Chapter 32: Reflection

The fine grains kept on falling and falling.

They drew a trail of blue as they made a soundless descent.

And there were her red eyes, watching the cobalt sand in motion.

She sat on the rug, her head laid on folded arms and her thick fall of hair a makeshift pillow as she leant against the coffee table. The girl was so absorbed in her staring, gaze keen and undistracted. And when her finger slid down the side of the transparent bulbs, the book he was reading became mere decoration in his lap. For a second, Garry was jealous of the inanimate object.

To be the subject of her meticulous study…

“If you’d like, you can take it home,” he offered from his seat on the couch, the gesture not going unrewarded as she lifted her head from the cradle of her arms and set her curious gaze on him.

“…You don’t like it anymore?”

“Ah, well.” He fell silent and turned the page of his book, having trouble recalling what he was reading. Such a perceptive girl. “I do. But I think you like it more. Don’t you?”

“I don’t know…”

There she went again with her shy nature. He couldn’t help smiling whenever he thought about what a challenge it had been to get her to accept his gifts in the beginning, and how far their relationship had come since then. Now she received things from him without reservation, of course, save for the occasional backslides that he found endearing.

“It’s yours, hon.” Garry might not have much, but what his was hers.

“…Thanks, Garry.” She returned to the hourglass and waited for it to finish the cycle, only to flip it around and let time run its course again.

Unease was welling up inside him.

His little girl had been coming over a lot these summer days, and he had that brat to thank, albeit grudgingly. Half of the time that Ib was with him during these past months had been under the guise of hanging out with the brat. While the increase in time spent with her was a welcomed feat, during moments like this, he found himself reevaluating said ‘feat.’

Movies had been a great pastime, until they went through his entire collection in the first few weeks. Ib was a picky viewer. And then there was a limit to how much macarons and cocoa Garry was willing to feed her when they hung out so often. He wanted to suggest they go outside more, but she was such an indoor kid, so comfortable with staying still and doing nothing.

It was getting harder to find things to do with her. His usual fallback, which was asking her about the week, also hit a wall because they were together for the most of it.

And when conversations had been exhausted and silence dictated the room, there was little else to do but…muse.

Whenever Ib was deep in her observation, she would wear a thoughtful, faraway look that seemed so mature, her hair framing her face in the most immaculate manner. A painful squeeze of his heart marked each moment he was caught off guard by the way she glanced at him.

She told him she loved his eyes, her careless comment sowing the seed of hope that she’d someday come to love the rest of him. When she sidled up to his side, head on his shoulder and small thumb tracing the scar on his hand, it was the highest form of flattery. The space where she occupied was peaceful, like the surface of a lake without ripples, or forest after a rain, so quiet that his quickening pulse sounded like thunder.

She would keep growing, every day more beautiful than the last. Until one day the gullible sheen in her eyes would be replaced with shrewd understanding, and she’d see just how transparent he was. She’d realize how disgusting it was to have a grown man’s stare on her and leave his side.

And then this heart would no longer beat.

But until then…

That black watch on her wrist, he didn’t like one bit. It just wasn’t her. It was angular and boyish, and the thing stuck out like a sore thumb against her fair skin. The fact that it was responsible for the irritating beeping that marked the end of their time together didn’t help Garry like the abomination any better.

Territorial was one way to describe it. Garry was the only one she was supposed to rely on. He couldn’t get over the fact that she still wanted the brat’s help even though her parents had already allowed her to see him. But, he guessed, for her there was no qualm about receiving favors from the opposite sex. Not yet, anyway. She should learn that soon.

Sometimes Garry wondered if she felt like she had to be with him. Ib always avoided his eyes when she clung to him. Was she trying to compensate because some part of her still feared him? The thought was a punch to his chest. He’d rather—

“I’ll leave it here,” she said out of the blue, and he noticed her eyes were back on him.

“A-ah…?” He blinked, not quite catching on.

“The sandglass,” she smiled, chin in her palm, “so that we both get to see it.”

Oh, she thought he was staring at the…

“Right. Thank you, Ib.” Garry really couldn’t win against her.

.

.

.

“Is the book you’re reading very hard, Garry?”

“U-um, hard? I don’t think so. Why do you ask?”

“Oh… Because you’ve been reading the first page for a few days now.”

Garry’s smile was frozen on his lips. “…Ah yes, these first few pages…I just find them quite fascinating.”

“I see.”

And Garry made a mental note to get a different book next time.


It was after that day the she understood how flimsy of a grasp she had on his attention.

She’d thought that being through hell together meant that he would be her friend, but that wasn’t the case. He’d been in no hurry to find her after their promise, and it only took a couple of years for him to start slipping from her hands.

So when he pulled her into that feverish embrace that was raw with pain and need, she thought the guilt she’d seen in his expression would finally keep him by her side forever. But it seemed that wasn’t the case either.

He hadn’t waited for her.

That lady, the one with the strange white hair and the same red eyes as Ma and her, from time to time Ib would catch glimpses of the woman in his life. On his unmade bed were stray strands of silver, stark against his choice of dark sheets. Wrinkled articles of clothing were sometimes conspicuous, while other times hidden poorly in haste. And too many times when Ib rung the bell, the lady would be behind the door, in a shirt that was clearly too big for her and smelling like Garry.

“What’s wrong, sweetie?” Garry reached over the table to brush his fingers through her bangs, a gentle look on his face. The sunlight that punctured the motley dome of leaves overhead shone off his tousled hair, combing it more vibrant and lively. “You’re awfully quiet.”

Ib shook her head no and tucked back a wind-swept lock, leaning in to make it easier for him to stroke her cheek. Though, the length of his arm rendered her gesture unneeded. She was acutely aware of the way his sleeveless jacket showed off each bony edge of his shoulder.

Garry was so very different from her. Everything about him was larger than she, hard lines making up his strong build, and there was a certain degree of roughness to his hands. He knew many things and articulated himself so well.

He gave the goofiest reaction to the smallest things, and when she called his name, he always had a smile for her. It was during those moments that she felt she could be closer to him.

But on some days when his mind was elsewhere, his voice as he spoke to her would slip from the usual falsetto and into an unfamiliar timber. Looking at his distracted expression, she would again be reminded of the paper thin distance between them she could never seem to cross.

He was like a wispy moonlit night, filled with the unknown and slightly intimidating, but altogether comforting. By his side, there were no prying eyes, no judgments. He never pressed for any answers, yet still managed to understand her every thought.

“Is it too hot? Sorry I dragged you out here.” His fingers were with a hint of sweat, mildly cool on her skin.

She just shook her head again, not wanting to dwell on her disgruntlement. He chuckled, most likely seeing through her ruse.

His irises were so blue, and she’d never realized how much she liked it when they addressed only her. Until recently…

It was on a Saturday evening that Ib hadn’t responded to his voice, pretending to be asleep so that she didn’t have to go home. The mattress surrounding her had caved as he bent down and hovered over her for the longest time. There was a nervous rap in her chest. She could feel his gaze on her and imagined his beautiful orbs studying her. And in the quietness of it all, his breath wafting against her ear warned her of their increasing proximity.

