Chapter 28: Ruth

Ib was cruel.

“Am I scary, Ib?” he had asked, receiving no answer in return, only a furtive glance, and then he’d been left to clean the myriad of white shards on the floor.

If you’re scared then maybe you shouldn’t be here—was something he’d stopped himself from saying.

She sat next to him on the couch, no further than an arm’s length away, sipping at her hot cocoa. Not a single word said. Not a single glance exchanged. The low murmur of the heater seeped through the air – a much welcomed sound in the pin-drop silence. And while she sat faking disinterest, his gaze kept finding its way back to her.

Her long lashes framed dispassionate eyes, the curves almost touching upon her cheekbones. She sat with an elegance a girl so young should never have, somehow vulnerable, somehow frail, yet barbed at the same time. That soft hair had been splayed on his bed sheet, disheveled and matted with sweat. And that milky skin had flushed under his caress, so very warm. Just the other night she had been a ravishing mess underneath him. Just the other night she had been his. So how come? So effortlessly, she looked untainted by his touch – once again an existence so far out of his reach he dared not cross this meager distance between them.

His finger twitched infinitesimally as he continued his voyeuristic observation. His voice failed him, and she neither encouraged nor discouraged him. He wished she would look at him, thirsted to know what kind of eyes she would look at him with. He swallowed dry, his parched throat protesting. His glass was on the coffee table, plain water. In a nervous motion, he reached for it. And she flinched.

He fought a grimace, letting his bangs shield his expression from her eyes and keeping himself from turning to her. If he tried to say anything it would only frighten her further.

Garry hadn’t expected happily ever after when Ib had asked to come over, but this was painful. She was terrified of him. He could sense the alertness radiating from her, every one of her muscles ready to defend herself against him.

He knew it was well-deserved. He deserved every bit of her fear and dislike. He would disappear from her sight to make her feel safer if she so commanded, but that just wasn’t what she damn wanted. She wanted him close—just not too close. A shaky ‘No!’ when he had attempted to leave had made him stay; although, a part of him now toyed with the idea of defying her wish in order to hear her voice again.

He grabbed his glass and drained the content.

Ib started fingering the black mug on her lap. The cocoa was already gone, but she kept the mug; and he hadn’t tried to take it from her. Truth be told, he had been far too happy that she was okay with using his mug. At the very least he wasn’t completely revolting to her. And Ib had a habit. Ah, that innocent gesture where she licked the rim of her mug to clean up any residue milk. He hadn’t missed the short moment when her tongue poked out between soft lips, and the sight had sent an inappropriate fire along his veins.

He wished he hadn’t drunk all of his water.

And she was sly.

Two hours of silence, one would expect it to go by excruciatingly slow. Yet, the clock hit six o’clock in a merciless haste, unsympathetic towards Garry’s predicament. Winter evenings came early, and the sky outside the window brewed a brooding blue, the sun long removed from its maw. The oncoming darkness nudged at him to end this meeting.

“Should…” he croaked after much thumb-twiddling, which startled her. Of course… “Should you be getting back? Yuri is picking you up right?” It was the responsible thing to do, and his liking was unimportant.

The silence stretched—until her eyes fluttered up to him, for but a moment. They returned to staring at her lap all too soon and he could only hang his head in a sigh.

“No.”

His eyes widened.

“I’m staying over.”

“I already told Ma and Pa you agreed,” she said quickly before he could voice the apt objection. “They said I can stay.”

“Please, Garry.”

That tone was unfair. Calling his name was unfair. He knitted his hands together to reign himself in. Aware it would only prove disastrous if this situation went on, he made an effort to gather his scattered wits and opened his mouth to deliver the rejection he knew she would not accept without a fight.

The words he’d prepare were lost somewhere in space and time when he registered that contact on his arm. Hot shivers ran along his skin and down his spine. He glanced down to small fingers gingerly clutching the fabric of his sweater. His heartbeat picked up a nervous pace as he hesitated to look up. He just knew the moment he did it would be the end. So he waited—waited for her to give up and let go.

Who was he kidding? He had been craving this for as long as they had been sitting. Her eyes were on him, and he could feel their gaze hot on his cheek. Was it filled with fear? Disgust? Hate? Or would it be cold, her emotion hidden from him? He needed to know. The pathetic, incorrigible trash that he was jumped at the chance.

