Chapter 17: Contented

“Here you go~” Garry chimed in his honeyed voice as he set a plate down on the glass table. It was neatly piled with little macarons of multiple flavours. “Help yourself, dear.”

Ib moved her eyes away from the book in her lap, looking up at him. Garry had changed out of his pajamas, wearing simple trousers and a plain grey shirt underneath his jacket. He had two bobby pins in his hair, keeping his usually shaggy side bangs away from his left eye. As it had turned out, they were the reason why he was searching his dresser – or so he had told her. Though, for some reason, she didn’t think that was quite the case, she would still take his words for it. Garry was back to normal, and that was all that mattered to her.

The smell of chocolate started permeating the air as he came back from the kitchen with two mugs. Ib closed the book she was reading and set it to the side. Letting her legs dangle, she watched Garry carefully bring their drinks to the table – hers should be the white mug, while his the black. Garry liked his cocoa really thick, so she wouldn’t want to drink his by mistake. His sweet tooth scared even a kid like her.

“Aren’t you gonna watch TV?” he asked.

She simply shook her head.

“Oh, right. Sorry, I don’t have any cartoon channels here,” he chuckled.

“It’s not that,” the little girl nearly pouted at his comment. Although it was true she preferred to watch cartoons, she didn’t want him to think of her in such a childish light. “Not that…” she repeated, eyeing Garry as he placed the cocoa down. Her mouth parted to speak, but her words hesitated to form. She wasn’t used to this, but if she was going to tell him, now was the time – before she loses the chance. Pulling at the front of her hoodie, she tried to hide as much of her face as possible, “… I’d rather spend time talking to you.”

The mugs clattered dangerously against the glass surface as Garry looked up at her with shock written all over his face.

Ib inwardly cringed. Maybe she shouldn’t have said anything. She was about to start berating herself when all of a sudden, Garry tilted his head, hands clasping together in a smitten expression. “Oh me oh my, what is this kid saying~” he swooned, flopping down beside her on the couch and gathering her into a big bear hug. “Daaw, talk to me all you want, honey! Garry will listen to everything.”

Squeezed tightly in his embrace, she couldn’t help but feel proud of herself.

His smile was warm and his touch gentle. She felt silly now to have assumed he was any different. He’d explained that he had been stressed by his midterms the past month and apologized for neglecting her. Everything was just a huge misunderstanding on her part. She had heard that universities were very hard. Garry didn’t deal well with stress already, yet she had been bothering him all that time.

She let out a short sigh, her eyes eventually found their way to him as she nibbled at a macaron.

Just now, she had even caused him to fall off the couch. He had assured her that the bruise wasn’t bad, but she knew he had only said that to make her feel better.

“Ah~” Garry picked up his mug as he chewed. It was then that she noticed something. “Nothing beats macarons and hot co-”

He balked, practically froze when the girl moved to reach for his face. Before Ib could touch him, however, she was stopped. He had a finger to her forehead, his whole demeanour stiff and jumpy. Slowly, but surely, he straightened his arm and pushed her away from him. Though confused, Ib obediently complied and sat back in her original spot.

“… Garry?” she questioned, twisting her brows at his rigid expression.

“Y-yeah?” Garry seemed nervous. Crinkling his eyes in a tense smile, he retracted his hand from her and inched a bit towards the other end of the couch. “S-sorry. You… startled me, is all. So… what is it?”

Ib stared at him, her mind working to understand his queer reaction. She knew that she had been overthinking a lot about Garry, and should probably stop doing that, but something just bugged her to no end. Something that her young mind couldn’t comprehend just yet.

“Your ear…” she let her sentence hang, just as she always did.

“Oh, these?” his eyes brightened up as he touched his left ear. She had been too occupied before to notice, but with his hair swept back, she realized there were two small orbs decorating the lower rim of his earlobe. The black accessories, though tiny, were stark against his pale white skin, making her wonder how she had missed them all this time. “I got them a few weeks ago at a party. Silly me got provoked into a pain tolerance game.”

“Can I look?” she asked, already getting to her knees. Ib didn’t wait to hear his mumbled reply and just scuttered near. Her small hands keeping his face still, she angled his head to give her the best view of his ear. Up close, she found out that the piercings were actually of a dark blue. They were the same color as his eyes. She brought a curious thumb over the reddened skin around the tiny earrings, and felt Garry squirm under her touch. “Does it hurt?”