Ib had thought her heart couldn’t be any louder when he whispered into her ear, exposing her ploy and causing her to jump involuntarily. As he left the room chuckling, she had all but forgotten about her foiled little plan and only wished that he’d kept on watching her a little longer.

“Garry…” she called even though she didn’t really have anything to say.

“Hmm?” His smile never failed to sooth her. But she understood that those cerulean eyes, no matter how intensely they held hers, were fully capable of wandering.

Garry’s life did not revolve around her like she’d come to assume so egoistically. There were others in his life. Adults like him. Peers of equal standing. People he could talk to and confide in with matters he knew a kid didn’t comprehend and therefore would never tell her. But that was fine, because Ib really was just a kid. What wasn’t fine was how much of that lady she was seeing in his life.

She felt uncomfortable in the older girl’s presence. Ib was especially cautious with the way Scarlet kept trying to strike up conversations with her. And she was sure Garry knew how she felt.

So why?

“I’m ba~ck.” At the sound of the voice, Garry withdrew his hand, much to her disappointment, and sat back in his bench. They both turned to the blonde who came up to them with cold drinks from the vending machine. “You sure you only want water, Ib?”

“Yes…thank you.” She received the bottle with both hands, the cool object a pleasure to hold in the sultry heat.

“Just tell me if you want anything else, mmkay?” Scarlet cracked open her can of juice and took her seat next to Garry.

Ib pressed her lips together.

“Where’s my coke?”

“There wasn’t any.”

“I’m sorry but, there’s no coke?“Garry drawled with one unconvinced brow quirked.

The lady took a gulp of her drink and shrugged. “Fine. I ran out of changes.”

“…Give me some of yours then, Ib.”

“No,” Scarlet swatted his hand away. “Get your own, Wolfe. I bought that for her.”

“Get off my back. It’s so hot out there.” Garry was tugging at the collar of his tank top for extra ventilation.

“Why yes. By the way, thanks for offering to go buy drinks in my stead. Such chivalry.”

“Oh, but, dear, I remember hearing you rant about how chivalry is sexist.”

And they bickered and bickered, just as usual.

Ib sat on her side of the table, feeling envious of the verbal tennis that went on so naturally, so unlike the silence when she was alone with Garry. She’d asked, but Garry was adamant he didn’t enjoy Scarlet’s gibes, after which statement he had to explain to her what ‘gibes’ meant, and then pleaded that she never become anything like Scarlet. However, she couldn’t help wondering if being a little more like that would make spending time with her less of a chore for him.

If she was just a little better at talking, maybe he wouldn’t feel the need to have Scarlet around.

Ib pushed the water to Garry, pressing the cold bottle to his arm and successfully gaining his attention. “We can share.”

His expression, though had been hard from annoyance, immediately melted into a grin. “Aw, thank you, sweetheart.” To the side, she could hear Scarlet smacking her tongue as Garry took the bottle and opened it with one sharp twist. To think she’d been trying to get the cap to turn without success. “Here, you can drink first,” he offered, handing the drink back to her.

“Perv,” Scarlet commented for some reason, and they started arguing again.

Ib sighed, sipping at her water.

.

“I’m going to the restroom,” she informed and stood up.

“Oh?” Garry acknowledged before flopping her sunhat onto her head.

“I also—” Scarlet made a motion to stand up, but then settled back down in a strange manner.

“Be careful, all right Ib? Don’t talk to strangers,” Garry smiled, waving her off.

Ib nodded and took off into the sunny park. Having left the shades, the heat of the day showered down on her without mercy. She crossed the wide spread of grass, passing by other park-goers, her pace slowing until she came to a vehement stop. They treated her like a clueless child. She could put two and two together. Garry and Scarlet were somehow that, a couple. What she didn’t understand was why they bothered to at all.

Ib kept a firm hand on her hat. As a strong gust plastered the fabric of her dress to her body, she turned around to spy on the two sitting in the same bench, looking like they wanted nothing to do with each other.


“You can let go of me now,” the girl said with folded arms, and Garry released the fistful of her blouse from his hold. “How rough.” She complained, pouting as she reached back to straighten her clothes. “Why can’t you be more like when we’re in bed?”

“We agreed not to mention that,” his voice was void of any humor. “And you should stop these antics. She’s uncomfortable around you.”

“All thanks to you, jackass! Every time she sees me, I bet she thinks, ‘oh, it’s the person I met after Garry shoved his’—”

“Shut. Up.” He cut her off, each word came through clenched teeth as white knuckles jutted out from the back of his hands.

Scarlet closed her mouth with a huff. “…Sorry,” she turned away from him. “Hurry up and fix that face before you scare your little girl away for good.”

The muscle on his face twitched at the reminder. Garry took a deep breath and unclenched his palms, trying to relax whatever hideous scowl he was wearing.

“I took her home before, Garry. I promise I don’t mean her any harm.”

Garry regarded her pleading eyes with apathy. “If you don’t mean her any harm, what’s stopping you from telling me what you want with her? You’re related to Garland, honey. I had no choice before, but I will not leave Ib alone with you until I know what’s going on.”

She tried not to show it, but he could see the frown in the slant of her mouth. “You still owe me at least this much. And so help me, I will give you a longer lasting bruise if you ever suggest I share any blood with that sociopath again.”

“Semantics,” he rolled his eyes, taking a large gulp from the water bottle, admittedly conscious about the childish notion of an indirect kiss. Scarlet’s accusation of perversion was right on the mark he supposed. “I owe you, Scarl, and that’s why you’re seeing her at all. This is as far as I’ll allow it without any information. She’s too important.”

Scarlet snorted. “Please, Garbear, your big talk sounds like bullshite knowing what you did to her. I’m done listening. But if you’re that hell-bent on protecting her, you should think about what you’re gonna do when that man finds out,” she smirked, pleased with whatever look she saw on his face. “I’m telling you he will sooner or later, and not by me, I assure. That is if he hasn’t already found out. As someone who’s been dealing with Leonard for years, I think you’d want me on your side.”

Before Garry could express his disbelief in her words, Scarlet had already gotten to her feet. “Now, when you’re ready to leave Ib alone with me, just offer, okay honey?” As soon as she finished, the girl headed out into the sun to meet Ib halfway.

And then, she finagled him into buying them ice cream.

By the time he was back at his apartment, Garry was spent and still mulling over Scarlet’s words.

He’d ruled it impossible that that Mr. Garland already knew about the incident. If the man did, he would have been confronted by now. And if neither he, nor Ib, nor Scarlet talked then they could take this to the grave.

Garry reassured himself with that thought as he crashed onto his bed. Everything was going to be fine. He buried into the pillow and emptied his mind.

.

His eyes snapped open to the darkness of his room, anxiety roiling into life in the pit of his stomach as a different thought occurred to him. Who was responsible for that anonymous note he’d received the morning after the incident?


