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Elsa looked as though she was comatose, staring off into nothing, lying alone in her bed with one hand clinched to her pajama top pressed against her breasts, the other fisting her bloody bottoms between her legs.
A knock came from her bedroom door, followed by Meg’s morning greeting as she opened the curtains, the bright light filling the room almost too much for Elsa to bear.
‘Good morning, Elsa, it’s time to get up. We have a lot of things to do today. I’ll be taking the girls out to run a few errands. While we’re gone, Rumiko, one of our senior associates here, will go over your new assignment with you.’
Meg turned around to find Elsa standing before her, disheveled.
‘Elsa, you look awful! Are you not feeling well?’
Elsa rushed into Meg’s arms and broke down.
‘He raped me,’ she said through her heavy sobs.
Meg moved Elsa off her shoulder to look into her eyes. ‘What?!’
‘Last night… Mr. Fujimoto raped me.’
WHAM! All of a sudden Meg slapped her across the face. ‘Don’t you ever say that again! Look what you have here. Look what your family now has. This is your life now. Loyalty and dedication. This is your role in the Fujimoto family. Do what is expected of you, and do not ever question again!’
Meg then did the one-eighty in attitude she was so good at, boarding psychotic as she pleasantly stated, ‘Breakfast will be in five minutes,’ then turned to leave the room.
Elsa could do nothing but stand there, speechless.
The estate was huge, like a small private town, Elsa seated in the back seat of a van beside Rumiko as she was given the grand tour. She didn’t seem like the same confident young lady that up until last night she had been,, now nothing but silent and obedient. A lost soul.
‘You have never been beyond the mansion?’ Rumiko asked.
Elsa shook her head no.
‘Ah, there’s so much to see. A park. A school for the children. Even a theater. And many living quarters.’
The van pulled up to some kind of center.
Inside, the same half dozen pregnant women Elsa had encountered the previous day in the garden were all there, including Maria. All being instructed with life-like baby dolls. Rumiko and Elsa watched from a distance as Rumiko continued the orientation.
‘This is where we instruct all our soon-to-be mothers on parenthood. When you come here you will take part in all sorts of classes. From prenatal yoga to prenatal water aerobics. And learning everything from how to properly hold an infant to knowing when it’s feeding time.’
Elsa watched in sickened amazement as the pregnant women practiced burping techniques on their dolls.
‘Dr. Takamatsu oversees all prenatal care. You have seen him, correct?’
Elsa nodded. Here and Maria’s eyes made contact.
Rumiko now toured Elsa around the outskirts of a large school, the two coming upon a gated playground where young children were painting on easel- propped canvases, supervised by a few adults.
‘The school is divided into three sections. Pre-school, elementary and high school. Our philosophy is education starts in the womb. And this is why we hold a variety of classes in the maternity center. By the time the children reach this age they are accustomed to learning.’
Inside, Rumiko and Elsa watched from a window as a teacher instructed her small group of students. ‘The students are no more than nine to a class. This ensures individual attention by our highly accredited instructors.’
They continued on down the hall, passing a row of individual soundproof rooms where children practiced their music lessons in solitude.
‘By high school the children are well-versed in at least one musical instrument, along with fluency in the languages of Japanese, English and the language of the country their mother originates from.’
Rumiko and Elsa watched from the sidelines of an open field as both male and female teenagers participated in a variety of physical education.
Soccer. Archery. Baseball. Track and field.
A male teenager smiled as he jogged past the two.
‘What about interaction with other people? Do they ever leave the estate?’ Elsa asked.
‘Oh, yes. They have supervised outings once a week. And they visit a new country every summer. They’re all quite worldly.’
‘They’re all brothers and sisters…’ Elsa whispered to herself more than to Rumiko.
‘Of course,’ Rumiko replied.
Elsa sat in her room trying to write a letter as she held back the tears.
I’m so lonely, Tatay. Your little girl needs you now more than ever.
She tore up the letter and started to cry.
A light knock came from the bedroom door. Vicki peered in and slowly entered, followed by Josephine and Rhani.
‘Elsa, are you ok?’ Vicki asked with a softness to her voice.
The three gathered around her, all placing a comforting hand atop her shoulder.
She looked up at Vicki.
‘You knew, didn’t you?!’
Then to the other two.
‘You all knew!’
Seeing the tears in Elsa’s eyes made Vicki’s well up too.
‘We were going to talk to you last night, but-’
Elsa pushed Vicki’s hand off her shoulder, Rhani and Josephine lifting theirs in shame.
‘Last night I was raped!’
