Chapter 1: Unpleasant Surprise
Story originally posted of Fanfiction.net: 03/02/12 - 07/13/12
Link to original story: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/7888750/1/Sh%C5%8D-Enters-the-Secret-World-of-Arrietty
(A/N: When I heard there was a fanfiction contest, I thought, 'what the heck', so here I am.)
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
“SHŌ ENTERS THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY”
Chapter 1: Unpleasant Surprise
She was an early riser. Always had been, ever since she was a little girl. So she made her way to the outside. Coming to the hidden door, if it could be referred to as such, she pulled it open and stepped outside. The sun had risen not too long ago, but so far it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day.
Standing only ten centimeters tall, Arrietty walked out onto the tree branch. She breathed in deeply as she appreciated the view her new home gave her. Well, it wasn’t really new to her anymore. She and her family had been living here for the past four years. This was her third home. Her previous home had been torn down after the “beans”, short for human beings, that owned it had moved out, forcing Arrietty and her family to find yet another new home after only living there for two years.
But she was happy here, living in a large oak tree in the middle of the park. It had been pure luck that they had come across it. And as a bonus, it seemed that others like her had once lived in this tree as well. Though it had long since been abandoned, there was lots of furniture and other “borrowed” items the previous family had left behind.
Of course, it needed some fixing up, but it was habitable. The inside of the tree had been carved to make several tunnels and empty spaces that had been made into rooms. It reminded Arrietty of those ant farms certain beans enjoyed keeping. The tunnels ran underground too, leading to certain areas of the park. And during the winter, they would move to the underground part of the tree, which acted as an igloo, keeping the heat trapped inside so Arrietty and her family were kept nice and toasty.
It must have taken years, maybe even generations for the previous family, or families, that lived here to get it the way it was. But the tree was in good condition, and well cared for since it was a memorial tree, meaning they didn’t need to worry about it being cut down or having any bean children climbing up it or desecrating it. Of course, that meant staying hidden when the gardeners tended to it, but Arrietty and her family were good at hiding from the beans.
Walking along the branch, Arrietty placed her hand over her brow to block out the sun so she could see the clock hanging on the wall in the recreation center a short distance away. It was 7:02. The beans that worked there never came before 8:30. An hour and a half was more than enough time to sneak inside and borrow a few things. Technically, “borrow” really meant steal, but they only took things that the beans wouldn’t notice or miss, such as cubes of sugar, which was always in good supply since the beans that worked in the recreation center were fond of coffee. There were also three different vending machines that had other goodies they could borrow. And just beyond the small building was a stream that led to a lake a mile or so away, which was perfect for swimming and gathering water.
Arrietty jumped in surprise and looked up. Hanging from the branch above her was a young man. Dark of skin, rather muscular with long black hair, and dressed rather primitive, he smiled down at her and hopped onto her branch.
“Morning, Spiller.” She greeted him happily. “Sleep well?”
Spiller nodded. “Yes, Spiller have good sleep.”
Arrietty chuckled at his awkward speech. Even after all these years, he still spoke rather childishly, and kept his child-like personality, but Arrietty liked that about him.
She had first met Spiller six years ago. At the time, she had thought that she, her mother, and father were the last borrowers left. That is, until Spiller came into their lives. And it was lucky he had come along when he did. Her father had been out searching for a new place for them to live when he sprained his ankle. It was Spiller who came to the rescue, helping her father back to their little house, and then bringing them news that there were still many borrowers left, and even helping them find a new home.
Spiller had moved in with Arrietty and her family after that. He had no family of his own, which was why he was such a “wild boy”, but they were happy to have him join them. It was good to have someone new around.
“Hey, Spiller,” she said excitedly, “we’ve still got some time before the beans show up. Want to go borrow something from the vending machines? How about some M&Ms?”
Spiller gave her a hopeful look. “Peanut kind?”
She gave him a smile. “Sure, the ones with peanuts.”
