Friday 10th April 2015
Marceline blinked, just a little bit baffled by the confusion lacing Bonnibel’s words… Word. A frown was in order. “Bowling,” she concurred. “Do you have a problem with it?”
“No. Absolutely not,” Bonnie hastily assured her. “I just… I haven’t been bowling since…” She sighed. “Not for years, I don’t think.”
For a brief moment Marceline was confused by the downward slant to Bonnie’s lips, the waver in her voice. Then she realised that if it had been years, then the last time she’d been bowling was with her family. Marceline wound their fingers together.
“We can go somewhere else?”
“No.” Bonnibel shook her head, expression suddenly determined. “Let’s go bowling.” And she squeezed Marceline’s hand for emphasis.
The doors of the Blackwater Bowling Alley swooshed open, expelling a gust of cool air. With it came the raucous sounds of local students enjoying one of the last days of the break. Considering the volume of chatter inside, it was comparatively empty. That’s probably just because no one in Blackwater goes bowling. It’s not a ‘cool’ pastime. They have vandalism for that.
“Hey, how can I help you?” Given the unruly customers already down the far end, the blonde at the reception desk was overly chipper. Marceline didn’t know how to take that.
“Alley three, if you have it open,” Marceline requested. “Shoes too, please.”
“Just you two?” she asked punching in the information.
She beamed at them. “One second.” Then she flounced away to a trolley filled with (hopefully) clean shoes. Of the scuffed variety. “Here you are. Lane three will be programmed for you in just a minute.”
Marceline smiled as politely as she could, adding, “Thanks so much,” before tugging Bonnie in the right direction. Lane three was arguably her favourite of the nine ones available. The tenth had been wallowing under a maintenance sign for as long as she could remember. But three… It was close enough to the exit that in the (somewhat likely) event a fight broke out during a competition beating a hasty retreat was as easy as pie. But it was also far enough away from the entrance that it didn’t draw undue attention from anyone.
Blackwater was not the nicest of places, no two ways about it. All shine on the surface (and at the mall which was a well-presented tourist trap so it hardly counted). Good thing the bowling alley was just right down the street. Otherwise she might have been worried about the basic decency of the patrons.
As it was, other than a small group of high school boys down in lane nine (who appeared to be accounting for eighty percent of the noise in the building), there were only two other parties in attendance this evening. One of which were usual customers. They came in every Friday night to bitch about their week. Two women and their gay male friend. The third group looked to be more high schoolers. Unlike the boys in nine though, these ones weren’t dressed in tattered denim. They were the kind of well put together people that looked a lot like nerds.
She cut a glance at Bonnie as she tugged on her shoes. Then back to the five dorks in blouses and/or ties. Then back to Bonnie. Yeah, okay. They were probably cut from the same cloth. More or less.
“You’re the only person I know who looks adorable in bowling shoes,” Marceline told her, flopping onto the hard plastic seat beside her.
Bonnibel grinned at her. “I think I’ll take that as a compliment.” She watched with a quiet smirk as Marceline yanked her borrowed shoes on by the tags on the heel. “You don’t exactly look ridiculous in them, you know.”
“Everyone looks stupid in these shoes. Except you.”
“Shucks,” she chuckled, squeezing Marceline’s knee softly. Then she bounced to her feet and over to the computer screen. “You first?”
“Sure.” It actually surprised Marceline that she no longer felt a spear of shock (or fear) whenever Bonnie so much as touched her. Just tingles. And bubbling in the space below her diaphragm which she tried not to dwell on. She was glad for it. So she smiled and bounded over to her girlfriend. “I’ll go easy on you.”
Bonnie just snorted. “Don’t you dare, Abadeer. I’ll crush you.”
Taking a long, thoughtful moment, Marceline selected a lovely orange ball. The shininess of its red-flecked surface – with luck – indicated that it had recently been cleaned. She had no desire to catch some stupid disease from the sticky residue of whatever grubby child had last laid its paws on the ball. She rubbed her hand along the surface, hefting it, making sure it was the right one for her before slipping her fingers into the holes.
