Peeta’s pace picked up at the roar of uninhibited laughter. He found his co-workers around the conference table laugh-crying, some doubled over gasping for breath.
“What’d I miss?”
Wiping tears from his face, Finnick choked out something about “Katniss.”
Peeta grinned like he’d won the lottery. “What’d she do now?”
Across from them Jo slapped both palms down, drew an exaggerated breath, and gleefully began recounting the latest “Kat-Eye” (short for “Katniss Incident” which became a thing not long after the new girl began working at Hallmark and earned herself a reputation for social blunders).
“You know how Brainless inhales those cheese buns you bring in every Monday?”
Peeta’s blue eyes sparkled. Biting his lower lip, he gave a quick nod.
“Well,” Jo continued dramatically, “she had some at lunch, and she couldn’t stop raving about how good they were, how she tasted asiago or some other shit, how you’re so creative and have amazing hands...how your buns were the best thing she’s ever put in her mouth…”
Peeta barely breathed.
Jo licked her fingers suggestively as if they had salty oil on them and continued, but breathier and slower. “...moaning through a very loud and very public oral orgasm...bragging about how she could eat... every... last... one ...”
Peeta wiped a hand over his flushed face.
“...how she could out-eat every man at the table,” Jo emphasized with a wicked smile.
Peeta swallowed. Twice.
“...and she blurts out: ‘I could eat you all under the table!’”
“No! She didn’t!”
“She did!” cackled Jo. “And the entire place goes still. For seconds, nothing. Then we all lost our collective shit! That will never make me not laugh. Twenty years from now I can be at a funeral, think of that, and I’ll laugh.”
Peeta needed to know, “Who all was there?”
“Just the guys. The girls were all down at that monthly weigh-in diet thing they’re doing together. But the cafeteria was packed at that hour.” Jo chortled, “Who’d’ve thought Miss Pure would be clueless enough to confuse a brag with a blowjob!”
Just then Haymitch entered the room. “Alright, children, let’s get started. I’m expecting a call, so let’s see how much we can get through.”
In his wake, a scowling Katniss silently slipped in and, without meeting anyone’s eyes, took a seat beside Annie who gave her a friendly pat hello.
Haymitch worked his way down his agenda like he always did, efficiently and acerbically, before coming to Katniss. “Katniss, what’s going on with the budget Easter cards?”
Katniss hesitantly asked for more time.
“Show me what you’ve got so far,” he ordered.
“Can I show you in private later?” she requested softly.
“What? Hell no. Meeting with the new girls in private is how my predecessor got fired, and I have 43 months left before I’ve earned my pension. Go.”
Katniss’s annoyance spiked as her co-workers, sensing an impending Kat-Eye, leaned forward. She cleared her throat and tried to ignore them. “Well, most of the nearly completed pieces are religious in nature.”
Haymitch cut her off. “I specifically told you to focus on the non-religious.”
“But Easter is a religious holiday!” she snapped. “You can’t take Jesus out of Easter!”
Haymitch glared at her until Katniss reluctantly presented her first non-religious card. “This first card is a springtime scene, meadow grass and dandelions. The text reads Happy Easter, Happy Spring, Happy Happy Everything.”
Giggling and shifting from around the room irked her. She felt she had something to prove. “See here, I had it made into a pop-up card–,”
“It can’t be a pop-up card,” Haymitch interrupted, “it has to stay at the 99 cent price point.”
“I know but, for your consideration, I took the initiative to have it made into an optional pop-up to show you I can be trusted with something besides the budget cards! Look, the Easter bunny hops!” Katniss held out the card, opening and closing it repeatedly to show the bunny hopping.
Only, it wasn’t the Easter bunny. It was two bunnies. Chasing each other.
No, they were … GASP!
They were fucking.
The room erupted, and Katniss dropped the card like it was on fire. Someone yelled, “Kat-Eye! Two in one day!”
“All right, all right, settle down, people. Katniss, tell me you have something else to show me. You’ve had this assignment for a month!”
Determined to regain her pride, Katniss continued with her presentation. The next card looked good: hopping baby bunnies, lots of greenery, attractive gold lettering.
"Cute pun,” offered Annie.
Finnick leaned in for a closer look. “Wait, is that hops? Like, beer brewing hops?”
Katniss looked to where Finnick was pointing. “What? No. I didn’t…”
“Yeah! That’s what it looks like to me, too,” shouted Jo. “Wait, are the bunny ears shaped like beer bottles?”
“Sweetheart, did you piss off the entire graphic arts department?” suggested Haymitch.
“Well, you must have done something! They seem committed to embarrassing you.”
Katniss’s frustration boiled over. “They’ve got these stupid, unnatural, red-eyed rabbits in smelly cages everywhere like some demonic-looking pets instead of the stew meat they really are! For models. Models! For all my cards -- just mine! I warned them if they gave me one more vampire-looking bloody red-eyed rabbit graphic that I was going to return with my bow and--”
“OK,” Haymitch cut her off, “well, make nice and bring them a peace offering, like a bouquet of carrots. You got anything else?”
Katniss clenched her jaw and reached for the next card.
You’re no bunny ‘til some bunny loves you
No surprise, the image had been tampered with on this one, too. And besides red eyes, this bunny also had tiny fangs. She inconspicuously moved that card to her growing pile of rejects.
“I wanna see that one later, Brainless!”
Katniss held her tongue and grabbed for the next card, a die cut one featuring flowers with a bunny wearing a bee costume.
Bee My Honey Bunny
After an uncomfortable silence from the room that communicated more than words, Katniss unceremoniously dropped that one onto the stack of rejects. Fighting her inclination to leave, Katniss announced, “I have one last non-religious card to share.”
Several people applauded. Katniss scowled.
This last card was her shot at redemption. They had to love this one. And she had to sell it.
Wishes for an Egg-tastic Easter
Below the message, a cute yellow chick, newly hatched from her shell, smiled and winked. Several people murmured their approval.
“Aw, so cute!”
“Nice job, Katniss, really cute.”
Hope loosen the tightness in her chest. Katniss plastered on a smile. “Graphics actually did a really good job here. It’s a really cute chick.”
Upon revealing the inner greeting, Katniss jumped in alarm at the sudden boom of laughter. She couldn’t understand what had set them off. She turned to Haymitch who was staring at her with a mixture of amusement and suspicion.
“That for real, Sweetheart?” he asked over the noise. “Read it out loud.”
Katniss took a closer look. The words were innocent enough, and yet… Blushing furiously, Katniss ran from the room. How had she not realized that the same people who twisted her innocent cheese bun praise would willfully misinterpret what she meant as a clever greeting:
From the Cutest Chick Ever Laid