A young family is ripped apart by selfishness and a bright child has her youth stolen
| Her eyes glistened with the desire to begin a long journey called life. Radiating an overwhelming sense of happiness, the infant baby girl began to smile at the two people who she now knew as her parents.
“She’s beautiful”, the nurse exclaimed. “Her eyes match your perfectly Mrs. Hinagiku.”
The nurse hands over the bundle of happiness over to her parents. Mrs. Hinagiku took ahold of her daughter, and looked her in her shining pink eyes. She could not help but think that her eyes were like pink glass, elegant and beautiful. The mother who had just finished the miracle of childbirth just moments prior was now bonding with the girl, holding her tightly as she played with her mother's hair. The father and husband to Mrs. Hinagiku had been silent the whole time, watching a sentimental moment unfold which he had never thought he would ever experience. He decided to break the silence, asking the question in which everyone awaits to hear the significant answer.
“She’s a playful little thing, isn’t she?”
“Yes, she is, it is amazing though. Our little girl is finally with us,” Mrs. Hinagiku responds.
“We made a deal. So, what does the mother want her daughter to be named?”
The nurse had been intentionally keeping quiet to let the new parents enjoy this touching moment with no interruption, but her excitement was beginning to be hard to contain as she was rummaging through papers trying to keep distracted. Mrs. Hinagiku looked into the hopeful eyes of the baby and began pondering. After a brief moment, she turned to her husband and stared at him with the same color eyes that her baby girl now has. He immediately knew that she came up with the perfect name.
“Cho,” the silence is broken. “Cho Hinagiku.”
“That is a wonderful name. How did you come up with it?” the nurse asks.
“Because she will flutter through her life freely with grace, like a beautiful butterfly.”
As she spoke, the father could not help but listen to his wife continue on about plans for the baby girl and the ambition she has to raise her properly. He could not help but force a smile, on the surface pure and lighthearted but in reality, crooked like his true desires. This was the happiest day of her life, but for him it is day of reckoning. The end of his high roller lifestyle. The beginning of fatherhood and having to equip himself with the mindset of a responsible parent. For now, Mrs. Hinagiku could rest, proud of the child she birthed.
Cho had been born into the world smiling, and from that moment she began living her life in the care of her parents. A life filled with happiness, unrivaled by any other child. Her parents would take her home to a small house located in Yamaguchi Prefecture. After a while of diaper changing and sleepless nights, the Hinagiku’s began getting used to what it meant to be a parent. Together the two had begun to form aspirations for their daughter. They planned towards her future, even setting aside scraps of money in a glass jar which sat near empty sake bottles. Mr. Hinagiku had made the choice to become sober, and those empty bottles served as a reminder of the life he chose to live. The two took shifts watching Cho, the mother watched her during the day and the father at night. Eventually the stress would set in on this newfound lifestyle of parenting. The father had begun to reminisce on his younger days full of fast paced excitement. The gambling drunk womanizer who never thought he would be tied down by anyone. Now not only does he have a wife, but now a daughter as well.
As time went on, Mr. Hinagiku grew more melancholy with the dissatisfaction of what he began to perceive as a mundane life. The fights with his wife grew more frequent as she began to realize he was no longer the man she married. She could tell he wished he could go back to his old life, leaving her and their daughter behind. He began coming home late after work, now hardly spending anytime with his wife or daughter. It became obvious that Mr. Hinagiku fell back into his old habits. He began gambling once again, and it grew and grew until suddenly he could no longer pay the bills. Mrs. Hinagiku kept her silence, knowing if she said anything it would lead to more arguments, which she could tell had begun to affect Cho. She was happy as she could be, but her mood would change when the two were together. Then the day came that she would never forget, she caught her husband taking money from the glass jar meant for Cho. A range of emotions flared up at once, and the anger and disappointment from the last few years came out. She had broken down completely.
“Why? Why would you go back to gambling? I helped you through it, you made a commitment. Was it all for nothing? Are we not that important to you?” The tears began rolling down her cheek.
“No, it isn't that. A man needs something to be able to unwind. I have a wife who does not work and a child who needs taking care of,” his voice reached Cho, who had been hiding in their closet spying on a sight that no child deserves to witness. “It is the only thing to keep me sane. If I don’t gamble or anything, I will bring all of those demons home with me. So, it’s either I gamble or I become even more unbearable to deal with. The last thing I want is to bring home anything that could affect Cho,” he continued on.
