Bread and Circuses: Here's To The Night
I've never seen my roommate so crazy.
Literally, it's like she's gone insane; suddenly, almost overnight, she went from Johanna, who you'd probably find either in the bar down the road challenging one of the regulars to a shot-taking contest or on our windowsill smoking, to Johanna, who you'd probably find in the library or buried under a pile of notebooks, stray papers and post-it notes.
Ah, the dreaded word all college students hate: midterms.
They'd arrived faster than any of us had expected, and it had taken all of us by surprise, but none more so than Johanna, who'd promptly realised she knew absolutely nothing after failing a pop quiz in one of her classes.
"Look that this!" she'd demanded, waving a sheet of paper covered in crosses in front of my face. "We had a pop quiz today. I fucking failed. Failed, Kat! How did this happen?!" She'd asked, falling dramatically on her bed, the quiz paper fluttering down to the carpet.
I had bent to pick it up. "You only got ten right out of forty?" I had said, looking over to see Johanna wince.
She had nodded.
"Maybe you could, I don't know, study?" I had asked. Johanna had scoffed.
"I don't study, Kat," she had said, suddenly standing up straight and snatching the piece of paper out of my hands, and began tearing it to shreds. "This never happened, okay?"
I'd walked in on her the next day with her head buried in a book. A week later, she was surrounded by notebooks and stray highlighters. I've even found a mind map in my bed, which she had promptly yelled 'mine!' and had snatched it out of my hand when I had brandished it in the air.
Today, however, she'd taken it to a new level. I'd woken up mere minutes ago to find her already wide-awake and studying, and when I'd looked closer, I saw her eyes were rimmed red.
"Have you slept at all?" I ask, eyeing the cups of Starbucks coffee littering her desk. Good to see she'd been putting my employee discount to good use.
"I don't know," she says, speaking fast. "Probably not, but all I know is that I've got a pop quiz tomorrow and I'll be damned if I fail, Kat. DAMNED IF I FAIL!"
I stand, shocked as she yells at me, and manage to force my face into a smile. "That's okay. No-one likes to fail, go back to studying now," I say, still smiling as I make my way towards our door. She doesn't notice, as her nose has now re-entered her book. I slip my way out the door, closing it softly, and bang on the one opposite.
It's Peeta that answers, and judging from the mussed-up hair and faint biro pen marks on his cheek, he has had been studying too. At least he looks like he's slept. "Hey Kittykat," he says, grinning. The annoying nickname 'Kat' that Johanna had sprung on me day one has caught on, much to my eternal dismay; but Peeta has decided to put his own, unique spin on it in recent weeks. Apparently it makes Johanna 'want to vomit up her lunch' whenever she hears it, and it makes Peeta (and myself, even if I hate it) laugh. "What's up?"
I force my way into their room with little resistance. It's identical to ours across the hall, only a tad messier and with a stink of sweat, aftershave, and general teenage boy hanging in the air. I actually find that I don't mind it as much as I thought I would.
Gale is sitting on his bed, book in his lap and notebook by his side. "Hi, Everdeen," he says, without looking up. Gale likes to call people by their last names, but no more so than Johanna, who I've only heard him call Mason. I don't think he's ever called her Johanna. Sometimes, if I'm lucky, I'll get a 'Kat' thrown my way.
"What brings you to our humble abode?" Peeta asks, leaning on one of the desks beside me. I sigh.
"I need your help."
Peeta raises an eyebrow. He knows - as does Gale, and Johanna too - that I only really ask for help in dire situations, and even then it's usually because I've been forced to by someone or something. Such character quirks were figured out in the first month of us being a group of friends.
"Are you sure you're feeling alright, Kat?" Peeta jokes, raising a hand and placing the back of it on my forehead, as if to check if I have temperature. I laugh and swat his hand away.
"I'm fine, but Johanna isn't," I say. I can't help but notice Gale, who has been listening to our conversation but has never taken his eyes of the book on his lap, is suddenly staring at me raptly.
"What's wrong with her?" he asks, and I smirk a little. There is so much more to their relationship that meets the eye, I'm sure of it. Not that I'd ever tell them I thought that. I like my head attached to my body, thank you very much.
