Author's Note: It has been a long, long, long time since I've written a fanfiction story. I wouldn't have come back to it, but I discovered Ib. Enough said, right? Anyways, enjoy! I'll try to upload a chapter a few times a week, but I really can't promise anything with my schedule (work, original novels, editing, etc). Stay tuned for updates. :)
Garden of Yellow Roses
Small knuckles rapped at the door of apartment 51. The chipping green wood dusted Ib's skin with a slight metallic tint, and the 1 on the door leaned against the 5 because of a loose nail that had yet to be fixed. Ib stood on her tiptoes and pressed her ear to the door, listening for the sound of footsteps before knocking again. When nobody answered, Ib squinted at the door. Wasn't it 3:30? Ib pulled her backpack from her shoulders and checked her phone.
Ib reached up and pulled the 1 from the door. A spare key to the apartment hung on the nail behind it. Taking the key, Ib pushed it into the lock and nudged the apartment door open.
It was dark inside. Ib dropped her backpack in the hallway and flipped on the light.
"Garry? Are you here?" Ib called as she shut the door and kicked off the shiny red shoes Mother had bought her just last week. When nothing but silence greeted her, Ib padded past the kitchen into the studio apartment. A note lay on the table. Carefully, Ib sunk down in one of the chairs and looked over it.
I'm currently out buying groceries! I will be back as soon as possible.
Feel free to make yourself comfortable. There are cookies and other ? in the fridge. :)
Ib put the note down and went across the room to draw the black, velvet curtains that blocked out the sunlight. They were heavy, but she managed to gather the folds together and tie them on either side of the window before hooking the rope into the wall.
Manhattan staggered and groaned on the sidewalks five stories down. Looking out the window, Ib thought she could see the roof of her middle school just a few blocks down. Cars screeched, and people knocked shoulders in the street. Everybody looked busy. Everybody looked in a hurry.
I wonder why people hurry so. Guess they don't realize how fast a rose can lose its petals.
Ib stared at the cloudless sky for a while, then slipped down from the window seat and wandered into the kitchen to rummage through the fridge for those cookies Garry mentioned. She found a package of unopened Oreos among a few, mostly-empty containers of Chinese noodles and cold pizza slices. A white paper bag was folded into the door of the fridge, and upon looking closer, Ib found four raspberry macaroons inside. Macaroons were delicious: chewy and often dusted with coconut. Her fingers itched to take a macaroon and nibble on it 'til the raspberry filling coated her fingers, but she didn't feel comfortable without asking, so she closed the fridge and took the package of Oreos to the table instead.
Garry's studio was alive and unique in the best possible way. As a struggling artist, Garry had a deep appreciation for painting, and spent many bright hours working away at his brush until the paint stained his clothing and freckled both hands. There were a lot of old paintings – happy, cheerful, paintings – hung on the walls from years ago. They showed his progress as he worked his way up from the bottom and honed his skills with a brush and palette. However, while his paintings were wonderful (thought often laden with meaning beyond Ib's understanding), they had suffered since the incident at the Guertena exhibit last year. Ib often caught him painting dolls – they scared her a little – and dark figures into the backgrounds of his paintings, though when she asked, he claimed he was simply making an artistic statement. She wasn't sure what that meant, but the paintings themselves were far from the cheery ones that hung on the walls, and it worried her.
The door swung open and banged against the wall. Ib turned to the sound of rustling grocery bags, and her mouth split into a wide, chocolatey grin. "Garry!"
"Hey, Ib." Garry smiled, arms burdened with two, full paper bags. He kicked the door shut, then set the groceries down just in time to catch Ib as she flung herself at him. Her arms locked around his neck as he bent down and hugged her. "Nice to see you too, Ib. I see you found the cookies?" He released her and took in the open package of Oreos on the table. "What are Oreos without milk? Come on." Grabbing the two bags, he took them into the kitchen and set them on the counter.
Ib followed after him and jumped up onto the opposite counter, watching him as he rummaged through the cupboards for two plastic cups. His coat looked more tattered than usual; she broke her Oreo in half and stared at the creame inside, wondering if he would ever buy a new one.
"How was school today, Ib? Any homework?"
Her shoulders slumped at his questions. "It was okay," Ib mumbled. "Just some math sets for homework. Nothing serious." She fiddled with her Oreo, hesitant, then sighed. "Some of my friends have been teasing me."
Garry looked over his shoulder in surprise, then finished pouring the milk and walked over to hand her a glass. His lavender hair fell into his eyes as he studied her, intensely serious.
"What are they teasing you about?"
Ib ran her finger around the rim of the glass and chewed on her lip. How would she put this without him taking it the wrong way? How could she explain how they laughed and pointed at her, whispering horrible words behind her back that didn't know the meanings of? The words left a bitter taste in her mouth when she thought about them. "They . . . think it's strange that my best friend is an adult."
Garry blinked at her for a moment, then smiled. "Ah. Age is a number, Ib, not a definition of who you are. It matters what you are in spirit." He straightened and held out a hand, offering her help down from the counter so she wouldn't spill her milk. "I honestly think I'm only ten years old at heart sometimes, just like you. I only have to act twenty in the adult world so people will let me drive a car." He winked at her, and she giggled. "Don't worry about your friends. Here, let's go grab some Oreos for our milk. I have something I want to show you."
Ib perked up and slid her fingers through his. "Is it a new painting?"
"Sort of." He grabbed the package of Oreos from the table and led her over to the wall where a picture frame she hadn't seen before hid underneath a paint-splattered sheet. "I actually picked this up at the Post Office the other day. There was no sender address, but I'm a member of several art galleries, so it could have been from them." Garry looked over at Ib and smiled. "Go ahead, pull the sheet off."
Carefully so she wouldn't spill her milk, Ib released his hand and wrapped her fingers in the soft fabric of the sheet. Then, quickly, she tugged and watched it slump gracefully to the floor like a fallen angel before staring up at the uncovered picture frame.
It was a painting. A painting of yellow roses.