Divergent, p.27
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       Divergent, p.27
 

         Part #1 of Divergent series by Veronica Roth  
Page 27

 

  I turn away from the railing. I cannot stand this any longer.

  I don’t know where I’m going. I suspect that I am not going anywhere at all, just away. I walk down a dark hallway. At the end is the drinking fountain, bathed in the blue glow of the light above it.

  I shake my head. Courageous? Courageous would have been admitting weakness and leaving Dauntless, no matter what shame accompanied it. Pride is what killed Al, and it is the flaw in every Dauntless heart. It is in mine.

  “Tris. ”

  A jolt goes through me, and I turn around. Four stands behind me, just inside the blue circle of light. It gives him an eerie look, shading his eye sockets and casting shadows under his cheekbones.

  “What are you doing here?” I ask. “Shouldn’t you be paying your respects?”

  I say it like it tastes bad and I have to spit it out.

  “Shouldn’t you?” he says. He steps toward me, and I see his eyes again. They look black in this light.

  “Can’t pay respect when you don’t have any,” I reply. I feel a twinge of guilt and shake my head. “I didn’t mean that. ”

  “Ah. ” Judging by the look he gives me, he doesn’t believe me. I don’t blame him.

  “This is ridiculous,” I say, heat rushing into my cheeks. “He throws himself off a ledge and Eric’s calling it brave? Eric, who tried to have you throw knives at Al’s head?” I taste bile. Eric’s false smiles, his artificial words, his twisted ideals—they make me want to be sick. “He wasn’t brave! He was depressed and a coward and he almost killed me! Is that the kind of thing we respect here?”

  “What do you want them to do?” he says. “Condemn him? Al’s already dead. He can’t hear it and it’s too late. ”

  “It’s not about Al,” I snap. “It’s about everyone watching! Everyone who now sees hurling themselves into the chasm as a viable option. I mean, why not do it if everyone calls you a hero afterward? Why not do it if everyone will remember your name? It’s…I can’t…”

  I shake my head. My face burns and my heart pounds, and I try to keep myself under control, but I can’t.

  “This would never have happened in Abnegation!” I almost shout. “None of it! Never. This place warped him and ruined him, and I don’t care if saying that makes me a Stiff, I don’t care, I don’t care!”

  Four’s eyes shift to the wall above the drinking fountain.

  “Careful, Tris,” he says, his eyes still on the wall.

  “Is that all you can say?” I demand, scowling at him. “That I should be careful? That’s it?”

  “You’re as bad as the Candor, you know that?” He grabs my arm and drags me away from the drinking fountain. His hand hurts my arm, but I’m not strong enough to pull away.

  His face is so close to mine that I can see a few freckles spotting his nose. “I’m not going to say this again, so listen carefully. ” He sets his hands on my shoulders, his fingers pressing, squeezing. I feel small. “They are watching you. You, in particular. ”

  “Let go of me,” I say weakly.

  His fingers spring apart, and he straightens. Some of the weight on my chest lifts now that he isn’t touching me. I fear his shifting moods. They show me something unstable inside of him, and instability is dangerous.

  “Are they watching you, too?” I say, so quietly he wouldn’t be able to hear me if he wasn’t standing so close.

  He doesn’t answer my question. “I keep trying to help you,” he says, “but you refuse to be helped. ”

  “Oh, right. Your help,” I say. “Stabbing my ear with a knife and taunting me and yelling at me more than you yell at anyone else, it sure is helpful. ”

  “Taunting you? You mean when I threw the knives? I wasn’t taunting you,” he snaps. “I was reminding you that if you failed, someone else would have to take your place. ”

  I cup the back of my neck with my hand and think back to the knife incident. Every time he spoke, it was to remind me that if I gave up, Al would have to take my place in front of the target.

  “Why?” I say.

  “Because you’re from Abnegation,” he says, “and it’s when you’re acting selflessly that you are at your bravest. ”

  I understand now. He wasn’t persuading me to give up. He was reminding me why I couldn’t—because I needed to protect Al. The thought makes me ache now. Protect Al. My friend. My attacker.

