I OWN NOTHING! Copyright to studio ghibli.
Chapter 1: The Beginning
Though nearly a year has passed, I still remember him.
My old friend Shawn, the first Being to befriend a Borrower. He had a condition that affected his heart, making him sickly and weak. Slowly but surely, it was shortening his life, taking off years that should have been his- it was killing him. I never knew exactly what it was. I never even asked.
My family and I are well settled into our new home now- down the river from Shawn's house, much too far to risk the perilous journey back to see my first friend. We live with our cousins, the Harpsichords, and one other Borrower family, the Underwalls. Sometimes Spiller, the wild Borrower boy, stops by for a visit and a hot meal. But our life is much the same as it was back at our old house; underground or in the garden by day, inside Borrowing by night, and staying away from the Beings that live upstairs, in the real world.
I still go out Borrowing sometimes, but not as often as I used to, not as often as I'd like. Momma and Poppa are far too worried about what might happen if I meet another Being. Momma, especially, worries too much. But I'm not staying here forever, cooped up under the floorboards while real life goes on. Someday I'll be out of here, back in the forest, with the wind blowing through my hair and the flowers standing tall above me. I'd like to go visit Shawn, see if he still lives this long after his surgery. Maybe I can get Spiller to take me up the river in his teapot-boat. Whatever the case, I know that someday I'll escape. Someday, I know I'll be free…
Arrietty sighed and flopped down dramatically on her bed, leaving her table-sized journal wide open to let the air dry the fresh ink on its crisp white pages. She gazed up at her ceiling, desperately willing the red brick strewn with ribbons, beads, and flowers to become something, no, anything new. She missed her old room in Shawn's house. There it had been bright and cheerful, no matter what time of day. In the pale gray light of dawn, her new room was unbearably dull.
Pulling herself up out of bed, she padded over to her window and pushed it open. The circular opening was almost as tall as she was, made of clear white glass from the bottom of some sort of bottle and set on hinges to double as a quick escape route from the confines of her room. She hopped onto the windowsill, and, with a cursory glance to see that she had no unwanted observers, swung down into the damp, dew-traced ground.
Once outside she pulled her favorite leather boots out of their hiding place behind the small woodpile that her family kept for emergencies. The leather had been a gift from Spiller, and was tougher than her soft-bottomed Borrowing shoes- much better for outdoor exploring. Cautiously, she paced towards the exit of the little clearing, and slipped outside through a tangle of thorned branches. Disguised behind a thick rosebush, the Clock family home was too well concealed for anyone but a Borrower to find.
Outside, she heaved a sigh of relief. The sun was coming up, and the birds were singing in the treetops. If she was lucky, she might have been out early enough that no one would notice her disappearance. She could have the whole day to herself! She started off into the enormous garden, humming quietly to herself and relishing the prospect of doing whatever she wanted for the entire day.
"Arrietty! Wake up, dear." Homily tapped on her daughter's door, her fragile-looking knuckles producing a sharp rapping sound. "Arrietty, it's time for breakfast!" She sighed at her young daughters lazy habits. When she had been a girl, she had been up with the sun, ready to do her morning chores. "Arrietty? Are you in there?" She pulled open the door and gasped.
The morning sun was streaming in Arriety's wide open window, illuminating the hundreds of glass shards strung up on bits of ribbon throughout the room. The light was reflected from shard to shard, lending each a diamond-like brilliance and showering the room with multicolored light. Homily knew that Arrietty had a knack for brightening up any space, but the glass was a completely new addition. Admiring her daughter's handiwork, Homily ducked and weaved through the room and over to Arrietty's bed.
The blank book that her daughter used as a journal lay open on the floor, pages drifting languidly in the slight morning breeze. Smiling faintly, Homily knelt down and closed the book, relishing the feel of its velvet cover. Straining her arms, she heaved it up onto the pedestal where it was used as a tabletop. She turned to the lumpy form of her daughter, asleep inside of her jam-jar bed. The jar lay on its side, filled halfway with cotton balls and topped with a piece of red fleece as a blanket. Homily strode to the end of the bed. "Arrietty, wake up. Breakfast is ready, dear." She tugged of the blanket and gasped. Arrietty was gone, two pillows laying in her place. Homily whirled around and ran for the door, shouting to her husband.
