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Chapter 6

Unaware of what had happened to Dr. Kojima, Kumiko blissfully went about her life. She got Rumi up bright and early the next day and took her to school.

Kumiko knelt before Rumi just outside the school. "Now, Rumi-chan, I want you to be a good girl, okay," she said.

Rumi smiled and nodded.

"You make sure to be nice to the other kids and be extra nice to Miss Ito."

Kumiko then handed Rumi a box wrapped neatly with a bow. "I baked cookies for your teacher," she said, "so give them to her as soon as you see her."

"I can do that," said a smiling Rumi.

"You're such a good girl," said Kumiko before hugging Rumi and departing.

Upon entering the school, Rumi found a trashcan and promptly threw the box of cookies into it.

Later in the day, Rumi was passing the time with her favorite activity. The young girl almost seemed to be in a trance as she drew her colorful art pieces.

Rumi's teacher, Miss Ito, knelt down beside her student. "That's such a pretty picture, Rumi-chan," she said. "Are you drawing a picture of yourself?"

"No," replied Rumi, who continued drawing.

"Is it one of your friends here at school?"

"I don't have any friends," replied Rumi. Like before, Rumi kept her focus squarely on her drawing.

"You can try to make friends," said Miss Ito. "There are lots of nice boys and girls here. You can ask to play with them instead of always sitting alone and drawing. Or maybe you could draw with some of the others. I know Shota likes to draw."

"I don't like Shota."

"How about Minami? I think you two would be good friends."

"I don't like Minami."

"Why don't you like them?" asked Miss Ito.

"What makes them think they're so special?" asked Rumi, who seemed not to be talking to Miss Ito but to herself. "I'm just as good as they are."

"Of course you're just as good as them," said Miss Ito. "Do you ever feel like you're not good enough?"

Rather than respond, Rumi placed her latest work of art in front of her face. "Look, I finished my picture."

"It's very nice," said Miss Ito. "But Rumi-chan . . ."

Before Miss Ito could continue asking questions that Rumi was in no real mood to answer, Rumi cut her off. "This is Takayo," she said.

"Oh, I recognize her," said Miss Ito. "You've drawn your friend before, haven't you?"

Rumi lowered the picture and became quite solemn. "She's not my friend," she said. "She's no one's friend. No one likes her."

When Kumiko came to pick up Rumi after school, Miss Ito pulled her aside to talk with her. "Rumi-chan still isn't making friends," she said. "I've been talking to her but nothing is working. She's just so cold around the other children."

"My husband and I set up play dates with our friends' children," said Kumiko, "but she never seems interested at all. I think she might be a little shy around other children."

"All she does is sit alone and draw," said Miss Ito. "Her pictures are almost always of the same little girl. For the life of me, I can't remember what her name was."

"I think she wants a little baby sister," said Kumiko. "Me and my husband have been trying to get pregnant, but we've been having a difficult time."

With her concerns failing to alarm a mother who clearly saw her daughter through rose colored glasses, Miss Ito dropped yet another piece of troubling information upon her. "I found the box of cookies you made for me in the trash," she said.

"I think Rumi-chan just got a little confused," insisted Kumiko. "She's never given anyone a gift before. I'm sure she knew you would know where to find it."

Another parent waved Miss Ito over, giving her a much needed reason to excuse herself.

The family sat down to have dinner that night. Long gone were the days where Kumiko and Hideki were forced to sustain themselves with meager meals of rice and vegetables. Kumiko's food budget would surely have made her former self more than a bit envious.

"So, Rumi-chan, how was school?" asked Hideki.

"Good," replied Rumi. Whenever her father asked her any sort of question, Rumi's answer was usually only a word or two, making her recent answer nothing out of the ordinary.

"Did anything exciting happen?" asked Kumiko.

"Akio spilled his milk all over himself at lunch," said Rumi. "He started crying. It was funny."

"Seeing bad things happen to people shouldn't make you happy," said Hideki.

Rumi gave her father no response. She merely went about eating her dinner.

Kumiko tucked Rumi in later that night. She told her to get good sleep because the next day they would be leaving early to see her grandfather.

The house was eerily dark that night as black clouds had blocked out the moon. And nary a sound was heard within the smother of shadows.

Kumiko had fallen fast asleep with the aid of sleeping pills.

In far too deep a sleep, Kumiko was unable to see that Rumi was now standing at her bedside. Her daughter took the utmost of care to not wake her mother as she climbed onto the bed and on top of Kumiko.

"I love you the most," whispered Rumi. She then proceeded to wrap her hands around her mother's throat and squeeze the life out of her.

Kumiko awoke gasping desperately for breath. She sat up and immediately placed her hand on her throat. With a heart nearly pounding out of the chest, Kumiko began scanning the room but found nothing out of the ordinary.

Hideki had been woken by all of the noise and turned on a lamp. "What's wrong?" he asked.

Thinking what she had experienced was nothing more than a nightmare, Kumiko began calming down. "It was nothing," she said. "Just a bad dream."

Looking to her bedside, Kumiko found Rumi's Mr. Clown doll lying on the floor.

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