Thursday 25th December 2014
Incidentally, Christmas was just as boring in Reich as Easter was. Sure, the morning was all about going to church, and their dear deacon from Blackwater even paid a visit. That said, though, Wight was banal in his delivery so Bonnie didn’t pay him any mind. She actually slumped backwards in her spot and wished Marceline had turned up. Hansen was his usual charming self, but all in all, she was truly relieved when it ended.
“Bonnie!” Jake prefaced throwing an arm around her shoulders and leaning quite heavily on her by screaming her name from two metres away.
“Get off me, Jake,” she sighed. “It’s too early for that.”
He just laughed. “Merry Christmas.”
“You too. What’s up?”
“Wow, don’t sound so cheery,” Pippa chuckled drolly as she wandered up with Hayden and Ellen. “Get your spirit of Christmas face out and put the damn thing on.”
Bonnie arched an eyebrow, but couldn’t hide the smile creeping across her face when she realised Penelope was wearing a Santa hat. The fluffy white bauble chimed softly as it swayed. Ellen was wearing one too… only hers was purple. Naturally.
“We’re going to Ellen’s to open presents,” Hayden told her brightly.
“After lunch,” Eleanor added. “My parents are being stubborn on this whole ‘family Christmas meal’ thing.”
“But we’re totally going to party it up this afternoon,” Finn exclaimed, sliding up on Bonnie’s other side.
“Sounds like fun,” Bonnibel said blithely. “But what makes you think I got you guys presents?”
Pippa gasped melodramatically at that. “I’m scandalised at the thought. I got you a present.”
“Yay me,” she laughed. “Fine, alright. I’ll be over after lunch. Is anybody else invited?”
“Melissa and Brad will be there too,” Ellen informed her. “I think that’s it, though.”
“Cool, sounds like a plan.”
“Invite Marceline,” Pippa called over her shoulder as Jake dragged her away. “She might like a little time away from her dad today.”
Bonnie waved as they disappeared in different directions but didn’t give a reply. There was no way she’d promise anything when Marceline was so… mercurial. Still, with an invitation up her sleeve, she might as well text her.
Do you want to come to Ellen’s this afternoon for a Christmasy present opening party?
There was a slightly longer wait than usual before a text came through, but with Marceline’s broken arm, it wasn’t surprising.
Not at all, she received. I don’t do self-torture.
Aw, but I got you a gift.
You definitely didn’t have to do that. And still no to sitting at Ellen’s. Her birthday was enough for me.
How about you come over to my place this evening then?
Mmm… Okay. That sounds harmless. Are you feeding me?
Excellent. See you then.
She’d barely set foot inside her flat before her phone beeped again. It wasn’t Marceline this time though.
Merry Christmas from Ormeau! It was from Cherry. What’s doing today?
Christmas things, I guess. Lunch with Peter, the afternoon with friends and this evening with another friend. You?
You know the drill. Gotta visit all the relatives.
Have fun with that.
Haha, you too, nerd.
If it wasn’t fun, at the very least she could expect it to be entertaining.
The door slammed behind her as Ellen wrapped her up in a hug. Weird. Ellen’s face pressed into her throat as she was dragged slowly down the hall.
“Eleanor,” she whispered croakily. “Please let me go.” Bonnie tried to slip Ellen’s hands away, but she was very persistent. “Help. Please.”
Jake snorted whatever he was drinking out of his nose when they stepped into the room. He made an unhappy sound straight away. “Ow,” he grumbled, rubbing his nose. Then he looked up and chortled some more.
“Oh,” Pippa giggled. “Hang on. She’s a little bit tipsy.”
“I did not need to learn firsthand that Ellen is a touchy-feely drunk,” Bonnibel grouched as Pippa pried Ellen free. “A verbal warning would have been sufficient.”
“What’s the fun in that?” Jake asked around some more laughter.
“Where’s Marceline?” Pippa enquired, slithering out of Ellen’s grasp to sit on the floor beside Jake. “Did you invite her?”
