So much was she like Wendy, the girl in the fairytale. She never had use for that book until after she had crossed the spirit's river and eaten Haku's enchanted food, worked, grown, and returned to her bewildered parents. Now she read the book, sloppily translated by a school friend who couldn't find a printed copy in their library.
Chihiro wondered what use she would even have for the silly book, picking it up and putting it down over and over again—pacing her living room and listening to the traffic outside of her little home. It was absurd, she was nothing like the motherly girl in the stories, Haku had been nothing like the cheerful fairy boy. Yubaba had been enough like a pirate, it had seemed at first, but growing up Chihiro realized that it wasn't greed but necessity that fueled the old woman. She often wondered where her childlike innocence had gone, where the black and white assurance of the world had scuttled off to like so many soot sprites.
Perhaps she had grown up too much in the first year between visits. She had timed the day exactly, down to the closest hour she could remember then, packing a hasty lunch and the few little gifts she had made for her old friends. Running, stumbling and almost breaking bones, she left her home and ran past the tiny shrine and the dumpling-faced stone guardian. Through the station, across the field, over the little creek and up the stairs to the bridge to the bath-house. She waited. Sundown came.
This time, there were no smells of roasting meat or mumbles of waking spirits. No Yubaba yelling at the slug women to work faster. No Haku or Rin to say hello.
She left the small bag of gifts and returned home. Perhaps she had the wrong day.
The next week, the gifts had been ripped and defiled by field critters… the star candy for the soot-sprites strewn about, the small jade bracelet for Rin she had found in a magpie's nest in one of the cold empty lanterns. The decorative chopsticks for Gamajii were either broken or chipped, the gaudy garage-sale rings for Yubaba and Granny ignored. Sweet crackers for No-face and Baby were squirrel-bitten and moldy.
The Stone Dragon for Haku was gone. That, in itself, was enough hope.
Setting herself, she vowed to return every week until she timed it just right.
A week to a month, a month to a year… the time flew by. She dreamed of the bath-house while she worked her way through Junior high school, Senior, College. She dreamed of a young boy who was perhaps now a young man. Idly she wondered if he had grown out his hair or kept it short. She wondered if Rin had ever left the Bath-house. If no-Face still loved to knit.
Sometimes, in her sleep, she would cry unknowing.
She had a boyfriend once, a nice boy with a boring personality but an attractive face. He called her immature, and she left, not looking back, her thoughts already—or rather, still—on a dragon-boy with sea-colored eyes and a quick, secretive smile.
Department stores were always crowded here. The shouts and noise and the press of people made her feel comfortable, remembering the closeness of the bath-house and the noise of the place.
She strained her neck, looking around. The voice wasn't familiar, but the name…no. Black hair, too short, round face. Not her Rin.
Disheartened, she left the store.
"Mother, do you remember the river I fell into when I was a baby?"
"They put up housing complexes over it long ago, honey. And good riddance. We were lucky; what if some other child had fallen in and died?"
Haku would have saved them. But she kept the thought to herself. Her parents were too practical. They never would have believed her story.
"Imaginative Chihiro." Or, "Silly Chihiro, thinking up such stories." Or… "Immature Chihiro, with your head in the clouds. Can't you act like other girls?"
Resentful, she returned to her home, alone again.
"He won't fly in through your window." She told her mirror, wishing she didn't believe herself so completely. She missed her dear Haku.
Pressing the old, pattered pink shoe to her chest, she sat on her bed, staring out the window to the bland wall beyond it.
"Oh, but how I wish he would."
She drove at night this time, through the boroughs and down the overgrown road until the front of her little car almost smashed into the stone guardian. She left the keys in the ignition, bedamned anyone who took the old thing.
Her headlights ended at the station's entrance, boarded up with what looked like new planks of heavy wood. The planks were drilled in.
Preparation was key, her father had said. She retrieved the drill and screwdriver from her trunk and set to work.
I don't know if I should continue this or not… this is a little brief insanity from me dicking around on the internet when I should be working on my other fiction.
Well, tell me what you think, anyway. Cheers and happy holidays.