Red Heart

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Chapter 11

Yuko had been summoned to the Suzuki house earlier than usual the next day. Mrs. Suzuki had several things she needed to do and bringing Minami along with her was not an option.

As Mrs. Suzuki searched the living room for her keys, Yuko tried to muster the courage to tell her about the disturbing information she had found out about the house. But every time she opened her mouth, Yuko either balked at saying something or was interrupted by Mrs. Suzuki.

“I can never find anything in this house,” said Mrs. Suzuki, reaching into the cushions of her sofa. Noticing her purse on the coffee table, Mrs. Suzuki searched it and found the keys for which she had been searching.

“If you need anything, you know my cell number,” said Mrs. Suzuki. “I shouldn’t be gone for too long. If Minami gets hungry, there’s plenty of food to eat. If you get hungry, help yourself to whatever we have. If you decide to go somewhere, make sure you get back before it gets dark. It gets dangerous out there.”

Before Yuko knew it, Mrs. Suzuki had already kissed Minami and told her to be a good girl and was out of the house.

“So, Minami-chan, what do you want to do today?” asked Yuko.

Minami opened her hand to reveal a pill. “Mommy forgot to give this to me before she left,” she said. “Do I still have to take it?”

Yuko thought about it for a second. “If you can keep it a secret, then I won’t make you take your pill.” She then extended her pinky. Minami smiled a smile Yuko hadn’t seen on her young friend in quite some time as she partook in the pinky swear.

“Can we get ice cream?” asked Minami.

“Of course we can,” replied Yuko.

“Then can we go to the playground? And then to the toy store? And then more ice cream?”

The two headed out for a day of frivolity shortly thereafter.

A few hours later, Mrs. Suzuki returned home. “I’m home,” she exclaimed. There was no answer. “Yuko-chan, Minami-chan, are you here?”

A note on the coffee table would tell Mrs. Suzuki that Yuko had taken Minami out for the day.

“At least I’ll get some peace and quiet,” said Mrs. Suzuki. She then noticed a stuffed tiger peeking at her from behind a chair. “Minami, can’t you keep your toys put away?”

Mrs. Suzuki retrieved the stuffed animal and took it back to where it belonged. Upon entering her daughter’s room, Mrs. Suzuki’s attention was quickly captured by a red heart scribbled on the wall where she had already cleaned one off.

“What is this?” she asked, making her way to the heart. “She drew another one.” Mrs. Suzuki threw the stuffed tiger to the floor, then stomped out of her daughter’s room. “I thought we already took care of this problem. I thought things were getting better.”

Mrs. Suzuki stopped at the top of the stairs. As she tried to calm herself down, she heard a floorboard creak behind her. When she turned to see why such a thing would happen when she was the only one home, someone shoved her, sending her falling down the stairs.

Yuko had taken Minami to a nearby restaurant to have ice cream. The sun was beginning to set in the distance, meaning the two would have to head back home soon.

“How’s your ice cream?” asked Yuko.

“It’s good,” said Minami, a smile on her face and a mouth full of ice cream.

The girl Minami used to be was back and Yuko knew it was due to the fact that she had skipped taking her pill for the day. She knew it would be a struggle to convince her parents, but Yuko decided she would advise them to take Minami off her medication.

Yuko’s cell phone began ringing. “Hello,” she answered.

“Yuko, this is Mr. Suzuki,” said the voice on the other end. “Is Minami with you?”

“Yes, is everything alright? Do you want me to bring her home?”

“I’m afraid there’s been an accident.”

“What happened?”

“My wife had a fall. When I got home, I found her lying at the bottom of the stairs. She was still breathing, but she wouldn’t respond. I’m at the hospital right now.”

Yuko was unable to give a reply. Her eyes were bulging and her breathing had come to a near halt. She knew the misfortune that had befallen Mrs. Suzuki was no accident.

“Please don’t tell Minami about this,” said Mr. Suzuki. “With her condition, there’s no telling how she’s going to react.”

The best answer Yuko could give was a soft grunt.

“Could you look after Minami tonight? I know it’s asking a lot, but we don’t know anyone else who can take her on such short notice, and I don’t want her here at the hospital.”

“Yes, I can look after her,” replied Minami.

“Thank you, Yuko. I really have to get going now. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.” After hanging up, Yuko replaced the look of dread on her face with a smile. “Hey, Minami-chan, guess what?”

“What?” asked Minami.

“We’re going to have a sleepover tonight.”

“Really?” asked Minami, her smile as large as Yuko had ever before seen.

“Yeah, we’re gonna have lots of fun.”

The Suzuki house was shrouded in darkness by the time Yuko and Minami arrived. It had never before been a place Yuko was afraid of, even after learning of the spirits that resided within. But Yuko had never spent any late hours there, let alone an entire night.

Yuko couldn’t help but grip the railing tight as she made her way up the stairs. Each step she took increased her fear that she would be soon be taking an unexpected fall.

Minami made her way to the top quickly. “Hurry, Yuko-chan,” she exclaimed. Not waiting long, Minami hurried to her room.

