A Tall and Small Collection | S2

... Have You Been?

Dorian walked back with Tiron the evening after their second practice. After his show-stopping audition, they decided to go ahead and finish practice with him in the mix during the first practice. Now that the second practice was complete, Dorian was rising in the ranks quickly. Everyone was pleased and surprised at the newcomer’s natural talent and flare as a musician. Dorian was even surprising himself.

He couldn’t remember the last time he was this happy. Not since… before she left, and then again when the others…

“Hey, Dorian?” Tiron’s voice pulled the Borrower teen from his thoughts and nostalgic memories.

“Yeah? What is it, Tiron?” asked Dorian as he looked over his shoulder to see that Tiron was stopped on the stairs they were climbing to make it back to the elevator. Based on his body language, he obviously wanted to ask something serious. No one would have such a hesitant look if it were a fun question.

In a flash, the excited nerves turned sour in Dorian’s middle. Had he done something wrong? Did he overstep somehow with the band? Was this something else entirely?

“Um…” started Tiron. “Do you mind if I ask you something? It’s been bugging me. You’re really cool, but I’ve gotta know something.”

“Um… sure?” replied Dorian. Dorian held his breath and waited for the question. With concerned seriousness, Tiron looked into Dorian’s pale blue eyes and asked the worst question imaginable.

“Have you been seen by a human?”

Dorian’s heart seemingly slowed in his chest to match the swinging of the pendulum in an old grandfather clock. It felt like everything was hanging in an invisible balance. There was an unbearable silence between them for what was probably only two or three seconds, but it felt like hours.

Dorian knew he needed to say something - anything - to Tiron so he didn’t lose his new friend.

In a way, he heard Soren’s voice in the back of his mind coaching him. As Soren would say, it’s only a question. They ask because they either don’t know or they’re testing you. Be as honest as you can without revealing too much about what you know.

The smartest thing Dorian could think to do at that moment was to answer Tiron’s question with a question.

“Where’d you hear that?” he asked.

“Our parents. They said your brother thinks he was seen and that means you might’ve been seen too,” replied Tiron.

That’s right…

Soren did say he told the parents. It was disheartening to hear they didn’t keep it to themselves. Dorian slowly clenched his fists. This was terrible! He couldn’t even try to come up with some kind of cover now that the entire Rafter family knew.

“So… have you been?” asked Tiron. Once again, Dorian, feeling hollow and hopeless, decided to tell a piece of the truth. It killed him to admit it, especially to a friend he was getting along with.

“We… didn’t mean to be. It was an accident,” Dorian muttered. His shoulders were tense and every part of him wanted to get sick. The twisted, gnarled sensation made him shudder.

He still remembered the first time he saw Ashlynn so long ago. He knew what it meant to be seen. He also knew the Rafters, Tiron, were serious about the Borrower rules. Was this going to be exile for him? Just as he was finding himself? He finally had a piece of something for him, and it was going to be taken like this?

Before he could begin pleading with the teen to keep this to himself, Tiron looked at Dorian with a sympathetic concern.

“Must’ve been really scary,” he said quietly. “Did… was it like they say? Did the human try to grab you?”

Dorian immediately shook his head, holding his breath and waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“No, actually.”

“And so you… don’t think we’re all in danger or anything?” asked Tiron.

“No, of course not. This one is diff… wait… why do you ask?” asked Dorian, fearing now that Tiron was curious and wanting to get a closer look at Ashlynn.

“Well, I just know what I hear from stories and from what some of the others. Mainly, I want to make sure my family is safe. I… don’t mean anything by it. You’re a great guy, Dorian, and don’t worry about me telling the others. I just… If you say we’re safe from the human, I’ll believe you.”

Dorian could’ve started crying with relief if he weren’t shaking still.

“Thanks Tiron,” said Dorian. “No… I think we’re safe.” Tiron stepped up and clapped Dorian on the shoulder.

“What’re friends for? Now, let’s get back before my mom has another fit and your younger brothers starts poking around to find our secret practice spot.”

Dorian and Tiron ascended the remaining stairs and waited for the elevator in the main shaft. The sound of distant, whining gears shook the air around them. Dorian hoped he did the right thing - said the right thing - to keep his friend at ease and to keep his place among them.

It had been far too long since Dorian was able to hang out with someone his own age other than Rey; and that time was cut far too short because of a human - that human.

That tenseness in his core returned along with an intense, burning hate.

If only she had done something.

Why did she have to leave?

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