a few minutes now." I roll my eyes. I'm sure he has. "Do you think we're going to be stuck in the airport all night?" I'm not sure why he's asking me this.
Up and down the concourse, I can see people camped out on the floor, lying on backpacks and rolled-up jackets. It looks like a refugee camp or something. I assume if there were hotels available, no one would be voluntarily sleeping on the airport floor.
"I think so, but I don't know any more than you," I respond quickly and pretend to be engrossed in emails on my phone. I don't like chatty strangers.
Minutes pass, or maybe hours. Who knows? I've lost track of all time in my utter boredom, and my feet are killing me from standing so long in these shoes. I shift back and forth uncomfortably from foot to foot. I've moved maybe ten feet since I got in this line.
"You ok?" the man behind me asks.
"I'm fine," I reply quickly and turn around so my back is facing him.
"You don't look fine," he persists, angling to my side. "You haven't stopped scowling since you got here."
I swear this man is just looking for an excuse to talk. He better not be on my flight, because he seems like one of those people who like to spend the whole flight talking to their seatmates. Whereas I like to put on my iPod and stare silently out the window. Thankfully the odds are good that we aren't both going to the same place.
I audibly sigh before I answer. "It's nothing, my feet just hurt."
"Take your shoes off," he suggests.
"No way. I'm barefoot without them."
He nudges my suitcase with his foot. "Don't you have any socks in there?"
I do, but that's not the point. I was purposely trying to avoid opening my suitcase with all these people around. You never know what might fall out while you're rooting around. I was planning to take it to the restroom and open it in private once I'm through this line. But he's probably not going to let this go. He thinks he's being helpful.
"I can get them later," I state, hoping that ends this line of questioning.
It doesn't. "You sure? We're clearly going to be here awhile. Might as well get comfortable," he replies, gesturing at the impromptu camps set up all around us. "Do you want me to hold your backpack while you get in your suitcase?"
I tap my foot and stare at my suitcase. I really want to change my shoes, I just don't want to open my suitcase in front of anyone, much less a cute guy. (I will grudgingly admit to myself that this blonde man is really good looking.) Giving in, I set my backpack on the floor in front of me. There's no reason he needs to hold it for me. "No thanks. I've got it," I mumble, avoiding his gaze.
Kneeling down on the ground, I unzip my suitcase just enough to slip my arm inside. No way am I going to just flip the top open. I feel around for my sneakers and pull them out, along with a pair of socks. I sit on the floor and exchange my heels for the sneakers, stuffing the heels into the bag. I sigh in relief as I stand up.
"You had sneakers in there the whole time? What were we even arguing about?" he teases, giving me a wide smile. "I thought you just didn't want to stand on the floor in socks." He raises his eyebrows at me when he sees me finally smile. "That was worth it, wasn't it? Scowl's gone!"
I laugh, I can't help it. I'm feeling so much better.
"Alright, Ms. Everdeen, you're rebooked for flight 635 tomorrow at 11:55am. Check the monitors in the morning to find your gate. If anything changes, we'll give you a call." The agent hands me my boarding pass and points out the flight information monitors behind me.
"Thank you so much," I reply as I stuff the boarding pass into my backpack. I trudge away from the counter, looking for signs of the nearest restroom. As I make my way down the corridor, I can see that the weather outside still looks pretty bad. Heavy, thick snowflakes are falling steadily. As relieved as I am to be booked on a flight home tomorrow, I know that there's still a good chance that my flight will be cancelled or delayed.
The hour or so I spent in line passed a lot more quickly than I thought it would. I spent nearly the entire time talking with the chatty blonde guy. This is not something that quiet and antisocial Katniss usually ever does. I generally can't think of enough things to say – especially with people I don't know well – but somehow this conversation was easy. It was certainly a nice distraction.
I found out that he works in his family's bakery and had been on a skiing vacation with some college friends. They had all left before the snow started, so he was alone, like me. He asked me about myself, but I was a bit evasive. I hate talking about myself to strangers. I did tell him about my weekend with Prim and her residency interview, though. That seemed safe.
