“H-happy, I guess.”
Cold water ran down his hand, bringing his attention back to the running water tap. He was getting a glass of water for himself, but had doze off and let the glass overflow. Garry hurriedly turned the tap off with a sigh, pouring some of the water away into the sink. He used his dry hand to hold the glass and gulped down the content while shaking the water off of his other hand.
“Eh? You don’t play with other kids?” He had once asked her some time ago.
“I don’t have any friends.” Ib replied normally.
“… Why don’t you try making some?” He suggested, slightly taken aback by how easily she’d said it. He couldn’t imagine a life without friends. He had many, even if not everyone was real.
“I don’t need any.” She’d shaken her head. “I have you.”
Ib was surely changing. Without realizing it herself, she was starting to yearn for other connections. It was a nice improvement for her social life, he should be glad, but somehow, all he felt was irritation.
“What is this?” He exhaled.
Replacing the glass back into the wooden cupboard, he stabbed his fingers though his hair and walked back to the living room.
Shiny wooden floor, thick walls, modern interior. He lived in a small, expensive apartment, comfortably furnished with everything that he might need. The apartment was, of course, not his, but given to him by his benefactor a year ago. Sometimes, he would dwell on about whether or not his decision to accept the man’s offer had been a right one. It felt so constricted and restrained to live on someone else’s property. Many times, he’d been tempted to leave; however, when he thought about letting little Ib visit him in the slum he’d lived in before, staying wasn’t an option anymore.
Garry gave a sigh at his luxurious surrounding and flopped down onto the black leather sofa, picking up his unfinished assignment left on the glass table. Going for fashion had severely limited his future career choices, but he didn’t care. He loved fashion, and he intended to be the best. He would prove to his family he could live just fine without having to succeed their business.
He leaned back and brought his long legs up to set the sketchbook against them. This was proving a bit of discomfort, but Garry didn’t want to work in his study tonight. He just wanted a change of scenery. What annoyed him the most though, was the fan he had on. The machine kept blowing at the pages of his assignment. With a grunt, he pinned the edge of the pages down with one hand and continued with the messy drafts on the paper, using the pencil to make purposeful lines that soon became aimless. He couldn’t seem to concentrate, his mind kept wandering about and it frustrated him greatly.
It was too quiet for comfort.
This apartment felt so dead, he felt so alone. He just wished there was someone here to give him some company, particularly Ib. Garry was never good with children, but he was an expert with Ib. He could handle her pretty well… She handled him well, too. He was generally a nice guy, but in no way a saint. However, when he was with her, he found himself wanting to be one. He wanted to be the best role model figure for her. She brought out the best in him.
“I like him.”
His little Ib was growing up, already getting her first crush now. He wondered if that was too fast. Garry didn’t remember having a crush until he’d turned fifteen.
Did she have to mature so soon? He felt so lost.
Garry blinked out of his reverie as he felt the lead of his pencil snapping. He looked at the sketchbook on his lap and shrieked. “Nooo! What happened?” He dropped the pencil and picked his assignment up, checking the damage. What had once been his beautiful design was now an unidentifiable collection of intense graphite strokes. There were several torn scratches amidst the black patch, telltale of his rough handling.
For a few seconds afterwards, he kept staring at what had become of his assignment, shaking from exhalation. A curse was ready at the tip of his tongue, waiting to be released. However, it never got out as he had swallowed it back in. It was a habit from being around Ib. He never wanted her to hear anything bad, especially not from him.
“… There’s no salvaging this, I guess.” He muttered, hanging his head in a sigh.
Garry took one last lingering look at his creation then tore the page off and scrunched it up. He threw the ball of paper aside and turned to a new page. However, he couldn’t continue working because his mechanical pencil was now nowhere to be found. Biting back another curse, he searched around for it, but ended up dropping all the materials he’d left inside the sketchbook.
Nothing was going right for him.
He grumbled, setting the sketchbook down and began picking up the pile of paper strewn across the floor. Just then, the phone rang.
Garry let out an exasperated sigh, quickly throwing everything onto the table and strode up to the phone on the shelf in the corner not too far away. Noting the caller’s ID, he picked the phone up to answer. “Hello, Garret here.”
“Good evening, Mr. Wolfe, I’m sorry for bothering you so late in the day.” A feminine voice said coolly. It was his benefactor’s secretary. “Are you busy at the moment?”
