A Tall and Small Collection | Soren |

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Kitchen Conversations and Catastrophes

“You know, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you were faking being injured.” Ashlynn’s snarky yet playful comment wafted with the smells of dinner through the air to Soren, who had just successfully climbed down from his box on the ledge onto the counter.

He smirked at her as he took up his walking stick and hobbled to a more advantageous place to watch Ashlynn wield a very sharp knife. It had been nine days since their conversation about coming to the kitchen for company.

The agreement was simple. Soren agreed to come to the kitchen in the box as long as Ashlynn adhered to their initial rules Soren laid. Ashlynn, wanting to keep Soren off of the immediate counter so he wouldn’t accidentally get hurt, laid the ground rule that he was supposed to stay on the far counter near the bread box.

They both agreed, leaving them to their current circumstance of Soren climbing down from the breadbox to the counter and Ashlynn watching while making dinner. Soren, now mere inches from his entrance to the walls, stared yearningly at it. Ashlynn was right about one thing – he was a lot better than he was a few weeks ago – but still not good enough to survive on his own.

It killed him being so close and yet so far from freedom and independence – and yet, at the same time, it didn’t. During this compiled time of two weeks, Soren had to admit that residing with Ashlynn wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to him.

“Right, you caught me,” Soren muttered as he leaned against the wall, placing the majority of his weight onto this uninjured leg. He folded his arms against his chest, not realizing that his tone and body language were clear indicators to his human counterpart. Ashlynn, only beginning to get a glimpse into Soren’s already subtle expressions, stopped cutting to look at him.

“Hey, you okay?” she asked. Soren closed his eyes and rubbed his knuckle into the corners. Feeling her eyes on him, he loosely wrapped his arms around his torso a little tighter as he nodded.

“Yes,” he replied after a moment. “Just… thinking.” Ashlynn’s eyes glided over from him to the electrical socket near the bread box. She remembered the second time she found him, passed out on the counter near the box with the cover slightly ajar. A knowing look glazed her eyes for a moment. In an effort to relieve the tension, she set the knife down onto the cutting board, took a step back, and leaned across the opposite counter near the sink.

“You know… you can leave if you want,” she said softly. It caught Soren off guard and his eyes flicked up to see Ashlynn looking at him earnestly. “I know it’s part of the rules and everything, and I don’t know what’s going on in your head, but I thought I’d say it again. It’s been a while since either of us mentioned it.”

Soren wasn’t sure where this came from until he snapped out of his stupor and glanced at his body position. He unfolded his arms from his torso and glanced away, now slightly embarrassed. He hoped she couldn’t tell that his cheeks were burning a light shade of pink. Soren’s mom always said that he always turned a light shade of pink when he was embarrassed.

“Yeah, I know. I… Sorry, I was just thinking.” Soren reached up and scratched his scalp, ruffling his hair which was beginning to grow to an unruly length. [I’ll have to cut my hair at some point] he thought passively as he subconsciously tugged at the ends of his hair. He couldn’t help but think of the way his mom would tug at the ends of his hair when he needed a trim. The thought made him smile.

“Thinking? About what? How long your hair is?” teased Ashlynn as she approached the cutting board and resumed her work. Soren half laughed, half snorted and turned his attention to her.

“Is that your question for the day?” he asked rhetorically.

“Better not be! It’s a sorry excuse of a question,” returned Ashlynn. “But seriously, whatcha thinking about? You get this look on your face and for the life of me, I can’t tell what you’re thinking.”

“Is that a bad thing?” asked Soren. Ashlynn stopped chopping and sighed heavily.

“I guess not, but it seriously makes me curious,” moaned Ashlynn. “But, since you won’t answer what’s on your mind, let me ask another.” Soren thought about saying something else sassy or jokingly, but he didn’t want to frustrate her.

“I guess,” he sighed. “What is it?”

