Friday 19th June 2015
Not for the first time, Bonnie caught herself staring at the sky. So dark and clear, the stars sprinkled across the great velvet expanse in a glittering tribute to lack of pollution. Never in all her time living in Ormeau had she seen this many stars. It struck her then as something she’d honestly miss when she left. The trees, the stars… the quiet. She’d miss all of it. The realisation tugged forlornly in her stomach.
Then her gaze dropped back to her phone as it beeped and she smiled. She’d miss Reich, sure. But she already missed Ormeau. Home, her subconscious supplied. Apparently it was a double bind. Still, at least she had a tether to Ormeau.
Kick starting the holidays? A text from her tether. How about that. Cherry’s tone felt teasing and it made Bonnie shake her head.
At a birthday party actually.
This is me gasping, Cherry fired back with a little gaping emote. Whose?
You know that boy, Finn, I told you about? It’s his today. He was upset that it didn’t fall on the holidays, but the last day of term isn’t so bad.
It surely is not. So why are you texting me at his party?
She rolled her lip under, eyes flicking up to where Finn had been shooting little rubbery darts out of a plastic gun at ducks. Hayden had her arms wrapped around a stuffed lion with a fiery mane, her head back as she laughed at Finn’s latest attempt. Turns out she’s handy with a fire-arm and he’s… not so much. He seemed pretty determined to win her something though; his tongue stuck out between his teeth as he concentrated.
The birthday boy is busy trying to impress a girl, she typed back. We’re at the county fair. It’s only here for two weeks. Unfortunately it’s before the school holidays start so he doesn’t get to come much. We figured it’d be a nice present.
Surely there are others you should be talking to? Cherry pressed. I’ll stop monopolising your time, you enjoy yourself. And don’t forget to call me tomorrow. Also, Zara said your dress should arrive sometime around August. Keep an eye out for that.
Oh, Cherry. You really are the best.
Shaking her head, Bonnibel slid her phone back into her pocket just as Ellen slumped into the spot beside her. She looked down at the green bench, nose wrinkled in distaste, but she didn’t move. Maybe her bum was stuck to the chair with discarded chewing gum. The notion made Bonnie’s lips curl up a little.
“Not on any of the rides, Ellen?” she wheedled.
The other girl rolled her eyes skyward. “I’m not big on them. Kids get them all sticky and people vomit and they smell. It’s not sanitary.”
Bonnie could only nod. Not that she didn’t find it amusing (she totally did), but she also understood where Ellen was coming from. Almost an entire minute of silence pervaded them before Eleanor spoke again.
She shifted in her seat. “I believe she’s with Keila,” she muttered.
Ellen just nodded. “I don’t like that guy she’s with,” she went on. “Gerald, or something, right?”
Bonnie gave Ellen the flattest look she could manage. “You know his name, Ellen. Come on now.”
“Gary something, yes?”
Eleanor nodded. “I don’t like him,” she reiterated. Her hands kneaded the air as she searched for the word she wanted. “He’s too controlling; possessive. I get the feeling Keila doesn’t have half as much freedom as she thinks she does. Poor girl.”
Weird; how Ellen could hit the nail on the head just like that while Bonnie had been contemplating along similar veins for months. Consequently, the way she gaped a little bit didn’t seem half as surprising as the cause. “That’s exactly what it is.”
“And I hear you’re going to the senior formal with Marceline.” Wow, what a drastic topic change. No the wonder people were left with their heads spinning after a conversation with Eleanor. Her train of thought didn’t appear to follow the same logical tracks that everyone else’s did.
Bonnie just shrugged. “Yeah. Well everyone else has a significant other to go with.”
“But neither of you do,” Ellen agreed. “You could though.”
She sighed. “Or not. I’m perfectly happy with how things are. I’d rather hang out with a friend than a guy anyway. At least I know I’ll have fun with Marceline. A boyfriend might ruin it for me.”
“Touché.” There was another moment of silence. Then, “You and I should go guy shopping anyway. Let’s go tomorrow.”
Resisting the urge to needle Ellen about her back-and-forth with Cameron (who was probably off getting her a coffee or something), Bonnie instead said, “I can’t. I’m working with Marceline tomorrow.”
To her surprise, Eleanor actually blinked; stunned. “Um… why? The semester is over, you know.”
“I know. We’re doing extra credit stuff,” she explained. “Building her a portfolio and writing it out nicely so it’s well presented. Stuff so she can get a job.” She left off the bit where they got side tracked and made out instead. Ellen didn’t need to know that.