Nicholas slouched in his seat and started a large yawn as he wiped a torpid hand over his face. The glaring sun outside the window made his eyes hurt. He was used to pulling an unhealthy amount of all-nighters, yet jet lags from travelling across the globe were always awful for him.

Pushing the heavy glasses up the bridge of his nose, he glanced across the heavy mahogany desk to where his friend was going over the terms of their contract, and then to the side where his little sister stood in witness. She had a sickly quality to her with that pale albino skin, so it was hard to tell if she was fine. He thought about commenting on the sunlight, but decided not to voice his concern. The girl disliked being called out on her condition, and he was sure she knew her limits.

“All right, fair enough.” Leonard’s voice brought his gaze back in front, just as the other man flipped open a laptop and typed in the changes. It didn’t take long before a new piece of paper, warm from the printer, was presented before him together with a pen. “Here you go.”

A groan was stuck in his throat as Nicholas leant forward to grab the pen and sign the document. “Anything else?” he inquired with bloodshot eyes, sliding the paper back to Leonard.

“That’s all.” His friend smiled without the usual playful attitude, and it was disconcerting to say the least. But he supposed with something like this…

The pen clacked against the glass surface when he stood up and set it down with more force than intended. “Get me the jet then. I still got work to do back home.” And maybe get it done before his daughter comes back and the arguing starts again.

To the request, Leonard shrugged an okay and got to his feet also. Nicholas glanced at his sister, nodding goodbye, before heading to the door with Leonard.

They stood in silence as they waited for the elevator to arrive. When the metal doors opened, he received a loud slap in the back as a parting gift.

“Well then, doctor, I’ll leave Garry in your care.”

 

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TGC 6th Chapter

The scrawled writings told the story about a pair of lovers who was faced with opposition from the girl’s parents.

As he read, Garry noted the difficult words, acting on a habit formed long ago. But then…it was a habit that was no longer needed.

Not anymore.

As Garry stood watching the quiet scenery, he was about to notice the sinking feeling in his stomach when he spotted her. Underneath the swirls of green that denoted wide vaults of leaves, the little girl of red was wandering.

It didn’t seem like she’d noticed him yet, that red skirt of hers swaying as she spun around, reacting to some sound she’d heard. He leant against the windowsill to contain the adrenaline that was already starting to circulate in his veins.

Hurry up and find me already.

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.

Coming soon~


Title is still undecided. (´o д o`)ノ

Playing with Fire

Just because it’s water doesn’t mean you can’t get burnt.

If God really made the world in seven days, it was because he used a cookie cutter.

People were all the same. Animals were all the same. Every day was a boring repetition, every song a noisy drone, and every meal as tasteless as the last.

A Place Out of Reach

Ma promised her the world was warm and colorful. Ib must not be living in that world. She was outside looking in, peering through dirty stained glass that blurred everything into black and white.

So bland. So pointless. Those kids in her class always stuck together every recess bell. What were they laughing about? What were they crying about?

Ib touched her face in one moment of wonder.

Oh, who cares. She should keep reading this book to fix that C she’d been getting.

.

“Did you remember everything, Ib?”

“Oh! Do you have your handkerchief? You know, the one you got for your birthday?”

Ib nodded, shimmying away from her Ma’s excited demeanour, but that could only go so far, for both of her hands were held by her parents. The afternoon sky was a dreary grey as they led her through the gates.

Mayhem of Colors

On a canvas of white were shapes and brushes displayed in the most spontaneous ways that did not at all adhere to the rules she had been taught thus far. Ib felt like walking towards those frames to study further.

“Hm? You want to go ahead? Really, Ib… Oh, all right.”

So she took off on her own. Ma’s voice was echoing from behind her, telling her Pa she was interested in the paintings.

‘Interest?’ So that was what it was. Not bad.

And Ib quickly learned that her ‘interest’ waned all too soon. This artist called Guertena, as talented as he’d been, there was a certain rule to that twist existing in all of his creations. Be it paintings or sculptures, all were singing about a man’s tale that she did not care to know.

Boring.

The outlines of the cookie cutter were becoming clearer and clearer as she browsed. Just another lazy ‘God.’

Fabricated World

The enormous painting displayed itself with impulsive shades and bold imageries, bearing the foggiest resemblance to the pixelated world she saw every single day, sans the colors. Little did she know, the darkness following her admiration of the artwork was the spiraling stairs that led to…

Feeling

She’d thought she had none, but this… This was new. The hard squeeze of her heart when the mannequins lunged at her. The smothering fear that iced her limbs as she heard the sound of a frame dragging across the carpet. As her heart hammered and her legs collapsed from exhaustion, an exhilarating affect spread through her body.

There was a time when she felt fatigue, and the thought of wanting Ma and Pa occurred to her as natural as breathing. Someone. Anyone was fine. For the first time, being alone was terrifying.

The blue rose that she picked up and nursed to health gave her a companion. A man? A woman? This person didn’t fit into the cookie cutter. Such odd hair. What eccentric behavior. And a little bit of a smartass, but that was okay. For the first time, she didn’t mind being with a stranger.

The red footsteps led her towards a friend. This child didn’t fit into the cookie cutter either. A chatterbox. Why so insistent? Why so cheery? For the first time, someone hadn’t given up on befriending her.

Ib traversed the gallery’s whimsy. There was no end to the twists and turns. Then suddenly…

Separation

A twinge of unease made it hard to walk away from the wall of steely vines. She was looking forward to seeing her companion again as she appeased her friend with superficial words.

Faced with her friend’s erratic advances, was it gladness that she felt when her companion came for her? This person was Garry. The man who had taken care of her when her body had caved. The one who’d given her the lemon candy, and whose shaky smiles had been offered at strangely appropriate times.

And was it disappointment she felt as they hid among the tools and waited for her friend to leave? That child was Mary. The girl who had beamed at her without a trace of dishonesty.

Pain wrecked her body with every step as she leant onto Garry for support. The starry corridor seemed to stretch on. They should never have tried to go through the wall of vines.

Melancholy

Standing before the pile of ash, she inhaled the burnt smell that had replaced Mary’s crayon-y scent before Garry pulled her to his lanky frame in consolation. He misunderstood. She didn’t care that much. Or perhaps he was the one that needed this. It couldn’t be helped then. She let him rub circles into her back with one bleeding hand.

Fabricated World

Funny how it actually felt like out here was the fabricated dimension instead. The insipid greeting by her parents after everything was displeasing. The uneventful days that unfolded before Ib left her feeling empty again.

Garry introduced her to macaron on their first get together. It was okay. They frequented a nearby café, and Ma and Pa were too happy that she finally ‘took interest’ in a relationship to care about the strange match.

“Schizoid?” Garry expressed his surprised over hot chocolate and macarons. “My, aren’t you a bit young to be diagnosed with that?”

She shrugged.

“Well, I suppose it’s not like I can’t see that… I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do.” He took a sip of his drink, a distant look glazed over his eyes. “Hm, maybe you don’t even enjoy these outings with me.”

