Monday 30th June 2014
It was… poisonous. Yes, that was a word she liked. Apt to some extent. Not that the envelope actually had venomous fangs or anything. Marceline was just being melodramatic again.
Acknowledging her exaggerated anxiety regarding this lump of paper didn’t change the fact that it was pretty much her fate sealed in cardboard. To some extent. She heaved a deep breath, fingers dancing over the glued strip binding it closed. Yeah… she wasn’t sure if she wanted to open it.
Her head bobbed to one side; she was unable to tear her gaze away from it. Sitting cross-legged on her bedspread, glaring at it balefully was hardly the sign of a sound mind. But she’d never claimed to be sane.
One hand reached out and touched it. Yep, it was real alright. Fingers fiddling with one corner, bending it, she wondered if she’d need to go to hospital after this. One way or another, the words inside the envelope were going to send her into a panic attack of the most extreme proportions.
Her hand sprang away from the now dog-eared paper and plucked her phone from the dresser. Without even looking she punched in a number and sent a message. Short and sweet.
How’d you do?
Honestly, Marceline didn’t expect an answer any time soon. Certainly she didn’t anticipate a response inside five minutes. So when her phone buzzed against her knee it nearly went flying off as she jumped.
Pretty good, Keila replied. Mostly Bs. I got ninety-four percent in literature though. Can you believe that? What about you?
Marceline spun her phone between her fingers, tapping the corner against her knee to help propel it in its lopsided oblong arc. I haven’t opened it yet.
Why the hell not? She could just imagine Keila shrieking that at her. I’m sure you did great. Besides, if you didn’t do so well, you get to hang out with Bonnie next semester too. And don’t tell me you wouldn’t enjoy that.
She grimaced. Doing well on her grades was precisely what she was worried about. No. Marceline decided she wouldn’t be able to open her envelope here. Not by herself.
Are you busy, she sent to Keila.
It was at least six minutes before a response came through. Yeah. I’m in Blackwater with Gary. What’s up?
Marceline snorted. Of course she was out with her boyfriend. Typical. Nothing. Just curious. Have fun.
All she got was a smiley face. Sighing heavily, Marceline collapsed backwards onto her bed; the mattress bouncing as her head hit the pillow. There was something to be said about having a best friend who wasn’t available when she needed her. Maybe she should invest in a new one.
Gathering up all her flimsy courage, Marceline nailed it to the sticking post and stood, yanking on her shoes. She had to do something or she’d go stir crazy. She had to open her envelope or it would drive her nuts.
And she needed someone to talk to.
Someone who wasn’t her father.
Her list of available buddies was thin. For a moment she contemplated calling her brother. Then she discarded it in favour of snatching up her envelope and storming outside. She ripped her keys from their hook on the wall and left, allowing all her simmering frustration to ooze out her feet as she stalked to her car.
Tentatively, she mentally added a new name to this list of friends and mused on the possibility she was over-stepping a boundary. She’d find out soon if she was being presumptuous. Part of her silently hoped she was being thoroughly idiotic. But another part, softly muttering and rode over or ignored for the most part, was desperately wishing otherwise.
As she was about to open her car door, she thought better of it. It would be easier to walk and it might help clear her head a little. Still grumbling quietly to herself, she tucked the envelope under one arm and tromped down the footpath.
The area was subdued considering it was technically the holidays. Some people still worked, sure, but Marceline had kind of expected there to be more kids running around. She supposed it wasn’t a bad silence, it was simply unexpected. This lack of sound meant her brain felt empty and subsequently attempted to fill the void with thoughts.
Marceline shook her head. It was definitely best not to dwell too much on where she was going or why. If she thought about it, she might change her mind. The realisation that she didn’t want to change her mind shocked her.
Before she had a chance to examine that though, she found herself standing at the end of the drive up to Minton’s house. She shuffled her feet unconsciously. Sighing, she pushed the gate in and let herself onto the property. He wouldn’t care that her visit was unannounced. And neither would Bonnibel. Which of those two things was weirder she had yet to decide.
So she didn’t think too hard on the matter, when Marceline reached the door, she extended a fist and rapped sharply a few times and stepped back. Staring at the scuffed toes of her black sneakers wasn’t entertaining, shuffling them across the lacquered wood wasn’t anything to rave about either. Both were better than gazing blankly at the door waiting for it to open. And Marceline wasn’t really sure who she’d rather pulled it in.
