Chapter | 1
It was a hot summer’s day on the last day of school.
I pulled my bag over my shoulder and followed the masses as the last bell reverberated off of every wall in the entire building. It was almost as if it was trying to mirror the inner voices of the students that were trapped there.
I guess saying I hate it all would be pretty harsh.
It was more along the lines of being disappointed that nothing exciting ever happened. Luckily I only had one year left and then I would go as far away as possible, even though I wasn’t even sure where that was.
I walked past all the students starting their cars and began my long walk home.
It was quite pathetic actually, I was already seventeen, but my parents wouldn't even consider letting me drive the car on my own. Something about public safety, I tended to stop listening once the lecture started.
Of course I haven't given up hope. The day will come when I, Chihiro, will be allowed to drive my own car without my mother sitting next to me and restraining herself from jumping over and grabbing the wheel. But until that day came, I was stuck walking home to our azure blue house on the top of the hill.
I guess it wasn't that bad, because thanks to that hill, I can at least wear a bikini without having to squirm for cover whenever some guy happens to look my way, which doesn't often happen.
But hey, a girl can dream, can't she?
Back when I was about ten years old, I used to be cute and scared of everything. But spending a few days in another world tends to change how you see some things.
Of course, this only played a minor role in the transformation I had around the age of thirteen when I started to think stuffed animals where for girly girls and I fell in love with my first pair of ripped skinny jeans.
My parents never really understood why this happened.
They tried very hard to convince me that I only had one identity and that I didn't want to give people the wrong idea about me.
After none of these attempts succeeded they tried sending me to a friend of theirs that had a degree in psychology, but head games have never really worked on me either.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not some kind of gothic chick or a tom boy, not in the least. I simply choose to wear a tight pair of grey leggings instead of a skirt so short that people could see my butt cheeks.
Since it felt like the sun was trying to burn away my top layer of skin, I decided on an outfit that would was pretty plain.
My hair, which had grown out quite a lot, fell all the way down to the middle of my back where it started to curl a little. No matter what I did, or how many times I straighten it, the curls just came back.
After about ten minutes of walking I finally reached the front gate of our house.
Most people that have seen our house assumed we were rich, and even though my dad made a huge amount of money through sales, the house was quite small on the inside.
"I'm home!" a yelled once I had put my bad down on the kitchen table.
This action in itself was a huge waste of air since there was no one home this early, and even if there was, they would be so busy with what not that they wouldn't reply in any case.
Ever since my personality had changed so drastically my relationship with my parents took a turn for the worse.
It felt as if they never really accepted who I became and that they might wish to have their little girl back.
No matter what I did to prove I was still me, they still looked down on me.
Grabbing a can of soda from the fridge, I walk out onto the porch.
If there were two things I didn't hate in this town it was the view of the ocean and woods that stretched out like a green blanket next to our house.
My parents strictly forbade me from entering the woods alone; since I had gotten lost after moving.
If only they knew the reason I had been in the woods in the first place.
Even though I know my parents only wanted what was best for me, I would still go jogging in the woods whenever my parents were not home- like after school.
Tossing the can in the bin on my way up stairs, I grabbed my phone- which I had forgotten on the kitchen table before I went to school earlier in the day.
I took the stares two, if not three, at a time I made it to my room in 30 seconds flat.
My room was actually very boring, with only the basics that a room needed.
A queen sized bed had been stuffed in the corner with a bedside table next to it. Across from my bed I had a desk with all things school related stacked on it; a problem for another hour or life time of course.
A small walk in closet, which I practically had to bolt shut because of the amounts of cloths practically waiting to avalanche down on me every time I had to get something to wear, was located next to my door.
Luckily I had pulled out some tights, a T-shirt and my running shoes before I left for school that morning.
On my 15th birthday my parents\ bought me an antique bookcase that I put on the side of the room opposite my window.
The only thing in my room that I truly treasured was the old piano that almost needed to be tuned, something I would have to pay with my own money most likely.
My skills on the piano were good, even if I had to say so myself. And my voice wasn't half bad either.
Not that anyone knew this of course.
I grabbed my things and dressed as quickly as I could, not wanting to take the chance of my parent getting home early.