She blinked again, looking a bit like an owl faced with a bright light. “Huh. I’ll be damned. I didn’t think she’d care about that kind of stuff.”
“You’d be surprised.”
Ellen’s eyes flashed then. “You know,” her tone was devious. This could not be good. “You make plans with her a lot. If you and I had plans – maybe to go guy shopping – and she called to do something with you, what would you do?”
Bonnie rolled that over for a moment. “Depends,” she eventually decided. “If Marceline called to ask for help on an assignment or other form of work, I’d probably explain very nicely to you that helping her get good grades is what I was originally hired for. I will make sure she graduates and if that means I can’t go guy shopping… then I’m really sorry. We can reschedule.
“But if she’s calling for… say, a movie marathon, then I say, ‘Hey, sorry, Marceline, I have plans with Ellen already. Maybe later.’ Then she’d grumble, ‘Ugh, why the hell do you hang out with her anyway?’ To which I’d reply, ‘Well she is my friend and she got in before you so she has first dibs on my time. But you could always tag along.’ And Marceline would reply with, ‘Please, no. I don’t want to be subjected to Eleanor’s company. Not ever.’ So I’d say, ‘Well okay. Maybe you can pick me up when we’re done and we can grab pizza on the way home and watch movies then?’ Marceline would mutter about that for a moment and finally sigh in that overly dramatic way she has and go, ‘Ugh, fine. We can do that.’ Voila, plans made.”
The look on Ellen’s face was perfection. “You got her spot on,” she breathed. Then she started laughing. “That was an excellent Marceline impression.”
“Thank you.” Bonnie beamed.
Before Ellen could speak again, Jake was squishing into the space between them. “Why are you girls over here? Come on a ride with me.”
“Pass,” Ellen said immediately.
“Bonnie?” he just about begged. He even turned on his puppy dog face. How could she say ‘no’ to that?
She sighed. “Oh, alright. Just one.”
“What about a rollercoaster?” he asked, bouncing excitedly.
“Um… no. Pick something easier for a first-timer, please,” she huffed.
He paused halfway through tugging her to her feet. “Wait. You’ve never been on a fair ride before?”
“I went on a Ferris Wheel once,” she told him.
Jake’s mouth fell open. “No,” he breathed. “This is unacceptable. Come on, let’s go ride the teacups.”
“Teacups?” Bonnie let herself be dragged along though and it wasn’t long before she realised how apt the name was. They were actually giant teacups with seats in them. “Teacups,” she repeated flatly. “Do they go fast?”
“Not really,” he said. “They’re a kiddie ride, so they go fairly slowly. Come on. In, in, in.”
At night it was surprisingly empty so there was no line for them to wait through. Jake just offered a quick smile and a wink to the blonde attendant lady and shoved Bonnie into the teacup. He pulled the safety bar down into their laps but continued to bounce in his seat enthusiastically.
For her part, when the ride began to move, Bonnie wrapped her hands tightly around the metal, feeling her stomach plummet to her feet. How fast did it get to? How safe could it possibly be? Surely the bar wouldn’t keep her in. The centripetal force would send her flying out over the top of railing. Surely.
She sank a little further back into the seat despite the fact that it was exactly as sticky as Ellen had predicted. The back felt a little low. Physics had to kick in any second now.
Just as she thought that perhaps the speed was low enough that she wouldn’t go flying out of the cup, it picked up the pace. She hunched down. Jake grinned at her like an idiot, the wind whipping his hair about his face. It was getting pretty long; maybe he should cut it.
For an altogether much too long a period of time, the teacups whirled around in their strange looping circle and Bonnie wondered if her legs would support her afterwards. Probably not. Already they felt like jelly. And her stomach… not a happy camper. Good thing she hadn’t eaten one of those greasy sausage stick things Finn had offered her earlier. She probably would’ve vomited by now if she had.
Slowly, the ride wound to a stop and the bar snapped upwards. Jake turned to face her, eyes wide (probably with enthusiasm), hair sticking out everywhere from the wind. He looked expectant as he helped her stand.
“Did you enjoy it?” he asked.
She eyed him incredulously. “I don’t think carnival rides are my thing, honestly,” she mumbled. “But it was alright. I’ll be better prepared for the next time someone drags me onto a silly thing like that.”
He rolled his eyes at her. “Come on, Bonnie. You had fun. Admit it.”
In spite of herself, she couldn’t stop from smiling. “Yeah, okay. It was fun. I’m just glad I had an empty stomach, to be honest.”