“I asked if she wanted to come over and she said ‘no’. I don’t blame her,” Bonnie explained. “What about Brad and Melissa?”
Jake and Pippa exchanged a sour glance. “They’re out… together,” Penelope sighed. “Which is why Ellen is attempting to drink herself into oblivion.”
“Ah,” Bonnie exhaled, the explanation making so much more sense than anything else.
“Popcorn!” Hayden sang as she and Finn wandered into the living room bearing bowls of buttered food. “Oh, hey Bonnie. Just in time.”
“No Marceline?” Finn whined, collapsing onto a lounge.
“Nope. So what are we doing?” Bonnie queried, sinking onto the single seat sofa.
“Presents,” Jake declared.
“Ooh! Can I be Santa this year?” Finn asked, bouncing in his chair. “Please?”
“Sure, buddy, go for it.”
“Yes,” Finn hissed, sliding to the tree filling one corner of the room. It wasn’t a large tree by any standards, but it was quite laden with shimmering baubles. Beneath it was a tiny stack of presents that Finn promptly began rummaging through. “Let’s start with this one,” he chortled, snatching a box up and lobbing it at Jake. “It’s for you, from Ellen.”
Jake’s face crumpled. “She gives the worst gifts. Even when she’s sober.” With dread oozing from every movement, Jake peeled the gaudy paper off the present and rolled his eyes when he was greeted with a set of bread knives. “She knows me so well,” he drawled. “Who’s next?”
“Hayden, this is from me and Jake,” Finn said, tossing her a bundle. “And this one is from Ellen. She likes joke gifts so don’t feel too bad about it.”
Frowning, Hayden ripped the paper free and smiled massively when Finn and Jake’s present was a chemistry set for ‘do it yourself fireworks’. Ellen’s present though was a fire blanket and Hayden’s reaction to that was much the same as Jake’s had been.
“Bonnie, this is from Pippa,” Finn called, passing her a box in yellow paper. He winked. “There’s an envelope in there with it from the rest of us.”
“I’m not sure I want to know,” Bonnibel mumbled as she unwrapped it. The envelope at least was harmless; it contained a voucher for a book store at the Blackwater mall. The box though… was a magic eight ball. “Ha ha,” she said drolly. “What am I supposed to take from this?”
“That sometimes you need to take some stupid advice and a leap of faith,” Pippa chirped.
“I feel so much better about my present to you now,” Bonnie told her drily, passing Finn a bag. “For your distribution, Santa.”
Finn obviously rummaged through the bag for Pippa’s present first and handed it off to her with a cheeky grin. Penelope rolled her eyes too when she pulled the book from the paper. “‘How to read social cues’,” she read. “The art of not being invasive in conversation. Thanks, Bonnie. I needed that.”
The rest of the afternoon faded into bad presents, bad jokes, too much junk food and Finn and Jake covering Ellen in silly string after she passed out on the couch. Still, at four-thirty when Bonnie decided it was time she left them to their own devices, she was honestly more excited to get home than she had been to hang out with them. Something in the way Pippa looked at her as she made her farewells told her she wasn’t being subtle enough with the anticipation vibrating through her. Nothing she could do about it, however. Bonnie could lie to others if she wanted, but she’d always sucked at lying to herself. And Pippa was very good at reading her. Hence the book.
As always, her coping mechanism was to ignore the pointed look and hasten home. She didn’t bother checking in on Peter, he was probably out with his friends. Marceline was waiting for her, sitting on the step outside the flat staring at the package in her lap, fiddling with the edge of the cast wrapped around her arm. Bonnie couldn’t press back the smile.
“Hey,” she said softly, stepping over.
Marceline jerked her gaze up, a grin of her own blooming. “Hey yourself. How was the party?”
Bonnibel shrugged, sticking her key in the lock. “It went about as well as I expected. Ellen passed out on the couch because Brad bailed; everyone gave joke presents, ate lots of food and generally mucked up. Just how I thought it would go.”
“Sounds boring. I ordered pizza.”