  I can’t hate Al as much as I want to.

  I can’t forgive him either.

  “If I were you, I would do a better job of pretending that selfless impulse is going away,” he says, “because if the wrong people discover it…well, it won’t be good for you. ”

  “Why? Why do they care about my intentions?”

  “Intentions are the only thing they care about. They try to make you think they care about what you do, but they don’t. They don’t want you to act a certain way. They want you to think a certain way. So you’re easy to understand. So you won’t pose a threat to them. ” He presses a hand to the wall next to my head and leans into it. His shirt is just tight enough that I can see his collarbone and the faint depression between his shoulder muscle and his bicep.

  I wish I was taller. If I was tall, my narrow build would be described as “willowy” instead of “childish,” and he might not see me as a little sister he needs to protect.

  I don’t want him to see me as his sister.

  “I don’t understand,” I say, “why they care what I think, as long as I’m acting how they want me to. ”

  “You’re acting how they want you to now,” he says, “but what happens when your Abnegation-wired brain tells you to do something else, something they don’t want?”

  I don’t have an answer to that, and I don’t even know if he’s right about me. Am I wired like the Abnegation, or the Dauntless?

  Maybe the answer is neither. Maybe I am wired like the Divergent.

  “I might not need you to help me. Ever think about that?” I say. “I’m not weak, you know. I can do this on my own. ”

  He shakes his head. “You think my first instinct is to protect you. Because you’re small, or a girl, or a Stiff. But you’re wrong. ”

  He leans his face close to mine and wraps his fingers around my chin. His hand smells like metal. When was the last time he held a gun, or a knife? My skin tingles at the point of contact, like he’s transmitting electricity through his skin.

  “My first instinct is to push you until you break, just to see how hard I have to press,” he says, his fingers squeezing at the word “break. ” My body tenses at the edge in his voice, so I am coiled as tight as a spring, and I forget to breathe.

  His dark eyes lifting to mine, he adds, “But I resist it. ”

  “Why…” I swallow hard. “Why is that your first instinct?”

  “Fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up. I’ve seen it. It’s fascinating. ” He releases me but doesn’t pull away, his hand grazing my jaw, my neck. “Sometimes I just…want to see it again. Want to see you awake. ”

  I set my hands on his waist. I can’t remember deciding to do that. But I also can’t move away. I pull myself against his chest, wrapping my arms around him. My fingers skim the muscles of his back.

  After a moment he touches the small of my back, pressing me closer, and smoothes his other hand over my hair. I feel small again, but this time, it doesn’t scare me. I squeeze my eyes shut. He doesn’t scare me anymore.

  “Should I be crying?” I ask, my voice muffled by his shirt. “Is there something wrong with me?”

  The simulations drove a crack through Al so wide he could not mend it. Why not me? Why am I not like him—and why does that thought make me feel so uneasy, like I’m teetering on a ledge myself?

  “You think I know anything about tears?” he says quietly.

  I close my eyes. I don’t expect Four to reassure me, and he makes no effort to, but I feel better standing here than I did out there among the peopl
e who are my friends, my faction. I press my forehead to his shoulder.

  “If I had forgiven him,” I say, “do you think he would be alive now?”

  “I don’t know,” he replies. He presses his hand to my cheek, and I turn my face into it, keeping my eyes closed.

  “I feel like it’s my fault. ”

  “It isn’t your fault,” he says, touching his forehead to mine.

  “But I should have. I should have forgiven him. ”

  “Maybe. Maybe there’s more we all could have done,” he says, “but we just have to let the guilt remind us to do better next time. ”

  I frown and pull back. That is a lesson that members of Abnegation learn—guilt as a tool, rather than a weapon against the self. It is a line straight from one of my father’s lectures at our weekly meetings.

  “What faction did you come from, Four?”

