Tuesday 8th July 2014
“So…” Ellen drawled in that worrisome way she had. “You and Marceline are besties now, huh?”
Bonnibel scowled over her hot chocolate. “No,” she grumbled. “On… friendly terms, I suppose. Why? Does it ruffle feathers?”
Ellen’s smile had an edge to it that mirrored the anxiety-inducing tone to her voice. “Not so much. I just wouldn’t have expected you to hang out with her as much as you do. She’s trouble, you know.”
“So people keep telling me,” Bonnie replied unhappily.
“She’s not as bad as folks say,” Pippa provided, sliding into the seat beside Bonnie with her latte. “Jake said she helps him with his maths sometimes. He says she could be a closet maths genius.”
Ellen frowned. “That doesn’t sound right. She fails maths. It’s no secret that her grades in everything are awful.” Then Eleanor turned her piercing hazelnut gaze on Bonnie. “How did she do last semester?”
“Uh…” Bonnie hedged. “She didn’t tell me. Marceline doesn’t like to share things.” And that was a totally believable excuse. She felt bad lying to her friends, but she had promised Marceline not to divulge just how well she’d done. Not that Bonnibel knew why it had to be a secret. But she was good at keeping them and if Marceline didn’t want people to know, it wasn’t Bonnie’s place to tell them. Simple as that.
“She’s weird,” Ellen opined.
“Everyone is a little bit weird, Ellen,” Pippa muttered sagely.
“Then Marceline is weirder than most.”
“Hey girls!” Jake enthused, flopping onto a chair beside Pippa, supplying a kiss to her cheek at the same time. “How are we doing?” Finn sank down beside Ellen, braving her wrath to steal a few of her chips.
Ellen twisted in her seat to stare Jake down. He shrank back a little under her pointed gaze. “Does Marceline help you with your maths homework?” she asked (well, it was more of a demand, really).
His mouth worked, eyes wide. “Uh… she has given me pointers on occasion. Why?”
Eleanor’s eyes narrowed to slits. “I don’t believe you. Everyone knows she’s a layabout with no future. Were the questions right?”
“She never actually gave me the answers, Ellen,” Jake replied hastily, shaking his head. “Just… pointed things out to me that I hadn’t seen or told me my formula was wrong. Simple baby things that anyone should be able to see.”
“Why didn’t you see them then?” Pippa queried blithely, sipping from her cup, a sweet smile playing around her mouth.
He hunched his shoulders. “Because I wasn’t paying attention,” he grumbled. “Are we ready to go home yet? Not that I don’t love hanging around this shopping centre all day, but I want to be home before midnight.”
“Don’t be so dramatic, Jake,” Ellen scolded. “We have one shop left to visit. Can you hold onto your horses for that long at least?”
He rolled his eyes. “Fine. But I’m coming with you this time to make sure you don’t get distracted.”
Jake and Pippa stood, following Ellen out of the food court. “I’m going to sit this one out,” Bonnie called. “I’ll be here when you’re done.”
“Yeah,” Finn whined. “I don’t need to go into a stupid dress shop either.”
Penelope laughed at them, waving that she’d heard. “Won’t be long,” she sang.
Finn pulled the plate bearing the last of Ellen’s chips towards him and polished them off. Boys. It didn’t matter how much else they’d eaten in the day, they could always stuff a little bit more in.
“So,” he began, licking the last of the salt off his fingers. “Did you know that Thursdays are movie preview night at the cinema upstairs?”
“I’ve seen the signs around,” she admitted slowly. “Midnight screenings or something like that, am I right?”
“Yeah, usually the movie comes out the next day or that weekend,” Finn went on, perking up now. “This week is that movie about those surfer people…” he frowned. “I can’t remember what it’s called. The Beach House maybe? I wanted to know if you’d like to go with me.”
Bonnie sighed. “Like a date, Finn?” she asked with no emotion.
He smiled wanly. “Well… yeah. I mean…”
“Wait,” she said before he could organise his thoughts and conjure a proper argument. “I’m not going to date you, Finn,” Bonnie told him. “Ever.” She took a deep breath and looked away.
