Monday 21st April 2014
“Isn’t it your birthday today, dork?”
Marceline was especially pleased with the way Bonnibel leapt out of her skin as her voice echoed down the aisle. She clutched at her heart and glared pure venom Marceline’s way. It was kind of funny. She’d been standing in the doorway watching the redhead for a while, debating whether or not to say something (whether or not to even go in too). Stupidity won out, it seemed.
“Sorry,” she said, grinning, slouching towards where Bonnibel sat. “Did I scare you, princess?”
“Yes.” Bonnie eyed her quizzically. “You know, I can’t remember ever seeing you in the church before.”
Marceline hunched her shoulders. “I avoid it for the most part,” she grumbled, stopping at the end of Bonnibel’s pew.
Bonnie shrugged. “Yes, by the way. It is my birthday. How you remembered that I’ll never know, considering you don’t like me. But whatever.”
She knew the nerd was waiting for a compromising reaction to that, so she took a deep breath and held in all the shock and panic just trying to get out. Marceline blew all the air out heavily. “Psh,” was the only accompanying acknowledgement that Bonnie had even spoken. She rolled her eyes when Bonnie smiled up at her. “So what are you doing in the church on your birthday, huh? Or Easter for that matter. I know Reich doesn’t do anything exciting on Easter Monday… except the egg hunt for the kids, but I thought for sure you’d have something amazing planned.” So many words. Why did so many words fall out when she spoke to Bonnibel?
“Hiding from Ellen.”
Okay… Marceline had not expected that answer. She shuffled her feet. “Alright. I’m… um, just here to get something. Then I’m going. So, uh… yeah.” She turned away and hurried for the back room. Her dad never locked it; he never locked any of the doors. Marceline was of the opinion that he was too trusting.
Somewhere in here was a box… Marceline flicked the light on, hoping it hadn’t been moved. It would be just like her dad to move it. Or hide it. Or send it somewhere else, or set it on fire. She sighed. For a moment, absolute terror gripped her spine when she couldn’t immediately locate it. Then her knees nearly buckled when she remembered sliding it behind the piano.
She heaved it out from underneath a roll of curtain that she had not remembered draping over the top and coughed at the dust rising from the fabric. Did no one ever clean back here? With not a little effort, she hefted it up into her arms and staggered back to the door, nudging the light off again with her elbow.
Bonnibel was still sitting in the pew when she emerged, paying Marceline only a fleeting glance. Marceline (although she’d deny ever having thought this) found it incredibly weird and relieving and freaking awesome that Bonnie didn’t bug her about everything. It was nice to be allowed to do whatever she liked without feeling judged. She probably was being judged, but it wasn’t ever acknowledged. It was refreshing.
This moronic feeling was probably behind her unconscious decision to stop beside Bonnie’s pew with the box balanced precariously on one hip. “Do you wanna do something this week?” Marceline found herself asking.
Bonnie’s eyes should’ve been rolling around on the floor they went so big, she probably got a little bit of whiplash too looking around as fast as she did. It was comical. Marceline smiled.
“Are you serious right now?” Bonnie asked her, sputtering a little, incredulous.
Marceline offered a little half-shrug; it would’ve been a proper one only moving was hard with the box and all that. “I wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t being serious.”
Bonnibel peered at her suspiciously. “I don’t believe you. Why are you being nice and friend-like? What do you want?”
The hand that wasn’t holding up her box began to fiddle with (holy crap was that nerves, why was she nervous?) the hem of her shirt. Yeah, no, that was definitely anxiety bubbling around in her stomach. What even was that? Oh, God.
“I just thought maybe I could pay you back for tutoring me,” she muttered, unable to make eye contact since this was ridiculous and stupid on so many levels.
Bonnie’s expression softened. “You know it’s a job right? No thanks on your part required.”
“Just thought I’d ask.”
Before Bonnibel could speak again, the door of the church burst open. Marceline could only say she was glad for it. Eleanor exploded inside, Penelope (why her nickname wasn’t Penny, Marceline would never understand) following at a more sedate pace.
Eleanor spared Marceline a rather vicious glare before focusing her attention on Bonnie. This was good, because that way she didn’t see the polite smile Pippa shared with Marceline or the way Marceline then rolled her eyes at the lot of them. “What are you doing here? Get up, let’s go. We have a party to throw.”
Even though Marceline couldn’t stand Eleanor, that spontaneous rhyme was pretty funny. “Bye,” she said quietly as Bonnie was hauled to her feet with some rather squeaky protests. “Have fun.” She gave Pippa a short wave before making good her escape.
