'One of us holds something special to you. Can you find it?'
Garry hastily read the paint scribble on the door—the locked door—and quickly whirled around seeing the many doll faces staring back at him. He didn't like dolls. Garry wasn't sure where this fear had emerged, but something about the blue-faced messy-haired rag dolls made him uneasy.
The fact that a very violent, unpleasant looking one was crawling through the painting didn't help, either.
Franticly, he dashed forward, noticing some of the dolls looked a little overstuffed.
'Something special,' he thought to himself. 'Maybe its inside the belly of this doll!'
Garry tossed his fear away, and grabbed the doll with both hands, tugging at its stomach with his slender fingers. When he couldn't get the fabric to budge, he tore at it with his teeth. With a rip, the seam became undone, and the contents inside...
Some paper crumbled up.
Garry let out a frustrated, fearful sigh as the demonic doll in the painting ahead was becoming more and more visible. His terror was so immense that he almost missed it. Some red scribbling on one of the scraps of paper. He unfolded it and read the words to himself.
'Maybe your special something isn't so small?'
He analyzed the words, swallowing the lump in his throat. A quick scan of the area revealed that there were much bigger dolls. Maybe that was what the note was hinting at? He approached one of the bigger dolls with caution, and noticed the bulge in its belly. He rested his hand on it and realized it was..warm. Garry didn't have time to think about it, and clawed at it with his fingers. The seam came undone quite easily this time. What fell out of the doll both startled and baffled Garry.
An unconscious, young girl fell at his feet. Clutched in her tiny fingers was a wilting, red rose. It only had about three petals clinging desperately to the stem. Her semi-long brown hair partially obscured her face, but it looked as if she was sleeping.
Just as he was about to call out to her, the girl's eyes (crimson colored eyes, Garry realized) opened and her gaze instantly set on him.
"Garry," she pleaded. "Garry, I'm lost."
Garry felt his eyes widen and his lips move, but no sound came out. He wasn't sure what he was trying to say. And he didn't know what this young girl meant by being lost.
Shocked by the sight of the small child, Garry had completely forgotten about the giant doll crawling out of the painting. His eyes shot up and the doll was a hovering shadow over the little girl. Garry's focus was on the red-eyed doll, which grabbed the girl by her tiny waist.
With a startled jump, Garry sat upright in half a second and placed a hand on his cold, sweat covered forehead. His other hand reached to his nightstand, where he kept his lighter and a pack of cigarettes. He slipped the stick of cancer in between his lips and started to light it. After the third spark, his old lighter managed to produce fire.
Garry took a long drag out of his cigarette, almost like he was trying to down the thing in one puff. His fingers trembled which threatened to drop it. He really hated the taste of tobacco, really, but he loved the feeling of the nicotine, and how it helped him get over his nightmares. He tried to quit some weeks ago, and was doing really well. His method was the cold turkey route, as nicotine patches weren't doing the trick and nicotine lozenges were just absolutely revolting. Instead, he took a simpler route and bought a bag of lemon-flavored hard candies. Every time he'd get a craving for nicotine, he'd pop one of those in, just to take the edge off. And it was working. He found himself smoking less and less.
Until he started having nightmares. Recurring nightmares. And they had started after he went to the art gallery. He had stuck a piece of candy in his pocket, since he hadn't smoked that entire day. He noticed it was gone when he was inspecting the rose sculpture in the gallery. His hand casually drifted in his pocket and it was gone. Instead, he found a bloodied lace handkerchief, with "Ib," stitched in it, which he presumed he found, but didn't remember picking up. Maybe the candy had fallen out or something? His coat was pretty old. Maybe it had a hole in the pocket?
That night, he had his first nightmare. He was so nervous when he woke up that he habitually reached for his smokes. Since then, the nightmares have continued. They were all different, but had one thing in common: a little girl in a red and white sailor suit style school uniform would appear and talk to him, or plead to him. Saying things like she was lost, or scared, or that she was about to rot. How did a girl her age know what the word "rot" meant, anyway? It's just a dream.
