by Tari Gwaemir
Shindou Mitsuko and Sai.
She looked up from the television as the door slammed shut. "I told you, I don't want to play!" Hikaru said loudly, as he plopped down on the floor to yank off his shoes.
"Hikaru, is that you?"
"Yeah, I'm back," he called back, shuffling into the living room in his socks.
"I'll have your snack ready in a bit. Should I take it up to your room?"
"Yes, please--oh, will you just be quiet for a second!"
He gave a nervous laugh. "Oh sorry, Mom, wasn't talking to you."
She frowned. Was he talking to himself? Hikaru had never been the type to have imaginary friends. But he seemed to be growing more absent-minded and strange lately. She often caught him muttering under his breath or staring into space or making faces at odd moments. Just now, he wrinkled his nose and pouted at the empty air while heading up to his room. Shaking her head, she took a glass of juice and a plate of mochi upstairs.
"Fine. We'll go tomorrow. Now will you please help me with my history homework?"
Was he on the phone? Strange, she hadn't heard it ring--
"Hikaru? I'm coming in." She pushed the door open with her hip.
"Wait! Don't walk through--"
She felt a slight chill as she entered the room. "What is it?"
Hikaru gaped at her for a moment. "You...he...uh, nothing."
She set down the tray, puzzled. There was a whisper of movement, a faint shimmer to the air as she looked around the room. "Is there a draft in here?" She went to close the windows but they were already closed. She followed the direction of Hikaru's gaze to the bookshelf behind her but saw nothing.
"Hikaru, is there anything wrong?"
"No, Mom," he said, turning quickly back to the empty notebook open on his desk and pretending to look absorbed.
"Hm." She gave the room another sharp glance before she left. At the end of the hallway, she heard Hikaru's muffled laugh and paused, feeling goosebumps rise at the back of her neck. "I'm being silly," she said out loud, and wrapping her arms around herself, she hurried down the stairs.