Her gaze panned over to the window of her Physics classroom, the last class of the last day of her junior year. The fog had dissipated letting the sun shine through the normal cloud gatherings in the blue sky. She could hear the chatter of her American classmates all around her but she didn't join in with the banter and plans being made for the summer vacation. Down below the window she looked from, students were passing having been released early by the more relaxed teachers. Mr. Smith however sat disapprovingly at the head of the classroom insistent upon keeping the Physics students in for the "full term".
"Back away from the door now, Cai, I mean it!" he lectured as Cai Plowski a graduating senior and only son of the town's mayor leaned against the door jamb, many a girl and his guy friends surrounding him and taking his lead. However, before Mr. Smith could carry out any sense of his own justice the bell rang and the students, lead by Cai, poured out of the classroom into the hallway with hoots and hollers echoing down the enclosed passage.
She stood up and slung her messenger bag over her shoulder before walking toward the door of the classroom to freedom as well. Mr. Smith let go of a heavy sigh before seeing her walking by his desk. "Thank you, Hiro, for keeping to your seat as always," he said rather wearily. She nodded an acknowledgment before proceeding out the door. "Hiro" is how she had insisted the teachers and students of this American school to call to her leaving her name "Chihiro" to her parents use. Mr. Ogino had gotten a promotion again but instead of moving somewhere else within Japan, he had to move his family to the United States of America. Mrs. Ogino had told her daughter time and again that it was a good move and would help her improve her English language studies seeing as it was the only class she more or less failed at completely.
The reason Hiro hadn't wanted to move this time around wasn't because of the dubious task of using English all the time or even leaving her friends behind. No… it was a matter of even greater importance to her. It would be one thing for him to find her in Japan but the United States? How would he find a forwarding address?
She had chided herself a few times after thinking along these lines. What were the chances Yubaba had even let the old river spirit walk away from her bathhouse for the Spirit World? But Hiro had given him his name back: Kohaku River. Kohaku had been called Haku by Yubaba the witch to keep him by her side in the Spirit World to act as her servant who was in charge of taking care of all her dirty work.
But then, Hiro would think, perhaps her twin sister, the witch Zeniba could have helped him escape.
Four years had passed since Hiro and her parents were spirited away after going into the tunnel on the road her father had lost them on before they moved to America. At times Hiro would doubt that it had ever happened but she learned to trust in her dreams after a while which were her last and only link to her memories of Haku and the Spirit World.
However now that she lived in America, Hiro had given up any chance of Haku's promise coming true, "We will meet again." In fact the end of school marked three years since her father had uprooted her and her mother once more for another journey. Hiro put her ruminations to the back of her mind once more. She'd sealed a part of her heart away with her memories of Haku to the furthest part of her mind that usually only her dreams dared to dredge up.
This American life was her life now. School and dodging the dramas of high school were daily occurrences and she only found solace in the summer break. She was ready to go home and celebrate the start of the summer break and also her freedom from Cai Plowski who seemed to have been pursuing her since the moment she set foot in the American school. However now he was graduating and with any luck he would get into a college far, far away from their little town. Her mind danced excitedly only a small smile tugging at the corner of her lips to show her pleasure in the anticipation of next school year.
"Hiro!" a voice shouted and she flinched slightly casting a look over her shoulder. His obnoxious voice was unmistakable but she still had to look wishing and praying it wasn't him. Sure enough, Cai with his spiky brown hair was walking towards her and catching up quickly. Turning her face forward she picked up her own pace seeing the gates of the school just a few feet in front of her. "Hey, hey!" an arm around her shoulders announced the pest had caught her before she could escape school grounds and make a run for it. "Don't pretend like you didn't hear me call you," he said softly, looking down on her 5'3" compared to his 6'.
"Don't flatter yourself," she said her Japanese accent lilting her words slightly. "If I were pretending that would be a form of flirting. I was simply not wasting time in making it obvious I was making my great escape," she clarified, not deigning to look up at him.
"Cut it out, Hiro, we all know you've been waiting for me to graduate so the other girls wouldn't get jealous," Cai said turning her shoulders to fact him. She looked up at him with a mild incredulousness.
"Jealous of what, Cai?" she asked for clarity.
"That you were with the guy that they all wanted. But now you can be my girl and all those others will be leaving this place and finding other guys to like," he said with a bright grin. She blinked a few times before peeling his hands from her shoulders and continuing her brisk walk off of the school grounds. "Hey! Where are you going?" he called after her before jogging to catch up just outside the school gates.
