Monday 21st July 2014
“Hey, nerd alert!”
Bonnie glanced over her shoulder to see Marceline pressing through the throng of students crammed into the hall. It was rather raucous for the first day back, but Bonnibel was pretty much used to this place being different than Ormeau by now. Marceline shot an exceptionally venomous death-glare at one student in the year below them and he scuttled out of her way.
“What’s wrong?” Bonnie asked when Marceline reached her side.
“Petrikov called me in to see him this morning like a real charmer,” the other girl said around her usual smirk. “He said he’s going to have you tutor me again to see if I can repeat last semester’s results. Are you up for that?”
Bonnibel sighed heavily. “Oh gee, I don’t know, Marceline. That’s such a huge ask. You might persuade me if you’re lucky.” She couldn’t stop from smiling then. “Same deal as last semester?”
Marceline’s smirk morphed into that wonderful grin she wore only rarely. “You’re the best. Tell you what, this weekend you can come out to the Café with me because Ivy finally agreed to let me perform.”
She really wanted to say ‘yes’ to that, but her face crumpled. “I can’t,” she groaned. “I promised Pippa I’d help her with Ellen’s surprise party preparation rubbish. I’m on cake duty. But I promise I’ll come out another weekend to watch, alright?”
“I’ll hold you to that, dork,” Marceline said, still beaming.
“Count on it.”
“See you in second.”
Marceline dashed off into the crowd again, heading for her physics classroom. Penelope was nowhere to be seen but there wasn’t long until the bell rang for classes to start and Bonnie didn’t want to be late. She slithered around the outside of the horde of students, hugging the wall until she reached the corridor she was after and ducked into her history room. Several of her classmates were already there, waiting, perched on top of desks, chatting about their holidays. Pippa was still missing.
Bonnibel collapsed into her usual seat right near the back of the classroom against the window. This particular class was held on the second floor and sat along the edge of the school grounds so the view was of the green patchwork farmlands on the outskirts of Reich. On a clear winter’s day like this one, it was a pretty impressive sight. As if thinking about the season were a cue, she shivered, pulling her sleeves down over her fingers, legs bouncing as she waited.
“Hey.” Pippa’s enthusiastic greeting sounded at her elbow and she jumped, spinning in her seat.
“Holy shit, Pip,” she gasped. “You scared me.”
Her friend laughed. “You have definitely been hanging out with Marceline too much. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you curse before.” And as Pippa slouched into the space beside her, Bonnie noticed another person.
She leaned forward to facilitate her curious staring. “Uh… hi,” Bonnie said to the other girl. A girl with orange hair in a pixie cut reminding Bonnie of a carrot, big amber eyes, freckled ivory skin and a double breasted almost militarian jacket with a stiff collar. The coat was a deep shade of red with brilliant crimson piping and cuffs. Bonnie’s head fell to one side as she took all of this in.
“Oh right,” Pippa blurted, waking up from whatever place she’d been in. “This is Hayden McKenna. She moved here last week with her dad.” She turned in her spot to face Hayden. “This is Bonnibel Banner, one of my good friends. She’s new here too… sort of.”
Hayden smiled, adorable little dimples appearing in her cheeks. “Hey,” she said, throwing a hand out in front of Pippa. “Nice to meet you.”
“Yeah, likewise,” Bonnie muttered. “Cool jacket.”
“Thanks. My dad got it for me; he’s pretty strict and likes to think that a formal-ish dress code will imprint his totalitarian view point on me.” She rolled her eyes to show what she thought of that. “He’s a fireman.”
Bonnie’s mouth made an ‘o’ shape. “Right yeah, because we’re under Blackwater regulations yes?” Her eyes glanced to Pippa for a conformation nod. “So we have our own fire department now?”
“No,” Hayden laughed. “Now you have my dad and his one truck. I suppose he’ll get underlings to boss around at some point.” She shrugged. “He’d like that.”
“He sounds like a great guy,” Bonnie murmured wryly.
“He’s harsh, but he’s my dad, you know?”
“Yeah,” she agreed in a whisper. “Family is important.”
“What about your family?” Hayden asked, pulling books from her bag. “Did you move here with them? I can’t really imagine why anyone would want to move here, but that’s coming from me so what do I know?”
Bonnie could only offer a pallid smile. “I moved in six months ago with my uncle who already lived here.”
Unlike other people who had gone on to ask who or what she’d left behind, Hayden took one look at her face and nodded. The topic wasn’t revisited. Bonnie could only say she was glad for it.
The teacher swept in then, cutting off further conversation and Bonnibel was glad for that too.
Marceline blinked at the second redhead. Two. There were two of them now. They were multiplying or something and Marceline had no idea how that had happened. Sure, this new ginger had much shorter hair of a colour slightly more closely related to blonde than Bonnibel’s vibrant rust. Also the new one was a good two or three inches taller than Bonnibel (so she was just a little bit shorter than Finn). That… Yeah that didn’t alleviate her confusion any though.
