Friendly

(adjective; kind and pleasant)

Kaye Amicus, Gamemaker, Muttation Specialist

. . . . . . . . . .

Five minutes.

I quickly count out eight coasters from the stack on the counter and slide them all into place on the conference table, careful that they don't cover up any of the displays.

Four minutes.

Pouring the last of the coffee into a bland white mug, I start to set them all on top of the coasters.

Three minutes.

As I finish placing the last one, I put the wicker basket filled with fresh bakery items in the center of the table, complete with a pile of napkins.

Two minutes.

I walk over to Lavender's seat at the front of the room and lean over to press a few buttons on the touch-screen of the table, making the day's agenda come to the front of everyone's display.

One minute.

I plop myself down into my seat and wait, just as I do every day, and look out the opposite wall that's completely made of crystal glass.

The sun has only risen recently, the sky above the Capitol clear and giving off a faint rosy glow. It's going to be a good day, I think, with the Gamemaker panel meeting to go over the last details for the four-hundred fifth Hunger Games. Of course, there's not too much to do, now. The Reaping is tomorrow.

I hear a mumbled, "Morning, Kaye," coming from the doorway, and Lavender brushes past me to her seat.

"Mornin'!" She cringes at the volume―not a morning person, and never one for loud noises to begin with―and takes a few sips of coffee, eyes half-closed. Before she can answer, Thespian comes in through the automatic sliding door behind and to the left of me.

"Kaye!" he greets, giving me an affectionate slap on the shoulder that almost sends my chair rolling into the table. Lavender gets the same act, almost choking on the coffee as Thespian sits next to her. I can't help but giggle a little at Lavender's tight expression.

"Morning, Thespian," she says through gritted teeth.

You can tell that he's about to make some kind of joke about going easy on the caffeine, just like he always does, but Misty comes in before he can, giving off her usual sort of relaxed, calming effect on the room as she too finds her place. "Good morning, everyone."

"See, Lav, even 'wise old owl' Misty can find some good in the morning," says Thespian. "Always something, eh, Misty?"

"Don't call me that," Lavender scolds under her breath at the nickname, "Lav".

"I suppose so," Misty answers, directing the words at Thespian.

There are a few moments of quiet and I relax into my chair a little bit. Lavender's typing in commands to the table furiously, Thespian's still looking amused, and Misty pulls out a book. I hear the whisk of the sliding door again and this time it's Francisco that enters, wordlessly dropping into his seat. If Lavender notices, she doesn't show it, Misty nods in his direction, knowing he's not one for conversation, and Thespian says, "Looks like you and Lav both woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning."

Lavender shoots him a warning glance, mumbles something none of us can hear, and goes back to typing. Francisco only scowls. "As every day," he says simply, and I can't tell if it's a comment on our Head Gamemaker or if he's pointing out that he's quiet all the time, not just today, which is true enough.

Rainshadow comes in, piping up, "Hey." Somehow she manages to make the one word come out so fast that it's scarcely comprehensible, but most of us have grown used to Rainshadow and her… quickness, by now. Before I've even fully registered that she's in the room, however, she's seated in her place next to me, a roll in front of her along with the coffee that she's already gulping down.

She gets little response to the greeting, and eventually I say, "So, how is everyone?"

"Great!" Rainshadow throws in immediately.

"Oh, fine," Misty says, before the silence after the first answer can get too long.

"Okay," Thespian says. "If it weren't for all that damn Monday traffic…"

"Agreed," Rainshadow says, nodding as she sets her mug down again. "If it's possible to drive any slower than those people do, I don't know how anyone gets to work on time."

Next to come in, and last, are Glisten and Ritter, at the same time. They both take their seats, exchanging greetings with everyone that responds. As silence settles again, several people start to look at Lavender, as now that everyone's here we can begin the meeting.

While Lavender's still in her own world, typing, Glisten tosses her metallic-pink hair over her shoulder, Francisco smirks, and Misty gives a slight cough. Finally, it's Thespian that says, "Angry at the table, Lav?"

At first I expect her to snap at him, but she doesn't. Her typing gradually slows until she stops altogether, and she looks up slowly, slowly, a slight blush creeping onto her face as she takes in the panel of us staring at her.

"Ah, no… sorry," she says, giving a clearly forced grin. The half-embarrassed, half-surprised look on her face is priceless. I look at the ground, letting light pink-and-blonde strands of hair fall in my eyes to hide my smile.

Her dark-green eyes flick down to whatever she has on her table-screen and then she looks back up at us. It's easy to tell that her first year of being a Gamemaker―the Head Gamemaker, no less―is starting to get to her. Misty says that your first year is the hardest, before you get used to things. It's my first year, too, and I know that some people worry about me, but right now, I think I'm fine.

"Er, right, then," Lavender says, a bit timidly. "Everyone ready to start?"

. . . . . . . . . .

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…"

Harper Lee