I sigh dramatically as I haul myself onto Peeta's desk, letting my legs swing free. "Midterms," I say.
"They've caught her bad, huh?" Peeta asks, a sympathetic look on his face. I laugh.
"I think bad is the understatement of the year," I chuckle. "She failed a pop quiz in one of her classes last week and now she's taken the studying thing to extremes. I mean, she's outstudying me, and that's something I never thought I'd say. I don't think she's slept in two days."
I watch as Peeta and Gale's faces change. At first, they were amused, before realising I was serious and their faces morphed into concerned expressions, and once again it struck me just how close we'd become in a few short months.
"What do you propose we do?" Gale asks, throwing his books to the side and standing up, heading towards the door. Peeta frowns and holds out a hand.
"I think we need to come up with a plan first. Judging from what Kat says, she's not gonna listen to us if we just go barging in."
Sometimes, I don't know how Peeta and Gale get along. Gale is a man of action, who does things first and asks questions later; his heart rules over his head. Peeta is his exact opposite; he thinks everything through, has a game plan, and never ever rushes into anything, ever.
Then again, maybe that's why they are such good best friends; they're the exact opposite of one another, the missing piece of the team.
Maybe that's why Johanna and I clicked as well as we did, too.
Meanwhile, Gale is nodding at Peeta. "Yeah, game plan," he says, distractedly. Peeta and I don't have to look at each other to know we're thinking the same thing; Gale wants nothing more than to just burst on into my room and see Johanna for himself, consequences be damned. But Peeta's right; Johanna is running on adrenaline and caffeine, and I don't know how she'll react if we barge on in and say, 'Oh, Johanna, don't study, even if you fail, you're making yourself ill and we'd rather you failed, thanks very much.'
That wouldn't do at all.
"I think I might have an idea," Peeta announces, and this is not surprising; out of the four of us, he is usually the brains behind the madness. Gale and I look at each other, and nod at Peeta to go on.
"What's the plan?" Gale asks, perching himself on his desk, as Peeta stands in between him and I.
"Gather 'round, children, gather 'round," Peeta says, an amused smirk on his face, but we do what he says nevertheless.
Half an hour later, I'm outside my dorm room door. Gale is kneeling at my feet, back against the wall beside the door, Peeta on his other side. We nod to each other - the plan is a go.
"Johanna!" I yell as I bash open the door, and she is so startled that she looks up from her book. I rarely yell, or bash open doors, so this completely stuns her into silence.
"Yeah?" She asks, still looking a little shocked. I almost smile - that's all part of the plan.
"You have to come see this," I say, breathless, and I cross over to her bed and throw her book of her lap. She squeals in indignation but I ignore it. "Peeta and Gale are fighting!"
As I thought, as soon as I mentioned the boys' names, her head snaps up from her book, total disbelief written all over her face. "Where?" she asks, before she shakes her head. "Are you sure it's Gale and Peeta? That sure doesn't sound like them to fight!" she says as she makes her way to the door.
I nod vigorously after her, my part of the plan almost over. "It's just around the corner. I'm a hundred percent positive it's them."
Johanna opens our door, and I'm right behind her; as soon as it's closed I lock in, and Johanna yells a irritated, "Hey! You two aren't fighting!" when she sees the two boys crouched beside the door.
Gale frowns, and stands, and in one fluid motion, Johanna is tossed over his shoulder in a move similar to how one would treat a bag of potatoes. Of course, she doesn't take this very well.
"Hawthorne, if you don't let me down this very instant, I will rip your fucking balls off. Rip. Your. Fucking. Balls. OFF!"
Gale just laughs. "No can do, Mason," he chuckles, and sets off down the corridor with her on his shoulder; she hollers in disapproval.
"I need to study! I have a pop quiz tomorrow! And I can't fail! So put me down, Hawthorne!"
"Never thought I'd see the day you were studying, Mason," Gale quips, when Johanna has finally fallen silent as she realises that Gale isn't putting her down anytime soon. She settles instead for banging her fists hard against Gale's back. To his credit, he doesn't flinch, even thought she's banging with all her might.
Peeta and I are following behind when he catches my eye, and gestures to Gale with his head. "Better him than me," he says, and I laugh.
