Wednesday 23rd April 2014
Over the sound of music oozing quietly from her speakers, Bonnie nearly didn’t hear her phone ring. The fact that it must’ve been ringing for at least a minute before she finally registered the beeping as a song ended was startling and her fingers would probably be bruised from scrabbling so frantically at the table. She cursed as her pen hit the floor.
“Hello,” she gasped without looking at the caller ID, too busy retrieving her pen.
“Uh…” the voice on the other end said. “Bonnie?”
“Hmm…? Wait… who?”
“Is this Bonnibel or did Keila give me the wrong number again?”
“That’s me. Didn’t know I had a new stalker though.”
There was a long moment of silence. Then, “Please tell me that was a joke.”
“Marceline?” she guessed, smiling.
Bonnie laughed at her. “It was a joke. Why are you calling?”
A rustling noise shivered down the line, like fabric shifting. “Um, well… I asked if you wanted to do something the other day… Only you never got back to me. So I thought I’d call and ask… Never mind, it’s stupid.”
“No wait,” Bonnie blurted, worried she’d hang up. “What did you have in mind?” Why was she even bothering with this? Marceline had made it so clear that… No. Stop. She shook her head. Try new things. Be nice.
“Really?” Marceline asked; her voice much higher than usual. “Uh… alright, um…”
Bonnie found herself smiling again for no apparent reason. “You didn’t have anything in mind when you called did you?”
“I thought you’d say ‘no’,” Marceline admitted, sighing. “Actually…” Something crashed on the other end of the line. “Can I come over?”
“If you want.”
“I won’t be interrupting?”
“I was rereading the literature stimulus for this semester and going over the physics information,” she said dryly. “So no, you’re not interrupting.”
“You’re such a nerd. I’ll be right there.”
The call disconnected without any more warning, leaving Bonnie with a funny feeling in her stomach. She just sat there at the table for a moment with the phone in her hand, staring at the novel she’d been invested in, frowning. What the hell was going on here? Why was Marceline even being nice all of a sudden? It must have been Keila… Yes, that made so much more sense than anything else.
Five minutes later there was knocking on her door. With perhaps a smidge more enthusiasm than she should’ve felt, Bonnie hurried over to pull it open. Marceline was fidgeting on the stoop, clearly uncertain about something, staring at her feet. Her eyes snapped up when the door opened though, as if she’d been expecting nothing to happen.
“Uh… hi,” she said quietly.
Bonnie just smiled at her. “Come in then.” Marceline twisted and Bonnie only just noticed then the cardboard box on the ground by the door. “Um… Do you need a hand with that?”
“No it’s fine. Can I put it on the table?”
She nodded slowly as Marceline passed her, placing the box on her table with a quick look and a smirk at the books. “I should’ve known you weren’t joking, huh?” Marceline chortled, motioning at the work.
“What’s… the box for?” Bonnie asked, deciding not to rise to that bait. “Please tell me this isn’t a crafty thing is it? With ribbons and glue and the like?”
Marceline laughed at her. “Not creative huh? No, it’s not that. I got this last week and I’ve been hiding it from my dad so I can’t open it at home.”
“He doesn’t approve of mystery boxes?”
“This is my hobby, actually. Do you have a knife?”
“Can you be trusted with one?”
“I’m sure I’ll manage.”
It was with fewer reservations than she would’ve expected that Bonnie handed a kitchen knife to Marceline. It wasn’t even a butter knife; this was a full on, pointy, could-kill-someone-if-used-without-care type knife. Marceline arched an eyebrow at it, but all she did was slide it under the tape and slice the box open.
Inside was an awful lot of packing foam and bubble wrap. As Marceline removed all that safety stuff though, a few things were revealed that made her frown. The first of which was very obviously a ukulele made of gorgeous red mahogany wood and decorated with gold paintwork. The second was also an instrument, but of such a bizarre making that Bonnie wasn’t sure what to call it. It was a strange board that looked sort of like half an acoustic guitar and half like a crashing wave (albeit a wave painted bright red) adorned with more strings than Bonnie could count. It had nothing on the third instrument Marceline retrieved though, which looked (at first glance) just like a mouse trap with strings. It too was red and was accompanied by a bow similar to the ones used by violinists but with a stronger curve.
