A Tall and Small Collection | Soren |

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Bottlecaps and Borrowers

The four days that followed were tense, but manageable. She evidently was able to work from the apartment as she saw fit, and so was more present than Soren initially anticipated. He suspected there were times she was in the apartment when he was borrowing, which was somewhat unnerving.

Thankfully, she didn’t hover Soren was able to spend time resting quietly and Ashlynn kept to herself except during meals when she brought Soren part of what she prepared for herself.

His original clothing was in disgusting, unrecoverable tatters, so Ashlynn had brought him some fabric pieces so he could fashion a new shirt and pants which were easier to maneuver in with his cast. On one of the days, she brought a bowl of warmed water and a towel so he could clean himself – something he was immensely grateful for.

During these four days, Ashlynn took advantage of asking him questions; however, the questions were random and seemingly meaningless. Ashlynn asked simple things like his preference of food and if he liked his current sleeping arrangement on the soft bundle of cloth. She asked if he needed any supplies to keep him occupied or if he would rather be placed somewhere else other than her bedside table.

Soren was reluctant to utter any other words to Ashlynn after their deal – at first – but he could find no reason to refuse after the first day; and being asked simple seemingly meaningless questions in some way reminded Soren of his younger brothers. There was nothing revealing about borrower kind by telling Ashlynn his favorite color was a pale mint green. Their conversations were minimal, but still present.

He hated to admit it, but speaking to someone felt nice and he noticed the tremor in his voice and shaking in his torso dissipating gradually. He maintained his guard and refused to take anything for granted, but his breath wasn’t hitching the way it used to – for better or worse.

Also during those four days, Soren had something on his mind; a dangerous question he wanted the answer to and yet he was wary of what answer he may receive. Did Ashlynn already know about borrowers? And, if so, how?

Each time Ashlynn came into the room for something or another, Soren felt the urge to ask; yet refrained every time. Perhaps it was a lingering apprehension toward humans; or maybe he didn’t want to know the answer.

It wasn’t until dinner on the fifth day that Ashlynn sighed after giving him several long, passive stares and directed her full attention to him.

“What?” she asked with a touch of indignance. Soren, who hadn’t realized he was staring, looked down at his thimble quickly. “Naw, don’t give me that. You’ve been staring for days like you want to say something. Did I break one of the rules? Am I in trouble? What?”

Soren, hearing some tension in her voice, felt a nervousness creeping back over him. He knew he didn’t like to be watched, but it was a strange realization that a human could be unnerved with the same action. Feeling like he didn’t want to make circumstances worse, he cleared his throat and elected to ask his question.

“It’s…” Soren readjusted, finding it hard to find the right words in the moment. “It’s just that you don’t seem that… surprised at seeing someone… like me.” Ashlynn’s brow furrowed and her eyes narrowed in confusion for a moment.

“Like you?” she asked.

“Yeah, like me. You know, a B…” Soren caught himself before he said the word “Borrower.” He took a breath as his chest tightened. “A tiny. Someone my size.” He hated to call himself “tiny,” but it was the first thing he could think of that described his form next to Ashlynn. For a moment, Soren worried that Ashlynn wasn’t taking the information well and that, possibly, she thought he was implying that she had done something to a Borrower in the past; but, before he could explain, he watched her features soften.

Ashlynn leaned back slightly, her eyes distant, and she sighed. “No, I haven’t come across anyone your size.” Soren found himself sighing in relief while his mind continued to feel muddled – until Ashlyn began to continue. “At least… not really.”

Soren’s eyes snapped up to Ashlynn. [Not really? What does ’not really’ mean?] Ashlynn noticed Soren’s change and voluntarily continued explaining.

“My great-grandmother on my dad’s side lived on her own and was convinced that there were, as she described them, ‘tiny people’ who lived in the walls. She said she saw them and heard them. I was really young at the time and she was a lot older and was suffering from memory loss. I didn’t think anything of it, but,” Ashlynn paused, pressing her lips together until they were a very thin line.

“But?” pressed Soren, his curiosity getting the better of him. Ashlynn blinked away the memory and looked over to Soren, not holding his gaze for long.

