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Pray for the Preacher's Daughter

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Thursday 9th October 2014

Pick up your phone, Banner. It’s after lunch; I know you’re awake.

Bonnie threw her phone back on the couch beside her. Pippa had been texting her all damn day and it would seem ignoring her wasn’t sending the proper message. She paused a moment to smile at her accidental joke.

It beeped again and reflexively she picked it up. Answer me. I want you to see the lake. You’ll love it.

With an unhappy sigh, she sent, I don’t really want to. Maybe over Christmas. Tired after spending a few nights studying into the wee hours meant Bonnie was feeling a little lazy when it came to going places.

Aw, she got back a moment later. Pippa was obviously holding the phone, waiting. All the trees are flowering and it’s really pretty. Come on, it’ll be fun. We’re all going. There will be a camp fire and marshmallows…

She decided to go back to ignoring her friend. It’s not that she didn’t want to spend time with them, but sometimes a little solitude was needed. And few people could ever change her mind about that once she’d made her decision. Besides, there was reading to be done before school went back. And she’d spent plenty of time last week hanging out with her friends, these next few days needed to be put towards her education. At least, that’s how she justified it to herself.

And then, naturally, there was knocking at the door.

Bonnie’s eyes cut to her phone, expecting a text from Pippa to accompany the door knocking. But nothing happened; the screen stayed dark. She looked up, waiting. If it was Peter he’d call out, if it was any of her friends there would probably be some sort of racket any time now (Ellen’s obnoxious voice perhaps). There was nothing.

Heaving a great breath, she hauled herself to her feet and slouched to the door. She pulled the door in, not bothering to check who it might be. She knew if it was Pippa there to argue her case in person, Bonnie would cave. Penelope was very persuasive when she wanted to be.

“Hi,” Marceline said with a hesitant smile. “Whatcha doing?”

“Reading,” Bonnie replied, smiling without meaning to. “I’ve got–”

Marceline waved her words away. “Study to do, probably,” she said with a snort. “No dice. Let’s go. Put some shoes on.”

Rolling her eyes, Bonnie went back inside. “Where to? I don’t like being kidnapped.”

“It’s not kidnapping if you go willingly,” Marceline pointed out, lingering in the doorway. “And we both know you’ll go willingly, so don’t worry.”

“If you drag me to some hovel out in the countryside and kill me there will be trouble.”

“Oh yeah? Who’s going to stop me?”

“I’ll haunt you for the rest of your miserable life.”

Marceline grinned. “I think I’d be okay with that.”

Bonnie narrowed her eyes, tugging on sandshoes because no one in Reich cared much for fancy dress and she certainly didn’t (well, maybe Ellen did, but that’s just Ellen). “You say that now,” she warned, darkly. “But I have a mean streak.”

Marceline scoffed. “I’ve never seen it.”

“Well, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if everyone knew, would it,” she asked sweetly. No matter what Marceline said (and no matter that she was – indeed – going willingly), Bonnie suspected she’d need a book. She always needed a book. So on the pretence of grabbing a tube of sunscreen, she tucked a novel into her bag and snatched her keys up before heading out.

“You take forever,” Marceline observed.

“I like to be prepared. And since you haven’t told me where you’re taking me, count yourself lucky that I didn’t pack a suitcase for all weather conditions.”

“I will,” her friend chuckled. “In the meantime, how about you tell me what you had planned for today before I arrived to liven your schedule up?”

So she did, and Marceline laughed at her. Apparently her plans weren’t good enough and she should be thankful Marceline came along when she did. On the other hand, her friend hadn’t had a day anywhere along the ‘exciting’ scale. She seemed positively bored by the notion of how her day had been up to this point and simply sighed, pulling into the service station.

“One sec, Bon, kay?” Marceline exhaled, sliding out to grab the pump. “If I try to drive out and back on a third a tank of petrol we’ll break down out of mobile service.”

Bonnie nodded and stepped out, heading towards the shop. “Do you want snacks or something while we’re here?” she asked, backpedalling.

Marceline’s face scrunched up. “Yeah…” she drew out slowly. “You know what I like. Surprise me with your skills.”

