Wednesday, March 19th
Chiba, 3:00 am
Kaori was studying in a familiar place, at the dining room table. It was almost midnight when her father came in. He had been deep in a case the past couple months, buried in paperwork, chain smoking on the balcony on those rare occasions he was at home. Her mother had left a plate with food to be re-heated in the microwave––miso soup, oyakodon, pickled vegetables.
Looking through her with dark-ringed eyes, fending off attempts at conversation with mere words, her father resembled nothing so much as a furtive raccoon. She wanted to say something, break him out, but he was in too deep. As her father turned to the serious business of shoveling egg, chicken, and rice into his mouth with rapid chopstick movements, she turned back to the late-night variety show she had been watching with half an eye, sound turned down. The program featured an inane, noise-spouting host whose features blurred and distorted as she tried to focus.
Kaori sensed her father trying to communicate from the end of the table but when she turned toward him everything was blurry and she was fixed to the dining room chair. Struggling, she couldn’t turn at all, her world dominated by the TV screen. As she sat captive, the TV host’s cherubic face mutated into the world-weary features of her father, dead serious and mouthing words that she couldn’t make out, not seeming to hear her no matter how loudly she called his name.
As Kazuhiro continued to speak noiseless words, oblivious to the danger he was in, a cloaked figure crept directly behind him. There was a flash and a thin hand emerged from the shadows, grasping a long knife––piercing him over and over, the studio awash in blood. Kaori looked down at her papers and the math equations were gone, replaced by smears of fresh blood that were coming from somewhere inside her. The knife had entered her abdomen and it was all flowing out, her connection with her father and the outside world disappearing in a vortex of pain.
Kaori awoke with a start, clutching her stomach, blankets completely drenched. Focusing with difficulty on the illuminated alarm clock she realized that it was only 3:00 am. She held her pillow, not daring to move, taking refuge in a sliver of light coming from the street lamp outside. She thought back to that night, so long ago, when she had been oblivious, taking her father’s increasingly tired eyes and sporadic attempts at affection as just another part of her chaotic life––his death coinciding with her first menstruation. She wished now, as she had wished so many times since, that she had simply returned her father’s greeting at the dining room table––had said anything at all.