Four: A Divergent Collection (Divergent 4) - Page 7


“What about your parents?” I ask Amar.

He shrugs. “Died when I was young. Train accident. Very sad.” He grins like it’s not. “And my grandparents took the jump after I became an official member of Dauntless.” He makes a careening gesture with his hand, suggesting a dive.

“The jump?”

“Oh, don’t tell him while I’m here,” Zeke says, shaking his head. “I don’t want to see the look on his face.”

Amar doesn’t pay attention. “Elderly Dauntless sometimes take a flying leap into the unknown of the chasm when they hit a certain age. It’s that or be factionless,” Amar says. “And my grandpa was really sick. Cancer. Grandma didn’t care to go on without him.”

He tilts his head up to the sky, and his eyes reflect the moonlight. For a moment I feel like he is showing me a secret self, one carefully hidden beneath layers of charm and humor and Dauntless bravado, and it scares me, because that secret self is hard, and cold, and sad.

“I’m sorry,” I say.

“At least this way, I got to say my good-byes,” Amar says. “Most of the time death just comes whether you’ve said good-bye or not.”

The secret self vanishes with the flash of a smile, and Amar jogs toward the rest of the group, flask in hand. I stay back with Zeke. He lopes along, somehow clumsy and graceful at once, like a wild dog.

“What about you?” Zeke says. “You have parents?”

“One,” I say. “My mother died a long time ago.”

I remember the funeral, with all the Abnegation filling our house with quiet chatter, staying with us in our grief. They carried us meals on metal trays, covered with tinfoil, and cleaned our kitchen, and boxed up all my mother’s clothes for us, so there were no traces of her left. I remember them murmuring that she died from complications with another child. But I had a memory of her, a few months before her death, standing in front of her dresser, buttoning up her loose second shirt over the tight undershirt, her stomach flat. I shake my head a little, banishing the memory. She’s dead. It’s a child’s memory, unreliable.

“And your dad, is he okay with your choice?” he says. “Visiting Day is coming up, you know.”

“No,” I say distantly. “He’s not okay with it at all.”

My father will not come on Visiting Day. I’m sure of it. He will never speak to me again.

The Erudite sector is cleaner than any other part of the city, every scrap of trash or rubble cleared from the pavement, every crack in the street shored up with tar. I feel like I need to step carefully rather than mar the sidewalk with my sneakers. The other Dauntless walk along carelessly, the soles of their shoes making slapping sounds like pattering rain.

Every faction headquarters is allowed to have the lights on in its lobby at midnight, but everything else is supposed to be dark. Here, in the Erudite sector, each building that makes up Erudite headquarters is like a pillar of light. The windows we walk past feature the Erudite sitting at long tables, their noses buried in books or screens, or talking quietly to one another. The young and the old mix together at every table, in their impeccable blue clothing, their smooth hair, more than half of them with gleaming spectacles. Vanity, my father would say. They are so concerned with looking intelligent that they make themselves fools for it.

I pause to watch them. They don’t look vain to me. They look like people who make every effort to feel as smart as they are supposed to be. If that means wearing glasses with no prescription, it isn’t my place to judge. They are a haven I might have chosen. Instead I chose the haven that mocks them through the windows, that sends Amar into their lobby to cause a stir.

Amar reaches the doors of the central Erudite building and pushes through them. We watch from just outside, snickering. I peer through the doors at the portrait of Jeanine Matthews hanging on the opposite wall. Her yellow hair is pulled back tight from her face, her blue jacket buttoned just beneath her throat. She’s pretty, but that’s not the first thing I notice about her. Her sharpness is.

And beyond that—it could just be my imagination, but does she look a little afraid?

Amar runs into the lobby, ignoring the protests of the Erudite at the front desk, and yells, “Hey, Noses! Check this out!”

All the Erudite in the lobby look up from their books or screens, and the Dauntless burst into laughter as Amar turns, mooning them. The Erudite behind the desk run around it to catch him, but Amar pulls up his pants and runs toward us. We all start running, too, sprinting away from the doors.

I can’t help it—I’m laughing too, and it surprises me, how my stomach aches with it. Zeke runs at my shoulder, and we go toward the train tracks because there’s nowhere else to run. The Erudite chasing us give up after a block, and we all stop in an alley, leaning against the brick to catch our breath.

Amar comes into the alley last, his hands raised, and we cheer for him. He holds up the flask like it’s a trophy and points at Shauna.

“Young one,” he says. “I dare you to scale the sculpture in front of the Upper Levels building.”

She catches the flask when he throws it and takes a swig.

“You got it,” she says, grinning.

+++

By the time they get to me, almost everyone is drunk, lurching with each footstep and laughing at every joke, no matter how stupid it is. I feel warm, despite the cool air, but my mind is still sharp, taking in everything about the night, the rich smell of marsh and the sound of bubbling laughter, the blue-black of the sky and the silhouette of each building against it. My legs are sore from running and walking and climbing, and still I haven’t fulfilled a dare.

We’re close to Dauntless headquarters now. The buildings are sagging where they stand.