  “It doesn’t matter,” he replies, his eyes lowered. “This is where I am now. Something you would do well to remember for yourself. ”

  He gives me a conflicted look and touches his lips to my forehead, right between my eyebrows. I close my eyes. I don’t understand this, whatever it is. But I don’t want to ruin it, so I say nothing. He doesn’t move; he just stays there with his mouth pressed to my skin, and I stay there with my hands on his waist, for a long time.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

  I STAND WITH Will and Christina at the railing overlooking the chasm, late at night after most of the Dauntless have gone to sleep. Both my shoulders sting from the tattoo needle. We all got new tattoos a half hour ago.

  Tori was the only one in the tattoo place, so I felt safe getting the symbol of Abnegation—a pair of hands, palms up as if to help someone stand, bounded by a circle—on my right shoulder. I know it was a risk, especially after all that’s happened. But that symbol is a part of my identity, and it felt important to me that I wear it on my skin.

  I step up on one of the barrier’s crossbars, pressing my hips to the railing to keep my balance. This is where Al stood. I look down into the chasm, at the black water, at the jagged rocks. Water hits the wall and sprays up, misting my face. Was he afraid when he stood here? Or was he so determined to jump that it was easy?

  Christina hands me a stack of paper. I got a copy of every report the Erudite have released in the last six months. Throwing them into the chasm won’t get rid of them forever, but it might make me feel better.

  I stare at the first one. On it is a picture of Jeanine, the Erudite representative. Her sharp-but-attractive eyes stare back at me.

  “Have you ever met her?” I ask Will. Christina crumples the first report into a ball and hurls it into the water.

  “Jeanine? Once,” he replies. He takes the next report and tears it to shreds. The pieces float into the river. He does it without Christina’s malice. I get the feeling that the only reason he’s participating is to prove to me that he doesn’t agree with his former faction’s tactics. Whether he believes what they’re saying or not is unclear, and I am afraid to ask.

  “Before she was a leader, she worked with my sister. They were trying to develop a longer-lasting serum for the simulations,” he says. “Jeanine’s so smart you can see it even before she says anything. Like…a walking, talking computer. ”

  “What…” I fling one of the pages over the railing, pressing my lips together. I should just ask. “What do you think of what she has to say?”

  He shrugs. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s a good idea to have more than one faction in control of the government. And maybe it would be nice if we had more cars and…fresh fruit and…”

  “You do realize there’s no secret warehouse where all that stuff is kept, right?” I ask, my face getting hot.

  “Yes, I do,” he says. “I just think that comfort and prosperity are not a priority for Abnegation, and maybe they would be if the other factions were involved in our decision making. ”

  “Because giving an Erudite boy a car is more important than giving food to the factionless,” I snap.

  “Hey now,” says Christina, brushing Will’s shoulder with her fingers. “This is supposed to be a lighthearted session of symbolic document destruction, not a political debate. ”

  I bite back what I was about to say and stare at the stack of paper in my hands. Will and Christina share a lot of idle touches lately. I’ve noticed it. Have they?

  “All that stuff she said about your dad, though,” he says, “makes me kind of hate her. I can’t imagine what good can come of saying such terrible things. ”

  I can. If Jeanine can make people believe that my father and all the other Abnegation leaders are corrupt and awful, she has support for whatever revolution she wants to start, if that’s really her plan. But I don’t want to argue again, so I just nod and throw the remaining sheets into the chasm. They drift back and forth, back and forth until they find the water. They will be filtered out at the chasm wall and discarded.

  “It’s bedtime,” Christina says, smiling. “Ready to go back? I think I want to put Peter’s hand in a bowl of warm water to make him pee tonight. ”

  I turn away from the chasm and see movement on the right side of the Pit. A figure climbs toward the glass ceiling, and judging by the smooth way he walks, like his feet barely leave the ground, I know it is Four.

  “That sounds great, but I have to talk to Four about something,” I say, pointing toward the shadow ascending the path. Her eyes follow my hand.

  “Are you sure you should be running around here alone at night?” she asks.

  “I won’t be alone. I’ll be with Four. ” I bite my lip.

 
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