Free Four: Tobias Tells the Divergent Knife-Throwing Scene (Divergent 1.50) - Page 2

Without looking at me, Eric says, "Hey, Four. Give me a hand here, huh?"

Part of me feels relief. At least I know that if I am throwing the knives instead of Eric, Al is less likely to get injured. But I also can't be this cruel, and I can't be the one who does Eric's dirty work.

I try to act casual, scratching my eyebrow with a knifepoint, but I don't feel casual. I feel like someone is pressing me into a mold that does not fit my body, forcing me into the wrong shape.

Eric says, "You're going to stand there as he throws those knives until you learn not to flinch."

My chest feels tight. I want to save Al, but the more I defy Eric, the more determined he will be to put me in my place. I decide to pretend that I am bored by the whole thing.

"Is this really necessary?"

"I have the authority here, remember?" Eric says. "Here, and everywhere else."

I can feel blood creeping into my face as I stare at him, and

he stares back at me. Max asked me to be a faction leader and I should have said yes; I would have, if I had known that I would prevent things like this, things like dangling initiates over the chasm and forcing them to beat each other senseless.

I realize that I have been squeezing the knives so tightly that the handles have left impressions in my palms. I have to do what Eric says. My only other choice is leaving the room, and if I leave, Eric will throw the knives himself, which I can't allow. I turn toward Al.

And then she says--I know it's her because her voice is low, for a girl's, and careful-- "Stop it."

I don't want Eric to turn on her instead. I glare at her as if that will make her think twice. I know it won't. I'm not stupid.

"Any idiot can stand in front of a target," Tris says. "It doesn't prove anything except that you're bullying him. Which, as I recall, is a sign of cowardice."

Dauntless brutes--bullies, Lower Level children--that is what we are, beneath the tattoos and the piercings and the dark clothing.

Maybe I am stupid. I have to stop thinking of her this way.

"Then it should be easy for you," Eric says, pushing his hair back so it curls around his ear. "If you're willing to take his place."

And then his eyes shift to mine, just for a second. It's like he knows, he knows I have a thing for her, so he's going to force me to throw knives at her. For an instant--no, longer than an instant--I think about throwing a knife at him instead. I could hit him in the arm, or the leg, no harm done. . . .

"There goes your pretty face," Peter says, across the room. "Oh, wait. You don't have one."

I barely register the comment. I am too busy watching her.

She stands with her back to the board. The top of her head skims the bottom of the target center. She tips her chin up and looks at me with that Abnegation stubbornness I know so well. She may have left them, but they are what's making her strong.

I can't tell her it will be okay, not with Eric here, but I can try to make her strong.

"If you flinch, Al takes your place. Understand?" I say.

Eric stands a little too close, tapping his foot on the floor. I have to get this right. I can't throw the knife to the edge of the board, because he knows I can hit the center. But a clumsy throw, an inch in either direction, and I could hurt her. There goes your pretty face.

But Peter's right, she's not pretty, that word is too small. She is not like the girls I used to stare at, all bend and curve and softness. She is small but strong, and her bright eyes demand attention. Looking at her is like waking up.

I throw the knife, keeping my eyes on hers. It sticks in the board near her cheek. My hands shake with relief. Her eyes close, so I know I need to remind her again of her selflessness

"You about done, Stiff?" I say.

Stiff. That's why you're strong, get it?

She looks angry. "No."

Why on earth would she get it? She can't read minds, for God's sake.

"Eyes open, then," I say, tapping the skin between my eyebrows. I don't really need her eyes to be on mine, but I feel better when they are. I breathe the dust-sweat-metal smell and pass a knife from my left hand to my right. Eric inches closer.

My view of the room narrows around the part in her hair, and I throw with my exhale.

I hear Eric behind me. "Hmm" is all he says.

"Come on, Stiff," I say. "Let someone else stand there and take it."

"Shut up, Four!" she says, and I want to yell back that I'm as frustrated as she is, with an Erudite vulture analyzing my every move, searching for my weak points so he can hit them as hard as he can.

I hear that "hmm" again and I'm not sure if it's Eric or my imagination, but I know I have to convince him that she's just another initiate to me, and I have to do it now. I breathe deep, and make a quick decision, staring at the tip of her ear, the quick-healing cartilage.

The fear does not exist. My beating heart, tight chest and sweating palms do not exist.

I throw the knife and look away when she winces, too relieved to feel bad for hurting her. I did it.

"I would love to stay and see if the rest of you are as daring as she is, but I think that's enough for today," says Eric. To me, he mutters, "Well. That should scare them, huh."

I think--I hope--that means he's not suspicious of me anymore.

He touches her shoulder, and gives her a metal-framed smile. "I should keep my eye on you." I watch blood trickle down her ear and onto her neck and feel sick.

The room empties, the door closes, and I wait until the footsteps disappear before starting toward her. "Is your--" I start to reach for the side of her head.

She glares. "You did that on purpose!"

"Yes, I did," I say. "And you should thank me for helping you--" I want to explain about Eric and how badly he wants to hurt me and everyone I even remotely care for, or about how I know where her strength comes from and wanted to remind her, but she doesn't give me a chance.

"Thank you? You almost stabbed my ear, and you spent the entire time taunting me. Why should I thank you?"

Taunting? I scowl at her.

"You know, I'm getting a little tired of waiting for you to catch on!" I say.

"Catch on? Catch on to what? That you wanted to prove to Eric how tough you are? That you're sadistic, just like he is?"

The accusation makes me feel cold. She thinks I'm like Eric? She thinks I want to impress him?

"I am not sadistic." I lean closer to her and suddenly I feel nervous, like something is prickling in my chest. "If I wanted to hurt you, don't you think I would have already?"

She's close enough to touch, but if she thinks I'm like Eric, that will never happen.

Of course she thinks I'm like Eric. I just threw knives at her head. I screwed it all up. Permanently.

I have to get out. I cross the room and, at the last second before I slam the door, shove the point of my knife into the table.

I hear her frustrated scream from around the corner, and I stop, sinking into a crouch with my back to the wall. Before she got here everything had stalled inside me, and every morning I was just moving toward nighttime. I'd thought about leaving--I'd decided to leave, to be factionless, after this class of initiates was done. But then she was here and she was just like me, putting aside her gray clothes but not really putting them aside, never really putting them aside because she knows the secret, that they are the strongest armor we can wear.

And now she hates me and I can't even leave Dauntless to join the factionless, like I was going to, because Eric's eye is on her like it was on Amar last year, right before he turned up dead on the pavement near the railroad tracks. All the Divergent end up dead, except me, because of my fluke aptitude test result, and if Eric is watching her, she's probably one, too.

My thoughts skip back to the night before, how touching her sent warmth into my hand and through the rest of me, though I was frozen with fear. I press my hands to my head, press the memory away.

I can't leave now. I like her too much. There, I said it. But I won't say it again

Tags: Veronica Roth Divergent Science Fiction
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