The annoying sound of her alarm clock woke her up. Even on the weekend she had to get up early; well, earlier than she would have preferred. Then again, if it hadn’t been for her little trip the day before, she wouldn’t have been up so late.
The reason she was getting up early was because she had to go to work. She worked part time at a small coffee shop while she attended classes. During the weekdays she worked were normally night hours, since she attended class, and morning hours on the weekends. She normally worked 20-25 hours a week. It wasn’t so bad, but Chihiro preferred the bathhouse.
Groaning, Chihiro rolled over and turned off her alarm clock. She wanted to roll over and go back to sleep. She was too tired to worry about getting to work on time.
‘It’s your fault you were out so late.’ Her conscience scolded her.
“I know! I know!” she yelled back at it. “Fine, I’m getting up.”
Throwing back the covers, Chihiro got out of bed. She shivered and grabbed her robe. Why was it always so cold in the morning? She went into the bathroom and caught sight of herself in the mirror. EEK! Shouldn’t have looked. She was having a massive bad hair day, no doubt from her constant moving about in an uneasy slumber. Her hair was much longer than when she was younger, and at the moment it was all tangled and sticking up all over the place.
“This is going to make me late for work.” She complained, glancing at the clock. “Why do I always cut it so close?”
“Miss Ogino, late again I see.” Said her boss.
Chihiro stumbled into the coffee shop 8 minutes later than she should have been there. Her boss was nice, but he had very little patience when it came to having his employees arrive late.
“I’m very sorry, sir.” She said, bowing her head. “I had a little trouble this morning.”
The boss sighed. “Just don’t let it happen again. You’re an excellent worker; I’d hate to lose you.”
“Yes, sir. I’m very sorry.” Chihiro apologized again.
The rest of her shift went pretty much the way it always did. Nothing exciting ever happened. It was a small quiet place. It was very dull. There wasn’t all that much to do. The boss insisted that everyone should always be doing something, but sometimes it was hard to findanything to do. The best thing about the job, besides the pay, was a free coffee and pastry everyday.
Sometimes the shifts went by quickly, other times they took forever. Today just happened to be one of those days that seemed to never end, even though it was only a 5 hour shift.
The bell rang, indicating someone entered the shop.
“Miss Ogino, care to take this one?” asked the boss.
“Yes, sir.” Chihiro replied.
She approached the man that had just entered. “Hello sir, Welcome to our shop.”
The man smiled at her. His eyes looked her up and down. Chihiro felt like she was being examined. She didn’t like it.
“This way, sir, I’ll show you to your table.” She said. Always serve your customers with a smile. “What can I get for you?”
The man was still checking her out. “I’ll just have a hazel nut coffee, please. With extra cream.”
“Yes sir, I’ll get it for you right away.” She was actually glad to get away from the man. She felt uncomfortable under his gaze.
While she was in the back, one of her co-worker couldn’t help but make a comment about her customer. “Wow, Chihiro, that guy was checking you out.”
Chihiro sent her fellow employee a death glare. “Oh shut up!” she snapped, as she prepared her customer’s order.
A minute later, she returned to the table with her customer’s coffee. “Here you are, sir.” She said, setting down the coffee. “Extra cream, just like you wanted.”
The man smiled and took the coffee. “Thank you, my dear.”
Chihiro gave him a very forced smile. “You’re welcome. Is there anything else I can get for you?”
The man shook his head. “Just the bill.”
Chihiro didn’t waste a second. She didn’t like the way this man kept looking at her, and was eager to get him away. She returned with the bill as quick as possible.
“Here you are, sir. Have a great day.” She said and turned to walk away.
Chihiro stopped. She began grinding her teeth in irritation. Why couldn’t this man just pay and leave?
She turned back to the man, turning her scowl into a smile. “Yes sir? Was there something else I could get for you?”
The man shook his head. “Not while you’re working. If you would like, I would be happy to buy you a coffee when your shift ends.”
‘Is he asking me out?’ thought Chihiro, panicking. ‘Oh no, think fast Chihiro.’ She gave him the most sympathetic look she could muster through her irritation. “Uh, no thanks. I get a free coffee everyday.” She said. “And I have a boyfriend!” she added quickly.
The co-worker she had spoken to in the back chose that moment to pass by. “Since when?” they asked.
Chihiro wanted to strangle them. Why did they have to open their big mouth? Now what would the man say?
“I’ve had one for awhile now!” she said, more forcefully than she meant.
The man either knew she was lying or didn’t care. “Just because you have a boyfriend shouldn’t stop you from coming to dinner with me.”
‘Oh, so now it’s dinner.’ Thought Chihiro. She decided to make a run for it. “No thank you, sir. I have to get back to work.”
She didn’t wait for a reply as she sped back into the kitchen. She didn’t come back out until she was sure the man was gone.
“Geez Chihiro, you don’t give any guys a chance.” Said her co-worker. “That guy was really hot.”
“Then you date him!” Chihiro snapped.
What she had told the man was only part true. She may not have had a boyfriend, but someone did have her heart.
Chihiro returned home to her apartment and flopped down on the bed. She was still exhausted from the lack of sleep the night before. She decided to take a nap when-
The phone rang. Chihiro groaned and gave the phone a death glare, as if that would make it stop ringing. She just couldn’t catch a break today.
Groaning Chihiro picked up the phone and held it to her ear. “Hello.” She muttered.
“Chihiro sweetie, it’s mom.” Came Mrs. Ogino’s voice from the other line.
