Thursday 15th May 2014
Bonnie couldn’t stop smiling. It was utterly illogical and she knew that, but Marceline manning the counter at Ivy’s Apple Café was… unexpectedly delightful. She was actually presentably dressed in a white shirt and jeans that weren’t torn or scuffed. Even her hair was pulled back much tidier than usual. She was still wearing her earrings though, even the demonic spike in her left lobe.
She stirred her tea slowly, eyes fixed on Marceline as she wiped down another table top, sweeping hair out of her face. Bonnibel had brought a stack of homework with her to do while waiting for Marceline to get some downtime, but she’d been neglecting it for a solid twenty minutes now. Every so often Marceline would have nothing to do and she’d sink down opposite Bonnie in the booth and scrawl out homework or ask a bunch of questions pertaining to one assignment or another. Then she’d go back to mopping or cooking or a customer would come in or something and Bonnie would forget about her work and just watch her. She didn’t know why, but it was fascinating.
There was a bonus though: free drinks. Whenever her cup grew close to empty, Ivy would have a replacement waiting. Bonnie kept trying to pay for them, but Ivy wasn’t having any of it. Apparently she would give her free drinks for tutoring Marceline and that was the end of the conversation.
She shook her head, ripping her gaze away from Marceline before she got caught staring. Again. Her history paper wasn’t going to write itself after all and watching Marceline work wasn’t going to help her pass.
No matter how much you might – she cut that thought off pronto. That was not something she was going to think about. Nope.
Mayan burial rites. That’s what she was going to think about. She’d write her paper this afternoon, proof it tomorrow and then she could relax for a few days before her physics demanded her undivided attention.
For a while, this tactic was flawless. She spent probably the next fifteen minutes swiping through her notebook for relevant details and typing them up in orderly bullet-points. Finding other pertinent data by way of the glorious internet amounted for roughly another ten minutes. Then a further few minutes – five, maybe if she was lucky – were spent beginning the first draft of her assignment.
Bonnie might’ve made it through the whole draft too, if Marceline hadn’t muttered, “You know you’re cute when you concentrate,” from the booth behind her. She went rigid, positive the words had been imagined – generated by some cruel fantasy that she wasn’t even privy to. Bonnie didn’t react.
Pretending she hadn’t heard would be best. That was the only viable conclusion she could come to anyway. Marceline had spoken quietly, obviously the comment wasn’t meant to be heard (or even spoken aloud). Yes, she’d ignore it.
Then Marceline sat down. Her elbows sprawled across the table as she stuck her nose into Bonnie’s book, successfully interrupting her process. Marceline watched her. That was pretty much all she did. Her electric eyes fixed on Bonnie’s hands (now still on the keys because she was a little put off by the attention), one fingernail tapping a wayward beat on the table top.
“So,” Marceline finally drawled. “What are you up to, brainiac?”
“The history paper,” she replied absently, grabbing the waver in her voice and strangling it into submission. “How much research have you done?”
Marceline smiled (or it looked sort of like a smile, she may have just been baring her teeth). “I haven’t picked a topic yet,” she confessed happily. “Why? When’s it due?”
Never in her life had Bonnibel wanted to drop her head to a desk so much. “Next Friday,” she ground out. “Please tell me you’re joking.”
“Of course I’m joking,” Marceline laughed. “I have a first draft done… mostly.”
Her shoulders sagged in relief (although why she’d been worried remained a mystery, Marceline’s education really wasn’t her priority). Sure they still had a week to finish it, but Bonnie figured Marceline was the type of person to leave it to the last minute. As her tutor, she did feel a little bit responsible… But only a little.
“Do you want me to proofread it for you?” Bonnie asked emotionlessly.
“How about I give it to you tomorrow?” Marceline enquired, her smile was more genuine now. “We have classes together, yeah?”
Bonnie’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Not until the end of the day. Why don’t you take me to your place and I’ll get it off you now. Then I can read it tonight.”
Marceline’s smile took on a devilish cast. “If you wanted to come home with me, you could’ve just asked. Although it’s still a bit early in our relationship for that, don’t you think?” Her eyes glittered and Bonnie hoped it was with mischief and not something else.
She maintained her distrustful glare, lowering her brows. “Or I could not read it at all,” she threatened.