It was Peter.
“Marceline,” he blurted, surprised. His eyes narrowed in the barest of increments. Yeah, Peter Minton knew that people often said nasty things about her and no matter what his friendly relationship with her father might be termed; he wasn’t a fan of hers.
She smiled at him anyway. “Hi.”
Then they stood there for a moment in complete silence. Peter regarded her uncertainly and Marceline kept grinning. This wasn’t awkward at all.
Eventually he sighed. “Here to see Bonnibel are you?”
Peter lifted one orange eyebrow. His hair was the same brilliant red as Bonnie’s, just streaked liberally with white, showing his age. Marceline arched a dark brow right back at him. He stepped aside after a pause.
“She’s around the back.”
“Cheers.” She kept smiling until she was past him and then let her face relax. Marceline crossed the living room, headed through the kitchen and laundry and stuck her head out the back door. A large roofed patio was attached to the house, wooden blinds hung from white supports and wicker furniture sprawled across the tiles. Curled up on one of the cushioned seats with her nose buried in a book was Bonnie.
Marceline had to bite back chuckles at the sight. It was to be expected, she supposed. Bonnibel was never without a book of some sort or other. She was garbed in a much worn pair of purple track pants and an oversized jumper, the sleeves pulled down over her hands, chin tucked into the collar, hood pushed up around the back of her neck. In other words, she looked like a right dork.
“Sup, nerd?” Marceline called softly.
Bonnie’s eyes widened, her book snapping shut (one finger marking the page, naturally). “Marceline?” she asked as if she weren’t quite sure it really was her. “What are you doing here?”
Marceline jerked a thumb over her shoulder. “I take it you want me to go?”
Bonnibel’s expression flattened. “Seriously?” she deadpanned. “It’s… nine in the morning and you’re already being difficult? I’m surprised you’re out of bed.”
She shrugged noncommittally. “The postman woke me. Speaking of which…” Marceline flourished her envelope causing Bonnie to jerk upright.
“Have you opened it?” she asked in a much too excited tone given the situation.
“Nope.” She sank down beside the suddenly peppy redhead. “I figured you’d want to see firsthand the results of your labour.”
“You make it sound so menial,” Bonnie grumbled, shifting so she was cross-legged on the seat facing Marceline. “Let’s see it then.”
“Care for a wager?” Marceline joked.
“Hardy ha,” the other girl droned. “Just open the damn letter.”
Marceline rolled her eyes. “Since you asked so nicely.” She slid a nail under the lip of the envelope and ripped it across. Slowly, she drew out the fancy folder, flipping it open. She ignored the cover letter, which was just full of stupid platitudes meant to make her feel special. Everyone got the same thing.
Under that though were her grades. As she scanned the comments and figures her eyes grew progressively wider and her eyebrows soared until they vanished into the clouds. She could feel Bonnie’s impossibly green eyes boring into her and when she got to the bottom of the second page she looked up to meet them.
The redhead’s face was expectant, curious, patient. Wordlessly, Marceline passed her the packet. Unlike Marceline, not a single line of confusion or surprise wavered across her face. Her reaction was to smile and as she read, more teeth joined in until she was positively beaming.
“This is awesome, Marceline,” she declared, handing the paper back. “Nothing less than eighty-eight percent in all your subjects! That’s excellent.”
Eighty-eight percent was her lowest mark for that semester and it was – no shocker – for physics. And even that was still an A grade result. Her highest mark (which got a wry grin from Bonnie) was maths. She’d never hear the end of it.
“See? I knew you were smart,” Bonnibel stated, earning an eye roll from Marceline.
“Only because I had a studious dictator glaring over my shoulder who wouldn’t let me fail,” Marceline grouched good-naturedly. But Bonnie was still smiling and that was probably worth more than the paper she was holding.
Bonnibel glanced at her. “You don’t think you could’ve done that without my help?”
She hesitated and that was all the ammunition Bonnie needed.
“Either way it’s great.” The redhead bumped their shoulders together. “And everyone said you couldn’t do it.”
Marceline blinked. “Everyone said that?”
“Most everyone, yes.”
She fiddled with the corner of her folder, in real danger of creasing it. “Did you ever think I couldn’t do it?”