“That will have to wait.”
The two borrowers looked at the opening to the tree to see Arrietty’s parents coming to join him; Pod, her stern but loving father, and Homily, her over protective and slightly paranoid mother.
Arrietty frowned. “But, Papa, if we don’t go now, we won’t have time before the beans get here.”
Her mother, as always, looked visibly shaken at the idea of her daughter going out when beans would be arriving soon. “You shouldn’t be cutting it so close anyway. Why can’t you just go borrowing at night when we know there won’t be any beans around?”
“Mama!” Arrietty groaned. “You promised you’d stop worrying so much.”
“I can’t stop worrying!” Homily cried. “I’m never going to be able to stop worrying about you!”
Pod rested a hand on his wife’s shoulder. “Calm down, dear. Getting discovered by beans is not what this is about.” He looked at the other borrower that he had come to love as a son. “Spiller, would you mind leaving us alone for a moment. We would like to talk with our daughter.”
Spiller nodded. “I go.” He said, and began to head inside. Before he did, he looked back at Pod. “Tell now?”
Pod nodded back. “Yes, tell now.”
Spiller grinned as if he had heard that Christmas had come early and rushed inside, whooping. Arrietty raised an eyebrow at his behavior. What was he so excited about, and what was “tell now” supposed to mean?
Maybe that’s what her parents wanted to talk to her about. “So, what’s up, Papa?”
Pod motioned for her to sit down. “Take a seat.”
Arrietty did as she was told and sat down on a twig. “Is something wrong?”
Homily shook her head. “No, no, deary, not at all. It’s good news. Wonderful news actually.” She seemed very giddy now. “Oh, I’m too excited! Pod, you tell her.”
Her husband chuckled. “If you want me to.” He gave his daughter a kind but serious smile, but he didn’t say anything.
Arrietty waited, but her father remained silent, seeming to be trying to find the right words he wanted to say. “What is it, Papa? Why are you smiling at me like that?”
Pod sighed. “It’s just hard to believe my little girl is twenty years old.”
An embarrassed blush crept up Arrietty’s cheeks. “Papa, I’ve been twenty for a few months already. Why are you bringing this up now?”
“Oh,” Homily muttered dreamily, “where did the years go? It seems just yesterday that you were still a baby.”
“Yes,” Pod agreed, “the years have flown by. For all of us.”
Arrietty felt like what he just said held deeper meaning. “What do you mean?”
“Well, you’re mother and I are getting older, Arrietty, and we’re not always going to be there to take care of you.”
“What are you talking about? You make it sound like you’re dying. You’re only in your fifties. You’ve got a good thirty something years left.” A terrible thought occurred to her. “Oh no, Papa, you and Mama aren’t sick, are you?”
Homily waved her arms. “No, no, nothing like that!”
“But we’re not getting any younger either.” Pod added. “My back is starting to bother me in my old age. I don’t know how many more years I’ll be able to go out borrowing.”
Arrietty gave him a smile. “That’s not a problem. Spiller and I can do the borrowing. I’ll have to be in charge of the food runs though, otherwise Spiller will bring back cricket legs, or grasshopper antenna and stuff.”
She cringed at the thought. She understood that Spiller had lived in the wild for most of his life, but still, how could he eat things like that?
“We know that you can take care of yourself,” Pod continued, “but we want to make sure you’ll be well provided for. What you need is a husband.”
A few seconds of silence passed by after this statement. It took a few moments for it to register to Arrietty just what her father was saying. “I need a what?!?” she cried.
“A husband to provide and take care of you.” her father repeated.
“And Spiller has asked us for your hand in marriage.” Her mother finally exclaimed happily.
Arrietty felt her stomach drop. “Spiller did?”
“And we’ve given him our blessings.” Homily finished.
“You did what?!?” Arrietty jumped to her feet. “Oh, Mama, you didn’t!”
