"You better get some rest..."
"What about you?"
"No can do... I've got a deadline!"
As Ryuji Takayama wrote the last word of his thesis, he sighed and glanced up at the clock. It was 8:49. One minute past his deadline.
Thank goodness, he thought to himself taking a deep breath. For a moment I wasn't sure…
Before he could find time to stretch his aching arms, the phone rang. Ryuji leaped a little, and for a second, he was reminded him of what Asakawa said about the phone ringing. Gingerly, he reached for the phone. A sudden warmth came over him as he took it up. After that his senses told him who it was instantly.
He held the receiver to his ear, and waited for an answer. In a way, he wanted to scare her, to tease her, like he always did.
"Ryuji?" the young woman said, unsure of herself, concerned. "Is that you?"
He took another pause. The same smile as last night was creeping across his face, "Of course it is, who else would it be?"
A soft sigh was heard being breathed down the phone and into Ryuji's ear. He had an image of her placing her hand on her chest while sighing and then switching the receiver to that hand. He could see every move she made. When there was a short pause he convinced himself it was her he saw, and not just his imagination.
"Oh, thank goodness!" Reiko Asakawa gasped in relief. "I was so worried! Your time is up and… I was worried that maybe--"
"Were you, now?"
"Of course I was!" she replied. "I-I mean, what I'm trying to say, is that I couldn't be too sure. I'm sorry. It was silly of me--"
Ryuji interrupted her: "No need to feel silly about it. I was worried too, for a moment."
Straight away she once again thanked him for all he did. As she spoke, Ryuji couldn't help but lose himself in her voice, and he gave into the warmth in his heart that he had forgotten had once been there, years before, when they were married still.
"I woke up today, and I had that feeling--"
"You and your feelings will be the death of you," he replied, mocking her as he had when she first told him about the videotape. He realised it was a bad choice of words. He instantly regretted it, "I'm sorry."
"Don't be" she replied gratefully. "I owe my life to you. The thought that you could still be in danger terrified me…"
Just then Ryuji heard the door behind him open and close.
A ringing voice shot into his ears, interrupting Asakawa's gentle voice. He found it hard to understand what Asakawa was saying from the talking of his assistant, Mai Takano. As she turned the corner into the flat, talking about the thesis that should be in by the end of the day Ryuji held up his hand to block her face.
She shut up straight away, finally noticing that her "boss" was on the phone. This wasn't only thing she noticed. He face was full of light; it was hopeful and relaxed. At first she thought it could be the fact that the thesis was done, (it was right there on the table in full), but no, it was something else…
She decided to ask, "Sensei!"
No reply, he just sat there listening to whoever the person on the other end was.
"Sensei!" she tried again. This time, the only movement from him was to move his hand to his ear to block her out. Mai went closer to the phone and called, "Sensei! Sensei! Sensei!"
Asakawa could hear the loud calls from Ryuji's end of the phone; her voice seemed to sound a little more saddened. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know that Takano was there."
He could tell she felt foolish, just as foolish as the other day when Mai had turned up while she was there. To be honest he had only brought her to his house that day to make her jealous, knowing Mai would turn up then too.
"Oh no!" Ryuji quickly explained. "She just got here."
"I see" she replied, still sounding down. Ryuji could tell that Asakawa felt odd around Mai, and he didn't blame her. It was almost unfair to keep them in the same room together. "Maybe I should go..." she said.
No, Ryuji thought. Not like this!
"No, no, no!" he said pleadingly. He glanced over at Mai. "I'll make her shut up."
Ryuji said that comically, a vain attempt to make her laugh. He felt the snigger go into his ears. He was satisfied with himself. He was suddenly in a very funny mood.
He placed the phone against his chest and spoke to Mai without even turning his head fully to her. "You want to be useful?"
"Yes!" Mai replied, trying to make herself heard to the person on the other end.
"Put the kettle on, my tea is cold!" he told her.
He turned back to the phone to talk, leaving Mai in a pout as she obeyed.
Ryuji held the receiver to his ears again; Asakawa was laughing, having hearing Ryuji last remark some how. He was now very pleased with himself. "There we go, I told you I could handle it. Now, did you get any sleep last night?"