Jake laughed. “Okay, maybe no rollercoasters for you, then.” He looked around, no doubt searching for Finn or Pippa. “Do you want to get something to eat then?”
“Um… not really. Maybe we can get a drink though.” She nodded at the stand not far from them. Jake bounded off, calling for her to just wait there and he’d be right back and oh what does she want? She rolled her eyes at him. She’d been doing that a lot lately.
She spotted another wooden bench – this one blue – and collapsed into it while she waited. People watching was much more her speed. Briefly she saw Ellen weaving around a rack of what looked like plastic ninja weapons but she vanished again just as fast.
Jake was back at her side in an eye blink, offering her a bottle of soft drink. “No water, I’m sorry. That guy didn’t sell it.”
“Lame,” she opined, but cracked the lid off anyway. “Where did everyone else go?”
He shrugged. “Not sure, actually. Finn’s probably still trying to ask Hayden on a date somewhere. Cameron will be following Ellen like a lost puppy and Pippa… yeah no idea. She could be anywhere. Maybe she went to inspect the horses.”
“And tell the workers they’re doing it wrong,” Bonnie added lowly.
Jake heard her, but he just smiled. It was true. Penelope would do exactly that. Then she’d probably try and teach them the proper way of doing it. Whatever ‘it’ happened to be.
So they sat there watching the trickles of people hanging around for the fireworks mosey from stall to stall. One guy had tokens spilling from his pockets and a pair of giant elephant plushies in his arms. A woman pushing a pram nearly bumped into him because she was trying to keep the unruly child in the seat and he couldn’t see past the elephants. Made for an amusing tangle.
She was so fixated on watching the strangers in the thin crowd (and joking about them quietly with Jake) that she shrieked when hands clapped onto her shoulders. Her heart hammered as she leapt to her feet, spinning to see who it was.
“God damn you, Keila,” she grouched. “You scared me.”
Her friend grinned cheerily, repentance nowhere to be found on her face. “That was the plan,” she sang. “What are you guys doing here? On a date?”
Bonnie and Jake exchanged glances, trying not to find the suggestion hilarious. She succeeded. Jake failed. He burst out cackling.
“No,” Bonnibel sighed. “We’re not on a date, Keila. We’re here for Finn’s birthday.”
“Oh right,” the other girl said, snapping her fingers. “That’s today. Wish him well for me.”
Bonnie nodded. “Yeah, he’s around here somewhere.”
“With Hayden,” Jake added, gaining control of his laughter. “Probably either moping or being angry with himself.”
“Or both,” Bonnie added.
“He still hasn’t asked her out yet, huh?” Keila’s brow pinched as she asked.
“Nope,” Jake answered, popping his ‘p’. “Kid’s chicken.”
Keila shrugged. “I don’t blame him. Fear of rejection and all that.”
“Yeah…” he drew out. “But no. He asked Bonnie out.”
“That’s true,” Bonnibel realised. “He did. I should remind him of that. Might be the kick in the pants he needs.”
“Not your type, Bonnie, huh?” Keila teased.
She snorted. “Not at all.” Then her brain clicked. Speaking of her type. “Oh, hey. Weren’t you hanging with Marceline tonight?”
Keila’s face did something strange then. Her expression catching somewhere between guilt and confusion. Maybe regret cracked the edges too. “Yeah. We were in Blackwater.”
Innocently, Bonnie tilted her head. “What happened? Is she here?”
“We bumped into Gary,” she replied, hunching one shoulder. “He asked if I wanted to come to the fair with him. Said he’d never been to one before. So we came over here. He’s just gone to get something to eat.”
And what about Marceline, he brain demanded. Thankfully her brain-to-mouth filter was working well enough today that she kept it to herself. She did wrap her fingers around her phone though, sending a covert message to her girlfriend.
Aloud, she just said, “Ah. Okay. You have fun then.”
Again Keila’s face contorted into something unusual. “I really like him,” she blurted. “And Marceline can’t see that.”
She stopped, watching Keila carefully. The other girl looked absolutely perplexed that the words had even come out. Jake shifted uncomfortably in his seat, clearly not wanting to be there anymore.
Bonnie shook her head. “What do you mean?”
Keila shuffled her feet, looking anywhere but at Bonnibel. “She just… She can’t see that he makes me happy. She doesn’t seem to want me to be with him.”
Quietly, “Maybe it’s not that,” Bonnie murmured. “Maybe she just wants you to spend time with her as well.”
“How much in comparison to Gary?”
