AN: After re-watching this awe inspiring movie (for the seemingly thousanth time) I finally decided to write out something for it. But I didn't want to do the usual return/reunion story (maybe next time I'll write with that irresistible storyline), so I thought I'd go for something a little different while at the same time taking a crack at 1st POV. Lastly, reviews/feedback = love.
Disclaimer: I don't own Spirited Away in any shape of form.
Down By the River
[A ChihiroxKohaku story told from the view of an outsider.]
She is the girl who always wants to sit by the window.
I actually don't notice her the first day of classes, where we're all standing awkwardly around people we don't know yet. Sure, there are a few lucky ones who know others in the class and who smile at each other across the floor and pin-straight solitary desks, but for the most part not many know each other in this third-year class. I remember my eyes had fetched around the room; she must have been behind me or already gazing to the world outside the cramped classroom. I bet she was already uncaring to the inside.
The first time I notice her is when we switch our seats and she's right across of me and positioned by the window from special request.
When everyone is clammering to get their supplies, I notice that she doesn't have much in her desk; only a few books that look as untouched, as if they were in storage. She had looked up from her sketchpad she'd been working on and gave me a bright smile before she twisted back, her long brown hair flicking over her shoulder with the quick movement.
I actually don't get her name from herself; I get it from my friends. I broached the question breezily one day at lunch when we were all outside enjoying some of the almost-summer weather. She's sitting off a little from my group and she's smiling politely at the girls around her. I believe it's her laugh that catches my attention at first, but it's really the glitter of something in her hair. My friends give each other meaningful glances before they laugh and grin, saying through their chuckles that it's already a lost cause. But they tell me her name anyway.
While everyone is busy writing down complicated math equations and confusing English grammar, I notice that her pencil is moving in precise, bolder strokes on paper I've only seen the corners of. I admit, I've leaned over or conveniently dropped an eraser quite a few times to try and see what she's always drawing, but her angle is always just right to hide whatever doodling masterpieces she's creating.
I want to talk to her, I really do, but there's something almost unsettling about her. Like she knows something that everyone is just choosing to ignore.
She looks out the window with a soft smile, regardless if it's raining buckets or if the sky is free of clouds. And when she looks back into the fake-lite room from being called on or for a test, her eyes seem to darken from that light grey back to a dull black and her smile doesn't seem so true anymore. I've seen the way she regards people here - as if she's trying to see something other than the youthful faces around her. I think that's the closest I can gather from her searching eyes. She's always looking for something more.
Eventually we aren't sitting next to each other anymore and I don't watch her as much; I am in front of her now where the teacher's presence is looming and I can hear the irritated sound of chalk on the large black board. But I can see in the window's reflection how she's still staring longingly to the hills and trees outside.
Once, when I was biking home, I saw her at a small shrine that was for a child who had died in a car accident. I know she didn't know the child, because I've heard she only moved here barely seven years ago when she was only ten and the child died at least a decade ago, but she still puts a small bouquet of wildflowers before walking off in the rain. My hood allows me to see through the bright sun and that she's without an umbrella, but she doesn't even seem to care about getting a sunburn on her tan shoulders. And just as I'm peddling off, I see her jump into a puddle with a squeal of happiness, the droplets climbing up her legs and drenching her slippers.
The next time I really think about her is when I'm on cleaning duty with her. As I'm sweeping, I hear her over the cloud claps of the chalk erasers she's hitting together something that makes my newest sweep a moment late.
"I bet chalk workers would be white. They would look so perfectly odd with the soot ones..."
I decide not to comment, but I wonder myself what she's talking about.
Obsession is not a word I would use as I watch her, but that's what one of my friends comments one day when he sees me watch her leave for the bathroom. I snarl and say it's nothing and excuse the fact for my staring because she's pretty and I like girls with long hair and thin statures. And while all this is true, allowing my friend to shrug the subject away, I know it's only a fraction of the reason.
She's different from the other girls who change their hairstyles every week; she's always had that high pony tail with that almost annoyingly sparkling tie and long bangs that seem to shield her from the world outside.
She's different from the other girls who change their infatuation with boys every month; she's never had a boyfriend and I've never seen her gaze linger on anyone.
She's different, and that's what makes her so lovely.
I decide to throw caution to the wind and so I go and talk to her one day, and ask what is in that notebook she's always drawing in.
At first she seems startled that I'm talking to her, and I suppose it's understandable. The only similarity is that we're in the same class, we don't even have any similar friends or hobbies really. But she's kind as she always is and answers that it's a secret, and that they're special to her. She explains how she draws to remember, not to create.