"I'm getting away from this craziness you seem to have. I'm afraid it might be contagious," she said with a quiet sarcasm. Feeling his hand on her shoulder again she whipped around and took a few quicker steps backward and away from him. "I've never liked you, Cai. And I'm not going to start now that, as you put it, the competition has disappeared. You're thickheaded and crazy and vain. I don't care for your type," she said looking at his green eyes before tossing her long braid back over her shoulder. It was secured with a sparkling purple tie. She saw his expression change from jovial to something dark and mean. She turned to leave but he grasped her arm firmly.
"Your little friend Kohaku isn't real, Hiro," Cai spat out icily. Hiro tensed before looking at him as devoid of expression as she could after hearing his ugly voice say that wonderful name.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Cai." Ripping her arm from his grasp she broke into a run wishing for pants as her long skirt wasn't the ideal running outfit but mandated by the school as part of the female uniform.
"You'll be there tonight, at my dinner. My parents invited your family," he called out to her and she shuddered having forgotten about the beautifully and cunningly crafted invitation.
Hiro didn't stop running until she came to the gates of her parents' property. Her fingers clung to the curly iron of the gates as she gasped slightly for air. She wasn't out of shape but the weight of the skirt wasn't what she was used to running in and especially not for 2 miles. She wiped her sweating forehead with her free hand to see her hand was shaking slightly from the strain.
She leaned her forehead against the metal not really focusing on what lie beyond. Haku was front and center in her thoughts. She had forgotten how for a full year after her family's move to America she talked openly of her time in the Spirit World and of Haku to any kid in the class who would listen to her. The teachers of course pegged it down to a nasty bout of lying and a love for telling Japanese fairy tales on Hiro's part but the kids still ate it all up, squealing in horror and delight at all the detail she was able to give them of the creatures she encountered.
All the girls had hit the age where boys with cooties were becoming less and that any boy willing to treat them like best friends were what they hoped for. Kohaku the River Spirit was the perfect friend and was even cute or so they imagined. When Cai had first heard of Kohaku he simply laughed at the fairy tales the cute new girl had invented to stand in for the place he felt most entitled to. Soon, though, he openly mocked Hiro for her dream of meeting up with Haku once more. Others teased her about believing her own fairy tales and thus after that first year she realized how silly it was to cling to the hope that Haku would find her after escaping Yubaba—especially now that her family didn't even live in the same country anymore.
She shut Haku and her heart away and had been trying to forget ever since but Cai was forever tied to it and thus his presence kept the seal from setting and Haku would appear in her dreams.
Letting out a sigh, Hiro hiked her bag strap back up her shoulder and opened the gate onto her family's property. It seemed ridiculous to have so much space for just the three of them but she loved the fact that her father had gone through the pains of having a construction crew build their home like the older era Japanese housing even down to the sliding doors and wood floors.
A slight breeze pushed past her toward the front door, loose hairs floating up and about her face that had long since lost the baby fat and become slightly more angled framing a pair of bright eyes brown though they were. Her hair had been growing since her travels in the Spirit World and she still wore the tie in her hair that had been weaved by Zeniba and her friends Boh, the Bird, and No-Face. She wasn't sure the power it had possessed in the Spirit World translated to the Human World but she felt it didn't hurt anything.
Sliding open the front door she slipped her shoes off and entered. "I'm home!" she said loud enough to be heard through the house. Hiro saw that her parents' shoes were at the threshold along with another pair. It was then that she heard the voices of her parents in the room just beyond the opening hallway.
She walked slowly and suspiciously to the edge of the entry and peered in to the family room to see the three people. Breathing a sigh of relief that it wasn't Cai she took another step into the room to examine her family's guest. His hair was long, past his shoulders but not quite to his lower back like hers, and dark as water at midnight. He looked to be strong but leanly built with squared shoulders but his back was to Hiro so she couldn't examine his face without calling express attention to herself. Her mother looked up and smiled brightly doing just that.
"There she is now. Welcome home, Chihiro," her mother said warmly. She flinched mentally hearing her full name but didn't have much time to dwell on it for the stranger was looking over his shoulder at her. His eyes were startling for they were set in a Japanese face but were the color of the sea. They reminded her of a similar pair of eyes that had so enchanted her back when she was only ten years old. His gaze was first curious but warmed considerably as his lips tilted into a crooked smile. Her breath caught and she could walk no further. The stranger stood up and reached a hand out to her in a very American way.