Laughing, Bonnie ducked inside, rolling her shoulders uncomfortably when the blast from the heater smacked her in the face. Keeping one eye on Marceline, she roved up and down the aisle, gathering junk food and a few bottles of drink (water among the assorted beverages because it’s healthy and tastier anyway) before heading to the counter. The young man smiled at her. She didn’t know him so he probably lived on one of the rural farmsteads out this way. Maybe the servo was a family thing. It didn’t matter; his smile rolled off her like oil.

“That all?” he asked pleasantly.

“And the tab for bowser four please,” she replied, depositing her haul on the counter. “And yes to bags, thanks.”

He squinted at the screen, calling up the damage from the bowser just as Marceline slid the nozzle back into its little hole. The fellow was surprisingly efficient given the way he couldn’t take his eyes off her. So much so that she was flashing him a farewell wave and heading out the door before Marceline had made it halfway across the lot.

“I paid,” Bonnie told her, happily, linking their arms together. “Let’s go.”

Marceline blinked. “For the petrol? You paid for the fuel too?”

“Yep.”

“You didn’t have to do that,” Marceline spluttered. “I brought money for that. Let me pay you back.”

“No thanks, I’m good. Come on,” Bonnie pressed.

Grumbling, Marceline collapsed into the driver’s seat. “You always pay,” she whined. “I feel like I’m taking advantage of your generosity or whatever. I can pay you back.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

Marceline continued to prattle on about it though. “You bought me lunch the other day too. And you always pay for pizza when we watch movies. And you always–”

“Just shut up and drive, Marceline,” Bonnie nearly barked.

Her friend glanced at her, worried, wondering. Bonnie could see the thoughts – the questions – dancing around in her mind. Could see them play out like a black and white film from the twenties. She could see the words, the hurt, the accusation – ‘this is your charity’ – and it bit tightly in her chest.

“Sorry I snapped,” Bonnibel muttered.

“It’s okay,” Marceline replied, equally soft. “I just sometimes feel like a loser when you pay for stuff all the time. Like… I’m not broke you know? I have a job. So unless you’re filthy stinking rich, I don’t really understand why you do it.” Marceline’s face broke into a cheeky grin. “Unless you’re trying to buy me. In which case, go right ahead. My Christmas wish list is that bright red acoustic guitar on the back wall of Todd’s.”

Bonnie levelled a flat glare at her. “You’re hilarious.”

“So what did you buy, nerd?” she asked, smiling still.

“The usual. Chips, chocolate, drinks of various varieties and a bag of those Candy Kingdom marshmallow things you like so much,” she mumbled, rifling through the bags to make sure she got it all. “Sound good?”

“You know me too well.”

“So where are we going?”

“Wait and see.”

Bonnibel didn’t have to tell Marceline that she wasn’t real big on surprises – from the look on her friend’s face, the infuriating woman already knew. But, as usual, Bonnie’s carefully constructed glare was ignored and Marceline defused the situation by teasing her and turning the radio on. Honestly, if Marceline was a superhero, her power would be making Bonnie smile.

Although, when they turned down a dusty side-road and Bonnie noticed Jake’s four wheel drive parked in the dirt off to one side, she frowned again. Pippa was leaning against the side of the vehicle while Jake rummaged around inside the back. Bonnie turned her suspicious gaze on Marceline.

“I smell a conspiracy,” she grumbled.

Marceline rolled her eyes. Bonnie couldn’t see her do it, but she could feel it. She levelled a glare at the other girl but it sloughed off Marceline as though she was glare-proof. Which made sense since so many people gave her heated looks.

“You’re so boring, Bonnie,” Marceline said, clambering out of the car. “It’s the holidays and all you want to do is sit around reading. Be exciting just this once.” She opened the boot to slide her phone into her bag before hauling it out. Bonnie just kept glaring at her through the seats.

“Reading is educational, thanks very much. Also I much prefer indoor recreation to the outdoor variety.”

Marceline laughed. “Well you can sit there, or you can come with,” she chuckled, backing away from the car. “You might enjoy yourself.”

Bonnie scrunched up her face in response to that; it too had no effect on her obnoxious friend. She sighed when Marceline dropped her bag under a tree and stared at her through the windshield, arms folded resolutely. This was an argument she couldn’t win.