She watched as Bonnie and Finn spoke to the girl quickly, trying to fit in some hugely lengthy conversation between classes. Then Finn and the girl headed off down the corridor (Finn’s face lighting up like a stop signal). Bonnie spun back – grinning widely – bumping her shoulder into Marceline’s before wandering off down the hall in the other direction.
It took her a moment to realise that Marceline wasn’t following her. She was still staring after the new ginger, jaw slack.
“You think she’s fine, hey, Abadeer,” Bonnie teased, prodding her ribs. “Are you going to ask her out or what?”
That brought reality crashing back down around her. “What? No. Why would I ask her out?” There was a funny little expression that danced across Bonnibel’s face then. It looked like… disappointment or… resignation. Maybe an unhappy marriage of them both. “If I was going to ask a girl out, I’d like to know her a little bit better, thank you very much. I’m not a tart.”
The expression vaporised and Bonnie started laughing. “That’s not what Ellen says,” she wheedled.
Marceline snorted. “Like Ellen would know. She’s never spent enough time with me.”
“She does know all about being a tart though,” Bonnibel said innocently.
It made Marceline stop and turn, peering up at her friend. “Did you seriously just say that? Really?”
Bonnie sucked her lips between her teeth and shrugged. “What?”
Marceline laughed. “You’re good value for money, Banner. What’s the new girl like?”
“Oh yeah, we have a new girl!” Bonnie exclaimed as though Marceline didn’t already know. “She’s alright. I think you’d probably like her. She doesn’t pry and she’s funny. It’s dark humour, so you’d probably get a kick out of it. A little bit stand-offish, but that could just be because she’s new.”
“She sounds delightful. Have you and your motley crew adopted her then?”
“It seems that way. Between us she won’t be alone in any of her classes at least, so I imagine we’ll just…” she mimed pulling something towards her chest and hugging it. “Absorb her or whatever. You have art with her.”
Marceline’s eyebrows shot up as she settled onto the grass behind the music building. It was really cold outside in winter, but the block of rooms cut the wind so it wasn’t as bad. “How the hell do you know that? Are you stalking me?”
Bonnibel winked, grinning, pulling her maths homework out. “She’s in Pip’s class. Since you and Pippa have art together…”
“Yeah, yeah. You used the power of deduction,” Marceline grumbled, waving her hand. “Put your triumphant face away would you.”
“At risk of sounding like someone you loathe,” Bonnie muttered a few minutes later. “At least speak to her once.”
Surprising herself, Marceline grinned wickedly and said, “You know what? I just might do that.”
Marceline didn’t have art until last period on Tuesday. She did, however, find herself walking into the new girl on her way to her usual spot at lunch. Literally bumping into her, too, not just figuratively.
“Sorry,” the girl spluttered, throwing a hand out to help Marceline keep her balance. “Totally my bad, I wasn’t paying attention.”
“No worries,” Marceline told her, smiling a little in a vain attempt to be less prickly. “It’s a blind corner. You lack a babysitter,” she noted then. “Didn’t you just have a class with Finn?”
The girl’s tawny eyes went wide. Then narrowed suspiciously. “You’re not following me weirdly are you?” she asked in a strangely scary voice.
“My god, no,” Marceline laughed. “Um… It’s a small town? Also I’m friends with Bonnibel. The other redhead.”
“Oh! Sorry, yes I remember seeing you with her before,” she said, face going a shade to match her hair. “I’m Hayden.”
“Marceline,” she replied.
Hayden nodded. “Finn mentioned you. He said you have a reputation for getting into trouble, not doing your homework and generally being a bad influence on people. I think he secretly likes you though.”
Marceline’s smile was genuine then. “All of that is true… Except maybe for Finn liking me. Pretty sure he can’t stand how much time I spend with Bonnie.”
“Does he like her or something?” Hayden asked conspiratorially.
“No idea. He’s impossible to pin down. Bonnie has shown a whole zero interest in him though so… who even knows? I don’t want to get involved. But if you’ll let me impart a little advice of my own?”
“Be very nice to Eleanor,” she stage whispered. “I don’t know if you’ll have classes with her, but she hangs out with Bonnie, Finn and Co all the time. But if you’re nice to her, you won’t have to worry about her spreading nasty rumours. Take it from someone who knows.”
Hayden nodded sagely. “Got it. High school gossips are dangerous.”
“Anyone else I should watch out for?”
“Nah, I think you’re good.”
Hayden winked. “Thanks. I’ll see you around.”
“Yeah. Apparently we have art together, so I’ll see you tomorrow for sure.”
The new girl chuckled lowly. “Are you sure you’re not a stalker?”
Marceline clapped her hands to her sternum. “Oh alright, you caught me. No, Bonnie’s the stalker. I heard from her.”
Hayden waved. “See you around.”
After a moment of thinking about that, Marceline turned and headed for her spot on the wall in the courtyard. She leaned against the bricks behind her, pulling out her lunch and some reading material. Keila would normally sit with her, but she wasn’t at school today. According to the text Marceline had received the previous night, she’d finally caught the seasonal flu and was holed up in bed with lots of blankets.
And – Marceline had to admit, grudgingly – Bonnie had been right. As usual. Hayden wasn’t so bad.