The sky was still a murky grey from the day long rain, reflecting off the huge puddles that had formed on the school grounds. Leaves and twigs stripped from their branches lay strewn in muddy heaps as the wind attempted to scatter around some more. The janitors weren’t going to be very happy.
From her daydreaming seat, she watched as the large bell atop the tower made its final reverberating round for the day, signaling the end of her class and prompting all students to quickly vacate their classrooms. Ib was in no such hurry. She hadn’t a sliver of the will needed to wade through the sea of children draining out into the hallway, all too eager to move around after being confined to their seat for one period too long.
The young girl took her time clearing her desk, putting all of her pens and rulers into her blue pencil case, gathering her music sheets into one neat stack. After drawing had become something to be feared rather than a hobby, she had, with much influence from Garry, taken up music as a replacement. She liked learning the piano, which was why it was surprising that she retained none of the lecture today.
Alone in the empty classroom, Ib hugged her things to her chest and went out to the now slightly less busy hallway. She felt miserable that she didn’t feel the same way as her fellow peers who couldn’t wait to return home. Though she knew it was wrong, she felt resentment towards her parents. Just a little. Maybe a lot. She wanted Garry, and they were keeping her from him. She was powerless to sooth this displeasure that kept growing and growing, feeding such wayward thoughts in her head.
She took a deep breath to calm herself before she arrived at her homeroom. Ib hated herself for being so emotional.
“What took you so long?” Ray asked her as he dangled his legs sitting on top of a desk. He was the only one left in their classroom.
“You’re here,” she commented, intending it as a question, and headed for her own desk to put her things away.
“Yeah, waiting for you.”
She looked up from her backpack. “…Why?”
“Because you’re inviting me to your house,” the boy grinned.
“I…am?” Ib tilted her head in confusion.
“Yes. Now, come on. Hurry up would ya?”
Ray pushed himself off the desk and came up to her. Before she could say anything more, he’d already finished packing up for her, took her backpack and ushered her out of the classroom.
“Don’t jump around, please,” she reminded Ray, holding him back before he could descend those last steps of the staircase with a leap into one of the huge puddles, and he pouted, giving her his words not to.
They treaded through the school ground, which now mimicked a shallow marshland. Upon reaching the gates, she easily spotted the black of her family car in the waiting area. Ib greeted the driver and introduced Ray, telling the large man about her(?) idea of inviting Ray over. Despite the hard lines of his features, accentuated by his military haircut, Mr. Ivankov was an amiable person, who quickly agreed to give her friend a ride home afterwards. They settled into their respective seats and the engine started with a smooth rumble.
“Hey, mister,” from the backseat, Ray tugged at Mr. Ivankov’s shirt as the man pulled off into the street. “Can I borrow your phone to call home?”
“Sure kiddo, in a sec okay?” The man said in his thick, accented voice and shot a glance into the rearview mirror. “Now buckle down so the nice officers leave us alone.”
When they reached a red light, the driver pulled out a phone from his blazer’s pocket and held it over his shoulder. Ray thanked him before dialing in a number.
“Hey, so I’m hanging out with Ib at her place.” His eyes narrowed. “No, this is getting old, dad… Okay, I’ll be home before six, promise… Cool! See ya!”
Ib sat in witness of the casual phone call in secret disbelief. That was the shortest request for permission she’d ever seen – if she could even call that asking for permission. She had always known that compared to other kids, she was awkward around her own parents, but was she really so far off?
The girl leant back and adjusted her seatbelt so that it didn’t strangle her as much. Ray was now talking to her driver about the day. The boy could talk about anything, even things Ib thought was pointless to mention. However, she wasn’t sure if she appreciated him trying to include her in the conversation.
She had never taken to conversing with Mr. Ivankov. For one thing, the man needed to have his eyes and mind on the road. She was afraid to distract him, and not to mention it discomfited her greatly to talk to a person’s back.
In any case, an adult wouldn’t care to hear her broken mumbling.
She wanted to see him.
Ib stared out the car window that colored the world grey. A few stray raindrops were still falling.
The new air freshener dangling beneath the rearview mirror had an overpowering scent that pervaded the stagnant air inside the car, stoking her headache of car sickness. Ib pulled her muffler up to her nose to stifle the smell as she scoped out the situation. The driver was humming to himself, and Ray was yawning, taking in one large gulp of air. No one seemed to be bothered like she was. She then turned to eye the window button to her right, but tore her gaze from it soon after.