With exaggerated slowness, Bonnie stepped out of the car. Marceline let out a cheer. “She’s out of the car, folks. Look out.”

Bonnie scowled darkly. “You won’t get me in the water,” she called back.

Marceline offered no reply except to grin hugely as she headed for the lake. Unexpectedly, Pippa looped an arm through Bonnie’s and dragged her over to the tree line. Jake and Finn weren’t far behind, whooping like small children. Hayden was there too, lagging behind, head together with Ellen.

“So you’ll come out when Marceline asks you,” Penelope muttered. “But not when I beg so desperately. What’s up with that?”

Bonnibel’s heart thudded uncomfortably with the question. “She uh… she’s a lot more persistent. And she threatens to fail her exams because she knows she’ll get her way then.”

Pippa laughed. “She blackmails you? Wow, she’s a class act. I’m going to remember that one the next time I want something from you.”

“That’s mean.”

A shrug was Pippa’s reply to that. A shrug and a smile. She tugged Bonnie down to sit on a… log…? It looked like it might have once been a fallen log, only now it had been worn or carved (or both) into more of a bench. There were big tractor tyres too and a stump (possibly the one from which the log-seat came), all gathered around a fire-pit hollowed out in the dirt.

“We’re gonna make a bonfire!” Finn hollered, his voice reverberating off the trees and the cliff. He had his feet in a tyre-swing, arcing up and out over the lake, jumping to cannonball into the water. He burst from the water moments later, sweeping hair out of his eyes.

“He’s not going to make a bonfire from the lake,” Bonnibel grumbled, rummaging through her bag for the sunscreen. There was a big floppy-brimmed hat on top of Marceline’s bag that she appropriated and dropped on her head.

Hayden appeared then, pulling a small bundle of things from her pocket. “That’s my job, apparently, Bonnie,” she said, unwrapping the plastic. “I’m the fire starter tonight.”

“Twisted fire starter,” Pippa chortled as Hayden knelt in the dirt.

It took Hayden all of thirty seconds to have a blaze going and she did it without matches or lighter. Bonnie was impressed, but mostly she was just terrified of her pyromaniac friend. Twisted was right.

“So you’re not planning on going swimming, I take it, Bonnie?” Hayden asked quietly, feeding sticks into the fire, coaxing it up.

“What?” Jake exclaimed, shuffling up with an Esky under one arm and a trio of cloth bags dangling from his other fist. “You’re not going swimming? What the hell is wrong with you?”

Bonnie rolled her eyes at him. “I’m prepared for the possibility of being forced into the water,” she said. “But the chances of me voluntarily getting in are pretty low. It’ll wash off all the sunscreen.”

“Lame,” Finn sang as he hurried up, grabbing a packet of chips from Jake’s bag. “Come on, Bonnibel, go for a dip.”

“I think I’ll just sit here, thank you.”

“There’s nothing wrong with not swimming,” Hayden said. “I don’t like the water much either. Large bodies of it make me… unhappy.” She frowned, concentrating a glare at the fire-pit.

“See?” Bonnie replied, smiling now. “I’ll keep Hayden company.”

“Psh,” Finn huffed, trotting back to the water’s edge. “You’re boring.”

“That’s what I keep telling her,” Marceline yelled at him from up in a tree. “She won’t believe me.”

Jake plucked at Pippa’s sleeve, whining about joining Finn in the water. With one last look at Bonnie, she followed her boyfriend over and he crash tackled her into the lake. Bonnie smiled as Jake heaved Pippa up onto his shoulders, swatting away Finn’s attempts to dunk him.

“It’s a bit warm in the day for a fire already,” Bonnie muttered, cutting a glance over at Hayden. “Why light it now?”

She shrugged. “It’s easier to just light it now and bank it when it dies down. Then half my job is done when I have to light it again.”

Bonnie smiled wryly. “Should I be scared by how much you know about fires?”

“At the very least know that I can put one out just as easily as I can start it,” Hayden laughed. “Fire safety is important.”

Bonnibel smiled with her, returning her attention to those down at the water. Honestly, watching them was pretty entertaining and Hayden was fun to chat with too. So it really shouldn’t have been surprising that the book she’d sequestered away in her bag wasn’t touched for a long time. When the fire was just embers, Hayden scattered a thick layer of soil over the top and warned Bonnie not to touch it.