Marceline hated the church. She promised herself she wouldn’t go back for a while. Not even to ‘accidentally’ bump into Bonnibel again.
“I don’t think…” Bonnie began to word her protest again. Once again, Ellen waved her to silence with a shushing sound and Pippa smiled sympathetically. At least she’d been able to free herself from Ellen’s vice grip. “Really, I don’t want–”
“Nonsense,” Ellen fired back over the top of her. “This is your sixteenth birthday, Bonnibel. We’re going to celebrate. It’s important. Everyone does it. We’ll order pizza and drink hot chocolate from red cups and blast the music far too loud and play silly party games. It’s a must. Besides, it’s Easter themed, so it’s not all about you and you can’t complain because we have to celebrate Easter as well anyway. It’s a combo party.”
Bonnie’s shoulders sagged. There really was no way to argue with her. She was… indomitable. Frustratingly so. It was really bothersome and she spent the whole walk to Ellen’s house (which was more of a three storey mansion on the outskirts of town than a normal house, to be honest) muttering about how unnecessary and unwanted this whole thing was. None of it mattered.
“We are going to throw you a party you won’t forget,” Ellen was saying as they reached her home. The whole building was an extravagance, truly. It was the sort of house one really shouldn’t find in a tiny backwater church town like Reich. It shouldn’t happen. This was a Malibu house, it defied all things.
Bonnie stopped at the street end of the paved path to the house prompting Ellen to turn and regard her curiously. She should have all kinds of reasons why she didn’t want to be here, to celebrate like this. Bonnie picked up her abruptly (and shockingly) empty brainpan and shook it furiously, trying her darndest to find an argument that might sway her doughty friend. None came to mind. She sighed.
“Come on,” Ellen prodded, waving a hand at her house. “This party won’t have itself.”
Apologetically, Pippa nudged her in the shoulder. “Just get it over with, Bonnibel,” she whispered. “The sooner you get in there and blow out those candles, the sooner you can become an anti-social hobgoblin. Once the bits with compulsory birthday-girl attendance are done with, I guarantee Ellen will forget you exist and drown in a sea of all things chocolate.”
Bonnie rolled her eyes, but followed Pippa up the path. “I hope you’re right,” she said. “Because I’m not in the mood.”
The look Pippa gave her was full of curiosity. She wanted to know why Bonnie didn’t celebrate, that was obvious, they probably all did. Thankfully, her friend didn’t ask. And she truly was thankful for it. She didn’t want to discuss it.
Inside was surprisingly lacking in decorations. Bonnie had expected Ellen to have dressed up the whole place to the nines, but no. Apparently some of her anti-birthday-celebration message got through. Also to her silent joy, there wasn’t a single present to be seen. She’d been very clear (she thought anyway) about having no birthday-esque anything.
“See, Bonnibel,” Ellen huffed, waving a hand in the air above her head. “Not a party. Just… well, okay, it is a party, but there’s nothing to make it look like a party. Pippa made sure of it.”
“Thank you,” she muttered.
Finn bounded over to them then, a cup in each hand. He thrust one at Bonnie. “It’s just chocolate milk,” he told her, grinning. “Come on. We’re gonna play ‘Who Am I’.” He seemed so genuinely excited by this that Bonnie found herself smiling with him.
And it wasn’t so bad. Considering how resistant she’d been to the whole thing, having a not-quite-birthday-slash-Easter-party was nice. Especially when Ellen threw a bowl of caramel popcorn at Jake when he gave her Leonard Halte to guess and she couldn’t figure it out. She recovered quickly though, possibly because the pizza had arrived and in the extra delivery instructions box she’d typed ‘send your hottest delivery boy’. Ellen was very enthusiastic about this and seemed not to be let down.
Bonnie held her judgement. Rating the attractiveness of guys on a scale of one to ten was not something she was qualified to do.
Sometime after pizza but before Pippa sprung the surprise cake on her (except it wasn’t a surprise because she’d seen it in the fridge when getting herself another drink), her phone beeped unexpectedly. Very unexpectedly, since all her new friends were here sans Keila (who was in Blackwater with friends of her own), Peter (who knew where she was and when she’d be home) and Marceline didn’t count. So she had no idea who it might be.
She smiled when she read the sender’s name. Cherry Wilde it said. Bonnie clicked it happily.
