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“OH YEAH. YOU totally look like a banjo-strumming softie,” says Christina.
“No. Not at all, actually. Just . . . let me fix it, okay?”
She rummages in her bag for a few seconds and pulls out a small box. In it are different-sized tubes and containers that I recognize as makeup, but wouldn’t know what to do with.
We are in my parents’ house. It was the only place I could think of to go to get ready. Christina has no reservations about poking around—she already discovered two textbooks wedged between the dresser and the wall, evidence of Caleb’s Erudite leanings.
“Let me get this straight. So you left the Dauntless compound to get ready for war . . . and took your makeup bag with you?”
“Yep. Figured it would be harder for anyone to shoot me if they saw how devastatingly attractive I was,” she says, arching an eyebrow. “Hold still. ”
She takes the cap off a black tube about the size of one of my fingers, revealing a red stick. Lipstick, obviously. She touches it to my mouth and dabs it until my lips are covered in color. I can see it when I purse them.
“Has anyone ever talked to you about the miracle of eyebrow tweezing?” she says, holding up a pair of tweezers.
“Get those away from me. ”
“Fine. ” She sighs. “I would take out the blush, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the right color for you. ”
“Shocking, considering we’re so similar in skin tone. ”
“Ha-ha,” she says.
By the time we leave, I have red lips and curled eyelashes, and I’m wearing a bright red dress. And there’s a knife strapped to the inside of my knee. This all makes perfect sense.
“Where’s Marcus, Destroyer of Lives, going to meet us?” Christina says. She wears Amity yellow instead of red, and it glows against her skin.
I laugh. “Behind Abnegation headquarters. ”
We walk down the sidewalk in the dark. All the others should be eating dinner now—I made sure of that—but in case we run into someone, we wear black jackets to conceal most of our Amity clothing. I hop over a crack in the cement out of habit.
“Where are you two going?” Peter’s voice says. I look over my shoulder. He’s standing on the sidewalk behind us. I wonder how long he’s been there.
“Why aren’t you with your attack group, eating dinner?” I say.
“I don’t have one. ” He taps the arm I shot. “I’m injured. ”
“Yeah right, you are!” says Christina.
“Well, I don’t want to go to battle with a bunch of factionless,” he says, his green eyes glinting. “So I’m going to stay here. ”
“Like a coward,” says Christina, her lip curled in disgust. “Let everyone else clean up the mess for you. ”
“Yep!” he says with a kind of malicious cheer. He claps his hands. “Have fun dying. ”
He crosses the street, whistling, and walks in the other direction.
“Well, we distracted him,” she says. “He didn’t ask where we were going again. ”
“Yeah. Good. ” I clear my throat. “So, this plan. It’s kind of stupid, right?”
“It’s not . . . stupid. ”
“Oh, come on. Trusting Marcus is stupid. Trying to get past the Dauntless at the fence is stupid. Going against the Dauntless and factionless is stupid. All three combined is . . . a different kind of stupid formerly unheard of by humankind. ”
“Unfortunately it’s also the best plan we have,” she points out. “If we want everyone to know the truth. ”
I trusted Christina to take up this mission when I thought I would die, so it seemed stupid not to trust her now. I was worried she wouldn’t want to come with me, but I forgot where Christina came from: Candor, where the pursuit of truth is more important than anything else. She may be Dauntless now, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned through all this, it’s that we never leave our old factions behind.
“So this is where you grew up. Did you like it here?” She frowns. “I guess you couldn’t have, if you wanted to leave. ”
The sun inches toward the horizon as we walk. I never used to like evening light because it made everything in the Abnegation sector look more monochromatic than it already is, but now I find the unchanging gray comforting.
“I liked some things and hated some things,” I say. “And there were some things I didn’t know I had until I lost them. ”
We reach Abnegation headquarters, and its face is just a cement square like everything else in the Abnegation sector. I would love to walk into the meeting room and breathe the smell of old wood, but we don’t have time. We slip into the alley next to the building and walk to the back, where Marcus told me he would be waiting.