Glancing up, I see that I've reached the restroom and thankfully, it's fairly empty. I wheel my bag into a handicapped stall and lay it on the floor to open it. My pajama pants are bright red and covered in pink stars, but they're so much more comfortable than my slacks. And if I'm going to be sleeping on the floor tonight, my first priority is comfort, not fashion. I throw on a plain grey hooded sweatshirt along with the pajama pants, and stuff my work clothes inside as I zip the suitcase closed. After a quick stop at the sink to wash my hands and braid my hair, I head back out into the throngs of stranded passengers.
I just want to get as far away from the crowds as possible, so I start walking quickly towards the end of the concourse where it appears that fewer people are congregating. Maybe I'll even be able to find an open power outlet for my laptop down there. At the very least, I want to sit down and think about what to do next.
As I wind my way around the people gathered in the corridor, I feel a hand grip my shoulder suddenly. I jump and my suitcase topples as I whip around.
"Sorry, sorry," he apologizes, reaching down for my bag. I'm more than a little surprised to see the blonde guy. He continues, "I didn't mean to scare you. I was waiting for you to come out of the restroom, but I almost lost you when you changed clothes." He looks me up and down, and I feel myself blushing. "Ready for a long night in the airport, I see?"
"Clearly," I answer, feeling a bit flustered. But I actually find myself feeling not entirely unhappy to see him again. I take my suitcase from his hand as we start slowly walking together down the concourse. "Funny we should run into each other again," I say with a small laugh.
"Not really, I kind of followed you here," he notes sheepishly, glancing sideways to see my reaction.
Really? Something inside me is a bit flattered by this, but I can't let him know that. "Well, that's creepy," I state flatly. I look over and I think he's embarrassed. Good.
He clears his throat. "I didn't think it was that bad. I mean, we did just talk for the last hour. We almost know each other."
"Sure. We go way back," I roll my eyes sarcastically.
He shifts his backpack on his shoulders and smiles at me, almost looking shy. "But after all that talking…I don't even know your name."
I guess we skipped that part. I mean, I was trying not to tell him too much information about myself, but I'm not opposed to giving him my name. Still, I hesitate slightly before saying, "I'm Katniss."
He grins. "It would've been so much easier to get your attention when you left the bathroom just now if I could've just yelled 'Katniss!'"
"Next time," I tease, laughing in spite of myself.
"And by the way, I'm Peeta. Just in case you ever need to track me down," he winks.
"Nice to meet you, Peeta."
We continue in silence for a few minutes, walking down the corridor. I'm not sure what to do. Peeta's a really nice guy, but I'm starting to get the sense that we've run out of conversation. Or maybe I'm just nervous. But honestly, I had been planning to hunker down by myself for the rest of this storm anyway. But there's just no polite way to leave now.
"So…," Peeta finally breaks the silence, "what are your plans for this evening?"
I slow down and look around. Now that we've moved down the concourse, there are fewer people around and lots of empty floor space. "Well, I'm not sure. I haven't thought much further than trying to claim an open spot on the floor." I think for a moment. "What about you?"
"Yeah, not sure either," Peeta responds. He bites his lower lip and looks thoughtfully into the distance. "Okay, actually I was wondering if you'd want to, you know….hang out, as long as we're both stuck? I have a flight at 2:00 tomorrow, then I promise I'll be out of your way."
"Hmmmm…" I trail off, unsure of how to respond.
"Listen, if you want me to go, that's f-"
"No, no," I cut him off. Yes, part of me wants to just run off into a corner and be alone, but another part wants to give him a chance. I also feel like it would be a little cruel to say no to a request like that. He seems nice, and he's very easy on the eyes. That's a plus. I take a deep breath and nod. "Let's hang out. We'll both be bored out of our minds otherwise. There's some space over there," I indicate, pointing towards a corner near the windows. "Let's go sit down and figure out what to do next. Sounds good?"
