Four: A Divergent Collection (Divergent 4) - Page 14


I look at Nicole. She’s sitting at a table near the tray return and laughing at someone else’s joke again. Maybe Zeke’s right—maybe it’s not that big a deal, and maybe this is another way that I can unlearn my Abnegation past and learn to embrace my Dauntless future. And besides—she’s pretty.

“Okay,” I say. “I’ll go. But if you make some kind of joke about hand holding, I’m going to break your nose.”

+++

When I get back to my apartment that night, it still smells like dust and a hint of mold. I turn on one of the lamps, and a glimmer of light reflects off the countertop. I run my hand over it, and a small piece of glass pricks my finger, making it bleed. I pinch it between my fingertips and carry it to the trash can, which I put a bag in this morning. But resting at the bottom of the bag now is a pile of shards in the shape of a drinking glass.

I haven’t used one of those yet.

A shiver goes down my spine, and I scan the rest of the apartment for signs of disruption. The sheets aren’t rumpled, none of the drawers are open, none of the chairs seem to have moved. But I would know if I had broken a glass that morning.

So who was in my apartment?

+++

I don’t know why, but the first thing my hands find in the morning when I stumble into the bathroom is the set of hair clippers I got with my Dauntless credits yesterday. And then while I’m still blinking the clouds from my eyes, I turn them on and touch them to my head the way I’ve done since I was young. I bend my ear forward to protect it from the blades; I know just how to twist and shift so that I can see as much of the back of my head as possible. The ritual calms my nerves, makes me feel focused and steady. I brush the trimmed hairs from my shoulders and neck and sweep them into the wastebasket.

It’s an Abnegation morning. A quick shower, a plain breakfast, a clean house. Except I’m wearing Dauntless black, boots and pants and shirt and jacket. I avoid looking in the mirror on my way out, and it makes me grit my teeth, knowing how deep these Stiff roots go, and how hard it will be to excise them from my mind, as tangled up in everything as they are. I left that place out of fear and defiance, and that will make it harder to assimilate than anyone knows, harder than if I had actually chosen Dauntless for the right reasons.

I walk quickly toward the Pit, emerging through an arch halfway up the wall. I stay away from the edge of the path, though Dauntless children, shrieking with laughter, sometimes run right along it, and I should be braver than they are. I’m not sure bravery is something you acquire more of with age, like wisdom—but maybe here, in Dauntless, bravery is the highest form of wisdom, the acknowledgment that life can and should be lived without fear.

It’s the first time I’ve found myself being thoughtful about Dauntless life, so I hold on to the thought as I ascend the paths around the Pit. I reach the staircase that hangs from the glass ceiling and keep my eyes up, away from the space opening up beneath me, so I don’t start to panic. But my heart is pounding by the time I reach the top anyway; I can feel it even in my throat. Max said his office was on the tenth floor, so I ride the elevator up with a group of Dauntless going to work. They don’t all seem to know one another, unlike the Abnegation—it’s not as important to them to memorize names and faces and needs and wants, so maybe they just keep to their friends and families, forming rich but separate communities within their faction. Like the one I’m forming myself.

When I reach the tenth floor, I’m not sure where to go, but then I spot a dark head turning a corner in front of me. Eric. I follow him, partly because he probably knows where he’s going, but partly because I want to know what he’s doing even if he’s not going to the same place I am. But when I turn the corner, I see Max standing in a conference room that has glass walls, surrounded by young Dauntless. The oldest one is maybe twenty, and the youngest is probably not much older than I am. Max sees me through the glass and motions for me to come in. Eric sits close to him—Suck-up, I think—but I sit at the other end of the table, between a girl with a ring through her nostrils and a boy whose hair is such a bright shade of green I can’t look straight at him. I feel plain by comparison—I may have gotten Dauntless flames tattooed on my side during initiation, but it’s not like they’re on display.

“I think everyone is here, so let’s get started.” Max closes the door to the conference room and stands before us. He looks strange in such an ordinary environment, like he’s here to break all the glass and cause chaos rather than lead this meeting. “You’re all here because you’ve shown potential, first, but also because you’ve displayed enthusiasm for our faction and its future.” I don’t know how I’ve done that. “Our city is changing, faster now than ever before, and in order to keep up with it, we’ll have to change, too. We’ll have to become stronger, braver, better than we are now. And among you are the people who can get us there, but we’ll have to figure out who they are. We’ll be doing a combination of instruction and skills tests for the next several months, to teach you what you’ll need to know if you make it through this program, but also to see how quickly you learn.” That sounds a little like something the Erudite would value, not the Dauntless—strange.

“The first thing you’ll do is fill out this info sheet,” he says, and I almost laugh. There’s something ridiculous about a tough, hardened Dauntless warrior with a stack of papers he calls “info sheets,” but of course some things have to be ordinary, because it’s more efficient that way. He sends the stack around the table, along with a bundle of pens. “All this will do is tell us more about you and give us a starting point by which to measure your progress. So it’s in your best interest to be honest, and not to make yourself sound better than you are.”