The fight ended shortly after that. The father began working more and more to get the money to pay off his debts, and mother went along with it all wondering if there was ever a way to return to happier times. Although only five years old at the time, Cho could sense her parents becoming more distant. The household became a place of distress for everyone. Once a haven for Cho to play and spend time with her parents as a family, now she was afraid to even be with them in the same room as this meant more arguments would take place. The girl who was born into the world smiling had been finding it rather difficult to do so now. She hardly saw her father due to working long shifts, and so her only option was her mother who spent her days in a somber state. Mrs. Hinagiku spent plenty of time with Cho but it felt forced; not genuine like it used to be.
One day Cho was playing with her toys in a corner. She had wanted to go outside but it was raining, so she was forced to stay indoors. There was a knock on the door and her mother answered it; which made Cho peak around the corner to see her mother talking with men she had never seen before. She found that it was odd, as the men were in full black suits, and looked as intimidating as they did smooth. Cho could tell her mom was pleading the men regarding something, but it did not work as the men suddenly forced their way into the entry hall. Mrs. Hinagiku was knocked down to side, and she watched as they stood in front of her daughter.
“Your husband missed the deadline. He couldn’t pay up so we will take our collateral,” one of the suited men said while eyeing Cho.
Mrs. Hinagiku sprung up from her state and began pleading. “No, you can’t take her. She’s all I have in this life!” She looked her daughter in her bright pink eyes. “Please take me instead,” she continued.
“That wouldn’t fly with the boss. He wouldn’t get any use out of you. But the girl, she has the potential he has been waiting to get his hands on,” the other suited man spoke.
Mrs. Hinagiku grab at the suited men’s legs. “Please don’t take her! I beg you!”
Cho was left sitting, not understanding what was going on before her eyes but she felt like she needed to run, but it was no use as one of the men grabbed her arm and held her tight.
“Blame that loser of husband. He got so lost in himself that he bet his own daughters' life during a gamble. I’m not an upstanding guy myself, but it takes a special kind of wrong to do such a thing,” the man holding Cho spoke.
With that final statement the man picked Cho up into his arms, carrying outside the door and away from the place she knew as home. Cho kicked and flailed, but she was not going to get loose. Her mother looked as tears rolled down her daughter's innocent face, and she knew the despair that quickly replaced the joy that was felt prior. Mrs. Hinagiku ran out into the rain in a last effort to stop them, but they quickly shook off her advances. Before she knew it the disappeared into the misty rain, completely obscuring her view of the last bit of happiness that was left in her downcast life. She returned into her house and sat in the corner, where Cho had been playing. Mrs. Hinagiku spotted a gift she had given to Cho; a butterfly shaped pin.
As she sat in the corner, the emotions flowed and she began to weep uncontrollably. The pin had triggered feelings hidden deep within her. By now she was surprised she still had tears to spare, as she had cried at least once a day for the last few months. The tears dropping onto the tile floor were the only sounds that could be heard in the silent house. The pain of her child being taken away pierced her fragile heart. The panic of an undetermined future now set in. She prepared to just be a faithful husband and a great mother, now what would she do? Soon she thought about her husband, and how could he possibly gamble away his daughter's life. Wanting the pain to subside, Mrs. Hinagiku would go to bathroom. She stared into the mirror, ashamed at the woman she had become. She searched for something to make it all go away, and found a pill bottle, full of little ways to make the pain stop. After popping off the cap, she emptied the bottle into her mouth. The tears shortly stopped, and everything quickly began to fade and become dark. She began to feel light once again, the weight of those negative emotions removed. The pain began to disappear, taking the anxiety with it. Mrs. Hinagiku felt at peace for the first time in what seemed an eternity.
He had already known what taken place. His daughter was taken, and his wife alone. Mr. Hinagiku received a phone call while as his job from the owner of the casino. The boss told him it was time to collect his debt.
“You know why I have contacted you.” The voice came through the phone.
“It's time, isn’t it?” Mr. Hinagiku’s shakenly replied.
“I have already sent my men to claim what is now rightfully mine,” the sincere voice answered.
The was a pause, he needed a moment to gain some resolve. “Please don’t do this to my wife, she won’t be able to handle it. She has no idea what I have done.” he pleaded.
“When I asked you what was important, it never dawned on me that any lowlife such as yourself would hold their child so close to their heart”. He sighed, and continued. “Wait a minute that is just it. You never wanted to be a father. You did not want such a lifestyle. Being free to do what you wanted, rather it be gambling away your money like a fool or sleeping around until you felt obligated to settle down with a girl after knocking her up. That is exactly what you wanted. It did not matter what you did, so long as there were no constraints. You had been searching for a way to get out of all it, and I was that way,” the bosses words carried the crushing weight of reality.
