Saturday 1st November 2014
“Not that one!”
“You were warned.”
Bonnie rolled her eyes. Finn nursed his head where he’d banged it on a branch with one hand and rubbed his knee with the other. He was smiling though, which could only be a good thing. With a twist to his smile – pulling it up into more of a smirk – Finn lifted the apple from his lap and waved it, taunting.
“Got the apple though,” he crowed.
Jake just laughed. “You could have a concussion, mate. Don’t be stupid again. If you fall out of a tree doing something dumb and die, dad will beat you to death with your own corpse.”
“I don’t think that’s possible,” Pippa informed him bluntly. “Chuck that apple, Finn.”
He did so, lobbing it right at Penelope’s head. “Oops,” Finn called down, sheepishly.
“Hands, Finn,” Pippa reminded him as she ducked. She lifted one and gestured with it. “I have them. I do not catch flying fruit with my mouth.”
“How many have we got, Bonnibel?” Jake asked, picking up the apple Finn had used in his decapitation attempt. “I want to be done.”
“Um…” Hastily, Bonnie shoved her phone into her back pocket and tallied the fruit that had been added since her last count. “Fourteen. How many do we need?”
“More than that,” Jake groaned. “And Ellen bailed on us again. Cause… you know, we could’ve used the help.”
Pippa snorted. “And how much help would she have been, Jake, dear? She likes outdoor activities about as much as you like wash outs at sports events.”
Jake’s face contorted at the very thought. “You have a point.” His eyes cut across to Bonnie and smiled dangerously when he caught her on her phone again. “Hey, Bonnie. What’s that text say that it’s got you smiling so big, huh?”
In an attempt to deny the way her heart skipped a beat and a flush crept up her throat; she stuffed her phone away again. “Nothing. No one. What are you talking about?”
“Secret boyfriend?” Jake teased.
“Girlfriend,” Finn corrected.
“Oh right. What he said.”
Bonnie rolled her eyes again. Sheesh, what was going on with her life? She was getting as bad as… as bad as… as Marceline. She sighed. “No secret anythings,” Bonnibel told them, resigned to the fact that they’d stand there and stare at her until she gave them an ‘acceptable’ answer.
Jake simply wiggled his eyebrows at her, but turned back to the tree. He hauled himself up as Finn flopped down and headed towards the house. “I’m just… ice,” he grouched, waving a hand at his head. “It kinda hurts.”
And when he was gone and Pippa went back to staring up into the tree to direct Jake at apples, Bonnie pulled her phone out again. Just in time for the screen to flash with a new message.
Bonnie tilted her head, thinking that through. Since they were all gathered in the orchard off the highway right before where the turn-off for Ivy’s branched out, lunch would not be easy. She pulled her bottom lip between her teeth as she mulled it over.
Sure. I’m at the orchard. You could pick me up on your way home and we could have lunch at mine?
There was a long pause while she waited on a response.
Sounds good. I’ll be by in ten.
See you then.
“Hey,” Bonnie called after that, prompting Pippa to turn around mid-instruction. “What are we doing for lunch?”
“Ivy said she left some food in her fridge for us,” Jake hollered down. “Incoming, Pip.” She looked back up at him just as he dropped the apple. With surprisingly good reflexes, Penelope wrapped one hand around the apple and deposited it in the bucket with the rest. “Why’s that, Bonnie?”
“Oh. I was just thinking I might not stick around,” she replied, waving a hand vaguely back towards Reich.
“You’re gonna bail too?” Jake whined.
She laughed at him. “You guys hardly need me to stand around counting apples,” Bonnie told him drolly. “This is more of a two person job. You’ll be fine.”
Pippa checked her watch. “You could stay for lunch,” she suggested. “If we go back to the house now, we could eat and then you could go.”
Jake’s eyes flicked from Pippa back to Bonnie. If he’d been a puppy he would’ve been wearing the most adorable little expression with his head on one side and his ears pricked up. Bonnibel glanced between them.
“Maybe,” she conceded.
“Wait. Why only maybe?” Jake asked, swinging down from the branch he’d been perched on.
“It depends what my ride wants to do,” she hedged.
