‘Be Our Guest.’
Katniss’ eyes narrow as she stares up at the words glittering on the white banner draped across the front door of Annie’s apartment. That’s weird.
“Hey! Why have you stopped?” Madge, her friend and roommate, asks, coming up behind her. “We’re already late.”
Ignoring Madge’s question, Katniss continues to look curiously at the banner. Figuring it’s just Annie’s latest way of saying ‘welcome’, she shrugs it off and opens the door. They’re immediately confronted with the sound of heavy base filling the entire apartment. Oh no, please not Kayne West! But it’s not the music that suddenly stops them in their tracks - it’s the unexpected scene before them.
“What the hell?” Katniss mutters, walking further into the living room, her eyes growing wide. “Did you know about this?”
“No idea,” Madge says, looking around in wonder. “But this is awesome!”
Katniss rolls her eyes - of course Madge would think this was awesome, but right now she couldn’t think of anything worse - and it certainly wasn’t the scene she was expecting for Annie’s bachelorette party. It’s like they’ve stumbled into a whole new world – a world where Disney princesses exist and are currently giggling and sipping cocktails or dancing around seductively in the middle of the living room. Who would have thought Disney and Kayne West go together? What a bizarre scene they’ve stumbled into. Looking down at their outfits – Katniss in a pair of blue jeans and a black tank and Madge encased in a red mini dress, it’s obvious they aren’t aware of tonight’s dress code.
As they walk further into the living room, they can see countless light pink and pearl white balloons standing tall in each corner, as well as a pink banner declaring ‘Happily Ever After’ in gold inscription.
Underneath the banner is a large table with a white tablecloth and countless cocktail glasses, some already pre-filled with different colored liquids. Displayed on the walls throughout the entire room are picture cutouts of all the Disney princesses.
“It looks like Walt Disney threw up in here,” Katniss comments. “Or we’ve walked in on some weird kinky fetish room of his.”
Madge laughs. “Don’t be a party pooper! This is such a fun idea.”
“This is not what I imagined when Annie told us she was having a bachelorette party. I feel like I’m at a kid’s birthday party…but with cocktails,” she explains looking down at a turquoise color drink with the name Jasmine The Rebel Royal.
“What’s in it?” Madge asks, looking over Katniss’ shoulder.
Katniss picks up the place card next to the glass. “It’s got white rum, blue curacao, midori and pineapple juice,” she says with disgust, she’s never been one to enjoy girly drinks. She’s a girl with simple tastes – give her a shot of white liquor or a beer any day.
Gazing around the room, she can’t help but feel disappointed about what this night will bring. She’s had a terrible week - a terrible few months in fact - and she’d been hoping that celebrating the upcoming nuptials of her friends, Annie and Finnick, would cheer her up. But now looking at all the innocent pictures of the princesses plastered all over the walls and the happy, smiling faces of the party guests, it’s only making her feel worse.
This week alone, she feels like karma has been out to get her. Whose apartment gets broken into, loses their job and finds out their sister won’t make it back in time to celebrate their birthday all in one week?! To say she’s having a hard time cracking a genuine smile is an understatement. And, regardless of all that, the whole princess thing she’s never been into either. When she was growing up and the other girls were dressing up and playing with their dolls, she was in the woods hunting animals and swimming in the local lake. She feels completely out of her element here, but she knows she doesn’t want to spoil Annie’s night. She’ll just force herself to join in, play games - which are probably princess themed - try and stomach a few cocktails, dance, mingle – and all with a perfect smile on her face. Even though right now all she really wants to do is hide in a cupboard and never come out.
“Nice to see you finally joined us, brainless,” a voice cackles behind her.
Turning around, Katniss sees their friend Johanna parading their way – or someone who looks like her. She’s not too sure with the dark costume, heavy make-up and horn-like hair she’s exhibiting.
“Which princess are you supposed to be?”
Jo rolls her eyes and makes a dramatic pose. “You and I both know I’m no princess and hate all that girly shit, so I compromised. I’m Maleficent.”
Jo shakes her head and Madge lets out a giggle. “She’s the evil witch from Sleeping Beauty.”
“Oh, well that makes sense.”
Jo makes a rude gesture with her finger and looks at both of them carefully. “Why aren’t you guys in costumes? If I had to make an effort –”
“There you two are!” A familiar voice suddenly calls out behind them. “I was hoping you were still coming.” Annie says, greeting them both with a hug.
“Oh you look beautiful Annie,” Madge says excitedly. “Or should I say Ariel.”
Katniss has to admit it’s a beautiful costume Annie is wearing and it suits her personality and physical traits perfectly. The seashell bra, the shimmering tail and long red hair – she really does look like a princess from the sea.