“The fire is still alive under there,” she said, pulling her shirt off so she was in just her bikini. “It’s only sleeping. Keep folks away from it. Burnt soles aren’t fun at all.”

Bonnie nodded. “I thought you don’t like to swim,” she called as Hayden trotted off.

“I’m going to stand down there and in the event I get dragged in I want dry clothes later,” she responded, smiling widely. “Don’t touch the fire.”

For a while she kept her eyes on the others, but when Hayden got thrown in the drink (she laughed first) she pulled out her book, leaning against the trunk of the tree to read. Marceline would not approve. Bonnie didn’t care.

“Hey!”

Her eyes snapped up about half an hour later to see a very angry Pippa glowering down at her. Finn and Jake were rooting around in the bags for food and drink but didn’t spare her much of a glance before hastening back to the water.

“If you’re going to be just sitting here reading, you can come in for a swim,” Pippa told her.

Hurriedly, Bonnie folded her book closed and stuffed it back in her bag. “Nope. I’m good. No reading, no swimming.”

Pippa jabbed a finger at the water. “In. Now.”

“That won’t work,” Marceline said happily, walking up with her hair wringing wet across her shoulders. “But if I fail something she’ll go swimming. Isn’t that right, Bon?”

Bonnie glared. “You know what, Abadeer? Go ahead. Fail something.”

Marceline blinked. “Oh.”

Pippa only sighed.

“Okay,” Marceline said, raising her hands. “How about we go for a walk instead? No water involved.”

Bonnibel narrowed her eyes, brow furrowing. “I’m not sure I trust you.”

“We’ll go that way,” she said, lifting a finger and pointing off into the trees. “Away from the water. How does that sound?”

She weighed up her options. They were going to keep pestering her until she did something vaguely social. It might as well be this (comparatively) safe option. “Fine. Let’s go.” She levered herself up and waved Marceline ahead.

Pippa’s mouth fell open. “I am in awe,” she breathed, watching them go.

They walked in silence for a time, Marceline navigating like she’d been born between these trees. She kept stealing glances at Bonnie though as if expecting not to be noticed.

Finally she spoke. “Why don’t you want to go swimming? Just on principle or is there more to it?”

Bonnie shrugged. “Honestly?”

“Duh.”

“Sometimes I just like to be stubborn about things. There’s no sense in giving in to every single whim.”

Marceline grinned at her. “I like it.”

“Besides, if I make a big fuss out of some things, when they get me to do it they feel superior. Then the next time they’ll cave because they feel bad pushing me into doing so much. It’s like a pre-emptive guilt trip.”

“Wow. That’s amazing.”

“Don’t judge me.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Where are we even going?” Bonnie asked as Marceline helped her over a fallen tree.

Marceline lifted a finger and pointed up a little bit. “There’s a path that leads up onto the cliff. It has a nice view.”

Bonnie arched an eyebrow. “Of the lake?”

“What else is there to have a nice view of?” Marceline shot back with a shrug. “But you can see over the trees in the other direction too. At night you can see Blackwater.”

“Are we planning on being here at night?”

“Maybe. I dunno. You’re the one who hangs out with these guys; I’m just along for the ride.”

Bonnibel cut a glance over at her friend. “I think you like them more than you let on.”

Marceline snorted, wending between trees up the side of the cliff. “I think you’re delusional.”

“Then why spend time with us?” Bonnie pressed. “You don’t have to. I know Finn’s warmed up to you and all that, but if you don’t like them why bother?”

She didn’t get an answer for that, but Bonnibel was positive she saw Marceline’s face go pink.

Trying a new approach she asked, “And what’s with this tag team business? You’re in cahoots with Pippa aren’t you? Ganging up to get me out of the house.”

This time Marceline smiled wolfishly. “You’ve been pretty resistant to socialising these last few days and Pippa said she was worried.”

“She called you?” Bonnie asked, incredulous.

“Texted, but same principle, I guess,” Marceline replied as if it were nothing. “She asked if I’d seen you lately because you wouldn’t come out of your – and I quote – ‘dungeon’. When I said I had she asked me what black magic I was using and could I put it towards getting you out to the lake.”

