When You're Not Looking
"Prim, if we don't leave in 2 minutes we'll both be late! Move your ass!" Katniss yells from the kitchen while pouring her coffee into her travel mug. Her morning cup of Joe has been the only way for her to get through the day lately. Sleep has been a luxury she hasn't really been able to afford lately between worrying about the bills. The nightmares of her and Prim being forced out of their apartment and having to sleep in her car.
It's not a bad job, but it doesn't quite cover all the bills. She thought she was very lucky to find it, and she likes the work. It was about three years ago when she started at the Abernathy Family Pharmacy. Her interview was the most interesting she'd ever had. Mr. Abernathy did not seem like the congenial pharmacists she'd met before, but apparently he had revived the business after his entire family passed away. She'd thought this was a noble gesture, but he would never admit it. He is a very gruff man who doesn't mince words and always seems to know more than he should. He would never admit it to anyone, but he has a fierce amount of loyalty towards his employees.
Her interview consisted of only five questions. She was led into the back office by an overly put together woman named Effie. She wore too much make-up and her hair could probably withstand a major tornado, but she had a kind smile. Mr. Haymitch Abernathy was sitting behind a big desk that looked like Mahogany. The desk was very ornate, but the man sitting there did not match its grandeur. He was unkempt and looked like he needed a shower.
He eyed her up and down, sizing up the skinny brunette in front of him. This unnerved her a little, but she would never give him the satisfaction of knowing that. She felt like he could see right through her. She squared her shoulders and proceeded toward the desk. She offered her hand to the man, and he shook it firmly, but didn't let go and stared her down straight in her eyes. He smirked, let go of her hand and indicated towards the chair in front of the desk. Once she was settled, he looked over her application.
He asked her the first question without looking up from the paper, "Where have you worked before?"
She replied, "I worked at a local diner during high school." He looked up at her through his lashes, imploring her to continue. "It's the one on Hwy-6 towards the Seam Community, Sae's Sandwich Shop."
He eyed her again, and she saw a flicker of recognition in his eyes as well as an imperceptible smile. "Why aren't you still working there?"
She couldn't tell him that she was dirt poor and needed a better paying job to feed her kid sister. She also didn't want to tell him that working at Sae's was reeking havoc on her sanity. She'd been grabbed everywhere possible and had the bruises to prove it. Her last day there, she was taking the orders from a table of four guys. She had her tray in her arm bracing it against her belly with her pad on top jotting down the orders as they barked them at her. She asked for the guy on the left's order, and that's when the prick in front of her reached up the front of the short skirted uniform and grabbed her womanhood. Her rage was instant and she could not control her reaction, which was to take the tray in her hand and whack the boy across the face with it. When that didn't satisfy her she took his glass of Coke and poured it over his head. All the while, his friends are laughing with their jaws on the ground and Katniss is spewing profanities like a sailor on leave. So, she replies with the only thing she can think of, "I'm looking for a more permanent opportunity."
He gnaws on a pen between his teeth as he peers into her once again. She can't help but wonder if he has some oral fixation or if this is a coping mechanism for some other addiction since every pen she sees on the desk has found the same fate as the mangled one in his mouth. He smirks, "Why do you want to work here?"
She is growing frustrated with this silent battle between them, but it's an interview and she's trying to be on her best behavior. She can't tell him that she actually doesn't want this job. She'd rather be running around the woods or at least outside. She doesn't think she'll like this job, but she'd do anything to take better care of Prim, and this seems to be what it will take. She inhales deeply, and decides to try and unnerve him. "I didn't know the answer to that question before I met you. I think you and I will work well together." She smirks slightly sarcastically as she answers. Somehow, she knows that he will understand her true intent.
He narrows his eyes at her, and she returns his gaze narrowing her own. This stare down lasts for a few minutes, each of them pushing to see how much the other can take. Finally, he allows the corners of his mouth to lift into a half smile. He takes a deep breath and leans back in his chair. She relaxes back into her own chair, but remains on guard. Eventually, he says "I'll give you a shot sweetheart. You've got spunk. I like that. But, if you give me any trouble, I'll send you packing."
She's not sure how to respond, but gives a forced smile. He finishes by standing and offering her a hand. She shakes it as if to test her own strength. He laughs, and says, "Just keep that temper under wraps when you're dealing with customers, sweetheart. Effie will get you the paperwork, and you can start 8:30am on Monday."
She smirks, "Thank you, sir." She gets the paperwork from Effie and leaves. When she's finally in her car, she lets out a long breath she didn't know she was holding, and sighs to herself, "What was that?"
Either way, she had a job that would at least pay more than Sae's. Her first week was hectic, but good. The other folks that worked there were alright. At least, she didn't want to kill any of them yet. Johanna was a sarcastic pain in the ass, but at least she was always able to lighten the mood. Annie was shy, but sweet and very smart. Annie warmed up to Katniss quickly and was able to teach her the most about the technology. Effie was all about the schedules and making sure the inventory was properly handled. She also made sure the place was absolutely spotless, with the obvious exception of Haymitch's office. He'd scream at her if she tried to move anything in his office.
