Chapter 1: Cherished

“It’s a promise.”

It’s a promise, right? So…


Two years had passed since then, since the events of the gallery, since he met Ib. It was the most curious meeting, and the most dear.

He looked blankly outside the window of his favourite café, hand stirring his half-empty cup of coffee. It was a beautiful day, late in the weekend afternoon. People walked past the shop in a relaxed manner, some alone, some with company. Dried leaves occasionally fell in a sparse shower, leaving their trees naked. It would soon be winter.

The air inside the shop was cool from the AC, imbued with a languid smell of coffee and confectionary. It made one feel lazy, peaceful and got one reminiscing.

It had been some time since his first greeting to her parents. He still remembered how accomplished he’d felt when he’d finally gained their acceptance. The woman had been very welcoming, the man… not so much, but he’d soon yielded to Ib’s adamance.

Garry stifled a chuckle. Ib was strong and very willful when she needed to be.

He lowered his gaze to the windowsill beside his table, eyes settling on the small decorative hourglass placed there. It was a year ago that he’d started to take an interest in the glass ornament. He had one back at his apartment, a little bigger than this one in front of him.

Garry watched absentmindedly as the string of smooth sand quickly accumulated into a red mount inside the crystal clear glass. It was only moments later that the sand was all collected in the lower half. Why must it be in such a rush to finish the cycle? He brought out his hand and turned the glass bottle upside down, allowing the sand to flow once again.

Such a hurry…

A small jingling sound brought his attention to the opened café door. A petite familiar figure with a chocolate brown fall emerged from the threshold, and burgundy gaze searched the interior. She was wearing a white dress with black hem, his gift for her tenth birthday. A small smile crept onto the corners of his mouth as he watched her. As soon as the little girl spotted his lavender mop, a flash of recognition swept past her face and she pattered towards him with a worry-filled expression. This dimmed his smile. For a moment, he wondered what was wrong.

“Garry, sorry I’m late.” She apologized, seating herself across from him. “Did you wait long?”

“Ah, it’s fine. It’s fine.” He replied, his smile returning. “I was only enjoying my coffee, dear. And I have a book to keep me busy.” He gestured to the opened book on his side of the table.

After they had found each other, they often hung out. He and Ib most usually met up here, where they had first fulfilled their promise to eat macarons. Their macaron outings had long since become a sort of routine.

Although it was a strange sight, a child and an adult hanging out together, he didn’t care. No one would ever be able to understand. The short period they spent together had become important, very important to him. They were like each other’s remedy for the residue of all the horror of the gallery. It was like a confirmation of the other’s presence, an assurance that they had both made it out. He slept better if he could see her in the day, and she confessed to feel the same.

Right now, the nightmares had subsided. They still intruded his sleep from time to time, just not as bad as the first few months. The paintings, the sculptures… Mary… He had been able to leave them all as just a bad memory in a corner of his mind, because Ib was there.

Ib was precious.

A friend, a sister. Someone he held very dear.

“What is the book about?” Ib questioned as she received the glass of juice from a waitress, nodding a thank you at the older girl.

“Hmm? … One macaron serving please, Lucy.” He told the waitress as she turned to leave before giving Ib his full attention. “The book? It’s a tragedy.”

“Tragedy? I don’t like tragedies.” She gave a small frown.

Ib had changed. She spoke more, expressed herself more. Although she was only open to him, it was only a matter of time before that would be applied to any of her acquaintances. She was growing. Already, she’d entered middle school. She would meet new people and her horizon would broaden. What then?

“Well,” Garry smiled, closing the book after placing the bookmark between the pages. “When you grow up, you’ll learn to appreciate bittersweet things. They’re what make a story beautiful.”

Ib took a sip at her glass, then tilted her head. “Happy endings are nicer.”

He chuckled softly, reaching over the table to pat her head. “You’re still a kid, sweetheart.”

She appeared sulky, quietly letting him finish his patting.

You’re still a kid … so … don’t grow up so fast.

He crinkled his eyes in another smile, picking up his cup of coffee. “I’ll lend you some books tomorrow. I’m sure they’ll help you learn new words.”

“Okay.” Ib said in a small voice.

“So, how was school this week.” He asked. The answer was a small clatter as Ib clumsily placed her glass down on the table. Garry did not miss her jumpy reaction. “Hmm? What is it?”

Ib darted her eyes around the place, seemingly flustered. Somehow, Garry had a bad feeling about this, but he brushed it aside, patiently waiting until she would decide to speak. He would never push her, knowing it would only serve to unnerve her.

“Y-you see,” she started, fidgeting in her seat and knitting her fingers together under the table. “I told you about how the kids in school make fun of my eyes. Well, there’s this boy-”

“Yes, those ignorant brats.” Garry hissed, anger boiling inside him. Ib had never had much friends because all the kids her age ostracised her. How in the world they could shun such a sweet girl, he would never understand. What was so wrong about those beautiful red orbs? “Are they bullying you again? Who are they? Tell me and I’ll teach them a lesson they’ll never forget!”

“No, that’s not it.” Ib shook her head profusely. “I-I…”

“Hmm? What was that?” He furrowed his brows, leaning in to hear her better. She pressed her lips together before whispering to him.

.

“Whaaaaaattt!” He exclaimed loudly, mouth hanging open. “You like him?”

“Shhh, Garry!” Ib hastily shushed him in a soft voice, placing a finger in front of her lips; her face flushing beat-red.

“A-ah, I’m sorry.” Garry slap a hand to his mouth. “Sorry, Lucy.” He turned to apologize to the glaring waitress, then look back at his little friend. She avoided his eyes bashfully, hands playing with the hem of her dress. It didn’t look like she was going to speak, so he took the initiative.

“So… You were saying you liked him?” He nervously took a sip of his coffee. “How come?”

She lifted her gaze to him, still keeping her head slightly downward. He smiled encouragingly at her.

“… I don’t really know if I like him or not.” She started hesitantly, eyes searching the table, probably looking for something to give her attention to and alleviate her embarrassment. Finally, she opted to pick up a piece of macaron and nibble at it.

Garry folded his arms on the table, leaning in closer. “Well, this boy, why don’t you tell me about him?”

Ib continued to squirm, her head sinking between her small shoulders. “… You see, he just transferred into my class recently. He’s really nice. He doesn’t make fun of my eyes and even told me to be proud of them. Because they’re unique.”

“Mhmm.” Garry put a hand to the side of his face and supported his chin. Now, that boy was quite something. Some big words he had. “And you think you like him because?”

“W-well,” She stuttered, fingers twiddling. “I get nervous in front of him.”

What is this?

He had never seen her so worked up about something before. She was always such a composed, graceful little girl.

The little girl hid her burning face behind her hands, mumbling out the words. “My heart wouldn’t calm down, I can’t really stay myself…”

Something is strange…

“Say, Ib dear.” Garry said, taking a big gulp of his coffee to sooth his somehow parched throat. “Why are you so confused? It’s simple, really. How do you feel when he’s near?”

You’re still just a kid…

Her delicate set of eyebrows twisted in confusion. “… How I feel? I just-”

“Say it simply, Ib.” He set the empty cup down and smiled at her. “Do you hate it? Like it? Do you feel happy when the boy’s talking to you?”

“I-I see.” Ib pressed her lips together in deep thinking. She ran her hands though her hair, then brought her chocolate locks up to hide her face sheepishly. “H-happy, I guess.”

“I see.” He smiled, nodding.

Just a kid?

 

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Trivia:

  • Garry gets special discounts from Lucine, girlfriend to the café’s owner
  • Ib is shyly acquainted to Lucine
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