“No, nothing that needs urgent tending to.” He answered, reducing his effeminate speaking habit to the minimum. He knew when not to act out of normalcy. “What is the matter?”
“Yes, well, I just want to know your schedule this weekend. Leonard intends to pay you a visit and wouldn’t want to disturb your plans.”
“Ah, I see. He’ll be welcomed.” Garry’s lips stretched into an empty smile as he shifted on his legs. “Tomorrow would be fine. I don’t have anything planned.”
There was a swift silence on the other side before the woman spoke again. “Alright, if you are free, would you mind meeting up at the coffeehouse on Oak street?”
“I don’t mind.” He replied, faking high spirit. “What time shall it be?”
“Seventeen hundred would be nice.”
“Alright! I’ll be there.” He leaned against the wall stifling a sigh. “Tell Mr. Garland my thanks for his generosity.”
“Tell that to him tomorrow.” The older woman said. “One more thing, he won’t say a word about it, but he is pleased about your results. Keep it up.”
“I will, thank you, miss.”
Garry placed the phone back, the prior smile quickly faded from his face. Maybe he really shouldn’t have accepted the Garlands’ help.
The phone went off again, and he glared at the innocent machine as though he could shut it off by doing so. Without checking who it was, he yanked the phone from its cradle and grated, “Yes?” His tone was harsher than he’d expected.
Soft breathing sound could be heard before a small voice spoke up. “It’s me, Garry.”
It was Ib.
“E-eh? Oh, Ib?” He barely kept himself from stuttering. “What’s up, sweetheart?”
“… Sorry Garry, did I wake you?” She asked after a short pause. “I’ll hang up so you can-”
“No, no, I wasn’t asleep. Why would you think that?” He answered hastily, standing up straight.
“Well, you sounded … angry.” Ib said with some hesitance. “Are you sure you’re alright? … Why haven’t you gone to bed?”
Cute little Ib.
“I could never be angry at you.” He replied, lowering his head in a soft chuckle. “And why aren’t you in bed, dear?”
“W-well, I just wanted to hear your voice.” She confessed, her embarrassed tone made his smile widen. Something warm was spreading out inside his chest, he felt so very completed. Ib was truly special. She could erase his foul mood as simply as that.
“Your voice put me at ease.”
Garry hugged himself as he shifted his stance. “Aww, don’t hesitate to call me whenever.” He paused, then added. “Okay, Ib?”
“O-okay… Say, Garry?”
“Um, you see…” She became hesitant once more, but he felt there was something entirely different about how she was behaving. “About the thing we talked about this afternoon…”
His stomach gave a disturbing churn. “This afternoon?” He asked, slowly becoming stiff.
“Yeah, about the boy that I… You know.” She muttered, and he could imagine her face turning red as she uttered the words.
“Yes, what about him?” Garry did his best to keep his tone neutral and happy.
“Well, tomorrow, my school is having a trip, you see. The class will be split into groups of four, and I’m in his group.”
I feel sick…
“Isn’t that nice.” He smiled. “You have fun, sweetheart.”
“And you see, we will have some time to walk around with our groups. Maybe when I get to be alone with him…”
I feel sick.
“Garry, maybe I should confess-”
“No.” He spat.
“Eh?” Ib jumped from his suddenly hard voice, surprise was imbued in her tone.
“A-ah, I mean, no, dear. You shouldn’t. Really. Boys should be the ones making the confession.” Garry shakily tried to salvage the situation as his mind was in turmoil. What did she mean by confessing? Too soon! She was only eleven, how would she know if she really liked the brat? … And what if that ignorant brat rejected her? No. Just, no.
“You should wait for a while and get to know him better, okay Ib?”
“… Okay.” She sounded utterly deflated, making him feel even more guilty.
“Oh well, geez, look at the time. It’s late now, Ib. You should go to bed.” He clumsily changed the subject. “Sleep tight now.”
“… Night, Garry.”
He waited until there was a click from the other side before putting the phone back to its cradle.
I feel sick?
- Garry is prohibited from working by his benefactor
- Garry insisted with Mr. Garland that no cleaners were to be sent to the apartment
- Ib once asked to come to Garry’s apartment 2 years back, but he explicitly prohibited her from coming. Few months later a sullen Ib mustered her courage to ask him again, but before she could, he invited her to his apartment
- Ib called with her family’s land line