Sunday 1st June 2014
To say it was surprising would have been an understatement. Yet, to say she wasn’t secretly pleased about it would have been a massive lie. Still, when her phone rang that morning a little bit after nine (she’d just returned from church, so the timing was pretty much on cue) and the caller ID read ‘Marceline the Grouch’ she wasn’t really shocked.
“I’m bored,” Marceline complained when she answered. She had stopped bothering with a proper greeting about a week ago. Now she cut straight to the point. Not that she’d ever been particularly tactful. “I’m coming over. You can help me with my maths revision.”
Bonnibel sighed. “Despite what you try to convince people, Marceline, you’re actually very good at maths. I’m sure you don’t need any help from me.”
“Bonnie,” she whined (Marceline had ceased calling her by her full name a while back – the exact date was indeterminate – but she still used ‘princess’ or ‘brainiac’ on occasion). “What about physics then? There’s a physics exam next week that I haven’t even started to study for. I’ll bring my books and you can tell me how stupid I am for leaving it until the last minute. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”
She rolled her eyes. “Fine. Bring your literature essay too. I’m going to proof it before you hand it in.” Although she probably wouldn’t need to, Marceline had made several rather ridiculous mistakes in her last one and Bonnie was starting to think it was on purpose.
“Gotcha, be over in a bit.”
When the call disconnected Bonnie let her head collapse backwards onto the sofa. Since returning from the Easter break (which hadn’t been very festive in hindsight) Marceline had been making an awful lot of excuses to visit. Even though Bonnibel had told her not to worry about being tutored on the weekends, she managed to find the time anyway. It was really weird.
And Bonnie blamed Keila.
Ever since she’d met that guy over the holidays she’d had marginally (a large margin) less time for Marceline. Since Marceline was already being ‘forced’ to spend time with Bonnie, it would seem she’d just increased the dosage. Bonnibel didn’t mind. It’s not like it was an inconvenience or anything, she was still studying. It was just incredibly weird. And awkward a lot of the time too.
She had her books out on the table, reading, when Marceline knocked. And she knocked loudly as if she didn’t think Bonnie would hear it. Which… was fair enough. She hadn’t heard last week. Not the point.
“Sup?” Marceline beamed when Bonnie opened the door.
Bonnibel frowned. “You’re in a good mood. Why? Who did you kill?”
“Nobody. I’m just happy. Got a problem with that?” Marceline dumped her bag down on the table and pulled out her literature, pushing it across the polished surface.
“No, it’s just unusual,” Bonnie responded, reaching for the essay. “You’re usually so… grumpy.”
Marceline blinked at her and sniffed haughtily. “I’m not grumpy. I’m just mean.”
“Oh good, glad you know that. And have you made anyone cry today?”
Her question was met with a momentarily confused expression and then a flash of teeth. “Sadly no, but it’s not even afternoon yet. I’ve still got plenty of time.”
Bonnibel clucked her tongue. “I don’t know about that.” She glanced down at her watch. “Look, it’s nine-thirty in the morning and nobody’s cried yet? You’re losing your touch.”
Then Marceline leaned conspiratorially across the table, arms folded over her unopened physics text book. “Well then, I guess you get to be my target audience,” she chuckled.
“Only if you want to be kicked out,” she responded tartly. “Help you with your physics revision I can do. But I don’t have to put up with your crap, so don’t bother.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Marceline grumbled. “Be nice to the tutor, I get it. So let me ask you a thing instead.”
“Go for it.”
“String theory. What the hell even is that rubbish?”
Bonnie just smiled quietly.
“Why do you have cake in your fridge?” Marceline asked, her voice muffled due to having her head stuffed in the refrigerator. She backed out after a moment with a plate bearing a rather hefty swedge of cream-filled sponge-cake in one hand and an apple in the other. Marceline had been mildly respectful about taking her food to begin with, but not anymore. At first Bonnibel had been put out by her temerity, unusually her ire had faded.
“It was Pippa’s birthday on the twentieth,” she replied absently.
“Huh. And you still have the cake?” Her tone was horrified.
“I just never got around to eating it.”
