Chapter Six: The Brave Front:
-December 27th, 1977-
Kato sat in his living room looking at Midori's old hand-made Christmas cards. Each one had cute little kitty cats with Santa hats on the cover. She drew little pigs with party hats for his birthday. Midori never did learn how to draw anything else. Still, those cats and pigs became Kato's joy year after year. Looking at those cards now made his heart hurt around this time. The old manâ€™s thoughts were interrupted by footsteps. He looked up and saw Kyoko walking in from the kitchen with a tray of tea.
"You looked like you needed it," she said. He waved the tray over to the table without a single word. His friend set it down likewise as the old man moved his cards.
"Cute cards," Kyoko spoke up.
"Yeah," Kato mumbled. The woman poured him some tea.
"Riku made me a Christmas card this year," she said. â€œItâ€™s still on my refrigerator.â€
"Ah," her friend said. Kyoko poured herself some tea.
"Funny," she said. "Eleven months and I don't know you." Kato glanced at her.
"What is that supposed to mean?" he asked. His friend shrugged as she shook her head.
"You haven't told me about your home or family." Kyoko pressed her lips together as she picked up her cup. Still not the right time, I guess, she thought.
"Midori," Kato answered. Kyoko glanced up at him.
"Hm?" she asked.
"My daughter's name was Midori," the former priest said. Kyoko tilted her head at him.
"What was she like?" his friend asked. Kato lowered the four Christmas cards in front of him.
"You have to promise me," he said.
"Promise you what?" Kyoko asked. Kato looked up at her with desperate eyes as he leaned in across the table.
"Stay by me no matter what," he pleaded. "Promise me that!" Kyoko gave him a sharp nod.
"Okay," she said.
-September 2nd, 2009-
Kyoko sat on the stuffy grey couch in Kato's abandoned living room. Everything was still in place; like it was waiting for him to come home. She shook her head. No, the old woman thought. He's never coming home. A knock came on the door, causing to Kyoko look up.
"Who is it?" she asked.
"The landlady," a voice shouted outside. "I need to talk to the owner of this apartment!"
"Coming," Kyoko said. She got up and walked to the door. The old woman opened it a crack.
"Yes?" she asked.
"Is Kato-san in?" the landlady asked in puzzled tone.
"No, he isn't," Kyoko answered, shaking her head. The landlady couldnâ€™t understand what was going on at first.
"Okay," she said. "When can I see him?" Kyoto bit her lower lip.
"May I ask why?" she asked.
"I need to speak with to him," the landlady repeated. â€œThis is rather important.
"I can give him a message," Kyoko said quickly in an attempt to end this conversation.
"When can I see him?" the other old lady asked. Kyoko dropped her shoulders and sighed.
"Okay, look,â€ she said at last. â€œKato-san has been taking care of a sick friend in the countryside these past few months. I'm just managing his apartment while he's out." She bit her lower lip, waiting for a response.
"Why didn't you tell me sooner?" the landlady asked.
"Well, he said that you would understand," the other woman answered sheepishly as she shuffled her feet. Come on, say something, damn it! Anything! The landlady thought about her options.
"You said you would take a message, right?" she asked.
"Yeah," Kyoko said in a small voice.
"Tell him that utilities and rent are due this month and there will be an inspector coming by the apartment in two weeks,â€ the landlady said. â€œOh, and we're having a tea party in the lobby this week."
"Anything else?" Kyoko asked, nodding. The landlady dug in her brain for anything else to tell Kato. When nothing came to her, she shook her head.
"No," the landlady said.
"Okay," the other old lady said. "See ya."
"Bye," the landlady said before she turned and left. Once she could no longer hear footsteps, Kyoko breathed out in relief. This game kept getting harder to play. Kato lived as a recluse in the apartment. The landlady tried to invite him out to the apartment's social gatherings, but Kato had always refused. He hadn't contacted the old village in a long time. The only time Kato left his apartment was to pay the bills and shop for groceries. Kyoko did such a good job maintaining the apartment that no one noticed that something was off.
The old woman sighed. People in the apartment started to ask questions. Kyoko could only use the same answers so many times. Pretty soon, more questions would follow. Soon, she would have to face Anna for the first time in years. Kyoko shook her head.
No, I can't tell her yet, she thought. He doesn't want me to. I have to keep up this longer. After she stops her family for good, I'll tell her the truth, Kyoko thought. She looked around at Kato's living room and sighed. Luckily for her, Kato made it a little easier to play, but not by much. Five months and Anna didn't know the truth.