Chapter One: New Life
Arrietty was lying on her back staring at the sky. It was the only time of year the sky could be this clear and blue. Summer. The air was warm and light gusts of wind rustled through the tall blades of grass. She could smell the soil, and the clean scent of the earth. Arrietty loved being outside. The way the wind felt on her skin, the mixed scent of flowers, dirt, and the air. Nothing made her feel so free.
Sitting up, Arrietty pushed her back against a rock. Closing her eyes, the small borrower tried to concentrate on the voices of the old ladies. The ladies who owned the house were in their 70s or 80s, and based on the conversations Arrietty had overheard the women's name's were Meredith and Gertrude, they two had been best friends since they met and had been living together ever since Meredith's husband, Jack, had passed away. This was often how Arrietty spent her mornings, listening to the old women tell each other stories of their past while tending to the garden. When Meredith and Gertrude finally began to pack up their spades and rakes Arrietty knew it was time to head back home.
Turning back Arrietty dashed toward the grate, which allowed her easy access to her family's underground home. This cottage was different from Shawn's home. This one was much smaller and in a way cozier, but no garden could compare to the one at Shawn's house. Literally shaking the thought from her mind, Arrietty climbed through the grate in the side of the house and continued running toward her home. Sliding the brick that served as the door aside she slid into the entryway. Pushing the brick back into place Arrietty walked toward the kitchen. Arrietty's mother was at the stove making soup. "Mother? Is there anything you want me to do?" Homily looked up at her daughter, her dark hair tied back from her face in a ponytail; giving Arrietty a tired smile she shook her head no. Despite her request Arrietty grabbed the blanket her mother had been mending. Using the last of the thread since their last borrowing Arrietty managed to patch up one square of cloth.
"Arrietty, your sewing's really improved, remember when the stitches were always too big?" Homily asked sitting in the chair across form her.
"How could I forget?" Arrietty replied as she began folding the blanket, "I always had to start over, I'm still not very good at it." Arrietty set the blanket on the table. "Where's Papa?"
"He's in his study fixing the grappling hooks." Homily replied as she got up and began to stir the soup again. That's right I broke my grappling hook when I tried climbing the curtain. Arrietty had been trying to get an old pocket watch inside Gertrude's dresser drawer, the poor woman had believed she'd lost it, but it had just been shoved to the back of the drawer. Homily had always wanted a pocket watch for the house, but they were rare now and hard to borrow without a human noticing. Luckily Gertrude had one, and in her old age she'd forgotten she even owned it. Arrietty had thought it would make a wonderful present for her mother. Despite her father's warnings Arrietty had used her grappling hook to try and climb up the curtain. The metal hooks weren't strong enough to get a good grip on the thick velvet curtains. About halfway up the hook had snapped in half, Arrietty had fallen a few feet, luckily she hadn't been hurt, Gertrude's room was carpeted.
"I'll go see if I can help him." Arrietty said getting up, she made her way down the hall. Arrietty peaked into the doorway. Her Father had gone so far as to try and completely re-weld the tool, unfortunately the hook was beyond repair. "Hey Papa," Arrietty smiled pulling up a stool, "How's the welding going?" Her father sighed and set down his tools. Rubbing the back of his neck he said,
"I think it's time to go borrowing."
Clapping her hands together Arrietty stood up excitedly "Oh that's wonderful, I heard the ladies talking about how they had an old fishing kit in a garage. " Arrietty struggled on pronouncing the last word but she continued talking. "The fishing hooks would make a great grappling hook for us." She finished.
Her father sat silently for a moment as he put his equipment away. Then after a pregnant silence he said, "we'll go after dinner".
Arrietty bounced on the balls of her feet excitedly and clapped her hands together.
"Arrietty, will you do me a favor?" Pod asked smiling at his daughter.
"Of course father, what do you need?" Arrietty replied suddenly becoming serious.