“It… was awful when I got back from the party,” he answered with a distracted look, absentmindedly taking a sip from his mug. “Those ba- people didn’t hold back at all. When I heard they were doing lobes, I thought it wouldn’t be too bad… yet they actually managed to make it hurt. B-but it’s almost healed now, don’t worry!”

“So normally piercing doesn’t hurt?” she continued with her inquiries, not moving her gaze from his ear.

“Well… I wouldn’t say there’s no pain,” Garry placed his hand onto hers in a way that suggested he wanted her to let go, but she disregarded the gesture, too absorbed to notice his discomfort. “Say, Ib. Why so interested? Don’t tell me you want to get piercings as well.”

She did. The earrings looked really pretty on him. They seemed to bring this little enhancement to his slender, yet strong neck. “I-Ib?” was the weak protest Garry squeaked as Ib ran her short fingers through his hair, blunt nails lightly scraping his scalp. She carefully took away the bobby pins, letting his silky bangs cascade back down his cheek. Though slightly unkempt, his hair still possessed a burnished quality to them, and she could never quite decide if it was a vibrant purple or a cool lavender. Garry was already very beautiful, but something about how the earrings were peeking out from under his dichromatic hair just made his profile more… eye-catching, for a lack of better words.

Although… it was a tad disheartening to know that this was the result from some stranger provoking him, and that she was weeks late in knowing the news. She had missed something about Garry during the time they didn’t meet up. She could have been there when his ear was still swelling and listened to him complain every two sentences about how much it hurt. Ib liked it when he acted all childish; the gap between them didn’t seem so wide then.

A strange feeling sparked within her in the midst of her admiration, and she pulled him nearer despite the slight resistance he posed. “Ib?”

Gripping at the fabric of his jacket, she craned to place a soft kiss over the earrings. “I hope it heals soon.”

Garry visibly shuddered, his hand bolting up to cover his ear as he jerked away from her. His face flushed and his mouth agape, he fumbled with the sounds that barely escaped his throat. He stared at her for a moment, before averting his eyes. “Gar-” out of the corner of her eyes, she noticed his mug was threatening to spill in his slackened hold. “Garry,” she called, hurriedly reaching over his lap to help him support the drink.

He blinked, eyes still unfocused, “ah… sorry.” She could feel the strength returning to his grip as he straightened himself. “Thanks, Ib…” there was a short pause where he crossed his long legs and moved his hand from her grasp. Not looking at her, he continued in a sigh, “don’t… do that again… Okay?”

Ib flopped back down on the couch. “Why? Did it hurt?” she asked, head sinking between her shoulders. “Did I hurt you?”

“No, no… you didn’t, hon,” he had a faraway look in his eyes. “Just… don’t. My ear’ll be as good as new soon, so don’t mind it anymore. ‘kay?”

Garry didn’t say anything after that, only giving her hair a gentle pat. It was a cue to drop the subject and move on.

Without another word, she returned to the hamburger-shaped pastries on the table, albeit sullenly. Silences were common when they were together, but she didn’t like this kind of silences. The air was heavy, and it didn’t feel right to say anything. Her mind filled with uncertainty, she resorted to fiddling with the pins she had taken from him. Had she done something wrong? She didn’t understand why he was so upset. She kissed him on countless occasions. Even if this was the first time she had ever kissed his ear, she still didn’t see how it was any different. But then again, Garry had always reacted strongly to unexpected things.

“Talking about getting hurt,” setting his mug down, Garry finally broke the silence after what felt like forever, and she immediately perked up, eager to grab the chance to start talking with him again. “How is the wound on your arm?”

She pulled the long sleeve of her hoodie up to reveal the skin on her arm. The cut had already healed and disappeared without a trace, just as the school nurse had promised her. Garry seemed very glad as he ran his thumb over where he remembered the cut had been – which was the wrong place, but she didn’t say anything and just enjoyed his smile. Apparently, he had been really worried with the memory of the large bandage plastered over her skin, afraid there would be a scar.

He cared. That thought nearly put a smile on her face. Although she didn’t like excessive attention from people, she loved it when Garry fussed over the smallest thing about her.

They continued to eat the macarons, and she finally got to drink her cocoa. Garry was very displeased about how the drink had gone cold and insisted on heating it up for her despite her refusal. To stop him, Ib finished her drink in one go and nimbly climbed onto his lap. He didn’t appear to be too comfortable with that, but she ignored his plea. She didn’t like the thought of him leaving for anything, even if it was just a few minutes of microwave. They hadn’t been together in a month already. She wanted to stay close to him for as long as possible.