They all started to cry.
‘How can you all be ok with what’s going on around here?’ Elsa said while once again finding it hard to breathe between sobs. ‘He finds young educated women who come from poverty and turns them into child-bearing slaves! All so that he can train those children into becoming perfect employees for his corporation. Children that come from his victims of rape!’
‘It’s hard at the beginning,’ Vicki said. ‘We’ve all experienced what you’re feeling. But it’s about self-sacrifice. Think back on all those years when your family had nothing. Look what you’re now able to give them.’
‘Yeah,’ Elsa shot back. ‘Look at me! Look at what you’re going to be able to give Coco!’
Elsa got up, wiped her tears and left the room.
Elsa sat at her favorite spot in the garden, watching the water flow from one part of the fountain to another. Over rocks, around small statues, the water allowed nothing to obstruct it from the course it was on. And as it carried the petal of a cherry blossom under a miniature bridge she couldn’t help but smile at the thought of her father, the prophetic words he had spoken echoing in her head.
At times the weight of the world is going to seem overwhelming…
No matter what adversity may come your way, your determination can withstand any pressure the world may come down upon you with.
This self-reflection helped bring about the realization of the self-sacrifice Vicki had spoken of. She looked at the fountain again in its entirety. The actual stone structure, the water, the items which adorned the fountain.
Shikin haramitsu daikomyo
But clouds abruptly darkened the enlightening moment, for this façade she had been so violently awoken from meant everyone was a part of it, including Ken. And to think-
‘Hey there, how have you been?’
She didn’t need to turn around to know it was him, a new kind of ache now engulfing her heart.
‘Yeah, thanks for asking,’ he joked. ‘My vacation was pretty nice.’
Elsa shot her head around to face him, her teary eyes locked onto his, half filled with pain, half with anger.
‘You knew too, didn’t you?! You know what he’s doing, and you act like nothing’s wrong. I trusted you. My family trusted you.’
‘He didn’t-’ Ken couldn’t say it. Couldn’t bear the thought of it. Indeed it was too late. Tears came to his eyes as well. ‘I-’
‘Please, just leave me alone.’
He wanted to grab her and hold her tight. To kiss away her tears and tell her Fujimoto did not matter. That nothing mattered but what they could have together.
That he would spend his whole life making it up to her. But he didn’t know how to say such a thing. All he could do was obey her simple request of him to leave her alone, even if it was anything but simple to turn his back and walk away from what could have been.
Elsa laid in bed awake staring out at the moon while it covered her in its light. It had witnessed her loss of innocence, but then again, she thought to herself, that’s all it is and will ever be. Nothing but a witness to all that happens below it. Nothing more, nothing less.
The doorknob to her bedroom door quietly turned and she listened as someone entered, cautiously shut the door behind them and walked across the room to her, all the while Elsa keeping her gaze fixed on the witnessing moon.
‘Elsa, it’s me, Vicki,’ came a whisper. ‘Are you awake?’
She turned over and sat up. ‘Yeah, I’m awake.’
Vicki sat on the edge of her bed. ‘You were right. I’m sorry.’ She started to cry. ‘I don’t want my sister to have to go through it.’
Elsa placed her hand on Vicki’s lap. ‘No, what you said was true. It is about self-sacrifice. But there’s a way to end it while still bettering our families lives.’
For the next couple of hours Elsa and Vicki quietly conversed in the presence of that ever-observing moonlight, devising a plan that would not only free them all but would still allow them the means to provide for their families and future. It was a plan that would test their courage and their determination to prevail. And to stay the path all they needed to do was keep in mind the core of their strength; their loved ones.
The next morning around the breakfast table the first plan of action was about to unfold. Both Josephine and Rhani were now on board, with the collective decision having been made to keep Noboo out of it for her own safety and peace of mind.
‘Good morning, ladies,’ Meg said as she entered.
‘Good morning,’ they all replied in unison, watching Meg pick up an apple from a basket of fruit and taking a bite.
‘Meg, is it alright if we go out today?’ Rhani asked. ‘My grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary is in a couple of weeks, and I’d like to send them a greeting.’
‘Sure. Are we all going?’
‘Yes,’ they said, again all replying at once.
This caused one of Meg’s eyebrows to lift in a moment of suspicion, but a moment was all it was before it passed. ‘Ok, I’ll have them ready the car.’
Meg and the five young ladies took their time walking along a strip of shops, Ken a yard or so behind and Uijo following in the SUV.
Soon an aisle of greeting cards was spotted through the window of a drug store.