“And naturally you agreed,” Bonnibel said wryly.

Marceline smiled gently (weirdly, actually). “Tell me this is horrible and I’ll take you home.”

As if on cue, they reached the top of the slope, breaching the tree line so they were standing on the side of the cliff overlooking the lake. The world was obviously conspiring with her friends because the view was really nice. She stepped up to the edge, wondering how such a gentle incline could’ve put this much space between her and… down there. Bonnie peered over the edge, noting with relief that the ground wasn’t really too far away and directly below them was the lake so if she fell, it would only hurt a little. If she hit the earth and not the water though, she’d break bones. Bonnie backed away from the precipice.

Marceline was still watching her expectantly, that funny little smile tilted across her face. “Okay,” Bonnibel relented. “This isn’t so bad.”

“Were you resisting as a part of your premature guilt-tripping thing?” Marceline asked shrewdly.

“Possibly,” she hedged. “Yeah, okay. I figured I’d be roped into all sorts of things near the end of the year and didn’t want to give them too much satisfaction.” She slid up onto a rocky ledge (the hill continued up further but was too steep to climb, the surface made a few nice seats though). “This is good. I’ve been wanting to see the lake since after winter.”

“Why didn’t you say something? I would’ve brought you out here.”

Bonnie looked at her flatly, smiling slightly. “You’re forgetting how little we spoke for a month in there.”

“Ah,” Marceline mumbled sheepishly. “True. Have I told you I’m sorry about that?”

“All the time.”

“Can I ask you something?”

“Go for it.”

Marceline hesitated, shuffling her feet. “Were you like this in Ormeau?” She paused, thinking about what she’d said and then blurted out more words. “I mean, you say you don’t like to do what people say all the time because you don’t want to feel like people are making you do stuff. I get that. And I know that you don’t like to talk about… things… but were you… like… I dunno, the same before you came here?”

Bonnie slipped off her rock again and bumped Marceline in the shoulder. “I suppose so,” she said when her friend stopped staring at her toes. “I never liked giving them everything they wanted either, if that’s what you mean.”

Marceline frowned. “So… when they asked you to go… I dunno, what’s a cool place to go in Ormeau?”

“The mall?” Bonnie laughed.

“Right, so you’d tell them you didn’t want to go to the mall sometimes?”

“Sure. I’ve always been really big on studying, you know,” Bonnie told her. “Also, I’ve had things I didn’t want people to know for a long time. Hanging out with folks gives them the opportunity to learn who I am and figure out that I’m hiding something and then it gives them licence to dig until they find it. I guess that idea scares me.”

I know your secrets, Bon,” Marceline pointed out.

“You have a point. But the others don’t yet,” Bonnie mused. “Pippa is a really good friend and she’s working up to that point where she’ll figure it out and it terrifies me. The last time I shared it with someone… someone I trusted even… they spilled it to the whole school and I got a lot of hate for it. And if Ellen found out… the consequences are really quite horrible, as projected by my imagination.”

“If you tell them you’ll find out how they’d react and you could stop worrying.”

“I’ve spent years over thinking that kind of thing. I’d rather just be difficult and keep denying them the option of getting me into overly social situations. Besides, not going to lie, sometimes being deliberately contrary is fun.”

Marceline’s smile turned odd, dark and full of promises. It made Bonnie’s heart skip. “So I take it there’s absolutely no way Pippa could convince you to go swimming, huh?” The question had the makings of a topic change, but if that’s what it was, Bonnie could only be grateful.

“Nope.”

“What about me? Could I convince you?”

“Probably not. I’m not wearing swimmers.”

“What if I said I have a change of clothes you could wear,” Marceline pressed. “Would you get in then?”

Bonnie hesitated and that – it would seem – was the only answer Marceline needed. She wrapped her arms around Bonnie’s middle and propelled them off the cliff. If she hadn’t been so damn well surprised, she probably would’ve screamed. But the drop wasn’t far and they hit the water before she could gather her wits and do it.

“You!” she spluttered, bursting free of the water and shoving away from Marceline. “Are by far the most horrid person I know.”

“You don’t mean that.” She sounded sure when she said it, but there was a crease around her eyes that turned it into a question.