What did he mean? He was the one complaining about difficulty connecting with others after their experience in the gallery, so she was keeping him company.

At her puzzled look he apologized and told her to forget it, and they moved on.

He kept reminding her she could confide in him as though her memory was of a gold fish, so she did. She told him her intention that drained the colors from his face faster than the clock could tick twice.

The day was turning on its side as they walked, Garry objecting all the way to the gallery. Oh well, she liked to do things alone anyway. She left him at the entrance and jumped.

Abyss of the Deep

There it was again. Her heart was beating out of her chest as she ran, and the relief she felt upon spotting a vase was worth the pain of petals loss. The denizens of this world were so unsteady and irrational, always pitching her at new trials. There was no time to stop and ponder, for they liked to play dirty. And she liked beating them at their own unfair games.

Garry’s and her macaron date was now code for the new routine. A frown would be painted all over his face as he took her back to the gallery. That frown would become a smile whenever she returned, and the ‘welcome back’ he gave her was the gold star she collected. The gallery never made it easy, but she learned to stay one step ahead.

Worry

“Look at you, all beaten up.” His smoky coat was wrapped around her as he carried her back home. “…We should stop this, Ib.”

Ib knew that Garry was concerned about her parents’ words when he last returned her with inconspicuous scrapes. But she didn’t want to stop, and Garry always complied with her requests.

So the gallery grew angry, bloodshot eyes cracking open the floor beneath her feet and unamused chatters seeping out from behind the walls. What sore losers.

On one occasion, the air was especially thick when they entered the building. Garry kept rubbing his neck, asking her if there was something around it. He insisted on coming with her, so together they both sank.

Breath

Something was wrong. They couldn’t breathe, and the anchor fish that had always wandered in the corner was looming near, its huge maw splayed with sharp teeth. The fish was aiming straight at her, the realization eliciting a gasp from her mouth in the form of bubbles.

A large hand grabbed her by the collar and yanked her back. She saw a flurry of purple came in front of her for one moment, before it was snatched away in a curtain of foam. Ib flailed in the heavy body of water, trying to orientate herself. When she finally did, she was all alone in the dark abyss.

Ib struggled to climb out of the ocean and into the hallway of the new game. Miserably wet, she coughed and heaved for precious air. As her mind became clear, her vision blurred. She crawled back to the hole on the floor and gazed into the pitch black water rippling inside, expecting a gaunt arm to break through its surface. Laughter was echoing all around.

Melancholy

Burning droplets rolled down her face and into the ink below. She touched her face in a moment of wonder. This feeling, it was just like when Mary had reduced to dying embers. And the worst part was that Garry was not here to rub circles into her back.

.

A Place Out of Reach

Ib couldn’t remember what she was doing. She was in the Guertena gallery, which was approaching its closing time. Her parents, she knew weren’t there, so the question was how and why did she come here?

She looked around, spying eerily familiar corners. She had been frequenting this place for some reason. Her chest felt heavy at the thought.

Oh, who cares. She should return home before her parents got mad.

 


 

Author’s Note: *puts on glasses and stands in front of a white board*

Personality Disorder: a type of mental disorder involving maladaptive thought patterns that are pervasive. Persons with PD think they are perfectly normal, and it’s the world that’s wrong. Because diagnostic criteria for PD is long-term, and PD usually mellow out as time goes by, these disorders are not often diagnosed during childhood.

Schizoid Personality Disorder is characterized by indifference and social isolation. Persons with SPD have very limited social relations, prefer to be alone, find little to no pleasure from any activities, and may appear dull and unfeeling.

Should not be confused with Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is characterized by impulsiveness, self-entitlement, and a lack of empathy and remorse. Commonly referred to as ‘sociopaths’, persons with ASPD is often very sociable and good at manipulation.

Thank you for staying till the end of class!

 

 

 

 


Trivia:

  • the reason why Ib remembered every, save for the last, trip into the Fabricated World is because Garry’s presence served as a memory jog for her.

 

  • author realizes the array of Guertena’s works we see in the game can be symbolic for many, many scenarios. Re—spect, kouri-san!

Happy Ending

Mary doesn’t want a fairytale.

Ib loved fairytales. She used to read them with Mary when they were younger.

As the afternoon turned to evening and the stories came to an end, they would be lying on Ib’s bed. Under the warm sunlight of dusk pouring through the large windows, Ib’s mahogany fall was a lambent red, pooling around her lovely face.

They would discuss the laughably simple-minded plot, and Ib would speak in the quietest voice. The older girl never did talk much, so Mary was happy to listen whenever she did.

Ib loved fairytales.

Therefore, Mary also loved fairytales.

.

The seasons changed with restless haste and the years sped by, already they were entering high school. Growing up next to her dear Ib, Mary had learnt many things.

The dry math and boring literature.

Common sense and pain.

Compassion.

She’d learnt that the world was never as simple as a fairytale.

“Brochure, young lady?”

Mary looked up from her thought to the elderly man in his immaculate three-piece suit. Though time had colored his hair with salt and etched lines of crowfeet into the amiable crinkle of his eyes, his grey gaze were still shrewd behind the thick pair of glasses.

“As always, Bob,” she gave him a smile and took the leaflet from the man’s wrinkly fingers.

It was the key to being safe.

Mary went up the white marble steps, the hard soles of her boots tapping softly, but vividly in the silence of the gallery. Over the years, the number of visitors coming to see her ‘father’s’ world had dwindled to a mere speck of the former crowd. Times changed, and people moved on so quickly.

But not Ib.

Her sister still remained the fairytale loving girl who read Mary stories and hugged Mary to sleep. Ib especially was fixated with the story of the Sleeping Beauty. There was something so very precious about the notion of the princess waking up even after such a long time, Ib had confessed with a rare smile and faraway gaze.

Waking up…huh?

After a recent case of theft, the museum had moved some of the paintings around. Wherever it was, Mary hoped that black cat would teach the thieves a lesson. Thank god, her ‘big sister’ wasn’t taken. She stopped by the woman in red and said hello before moving on to the end of the hallway.

Coming up to the lone portrait resting majestically on the white wall, Mary was tackled by a dizzying turmoil as she took in the features of the man’s sleeping face, depicted in the artful brushes of her ‘father.’ On the one hand, she was glad he was still here. On the other part… Oh why, why, why couldn’t he have been the stolen painting?

“Hello, Garry,” in a whisper she said, keeping her distance. Every time, he remained motionless; but every time she still felt as though those limp arms would shoot straight out to drag her back in if given the chance. Underneath the fabric of that ragged, unflattering coat were muscles capable of inhuman strength and she shuddered at the thought of harm unto her fragile human body.

In the recent years, she had taken to visiting the man. The more she grew, the more what had happened tore at her insides. She knew there was no making up for his sacrifice, but when she came to him, almost ritualistically, it eased her conscience. So that she may live the next few weeks with a sound mind.

This time, however, she felt urgency to see him. To see that he still slept, and the status quo was maintained.

