The tests begin after lunch.
We sit at the long tables in the cafeteria, and the test administrators call ten names at a time, one for each testing room.
I sit next to Caleb an d across from our neighbor Susan.
Susan’s father travels throughout the city for h is job, so he has a car and drives her to and from school every day.
He offered to drive us, too, but as Caleb says, we prefer to leave later and would not want to inconvenience him.
Of course not.
The test administrators are mostly Abnegation volunteers, although there is an Erudite in one of the testing rooms and a Dauntless in another to test those of us from Abnegation, because the rules state that we can’t be tested by someone from our own faction.
The rules also say that we can’t prepare for the test in any way, so I don’t know what to expect.
My gaze drifts from Susan to the Dauntless tables across the room.
They are laughing and shouting and playing cards.
At another set of tables, the Erudite chatter over books and newspapers, in constant pursuit of knowledge.
A group of Amity girls in yellow and red sit in a circle on the cafeteria floor, playing some kind of hand-slapping game involving a rhyming song.
Every few minutes I hear a chorus of laughter from them as someone is eliminated and has to sit in the center of the circle.
At the table next to them, Candor boys make wide gestures with their hands.
They appear to be arguing about something, but it must not be serious, because some of them are still smiling.
At the Abnegation table, we sit quietly and wait.
Faction customs dictate even idle behavior and supersede individual preference.
I doubt all the Erudite want to study all the time, or that every Candor enjoys a lively debate, but they can’t defy the norms of their factions any more than I can.
Caleb’s name is called in the next group.
He moves confidently toward the exit.
I don’t need to wish him luck or assure him that he shouldn’t be nervous.
He knows where he belongs, and as far as I know, he always has.
My earliest memory of him is from when we were four years old.
He scolded me for not giving my jump rope to a little girl on the playground who didn’t have anything to play with.
He doesn’t lecture me often anymore, but I have his look of disapproval memorized.
I have tried to explain to him that my instincts are not the same as his—it didn’t even enter my mind to give my seat to the Candor man on the bus—but he doesn’t understand.
“Just do what you’re supposed to,” he always says.
It is that easy for him.
It should be that easy for me.
My stomach wrenches.
I close my eyes and keep them close d until ten minutes later, when Caleb sits down again.
He is plaster-pale.
He pushes his palms along his legs like I do when I wipe off sweat, and when he brings them back, his fingers shake.
I open my mouth to ask him something, but the words don’t come.
I am not allowed to ask him about his results, and he is not allowed to tell me.
An Abnegation volunteer speaks the next round of names.
Two from Dauntless, two from Erudite, two from Amity, two from Candor, and then: “From Abnegation: Susan Black and Beatrice Prior.”
I get up because I’m supposed to, but if it were up to me, I would stay in my seat for the rest of time.
I feel like there is a bubble in my chest that expands more by the second, threatening to break me apart from the inside.
I follow Susan to the exit.
The people I pass probably can’t tell us apart.
We wear the same clothes and we wear o ur blond hair the same way.