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Pray for the Preacher's Daughter

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Monday 24th March 2014

The door wasn’t going anywhere, more’s the pity. She mostly hoped it would dissolve or something. But no. It just stood there, staring back at her without so much as the grace to look abashed about her growing sense of anxiety. Her fingers tapped nervously on the handle and she had to take two deep breaths before unearthing the courage to press it down and go in.

The room was warm, all wood panels and mahogany furniture. It had a pleasant, bookish feel to it, yellow lamps providing most of the light, heavy drapes drawn almost closed behind the desk. Sitting in a leather swivel chair was an older man, all tousled white hair and wrinkled features, parchment skin and frosted eyes, half-moon glasses perched on the end of his hooked beak of a nose as he read a document.

Bonnie found it highly unusual to see the music teacher in a room that wasn’t his classroom, but she supposed his dual roles in the school meant it probably should’ve been obvious that he had his own office. She slid into the room slowly, not wanting to interrupt his reading. Although, fidgeting by the door full of apprehension wasn’t so grand either. For a moment she considered waving or saying something, but then he looked up.

He smiled, eyes shining through his blue-tinted glasses. Bonnie blinked at that, she wondered if it was just because he felt so much cooler wearing coloured lenses or if he suffered from Meares-Irlen syndrome. Her dad had that. She promptly left that train of thought and boarded another one.

“Hello, Bonnibel,” he said not unkindly, but in that way teachers have when they’re trying to be reassuring even though they know you may not like what they’re going to say. He shuffled the papers around on his desk and steepled his fingers, watching her carefully over them. “Please sit.”

So he seemed nice enough outwardly, she was still a little worried about why she was in the student councillor’s office before class on a Monday. Sinking tensely into the chair, Bonnie couldn’t shake the worry in her gut. “Is something wrong, Mr Petrikov?” she asked, not really sure she wanted the answer.

“No, actually, everything is fine,” he said, his smile crinkling around the corners of his mouth. “Your teachers say you’re doing wonderfully in your classes and I hear you’ve made plenty of friends. It’d say everything is grand.”

Then why am I here? Bonnie wanted to ask him. Instead she just sat still and waited. Teachers thought they were clever, putting pauses in their conversations to try and engage students. That wasn’t what they wanted; they wanted to be asked things. There was a twisted sort of power in keeping people on the wrong foot and teachers were good at it. They waited until the student was uncomfortable with the lack of information and a fear of punishment for unknown wrong doings and that was what they wanted: uncertainty.

Bonnie knew how to play this game, though. So she sat. And she waited. Eventually, Petrikov would break because if she was anything it was stubborn. A seemingly endless supply of patience and a younger brother had taught her that a long time ago.

“I want to change something in how you tutor,” he said after a long pause. See? She outlasted him. It was the small rebellions that meant the most. “I’d like you to do one-on-one sessions instead of your usual. Before you ask, yes, we do it for some struggling students who just need more face time with someone who can help them.”

Which student?

Petrikov’s finger absently toyed with a pencil, lining it up against the edge of a stack of papers. It was needlessly finicky, the kind act one performs when thinking too hard or trying to instil that sense of discomfort Bonnie kept noticing. He blinked at her through his blue glasses, attempting to get her off balance, or whatever. It occurred to her then that these thoughts were somewhat more cynical than her usual. She sighed inwardly.

“Do you know Marceline Abadeer?” he asked.

“I do. She’s in three of my classes,” Bonnie told him. He seemed surprised by her response.

He huffed. “Yes, well. I’d like you to tutor her in the afternoons.” Oh how many words he didn’t speak then. So many; the air was weighted exceedingly heavily with them.

“Does she know about this?”

Again, this didn’t appear to be the reaction he’d been anticipating. “No. I believe you have maths with her in your second period. You can tell her then. Or you may tell her this afternoon. The choice is yours.”

And that was a splendid way of getting her unbalanced; she could feel the ground tipping beneath her. Instead of displaying the strange roiling her gut was currently experiencing, all she said was, “Yes, sir.” Oh, Marceline is going to love this, she chuckled to herself.

“Thank you, that’s all.” He pushed a piece of paper across the table excusing her lateness to class and then went back to his work.

She left. What a strange encounter with the man. She was positive her afternoon would be eventful.

 

-*…*…*-

 

The library was hushed. Uncannily so. Bonnibel was almost hesitant to go in, as if the whole building knew exactly what was going to happen and was bracing itself.

As expected, Marceline was sitting on her sofa in the corner, one end of a pen in her mouth, fingers tapping on the arm of the chair to the beat of whatever music was pumping in her ears. For a moment, Bonnie considered ignoring her as she had been doing for weeks now. Considered it. Then discarded the idea. Sighing, she headed over to the sofas.

She didn’t sit though, just stood there for a moment watching Marceline stare holes through her biology text book. Every now and then the pen would be removed from her mouth in order to write something in her book, then it would be promptly replaced between her teeth. The tapping never let up once.

“I can feel you staring at me,” Marceline mumbled around her pen without averting her gaze. “What do you want, princess?”

Bonnie sank into the chair beside Marceline, fascinated by how her fingers moved as they drummed on the sofa. Slowly, those electrifying blue eyes turned her way; there was no frown on Marceline’s face, just… acceptance. Bonnibel had a feeling she’d be frowning in a minute.

“I… I have some bad news,” Bonnie began quietly. Marceline pulled one bud from her ear so she could hear. “I was called into Mr Petrikov’s office this morning.” Marceline went rigid at just those words, eyes narrowing in confusion. “He wants me to tutor you.”

Her mouth curled down in distaste and sure enough, a line creased her brow. “Of course he did,” she growled under her breath. “And naturally he picked you. I don’t want a tutor, you know.”

Bonnie nodded. “I got that impression,” she said sarcastically. “If you’re a real bitch about it, I imagine I could get him to change his mind.”

The look she got for that was unbelievably flat. “Thanks. You’re not going to talk me into it? I’m sure you have all sorts of reasons that this is a good idea rattling around in your head.”

“Well…” she began, “since we’re not friends and you have no interest in changing that anytime soon, it might be a good idea. I mean, would you rather have endless arguments and a slow build-up of resentment for… say… Keila or a person you don’t like?”

Marceline rolled that around for a moment and then nodded shortly. “Much as I hate to say it, you do raise a good point. And since you’re not terrified of me like all the other tutors here, you have that going for you as well.” She rolled her lip under then and glared at Bonnie. “I still don’t like this idea though. And I still don’t like you. That won’t change, alright?”

“I wouldn’t have expected otherwise,” Bonnie assured her. “Just so long as you don’t make it hard, I’ll be okay with that.”

Marceline smirked. “Define hard.”