Tuesday 18th February 2014
“So how are you this fine morning?”
Keila just groaned, screwing her eyes shut and pressing her face into the desk. Her arms were wrapped around her head in a vain attempt to keep the sunlight and sound from getting to her. Bonnie smiled and tapped her on the shoulder, sinking into the seat beside her.
“Come on, Keila, wake up.”
Another protracted groan was all she got. Keila hunched her shoulders, trying to get Bonnie to stop poking her. “Ugh, go away.”
“It’s sleep day,” Keila corrected.
“How are you feeling?”
“Like I was hit in the head with a tractor.”
Bonnie nodded, that seemed pretty apt. Keila hadn’t turned up to school on Monday, professing through email that she was sick with something. It might have been true, but Bonnie was secretly convinced it had less to do with a lazy immune system and more to do with the incredible amount of punch she’d consumed Saturday evening. Ellen had informed her that Keila was notorious for spiking the punch with hard liquor, but after the first few times, Keila was the only one to drink too much of it.
Also from Ellen, Bonnie had heard that Keila had spent most of Sunday in a comatose state. Sure, she hadn’t turned up to church in the morning, but Bonnie hadn’t thought anything of it. Although given her state on Saturday evening, a severe hangover was easy to blame for her less than chipper attitude presently.
“Well you shouldn’t have had so much to drink,” Bonnie told her gently, still prodding her in the back. “Sit up. You’ll be alright later.”
Keila opened one eye and glared half-heartedly at her. “You sound like Marceline,” Keila mumbled nearly incoherently. She did sit up though and then slouched down in her seat, eyes lidded as though the mild light trickling through the window was too much for her. At least she wasn’t still bloodshot.
“What did you even put in the punch,” Bonnie asked her, chuckling softly.
Balefully, and with no small amount of resentment, Keila eyed her. “I didn’t put anything in the punch, thank you. Who said I did?”
Bonnie shrugged, saying only, “Ellen.”
“And you believed her?”
“She said you’ve done it before.”
“Yeah,” Keila huffed. “So? I added a little bit of beer to the punch once two years ago and I can’t live it down.” She sighed. “I promise it wasn’t me. It was probably Ash. He’s just stupid enough to do it. And he’s an arsehole.”
Bonnie blinked at that, thinking, Ash… that name is familiar… “Who’s Ash?” she wondered aloud.
Keila’s face crumpled. “Ugh,” she grumbled. “He’s… he’s a first class douche is what he is. The biggest, most obnoxious and self-centred prick I’ve ever met.” She fiddled with her pen then, clearly trying to decide on the next thing to say. She sighed, “He’s also Marceline’s ex-boyfriend.”
Oh, she thought. For a long moment, Bonnie had no idea how to respond to that. Then, “Are you… um… allowed to call him an idiot like that?”
“What?” Keila asked, snorting. “It didn’t end amicably, I’ll call him what I like. She calls him all sorts of nasty names. I still think she was a right tosser for ever dating that guy, best friend or not. And she could do so much better. But she won’t, because she thinks so little of herself. The girl’s all wrong in the head. I keep my opinion to myself when she’s around though.” Keila fixed her with a penetrating stare then. “I would advise you do the same.”
“Yeah, uh… alright,” Bonnie muttered, wondering about the dynamic there. “I won’t tell her.” But maybe she needs to know, a little voice in her head argued. Maybe she needs to know she’s worth more than she thinks. And maybe she did, but Bonnie sure wouldn’t tell her. They weren’t friends after all. It wasn’t her place.
As had become her habit, Bonnie remained quiet through literature, only speaking to help Keila (or wake her up near the end there). When that class finished, she sat by herself in one corner of the library for her spare, polishing off her history assignment. She’d completed it on Sunday afternoon, but had then decided a reread and editing was probably in order.
Marceline whirled through the doors not long into the hour class (stopping only briefly to exchange a few words with the librarian), spared Bonnie little more than a flashing glare and disappeared into the aisles. That wasn’t unusual. They had their spares together as well as chemistry and maths, but outside of what limited contact they had in the shared classes, they had a mutual avoidance policy. This did not bother Bonnie in the slightest, despite Keila’s assurances that Marceline was secretly a nice person, she’d heard enough gossip and rumour in her first few weeks to make her positive that Marceline was a pricklebush worth avoiding. And she had a seriously irritating misogynist ex-boyfriend which only reinforced Bonnie’s opinion of her (she redeemed a few points for dumping him though).
She made bad choices. Bonnie was okay with not being her friend. Very okay with that in fact.