“Whoa there,” Marceline said swiftly, throwing her hands up. “I was joking.” Her smile faltered as if she thought Bonnie might take her seriously and retract her offer of help. “Are you ready to go? I’m off now.”
“Oh.” Bonnie blinked, glancing around at her things. “Yes, just let me gather my stuff.”
“Cool,” Marceline replied, sliding off the chair. “I gotta get my bag anyway. Don’t go anywhere.”
Bonnibel rolled her eyes and packed her things away. She might have been a little too focused on the task – menial as it was – but it was only to keep her mind preoccupied. It had been on a few too many tangents today.
“Ready?” Marceline asked, materialising at her elbow.
She hoisted her satchel over one shoulder and nodded, waving for Marceline to go first. “Sure. Lead on, McDuff.”
It was a twenty minute drive back into Reich from the café (located out near the highway) and it passed mostly in quiet. The radio singing softly filled the space between them, kept the awkwardness at bay, but only just. Bonnie found her gaze drifted to Marceline all too often, watching the way her lips moved as she sang quietly along with the radio.
Something made her pause when Marceline parked in the drive of her home; she regarded it through almost glazed eyes. Two storey but small, the house was, quaint and simple; exactly the sort of house Bonnie would expect Hansen to live in. It wasn’t the house that made her hesitate though; it was the way Marceline fiddled in the driver’s seat beside her. Those bright blue eyes kept cutting her way as though worried she would regret coming here.
With a deep breath, Marceline burst from the car, clearly unable to sit there any longer. “Come on, princess,” she called, heading for the door. “You’ll be late home.”
Bonnibel glanced down at her watch and realised she was right. Peter didn’t put many rules (if any at all, truth be told) on her, but being home by seven seemed prudent to say the least. Given it was about a ten minute walk from Marceline’s house to her own, she was going to be well and truly tardy.
She hauled herself up and out, whipping her phone from her pocket to text Peter and let him know where she was, that she was going to be late and why. Of course, he replied mere moments later with a smiley face and an ‘alright’. He didn’t seem to mind what she did. She could probably stay out all night or go on a killing spree (or both) and he wouldn’t so much as frown. He was so weird.
Marceline pushed the door in, motioning for Bonnie to go first and muttering that she should kick off her shoes at the door (her dad didn’t like people trekking mud through his house apparently). The smell of cooking wafted from further inside and Bonnibel decided dinner was a most appealing prospect. Consequently she was more than happy to follow Marceline up the stairs to retrieve her assignment.
Of all the things Bonnie might have expected from Marceline’s room, what she found didn’t even make the top ten most likely scenarios. The walls were painted white for starters and were adorned with musical instruments in the most violent shades of red ever conceived by the human mind. It was pristine, nothing at all the like the dark squalor she’d been anticipating. The back of her door was covered in posters though, the concession to stereotypes Marceline had allowed, evidently. And (recalling the conversation they’d had over the holidays) Bonnie realised that the red on white did look pretty classy. Even her bed spread was red and white. Most unexpected.
Marceline snatched a thin bundle of papers off her desk, coupled together with a staple in one corner, and shoved it at Bonnie. “Uh… yeah, this is it.” She shuffled awkwardly as Bonnie read the cover sheet and slipped it into her bag, inside the front of her notebook.
“I’ll just go then,” Bonnie said, turning for the door with one more lingering look at the instruments hung on the walls. She smiled to herself and headed down the stairs. She didn’t make it outside though.
“Oh hello, Miss Banner,” Hansen called cheerily as she walked past. “To what do we owe the pleasure?”
Patting her bag, she told him, “I’m just picking up Marceline’s assignment so I can proof it.”
He beamed at her. Honestly, Bonnibel didn’t know why Marceline didn’t get on with him, he seemed so lovely. “Why don’t you stay for dinner, hm? I’m sure you’re hungry.”
“No, I couldn’t,” she replied, hoping he’d let her leave. “I’d hate to intrude.”
Hansen clucked his tongue. “Nonsense. Stay and eat,” he pressed. “I’m sure your uncle won’t mind. I’ll let him know where you are. Please. It’s the least I can do to thank you for tutoring Marceline.”
And there it was. Why was everyone using that against her? As if she needed to be compensated for doing this? It baffled her. She sighed inwardly. “Alright then.” It seemed she wasn’t to escape.
