I wake to sweaty palms and a pang of guilt in my chest.
I am lying in the chair in the mirrored room.
When I tilt my head back, I see Tori behind me.
She pinches her lips together and removes electrodes from our heads.
I wait for her to say something about the test—that it’s over, or that I did well, although how could I do poorly on a test like this?—but she says nothing, just pulls the wires from my forehead.
I sit forward and wipe my palms off on my slacks.
I had to have done something wrong, even if it only happened in my mind.
Is that strange look on Tori’s face because she doesn’t know how to tell me what a terrible person I am? I wish she would just come out with it.
“That,” she says, “was perplexing. Excuse me, I’ll be right back ”
Perplexing? I bring my knees to my chest and bury my face in them.
I wish I felt like crying, because the tears might bring me a sense of release, but I don’t.
How can you fail a test you aren’t allowed to prepare for? As the moments pass, I ge t more nervous.
I have to wipe off my hands every few seconds as the sweat collects—or maybe I just do it because it helps me feel calmer.
What if they tell me th at I’m not cut out for any faction? I would have to live on the streets , with the faction less.
I can’t do that.
To live faction less is not just to live in poverty and discomfort; it is to live divorced from society, separated from the most important thing in life: community.
My mother told me once that we can’t survive alone, but even if we could, we wouldn’t want to.
Without a faction, we have no purpose and no reason to live.
I shake my head.
I can’t think like this.
I have to stay calm.
Finally the door opens, and Tori walks back in.
I grip the arms of the chair.
“Sorry to worry you,”
She stands by my feet with her hands in her pockets.
She looks tense and pale.
“Beatrice, your results were inconclusive,” she says.
“Typically, each stage of the simulation eliminates one or more of the factions, but in your case, only two have been ruled out.
” I stare at her. “Two?” I ask.
My thro at is so tight it’s hard to talk.
“If you had shown an automatic distaste for the knife and selected the cheese, the simulation would have led you to a different scenario that confirmed your aptitude for Amity.
That didn’t happen, which is why Amity is out.
” Tori scratces the back of her neck.
“Normally, the simulation progresses in a linear fashion, isolating one faction by ruling out the rest.
The choice s you made didn’t even allow Candor, the next possibility, to be ruled out, so I h ad to alter the simulation to put you on the bus.
And there your insistence upon dishonesty ruled out Candor.”
She half smiles.
“Don’t worry about that. Only the Candor tell the truth in that one.”
One of the knots in my chest loosens.
Maybe I’m not an awful person.
“I suppose that’s not entirely true. People who tell t he truth are the Candor…and the Abnegation,”
she says. “Which gives us a problem.” My mo uth falls open.
“On the one hand, you threw yourself on the dog rather than let it attack the little girl, which is an Abnegation-oriented response…but on the other, when the man told you that the truth would save him, you still refused to tell it.
Not an Abnegation-oriented response.” She sighs.
“Not running from the dog suggests Dauntless, but so does taking the knife, which you didn’t do.”
She clears her t hroat and continues.
“Your intelligent response to the dog indicates strong alignment with the Erudite.
I have no idea what to make of your indecision in stage on e, but—” “Wait,” I interrupt her.
“So you have no idea what my aptitude is?” “Yes and no. My conclusion,” she explains, “is that you display equal aptitude for Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. People who get this kind of result are…” She looks over her shoulder like she expects someone to appear behind her. “…are called …Divergent.” She says the last word so quietly that I almost don’t hear it, and her tense, worried look ret urns.
She walks around the side of the chair and leans in close to me.
“Beatrice,” she says, “under no circumstances should you share that information with anyone. This is very important.” “We aren’t supposed to share our results.” I nod.
“I know that.”
“No. kneels next to the chair now and places her arms on the armrest.
Our faces are inches apart.
“This is different. I don’t mean you shouldn’t share them now; I mean you should never share them with anyone, ever , no matter what happens.
Divergence is extremely dangerous.