We situate ourselves near a wall and try to get as comfortable as we can. The cold, hard floor is not ideal for a long stay, but we don't have any other options. Peeta wanders a few feet away to check some messages on his phone. As I'm rifling through my backpack looking for my laptop's power cord, my stomach starts rumbling. Looking at my watch, I remember that I skipped lunch today so I haven't eaten for over twelve hours.
I step away from my bags to look up and down the concourse. Since we wandered away from the central area, there is nothing to eat around here. All I see is a newsstand and an empty shoe shine station. There might be some snacks at the newsstand, but I'll be cranky tonight without a real meal. Returning to the bags, I slump down the wall and wait impatiently for Peeta to return.
Peeta puts his phone away and makes his way back. He stops when he sees me staring at him. "What?"
"I'm really hungry," I whine. "Can you stay with the bags while I find myself something to eat?"
"What about me? I haven't eaten either," he points out as he flops down next to me. "Do you want to walk back that way and see what there is to eat?" he asks, pointing back in the direction we came.
"Not really," I mumble. We just found a spot to sit and all I see when I look down the corridor are crowds of people. We'll probably lose our floor spot if we both leave, and every restaurant must be mobbed with people. I close my eyes and sigh against the wall. "It looks so crowded."
"Alright," Peeta tries again. "How about I walk down and see what there is, then I'll come back and we can decide what to do."
"Okay," I agree.
Peeta pulls out his phone and hands it to me. "Here. Put your number in my contacts so we can find each other if we get separated."
I'm a little bit suspicious of his request, but I guess I would want to have that information too if I was leaving my possessions with a near-stranger. I hand him my phone and ask him to do the same for me, just in case.
"I'll be back as soon as I can, Katniss," Peeta waves over his shoulder as he jogs down the concourse.
As I watch Peeta disappear into the thongs of our fellow stranded passengers, my phone vibrates in my hand. I'm relieved to see a text from Prim.
"Hey sis, we just landed. I'll be home soon!"
I respond immediately. "Great! I'm on a flight tomorrow at noon, if the weather clears up."
"Where are you staying tonight?" Prim writes back.
"Oh no! I owe you HUGE! Thanks so much for giving me your seat. See you tomorrow!"
"Don't worry about it. Just ace your interview. Good night!"
I feel so much better knowing that Prim made it home safely. That will make this whole ordeal worth it. Smiling to myself, I slip my phone into my pocket and flip through one of the magazines that Prim left for me. I secretly love reading mindless celebrity gossip, especially when I'm in an airport.
I'm engrossed in looking at Lady GaGa's recent vacation photos when Peeta suddenly returns. I look up as he crouches in front of me and runs his hand through his hair. "So?" I demand.
"Well, the options aren't great, but things are less crowded than they look."
"That's fine," I interject, "My expectations for airport food are very low."
He chuckles. "That's good. There's basically a food court, a Chili's Too, a Wolfgang Puck Express, and some kind of sports bar."
Honestly, they all sound terrible to me, but I'm too hungry to be picky. Besides, my only other option is probably to starve myself until I get home. I tap my foot thoughtfully and stare at the zipper on Peeta's jacket. "Hmmmm…do you have a preference?" I ask.
"Let's do Chili's then," I suggest.
Peeta nods and grabs his backpack. As he waits, I shove my magazine back into my bag and stand up, pulling my small suitcase behind me. We carefully step around the other people and belongings that are strewn about the floor and make our way to the walkway. As we move down the corridor, I look back regretfully as I see a family take our newly-vacated floor space. We'll have to find somewhere else to go after dinner.
We chat idly as we make our way to the restaurant. The Chili's Too is on the opposite side of the concourse from where we were sitting, so it takes us several minutes to get there. Because I'm hungry, I walk as fast as I can, but that's difficult with so many people around. Peeta doesn't seem nearly as impatient as I am. He keeps up a steady stream of chatter as we walk – I imagine he's just happy to have found someone to talk to. He doesn't seem like a person who enjoys spending time alone. I'm pretty much the opposite, but I find myself feeling happy that I have some company tonight.