Gale carries Johanna all the way towards her favourite bar, which has become a frequent hangout of ours. I'm not a huge bar person, but it could be worse. It's small and it's not a club, of which I have never nor never will set foot in ever.
Johanna protests the whole way there, from punching to screaming to hair pulling to trying to wiggle out of Gale's strong hold, but his arms are like vices around her hips, unrelenting. He finally puts her down when we're in our usual booth, and Gale barricades her in, so she cannot escape. She huffs.
"What part of, 'I have a pop quiz tomorrow that I can't fail' can't you fuckers understand?" she whines as I slide into the booth opposite her.
"When you started not sleeping and relying on my employee discount to survive, apparently," I say, thanking Peeta for the Diet Coke as he slides into the booth next to me. He's bought drinks for us all, and he's bought Johanna a decaf Coke. We laugh - well, Gale and I do. Johanna still isn't seeing the funny side.
"Kat was worried, Mason," Gale says to her. "We all were, once she explained the situation. And to be frank, you look like shit. People will think we're sitting with a zombie."
Johanna opens her mouth to protest, but instead reaches up a hand to find her matted hair. "Maybe it is time for a shower," she says, laughing, and Gale scoots away from her slightly. "You don't have to do that, you freak."
"You're the freak," he says, playfully, but nevertheless scoots back to his original position. "And please, could the freaky, studious, boring Mason go away so we can get lazy, crazy Mason back again? She was so much more fun."
Johanna takes a small sip of her Coke. "Depends whether or not I fail this pop quiz tomorrow."
We all groan simultaneously. "What?" Johanna says, shrugging.
"You're gonna ace it," I say with sincerity. "You've been studying so much that I'll ace it, purely on the amount of post-it notes you've got covering the damn walls."
Johanna is silent for a moment. "I've been going mental, haven't I?" she says, placing her head in her hands. Gale rubs her shoulder in sympathy whilst we all make affirming noises.
"Just a little bit," I say when Johanna looks up again.
"I'm sorry," she says, and I can tell she means it. "I just - I just hate failing, y'know? My family thought failing was unacceptable, so when I did fail, something just … snapped. It just ignited the crazy in me and I swore to myself I'd never fail anything again. I guess I just pushed it too far."
"Well, as your friends," Peeta says, smiling, "that's what we're here for. Intervention."
"So you brought me to the bar. You guys know me so well," Johanna grinned. "Is it too early for alcohol?"
Even Gale agreed with us when Peeta and I said yes, it was far too early for alcohol, even if we were celebrating Johanna returning to the world of civilisation.
Work was quiet, and so I found myself studying.
Not Johanna's version of studying, but more I had a book on International Relations in the Middle East and it's Effect on the Western World propped up against my till, so I could read between serving people. Since the building was on campus, it was only students anyway, who came to get another caffeine hit in between busting the books.
"You'll be the next zombie in the queue," Cato remarks over my shoulder, peering at my text.
I laugh and swat him away. "No chance," I snort, shaking my head. "Not after what I had to deal with."
"Johanna?" Cato guesses, and I nod. "Yeah. She was in here a few times with your employee discount card. I know it's only valid when she's with you, but she had this crazed look in her eye and I didn't want to get on the wrong side of her," he continues, making stare-y eyes at me to emphasis his point.
I giggle. "Admit it. You were scared of her."
Cato made a face which made me laugh harder. He crumbled. "She's fucking scary, okay?! Especially when she's caffeine- and sleep-deprived!"
I'm laughing harder now, leaning on the table. "You're such a wuss."
"Am not!" he replies, banging his shoulder against mine as he leans on the counter next to me. "Dear god, I am bored."
"Maybe you should try studying," I smile, nodding towards my book. Cato is a junior, doing Physical Education - the same course as Gale, only Cato is two years ahead. But I know that he has midterms just like us freshmen, but he doesn't seem to be the slightest bit interested.
"All I wanna do is teach kids baseball," he says, shrugging. "Why do I need to study? I'm not teaching them fucking anatomy."
I shake my head at his cavalier attitude towards academics. Maybe it was different for me, because I had something to work for - my family back home. I was shocked these days, because I thought of them less and less and time went on. The more at home I felt in California and with my friends, the less I yearned for my old home of Seam.