"Hello Chihiro-san. My name is Kawa Mamoru," he said gently. She managed to get her hand across to his in a rather jerky fashion but he caught it as though it were a startled bird and held it in both hands. "I have been waiting a long time to meet you, it would seem," he said equally gentle and warm. She felt vaguely disappointed when he gave her his name but couldn't stop the fluttering under her ribcage as he spoke to her. Something within started to sing.
The voice of Hiro's father broke her out of the trance and she couldn't stop a blush from burning across her cheeks. "We only just told you about our little Chihiro, Mamoru-kun so we haven't been keeping her from your acquaintance on purpose," her father said laughingly. Hiro glanced at her father shocked by his informal tones toward Mamoru. Hadn't her parents just met him as well? And furthermore what brought him to their home?
Her mother must have seen the questions in her expression for soon she was filled in with the information that her parents had been planning to take Mamoru into their home, or rather the guest house out back, for a few months now and had simply waited for Mamoru to make the appropriate arrangements to settle there. "He'll be teaching ceramics this coming fall at your high school," her mother continued. Hiro's spirits sank a little more. An attractive young man was to be living in her back yard but he was also her teacher… not technically because she had no desire to take ceramics while paint and pencil still called to her heart but their relationship would have to be strictly business.
"Speaking of school, Chihiro I thought you had Physics last today. Why are you all sweaty? Is it really so hot outside?" her mother asked with concern. Hiro's cheeks burned again remembering the state of her face and potentially her clothes.
"Um… I was excited for school to be out so I ran home," she said vaguely wanting suddenly to be anywhere but under the perceptive gaze of Mamoru or rather Kawa-sensei.
"Well go take a shower then. Remember, we have that graduation dinner to go to at the Plowski's home this evening so don't get into your pajamas just yet," her mother reminded her. Hiro couldn't stop the groan from escaping her lips and, by the looks on her parents' faces, it startled them as much as it startled her but Mamor… Kawa-sensei looked amused. Before her mother could scold her, she turned about and scuttled as quickly out of the room and down the hall to her own room as humanly possible.
She sighed softly before looking at her bed and seeing her mother had already laid out an outfit for the dinner party. She shivered in disgust seeing the cocktail dress of white and pink. She looked longingly at her dresser that contained all of her jeans and tee shirts before hopping in the shower.
Wrapped in a bathrobe she took the blow dryer to her hair brushing through it to keep down the frizz as much as possible. She hummed a little tune until a knock on her door reached her ears through the loud and harsh sound of the dryer. Turning it off she called to who ever was outside and her mother soon entered the room a foreign hair product in hand along with a few hair sticks. Hiro pressed her lips firmly together as her mother drew closer.
"Don't give me that look, Chihiro. This is a nice dinner that we are going to and I will not allow you to go with a plain braid and that homely looking purple tie you always use," Mrs. Ogino said firmly. Among the hair accessories, Hiro saw a plain black hair tie and shook her head firmly.
"No, Mom. I will be using my purple hair tie, thank you very much," she said stubbornly. She didn't know why she insisted on wearing it every day but it was as much a part of her as the nose on her face and it made her feel more secure than leaving it behind.
"Chihiro, you will do as I say," Mrs. Ogino said her irritation showing on her round face, "Or I will take that purple thing away and toss it." Hiro held the tie firmly in her hand feeling her nails cut crescents into her palm. She didn't speak but sat sullenly on the little chair before the vanity and let her mother set to work on her hair.
Quick fingers put her hair up into a bun looking thing almost on top of her head with a few renegade pieces finding their way out of the restrictions around her neck and ears but her forehead was completely uncovered and she glowered at her reflection. Her expression turned even darker when her mother placed a pink flower at the right side of the bun to match the torture device of a dress she would be expected to put on.
"Don't forget to wear the white heels I bought for you the other day," her mother said more cheerfully now that she'd gotten her way as far as Hiro's hair went.
"But Mom, I can't walk in heels!" Hiro exclaimed.
"Well, you'd better learn fast because that's what you're wearing. I threw out your white flats the other day and none of your other shoes goes with the dress." Hiro stood up straighter at her mother's admission and waited for her to leave the room before scurrying over to her closet. She found not only her flats were gone but so were all her casual kicks. There were four different high heels that she had never laid eyes on before (one being a pair of white stiletto-ish things) her gym shoes and her uniform shoes. She rocked back on her heels rubbing her forehead and eyes with her right hand.