“Oh, right,” Jake exclaimed. “So you were texting someone to take you home, huh? We’re not good enough?”
“That’s not…” Bonnie began. “You’re great. Standing in the sun is just not how I prefer to spend my Saturdays.” There. That was a perfectly legitimate excuse.
Only… “Yeah, sure we are,” Jake huffed. “That’s exactly why you’ve spent all morning texting someone else. It’s not Ellen is it?”
Bonnie snorted. “No, she’s with Brad. Why would she reply to any message I send her? I’m not more interesting than her sometimes-boyfriend.”
“She has a point,” Penelope noted.
“Alright,” Jake began, rolling his shoulders and cracking his knuckles. “Let me guess who it was then. Can’t be too many options.”
“It was Marceline,” Pippa decided before Jake could get another word out. “She’s the only person who gets a smile like that out of Bonnie with a simple text.”
Jake probably got whiplash looking from Pippa to Bonnie then. “Was it Marceline?” he asked lowly.
Bonnie could only nod slowly.
Pippa arched an eyebrow, her smile darkening into something disturbingly malicious and Bonnibel did not like the look of it one bit. Nope. “Hot date?” she taunted.
“Oh my god,” Bonnie breathed, feeling her face go so incredibly warm it must’ve been bright red. “No. She’s heading home from work and I suggested lunch so she’s picking me up.”
Jake let out a whoop. “Bonnie has a hot date!” he cried, wrapping her up in a massive hug that lifted her from the ground. “Although…” he amended, setting her on her feet again. “With Marceline… I’m not sure if ‘hot’ is the right word to use.” He fiddled with one earlobe. “I mean… too much metal.”
“It’s not a date,” Bonnie exhaled. “We do lunch all the time. Dinner sometimes too if she’s studying and stayed late.” She jabbed Jake in the chest. “If I was forced to tutor you it wouldn’t be a date.”
He rubbed the spot, puppy dog face back in action. “I’m not a girl though,” he mumbled. “Besides, it’s Saturday.”
“Yeah,” Pippa agreed, backing him up. “You don’t study on a Saturday. Ergo: a date.”
Giving up on convincing them otherwise, Bonnie threw her hands up, sighed again for good measure and headed for the house. Jake hollered something after her that might have been an apology but she waved it off with one hand and kept walking. Marceline would park at the house and if she wasn’t there a clean getaway wasn’t guaranteed. Clean was best.
Being greeted as she walked through the back door by Finn’s rear end waving in the air while his head was shoved in the freezer (situated rather low to the ground) was not what she’d expected. She wasn’t entirely sure, but she thought maybe – just maybe – he was singing something incredibly poppy. With a delighted caw, Finn backed out of the appliance with one hand wrapped around an ice cream and the other pressing a bag of beans to the side of his head. When he turned and saw her his face lit up like a stop sign.
“Oh… uh, hi.”
Bonnie pressed her lips together to prevent herself from laughing. “Hi. Having fun?”
“Um… sure.” His gaze flitted all around the room, refusing to meet her eyes. “I think I heard a car pull up,” he grumbled, now staring at the floor. “Not sure though. It was hard to hear through all the insulation.”
“Mmhmm,” Bonnie hummed, still holding in her giggles. Finn tucked his top lip between his teeth and slid up onto the counter in the kitchen. She left him there to recover and meandered through the house to the front door.
Pulling it in, she was just in time to see Marceline lift a hand to knock. Both of them smiled at exactly the same time and it prompted a fit of chuckles from Bonnie (that she’d swear had nothing to do with her lingering amusement over Finn’s freezer dance). She opened the door wider, an invitation for her to come in.
Marceline shook her head, massive grin wavering for one fleeting second. “No thanks,” she said quietly. “I’d rather not get sucked into whatever drama they’re having today. Or be roped into staying.”
“Not even for a little bit?” Finn called from the kitchen. “You can help us pick apples.”
With a casual eye roll, Marceline huffed out a laugh. “No, not even for that, Finn,” she bellowed back. “I’ll save my tree climbing quotient for mangoes later in the season.” The last was added softly at the end, evidently just for Bonnie’s benefit.
“You want to go then?” Bonnibel queried, already expecting the answer.