Bonnie splashed water at her. “Just because I don’t mean it doesn’t make it a little bit true right now. That was mean.”

The tightness in Marceline’s face vanished and she grinned. “I do actually have a change of clothes, by the way.”

“That only makes it slightly less awful.”

Marceline flicked a stream of water at her and patted her head. “Come on then, grumpy. We’ll go get you dried off. How’s that?”

“It’ll be cold soon,” Bonnie protested as Marceline dragged her out of the lake. “And I’m soaking.”

“So dry clothes and a Hayden-patented bonfire should do the trick,” Marceline said far too reasonably for Bonnie’s liking. “You’ll be fine. Don’t forget there’re marshmallows.”

She sighed, unable to stop a smile from flickering to life. “Fine. But where am I going to get changed?”

Marceline looked at her like she was stupid. “Behind the car? Don’t worry yourself, I’ll keep watch.”

“You’re a terrible person,” Bonnie reiterated. This time, Marceline didn’t look worried about it. She just smiled and led the way back to the car through the trees.

They circled around so they arrived at the car without bumping into anyone. The sun was starting to set over the lake and Bonnie just stared at it while Marceline retrieved her spare clothes. It was beautiful and would probably have been a good bit more spectacular from the hill, but none of the impact was lost down here. The light danced across the lake, shimmering in a tropical rainbow, reminding her of fruit. That – she decided – was rather a weird analogy to apply to a sunset.

“Here,” Marceline muttered, breaking her free of her thoughts. “Clothes and a towel for your drying needs. I promise I won’t look.”

Bonnie smiled sardonically, snatching the clothes free and hurrying to the other side of the car. She dried herself off and changed as fast as she possibly could and then threw the sopping towel at the back of Marceline’s head. “Thanks,” she said sweetly.

“Ah,” Marceline gasped, peeling the towel off her head. “Yeah, no worries. Next time I’ll let you freeze.”

“Oh there won’t be a next time. You’re on probation.”

“What does that even mean?” she asked, beaming, as they walked back to where Hayden had rekindled the bonfire.

“Whatever I want it to mean,” Bonnie told her seriously.

“What are you wearing?” Pippa queried before Marceline could reply. “I swear you weren’t wearing that before.”

“Marceline dunked me in the river,” she explained. “Hence the change of clothes.”

“Yeah,” Ellen chuckled. “Hence.”

Jake looked impressed. “You got her in the water?” he asked Marceline.

“I might’ve pushed her off the ridge,” she said slowly.

An explosion of applause and laughter ripped through them. “Classy,” Finn called. Bonnie scowled at him.

“Well sit down,” Pippa said past her fading chortles. “Hayden is teaching us how to cook sausage rolls on an open flame. It’s a lot more complex than marshmallows.”

“We brought those,” Marceline provided quietly, sitting warily on the log beside Bonnie.

“I think we all did,” Hayden muttered. “We have like… five thousand bags.”

“I think that’s a challenge,” Jake decided solemnly.

“I’ll take you on,” Finn declared. “I’m going to trounce you in a marshmallow eating contest.”

“Later,” Hayden interrupted. “Rolls first.”

“Amen.”

Hayden was – as expected really – quite good at cooking over an open flame and once she was done, they mostly ended up too busy stuffing their faces to engage in conversation. The promise of roasted marshmallows was interrupted when Marceline nicked all the bags and raced off with them. Hayden laughed as Finn and Jake tore after her, but apparently she had more in her car. Then Eleanor’s phone rang and naturally she couldn’t ignore it. And that left just Bonnie and Pippa sitting in a somewhat strained silence at the fire. Bonnie’s earlier conversation with Marceline wasn’t forgotten when Pippa smiled at her. It made her worry.

“So,” Pippa eventually began. “Nice to see you out of the house.”

“Mmhmm,” Bonnie said, eyes narrowing. “Marceline said you called to get me out here.”

“Well you wouldn’t listen to me,” Penelope sang. “But you did for her and it got me wondering…” Bonnie braced herself. “She was a right bitch to you for a few months and then what? She apologises and everything’s hunky dory again?”

“She had a good reason,” Bonnibel muttered warily.