With a tilt of his head, he ventured to meet her eyes. And he unconsciously held his breath. Her eyes were so red, so true, glazed over by the slightest hint of tears. The vulnerability she was projecting aroused his protective instinct—and something else.

His finger twitched again as he ached to hold her, or to inch even a little bit closer to her. He had to curse his libido for having the gall to infect his thoughts at such a time; but if Garry may give an excuse, never before had anyone bear such a staggering effect on him. Carnal urges and guilt made for a vicious poison that left him with smoldering self-loath at his own lack of control.

He was unable to break free from her gaze. Those red eyes chipped away at his willpower with the ease of a fine blade, asking—begging him for only one thing: not to send her back. She had made up her mind to do this, for whatever reason that she had deemed logical.

Maybe she wasn’t being logical. Maybe he should be logical and not let her have her way, but— Yes, there was always a ‘but.’ But he couldn’t bring himself to say no to her. But her parents were not expecting her to come home, setting aside how that had come to be the case in the first place. But most of all, he wasn’t logical either, and he wanted her to stay just as bad as she did. Maybe even more than she did.

Her hand tightened around the mug on her lap and her gaze didn’t move from his, full of conviction that should not match that apprehensive look on her face. “Garry, I want to stay. Please.” Her voice was a whisper.

The place where she was touching burnt a sweet sensation, and he was glad he’d worn a sweater.

Ah, please don’t look at me like that.

Ib shouldn’t have to beg him like this. Who was he to reject her touch? Who was he to deny her wish? He had no right, absolutely none.

“Okay.”

So sly.

She rewarded him with the most beautiful smile, making him feel like everything was okay when they actually weren’t. Her hand left his arm as she retreated to her own space, once again not looking at him. This left him frowning. He couldn’t figure her out. What was Ib trying to do? Wasn’t she afraid of what could happen? Her coming here was already questionable enough, but he could have passed it up as bravado. Staying over like this, however, he didn’t know what she was trying to prove.

Was the girl thinking that he would not dare touch her because of guilt? That was awfully naïve. Although Garry would love to think of himself in such a commendable light, he wasn’t so sure he would be able to keep his paws off her. The chains had already broken once…

“I’ll go wash my mug,” she said after a while. Her lithe body slid down from the couch with the speed of an agile cat, and just like that she disappeared through the kitchen doorway.

When the sound of running water could be heard, his entire frame relaxed, the joints in his neck grating in gratitude as he cracked them. ‘My mug’ was it? Why did he like the sound of that?

It’s coming back…the beast…

After they had each showered, dinner was uneventful. She had changed into a pair of myrtle green pajamas she’d brought. In hindsight, maybe he should have gotten the suspicion that something was off when seeing a duffle bag on her back.

His aunt’s shipment had been well-timed. He had been running very low on food and the past few days hadn’t been very good opportunities to remedy that. Ib wasn’t a picky child when it didn’t involve her favorite omelet, so he was able to whip up some stir-fry dishes that she enjoyed enough. They had semi-awkward conversations, during which he did her the favor of not meeting her eyes. Ib seemed to be a lot more comfortable because of that.

Secretly, though, he was grinning inside as her curious gaze roamed his face. No matter what kind of emotion she carried towards him, he was contented that her attention was on him for the time being.

As he brushed his teeth, he thought he could call it a day like this.

“Let’s sleep together, Garry,” she said after spitting, causing him to choke on his own rinsing water.

Just what is she thinking?

With a pillow tucked under one arm, Garry stood in the doorway of his bedroom, on his way to head for the couch. The only thing stopping him was a shy hand gripping at his shirt from behind.

“Let go, Ib. This is nonnegotiable,” he drawled with firm words that could have fooled even himself. As if he wasn’t dying to climb onto the bed with her and see how far he could take it. He’d already had her. She was his, but there was suddenly a dire need for him to make sure of that – something he was trying very hard to forget. Yet with every call of his name, every touch of her fingers it reminded him, and he was set on fire anew.

“Please, Garry.” And there went his resolution.

