Hey, this is a story I wrote to enter into my Year 12 Extension English class. Of the people who read it, most didn't recognise Ashleigh's distinguishing feature. For shame! I thought maybe, just maybe, amongst more... well people who know what a book looks like, would figure it out. One can only hope.

Hint read over the line beginning with

P.S the song is Ride of Your Life - Oliver James (all rights reserved to him)

Somewhere Far, Far... Far Away

What am I doing here?

Gripping the leather strap tightly, I looked around the room in despair. I didn't trust my watch anymore but I knew I had already been here for a while. The shuffle of people around me heightened my nervousness as I huddled even deeper in my corner. My hands crept up the wall behind me, feeling its sturdy support. However it reminded me of the support now lost, the support that had a face, a calming voice and a hug. Inextricable loneliness bore its heavy weight and I begged my tears not to fall.

I should have listened to them. Despite my family and friends sharing my initial enthusiasm at the time, I should have noticed how worried they were. Damn it! I should have realised it was purely their anxiety speaking when my parents suggested they come along with me. They tried to warn me of the dangers of my plan but my stubborn, self-assured nature left no room for fact.

"Japan!" the shrill screech echoed across the walls. "Are you completely insane?"

Smiling down at my socks as I packed them snugly into the corner of my suitcase. I wasn't surprised at my sister's reaction but I predicted her yelling to go a few decibels higher than that.

"Sis, chill! It'll be fun. It'll be an adventure. I know you're a bit old but you do remember what an adventure is, right? Plus I will only be gone for a year."

"Chill? Are you kidding me?" Jazz ignored my teasing remark and spun me around to face her, shaking my shoulders, "One year in Tokyo, living with people you don't know, sleeping on the floor and eating weird food, you think that's an adventure? Ash, you can't even speak Japanese."

"Technicality" Packing the remainder of my clothes, I knew there was something missing. "Jazzy, could you pass me my passport."

"You're serious about this?" she asked, shock straining her voice.

"As a heart attack. Now give me my passport. You can't keep me here by not telling me where it is."

My hand hovering behind me, I waited for the feel of the small, unused book. Instead, delicate like metal wrapped it's way around my wrist. The tinkling movement of the charms as they bounced off each other filled my ears. Jazz quickly enveloped me in a hug and left the room. Eyes widening in shock, I knew the significance of this act.

You see, that bracelet was a present from my parents. They add a charm to it every time she wins an academic competition, which is pretty often! Dangling off the dainty gold chain are dozens of love hearts, dolphins, lilo and stitch figurines and the like. Me, barely scraping pass in my subjects, have never gotten one. Suffice to say, I have turned into the green-eyed monster over that thing, it being the catalyst of many of our sibling arguments.

Feeling the cool metal against my wrist sent pangs to my heart. The flashes of memories, my jealous moments over the one piece of jewellery, seemed incredibly foolish. I would gladly return it to her, if it meant I would be home.

I found it incredible how soon homesickness began. The moment I stepped off the plane, I felt there was something wrong. It's hard to describe the immense loss I felt when entering Tokyo Airport. It was the equivalent of losing an arm – you've still got the other one but that doesn't console the pain. I had lost my home. But the thing that grieved me even further was that this was voluntary. I wanted to leave and I couldn't bear the consequences of it.

Swallowing the nostalgia, I pushed forward making my way through the complex maze of international customs. My calmness would have returned if I hadn't run head first into unexpected circumstances.

While my luggage was passing through the security scanners, I failed to notice the problematic situation until two Japanese guards started yelling at me. If I wasn't scared enough already, they added an extra icing layer of 'petrified'. Whether they were unaware of the fact that I couldn't understand a word they were saying, their screaming Japanese did not relent. Hyperventilating, I began to break down in front of them, not understanding what I had done wrong.

Someone behind me picked me up off the fraying carpet and pushed me forcefully into a small room. They left immediately, slamming the door on their way out. I remained where I was, not caring to sit down. The air was thick and unlike the rest of the airport, air conditioning had obviously stopped working leaving a disgusting musty smell. Wet cardboard and marmalade. Strangely enough, my mind wandered back to Sydney, imagining what time it was over there and what my mom had cooked for dinner.

The door flung open and once again a man addressed me. I wonder why all the security people in Japan were male. Probably to ensure a frightening atmosphere, the thought that one wrong word could put a karate chop to your head. Well, whatever the reason was, it was working. He sat me down on an unbearably uncomfortable steel chair, too small for my entire ass to fit on. He sat opposite me and began talking in the language I had steadily begun to hate.

During his nice talk to himself, he tapped his fingers rhythmically against the wooden table. My focus on the thumping sound lulled me into a numbing trance. Suddenly his speech converted to English thus ensuring my attention.

