Thank you all for your wonderful reviews!I really appreciate it! Thank you all a bunch! I will continue this story as much as I can, and as long as the inspiration comes to me. I'm glad you all liked it so I will stop babbling and let you continue with the story. Thank you all again!
Disclaimer: Don't own Howl.
Again, this is based on the movie not the book, because I really don't know what happens in the book.
Sophie found that the Wastes were not as intimidating as last time. Before, she had wandered around the Wastes with absolutely no where to go or without an idea of what she would do. Now, she had a purpose, to go to Market Chipping and see how her family was. She had no where else to go. In truth, she felt a little guilty for not checking on them.
Howl had gotten rid of the door to her old town because it had been unsafe. He had promised that he would take her as soon as he deemed it safe enough. She had forgotten that promise. She had been so busy taking care of Granny, Heen and Markl that she had forgotten.
Funny, she had always thought that family came first to her. How had they managed to be the last thing on her mind? She stopped in her tracks and instinctively held the pendant around her neck. She realized why. They were her new family, as strange as it seemed.
She closed her eyes and continued walking. She had half a mind to turn around and go back to the castle. But thinking about what Howl said made her take steady steps forward. She still had her dignity, after all.
Just as she went over a hill, her heart stopped.
Market Chipping was not as it once was. Many roofs were caved in or fully gone. Houses were in shambles, the bricks falling off and leaving a disaster in its wake. Some chimneys had smoke billowing out of them, making Sophie realize that the town wasn't as deserted as it seemed.
She stuck to the dirt road and continued down the path, passing the small cottage she had once walked by on her way to the Wastes. It was now destroyed. The only evidence of the small farm ever being there was the almost-demolished well and the partly ruined walls.
Sophie continued forward, her bag in her hands until she came up to the bridge that connected Market Chipping to the Wastes. Sophie continued forward, stepping around the stones that riddled the walkway, jumping over the large gap in the middle of the bridge. It was any wonder how carriages got over the bridge with so much debris and pot holes because of the war.
Before the war, the entrance to Market Chipping was welcoming, warm and inviting, now the letters that made up the town's name were gone, the only letters remaining MAR CHIPG.
Sophie continued forward passing the rubble on the streets that the sun, high in the sky, was illuminating. She could hardly believe that most of the buildings that had been there since her childhood were almost or all gone.
A sudden sound startled her and she looked up to see, rubble falling. She ran out of the way, just in time to see the shillings of the roof fall where she had been standing. She let out a startled scream and pushed herself against the wall as the wreckage dropped to the ground.
No wonder Howl said it was unsafe, she thought.
Sophie let out a shaky breath and continued forward to the center of town.
It was no different there than it was on the outskirts. The war had nearly destroyed everything.
There was hardly anyone out and the people that were out were all working to rebuild the town as much as they could. It seemed to be working; they had already rebuilt most of the homes and shops, including a part of hers. It almost looked like the small flower shop was almost ready for business.
The steps that led to the small business didn't seem familiar somehow even though they were the same ones she had used for years every since she was a child. As she approached the small shop, she couldn't help but notice the ominous feeling she received from it.
It's so dark inside, she thought as she squinted to look inside the old hat shop. The shades were all drawn, making it impossible to see inside. She could make out the long counter she used to place her new hats on. There were vases all over the tables inside, the flowers all wilted, dried and forgotten. She felt a little bad about it, she had spent so much effort making those arrangements only to, in the end, have it all ruined because of the war.
Sophie turned quickly to the person calling her. When she saw who it was, her heart almost burst.
Krysta ran to her but Sophie could not move. She was rooted to the spot. She hadn't seen her cousin in so long.
Krysta placed her large arms over Sophie's small body, almost crushing her with a hug.
"Oh, Sophie," the large woman cried. "Little cousin!"
"Krysta!" Sophie gasped out. "You're crushing me!"
The red-head pulled away from her and sniffled into her sleeve.