Keila slumped. “Plenty. I see her enough. I just can’t understand why she’s so… prickly about it. If she was in a relationship she’d know. She’d see that I’m doing the best I can.”
Bonnie had to bite her tongue. She had to resist the desire to point out that Marceline had been in a relationship and she’d still had time for Keila. (Especially considering that by her own admission, Marceline hadn’t been the greatest friend while she’d dated Ash. It wouldn’t help her argument any.) She also had to squash the temptation to tell Keila that she’d miss Marceline when she lost her. That probably wouldn’t help either. It’d just make Keila all the more defensive.
Instead, she nodded. “That’s all you can do.” But what if your best isn’t enough? She didn’t say it, but the words lingered in the air between them anyway.
Keila’s head bobbed too, but she looked like she didn’t quite believe it. Then Gary, with his perfect hair and wonderfully white smile, flounced over carrying two hotdogs. A plastic bag with condensation dripping down the side swung from his wrist; probably with drinks inside. He grinned at Keila and just like that she morphed into someone a lot more cheerful and self-assured.
Her phone buzzed, giving Bonnie an excellent excuse not to look at Gary anymore. (He didn’t even greet them, what kind of douche is that rude?) A short, tart message lit up her screen. Marceline had the excellent ability to convey her precise levels of irritation through a few simple words.
Ditched again. Going home.
For a moment she tapped the sides of her phone, debating her options. She sent a reply anyway. Come to the fair. We’ll go on the bumper cars.
Finn’s idea, wasn’t it?
Got it in one.
A few beats passed before her phone went off again. Be there in five.
“Marceline?” Jake asked shrewdly, prompting her to look up.
She hummed an affirmative. “Why?”
He shrugged half-heartedly. “Just wondering.”
Her eyes panned across the fairgrounds. “Keila’s gone,” she noted.
“Yeah. She slipped away while you were on your phone.” He lifted an eyebrow at her. “I don’t think she liked what you had to say.”
“Just giving her my opinion,” she dismissed.
Jake exhaled, throwing his arms along the back of the bench. “You know, I don’t like that Gary fellow.”
“Apparently no one does,” she agreed.
He watched her for a moment, something rather observant in his eyes. “You know,” he began and from his tone alone Bonnie knew she wouldn’t like what followed. “Maybe we should try and educate Keila on the ins and outs of oppressive relationships.”
She sighed heavily, sinking hard onto the wood beside Jake. “I don’t think she’ll listen to reason, Jake,” she told him. “She’s blinded by him.”
Jake nodded absently. “It’s his teeth.”
“They’re so white. It’s almost unnatural.” He shuddered theatrically. “I bet whenever he smiles they catch the light and she can’t see anymore.”
“That would be funny if it wasn’t true,” she agreed sadly.
They fell silent after that, both too caught up in Keila’s troubles to hold a proper conversation. Now Bonnie understood why Marceline was always so broody after she’d spoken to her friend. Dwelling on this sort of thing couldn’t possibly be good for her mental health.
It wasn’t until Marceline collapsed onto the bench beside her that she emerged from that dark place in her mind. In a shocking twist, Marceline was even smiling. At first it was that quiet one, all soft and fuzzy around the edges; the one just for Bonnie. But then she leaned forward to offer Jake a knuckle bump and it cranked up a few notches.
“Hey, guys. Where’s Finn?”
“Running amok somewhere with Hayden,” Bonnie assumed.
“Probably holding her hand in the haunted house and finding a secluded place to make out,” Jake added with a perfectly straight face.
Marceline’s brows drew together. “That… seems unlikely. But sure.” She clapped her hands together. “I was promised bumper cars.”
At that, Jake bounded from his seat. “Lemme just go get the others. Bumper cars sound awesome.” With that, he raced off to find their other friends.
Bonnie bumped her shoulder into Marceline’s. “Sorry about Keila,” she muttered.
She shrugged one shoulder. “It wasn’t so bad. Sure we were interrupted, but we got nearly two hours all to ourselves first. That was actually really nice. It’s been a while.”
“They’re here,” Bonnie warned her. “Just so you know. It’s how I knew your evening had flat-lined.”
“Ah. You didn’t invite me to try and force us to communicate about this did you?”
“Of course not,” Bonnie scoffed. “I asked you here so we could ride the Ferris Wheel and make out at the top. What other reason is there?” She shook her head like it really was the only fathomable option.
“And bumper cars,” Marceline tacked on with a terse nod. She completely glossed over the whole ‘making out’ thing which made Bonnie grin. “Yes, good. Have you eaten?”
