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Pray for the Preacher's Daughter

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Monday 13th October 2014

Why on God’s green Earth did her birthday have to be on a Monday? Why? That seemed unreasonably cruel, honestly. And it wasn’t even a regular Monday. It was the first freaking Monday back at school for the term. What a horrible, nasty, God-awful day to have a birthday fall.

Everything seemed so very hard. Getting out of bed was hard, exchanging pyjamas for regular clothes on was hard, she stumbled and nearly fell down the stairs getting to the kitchen and then eating breakfast was terribly hard. Almost she was tempted to fall asleep on her toast and just not go in to school. She shouldn’t have to. Nobody should be expected to go anywhere on their birthday; let alone to school.

Still, she persevered, managing to make it – without incident – back up to her room to grab her stuff for the day. Even as she threw things into her bag, her phone, sitting on the edge of her bed, beeped. She almost didn’t pick it up, but she was glad she did.

Happy birthday, dork.

Without any prior permission, no forms filed to be rendered in triplicate, no applications, no warning of any kind, a smile exploded across her face. It was surprisingly satisfying to know that at… seven-twenty-six in the morning, Bonnibel had sent her a message (there were none from Keila, which would’ve made anger boil in her stomach, but the text from Bonnie made up for it). Actually, it was shocking to think Bonnie even remembered her birthday. It made little sparklers fizzle in her chest.

And then – just like that – just exactly that easily – her day didn’t seem nearly so bad as she’d foreseen. There was the tiniest little bounce in her step as she tromped down the stairs (sans the falling thing this time). What made it even better was that her dad was going to be busy until seven that evening so she probably wouldn’t have to interact with him too much. And to make things even more spectacular (and Marceline hadn’t thought it was possible), her car started the first go. Amazing. The stars must’ve been aligned or something.

Thanks, nerd, she sent back to Bonnie while the car psyched itself up. Do you need a lift?

The reply came not a minute later. Nah, thanks though. Pip wanted help this morning so she dragged me in early.

Oh the trauma.

Stop texting while you’re driving.

Marceline was still smiling. All the way through town, down the side street to the back entrance to the school parking lot, even as she ducked into the admin building to have her attendance taken, she couldn’t stop smiling. The woman at the desk always seemed surprised when Marceline turned up to school and today her eyes widened a good bit more than usual.

Rolling her eyes, Marceline headed along the corridor. Where you at? she sent to Bonnie as she walked.

She could feel the laughter in the words when Bonnie replied, Stalker much? In the hall.

More like a theatre, the hall was where students were meant to accumulate for announcements or compulsory assemblies. The drama students used it for whatever reason and the band practiced on the stage because it gave a better idea of acoustics and sound. Why Bonnie and Pippa were in there was a mystery.

Marceline poked her head in the side door, wondering if this was a bad idea. It didn’t look any different to usual, but she couldn’t see either of them. Warily, she stepped inside. She circled around to the first row of always-in-place seating and blinked.

“Oh hey,” Bonnibel called cheerfully from on stage. “Happy birthday.”

“What… are you doing?” Marceline asked her, smiling.

Bonnie rocked on the step ladder as she twisted to pick something up off the table beside her. “Gregory sent the seniors an email yesterday about having the hall set up pre-emptively for their graduation. The seniors are lazy though and don’t care, so Pippa and the other aspiring student council members for next year offered to help.”

“And naturally you joined them,” Marceline observed wryly. “The graduation isn’t for another two months, you know.”

“Yeah, we know. But Pippa wants to make a good impression, so we’re starting on the basics now.” The ladder wobbled again and Marceline unconsciously took a step forward, worried it would tip over. “Ellen is working on the aesthetics thing with Melissa and Pippa in the back.”

“Do you need a hand?” she enquired, pointing at the ladder.

“Couldn’t hurt.”

Marceline climbed up the front of the stage so if Bonnie looked like she was about to fall she’d have a cushion at least. The thought of catching her friend was completely harmless until her mind pointed out that that sort of thing happened in romantic stories all the time and might be misconstrued. She had to shake the notion free.

Friends, she stressed to herself.

“… pass me that one?” Bonnie was pointing to a screwdriver with one hand while the other held a decorative light fixture in place. Marceline handed it up to her, knuckles tight on the handle of the ladder. One leg was significantly shorter than the others and she didn’t think it was safe.

“What is that?” she asked, taking in the light… thing… for the first time.

“Pippa said these chandeliers would work as side lighting,” Bonnie explained, grunting as she tightened the screw she was working with. “There’s going to be another one up high over the centre of the stage. I suppose it’s a presentation thing.”

“And you’re qualified to install a light fitting?” Marceline teased.

“I just had to run the power cable off-stage to the power point and make sure the bracket was secure,” Bonnie replied as she attacked another screw. “So long as it doesn’t fall it should be fine. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist.”

“Does it work?”