Happy birthday, Bonnibel, the text read. And happy Easter too. I hope your birthday wasn’t overshadowed by the awesome power that is all things chocolate. How are you? Is it nice there? When can we visit? Norman and I miss you heaps, by the way. What’s with the radio silence? I hope you’re okay, you know. I bet you’ve made tons of new friends that I should be jealous of, right? Heh. I would’ve messaged earlier but I’ve been on containment, Maggie and Georgia are running a high school mafia now and it’s pretty hectic. Call me. xoxo
And Bonnie smiled. No, that wasn’t really the right word, she beamed. Cherry was arguably the best friend she’d left in Ormeau and Norman Bunting was her other best friend (they had a few things in common and kept each other’s secrets thanks to mutual understanding). Bonnie hadn’t minded the ‘radio silence’, figuring a clean cut would be better; it’d give her a better chance of making new friends and leaving the past behind her. Distance was good. It was healthy.
I’m good, she replied slowly, still smiling gently. Yeah, made some new friends, they’re really nice. Everyone is. And yes you should be jealous. It’s hotter than I’m used to though. Whose life are they ruining now? Say ‘hi’ to Norman for me. No calls yet, gotta keep my grades up, you know. I am a nerd. Ha. Visit at Christmas. I’ll be all settled in then, I’m sure. Miss you both.
Then there was cake. Chocolate sponge-cake with strawberry topping. Jake, the fitness nut, made sure some actual real strawberries adorned the top as well. Pippa gave her a curious look, having noticed her texting. As usual, Pippa didn’t say anything, she’d ask later when there weren’t any witnesses.
Sure enough, when Bonnie excused herself twenty minutes later Pippa followed.
“What’s up, Bonnibel?” she asked quietly as they stood on the front porch. The sun was set, its last tenacious rays tinting the underside of some (rather promising looking) clouds orange. “Do you have a hot date or something?” Pippa was smiling when she asked.
Bonnie shook her head. “A friend from Ormeau texted me.”
She shrugged. “Not really, actually. Other than a few friends, I didn’t leave much behind.”
Pippa raised an eyebrow but didn’t ask any of the obvious questions thinly veiled in that statement. “You just miss your friends then?”
“Sometimes, yeah. It’s a long way to Ormeau though,” she muttered, turning to face Pippa now. “I figured it was best to just let the distance cut us off. It might hurt less then. We’ll lose touch eventually.”
“I don’t believe that,” Penelope told her vehemently. “If they’re really your friends they’ll make the effort to stay in contact. They texted right? Just keep the dialogue open.”
Bonnie sighed. “You’re probably right. Thanks.”
Pippa grinned and bumped her shoulder. “Any time. That’s what friends are for you know?”
A smile crept across Bonnie’s face at that. She and Pippa were friends. She had friends here and it was comforting to know. Only… she wondered if they’d stay that way. Keeping her worlds separate seemed like a good idea and she sincerely hoped her past world would never meet her new world. The pyrotechnics would be glorious and terrifying to behold.
Bonnibel jerked a finger over the railing. “I’m going to head home now, Pip,” she said quietly. “I told Peter I’d be back before seven and I’m pushing it.”
“Alright. I’ll tell the others,” she said cheerfully. “See you around. I’ll call if we decide to make plans of some epic proportions, alright?”
Bonnie nodded. “Okay. Bye.”
It was probably silly to worry. Everyone in Reich was exceptionally nice – bordering on the saintlike kind of nice, actually – so it was almost ridiculous to think things would change just because of something that happened in Ormeau. But she was cautious and had learned to be that way from experience.
Her phone beeped again. Cherry once more, it told her.
That’s awesome. See? I knew you’d fit in, you big dork. Oh… you know, it’s Maggie and George, it’s mostly just hot air. And Maggie has grown up a lot since you left, she’s almost the girl we knew when we were ten. It’s funny, she misses you too only she won’t admit it. Christmas is ages away and Norman is having Bonnibel-withdrawals. I don’t think he’ll make it that long. Bet your brainy butt that we’ll visit though.
Seriously, Cherry always knew how to cheer her up. Bonnie found herself smiling again as she wandered home. Maybe Pippa was right, staying in contact wouldn’t be that bad, surely. It might be nice to hear about Maggie and Georgia (who made it their mission to spread nasty stories about people – they hadn’t always been like that and Bonnie missed the old them) without having to worry about being on the receiving end. And she did miss them.
Try new things, she thought. That was your New Years’ resolution. Expand your circle of friends, Banner. And stop worrying about the past.
Still grinning, Bonnie sent another reply back.
Only time would tell.