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Chapter 10

Kumiko had a big surprise for Rumi. After school she loaded her into the car and took her on an unexpected trip. Had Rumi been more perceptive, she would have realized that her mother hadn't packed anything for the two.

It was going to be just Kumiko and Rumi all alone in the family's cabin. Coming from money afforded the family the luxuries that others could never have.
"How come granny didn't come with us?" asked Rumi. The young girl had been placed safely in the back seat and was drinking from what her mother had said was a special drink just for her, which was why Kumiko adamantly refused when Rumi tried to share it with her.
"Because this is a trip for just you and me," replied Kumiko. "You like your granny, don't you?"
Rumi nodded. "Granny's nice," she said.
"She is nice," said Kumiko. "Rumi-chan, be honest with me. You can say whatever you want. I promise not to get mad at you. But did you think your grandpa was nice?"
"Grandpa wasn't very nice," said Rumi.
"Father wasn't the easiest person to get along with," said Kumiko. "How about Dr. Kojima? Do you like him?"
"He's not nice, either," replied Rumi.
"What did he do that wasn't nice?" asked Kumiko.
"Doctors are supposed to help people," said Rumi. "They're not supposed to hurt them."
Kumiko was extremely hesitant to ask her next question, but she had to know how Rumi felt about Hideki. "Rumi-chan," she said. There was no answer. Kumiko looked in the rearview mirror and found her daughter fast asleep. Unbeknownst to Rumi, the drink her mother had given her had been loaded with sleeping pills.
At the Sashihara residence, Kumiko's mother was tidying up her daughter's bedroom. There were articles of clothing on the floor as well as countless tissues, no doubt having been used to wipe away countless tears.
As Kumiko's mother cleared the floor, she found an empty bottle of pills. It was no secret that Kumiko had been taking medication for her anxiety. She had been taking them for years, so seeing an empty bottle of pills brought up no red flags. But once Kumiko's mother checked under the bed, it became clear that there was a far larger problem at hand than just a messy room. There was a number of empty pill bottles hiding in the shadows.
Kumiko's cell phone rang as she sped down the mountain road. "Hello," she answered.
"Kumiko, are you alright?" asked her mother.
"Of course I'm alright," replied Kumiko. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"It's just that I . . ." Kumiko's mother stopped herself before she could bring up the subject of her daughter's overuse of pills. "Is Rumi with you?"
"Yes, we're going on a trip," said Kumiko.
"May I speak with her?"
"Not right now, she's asleep," explained Kumiko.
"Where are you going?"
Being so deep in the woods, the connection cut out.
"Hello?" said Kumiko. With her mother no longer on the other end, Kumiko put her phone away. "We're almost there, Rumi-chan," she said with a smile. "Just a little longer."
The sun had already set by the time Kumiko and Rumi arrived at the cabin. Ever so carefully, Kumiko carried Rumi inside.
It was hours later when Rumi finally woke.
"You're finally awake," said Kumiko. "I was afraid you were going to sleep forever."
Rumi was sitting on a chair with her arms tied behind her back with an old shirt. "Mommy," she said groggily.
"You can drop the act," said Kumiko. "I know you're not who you pretend to be. You may have everyone fooled, but not me."
"Mommy is weird," said Rumi, trying to wriggle free. "I don't like this game."
Kumiko retrieved a large knife from a nearby table. "Am I really weird?" she asked, waving the knife in front of Rumi's face.
Rumi's eyes widened at the sight.
"Is this the knife you used when you killed your father?" asked a now crazed Kumiko. "Or maybe you used something else. Maybe a pair of scissors or gardening shears. Those would definitely do the trick, wouldn't they?"
Rumi began crying, prompting Kumiko to start laughing. "Save your tears," she said. "I know they're fake. Just like everything else about you."
"Mommy," sobbed Rumi.
"Tell me," demanded Kumiko, again waving her knife in Rumi's face. "How did you know about Takayo? No one's ever told you about her. She was a secret. The only ones who knew about her are dead now. Dead because of you!"
"Let me go!" screamed Rumi.
"You're not going to tell me?" asked Kumiko. "That's fine. You don't have to. You can take your secret to the grave."
Kumiko left the living room temporarily. When she returned she had with her a canister. She immediately popped the top off and began pouring gasoline around the room.
"What are you doing?" asked Rumi.
"You know what I'm doing," said Kumiko. "I'm going to send you to hell to be with the others. That's where we're all going, isn't it? Because of what we did?" Kumiko then reached into her pocket and pulled out a book of matches and lit a nearby candle. "Make sure to say hello to them for me."
