Red Heart

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Chapter 4

The next day, Yuko had her first day on the job with Minami. The crayons had been returned, so the two took to the living room to draw pictures.

“So, your mom tells me that you got in trouble yesterday for writing on the wall,” said Yuko. “Had you ever written on the wall before?”

“It wasn’t me,” answered Minami. “It was Sayaka. I told my mom, but she didn’t believe me. I got mad at Sayaka. But we already made up.”

“That’s right, your mom mentioned that you said Sayaka did it. Do you usually blame Sayaka for things you do?”

“I didn’t do it!” exclaimed Minami.

“Sorry,” said Yuko, a smile upon her face. She thought it was funny that children could fly off the handle so easily. She also knew that an angry child could be swayed back to being a happy child with only a few kind words. “Hey, can I see what you’re drawing?”

“Show me yours, then I’ll show you mine.”

Yuko displayed her picture, showing it off with great pride. “What do you think?” she asked. “Pretty good, huh?”

“What is it?” asked Minami.

“What do you mean? It’s a cat.” For something drawn by a total novice, Yuko’s drawing was certainly without merit. A jumbled mess of less than straight lines and circles made more of a mess on the paper than a cat.

Minami held up her end of the bargain and showed off what she had drawn. The picture she had drawn was clearly of a dog.

“Oh no,” said Yuko, hiding her picture behind her back. “Cats are afraid of dogs.” This prompted a laugh from Minami.

For someone so young, it was clear Minami had a talent for drawing, which made Yuko believe she also had a knack for another art, the art of story telling.

“Your mom told me a lot about Sayaka,” said Yuko.

Too busy with her latest doodle, Minami gave only a nod.

“Why do you call her Sayaka?”

“Because that’s her name,” replied Minami. “Why else would I call her that?”

“I thought maybe you used to have a friend with that name.”

“No, Sayaka told me that was her name.”

“So, did you bring Sayaka with you from your old house?”

Minami shook her head. “Sayaka’s been living here for a long time. Long before we got here. She’s been here longer than I’ve been alive.”

Yuko didn’t know what to make of Minami’s explanation of Sayaka. She thought she was dealing with a little girl who was either an expert story teller or a little girl who was deeply repressing her true fears and anxieties.

“So, is she an older girl?” asked Yuko.

“No, she’s the same age as me.”

“Hey, what are you drawing now? Can I see?”

“I’m not finished yet.”

“But you have another one right here,” said Yuko, taking a picture out of a stack of blank pieces of paper. Minami tried desperately to grab it before Yuko could get a hold of it. “What is this?” asked Yuko, an uneasy feeling stirring within her.

The picture Yuko had taken was of a woman. She had long black hair that covered her face and a long white dress that went all the way to the ground. Even with her face concealed, there was something very unsettling her.

“Her name’s Kazumi,” said Minami. The tremble in her voice showed how afraid she was of the woman. “She came to my room last night. She said she wanted to take me, but Sayaka wouldn’t let her. Sayaka told me that she’s come to my room every night since we moved here. I didn’t see her, but that’s what Sayaka told me how she looks.”

“Your mom never told me about that.”

“I didn’t tell her,” explained Minami. “She wouldn’t have believed me anyway. Just like she doesn’t believe me about Sayaka. Everyone thinks I’m making everything up. Do you think I’m making this up?”

Yuko hesitated before answering, not sure if she should encourage such behavior. “No, I don’t think you’re making anything up. I believe you.”

“You do?” asked Minami, a smile brightening her face.

“Of course I do.”

“It’s nice to be believed,” said Minami, who went back to drawing. “You can keep that if you want. I don’t want it anymore.”

The next day, Yuko scheduled a meeting with Professor Akimoto. She met him in his office after class. The topic of their conversation was the best way to get Minami to abandon the figments of her seemingly out of control imagination.

As the two conversed, Professor Akimoto was taking a thorough look at the picture Yuko had been given of the woman named Kazumi.

“These characters this girl has conjured up are the manifestations of the emotions that she’s grappling with inside,” explained Akimoto. “They’re waging a kind of war with each other. I’ve seen this many times before. Sometimes a person’s delusions guide these battles. Sometimes the embodiment of their fears wins out, sometimes it doesn’t. It all depends on the character of each individual in such cases.”

“So, are you saying if Sayaka helps Minami conquer her fear, or Kazumi, then everything will go back to normal?”

“It’s been known to happen.”

“What happens if Minami’s fear wins out?”

“Then she’ll most likely have to be put on an antipsychotic medication.”

“Medication?” asked Yuko. “You don’t think Minami’s schizophrenic, do you?”

“She sounds like she has the classic symptoms. She’s got an imaginary friend living in her room and she has a mysterious woman trying to get her. This is something you really have to speak to her mother about. If this isn’t taken care of soon, things might get even worse. The child might try to hurt herself or others.”

Yuko placed her hand on her forehead to suppress the headache now ailing her. She had no idea that something that seemed so small could balloon so quickly.

“Then again, there might not be anything wrong with her at all,” said Akimoto, placing the picture of Kazumi on his desk so that it faced Yuko. “She might just be living in a house that’s haunted," he said with a grin.

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