Bonnie didn’t even hesitate before saying, “Not once. I think you actually try harder to be stupid than most people do to be intelligent.” She stood then. “Would you like a coffee or something? You look tired.”
“Um… sure. Do you want a hand?”
“Nah,” Bonnibel said, waving away the offer. “It won’t take long.”
She disappeared inside leaving Marceline on the patio with her worries. What would happen now was anyone’s guess really. But Marceline figured she’d have to be careful not to let her father find the packet. To that end, she spent the next few minutes trying to come up with a place she could hide the documents that Hansen wouldn’t think to look. It was the same conclusion no matter how she dissected the problem.
“Here.” Bonnie reappeared on the seat beside her, proffering a cup of coffee. Carefully she took a sip and blinked. Marceline glanced at her companion but didn’t ask how Bonnie knew how she liked her coffee.
“Thanks. Can I um… Can I get my banjo off you?”
Bonnie’s smile had an edge to it that could cut steel. “You’re not just using me for my closet are you?”
Marceline’s brain heard that wrong somehow. “Uh… n-no. I promise?”
“Come on,” Bonnibel laughed. “No need to look so horrified.”
Marceline set her coffee cup down before trailing after Bonnie around to her little flat. When Bonnie let her in, she didn’t follow; instead the redhead sat on the step outside and resumed her reading. Marceline stared at her for a short moment then shook herself free of that weird trance and stepped inside.
She opened the closet door and – despite what Bonnibel claimed a lot of the time – her instruments didn’t take up a great deal of space. They were laid out neatly on the shelf closest to the door with care they didn’t get damaged accidentally. The fact that Bonnibel put in any effort whatsoever to keep them clean was incredible. She plucked a string on the lute and winced at the noise it made, but then, Bonnie didn’t know how to tune them.
Only four were currently stored with her because they didn’t presently have a space to call their own at her house. Her ukulele and lute, zither and banjo all temporarily resided in this little room. The zither and ukulele were both still in the box she’d gotten them in a few months ago. The crwth was sitting on her bookshelf in her bedroom because she’d been practicing with it a lot lately.
Still, the cardboard box provided an excellent location to stash her grade packet. Marceline pulled the top flaps up and slipped the folder down the side, arranging the packing foam so it wasn’t visible. Then she pressed the edges back down, grabbed her banjo with one hand and tucked the now empty envelope back under her arm. Bonnibel wasn’t an idiot. She’d notice if Marceline left without her marks.
“Thanks,” Marceline muttered, pulling the door closed behind her as she stepped onto the porch. When she turned around, Bonnie was on her feet, fingers tapping along the back cover of her book. A strange expression clouded her face.
Marceline didn’t have long to ponder the reason for her countenance before Bonnie threw her arms around her. So surprised she was, Marceline took a stunned step backwards.
“Oomph… Bonnie,” she said, her arms out to the sides, not sure what to do in this situation. “What are you doing?”
“I’m hugging you,” she replied, voice muffled because she was speaking into Marceline’s collar. “Are you familiar with the concept?”
“Vaguely,” Marceline conceded, feeling a smile creep across her face. “Doesn’t happen to me much though.” Awkwardly, Marceline leaned her banjo against the door and gradually let one arm wrap around Bonnie.
“I guess that explains why you suck at it,” Bonnie chuckled, pulling away.
“Uh, why are you hugging me?”
“Because you did really well on your assessment and I’m super proud of you and I think that deserves a hug,” Bonnibel said tartly. She stepped back then, eyeing Marceline strangely. “Unless you’d rather something else instead?”
She blinked, mind racing for something. Then Marceline stretched out a fist and bumped it against Bonnie’s shoulder. “How’s that?”
Bonnie burst out laughing. “You really suck at emotions and stuff, don’t you?”
Marceline shrugged. “I don’t have many friends, Bon. I’m scary; people don’t want to touch me in case I break their fingers.”
“We should fix that,” Bonnie said with a snort of derision. “You’re not scary anyway. Come on, I’ll buy you a strawberry thick shake at the Café.”
“You don’t have a car,” Marceline pointed out.
“Yeah,” Bonnibel sang, stepping backwards across the lawn. “But you do.”
“You don’t have to buy me anything, really,” she continued to protest even as she followed the indomitable redhead across the yard and around to the front of the house.
“What are friends for if not to celebrate the little victories?”