It was a beautiful Saturday morning, as a car sped along down the road. Inside a man, Makihiko, was desperately trying to reach the hospital, the agonizing cries of his wife Haru rang through the car.
“Daddy?” The little girl in the back asked fearfully. “How much longer? Mommy’s hurting my hand.” Makihiko looked back to see his five year old daughter huddled against his wife in the backseat, their hands intertwined, both colored with pressure.
“Not much longer, Kioko” Makihiko promised. “We’re almost there.”
“It’s a girl!” The doctors cried excitedly. Haru slumped back against the sweat drenched sheets, exhausted from the five hours of labor she had just endured.
“Let me see her,” she panted. She looked up at her husband who was holding a small pink bundle in his arms. Ever so gently he handed the baby to his wife, kissing her forehead as he stepped aside to let mother bond with child. “She’s beautiful,” Haru cooed.
“What’s her name?” A nurse standing nearby asked. Haru looked up at her husband, and back down to her beautiful baby. “Emiko.”
Nobody noticed the little girl huddled in the corner.
“What do you mean ‘there’s no cure’?” Makihiko shouted at the doctor angrily. Haru was holding her baby close, tears dripping down her cheeks.
“I’m sorry sir,” said the doctor. “You’ll be lucky if she survives her first birthday.”
“She’s only 2 months old!” Haru wailed.
Four years later
“Kioko! Emiko! It’s time for dinner!” Haru shouted out of the kitchen window. She felt two arms wrap around her waist as her husband kissed her cheek.
“Smells great honey,” he said as he reached over and stuck a finger into the bowl of sauce.
“Oh no you don’t!” Haru laughed as she wacked her husband’s hand with a spoon. He jumped back and ran into the dining room licking his finger clean. “Maki!” She shouted in pretend anger. She could hear her husband’s laughter and couldn’t help but smile.
“Mommy?” A small voice whispered. She turned to see Kioko standing in the doorway, looking confused and sad.
“Kioko, I told you and your sister to come inside for dinner.” Haru scolded. “Where is she?”
“There’s something wrong with Emiko,” Kioko said, her voice quivering. Haru’s eyes widened and she hurried out of the house, into the backyard where her children had been playing. A small girl lay motionless and pale on the ground.
“Makihiko!” Haru screamed, tears already threatening to spill. She knelt down next to her daughter and held her close to her chest. She vaguely heard her husband shouting and Kioko crying, but all she could concentrate on was her heartbeat, and her daughter’s lack of one.
“Kioko!” Haru shouted. She heard her eleven year old daughter running through the house, looking for her.
“Y-Yes, mother?” Kioko whispered fearfully.
“What did I tell you about this room?” Her mother said through clenched teeth.
“You told me to clean it,” Kioko answered quietly.
“Then why isn’t it clean!” Haru shouted angrily.
“I-I,” Haru whirled around and slapped her daughter across the face, interrupting whatever answer she was about to give.
“I don’t want your excuses! I’m sick and tired of always having to tell you a thousand times to do something! You’re useless, worthless, a disgrace! It should’ve been you who died, not our precious Emiko! You could never replace her!” Haru’s blows continued to rain upon Kioko’s frail body, leaving her huddled on the floor. Even then, she wouldn’t stop. She continued to kick at Kioko, until a deep pain shot into her chest. She grunted and fell to the floor, convulsing. “K-K-” she tried calling out to her daughter, for help, for anything, but her movements ceased, her breathing stopped.
When Makihiko came home later that night, he found his wife’s body on the floor, and Kioko huddled in the corner, bleeding and whispering “I’m sorry.”
“Kioko!” Makihiko’s slurred voice called through the house. Kioko winced as she pictured her drunken father, stumbling in from another night at the bar.
“H-Hai!” She answered, wishing he was too drunk to hear.
“Come ‘ere” he called out. She took a deep breath and exited her room, walking into the dining room where her father sat at the table. He stood when she entered, and held his hand out to her. She squeezed her eyes shut, swallowing the bile in her throat, her entire body shaking at what was about to come. She extended her arm until her hand fell limply in his.
“Whore.” Her father sneered and slapped her across the face when he was finished. Kioko’s body was sore, her clothes torn, her eyes wet from unshed tears. Her father got up and left the room, taking a bottle of sake with him.
Kioko pulled herself up off the floor and attempted to stand up. The aching in her body barely let her crawl into the bathroom. She turned the water on hot and sat in the shower, nursing the wounds covering her body, crying silently. She was thirteen years old.