Garry took another disgusted puff from his cigarette and glanced over at his digital alarm clock. The green numbers told him it was 6:45 AM. He blew the smoke out of his nostrils as he sighed, burying his face in his hands. Garry was always the type of guy to be an early riser. Lately, though, he attributed it to his nightmares.
"Who are you?" Garry whispered.
Garry glanced at his wristwatch, impatiently waiting outside the door to the cafe he frequented. 6:57 AM.. The place opened at 7:00 AM every day, and it was one of his favorite breakfast spots. The coffee was great, and ever since he had tried one of their macaroons, he had been a regular customer. Garry had lit another cigarette and was puffing away. The one from earlier had suffered from a lack of attention. He had spent most of the time musing over his dream, and suddenly, he saw the long trail of ash hanging from between his fingers.
Another glance at his watch: 6:58 AM. Garry blew out a cloud of smoke in a sigh, his eyes rolling at how slowly time was moving. All he wanted was to indulge on the cafe's famous macaroons and drown his nightmare and fear away in a deep, black cup of coffee.
A groan of metal and the familiar ding of a bell had Garry turning his head to the cafe entrance. The woman opening the door gave him a warm smile.
"Come on in," she said.
Garry stole a glance at his watch. It still said 6:58 AM. When he realized she had opened the cafe a few minutes earlier for him, he smiled, and made his way inside. He seated himself in his usual spot, which was a booth in the very corner. The lady followed him to the table.
"You look like you could use a cup of coffee," she pointed out, still smiling pleasantly.
"Eheh, yeah," he admitted. "Had a bit of a rude awakening, I guess you could say."
"Well, order whatever you like, dear," she said, readying her pen and notebook. "Since you come here so often, and you looked so burnt out, today's order is on the house."
"Oh!" Garry widened his eyes in surprise. His mouth formed into a big grin as he continued, "that's so kind of you. Thank you. Could I just get a black coffee and four macaroons? As for the flavors, just surprise me. No coconut ones, please."
The waitress scribbled down his order, finishing it with an enthusiastic stab at her notebook.
"Coming right up!" And with that, she made her way behind the counter.
As Garry waited, he stared down at his faint reflection in the marble counter top, recalling the details of his dream. More so, the small child in his dream. Even though Garry was sure all of it was in his head... that girl just seemed so real. And she seemed to know him. Garry let out an exasperated sigh, settling his hands inside the pockets of his coat. His right hand brought out his lighter. He set it aside on the table, deciding to smoke a cigarette (one of which was tucked behind his ear) after he finished his macaroons. Garry learned the hard way that eating and smoking at the same time was a bad idea. It made the food taste nasty, since any flavor was masked by the sickening yet satisfying taste of tobacco.
His left hand lingered in his pocket, brushing against the soft, lace fabric inside. Garry wondered why he even carried that thing around. A random handkerchief he had found at the art gallery, for some reason held some significance to him. He didn't know why he kept it in his coat pocket. He just did. When Garry had arrived home at his apartment that day, he scrubbed the blood—his blood, though he can't remember what he nicked his hand on—from the delicate fabric. Ever since, it went in his coat pocket and stayed there.
The waitress finally came back with Garry's order. The coffee was steaming, and the scent of it filled his nostrils and he felt like he was truly awake. A plate of macaroons was placed in front of him, and Garry thanked his generous waitress with a grateful smile. He sipped at his coffee and took hold of the newspaper that was already lying on the table. He wasn't really reading it, Garry just didn't want to look like he was just drowning himself in coffee. Without taking his eyes off the paper, he fingered his way to the plate and picked up a macaroon, chomping half of it off. It was chocolate flavored.
'They're these candies shaped like hamburgers.'
Garry swallowed the pastry, nearly choking on it when a random thought appeared in his head. He chased the sweet with his steaming coffee and burned his throat a bit. Breathing in and out to cool his scalded mouth, his eyes trailed over to his sweets. Yeah, they are shaped like hamburgers. So what made those words ring in Garry's head?