"I'd like you to go to Maltessa and Rupard's house and invite their family to dinner, their son Ryus can come borrowing with us. Arrietty's heart quickly filled with dread, she hated Ryus, he was arrogant and acted like he was such a cool guy, plus he told Arrietty she shouldn't go borrowing because she was a girl. Sure he could be nice sometimes, in fact, he'd borrowed some ribbon for Arrietty (of course she'd promptly refused it), Besides, she liked Spiller's gifts better.
I wonder where Spiller is? It's been four days…
Arrietty had begun walking up to the living room. Ryus's family lived behind a painting of the ocean. Using the secret passages she found herself at their front door. Sighing she knocked. Of course who should open the door?
"Why hello there little lamb, have you lost your way?" Ryus's thick black hair fell to his eyebrows. He was wearing a leather jacket and an obnoxious pair of 'army boots' he'd borrowed from a doll. Around his neck dangled a key chain with the letter 'M' on a little golden orb, which was attached to the chain.
"Hello Ryus" replied Arrietty deadpanned, "I just came to tell you that your family is invited over for dinner and my father said you could come borrowing with us."
"So you have finally decided that you do indeed wish to date me, well I am honored to-" Ryus was cut off by Arrietty.
"Who said I wanted to date you? I just came because my parents asked me to." Meanwhile Ryus smirked and leaned forward towards Arrietty. "What are you doing?" Arrietty asked, panicking.
"What all couples do, kissing" he replied closing his eyes. Arrietty leaped back and pushed him away.
"We aren't a couple!" Arrietty shouted, she then turned and ran back towards the house, ignoring Ryus's cries to come back.
Practically smashing through the door Arrietty went straight to the kitchen.
"Mother!" Arrietty shrieked.
"What? What's happened? The ladies didn't buy a cat did they?" Homily cried worriedly. By now Pod had rushed into the kitchen along with Spiller who'd apparently come when Arrietty was out.
"No, it's much worse!" replied Arrietty stomping around the kitchen. Homily sank into a chair. "That jerk! That- that… Oaf!" Arrietty continued,"Trying to kiss me like that!"
Spiller gave her a funny look and set his bow down. Homily stood up suddenly smiling.
"Who tried to kiss you?" she asked.
"Ryus" Arrietty spat. Spiller continued to look confused as he looked from Arrietty to Homily.
"Oh how wonderful!" Homily gushed. "I knew he'd be the perfect match!"
"Match? What match?" Arrietty asked. Spiller was now concerned, he wasn't really sure what was going on and was rather irritated that someone was trying to match with Arrietty. Whatever that meant.
"You see, your father and I talked to Maltessa and Rupard the other day about you and Ryus possibly getting… well… getting married." Homily explained excitedly.
Arrietty paused. Wait married… as in married, married?
Arrietty suddenly looked at Spiller then Pod then Homily, her mouth forming an 'O'.
Spiller was frowning, he vaguely understood what kissing was, but he knew the meaning behind it, and he definitely knew what marriage was and why people did it. Suddenly he was very angry, he gripped his bow tightly.
"Why didn't you talk to me about it?" Arrietty asked frowning.
"We wanted to surprise you at dinner tonight. It's traditional for both families to dine together before the engagement" Homily smiled. Arrietty suddenly felt faint. What about Shawn? And Spiller? Arrietty wondered. Arrietty backed away slowly, her heart was pounding, and it was all so sudden. She looked at her parents. Then she did something that surprised everyone. She bolted for her room. She heard steps thundering after her but she quickly shoved the pincushion she used as a chair in front of her door and flopped on her bed.
"Arrietty, dear, please open the door" her mother called, "Just give Ryus a chance, I'm sure he'll make you very happy"
Arrietty pulled a pillow over her ears to block out her mother's voice. How could she marry Ryus? She didn't even like him! The thought of having to wake up every morning and see his face next to hers made Arrietty feel queasy.
Tears began to form behind her closed eyelids. Arrietty quickly covered her eyes with her hands. There was a quiet knock at the door. Arrietty sighed. "Mother?" she called softly.