Once we get our food and my stomach starts feeling less empty, I find myself relaxing. I sneak a glance across the table at Peeta. This is the first opportunity I've taken to really look at him, and I'm struck by how handsome he is. His dark blonde hair is wavy and messy, and yet somehow still looks attractive. His clear blue eyes are so….kind. I can't think of any other word to describe how they look. They put me completely at ease. Some stubble is forming on his chin, which is not surprising given how late it is. It looks really becoming on him.
I find myself wanting to know more about him, so I break the comfortable silence of our meal with a question. "So, um, Peeta…where are you going back to tomorrow? Where's home?"
He looks up at me and takes a sip of his water. "Chicago. It's where I grew up and my whole family still lives there," he replies. "What about you?"
"I live in DC now, but I grew up in a small town in Virginia." I decide to steer the conversation back to him to avoid any uncomfortable questions about my family. "Chicago's such a nice place. I've been there on business trips but I've never really visited, you know? I'd love to see it someday. It looks like a beautiful city."
Peeta winks at me and smiles. "Well, if you ever need a tour guide, you've got my number," he says.
I blush furiously and look down at my chicken fingers. I hope it didn't sound like I was trying to get him to offer to take me out or something. I peek up and see that Peeta has returned to his food as if nothing happened. Good. He must not have read anything into what I said.
I may be 25 years old, but I still react like a teenager sometimes. Especially when it comes to guys. I've had a few boyfriends before, but I'm not talkative and don't tend to do a lot of dating. I'm also really bad at reading people, so I'm generally clueless as to whether a man is showing interest in me or just having a normal, friendly chat. My social ineptitude frustrates me to no end.
Rather than risk any further embarrassment, I take a cue from Peeta and decide to focus on my meal. I think it's safer to let him lead the conversation from now on.
I stand up and stretch as we finish our meal and make our way out of the restaurant. "So…what now? We lost the spot we claimed earlier." I look to my left and right, uncertain. "Which way?"
"Let's go that way," Peeta suggests, gesturing to the opposite end of the concourse from where we were before. "We don't know what's down there."
By this time of day, the concourse is noticeably quieter, and although there are still many people around, most have settled down on the ground and are reading or using their laptops or sleeping. I slow down when we pass a large window. I can see the snow continuing to fall outside, coating the tarmac and the few planes that still remain. I'm not optimistic about my chances of making it home tomorrow.
As if sensing my unease, Peeta reaches over and gently squeezes my shoulder. "There's no point in worrying about that right now," he says. "Let's just find a place to get some rest."
I smile gratefully at him. He's right. "What about over there, near the escalators?" I point.
We're coming up to a bank of four escalators that lead down to an area where the small jets are parked. Off to the left of the escalators, there is an empty gate with only a few people camped out on the seats. Not many people walked this far down the concourse, so we can have our pick of spots on the floor. Peeta and I walk over and settle down near the large windows.
As we sit down and arrange our bags, a yawn escapes my mouth. Peeta yawns as well and gives me a small smile. "I didn't realize until just now how tired I was, either," he sighs.
"Yeah, it kind of snuck up on me," I admit. "I never realized before how stressful doing absolutely nothing in an airport can be."
Peeta laughs and settles down on the ground, using his jacket for a pillow. I unbraid my hair and run my fingers through it. I take off my sneakers but I can't think of anything else I can do to make myself more comfortable. My backpack becomes an uncomfortable, lumpy pillow as I lie down a few feet away from Peeta.
I roll onto my side, facing Peeta. "This sucks," I whisper to him, trying to be mindful of others sleeping nearby.
He turns to face me. "Yeah," he agrees. He looks thoughtfully at the ceiling for a moment, then continues, "Do you need to call and check in with anyone? Like your sister…or your boyfriend?"
"What?! No. Boyfriend!?" I sputter, a little too loudly. Lowering my voice, I tell him, "I texted my sister earlier, and there's no boyfriend." I can't see Peeta's face at all now because he's looking away from me. "Why, do you need to go call your girlfriend? It's fine if you do," I assure him.
He takes a deep breath and looks back at me. "No, I don't have a girlfriend."
