Chapter | 19
Days and nights flowed together.
I had stopped thinking completely, because my thoughts had turned into a dangerous place. All I did was sleep, and sleep, and sleep. Sometimes I would be forced to eat something, but whoever it was soon realised that it was futile.
It wasn’t until late one night that I let myself think about what happened. For some reason I had woken up, pulled from my bleak dreams into my even bleaker reality. I tried falling asleep, but it seemed the luxury had been taken from me.
Images of Haku’s death started to flood my brain. His face before they pulled me away, the weight of his head on my legs and the sounds of the people that stood around us. All the things I missed while in my state of madness.
Tears I didn’t know I had started flowing again, and I let it. Lying on my back I just let the memories fill me, embracing them rather than running away from them.
Finally I felt the first rays of light slide across my face, and by then I had already decided what I needed to do. My body shook a little as I got up and starting looking for my bag, hoping everything was still inside it. When I finally did find it, I made quick work of putting on my own clothes and grabbing my sneakers.
The entire building was quiet as I slipped into Zeniba’s office. I found a piece of paper and wrote a short note, saying that I left and that I was truly thankful for everything they’ve done for me. If I could I would have written something for everyone, I would have, but it would make leaving all that much harder.
Leaving the note on her desk, I walked out of the office, down the lift and out the front door. I had held up well until then, but the moment my eyes locked on to the red bridge I felt my throat constrict painfully.
As fast as I could I sprinted over it, not looking back until I knew I wouldn’t see it behind me.
I reached the river fast and slowly climbed over the rocks again. The path was still a little muddy, but I barely noticed as I walked to the old amusement park building.
When I reached the building I paused, deciding to do the one thing I wasn’t allowed to the last time I left. Slowly I turned around, almost expecting Haku to stand on the steps, looking for me. But he wasn’t, and he never would again.
Blinking back tears I faced the door again. My hands shook as I took hold of the handle, twisting it until I felt the lock slide open. Slowly I pulled the door open and stood looking in.
Everything looked exactly the same, almost as if not a moment had passed since I had left. In a way it made my choice easier. I could either go back to a place where I’ll be completely broken, or I could go back to the real world where, ironically, I won’t have to face my worst problem.
Without another look over my shoulder, I stepped into the human world, pulling the door shut behind me. I had barely let the door go before my knees buckled and I fell; hands and knees on the dusty ground. Tears fell to the spot I was staring at, completely shocked at what I had done.
I didn’t even get a moment of grief, thanks to the voices and footsteps in the passage to the room I was in. Moments later two men dressed in uniforms entered the room, calling what appeared to be my name. I jumped up from where I had been crouching and backed up against the door.
One of the officers spotted me and nudged his partner. “There she is!” he called, and they both took off jogging in my direction.
What was going on? Were they really still looking for me after I had been gone for months? No, they wouldn’t still be looking in the same place, they would have extended their search away from there.
“Miss Ogino” the shorter officer said politely. “We have been looking for you, your parents are quite worried,” the taller one continued.
I must have looked really stupid standing there, just staring. The two men looked at each other before making way for me to walk out in front of them. I hadn’t even thought about what I would tell my parents when I saw them again, at least I was only gone for one night instead of months.
The two officers escorted me to their car where it stood parked at the entrance. There was no dust or leaves covering the top; nothing like the time my parents and I left the spirit world.
The ride back home was a long and silent one. The tall officer tried asking me a few questions, but I knew that if I spoke I would cry so I simply kept my mouth shut. After a while he gave up, chatting away with his partner until they stopped in front of my house.
I sat silently as the time passed, I wasn’t too concerned that they didn’t let my out of the car yet.
One of the police men came around and opened my door for me after a while. It looked like they had talked to my parents without me ever realising that they had left. Only when I was half way to the door did I look up.
Both my parents were standing by the door, a look of uncertainty on their faces. I walked up to them and the officers said goodbye, leaving me with them. My parents went into the house and waited until I followed them.
“Chihiro…” my mom started to say, but I was already on my way up the stairs. I’d rather not face them than try to explain why I had left in the first place. The reason seemed idiotic and pointless to me.
My room hadn’t been touched since I had left. At first I wondered why that was, but then I recalled that to them I was still there the previous day. To me it felt like ages ago.
I dumped my bag on the ground and climbed into bed, covering my entire body before curling into a little ball.
Who knows many hours passed before I heard a soft knock on my door. I didn’t even bother pulling the blankets back when my mom entered the room; I could tell by the way she walked that it was her, my father sounded much heavier and much clumsier.
“Honey?” she asked as she sat down at the foot of my bed, resting her hand on my hip. When I didn’t say anything she went ahead. “Your dad and I just wanted to you to know that we’re not mad at you for running away, we understand why you felt the need to,” she said in the kindest voice I had heard her use in a very long time.
“And if you want to talk about it, I’m right here,” she finished.
Slowly I sat up, the sheets falling away from my face. I sat still for a heartbeat before throwing myself at my mother, pressing my face in her chest and crying. She didn’t even seemed shock by my outburst. She simply wrapped me in her arms and held me.
My parents never asked for a reason, they simply let me go on with my life and pretended that nothing happened. As for me, I never truly forgot, but after one week back in the real world I started to accept things. Whenever I started to feel the ache return I would replace it with memories of the better days.
It was hard, I won’t lie about that, and my coping mechanisms weren’t exactly healthy to say the least, but they worked and that’s what mattered to me.