Marceline’s easily anticipated ‘Yeah’ was accompanied with a half-shrug and a weird vacant look. Bonnie frowned at it but Marceline would neither meet her eyes nor comment further.
So Bonnie pressed one hand into Marceline’s hip and pushed her backwards out the door. It was enough to snap her back to reality and prompt her into moving on her own. Bonnibel pulled the door closed on her way out, realising only at the last second that she should probably yell at Finn to let Pippa and Jake know that she was going. She got only a muffled reply in return.
“So how was work?” she asked, sliding into the passenger seat of Marceline’s car.
Her friend was now not even trying to conceal her sour expression, simply scrunching up her face and shaking her head. “Rubbish,” she grouched.
“Aw, what happened?”
Marceline gave her the strangest look then, part painful sadness that actually made Bonnie’s heart tremble in its housing and part pleading pout. And since Marceline didn’t pout ever, that meant it must be pretty serious.
Bonnibel rested her hand on Marceline’s knee and squeezed. “That bad, huh? Well I’ll make pancakes when we get home and you can pick whichever horrible movie you like. How’s that sound?”
A slow exhalation of breath was all Bonnie thought she’d get. Until Marceline flashed her a grateful smile (even if it wavered, it was still obviously better than nothing). “Thanks, Bon. You are the best person on the planet.”
“I try,” she replied, tossing her hair flippantly. It elicited an amused chuckle from Marceline, which made it well worth the degradation of indulging in such an act. “But other than ‘rubbish’ for whatever mysterious reason that I won’t ask about again – how was your morning?”
Another half-shrug. “I guess it was alright. I saw Keila and her boyfriend in there this morning. It was nice to have a chat.”
Bonnie beamed at her; glad Marceline could at least find some sort of bonus even if she said her day sucked. “See? That’s good. Did she have anything exciting to say?”
“Not since I saw her yesterday at school,” Marceline responded flatly. “I’m starting to think I need a new best friend.”
“While I still refuse to adopt Keila’s currently under-loved title,” Bonnibel told her in what she hoped was a diplomatic way. “You do have me. I won’t be your best friend. But I will be whatever else you want to call me.”
“How about Dork?”
“That’s quite a step down from Replacement Bestie,” Bonnie mused. “But sure, why not?”
Marceline sighed. “Part of me really wants to be super petty and get a significant other to place in a higher position than Keila,” she very nearly whispered. “But that seems like a dumb reason.”
“It is,” Bonnibel opined. And then a loaded statement fell out before she could check it: “I certainly wouldn’t date you just to tick off Keila. I think I’d probably start singing she will be loved at you and then slam the door in your face.”
“Maroon Five?” Marceline asked, face crumpling. “Whatever. I don’t think your opinion counts anyway.”
“Why not?” Bonnie harrumphed. “I’m sure my opinion is at least as valid as any guys. More valid if the guy is Ash.”
Marceline glanced at her sideways. “But you’re a friend,” she argued. “I think you’re probably a little bit biased. You do seem pretty intent on hanging out with me.”
“Ah, no!” Bonnie declared, lifting a finger and an eyebrow at the same time. “Even before I decided you’re not so bad, I’m pretty sure I remember telling you that you could do better.”
“Than Ash,” Marceline pointed out as if being specific made a difference. And… yeah, okay, to be fair it kind of did. Ash was in his own class of scum. Good point.
Bonnie ignored that, waving it away. “My point is: you can do better. You’re not as horrid as you think you are. Besides, I didn’t mean that I wouldn’t date you, I just meant that literally anyone could say that and I’d still slam the door on them. It’s not a good enough reason to ask someone out.”
Marceline’s normally pale face was suddenly very pink. “I’m going to choose to ignore all of that and move on.”
Bonnie grinned. “Sure. How is dear Ash these days?” she enquired, facilitating Marceline’s topic change.
Apparently that was not a wise move. Her friend’s hands tightened on the wheel, knuckles going white. “He was at the diner this morning,” Marceline ground out.
“I’m sorry,” she muttered, slumping back into her seat. “He’s still a wad, huh?”
“A total wad,” Marceline concurred. “He likes to assume that I’m going to fail school, end up with no prospects and go crawling back to him.”