Chihiro yawned. “Hi mom. How are you and dad?”
“Oh, we’re just fine dear.” Her mother replied. “You’re father’s right here. Hold on, I’ll put you on speaker… Can you hear me?”
Chihiro nodded, then realizing that her parents couldn’t hear a nod, she answered. “Yup, can you hear me?”
“Sure can.” That was her father. “How are things there, honey?”
“Ok, I guess.” Chihiro muttered.
It was always just ‘ok’. Things had always been either ‘just ok’ or ‘not so good’, ever since that day 12 years ago.
“How is your schooling going?” asked Mr. Ogino.
“I still don’t know why you wanted to stay there. There is a perfectly good art school here.”
Chihiro sighed. “I know. I just can’t bring myself to leave this place.”
That was actually only part true. She couldn’t bring herself to leave the town she was in because then she would lose any opportunity to go to the spirit world again. If she ever did manage to get through the spirit gate, she would leave her old town in a second and never return.
‘Just like I should have.’ She thought.
Her parents had been slightly disappointed when she had refused to move with them. Her father had gotten a new job, which required the Ogino family to move. Chihiro didn’t want to leave, and since she was 18 at the time she stayed behind while her parents left. She took up residence in the apartment she was currently staying in and got a job at the coffee shop to pay rent and continue her schooling.
The town actually had no impact on why she stayed. She had moved before, she could move again if she had to. The thing she had absolutely refused to leave was the only place that held a doorway to the spirit world; well, as far as she knew it was the only one. She had been living her life in hopes that she would one day be able to pass through that gate once again. Sadly, that hope was beginning to disappear.
“Well we were just calling in to see how you were doing.” Said Mrs. Ogino. “What have you been doing with yourself?”
“The usual.” Chihiro replied sleepily. “Going to school. Working. All the-yawn-regular everyday stuff.”
“Chihiro dear, why do you sound so tired?” asked her mother, sounding concerned. “Are you getting sick?”
Chihiro rolled over onto her back. “No, I was just up really late last night.”
“Really!” exclaimed her mother. “With who? Did you finally get a boyfriend?”
“Who is he?” Mr. Ogino demanded, suddenly becoming the overprotective father.
Chihiro sighed. “It wasn’t anything like that.” She said, rolling her eyes. “I was just up late.”
The other line was silent for a bit before Mrs. Ogino spoke up again. “Chihiro, you didn’t go back to that river again, did you?”
Chihiro tensed up. Her parents didn’t like her constant trips to their old town. They found it strange that she would be willing to take a very long road trip just to spend a few hours by a river; one that nearly drowned her no less.
“Uh… maybe…” she muttered. “Why?”
“Chihiro, you know we don’t like you going there.” Said her father.
‘If only they knew.’ She thought. “There are just so many memories there.” She said. She used this excuse every time this conversation was caught up. She was surprised her parents still bought it. She didn’t go back for the memories, she went there to be close to Haku; since it was the only way she could be.
“How late were you up?” her mother asked.
“Um… not sure.” She said honestly. She really didn’t know how late she was up, but it was late enough to make her want to take a nice long nap.
“Well you shouldn’t stay up so late, it’s bad for your health.”
“I know, mom.”
“Good, then we’ll let you rest.”
“Thank you.” Chihiro replied, truly grateful. She was exhausted.
“Ok then, take care of yourself.”
“And don’t stay up so late.” Her father added.
“Ok dad, bye.”
“Bye dear, we love you.”
“Love you too.”
Chihiro hung up the phone. Finally, some peace and quiet. Better take it while it was available. She fell asleep a few seconds later, once again dreaming of the spirit world and the life she could have had.
Chihiro woke up several hours later. One glance at the window showed just how long. The sun was beginning to set.
“Must have been more tired than I thought.” She mumbled. “And from the looks of things, I’ll be going to bed again in just a few hours.”
Chihiro’s stomach began growling and she decided to have some dinner. Hopping out of bed, she walked over to the fridge.
“Let’s see. What’s on the agenda for today?” she said. A quick glance in the fridge indicated that she needed to go grocery shopping. Chihiro sighed. “Guess I’ll go out for dinner.”
She grabbed her coat and keys and headed outside. It was rather warm out, and she didn’t really need a coat, but it was just a precaution. She got in her car and started it up. She noticed she needed to get gas soon. All these trips to the Kohaku River were really costing her, but she didn’t really mind.
“Hmm, where to?”
She decided to just drive around until she found a suitable place to eat. She would need to stop for gas on the way too.
After a few minutes of driving, Chihiro came to some territory that was very familiar to her. She had been down this road many times; sadly she had never reached her destination.
‘What the heck.’ She thought. ‘One quick stop can’t hurt.’
After all, it was around this time of day that she had first stumbled into the spirit world. She took the turn that led to the path to the spirit gate. How many times had she gone down this path now? She had no idea, but she knew this path like the back of her hand. First came the steep hill, followed by the extremely bumpy road, then the small statue at the end of the path, with the spirit gate behind it. It was here that she parked her car for the thousandth time.
“Well, here we go again.” she sighed.
She got out of the car and walked up to the spirit gate. She had done this so many times and was disappointed every time. There would be no spirit world beyond this gate; just a large field surrounded by more woods. It was always the same, always. So it was no surprise that Chihiro didn’t expect to find anything on the other side.
Even so, she took a deep breath and walked, once again, to what she hoped was her home.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Spirited Away. Just re-posting the story by moviefan-92