It was a short ride anyway, and she didn’t want to be difficult.
Ib held in a whimper and busied herself with her thoughts. She still couldn’t quite believe this was happening. Ray was…ridiculous. And even more ridiculous was that she was going along with his plan.
Yesterday, after having become fast friends with Mr. Ivankov, Ray had gone on into her home and charmed both of her parents into lifting her punishment. Glad that she’d finally gotten herself a friend her age, they’d agreed to let her visit Ray’s place the next day. However, she was still forbidden to see Garry, much to her chagrin.
But her disappointment hadn’t lasted very long, for Ray had informed her before class that it wasn’t his place she would be visiting after school. After that, school couldn’t have been any slower for Ib.
By the time the silver vehicle pulled up to the parking lot of her destination, her head was swimming with nausea. She suspected the lack of sleep and the two periods of PE were factoring into her susceptibility.
“Ray, thanks again,” she said as he handed over her backpack.
“Oh, no sweat,” he waved his hand and took off his digital watch, strapping onto her wrist. “You have around five hours,” he thumbed one of the tiny buttons that beeped in response. “Gin will be here to take you home.”
She nodded her compliance, not entirely paying attention. They’d been over this, and all that was on her mind now was Garry.
Ray gave a defeated huff and climbed inside the car, rolling down the window. “Egh, we need to get rid of that tree, bro,” he complained to the driver before turning back to her. “I’ll take care of it if your parents call, ‘kay? Have fun!”
And she watched the car roll away.
Slinging her backpack over her shoulder, Ib smoothed over the dark brown of her skirt with a sweaty palm and walked to the elevator. It didn’t feel right. She was deceiving Ma and Pa, something that would have been unthinkable had Ray not been there to nudge her forward. A part of her expected his plan to be busted before she could even reach Garry’s door, and she would be banned from Garry for good. Because, really, it would only take one phone call to find out she wasn’t where she’d said she would be.
But was this so different from what she’d been doing all along? From the very start, she’d lied about the circumstances of her relationship with Garry, and her parents remained clueless to this day.
The door opened with a chipper ding, revealing the carpeted corridor she had come to know so well. One step into it, and Ib no longer cared for the consequences. She hurried down the hallway, to where she knew he would be waiting.
Keeping the eyes closed was important.
For the absence of sight allowed the clumsiest deception, and, in the darkness, even the most unfamiliar shape would become dear.
This hair in which he buried his face, and through whose tender locks he ran his fingers, was a sweet chocolate brown. This slender body pressing up to him, melting against him so readily, carried a fragility that demanded his love and protection. Hands tugged at his back, clawing with a need that fed into his own. The sultry breaths that landed on his ear as the softest lips brushed a bruised cheekbone. He was growing hard and needy, grinding unashamed.
The obnoxious ringing was the least of his care as his arm circled the small waistline, hoisting it up, hugging it tighter against himself. He chewed lightly on one delectable lip before pulling back so that their sighs mingled, and so that he could sneak a peek at the red looking back at him. Those lashes fluttered to veil exposure as the eyes broke away.
Before Garry could return to the darkness and sink further into his fantasy, however, the girl had gone rigid in his arms, her hands no later left his back barren.
“Put me down, put me down,” she muttered quickly in her hushed voice, pushing him away while keeping a furtive glance at something behind him.
“What?” he grumbled, still in the haze of arousal. With narrowed eyes, he followed her gaze over his shoulder.
Garry couldn’t have dropped Scarlet any quicker, stumbling back and tripping over his own foot. It was thanks to the narrowness of his apartment’s front corridor that he managed to regain his balance in time.
“D-do you want anything to drink, Ib?” he managed lamely, to which her reply was a curt shake of the head. The girl remained glued to him, face buried into his taut stomach as she warmed it with her breathing.
He had an odd feeling that all he’d been doing in her presence nowadays was offering drinks.
Ib just had to walk in on him making out… That damned woman just never locked doors. It was already awkward enough between Ib and him, and he certainly could do without—this.
And Scarlet had bolted the moment sex was off the table, leaving him to clean up the aftermath. She was the one that barged into his home in the first place after yet another argument with her father.
