For the next several weeks we got back into the feeling of last year’s routine. It was weird without all of the tributes from the first movie: that distinctly unique laugh from Jacqui, Dayo’s witty comments, Jack and Xander teasing each other, Amandla’s tiny little figure skittering around, and Isabelle’s constant screech of terror from absolutely nothing. It was all missing, but there were new sounds to fill the void. Like the way Jena barked out a laugh, Sam’s sarcasm, and Maria’s motherly tone constantly checking that everyone wasn’t overworking themselves. It was a change, but something Jen and I were excited about. Nothing would ever replace the time we had on the first installment of the series, but this was a new chapter and we were thrilled to be back.
For the first few weeks the training was basic- less about specific combat and focusing more on getting everyone into good shape so we would all be able to keep up with our individual regimes. I spent a lot of time lifting weights and bulking up. Since the last movie, I’d made it a priority to go to the gym regularly but during training everything was always ten times more extreme. After the first week or two my body started to get back into the familiarity of so much exercise and before long my muscles didn’t ache nearly as often. I’d always been athletic by nature, but training was a whole new game. If you weren’t in the gym you were usually sleeping, and on the off chance you had any free time aside from that it was typically spent doing publicity or squeezing in a few spare hours to attempt somewhat of a social life. Luckily my friends and family were all used to this from several other movies I’d done, so they knew well enough by now that when training started up I was pretty much out of contact with the rest of the world.
Jen and I spent a lot of time together, making the countless hours of exercise much more enjoyable. Laps turned in to games of tag, sets of reps were now contests, and every now and then we’d declare something random to be an obstacle course and race through to beat each other. I usually took the strength oriented tasks, but Jen was way faster than me, which was why whenever we declared a contest the other person always complained because whoever threw out the competition usually held it in their favor. (“First one to do fifty jumping jacks wins!” “Jen, you suck.” “I bet I can outnumber you in push-ups!” “I bet you can too, Joshua Jackass.”) Regardless, it worked and by the last day of training everyone seemed to be pretty confident in what they were doing.
We had exactly two days free after the final training session before we flew out to Atlanta to start filming. We’d all received our tentative schedules and after arriving in Georgia, Jen and I had a day and a half to settle in before work began.
“So what are your big plans for your last two days of freedom?” Jen teased as we packed up our stuff for the last time at the gym.
I rolled my eyes. “Oh, you know, the usual: club hopping, strippers, maybe some drugs.”
“The typical life of Josh Hutcherson: pimp extraordinaire.”
“Hey, I’m not a pimp! I just play one on TV.”
Jen laughed. “My bad. But seriously, what are you doing?”
“Well in complete seriousness, tonight I have an appointment to get my hair dyed with Bren and tomorrow my family is coming out for the weekend.” I answered. Bren was short for Brenda, my hairdresser, who hated the last chunk of her name and refused to acknowledge its existence.
Jen smiled her approval. “Sounds fun,”
“Yeah well,” I shrugged. “They wanted to spend some time with me before I left for Georgia. I mean, they’re coming down during filming but you know how crazy it is.” My parents and younger brother Connor lived a few hours away. Originally we’d all moved out to California when I was nine because I wanted to start acting and my mom was a huge part in my career. However, since I’d gotten older I wanted to spread my wings a little and my parents wanted a place away from all of the madness so they’d moved to a house in the suburbs.
She nodded. “Yeah, I’m actually heading out to Santa Monica to meet up with my family too. My brother rented a place so I figured I should stop by and keep up my daughter and sisterly duties. Apparently family gets pissed when you ignore them for work.” She shrugged as if this made no sense, making me laugh.
“So what crazy adventures are you planning for tonight?”
Jen smiled. “Actually, I have a date with Clare.”
“So they’re sending you to get your brunette swag on.” I realized, recognizing the name of her hairdresser.
“What time is your appointment?” she asked.
“Five fifteen. Pick me up at quarter till and we can do something afterward. You know, since we’re about to be split up for an entire forty-eight hours.”
I gasped. “How will we ever survive?”
“By relying solely on the strength of dirty text messages.” She said seriously, making me laugh. “No but seriously, pick me up. My agent is coming over to discuss press until I have to go, so the earlier you arrive, the better.” She pretended to gag at the thought of her meeting, so I nodded.