There was a clattering sound – no doubt Marceline digging around in the cutlery drawer – and then the plate was slammed down on the table in front of her. Bonnie snapped to attention as a spoon was waved under her nose.
“This is unacceptable,” Marceline declared, tapping Bonnie on the nose with the spoon then. “We’re going to eat it right now because cake shouldn’t go to waste. I’m disgusted.”
“Geez,” Bonnibel sighed, snatching at the spoon. “Chill out. It’s just cake.”
Marceline’s eyes went wide. “It’s just… cake? Just cake? What sort of unnatural being are you?”
Bonnie shook her head. “I’m not eating cake for lunch. That’s unhealthy.”
“Screw healthy,” Marceline snapped. “You have a giant slab of perfectly good cake here and it must be eaten. I’ll buy you a fruit basket sometime if you feel so strongly about it. But this cake will be consumed. Right now.”
Bonnibel folded her arms and glared at Marceline. “And what if I say I don’t want to?”
“I’ll deliberately fail my physics exam,” Marceline fired back without hesitation.
The statement gave Bonnie pause though. She thought about it for a moment and sighed in defeat. “Fine. But I’ll hold you to that fruit basket.”
“Yeah whatever, nerd.”
For a long time they ate in silence, occasionally clashing spoons in mock sword fights. Bonnie could honestly say it was nice to see Marceline so happy. And they chatted too. This was a recent development but Bonnibel enjoyed that as well. Once past her cantankerous exterior, Marceline wasn’t such a bad person. She was only steel on the outside; underneath her carefully welded shell, Marceline was a marshmallow. Not that Bonnie would ever tell anyone that; who would believe her?
She wasn’t brave enough to call Marceline a friend. Not yet. But maybe it was something she could work towards. Shockingly, despite her silent resolutions to continue abhorring the girl, Bonnie rather liked having her around.
But of course her mouth spoke before her brain had a chance to catch up and words sort of fell out sans her permission. “Have you spoken to Keila lately?” It was the wrong question. Bonnie knew that.
From the way Marceline’s spoon slowed and that little line appeared between her brows, she wished the question could be retracted too. “Not much,” she said slowly. “In class mostly. She calls occasionally, but we haven’t had plans together in a while. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad she met the guy, but… I dunno, I feel… forgotten I guess…”
“You’re babbling,” Bonnie noted gently.
Marceline hunched her shoulders. “Sorry. You don’t have to put up with me, you know?” She chuckled bitterly. “I bet you think you’re some sort of replacement, huh?”
Bonnibel shrugged. “It’s okay, really.” She smiled, trying desperately to prove the truth of her words. “You’re not such bad company. Everyone needs a friend.”
“Your friends probably hate me for monopolising you,” she grumbled.
“I see them plenty, thank you. And study is important.”
“Did Pippa do anything fancy for her birthday?” Marceline asked, latching onto the offered tangent.
“Not really. We all went to her place and just hung out. It was good though. I prefer simple to extravagant.”
Marceline snorted a laugh. “Good luck with that when Eleanor’s birthday rolls around. I don’t think she knows how to throw anything other than an extravagant party.”
“Why do you never just call her Ellen?”
“Because it irritates her,” Marceline replied, shrugging. “She can be really annoying so I find satisfaction in the little victories.” Her spoon clicked down onto the empty plate. Bonnie knew Marceline was watching her, but she just stared at her physics book. “Hey, um,” Marceline began. “Thanks for… putting up with me, I suppose.” She rubbed at the back of her neck. “I’m just, uh… just gonna head off now.”
Bonnibel smiled at her. “Yeah, no worries. Don’t forget your literature. Hey, Marceline?”
The other girl paused in the act of stuffing her books back into their bag and glanced warily up at Bonnie. “Hum?”
She sucked in a deep breath, positive she’d regret these words too. “If you… ever need a friend… Just give me a call, okay?”
Marceline frowned a little, chewing her lower lip, but her confusion (or whatever that expression was) faded. It took Bonnie completely by surprise when the strange look was replaced by a quiet smile. “Yeah. Thanks.” She hitched her bag onto her shoulder and disappeared out the door.
Bonnie decided that she didn’t really like watching Marceline walk away.