Garry finished off the chocolate macaroon and flipped the page of his newspaper to a crossword puzzle. He tried to stay focused on the clues when something caught his eye. A glance up and he saw a rose petal had fallen on the table. On each of the tables there was a vase of some sort, each with some sort of flower. In the vase on his table, was a red rose. But it was looking a little less than healthy. Just the other day, it was full of life, but now it barely had any petals on it.
When the rose rots, so too will you rot away.
His heart skipping a beat, Garry took another nervous sip of his coffee, ignoring the burn all the way down his throat. His eyes fell back to the crossword puzzle, reading the clues. Garry was never good at these things, even though he had a pretty big vocabulary. He would always scan the clues to see which ones he knew, and then figure out the rest by using pre-existing letters. Garry didn't have a pen on him, so he mentally filled in the answers.
7, Across: A headless model, 9 letters
Garry thought for a moment. 'Mannequin' had nine letters. Maybe that was it? He found it strange that answer came to him so quickly, but continued down the list.
16, Across: ___ knife, 7 letters.
In an instant, the word 'palette' came to mind. Garry was on a roll, but for some reason, he got a weird sensation in the pit of his stomach. He downed his next macaroon in one bite—a raspberry one—and resumed reading the clues.
4, Down: Lady in ___, a famous painting, 3 letters.
Now, Garry knew the answer to this one. The word was red. The Lady in Red, which was a painting he had seen in the art gallery. It was exactly as it sounded. The painting was of a lady—a very, very beautiful lady—dressed in an amazing, eye-catching red. Garry remembered it quite well. He also remembered seeing variations of that painting. There was a Lady in Green, and a Lady in Yellow, and a Lady in Blue. They were all in the art gallery he went to.
'Were they really?' Garry thought to himself, questioning his memory. If he tried really hard, he could remember only seeing the Lady in Red in the gallery. But why were visions of the others so prominent in his mind?
'That flower.. it's so pretty. Give me... give it to me. GIVE IT.'
An unfamiliar, yet somehow nostalgic voice echoed in his mind and chilled him to the bone. Somehow, he was absolutely positive that he saw the Lady in Blue in the gallery.
Garry skimmed the remainder of the clues, but couldn't figure out the rest of the words, so he flipped through the newspaper a bit more, grabbing another macaroon as he did so. The entire thing went in his mouth, but he didn't notice the flavor. Garry was too busy gaping at the picture he saw in the paper. He must have hit a section with missing persons, since the caption of the photo was 'Have You Seen Me?'
The macaroon slowly crawled down his now dry throat as Garry stared long and hard at the picture. He had seen her, but not in the way the police, or even her family, had hoped for. She was the same girl that had plagued his nightmares for several weeks. Curiosity fueled him, and he skimmed the small paragraph below her picture. Her name was Ib, age 9. Hair, brown, length just past her shoulder blades. Eyes, maroon. She was last seen wearing her red and white school uniform. Last known location was..
"The Guertena Art Gallery..." Garry mumbled to himself. His trembling fingers reached out for his lighter and his cigarette. He quickly lit it and took a quick drag out of it. It didn't help calm him down as much as he thought. He took a few quick puffs and continued reading the article.
"Ib's really shy and doesn't talk a whole lot," says her mother, "so I can't imagine her getting close to any strangers. I just pray nothing bad has happened to her." If anyone has any information regarding 9-year-old Ib's disappearance, please call your local police.
His fingers still trembled, causing the trail of ashes on his cigarette to carelessly fall to the table. Garry ignored it for now, simply trying to clear his mind of the thought that for some reason he did know where this missing girl was. But it was just a dream. It was all coincidence. He took another drag from his cigarette, mentally smacking himself. Just a dream. Just a dream. Just a...
'Grab my hand... ...wait..! Where are you going?'
A scene flashed in his mind. In it, he saw the girl—Ib?—staring at something. Nothing actually, at least, Garry didn't see anything that could hold anyone's interest. Whatever she was staring at, she followed it, and disappeared into the darkness.
