Saturday 15th February 2014
Her history paper called her. It begged her to stay and finish it. Of course, she still had nearly four weeks to complete the assignment before it was due. Yet Bonnie had always been prompt with her work.
Between the paper sitting on her little desk and the clock ticking towards three-thirty on her bedside table, her eyes couldn’t stay still. It was a tough decision. That thought made her chuckle though. Not one of her new acquaintances would find it a hard choice. None of her past acquaintances would either.
Banging on her front door made her jump.
For a moment, Bonnibel considered ignoring it, but then Pippa knew she was home and that would serve no purpose at all. She sighed when she realised that and headed for the door. Still, she paused again before pulling it open. It didn’t matter what she told herself, there was that lingering conflict inside, that one little voice telling her not to go with.
“Hey, Bonnibel!” Jake said, grinning. “Ready to go?”
She looked around for Pippa, but it seemed her friend had elected to stay in the car with the air conditioning. Although it wasn’t really all that hot today. Still, it was pretty bright out.
Bonnibel nodded. “Just let me get a hat.” He bounced on the balls of his feet impatiently while she dashed back inside to snatch a broad hat from her room. It hadn’t taken her long to decide that headwear was very important out here. With her fair skin and the sun trying to kill everyone through angry glaring, sunburn was as simple as crossing the road.
She slapped the hat down on her red curls and raced through the evil sunlight to Jake’s car. He followed her, frowning a little bit now, as if unsure whether she was mad or something. Bonnie slid up into the back seat, smiling at Pippa as she did so, Jake clambering up into his four wheel drive a few seconds later, shooting her a curious glance.
“You alright, Bonnibel?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she replied softly. “It’s just really bright today. I don’t want to get sunburned.”
He laughed and Pippa smiled with him, tossing a tube of cream to her. “That’s the good stuff,” Pippa told her. “If you get burned wearing that, then you don’t stand a chance.”
Bonnie squirted the pale cream onto her fingers; it was nice and thick, good for keeping the sun off. “So what is the ditch anyway?” Bonnibel asked them. She hadn’t had the presence of mind to ask before and it was a little worrying.
Jake glanced at her in the rear view mirror, smirking. “You’ll just have to wait and see, won’t you,” he chuckled. “It’s awesome though. You’ll love it.”
“Just be sure to stand in the shade,” Pippa added.
The ditch was outside of town, hence the car; otherwise they would’ve just walked. It wasn’t far outside, but far enough that Bonnie was incredibly thankful for the car. Walking through the sun would’ve been torture.
After a while, the radio blathering about a storm that Bonnie couldn’t see, they hit a cattle grate, the suspension beneath them jouncing up and down, clacking her teeth together. Dust flew up and out away from the car when the last of the grate disappeared behind them, rocks now making for a bumpy drive.
“That’s the town limit,” Pippa explained. “You probably drove over it on your way in, yeah? It’s so the cows can’t run off.”
Jake lifted a finger and pointed through the windscreen over the steering wheel. The sun was just nipping at the horizon in front of them, making things blurry orange and kind of hard to distinguish. Then the car dipped suddenly down an incline. Jake didn’t slow and the nose-first plunge at speed was almost enough for Bonnie to lose her lunch.
Back tyres skidded through the dirt, scrabbling for traction that wasn’t quite there, gravel shot out behind them before the rubber found something to cling to and they bounced back to a regular drive pattern. Here, at the bottom of the hill, the ground was even bumpier than at the top, and Bonnie held onto her seat with white-knuckled fists.
Pippa peered over her shoulder at Bonnie and grinned at the look on her face. “Sorry, Bonnibel. It’s always a little rough the first time.”
“It’s fine,” she replied softly. It really wasn’t. This could hardly be safe. She looked over her shoulder and blanched. The more pressing question was how the hell they were getting back up that. “I just wasn’t ready for that drop. Hey, can you even get back up?”
Jake laughed. “Of course we can get back up. There’s another way up there, it’s shallower.”
“Why didn’t we come down that way then?” Bonnie asked, voice a little shrill.
“It’s further away,” Pippa told her, indicating a patch of tamped dirt not far away for Jake to park. “We do it like a loop, come in one way and go out the other. It prevents congestion.”
Bonnie nodded; that made sense. A little warning about that drop might’ve been nice though. Jake pulled up next to a silver tray-back with purple stripes. Finn was sitting in the back, fiddling with something metallic. He looked up and smiled as they got out. Bonnie coughed at the dirt, still settling after being disturbed by the truck.
“Hey guys,” he enthused, leaping from the tray.