A powder-blue pickup truck waits there, its engine running. Marcus is behind the wheel. I let Christina walk ahead of me so that she can be the one to slide into the middle. I don’t want to sit close to him if I can help it. I feel like hating him while I work with him lessens my betrayal of Tobias somehow.
You have no other choice, I tell myself. There is no other way.
With that in mind, I pull the door shut and look for a seat belt to buckle. I find only the frayed end of a seat belt and a broken buckle.
“Where did you find this piece of junk?” says Christina.
“I stole it from the factionless. They fix them up. It wasn’t easy to get it to start. Better ditch those jackets, girls. ”
I ball up our jackets and toss them out the half-open window. Marcus shifts the truck into drive, and it groans. I half expect it to stay still when he presses the gas pedal, but it moves.
From what I remember, it takes about an hour to drive from the Abnegation sector to Amity headquarters, and the trip requires a skilled driver. Marcus pulls onto one of the main thoroughfares and pushes his foot into the gas pedal. We lurch forward, narrowly avoiding a gaping hole in the road. I grab the dashboard to steady myself.
“Relax, Beatrice,” says Marcus. “I’ve driven a car before. ”
“I’ve done a lot of things before, but that doesn’t mean I’m any good at them!”
Marcus smiles and jerks the truck to the left so that we don’t hit a fallen stoplight. Christina whoops as we bump over another piece of debris, like she’s having the time of her life.
“A different kind of stupid, right?” she says, her voice loud enough to be heard over the rush of wind through the cab.
I clutch the seat beneath me and try not to think of what I ate for dinner.
When we reach the fence, we see the Dauntless standing in our headlight beams, blocking the gate. Their blue armbands stand out against the rest of their clothing. I try to keep my expression pleasant. I will not be able to fool them into thinking I’m Amity with a scowl on my face.
A dark-skinned man with a gun in hand approaches Marcus’s window. He shines a flashlight at Marcus first, then Christina, then me. I squint into the beam, and force a smile at the man like I don’t mind bright lights in the eyes and guns pointed at my head in the slightest.
The Amity must be deranged if this is how they really think. Or they’ve been eating too much of that bread.
“So tell me,” the man says. “What’s an Abnegation member doing in a truck with two Amity?”
“These two girls volunteered to bring provisions to the city,” Marcus says, “and I volunteered to escort them so that they would be safe. ”
“Also, we don’t know how to drive,” says Christina, grinning. “My dad tried to teach me years ago but I kept confusing the gas pedal for the brake pedal, and you can imagine what a disaster that was! Anyway, it was really nice of Joshua to volunteer to take us, because it would have taken us forever otherwise, and the boxes were so heavy—”
The Dauntless man holds up his hand. “Okay, I get it. ”
“Oh, of course. Sorry. ” Christina giggles. “I just thought I would explain, because you seemed so confused, and no wonder, because how many times do you encounter this—”
“Right,” the man says. “And do you intend to return to the city?”
“Not anytime soon,” Marcus says.
“All right. Go ahead, then. ” He nods to the other Dauntless by the gate. One of them types a series of numbers on the keypad, and the gate slides open to admit us. Marcus nods to the guard who let us through and drives over the worn path to Amity headquarters. The truck’s headlights catch tire tracks and prairie grass and insects weaving back and forth. In the darkness to my right I see fireflies lighting up to a rhythm that is like a heartbeat.
After a few seconds, Marcus glances at Christina. “What on earth was that?”
“There’s nothing the Dauntless hate more than cheerful Amity babble,” says Christina, lifting a shoulder. “I figured if he got annoyed it would distract him and he would let us through. ”
I smile with all my teeth. “You are a genius. ”
“I know. ” She tosses her head like she’s throwing her hair over one shoulder, only she doesn’t have enough to throw.
“Except,” says Marcus, “Joshua is not an Abnegation name. ”
“Whatever. As if anyone knows the difference. ”
I see the glow of Amity headquarters ahead, the familiar cluster of wooden buildings with the greenhouse in their center. We drive through the apple orchard. The air smells like warm earth.
