Four: A Divergent Collection (Divergent 4) - Page 27


“Mmhmm.”

She’s talking about how to get out. Fear-landscape strategy. I am trying to focus on breathing. Then she pulls us both down, to make the box smaller, and turns so her back is against my chest, so I’m completely wrapped around her.

“This is worse,” I say, because with my nervousness about the box and my nervousness about touching her combined, I can’t even think straight. “This is definitely …”

“Shh. Arms around me.”

I wrap my arms around her waist, and bury my face in her shoulder. She smells like Dauntless soap, and sweet, like apple.

I’m forgetting where I am.

She’s talking about the fear landscape again, and I’m listening, but I’m also focused on how she feels.

“So try to forget we’re here,” she finishes.

“Yeah?” I put my mouth right up against her ear, on purpose this time, to keep the distraction going, but also because I get the feeling I’m not the only one who’s distracted. “That easy, huh?”

“You know, most boys would enjoy being trapped in close quarters with a girl.”

“Not claustrophobic people, Tris!”

“Okay, okay.” She guides my hand to her chest, right under where her collarbone dips. All I can think about is what I want, which has nothing to do with getting out of this box, suddenly. “Feel my heartbeat. Can you feel it?”

“Yes.”

“Feel how steady it is?”

I smile into her shoulder. “It’s fast.”

“Yes, well, that has nothing to do with the box.” Of course it doesn’t. “Every time you feel me breathe, you breathe. Focus on that.”

We breathe together, once, twice.

“Why don’t you tell me where this fear comes from. Maybe talking about it will help us somehow.”

I feel like this fear should have vanished already, but what she’s doing is keeping me at a steady level of heightened uneasiness, not taking my fear away completely. I try to focus on where this box comes from.

“Um … okay.” Okay, just do it, just say something real. “This one is from my … fantastic childhood. Childhood punishments. The tiny closet upstairs.”

Shut in the dark to think about what I did. It was better than other punishments, but sometimes I was in there for too long, desperate for fresh air.

“My mother kept our winter coats in our closet,” she says, and it’s a silly thing to say after what I just told her, but I can tell she doesn’t know what else to do.

“I don’t really want to talk about it anymore,” I say with a gasp. She doesn’t know what to say because no one could possibly know what to say, because my childhood pain is too pathetic for anyone else to handle—my heart rate spikes again.

“Okay. Then … I can talk. Ask me something.”

I lift my head. It was working before, focusing on her. Her racing heart, her body against mine. Two strong skeletons wrapped in muscle, tangled together; two Abnegation transfers working on leaving tentative flirtation behind. “Why is your heart racing, Tris?”

“Well, I … I barely know you.” I can picture her scowling. “I barely know you and I’m crammed up against you in a box, Four, what do you think?”

“If we were in your fear landscape …” I say. “Would I be in it?”

“I’m not afraid of you.”

“Of course you’re not. That’s not what I meant.” I meant not Are you afraid of me? but Am I important enough to you to feature in the landscape anyway?

Probably not. She’s right, she hardly knows me. But still: Her heart is racing.

I laugh, and the walls break as if my laugh shook them and broke them, and the air opens up around us. I swallow a deep breath of it, and we peel away from each other. She looks at me, suspicious.

“Maybe you were cut out for Candor, because you’re a terrible liar,” I say.

“I think my aptitude test ruled that one out pretty well.”

“The aptitude test tells you nothing.”

“What are you trying to tell me? Your test isn’t the reason you ended up Dauntless?”

I shrug. “Not exactly, no. I …”

I see something out of the corner of my eye, and turn to face it. A plain-faced, forgettable woman stands alone at the other end of the room. Between her and us is a table with a gun on it.

“You have to kill her,” Tris says.

“Every time.”

“She isn’t real.”

“She looks real. It feels real.”

“If she was real, she would have killed you already.”

“It’s okay. I’ll just … do it.” I start toward the table. “This one’s not so bad. Not as much panic involved.”

Panic and terror aren’t the only kinds of fear. There are deeper kinds, more terrible kinds. Apprehension and heavy, heavy dread.

I load the gun without thinking about it, hold it out in front of me, and look at her face. She’s blank, like she knows what I’m going to do and accepts it.

She’s not dressed in the clothes of any faction, but she might as well be Abnegation, standing there waiting for me to hurt her, the way they would. The way they will, if Max and Jeanine and Evelyn all get their way.

I close one eye, to focus on my target, and fire.

She falls, and I think of punching Drew until he was almost unconscious.

Tris’s hand closes around my arm. “Come on. Keep moving.”

We walk past the table, and I shudder with fear. Waiting for this last obstacle might be a fear in itself.

“Here we

go,” I say.

Creeping into the circle of light we now occupy is a dark figure, pacing so just the edge of his shoe is visible. Then he steps toward us, Marcus with his black-pit eyes and his gray clothes and his close-cut hair, showing off the contours of his skull.

“Marcus,” she whispers.

I watch him. Waiting for the first blow to fall. “Here’s the part where you figure out my name.”

“Is he …” She knows, now. She’ll know forever; I can’t make her forget it if I wanted to. “Tobias.”

It’s been so long since someone said my name that way, like it was a revelation and not a threat.

Marcus unwinds a belt from his fist.

“This is for your own good,” he says, and I want to scream.

He multiplies immediately, surrounding us, the belts dragging on white tile. I curl into myself, hunching my back, waiting, waiting. The belt pulls back and I flinch before it hits, but then it doesn’t.

Tris stands in front of me, her arm up, tense from head to toe. She grits her teeth as the belt wraps around her arm, and then she pulls it free, and lashes out. The movement is so powerful I’m amazed by how strong it looks, by how hard the belt slaps Marcus’s skin.

He lunges at Tris, and I step in front of her. I’m ready this time, ready to fight back.

But the moment never comes. The lights lift and the fear landscape is over.

“That’s it?” she says as I watch the place where Marcus stood. “Those were your worst fears? Why do you only have four … oh.”

She looks at me.

“That’s why they call you …”

I was afraid that if she knew about Marcus, she would look at me with pity, and she would make me feel weak, and small, and empty.

But she saw Marcus and she looked at him, with anger and without fear. She made me feel, not weak, but powerful. Strong enough to fight back.

I tug her toward me by her elbow, and kiss her cheek, slowly, letting her skin burn into mine. I hold her tightly, slouching into her.

“Hey.” She sighs. “We got through it.”

I put my fingers through her hair.

“You got me through it,” I say.

+++

I take her to the rocks that Zeke, Shauna, and I go to sometimes, late at night. Tris and I sit on a flat stone suspended over the water, and the spray soaks my shoes, but it’s not so cold that I mind. Like all initiates, she’s too focused on the aptitude test, and I’m struggling with talking to her about it. I thought that when I spilled one secret, the rest would come tumbling after, but openness is a habit you form over time, and not a switch you flip whenever you want to, I’m finding.

“These are things I don’t tell people, you know. Not even my friends.” I watch the dark, murky water and the things it carries—pieces of trash, discarded clothing, floating bottles like small boats setting out on a journey. “My result was as expected. Abnegation.”


Tags: Veronica Roth Divergent Science Fiction
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