I roll onto my back, trying to find a comfortable position. "Then I think we should just try to get some sleep," I reply, closing my eyes.
Suddenly, I feel Peeta's warm hand enclosing my own. I open my eyes and stare down at our hands as he quickly squeezes mine and releases it. "Good night, Katniss."
I hesitate just a moment as I find myself inexplicably wishing that he hadn't let go.
"Good night, Peeta."
Peeta must be one of those people who can sleep anywhere. Just minutes after we said good night, I could hear that his breathing had slowed down into the telltale rhythm of sleep. I can't stop myself from staring at him. He looks so peaceful lying there, even in these uncomfortable circumstances. I envy him.
I, on the other hand, have been tossing and turning for hours. I need a bed to sleep in, and I just can't get comfortable here on the cold, hard airport floor. Sitting up, I rub my eyes and roll my neck. I'm already feeling stiff.
The airport is almost completely silent now, aside from a few quiet conversations I can hear around me and the occasional announcement on the intercom. Even the lights have been lowered, presumably to help those of us stranded here get some much-needed rest.
Turning around, I kneel and face the windows behind me. Snow is still falling, but lightly now, not nearly as hard as before. It's a strange sight to see the tarmac and the runways completely deserted. There are no planes moving, no baggage being loaded, not even a single tire track in the snow. The layer of white covering everything makes it almost as bright as day outside, even though the sky is pitch black. I can't even see the stars because of all the clouds.
I raise my hands to the window, relishing the cool feeling of the glass beneath my fingers. Leaning forward, I press my forehead to the glass, trying to bring the cold into my weary eyes. I really, really just want to sleep.
I sit there for a few minutes, pressing against the glass and breathing deeply, until I hear a rustling behind me. "Katniss?" Peeta sleepily mumbles, working himself into a sitting position.
I turn my head to the side and see Peeta blinking at me with heavy-lidded eyes. "Go back to sleep," I whisper, closing my eyes and turning back to the window.
He ignores me, because I feel him move closer to me and put his hand on my back. "What's wrong?" he asks quietly, his voice tinged with concern.
"Nothing," I state. Exhaustion is threatening to overtake me as I sink down and move away from the window. "I haven't been able to sleep," I reluctantly admit.
"Oh," he responds. "Is there anything you need? Anything I can do?"
His hand rubs my back slowly as he speaks, and the wonderful sensation lulls my eyes closed. I hug my knees to my chest and drop my forehead onto them. "No," I sigh. I straighten my back and look at Peeta. Clearing my throat, I repeat, "No, I'll be okay. You should go back to sleep."
"I don't think I can now, anyway," he says. "Do you want to do something else? Go for a walk or something?"
I shake my head. "What I really want to do is sleep. I just can't." In my head, I think I sound whiny, but I'm so tired I can't control it.
Peeta looks thoughtful for a moment, and then scoots himself to the wall. He leans against it, grabbing the jacket he had been using as a pillow. "Come here," he motions to me.
I'm not sure what he's getting at, so I just stare at him blankly.
"You can lean on me," he explains. "Maybe you can at least get some rest that way."
"I can't, Peeta. That looks so uncomfortable for you." Plus, I'm sure I don't know him well enough to lean on him in the dark and let him hold me. That does sound nice right now, though.
"Come on, Katniss. It's no big deal. It's the middle of the night, we're just trying to rest," he persists, holding out his arms.
I'm too tired to protest anymore. I crawl over and lean with my back against his chest, while he settles his jacket on me like a blanket. His arms encircle me loosely, and if I'm being honest with myself, this is the most comfortable position I've found all night. As I close my eyes and burrow more closely into him, one of his hands reaches up and slowly strokes my hair.
Feeling warm and safe in Peeta's arms, I finally drift off to sleep.
As the overhead lights abruptly flicker back on throughout the airport concourse, I am immediately woken up. I quickly throw my right arm over my eyes and groan. I slowly register that my left hand is holding onto something. Peeking under my arm, I see that I am holding another person's hand in my lap. Peeta's hand.
