I don’t do Choosing Ceremonies.
And I certainly won’t this year.
I scrunch up the report in my hands, pretending that I’m crumpling up Jeanine’s face as well. For once, her suspicions are correct.
“Marcus Eaton’s violence and cruelty to his son is the very reason his son chose Dauntless instead of Abnegation.”
I throw the ball of paper onto my tray and dump it, along with the remnants of my breakfast, into the trash. The dining room is empty, save for me. Most of Dauntless went to the Choosing Ceremony, but I stayed behind, partly because I’m an initiation instructor and must wait for the initiates to arrive, and partly because being in the same room with Marcus is like being in the same room with a pit viper. A nasty, gray colored pit viper. Especially since Abnegation’s conducting the Ceremony this year, and he’ll be at the head of it all.
The most influential leader of Abnegation, the most influential leader in the government, and the most influential man amongst all the factions.
No wonder Jeanine Matthews hates him so much.
And then my mind buzzes.
No wonder about those cruel reviews. No wonder about those war plans.
War. The name is something I’ve never felt before.
Someone taps me on the shoulder and I turn around. Lauren looks up at me, a slightly concerned expression on her face, her dark hair tied back and the three piercings in her right eyebrow looking especially noticeable in the well-lit dining room. She cocks her head, and her eyebrows furrow. “You okay, Four?”
“Yeah.” I comb my hand through my hair. I must have looked completely out of it. “Yeah. I’m fine. Just—just thinking.” I tuck my thoughts away, to bring back later.
She looks like she’s about to say something, but she doesn’t. I turn away from her and stride out of the dining room, towards a narrow tunnel, and give myself a chance to recover. By the time she catches up with me, I’ve planted a frown on my face and any thoughts she could have had for that split second in time would have evaporated entirely from her mind. The Dauntless aren’t ones to care enough to ask.
“So…another year, another group of initiates.” Lauren is not the type of person to be content with silence. I look down at her, but a strand of dark hair that refused to stay back covers her face.
“And a more brutal program.” In the past, initiates immediately went through their fear landscapes. Now, they will face ruthless physical training, and even more painful mental training. And not all of them will survive.
They chose us, now we shall choose them. Eric said those words yesterday, and they still burn in my head. It sounds like a brutal chant.
“Is it okay to already feel sorry for them?” Lauren’s sarcastic tone cuts through the air, and she grins up at me. I don’t make eye contact with her. I just stare straight ahead, into the cavern where the initiates will soon realize that initiation will be a whole lot scarier than they ever thought it would be. The net soaks in the sunshine from the large hole in the ceiling.
“We’re Dauntless. We don’t feel sorry.”
Lauren climbs up the platform and we place ourselves next to the net. She twists her head and looks up, through the hole, through seven stories worth of air.
“Anything?” I ask. I pretend like I’m bored, like I don’t care, but my heart is pounding. Jumping off from seven story buildings is not my kind of game.
She pulls herself back and shakes her head. “No. Just shadows. But I think I can recognize Max.”
We sit in silence for a moment, neither of us saying a word. I look up through the hole and see a shadow nearing the ledge. It takes me seconds before I feel like I’m about to throw up. I sit back on my haunches and hold the edge of the net, half because I’m dizzy, and half because I assume that an initiate is getting ready to jump. “One’s coming,” I tell Lauren.
The force of the initiate’s impact barely shakes the net. She is small, blonde, and wears gray.
She wears gray.
I discard that information, I put it in the back of my mind, I don’t let it affect me. She looks up and laughs. A half mad, half relieved laugh.
I would have been crying.
Lauren and I reach towards her, and she grabs my hand, stumbling out of the net. I grab her shoulders to keep her from falling flat on her face, then release her a moment after she stands upright again.
I see her, but I can’t process her. It’s like my brain wants me to block her out. She says something to me, but I am momentarily deaf.
I blink my eyes. Get over it, get over it.
“I can’t believe it,” Lauren smirks at the girl. “A Stiff, the first to jump? Unheard of.”
Get in the present. Don’t think too much. Don’t think.
“There’s a reason why she left them, Lauren,” I say it plainly, with no emotion.” I look at the girl, my expression as placid as possible. “What’s your name?”
“Umm…” She hesitates, unsure.
When I came to Dauntless, I left everything I knew. I left everything that hurt me. I built myself armour, and I remade myself here.
I try to throw off any emotion I might show on my face. “Think about it,” I smirk a little bit. Try to look strong, try to look strong. “You don’t get to pick again.” A new place, a new name. She can be remade here, like me.
“Tris.” Even though she’s short and looks more like an eight-year-old than a sixteen-year-old girl, the way she says it stuns me for a split second.
She’s not Stiff at all. She’s strong.