It had dawned on him that she was trying to have that night again in her ideal little way—to redo what had gone wrong and attain some sort of peace of mind for herself. She was being stubborn and desperate. Why, he could not understand. Did she not realize she wielded so much power over him? He couldn’t even muster the strength to walk away from this feeble hold she had on his shirt. A feeble hold that was shaking ever so slightly.

“Garry.”

Why are you doing this to me?

“Ib,” he muttered, not turning to her. “You know what’s gonna happen right?”

Without waiting to hear her answer, he spun around and scooped her up against him with one strong arm. She gave a surprised, or maybe terrified, yelp into the crook of his neck as slender arms and legs flailed haphazardly around him. It was a matter of mere strides before he reached the bed, onto which he couldn’t have pinned her fast enough. Ib was trapped between his arms once more, and the presence of ample light allowed him to observe her like he hadn’t been able to the night before.

The smooth mass of her hair pooled all around her, almost melting into the black fabric underneath. Eyes, round and filled with fright, stared up at him with a plea he refused to hear. She parted her lips in order to say something, but never did. Her wee hands were propped against his chest, trying to prevent him from coming any closer, but she might as well be pulling him in. His heart was so loud, and he didn’t doubt she could feel it. Garry wanted nothing but to capture her mouth and kiss her senseless. But he managed to clamp down on himself and settled with letting his eyes feast on her trembling loveliness instead.

“I’m scary, aren’t I Ib?” He asserted with what shallow breaths he was taking in, and she shook her head in spite of herself. Garry dug his finger into the thick blanket. His words were ground wheat through clenched teeth. “Don’t lie. You’re afraid, I understand. I deserve it. But Ib, it hurts so much when you do this.” He brought a hand up to her cheek, eliciting a small whimper. He didn’t hide his pained grimace as he wiped the watery corner of her eye. “You stick to me and then recoil as soon as I so much as lift a finger. It really hurts.”

When her gaze hesitantly met his, he tried to put on a smile. “Let’s do us both a favor and put a little space between us, okay?”

He pushed himself up away from her warmth and immediately fled for the door, fearing that some bipolar switch inside him might flip; and he’d turn around and devour her all over again.

“No!” His hand was caught, and his head whipped back to see her fingers lacing with his. Several emotions struck him then: fear, relief, shock, and…delight.

They were prowling dangerously close to the tire tracks, and she did not seem to care. How was this any different compared to the other night? His control was borderline short-circuit, and he was one irrational thought away from pouncing this defenseless rabbit before him.

“Ib,” he began, but was cut short when she slowly pulled on his arm.

Like an enchanted fool, he let himself be led back to her. His bony knuckles were up against her chest now, cradled between quivering hands. The rhythm inside her ribcage was vivid on his skin. She hung her head low, and he could feel her hasty breaths wafting down on his palm. Growing hard, he found himself matching his breathing with hers.

“I’m not scared,” she said without preamble. He blinked. And then she lifted her head, just enough to meet his bewildered eyes. “I promise I’m not scared s-s-so please don’t leave. Stay with me, Garry,” she pleaded even as her entire body trembled.

“I love you.”

Ah…

So very sly.

He lay next to her in the darkness of his bedroom, hand still in the blessed imprisonment of her embrace.

I’m not scared, were the faint words she chanted like a mantra under her breath. He was unsure which one of them she was trying to convince.

As her breathing grew even and her murmur was lost to the silence of the night, his eyes made their observation under the trespassing moonlight. He watched her every features, taking them in anew. He was afraid to go to sleep, because tomorrow he might wake up to the fact that this had all been a very elaborate, very wishful dream. But then…no dream could have felt this good, and been this beautiful.

She loved him? He didn’t care what kind of love she meant, someone tell him how did he deserve that? Even if she meant none of her words, why was this girl going so far for him?

He felt his eyes welling up with hot tears. They blurred his vision of her, and he let them flow freely across the bridge of his nose, down onto the pillow he rested on. There was no one to judge him in this darkness, only himself and a beautiful sleeping angel.

If his presence gave her comfort, then he’d stay forever by her side.

.

.

.

“I love you, too, Ib.”

.

.

.

And he let the blistering handcuffs click shut around their wrists.

 

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Trivia:

  • author came to term with the fact that most of Garry’s emotional thoughts starts with “Ah”
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