“I solemnly swear that in the unlikely event you do fail school and end up with nowhere to go, you can move in with me,” Bonnie told her. “Of course, if you fail then I’ll probably be very upset with you and life might be tough until you get used to my very upfront disapproval.”
“It’d still be better than him,” she noted softly. “So thank you. But I won’t fail. I’d hate to let you down.” And finally, another pallid smile flickered to life. “At least you like me. He just wants things I won’t give him.”
Bonnie cleared her throat to draw Marceline’s attention. “And what makes you think I don’t want stuff from you?” she asked darkly, smile quirking dangerously. When Marceline’s pink flared into bright red Bonnibel cackled. “Oh, you’re too easy. Relax. I was joking.”
Marceline coughed. “Good,” she rasped.
“In all seriousness though, am I allowed to ask what you think he wants?”
When Marceline sucked in a massive breath and let it ooze out through her nose (the tension very obviously leaving her hands at the same time), Bonnie was ready to hastily assure her that no answer was actually required. But then she spoke. And it broke Bonnibel’s heart all over again.
“He wants me to be his plaything,” Marceline muttered. “He wants me to… service him or whichever of his lousy thugs happened to be shy a two-bit whore. He wants to be the one to claim that he stole my innocence. He wants to be the one who defiled the preacher’s daughter. In his perfect world, I’m little more than his slave. A decoration to make food and keep him happy in every way his dirty little mind can think of.”
Bonnie patted her knee again. “I think I’m going to break his nose,” she decided. “If he ever says something like that within my hearing, his nose is fair game. You alright with that?”
Marceline barked a sour laugh. “Sure thing, feisty pants.” Even though she’d just put the car into park outside Bonnie’s house, she didn’t get out. She simply sat there with her palms splayed out on her thighs.
“Hey.” She didn’t speak again until Marceline looked up. “He doesn’t deserve you, alright? You’re not his trophy, not his winnings, not his property. And you need to know that. You also need to know that you’re freaking awesome and you’re my friend and if he so much as touches you, I will break him. One day you can have a prince charming or whatever and until then, you’re stuck with me.”
Marceline’s face fell apart into something gentle. She didn’t speak though; instead she got out strolled around to Bonnie’s side of the car, opened the door and pulled her up into a bone-crushing hug. She pressed her face into Bonnie’s shoulder and stood there, holding on for dear life.
“Being stuck with you is fine with me,” she garbled into Bonnie’s collar. One Mississippi. “You’re a better friend than I deserve.” Two Mississippi.
“No. Stop. There will be no self-pity,” Bonnie reprimanded even as she returned the hug. Three Mississippi. “You’re an amazing person and you forget that all the time. What you deserve is to be happy.” Four Mississippi. “You deserve someone who makes you happy. Someone who believes you can be in a massively famous rock band. Are we clear?” Five Mississippi.
Marceline exhaled, it sounded funny. It sounded as strange as the way Marceline’s fingers playing with the fabric at the hem of her shirt felt, the way she felt pressed up against Bonnie. Six Mississippi. “Yeah, Bon. We’re clear. Do you have a plan to help me find someone like that?”
“No,” Bonnie admitted. Seven Mississippi. “But I’m going to hang around until you do find that person. I promise. And if Ash gets in the way… well… let’s just say I might know a guy.”
Just as she began to count out the eighth Mississippi, Marceline pulled away, stuffing her hands in her pockets awkwardly. “Why do you believe I can do something with music?” she asked softly, as if afraid of the answer. Or maybe the question.
Bonnie bumped their shoulders together, getting Marceline to look up from the pavement. Then she did something brave (read: stupid) and wound her fingers into Marceline’s. “Because I’ve seen you play all kinds of instruments,” she explained as if it should be glaringly apparent. And really, it should be. “I’ve heard you sing; I’ve been privy to all of your musical rants and suffered through all your remixing attempts. I know you’re talented, Marceline. And I’m going to help you show the world.” She started up the drive to the house, dragging Marceline with her by virtue of their still joined hands. “Because honestly, it’d be kind of a crime against humanity to deprive them.”
“Bonnibel Banner,” Marceline breathed. “You’re one strangely excellent person.”