“Spiller will make a fine husband.” Her mother continued. “He may behave like a child at times, but he’s strong and brave, very dependable. And he really loves you. He’ll take good care of you.”
“I don’t need to be taken care of!” Arrietty cried stubbornly.
This was so sudden. She had definitely not seen this coming. Her parents had engaged her to Spiller? But he was like a brother to her. She loved the guy dearly, but only as a close friend, a family member. The two of them getting married just didn’t seem right.
“It’s not just about having someone take care of you.” her father told her. “We want to see you happy.”
“Don’t you want to have a family of your own?” her mother asked.
“Well… yeah, but…”
“And I very much want to be a grandmother.”
Arrietty blushed. “But… with Spiller?” she cried. “I love him like a brother. Marrying him would be just too weird.”
“Well, Arrietty, it’s not as if you have many options left.” Pod pointed out. “We may not be the last of our kind as we originally thought, but we’re still far from common. There aren’t many of us left.”
Arrietty knew that. The first time they had moved, she had met other borrowers, but unless a family lived in the same bean’s house, it was rare that they ever met up.
“I’m sure your feelings for him will change to the more romantic kind after the two of you are married.” Homily stated.
Arrietty doubted it, but she tried imaging a life with Spiller where they were husband and wife rather than sort-of-siblings. After a few moments, she frowned and shook her head. Even though they weren’t related, it felt sort of like incest. How could she marry someone she had brotherly love for?
“No, it just won’t work out.” she told them. “I just can’t see the two of us together as a couple.”
“He’s you’re best chance.” Her mother told her. “Unless we move again, you’re chances of meeting another boy are slim at best.”
Arrietty frowned. That was true, and she wasn’t willing to move again on the off chance of meet another boy. To put it simply, she was basically stuck with Spiller. Not that he was a bad choice. She could say that Spiller was handsome, he was kind and would make a good husband, just not to her. The way she felt about him was not suitable for marriage.
Before she could say anything, her father spoke up. “We’ve already agreed anyway. We’ve accepted his proposal.”
“I’ve already started making wedding plans.” Homily added excitedly.
Arrietty felt irritated by this. Wasn’t she the one who was supposed to accept the proposal? Asking her parents permission was considerate on Spiller’s part, but her parents had no right to accept the proposal for her. She could see how they were doing what they thought was best for her, but still, she should have a say in how to run her life. She wanted to be with someone she loved that was a different type of love than what she felt for her parents and Spiller. She wanted the passionate romantic kind of love. She wanted…
Pod noticed a far away look appear in his daughter’s eyes. He’d seen that look before, and he knew what she was thinking about. He’d kept his thoughts to himself about it for years, thinking it would just go away, but it never did. If anything, it just got worse. Perhaps he should have spoken to her about it a long time ago. Maybe things would be different now. But it wasn’t doing anyone any good thinking about what he should have or could have done. He and his daughter needed to have a long overdue talk.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, he let out a sigh. “Homily, could I speak to Arrietty alone for a moment?”
Homily looked surprised for a moment. “Oh, um, yes, of course. I’ll be going now.”
Pod waited for his wife to disappear inside the tree before turning to his daughter again. “Arrietty, the way you feel about Spiller isn’t the only reason you don’t want to marry him, is it?”
Arrietty’s mouth dropped open slightly in surprise, but she regained her composure quickly and turned away. “I… I don’t know what you’re talking about?”
“Is that why you can’t look me in the eye when you say that?”
Arrietty felt her cheeks grow warm and forced herself to look at her father, though she said nothing in response. But her silence seemed to confirm what her father was concerned about and he sighed.
“Arrietty, I admit that I could have been wrong. Perhaps not all beans are bad.”
“They’re not!” Arrietty snapped, a little too defensively. “If it hadn’t been for him, mother would have, no, all of us would have-”
“I’m aware.” Pod interrupted, preferring not to think about the day his wife had been caught and trapped in a jar. “We owe that boy a great deal of gratitude, but Arrietty, what you have in mind is just impossible. It won’t work out, not now, not ever.”