I feel unsettled, staring at the sheet of paper. I fill out my name—which is the first question—and my age—the second. The third asks for my faction of origin, and the fourth asks for my number of fears. The fifth asks what those fears are.

I’m not sure how to describe them. The first two are easy—heights, confinement—but the next one? And what am I supposed to write about my father, that I’m afraid of Marcus Eaton? Eventually I scribble losing control for my third fear and physical threats in confined spaces for my fourth, knowing that that’s far from true.

But the next few questions are strange, confusing. They’re statements, trickily worded, that I’m supposed to agree or disagree with. It’s okay to steal if it’s to help someone else. Well, that’s easy enough—agree. Some people are more deserving of rewards than others. Maybe. It depends on the rewards. Power should be given only to those who earn it. Difficult circumstances form stronger people. You don’t know how strong a person really is until they’re tested. I glance around the table at the others. Some people seem puzzled, but no one looks the way I feel—disturbed, almost afraid to circle an answer beneath each statement.

I don’t know what to do, so I circle “agree” for each one and pass my sheet back with everyone else’s.

+++

Zeke and his date, Maria, are pressed up against a wall in a hallway next to the Pit. I can see their silhouettes from here. It looks like they’re still just as pressed-up-against-each-other as they were five minutes ago when they first went back there, giggling like idiots the whole time. I cross my arms and look back at Nicole.

“So,” I say.

“So,” she says, tipping forward onto the balls of her feet and back onto her heels again. “This is a little awkward, right?”

“Yeah,” I say, relieved. “It is.”

“How long have you been friends with Zeke?” she says. “I haven’t seen you around much.”

“A few weeks,” I say. “We met during initiation.”

“Oh,” she says. “Were you a transfer?”

“Um …” I don’t want to admit that I transferred from Abnegation, partly because whenever I admit that, people start thinking I’m uptight, and partly because I don’t like to toss out hints about my parentage when I can avoid it. I decide to lie. “No, jus

t … kept to myself before then, I guess.”

“Oh.” She narrows her eyes a little. “You must have been really good at it.”

“One of my specialties,” I say. “How long have you been friends with Maria?”

“Since we were kids. She could trip and fall and land on a date with someone,” Nicole says. “Others of us aren’t as talented.”

“Yeah.” I shake my head. “Zeke had to push me into this a little.”

“Really.” Nicole raises an eyebrow. “Did he at least show you what you were in for?”

She points at herself.

“Um, yeah,” I say. “I wasn’t sure if you were my type, but I thought maybe—”

“Not your type.” She sounds cold, suddenly. I try to backtrack.

“I mean, I don’t think that’s that important,” I say. “Personality is much more important than—”

“Than my unsatisfactory looks?” She raises both eyebrows.

“That’s not what I said,” I say. “I’m … really terrible at this.”

“Yeah,” she says. “You are.”

She grabs the small black bag that was resting against her feet and tucks it under her arm. “Tell Maria I had to go home early.”

She stalks away from the railing and disappears into one of the paths next to the Pit. I sigh and look at Zeke and Maria again. I can tell by the faint movements I’m able to detect that they haven’t slowed down at all. I tap my fingers against the railing. Now that our double date has become an awkward, triangle-shaped date, it must be all right for me to leave.

I spot Shauna coming out of the cafeteria and wave to her.

“Isn’t tonight your big date night with Ezekiel?” she says.

“Ezekiel,” I say, cringing. “I forgot that was his whole name. Yeah, my date just stormed off.”

“Good one,” she says, laughing. “What’d you last, ten minutes?”

“Five,” I say, and I find myself laughing, too. “Apparently I’m insensitive.”

“No,” she says with mock surprise. “You? But you’re so sentimental and sweet!”

“Funny,” I say. “Where’s Lynn?”

“She started arguing with Hector. Our little brother,” she says. “And I’ve been listening to them do that for, oh, my whole life. So I left. I thought I’d go to the training room, get some exercise in. Want to go?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Let’s go.”

We head toward the training room, but then I realize that we have to walk down the same hallway that Zeke and Maria currently occupy to get there. I try to stop Shauna with a hand, but I’m too late—she sees their two bodies pressed together, her eyes wide. She pauses for a moment, and I hear smacking noises I wish I hadn’t heard. Then she moves down the hallway again, walking so fast I have to jog to catch up to her.

“Shauna—”

“Training room,” she says.

When we get there, she starts immediately on the punching bag, and I’ve never seen her hit so hard before.


Tags: Veronica Roth Divergent Science Fiction
Source: www.readsnovelonline.com
readsnovelonline.com Copyright 2016 - 2022