Garry snuffed his cigarette in the ashtray on the table, dropped a few bills on the table as tip, and abandoned his uneaten macaroon and half-drunk lukewarm coffee. Something told him that he needed to go back to the art gallery. He considered stopping by his apartment real fast to grab a pack of smokes, since he was, for some reason, nervous about going there, but decided against it.
He needed to go now.
Admission was paid for, and just like that, Garry was inside the familiar gallery once again. He could feel the tingle in his head from lack of nicotine, but shrugged it off. His fingers twitched with fear, and as he made his way through the gallery, he wondered why he was so uneasy to be here. And if he was scared, why did he decide to come here? It was like his subconscious thought engulfed his rational thinking. Maybe he was afraid of the Lady in Blue tackling him or—
Garry shook his head. Where did that even come from?
Garry wasn't really paying attention to where he was going, wandering aimlessly through the gallery. He felt as though he should be looking for something.
His hand went to his forehead, trying to calm his nerves—and his craving for nicotine, at that—and organize his thoughts. Garry woke up from his sleepless dream and realized he made his way to the rose sculpture. It was titled "Embodiment of Spirit." The more he inspected the details, Garry felt a strange pressure in his chest, and before he knew it, a tear rolled down his cheek. His hand absentmindedly drifted to his face, wiping up the hot liquid. For some reason, the sculpture made him feel... sorrowful.
When the rose rots, so too will you rot away.
You and the rose are unified.
Know the weight of your own life.
The mysterious phrases repeated themselves in his mind. He had never heard of such a thing, yet it sounded so nostalgic. Garry let out a frustrated sigh, slipping his hands into his pockets and letting his fingers wrap around the delicate lace inside. He let his eyes close slowly, trying to remember something, anything, like where he found this handkerchief.
It was hers. Ib's. That missing girl in the paper. It even had her name stitched on it, but somehow Garry knew it belonged to her. Like he had seen her holding it, or something. His confusion got to him, he felt his jaw tighten and his hand ball into a fist around the lace bit of cloth. He could really use a cigarette right about now.
Garry spun around, walking away from the rose sculpture, taking absentminded steps. He found himself in a straight hallway with a giant mural. He had seen it before—his previous visit here—but something made him stop and take a good hard look at it. The title was "Fabricated World."
'Garry, what does this word mean?'
The voice of a young girl echoed in his mind. Garry knew the owner of the voice, but at the same time was still unsure. Was it really Ib's voice? Yes. He was absolutely sure. But he had never met Ib in his life! How could he know that?
Garry determined that he recognized the voice from his dream, but that still didn't stop him from closing his eyes and rubbing at his temples in frustration.
When he opened his eyes, Garry saw that the lights had gone out, and the mural before him was slightly different than before. Everything was quiet, but there was the sound of light footfalls echoing through the hallway. Garry couldn't tell where they were coming from, but headed in the opposite direction he came from.
When he turned the corner, no one was to be seen. His muscles tightened and relaxed, trying to keep his cool. Garry walked quickly to the end of the next hallway, rounding the corner, and coming to such an abrupt stop that he nearly tumbled backwards. One of those creepy, unpleasant blue-faced rag dolls was just sitting there. The same creepy doll that he'd experienced in his nightmares. Beside it on the wall was some blue writing.
"It's about to rot."
The phrase about the rose rotting repeated itself in his head. It made him uneasy. The doll made him uneasy. Garry continued down the corridor at a faster pace as if something were following him. The paintings at his right seemed to watch him, which made him even more nervous. A cigarette sounded good right now.
A sound above him made Garry stop in his tracks, and as he tilted his neck back, one of those dolls fell on his face. He immediately shrugged in disgust, letting the doll fall to the floor. Garry knelt down to inspect the doll. A wadded piece of paper had been stapled to it. When he opened it, Garry found that it was written in some very light colored crayon. It was too dark to read, so he reached in his pocket for his lighter.
His hand drifted into his pocket and not only found the lighter, but something else. He pulled it out and discovered it to be a healthy-looking, blue rose. Garry's brow arched in confusion as he inspected the flower. When did that get there? Nervously biting at his lip, Garry felt that the rose was somehow important, and replaced it, trading it for his lighter.