Bonnie wasn’t paying him much mind though; she was busy staring at this big empty space in front of her. Turns out it wasn’t called the ditch for nothing. On three sides it was surrounded by steep embankments and on the fourth was a not-quite-so-steep embankment. She had no idea why it was here, or why it looked like a sort of lopsided trapezius. What seemed at first glance to be a race track ran in a stretched oval through the middle and a small shed, rusted and neglected was pressed up against one wall of the ditch. A trio of trestle tables had been placed beside it and most of the cars formed a wobbly circle with their rear ends towards it.
“Wow, alright then,” Bonnie muttered. She turned on the spot, getting a good look at everything. “What is this supposed to be?”
“It was supposed to become a mall,” Ellen replied, sidling up beside her. “Never happened. No funding. Also everyone was up in arms about how it would kill small town industry or something. I wouldn’t have minded a mall. Would’ve saved us the hour’s drive out to Blackwater whenever we wanted to go shopping.”
Bonnie peered at the shed and its accompanying tables, realising that a good number of students from the school were there. Some from the grade below them, some who had graduated already, it must be a tight-knit community for that. Different age groups rarely intermingled in Ormeau.
Finn’s conversation with Jake crashed back into the front of her mind then, interrupting her thoughts and curious wonderments regarding the contents of the shed. “Oh, please, Jake. I can totally do it this time. I’ve been practicing.”
“I don’t want you crashing dad’s spare tractor again,” Jake replied. “He still hasn’t forgiven me you know.”
Finn was shaking his head adamantly. “I won’t crash it again. Just… Please?”
Jake scrunched up his nose, frowning at his cousin. Pippa just smiled at them, but Jake’s gaze flitted to her and his shoulders slumped. “Oh, fine then. But if you crash it this time, you’re telling dad.”
That stipulation didn’t seem to faze Finn as he bounced off towards the shed. “What are they talking about?” Bonnie asked Ellen.
Eleanor lifted an eyebrow and gestured over her shoulder at the packed ground behind them, the area that looked like a track. “Tractor races. They’re one of the very few entertaining things to do here.”
The shed door scrolled up and the machines inside roared to life. Well that explained it then. Her suspicions from earlier were proved right as her heart sank down to her toes. This did not bode well.
Marceline regretted coming with Keila, she’d forgotten how boring these things were. The sun clipped the horizon, dipping below the rim of the ditch and Marceline was secretly grateful that nightfall was upon them. She could leave soon.
The tractors were still rumbling around the oblong track; that little blonde boy had been given reins today and watching him was amusing. But the noise was irritating, giving her a headache. The music blaring from the back of Ellen’s truck didn’t help matters there. She sighed, slouching off to the trestle tables to find a drink. Keila was bouncing around by a punch bowl, but Marceline had been suspicious of such drink dispensers since everyone threw up at the last ditch party. While Marceline had no proof, she was positive Keila had been behind that incident.
She was about to ask Keila a question, but a hand on her shoulder stopped her cold.
“Hey, babe,” said a low voice near her ear. “Miss me?” Alcohol fumes washed over her and she scrunched her nose up.
Marceline relaxed, realising it was just Ash. Albeit an almost drunk Ash. She shrugged his hand away and turned to glare at him. “I thought I broke up with you. Why aren’t you in Blackwater?” she asked him flatly.
He smiled, exposing a row of crooked teeth. “Because I missed you, babe. And I know you missed me, so I thought I’d give you a second chance.” Being drunk did not excuse his behaviour, she decided.
“Please don’t call me that,” she sighed. “And I will totally not give you any more chances, jerk.”
Ash ran one hand across her shoulder and down her arm before wrapping his fingers around her wrist. “Why don’t you come with me and we can discuss that elsewhere.” He leaned down to kiss her but she pulled back, wresting her hand from his grip, putting some distance between them.
Then she shoved him away. “No. I’m going home. I just need to see Keila.”
“You really aren’t as loose as everyone thinks you are, huh?” he growled, snatching for her wrist again. “You’re all talk. Give it your all then, babe.”
She ripped her hand free again and jabbed a finger at his face. “I’m still pretty sure I told you to leave me alone. So why don’t you do that.” With that, she stalked off.
“Wassup, eh?” Keila asked her, the words slurred slightly.
“You’re drunk,” Marceline observed with a faint smile.
“Am not,” Keila argued, scooping another ladle of the orange-pink punch into her cup. “I’m tipsy,” she corrected. “Tipsy, but just short of seeing pink elephants.”