"Pod! Pod, Arriety's gone! POD!"
Spiller sat on the edge of his teapot, floating downriver and watching the world go by. Bobbing gently, his makeshift boat scraped alongside one of the banks. He picked up his stick and pushed away from the shore, straining with the effort. The breeze ruffled his thick mane of hair, and he ducked his head uncomfortably. The sooner he was out of the open the better.
As he floated, his mind drifted from the task at hand. He found himself remembering his last meal with other Borrowers; a week ago, he had visited the Clocks, hoping to see Arrietty again. The feisty Borrower girl always found her way into his daydreams somehow or other, but it was always wonderful to see her in person. As usual, Homily had invited him to stay for dinner, and as usual, he accepted. He and Arrietty had gone to the Harpsichords and the Underwalls, inviting both families to dinner. Well, he amended, Arrietty had done most of the inviting. He had mostly stood by, enjoying the company of his favorite Borrower. Although he was getting better, years of lonely forest life had roughened his voice and his manners, leaving him more than a little bit antisocial.
Swinging his feet happily, Spiller poled downstream, his head full of idyllic memories. Soon, he thought, soon he's be sitting next to Arrietty at the Clock's dining table like he always did. He'd enjoy a warm meal; listen to the other Borrowers fast-paced chatter. He grimaced. Then again, maybe he was better off out here- he could barely keep up with normal Borrower conversation, much less participate. Arrietty was the only one he really felt comfortable with, and even she sometimes left him in the dust. Smiling, he slipped back into a daydream. He could practically hear Arrietty's bright voice welcoming him back into the civilized world.
He opened his eyes and banished the daydream, but Arrietty's voice lingered. "Spiller! Hey Spiller, over here! It's me, Arrietty!" Spiller leaped to his feet and peered out at the bank, brushing his hands over his hair ad clothes, trying in vain to compose himself. Over on the bank, he saw a flash of red as Arrietty waved wildly, her fiery hair tied up with a piece of yarn and her worn crimson Borrowing dress fluttered in the wind. He poled over to the edge of the bank and leaped off of his teapot, grinning sheepishly at the girl in front of him. "Hi, Arrietty," he mumbled, his voice slightly hoarse from disuse. "Hey, Spiller." she replied cheerily. "Coming to enjoy another hot meal and some decent company?" He nodded once and mumbled something about wanting to talk to Pod. Still smiling, Arrietty nodded and continued chatting away, knowing that Spiller would only talked when he had something to say.
"I've redecorated my room since you left," she said, starting off along the bank. Quickly, Spiller tied his teapot to a convenient rock and followed, listening intently. "I hung these beautiful bits of glass everywhere. They make it look like a rainbow every time the sun is shining." She giggled softly. Spiller watched in fascination as she continued to talk, gesturing with her hands the whole time. "Momma is going to be so surprised when she sees. She says that she likes my decorations, but doesn't like that I have to go out and Borrow them on my own. It's silly, really. I'm just as good as my Poppa was at my age, but she doesn't want me to get hurt." Spiller grunted in assent. He didn't want Arrietty hurt, either. She was too special to him for that.
"Hey, Spiller," Arrietty said, "Seen any other Borrowers lately?" "Yup." He nodded. "I seen…" scrunching up his face in concentration, he struggled to remember who he had met in the past few weeks. "I seen this many." he held up his hand, fingers splayed except for the index finger, which was folded tightly to his palm. "Four?" Arrietty squealed in delight. "That makes twelve total! Can you believe it?" She had asked Spiller to keep an eye out for any other Borrowers that were out and about, and had received encouraging news. There were at least three other families that Spiller knew of, all prospering underneath the enormous Being houses.
"Four more! How wonderful!" Arrietty spun around and around, her skirt flaring and fluttering in the breeze. She spun again and fell to the ground, dizzy and delighted. "Oh, Spiller, that's- that's- that's so, so wonderful!" Spiller squatted down next to the breathless Arrietty, grinning from ear to ear. "Does Spiller's news make you happy?" he asked, abashed that something he said could have brought Arrietty to such antics. "Oh, yes, Spiller," she replied. With a sparkle in her eye, she sat up and grinned. "It makes me very, very, very happy."
Spiller smiled and blushed. "Then… it make Spiller happy too."