"No, is Spiller." Was the gruff reply.
Arrietty rolled off her bed and opened the door a crack. She saw Spiller in his usual attire, with his bow in hand.
"Hi," Arrietty muttered softly, she was embarrassed that he'd seen her 'tantrum'.
"We talk outside, no Pod or Homily" Spiller said leading Arrietty out the back 'door'.
The pair made their way up to the grate. Spiller leaned against the cement wall; his long, unruly, black hair fell in his face. It reminded Arrietty of the first time she'd met Spiller, she'd told him 'goodbye' at the grate at Shawn's house.
"Who Ryus?" Asked Spiller, his usually joyful face darkened.
Arrietty sighed. "He's just this other borrower in the house, but he's really annoying and acts like he's the coolest guy ever, he acts like he owns me, you know? "
The corners of Spiller's mouth pulled into a frown, but he kept silent.
"And my parents didn't even ask me if I wanted to marry him, they just decided it, I don't even know if I want to get married yet! And Ryus tried to kiss me even though he knew I didn't want to."
Spiller turned away.
"And sometimes I wonder if I could just run away," Arrietty looked at the moon, for a moment she wondered if Shawn was looking at the same moon now, she wondered if he was even alive. Arrietty sighed and sat on the ground, resting her chin on her knees.
"Arrietty sad?" Spiller asked kneeling beside her.
"Sad? No, its just there's someone I left behind at the old house and I'm just not sure if he's ok…" Arrietty looked at the sky again.
Spiller remembered seeing Arrietty with a human 'bean' on the night her family left to meet him. He'd almost shot the 'bean' with an arrow until he realized he wasn't a danger to Arrietty's life.
Spiller, unsure of what to say put a reassuring hand on Arrietty's shoulder. She looked up at him and smiled softly. Spiller gave Arrietty his usual wide grin.
Arrietty giggled but was interrupted by her mother's voice,
"Arrietty, Spiller? It's time for dinner!" called Homily. Arrietty sighed.
"Well, are you ready to meet my worst nightmare?"
Spiller grunted and followed Arrietty to the house.
Arrietty was sitting in between her father and Spiller; Homily was in the Kitchen with Maltessa cleaning up after an extremely awkward dinner, meanwhile, Rupard and Ryus sat across from the trio.
It was mostly Ryus and Rupard doing the talking, Arrietty's father usually nodded or grunted. Spiller stayed absolutely silent with his hand resting on his bow.
Amidst the after dinner talk, Arrietty caught and interesting piece of information.
"What do you mean there's riots in the underground cities?" Arrietty exclaimed. She'd heard of the cities, they were located under ground in towns of the 'beans' where borrowings were plentiful. Many borrowers live there but it was still common to find a few families of borrowers in houses in the countryside.
"We saw it in our last visit there." Replied Rupard.
"A big mass of borrowers who were tired of living under human 'beans', they even planned to attack a country house not far from here." Ryus added on.
"But borrowers wouldn't make that big of an impact would they? I mean we're just so small compared to 'beans'." Replied Arrietty.
"That's true, but a mass against one house with only two 'beans' inside? It's true they won't make it far after that, but it will be enough to expose the Borrower community, we'd never be safe again." Said Maltessa who'd joined the table.
Suddenly Arrietty became panicked, what if Shawn's house is the one they're talking about? "About the 'beans' in the house, what do they look like?"
Rupard looked confused for a minute then he replied "there's an old woman with white hair, and a boy about your age with dark hair-" Arrietty turned on her father.
"We have to warn them!" Arrietty exclaimed jumping up. Spiller jumped up too, drawing his bow, he'd nearly nodded off, it was already late.
Homily strolled in carrying a tray with tea "Spiller! Put that away before you shoot someone's eye out!" the woman shrieked dropping the tray. Spiller jumped in surprise and immediately put his bow on the table.
He had no idea why Homily thought he'd shoot someone's eye out; he was very skilled with the bow.