Bonnie blinked and waved vaguely at them. “What… What’s all this then?”
“I collect string instruments,” Marceline told her as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “Dad doesn’t appreciate how much I love them though. I’ve been waiting for these two for ages. Probably a year.” She motioned at the ones that weren’t the ukulele.
Bonnie leaned over the table and prodded the mouse trap one curiously. “Can you play them?”
Marceline shrugged. “I suppose so. It’ll take practice before I’m really good, but the basics for most string instruments are the same… more or less.” She picked up the mouse trap and its bow, a strip of padded leather hung from one of the sides. “This is a crwth,” she said, sliding up onto the table and propping it between her knees. “I’ve wanted one for years. They’re Welsh in origin and super cool.” She drew the bow across the strings so it sung a funny note. Even to Bonnie’s unmusical ears it sounded wrong. “They shouldn’t have shipped with the strings in place. I’ll have to replace them.”
“What’s that one?” Bonnie asked, genuinely curious, as she pointed to the crashing wave one.
Marceline set the crwth down in the box and hefted it, running a nail across the multitude of strings. “This is a zither. They’re found in a lot of places, but this design is from Germany.” She pointed to the end. “No frets. That makes playing it fun, but tuning it is a real bitch sometimes. I’ve got one with frets, but I’ve always wanted to try without them.” The pads of her fingers pressed into the strings, pulling a noise from them that was surprisingly pleasant.
Bonnie slithered up beside her. “So you like music I take it?”
“Yup. Been playing music since I was tiny.”
“And you collect instruments?”
“Just string ones. The piano was my first.”
Bonnie frowned. “Pianos are string instruments?” she asked, disbelieving. “But… they’re so clunky.”
Marceline laughed at her. “Have you never seen the inside of a piano? Not even in a science video or something?” She let out a scandalised gasp when Bonnie shook her head. “Dear, Bonnibel. What is this? Something you don’t know? I’m shocked.”
“Shut up. I’m sure I know tons of things you don’t. Just because you’re a musical prodigy or something. How many instruments do you have?”
She shrugged. “Dunno, I’ve stopped counting. Probably a few dozen.”
“Which one’s your favourite?”
Marceline’s eyes went wide. “Wow, bringing out the big guns huh? That’s a tough question. Um… well I love my baby grand piano. She’s lovely, but doesn’t match the rest of my collection. For sheer amusement value, probably my banjo, they’re so much fun to play. But… I guess in the end, my bass guitar. I know, I’m boring.”
Bonnie smiled, lifting an eyebrow. “Why doesn’t the piano match?”
“It’s not red,” Marceline stated. “Everything else is painted red.”
“Not black?” Bonnie asked with mock horror.
“Shut up,” Marceline replied, grinning. “No. Red is my favourite colour. Plus it’s kind of cool to see the red hanging on my white walls.”
Bonnibel bumped her shoulder against Marceline’s. “Thank you,” she said.
“For sharing. For coming to visit. I’d tell you what I do in my spare time but it’s not nearly as interesting,” she chuckled.
Marceline’s face crinkled up. “It’s sciency isn’t it?”
“Yes. Would you like to see?”
“You know what?” Marceline asked, hopping off the table and packing the trio of instruments back in their box. “Why not? Let’s see just how weird you are.”
Bonnibel had this funny little room she used as a study. The room beside it was a closet that connected to the garage and Marceline stuck her head in there too, just to scope the place out. It was pretty much empty. This surprised her a little; she’d had the redhead pegged as somewhat of a hoarder. Her uncle was.