Noticing how close it was to lunch, Bonnie gathered her things and headed over to check out a book for her biology assignment. Ms Cooter was an agreeable sort, the elderly woman shuffling around with her cane, making sure her books weren’t vandalised and the volume never exceeded what she deemed to be acceptable. It was generally quiet in the library, rarely packed with students and, much to Bonnie’s delight, open on the weekends.
Ms Cooter smiled at her as she stopped at the desk. Apparently Bonnibel was one of the very few people to actually care about the books and she was more than happy to have a chat with the old woman.
That afternoon (and after a good long moment of internal debate), Bonnie muttered, “Marceline.” She paused, chewing on her words so they didn’t come out wrong. “Does she always stop to talk?”
“Why yes,” Cooter said happily. “She comes by after school too and sometimes on the weekend. Always pops in on her way to the music store to say ‘hello’. Lovely young lady.”
Bonnibel frowned. That was interesting and flew in the face of everything else she’d been told. But it did support Keila’s assertions that Marceline wasn’t such a bad person. Perhaps it was best to reserve judgement, after all – and she knew from experience – high schoolers could be unnaturally cruel and quick to label. Bonnibel thanked her and headed off to lunch.
“How was Keila?” Ellen asked at lunch, sliding down onto the bench beside Pippa. She smirked as if she already knew the answer.
“Pretty rubbish, actually,” Bonnie replied. “She looked like a vampire. Sunlight is not her best friend currently.”
“I’ll bet,” said Jake, grinning around a mouthful of food. “Did she tell you what she put in the punch?”
Bonnie shrugged, stating simply that, “Keila maintains it wasn’t her.”
Ellen snorted, “Uh-huh, sure. Who’d she lay the blame on then?”
For a good long moment, no one spoke. Then Ellen shrugged. “Eh,” she said. “I can believe that.”
Bonnie rolled her eyes. Then conversation drifted off on a tangent, finding other things to discuss. Things that were mostly silly; how classes were, who’d done stupid things so far, weekend plans. Things like that. At one point, Marceline was brought up; apparently Jake had chemistry with her until she threw a punch in class and got a transfer. That was news to Bonnie, but made so much sense; explaining the girl’s sudden presence in her class.
After that the rest of the day dragged on in the same way as it usually did. Maths class with Finn (and Marceline, who sat as far from Bonnie as she could manage), in which she spent a good deal of her time translating the teacher’s confusing waffle into terms that made more sense to the blonde boy. Then came history with Pippa which was always a pleasure because her bubbly friend frequently had cynical takes on what actually happened to Cleopatra. Finally biology with a still somewhat comatose-on-her-feet Keila, which wasn’t very entertaining really.
She was jabbing her friend in the shoulder for what felt like the millionth time in half an hour, trying to keep her awake, when the door creaked open slightly. A small girl stuck her head through the doorway, her most defining feature – to Bonnie’s mind at least – was her pair of clunky aqua glasses. She kept pushing them up her nose as she shuffled uncomfortably, waiting for the teacher to realise she was there.
Finally, the teacher put her out of her misery and waved her in. The girl sighed and scuttled to the desk where she dropped a piece of paper, ran a hand through tousled blonde hair, muttered a hasty string of garbled words and promptly scurried back out. The teacher picked up the paper, gave it a once over, sighed and put it back down.
Nobody was paying this whole exchange much mind though (and Keila had put her head back on her desk to sleep some more), and the class wore on. Bonnie gave up on trying to keep Keila conscious, it was too much effort and distracted her too greatly from her work. She did give her a particularly sharp jab in the ribs when class ended though.
“Wuh?” Keila spluttered, jolting upright. One hand rubbed at her side while the other scrubbed across her face, trying to erase any evidence that she might have been sleeping.
“Class is over, sleepy,” Bonnie told her, packing her things up. “Go home and have a nice long nap. And some Panadol.”
Keila groaned, bobbing her head. “Yes, mother.”
As she was about to follow her shambling friend from the room the teacher called her over. Her shoulders stiffened automatically, expecting something bad would happen. Hesitance written all over her body language, she stepped across to the desk, hitching her bag higher nervously.
“Yes, sir?” she asked politely.
He passed her the slip of paper. “Mr Gregory would like to see you this afternoon,” he said softly. “You’re not in trouble,” her shoulders slumped in relief, “he just wants to ask you a question.”
“Alright,” she said, still wary. “Thanks.”
He gave her a wan smile before turning back to his things. Assuming that was a dismissal, Bonnie left. She stopped at her locker to collect her things. Pippa was waiting for her as normal.
“I have to see Gregory,” she informed her friend. “You can go if you’d like.”