Bonnie leaned away from the light – it was in the shape of a sort of mushroom thing, with little globes dangling from it, it kind of looked like an atom really – and dropped the screwdriver to the table. “Help me down?”

Marceline rolled her eyes, but offered a hand anyway. “You didn’t answer my question,” she noted once Bonnibel was a safe distance away and her heart had resumed a normal pace. “It looks like it should work, but does it?”

Bonnie grinned. “Do you want to flip the switch?”

“Nah, you put it up. You do it.”

So she headed off stage for a minute to turn the light on. Marceline had to scrunch her eyes shut it was so bright. “Yeah, you got it,” she called to Bonnie. “It’s working, turn it off now.”

The world beyond her eyelids darkened considerably and she deemed it safe to open her eyes again. Bonnie reappeared, smiling tentatively but all Marceline could see was a big green blotch across her vision. If she didn’t quite look at her friend, she could see, but when her gaze was fixed straight on Bonnie turned into a strangely warped blob of translucence.

“Did it work?”

“Hell yeah it did,” Marceline grouched. “Everyone on stage is going to be blinded by them.”

“Oh I haven’t attached the shades yet,” Bonnie told her sheepishly. “They have covers.”

“Might want to add those.”

Bonnie shrugged. “Later, the bell’s about to ring.” On cue the signal for first lesson to begin rang out through the school. Firing her a departing grin, Bonnie headed for the exit. “See you in maths.”

Marceline scrubbed her hands across her face, trying to shift the green shape burned into her retinas. “Mm, yep,” she replied vaguely. She forced the olive colour aside, tracing Bonnie’s movements through the chairs and out of the hall.

It took her a moment to gather her wits together and follow. Although, as she moseyed through the corridors towards her first lesson; Marceline debated whether or not she really wanted to be in attendance for her physics class. First thing on a Monday, she sincerely hoped everyone questioned going. They probably didn’t.

When she sat in her usual corner (without her books, turning up was one thing, doing work something completely different) and Eleanor fixed her with an unreadable expression, she decided showing was worth it. The look sent her way by the nosey gossip was somewhere between unbelievably gobsmacked, bemused and… wait… was that… pride? Marceline shook her head, knowing that couldn’t be right, and cast it from her mind.

Still, Eleanor’s smile worried her through the whole class. And when the bell rang (to blissfully release them from the torture), Eleanor’s whispered ‘happy birthday’ was equally confounding. Perhaps the whole world had flipped its lid.

Marceline was convinced that nothing else could shock her more than Eleanor’s words. So that when she walked into her maths class and found Finn bouncing in his seat with a party hat perched on his head, she stopped dead in her tracks and re-evaluated everything in her life. Bonnie was beside him wearing a quiet smile, studiously attempting to ignore her friend’s antics.

“Happy birthday, Marceline,” Finn crowed as she sat down on Bonnie’s other side. It didn’t save her from him reaching over to slam a pointy orange hat on her head. “Sorry it’s a Monday.”

She blinked at him, dumbfounded. When she turned her gaze on Bonnibel the smile on the redhead’s face arced higher. “Did you plan this?” Marceline asked her, the accusation not quite hidden in her words.

“Nope.”

“How does everyone know it’s my birthday then?”

“I told them,” Bonnie admitted. “But I didn’t plan a party or a cake or anything. I just got you a present.” Now Bonnibel looked across at her. “Which I assume, from your lack of books, that you haven’t found in your locker.”

“How did you get it in my locker?” Marceline asked a little shrilly.

“I guess you’ll never know. Do your work.”

With that, Bonnie went back to her maths textbook and prodded Finn to do the same. Birthday related nonsense wasn’t discussed for the rest of the class. And when Marceline finally realised she was wearing a party hat (as the bell rang, unfortunately) and she ripped it off, Bonnie didn’t even comment.

This was now bordering on the crazy levels of weird. And uncomfortable. As they left the classroom for their spare, though, it got worse (or stranger anyway, Marceline wasn’t sure if it was a bad strange just yet).

Bonnie grabbed her hand and dragged her down the corridor heading in the complete other direction to anywhere they might do study in their spare. Marceline was kept so thoroughly off-balance as they headed through the halls. She was concerned enough by this behaviour that she didn’t even notice when Bonnie wound their fingers together.

Not until they stopped beside her locker anyway. Then she looked down and ripped her hand free, going bright red. She didn’t want to acknowledge the thudding in her chest, but she also didn’t have much choice. It kind of hurt. And the way Bonnibel smiled at her so brightly sure wasn’t helping.

Marceline swallowed, working moisture into her suddenly dry throat. Speaking seemed inexplicably hard right then. “What… Why are we here?” she asked hoarsely, looking around, down the hall – anywhere but directly at Bonnie.

Her friend nodded at the locker. “Get your present. You can unwrap it in our spare.”

