a/n: This mini-fic was inspired by a pair of prompts I got from an anonymous reader on tumblr. It will have two full-length chapters after this prologue and (possibly) a short epilogue.
So I looked at the scenery;
She read her magazine.
And the moon rose over an open field.
"Cathy, I'm lost," I said,
Though I knew she was sleeping.
"I'm empty and aching and I don't know why."
Countin' the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all gone to look for America.
- Simon and Garfunkel, "America"
Peeta checks his cell phone again anxiously.
3:32 in the morning.
Katniss is late.
Peeta peers out the front window but there's still no sign of her. He paces his family's small living room again, nervously running his hands through his hair.
This had all been her idea. As soon as Katniss got the keys to the used Ford F-151 on her seventeenth birthday she told him, proudly, that she was going to help him run away. Get him as far away from his abusive mother and practically absent father as she could.
"I'll make sure she never gets the chance to take a rolling pin to your face again, Peeta," she told him firmly. They were going to see the country, she said. Together, she said. Just two best friends in a pickup truck.
Peeta could still remember the fierce pride that glinted in her eyes when she told him about her plan. If you could even call it a plan. He's as skeptical today that this is actually a good idea – something that could actually work – as ever. But the memory of how Katniss looked when she told him what she had in mind – from the determined set of her jaw to the placement of her strong hands on her narrow hips – still makes his heart race.
As half-baked as this idea is, he knows he'll never be able to deny Katniss Everdeen anything she wants.
Finally, at 3:37, just as Peeta is about to text Katniss and ask what the holdup is, he sees a pair of headlights approach his home, slow, and then come to a complete stop.
The driver turns on the brights. Once, twice, three times. Their agreed-upon signal for him to come outside and get in the truck.
Here we go, Peeta thinks to himself, bracing himself for what's ahead. He grabs the duffel bag he packed a few hours ago and opens his family's front door.
But before he steps outside he pivots so that he's facing inside once more.
He pauses a moment, saying a silent goodbye to the only home he's ever known. And then closes the door behind him.
"Peeta?" Katniss' quiet voice in his ear startles him. Makes him jump. He hadn't heard her get out of the car.
She's always surprising him, this girl.
"Are you ready?" she asks him.
He swallows thickly. "As ready as I'll ever be." He tries, but mostly fails, to keep the nervous tremor out of his voice.
She takes his hand in hers.
"All right then. Let's go."
Peeta nods and follows her into the truck. He swings himself into the passenger seat and fastens his seatbelt. He closes the door, wincing at the loud sound it makes when it slams shut, hoping against hope that he didn't just wake his parents up and ruin everything.
Katniss adjusts her own seatbelt and the radio and looks over her right shoulder.
And then backs out of the Mellarks' driveway for the last time.