"Hey, let's stop here for a bit."

Their pattering footsteps calmed down to a shuffle while the trio stopped in a winded corridor, about who knows how many miles from where they began. Garry slumped down against the cold concrete, its abrasive touch making his body quiver. The rest of the locomotive followed in turn, with Mary making up the caboose.

Air didn't come to him at first. He had to swallow several mouthfuls before his breathing relaxed to a rhythmical state, and even then the other two still huffed and puffed in their exhaustion. Their eyes spoke stories of stress and morbid antagonists―it was enough to break Garry's battered heart in two. He reached over, pulling the two children close under his arms. His warmth stopped their rattling, and they curled up while enjoying the company of one another.

"I have an idea," Mary started, her face stuffed into the feathery neck of Garry's coat. Both Garry and Ib gave her their attention, curiosity gleaming in their eyes. "To, um, take the stress off our shoulders." She gave a small smile and shuffled her hands around the many folds of her dress, slightly separating herself from the two. From nowhere―at least, to their eyes―she brought out a handful of rainbow assorted hair ties. Some of them were even adorned with small and colourful plastic beads. Offering only a weak face of satisfaction, the blonde held her breath.

"It's a good idea," chirped Ib. Mary looked up promptly, her eyes starry with success. "Really, Ib?" she gaped her mouth. "You think it's a good idea! I'm so happy, Ib!" In her excitement, she had nearly dropped the lot.

A small scoff arose in Garry's throat. The young ladies turned their attention up to his face. "What's wrong?" asked Mary, a grin full of teeth painted on her lips. "Won't you have fun with us?" Ib continued. He scoffed again and shifted on his bottom awkwardly, the gears in his head grinding against one another in thought. "I…"

"I'm doing Ib's!" called Mary, bringing herself up to her feet and dancing around to the back once more, dropping back onto her weak knees behind the schoolgirl. Mustering a giggle, Ib simply mumbled, "I guess I get to fashion Garry's then, huh?"

"Wha―? I didn't agree to this! I… ah," sighed the oldest. "If you insist, I can't refuse two cute girls."

They both laughed and laughed as Mary passed a few hair ties up to Ib.

Ib clapped her hands together and stood up, standing slightly taller than the still-seated Garry. His face soon matched his new red hair ties that pulled his short hair into a side pigtail. With one hand puffing it, he held his lighter in the other as a mirror. "Well," he chuckled through his bloom, "it does accentuate my features, huh?"

He winked at his reflection.

Ib herself ran her fingers through the silky twintails Mary had given her, letting it bounce and twirl through the gaps. Garry offered her his lighter, and she giggled like the child she was. "It looks lovely, Mary," she spoke and turned to the other girl, still stationed as before. Her eyes spoke melancholy words, but her lips were turned up in a smile. "Anything for you, Ib."

"Oh, your hair…"

Mary perked up and ran her hands through her gold locks. "My hair…?" she inquired before the pieces fit together. "Oh, Ib, please. It's quite alright, I just wanted you to be happy."

Garry leaned toward her, resting on one elbow. "You have a few leftover bands, don't you? Don't be a spoilsport, Mary. It was your idea, you deserve it."

"Oh, I don't know, I think―!"

To her left was Ib, resting on her knobby knees, pulling a long part toward her chest. Mirroring her moves was Garry to the right, back on his bottom. He spread a band between two fingers, but soon noticed thick tears dropping onto the warmed concrete. "Are you alright? Mary?"


A smile broke through the drops, words of gratitude and happiness spilled off her tongue.

"I'm so happy that we're friends."