“Thanks guys. But where are your costumes? Didn’t you get the second card I put in your mailbox about the theme?”
“I never saw anything,” Madge tells her, shaking her head regretfully.
“Really? I put it in there like three weeks ago.” Annie sighs and takes a sip of her electric blue cocktail.
Suddenly a terrible thought crosses Katniss’ mind. “Ummm, did it have a picture of some Disney princesses on it?” She asks carefully.
“Yes! Oh good, you did it get it. I thought I was losing my mind,” Annie laughs.
“Yeah…I didn’t read it. I just saw it had a bunch of cute princesses on it and thought it was for a kid’s birthday party.”
“So, what did you do with it?” Madge asks.
“I just thought the mailman got it wrong and it was meant to go into Trinket’s mailbox,” Katniss admits. “Our mailboxes are right next to each other’s and her kids are always dressing up as princesses so I…put it in theirs,” she adds quietly.
“You what?” Madge exclaims. “No wonder she’s been giving us weird looks lately and muttering stuff about manners.”
“It was an accident. I’m sorry!”
“It’s fine,” Madge pouts. “It’s just after the week we’ve had, it would have been nice to dress up.”
Katniss hadn’t thought it was possible to feel any worse, but she was wrong.
Perhaps sensing her friend’s fragile emotional state, Jo changes the subject. “Come on brainless, you need a drink. Come with me.” She hooks her arm with Katniss’ and leads them down the hallway and into the spare room. Looking around, Katniss notices it’s been turned into a cloak room, with jackets and handbags scattered all over the place.
“Have a seat and take this,” Jo says, handing her a brown paper bag.
“What’s in the bag?” Katniss asks.
“White liquor!” She announces with a flourish. “If you and I are going to survive tonight we’re going to need plenty of this,” she continues, and pulls out two shot glasses from her purse.
Katniss shakes her head in disbelief. “I can’t believe you of all people helped organise a Disney princess bachelorette party.”
Jo lets out a huff. “That knowledge will not be leaving this apartment,” she instructs and begins pouring the clear liquid into their glasses. “I did try and convince her otherwise, but she had her heart set on it. Who was I to say no?”
Katniss nods her head in agreement. It’s funny, a few years ago she never would have seen this side of Jo, but as they got closer, they’d realised they’re quite similar in their ways – they care deeply for their close friends and are fiercely protective of them, even when they present a strong, tough girl exterior.
“I did persuade her to get a stripper though,” Jo winks gleefully and taps Katniss’ glass in a toast before they down their shots. Katniss feels liquid fire rushing down her throat and can’t help the look of disgust that falls on her face when she’s finished – the initial taste is always the worst. “I couldn’t find a stripper though that would dress up as prince charming, they said something about it being too wholesome for them.” Jo explains, rolling her eyes and pouring them another shot. “I do know though, that Annie likes a man in uniform, so we’re good to go.”
Katniss smiles and gulps down the next shot quickly, then puts her glass down. “Alright, I think that’s enough for me.”
Jo scoffs. “Please, you need more than just a couple. You’re wound so tight, I’m afraid you’re going to explode and burst into flames at any moment.”
“I’m fine,” she sighs and holds her tongue as Jo fills up her glass again.
“It’s okay not to be fine, you know. You’ve had a bitch of a week. How are you really?”
“Are you sleeping?”
“Like a baby.”
“So you’re up every 4 hours?”
Katniss lets a small smile sneak onto her lips. “Something like that.”
Jo gives her a hard, pointed look, gesturing her to continue.
“Eurgh, fine!” She cracks. “I’ve had a few nightmares since the break in… but I’m sure they’ll go away soon.”
“You don’t blame yourself do you?” Jo asks carefully. “Because you know Madge doesn’t. These things just happen – you can do everything right, lock every door and window and those bastards will still figure out a way in.”
“I know and I keep telling myself that,” Katniss says resting her head in her hands. “It’s just I was the last one to leave that night and I feel guilty. And they took my Dad’s wedding ring, the only thing I had left of him. It’s gone, probably now to some drugged up pawn broker.”
Jo puts an arm around her shoulders and the sweet gesture makes Katniss turn around to look at her in surprise. Even behind all the funny make up and the costume, she can see Jo really wants to be there for her. “I’m sorry about your Dad’s ring. If you want I’ll come with you and we can search some of the local pawn shops. You never know, the odds might be in our favor.”
“I don’t like my chances,” Katniss mutters sadly.