“I’ll be there.” I promised. Jen smiled and pulled me into a hug.
“Then I’ll see you in a couple of hours.” She pressed a kiss to my cheek and headed towards the door. “Bye Josh.”
“Later Jen.” I lifted my hand to wave as she left, pulling out my phone a minute later when it began to vibrate.
[Yo dude. You still getting your Hulk on?]
I rolled my eyes. Avan.
You know it. I just tore my shirt off in a fit of rage.
Obviously. What’s up?
[Nothing much. Bored. Wanna hang?]
Figuring I still had a few hours of free time before I went to get Jen, this seemed like a decent alternative to sitting on my couch doing nothing.
Alright. My place?
[Yup. Be there in 10.]
By the time I pulled onto my street Avan’s black Audi was already sitting in the driveway, the man himself parked on the couch drinking a beer from the fridge when I walked in.
“Nice to see you’ve made yourself at home.” I said dryly, noticing his raised feet resting on the edge of the coffee table.
Avan shrugged. “I told you before that this is the price you pay for giving me a key. You smell.”
“Gee, thanks dude. I’m really feeling the love.” I pulled my t-shirt over my head, walking down the hallway to my bedroom.
“Honesty is the key to a healthy relationship!” I heard him yell just before stepping in the shower. When I returned to the living room ten minutes later Avan was still on the couch, his hand in a box of cereal.
“You’re like the worst houseguest ever.” I informed him, grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge before dropping down next to him.
“I’m far from a guest. More like a roommate that doesn’t sleep here.” He said with a shrug. “You have no food. I was debating ordering pizza or Chinese. Thoughts?”
“Can’t.” I took a handful of cereal and dropped it into my mouth. “I’m getting my hair colored in a little while and then Jen and I are hanging out. And you know there’s always food involved with her.”
“That girl can eat.” Avan nodded in appreciation. “So what’s going on with that anyway?”
“What, me and Jen?”
“No, me and Jen. Yes, you and Jen, you clueless bastard.”
I shook my head. “Nothing. We’re just hanging out.”
“Uh-huh. Just hanging out like you have been for the past how many weeks? After she and the Brit ended things?”
“First of all, we’ve been training for the movie.” I pointed out. “Second, the Brit is an ass.”
“Is that jealousy I hear in your voice?” Avan lifted his hand to his ear. “I think it is.”
“I’m not jealous. I’ve never been jealous. But he treated her like shit and she doesn’t deserve that. Nobody does.”
“Uh-huh. But especially her.”
I shook my head. “You’re an ass.”
“And you’re a fucking moron.” He replied. “When are you gonna get over yourself and just go for it? Everybody can see that you’ve got it for her, and now that the ass of a Brit is out of the picture you’ve got your chance. Take it before someone else comes along.”
“Nobody is going to come along.” I said firmly. “We’re about to leave for principal photography and she’ll be working all the time.”
“What about that Sam dude? She’ll be working pretty closely with him.” Avan pointed out.
I rolled my eyes. “Get over yourself, he’s like thirty.”
“So? It’s legal. Things happen. Think about it, they’re on the beach picking through weapons, staring into each other’s eyes while you stand on your thing in the water, helpless, miles away watching it all happen.”
“You’re such an ass.” I shoved his arm. “That’s bullshit and you know it.”
“Fine, maybe it won’t happen. But what about me?”
“What about you?”
“What if I asked her out?” I rolled my eyes. “I’m serious. Jen’s hot. Why shouldn’t I ask her out?”
“Maybe because V has your balls hanging on a chain around her neck?” Victoria Justice was one of our best friends, and had known Avan even longer than I had. They’d pretty much been in the closest thing to a relationship without actually being in a relationship for as long as I’d known them. They were just both too stubborn to do anything about it since neither of them wanted to make the first move.
Avan sighed. “Okay, so I’m not gonna ask Jen out. But I’m serious Hutch, you gotta go for it. You’ll regret if you don’t.”
I glanced down at my phone and realized it was already after four. “I have to go.” I announced, rising from my spot on the couch.
“Really? Are you meeting someone? A certain blonde about to turn brunette, perhaps? Off for a little romp at the hair salon?”
I grabbed my keys and glared at him. “Shut up.”
I could hear him laughing as the door shut behind me. “I love you too buddy!”