"Don't kill me again!" screamed Rumi.
"What did you say?" asked Kumiko.
Rumi's head was lowered and she was visibly shaking.
"What did you say?" Kumiko demanded to know.
"It wasn't enough to kill me once?" asked Rumi. "Now you want to do it again?"
"What do you mean?" asked Kumiko, a noticeable quiver in her voice. "What are you talking about?"
"You know what I mean," said Rumi, raising her head. It was rare for Kumiko to see Rumi angry, but she had never before seen this near evil look upon her daughter's face.
"Rumi-chan," said Kumiko.
"Stop calling me that!" exclaimed Rumi. "That's not my name."
"Of course it is. What else would it be?" Kumiko suddenly trailed off as a startling idea occurred to her. "Takayo?"
Rumi gave no reply. All she did was stare back angrily.
Kumiko began shaking her head. "You're not Takayo," she said, tears forming in her eyes.
"I've always been Takayo. There used to be a Rumi, but she didn't make it out. So I took her body."
Kumiko knelt before her daughter and touched her face. "This is a dream, it has to be," she said before bursting into tears.
"Why are you crying?" asked Takayo.
"Because I'm happy," replied Kumiko. "I have you back. I finally have you back. That's all I've ever wanted."
"You never wanted me," exclaimed Takayo. "If you did, then you never would have thrown me away."
"I didn't throw you away," said Kumiko.
"Yes, you did," said Takayo. "All of you did. That's why you had to be punished."
Takayo proceeded to tell Kumiko that she had been privy to the events that had led to her untimely demise.
Takayo remembered every word her grandfather had said on the day Kumiko and Hideki announced that they were expecting. He demanded Kumiko terminate the pregnancy in exchange for not only a large sum of money but a promotion for Hideki. Failure to comply would have resulted in being cut-off from the Sashihara family, including the family money.
Takayo then revealed to her mother that she had been a witness to how persistent Hideki had been in trying to persuade Kumiko to accept the offer. He assured her that they would have another child some day and the money they would be receiving would go far in securing a future for them.
Doctor Kojima, though not experienced in such things, was more than a willing accomplice. He was close to the Sashihara family and always did as Kumiko's father wanted. Whether it be ending an unwanted life or filling Kumiko with dangerous medications, Doctor Kojima was up to the task.
"You crashed into a tree to make people think that's how I died," said Takayo. "But that's not the only reason you did it, is it?"
Kumiko was unable to speak through her sobbing.
"You tried to end your life that night," said Takayo. "I'm glad you didn't. If you had, then I would never get to punish you. I already tried to once. I bet you didn't know."
"What?" gasped Kumiko.
"The day I was born," said Takayo. "I was going to make you the first one I punished, but something stopped me. Maybe when you pretended to have a heart and begged the doctors to save me. But that didn't change anything."
Unbeknownst to Kumiko, Takayo was slowly freeing her hands from the makeshift restraints.
"Takayo, I would give my life to protect you," said Kumiko. "If I could go back and change things, I would."
"But you can't," exclaimed Takayo.
"You're the most precious person in the world to me," sobbed Kumiko. "If everyone disappeared tomorrow and it was just you and me, I would be happy. You're all I need."
"Do you know how it made me feel everyday to see those kids at school?" asked Takayo. "How come they didn't have to die like I did? What makes them so special?" Tears filled Takayo's eyes. "Why didn't you want me?"
"Takayo-chan," said Kumiko. "Since that day, you're all I've ever thought about. Day and night, I'm consumed by thoughts of you. I've been filling myself with pills for years hoping it would make the pain go away, but nothing ever worked. Whenever I held you, I always wished you were Takayo."
"I just wanted someone to love me," said Takayo.
Kumiko embraced her daughter just as Takayo had freed herself. "Takayo-chan, I love you more than you could ever imagine," she said. "I won't ever let you go again. I promise."
Though her hands were free, Takayo chose not to take vengeance as she had so badly been craving. Instead she wrapped her arms around her mother as tears streamed down her face.
Kumiko bumped the table that held the candle she had lit. It fell to the floor and into the gasoline, instantly engulfing the room in a hellish inferno.
"Mommy," sobbed Takayo, embracing her mother tightly.
"You and me Takayo-chan," sobbed Kumiko. "We'll be together forever. Nothing will ever pull us apart."
The pair was oblivious to the fact that the cabin was now ablaze all around them. They were so consumed with one another that even impending death couldn't separate them.
Before long, the flames had consumed the pair.
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