Sunday 26th January 2014
Sunday dawned hot; a shimmering heat haze lingered across the main street. Sitting in the church on top of the hill was sweltering. Most people had folded pieces of paper up into fans in a vain attempt to cool themselves. Ormeau had been a river city and remained a relatively cool temperature. Reich, on the other hand, made no effort to even give being cool a try.
It was with much relief that Bonnibel exited the church. She hastened from the interior, stepping outside again was blinding and she shaded her eyes with one hand, clearing the doorway and searching for somewhere less awful to stand while she waited for Peter to catch up. But the heat was pretty much relentless, the sun baking, setting her fair skin to sizzling.
There was a grassed area outside the church, trees dotting the perimeter, a white flagstone path winding across the green to the cathedral. She decided that a shady space over on the grass might offer a light breeze and wandered over to loiter beneath one such tree.
Happily, it was moderately cooler under the leafy green canopy and she exhaled heavily. Turning to watch the rest of the congregation leave, she couldn’t help but notice a few people who were obviously students at the school. Bonnie decided against speaking to them, there would be plenty of time for that tomorrow. Instead, she scanned the crowd for her uncle.
Peter was neck deep in a conversation with the reverend as he flowed with everyone else out of the church. They were chatting amicably, her uncle grinning broadly and the preacher – almost comically looming head and shoulders taller than the other man – was smiling a wide white smile with him. Peter waved when he spotted her across the lawn, said farewell to the preacher and hastened over to her.
He paused, getting distracted by another man, tall, slender with a shiny, bald egg-head and a strange rolling gait. Peter sank into that discussion too, only with less aplomb than the previous one. The bald man wore a citrus expression conveying deep dissatisfaction and a great deal of annoyance. Bonnibel decided instantly that she’d find the fellow grating.
“Oi,” a voice said at her elbow. She looked over, a young boy had materialised beside her. “You’re new here, yeah?” he asked in a strange accent. His tousled brown hair shivering in a breeze that wasn’t quite strong enough to take the sting from the heat.
She blinked at him. “Yes, that’s right.”
He beamed at her, offering a hand. Alright, maybe calling him ‘young boy’ was misleading. He was her age, easily, and broad across the shoulders. Although he wasn’t much taller than she was, he gave off an air of dominance, lending him a larger appearance than he actually had. “Cool. I’m Jake. Jake Martins. You’re Minton’s niece, right?”
Hesitantly, noticing how much larger than hers his palm was, she nodded, shaking his hand simultaneously. “Bonnibel Banner,” she replied.
“Awesome. You going to the school then?”
“Yes.” Bonnie glanced over her shoulder towards Peter. He was still frowning at the bald guy. “I enrolled last week.”
“What year are you in? I’ll give you some pointers.” The boy, Jake, shoved his hands in the pockets of his faded denim jeans, still smiling. “Everyone’s really friendly though; don’t worry about none of that.”
“Eleventh,” she informed him.
His brown eyes lit up. “Extra-awesome,” he cried. “Me too. I’ll introduce you to all my friends. It’ll be great. You’ll love it here.” Someone called Jake’s name from across the lawn. He waved then, muttering about seeing her later, and jogged off to catch up with them, casting one last grin her way.
So he was a nice enough fellow; very enthusiastic. Still, Bonnibel decided to hold onto her reservations for the minute. Best not to leap to hasty conclusions. One friendly high-schooler did not erase her misgivings or her melancholy.
She and Peter walked home in almost silence, exchanging only a few words when Peter brought up the temperature or how she was feeling about starting at the school in the morning. Bonnie was far more interested to peek at the people who hadn’t attended church. It was their prerogative; of course, she wouldn’t judge them for it. But in a small town like this – where shops were closed on Sundays and everyone knew everyone else – they stood out as anomalies.
Other people spilled down the hill from the church and disappeared into town. Most would no doubt search out a chilled building and camp there for the duration of the day. Peter was one of the many who elected to stay in town for a while. He left her side and headed off to join a few of his friends. Bonnibel though, headed home. She hadn’t felt very much like socialising since she got here, although once she turned up at school she had no doubt that she’d fall into her old patterns and routines.
Still, for one last day of solitude, she was more than content to sit in her air-conditioned flat and read. Naturally, she did that after all her things were packed and ready for the next day. There was no sense in being lazy.
The door creaked inwards softly, Marceline not fully sure this was such a good idea. Inside, the room was moderately well lit, the air conditioner whining loudly in the corner, filling the air with freezing cold making her shudder. She blinked, wondering if he was even in at all.
“Mr Petrikov?” she called into the classroom.
Under the window the drum kit rattled, a cymbal falling from where it was perched on the stool and clanging to the floor. With a cracking sound Marceline could hear across the room, Simon stood, stretching his back. His eyes widened when he saw her there and a smile burst across his face.
“Why aren’t you at church, Mr Petrikov?” she asked, stepping inside and closing the door with a gentle click.
He waved a hand. “Oh, I had some last minute things to be doing today. School starts back tomorrow you know.”
She smiled at him. “Yeah, I know. You said you wanted to see me?”
“Don’t beat around the bush do you?” he chuckled, dropping onto the piano stool behind him. It wasn’t unusual for him to be locked up in here; he was the school’s music teacher and took his job far too seriously. He loved instruments, but sometimes Marceline thought he might love them just a little too much. “I… uh… Well, in my official capacity as the head of student affairs I have to ask you a very important favour. But,” he held up a hand as she opened her mouth to argue with… whatever he was planning, “as your friend, I’m hoping you’ll just listen.”
Her teeth clicked shut. She shuffled a little further inside and slid up onto a table covered in various wind instruments, shoulders slumped. “Go for it.”
“I want you to get a tutor-”
“No,” she said before he could go any further. “I don’t want a tutor, Simon.”
He sighed. “You need better grades, Marceline. I know your dream is to get into Driscoll; but it’s a fancy college and you need better scores. You can’t get in on raw talent, Marceline. Please.”
Her eyes narrowed. “You know my dad has been begging me to get a tutor for years, Simon. I don’t want some snooty bastard telling me all the ways I fail, all the reasons I’m not good enough. I don’t need that.”
Simon just kept staring at her. He tapped one nail on the cymbal beside him and pleaded with his eyes. It was scary just how well a grown man could do the ‘puppy-dog’ look.
“No,” she maintained.
“Marceline,” he whined. “I’m not your father. I don’t want you to go off to business school or study law or any of that junk. I want you to be an amazing musician. You know that right?”
She rolled her eyes, huffing at him, arms folded. But she couldn’t control the nervous tapping of her heel against the bench. “I don’t want to be tutored by one of those high and mighty pretentious types. I promise I’ll hunt you down if I so much as hear a whisper about being given a tutor who looks down on me.”
He lifted a finger. “I have a proposition for you then. I know how much you hate studying at home, so why don’t you do it in the library after school? There are tutors there every day. Maybe one of them will meet your exceedingly high standards.” Simon was wearing his best reasonable face and Marceline knew she couldn’t argue with his logic.
She exhaled heavily, not wanting him to think she was giving in too easily. “Fine,” she grumbled. “I’ll do that. But if I don’t find one there that I like, you’re going to drop this, alright?”
Simon stuck out one hand and wiggled his fingers at her. “You have a deal,” he said brightly.
Marceline slouched off the bench to shake the hand, not with-holding another eye roll though. “Don’t make me regret this, old man.”