Again I remember my mother stretching to pick an apple in this orchard, years ago when we came to help the Amity with the harvest. A pang hurts my chest, but the memory doesn’t overwhelm me as it did a few weeks ago. Maybe it’s because I am on a mission to honor her. Or maybe I am too apprehensive about what’s coming to grieve properly. But something has changed.
Marcus parks the truck behind one of the sleeping cabins. For the first time I notice that there are no keys in the ignition.
“How did you get it to start?” I ask him.
“My father taught me a lot about mechanics and computers,” he says. “Knowledge that I passed to my own son. You didn’t think he figured it all out on his own, did you?”
“Actually yes, I did. ” I push the door open and climb out of the truck. Grass brushes my toes and the back of my calves. Christina stands at my right shoulder and tilts her head back.
“It’s so different out here,” she says. “You could almost forget what’s going on in there. ” She points her thumb toward the city.
“And they often do,” I say.
“They know what’s beyond the city, though, right?” she asks.
“They know about as much as the Dauntless patrols,” says Marcus. “Which is that the outside world is unknown and potentially dangerous. ”
“How do you know what they know?” I say.
“Because that’s what we told them,” he says, and he walks toward the greenhouse.
I exchange a look with Christina. Then we jog to catch up to him.
“What does that mean?”
“When you are entrusted with all the information, you have to decide how much other people should know,” says Marcus. “The Abnegation leaders told them what we had to tell them. Now, let’s hope Johanna is keeping up her normal habits. She is usually in the greenhouse this early in the evening. ”
He opens the greenhouse door. The air is just as dense as the last time I was in here, but now it is misty, too. The moisture cools my cheeks.
“Wow,” Christina says.
The room is lit by moonlight, so it is hard to distinguish plant from tree from man-made structure. Leaves brush my face as I make my way around the outer edge of the room. And then I see Johanna, crouched beside a bush with a bowl in her hands, picking what appear to be raspberries. Her hair is pulled back, so I can see her scar.
“I didn’t think I would see you here again, Ms. Prior,” she says.
“Is that because I’m supposed to be dead?” I say.
“I always expect those who live by the gun to die by it. I am often pleasantly surprised. ” She balances the bowl on her knees and looks up at me. “Although I also know better than to think you came back because you like it here. ”
“No,” I say. “We came for something else. ”
“All right,” she says, standing. “Let’s go talk about it, then. ”
She carries the bowl toward the middle of the room, where the Amity meetings are held. We follow her onto the tree roots, where she sits and offers me the bowl of raspberries. I take a small handful of berries and pass the bowl to Christina.
“Johanna, this is Christina,” Marcus says. “Candor-born Dauntless. ”
“Welcome to Amity headquarters, Christina. ” Johanna smiles knowingly. It seems so strange, that two people born in Candor could end up in such different places: Dauntless, and Amity.
“Tell me, Marcus,” says Johanna. “Why have you come to visit?”
“I think Beatrice should handle that,” he says. “I am merely the transportation. ”
She shifts her focus to me without question, but I can tell by the wary look in her eyes that she would rather talk to Marcus. She would deny it if I asked her, but I am almost certain Johanna Reyes hates me.
“Um . . . ” I say. Not my most brilliant opening. I wipe my palms on my skirt. “Things have gotten bad. ”
The words start to spill out, without finesse or sophistication. I explain that the Dauntless have allied with the factionless, and they plan to destroy all of Erudite, leaving us without one of the two essential factions. I tell her that there is important information in the Erudite compound, in addition to all the knowledge they possess, that especially needs to be recovered. When I finish, I realize I haven’t told her why that has anything to do with her or her faction, but I don’t know how to say it.
“I’m confused, Beatrice,” she says. “What exactly do you want us to do?”
“I didn’t come here to ask you for help,” I say. “I thought you should know that a lot of people are going to die, very soon. And I know you don’t want to stay here doing nothing while that happens, even if some of your faction does. ”
She looks down, her crooked mouth betraying just how right I am.
“I also wanted to ask you if we can talk to the Erudite you’re keeping safe here,” I say. “I know they’re hidden, but I need access to them. ”
“And what do you intend to do?” she says.
“Shoot them,” I say, rolling my eyes.
