Amar told us the fear landscapes didn’t usually come first in Dauntless initiation, that it was something new they were trying. An experiment. But she’s right; the Dauntless don’t do experiments. If they were really concerned with practicality and efficiency, they wouldn’t bother teaching us to throw knives.
And then there’s Amar, turning up dead. Wasn’t I the one who accused Eric of being an informant? Haven’t I suspected for weeks that he was still in touch with the Erudite?
“Even if you’re right,” I say, and all the malicious energy has gone out of me. I move closer to her. “Even if you’re right about Dauntless, I would never join you.” I try to keep my voice from wavering as I add, “I never want to see you again.”
“I don’t believe you,” she says quietly.
“I don’t care what you believe.”
I move past her, toward the stairs I climbed to get up to the platform.
She calls after me, “If you change your mind, any message given to one of the factionless will go to me.”
I don’t look back. I run down the stairs and sprint down the street, away from the platform. I don’t even know if I’m moving in the right direction, just that I want to be as far away from her as possible.
I don’t sleep.
I pace my apartment, frantic. I pull the remnants of my Abnegation life out of my drawers and dump them in the trash, the ripped shirt, the pants, the shoes, the socks, even my watch. At some point, around sunrise, I hurl the electric shaver against the shower wall, and it breaks into several pieces.
An hour after daybreak, I walk to the tattoo parlor. Tori is already there—well, “there” might be too strong a word, because her eyes are swollen from sleep and unfocused, and she’s just started on her coffee.
“Something wrong?” she said. “I’m not really here. I’m supposed to go for a run with Bud, that maniac.”
“I’m hoping you’ll make an exception,” I say.
“Not many people come in here with urgent tattoo requests,” she says.
“There’s a first time for everything.”
“Okay.” She sits up, more alert now. “You have something in mind?”
“You had a drawing in your apartment when we walked through it a few weeks ago. It was of all the faction symbols together. Still have it?”
She stiffens. “You weren’t supposed to see that.”
I know why I wasn’t supposed to see it, why that drawing isn’t something she wants made public. It suggests leanings toward other factions instead of asserting Dauntless supremacy, like her tattoos are supposed to. Even established Dauntless members are worried about seeming Dauntless enough, and I don’t know why that is, what kind of threats are leveled at people who could be called “faction traitors,” but that’s exactly why I’m here.
“That’s sort of the point,” I say. “I want that tattoo.”
I thought of it on the way home, while I was cycling through what my mother said, over and over again. You can be more than either, more than any faction. She thought that in order to be more than any faction, I would have to abandon this place and the people who have embraced me as their own; I would have to forgive her and let myself be swallowed by her beliefs and her lifestyle. But I don’t have to leave, and I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. I can be more than any faction right here in Dauntless; maybe I already am more, and it’s time to show it.
Tori looks around, her eyes jumping up to the camera in the corner, one I noticed when I walked in. She is the type who notices cameras, too.
“It was just a stupid drawing,” she says loudly. “Come on, you’re clearly upset—we can talk about it, find something better for you to get.”
She beckons me to the back of the parlor, through the storage room behind it, and into her apartment again. We walk through the dilapidated kitchen to the living room, where her drawings are still stacked on the coffee table.
She sorts through the pages until she finds a drawing like the one I was talking about, the Dauntless flames being cup
ped by Abnegation hands, the Amity tree roots growing beneath an Erudite eye, which is balanced under the Candor scales. All the faction symbols stacked on top of each other. She holds it up, and I nod.
“I can’t do this in a place that people will see all the time,” she says. “That’ll make you a walking target. A suspected faction traitor.”
“I want it on my back,” I say. “Covering my spine.”
The hurts from my last day with my father are healed now, but I want to remember where they were; I want to remember what I escaped for as long as I live.
“You really don’t do things halfway, do you.” She sighs. “It’ll take a long time. Several sessions. We’ll have to do them in here, after hours, because I’m not going to let those cameras catch it, even if they don’t bother to look in here most of the time.”
“Fine,” I say.
“You know, the kind of person who gets this tattoo is probably the kind that should keep it very quiet,” she says, looking at me from the corner of her eye. “Or else someone will start thinking they’re Divergent.”
“That’s a word we have for people who are aware during simulations, who refuse categorization,” she says. “A word you don’t speak without care, because those people often die in mysterious circumstances.”
