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I OPEN MY eyes, terrified, my hands clutching at the sheets. But I am not running through the streets of the city or the corridors of Dauntless headquarters. I am in a bed in Amity headquarters, and the smell of sawdust is in the air.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
I shift, and wince as something digs into my back. I reach behind me, and my fingers wrap around the gun.
For a moment I see Will standing before me, both our guns between us—his hand, I could have shot his hand, why didn’t I, why?—and I almost scream his name.
Then he’s gone.
I get out of bed and lift the mattress with one hand, propping it up on my knee. Then I shove the gun beneath it and let the mattress bury it. Once it is out of sight and no longer pressed to my skin, my head feels clearer.
Now that the adrenaline rush of yesterday is gone, and whatever made me sleep has worn off, the deep ache and shooting pains of my shoulder are intense. I am wearing the same clothes I wore last night. The corner of the hard drive peeks out from under my pillow, where I shoved it right before I fell asleep. On it is the simulation data that controlled the Dauntless, and the record of what the Erudite did. It feels too important for me to even touch, but I can’t leave it here, so I grab it and wedge it between the dresser and the wall. Part of me thinks it would be a good idea to destroy it, but I know it contains the only record of my parents’ deaths, so I’ll settle for keeping it hidden.
Someone knocks on my door. I sit on the edge of the bed and try to smooth my hair down.
“Come in,” I say.
The door opens, and Tobias steps halfway in, the door dividing his body in half. He wears the same jeans as yesterday, but a dark red T-shirt instead of his black one, probably borrowed from one of the Amity. It’s a strange color on him, too bright, but when he leans his head back against the doorframe, I see that it makes the blue in his eyes lighter.
“The Amity are meeting in a half hour. ” He quirks his eyebrows and adds, with a touch of melodrama, “To decide our fate. ”
I shake my head. “Never thought my fate would be in the hands of a bunch of Amity. ”
“Me either. Oh, I brought you something. ” He unscrews the cap of a small bottle and holds out a dropper filled with clear liquid. “Pain medicine. Take a dropperful every six hours. ”
“Thanks. ” I squeeze the dropper into the back of my throat. The medicine tastes like old lemon.
He hooks a thumb in one of his belt loops and says, “How are you, Beatrice?”
“Did you just call me Beatrice?”
“Thought I would give it a try. ” He smiles. “Not good?”
“Maybe on special occasions only. Initiation days, Choosing Days . . . ” I pause. I was about to rattle off a few more holidays, but only the Abnegation celebrate them. The Dauntless have holidays of their own, I assume, but I don’t know what they are. And anyway, the idea that we would celebrate anything right now is so ludicrous I don’t continue.
“It’s a deal. ” His smile fades. “How are you, Tris?”
It’s not a strange question, after what we’ve been through, but I tense up when he asks it, worried that he’ll somehow see into my mind. I haven’t told him about Will yet. I want to, but I don’t know how. Just the thought of saying the words out loud makes me feel so heavy I could break through the floorboards.
“I’m . . . ” I shake my head a few times. “I don’t know, Four. I’m awake. I . . . ” I am still shaking my head. He slides his hand over my cheek, one finger anchored behind my ear. Then he tilts his head down and kisses me, sending a warm ache through my body. I wrap my hands around his arm, holding him there as long as I can. When he touches me, the hollowed-out feeling in my chest and stomach is not as noticeable.
I don’t have to tell him. I can just try to forget—he can help me forget.
“I know,” he says. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have asked. ”
For a moment all I can think is, How could you possibly know? But something about his expression reminds me that he does know something about loss. He lost his mother when he was young. I don’t remember how she died, just that we attended her funeral.
Suddenly I remember him clutching the curtains in his living room, about nine years old, wearing gray, his dark eyes shut. The image is fleeting, and it could be my imagination, not a memory.
He releases me. “I’ll let you get ready. ”
The women’s bathroom is two doors down. The floor is dark brown tile, and each shower stall has wooden walls and a plastic curtain separating it from the central aisle. A sign on the back wall says REMEMBER: TO CONSERVE RESOURCES, SHOWERS RUN FOR ONLY FIVE MINUTES.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
The stream of water is cold, so I wouldn’t want the extra minutes even if I could have them. I wash quickly with my left hand, leaving my right hand hanging at my side. The pain medicine Tobias gave me worked fast—the pain in my shoulder has already faded to a dull throb.
When I get out of the shower, a stack of clothes waits on my bed. It contains some yellow and red, from the Amity, and some gray, from the Abnegation, colors I rarely see side by side. If I had to guess, I would say that one of the Abnegation put the stack there for me. It’s something they would think to do.
I pull on a pair of dark red pants made of denim—so long I have to roll them up three times—and a gray Abnegation shirt that is too big for me. The sleeves come down to my fingertips, and I roll them up too. It hurts to move my right hand, so I keep the movements small and slow.
