Four: A Divergent Collection (Divergent 4) - Page 13


I stand, unsure what to say. There’s a faction leader in my apartment.

“Hello,” I say.

“Sorry to interrupt,” he says. “I’m surprised you didn’t choose to room with your fellow former initiates. You did make some friends, didn’t you?”

“Yeah,” I say. “This just feels more normal.”

“I guess it’ll take you some time to let go of your old faction.” Max skims the counter in my small kitchen with a fingertip, looks at the dust he collected, then wipes his hand on his pants. He gives me a critical look—one that tells me to let go of my old faction faster. If I was still an initiate, I might worry about that look, but I’m a Dauntless member now, and he can’t take that away from me, no matter how “Stiff” I seem.

Can he?

“This afternoon you’ll pick your job,” Max says. “Did you have anything in mind?”

“I guess it depends on what’s available,” I say. “I’d like to do something with teaching. Like what Amar did, maybe.”

“I think the first-ranked initiate can do a little better than ‘initiation instructor,’ don’t you?” Max’s eyebrows lift, and I notice that one doesn’t move as much as the other—it’s crossed with a scar. “I came because an opportunity has opened up.”

He pulls a chair out from under the small table near the kitchen counter, turns it, and sits on it backward. His black boots are caked with light-brown mud and the laces are knotted and fraying at the ends. He might be the oldest Dauntless I’ve ever seen, but he may as well be made of steel.

“To be honest, one of my fellow leaders of Dauntless is getting a little old for the job,” Max says. I sit on the edge of the bed. “The remaining four of us think it would be a good idea to get some new blood in leadership. New ideas for new Dauntless members and initiation, specifically. That task is usually given to the youngest leader anyway, so it’s a good fit. We were thinking of drawing from the more recent initiate classes for a training program to see if anyone is a good candidate. You’re a natural choice.”

I feel like my skin is too tight for me, suddenly. Is he really suggesting that at the age of sixteen I could qualify as a Dauntless leader?

“The training program will last at least a year,” Max says. “It will be rigorous and it will test your skills in a lot of areas. We both know you’ll do just fine in the fear landscape portion.”

I nod without thinking. He must not mind my self-assuredness, because he smiles a little.

“You won’t need to go to the job selection meeting later today,” Max says. “Training will start very soon—tomorrow morning, in fact.”

“Wait,” I say, a thought breaking through the muddle in my mind. “I don’t have a choice?”

“Of course you have a choice.” He looks puzzled. “I just assumed someone like you would rather train to be a leader than spend all day standing around a fence with a gun on his shoulder, or lecturing initiates about good fighting technique. But if I was wrong …”

I don’t know why I’m hesitating. I don’t want to spend my days guarding the fence, or patrolling the city, or even pacing the training room floor. I may have an aptitude for fighting, but that doesn’t mean I want to do it all day, every day. The chance to make a difference in Dauntless appeals to the Abnegation parts of me, the parts that are lingering around, occasionally demanding attention.

I think I just don’t like when I’m not given a choice.

I shake my head. “No, you weren’t wrong.” I clear my throat and try to sound stronger, more determined. “I want to do it. Thank you.”

“Excellent.” Max gets up and cracks one of his knuckles idly, like it’s an old habit. He holds out his hand for me to shake, and I take it, though the gesture is still unfamiliar to me—the Abnegation would never touch each other so casually. “Come to the conference room near my office tomorrow morning at eight. It’s in the Pire. Tenth floor.”

He leaves, scattering bits of dried earth from the bottom of his shoes as he walks out. I sweep them up with the broom that leans against the wall near the door. It’s not until I’m scooting the chair back under the table that I realize—if I become a Dauntless leader, a representative of my faction, I’ll have to come face-to-face with my father again. And not just once but constantly, until he finally retires into Abnegation obscurity.

My fingers start to go numb. I’ve faced my fears so many times in simulations, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to face them in reality.

+++

“Dude, you missed it!” Zeke is wide-eyed, concerned. “The only jobs left by the end were the gross jobs, like scrubbing toilets! Where were you?”

“It’s fine,” I say as I carry my tray back to our table near the doors. Shauna is there with her little sister, Lynn, and Lynn’s friend Marlene. When I first saw them there, I wanted to turn around and leave immediately—Marlene is too cheerful for me even on a good day—but Zeke had already seen me, so it was too late. Behind us, Uriah jogs to catch up, his plate loaded with more food than he can possibly pack into his stomach. “I didn’t miss anything—Max came to see me earlier.”

As we take our seats at the table, under one of the bright-blue lamps that hang from the wall, I tell him about Max’s offer, careful not to make it sound too impressive. I only just found friends; I don’t want to create jealous tension between us for no reason. When I finish, Shauna leans her face into

one of her hands and says to Zeke, “I guess we should have tried harder during initiation, huh?”

“Or killed him before he could take his final test.”