Marceline chuckled and relieved her friend of the plastic cup, tipping its contents into the dirt. “I think you’re done for the evening.”
“You,” Keila told her bluntly, “are a spoil sport.”
Marceline just rolled her eyes.
“Hey, Keila,” said a soft voice. They both turned. Marceline frowned at the little redheaded girl who’d snuck up behind her friend. “Oh… hi…” she faltered, noticing Marceline. Her eyes were insanely green, mesmerising and off-putting. “Sorry. I was just wondering if there are bathrooms out here.” The girl turned her eyes back on Keila.
“Mmn,” Keila mused, rolling her lips under. “No. There’s not. We just use the latrine out behind the shed. Gotta be careful though, some guys camp out there and wait.” She smiled broadly at that.
The look on the girl’s face was hilarious. Marceline almost burst into a fit of cackles at how offended she seemed by that notion. Actually, Marceline could feel a smile tugging at her lips and there wasn’t anything she could do to stop it. Not even a flickering thought of Ash and how angry he’d made her earlier could erase the grin.
“Eh, Marceline,” Keila said softly, squinting at the punch bowl. “Din’t you say you’re goin’ home now? Maybe you could take Bonnibel home with you.”
Marceline blinked. “Um… no. To all of that.”
Bonnie looked over her shoulder and despite herself, Marceline’s gaze followed. The tractors had stopped, she realised, only just noticing that the grumbling noise was gone. The sun was completely set now and no one would risk their tractors in the dark. The redhead pursed her lips, peering into the dusty dark, lit now only by headlights.
“It’s alright, Keila,” Bonnie said, turning back around. “I can go home with Ellen.” From the way she said that, Marceline gathered that was the very last thing Bonnie wanted to do. “I think she’s leaving now anyway.”
Keila snorted, snatching another cup off the table. Marceline was quick to remove that from her grasp too. “Not likely. Ellen is always the last one to leave,” Keila mumbled. She turned her gaze on Marceline and frowned as hard as she could when she was this inebriated. “Marceline, take the girl home.”
“I don’t like her.”
Keila’s eyes shot wide open. “Dude!” she gasped, shuffling a step closer and waving at Bonnie. “She’s right there.”
“That’s alright too, Keila,” Bonnie interjected before Marceline could say something sarcastic. “I know she doesn’t like me. That’s fine.”
Keila prodded Marceline in the side. “You told her you don’t like her? That was dumb. Drive her home. Be a gentleman.”
Marceline huffed, folding her arms. “I’m not a guy so that doesn’t count.”
“Keila,” Bonnie said, passing her a cup. “It’s alright. I’ll walk.”
Before Marceline could grab that cup too, Keila twisted away and downed the whole lot. “You most certainly won’t walk home in the dark, because Marceline will take you. Ain’t that right?”
Caught between a rock and Keila, that sucked. Marceline sighed. “Fine, I’ll take her home. I’m still not going to be friends though.” She said that last for Bonnie’s benefit, but to her credit, the ginger didn’t seem to care.
“I’ll just let my friends know I’m going,” Bonnie told her, heading off to where Pippa was sitting. The blonde was swinging her legs under the tail-gate of Jake’s truck.
“Hang on, I’m coming with,” Marceline said, casting a quick glance at Keila before following. “You saw how close to done she was right?” Marceline asked Bonnie quietly. “Why did you give her another drink?”
“It was coffee,” Bonnie replied just as softly. “A bit of a wake-up call. She’ll be fine.”
She lagged back a few steps at that. It was almost like Bonnie actually cared, but… but… No that couldn’t be right. No one was nice to Marceline or her best friend. Must have been… accidental. Yeah, that’d be it. She hastened to catch up to the other girl then, trying to displace whatever those thoughts were because she didn’t like the look of where they were going.
“Marceline’s taking me home,” Bonnie was telling her friend. “I have to pee and there is no way I’m using a latrine.”
Pippa squinted suspiciously at Marceline. “You take care of her, alright? I don’t want her hurt on your death-trap.”
Marceline waved aside her concerns. “Just this one time, I’ll pretend she’s glass, ‘kay? Keep an eye on Keila for me. I know you’re not my biggest fan, but don’t let her get too drunk and pass out. Please.”
Pippa kept eyeing her but nodded anyway. “Fine. Just this one time.”
Marceline scowled, but headed off towards her ride, Bonnie trailing behind her. “Are you sure you couldn’t find someone else to take you home?” she asked quietly.
“Not someone I’d trust to drive me, no,” Bonnie said. “Keila was my last resort, but everyone’s pretty wasted.”