“Ib has been a bit distant lately, Garry,” she played with the belt of her one piece and shuffled her feet. “You thought she was detached before, you should see her now. She just shuts off—I wonder if it’s just the senior year or if it’s…”

Mary pressed her lips into a light pout, the leaflet in her hand bent and twisted. The gallery rarely ever let its victims go, and when it did, the survivor’s memory would be wiped. What was intended as cruelty and selfishness had turned out to be kindness. She thought it was best Ib didn’t remember this man. If the soulless stare as the little girl had stood before he whose rose had wilted was any indication, Mary was sure Ib wouldn’t be able to live with the memory…or Mary.

Mary was a selfish, selfish girl.

Mary would love to give Ib a happy ending like in the story, but not at the price it cost. She feared the return of what had been forgotten.

Wasn’t it great that real life made a mockery of fairytales?

The princess should just keep on sleeping, undisturbed by time and pain, so that all the princes wouldn’t have to lose their lives to the forest of thorns, and the foolish wisewoman would be allowed a second chance. Everyone would be happy.

Tears prickled the corner of her eyes as her vision glazed over, blurring the name of the painting. She bowed deeply in front of him. “I’m sorry, Garry. I want to live…together with her.”

“Please…”

When she deemed it was enough a wait for a permission that would never come, Mary lifted her head and looked at his impassive form. The man still leant no slouchier in the cradle of vines and roses, and his hair still that odd flamboyant mess. But she dared think his expression was softer, and that he understood her plight. She dared think he had forgiven her and was encouraging her to live her life the way she wanted to.

It was going to be fine, he seemed to say.

.

.

.

.

.

The young girl stepped out from behind the large contorted sculpture, pulling off her hood that had concealed a straight fall of brown as she watched the retreating figure of her dear sibling. Her heart was hammering inside her chest, aching for reasons unknown.

Why? The words that had been whispered in the dead of sound echoed in a manic cacophony.

Something was telling her she shouldn’t, shouting at her. But slowly, she came up to the portrait whom her sister had talked so animistically with.

The girl froze, stunned.

It was the calmest of blue, outlandish and impossible.

And it gripped at her chest with a violent crush.

“Gar…ry?”

 

 

 

 


Trivia:

  • the idea has been sitting around even longer than the one for Dream

???

Mary can dream.

mY, the cHild has cHOsen. Is tHIs okay i WONDEr?

oh WELL, theRe are theSe DOlLs at hER biddiNG…


One of the chandeliers affixed overhead flickered with an audible tink in the pin-drop silence, and the shadows twitched with a lifelike quality along the purple walls, granting menace upon the dormant artworks. Nervous fingers ran through wavy lavender, and wary red peeked around the space.

The two mismatch figures continued to traverse the dim hallway that seemed to stretch on forever into the bottomless maw of darkness. She was a small child shy of ten years. He was a tall man of bony handsomeness. Their hands, one large and angular, and the other tiny and fragile, fit together like two pieces of a puzzle.

Mary tackled her companions from behind and demanded their attention.

“Geez, what is it now, Mary?” Garry gave her a helpless look while Ib showed but a ghost of a smile.

“That’s because Garry and Ib were ignoring me,” she pouted in a stubborn display. Before her friends could give a response, not that she counted on taciturn Ib to say anything, Mary squeezed herself in between the two and took their hands in hers. “Let’s keep going okay? Like this.”

Blue met red.

They both smiled at her.

And just like that, hand in hand, the trio turned around the corner.

Mary was happy, laughing together with these two. Ib carried a rain-drop purity that glimmered even in the smearing grasp of this world, and Garry…well, he was an interesting idiot that more than often irritated her. To sum it up, she liked both of them. And it made her so very happy that they also loved her.

A spine-chilling click resounded in the back of her head, clouding her mind.

“̷M̷a̷r̷y̷,̷ ̷p̷l̷e̷a̷s̷e̷ ̷l̷e̷t̷ ̷g̷o̷ ̷o̷f̷ ̷h̷i̷m̷.̷”̷ ̷S̷h̷a̷k̷i̷n̷g̷ ̷s̷m̷a̷l̷l̷ ̷h̷a̷n̷d̷s̷ ̷h̷e̷l̷d̷ ̷u̷p̷ ̷a̷ ̷d̷a̷n̷c̷i̷n̷g̷ ̷t̷o̷n̷g̷u̷e̷ ̷o̷f̷ ̷f̷l̷a̷m̷e̷.̷ ̷T̷h̷a̷t̷ ̷v̷e̷r̷y̷ ̷f̷l̷a̷m̷e̷ ̷r̷e̷f̷l̷e̷c̷t̷e̷d̷ ̷i̷t̷s̷e̷l̷f̷ ̷o̷n̷ ̷h̷e̷r̷ ̷w̷i̷d̷e̷,̷ ̷t̷e̷r̷r̷i̷f̷i̷e̷d̷ ̷p̷u̷p̷i̷l̷s̷ ̷a̷s̷ ̷s̷h̷e̷ ̷t̷o̷r̷e̷ ̷h̷e̷r̷ ̷a̷t̷t̷e̷n̷t̷i̷o̷n̷ ̷a̷w̷a̷y̷ ̷f̷r̷o̷m̷ ̷t̷h̷e̷ ̷m̷a̷n̷.̷

I̷t̷ ̷w̷a̷s̷ ̷l̷i̷c̷k̷i̷n̷g̷ ̷t̷o̷o̷ ̷c̷l̷o̷s̷e̷ ̷t̷o̷ ̷h̷e̷r̷ ̷m̷a̷r̷g̷i̷n̷s̷ ̷f̷o̷r̷ ̷c̷o̷m̷f̷o̷r̷t̷.̷ ̷H̷e̷r̷ ̷e̷y̷e̷s̷ ̷s̷a̷w̷ ̷n̷o̷t̷h̷i̷n̷g̷ ̷b̷u̷t̷ ̷t̷h̷a̷t̷ ̷b̷r̷i̷g̷h̷t̷ ̷l̷i̷g̷h̷t̷.̷ ̷S̷h̷e̷ ̷c̷o̷u̷l̷d̷n̷’̷t̷ ̷l̷o̷o̷k̷ ̷a̷w̷a̷y̷.̷ ̷T̷h̷e̷ ̷s̷e̷a̷r̷i̷n̷g̷ ̷h̷e̷a̷t̷ ̷w̷a̷s̷ ̷w̷a̷f̷t̷i̷n̷g̷ ̷t̷o̷o̷ ̷c̷l̷o̷s̷e̷,̷ ̷t̷h̷e̷ ̷s̷e̷n̷s̷a̷t̷i̷o̷n̷ ̷c̷h̷i̷l̷l̷i̷n̷g̷ ̷h̷e̷r̷ ̷t̷o̷ ̷t̷h̷e̷ ̷v̷e̷r̷y̷ ̷c̷o̷r̷e̷.̷

A̷n̷d̷ ̷t̷h̷e̷n̷…̷t̷h̷e̷r̷e̷ ̷w̷a̷s̷ ̷d̷a̷r̷k̷n̷e̷s̷s̷.̷

Where they were walking, the walls had gone from the brooding violet to a reassuring brown. Both of her hands were still securely entwined with her friends as they mused over some confusing pieces by her father. Ib was curious and Garry was helpful; they kept slowing down for vocabulary lessons and idle chatter, and Mary was growing restless.