She has her elbows resting on her knees, casual, as she sketches the tattoo I want on transfer paper. Our eyes meet, and I realize: Amar. Amar was aware during simulations, and now he’s dead.
Amar was Divergent.
And so am I.
“Thanks for the vocabulary lesson,” I say.
“No problem.” She returns to her drawing. “I’m getting the feeling you enjoy putting yourself through the wringer.”
“So?” I say.
“Nothing, it’s just a pretty Dauntless quality for someone who got an Abnegation result.” Her mouth twitches. “Let’s get started. I’ll leave a note for Bud; he can jog alone just this once.”
Maybe Tori is right. Maybe I do enjoy putting myself “through the wringer”; maybe there is a masochistic streak inside me that uses pain to cope with pain. The faint burning that follows me to my next day of leadership training certainly makes it easier to focus on what I’m about to do, instead of on my mother’s cold, low voice and the way I pushed her away when she tried to comfort me.
In the years after her death, I used to dream that she would come back to life in the middle of the night and run a hand over my hair and say something comforting but nonsensical, like “It will be all right” or “It will get better someday.” But then I stopped allowing myself to dream, because it was more painful to long for things and never get them than to deal with whatever was in front of me. Even now I don’t want to imagine what reconciling with her would be like, what having a mother would be like. I’m too old to hear comforting nonsense anymore. Too old to believe that everything will be all right.
I check the top of the bandage that protrudes over my collar to make sure it’s secure. Tori outlined the first two symbols this morning, Dauntless and Abnegation, which will be larger than the others, because they are the faction I chose and the faction I actually have aptitude for, respectively—at least, I think I have aptitude for Abnegation, but it’s hard to be sure. She told me to keep them covered. The Dauntless flame is the only symbol that shows with my shirt on, and I’m not in the position to remove my shirt in public very often, so I doubt that will be a problem.
Everyone else is already in the conference room, and Max is speaking to them. I feel a kind of reckless weariness as I walk through the door and take my seat. Evelyn was wrong about quite a few things, but she wasn’t wrong about the Dauntless—Jeanine and Max don’t want a leader of Dauntless, they want a pawn, and that’s why they’re selecting from the youngest of us, because young people are easier shaped and molded. I will not be molded and shaped by Jeanine Matthews. I will not be a pawn, not for them and not for my mother and not for my father; I will not belong to anyone but myself.
“Nice of you to join us,” Max says. “Did this meeting interrupt your sleep?”
The others titter with laughter, and Max continues.
“As I was saying, today I would like to hear your thoughts about how to improve Dauntless—the vision you have for our faction in the coming years,” he says. “I’ll be meeting with you in groups by age, the oldest first. The rest of you, think of something good to say.”
He leaves with the three oldest candidates. Eric is right across from me, and I notice that he has even more metal in his face than the last time I saw him—now there are rings through his eyebrows. Soon he’s going to look more like a pincushion than a human being. Maybe that’s the point—strategy. No one looking at him now could ever mistake him for being Erudite.
“Do my eyes deceive me, or are you really late because you were getting a tattoo?” he says, pointing to the corner of the bandage that’s visible just over my shoulder.
“Lost track of time,” I say. “A lot of metal appears to have attached itself to your face recently. You may want to get that checked out.”
“Funny,” Eric says. “Wasn’t sure someone with your background could ever develop a sense of humor. Your father doesn’t seem like the type to allow it.”
I feel a stab of fear. He’s dancing awfully close to saying my name in front of this room full of people, and he wants me to know it—he wants me to remember that he knows who I am, and that he can use it against me whenever he pleases.
I can’t pretend that it doesn’t matter to me. The power dynamic has shifted, and I can’t make it shift back.
“I think I know who told you that,” I say. Jeanine Matthews knows both my name and my alias. She must have given him both.
“I was already fairly sure,” he says in a low voice. “But my suspicions were confirmed by a credible source, yes. You aren’t as good at keeping secrets as you think, Four.”
I would threaten him, tell him that if he reveals my name to the Dauntless, I’ll reveal his lasting connections to Erudite. But I don’t have any evidence, and the Dauntless dislike Abnegation more than Erudite anyway. I sit back in my chair to wait.
The others file out as they’re called, and soon we’re the only ones left. Max