Friday 7th March 2014
It was a dead weight in her pocket, pulling her down, dragging at her hip and threatening to tip her over. It burned through her jeans, an ember just waiting to scald her, set her on fire, let the whole world know it was there. It sat there, distracting her with thoughts of guilt and barely contained curiosity. It. Just. Sat there.
Unconsciously, Bonnie slipped a finger into her pocket to tap one nail against the hard surface. Click. Click. Click. It didn’t appear to be going anywhere, it wasn’t making life easy for her and it certainly wasn’t doing anything to help her concentrate.
She’d been sitting in the library for most of her spare now, staring out the window. Tumultuous thoughts tumbled around in her brain, keeping her from doing anything constructive. Her pen had been bobbing loosely in her fingers for the better part of twenty minutes and she just couldn’t stop her stomach from clenching again. Anxiety battled with a full-on, desperate desire to know.
To know everything she could about it.
Her fingers itched to pull it from her pocket and turn it over in her fingers like she had yesterday, the day before as well and the day before that even. She longed to just look at it. To stare at the socket on one end and wonder how bad it could possibly be to plug it in and just… just have a quick look.
She pulled her hand away from her pocket and resumed her nervous twitching on top of her desk. It, on the other hand, just kept burning through her jeans. This was insane.
Bonnibel made a decision right then and there that she’d just look. She’d just plug it in and have a look. That would make her feel so much better. Yes. Feeling better about the resolution, she bent back over her book, intent on getting something done this hour.
Only she didn’t. Because the bell rang, signalling the end of the day.
Bonnie sighed, watching the other students in the library stream from the building, relieved. Most of them were gone by the time she headed for the door and once she’d sorted out what to take home with her, nearly no one was left on the campus. It emptied pretty quickly on a Friday afternoon. Nobody, not even the staff, wanted to linger.
Slinging her bag across her shoulders, Bonnibel headed for the hill on the outskirts of town. It wasn’t far, and had become one of her favourite places to sit when she needed to think. Sometimes she’d sit up there to study on the weekends. It wasn’t her usual practice when she lived in Ormeau to study outside, but there was something refreshing about the breeze that flowed beneath the branches. Something soothing about leaning against the tree; it didn’t judge her, or make hasty leaps about her personality; it just stood there, watching, listening, patient. It was nice.
Sliding down to sit between two massive, gnarled roots, Bonnie pulled the little black object from her pocket. For about five minutes, she sat there, just regarding it wonderingly. She’d kept it charged for three days, hoping that she’d either be brave enough to listen to what it could tell her, or return it to the owner.
She rotated it in her fingers. It was warm (from being in her pocket, not for some other mysterious reason), it was worn too, smooth on one side, the little symbols on the buttons long erased by continued use. Bonnie sucked in a deep breath and bit the bullet.
Her headphones clicked as they plugged into the device. Her finger paused then, hovering just above the menu button, hesitant, wary of invading privacy, of finding something she wouldn’t like. She pressed the button.
The song last played, crooned softly into her ear and her eyes widened. She hadn’t thought to find something so soft and gentle on here. She scrolled through the songs, not knowing most of them, but the longer she sat there, scouring the list, the more songs played into her head. The bass that reverberated off the inside of her skull, the melodies that threatened to put her to sleep, the riffs that stirred something in her chest she hadn’t felt before. All of these songs – every last one of them – contained an abundance of emotion. Not a limited spectrum either, but the full range. From melancholy to rage, from heartbreak to purest devotion, all the way from soul-tearing, gut-wrenching tear jerkers, to peppy, upbeat, ‘let’s dance the night away’ songs. Bonnie’s mind was blown.
Slowly, she unplugged the headphones, letting the device’s inbuilt speakers continue to cover her with sounds. It sat there, balanced on one of her knees, an enigma she’d never expected. And it played music.
The softness of the voice interrupting her internal dissection of the songs was unexpected to say the least. Bonnibel sat up straight. The device wobbled, nearly falling, but her hand shot out to keep it in place while her eyes searched for whoever had spoken.
Just rounding the last of the tree’s impressive girth now, was Marceline. With her hands in her pockets and a gentle frown arching over her eyes, black hair pulled messily into a tail, shirt unbuttoned and slipping on one shoulder, exposing the top beneath. She was the very picture of laid back and uncaring. But her eyes, those blue, blue eyes, were boring into Bonnie’s soul and tearing her apart.
“Where did you get that?” Marceline asked, nodding at the music player.
Oh carp, Bonnie’s brain mumbled. She had no idea what to say to that. She floundered for an answer, finally deciding that it was probably a bad idea to let Marceline know she’d had it a while.
“I found it in the library today in my spare,” she lied, trying not to sound uncertain. “I was just checking to see if any of the playlists might tell me whose it was.” She paused, brow crinkling in false thought. Then, “Is it yours?”