“Sure, but if… I dunno, Ellen, say. If she was that nasty to me it would definitely take a little more than a simple ‘sorry, Pip, I was cray for a while there’ to get me to forgive her.” Pippa’s head fell to one side. “I’d ask you how much you like Marceline on a scale of one to ten, but I have a feeling you’d break my gauge.”

Bonnie – not wanting to encourage this particular line of conversation – remained quiet. And as much as she might like to, she was unsure how to change it without being obvious. Any recognizable detours in the dialogue would be identified as such instantly and raise Pippa’s suspicions. That would end badly.

“I need a simple, straight forward answer to this next question, Bonnie,” Pippa said carefully. “Okay? Good. Assuming that the scale from one to ten is the ‘friend zone' how high does Marceline sit on the next part of that gauge? The scale from eleven to twenty where someone is when you fancy them as more than a friend, I mean.”

Bonnibel’s throat closed over. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she rasped hoarsely.

“Oh, come on, Bonnie,” Penelope sighed, exasperated. “It’s really freaking obvious that you like her. Like… really obvious. If Ellen wasn’t so utterly convinced that you’re some sort of runaway nun, she’d back me up.”

She shook her head. “Nope.”

“Do you want me to list all the reasons I know you like her?” Pippa asked softly. “I can, you know. There’re a lot of them. Like how you smile when you see her. The fact that her number is second on your speed dial list and she’s above Peter, even. The way you talk about her, the way you let her into your flat without even asking, no matter the time. Heck, whenever I ask you to do something, or go somewhere with us, you always put up a bit of resistance. But not when Marceline asks you.”

Bonnie’s jaw dropped. “Wait, you asked her to get me out here to back-up your theory that I’m… what… attracted to her?”

Pippa didn’t even have the good grace to look abashed by the accusation. She just said, “Of course I did. I’m pretty observant, you know. I just needed to figure you out. You didn’t make it easy, but I’m right. Aren’t I?”

It was like her mentioning the fear that someone would work it out was a jinx. With a reluctant sigh, Bonnie nodded. “Yeah,” she exhaled. “I suppose you are right.”

Unexpectedly, Pippa didn’t do a little victory dance, she just blinked and asked, “So is Marceline an exception to the rule, or are you gay?”

“The latter.”

“And you didn’t tell us… why?”

Bonnie hunched her shoulders. “Previous experience has taught me better than to trust folks straight up with it. Plus Reich is a church town. It didn’t seem well advised.”

“Fair enough,” Pippa said, bobbing her head. “Does she know?”

“Does who know what?”

Pippa rolled her eyes. “Does Marceline know you bat for the other team?”

“Yes. And so does Finn.”

“What?” Pippa nearly screeched. “Why does…? You told him and not me?”

“You didn’t keep asking me out,” Bonnie informed her dryly. “I figured I should discourage him.”

Penelope still seemed indignant, but she nodded. “And the others? Will you tell them?”

“Not Ellen,” Bonnie said, horrified. “Not yet. She’ll tell everyone. Maybe Jake and Hayden though.”

“Maybe Jake and Hayden what?” Finn asked, dropping down in front of the fire with a bag of marshmallows. Jake and Marceline weren’t far behind; he looked a little disgruntled because he hadn’t managed to get a packet off her. Marceline just looked smug.

“Yeah,” Hayden piped up, throwing a spare bag from her car at Jake. “What are we talking about?”

Pippa just stared at Bonnie expectantly. She sighed, twisting in her seat to find Eleanor waving her hands animatedly while she spoke on the phone. God knows who was on the other end. Probably her sometimes-best-friend, Melissa.

“If I don’t tell them will you do it?” Bonnie asked Pippa quietly.

“Most likely. You do realise that it’s actually the minority who is out of the loop here, right?”

Bonnibel nodded, face scrunching up. “Ugh, you’re horrible. And pushy and demanding and this is why I don’t like hanging out with people.”

“Wait,” Finn said around a mouth full of marshmallows. “There’s a reason for that?”

“Yeah,” Marceline told him. “She doesn’t like talking to people.”

“I thought that was your problem,” he fired back.

“Shut up,” Pippa groaned before Marceline could speak again. “Let Bonnie talk.”