The tiny flame illuminated the small area, and he was able to read the scrawl on the paper.
"Alone. Scared. Rotting."
The paper was tossed roughly to the ground. Frankly, Garry was tired of all these cryptic messages. His rage was put to rest as quickly as it had surfaced when he spied ahead and noticed a staircase. Garry quickly made his way to it, trying to figure out where it'd come from.
"There was definitely a wall here," he muttered to himself. "And a painting."
The Hanged Man. That was the painting. He remembered being very intrigued by it during his last visit. But before him now was a staircase that lead down. Garry swallowed the lump in his throat and took slow steps down. To keep his mind off the immense dread he was feeling, he counted the steps...seven, eight, nine...fourteen, fifteen, sixteen...eighteen, nineteen, twenty.
The room Garry found himself in now was a red hallway with two choices: left or right. He pondered his choices, unconsciously looking behind him. The staircase was gone, replaced with a wall. Garry stumbled backwards, losing his balance, and catching himself on the wall behind him. As he gaped at the wall, letters in red paint—oh, he sure hoped it was paint—stamped on the wall.
R E M E M B E R ?
As the red letters trickled down slowly, Garry dashed off to his left in terror. As he ran down the corridor, more letters blotched themselves on the floor, appearing with his hasty steps.
R O T R O T R O T R O T R O T
His heart was racing, and every inch of his skin crawled from anxiety, terror, and lack of nicotine. At the end of the hallway was a table with a vase—an empty, plain one—and a door. Garry wrenched the knob open and staggered inside. He could barely take a moment to catch his breath when he noticed what was inside. Apart from the creepy portrait of a woman with an...unnatural smile, was the little girl from his nightmares. She looked as if she was soundly asleep, exactly as he saw in his dreams. By her side was the red rose he always saw her with. One desperate petal clung to the stalk.
Garry felt his lips move, but whatever he said, he didn't hear it. He slowly walked up to the small child, stroking a strand of hair from her face. She was definitely the one from his dreams. The one in the newspaper's missing persons section.
She was definitely Ib.
The girl's fingers twitched lightly and her eyes—the same crimson eyes in his dreams—fluttered open, glancing over at Garry. Her eye contact gave him a strange sensation in his chest.
"Garry.." she said weakly. "You.. you're here. Are you r-really real? Please say you're real. P-please.."
"I'm real," he quietly whispered. The girl knew him somehow. But Garry was almost positive he'd never met her before. Almost positive.
"Garry," she repeated, a grateful smile spreading across her face. "W-we were gonna get out. And go to a cafe, and have those candy hamburgers you told me about. We were g-gonna... but then Mama.. Mama called to me.. and.. and.. she.. she wasn't Mama. She wasn't M-Mama at all." Tears fell from her eyes and crawled down the side of her face.
'Come on, be cheery! It's a disservice to your cute face to do anything else!'
"I..I got lost. The rose.. it's.. it's about to rot," she continued rambling, sobbing between her words. The sound of her delicate, childlike voice in such pain made Garry's heart ache.
When the rose rots, so too will you rot away.
He stole a glance at her rose. The single petal was clinging for dear life. Literally.
"I was scared." Her voice was barely a whisper. "But not of the mon-monsters. I was afraid I'd.. I'd never see you again.." The girl's entire body trembled weakly as she sat herself up and looked Garry directly in the eye. She crawled to him, putting her small hands on his shoulders. "B-but you're here. And you're real."
"Ib, I—" Garry wanted to explain that he hadn't a clue what she was talking about, but cut himself off. He called her by her name. And it sounded so natural, the way her name flowed through his lips. Like he had done it several times over.
The child's tear-filled eyes locked with his for a long moment, until hers shut slowly and she fainted against him. Garry cradled the girl in his arms, staring down at her frail form. She really did look like she was sleeping soundly, even though the rose—and that phrase that rang in his head—suggested otherwise.