Jen’s house was only a fifteen minute drive from my place if traffic was good, and luckily tonight it was, so I was ringing the doorbell a few minutes earlier than originally planned.
When Jen pulled the door open she grinned and pulled me into the house roughly, causing me to stumble a bit.
“Josh is here! We have to go get our hair dyed!” she announced quickly, presenting me to the small group in the living room like I was proof and she wasn’t making an excuse. “So I have to go. We’ll just finish this later. Kayla has the keys, don’t forget to lock up. See you later!” Jen grabbed her bag from the couch and tugged me by the arm again, almost sprinting as we headed outside.
“Oh my god, you just saved me from one of the most boring meetings of my life!” she informed me once we were in the car. “I swear, they talk about me like I’m not even there and yet my presence is required. It’s complete anarchy.”
I chuckled. “Well I’m glad I could rescue you.”
“SuperJosh to the rescue. It has a nice ring to it. Whenever I need help I’ll just flash the Josh signal into the sky.”
“And what exactly would the Josh signal be?”
“I’m debating between your jaw and your butt.” She said seriously.
This made me laugh. “Wow.”
We both greeted our hair dressers with hugs as we entered the building. It was good to finally see Bren again. I hadn’t seen her in nearly a year when we were working on the last film. We’d gotten to know each other pretty well over the countless hours spent trying to get my hair the correct shade of Peeta blonde. It was a science of sorts, and my hair had a weird reaction to coloring anyway so we’d become good friends during the constant attention and upkeep my head required.
I followed after Bren and sat down in the chair while Jen went off to Clare’s station. After a black cape was secured around my neck so my clothes wouldn’t get dirty, the stylist got to work mixing the color and bleach.
“So fill me in on your life! It’s been like a million years since we last hung out.” Bren said as she hunched over and focused on mixing, causing the purple tips of her white-blonde hair to cross her line of vision. In her mid-twenties, Bren was nearly a whole head shorter than me, referred to her body shape as ‘fluffy with more to love’ and wore glasses with lilac colored frames to match the tips of her hair. She had an attitude and wasn’t afraid to say what she thought, one of the things I admired most about her. She also never treated me like I was anyone important, which was probably the biggest reason I liked her. To Bren I was never anyone special, just the dork with a dye job that was a pain in the ass to deal with.
“It hasn’t been that exciting, to be perfectly honest.” I told her. “Just work like usual.”
“Riiight, says Mr. Superstar Hotshot Actor Boy.” She teased. “Come on, there has to be some sort of story to tell me.”
I shook my head. “Not really. The past month and a half has mostly been spent in the gym getting in shape for filming.”
“When exactly do you have to be out there again? I know it’s soon, obviously, but nobody ever gives exact dates until the last minute.”
“Most of us leave Monday to head out to Atlanta.” I told her. “And then we start work a few days later, I think.”
I nodded. “Yeah, I really am. I think this will be even better than last year.”
“That’s the spirit!” She stood up straight and looked at me in the large mirror in front of us. “Okay, time to say goodbye to your brown locks for awhile. Ready?”
“Let’s do it.” I sighed as Bren picked up the coloring brush and dipped it into the bowl of foul smelling mixture. “So tell me what’s been going on with you. Tony pop the question yet?”
Since the day we’d met the one thing Bren always harped about was her boyfriend Antonio. They’d been together for over two years and had known each other since high school, and they fought all the time. I’d met the guy before and he was nice enough, strong willed and stubborn like Bren. Most people didn’t understand how the relationship handled the hell they put it through, but I’d seen them together and while it was odd, it sort of made sense in a weird way. They fought over absolutely everything, but it never lasted and five minutes later it would be like nothing happened. It was weird but it worked. Although I had a feeling if Tony still hadn’t proposed, Bren was about a second away from killing him.
“Oh my god, he is such a bastard!” Bren exclaimed as she began to paint my hair. “I know he knows what I want. He’s not that damn stupid and I leave pictures hidden all around the house. He’s just so stubborn and doesn’t appreciate what he has. I mean, I could walk out any time I wanted to! But do I? No! I stick around with his sorry ass even though he leaves his dirty clothes all over the floor and can’t cook anything but scrambled eggs and a peanut butter sandwich!” she sighed. “Is a little commitment too much to ask for, Josh? I mean really, he’s being a moron right?”