Most of my time I spent with my parents, wanting them to realise how much I truly needed them.
I was content, not sad nor happy, and it didn’t bother me. I wanted to feel safe, and if being a shell of a person would allow that, then I would be content for the rest of my life. Or so I had hoped at the time, but my time back in the human world was short-lived.
One afternoon I decided it was time to get out of the house, even if it was just for a little exercise. Out of habit I started to jog down the path that led into the woods, but when I realised that it was too soon to face that level of reality, I turned around and headed to beach instead.
All the hours running around the bath house had been amazing exercise, so I didn’t even feel slightly uncomfortably in my tight shorts and loose fitted semi-crop top. Somewhere along the line it seemed that I had gained some self-confidence, because I didn’t have the urge to hide from the people walking along the beach- I even smiled politely at people I recognised from school, which surprised me more than it surprised them.
Of course it was all just an act, none of the smiles ever reached my eyes. Then again, who could possibly smile when they jog? It’s just like putting a little heart sticker over a stab wound. Still, people says it’s good exercise, but even after two years I still hate it. At least the tremendous pain in my side was distracting me from thinking about other things.
I was thinking this as I started to run back along the beach, the sun setting slowly. I was about to turn up the hill when a something along the clearing next to the woods caught my eye. I stopped and slowly started walking closer, making sure there were some random people near, just in case I needed to make a clean getaway.
Whoever the person was, she was standing just along the edge. I was pretty sure it was a girl, because of her vibrant pink outfit. Any normal person probably wouldn’t even have given it a second glance, but I was quite familiar with what lay deep in the woods.
And then there was the waving of arms that assured me that the person wanted me to see her. The person had slipped behind the tree when she knew I had seen her. I crossed the last part faster, almost as fast as the pace my heart was beating at, and stepped around the giant base of the tree.
The woman was standing there, waiting for me to completely emerge, because the next thing I knew she had thrown her arms around me. I gasped and stepped back, the woman’s arms still firmly clamped around my neck. She was taller than me, so it made for a very awkward position.
She must have felt my surprise and stepped back.
Almost instantly the shock was replaced by surprise and finally joy. Lin stood in front of me, her hands on her hips.
“Lin!” I exclaimed before doing to her what she had done only moments before. Luckily, unlike me, she laughed and wrapped her arms around my waist.
After a second I pulled away, nearly a thousand questions forming at once, but luckily prioritising them came quite easily. “What are you doing here?” I asked, taking her hands in mine.
She was about to answer when I felt my cell phone vibrate against my arm where I had placed it in my arm strap. I removed it from the strap before raising a hand to silence Lin.
“Mom?” I asked as I accepted the call.
“Honey, where are you?” she asked, sounding a little flustered.
“I’m out for my jog, is there a problem?” I asked.
“No, not really a problem. Your father and I need to go out of town for the night, do you think you’d be okay for one night alone? Or maybe I should call-” she continued, but I cut her off since I knew where the conversation was heading.
“I’ll be fine mom,” I said, “I’m sure I can handle one night alone.”
I heard her sigh before she spoke again. “Okay, but we’re leaving right now, so we’ll see you again tomorrow,” she said. After I said goodbye, she hung up and I returned to Lin.
“Sorry, just my mom,” I apologised, placing my phone back in its strap.
“No problem,” Lyn said, but I could hear she was a little bit nervous. It took me a while to realise that it was probably her first time in the human world.
“Do you maybe want to go to my house? We’ll be alone, then we can talk,” I asked her, motioning to my house just above us. Lyn instantly looked relieved and thanked me.
The trip to my house was quick and silent, with Lyn checking around her every five seconds as if something was going to happen. When we reached my house, I opened the door and let us both in. It was a good thing my parents had left, or else I would have had a very difficult time explaining to my parents who Lyn was.
“Why don’t you wait for me in the living room, I’ll go make us some tea,” I said when she looked a little uncertain.
I handed Lyn a cup of tea once we were both settled down on separate sofas. When it looked like she had calmed down a bit I started asking her questions.
“So, not that I’m not happy to see you, but why are you here?” I asked her, feeling it was the most important question.
She set her cup down on the table and looked at me.
“Everyone was worried about you, so when you didn’t return I was sent to come look for you,” Lyn said. “We thought that maybe you were forced to write the note and was kidnapped or something.”
I looked at her sadly, feeling bad about leaving them without a word.
“I’m sorry I left,” I said into my half empty cup. “I didn’t want to leave, especially not in the way I had… I just… I just couldn’t stay there any longer.”
I took a breath to steady my shaking voice.
“You understand? Even though I’ve come to think of you as my family, it’s just not the same without him there,” I whispered to her, my eyes already starting to blur.
Lyn rose from her seat and hunched down in front of me, make sure that I met her eyes before she spoke. “That’s what most of us assumed, you know, opposed to the former assumption,” she gave a little laugh at the end.
I gave her a tiny smile before pulling myself together. Once she saw my mood lighten she got up and took her seat again.
“How did you get here anyway?” I asked her, standing up to get our empty cups.
Just as I took both the cups in my hands a dark shadow covered the room. I turned to see what was covering the window and faltered. I dropped both the cups before clutching my hands to my chest, trying my best to stop the trembles that were raking my entire body.
The shadow in the window moved and stepped down into the living room. I recognised his shape instantly, almost as if I’d known it my entire life.
“No, it’s not possible…” I whispered.