A faint noise had Garry peer at the floor, noticing something had fallen out of her pocket. Something that hit him harder than the Lady in Blue attacking him for his blue rose. It was a piece of lemon candy. The candy he had used to curb his cigarette cravings. The candy he had given to her. To Ib.
'You can have that. Feel free to eat it.'
It felt like an immense weight had been lifted from his eyes all at once. Everything flowed back. The Lady in Blue. The sensation of death drawing near. Being saved by a stranger who later turned out to be someone very important to him. Someone who he had forgotten all about. Someone who he had left behind in this God-forsaken place.
'No, wait... we WILL be going there! And we will get out, I promise!'
Garry felt his arms wrap tightly around the girl—Ib. How could he forget about all that happened here? How could he forget the terrors experienced? How could he forget about Mary trying to attack them?
How could he forget Ib?
"I'm sorry I left," Garry pulled her close, and whispered in her ear. "We're going to leave this awful place right now. You'll see your Mama and Papa again, and they'll be real this time. And we're still going to the cafe. I'm keeping my promise."
Garry picked up the candy and placed it back into her pocket. He gathered Ib up, cradling her in one arm, while his free hand very, very carefully picked up the rose. He feared if he was even a little bit rough, the petal would lose its grip and Ib would...
He decided not to think about that.
Instead, Garry opened Ib's tiny fingers, and clutched them around the stem. He felt her own strength—what little was left of it—grip the rose.
"Ib," Garry said firmly. "Do not let go of your rose." He stood up, carrying her bridal style. Glancing at her face, her mouth curved into a weak smile.
"Mm-hmm," Ib mumbled, signaling her acknowledgement to his advice.
Garry hadn't shut the door completely, so he kicked it open and took slow steps down the corridor. As much as he wanted to get out of here, he didn't want to chance running and the petal falling off. As the two of them traveled in silence, Garry looked to the ground, noticing that the letters from before were gone.
When they reached the hallway where Garry arrived, the wall that had been there was once again a flight of stairs. Garry was overjoyed, but the two of them weren't out of the woods yet. Sucking in a nervous breath, Garry slowly climbed the stairs.
Twenty steps up, he recalled. Each step had red painted letters on it.
R E M E M B E R I B R E M E M B E R I B
"Ib, you still with me?" Garry whispered to the girl in his arms.
"Mmm," was her response.
"Don't worry, we're almost home," he said, smiling at her even though her eyes were shut.
Garry knew the way home. The mural of the "Fabricated World," was the portal to the real world. All they had to do was jump through it. The slower he walked, the more Garry thought about jumping through the painting. Last time, he forgot about everything. Would this time be the same? What if he forgot about Ib all over again? What if Ib forgot him?
Before he knew it, the large painting was before them. The frame of it was gone, just like before. Garry hesitated. He didn't want to forget. He wanted to keep his promise to Ib. Garry couldn't allow himself to forget something so important.
Garry shifted Ib's position in his arms, carrying her with his right arm holding her tight to his chest. He made sure her rose stayed in her hand. His left hand drifted to his coat pocket, grasping Ib's lace handkerchief firmly.
"Ib, can you do something for me?" Garry said, nudging her forehead with his shoulder gently to better grasp her attention. Her crimson eyes opened slightly, gazing up at him. "Put your hand in your pocket, and grab the candy. Focus on holding it, and don't let go of it, no matter what, okay? Can you do that for me?"
Her eyes closed shut and her head fell in a nod. He watched Ib's tiny hand slide into the pocket of her skirt and ball into a fist underneath the fabric.
"I.. I got it," Ib said, resting her head on his shoulder, her eyes closing again.
"Good. Now, don't forget me Ib. Don't forget me. I won't forget you. Not again." Garry felt a silent tear roll down his cheek.
"I won't forget," she said, with the most strength her voice had mustered.
Garry jumped into the painting.
Remember Ib. Remember Ib. Remember Ib. Remember Ib.
Weird. Garry couldn't recall exactly what he was doing. He came to the gallery on a whim, something about some nightmares he'd been having. He couldn't focus, his skin twitched violently, God, did he need a cigarette!
