A Tall and Small Collection | S2

Tense

Soren stepped out of the room and immediately jumped partway into a conversation turned into debate. The subject made his insides twist uneasily.

“I’m just saying that we can learn a lot from humans. They have a lot of ideas and invent things too,” said Rey. Soren, mildly panicked, stepped up to the table and grasped Rey’s shoulders in his hands.

“Hey, what’s going on?” asked Soren, trying to sound lighthearted and friendly, as he grasped Rey’s shoulders on either side. Atlas, the oldest boy, gave Soren a suspicious glance.

“Rey here was just saying that we could learn things by observing humans. Says some of his inventions came from things he’s seen in apartments or things the humans watch,” said Atlas. Before Rey could counter, Soren gave his youngest brother’s shoulders a squeeze and chuckled scoffingly. He would apologize to Rey later.

“Rey,” said Soren. “You come up with some of the craziest ideas.”

Rey glanced up at Soren, almost ready to jump into an argument with his oldest brother, when he saw the look in Soren’s eye. He slowly closed his mouth and looked away.

“I’ll say,” muttered Cali as she pushed herself up from the sofa and headed to what looked like her room. “Atlas, I’m going out again. I forgot to grab a block of gum.”

“Do you really need it?” asked Atlas. Cali shot him a disbelieving look, to which her brother shrugged. “Alright. Do you want some company? Better in pairs.”

“Wouldn’t have it any other way. It was nice to meet you three. Mom! Dad! We’ll be back in a bit,” said Cali as she and Atlas slipped their borrowing shoes back on and began to gear up.

“Actually, hold on for a minute. We have something important to talk about,” said Casper as he emerged from the back room.

“It won’t take long,” reassured Prim. They looked to Soren and gave one more nod, acknowledging what he just told them. “It was lovely meeting you. Don’t be strangers and if you need anything, help or otherwise, you just let us know.”

“Yes ma’am,” said Soren. “Thank you.”

The middle child, who was still talking to Dorian, seemed excited to introduce Dorian to a group of his friends and disappointed that they had to leave. Still, they said their good-byes and began heading back toward their home.

Rey waited until they started climbing the stairs back to their floor before tapping Soren on the arm to question him.

“Hey, what was that all about?” asked Rey. “Did something happen?”

“It did,” said Soren as they walked along the rail of the elevator shaft and turned down the hallway they emerged from. Soren had to take a moment and breathe before stopping and facing his brothers, checking to make sure no one was around to hear him.

“What’s wrong?” asked Rey.

“There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just come right out and say it. I told them about Ashlynn,” said Soren. Rey seemed unphased, relieved even. Dorian, however, took a step back, eyes widening and a look of disbelief and worry on his face.

“You what?” he demanded.

“Shhh,” scolded Soren. “You heard me. I told them about Ashlynn. I told them everything as briefly as I could.”

“How could you? Why?” hissed Dorian. “We had a chance for a fresh start, and right out of the gate you tell them we were seen and brought here by a human?”

“These people seem to be really serious about the rules. If they found out that we were lying, things would’ve turned out worse for us. At least now we have a little bit of earned trust by telling them the truth,” said Soren.

“But…”

“They aren’t going to tell everyone, Dorian,” interrupted Soren. “They suspected something might be up with Ashlynn and her apartment and have been telling others to avoid the area until they felt it was safe. If anything, that’s good for us.”

Dorian folded his arms across his chest, but made no further remarks.

“So,” said Rey. “Does this mean the other Borrowers will be avoiding us too?”

“I don’t know,” replied Soren. “I hope not. For all I know, they could be the only family who really keeps to the Borrower code. Hopefully, other families are more understanding and less strict. Until then, and Rey I am looking at you for this one, let’s keep our friendship with Ashlynn close to our chests.”

“You mean lie?” asked Dorian, obviously bitter.

“Dorian, we have to take precautions. I’m just saying to not tell everyone you come across until you know where they stand on how they feel about humans,” said Soren. The brothers nodded before continuing their trek back toward Ashlynn’s apartment.

Soren hated that things were tense between them, but it was unavoidable. Rey needed to be careful and Dorian needed to keep an open mind. Soren’s mind tugged back to the task at hand - getting their home setup above Ashlynn’s apartment and checking on Ashlynn and Mayzie.

There was a bit of worry that made Soren’s insides flutter uneasily. How were the two of them getting along?

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