Marceline nearly skipped a step at the words. Not someone she’d trust? But she was letting Marceline drive her home? What did that mean? That she was trustworthy? She shook her head to dispel the stupid thoughts.
Last resort, she reminded herself. And you didn’t even make the list. She’s probably only okay with it because she’s friends with Keila. That’s weird, but whatever.
“I’m Bonnibel, by the way,” she said, stepping up beside her. “I know you probably don’t care, but I figure you should at least know my name and I don’t think we exchanged names in class.”
What was wrong with this girl? “We didn’t. Marceline Abadeer. And I know who you are, Banner. Everyone’s been talking about you since you got here. Not many new folks turn up around here.”
Marceline threw her leg over her bike and pulled the helmet off the handle. “This is…” Bonnie began slowly, stopping beside her but making no move to get on. “This is a motorbike.”
“You expected a car, didn’t you?” Marceline chuckled. “Sorry to disappoint.”
“No… I just…” She was fiddling with her hat, eyeing the machine apprehensively. “I’ve never been on a bike before. Is it safe?”
Marceline shrugged. “Safe is relative, I guess. Here.” She tossed the helmet at the short nerd (Marceline was really going to have to stop calling her ‘short’; Bonnie was probably two inches taller). “For your protection. Now get on or stay here, I don’t care which.”
With a curious glance at the black helmet, Bonnie slid it onto her head and tightened the straps, making double sure it was secure. Once again, Marceline nearly smiled before she caught herself. This was not alright. She was not allowed to smile at this girl. Nope. She wouldn’t like her. Nope, definitely not.
Then Bonnie slid a leg over the bike and perched there, very out of her depth. Marceline twisted around to get a look at her and noticed that she was holding onto the seat, her knees squeezed as tight as they would go against the sides of the bike. And again, Marceline felt a smile forming. She fought it down, but some of it oozed through anyway and curled up one corner of her mouth.
“You’re gonna fall off,” Marceline told her.
“I don’t want to intrude on your personal space,” Bonnie replied and Marceline was stunned to hear sarcasm in there. “Or make you feel uncomfortable. Since you don’t like me and we’re not friends and all that.”
Marceline blinked at her. “Sitting like that, you’re going to fall off. Never you mind my feelings. No one else does.” Then she gunned it, the engine snarling to life, the bike leaping beneath her, straining to race away.
As the bike skidded, rocks flying out from the back tyre as it gained grip, Bonnie threw her arms around Marceline’s middle. The bike groaned and rolled off, Marceline keeping the pace relatively slow on the loose ground, but that didn’t stop Bonnibel from tightening her hold and pressing her face against Marceline’s shoulder. It was funny; she’d never had someone on the back of her bike with her before. It felt… weird. She shifted awkwardly, not used to the sensation of the hands on her stomach, of someone so close to her.
“Where do you live?” Marceline asked her passenger, voice loud in her ears over the roar of the engine.
“With my uncle,” came the reply in her ear. “Don’t you know where he lives?”
“Never had any reason to visit before.”
“I’ll tell you when to turn.”
“Are you even watching where we’re going?” Marceline found herself asking in a teasing tone.
“Yes, actually, thanks for the vote of confidence there.” Her tone was dry again. Marceline hadn’t thought the princess knew how to be witty.
As promised, Bonnie whispered ‘lefts’ and ‘rights’ as they drove until Marceline pulled up outside Peter Minton’s shambling house. Even though Bonnie had protested, Marceline had gone all the way up the drive to stop outside the house, rather than just letting her get off at the road. There were no lights on in the house, but Bonnie pulled her phone out to bathe the area in white.
Clumsily (earning another smile from Marceline who was beginning to think she might be sick), Bonnie basically fell off the bike. She adjusted her skirt before unbuckling the helmet. Surprisingly, she then smooshed it down on Marceline’s head.
“Thanks for the lift,” Bonnie said quietly. “I’ll pay you back somehow. Drive safe.”
Marceline blinked at her for a long moment, mouth open like an idiot. Nobody ever told her to drive safe. She shook her head again and smirked.
“We’re not friends, princess,” she said tartly. “You don’t owe me anything.”
“How about I just don’t publically acknowledge your existence then?” Bonnie asked her in that strangely soft cynical way she had.
“That’ll do. Ciao.”
Her drive home was filled with inconsistencies and curious thoughts. They were most positively not friends. They weren’t. They couldn’t be because Marceline didn’t like her. So why, when Marceline got off her bike musing over the odd redhead, was she still smiling?