(I was just a tiny bit afraid that come graduation, I wouldn't go home).
"Teaching anatomy or no, studying is important," I argue. "How else can you expect to be successful if you don't put any work in?"
Cato sighs, and just looks at me, before touching my chin with his fist lightly, so lightly I could barely feel it. "Look at you, Katniss, the little nerd."
I sock him in the shoulder and turn back to my book. I blame Johanna for making me violent. I never used to hit anyone, playfully or not, but she's definitely brought out my violent tendencies with her words and playfully punches.
"You need a break," he says, and I turn around.
"I took mine half an hour ago," I reply, bemused. He was there when I left! He just shakes his head in amusement and I'm confused.
"I don't mean from work," he says, and that only makes me more confused. "I mean, from, like, studying and shit. You hit up Petrucci's?"
"Sometimes," I say, but it's a lie. Petrucci's is fast becoming our local bar. Johanna likes to see how many free shots her boobs can buy us. Not that I ever drink them.
"Why?" I ask.
"Meet me there at seven tomorrow. We can just have a few drinks, forget about the books for a while."
I laugh. "You can't forget about something you never remember."
He laughs too, but has a confused look on his face. "I don't know if that makes sense or not," he chuckles. "But will you be there, tomorrow?"
I shrug. "I don't have plans."
He beams, and it is so contagious I find myself smiling back.
"CATO ASKED YOU OUT?"
I scowl at Johanna, who for once isn't studying. She certainly picks her moments, huh?
"No, he did not ask me out," I reply curtly. I'm sitting on my bed, back against the headboard, my legs stretched on in front of me. My book is lying on my legs, forgotten since Johanna had made her ludicrous claim. "He said I needed to take a night off, so we're going to have a drink."
Johanna laughs, long and loud. "That's called a date, brainless."
"No, it isn't. It's two friends - no, colleagues - getting drinks after work."
"That. Is. Called. A. Fucking. DATE!" Johanna lay back on her bed, shaking with laughter. "I knew he wanted to get in your pants."
I throw a pillow in her face just as the door opened, and in walks Peeta and Gale.
"Thank god we're not having a naked pillow fight in here," Johanna quips from her bed, and I roll my eyes at her. Gale smirks as he bats her legs and settles himself on her bed.
"That's a pity," Gale says, sharing the smirk with Peeta, who is sitting on my bed at my feet. This seems to be their usual positions in our room; Gale sitting on Johanna's bed, Peeta on mine. "Why is Kat throwing a pillow in your face?"
Johanna springs bolt upright, almost like a meerkat, a grin so large it is almost creepy on her face. "You'll never guess what."
"What?" Peeta asks. "And wipe that grin of your face, you look like the Joker."
Johanna sticks her tongue out at him. "Fuck off. Anyway, the news is, you know the sexy dude Kat works with? Cato? He asked her out this morning."
"Wheyhey!" Gale whistles, while Peeta cat-calls loudly. "Lucky Kat."
"He didn't ask me out!" I say, almost screech. "He said that I needed to wind down and take a break from studying, and we arranged to meet for a drink as friends at Petrucci's."
"Having a drink together?" Gale snorts. "That's a date, Kat. He totally wants you."
I blush deeply. "He doesn't. It isn't a date."
Both the boys look at me as if I've gone insane.
"I didn't agree to it as a date," I say, sighing.
"Go," Johanna says, more as an order than a request. "He's hot. You need to get laid, it will unwind you like nothing on Earth."
I blush harder, if that's possible.
"And," Peeta injects, "if you want, the three of us could go to Petrucci's and hide in a corner to make sure he doesn't do anything."
That makes me feel slightly better. I smile gratefully at him, and he smiles back.
Johanna's voice makes me turn away from Peeta's ice blue eyes. "Kat, have you ever actually been on a proper date before?"
I shrug. "Nope. But it'll just be like us going to Petrucci's, only there's only two of us, right?"
Gale groans, his head falling into his hands. Peeta just laughs, and Johanna sighs.
"When is this date of yours?" She asks.
"Tomorrow. Seven pm."
Johanna sighs again. "We've got a lot of work to do before then. You might want to put those books away. We've got to start now if you want to look gorgeous for Cato."
I don't think I've ever been so scared in all my life.