"You've got to be kidding me," she muttered before her head jerked back to its rightful place and she rushed over to her drawers. Her jeans were gone along with her graphic tees. "What the heck is going on?" she exclaimed. A knock on her door and her father's voice told her to hurry and get dressed or they would be late. "Wouldn't that be a shame," she mumbled darkly vowing to confront her parents about her sudden wardrobe change later.
She glared down at the pink sash that she tied about her waist in distaste before shrugging into the pink cashmere camisole. She snatched up the white heels and wrenched her bedroom door open to shriek in surprise. "Kawa-sensei," she said as he looked down at her with his strange blue-green eyes in mild surprise.
"I'm sorry to have startled you, Chihiro-san. I was just walking by to get to my living quarters through the back door," he said gesturing to the back door a few feet away that led to the guest house.
"It wasn't your fault, I just didn't…" she said trailing off getting a little lost in his gaze. His eyebrows quirked up in anticipation of the rest of her words but she lost them. Instead she was left blushing in embarrassment. "I need to get to the front door so if you'll excuse me," she said skirting around him and toward the front of the house. She glanced back to see him smiling slightly before he turned to continue on his way.
Before she could think much more on the subject of the teacher her mother called impatiently for her to hurry up.
Resting her chin in her hand she watched the city streets pass by as they drew nearer to the Plowski household. She'd been to the Plowski's house multiple times because her father was Mayor Plowski's biggest supporter and financial support. However she'd never had to wear a dress before and it was shorter than she would ever pick for herself and she could only look sullenly at her knees.
She felt the car slow down and looked up to see that they had arrived at the house, or rather mansion. There was a butler awaiting their arrival and he opened the doors for both her mother and herself to step out of the car. She did so, pulling at the skirt hoping vainly that it might stretch just a little more.
"Chihiro, you didn't put makeup on," her mother exclaimed suddenly before attacking her face with lip gloss.
"Ack, mom!" Hiro cried aloud pushing her mother's hand away from her face but not until after Mrs. Ogino had successfully glossed her daughter's lips.
"And don't you dare wipe it off," her mother warned before taking her father's arm to be escorted up the driveway and through the front door the maid stood at awaiting to attend to their needs. She wobbled her way up the drive cursing the heels all the way up. If she had been going to eat at her house, she would be relieved of her shoes at the door but here they were the guests of Americans and expected to dine like them.
The torture of walking up the drive was shorter than she expected but seemed long because of her mother's choice in footwear. Her mother gave the maid at the door her camisole baring her shoulders and when the maid offered to take Hiro's, she just shook her head without a sound but still caught the piercing gaze of her mother. "It's too cold inside," she said quietly trying not to sound rebellious. Her mother let it go with a pursing of her lips when a booming voice called down to them from the stair case that lay in the entryway.
"Ah! Welcome Ogino! I see you have brought your two lovely ladies," Mayor Plowski said beaming under his bushy moustache. Hiro followed her mother's example bowing slightly at the waist but stood up almost immediately afterward hearing another pair of footsteps join the Mayor's. Hiro saw it was Cai and he beamed down at her an almost malicious twinkle in his gaze as he gave her a once over. Storm clouds rolled over her expression as she looked up at him but she tried to clear it when the Mayor addressed her.
"Hiro, I am glad that you could make it. The way Cai described you this afternoon it didn't sound as though you were feeling up to dinner," Mayor Plowski said with sincere concern. She wasn't sure how Cai had portrayed her to his father but it seemed innocent enough of the Mayor's part so she tilted her head slightly forward in acknowledgement ignoring her mother's inquisitive stare.
"Yes, I wasn't feeling quite myself today but I am well now, thank you Mayor Plowski," she said softly. She passed the Mayor's inspection and he prattled on to her parents guiding them to join him in the dining room. Cai waited for her parents to pass him before joining Hiro's side and wrapping an arm about her waist. She froze from the waist up but continued to walk after her parents. He leaned down to her ear to whisper to her. "You may as well get used to this, Hiro," he said, sickly sweet.
She didn't speak it aloud but she made sure her expression spoke loudly enough for him, "Over my dead body."
This is the other fanfic that I have been working on as of late. I watched Spirited Away for the first time about two months ago and completely fell in love with the story. And, as others have also decided, I believe there is definitely more to the story of Chihiro and Kohaku.
He did promise they would meet again, after all.
So, here is my take of the events.
Oh, and for future reference, I doubt the chapters will be as long as this but we shall see. I hope you enjoyed it and look forward to my next installment.