This time, Finn’s smile didn’t just waver, it evaporated. She could practically see it wafting away, being sucked into the centre’s ventilation and cast outside. He licked his lips, brow creasing again, mouth a thin line as his brain cranked up into overtime trying to figure out whether she was being serious.
Finally, he uttered a ghostly, “Why?” His blue eyes searching her face as if he thought he’d be able to detect a lie if she told one.
That breath she’d sucked in before finally billowed out. She felt… so small, so fragile. Translucent even, almost see-through and it was a rather vulnerable state of mind.
“You have to promise me, Finn,” she told him, wrapping her hands around her cup so he wouldn’t see the insecurities shaking through her fingers. “That you won’t tell a soul. When people found out at Ormeau it didn’t go down very well. Alright?”
Finn blinked, absorbing the intensity of her words. Then he crossed his heart. “I swear. Nobody will hear it from me.”
Tiredly, she bobbed her head, taking another calming breath. “I’m gay,” she said simply.
He looked confused for a moment, as if waiting for something more. Then he just smiled. “Alright. Well you could’ve told me that sooner. I feel really stupid now.”
This time Bonnie was the one blinking confusedly. “That’s it? You’re not…” she waved a hand, searching for the right term. “Disgusted?”
He snorted. “No, why would I be? Wait. Why didn’t it go over well in Ormeau? Are they narrow-minded simpletons?”
She thought about that for a moment. “It was an all girls’ Christian school,” she muttered eventually. “Homosexuality is a sin, apparently.”
“Well they’re idiots,” he opined bluntly. “I’m sure there’re probably people here who won’t take kindly to that,” he conceded then. “There always are, right? But I don’t think you have much to worry about, Bonnie.”
“Just don’t tell anyone, alright?” she pressed.
“Sure,” Finn agreed, holding his hands up in surrender. “I hear it’s impolite to out people anyway. Don’t worry. I’m just saying; at the very least no one our age will care. I mean… Halte’s gay, did you know that?”
Bonnie could feel her expression change, becoming thoroughly incredulous. “He’s not? Seriously?”
“Yep,” Finn replied, smiling proudly. “Gay as rainbows. On a scale of one to ten, how gay are you?”
She laughed then, genuinely delighted that he was taking it with such aplomb. “About ten thousand,” she confessed. “Don’t take offence, but guys just don’t float my boat.”
He leaned across the table, lowering his voice to a whisper. “You might have a minor disagreement with Ellen on that one,” he imparted. “She thinks they’re the shit.”
Bonnie had to contain another bout of chuckles. “I’d noticed.”
“I wish you’d have told me sooner,” he lamented. “It’s not an easy thing to hear, you know, but at least if you’d said something sooner I wouldn’t have entertained any delusions.”
“Sorry,” she muttered. “But it’s kind of hard to believe anyone in a church town would be alright with it when my church school really wasn’t.”
“We are a lot more awesome though,” he admitted, proudly. “So that makes sense.” His grin turned up then, becoming huge. “Got your eyes on anyone though?”
Bonnie rolled her eyes, throat catching. “Hardly. Why? Got any pointers?”
“Yeah. Don’t go to Ellen for help. She sucks at match-making.” He rolled his lips under, thinking things through. “But,” he added. “If you decide there is a particular someone you fancy, just let me know and I’ll do some reconnaissance.” Finn patted his chest for emphasis. He seemed absolutely serious about the offer, only there was a twinkle in his eyes that suggested he might already have developed a few theories on the topic.
“Well thanks,” she replied dryly. “I’m sure that wouldn’t be awkward at all.”
Finn opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by Jake who dropped his hands onto his cousin’s shoulders and shook him. “We’re back,” Jake buzzed. “You two ready to go?”
“Hell yes,” Finn cried, shrugging away from Jake’s grasp and leaping to his feet. “Let’s blow this joint.”
Bonnie had barely taken two steps before Pippa looped their arms together. “Did you have a nice chat with Finn?” she chirped. “I bet it was more exciting than that last shop with Ellen. Jake wouldn’t stop glaring at her.”
“Sounds like a riot,” Bonnie replied wryly. “Finn’s… really determined. He doesn’t like to be told he can’t do something.”
“You get used to it.”
And she was. Bonnie was used to all of them and their quirks. Now if only she could be brave enough to share hers.