“Well, we’ll do it anyway, starting next week,” Jo promises. “But tonight you need to have some fun – let loose and enjoy yourself. You’ve had the week from hell and you need to forget about it.”
Katniss looks away as they both sit in a comfortable silence, each of them taking another shot and listening to the music echoing out from the living room.
After a few moments, Katniss turns to Jo. “You know you’re right. I deserve to have some fun. And who cares if this is a Disney princess party – it’s still a party and I’m with my best friends.”
“And we have our favorite little friend here too,” Jo winks and holds up the bottle of liquor in the air like a salute. “Not to mention a sexy man is going to be coming by our door soon to strip for us - this is going to be the best night ever!”
Katniss laughs, she’s not usually into the whole stripper thing, but she now feels a little more excited for the night ahead. It could be due to the fact that the liquor she’s already consumed is effectively flowing through her system, but for the first time in her life she doesn’t care. She’s never felt free, rarely ever had the opportunity to have fun. Even as a teenager, when everyone else was partying at the slag heap, she was always at home looking after her younger sister, while her mom was working nights at the hospital. Jo’s right – it’s time to let loose. Grabbing the bottle, she brings it to her mouth and takes a big gulp – she’s over the initial burning taste and the liquor is now running smoothly down her throat like it’s water.
“Let’s get this party started brainless!” Jo yells out excitedly, and they both get up, swaying slightly from the alcohol, and head out into the living room.
They’re met with more Kayne West - eurgh - as they head towards Annie and Madge, who are talking with a woman named Glimmer - another eurgh. She’s dressed up in a sexy Cinderella costume with far too much makeup and hairspray.
“Finally! You’ve been missing all the fun,” Annie greets them with a tipsy smile, but it quickly fades into uneasiness when she sees the bottle of white liquor gripped in Katniss’ hands. “Are you sure you want to be hitting the hard stuff tonight? You don’t want to be hungover for your blind date tomorrow night.”
Katniss’ eyes go wide and she almost drops the bottle. What?! What is Annie going on about? A blind date? When did I agree to that?
Taking in her panicked expression, Annie says gently, “I wondered if you’d forgotten about it after everything that’s happened to you this week. Remember, I was talking to you about it on the phone last Monday?”
Katniss racks her brain, trying to think about what she did on Monday and then it suddenly dawns on her and she feels sick. She was on the phone to Annie and agreed to go out with one of her friends when she got back to her apartment and noticed the front door was wide open… the place a mess…glass everywhere…the night of the break in.
“I’m sorry,” Katniss sighs, “I completely forgot.” She’s usually not one for blind dates, but she trusted Annie and Finnick’s judgement and the way Annie had talked him up, he did seem like a nice guy. “Can we reschedule?”
Annie’s face falls in disappointment. “He’s only got this Saturday night free, he’s a shift worker. I don’t think he’ll have a weekend free for another month.”
“Oh,” Katniss replies, feeling mixed emotions at Annie’s comment. “I just don’t know if it’s a good idea. I’m not in the best place right now, not with everything that’s happened this week -”
“I know this week has sucked,” Annie cuts in. “But I think this could be good for you. We all agree you deserve to have a nice night out. And Peeta will give that to you.”
“Come on brainless, what’s the harm?” Jo asks, elbowing her in the ribs.
“There is none,” Annie tells them. “Peeta is gorgeous and one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever known and he’s really looking forward to meeting you.” Annie takes a quick sip of her drink and leans in closer to Katniss and whispers. “I wasn’t going to tell you this, but he lives upstairs and he swung by the apartment the other day. I showed him a photo of you and I swear his jaw dropped to the floor, he was so taken with you. Please don’t cancel,” she begs.
Katniss looks around at the smiling and eager faces nodding at her encouragingly. She sighs and lets out a small smile. “Alright, I’ll meet him.”
Annie and Madge squeal in excitement and Jo hits her on the back, “Good, you’re not as brainless as I thought.”
“You never know he might be your happily ever after,” Madge comments dreamily.
Katniss resists the urge to roll her eyes and instead looks down at the bottle of liquor in her hands. After speaking with Jo, she’s more than happy to let her inhibitions go tonight and have some fun – but she also doesn’t want to be too hungover for this blind date tomorrow night. She just needs to be smart about it and not drink in excess. It’s doable, and besides, surely karma has to be on her side by now. “Don’t worry Annie, I’ll be fine,” she promises as she takes a sip from the bottle.
Jo hands out more shot glasses to the group and takes the bottle from Katniss to start pouring. “The night is ours, bitches! Cheers!”