Garry groaned under his breath, unsure of what to do. It was as though he’d been caught cheating, but that didn’t make sense. Questions was whirling around his mind, crashing into one another and shattering into incomprehensible pieces. He was a perplexed and confused mess, and still very much hard from his previous endeavor. Garry clicked his tongue and tried to shift in her embrace to ease a certain area away from her. His hands hovered around before he could muster the audacity to brush his palm down the back of her head and finally return her hug.
He gave her a light tap on the back. “Hey, let’s go inside, at least.” What a sad excuse of a cheery tone.
And then he heard it.
That single sound froze Garry to the core.
“Oh, hey, hey, what’s wro—”
“I missed you.”
And those muffled words cut at him deeper than any knife could.
It hurt him to see her hurt.
…It felt good.
Go ahead with the masochist jokes, but it felt so good that she felt the same way as him. He’d worried for naught. Ib still needed him. In whatever strange, dysfunctional way, she still needed him in her life, and that was all that mattered to him.
Garry rubbed her back with a firm hand before prying himself from her arms, already longing for her warmth against him again. He went down to his knees and tilted his head to meet her gaze. She was staring at the floor as she tried to hold back her tears, her hands shooting up to hide her face. Of course he stopped her. He hadn’t seen her in a whole week and didn’t want to miss any more of this lovely expression. Nor did he want to miss the split second when her frown would turn into a smile.
He traced a finger beneath her eye, noting the dark rings, and gave her his brightest grin. “I’m glad you came, Ib. I missed you, too.”
There went that discreet little smile of hers.
He really couldn’t win against this girl. Garry pulled her to him and rested his head into the crook of her neck. She seemed to stiffen for one moment, but then her tiny contours soon relaxed inside his arms, putting a giddy smirk on his face. She trusted him. It was going to take time, but they were fixing this. He held her a little tighter, his heart going crazy with the most peaceful emotions.
He’d wronged her. There was no reason why he should deserve a second chance, but she’d given him just that. He would do everything in his power to protect her from himself.
No matter what.
Let me love you.
“Let’s get inside, okay Ib?”
Garry picked up the backpack she’d dropped on the floor and got back onto his feet. Locking the front door, he started towards the living room, contented knowing that she was following behind him.
The macarons were good, and so was the hot milk served in her black mug. Garry was right by her side on the couch, his smile kind and genuine, asking her about the past week and other similar small talks. She got to lean against his strong shoulder and relished in his smell that she loved so. Everything was as perfect as can be.
Yet… there was still some sort of dissatisfaction nibbling on the hem of her security blanket.
Garry hadn’t been waiting.
Ib hid her pout and shuffled to lie down onto his lap, not missing the way his body tensed when her head settled onto his thigh. She rolled around so that she was facing his stomach and glanced up at him. He had a difficult look on his face as he returned her gaze. It was a somewhat tired smile that didn’t reach his blue, blue eyes.
Was she doing something wrong? She just wanted to be close to him. Ib scrunched up the end of his shirt in her hand and snuggled in further. She was always so emotional when this man was concerned. Why was that?
He sighed and stroked her head with his large hand, the gesture pulling at the corners of her lips. Just like that, her bad mood had dissipated. A tender feeling draped over her, comforting and tugging at her eyelids. Her body was begging to be embraced by sleep, but Garry was the only one she wanted to be embraced by at the moment. Compromise. She squeezed her eyes shut for a short few seconds before snapping them open to look at Garry again.
As he bent forward to take a macaron, she thought there was a blemishing grey behind his bangs. Without a word, she reached up to tuck back the shaggy curtain of hair, earning herself one half-eaten macaron to the face.
“Eek, s-sorry, Ib. My hand slipped!” Garry panicked as she sat up wiping the spot where the macaron had landed. Well, that woke her up.
He kept on apologizing while getting up to find the sweet that had rolled away. When he came back, she tried again and, with much objection on Garry’s part, revealed the large bruise along his left cheekbone.
“I had a scuffle. It doesn’t really hurt anymore, really. It just looks bad,” he defended under her incriminating stare.
One hand remaining in his hair, she brought the other up to the injury and ran her fingers over the discolored skin. He winced.
“N-no, it’s not that!” Garry was blushing, the bruise taking on a darker shade. His eyes darting away, he attempted to wriggle free, but before he could, she gave his swollen cheek a kiss.
“Heal quickly, Garry.”
Ib lay back down to hide a small smile into his shirt. She’d always liked the way he got all riled up.
- that bruise was collateral damage from cornering Scarlet