The study though; that was impressive. Marceline stopped in the doorway and couldn’t help but smirk. Its walls had been covered over with papers and articles in the spaces between shelving. A desk was pushed up against the far wall, looking out through the window, strewn with books and papers pinned down by miscellaneous stationary. Marceline was actually a little let down that there wasn’t a map of the world with pins in it denoting locations Bonnibel wanted to visit.
“You said it was boring…” Marceline muttered. She finally entered the room to inspect the articles on the walls. Some were newspaper clippings and others were images with captions underneath. Some were sticky notes in Bonnibel’s pedantic handwriting, and others were whole sheets of paper torn from notebooks covered in messy shorthand. Marceline had her nose almost pressed against one picture; but it was hard to understand so she backed away and moved on.
Bonnibel huffed. “Well, it’s not as impressive as being proficient in a dozen instruments,” she grumbled, collapsing onto the only chair in the room. “I’ve stopped taking offense when people say I’m boring.”
“I never said you were boring, princess,” Marceline reminded her, squinting now at what appeared to be an article on gene splicing or… something. “You said that. It’s like reading another language… Like walking into a library in Germany where I can’t understand what’s being said.”
Bonnibel murmured something then that Marceline didn’t quite get. When she lifted an eyebrow at the other girl, Bonnie just sighed. “I speak German,” she repeated.
“Of course you do. Well that’s not boring. I don’t speak any other languages.”
“You speak music.”
“And you speak science.” Marceline’s attention was snagged by a clipping that seemed to be discussing how diseases were created. “Wasn’t this a research question for our last essay?”
“Yes. I looked into that as well. It was fascinating.”
Marceline chuckled. “Only you would write two essays.” Bonnibel stared at her flatly but she couldn’t seem to stop smiling. “Do you have some sort of plan for university then? A science related plan?”
“Well,” she said slowly. “Not really. I mean, I’m definitely intending on doing something in that general field. What though, is still a bit unclear.” She shrugged. “I’ve got two years to figure it out. And you? Are you going to be the next David Guetta? Mick Jagger?”
“The simple fact that you know those names scares me,” Marceline replied, still grinning. She decided her inability to stop smiling had something to do with the strange twisting feeling in her stomach. Possibly. “I think I’d prefer Gwen Stefani than either of them to be honest. Back when she was in No Doubt, obviously. I’d love to be in a band. A proper band.” She mused on that for a moment. “Maybe like Bon Jovi or Garbage, even. Eighties rock was awesome.”
“Well when you can play more string instruments than I know even exist, I’m sure you don’t have much to worry about,” Bonnibel informed her bluntly. “I mean, I didn’t even know pianos were string instruments until today. The things you learn.”
The funny feeling in Marceline’s stomach ballooned, filling her chest cavity with helium. Or so it seemed. For some reason, she found that both curious and fantastic. And utterly terrifying. Her smile faltered.
“Uh… yeah so…” she began, rubbing at the back of her neck. “I’ll um… just go now?” Marceline wasn’t sure why she’d phrased that last as a question, but… “Yeah, I’ll go.” That’s better.
“If you want.” For some reason, the dead tone to Bonnie’s voice and the fact that she didn’t even try to convince Marceline to stay hurt. It… It hurt. “Do you want help packing away the instruments?” Bonnibel went on, standing, heading for the door, not even acknowledging the dumbstruck expression Marceline was wearing.
“No… thanks,” she whispered. It didn’t take her long to have the instruments away, but with Bonnie’s big green eyes watching her the whole time, it felt like years. It took too long and not long enough.
“See you next week then,” Bonnie said with just the hints of a smile playing around her mouth. “Enjoy the rest of your holiday.” Then the door was closed and Marceline was standing alone on the pavement with a box in her hands.
She ran the events of the day through her head again, wondering why she’d even called in the first place. This was so weird. Marceline shook her head, sluggish feet carrying her away from the house and back to her car. She’d thought maybe visiting Bonnibel would remind her why they weren’t friends.
It had done the opposite.