She rolled her lips together. “I had a stick of fairy floss earlier. Does that count?”
“Not really. How about food after the fireworks?”
“Yes, please,” Hayden sang as she bounded over, lion still in hand. “Nice to see you had time for us after all, Marceline.” She punctuated that with a bop to Marceline’s shoulder.
Finn held up a finger. “Bumper cars,” he muttered, lifting a second. “Fireworks.” And a third. “Food. This sounds like a spectacular plan.”
“And then home,” Ellen decided. Everyone swivelled to look at her sceptically. “What? I have other things to do.”
“Sure,” Marceline whispered with an eye roll.
Finn grabbed Bonnie and Marceline by their wrists then, not letting anyone else say something that might escalate into drama of some kind. “Bumper cars,” he reminded them, setting off (thankfully after releasing Bonnie and Marceline).
“Finn is unsurprisingly competitive when it comes to bumper cars,” Marceline grumbled, rubbing her shoulder again where she’d jarred it. “And he’s kind of violent.”
“Mm, yes he is.”
“You’re pretty vicious in a bumper car too,” Marceline added, eyes narrowing at her.
She shrugged. “It’s not every day it’s okay to crash your car into other people. Might as well make the most of it.”
“Besides, I had to take out my residual anger on someone. I’m starving.”
Marceline kicked her legs absently. “Yeah, I’m pretty hungry too. The sooner those fireworks go off the better.”
“Are we stopping at Ivy’s?”
“I guess it’s Finn’s call.”
Bonnie heard the implication between the words. “So probably Ivy’s.”
“Yeah, probably.” She glanced down. “I thought this would be scarier than it is.”
Her legs swung out again. “We’re very high up. I assumed it’d be a little worrying.”
“Guess you’re good with heights then.”
“Guess so. Never been in a plane before, you know. Is it scary?”
Bonnibel sucked in a deep breath and let it out with an elongated vowel sound. “Eh. Not really. I enjoy it, honestly.”
Marceline bobbed her head, turning to smile that simmering smile that always reduced Bonnie to goo. “I think I’d like flying if it feels anything like this.”
“I’ll have to get you on a plane at some point, then,” Bonnie teased. She left unspoken the possibility of her moving to Ormeau at the end of the year. Let sleeping dogs lie and all that.
“Yeah.” She was quiet a moment, chewing her lip (bad for Bonnibel’s ability to concentrate), eyes flickering darkly as she smiled. “Did you really want to… you know…?”
She blinked, brain taking overly long to piece together Marceline’s insinuation. “Oh, the kissing thing.” She shrugged. “It’s probably a bad idea. We’re in public after all. There are lots of people who might see and I really don’t want any of them blabbing about it in case your dad gets wind of it. But I –”
Marceline cut her off by leaning in to kiss her. For all of one second she was surprised by it. Weird, how often Marceline could surprise her like this. Probably not normal. Still, she sighed once her mind processed it, tilting to facilitate the action.
An explosion not far from them brought the sensations shivering through Bonnie’s bones to a grinding halt as they both whipped around to see what was going on. A shower of red trickled out of the inky sky; the first of the fireworks. More crackled to life even as the first one faded.
Marceline let out a breathy laugh. “That was terrifying,” she huffed.
Bonnie hummed, lacing her fingers through Marceline’s. “But pretty.”
“I’ve got ten bucks that you’re not looking at the fireworks,” her girlfriend said around a grin, not taking her eyes off the light show. She was right (damn her), but Bonnie quickly turned her attention back to the sky. As she did so, she felt Marceline press her lips to the corner of Bonnie’s mouth. “But you can totally cross this off your Bucket List.”
Words vibrating behind her ribs suddenly leapt to the back of her throat putting her in terrible danger of blurting them out. It took a moment for Bonnibel to get that urge back under control. Once it was wrestled into submission, she looked across at Marceline.
The feeling welling in the pit of her stomach – threatening to burst her lungs with the heat of it – could only be described as positively terrifying. But it was also very real and very true and very much wanting to be verbalised.
Thankfully, the wheel began to spin them slowly back to ground and any desire she might’ve had to mention that one four letter word still pinging off her chest cavity vanished. It lingered in her veins, though. Flashing to life every time she saw Marceline, smacking her with the weight of a freight train.
Inescapable and scary but undeniable.
She spent the rest of the night trying not the think about it. Trying not to blurt it out every time Marceline so much as glanced her way.
Success was both relieving and oddly uncomfortable.