Inside, they began to browse the cards, Ken doing his job of scoping out the store as Rhani and Vicki held Meg’s attention, asking her opinion on any given card while at the end of the aisle Elsa and Josephine nonchalantly looked on. When Meg turned to read Rhani’s card Elsa quickly left the aisle, with Josephine keeping an eye out.
Elsa fast approached the pharmacy counter and pulled a prescription from her pocket, handing it over to the pharmacist while looking behind her to make sure all was clear.
‘Who’s the doctor?’
The pharmacist held the prescription up, pointing out the signature.
‘The doctor’s name?’
‘Lee,’ Elsa replied. ‘Dr. Victoria Lee. From the Fujimoto estate.’
‘Ah, yes. Certainly.’
The pharmacist stepped away to fill the prescription, Elsa continuing to look to her back every few seconds.
Over in the card aisle Meg began to glance up toward the area where Josephine and supposedly Elsa were standing but Vicki and Rhani both stepped forward again, redirecting her attention to yet another card. ‘How about this one? It seems nice.’
By this time the pharmacist had returned to Elsa with the prescription.
‘Would you like this billed to the same account?’
‘No thank you. I’ll pay cash.’
Elsa quickly handed over a few bills and shoved the prescription into her pocket. She turned to find Ken at her back.
Acting as if nothing was out of the ordinary, he said, ‘The rest of the ladies are ready to leave now.’
He followed behind her as she headed to the front of the store, where the others were finishing up at the cash register. Elsa placed a lollipop in her mouth.
‘Ma’am, your change.’ It was the pharmacist’s assistant, hurrying up the aisle to give Elsa the change she had forgotten to wait for.
Meg looked at her in question.
Elsa took the lollipop from her mouth, gestured that that was what the change was for.
Later that afternoon, Elsa, Vicki, Josephine and Rhani all sat on Elsa’s bed, Vicki taking the bottle of pills from the prescription bag.
‘This is the morning after pill, They also call it Plan B. It’s given to women who have had unprotected intercourse the night before. To prevent pregnancy.’
Vicki divided the pills between the four of them, placing each portion into a separate envelope. ‘Only take one, when, well, you know.’
‘What if it happens in the morning?’ Rhani asked. ‘Do you still wait until the next morning to take one?’
‘No. Take it after eight hours have passed.’
‘Will Takamatsu be able to detect it?’ Josephine asked.
‘Probably not. If he doesn’t suspect anything he won’t know what to look for. Just remember, keep them in a cool and dry safe place.’
Vicki, Josephine and Rhani each secured their envelope in their clothing while Elsa hid hers in her closet.
Fujimoto, Meg and the five young women sat around the dinner table eating, servants at full attention nearby waiting to be of service.
‘So Noboo, tell me,’ Fujimoto said. ‘How do you feel now that you are part of the Fujimoto family?’
‘Oh, wonderful, Mr. Fujimoto. I am so grateful!’
‘And we are grateful to have you,’ he replied, raising his glass for a toast.
As orchestrated as she now saw it to be it was all Elsa could do to play along with the charade.
Josephine was on her knees, hands around a toilet bowl as a maid held her hair while she threw up. Meg approached, looked down at the heaving girl.
‘What’s going on?’ she asked the maid in Japanese.
‘I’ll call Dr. Takamatsu.’
Josephine had tears in her eyes not only from the churning of her stomach but also due to the fact that she had gotten ahold of the pills too late. For a piece of Fujimoto had already been growing inside of her.
Vicki and Rhani had worked up a sweat, slowing down their jogging as they approached the Fujimoto park, where mothers and children enjoyed the morning sun around a pond.
Rhani took a seat on a nearby bench to catch her breath while Vicki removed her sweat shirt and wiped her face with it. She turned to the member of security who had been following them in a golf cart and knew full well that he was eyeing her sports bra.
‘Can you please do us a favor and get us some water? We’re so thirsty.’
He looked over at Rhani, then back to Vicki.
‘We’ll just sit over here until you get back,’ she reassured.
He then looked over at the female chaperones watching over the mothers and their children before turning his attention back to them. ‘Stay here until I get back.’
Vicki smiled. ‘Will do.’
She took her seat next to Rhani and they both watched as he drove off in his little cart. Lust, seduction, these things were universal, with the two having used subtle forms of the former to gather what they needed right under his nose. Or rather hungry eyes. Rhani stretching her bare leg in front of him while joking she would later need a massage after all the running while Vicki pretended to tie her shoe so that she could snap shots of the school. Vicki fixing her hair and asking him to hold the band while Rhani captured a few images of the group of pregnant women arriving at the maternity center.
