Red Heart

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Chapter 5

Eager to speak with Minami’s mother, Yuko rushed to the Suzuki house. It wasn’t one of the days she was scheduled to care for Minami, but Yuko knew she had to share the information she had gathered from Professor Akimoto.

Making her way to the front gate, Yuko noticed what looked like Mrs. Suzuki watching her from the window. The curtain was closed, but it was clear that a woman was watching her, though it was hard to make out any of her features. With a smile, Yuko waved. The woman’s response was to walk away from the window.

The sound of a singing girl immediately caught Yuko’s attention. From around the corner came Minami and her mother. Mrs. Suzuki was holding a bag of groceries in one hand and Minami’s hand in the other.

“Ah, Yuko, what brings you here?” asked Mrs. Suzuki.

“We bought groceries,” exclaimed Minami.

“Yes, we did,” said her mother. “We were running low, so I decided to buy a few things. Please, let’s go inside.”

There had been no chance for Yuko to ask about the woman in the window as Mrs. Suzuki hadn’t let her get a word in once she started talking. But Yuko knew she would eventually have the opportunity.

Yuko and Mrs. Suzuki took to the kitchen table to talk, while Minami played with a stuffed panda in the living room.

“So, what brings you here today?” asked Mrs. Suzuki.

“I just wanted to tell you that I went to talk to one of my professors yesterday,” explained Yuko. “We talked about Minami.” Yuko had made sure to speak in a softer tone as not to alert Minami to the fact that she was being talked about.

“Really?” asked Mrs. Suzuki, who was clearly eager.

Yuko looked to the living room. Minami was playing with her toy just as any normal child her age would do. It dawned on Yuko at that moment that telling Mrs. Suzuki the truth might lead to consequences, such as powerful medications.

“He said that a child her age will most likely grow out of this phase,” replied Yuko. “I don’t see any reason to worry too much about it.”

“Oh, that’s a relief,” said Mrs. Suzuki. “I thought you were going to tell me that I should put Minami on medication.” She then began laughing, prompting Yuko to feign a small laugh of her own.

“Mrs. Suzuki, I was wondering if anyone else lives here.”

“No, it’s just me, Minami and my husband.”

Later that day, Yuko made a trip back to school to have another talk with Professor Akimoto.

“Ah, Yuko, come in,” said Akimoto when Yuko appeared at his door. “What can I do for you today?”

“I was wondering if you could do me a favor,” said Yuko.

Just as the sun was beginning to set, Yuko arrived at the address she had been given by Professor Akimoto. It was an older house that was in need of better care. Paint was peeling in numerous places, the iron gate was badly rusted and weeds had overwhelmed the yard.

Even though she was less than enthused to enter such a dreadful looking place, Yuko rang the bell and waited for someone to answer the door.

An older woman answered the door only seconds after Yuko had rung the bell. It was almost as if she had been waiting by the door as if eager to have a visitor.

“Mrs. Watanabe?” asked Yuko. “I’m the one who called you earlier today?”

“Yes, yes, you must be Yuko,” replied Mrs. Watanabe. “Come in, come in.”

Yuko entered and found that the interior of the house matched the level of unkemptness of the exterior. There was dust covering most of the dilapidated furniture, different articles of clothing had been left strewn along the floor as well as various other items that made each step a hazardous one.

“So, how is Mr. Akimoto doing?” asked Mrs. Watanabe.

“He’s doing well,” answered Yuko.

“Does he talk about me? I think he has a crush on me.”

Yuko smiled politely at the notion.

Having informed her host of what she wanted, Yuko was led through the house to a back room. More than a few times, Yuko stepped on something that hurt her foot. To keep from insulting Mrs. Watanabe, Yuko made sure not to let her know.

Mrs. Watanabe opened the door and moved aside to allow Yuko entry. The state of the room made the rest of the house look far more inviting than before. There had to be thousands of newspapers inside. In some places, they were stacked all the way to the ceiling.

“Take all the time you need,” said Mrs. Watanabe. “Anything for a fellow newspaper enthusiast.”

For the next few hours, Yuko scanned through newspapers with great fervor. The strain on her eyes was beginning to wear on Yuko as was the increasing build up of newsprint that had rubbed off and stained her fingers.

“The least she could have done was put these in some kind of order,” Yuko said to herself.

As she stood to stretch her tired body, Yuko noticed how dark it had gotten outside. She wanted to continue her research, but Yuko figured she would have many more opportunities to do so later, so she decided to call it a night.

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