Someone knocks on the door. “Beatrice?” The soft voice is Susan’s.
I open the door for her. She carries a tray of food, which she sets down on the bed. I search her face for a sign of what she has lost—her father, an Abnegation leader, didn’t survive the attack—but I see only the placid determination characteristic of my old faction.
“I’m sorry the clothes don’t fit,” she says. “I’m sure we can find some better ones for you if the Amity allow us to stay. ”
“They’re fine,” I say. “Thank you. ”
“I heard you were shot. Do you need my help with your hair? Or your shoes?”
I am about to refuse, but I really do need help.
“Yes, thank you. ”
I sit down on a stool in front of the mirror, and she stands behind me, her eyes dutifully trained on the task at hand rather than her reflection. They do not lift, not even for an instant, as she runs a comb through my hair. And she doesn’t ask about my shoulder, how I was shot, what happened when I left the Abnegation safe house to stop the simulation. I get the sense that if I were to whittle her down to her core, she would be Abnegation all the way through.
“Have you seen Robert yet?” I say. Her brother, Robert, chose Amity when I chose Dauntless, so he is somewhere in this compound. I wonder if their reunion will be anything like Caleb’s and mine.
“Briefly, last night,” she says. “I left him to grieve with his faction as I grieve with mine. It is nice to see him again, though. ”
I hear a finality in her tone that tells me the subject is closed.
“It’s a shame this happened when it did,” Susan says. “Our leaders were about to do something wonderful. ”
“I don’t know. ” Susan blushes. “I just knew that something was happening. I didn’t mean to be curious; I just noticed things. ”
“I wouldn’t blame you for being curious even if you had been. ”
She nods and keeps combing. I wonder what the Abnegation leaders—including my father—were doing. And I can’t help but marvel at Susan’s assumption that whatever they were doing was wonderful. I wish I could believe that of people again.
If I ever did.Watch Divergent 4: Ascendant (2017)
“The Dauntless wear their hair down, right?” she says.
“Sometimes,” I say. “Do you know how to braid?”
So her deft fingers tuck pieces of my hair into one braid that tickles the middle of my spine. I stare hard at my reflection until she finishes. I thank her when she’s done, and she leaves with a small smile, closing the door behind her.
I keep staring, but I don’t see myself. I can still feel her fingers brushing the back of my neck, so much like my mother’s fingers, the last morning I spent with her. My eyes wet with tears, I rock back and forth on the stool, trying to push the memory from my mind. I am afraid that if I start to sob, I will never stop until I shrivel up like a raisin.
I see a sewing kit on the dresser. In it are two colors of thread, red and yellow, and a pair of scissors.
I feel calm as I undo the braid in my hair and comb it again. I part my hair down the middle and make sure that it is straight and flat. I close the scissors over the hair by my chin.
How can I look the same, when she’s gone and everything is different? I can’t.
I cut in as straight a line as I can, using my jaw as a guide. The tricky part is the back, which I can’t see very well, so I do the best I can by touch instead of sight. Locks of blond hair surround me on the floor in a semicircle.
I leave the room without looking at my reflection again.
When Tobias and Caleb come to get me later, they stare at me like I am not the person they knew yesterday.
“You cut your hair,” says Caleb, his eyebrows high. Grabbing hold of facts in the midst of shock is very Erudite of him. His hair sticks up on one side from where he slept on it, and his eyes are bloodshot.
“Yeah,” I say. “It’s . . . too hot for long hair. ”
“Fair enough. ”
We walk down the hallway together. The floorboards creak beneath our feet. I miss the way my footsteps echoed in the Dauntless compound; I miss the cool underground air. But mostly I miss the fears of the past few weeks, rendered small by my fears now.
We exit the building. The outside air presses around me like a pillow meant to suffocate me. It smells green, the way a leaf does when you tear it in half.
“Does everyone know you’re Marcus’s son?” Caleb says. “The Abnegation, I mean?”
“Not to my knowledge,” says Tobias, glancing at Caleb. “And I would appreciate it if you didn’t mention it. ”
“I don’t need to mention it. Anyone with eyes can see it for themselves. ” Caleb frowns at him. “How old are you, anyway?”
“And you don’t think you’re too old to be with my little sister?”
Tobias lets out a short laugh. “She isn’t your little anything. ”
“Stop it. Both of you,” I say. A crowd of people in yellow walks ahead of us, toward a wide, squat building made entirely of glass. The sunlight reflecting off the panes feels like a pinch to my eyes. I shield my face with my hand and keep walking.
The doors to the building are wide open. Around the edge of the circular greenhouse, plants and trees grow in troughs of water or small pools. Dozens of fans positioned around the room serve only to blow the hot air around, so I am already sweating. But that fades from my mind when the crowd before me thins and I see the rest of the room.