“How are you doing? I mean, how’s your leg and all that. Are you actually feeling better or putting on a brave face?” The way Ashlynn asked questions was blunt, but he could hear the sincerity and concern in her voice. He thought about the question before clearing his throat and responding.

“I’m doing well, I think. I mean, I haven’t broken a limb before, so I think it’s healing well. I can put more pressure on it and as long as I’m careful and don’t strain it, I should be completely healed in no time,” he said, feeling relatively confident his answer was truthful.

“Yeah, but how are you doing?” pressed Ashlynn as she swept the contents of the cutting board into a sizzling pan. “I mean, I don’t want to pry and you’ve got your rules; but… I mean… how are you holding up being here? Do… you have a family you miss or a group you’re waiting to get back to?”

Soren felt himself stiffen. He wanted to be careful how he answered this question. Ashlynn already knew there were other Borrowers, even if she didn’t know what they were called. He turned his head back to the edge of the counter and folded his arms across his chest. Seeing the question made him uncomfortable, Ashlynn shook her head and turned to the contents of the pan.

“It’s okay. You don’t have to…”

“I’m… doing alright. I mean, with the circumstances what they are I could be a lot worse,” interrupted Soren, surprising Ashlynn who instantly silenced herself. “I mean… I… do… have family… but I don’t know where they are or if they’re doing alright. I hope they are, but I don’t know.” Ashlynn’s pale, blue-green eyes stayed transfixed, her breath baited and completely stationary within her lungs; as if she were afraid that the smallest inhale would break the moment.

“That’s why I need to get better as fast as possible,” continued Soren. “I have to get back to them.” There was a long pause where neither of them spoke and the only sound that filled the air was the sizzling of the skillet. Ashlynn smiled warmly, which caught Soren’s attention.

“I’m sure they’re alright. If they’re half as stubborn and determined as you, they’re going to be okay.” Soren wasn’t sure what it was, but Ashlynn’s statement sent a radiating warmth through his chest, making him feel cautiously optimistic. He felt his cheeks reddening again.

Much to his horror, Ashlynn took notice this time. “Wha… Soren? Are you blushing?” Soren’s face reddened more as he tightened his folded arms.

“No,” he said indignantly. “It’s warm here near the stove.”

“You’re totally blushing!” Ashlynn giggled as she leaned forward to see his face better. Soren tried turning his face away, but the damage was already done.

“So what if I am!” His shouted remark was not half as intimidating as he wanted it to be. Ashlynn continued giggling, pretending to stifle her amusement. “That’s it. I’m not answering any more of your questions. This is what I get for answering you.”

“Awww, don’t be like that Soren,” whined Ashlynn playfully as she turned back toward the sink with the used cutting board, still chuckling to herself.

“No. There are rules for a reason. I should have stuck to them myself,” said Soren defiantly.

“Soren…”

“Forget it. I’m not answering any more questions today.” It was then that Soren noticed that Ashlynn wasn’t laughing anymore. Then, what was initially gratitude for the silence evolved into a tense and odd pause.

“Soren…” There was something in her voice. Something odd. He couldn’t place it. He glanced up and saw Ashlynn taking a few cautious steps backwards away from the sink, her eyes transfixed on the ground at the corner of the wall. There was an electricity in the air – an unspoken tension.

“What?” he asked involuntarily, a strange nervousness swirling in his gut.

“There’s… someone else… over here.” Her words hung in the air. “Oh… oh gosh… Soren, they’re hurt… really bad. I… I don’t…” Soren felt his pulse in every fiber of his body. He seized his walking stick and hobbled to the edge of the counter.

[Someone? Someone was hurt? Another Borrower?] Soren reached the edge, his nerves vibrating and on edge within every part of his body. He followed Ashlynn’s now pointing finger and caught a glimpse of a small figure collapsed on the ground.

Soren recognized him instantly. Before he could stop himself, he called out to the collapsed and shivering figure on the ground as loud as he could.

“DORIAN!”

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