And already I'm interested in her sure voice that isn't as soft or skittish as I though it would be.
Over the days I talk to her more on breaks, eat with her a few times, too, with our chopsticks clicking around our conversations. And in this time I hear all her odd comments and quirks, like how she hates to eat pig and throw out soot from the fireplace, and wonder what made her see things so different. Sometimes it frustrate me, like how she doesn't have a cellphone because she thinks it's unneccessary and how she doesn't care about her education much, yet still manages to pass everything unlike me, but I see her in a new light.
Now she's not just the pretty girl, but the beautiful one whose smile seems to get larger every time I talk to her.
And before I knew it, I'd given my heart to her.
Only problem was she doesn't even notice it.
I'm not exactly proud of this fact because I think I'd known, ever the first time she'd sent me that smile and her face had glowed, that she had already been taken. That she was hopelessly in love with someone. It was why she stared out the window and sighed against the tapping rain; it was why she was always drawing, always dreaming of seeing that person again. It wasn't even that much of an observant situation, my friends had said it had been hopeless before my infatuation with her had even started for a reason.
Because she is the girl who stares out the window, her eyelashes fluttering against her cheek that sits in a palm, and goes to a new place far from reality; far from me.
And this knowledge makes the laughter in me when I'm with her wane, and soon I'm not eating or talking with her as much and then not at all. I'd like to say she notices, but I don't think she truly gives much heed. Boys before have come to her and they've left disappointed all the same, and she has other friends to sit with at lunch and who to bestow that half-smile upon.
But I still watch her, and this is when I'm really not proud of myself.
I linger one day after club before I sprint to our classroom, closing and locking the door before I make her way to her desk. I feel rightly invasive as I find her notebook, and as I open it I feel like my eyes are doing the same.
I stare at the multi-limbed old man whose mustache is as large as his face, which is partially hidden by sketched-in black glasses. I look at the empty mask and trailing black underneath it, smeared with her fingers with obvious care. I see the cheeky baby and a pig pen that seems chaotic and women with different proportions and monsters with horns. I flip through the pages, but there is one thing that keeps appearing.
It is a lithe dragon with rows of fangs and horns, ears that show emotion like a dog, and a mane that is always seems to float. Sometimes I see a young girl with the dragon with a ponytail that makes me think it is her.
I finally close the notebook and feel sick; I shouldn't have looked.
This was hers.
This was a peek into her world where people like me didn't belong to.
As I walk with my bike back home, deliberately going slow so I don't have to face the world around or my home, I wonder why I'm being so understanding, so calm about this girl who draws dragons instead of flowers or hearts. Usually someone would be worried about her apathetic attitude and with another world she may have entirely made up. Or that is what I hope; that fat radish thing had looked a little frightening. And as I look up at the sky, noting that it's clear and too blue for my taste, I wonder if it's because I like her.
One day, after school when it's pouring buckets and I'm speeding down a hill towards a newly constructed bridge, because a river that had recently returned from underground, I see her and she waves.
But she is not alone, as a tall man with long, straight and unorthodox teal hair is holding an ornamental umbrella above both of them. He turns and regards me coolly, and I see that his eyes are a piercing green and have the intelligence of someone much older than what he looks to be. I inadvertently shrink my shoulders in as I approach them, and I don't dare look back once I pass them on my sloshing bike.
Yet, when I reach the top of the street, I look towards the bridge and see the umbrella on the ground, disregarded and protecting no one from the rain.
I look up and see a flash of silver and that twinkle from her hair-band, and my mouth is left agape.
When the teacher announces that Chihiro has left, I hear the whispering of classmates and teachers alike, but I simply shrug at the gossip of why she would leave so close to graduation. My friends say that they're sorry about it all for me, and that I shouldn't have gotten myself mixed up with the polite girl who smiled too much and who was never expected to suddenly get up and disappear. Everyone thought she had seemed full of so much potential and would make herself known somewhere with her benign personality, and it was then I realized how popular she had been in school. She was the one everyone knew in some way, had some relation to.
It makes me wonder what was so important that she would leave behind all these connections. But I know that there will always be more questions than answers with Chihiro, especially now that she's gone.
And so, whenever I think of her, I smile even though it feels a little bitter.
Now I am the one who sits by the window and wonders. As I look out into the blank countryside on rainy days I search for that bright flash of spiraling white and wonder if I will be able to see what she's disappeared in to.