Bobbing on the balls of her feet, she stepped to the end of the lane, watching the machine finish lining the pins up at the other end. Squinting (and ignoring the feel of Bonnie’s eyes on her back) she strode forward, the ball in her hands swinging in a long, slow arc. She let go well before the peak of the curve and subsequently leaned to the right with the hopes the ball would follow her silent directions.
But it did knock down seven of the pins. When she spun, smiling, she found Bonnibel giving her a sympathetic look. “I’ve got another go yet,” she pointed out. “What’s with the face?”
“No perfect game for you,” Bonnie breathed morosely.
Marceline arched one brow. “Oh? And I suppose you’ve had a perfect game, have you?”
“Please. Last time I played I was eleven. I didn’t have the coordination for that.” Bonnie rolled her eyes. “One day I’ll do it.” The last was added wistfully. Marceline just rolled her eyes and snatched the ball back up as it popped out of the dispenser.
Luckily the three remaining pins were all on the same side. Unluckily, she wobbled at the last second and knew in her bones that the throw was bad. So naturally she softly cursed the way her cast unbalanced her, spinning angrily on her way back to the seats. Bonnibel patted her thigh reassuringly.
“You hit two of them,” she consoled. It didn’t sound particularly repentant though. Especially not when she grinned so brightly and hopped up excitedly to have her turn.
Bonnibel stood at the end of the lane with her head on one side as she watched the machine work, her chosen ball clasped to her chest. She looked a right idiot in Marceline’s opinion. Good thing she was an unfairly cute idiot then.
Gently, Bonnie scuffed the toe of her shoe on the polished wood and shuffled half a step to the left. Her delicate throw looked too pathetic for the ball to even get to the end, but all it did was curve at the last second to knock down nine of the pins. Marceline’s mouth fell open.
On the other hand, Bonnibel actually looked upset.
“It didn’t get the last one,” she whined, waiting for the dispenser to pop her ball of choice (a nice green colour) back out their end. “I thought for sure I had that right.”
“Are you trying to use maths to win?” Marceline gasped, frowning at her.
To her credit, Bonnie did look a tad sheepish about that. “Kind of? Okay, yes. It’s just physics, really.”
She snatched her ball up and promptly knocked the tenth pin down.
Marceline could only shake her head.
While she didn’t manage to get a spare until her fourth turn, Bonnie managed to get nothing but. Except on her fifth frame. In which she naturally got a strike. For a moment Marceline was kind of miffed about that. But Bonnie was so excited about it she nearly bowled her over in her rush to get in a celebratory hug.
See what she did there? Pun intended.
Marceline kind of felt like that was a pun too. Never mind.
Okay, maybe Bonnie getting strikes wasn’t so bad. She did get a hug every time it happened. So there was that. Losing had never felt that good.
“I’m going to get a drink,” Bonnibel told her, beaming once she’d satisfyingly kicked Marceline’s butt in their first match. “Want one?”
“Yes please. Do you want me to set up another game?”
“Absolutely. You can try to redeem yourself.”
“Very funny,” she laughed. Because it wasn’t losing when she was playing with Bonnie.
Oh god, that was… What was happening to her? So sappy.
And that was the moment she realised she didn’t even care. Not one bit.
Once the computer was ready for their second match, she slumped into one of the chairs, watching Bonnibel order at the counter. In a paradoxical moment of clarity, her heart ached. But in a wonderful way. In a way telling her she was lucky. So very, very lucky.
Her gaze snapped away, aforementioned organ lurching in panic before calming down. “Hey, Larry. What’s doing?”
The older man smiled, nodding. “Just bowling with the girls. Haven’t seen you here for a while so I thought I’d pop over and say ‘hi’. How’re you doing?”
“Yeah, good,” she admitted. “Graduating at the end of the year.”
“Sounds exciting. Got big plans?”