That's when it hits me that we are leaning against the wall in the same position we were in last night. We must've stayed like this all night long. I can't believe I actually fell asleep. I feel guilty, wondering if Peeta slept at all. I slowly turn my head around to look at him, hoping he's asleep. Nope. My grey eyes catch his blue ones staring back at me.
"Good morning," he says, smiling.
"H-hi," I stammer, awkwardly trying to extricate myself from his arms without being too obvious about it. His arms tighten around me in a hug for a split second and then he lets me go.
"So…" I begin, shyly looking down at the ground. "Sorry about that. I didn't mean to fall asleep on you. I hope you're okay."
He looks up at me surprised. "Why would you say that?" he asks.
"That couldn't have been pleasant for you," I explain, gesturing at the wall, "leaning against that all night long."
He stands and stretches, looking out the window. Glancing at me out of the corner of his eye, he remains quiet for a moment. "I actually slept really well," he finally says. He looks like he wants to say more, but instead he puts out his hands and helps me to my feet.
"Look," he motions outside, "no more snow. I guess that means we're going home today." He states this factually, without any emotion behind it. I can see something in his eyes, though. If I didn't know better, I'd almost call it regret. Turning to me suddenly, he asks, "When's your flight? I don't think you ever told me."
He looks at his watch. "Six hours, huh? Better make the most of it," he says, grinning at me. He grabs his backpack. "I'm tired of sitting. Let's walk and get some breakfast."
I'm stiff and itching to move too, so I grab my bags and fall into any easy pace alongside him. But my mind keeps running over the words he just said. Six hours? We only have six more hours together. All I've been thinking about since I got stuck in this airport is going home, but now for some reason, I don't want to leave. I know if I do, I'll probably never see Peeta again.
I don't know what to do about how I'm feeling. I'll figure something out before noon.
Peeta and I spent the morning walking around while we ate some pastries for breakfast and just…talked. I still can't believe that a quiet girl like myself could converse so easily with someone I just met. After we circled the concourse several times, we settled down on the floor again.
We are leaning against the wall, shoulders touching, laughing and playing a head-to-head game of Boggle on my phone. Suddenly over the intercom I hear, "The following Chicago-bound passengers need to report to Gate A12…Josie Bennett…Stan Rosenberg…Peeta Mellark. Thank you."
Peeta and I look at each other, not sure what to make of what we just heard. "They must have some information about my flight," he says nervously. "Come with me?" he asks, looking at me hopefully.
"Of course," I quickly reply. "Let's go."
We're not far from A12, so we make it there in less than five minutes. We walk to the counter together. Peeta steps up to the gate agent and gives his name.
"Mr. Mellark, we have a seat for you on the next flight to Chicago, which is ready to depart. Here's your boarding pass. We're in final boarding so we need you to get on right away." The agent glances at me. "Are you on this flight as well?" she inquires.
"Um…no." I reply, moving away to let the next person in line approach.
Peeta walks slowly towards me, looking at his boarding pass with a shocked look on his face. He seems like he wants to say something, but for once in the short time that I've known him, his words have failed him.
But I think I know how he feels. I feel a little bit like I can't breathe right now. I'm speechless. I thought we'd have a few more hours before we had to say goodbye. It feels like something's been stolen from me.
I break the silence first. Plastering a fake smile on my face, I meet his eyes. "You get to go home." I mean to sound happy, but I don't think I'm very convincing. He doesn't move or respond. "Peeta," I prod him, "you've got a plane to catch. You can't miss it."
He snaps out of the trance he was in. "Right," he whispers. "Um….Katniss…" he trails off.
"Mr. Mellark, we need you on the plane now," the gate agent calls in our direction.
Peeta breathes out sharply in annoyance and closes his eyes. When he opens them, I run into his arms without thinking. We hold each other for a few seconds, but I can see the impatience of the airline employees behind us, so I reluctantly release my grip on him.
"Goodbye Peeta," I wave and start to back away.
"Goodbye Katniss." He stares at me for a brief second, then I see him turn and hand his boarding pass to the gate agent. I look down at my shoes, not sure what to do now.
When I look up again, he's gone.