Jaz craned her neck over the endless line in front of her. It had been going for nearly thirty hours, with families taking turns to sleep and use the bathroom. Jaz had no family with her, but neither did the boy in front of her. The first hour they locked eyes, nodded, and both were able to leave when they needed to. Jaz clutched her papers tightly. Her mouth was dry. Her mouth was always dry, as if it lacked the water necessary to speak. No, her mother had said gently, you have no need to speak, Jaz, you have a heart that will speak for you.
It seemed like she might not get that chance. She didn’t know how she was going to tell her story since she didn’t know the language of this world. She clutched her immigration papers tighter.
“Next!” The boy in front of her went. Jaz knew this word, it meant, “come up to this booth.”
“Next.” Jaz was already stumbling forward.
“Name?” This word was said much more quietly. Jaz hadn’t heard it before. She started to sign, hoping they might understand.
“Damn,” said someone beside the man, and Jaz didn’t know what that meant either.
They looked at each other, and one left. The other kept his eyes down, cleared his throat. Jaz looked around for some paper, pointed. The man gave it to her and she began drawing feverishly. The man kept one eye on her while he went through her documents. She wasn’t good at drawing. The man was a stick figure, but she drew a big knife and herself as well she could. Would he understand? She wrote the word BAD in her language, but the man wouldn’t know.
“There’s a problem with this document, Miss,” the man was saying, and Jaz nodded, thrusting the paper forward, pointing at the man and herself, trying to indicate danger.
“Right, but there’s this problem. We can’t let you through-”
“Wait!” The word in her own tongue made Jaz spin around, and then the whole room seemed to spin. As if she had conjured him with her drawing, there was Thoris pushing through the line.
Jaz could only shrink in horror as he came forward, gabbling to the men in their own language. They were nodding, smiling. No…
“I am here to tell your story,” Thoris said.
Jaz was still shaking. After all he had done to their family…he was the reason she had had to flee their world, her family’s name in ruins. All because of Jaz. Because she taught the little ones things they weren’t supposed to know. Freedom, responsibility, even the word “no.” She had been teaching when they’d dragged her away.
“I know what I did,” Thoris was saying, and she saw the redness of his face was from crying, not anger. “I made a mistake. I will tell your story here, and mine. Show me.”
Jaz began to sign, and Thoris began to speak.