Her eyes drifted back to Bonnie. “Hopefully,” she murmured. “Getting out of this hole would be nice. What about you? Did you ask that guy in the copy department out yet?”
Larry’s face went red; he coughed, trying to cover it. “No,” he wheezed. “How do you remember these things?”
“I pay more attention than people think.”
He smiled his devastatingly charming smile. “And what about the nice girl at the movies? You asked her out yet?”
“Nope,” she told him, popping her ‘p’.
“Then you can’t judge me.”
“Actually I can.” She glanced back at Bonnie, catching her with this funny smile on her face as she stared at Marceline. Bonnibel grinned at her when their eyes met. “Because I asked her out instead.”
Larry followed her gaze over to the counter and smiled. “She’s cute.”
“Good for you, kid.”
“Thanks, Larry. Now, if I can find the courage to ask a pretty girl out, you can damn well get a date with Hunk the copy boy.”
Larry went red again. “And I’m out.”
Bonnibel plonked back down as he clambered over the back of the plastic chairs to rejoin his friends. She passed Marceline a cup with a straw. Taking an experimental sip, Marceline was pleased to discover it was raspberry flavour. Because there really aren’t that many strawberry drinks – alas – but raspberry is a good substitute.
“Who was that?” Bonnie asked around her straw. The question was nothing but curiosity.
“Larry,” she explained. “He comes here every week with his sister and their best friend. Something about bowling being therapeutic or whatever.”
She arched an eyebrow. “You know him well?”
“Nope. Just well enough that we stop to chat now and then. Gotta complain about life’s little irritations to someone. Who better than a perfect stranger?”
“How about me?”
Marceline gave her the best ‘oh really’ look she could summon. “Why? I hate bringing conversations down. Especially when I’m with you. Makes me feel awful.”
Bonnie shuffled in her seat, placing the cup on the chair beside her. “And I hate it when you feel awful. But if I can’t handle your complaining then I don’t deserve the best of you. I’m always here to talk, Marceline. Even if it is just bitching about…” she waved a hand as she searched for an example. “The price of guitar strings,” is what she settled on. “Always.” And she leaned over to smack a kiss to the corner of Marceline’s mouth before leaping up to snatch her ball from the rack. “My go first this time,” she decided with a wink.
“Yeah, okay,” Marceline sighed happily.
She lost again. She’d lost by the seventh frame. But with Bonnie bouncing into her arms wearing the biggest smile on the planet she couldn’t find the energy to be even the tiniest bit miffed about it.
It was with the most immense sense of relief that Marceline kicked off those awful shoes and dumped them in the returns bin by the desk. She cast a lazy wave at the receptionist (who didn’t even look up from her computer) and headed back to the car with Bonnie’s fingers wrapped up in hers. Honestly, it was the nicest feeling.
Although she did revise that thought about forty minutes later (after speeding and singing along loudly to the radio on the way home) when Bonnie grabbed her by the collar and kissed her. Long and slow and with enough force that she had to wrap her arms around Bonnibel’s waist to keep her balance. Kissed her – right there on the stoop to her flat, fingers finding their way into Marceline’s hair – in a way that made Marceline’s knees feel kind of useless all of a sudden.
“Stay for a bit?” Bonnie breathed when she pulled back a few millimetres.
She hummed. “Yeah… Sounds good.”
Still with one hand bunched in the collar of her shirt, Bonnie backed through the door, dragging Marceline after her. The door banged shut when she kicked at it blindly. Her ankle kind of hurt, but Bonnie’s mouth was back on hers so she also didn’t really care. And when she sighed, hands settling perhaps a little lower than she normally let them, Bonnibel took advantage.
It was almost tentative, the way her tongue traced Marceline’s bottom lip. But it did something to her brain so when she leaned in to deepen the kiss she blamed it on her frazzled judgement. The sound that vibrated through Bonnie’s throat made it totally worth it. The feel of Bonnibel’s fingers toying with the hem of her shirt made her shiver. And that was worth it too.
