Yuko had joined a group of her friends from school at a local restaurant to have ice cream and discuss subjects that had nothing to do with academia. Though her friends were having a boisterous time chatting and snacking, Yuko couldn’t bring herself to join them. Her mind was in a far off place, thinking about Minami.
The sound of her cell phone ringing snapped Yuko out of her near trance-like state. “Hello,” she answered.
“Yuko-chan, it’s me,” said the woman on the other end. Though the caller had failed to give a proper introduction, Yuko knew from the voice that it was Mrs. Watanabe, and she sounded as if she had something urgent to discuss.
“Mrs. Watanabe,” said Yuko. “Is something wrong?”
“There was something that was troubling me when you showed me that newspaper the other day. I knew there was something about that house, something familiar, but I couldn’t remember what it was. So I started looking through some of my newspapers and found another story about the house. It’s . . . well, you have to see it for yourself.”
“I’ll come over right now,” said Yuko. Without saying a word to her friends, Yuko vaulted from her seat and departed.
“She must be going to meet a boy,” said one of her friends, prompting the others to erupt with laughter at her expense.
Minami had no defense against the exhaustion brought about by her medication and had fallen fast asleep. The dream she had experienced the night before would serve as a mere prelude to what she would be seeing in her sleep tonight.
* * *
A young girl of about the same age as Minami was in the very same room she now occupied. The girl was crying as her mother scolded her.
“How many times have I told you to not to be bad?” shouted the girl’s mother, roughly cleaning her daughter’s hands, which were stained bright red.
“I was trying to clean it,” sobbed the little girl.
Smeared on the wall was a red heart that had been drawn on with paint.
“You can’t just clean this off,” exclaimed the girl’s mother. “We have to paint the wall now thanks to you.”
As the little girl’s mother attempted to clean her daughter’s hand, she began rubbing so hard that her daughter winced from the pain and attempted to pull them free. Her mother began pulling back. “I’ve been more than patient with you these last few weeks, but I’ve had about enough of this behavior.”
“But I didn’t do it,” said the little girl.
“So help me if you tell me that stupid imaginary friend of yours did it. Huh, is that it? Is that what you’re going to tell me?”
When the little girl failed to answer, her mother grabbed her by the arm and forcefully took her out of the room.
“That hurts,” moaned the girl.
The next thing Minami saw was the girl’s mother exiting from her room after having put her daughter to bed. She walked to the stairs and stopped to rub her forehead, which had to be throbbing with all the trouble that had been going on.
“What am I going to do with that girl?” whispered the woman.
When a floorboard behind her creaked, the woman turned to see why her daughter had left her room. Before she could even fully turn her head, the woman was pushed down the stairs. The fall was enough to break her neck.
* * *
Yuko had arrived at Mrs. Watanabe’s house and was reading feverishly the newspaper the woman had found. The headline read, “Woman Falls to Death Down Stairs in Same House of Murdered Girl.”
As she read, Yuko eventually came to the identity of the victim. The woman who had fallen down the stairs was named Kazumi Sato. She knew immediately that it was the same Kazumi who had been tormenting Minami.
“A few years ago, all anyone could talk about was that house,” said Mrs. Watanabe. “They said there was a curse. I don’t know about that. But I know something was wrong. A friend of mine used to walk by that house all the time. And one time she said she saw someone watching her from the window. She said it was hard to see inside, but she knew someone was watching her. But there was no one living there at the time. Before she knew it, my friend said the person at the window disappeared.”
“Was it a woman?” asked Yuko.
“Like I said, my friend told me it was hard to see inside. So there’s no telling if it was a woman or a man. But my friend made it a point to never walk past that house again.”
When she learned of Sayaka, Yuko decided to keep it a secret from Mrs. Suzuki in order to prevent further stress. But now that information had arisen about a possible second ghost in her house, Yuko was beginning to wonder if it was wise to keep any of her secrets.