"Miss Harding. My name is Matsimoto Jun. I am Head of the Japanese Customs Department here at Tokyo Airport. I need you to answer a few questions for me. What is the purpose of your visit?" His voice wavered in thickly accented English which still managed to come out in a monotone drawl.

"I am here as an exchange student." I answered simply and then, on second thought, tried to be polite, adding "Sir."

"Are you travelling alone?"

"Yes Sir."

"During your stay, do you have any intention or premeditated desire to assassinate the Japanese Prime Minister?"

I wonder what would have happened if I had said yes.

"No Sir."

A brief silence filled the air as he flicked through the papers on the desk. "You have been found to be in possession of a number of banned substances. These include 400mg of codeine, 720mg of pseudoephedrine and 1500mg of prednisone. Do you admit to having these drugs?"

"My mom packed them for me. I have allergies."

"Well Miss Harding, these substances are illegal to bring into the country. I'm afraid you will have to go through a complete inspection to make sure you do not have any more on your person. First may I see your identification card."

With fumbling hands I pulled out the documents. Thinking back to when dad said I should always keep them in my pocket, I will never laugh at him again. I slid the three pieces of paper across the table and waited as he read it.

The silence had lasted too long. My nervousness amplified and I felt claustrophobic in the tiny room. I heard him place the paper down and then unexpectedly he leaned in close to my face. I unwillingly drew a sharp breath, the muscles in my body frozen. After a few moments he leaned back, satisfied with his analysis.

"I'm sorry Miss Harding. We were unaware of your disability. Under these circumstances, I will overlook this matter. Do you need any help getting out of the airport, miss?"

"No, arigatou." I responded politely. Under normal conditions, I would have smiled at his sudden change of mind, possibly even have accepted his help. God knows I needed it! All I knew was that I needed to get out of there.

I exited the room and realised I had no way of finding my way out again. Obviously in my sudden hesitation, he thought the same way too. Coming out of the room to stand beside me, he placed a delicate hand on my shoulder. "Miss Harding. If you would follow me, I will show you back to Customs where we can retrieve your luggage and find your host family."

Almost crying at the sincerity, I nodded and followed him. Back into the noisy room, he left my side and moved over to the same security guards that were examining my bag, exchanging a few hushed Japanese words. Meanwhile I was left stranded, still shaking from my first hour in a foreign country. My mind rolled over the numerous methods that would be categorised under 'Various Items to Calm Me Down'. Mom. No. Dad. No. Jazz. No. Ben – ok let's just rule out all family members! TV. No. Ice cream. No. Music. Music!

Hurriedly taking out my iPod, I flicked to the only song I thought would help and waited… waited for the loneliness to disappear.

In your heart you know what you must do

You've only got yourself to answer to

Don't let fear of falling hold you down

Your spirit's flying high above the clouds

You're going there

"They're proud of me. Let them be proud of me. I can do this on my own!" I murmured faintly, in a voice unlike my own.

Come on here's your chance

Don't let it slip right through your hands

Are you ready for the ride of your life?

Your dreams are riding on the wind

Just reach out a pull them in

Get ready for the ri -

The earphone was yanked unceremoniously from my ear, cutting off the soothing words. "Here are your bags. I will lead you to the arrivals section."

As we walked out of the customs room, he led me into a room far larger, making Sydney Airport seem minuscule. The noise was deafening even for six in the morning. We stood amongst the crowd, waiting to be recognised by my new family.

"Oh I think that's them! The sign is in Japanese… Ha! They spelt your name wrong but that's them."

Turning to him, I smiled sincerely and said, "Thankyou. I will never forget your kindness."

"It was nice to meet you Miss Harding."

I picked up my suitcase and walked towards them, taking small and timid steps.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Thud.

Colliding into a body of people, I withdrew and bowed. "Ashli Hadeng?" one asked. It took me more than a few moments to associate what she said with my name. When realisation hit, I nodded my head vigorously.

The next few moments were a flurry of syllables and exclamation marks. My mind flipped over the few expressions I knew, yet was unable to register. My obvious confusion was a reality check for them and slowed their babble to protracted yet coherent gibberish.

The woman gently took my hand up to touch her face. I traced her features with my fingertips. She looked nice.

They held my hands and directed me out into the summer heat. Despite the friendliness of the people, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't keep my hands from trembling. They could obviously not speak a word of English and have probably come to realise the situation was very much vice versa.

I missed my family. I missed my friends. I missed the stray cat that lingered around our house at nights. I missed the unpredictable weather in winter and unbearable heat of summer. I missed Australia. I belong in Australia!

So what the hell am I doing here?