Ten minutes later I was standing in front of the hiking trail that led straight to the heart of the woods.
Cranking my music up until I could hear nothing other than my hour long mix, I started to jog down the path.
Since I loved the woods, I was almost in heaven when I was jogging in them.
To tell the truth, it was the closest I ever felt to the spirit world… and him.
Of course I gave up a long time ago on getting back, not that I didn't try.
For about one year since returning I begged my parents to take me back to the entrance of what my father had assumed was an old amusement park building, but on the other side there would be nothing other than more and more woods.
After the pain of not being able to go back started to fade away, I almost started to believe that all of the things that happened were simply a big dream.
Until the day I got lost in the woods.
It was very cold day, but I hadn't noticed the grey sky and the wind tearing through the land almost as if trying to force people to stay inside their houses the entire day.
This also happened to be the day that I found the hiking trail that became my usual route, but back then I still had no idea where the trail led or if it even led anywhere.
Walking as fast as my little legs could carry me I followed the path until there was fork in the road.
Like they say, I took the road less travelled, not knowing that those words were supposed to be taken metaphorically and not literally.
The road continued to head steadily downhill until the path suddenly stopped in the middle of nowhere, there wasn't even I hint that the path had ever continued further.
But when you're as curios as I was then those things tended not to stop you, so I started moving through the under growth of the woods, once again failing to notice the loud roar that started over head.
It wasn't until large drops of rain started to fall from the heavens that I realized it was time to turn around and head back home.
That wouldn't have been a problem if only I could remembered the way home.
Turning around in circles I tried hard to recall which way I had come, but my attempts where futile.
That left me with only one option- find shelter for the duration of the raging storm.
Luckily the idea was soothing since the alternative was reliving titanic once it started really raining.
Cautiously I started walking the path I had been following again, taking care not to fall over roots and rocks.
After a few minutes the rain started getting worse and the ground beneath my feet started turning into mud.
After another twenty minutes of carefully balancing on rocks and roots to avoid the mud, I finally saw my salvation- a little rock ledge with braches hanging so low that the rock was dry enough for me to sit on.
Unfortunately I had been so excited about this place to rest that I threw all caution to the wind when I practically sprinted to the shelter.
A few feet away from my destination I slipped, a slip that sent me careering down a hill I had been so carefully avoiding.
To this day I'm still not sure what exactly had happened from that moment on, but I was sure that while I was lying motionless at the bottom of the hill I saw a figure hunching over me and picking me up, but that's where I passed out.
When I woke up later I was in my bed with both my parents leaning over my, waiting for me to open my eyes.
Apparently they had found me lying on the porch, covered in mud, a small cut on my head from where I must have bumped it.
I told them about a person that helped me, but they said it was all in my mind.
It took me a while to realize that it had to be him, who else could it be? But then again, why would he have just left me on the porch? I was already mad at him for breaking his promise of finding me again and if it was him then I was also mad at him for leaving me behind and not taking me back with him.
Anyway, back to the present.
I took care not to jog the wrong way as I wove through the under growth and over fallen branches.
I truly loved those woods.
I passed the rock I used for those day where they jog became too much and I needed to rest.
Most people would avoid places where their lives possibly could have ended, but that’s not how I see my experience with the slip.
To me it was an encounter that I treasured, even if it did leave me angry for a while after it happened.
My jog ended much quicker than I hoped it would and before I knew it, I was standing on the back porch.
I took off my muddy shoes and left them on the porch as I entered the house; there would be more than enough time to clean them before my parents got home and see that I've been running in the woods again.
Desperately I pleaded with my numb legs to just make it up the stairs and into the bathroom and then I would give them their long awaited shave and even put on some sweet smelling cream that I never used.
The seemed to hear my silent prayer and started to drag me up the stairs until I was standing in front of the shower in my bathroom.
Throwing my dirty clothes into the washing bin next to the toilet, I turned the taps, letting the water flow for a few seconds while I untied my hair and pulled a brush through it to calm the curls.
The shower was just what I needed and like the run, it was over faster than I had bargained for, but I had to get my shoes before my parents came home and discovered them.
I knew I would never be allowed near the woods again if they were to be discovered; my parents would most likely ask our annoying neighbour to check up on me whenever they were at work.