Arrietty clenched her dress so tightly that her knuckles turned white. “You think I don’t know that! I never asked to feel this way! And I’ve tried to forget, but I just can’t!”
She felt tears prickle her eyes and squeezed them together to prevent them from falling. After a few moments, she felt her father’s hand on her chin, and she opened her eyes as he raised her head to face him again.
“All the more reason to settle down.” He told her. “It’ll help you get over your feelings for him.”
Arrietty took a moment to gather her nerves before daring to say, “What if I don’t want to forget my feelings for him?”
That stern look appeared on her father’s face. “That’s foolish talk, Arrietty. You live in two completely different worlds. He’s a bean, and you’re a borrower. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way things are.”
Arrietty nodded, but she still looked as if she was about to cry. Pod couldn’t stand to see her upset like this. Perhaps it would be best to leave her alone for a while and let everything sink in.
Getting up to leave, he headed back to the tree. He paused at the door and glanced back at her. “You’ll be happy with Spiller as a husband. He’ll take care of you.”
Arrietty didn’t reply as he father headed inside. Happy with Spiller as her husband? No, at most she’ll be content. But even if she didn’t marry him, could she ever truly be happy with anyone other than the one person the fates themselves seemed intent one keeping away from her?
With a sigh, she looked at the clock in the recreation center. It was now 7:46. Too late to borrow anything from there without the risk of being seen. Not that it really mattered; she didn’t feel much like borrowing right now anymore. Instead, she plopped down on a leaf, using it like a hammock.
“Shō…” she whispered.
She hadn’t seen him for six years, yet she still remembered him as if it had been yesterday. She wondered if he still remembered her. She immediately chuckled at the thought. Of course he still remembered her. How could anyone forget meeting someone that was only ten centimeters tall? Unless he dismissed it as a dream or a fantasy over the years.
No, he had promised that he would never forget her, and she believed him. But she wondered what he was up to these days. Was he still sickly? Had he moved somewhere far away? Did he have a family of his own? He would be eighteen now. He probably didn’t have a family, but maybe a girlfriend.
The thought made her heart ache, and she scolded herself for her it. She should not be feeling heartache over a bean; it just wasn’t logical. So why was she torturing herself like this? Why couldn’t she give him up?
‘If only I hadn’t been seen.’ She thought to herself. ‘Then we wouldn’t have had to move, and I could have stayed with him.’
The irony about that was that if she hadn’t been seen, then she never would have gotten to know him at all, and he’d just be another bean to her.
Yes, fate was cruel.
If only her grandparents hadn’t been so afraid of Shō’s grandparents and had moved into the dollhouse they had made for them, then maybe…
She shook her head. She couldn’t dwell on what ifs. No matter how different things could have been, things could still never work out between them. Her father was right; she had to accept the way things were.
“But if only there were a chance that we could be together.” She said to herself. “If only we could…”
Unbeknownst to her, someone been drawn to her heartfelt wishes and had been listening in on her private thoughts, and that someone wasn’t Spiller or her parents. From another branch, much higher up, a woman with a pink veil covering the lower part of her face looked down at the young borrower.
“Yes, if only.” The woman muttered, stroking a small round object in her hands. “Perhaps we can all get what we want out of this.”The wind blew, causing a leaf to obscure her from vision. When the leaf moved aside, the woman was gone.
(A/N: There's the first chapter, revealing what happened to Arrietty and her family over the years. And as the chapter title states, she got a rather unpleasant surprise. I hope no one looks down on her parents for the arranged marriage; they think they're acting in her best interests. And it's not that Arrietty doesn't love Spiller, it's just not that kind of love. Imagine suddenly getting engaged to you best friend or adoptive/step sibling if you have one. You probably wouldn't be too happy either. And just who is this mysterious woman that seems to want to fulfill Arrietty's wish? You'll have to stay tuned for that.)