“Or both.” Shauna grins at me. “Congrats, Four. You deserve it.”

I feel everyone’s eyes on me like distinct, powerful beams of heat, and hurry to change the subject. “Where did you guys end up?”

“Control room,” Zeke says. “My mom used to work there, and she taught me most of what I’ll need to know already.”

“I’m in the patrol leadership track … thing,” Shauna says. “Not the most exciting job ever, but at least I’ll get to be outside.”

“Yeah, let’s hear you say that in the dead of winter when you’re trudging through a foot of snow and ice,” Lynn says sourly. She stabs at a pile of mashed potatoes with her fork. “I better do well in initiation. I don’t want to get stuck at the fence.”

“Didn’t we talk about this?” Uriah says. “Don’t say the ‘I’ word until at most two weeks before it happens. It makes me want to throw up.”

I look at the pile of food on his tray. “Stuffing yourself up to your eyeballs with food, though, that’s fine?”

He rolls his eyes at me and bends over his tray to keep eating. I poke at my own food—I haven’t had any appetite since this morning, too worried about tomorrow to stand a full stomach.

Zeke spots someone across the cafeteria. “I’ll be right back.”

Shauna watches him cross the room to greet a few young Dauntless members. They don’t look much older than he is, but I don’t recognize them from initiation, so they must be a year or two older. Zeke says something to the group—mostly made up of girls—that sends them into fits of laughter, and he jabs one of the girls in the ribs, making her squeal. Beside me, Shauna glowers and misses her mouth with her fork, smearing sauce from the chicken all over her cheek. Lynn snorts into her food, and Marlene kicks her—audibly—under the table.

“So,” Marlene says loudly. “Do you know of anyone else who’s doing that leadership program, Four?”

“Come to think of it, I didn’t see Eric there today, either,” Shauna says. “I was hoping he tripped and fell into the chasm, but …”

I shove a bite of food in my mouth and try not to think about it. The blue light makes my hands look blue, too, like the hands of a corpse. I haven’t spoken to Eric since I accused him of being indirectly responsible for Amar’s death—someone reported Amar’s simulation awareness to Jeanine Matthews, leader of Erudite, and as a former Erudite, Eric is the most likely suspect. I haven’t decided what I’ll do the next time I have to talk to him, either. Beating him up again isn’t going to prove that he’s a faction traitor. I’ll have to find some way to connect his recent activities to the Erudite and take the information to one of the Dauntless leaders—Max, probably, since I know him best.

Zeke walks back to the table and slides into his seat. “Four. What are you doing tomorrow night?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “Nothing?”

“Not anymore,” he says. “You’re coming with me on a date.”

I choke on my next bite of potatoes. “What?”

“Um, hate to tell you this, big brother,” Uriah says, “but you’re supposed to go on dates alone, not bring a friend.”

“It’s a double date, obviously,” Zeke says. “I asked Maria out, and she said something about finding a date for her friend Nicole, and I indicated that you would be interested.”

“Which one’s Nicole?” Lynn says, craning her neck to look at the group of girls.

“The redhead,” Zeke says. “So, eight o’clock. You’re in, I’m not even asking.”

“I don’t—” I say. I look at the redheaded girl across the room. She’s fair-skinned, with wide eyes smeared with black, and wearing a tight shirt, which shows off the bend in her waist and … other things my inner Abnegation voice tells me not to notice. I do anyway.

I’ve never been on a date, thanks to my former faction’s strict courtship rituals, involving engaging in acts of service together and maybe—maybe—having dinner with someone else’s family and helping them clean up afterward. I’ve never even thought about whether I wanted to date anyone; it was such an impossibility. “Zeke, I’ve never—”

Uriah frowns and pokes my arm, hard, with one finger. I slap his hand away. “What?”

“Oh, nothing,” Uriah says cheerfully. “You were just sounding Stiffer than usual, so I thought I would check—”

Marlene laughs. “Yeah, right.”

Zeke and I exchange a look. We’ve never explicitly talked about not sharing my faction of origin, but as far as I know, he’s never mentioned it to anyone. Uriah knows, but despite his loud mouth, he seems to understand when to withhold information. Still, I’m not sure why Marlene hasn’t figured it out—maybe she’s not very observant.

“It’s not a big deal, Four,” Zeke says. He eats his last bite of food. “You’ll go, you’ll talk to her like she’s a normal human being—which she is—maybe she’ll let you—gasp—hold her hand—”

Shauna gets up suddenly, her chair screeching on the stone floor. She tucks her hair behind one ear and walks toward the tray return, head down. Lynn glares at Zeke—which hardly looks different from her normal facial expression—and follows her sister across the cafeteria.

“Okay, you don’t have to hold hands with anyone,” Zeke says, like nothing happened. “Just go, all right? I’ll owe you one.”


Tags: Veronica Roth Divergent Science Fiction
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