“You’re perfect,” Bonnie sighed, kicking her shoes off as she pushed inside.
Marceline coughed. “I dunno about that,” she mumbled, her voice sounding a little raspy. “But thanks.”
“So what’s in the box?” Bonnie asked, sinking down onto the sofa. Her friend collapsed carefully beside her.
“What this?” she asked, lifting the present. “Oh nothing. Trash.”
“Sure. Well I got you a present,” Bonnibel said flatly. “Nothing fancy though.”
“That’s fine. After the marshmallow incident I wasn’t expecting anything other than a place to hang out away from dad.”
“Psh, you should know me better by now.”
Marceline shrugged, smirking in the lazy way that made Bonnie’s stomach do backflips. “You’d think,” she muttered.
Bonnie just kept smiling and pulled out a small envelope from her pocket. She turned it over once in her fingers before passing it to her friend. Marceline looked at it for a moment, brow furrowing gently, then she flipped the tab out and opened it up.
From inside she removed the small piece of card and read the instructions. Then her eyes lifted to Bonnibel, a little crease still marring her face. Her mouth didn’t seem to remember how to form words.
“Is this what I think it is?” she questioned in the same croaky voice she’d used earlier.
“It’s a voucher to any three concerts sponsored by some weird conglomerate in Ormeau,” Marceline deadpanned. “Is that right?”
Marceline’s eyes narrowed. “Do I want to ask who you killed to get this? It seems pretty valuable.”
Bonnie could only laugh. “It’s not. Think of it like a coupon for a grocery store. Or a gift voucher for some electronics place. You can redeem three purchases with it. Only these particular purchases are concerts. Although I’m pretty sure it covers the playhouse too. I didn’t read the fine print.”
“Bonnie, how much is this worth?”
“It’s a present, Marceline,” she said instead of answering the question. “Just take it. You can cash them in if you move to Ormeau next year.”
“And if I don’t?”
“Then you can bring it with when you visit me and we’ll go together.”
Marceline’s fingers drummed anxiously on the little box she had in her lap. “I’m not sure I want to give you yours now. I feel upstaged.”
Bonnie swayed across the couch to bump into her shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. The point isn’t what the gift is. The point is it’s a present from you. That’s what matters.”
“How altruistic,” she grumbled sourly. “Merry Christmas,” she sighed a moment later, handing Bonnie the little package.
It wouldn’t have been bigger than both her hands side-by-side, but still, she was pretty excited as she pried the wrapping loose. She tried to keep it inside, but she wasn’t sure how successful she was. Once the paper was unravelled, a clear green case fell free. Inside was a CD. Marceline’s hand writing skittered across the face of it.
For Bonnie, was all that was written on the shiny surface, but a scrap of paper was clipped in with it. The note was folded in two and as Bonnibel reached for it, Marceline’s hand wrapped around hers.
“You can’t read that until you’ve listened to it,” she whispered. “Promise?”
“Sure,” Bonnie murmured, bobbing her head. “I promise.”
“Marceline, is this a mixed CD?” she enquired, trying not to let the laughter bubble free.
“Maybe. But you say that and it sounds really cheesy.”
“It is a little bit. But that’s okay. Thank you.”
Thankfully, Marceline was saved from having to come up with something eloquent to say by a knocking on the door. She bolted off the chair to get the door grumbling under her breath something about ‘being the one to pay this time’. Bonnie just kept smiling at her, and trying (in vain) not to acknowledge how nice she looked. How nice she always looked.
Bad, Bonnibel, she scolded herself. Stop it.
“Do you ever think we eat too much pizza?” Marceline asked, jolting Bonnie from her reverie as she flopped back onto the couch.
“Too much… pizza?” she fired back. “What is that?”
Marceline laughed; a twinkle in her eyes that Bonnie almost couldn’t ignore.
And in that moment – on the sofa eating pizza on Christmas day – not leaning over to kiss Marceline was the hardest thing Bonnie had ever done.
And in the moment after; that realisation scared the shit out of her.