SPIRITED AWAY: CHIHIRO'S RETURN


The station wagon turned into a curving gravel drive that led to a narrow, two story, brick house and then looped back around and out so that her father wouldn't have to back out of the driveway in the mornings. This was a good idea on the designer's part, Chihiro decided, as her father's driving skills were lacking in some areas. In the arc of the loop was a small flower garden filled with colorful flowering plants, complete with a decorative Buddha statue among the foliage. The gapping smile of the happily obese deity elicited a short giggle from the girl.

"Look, honey, we didn't miss the movers after all," her mother's voice broke into her thoughts and she raised her gaze to the end of the driveway where a large yellow and white van was starting to turn in. "Now, you'll have to move the car into the garage so they can pull all the way up to the door. I don't want them scratching my wood furniture. Chihiro, you're going to have to get out of the way. Come inside and go look at your bedroom so you can decide where you want your stuff. Hurry now."

Chihiro blinked, realizing she was standing in the center of the drive, keeping her father from being able to move into the side house garage and the moving van from being able to enter. Seeming to come back to life, she jumped and jogged for the front door where her mother was already waiting, holding the door open. "Go on upstairs. Yours is the first door on the right." She was given a light shove in the right direction before her mother went back outside to instruct the workmen.

Alone, the girl was left to ponder just exactly what had happened - had any of it been real? She remembered with absolute accuracy the events of the bathhouse and Rin and the baby...and Haku...no, his name was Kohaku. Haku was the name Yubaba controlled him with, just like she had been given the name Sen. It must have happened...her hands still bore cuts and callouses from her work in the bathhouse. She still wore the hair band that Granny and her friends had made.

It was real, she decided as she reached her bedroom and stepped in. The tatami carpet was cream colored, just like the rest of the house, and the walls were a pale lavender - a color which made her scrunch up her nose in distaste. Her mother would have to consent to repainting, she just had to. Lavender was an okay color, it wasn't that Chihiro disliked it, but the paint didn't match any of her bedding or furniture and it wasn't exactly the color she wanted to live with for the next how ever many years they were going to live there. Sky blue would be a better choice...or maybe pastel green...

She wandered into the room, taking in the size and newness of it. Okay, so her father had been right and this house was bigger than their old one and her room was bigger than her old one, but that didn't change the fact she was going to have to learn her way around an all new school and meet all new friends and it was the middle of the school year and no one was going to want to talk to her because they had already found their groups and wouldn't want to be bothered with her.

With a sigh, she fell to her bottom in the center of her new room and then lay back, stretched out with her arms to her side, looking at the ceiling.

Was school going to be that difficult? It couldn't be more difficult than working at the bathhouse and she had gotten rather good at that. Not everyone there had liked her, mostly because she was a human, but she had made friends. There had been Kamaji, the boiler man, and his dust creatures, Rin had taken to her easily enough, and Kohaku had been the one to save her...No-Face was a friend too...Granny and Bôh couldn't be forgotten either. She had made plenty of friends in the spirit world. Could the human world be that much harder?

As for having to learn her way around the school...around the town too...well, she had gotten from the bathhouse to the very edges of the Spirit World to Granny's house. She had friends with her during the trip, but she had been the leader, they had only followed where she went. Navigating the new school would not be a problem.

Having squelched those worries, she stood up and went to the window, sliding it open so that she could lean out and look at her view. Her room was in the back of the house and overlooked the woods where her father had missed their turn in. Peaking just above the trees she could just make out the top of the train station that lead to the spirit world. She leaned against the window sill and stared out over the green treetops, listening to the sound of the movers bringing in furniture downstairs and her mother instructing them on where to place the larger stuff.

At ten it was hard to concentrate on just one train of thought because at such an age, a person is a bundle of energy and thus their thoughts seem to jump from subject to subject and back again. Seeing the train station peeking from the layer of flora, however, reminded Chihiro that not too long ago she was on the other side of that station and had been there for quite some time. Her stay in the spirit world had to have been at least a month long if not longer and, when they had gotten back to the car, hadn't it been dusty and covered with leaves? Hadn't the flowers she left in the backseat wilted and died, the dead leaves hardening into almost ash? How was it, then, that when they had arrived at their new house, the movers were just showing up with their stuff? Surely they hadn't been driving around with it for a month.

She knew she was older because she felt older and, after looking at her reflection in the window glass, she looked different. Her hair was a bit longer and her arm muscles and leg muscles were more defined. The shorts that she wore, the clothes that had been returned to her before her departure, were looser than they had been when she had worn them last. This she had noticed before she went to look for Granny. The night before her last day at school, her mother had trimmed her bangs. Now, they hung below her eyes, in need of another trim. It was like time had suddenly rewound, but hadn't taken her with it.

Before she could ponder the situation any further, or branch off to another thought, her mother was standing in the bedroom door, trying to catch her breath before she spoke. "Chihiro, dear, have you picked out a spot for your bed and dresser? I think the bed would fit best there in the corner, the foot of it would come almost to the door," the woman commented, motioning to the general area. "Then you could put your dresser over on the side wall between the two closet doors - two closet spaces, isn't that nice - and your desk could go in front of the window. You won't let what's going on outside distract you from your homework, will you?"

Chihiro shook her head. "I won't, Mama." She closed the window and started for the door.

Her mother stopped her before she could go out. "Chihiro," she put a hand under the young girl's chin and lifted her head up to look at her, "didn't I just cut your bangs yesterday?"