Krysta was Sophie's older cousin by three years. Her red hair, overweight body and larger than life personality had always been shunned away by the boys, ever since they were little. Lettie once had teased her about it, saying that she would never find a suitable husband for her or one that could catch up to her unusual eating habits either. But all of that seemed far away now that she was standing before her cousin.
"Oh, Sophie!" She said with enthusiasm. "You're safe!"
"So are you," Sophie told her with equal enthusiasm.
Then her voice turned harsh and almost mother-like. "Where have you been?"
Sophie opened her mouth and closed it quickly. She couldn't very well tell her that she had been living with the wizard named Howl. She could almost imagine the conversation that would take place.
Yes, Horrible Howl.
Did he steal your heart?
No, Krysta, he didn't.
Is he as horrible as they all say he is?
Sophie snapped out of her trance and but didn't answer Krysta's question.
"We've all been so worried about you," Krysta continued. "Specially your mother and Lettie. You left before the war, no one knew about you."
Sophie's brown eyes widened. "Mother and Lettie? Are they all right? Are they here?"
Krysta threw her a warm smile. "They're all right. They're in Kingsbury actually with your mother's new husband. Well," Krysta stopped suddenly. "Do you want to come to my home for some tea? We can talk more about this, far from all this noise."
Sophie nodded. "Uh, yes, of course."
Krysta turned and started heading to a carriage where a man waited.
"Looks like you've done some good for yourself," Sophie admired catching Krysta's blush before she turned away.
Krysta's home wasn't at all how Sophie thought it would be. Firstly, she thought that she would be living by herself or with her husband (Sophie was finally introduced to him and he was, in fact, her husband) or with other relatives.
It was actually the farthest thing on Sophie's mind. Krysta was living with other people from town. They were all in a huge house, were more than ten families were living together, including Krysta's.
"Krysta?" Sophie asked as they walked to the kitchen, "Who are all these people?"
"Oh," Krysta said with a smile. "I'm sorry, I forgot to tell you. Things have changed in Market Chipping since the war." Krysta offered Sophie a seat while she made the tea. "These are all families that have no where else to go. They had their homes, of course, but with all the bombing and such, there really isn't much a home for them left." She smiled as she set the kettle. "We took them in! They're all really nice people, I'm sure you'd get along with everyone!"
Sophie nodded as Krysta moved busily around the kitchen.
"Oh, Sophie, you don't know how much we missed you! Everyone has been asking for you, Lettie, poor girl she feared the worst when you left. Said that maybe you had been taken by the Witch of the Waste or that wizard you met the day before you left."
Sophie watched as her older cousin carefully set out the cups and cakes.
"I'm so glad you're safe Sophie. I'm sure your family must feel the same once they find out. We have to tell them as soon as possible."
Sophie nodded but the spoke up. "How are Mother and Lettie?"
"Oh, they're both all right, actually!" Krysta said a smile, never leaving her face. "Making a name for themselves in the Royal City. Your mother she's quite handy when it comes to designing. To think, she went from making hats to making dresses for the richest in society!"
Sophie couldn't help it. She could feel the excitement radiate from Krysta. She was really happy for them, she could tell.
"When do you think I could go visit them?"
"No," Krysta said firmly.
Sophie looked at the girl with a furrowed brow.
"Not until you tell me where you've been all this time."
Sophie looked at the red-head in front of her, there really was no avoiding the question. She had to tell her something to convince her or the truth. But the truth… it still hurt her. It hurt her to know that Howl, the one that had broken the spell on her had proven her suspicions.
She really was plain. She really was a nobody. She really was unworthy of him.
She hung her head, letting her long hair provide a curtain for her from the inquisitive eyes of her cousin. If only it were that easy. If only she could hide herself from the world like Howl had done once and is still doing.
No. She made a promise to herself. She was going to keep it no matter what. She would not be the same Sophie Hatter she had once been, recluse from the world and its wonders. She refused to be the girl that hid herself with her old plain hat. She wouldn't be that girl ever again.