It began to dawn on Mr. Hinagiku as he realized how despicable of a person he truly was. "You've got it all wrong. I signed away Cho’s life because you strong armed me. You knew I had an addiction and you played on that. I had nothing else to offer except her, and you took advantage of that. I worked my job to pay off those debts, day in and out. The stress, the arguments, the anger. They all served as fuel to fix my families situation. A situation brought on by myself, a selfish idiot. I love my daughter and wife, and just wanted better for the both of them,” Mr. Hinagiku fired back.
“You insult my intelligence with the words you just said to me. I do not like when my intelligence is insulted, it angers me. If you truly loved them, you would never have gotten them into such a situation to begin with. As we speak my men are carrying your daughter away to her new life with me. A life which will fulfill a purpose. No longer wasted on worthless trash like yourself,” the boss ended the call abruptly.
Mr. Hinagiku arrived home, finding the door still swung open. The rain outside had been tracked inside, and footprints of dirt stained the tiles in the entrance. He called out to his wife, his voice echoing throughout the house. He searched around the first floor but could not find her. The pot on the stove had burned through, after being left for some time. After making his way upstairs he would check their room, Cho’s room, and finally the bathroom where he would encounter her body. She was cold and limp, laying on the floor next to the tub. Her face was drained of life, and he saw the pill bottle sitting next to her hand. He called to her, but she did not respond. He shook her, but her eyes did not open. He tried to breathe life into her, but she did not revive. The realization hit him that she was gone, and he blamed himself. His selfish actions led her towards this. The love she once had for him was gone, but she at least had their daughter. He robbed his wife of her happiness and he could not stand the thought of that. Cho had been taken away because of a deal done by his own hands. Two innocent lives had been cut short.
The next day he did not wake up to his favorite breakfast dish; white rice with Natto and Shokupan topped with warm jam. There was no sound of his wife humming elegantly as she cooked. Cho could not be heard entertaining herself with toys. For five years he carried on the façade of a loving husband and father. Yet now he wishes he could hold his wife tight, or play with his daughter. There was nothing left in the house except a man laminating on the irony. He was now free to do whatever he wanted like his younger days. So, he made the choice to confront the boss of the casino. As if knowing he would come, the boss was waiting outside, dressed sharply in a white pinstripe suit. Mr. Hinagiku immediately noticed a small figure standing behind the boss.
“Cho!” he called to her. She did not answer, instead gave him a look of confusion.
Cho looked up at the boss. “Daddy, who is this strange man? Why does he know my name?”
That hurt him deeply at the sound of hearing his own blood refer to another man as “Daddy”. He hadn’t acted like it much but he still loved her more than anything.
“It is me, you father. I am sorry for everything I have put you through and I will never leave you again” Mr. Hinagiku told his daughter.
“Mister I don’t know what you are saying. My daddy is right here.” Cho pointed up at the boss.
“Do not believe anything he has told you, I have come to take you home, a place with your father who loves you.” he told her.
“It is alright Cho. If you want to go with this man, you are free to do so.” The boss breaks his silence.
“No! I want to stay with daddy!” Cho shouted.
The boss chuckled. “Cho my darling, go run and play. Daddy will deal with this.” She nodded and skipped away with the same skip Mr. Hinagiku had seen time and time again.
“Cho believes I am her father now. I have been better to her in 24 hours than you have in five years.”
“You bastard, what did you do to her?” Mr. Hinagiku’s temper flared up.
“Only something to get her prepared for her destiny. Now I would advise you to leave, unless you are wanting to reunite with your wife sooner than later.” the boss coldly stated.
Upon hearing that his wife’s face flashed into his mind. He had been worried about Cho so much that he hadn’t even grieved properly. “H-how do you know about my wife?” he managed to force out.
“A bug like you does not deserve to know. It is a shame really; I probably could have gotten some use out of her as well. That is unfortunately what happens when you marry a fool.” the boss said with no remorse.
“You son of a bitch!” Mr. Hinagiku shouted as he threw punch. The boss caught the fist in his left hand, and Mr. Hinagiku could tell something was not right. He suddenly could not feel anything. He noticed the boss's eyes turned a ghastly white, as if he was staring into nothingness. There was an attempt to break free, but it was to no avail. Mr. Hinagiku’s vision was clouded by a purple haze that served to constrict him even further.
“So, it seems there was bravado within this sorry excuse of a man.” Mr. Hinagiku could hear these words but was unable to reply. His strength faded entirely and the struggling ceased.
“There is a way you can be of use to me as well” the boss continued. He snapped, and a few of the suited men arrived to carry Mr. Hinagiku into the casino.
“Your meaningless life will begin anew, full of the ambition to serve I, Tatsuo Edogawa, the man who shall become a god.”
Cho followed them inside the casino humming a song, which struck Mr. Hinagiku with its familiarity. He knew the song as the sweet melody his wife hummed every morning.