Of course, then her thoughts caught up with what was happening and a time out signal whistled in the dark recesses of her mind and she pulled away. The noise Bonnie made that time was distinctly unhappy. She sucked in a deep breath, wondering why she felt winded.
“Wait,” she whispered, trying not to think too hard about how nice that had felt. Trying desperately to banish the lingering taste of strawberry lip gloss.
Bonnibel exhaled heavily, her forehead coming to rest on Marceline’s shoulder. “Sorry.” The word was felt rather than heard since Bonnie had her face pressed pretty firmly into Marceline’s throat.
“I don’t…” she tried. And failed. Words always failed her. Why couldn’t she just say what she damn well meant?
She squeezed her eyes shut.
Bonnie’s fingers curled into the fabric of her shirt. “You said,” she began softly, still talking against Marceline’s skin. “That you didn’t want to push things. You didn’t want to do something that might make me uncomfortable or that might hurt. Yes?”
“Yes,” she rasped.
“That puts a lot of pressure on me,” she went on. “To start things, to take that ‘next step’, if you want to call it that. It makes me think that I might do something that you’re not ready for and I hesitate.” She leaned away – not far and too far all at once. There was nothing but sincerity in her too green eyes. At least at first. Then a spark of worry, of fear, danced through them. Only it didn’t dance back out again. It stayed.
The acid in Marceline’s stomach bubbled. Her throat clenched. But when she opened her mouth, no words came out. Why did this feel so much like crying?
Except, Bonnie just held her tighter, held her closer than physics should allow. “It’s okay, Marceline,” she murmured. The assurance so honest and sad together. “You can’t scare me.”
“You scare me.”
Somehow, even though she didn’t know where the words had come from (let alone given them permission to be spoken), she knew it was true.
“Because…” Why? “Because you’re here. With me.” This time it was Marceline who hid her face in Bonnie’s hair. “And I don’t know why. I can’t understand why someone like you would want to date someone like me.”
Bonnie’s hands were warm when they curled around her face, pushing her away just far enough that their eyes could meet. Just far enough that Bonnie could give her a smile that made the roiling in her stomach fade. “Because you’re wonderful,” she whispered, pressing a careful kiss to Marceline’s cheek. “And fantastic.” Another kiss. “And I think you’re just the most amazing person in town.” A third. “And I don’t know why other people can’t see that too.”
At some point, Marceline’s eyes had drifted closed. Now they were too heavy to open again. “I’m a mess,” she muttered.
“You’re a little insecure,” Bonnie agreed, laughter lilting her words. “But that’s okay, because I’m going to convince you otherwise.” Her fingers flared out over Marceline’s collarbones, straightening her shirt. “Because you are amazing. And one day you’ll believe me.”
And in that moment, Marceline did believe her.
“This,” Bonnibel added after a moment, pressing her lips to Marceline’s to demonstrate. “This is good. Don’t be afraid of me… please? You’re allowed to take the initiative. I promise.”
Marceline knew that. She did. It was unfair to Bonnie otherwise. So she nodded. “Alright. But if I do something–”
“I’ll tell you,” Bonnibel cut in. “So long as you promise the same.” She waited for Marceline to bob her head before continuing. “Slow is fine. I won’t ask anything from you that you aren’t ready to give. Not ever.” She smiled, a little darkly. This time when Marceline’s stomach flipped it wasn’t to tie itself into panicked knots. “But I’d like to at least know you’re comfortable with… you know…” Her hand vanished from its spot on Marceline’s shoulder, probably to wave vaguely. “Stuff… Progress. Me.”
“Stuff,” Marceline repeated carefully. “It might take a while to get to… stuff.”
Bonnibel laughed. “That’s really okay with me.”
“Progress,” she mused. “You’re right. I’m sorry in advance for any weirdness. I just… I don’t want to lose you.”
Bonnie’s smile was blinding. And so close as she rested their foreheads together. “You won’t. Can we try that again though? Sans the panic?”
And Marceline had to smile with her. “Yeah. We can do that.”