Frowning, Marceline twirled the knob on her padlock and opened the door. As promised, a small package rested on the top shelf of her locker. It was wreathed in black and white checked paper and bound with a red bow. Her frown vanished, replaced with a soft smile.

The paper crinkled as she picked it up, squeezing it. It was about the size of a textbook and squishy. Honestly, from holding the gift alone, Marceline didn’t have a clue what it might be.

“What is it?” fell out of her mouth before she could stop it.

Bonnibel slammed the door shut and snapped the padlock closed before taking Marceline’s hand again and leading her towards the music building. “You’ll just have to open it and find out.”

Deprived of one hand, however, Marceline couldn’t do that as they walked and instead kept squeezing it between her fingers, trying to work out what it could be. It… kind of felt like a lumpy pillow. But if Bonnie had gotten her one of those for her birthday she’d be a little upset about all this suspense she was being put through.

Bonnie crumpled to the grass, yanking her down too. Then the redhead stared at her expectantly. “Come on, Marceline,” she whined. “I want to know if you like it.”

Marceline arched an eyebrow. “It doesn’t look like a guitar…” she mused. “I said you could buy me with a guitar. Weren’t you listening?”

“I decided to start small. Ease you into it.”

Laughing at that, Marceline slipped the bow off and prised the flap free of sticky tape, not wanting to rip the paper Bonnie had so meticulously folded. The present inside the paper slid free, tipping out one end with a little bit of prodding. It slumped into her lap and Marceline laughed all the harder.

“Food, huh?” she asked, inspecting the packet. “Maybe you know me better than I thought. Candy Kingdom marshmallows are my favourite.”

“Now read the label,” Bonnie prompted.

Her eyes widened as she did as instructed. “What?” she exclaimed, flipping the bag over, doing a double check. “What is this? I’ve never seen this flavour before.”

“That’s because it doesn’t exist,” Bonnibel told her.

Marceline glanced up at her, then back down at the plastic. ‘Strawberry Centred’ was the heading underneath the bubblegum text reading ‘Candy Kingdom Marshmallows’ and Marceline had never seen it before. She stared at the packet for a moment longer.

“If I open this to see if they really are as advertised,” Marceline began slowly. “I think I’ll regret ruining the integrity of the packaging and opening something that doesn’t exist. Is there more of these? Will they be released sometime in the future?”

Bonnie shook her head. “I might be able to get my hands on another bag if you ask nicely, but they’re not going to be stocked at a supermarket near you. Or any supermarket really. This is a once-off.”

“And when you say you ‘might’ be able to…” Marceline pressed. “Does that mean you can or that you have no way of doing that?”

Bonnibel laughed. “It means I have two other bags – the only other bags – at home in my cupboard. Why?”

“Because I kinda wanna eat them to make sure they’re real,” she muttered, squeezing the bag again in her hands. “It’s two of my favourite things in one convenient wrapping. But what if it’s lying to me?”

“You raise a valid point.”

“Should I eat them?”

“What’s the point of marshmallows if not to eat them?” Bonnie countered.

Grinning widely, Marceline split the packet with a crisp snap and pulled out one dusted white marshmallow. She frowned at it, inspecting it closely. Then she bit through half of it and squealed when a gooey strawberry centre was revealed. It was perfect. Strawberry goo and marshmallow in one bite-sized portion.

She stuck out a hand and punched Bonnie gently in the shoulder. “These are awesome,” she cried. “How did you get your paws on these if they don’t exist?”

Bonnibel winked. “That’s a trade secret. Just enjoy them. Maybe one day I’ll tell you.”

“You know, you’re pretty magical when it comes to lollies, Bon,” Marceline told her. “There’s never a shortage of it when you’re around. I like it. You can stay.”

“Glad I have your blessing,” she replied drolly.

“Can I have one of the other packets?” Marceline asked around another marshmallow. “One to never open? I’ll just admire it.”

“Sure. You can take it home this afternoon.”

She felt her heart sink, the elation of the lollies wheezing out her ears. “Study? On my birthday?”

“No study,” Bonnie said, shaking her head. “But since your dad’s not going to be home, I figured you could have dinner with us tonight. Whatever you want.”

Marceline’s smile bloomed slowly and without permission. “You’re pretty great, you know that?”

Her friend just shrugged. “I have my moments, just like anyone.”

“I happen to think you have ten thousand more awesome moments than anyone else ever,” Marceline mumbled. “You could out-awesome anyone you wanted to.”

“Thanks, you’re sweet.”

Marceline’s heart fluttered at the comment, innocent though it was. “Well,” she rasped around the lump in her throat. “Not everyone would know how amazing a packet of marshmallows is, would they? No. Only you thought of that. And it’s – hands down – the best birthday present I’ve had in years.”

“I’ll really have to step up next year then, won’t I,” Bonnie chuckled.

And given how perfect her birthday was that year, Marceline couldn’t help but look forward to it.