The lady next, Orihime (or the Hag as I called her), was old and nasty.
She believed that all children were delinquents and she claims that’s the reason why she never had any of her own. I believe it's because no man on earth would even consider touching her with a five foot pole in fear of melting.
But of course my parents believe she is as saint sent from heaven above, a true blessing that has been bestowed upon us.
Pulling a towel around my naked body, I walked back to my own room.
Luckily my parents still weren't home so I didn't have to worry about one of them seeing me half naked and dripping water all the way down the hall.
I put on my favourite pair of pyjamas, which I had to wrestle out of my closet, and went over to my laptop to check if I had any mail, but the big fat zero indicated that there was none of the sort.
Going over to the piano I pulled some sheet music from the stack of papers next to it and placing it in front of me as I sat down on the tiny little bench that had come with the piano.
The piece’s name was "River flows in you" by Yiruma and I guessed the only reason I loved it so much was because it reminded me of the spirit world and especially about him, silly right?
Other than that I knew almost every Christina Aguilera piece that can be played on the piano off by heart and could even sing along with it, hitting the high notes perfectly.
Once my fingers started to move over the notes it was like time stood still and everything came to an abrupt halt around me.
The music played around me and die melody went straight to my soul.
The piece wasn't very hard and most people found it extremely annoying, but it was that quality that made the song sound like and actual river running through me.
It was so cliché that I might as well have put on a short skirt and called myself normal, but at least that would never happen.
I got so caught up in the beautiful sound of the piano that I hadn't heard the deathly sound of the front door opening and closing.
So it wasn't until my mother and father where standing in my room, not looking all that happy, that I realised they were back from work.
Two thoughts popped in my mind: first I wondered what I was in trouble for this time.
Secondly I realized that if they had gone through the trouble to come and scold me together then it had to be something big.
Racking my brain, I tried to think of all the things they could have found out about, but coming up blank... Until I saw my muddy shoes dangling from my father’s finger tips.
I had totally forgotten about them. "Mom. Dad, what a pleasant surprise" I said meekly, knowing that no amount of grovelling would get me out of this one. Not that I would ever grovel, there had to be some standards right?
"We had one rule Chihiro, one rule and that was that you are not allowed to go into the woods on your own. Don't tell me you've already forgotten the reason for this rule is?" my mother said, a deathly tone coming from her slightly parted lips, warning me that one snippy answer would lead to severe punishment.
I pushed my bangs behind my ears and looked anywhere else other than my parents who were practically steaming by the ears.
"No mom, I haven't forgotten the reason" I said since nothing else could make it past my lips.
"Then why? Why would you blatantly disregard our rules?” my mother continued.
I remained silent.
“Please tell us what’s been going on the past few years? Tell us so that we can help you" my dad added after the brief awkward silence.
All this statement did was make me furious.
They made it sound like I had some mental disorder, or that maybe I was doing all these things just to make them crazy, since that's exactly what delinquents did.
The silence grew, filling the air like a stench that wouldn't go away, except this one seemed to go on forever until my mother finally spoke up again.
"So that's all you have to say? That you broke the rules knowing that it was not allowed? What are we going to do with you?"
I was barely paying attention at this point in the conversation, because I knew that the end result would be me being grounded for the rest of my teenage years.
I didn't even have the energy to get mad at them, I was just numb from trying to explain to them that I wasn't going crazy or planning to rob a store or something.
I was done.
"Seeing as were already fighting, I think it's time that we discuss something your father and I have been talking about for a while now" my mother said.
Now this got my attention.
"Honey, I don't think now is the appropriate time to tell her-" my father tried to get out, but my mother interrupted
"No. Now is as good a time as any other."
My father let out a sigh and took a step back.
"Chihiro, we have been trying to think of ways to get things back to the way they use to be. Back to when we could still talk to you and to things as a family", she paused.
The air seemed to grow thick with anticipation and my heart was racing at the speed of light.
"We decided that the best thing for all of us at this moment would be..." she started and stopped suddenly.
I braced myself, wondering what it would be this time. Juvi? Boarding School? Living with Orihime for a short while?
"Chihiro, we’re moving."