Pippa just shrugged. “Nah, I’ll wait around for you. No sense walking alone.”
Gregory’s office was quiet in the afternoon, most students avoiding him. While not as harsh and ear-splittingly screechy as the principal, Earl Gregory wasn’t an easy man to get on with. He was often considered to be the mellow side of Principal Halte (or Halterbutt as Keila called him; he had a good deal of nicknames floating around). Personally, Bonnibel liked Lemonhead. That’s what Marceline called him once and given how Halte always looked like he was sucking on a lemon, it seemed appropriate.
Pippa collapsed into a chair outside the vice-principal’s office as Bonnie tapped softly. A low mutter came from inside and she took that as her cue to go in. Pushing it open, she was met by a surprisingly well lit room. That mostly had to do with the curtains being thrown wide open, but there was a neatness in the room, a lack of clutter and pastel palette that made it feel more open than it really was.
The man behind the desk was equally neat. In his crisp white shirt and beige trousers, with his short crop of blonde hair and the frown lines worn into his forehead, he was neat too. He wore a pair of silver spectacles that he took off and placed on the table in a very precise manner.
“Hello, Bonnibel,” he said softly, a smile turning up the lines on his face. He gestured to the seat across the table from him. “Please sit.”
She did so. Not without a small amount of fidgeting though. “What did you want to see me for?” she asked quietly, uncertain.
Gregory shifted a pencil to the other side of his desk for no apparent reason. “Your teachers have all said that you help other students in class,” he stated.
“Yes,” she confirmed.
“And the results from your last school indicate that you were an exemplary student.” Another head bob from Bonnibel agreed with that one too. “And since one of our previous students is leaving for America next weekend, I was wondering if you’d be so kind as to take her place.”
Bonnie blinked at him. “Place doing what, exactly?” she asked, trying not to sound concerned.
Gregory sighed. “We run after school tutoring sessions,” he said slowly. “For two hours Monday through Thursday. It’s for some of the lower grades, to help them wrap their heads around subjects. We don’t have many from your grade in attendance, but they might stop by on occasion.” He stopped, clearly waiting for her to reply. “It’s a paying job,” he added when she didn’t speak.
“Oh,” she stuttered. “No, that’s… I…” What did she say to that? Accept his offer, her brain cried. Having a job would be great, no two ways about it. She may not need the job, strictly speaking, but it might be nice. She did like libraries. Four days a week for two hours… that wasn’t bad… and…
“You’d start on the third of next month,” Gregory went on. He was obviously hoping to sell her on this offer and worried she wouldn’t bite. She smiled at the thought that they didn’t have anyone else to ask.
“Alright,” she said, cutting him off before he could go on. “I can do that. Sounds good.”
Gregory relaxed visibly, slumping back into the padding of his chair. “Excellent. Here.” He pulled a manila folder from within a desk drawer and pushed it at her. “These are all the forms you’ll have to read over and fill out. Preferably have them here by Friday if you can, so they can be put through and we’ll have everything made official.”
Bonnie flicked through the papers, scanning headings. “Is this a general sort of tutoring?” she asked him, brain clicking over slowly as she thought about all this. “Or will I only be tutoring in some subjects?”
Gregory’s eyes narrowed somewhat as he mused on that. “You’ll be doing whatever the students ask you for. Although you can mention that there are some subjects you prefer over others, I guess.”
She waved any more words away. “No that’s fine, just asking.” Bonnie lifted an eyebrow. “Can I go?”
He smiled at her now; the crinkles around his eyes resisted the expression somewhat, clearly more used to frowns and scowls. “Of course. Have the papers back to reception on Friday.”
Bonnibel nodded and left, wondering if this was the right thing to do. Then again, they do say that opportunity only knocks once and who was she to turn down a job that dropped itself into her lap? Only an idiot would do that. She shook her head, wresting free of those thoughts.
Pippa leapt to her feet. “So what’d he want?” she asked, her eyes going straight to the folder. “Not something awful?”
“No,” Bonnie told her softly. “He gave me a job.”
Bonnie looked up at her. Pippa’s tone had been… teasing, a little dry and very perceptive. The look on her face was one of extreme amusement. “Yes. Why is that funny?”
Penelope shook her head and looped her arm through Bonnie’s. “You’ve been here a month, Bonnibel,” she said, obviously fighting back a giggle fit. “And you’ve been given a job by the school to help teach the kids. Normal people get a job at the bookstore or at the Apple Café. Not you though. Oh no. Little miss smarty pants gets a job at the school. It’s funny.”
Bonnie didn’t really think so. She went with it though. What could it hurt?