She looked up at her cousin with a plastered smile. "I wanted to see what lay beyond the Wastes!"
Krysta gave her a blank stare.
"Yes," Sophie said wringing her dress in her nervous hands. "Well, you see, I wanted to know what's in the world. Haven't you ever wondered? Haven't you ever wanted to see the ocean?" Sophie cut in before Krysta could speak. "I went all the way from Kingsbury to Port haven!" Not a complete lie, but she had never been much of a liar; she had to throw some truth in it. "The ocean, Krysta! You should see the ocean! It's so beautiful! The way the waves come up on the shore and the sound it makes! You'll never see anything more beautiful in the world! The ocean is so blue! I absolutely loved it! I know you will too!"
After a moment, Krysta did something that completely startled Sophie. She laughed.
"Oh, Sophie Hatter!" She said taking her up in her large arms. "I never saw you as the adventurous type! This is so good for you! I'm glad that the ocean made you so happy!" She laughed some more. "Did you make friends on your journey?"
Sophie nodded quickly, trying to hide her tears. "Many friends. They were all so great. They were good to me." She looked out the window. "I'll never forget them."
They were in silence as Krysta served Sophie her tea.
"When can I go to Kingsbury?"
"Well, there's a carriage. It comes by once a week to bring supplies. Some people use it to go to Kingsbury also. It doesn't come back for another four days; you can stay here until it comes again."
Sophie hugged her larger relative. "Thank you, cousin. Thank you for not turning me away."
Krysta laughed. "Why would I do that, Sophie? Do you think me mad?" She pulled back and pinched her cheek. "Family never abandons each other."
Sophie held back the tears, somehow even with the pendant, Sophie couldn't help but feel that she had abandoned her own family.
Three days had passed until she had received word from Calcifer. She had been so nervous the previous days about contacting them and telling them that she was going to Kingsbury that all she did was work.
Some days while the adults were out rebuilding the city, Sophie would stay back and take care of the children and making the food for them when they got back. Sophie was glad that she wasn't alone on this. There were other women that stayed back and also made the meals and took care of the children.
She really didn't mind working until she had to leave. After all, this was her hometown and these were all people she had watched being raised. It didn't matter if they were poor or rich or if they had once picked on another person, everyone was together, working together, helping each other, no questions asked.
Even the children were like this. Little Susie was the Mayor's daughter and here she was playing with the son of the blacksmith. There really was no social boundaries, no one to tell them who to be with and who not to talk to.
This is what war did to Market Chipping.
The children of Market Chipping were nothing like they were before. She remembered they were the younger siblings of the girls that used to tease her from the store window. She remembered they were the ones that used to make fun of her because she was quiet and reserved, never going out of her way for anything.
If only they could see me now, she thought. No one would have thought that quiet, shy, distant Sophie Hatter would be the one to meet Howl, live with him for almost a year and fall in love with him. And him fall in love with me….
Yes, her heart was still hoping. She couldn't stop thinking about that time the bombs were falling.
"Don't go," she sobbed into his shoulder, momentarily forgetting the feathers. "Please stay."
"I'm tired of running, Sophie, I finally have something I want to protect." He didn't turn but Sophie could hear the sincerity in his voice. "It's you, Sophie."
Sophie shook her head. If that was true then why did he say all those things? It was almost as if he was making sure she would hate him. Why was that?
It was while she was bending down to take a pie out of the hearth that she saw something peculiar. The top of the grate was a very bright red. She looked down at the pendant and gasped. She got up quickly and hit her head on the chimney, almost making her drop the pie in her hands back into the fire.
She groaned and massaged the back of her head with one hand while placing the pie down on the table with the other. She took the pendant off her neck and looked at it. It was no longer a passive blue but a very bright red that almost seemed to vibrate in her hands. Calcifer was calling her.
She didn't even notice until she was called that she had been staring at the pendant for such a long time. "Uh, I have to go somewhere I'll be back as soon as I can? Don't worry about me."
That was all she said before she left Market Chipping to go to the Wastes.