“That isn’t funny. ”
I sigh. “Sorry. I need information. That’s all. ”
“Well, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow,” Johanna says. “You can sleep here. ”
I sleep as soon as my head touches the pillow, but wake earlier than I planned. I can tell by the glow near the horizon that the sun is about to rise.
Across the narrow aisle between two beds is Christina, her face pressed to the mattress with her pillow over her head. A dresser with a lamp on top of it stands between us. The wooden floorboards creak no matter where you step on them. And on the left wall is a mirror, casually placed. Everyone but the Abnegation takes mirrors for granted. I still feel a prickle of shock whenever I see one in the open.
I get dressed, not bothering to be quiet—five hundred stomping Dauntless can’t wake Christina when she’s deeply asleep, though an Erudite whisper might be able to. She is odd that way.
I walk outside as the sun peeks through the tree branches, and see a small group of Amity gathered near the orchard. I move closer to see what they are doing.
They stand in a circle, hands clasped. Half of them are in their early teens, and the other half are adults. The oldest one, a woman with braided gray hair, speaks.
“We believe in a God who gives peace and cherishes it,” she says. “So we give peace to each other, and cherish it. ”
I would not hear that as a cue, but the Amity seem to. They all begin to move at once, finding someone across the circle and clasping hands with them. When everyone is paired off, they stand for several seconds, looking at each other. Some of them mutter a phrase, some smile, some remain silent and still. Then they break apart and move to someone else, performing the same series of actions again.
I have never seen an Amity religious ceremony before. I am only familiar with the religion of my parents’ faction, which part of me still holds to and the other rejects as foolishness—the prayers before dinner, the weekly meetings, the acts of service, the poems about a selfless God. This is something different, something mysterious.
“Come and join us,” the gray-haired woman says. It takes me a few seconds to realize she’s talking to me. She beckons to me, smiling.
“Oh no,” I say. “I’m just—”
“Come,” she says again, and I feel like I have no choice but to walk forward and stand among them.
She approaches me first, clasping my hand. Her fingers are dry and rough and her eyes seek mine, persistent, though I feel strange meeting her gaze.
Once I do, the effect is immediate and peculiar. I stand still, and every part of me is still, like it weighs more than it used to, only the weight is not unpleasant. Her eyes are brown, the same shade throughout, and unmoving.
“May the peace of God be with you,” she says, her voice low, “even in the midst of trouble. ”
“Why would it?” I say softly, so no one else can hear. “After all I’ve done . . . ”
“It isn’t about you,” she says. “It is a gift. You cannot earn it, or it ceases to be a gift. ”
She releases me and moves to someone else, but I stand with my hand outstretched, alone. Someone moves to take my hand, but I withdraw from the group, first at a walk, and then at a run.
I sprint into the trees as fast as I can, and only when my lungs feel like they are on fire do I stop.
I press my forehead to the nearest tree trunk, though it scrapes my skin, and fight off tears.
Later that morning I walk through light rain to the main greenhouse. Johanna has called an emergency meeting.
I stay as hidden as possible at the edge of the room, between two large plants that are suspended in mineral solution. It takes me a few minutes to find Christina, dressed in Amity yellow on the right side of the room, but it is easy to spot Marcus, who stands on the roots of the giant tree with Johanna.
Johanna has her hands clasped in front of her and her hair pulled back. The injury that gave her the scar also damaged her eye—her pupil is so dilated it overwhelms her iris, and her left eye doesn’t move with the right one as she scans the Amity in front of her.
But there are not just Amity. There are people with close-cropped hair and tightly twisted buns who must belong to Abnegation, and a few rows of people in glasses who must be Erudite. Cara is among them.
“I have received a message from the city,” says Johanna when everyone quiets down. “And I would like to communicate it to you. ”
She tugs at the hem of her shirt, then clasps her hands in front of her. She seems nervous.