Burying her face into his broad chest, she felt him becoming taut. Ib closed her eyes and renewed her memory of his scent. She lingered for a moment, before reluctantly detaching herself from him. Garry was staring down at her, making a face as he tried to perceive her bored expression. “I haven’t showered today,” he said with a shrug.

Contrary to his belief, he smelled really nice. Beneath the fresh laundry was a scent that was simply his. Slightly sweaty, a tad sour, yet soothing. Not masked with shampoo or soap, or cologne; not any special, yet in a sense, very much so.

He pinched her nose, “Sorry if I smell weird.”

At close distance, his breath wafted against her face, and she blinked in surprise. There was a nostalgic tang of… smoke. Though faint, it was unmistakable. Ib had thought she was imagining it when she had happened to take a sniff at his hair after kissing his ear.

“… What is it?” he asked, unable to decipher her this time around.

Ib shook her head and leant against his rangy frame. Garry was confusing at times and wouldn’t tell her what was wrong. He must take her for an ignorant child… and a child she was. So, she would wait. Until she is able to understand what the wry look on his face meant, she would wait patiently. For now, as long as Garry was fine with it, she would be also.

.

“Say ah~” he sang, pressing a macaron against her lips.

Ib accepted the sweet in a heartbeat, popping the whole thing into her mouth. How he wanted to get a taste of that same sweet also. It looked really good with the way her cheeks seemed to puff as she ate.

Garry reached for the pastry plate that had been moved onto the couch and took a macaron for himself.

“Garry, what flavour is that?” she asked, halting him just as he bit into the pale-brown macaron.

Tamarind, he answered in his head upon tasting the distinctive sourness at the tip of his tongue. It was a new flavour he had started buying a while back. Did she want one, too? His eyes quickly scanned the plate to his left, only to find that only lemons and strawberries were left. Oh dear, he ate the last one. He glanced at Ib – the girl was looking at the same macaron plate as he had, before turning back to him.

“Er… shor-”

Before he could finish the apology, he felt her weight being lifted from his thighs. In a fraction of a second, her face neared. Soft breaths landed on his skin, tingling his every nerve. His eyes wide and his mind a total blank, he could barely register the way her cute little nose was pressed against his. There was a soft tug on the sweet between his teeth as she carefully bit off as much as she could without their lips touching. The notion made him gulp.

“Tamarind,” she stated with an air of accomplishment, dropping back down onto his lap. Her small hands were rested against his chest, and he would have pushed them away if not for the fact that his entire body had frozen over. No, more like, he willed it to freeze, because he didn’t know what it might do otherwise.

Was it wrong for him to wish that their lips had touched?

“… Garry? You’re not eating?”

“Eh… ‘o…” he shook his head.

Garry sat very, very still, as though it would keep his heart from beating any faster, praying that she didn’t notice the cacophony going on between his ribs. He hesitantly brought the halt-eaten macaron into his mouth and rolled it around. The moment the lumpy part of where she had taken a bite touched his tongue, he nearly winced, overly aware of the slightly dampened surface. As he carefully chewed, impure thoughts of intimacy started to rear their ugly heads once more, and the fact that her entire front stayed pressed against his didn’t help one bit.

“Do you like it?”

“Yeah… very,” he swallowed with much hardship, managing a crooked smile. God, he could barely taste the thing.

She smiled.

Ah…

His hands that had been kept strictly by his sides and nailed to the cushion beneath him were beginning to itch and twitch. Just how lovable could she get? Biting the inside of his lower lip, Garry started to clench and unclench his fists. Maybe just a little, he thought, his resolution crumbling. Cupping her small face, his grin began to show as he fondled her cheeks. They were so tender, so soft to the touch. The squishiness between his fingers was so addicting. He could do this forever and never get bored.

So adorable…

Ib stayed still in his arms. Judging from her expression, she was enjoying this as much as he was. This wasn’t too bad. Like this was fine. He felt appreciated and loved… as her friend – her only one.

He raised a hand to her head and gently combed her hair. Taking a lock into his hold, he couldn’t help but marveled at how smooth it was. His fingers seemed to melt as he further tangled them between the mass of her fine strands. Knuckles lightly brushing the curve of her ear, he noticed the faint blush dusting her skin and hid a smug smile as she seemed to withdraw from the touch. Such a lovely little thing.

.

.

.

“Garry?”

.

“Yeah?”

.

.

“I’m really glad I listened to Ray.”

.

Ah?

 

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Trivia:

  • macaroons are now macarons because author just realized their blatant difference…
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