Sunday 23rd March 2014
Marceline sighed heavily, plucking absently at the strings on the banjo she was tuning. Simon was staring at her again and she wanted to wipe the look of triumph off his face. He was doing a pretty good job of hiding it though so she did her best to ignore it.
“See?” he said, unable to maintain his silence any longer. “I knew library time would help.”
She rolled her eyes. “Look, so it’s nice and quiet in there, dad can’t come barging in to tell me I’m doing something wrong. It’s nice. But I don’t want a tutor.”
He bobbed his head. “Sure, sure. Oh, did you find your music?”
Now Marceline smiled, pulling it from her hip pocket. “Sure did.” She waved it as proof before stuffing it back in. “That new girl found it and gave it back to me.”
“Is she a nice girl? I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her yet. Not officially anyway.”
Marceline shrugged, looking away from him. “Eh, she’s alright. At the very least she respects personal boundaries and doesn’t make mountains out of mole hills.”
“Good. She’s your friend then, yes?”
“No, Simon,” she sighed. “I told you, I don’t want to be her friend. She’s just going to leave next year anyway. There’s no sense getting attached or anything.”
“But you don’t mind her?”
Marceline frowned. “Should I be worried about where this conversation is going, Simon?”
He lifted his hands in submission. “I don’t get a great deal out of the other students, Marceline,” he said. “I don’t know much about her. I’m just curious.”
“Oh,” Marceline said, deflating. “Well… I guess she’s alright. She’s one of those people who likes to help, which I guess isn’t so bad. She’s pretty good at explaining things and she’s nice enough I suppose. No gossip, no prying questions, it’s different.”
Simon’s smile widened. “Coming from you that’s some serious praise.”
She hunched her shoulders. “Hey, calm down. All I’m saying is that if it was just me and one other person left at the end of the world, there are worse people to be stuck with than Bonnibel. That’s it. I still don’t want to be her friend.”
“That’s good then.” She could hear it in his tone. But more friends wouldn’t hurt you know.
“I don’t need more friends,” she very nearly snapped. Normally, she’d ignore the little unspoken comments, but she was thoroughly sick of people telling her she needed to be kindlier. “And if I was going to invest in another random person to talk to, it wouldn’t be her.”
“I never said a thing,” Simon chuckled, going back to tuning the piano. “How are your studies coming then?”
She sank backwards onto a bench, still strumming the banjo. “Eh… whatever, right? I’ll pass.”
“I know you’ve always been of the opinion that passing is good enough…” he paused, shaggy white head engulfed by the top of the piano. “Can you pass me the pliers?” Marceline scooped them up and deposited them in his waiting hand before he went on. “But flunking high school isn’t such a good way to being awesome.”
“Lots of famous people didn’t finish school,” Marceline pointed out, opting to sit on the floor this time, leaning against a cupboard. “I wouldn’t be the first or last.”
“But,” he groaned, straightening to close the piano. “But what happens when you leave home before you hit the jackpot? Huh? You need a day job to at least get you started.”
“Why do I even hang out with you?” Marceline grumbled. “I thought we were going to talk about something other than my education. Because, you know, if I wanted someone on my case about not passing my subjects sufficiently and getting a safe, steady, practical job when I graduate, I’d just go talk to my dad.”
“Alright, well what about your boyfriend-?”
“Ex,” Marceline corrected hastily.
“Sorry,” he replied dryly. “Is he still bothering you and Keila?”
“He’s around,” she said with a shrug. “I’ll have to punch him harder next time.”
“Perhaps punching him is why he doesn’t understand,” Simon told her sagely, tapping his forehead. “You’re killing what few brain cells he was born with.”
And the conversation wasn’t so strained after that. Mostly they talked about music and how silly the students could be at times. Marceline was only too happy to discuss the idiocy of her peers and Simon danced carefully around subjects she didn’t like. It wasn’t the best of friendships, but he understood that her father was overbearing and that was enough.
Although, the longer they talked, the later the afternoon became, the more Marceline wondered about motives. She never had before. She’d always trusted Simon. But lately… lately he’d been a little off. Putting more pressure on her to do well was one, and his recently acquired fascination with Bonnibel Banner was another.