“Say, you two…we are going to get out of here, right?”

They looked at one another, then back to her; smiles were blooming on their faces. Garry’s large hand ruffled her head as she felt Ib’s hold tighten.

“Of course, we’re gonna find a way out…eventually,” the man added with a dispirited chuckle, but he quickly recovered his jolly attitude. “Don’t worry you pretty little head. I’ll see to it.”

The blonde grew quiet and kept her gaze down.

And they moved along.

Her friends must have noticed her sullen mood, because Garry kept striking up conversations with her; and Ib called her name every once in a while to give her a faint smile. They were so kind to her. Why were they being so kind? Don’t think she didn’t notice Ib’s inattentive daze when absorbed in watching Garry. Don’t think she didn’t notice Garry’s blatant change in tone when talking to Ib instead of her. Don’t think she didn’t notice the way their eyes always met in some private communication she wasn’t allowed to be a part of. She knew they’d rather be holding each other’s hand than hers. She knew they enjoyed talking to one another, and her existence was an uninvited, unwelcome third wheel they’d rather not have to deal with.

But she ignored all these things…

“Mary.”

Her line of thought shattered, she looked up to see her friends’ concerned faces.

“You okay? Should we take a rest?” Garry was bending down to her level, head in an effeminate tilt.

“Yeah. Let’s…” Mary tried to mask her listlessness. The girl darted her eyes around and spotted a lonely vase nestled in the darkness of a corner afar. “Look, there’s a vase! I’ll go water your roses.” She showed them open palms.

Again, Garry and Ib had their secretive conversation with mere looks.

“Sure thing.” An ethereal blue rose emerged from his ragged coat, and he placed it into her grasp. “Thanks, Mary.”

“Here.” Ib quietly followed suit with her rose of precious red.

Mary grinned at the two before taking off.

Because the drawer was a bit taller than usual, she had to tiptoe in order to place the roses inside the vase. Upon completing the tiny feat, she had her hands on her hips with pride and stood back to watch as the roses become even more vibrant than they had been before. Mary quickly recovered them and was about to head back to her friends when a giggle floated to her ears, causing her to freeze in her track.

Standing in front of the only drawing in the hallway, Garry and Ib were talking, surrounded by a comfortable atmosphere. One that didn’t exist in her presence.

“̷I̷’̷m̷ ̷s̷o̷r̷r̷y̷,̷ ̷M̷a̷r̷y̷.̷”̷

“̷G̷o̷o̷d̷b̷y̷e̷.̷”̷

Mary watched as they continued to chat away as if she wasn’t there.

To be fair, she wasn’t there.

To be unfair, she blamed them anyway.

Mary didn’t know why she kept on deluding herself.

One was lonely.

Two meant safety.

And three can’t get out.

This wasn’t her story. It never was. This was Ib’s, and the girl had already chosen. A red story.

Ah…Mary was seeing red.

Their flimsy lives in her hands, she crushed both petals and stem. Beautiful roses have thorn, they say; but she wasn’t human. Even as the prickles sank into her pseudo flesh, neither blood nor pain erupted. Mary looked up to the still oblivious couple, feeling something incredibly funny clawing its way up her chest. It bubbled from her mouth in the form of a single wheezing noise and made her lips stretch. She let the crumpled blooms fall to the marble floor and reached down into her stocking.

Teeth gritted, she took a death grip upon the wooden handle and charged at the loquacious man’s back with reckless abandon. Amidst the commotion of Ib’s yell of his name, she could hear it. A wet, satisfying crunch as she twisted the palette knife into his lanky, overgrown body. Her grin grew wide. The warmth of his life came pouring out, dampening his ragged coat, dripping off her white knuckles.

.

As the gurgling noises in his throat died down to nothing, the sound of her effort became delightfully apparent. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Garry was wetting the floor, and he was still as the dead.

Well, he was dead. Silly Mary.

“Nighty night, Garry,” she patted his head, smearing his lavender locks with the red paint on her hand, and wrenched her knife from his torso. It was about time she paid attention to her beloved.

“Ib~” she called, sweet as liquid honey. Mary climbed off of Garry’s back to approach the girl who stood horrified just a few steps away. “Finally, it’s just us two now.”

Ib had hands over her mouth, and her red eyes were wide with fear, darting from Garry, to Mary, and back to Garry again.

“Really Ib, even now you’re still looking to him?” Mary laughed and took bold strides towards her friend. With lightning speed, her free hand captured Ib by one frail arm. “Was what he had to say that interesting?”

“M-Mary…” Ib tried to pull away, but Mary shushed her with a loving caress on the cheek. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to do so with a sharp object in the same hand though. Ib was starting to tear up, and the glaze made her beautiful irises even more so. Mary loved her eyes that felt like they could see through everything—just not Mary’s true nature.

“Well, it’s only too bad. Dead men don’t talk.”

Rather than feeling guilty for making Ib cry, Mary experienced glee like she’d never felt before. If Garry was going to be the one to draw out laughter from stoic Ib, then she shall humbly take up the role to induce the precious girl’s tears.

“Say, Ib. Garry is already gone so of course you’ll pick me right?” Mary tightened her grip, causing the other girl to wince. “You’ll stay with me, right? Together forever?”

.

“Y-yeah! Together forever.” Ib smiled an ugly, forced smile, and Mary felt her own contorted into anger.

Liar!

Crunch, went the palette knife. And the rest was history.

.

.

.

Mary thrust her small hands deeper and deeper into the warmth of her beloved until she reached what she was looking for, fingers circling around the now idle chamber of life. Tears were spilling down her smudged cheeks, cleaning away what stain they could in their travel. Her head rested atop the red girl’s soaked, open chest she let out a whimper.

And as the horror around her warped and reduced to fluffy white cotton, she wondered what she could ever do to make that girl’s heart hers.

.

.

.

“Again,” she ordered, empty eyes watched as mutilated blue were being dragged away by her loyal doll friends.

but-but…what does mary want? Scrawls bled from the dreary brown paint.

“Make them more realistic. Garry’s not supposed to care about me. And Ib wouldn’t have smiled so much! It was all wrong.”

we’ve already done that and mary wasn’t happy

“Do better, then.” Mary wouldn’t care if the dolls resented her. She just wanted to go back to that time with those two. The cowardly holder of the blue rose, the cruel holder of the red rose. Why had she been spared to suffer this emptiness? “I kept getting flashbacks. Do something about it.”

mary knows strong emotions interfere with m

“I don’t care! Go do it or go throw yourselves to TRASH!” And the little dolls scattered to go about their jobs.