"I caught a few hours this morning."
"You should get more sleep."
"Look who's talking," she replied, now completely cheered up. "You were up all night finishing that thesis of yours, weren't you?"
"That's true…" Ryuji nodded a little guiltily as if she could see him, "But! I plan to go to bed early tonight."
Behind him, Mai was trying to figure out what the conversation was about from what her teacher was saying. She was pretty sure about who it was he was talking to. Who else other than his ex-wife?
"Look," he went on. "I'll leave you to catch a few minutes before you go and get Yoichi."
"Yes" Asakawa said. "I can't wait to see him."
Ryuji's face went neutral again. "Yeah, I know you do."
That little boy would forever be the enigma of Ryuji's life. Maybe he should never have had a child. He had saw it very early on in Yoichi's life. From the age of four Yoichi would say he saw a girl walking around the flat. Ryuji had believed that if he went away, he would take the ghosts away with him.
He was the person he loved the most, and hated the most. He hated Yoichi for being like him, and would have given anything for him to have not taken after him so closely. Or his mother for that matter who had a touch of the sight herself. But then it wasn't his fault. It was Ryuji's genes.
Yoichi was still his son. His son. His living momento to the world. Had he just died from the curse of Sadako, all there would be was Yoichi. Reiko and Yoichi. And deep down Ryuji knew that a world without them living in it was not worth protecting. If they were dead, he might as well side with Sadako.
Asakawa seemed disappointed but her voice remained friendly, "Okay. I'll talk to you later."
Ryuji was about to put the phone down when he heard Asakawa calling out to him again. He quickly put the phone back to his ears to listen.
"Listen, Ryuji," she began, her voice sounded like it had last night; unsure and shy. "Don't be a stranger, okay."
His heart leapt for a moment. Could his returning really be important to her? Could it be that this week hadn't driven them away but brought them closer than they were before. Ryuji's desire to always be there for her had never gone away. It was like a natural force tied them together. No matter how hard they tired, they'd never get away from each other, even if she went to America, a part of him will always want to chase after her. He took a deep breath and found himself grinning like he had last night,
"Don't worry, I'll be around. Call me if you ever need me."
And with a peaceful goodbye Reiko Asakawa's voice disappeared from Ryuji's ears. She was gone.
Ryuji turned around.
He found a cup of tea getting pushed into his face with Mai making what could only be thought of as a fake smile. He fake smiled her back and took the mug away from her. Mai just stood there, watching him drinking. After a while, Ryuji got a little bit annoyed and decided to get sense out of her.
"Who's bed did you wake up on this morning?" Ryuji teased a little.
Mai blushed and folded her arms in a huff. She scowled a little at him and regarded him as if she were a child being told off by her father. "Who was that on the phone?" she asked, trying to sound as normal as possible.
"It's none of your business, Takano" he replied turning back to his desk and gathering up the papers for his thesis. "Is that all?"
"No. Why have you been skipping classes this week. It's so unlike you," she snapped. "I've had to find covers for all your classes. You weren't out on business, I checked with the Dean!"
Ryuji gave her an egoistic look and said, "Have you been trying to track me down?"
Mai said nothing.
He shook his head and picked up his thesis, playing with it all in his hands. He gave a sigh and regarded her with honesty, "Takano, I'm sorry, but nothing has changed between us. You have no right to try and track me down when I'm doing something personal. I told the Dean I was out on family matters, and that's all there is to know."
Mai shook her head guiltily and held out her hands for the thesis. Ryuji handed it too her. He smiled, "Good."
Mai looked up as Ryuji grabbed his tea again and started drinking it. After the last large gulp he started to speak so quickly that she almost lost herself: "I need that thesis get in by lunch time or they'll flame me again. I also need you to deliver this work program to your class today. I can't come in today I have a few things to sort out--"
"With your family?" she asked.
Ryuji nodded, "As a matter of fact I'm thinking of seeing my son."
"Oh" she said awkwardly. "That's nice."
He nodded, "I think so."
After a long pause Mai made for the door. Ryuji sat silent for a second, and as he glanced at the chalkboard behind him he yelled out again. "Takano!"
She spun around quickly. He looked at her with an accusing look. "Did you screw about with my board again?"