Home > Divergent (Divergent #1)(10)

Divergent (Divergent #1)(10)
Veronica Roth

“I can’t believe you couldn’t beat Will,” Al says, shaking his head.

“What? He’s good,” she says, shrugging. “Plus, I think I’ve finally learned how to stop losing. I just need to stop people from punching me in the jaw.”

“You know, you’d think you would have figured that out already.” Will winks at her. “Now I know why you aren’t Erudite. Not too bright, are you?”

“You feeling okay, Tris?” Al says. His eyes are dark brown, almost the same color as Christina’s skin. His cheek looks rough, like if he didn’t shave it, he would have a thick beard. Hard to believe he’s only sixteen.

“Yeah,” I say. “Just wish I could stay here forever so I never have to see Peter again.”

But I don’t know where “here” is. I am in a large, narrow room with a row of beds on either side. Some of the beds have curtains between them. On the right side of the room is a nurse’s station. This must be where the Dauntless go when they’re sick or hurt. The woman there looks at us over a clipboard. I’ve never seen a nurse with so many piercings in her ear before. Some Dauntless must volunteer to do jobs that traditionally belong to other factions. After all, it wouldn’t make sense for the Dauntless to make the trek to the city hospital every time they get hurt.

The first time I went to the hospital, I was six years old. My mother fell on the sidewalk in front of our house and broke her arm. Hearing her scream made me burst into tears, but Caleb just ran for my father without saying a word. At the hospital, an Amity woman in a yellow shirt with clean fingernails took my mother’s blood pressure and set her bone with a smile.

I remember Caleb telling her that it would only take a month to mend, because it was a hairline fracture. I thought he was reassuring her, because that’s what selfless people do, but now I wonder if he was repeating something he had studied; if all his Abnegation tendencies were just Erudite traits in disguise.

“Don’t worry about Peter,” says Will. “He’ll at least get beat up by Edward, who has been studying hand-to-hand combat since we were ten years old. For fun.”

“Good,” says Christina. She checks her watch. “I think we’re missing dinner. Do you want us to stay here, Tris?”

I shake my head. “I’m fine.”

Christina and Will get up, but Al waves them ahead. He has a distinct smell—sweet and fresh, like sage and lemongrass. When he tosses and turns at night, I get a whiff of it and I know he’s having a nightmare.

“I just wanted to tell you that you missed Eric’s announcement. We’re going on a field trip tomorrow, to the fence, to learn about Dauntless jobs,” he says. “We have to be at the train by eight fifteen.”

“Good,” I say. “Thanks.”

“And don’t pay attention to Christina. Your face doesn’t look that bad.” He smiles a little. “I mean, it looks good. It always looks good. I mean—you look brave. Dauntless.”

His eyes skirt mine, and he scratches the back of his head. The silence seems to grow between us. It was a nice thing to say, but he acts like it meant more than just the words. I hope I am wrong. I could not be attracted to Al—I could not be attracted to anyone that fragile. I smile as much as my bruised cheek will allow, hoping that will diffuse the tension.

“I should let you rest,” he says. He gets up to leave, but before he can go, I grab his wrist.

“Al, are you okay?” I say. He stares blankly at me, and I add, “I mean, is it getting any easier?”

“Uh…” He shrugs. “A little.”

He pulls his hand free and shoves it in his pocket. The question must have embarrassed him, because I’ve never seen him so red before. If I spent my nights sobbing into my pillow, I would be a little embarrassed too. At least when I cry, I know how to hide it.

“I lost to Drew. After your fight with Peter.” He looks at me. “I took a few hits, fell down, and stayed there. Even though I didn’t have to. I figure…I figure that since I beat Will, if I lose all the rest, I won’t be ranked last, but I won’t have to hurt anyone anymore.”

“Is that really what you want?”

He looks down. “I just can’t do it. Maybe that means I’m a coward.”

“You’re not a coward just because you don’t want to hurt people,” I say, because I know it’s the right thing to say, even if I’m not sure I mean it.

For a moment we are both still, looking at each other. Maybe I do mean it. If he is a coward, it isn’t because he doesn’t enjoy pain. It is because he refuses to act.

He gives me a pained look and says, “You think our families will visit us? They say transfer families never come on Visiting Day.”