Left alone, Mary finally looked over to the painting that “Garry” and “Ib” had seemed to be discussing. In a crescent bed leaning against the starry night sky, a tiny little girl snuggled under her cover, snoozing away without a care in the world. Mary remembered standing in front of this same painting with those two. She and Ib couldn’t read the title, and Garry was being a smart-aleck about it.

Mary could feel the ruin slowly seeping in, settling down within her fabricated existence. The screams and cries inside her head grew docile as her raging memory was lulled to sleep by a gentle rocking. She took one final glance at the sleeping girl behind the glass before she closed her eyes and surrendered to the gallery.


And the name of the painting was…

 

 

 

 


Trivia:

  • author’s takeaway from prompt: something with hallucinations that are both “subtle” and “ball-tripping”

Somewhere We Belong

Some lovers elope; some suicide hand in hand. They have another option.

Under the clear blue sky dashed with but a few playful strokes of white cotton, a cool breeze carelessly combed through the treetops, cajoling the afternoon sunlight to dance on shadowy grass. Dry leaves were pulled from their branches and into the open air, swaying and scattering across the stretch of green as if alive.

In an inconspicuous corner of a well-frequented park, he crossed his long legs and leaned into the hard bench to try and make his sore behind comfortable, eyes trained on the yellowing pages of the book in his hands.

Three o’clock, his watch indicated.

An anxious thrumming roiled in his chest. He brushed away a leaf caught between his unruly dark locks and reached for the smoothie beside him, taking a sip through the fat straw. The ice had melted, making his drink a diluted, unpalatable mush, but he hardly noticed the degrading flavor and drank another mouthful.

As he chewed on the red straw with his front teeth, birds were chirping in a riot somewhere among the lush foliage over his head. Flapping of wings. Rustling of branches. Some kid’s energetic shout could be heard, drowning out his parents’ concerned hollers.

“Garry.”

A soft voice that pushed all other sounds into the background.

He lowered the book down onto his lap and smiled at the young girl walking up to him.

The dark-green uniform of her prestigious academy was something he’d gotten used to seeing her in. She was small for her age, much to her chagrin, her long brown hair done up with a clamp in an effort to look more mature. But it was a poor one, for her round innocent eyes and rosy cheeks gave her tender years away.

Long ago, he would have gotten up to hug this little girl.

“How did the presentation go?” He put his book away and moved his cup so that she could sit next to him.

“Okay,” she sighed. “Not satisfactory, but was still an A.”

Ah, always so critical of herself.

He ruffled her head, messing up her hairdo on purpose. “Atta girl.”

“Garry!” Red eyes protested in place of her calm visage.

He chuckled and sat back to watch her attempt to salvage the vandalism. Soon, a smooth stream of mahogany was released from the crystal brown clamp, pouring generously down her shoulders and swaying along the length of her back. It framed her chiseled profile.

As expected…

Nipping the hair clamp from her fingers in one swift motion, he pocketed the accessory with a smirk. “Confiscated.” And before she could voice her objection, he ran a hand down the side of her face, fingers ever so fleetingly brushing her straight locks. “You’re beautiful, Ib.”

As he withdrew his hand, she touched the place where his caress had been and lowered her eyes to the ground. His smile widened at the sight of her indifferent face heating up.

Sitting back in his seat, however, his mirth faded. He’d made the mistake of scanning their surroundings, some of which he’d rather not see.

People were coming and going.

A couple walked hand in hand on their date. A single-child family enjoying their occasional outing.

People were lingering.

The laidback old women feeding pigeons on the cobblestone road. A group of students in dark-green uniforms sat by the edge of the lake.

People were talking.

Furtive glances.

Thinly veiled disapproval.

Whispering.

Society was really nosy.

Or maybe he had merely become too sensitive.

He got up to throw his smoothie away, and, when he came back, sat a little farther away from her, ignoring her dissatisfied frown. They proceeded to stay in silence. She was rarely the conversation starter, and he was reluctant to speak. Out of the corner of his eyes, he watched her fight to keep her thick fall of hair at bay in the face of a powerful gust.

“Don’t you have class right now?” she asked suddenly.

“Ah… I quit this morning,” he simpered, and, at her alarmed look, added, “I haven’t the knacks for designing after all. I don’t want to keep dumping my old man’s money down the drain.”

The fourteen-year-old appeared perplexed, trying to think of an appropriate response to his predicament. He could see her biting back the offer to use her family’s money, as she’d been taught from a very early stage of their relationship it wasn’t ‘appropriate.’ This made him feel even more pathetic.

He kept a wry scowl off his face and knitted his hands together, blunt nails digging into callous knuckles. The sooner he got this over with… “And that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I’m thinking about moving back home to help with the business.”

“What? No! What about us—” She seemed to realize something, and a rare spark of anger ignited across her expression. “Is this because Ma and Pa met with you the other day?”

“They just want the best for you, Ib. They’re right.”

He looked ahead, dreading her hurt face. Her parents hadn’t had a problem with him before, treating her attachment to him as a childish crush that would fade with time. But as time passed, it was growing to be increasingly apparent that wasn’t the case. And the final straw was probably how he didn’t even hide his affection for their daughter.

He’d tried. He worked hard to get a degree. He’d stopped smoking, stopped dyeing his hair and wore more sensible clothes. He’d wanted to be someone befitting her, but it wasn’t enough for them to accept him.

At first, it was the dwindling visits to his apartment. Then the evening curfews to keep them from hanging out too late. Now, he wasn’t even allowed to see her anymore.

As he heaved a sigh, she said, “I don’t care. I’ll come with you.”

He looked at her, seeing the determination in her eyes. To be young and naïve. Although, he wouldn’t deny feeling flattered by her devotion to him, and that a childish, irrational part of him nearly jumped at the suggestion. He rubbed the back of his neck. “I care, Ib. Anywhere we go, people are still gonna judge. And I don’t think I can look after you as well as I’d like. We’ll both be miserable.”

“So you assume we won’t be if apart?”

“I was hoping it’ll only be me that’ll be hurting.”

Her red hot glare told him he was looking down on her feelings, and he conceded with a shameful shrug, head sinking between bony shoulders. Silence draped over them once more, like a stuffy blanket that he wished for nothing more than to kick off. The rims of his eyes were starting to burn. He’d been afraid this would happen. He was really doing this, saying goodbye to her. The thought of never seeing her again sowed fear and anger deep in the pit of his stomach, while the frustration at his powerlessness tightened his throat.

“Is there…” she began after an eternity, and he realized the girl had already snuggled up by his side. “Is there no other way?” With her legs gathered to her chest, she looked so vulnerable under the sunlight filtering through the branch spread.

He didn’t answer. Instead, he wrapped his arm around her small frame and found himself musing.

Had he been wrong to be so open about his feelings for her and come off as a threat in her parents’ eyes? He’d honestly thought the Lowells would come through for them. Or at least, for her. Cradle-robbing was probably just too hard to get past, and he’d been too full of it, thinking that their circumstances were special.