“Minami-chan, wait,” exclaimed Yuko. Not wanting to spend more time than absolutely necessary on the staircase, Yuko hurried to the top and to Minami’s room.

Minami began jumping on her bed so high that it seemed as if she would hit the ceiling. “Isn’t this going to be fun, Sayaka?” she asked. “Yuko’s going to spend the night.”

Though she had no way of seeing Sayaka, Yuko knew she was near. She scanned the room for any evidence of her, but there was nothing out of the ordinary but a red heart on the wall. “What’s that?” she asked.

Minami stopped bouncing on her bed. “Did you draw another heart?” she asked.

Yuko watched as Minami had a one way conversation with herself.

“Mommy’s gonna be mad when she finds out,” said a grim Minami. After a while, a smile appeared on her face. “Right, we’ll clean it up before she comes home. Eh, what? Oh, I don’t have to take my pill tonight. Yuko said so.”

For some reason, Yuko felt as if she was being judged for the decision she had made.

“Yuko-chan,” said Minami. “Don’t forget to close the door. Kazumi can’t get us if we keep the door closed.”

Yuko honored her young friend’s request and shut the door.

Despite her fears, Yuko had a relatively easy time falling asleep. Had she been able to see Sayaka, she would have seen the young ghost watching her from the bed. Sayaka paid Minami no attention. She was unable to take her eyes off the newcomer.

A floorboard outside Minami’s room creaked. It was followed by heavy breathing. It wasn’t enough to awaken Minami, but the girl would be woken by what would happen next.

“Go away,” whispered Sayaka.

“Give her to me,” said Kazumi.

“Go away,” said Sayaka, louder than before but still not loud enough to wake Minami.

“Give her to me now!” shouted Kazumi.

The shout was enough to awaken Minami.

“Go away!” shouted Sayaka. She then embraced Minami. “It’s okay,” she assured her friend. “As long as we don’t open the door, nothing can happen.”

“Make her go away,” pleaded Minami.

“Give her to me!” shouted Kazumi, who began slamming herself against the door. “Stop protecting her! Give her to me now! Open the door! Give her to me!”

Though a horrible commotion was taking place, it was something Yuko was unaware of. It was only after she had heard Minami’s plea when she woke. “Minami,” she said, her eyes still heavy with sleep. “Are you okay? Why are you still awake?”

“Make her stop,” said Minami.

“Is it her?” asked Yuko, who immediately shook out of her lethargic state. “Minami, tell me what you see. What’s happening? Please tell me.”

“She’s here,” replied Minami.

“Don’t pay attention to her,” said Sayaka. “Only talk to me.”

“Minami,” said Yuko, going to her bedside. “I can’t see what’s going on. You have to tell me.” When Yuko touched Minami, she could suddenly see Sayaka, who, too, was touching Minami. “Minami,” she exclaimed. To see the way the young ghost was staring at her made Yuko feel as if she was just as unwanted as Kazumi. “Minami, we have to get out of here.” What Yuko had said made Sayaka’s stare even colder.

“Don’t listen to her,” said Sayaka. “Stay here with me. Nothing will happen to you if you stay with me.”

“Minami, we have to go,” said Yuko, taking Minami by the hand. When Sayaka grabbed Yuko’s wrist, she was sent crashing to the ground.

“Yuko!” screamed Minami.

“She’s trying to take you away from me,” said Sayaka. “Just like all the others. But you want to stay with me, don’t you? You don’t want her to take you from me, do you? That’s why I had to send them away. Just like I have to send her away,” said Sayaka, burning her icy glare into Yuko.

The fall temporarily blurred Yuko’s vision, but once things started to clear up, she could see everything that Minami could. The door was buckling from Kazumi, who was executing a series of tremendous blows upon it.

“Give that little bitch to me!” shouted Kazumi.

“Minami!” shouted Yuko.

“Yuko!” screamed Minami, who was being held tightly by Sayaka.

Having no way to get to Minami with Sayaka in the way, Yuko knew she had only one other option. She hurried to the door.

“Stop!” screamed Sayaka.

When Yuko opened the door, it hit her with such force that she was sent crashing into the wall, leaving her in a near unconscious state.

Kazumi made a slow trek to Minami’s bed. “I finally have you,” she said. “After all these years. You’re finally mine!” She then gripped Sayaka so forcefully by the arm that they young ghost lost her grip on Minami.

“Let go!” screamed Sayaka.

A violent wind began swirling inside the room and the closet door swung itself open. A darkness unlike anything seen in the world of the living became visible.

“Stop!” screamed Sayaka, who could do nothing to prevent Kazumi from dragging her into the darkness. The door then slammed shut and the powerful wind came to an immediate halt.

A crying Minami rushed to Yuko just as she was coming back to her senses.

“Yuko,” cried Minami, crying hysterically and holding her so tight that it seemed she was trying to keep her from getting away.

“Everything’s going to be alright, Minami-chan,” said Yuko, who began holding her young friend just as tightly.

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