And now that they were alone for a few minutes both slipped their cellphones out and started taking pictures of mothers pushing their infants in strollers. Of young children as they played in a sandbox while older ones swung on the jungle gym and flew kites.
The evidence was starting to build.
Back in the study Elsa kept busy on the computer, a stack of files by her side. She had had such high hopes for “the new assignment” while still in innocence, before the rude awakening of what was really expected of her had occurred. They still allowed her to stay busy, although the work had become mundane, not the least bit challenging.
Meg entered, followed by a maid holding a folded kimono.
‘How’s the data entry going?’
‘It’s going,’ Elsa replied, not trying to hide her boredom.
‘Mr. Fujimoto would like you to join him for his afternoon bath.’
Elsa looked at the maid and the folded kimono in her hands. She had known it would just be a matter of time, but it hadn’t stopped her from hoping against the inevitable. She saved her work on the computer, turned it off and stood to her feet.
Steam rose all around Fujimoto in the traditional Japanese bath as a young woman massaged his neck and shoulders from behind him. With the arrival of Elsa and her escort the masseuse stood from out of the water and reached for her kimono, her nude body catching the eye of Elsa before it was covered.
The maid who had prepared Elsa guided her over to the traditional bath and from Elsa’s back reached around to her front and removed the kimono from her body.
Now naked, Elsa’s hand was taken so she could be led into the bath to join her boss.
She sat down in the heated water opposite him, head slightly bowed, hair pinned high in the Japanese fashion. Her kimono was folded and placed to the side before the maid left the two alone.
‘There’s nothing more I enjoy than my afternoon baths,’ Fujimoto commented. ‘Ever since I was a little boy bathing in the rivers of my home province. Only then, hot water was a mere fantasy. Now I wonder how I ever did without it.
‘You are from a province also, correct?’
Being respectful yet refusing to engage in conversation Elsa just bowed her head lower with a nod.
‘We are much alike, you and I,’ he continued. ‘We come from nothing, but were destined for much more. The others, they are satisfied with wasting the day away. But you, you can’t help but to stay productive. When others prefer to play, you prefer to work. These are the traits of a natural born leader.’
Elsa just sat there, non-responsive to Fujimoto’s compliments.
‘’I have a very important business proposal coming up, and if you don’t mind I would like for you to work with me on it.’
So this was his seduction, his foreplay. To throw her a bone before humiliating her. But all she had to do was think back on the plan, on her loved ones, to keep her resilience.
Yes, place your trust in me. The easier it will be for me to nail your coffin shut.
‘I look forward to it,’ she said to him.
‘I knew you would.’
Fujimoto moved across the bath to be directly in front of her. She didn’t move, her obedient posture unwavering.
He reached up and took the hair piece from her hair, causing her long locks to fall to her shoulders. Next he took hold of a nearby sponge, dipped it into the water and squeezed it above Elsa’s head, slowly making wet her hair and shoulders.
He bathed her neck, her shoulders, her arms, her chest, then let the sponge drop from his hand as he washed her breasts.
Lower he let his hand fall until he found her small private lips below the water, using his fingers to open her up while simultaneously placing his other hand around the back of her neck.
It was from this controlled embrace that he filled her, his hips thrusting through the water as she allowed herself to just dangle there, emotionless, disconnected.
Noboo, Vicki and Rhani played around in the pool as Elsa passed them, head down and ignoring as Rhani called out, ‘Elsa, are you coming in?’
She wanted to be alone, in the farthest garden she could find, the self- sacrifice being the hardest thing she had ever had to endure. Despite reminding herself that she was doing it for the benefit of others she couldn’t help but be saddened by the fact that she was losing a special part of herself in the process.
Elsa came along a spot in this farthest garden that was unlike the rest. The dirt, the grass, seemed newer than all the other areas, and in the center of this patch of earth a single beautiful camellia had managed to grow.
That night Elsa took her first secret pill, staring into the mirror behind the locked bathroom door as she swallowed. She could already see the changes, the innocence that had once stared back at her now being lost to a more hardened reflection that comes along with harsh experience. A look of one who prevails.
Walking back to her bedroom, past the doors of her sisters-in-perseverance she wondered who would receive the stain of Fujimoto tonight and got her answer as she opened her bedroom door and saw from the corner of her eye his figure headed for Rhani’s room.
The thought of it would keep her up for another hour before finally receiving the merciful escape of sleep.
Chapter 8 posted shortly.