"Father! We have to go, we have to warn them!", Arrietty was frantic now, Shawn was alive!
"Arrietty, that's enough." He father said sternly.
"But father, he's alive, I have to go see him!" Arrietty started to push in her chair.
"Arrietty, I said that's enough!" Her father shouted, and Arrietty literally cowered in fear. The girl looked at her father, mouth agape and turned on her heals, running a fast as she could to her room. This time it wasn't out of sadness, or frustration, but anger. Arrietty slammed her bedroom door and once again pushed the pincushion in front of it.
Arrietty, for the second time that night, flopped on her bed. The little borrower wondered about Shawn, how much had he changed? Did he still believe in her? Was his operation a success? Is his heart healed? Arrietty turned over and smiled at the thought of what Shawn had said before she left,
"My heart's stronger now, because you're in it." She tried to hide her blush as she tucked her chin down.
A new voice came from the other side of the door. It was Spiller.
"Arrietty, Spiller go now, come back in morning."
As much as Arrietty wanted to, she couldn't bring herself to say goodbye. She knew what she had to do; she needed to warn Shawn before his house was destroyed and the borrower race exposed.
As much as Arrietty wanted to, she couldn't ask Spiller to take her back to the house, it wasn't fair to him; she couldn't put his life at risk like that. Arrietty grabbed the white bag she'd used for her first borrowing and began filling it with various items she might need.
Arrietty slipped on her red borrowing dress, the familiar fabric brushed against her skin creating an almost nostalgic feeling. Arrietty pulled the bag over her head and then slipped her feet into her homemade brown boots. Now all Arrietty could do was wait until her parents were asleep, then she would sneak out of the house and follow the river they'd sailed down in Spiller's teapot. After that, all she'd have to do is follow the path her father had taken that led to the house.
Arrietty pressed her ear to the door; she could hear her parents talking in their room.
"I just don't understand why Arrietty isn't excited about marrying Ryus" Homily said as she paced around the room. "Ryus is wealthy, a great borrower, and she'd be able to stay close to us, and we wouldn't have to worry about her at all, because she'd be right here." Arrietty could hear her parents getting into bed. There was a pause in the conversation.
"That's true." Pod replied gruffly. There was a pause. "What about Spiller?" Arrietty held her breath.
"Spiller?" Homily asked, confused.
"Yes, they seem to be very good friends, maybe even best friends." Pod went on. Arrietty tried to hide a smile.
"Not only that but Spiller saved my life." Pod continued.
"He saved all of our lives," Homily added, "and found us a new home."
"Spiller's a good borrower, and an exceptional hunter."
"Exceptional? His hunting skills are amazing Pod, remember when he brought that horned beetle here? I think we still have one of the horns… It must have been a real challenge to kill."
"He would be able to protect Arrietty, Spiller would do anything for her." Pod said. Arrietty felt her cheeks flare up. No, Spiller doesn't think of me that way, I- we- we've never been like that. Arrietty thought.
"Besides, Arrietty's always loved the outdoors, adventure is something she wants in life, and Arrietty and Spiller have that in common."
"Yes, but a common hobby doesn't mean that they'd get married, I mean Spiller would have to want to marry Arrietty." Homily countered. For some reason Arrietty felt her heart pang.
"I believe Spiller's feelings are deeper than friendship." Pod replied. Arrietty had a sharp intake in breath.
"That's true," Homily sighed. "But do you think Spiller could create a steady home for a family? He's still very much a child."
Pod grunted and said "We can talk about it later"
Then there was silence.
When Arrietty was sure that her parents were asleep she slipped out of the house. It was the dead of night. Arrietty slipped out through the grate, and made her way across the yard. She climbed over several rocks and walked for what seemed like days. Just as the sun started coming up over the trees Arrietty reached the stream. Sighing she tried to estimate how long till she got to Shawn's house. It would be about two or three days, two or three days till she saw Shawn again.
Arrietty stood back up and kept walking, Just a few more days. Arrietty thought.