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ONCE I’M IN the hallway, I stop struggling toward Jeanine. My side throbs from where Peter punched me, but it’s nothing compared to the pulse of triumph in my cheeks.
Peter walks me back to my cell without a word. I stand in the middle of the room for a long time, staring at the camera in the back-left corner. Who is watching me all the time? Is it Dauntless traitors, guarding me, or the Erudite, observing me?
Once the heat leaves my face and my side stops hurting, I lie down.
A picture of my parents floats into my head the moment I close my eyes. Once, when I was about eleven, I stopped at the doorway to my parents’ bedroom to watch them make the bed together. My father smiled at my mother as they pulled the sheets back and smoothed them down in perfect synchronicity. I knew by the way he looked at her that he held her in a higher regard than he held even himself.
No selfishness or insecurity kept him from seeing the full extent of her goodness, as it so often does with the rest of us. That kind of love may only be possible in Abnegation. I do not know.
My father: Erudite-born, Abnegation-grown. He often found it difficult to live up to the demands of his chosen faction, just as I did. But he tried, and he knew true selflessness when he saw it.
I clutch my pillow to my chest and bury my face in it. I don’t cry. I just ache.
Grief is not as heavy as guilt, but it takes more away from you.
I wake with a start, my hands still clutching the pillow. There is a wet patch on the mattress under my face. I sit up, wiping my eyes with my fingertips.
Peter’s eyebrows, which usually turn up in the middle, are furrowed.
“What happened?” Whatever it is, it can’t be good.
“Your execution has been scheduled for tomorrow morning at eight o’clock. ”
“My execution? But she . . . she hasn’t developed the right simulation yet; she couldn’t possibly . . . ”
“She said that she will continue the experiments on Tobias instead of you,” he says.
All I can say is: “Oh. ”
I clutch the mattress and rock forward and back, forward and back. Tomorrow my life will be over. Tobias may survive long enough to escape in the factionless invasion. The Dauntless will elect a new leader. All the loose ends I will leave will be easily tied up.
I nod. No family left, no loose ends, no great loss.
“I could have forgiven you, you know,” I say. “For trying to kill me during initiation. I probably could have. ”
We are both quiet for a while. I don’t know why I told him that. Maybe just because it’s true, and tonight, of all nights, is the time for honesty. Tonight I will be honest, and selfless, and brave. Divergent.
“I never asked you to,” he says, and turns to leave. But then he stops at the door frame and says, “It’s 9:24. ”
Telling me the time is a small act of betrayal—and therefore an ordinary act of bravery. It is maybe the first time I’ve seen Peter be truly Dauntless.
I’m going to die tomorrow. It has been a long time since I felt certainty about anything, so this feels like a gift. Tonight, nothing. Tomorrow, whatever comes after life. And Jeanine still doesn’t know how to control the Divergent.
When I start to cry, I clutch the pillow to my chest and let it happen. I cry hard, like a child cries, until my face is hot and I feel like I might be sick. I can pretend to be brave, but I’m not.
I suppose that now would be the time to ask for forgiveness for all the things I’ve done, but I’m sure my list would never be complete. I also don’t believe that whatever comes after life depends on my correctly reciting a list of my transgressions—that sounds too much like an Erudite afterlife to me, all accuracy and no feeling. I don’t believe that what comes after depends on anything I do at all.
I am better off doing as Abnegation taught me: turning away from myself, projecting always outward, and hoping that in whatever is next, I will be better than I am now.
I smile a little. I wish I could tell my parents that I will die like the Abnegation. They would be proud, I think.