“I’ll wait for you, for as long as I have to.”
Based on the Joker Game anime.
It’s so cold.
…where are you going? Don’t leave. You promised you’d stay. Don’t leave us alone. Just like the others. Come back! You can’t do this! Wait!
“I said wait!!” the young lady screamed, eyes wide open in fear. Sweat pooled around her forehead as she glanced at her surroundings, trying to get her senses back. Hands clenched around the satin sheets of her bed. Shuddering, she slowly released her vice-grip on the sheets. She wiped the sweat away from her brows and took a deep breath, trying to calm herself down.
The nightmares were a frequent occurrence – something that she didn’t appreciate having. She grimaced as unpleasant memories began to surface yet again. It had been this way ever since the war ended four years ago. Since Japan lost the war. Everyone lost someone dear that day. Families lost sons, wives lost their husbands, siblings lost their brothers.
I lost my comrades…
“Mama?” a young voice shook her from her thoughts.
Rika turned around in the direction of the door to see a young girl peeking around the doorway. The girl seemed to be around twelve years old and wore a dark grey nightdress. Light brown hair framed her face, slightly messy from sleep. Blue eyes blinked sleepily as she stifled a yawn with the back of her hand.
“Did I wake you up, Emma?” Rika asked, holding her arms wide towards the girl to offer a hug.
Shaking her head, Emma shuffled her way across the room and leaned into the embrace. Rika comfortingly patted the girl’s head, noting the wet corners of her eyes – a sign that she had been crying.
“I had a nightmare…” came the muffled voice.
A look of understanding crossed Rika’s face. Pushing Emma away slightly, she planted a gentle kiss on the girl’s temple.
“Do you want to tell me about it?” Rika prompted gently, brushing her hair out of her face.
“It’s the same dream as always,” Emma whimpered. “Papa left me. Everyone left me. I was all alone in the dark. No matter how much I cried, they wouldn’t come back.”
“I have the same dreams too. You’re not alone, honey,” Rika reassured. “I’m still here aren’t I?”
Emma nodded vigorously. “Mama will always stay with me right?”
Rika pinched the girl’s cheeks, eliciting a shriek from her. Seeing an opening, she lunged forward and tickled her sides. Emma’s chest heaved heavily as she pleaded for mercy. Rika laughed, never once stopping her attacks.
This is how Emma should be. Always smiling and laughing. Not depressed. Especially not for someone as young as her.
“Alright! That’s enough playing around,” Rika declared, casting a quick glance at the clock. “Go and wash up. You’re supposed to be hanging out with Hinako today, right? I remember Kanagawa-san saying how she wanted you over for breakfast.”
Emma’s eyes brightened as she leapt off the bed and sped out of the room. Rika chuckled at that sight. She knew just how much Emma loved playing with Hinako. With all that’s happened so far, Rika wasn’t that cruel to deny Emma happiness in her life. That’s the least she could do after the amount of pain Emma’s been through.
“I can’t thank you enough for letting Emma spend the day here today, Kanagawa-san,” Rika said to the middle aged woman in front of her.
“Goodness, no! Thank you for allowing Emma to come here,” Mrs Kanagawa giggled. “Hinako-chan was so looking forward to today! And not a lot of parents are willing to leave their child with another person for a whole day. Especially not a single mother.”
Rika’s mouth twitched slightly at the not-so-subtle insult. Mrs Kanagawa was a reputed bully of some sort. She never refrained from spouting cruel truths at anyone. Not a care about how that person felt, as long as she had fun out of it. But no matter how uncouth Mrs Kanagawa was, Rika didn’t want a strained relationship between the two of them. Especially when Emma’s happiness came into the picture.
But of course, two can play the same game. Especially after witnessing a certain Mrs Kanagawa having a romantic dinner date with another man just recently. Keeping her irritation under control, Rika turned to Emma who was cluelessly looking on at the exchange between the two adults.
“Alright, take care of yourself okay?” Rika told her. “I’ll pick you up around the evening, so have fun until then. Oh, tell me everything that happens when you come back. No matter how meaningless they may seem.”
Turning to Mrs Kanagawa, she gave her an innocent smile. A too-innocent smile. “I expect Emma to be under good care. After all, I don’t want some ridiculous rumour to fly around the neighbourhood,” Rika informed her, reeling in the way Mrs Kanagawa flinched at her silent threat.
Rika bid Emma farewell and headed down the path to the street. The neighbours around the area knew her as Chigawa Rika, the single mother who was forced to raise her daughter alone after her husband ran away with another woman. Or so they thought. Not that Rika cared in the slightest. It was a cover story that had build itself based on rumours circulating around the neighbourhood a few months after Rika moved in with Emma. She had only introduced themselves as Chigawa Rika and Chigawa Emma, recently moved into a new house for a fresh start. That’s all.
Rika sighed in frustration. She knew how the rumour started after all. The neighbours were not blind to not notice the man who had frequented their house ever since they moved, and suddenly disappeared a year ago. The man who Emma had always been looking forward to seeing. The man she called uncle – and almost referred to as her “Papa”. The man who had silently supported the two of them and unwillingly left them a year ago.
Sakuma had been the pillar of strength for both Emma and Rika. Figuring out what to do with the remains of D-Agency, financially providing for the two of them – he even suggested the two to move to another town. He used his training at D-Agency to craft new identities for them – of mother and daughter.
Everything seemed to go perfectly well for the three of them. Despite living in his own apartment four hours away, Sakuma frequently visited them – sometimes for fun, sometimes to check on them. Rika had even considered asking Sakuma to live permanently with them, seeing how happy Emma was with him around. That was, until the car accident occurred. An unfortunate accident which took Sakuma away from the two of them. Leaving Rika to fend for herself and Emma.
Well, that also started the rumour of my husband running away with another woman.
Shaking her head, Rika decided that she had to do something to keep her thoughts from straying.
“Time to take a walk around town!”