“Any guy would be lucky to have you Bren.” I said loyally. This speech wasn’t anything new, so by now I knew exactly what my expected response was supposed to be and when to give it.
“Exactly! I deserve the best! I mean, look at me! I may have a big ass but it’s a nice one! And these green eyes? Not contacts, mister. I was freaking born with these babies! And you know, a lot of guys think my tattoos and piercings are sexy.” Bren already sported a nose, eyebrow, and tongue ring along with the multiple piercings in her ears. She’d also recently gotten a Monroe piercing to add to the collection. “Why do I keep putting up with this bullshit?”
I chuckled. “Because you love him.” I reminded her.
Bren sighed sadly. “Yeah, I guess I do huh? I mean, he’s really sweet sometimes. Like the other day he was gonna bring me roses but he knows I hate the smell so he brought me this huge bag of Skittles and gummy bears instead. We soaked the bears in vodka and then pretended they were a little family of drunk people.” By that point she was smiling again at the memory. “I really do love that man, even if I want to kill him most of the time.”
The gummy bear story wasn’t one I’d heard before, but I still nodded along. “It’ll happen when the time is right.” I assured her, making Bren suck in a bunch of air before she responded.
“I know you’re right. Everyone tells me that. But I want the right time to be now!”
This made me laugh. “Just hang in there, B.”
“Oh, you know I will. I always talk about leaving but we all know it’ll never happen. He’s an ass but I know he’s my soul mate, so there’s no point in running from it.” Bren finished putting the last bit of color in my hair and stepped back, pulling her latex gloves off and dropping them in the trash. “Okay, you know the drill. Touch-ups have to sit for thirty, but since we’re bleaching you from brown you’re stuck here for an hour.”
“Yup.” I sighed and dutifully followed her over to one of empty seats against the back wall to let the color set in while Bren got to work on her next client. A pile of magazines sat on a coffee table, but the last thing I felt like doing was reading about celebrities so I started a new game of Angry Birds to occupy myself. A few minutes later Jen sat down in the chair next to me and scrunched her nose.
“Your head smells.” She informed me.
I rolled my eyes. “Back at you. I’m digging the new look, by the way.” Jen’s long hair was now plastered to her head and covered in brown goo, a clip in the back holding up her long mane.
“Well, I was trying to look extra sexy for whatever we do after this. I have to keep you interested, after all.” She deadpanned. “What are we doing after this anyway?”
“I don’t know. Going out would probably be a bad idea since our new heads will get us recognized almost immediately.” I said with a shrug. “So maybe we could hang out at your place?”
Jen nodded. “That works. I’m too tired to do much of anything anyway. And I think there’s an unopened bottle of wine in the fridge. We can order pizza and do nothing.”
“That sounds perfect.” I agreed. “Cheap wine and pizza it is.”
Jen gasped, pretending to be offended. “Cheap? Excuse me, my wine is more along the lines of moderately priced! Don’t try to insult me, mister.”
My eyes rolled almost instantly as I corrected myself. “I’m so sorry. Moderately priced wine and pizza it is.”
“Damn straight.” She was called back to get the gunk rinsed out of her hair a few minutes later. Since Jen’s hair was going darker than its natural shade, the dying process was a lot easier. Having the color taken out like mine required was a much tougher challenge. After several more games of Angry Birds, Bren finally came to save me and rinsed my head too, giving it the appropriate trim as well. Eventually I was deemed Peeta-appropriate and exchanged one last hug with Bren before bidding her a temporary goodbye. We’d see each other soon since she and several others at the salon would be flying out to Atlanta a few days after the cast. We needed someone to keep our heads in decent shape, after all.
“I feel like I should be in a boy band.” I announced, running a hand over my yellow hair once Jen and I were back in the car.
She giggled. “Well I had a major thing for Lance Bass in my day, so it’s all good. You know, back when the female population still thought they had a chance.”
I chuckled. “I don’t know if that was supposed to be a compliment or not, but thanks I guess.”
“Come on, every teenage girl in the world was in love with NSYNC! That’s totally a compliment, dude.”
“He ended up on Dancing with the Stars, Jen!”
She laughed. “Just take me home, goon.”
A/N: So, you know how I don’t own anything? Well, I totes own Bren. I made her up all on muh own, so I’ll take the credit there thanksverymuch. Reviews are love.