Hansen had already laid out two places at the table and hastened to add a third, muttering that she should just sit and let him finish the preparations. He was pretty stubborn about it too. Bonnie supposed that must be where Marceline got it from.
When Marceline stepped downstairs for dinner, Bonnibel was convinced that the last thing she’d expected was to see her still there. And seated at the dining table no less. So her stopping in the doorway like a deer caught in headlights wasn’t really a surprise.
“I thought you left,” Marceline mumbled, slumping into the space beside her slowly.
“Your dad corralled me into dinner,” she whispered back. “Against my wishes.”
“Oh good, you’ve decided to join us, Marceline,” Hansen said. He wandered into the dining room with a big pot, holding it carefully. “Dinner is self-serve,” he told Bonnibel, placing the dish in the middle of the table. “You’re not vegetarian, are you?”
“No, sir. Thank you,” she muttered back, allowing them to ladle lasagne onto their plates before serving herself. “It smells wonderful.”
“I agree,” he said. “Props to the chef.” When he nodded towards Marceline, Bonnie frowned.
“You cooked this?” she asked, only a little flabbergasted.
Marceline replied with a noncommittal grunt.
“It’s one of her few skills,” Hansen said flatly. “Good manners do not also feature on the list.”
Bonnie nearly dropped her fork. That… had sounded derogatory. She tried not to let her shock show, keeping her gaze fixed on her plate.
“It’s wonderful, Marceline,” Bonnibel said quietly.
A muttered, “Thanks,” was the only indication Marceline gave that she even acknowledged Bonnie’s presence. She, too, was staring intently at her meal. Perhaps hoping it would consume her instead simply to get away from this situation.
“And how is she doing, Miss Banner?” Hansen went on as if not even noticing the tension in the room. “With her studies, I mean. It must be difficult to relay things you find so simple to…” His eyes darted to his daughter then, lips pursed, letting the sentence fade.
Truthfully, Bonnibel had absolutely no idea how to respond to that. But some sort of effort seemed necessary. She was starting to understand the fissure in Marceline’s relationship with her father.
“Yes,” she said slowly, thinking. “I’m sure she’ll do great.” It was pathetic, she knew, but couldn’t come up with anything better.
He bobbed his head and Bonnie was glad for the silence pervading the room for the rest of the meal. Marceline did her absolute best to be as small as possible, holding her arms close to her sides, using the tiniest movements available and never once looking anywhere but at her plate. Bonnibel wondered if Hansen had been jesting before when he spoke, but she had a feeling that his words were definitely contributing to Marceline’s behaviour. Which meant they were common – normal even.
As soon as all three plates were cleared, Hansen stood. “I’ll get the dishes, girls. Marceline, drive Miss Banner home, if you would. I won’t have her wandering the streets at night.”
“It’s alright,” Bonnie murmured once Hansen was out of the room. “I can walk.” She pushed her chair out, wanting to be gone as soon as possible.
“He’ll kick up a shit if I don’t do it,” Marceline replied lowly. “So let’s just go.” She basically stormed to the door, pausing only long enough to put her shoes on before stumping outside.
“Thank you for dinner, Father,” Bonnie called, knowing it was polite.
Hansen stuck his head into the dining room again. “Oh, it was nothing. Enjoy the rest of your evening, dear. I’ll see you on Sunday.”
She headed straight for the door, not replying. Marceline was already in the car waiting for her. It was silent the whole way home. The awkwardness from dinner carrying through into the short drive (she really could’ve just walked). A couple of times she thought Marceline would speak, but she always clenched her jaw shut and glared fixedly out the window.
“Thanks,” Bonnie said, as they pulled into her drive. “For dinner and everything. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Bonnibel was out of the car and walking towards the house when Marceline called out. “Hey. Why do you never ask?” She turned to find Marceline hanging out the window, frowning at her.
“If,” she began carefully, “I asked you, would you give me a straight and honest answer?”
“No,” Marceline replied, shaking her head. “I wouldn’t.”
“Then why would I bother?” She smiled (albeit a little sadly). “It’s your business, not mine. Bye. Drive safe.” Bonnie didn’t look back after that, but despite her understanding of Marceline’s privacy, she couldn’t help but wonder about the strain between her and her father.