“I don’t know,” I say. “I don’t know if it would be good or bad if they did.”

“I think bad.” He nods. “Yeah, it’s already hard enough.” He nods again, as if confirming what he just said, and walks away.

In less than a week, the Abnegation initiates will be able to visit their families for the first time since the Choosing Ceremony. They will go home and sit in their living rooms and interact with their parents for the first time as adults.

I used to look forward to that day. I used to think about what I would say to my mother and father when I was allowed to ask them questions at the dinner table.

In less than a week, the Dauntless-born initiates will find their families on the Pit floor, or in the glass building above the compound, and do whatever it is the Dauntless do when they reunite. Maybe they take turns throwing knives at each other’s heads—it wouldn’t surprise me.

And the transfer initiates with forgiving parents will be able to see them again too. I suspect mine will not be among them. Not after my father’s cry of outrage at the ceremony. Not after both their children left them.

Maybe if I could have told them I was Divergent, and I was confused about what to choose, they would have understood. Maybe they would have helped me figure out what Divergent is, and what it means, and why it’s dangerous. But I didn’t trust them with that secret, so I will never know.

I clench my teeth as the tears come. I am fed up. I am fed up with tears and weakness. But there isn’t much I can do to stop them.

Maybe I drift off to sleep, and maybe I don’t. Later that night, though, I slip out of the room and go back to the dormitory. The only thing worse than letting Peter put me in the hospital would be letting him put me there overnight.


THE NEXT MORNING, I don’t hear the alarm, shuffling feet, or conversations as the other initiates get ready. I wake to Christina shaking my shoulder with one hand and tapping my cheek with the other. She already wears a black jacket zipped up to her throat. If she has bruises from yesterday’s fight, her dark skin makes them difficult to see.

“Come on,” she says. “Up and at ’em.”

I dreamt that Peter tied me to a chair and asked me if I was Divergent. I answered no, and he punched me until I said yes. I woke up with wet cheeks.

I mean to say something, but all I can do is groan. My body aches so badly it hurts to breathe. It doesn’t help that last night’s bout of crying made my eyes swell. Christina offers me her hand.

The clock reads eight. We’re supposed to be at the tracks by eight fifteen.

“I’ll run and get us some breakfast. You just…get ready. Looks like it might take you a while,” she says.

I grunt. Trying not to bend at the waist, I fumble in the drawer under my bed for a clean shirt. Luckily Peter isn’t here to see me struggle. Once Christina leaves, the dormitory is empty.

I unbutton my shirt and stare at my bare side, which is patched with bruises. For a second the colors mesmerize me, bright green and deep blue and brown. I change as fast as I can and let my hair hang loose because I can’t lift my arms to tie it back.

I look at my reflection in the small mirror on the back wall and see a stranger. She is blond like me, with a narrow face like mine, but that’s where the similarities stop. I do not have a black eye, and a split lip, and a bruised jaw. I am not as pale as a sheet. She can’t possibly be me, though she moves when I move.

By the time Christina comes back, a muffin in each hand, I’m sitting on the edge of my bed, staring at my untied shoes. I will have to bend over to tie them. It will hurt when I bend over.

But Christina just passes me a muffin and crouches in front of me to tie my shoes. Gratitude surges in my chest, warm and a little like an ache. Maybe there is some Abnegation in everyone, even if they don’t know it.

Well, in everyone but Peter.

“Thank you,” I say.

“Well, we would never get there on time if you had to tie them yourself,” she says. “Come on. You can eat and walk at the same time, right?”

We walk fast toward the Pit. The muffin is banana-flavored, with walnuts. My mother baked bread like this once to give to the factionless, but I never got to try it. I was too old for coddling at that point. I ignore the pinch in my stomach that comes every time I think of my mother and half walk, half jog after Christina, who forgets that her legs are longer than mine.

We climb the steps from the Pit to the glass building above it and run to the exit. Every thump of my feet sends pain through my ribs, but I ignore it. We make it to the tracks just as the train arrives, its horn blaring.

“What took you so long?” Will shouts over the horn.

“Stumpy Legs over here turned into an old lady overnight,” says Christina.

“Oh, shut up.” I’m only half kidding.