All eyes swivelled her way and that sure didn’t help. She took a deep breath. “Alright. Well, I don’t…” she sighed. “I’m gay.”

Marceline rolled her eyes and Finn just shrugged. Hayden blinked at her, the marshmallow she was toasting going crispy and Jake burst out laughing. Bonnie did not feel relieved to have told them at all. If anything, the tenseness in her shoulder coiled tighter.

“Oh, that explains so much,” Jake hooted. He ribbed his cousin in the side. “I bet that hurts, mate, doesn’t it?”

Finn hunched his shoulders again. “I already knew,” he mumbled.

“You what?” Jake all but hollered. “What?”

“She told me ages ago so I’d stop asking her out.”

Jake’s mouth worked. He was a fly trap this time. “I get Pippa knowing since they’re besties. But… oh man. Did you know?” he pointed a finger at Hayden.

She shook her head. “News to me. I guess I haven’t known you long enough to know why this explains so much, but I get it’s a big deal,” Hayden went on, directing her words at Bonnie. “I knew a gay guy at my last town. He said coming out to everyone was nerve-wracking.”

“And you?” Jake’s finger turned on Marceline.

“I knew,” she admitted with a half-shrug. “No biggie.”

Jake deflated. “I feel so left out.”

“If it’s any consolation, Jake,” Bonnie muttered, feeling a little better. “Ellen doesn’t know. And I’m not telling her until she can learn to keep a secret.”

“So… never,” he deduced. “Okay, cool. I can live with that. Got any other revelations for us?”

“How about why you moved here,” Pippa suggested innocently. “You’ve been here for nearly a whole year and no one knows why.”

“Yeah,” Finn and Jake chorused, backing her up.

“My parents… died,” Bonnie told them, figuring the abridged version would hurt less. “Peter’s the only family I have left. Since I wasn’t sixteen, I had to move here. And two moves in a year didn’t sound healthy, plus I didn’t really want to go back to the school I left anyway. So I stayed.”

Finn’s eyes almost fell out of his head while Jake and Pippa both lost control of their lower jaws and Hayden eyed her sadly. The only one who didn’t show any real shock was Marceline (obviously). Well, it was obvious to Bonnie; Pippa took it the wrong way.

“I’m so sorry,” Pippa whispered.

“Yeah, that’s rough,” Jake commiserated. Finn seemed pretty lost for words.

“You,” Penelope said, levelling a finger at a now surprised Marceline.

“What about me?”

That’s how you react when a friend says her parents passed away?”

Marceline floundered, eyes going straight to Bonnie. “But… I… I already knew. Should I be shocked a second time?”

“What?” Pippa screeched. “How long have you known that?”

“Um…” Marceline’s eyes rolled skyward as she thought. “About two weeks?”

“And I think that’s my cue to go,” Bonnie said, standing. She figured she’d better cut Pippa off before she exploded. “It’s getting late and I didn’t tell Pete where I was going.”

“Yeah,” Hayden chuckled. “Drop a couple of bombshells and scamper. Good plan.”

“This gives you the opportunity to talk about me while I’m gone,” Bonnie told her wryly. “Have fun.”

It took Marceline five seconds before remembering that she was Bonnie’s ride. “Hey,” she called, darting after her. “I didn’t eat enough food things yet.”

“So we’ll stop for pizza on the way,” Bonnie muttered. “I just need to go now. I can’t… I need space.”

“From me too? Because it’ll be hard to give you space in the car,” Marceline said lightly.

“No,” Bonnibel said, smiling wanly. “You’re good. Pizza and maybe a movie?”

“Sounds good to me. On one condition.” She held up a warning finger to make her point.

“God, what?”

I’m buying the pizza. Not you.”

She laughed, properly this time; considering how drained she felt, that was a feat. “Sure thing.” Of course, then she had the whole drive home to think about her talk with Pippa. Sitting next to Marceline wasn’t helping the squirming in her stomach at all and then there was the possibility that her friend really did fall on the ‘eleven to twenty’ scale. She didn’t want to think about it.

And in her psychic way, Marceline knew it. Utilising her super powers, Marceline told her a story that somehow made her worries go away. Bonnie even smiled.

This was not good.