In its center grows a huge tree. Its branches are spread over most of the greenhouse, and its roots bubble up from the ground, forming a dense web of bark. In the spaces between the roots, I see not dirt but water, and metal rods holding the roots in place. I should not be surprised—the Amity spend their lives accomplishing feats of agriculture like this one, with the help of Erudite technology.
Standing on a cluster of roots is Johanna Reyes, her hair falling over the scarred half of her face. I learned in Faction History that the Amity recognize no official leader—they vote on everything, and the result is usually close to unanimous. They are like many parts of a single mind, and Johanna is their mouthpiece.
The Amity sit on the floor, most with their legs crossed, in knots and clusters that vaguely resemble the tree roots to me. The Abnegation sit in tight rows a few yards to my left. My eyes search the crowd for a few seconds before I realize what I’m looking for: my parents.
I swallow hard, and try to forget. Tobias touches the small of my back, guiding me to the edge of the meeting space, behind the Abnegation. Before we sit down, he puts his mouth next to my ear and says, “I like your hair that way. ”
I find a small smile to give him, and lean into him when I sit down, my arm against his.
Johanna lifts her hands and bows her head. All conversation in the room ceases before I can draw my next breath. All around me the Amity sit in silence, some with their eyes closed, some with their lips mouthing words I can’t hear, some staring at a point far away.
Every second chafes. By the time Johanna lifts her head I am worn to the bone.
“We have before us today an urgent question,” she says, “which is: How will we conduct ourselves in this time of conflict as people who pursue peace?”
Every Amity in the room turns to the person next to him or her and starts talking.
“How do they get anything done?” I say, as the minutes of chatter wear on.
“They don’t care about efficiency,” Tobias says. “They care about agreement. Watch. ”
Two women in yellow dresses a few feet away rise and join a trio of men. A young man shifts so that his small circle becomes a large one with the group next to him. All around the room, the smaller crowds grow and expand, and fewer and fewer voices fill the room, until there are only three or four. I can only hear pieces of what they say: “Peace—Dauntless—Erudite—safe house—involvement—”
“This is bizarre,” I say.
“I think it’s beautiful,” he says.
I give him a look.
“What?” He laughs a little. “They each have an equal role in government; they each feel equally responsible. And it makes them care; it makes them kind. I think that’s beautiful. ”
“I think it’s unsustainable,” I say. “Sure, it works for the Amity. But what happens when not everyone wants to strum banjos and grow crops? What happens when someone does something terrible and talking about it can’t solve the problem?”
He shrugs. “I guess we’ll find out. ”
Eventually someone from each of the big groups stands and approaches Johanna, picking their way carefully over the roots of the big tree. I expect them to address the rest of us, but instead they stand in a circle with Johanna and the other spokespeople and talk quietly. I begin to get the feeling that I will never know what they’re saying.
“They’re not going to let us argue with them, are they,” I say.
“I doubt it,” he says.
We are done for.
When everyone has said his or her piece, they sit down again, leaving Johanna alone in the center of the room. She angles her body toward us and folds her hands in front of her. Where will we go when they tell us to leave? Back into the city, where nothing is safe?
“Our faction has had a close relationship with Erudite for as long as any of us can remember. We need each other to survive, and we have always cooperated with each other,” says Johanna. “But we have also had a strong relationship with Abnegation in the past, and we do not think it is right to revoke the hand of friendship when it has for so long been extended. ”
Her voice is honey-sweet, and moves like honey too, slow and careful. I wipe the sweat from my hairline with the back of my hand.
“We feel that the only way to preserve our relationships with both factions is to remain impartial and uninvolved,” she continues. “Your presence here, though welcome, complicates that. ”
Here it comes, I think.
“We have arrived at the conclusion that we will establish our faction headquarters as a safe house for members of all factions,” she says, “under a set of conditions. The first is that no weaponry of any kind is allowed on the compound. The second is that if any serious conflict arises, whether verbal or physical, all involved parties will be asked to leave. The third is that the conflict may not be discussed, even privately, within the confines of this compound. And the fourth is that everyone who stays here must contribute to the welfare of this environment by working. We will report this to Erudite, Candor, and Dauntless as soon as we can. ”
Her stare drifts to Tobias and me, and stays there.
“You are welcome to stay here if and only if you can abide by our rules,” she says. “That is our decision. ”
I think of the gun I hid under my mattress, and the tension between me and Peter, and Tobias and Marcus, and my mouth feels dry. I am not good at avoiding conflict.
“We won’t be able to stay long,” I say to Tobias under my breath.
A moment ago, he was still faintly smiling. Now the corners of his mouth have disappeared into a frown. “No, we won’t. ”
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