Four stands at the front of the pack, so close to the tracks that if he shifted even an inch forward, the train would take his nose with it. He steps back to let some of the others get on first. Will hoists himself into the car with some difficulty, landing first on his stomach and then dragging his legs in behind him. Four grabs the handle on the side of the car and pulls himself in smoothly, like he doesn’t have more than six feet of body to work with.

I jog next to the car, wincing, then grit my teeth and grab the handle on the side. This is going to hurt.

Al grabs me under each arm and lifts me easily into the car. Pain shoots through my side, but it only lasts for a second. I see Peter behind him, and my cheeks get warm. Al was trying to be nice, so I smile at him, but I wish people didn’t want to be so nice. As if Peter didn’t have enough ammunition already.

“Feeling okay there?” Peter says, giving me a look of mock sympathy—his lips turned down, his arched eyebrows pulled in. “Or are you a little…Stiff?”

He bursts into laughter at his joke, and Molly and Drew join in. Molly has an ugly laugh, all snorting and shaking shoulders, and Drew’s is silent, so it almost looks like he’s in pain.

“We are all awed by your incredible wit,” says Will.

“Yeah, are you sure you don’t belong with the Erudite, Peter?” Christina adds. “I hear they don’t object to sissies.”

Four, standing in the doorway, speaks before Peter can retort. “Am I going to have to listen to your bickering all the way to the fence?”

Everyone gets quiet, and Four turns back to the car’s opening. He holds the handles on either side, his arms stretching wide, and leans forward so his body is mostly outside the car, though his feet stay planted inside. The wind presses his shirt to his chest. I try to look past him at what we’re passing—a sea of crumbling, abandoned buildings that get smaller as we go.

Every few seconds, though, my eyes shift back to Four. I don’t know what I expect to see, or what I want to see, if anything. But I do it without thinking.

I ask Christina, “What do you think is out there?” I nod to the doorway. “I mean, beyond the fence.”

She shrugs. “A bunch of farms, I guess.”

“Yeah, but I mean…past the farms. What are we guarding the city from?”

She wiggles her fingers at me. “Monsters!”

I roll my eyes.

“We didn’t even have guards near the fence until five years ago,” says Will. “Don’t you remember when Dauntless police used to patrol the factionless sector?”

“Yes,” I say. I also remember that my father was one of the people who voted to get the Dauntless out of the factionless sector of the city. He said the poor didn’t need policing; they needed help, and we could give it to them. But I would rather not mention that now, or here. It’s one of the many things Erudite gives as evidence of Abnegation’s incompetence.

“Oh, right,” he says. “I bet you saw them all the time.”

“Why do you say that?” I ask, a little too sharply. I don’t want to be associated too closely with the factionless.

“Because you had to pass the factionless sector to get to school, right?”

“What did you do, memorize a map of the city for fun?” says Christina.

“Yes,” says Will, looking puzzled. “Didn’t you?”

The train’s brakes squeal, and we all lurch forward as the car slows. I am grateful for the movement; it makes standing easier. The dilapidated buildings are gone, replaced by yellow fields and train tracks. The train stops under an awning. I lower myself to the grass, holding the handle to keep me steady.

In front of me is a chain-link fence with barbed wire strung along the top. When I walk forward, I notice that it continues farther than I can see, perpendicular to the horizon. Past the fence is a cluster of trees, most of them dead, some green. Milling around on the other side of the fence are Dauntless guards carrying guns.

“Follow me,” says Four. I stay close to Christina. I don’t want to admit it, not even to myself, but I feel calmer when I’m near her. If Peter tries to taunt me, she will defend me.

Silently I scold myself for being such a coward. Peter’s insults shouldn’t bother me, and I should focus on getting better at combat, not on how badly I did yesterday. And I should be willing, if not able, to defend myself instead of relying on other people to do it for me.

Four leads us toward the gate, which is as wide as a house and opens up to the cracked road that leads to the city. When I came here with my family as a child, we rode in a bus on that road and beyond, to Amity’s farms, where we spent the day picking tomatoes and sweating through our shirts.

Another pinch in my stomach.

“If you don’t rank in the top five at the end of initiation, you will probably end up here,” says Four as he reaches the gate. “Once you are a fence guard, there is some potential for advancement, but not much. You may be able to go on patrols beyond Amity’s farms, but—”

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