An hour later, Katniss has never felt so carefree in her life. She’d stopped drinking a little while ago once she felt her head start to feel fuzzy and her vision began to blur. Kayne West was finally replaced by Beyoncé and Katniss was the first one up on the makeshift dance floor after they’d finished a game of matching Disney princesses with their princes. Swinging her hips to the beat, she feels Madge, Jo and Annie come up to dance beside her.
“I love drunk Katniss,” Jo screams out over the music.
Katniss gives her a dopey, inebriated grin and turns to Annie. “So do I get to find out any more about my date? Like what he does for a living?”
Annie gives her a teasing smile and shakes her head. “Nope, you can find out on your own – that’s what first dates are for.”
Wiping the sweat off her brow, Katniss looks around the living room, which is getting hot and stuffy with fifteen princesses almost dancing on top of one another. She tries to move out of someone’s way but instead trips over her own feet, knocking into Annie and they both end up sprawled on the floor. Both of them giggle as the other girls help them up.
“Oh no!” Annie gasps loudly, looking down in dismay at her mermaid fin. “The material’s ripped. I need to fix it.”
“Do you have a sewing kit?” Madge slurs.
“Yeah, in the bathroom, but I –”
“I’m the maid of honor – I’ll do it.” Jo volunteers, “Besides I think I’m the most sober one here. The rest of you are light weights.” She takes Annie’s hand and leads her through the small crowd and down the hallway into the bathroom.
As the music keeps pumping, both Katniss and Madge continue to dance and cheer along with the rest of the girls. She feels like the beat is taking over her body and she can’t remember a time when she’s danced so much.
Suddenly there’s a pounding on the front door; at first Katniss thinks it’s part of the song, but then she hears it again and this time she sees Annie’s apartment door rattle. Without thinking she screams out over the music, “Who is it?”
“It’s the police!” A strong and masculine voice yells back.
All of a sudden, everyone stops dancing and look over at the door in anticipation, excitement clear on their faces.
“Oh yes, the stripper’s finally arrived!” Someone shrieks out.
“You’re closest to the door, Katniss, why don’t you let him in?” Madge grins, as her and the rest of the girls move back towards the chairs already set up in a circle in preparation for the entertainment.
Katniss moves towards the still playing IPod and through drunk-filled eyes manages to find the button to turn the volume down. As she heads for the front door, she can hear eager squeals and someone saying, “I hope he’s hot.”
She struggles to open the door for a moment before she realises it’s locked. Finally lifting the latch, she opens the door wide to see a young man in a police uniform. He's all business, his facial expression and body language expressing the firmness and seriousness you'd expect from an officer, but as he takes a few moments to inspect her, his eyes suddenly soften and his mouth opens wide in surprise. But all too quickly - or maybe she imagined the whole thing through her drunken haze - his features change back. “Is Annie Cresta here?”
Katniss gives him a smile. “The bride’s in the bathroom, she’ll be out in a minute. Would you like to come in officer?”
He nods his head and steps over the threshold, removing his hat.
“Hey! Don’t start yet!” Someone calls out.
Ignoring the comment, the man comes to stand in the middle of the room, looking around and observing every person. This gives Katniss and the other woman plenty of time and opportunity to admire the gorgeous man in front of them. Blonde hair, bright blue eyes, broad shoulders, and his police costume fits beautifully to his tight ass. He turns his head and looks at her more intently; she thinks she can feel butterflies start to flutter in her belly and she swears her heart begins to race.
“What’s taking Annie so long?” Glimmer calls out, breaking the groups stupor. “Can we just start?” And to make a point she jumps up from her chair and turns the music up louder.
All the women cheer, some getting up to dance, while others are still sitting in their seats, chanting – “Strip! Strip! Strip!” Katniss laughs and begins dancing as well. With the alcohol still running riot in her system and with her nerves and inhibitions gone, she starts swinging her hips provocatively in front of the gorgeous man.
“Do you mind turning off the music?” He calls out.
“Oh, have you brought your own?” She asks him, trying to sound seductive. She continues dancing around him and swears he takes his time to look her up and down before shaking his head sadly.
“Miss, you’ve had a lot to drink. Why don’t you sit down and have some water?”
Katniss stops what she’s doing and looks up at him. “You don’t like how I dance? Is it a turn off?” she asks, feeling dejected.
“No!” His voice comes out husky and he quickly coughs to clear it. “I mean, this isn’t really appropriate and I know you’re not yourself right now.”