“But, I thought I saw some… one… once.” Ashlynn’s words hung in the air. [So… she has seen a Borrower before.] “It was only for a second and I was really young. I’m still not sure what I saw; but, after hearing my great-grandmother talk, it sounds like she wasn’t wrong.” Ashlynn inhaled deeply and sighed, deep in thought and nostalgia. Soren looked away, now feeling slightly intrusive, began wondering what a great-grandmother was.

Was she a favorite grandmother? Was she better that the other in some way? Soren didn’t know and felt uneasy at asking another question. He was so lost in thought that he didn’t hear Ashlynn ask him a question and a sharp snap brought him out of his trance.

“What?” asked Soren, dazed.

“I said what were your great-grandparents like?” asked Ashlynn. “Did you know them?” Soren had to think for a moment, feeling a knot form in his stomach. Ashlynn was getting dangerously close to personal information; yet, at the same time, she seemed to already suspect Soren wasn’t the only one of his kind in existence.

“I… I don’t think I have one of those,” he muttered. “I mean, I only knew my dad’s father, so I guess he would be my great-grandparent.” Ashlynn’s expression exploded from concerned to highly amused. She pressed her hand to her face and began to laugh. Soren, completely confused, felt himself bristle as she must be laughing at his expense without him noticing.

“I’m sorry… I shouldn’t be laughing. No,” said Ashlynn as she gasped for air, an immense grin on her face. “A great-grandparent is your grandparent’s parents. Not a favorite.”

“Oh,” muttered Soren. “I… well then, no. I didn’t know my great-grandfather.” He didn’t realize he folded his arms across his chest.

“Aww, no. Don’t be like that. I said I was sorry. Really,” said Ashlynn. Soren, still looking down, shrugged. He couldn’t help but think about what little he knew about his grandfather and how all of that wouldn’t be possible now. He found himself thinking of his brothers and wondering where they were and if they would remember him in their stories to their children.

“It… it’s okay. Just another reminder that…” Soren felt his throat constrict involuntarily. He cleared it nervously and shifted as his eyes began burning. He hurriedly rubbed his averted eyes. “Never mind.” Ashlynn, now very quiet, stared at him curiously and no longer in amusement. They shared silence for a time before Ashlynn broke the barrier.

“What did you call him?” she asked. “Your grandfather, I mean. Did you call him gramps, or grandfather?” Soren had to think about it for a moment, recalling the faded memory.

“Pops,” he muttered. “I called him Pops, and he always had a soda pop shield that he let me play with sometimes; but that’s been years ago.”

“The metal kind?” asked Ashlynn. Soren let a smile tug at the corner of his lip.

“Yeah,” he replied. They exchanged a thoughtful look – one Soren hadn’t had experienced in a long time – and let the silence surround them again. After a few minutes, Ashlynn readjusted and grabbed the dishes from dinner. Before leaving, she glanced back at Soren.

“Do… you want to come with me to the kitchen? I mean… I don’t know if you want company or if you’d rather be alone.” Ashlynn’s offer took Soren by surprise. He thought for a moment. The same apprehension he felt toward Ashlynn was quickly dissipating, but why he didn’t know. “I wouldn’t touch your or anything – rules and stuff. I’d just bring the box and let you sit or stand or whatever.” Soren swallowed dryly.

“I… no thank you,” he said, instantly feeling guilty at the pained look in Ashlynn’s eyes. “Wait!” Ashlynn stopped dead in her tracks at Soren’s sudden shout. “What I meant was… no thank you… for now. I’m just a bit tired now and want to get some sleep. But… maybe tomorrow?”

Ashlynn said nothing. She barely glanced back to catch his eye, but Soren could have sworn he saw a smile crest over the edge of her face and her head was held a little higher as she left the room.

Soren, unsure of what possessed him, laid back on the makeshift bed. What was he doing? Agreeing to let the human take him somewhere? That was insane! Still, Soren couldn’t help but feel like something happened during their conversation this day. He slipped into sleep in an instant and welcomed the abyss behind his eyes.

He didn’t hear Ashlynn come in or get ready for bed. He didn’t notice when she awoke and went to the kitchen for the morning. What he did notice was the metal bottlecap from some red soda bottle sitting near his bed. Soren pulled the hefty piece closer and inspected it, instantly nostalgic. Emotion pricked the corners of his eyes and a single thought crept into his mind as he wiped his eyes. [Okay… maybe she’s not so bad for a human.]

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