But weren’t they special? Having fought for their lives and taken away another’s together? Having withstood traumas and nightmares by each other’s side? Alas, no one would ever understand. The death grip she’d once had around his waist had been strangely comforting. And though she remained silent, he’d felt her erratic heartbeats through her back. The swift moment of tranquility they’d spent under the sun that smelled of beef fat. Running for his life and being on his toes hadn’t left time for thinking. It really was nice not having to think.

He looked at his wrist before giving her a light squeeze. “Wanna go grab a bite?”

She grabbed his arm to check the time and shook her head. “I have to go soon.” The sorrow she tried to keep hidden broke his heart.

“I see…”

“… Isn’t there a place where no one will judge us somewhere?”

He didn’t trust himself to speak, lowering his gaze. Her shoulders sagged, and she got to her feet. “This isn’t over okay, Garry? We’ll talk again later.” She slid her fingers into his jacket and took back the hair clamp. It was supposed to be a keepsake.

As he watched her tread through the grass towards the empty street, her words played on repeat in his head.

And he remembered. He remembered opening his eyes to find the stabbing pain gone and his head cradled in her worried embrace. He remembered watching over her sleeping form, feather-light in his lap, curled up under his ragged coat. He remembered the intimacy they’d shared with trembling abandon in a hideout of dusty bookshelves.

He looked down at his worn wristwatch.

Huh…the hands’ stopped. Is it dead?” he’d thought to himself in one moment of reprieve.

.

“Ib!”

She turned around in surprise as he grabbed her by the elbow. Breathing heavily, he looked into her eyes and saw his own uncertainty reflected in them. He was being weak and stupid, but he’d always been that way. The question was how far she was willing to tolerate the failure of a man that was he.

The wind picked up again, plastering her hair to her cheek, but she made no movement to tuck it behind her ear. She was waiting patiently, as if somehow sensing the outlandishness of the proposal about to roll of his tongue.

He swallowed, tightening the hold on her arm.

“There is a place.”


“Said all your goodbyes?”

“I don’t have that many. Just Ma and Pa. I should be asking you.”

“You’d think,” he chuckled and decided to ignore the dark smears underneath her bloodshot eyes she tried to cover with side-swept bangs.

With her hands in his, he led her through the busy streets towards downtown.

People were walking. People were talking.

Furtive glances, thinly veiled disapproval and whispering.

Society was really nosy.

But he didn’t care.

He ran a hand through wind-tousled mauve locks, and she pushed long, seamless fall over her shoulder. His heart rattled between his ribcage. As they arrived through the black metal gate, he felt her hesitation. He smiled at her and gave a gentle tug.

She squeezed his hand.

To a place where no one will judge them.

They went up deceptive white steps, and passed impassive figures. His heart was now still, at peace, reassured by the warmth of her soft palm. Browsing the spontaneous but purposeful brushes of the famed artist, they waited for it to become dark.

To a place where there was no one to judge them.

And as they sank into the deep abyss, the walls dripped an oily blue.

WELCOME BACK

Dream

Garry lied. But did he really?

The little girl woke with a start, her eyes darting around the dark bedroom illuminated by one lone crescent light.

Heart thumping, skin damp and breaths ragged, she forced down a dry swallow as she continued to search her surroundings for something unknown.

The darkness catered eerie silence and the moonlight fed ubiquitous shadows. Her thin camisole sticking to her back, she dismayed at the thought of closing her eyes and leaving herself vulnerable to what wicked presence may be lurking about. A whimper rattled the back of her throat, bringing hot, unwanted tears to her eyes.

Again…that dream…

The young man had towered over her, teeth clenching tight behind trembling lips. His hands cupped her face, strong fingers wiping away her stagnant tears as he fought to hold in his own. Even with pain pulling his facial muscles taut and even as sweat beads upon his knitted forehead, he’d managed to give her a smile.

If you need me…I’ll come running…”

A nightmare was what it was.

Ib rolled onto her side and came to face with the man sharing the bed with her. He looked so relaxed, so serene, his beautiful face partly hidden by the downy pillow he’d burrowed into. His wavy hair was unruly in his sleep, shining a mystical blue under the ephemeral light. The moon cast fleeting shades of long lashes onto his alabaster cheek and chiseled his straight nose more prominent.

She listened to the sound of his breathing, intrigued by every rise of fall of his bony shoulder. Her palm gingerly splayed over his chest, and through his worn tank top she felt his calming beats. Unknowingly, her own had matched with them.

The lulling thumps wrapped her in assurance, and it was almost as if her hand had a mind of its own as she reached up to touch his parted lips. Mildly dry, but soft all the same. The rhythm of his breaths could be felt on her small fingers, so warm and precious.

It was disrupted when he stirred.

His eyes fluttered open and a cerulean gaze drown her in its wake. She did not move her hand. They held each other’s gaze for one long moment. Then came the next best thing. He smiled an endearing smirk as a large hand knitted with hers and brought it against his mouth. His affection flattered, but at the same time offended her.

“Liar.”

His gesture stumped, he regarded her with alert eyes. “Hmm, why ever so?” his voice rung a semblance with a female’s, but still held a low note of timbre.

The playful tone struck something within her, and a knot formed inside her throat. Against her will, searing hot tears formed anew, and she made no attempt to hide them.

His eyes widened at this, and he clambered up to his knees to move over her. He sibilated shushing sounds, his thumbs stroked under her eyes over and over in an attempt to dry them. His gentleness only made it hurt worse. He looked helpless at her unending tears, his expression almost mirroring hers. His strong arms slid behind her back and gathered her up against him.

Ib curled up in his firm embrace, relishing in the scent of smoke and cologne as his hand traced the length of her spine. “Liar.” She took in a shuddering breath and buried her face into his chest, clinging to his shirt. He only held her tighter, not caring that she was dirtying his clothes with tears and snot.

“Liar,” her voice broke under the weight of her heartache. “I need you… Why aren’t you here?”

The hand on her back stilled.

“But Ib—” His fingers combed her hair. “Do you really need me?”

“I do.”

“Then why do you never call for me?”

Her eyes were wide. She nudged away from him, and he complied.

His smile was so kind, his eyes were so gentle. She ventured to touch him, her fingers tiny along his jaw.

“Call my name, Ib, and I’ll come.”

She parted her lips. She sucked in a breath. She held his face. Tears rained down her cheeks and this time he did nothing to stop them. The syllables were there. His name was right on the tip of her tongue, ready to roll off, yet no force on this plane was enough to give it that final push she needed. Why, why, why, why? She was so close. He was so close.

Just a little more. Just a little bit more.

“It’s okay. That’s enough for tonight,” he soothed, his large hand covering her eyes. “Time to wake up now, Ib.”

.

.

.

.

The little girl woke with tears in her rubicund eyes.

Again…why?

She pushed the comforter away and sat up, wiping her face.

She could never understand the reason for this emptiness inside of her.

 

 

 

 

 


Trivia:

  • written under great emotional influence from a doujinshi from komyu