Marceline nodded silently. Bonnibel got the impression that words weren’t her strong suit. Which was odd given how expressive every last song she had here was. Carefully, uncertain, she patted the spot beside her, something even Marceline couldn’t fail to interpret.
With a soft huffing, Marceline crumpled, legs folding underneath her as she basically fell to the ground. Legs crossed in front of her, arms folded, Marceline was a perfect picture of defensive and cold. She didn’t even look Bonnie in the eye, didn’t so much as reach out for her device, probably so she didn’t risk contact with her.
Bonnibel pursed her lips, her frown deepening in thought, real now. Questions, statements, and vague general wonderings all crashed around in her mind, vying for dominance, to be the one that was spoken. She knew, though, that making assumptions was wrong. She wouldn’t do that. “There’re a lot of good songs on here,” Bonnie put forth carefully; wary of shattering whatever strained truce existed between them at the moment.
Marceline’s eyes flicked her way, curious, intrigued. “You listen to music?”
Bonnie smiled. “Duh, who doesn’t? I’m not as widely versed as you, but I know enough.”
The other girl looked away again, nodding slowly. She still made no attempt to retrieve her music though. Idly, Bonnie wondered why. Actually, there were a lot of things she wanted to know about Marceline. But… it was probably rude to. Given the dislike hanging in the air between them.
“Can I ask you a question?” she eventually blurted, giving up her internal debate on the subject.
Once again, those electric blue eyes shot her way. Marceline shrugged, but she looked wary, a caged animal that knew it was about to be prodded with the shock-rod and couldn’t do anything about it. It… hurt, to be looked at like that.
“Why wouldn’t you let me help you with your chemistry?”
Marceline blinked at her. “That’s your question?”
Surprisingly, Marceline’s mouth curled up into a sort of… smile. Well, it wanted to be a smile, Bonnie thought, but it wasn’t quite. It was that animal realising there was no jolt of electricity today, but perhaps there was something else. What that ‘something else’ might be, Bonnibel wasn’t sure.
But she wanted to find out.
“I… uh… I don’t know,” Marceline confessed. She didn’t sound sheepish, but there was a tinge of pink in her cheeks that hadn’t been there earlier. “I just don’t see the point of being friendly with you.”
“I wasn’t asking to be your friend,” Bonnie pointed out. “I was doing my job.”
Marceline bobbed her head. “True. Maybe… Maybe I don’t want to be associated with you.”
“My turn to ask a question,” Marceline said sharply. But it wasn’t quite as sharp as usual and that ghostly smile hadn’t disappeared yet. “Why do you want to help me?”
“Because I can help,” Bonnie told her simply.
Her mouth didn’t quite close. “Seriously?”
Bonnibel just shrugged half-heartedly. “I can help people, so why shouldn’t I?”
“Because it’s silly and selfless and saintlike,” Marceline told her wryly.
“Can I ask another question?”
“Why do you come to the after school sessions anyway?”
Marceline hunched her shoulders. “I don’t like studying at home. I like the quiet of the library.”
Marceline’s eyes widened a good deal then. “No questions on why I don’t like being at home?”
“You won’t tell me,” Bonnie replied, leaning her head back against the bark and staring up at the leaves. “So there’s no point in asking.” She rolled her head to the side to look at Marceline. “I’m right, aren’t I?”
Marceline just sighed. She was hiding things, it was really quite easy to tell, Bonnibel decided. For all that Marceline tried to be difficult and mysterious; she wasn’t so hard to read. Bonnie didn’t press her though; she stood and held out her hand with the music player in it. Marceline regarded it for a moment as she might look at a poisonous creature. Or a shock-rod. Then she took the device and slipped it into her pocket.
“Does your dad ever lock up the church?” Bonnie asked quietly, eyes fixed on the building in question.
Marceline bit back a sound suspiciously like a gasp and shook her head. “No,” she said a little hoarsely. “Never. He believes that the house of God should be open always.”
“Thanks,” Bonnie replied sincerely.
She started to head towards the church, but froze when Marceline called, “Wait.” Bonnibel turned, confused. The other girl was standing there, staring at her, although when Bonnie stared right back she ripped her eyes away and fixed them on the ground between them, shuffling her feet. “You uh… You know my dad’s the preacher?”
“Yes,” Bonnie said, still pretty confused. “So?”
Marceline’s mouth worked soundlessly for a moment. “Why… Why wasn’t your question about me being a ‘proper’ preacher’s daughter?”
Bonnibel smiled at her gently, heart going out to the girl. “Because you’re more than just your association with your father, Marceline,” Bonnie informed her. “Being the ‘preacher’s daughter’ is nothing but a label and I know all about labels. Nothing good can come of them. There’s no such thing as a ‘proper’ preacher’s daughter. You’re just you.”
With that she left. Marceline watched her go with a slack jaw and wide eyes, stunned.