“The Dauntless have allied with the factionless,” she says. “They intend to attack Erudite in two days’ time. Their battle will be waged not against the Erudite-Dauntless army but against Erudite innocents and the knowledge they have worked so hard to acquire. ”
She looks down, breathes deeply, and continues: “I know that we recognize no leader, so I have no right to address you as if that is what I am,” she says. “But I am hoping that you will forgive me, just this once, for asking if we can reconsider our previous decision to remain uninvolved. ”
There are murmurs. They are nothing like Dauntless murmurs—they are gentler, like birds launching from branches.
“Our relationship with Erudite notwithstanding, we know better than any faction how essential their role in this society is,” she says. “They must be protected from needless slaughter, if not because they are human beings, then because we cannot survive without them. I propose that we enter the city as nonviolent, impartial peacekeepers in order to curb in whatever way possible the extreme violence that will undoubtedly occur. Please discuss this. ”
Rain dusts the glass panels above our heads. Johanna sits on a tree root to wait, but the Amity do not burst into conversation as they did the last time I was here. Whispers, almost indistinguishable from the rain, turn to normal speech, and I hear some voices lift above others, almost yelling, but not quite.
Every lifted voice sends a jolt through me. I’ve sat through plenty of arguments in my life, mostly in the last two months, but none of them ever scared me like this. The Amity aren’t supposed to argue.
I decide not to wait any longer. I walk along the edge of the meeting area, squeezing past the Amity who are on their feet and hopping over hands and outstretched legs. Some of them stare at me—I may be wearing a red shirt, but the tattoos along my collarbone are clear as ever, even from a distance.
I pause near the row of Erudite. Cara stands when I get close, her arms folded.
“What are you doing here?” she says.
“I came to tell Johanna what was going on,” I say. “And to ask you for help. ”
“Me?” she says. “Why—”
“Not you,” I say. I try to forget what she said about my nose, but it’s hard. “All of you. I have a plan to save some of your faction’s data, but I need your help. ”
“Actually,” Christina says, appearing at my left shoulder, “we have a plan. ”
Cara looks from me to Christina and back to me again.
“You want to help Erudite?” she says. “I’m confused. ”
“You wanted to help Dauntless,” I say. “You think you’re the only one who doesn’t just blindly do what your faction tells you to?”
“It is in keeping with your pattern of behavior,” says Cara. “Shooting people who get in your way is a Dauntless trait, after all. ”
I feel a pinch at the back of my throat. She looks so much like her brother, down to the crease between her eyebrows and the dark streaks in her otherwise blond hair.
“Cara,” says Christina. “Will you help us, or not?”
Cara sighs. “Obviously I will. I’m sure the others will, too. Meet us in the Erudite dormitory at the end of the meeting, and tell us the plan. ”
The meeting lasts for another hour. By then the rain has stopped, though water still sprinkles the wall and ceiling panels. Christina and I have been sitting against one of the walls, playing a game in which each of us tries to pin down the other’s thumb. She always wins.
Finally Johanna and the others who emerged as discussion leaders stand in a line on the tree roots. Johanna’s hair now hangs over her lowered face. She is supposed to tell us the outcome of the conversation, but she just stands with her arms folded, her fingers tapping against her elbow.
“What’s going on?” Christina says.
Finally Johanna looks up.
“Obviously it was difficult to find agreement,” she says. “But the majority of you wish to uphold our policy of uninvolvement. ”
It does not matter to me whether the Amity decide to go into the city or not. But I had begun to hope they were not all cowards, and to me, this decision sounds very much like cowardice. I sink back against the window.
“It is not my wish to encourage division in this community, which has given so much to me,” says Johanna. “But my conscience forces me to go against this decision. Anyone else whose conscience drives them toward the city is welcome to come with me. ”
At first I, like everyone else, am not sure what she’s saying. Johanna tilts her head so that her scar is again visible, and adds, “I understand if this means I can’t be a part of Amity anymore. ” She sniffs. “But please know that if I have to leave you, I leave you with love, rather than malice. ”
Johanna bows in the general direction of the crowd, tucks her hair behind her ears, and walks toward the exit. A few of the Amity scramble to their feet, then a few more, and soon the entire crowd is on their feet, and some of them—not many, but some—are walking out behind her.
“That,” says Christina, “is not what I was expecting. ”
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