He walked away from the giant mural, dodging other visitors, taking quick glances at the sculptures he passed. All the while, his hand was shoved in his pocket clutching at the lace fabric, which he still didn't know why he kept it with him. Something in him wouldn't let him release it.
Before he made his way to the entrance, Garry noticed a small child standing in front of a painting, staring at it very intently. It was an odd painting of a vibrant blue rose with a single red petal stemming from the middle. Strangely, it drew Garry's attention so much, he made his way behind the little girl to inspect it closer.
The gold colored plaque beneath it had the title engraved on it.
"That Guertena sure has unusual sense of beauty," Garry said, causing the girl to glance up at him with her crimson eyes. Her gaze was curious. "Heh, sorry, I was just thinking out loud, Ib."
As the name randomly flew from his lips, Garry felt his grip on the handkerchief tighten.
"Why did I.. who's Ib?" His eyes drifted to the girl before him.
"I'm Ib..." she said silently, pointing a finger at herself. Garry noticed her other hand was in her pocket.
Garry pulled the lace handkerchief from his pocket. Right there, stitched on the side of it was her name, Ib.
"Ib..!" Garry fell to his knees, maintaining eye contact with the girl. "This is yours, isn't it? I remember you gave it to me, after I cut my hand. Remember? And I forgot.. but I came back for you. How could I forget you, Ib? All we went through.. it was so important. You remember it, right?"
Something in her eyes said she did, but she shook her head slowly, doubt lingering in her eyes.
"I'm Garry," he reminded, trying to jog her memory. "I gave you that candy you're holding in your pocket right now."
Ib's maroon colored eyes widened, realization smacking her in the face. Her eyes began to water, but she didn't let the tears flow. Instead, she slammed into him, wrapping her arms around his neck tightly.
"I remember," Ib whimpered against his neck.
"Seriously, Ib, how can you eat those?" Garry questioned, as the little girl popped a coconut macaroon in her mouth. That was the one flavor he wasn't fond of.
"C'mon, they're good!" Ib replied after she swallowed the treat. She flashed him a bright smile.
"Yuck," he responded, but then let out a chuckle. He had finished off his macaroons some time ago, but Ib was still curiously eating hers, analyzing each flavor trying to determine which was her favorite.
After they had reunited and remembered each other, Garry walked Ib home to her waiting mother and father. They were overjoyed to see their daughter was okay, and grateful that Garry had made sure she stayed safe. The two of them didn't have much of an explanation to where Ib's whereabouts had been for the weeks she was missing. All she said was she got lost, and Garry helped her.
Even though Ib's parents were curious, all they cared about was their daughter's safety. Ib was okay, and that was enough for them. Not long after that, Garry walked to Ib's school and instead of walking her home, he took her by the cafe. Like he promised.
Since Garry was done eating, he reached for the cigarette behind his ear and flicked his lighter open. He slipped the cigarette between his lips and attempted to light it. A flash of sparks was all his old lighter would produce. Garry grumbled in frustration.
"Garry, you shouldn't smoke," Ib said to him. "Papa smokes. He coughs a lot because of it. Plus it's icky." Her voice emphasized the word in disgust.
Garry saw some concern in her eyes. Flicking his lighter shut, he threw a smile her way, taking the unlit cigarette from his lips and crushing it in his hands. The remains were dropped in the ashtray on the table. Ib smiled at him.
The last of her macaroons were devoured, and Ib seemed content. Her attention went to the newspaper on the table and she flipped to a crossword puzzle. Garry glanced at it, seeing that some of the answers had been filled in. Her curious crimson eyes skimmed the paper, and then she flipped it upside down, pointing at one of the words.
"Garry, what's that word right there?"
"Crannies," Garry replied. "Think of it like an unexplored corner or something. That's the best way I can describe it.. oh, here. If you read the clue for this, it tells you right there." His finger trailed up and pointed to the clue.
13, Across: Obscure corners, 8 letters
"Ohh, I get it!" Ib said happily. Garry smiled. He really loved seeing Ib so happy.
"Here, we can do this puzzle together."