She bit her lip, but held her peace. Unfounded accusations would just make her life harder. She could keep her silence. For now.
“We only have a month,” Ellen said firmly, pounding her fist into the table and interrupting Bonnie’s attempts to study once again. “That’s not long you know.”
“I still don’t know how you found out,” Bonnibel grumbled at her. “I make a point of not sharing that information.” And, the little voice in her head lamented, if it’s that easy to find information on me, what else can you find out?
Pippa just looked sheepish. “That… might be my fault.”
Bonnie arched an eyebrow but displayed no other evidence of hearing her. She really did have to get her maths finished. Weekend or not, maths was important.
“I… get some extra credit points for helping out in the administration office,” Pippa sighed. “Normally it’s just sorting, filing, messages and that kind of stuff. But they let me put records away sometimes and I just… I just peeked. I swear I didn’t read it.”
“You read enough to get my birthday,” Bonnie muttered, still staring at her book. Although it was somewhat difficult to focus on the sums when a conversation was going on around her. “Anyway, Ellen, I don’t want a party.”
Ellen waved a hand in exasperation. “Bah, don’t lie to me, Banner. Everyone wants a party on their sixteenth birthday. Let me make a big deal out of it. It’s even strategically placed during the mid-semester break. It’s practically a sign. Unfortunate that it falls on Easter Monday though.”
She exhaled heavily, putting her pen down. “I don’t want to celebrate,” she told Ellen. “Please… please don’t do anything, alright? We could… I don’t know, watch a movie and eat junk food if you like, but no parties. You could throw an Easter party if you wanted. Just not one for me.”
Ellen pouted. “You are such a spoil sport. You know that?” Then, in a movement so quick Bonnie didn’t even register it straight away, Ellen commandeered her diary. “At the very least, let me write all our birthdays in here for you so you can wish us a good day.” She flipped through the pages and her eyes widened. “Your birthday isn’t even marked in here!” she exclaimed. “What is wrong with you?”
No answer. Bonnie had nothing to say to that. Or well… nothing she wanted to tell them anyway. What did she say? That she didn’t feel like celebrating her birthday without the rest of her family? That it just wouldn’t be the same? No, she couldn’t tell them that. It would lead to so many other things that she was positive she wouldn’t answer. A shrug was the best she could offer.
Well, a shrug and a half-heartedly muttered, “I just don’t celebrate it.”
“Then you are incredibly weird,” Ellen maintained, her cursive writing dancing across Bonnie’s diary with such flair that it was sort of hard to read. Everybody had their birthday noted in a different colour, funnily enough. Ellen decorated her birthday (done in purple, of course) with an abundance of hearts and flowers. Naturally.
“Oh leave her be, Ellen,” Pippa sighed, tapping her pen on her kitchen table. Pippa’s house was their current choice of study location since Jake and Finn were easy to get rid of out here. “We all have our quirks.”
Ellen just huffed and slid the diary back to Bonnie. “Don’t you ever get sick of studying?” she asked Bonnie, looking genuinely curious. “You know there are other things in life besides being smart, right?”
“Like what?” Bonnie asked quietly. “Do enlighten me.”
“You could come out with us,” Ellen pleaded. “Come on, just one time? You went to the ditch, but we could always drive out to Blackwater and go shopping or see a movie. We could go to the lake. There’s tons of stuff we could do.”
“Normally I wouldn’t,” Pippa said gently, now scrawling down answers to her homework. “But maybe Ellen’s right, Bonnibel. We could go shopping or see a movie. It might be nice.”
“There’s only three weeks left before the mid-semester break,” Bonnie mumbled slowly. “How about we do something on the first Saturday of the break? Then I wouldn’t feel so guilty about not studying.”
“Deal!” Ellen shouted, almost falling across the table with excitement. “Deal. You’re on, Banner. We can go shopping, maybe see a movie and have dinner down there.”
Pippa laughed at that. “You might be pushing it,” she said around her fit of giggles. “Look at Bonnibel’s face. Stop pouting.”
Bonnie sighed. “We’ll see.”