“Who’s left?” Lauren says, her bleary eyes skipping over each face until she reaches mine. “Ah, the numerically named initiate from Abnegation. Four, is it?”

“Yeah,” I say.

“A Stiff?” The boy who sat so comfortably beside Amar looks at me, his words running together. He’s the one holding the flask, the one determining the next dare. So far I’ve watched people scale tall structures, I’ve watched them jump into dark holes and wander into empty buildings to retrieve a faucet or a desk chair, I’ve watched them run naked down alleyways and stick needles through their earlobes without numbing them first. If I w

as asked to concoct a dare, I would not be able to think of one. It’s a good thing I’m the last person to go.

I feel a tremor in my chest, nerves. What will he tell me to do?

“Stiffs are uptight,” the boy says plainly, like it’s a fact. “So, to prove you’re really Dauntless now … I dare you to get a tattoo.”

I see their ink, creeping over wrists and arms and shoulders and throats. The metal studs through ears and noses and lips and eyebrows. My skin is blank, healed, whole. But it doesn’t match who I am—I should be scarred, marked, the way they are, but marked with memories of pain, scarred with the things I have survived.

I lift a shoulder. “Fine.”

He tosses me the flask, and I drain it, though it stings my throat and lips and tastes bitter as poison.

We start toward the Pire.

+++

Tori is wearing a pair of men’s underwear and a T-shirt when she answers the door, her hair hanging over the left half of her face. She raises an eyebrow at me. We clearly woke her from a sound sleep, but she doesn’t seem angry—just a little grouchy.

“Please?” Amar says. “It’s for a game of Dare.”

“Are you sure you want a tired woman to tattoo your skin, Four? This ink doesn’t wash off,” she says to me.

“I trust you,” I say. I’m not going to back out of the dare, not after watching everyone else do theirs.

“Right.” Tori yawns. “The things I do for Dauntless tradition. I’ll be right back, I’m going to put on pants.”

She closes the door between us. On the way here I racked my brain for what I might want tattooed, and where. I couldn’t decide—my thoughts were too muddled. Still are.

A few seconds later Tori emerges wearing pants, her feet still bare. “If I get in trouble for turning on lights at this hour, I’m going to claim it was vandals and name names.”

“Got it,” I say.

“There’s a back way. Come on,” she says, beckoning to us. I follow her through her dark living room, which is tidy except for the sheets of paper spread over her coffee table, each one marked with a different drawing. Some of them are harsh and simple, like most of the tattoos I’ve seen, and others are more intricate, detailed. Tori must be the Dauntless approximation of an artist.

I pause by the table. One of the pages depicts all the faction symbols, without the circles that usually bind them. The Amity tree is at the bottom, forming a kind of root system for the eye of Erudite and the Candor scales. Above them, the Abnegation hands seem almost to cradle the Dauntless flames. It’s like the symbols are growing into one another.

The others have moved past me. I jog to catch up, walking through Tori’s kitchen—also immaculate, though the appliances are out of date, the faucet rusted, and the refrigerator door held closed by a large clamp. The back door is open and leads into a short, dank hallway that opens up to the tattoo parlor.

I’ve walked past it before but never cared to go inside, sure I wasn’t going to find a reason to attack my own body with needles. I guess I have one now—those needles are a way for me to separate myself from my past, not just in the eyes of my fellow Dauntless, but in my own eyes, every time I look at my own reflection.

The room’s walls are covered in pictures. The wall by the door is entirely dedicated to Dauntless symbols, some black and simple, some colorful and barely recognizable. Tori turns on the light over one of the chairs and arranges her tattoo needles on a tray next to it. The other Dauntless gather on benches and chairs around us, like they’re getting ready to see a performance of some kind. My face gets hot.

“Basic principles of tattooing,” Tori says. “The less cushion under the skin, or the bonier you are in a particular area, the more painful the tattoo. For your first one it’s probably best to get it done on, I don’t know, your arm, or—”

“Your butt cheek,” Zeke suggests, with a snort of laughter.

Tori shrugs. “It wouldn’t be the first time. Or the last.”

I look at the boy who dared me. He raises his eyebrows at me. I know what he expects, what they all expect—that I’ll get something small, on an arm or a leg, something that’s easily hidden. I glance at the wall with all the symbols. One of the drawings in particular catches my eye, an artistic rendering of the flames themselves.

“That one,” I say, pointing to it.

“Got it,” Tori says. “Got a location in mind?”

I have a scar—a faint gouge in my knee from when I fell down on the sidewalk as a child. It’s always seemed stupid to me that none of the pain I’ve experienced has left a visible mark; sometimes, without a way to prove it to myself, I began to doubt that I had lived through it at all, with the memories becoming hazy over time. I want to have some kind of reminder that while wounds heal, they don’t disappear forever—I carry them everywhere, always, and that is the way of things, the way of scars.

That is what this tattoo will be, for me: a scar. And it seems fitting that it should document the worst memory of pain that I have.


Tags: Veronica Roth Divergent Science Fiction
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