You understand?” I don’t understand—how could inconclusive test results be dangerous?—but I still nod.
I don’t want to share my test results w th anyone anyway.
I peel my hands from the arms of the chair and stand.
I feell unsteady. “I suggest,” Tori says, “that you go home.
You have a lot of thinking to do, and waiting with the others may not benefit you.”
“I have to tell my brother where I’m going.”
“I’ll let him know.”
I touch my forehead and stare at the floor as I walk o ut of the room.
I can’t bear to look her in the eye.
I can’t bear to think about the Choosing Ceremony tomorrow.
It’s my choice now, no matter what the test says.
I decide not to take the bus.
If I get home early, my father will notice when he checks the house log at the end of the day, and I’ll have to explain what happened.
Instead I walk.
I’ll have to intercept Caleb before he mentions anything to our parents, but Caleb can keep a secret.
I walk in the middle of the road.
The bus es tend to hug the curb, so it’s safer here.
Sometimes, on the streets near my house, I can see places where the yellow lines used to be.
We have no use for them now that there are so few cars.
We don’t need stoplights, either, but in some plac es they dangle precariously over the road like they might crash down any minute.
Renovation moves slowly through the city, which is a patchwork of new, clean buildings and old, crumbling ones. Most of the new buildings are next to the marsh, which used to be a lake a long time ago.
The Abnegation volunteer agency my mother works for is responsible for most of those renovations.
When I look at the Abnegation lifestyle as an outsider, I think it’s beautiful.
When I watch my family move in harmony; when we go to dinner parties and everyone cleans together afterward without having to be asked; when I see Caleb help strangers carry their groceries, I fall in love with this life all over again.
It’s only when I try to live it myself that I have trouble.
It never feels genuine.
But choosing a different faction means I forsake my family.
Just past the Abnegation sect or of the city is the stretch of building skeletons and broken sidewalks that I now walk through.
There are places where the road has completely collapsed, revealing sewer systems and empty subways that I have to be careful to avoid, and places that stink so powerfully of sewage and trash that I have to plug my nose.
This is where the faction less live.
Because they failed to complete initiation in to whatever faction they chose, they live in poverty, doing the work no one else wants to do.
They are janitors and construction workers and garbage collectors; they make fabric and operate trains and drive buses.
In return for their work t hey get food and clothing, but, as my mother says, not enough of either.
I see a factionless man standing on the corner up ahead.
He wears ragged brown clothing and skin sags from his jaw.
He stares at me, and I stare back at him, unable to look away.
“Excuse me,” he says.
His voice is raspy. “Do you have something I can eat?”
I feel a lump in my throat.
A stern voice in my head says, Duck your head and keep walking.
I shake my head.
I should not be afraid of this man.
He needs help and I am supposed to help him. “Um…yes,” I say.
I reach into my bag.
My father tells me to keep food in my bag at all times for exactly this reason.
I offer the man a small bag of dried apple slices.
He reaches for them, but instead of taking the bag, his hand closes around my wrist.
He smiles at me.
He has a gap between his front teeth.
“My, don’t you have pretty eyes,” he says.
“It’s a shame the rest of you is so plain.”
My heart pounds.
I tug my hand back, but his grip tightens.
I smell something ac rid and unpleasant on his breath.
“You look a little young to be walking around by yourself, dear,” he says.
I stop tugging, and stand up straighter.
I know I look young; I don’t need to be reminded.
“I’m older than I look,” I retort.
His spread wide, revealing a gray molar with a dark pit in the side.
I can’t tell if he’s smiling or grimacing.
“Then isn’t today a special day for you? The day before you choose?”
“Let go of me,” I say.
I hear ringing in my ears.
My voice sounds clear and stern —not what I expected to hear.
I feel like it doesn’t belong to me.
I am ready.
I know what to do.
I picture myself bringing my elbow back and hitting him.
I see the bag of apples flying away from me.
I hear my running footsteps.
I am prepared to act.
But then he releases my wrist, takes the apples, and says,
“Choose wisely, little girl.”