Garry slowly stepped out from the humid bathroom, dressed in the clothes he’d previously thrown off. He had a towel to dry his still dripping head as his eyes scanned the quiet surrounding with a dull gaze. Through a window, he could see that it had gone dark. The air was cool… cold, making his skin crawl in the slightest. The differences that his senses had picked up made what had happened seem like a dream, one festering dream.
His gaze fell onto the hourglass he had set atop the television and he froze. The ornament was standing, sand… was falling… rapidly. He strode up to the hourglass and tipped it over again.
A small chuckle escaped his lips as he stabbed a hand over his damp hair. Taking a deep breath, he took a moment to close his eyes and reorganize his mind.
“Ib~” He called out loud as he made a turn into the corridor leading into his bedroom. “Get ready, dear. We’ll go after I finish drying my hair.”
He lifted an eyebrow when there was no reply. “Ib sweetie?” A small sense of worry tugged at his heart as he wondered about the unsettling silence. Ib was a quiet child, but she answered when called. Pushing at the door that had been left open, he entered his bedroom to see little Ib lying in the middle of his bed. Her head buried in his pillow, she was curled up in the fetal position, peacefully asleep.
Garry let out a short breath as his swift anxiety dispersed. He sauntered towards the bed, still drying his lavender mop. Stopping at the head of his bed, he reached down to shake her, but found himself unable to do so. Ib seemed so at ease, snoozing comfortably on the mattress; her rounded, angelic features only made it that much harder for him to wake her. He just kept staring, feeling something melt inside him.
He sat down next to Ib, being careful not to rouse her. She stirred as though in response to his movement. The little girl only snuggled further into his pillow and resumed her previous rhythm. Garry relaxed the stiff pose he’d subconsciously assumed and moved in closer to her. He began to study her face. It was strange. He’d been seeing her for two years, yet he could never get tired of looking at her. Her faintest lineament interested him. The small curve of her nose, how her cheekbones barely showed under her baby fat, her soft pink lips that were slightly open, the wee long lashes that gently kissed her skin, and her eyes that were chasing some whimsical dream under closed lids.
This was a privilege. He was the only one, aside from her parents, to have seen her like this: tranquil, oh so defenseless.
His mind drifted back to the hourglass. One day, she would grow up. She would find love. She would smile at ‘him’. This side of her ‘he’ would meet. This face, ‘he’ would see.
… He who?
Garry took her hand into his, gently wrapping his bony fingers around her delicate ones as though any strength wrongly applied could break them. Sensing no reaction from her, he ventured further and encased her whole hand.
He traced his thumb over her smooth palm, slowly stroking up towards her fingers. Her skin was like velvet against his.
Ib gave a soft moan in her sleep, drawing his attention to her small mouth. Garry swallowed a sudden lump in his throat and felt his heart quicken. Letting out a quick, shaky breath, he raised his other hand to her face. A finger over her slightly chapped lips, he found himself biting his own pair. He brushed the hand up to her ear, tucking back some of her loose locks; his thumb languidly caressing the pale skin of her cheek.
It was all hazy. His head was empty. Nothing mattered then.
With utmost tenderness, he squeezed at her hand. Eyes fixated on her parted lips, he leant in. Closer, closer. Her sweet fragrance became more apparent, tingling his senses. His eyelids grew heavy. He tangled his fingers into her thick fall, tips grazing the back of her ear. He could hear her soft, rhythmic breathing, feel it whiffing against his face. He closed his eyes…
“Nn, Garry…” Her small voice pierced through his reverie, abruptly shaking him from his long trance.
His eyes shot opened as his heart did a violent flip. Garry instantly released his grips on her and jerked away, nearly falling off the bed.
Ib was still asleep, blissfully unaware of his prior advances. She was smiling, mumbling some incoherent words under her breath.
… What did I?
Garry put a hand over his mouth, shocked at his own actions. A drop of cold sweat rolled down the nape of his neck as his stomach churned.
“Ib.” He called firmly, gently shaking her. “Hey, wakey wakey.”
She didn’t even stir.
“Ib~” Garry shook her a few more times. When there was no reaction whatsoever, he huffed. “Ib!” He ruffled her hair, with a little more force than normally needed. Ib suddenly sprang right up, completely catching him off guard. Startled, he slipped off from the edge of the bed and his behind painfully met the wooden floor.
Ib stared at him with confused and bewildered eyes. “O-oh, you’re up. Nice dream?” He gave her an inane smile.
“Ah…” She hastily combed her hands through her messy locks, flushing faintly. “S-sorry, Garry. I fell asleep.”
“No probs,” Garry smiled brightly as he got to his feet. “Go gather your things, hon. I’ll take you home after I’m done drying my hair.”
“… Okay.” She slid down from his bed and pattered towards the door.
Ib stopped just outside of Garry’s room, seemingly thinking over something. The little girl discreetly poked her head through the threshold, half-hiding behind the open door, spying on her friend’s unsuspecting back as he used the hair-dryer.
“Alright. I’m done now.” Garry said as he exited his room. Greeted by an empty living room, he called. “Ib?… Ib~”
“I’m here.” Her head popped up from behind the sofa and she smiled sheepishly at him.
“… Did you doze off again?” He let out a small chuckle, walking up to her.
“I was only lying down a bit.” Ib answered defensively with a small pout.
Garry only smiled knowingly. He raised a hand to her face and cupped her cheek, his thumb brushing under her eye. “The trip is taking its toll on you, hmm?”
Ib lowered her gaze, her ruby orbs half veiled by long lashes. “Yeah…” She reluctantly admitted.
Cute little Ib.
He stroked her adorable little head. “Come on, let’s get you home, hon.”
She nodded and turned around to climb off from her seat. Garry bent down to grab the jacket he’d left on the sofa, swiftly putting it on.
“Yes, yes?” He looked up to see Ib looking at him, her eyes somehow searching. She was holding her backpack with one hand, the other… was pointing at the television. “Yeah?”
“The hourglass is lying down again.” She stated curiously, tilting her head. “I placed it back up before.”
The thing about sand…
Garry felt his gut churn. His face suddenly felt stiff as he fought to keep a normal face.
Is that the tighter you grip…
“Oh? Is that so?” He said sweetly, walking around the long sofa to join his little friend in front of the fallen ornament. “Geez, silly me must have accidentally knocked it over.” The forced smiled made his facial muscles hurt, but he kept it up. He reached out and brought the hourglass back to its prior stance. The sand began flowing once more; it nearly made him frown.
The more will slip through your fingers…
“Thanks for replacing it earlier, Ib.” Garry patted Ib’s head. She smiled back at him. He then put a hand to the back of her neck, gently leading her away. “Let’s go now.”
Obeying his words, Ib went to put on her shoes. Garry didn’t follow her right away, instead staying behind, taking a lingering look at the hourglass. The cobalt sand drained from the upper bulb in such haste, oblivious to his wish for otherwise.
Just like time…
Garry slowly approached Ib from behind as she busied herself with tying her shoelaces. Her small back wasn’t as small as he remembered. She was growing, she would keep growing… Would he still be next to her? His jaw hardened. He didn’t want her to leave his side. Never. He wanted to keep her near forever.
… Keep her ‘here’ forever?
He froze, stunned. He put a hand to his face, feeling his pupils dilated.
… What did I?
“Garry.” A sudden tug at his jacket’s sleeve brought his thoughts back into focus, and he warily looked down at the little girl in front of him. She was staring up at him with her round orbs, showing silent concern through them. “I’m done, Garry.”
“… Oh, okay~” He crinkled his eyes at her for a moment, and turned away. “Let me just put my shoes on.”
Ah, no good.