Within a few months of learning the ropes behind the counter, Mr. Abernathy insisted she call him Haymitch. He had noticed that every break she got, she would go out the back and walk the small woods behind the store or climb a tree to eat her lunch or just hang around. He suggested that she have a change in position. She would be delivering medicines to those who couldn't pick them up themselves. That would at least get her out of the office more. She was thankful for this. She was able to get out and get meds to the people who needed them the most.
As much as she likes her job, it would be nice to be able to pay both the light bill and the rent in the same month. She's hoping that her bulldog of a boss will give her a raise next month when her review comes up.
In the meantime, her one afforded luxury was her weekly lunch with her friends. She and Gale had been doing this every week for as long as they'd had jobs. A couple of years ago, Johanna invited herself along with Annie. From there, it grew into Gale bringing a couple of his buddies from the University where he's currently a TA but wants to teach Engineering. First there was Finnick Odair, a former national champion, who's one of the swim coaches. He's devilishly handsome and knows it. Next he brought Cato, who is one of the athletic department's floaters. He works with the soccer team and the football team. Katniss countered and brought in Madge, the only girl friend Katniss has ever had.
Eventually, their once private lunch turned into a much larger group function. They didn't mind after a while. They still managed some private time in the woods together to hunt. Gale has been a constant in her life since childhood. They tried their hand at romance in their late teens, but it just didn't sit right with either of them. Even so, they are both extremely protective of each other. They knew each other so well, it was actually surprising to Katniss when Gale almost fell off his chair when she brought Madge to the lunch one day. She'd known them both for so long, but not once had the two been in the same room. She had never seen a reason before now. Gale has always made snide comments about Madge when she would talk about her. Madge was from a wealthy political family unlike Katniss and Gale who were from a more blue collar families.
She felt a bit bad that she hadn't introduced them sooner. They obviously hit it off right away, and have been heavily involved for over a year now. Katniss still finds herself overwhelmed with conflicting emotions about their relationship. She's extremely happy for the both of them, but can't help but be a little jealous. She used to be their confidant, but they have each other now. When they all hang out, she feels a little left out now. She'd never go as far to say she was lonely, but that seems to be similar to what she feels these days. Prim is getting older now and soon she won't need her help anymore.
Katniss is lost in her thoughts when Johanna comes up behind her pokes her sides, "Wake up, brainless! It's time for lunch."
Katniss swats at her half-heartedly and nods. "Are you driving or am I?"
Johanna pipes up again, "I can drive, but can you catch a ride back with someone else? I have to take Annie to the witchdoctor after lunch."
Katniss figures she can talk Gale into giving her a lift back, "Shouldn't be a problem. Let's go."
The core group takes turns deciding where to hold their Friday lunches, and this week was Katniss's turn. She picked Motor Supply Bistro. It's her favorite restaurant, and old 1950s garage that was repurposed as a semi-posh bistro with linen tablecloths and napkins. All the tables and chairs were mismatched but elegant. She loves everything about the place, especially the bread. They have different bread and a different menu everyday and different local art work every week. It's never boring and she likes that she can have both stability and adventure with one meal.
She was told by Finnick to reserve the table for eight today, instead of their usual seven, because he was bringing a friend. Annie was nervous about who this friend might be. Although she won't admit it, both Johanna and Katniss know that Annie has a huge crush on Finnick. He, however, is too oblivious to notice, and has been known to surprise us with some of his conquests as additions to our lunches. We're all hoping this one can at least read the menu without help from him. The last one, Glimmer, Shimmer, whatever her name was, she was awful. She giggled at everything and nothing, but ordered the most expensive things on the menu stating that "if it's expensive it must be good." I think all of us almost gagged. That one didn't last more than a week. Maybe this one will be a little better, and if not at least it will be entertaining.
We arrive at the bistro and finally find a parking space because the three of us are too broke to use the valet. We walk in and see that Gale, Madge, and Cato are already here. Everyone greets out trio and we make our way to the large table comprised of several smaller ones. I sit next to Gale and Madge and ask them about their weekend plans. They seem to go away every other weekend to some romantic hideout or adventure excursion. They're telling me about their plans to head to Charleston, SC this weekend. Gale wants to try his hand at shrimping and Madge wants to check out all the markets and historical tours. Madge is just telling me how they're both very excited about the ghost tours when she notices Finnick has arrived with his "friend."
I don't get a chance to turn around to see what trainwreck he's brought with him this time, because the waiter has arrived. I order a round of ice water for the whole table and whatever their bread is for the day. He smiles and is off to get our drinks. I hear Finnick making introductions when I finally turn around. He's introducing a guy, thank god, to the ladies first. It's obvious that Cato has met him before, but Gale and Madge get introduced. He comes to me and I stand to greet him properly. So far I haven't seen him full-on, but now he looks directly at me. I hear Finnick say something, but missed what it was, "Sorry, what?"
Finnick laughs, "Katniss Everdeen, this is my friend, Peeta Mellark."
Peeta clears his throat and offers his hand, "Nice to meet you."