“Maybe I am,” she smirks. “Besides, doesn’t your profession usually encourage this?” And she swings her hips from side to side and places her hands on his chest - she lets out a moan feeling the hard lines and muscle beneath the fabric of his shirt. Her hands travel across until it hits something that’s pinned onto his shirt. Through her glassy eyes she leans in closer and sees that it reads, Officer P. Mellark. Sneaking a peak down to his waist, she notices he’s wearing a belt carrying all sorts of gadgets – handcuffs, a radio, pepper spray and a gun sitting in its holster. “This is a really authentic costume,” she tells him, meeting his eyes with a tipsy grin.
“Miss, I have to ask that you remove your hands from me.” His voice is now deadly serious and it finally breaks through her daze. Looking back up at him, she can see that his brows have narrowed and his face is stern.
Suddenly she feels Madge come up behind her, laughing and swinging an arm around her shoulders. As they step away, Madge flutters her eyelashes and teasingly says “Sorry, Officer, have we been bad girls?”
He lets out a tired sigh. “I really need to speak to Annie Cresta,” he tells her firmly.
Katniss steps away from Madge’s embrace, suddenly feeling like she’s suffocating – she’s hot and the room is starting to spin.
“Katniss, are you alright?”
What? What did he say? Did the gorgeous stripper just say my name? Something’s not right. As well as dizziness surrounding her, confusion is beginning to settle into her brain. How does the stripper know my name? She can still hear loud voices chanting and laughing all around her, like she’s stuck in a whirlwind and can’t get out. However, the music abruptly shuts off and a familiar voice breaks through the sudden silence.
“Peeta!? What are you doing here?”
Peeta? Peeta? How do I know that name? Katniss looks to Peeta and then to Annie who is walking towards them.
Peeta grips his hat, his fingers pressingly tightly against the brim. “There’s been noise complaints, Annie. I came home from my shift and I had three residents waiting for me at my door.”
“Hey, what’s going on?” Madge cuts in. “Isn’t he the stripper?”
“WHAT?!” Annie shrieks in disbelief. “He’s a police officer! What made you guys think he was a stripper?”
Oh shit! Shit, shit, shit! Katniss looks over to Peeta and he’s shaking his head in annoyance. All of a sudden it comes to her. Peeta! Peeta – her blind date for tomorrow night. He must have recognised her from the photo Annie showed him. That’s how he knew her name. Oh my god!
“So you’re not the stripper?” Madge asks in shock. Katniss thinks the realisation has sobered her up - in actual fact looking around at all the surprised faces, she can tell that the news has sobered everyone up to a degree.
“I can assure you I’m a real life police officer,” Peeta announces to the group. Katniss looks up at him when she feels his gaze land on her. They’re only standing a few feet apart and Katniss hates that she can’t decipher the look he’s giving her.
“I can second Officer Blondie here,” Jo calls out. “Because I organised for the stripper to dress up as a fireman.”
Oh god, could her life get any worse? What a great ending to a shit week. How on earth is she going to face him tomorrow night on their date? Suddenly she feels a churning in her stomach and hot bile rising from her throat, and before she can think of moving out of the way it happens – she heaves and vomits all over the floor… and onto Peeta’s shoes. She hears surprised gasps as a fogginess begins to take over her consciousness and her eyes begin to droop closed. She feels herself falling and then suddenly strong arms wrap around her like vines; the last thought that crosses her mind is Oh no, not him and then there’s nothing. Just darkness.
It’s hushed voices that bring her back – a man and a woman’s. She tries to get up, but she can’t. Her head is spinning and it takes her a moment to realise that she’s lying on something soft. Forcing her eyes open, she tries to keep the bile down that is threatening to come back up her throat; the voices then become clearer and she slowly turns her head around. Her gaze finally fall onto Annie and Peeta, standing near the front door.
“I’m really sorry about this, I didn’t mean for things to get out of control,” she tells him tearfully.
“It’s alright, you’ve explained it.”
“I’m sorry about Katniss, she’s not like this at all…she just wanted to let go and have some fun…she’s had a really tough week.”
Silence follows for a moment and she sees Peeta looking down at the floor sadly. “Yeah… about that… I think we should give tomorrow night a miss –”
“What? No, Peeta, please –”
“I just don’t think it’s a good idea anymore, Annie.”
“Tell Finnick I said hello alright. It’s been a long night, so I’m going to head up to bed.” He turns around to look at everyone, but Katniss notices he doesn’t make eye contact with her. “Good night ladies.” He heads straight out the door without a backwards glance.
Katniss meets Annie’s eyes, and she can see the sadness in them. Earlier tonight, she’d been pretty certain things had gotten as bad as they could, that the universe couldn’t possibly do anything more to her. But now with Peeta cancelling their date due to her shocking behaviour, and with one hell of a hangover forming, she was wrong.
It was obvious karma wasn’t finished with her yet.