The tears have subsided by the time the last person has chosen, she chose Candor, and I slide my hand from Tobias' arm. I mutter a sorry and keep my eyes trained on the floor.
To my left and right, all I see is black. I am glad to some extent, it means no more yellow for me. Tobias' feet shift slightly as he waits beside me. He almost seems impatient, like he wants to leave right now. I lift my head slowly to look down the line at Zahn, he has his hands clasped behind his back, his eyes front not looking at anything in particular.
As I look at him, it's like I am seeing him for the first time again. I notice his muscled arms, his set muscular jaw and his intense eyes. How have I not noticed this?
Is it a Dauntless trait to notice physical attributes?
I can't help but stare at my boyfriend - if I can still call him that – and bite my lip with yearning. I want to be near him. I realize that he was more ready to make this choice than I was. I would wish for nothing more than to be in those arms and be reassured that everything will be alright.
There is movement and I'm swept along with the Dauntless crowd, we are leaving now it seems. I plant my feet and stop, searching the sea of bodies to find my family. When I do, I wish I had just kept moving. My mother is sobbing into Farrah's shoulder. Stupid Steve is still seated, his face clueless, his knee bouncing like he doesn't know what to do. Farrah's eyes find mine and bore straight into my core, a look of betrayal and hurt.
My father smiles despite the situation, his hand clasped around my mother's, an act of comfort to her. He doesn't seem to be to cut up about it but then again, I know he knew about my conflict. I didn't want to stay and he respected my decision.
He waves at me as I get distracted by he crowd. I quickly wave back as I am forced out of the room and down the stairs.
The stairway is filled with cries, whoops and cheers as the Dauntless' feet pound noisily on the stairs, making our way down to the exit. I ignore the burning sensation that stings my eyes from my tearing session and the sweat that is now evident on my brow. Laughter fill my ears and a smile creeps onto my face.
My thighs and chest burn as I keep up with the others. With every step I take, I feel stronger and more... free.
The front doors are pushed open with too much force and one hangs from it's hinges. I blink as my tired eyes adjust to the bright sunlight outside. A train horn sounds in the distance and images of how the Dauntless arrive pass into my vision.
The speed of our feet pick up as we head straight to the train track.
We have to jump on.
My heartbeat catches in my throat as I gulp, I don't know if I can do this but nonetheless, I keep my pace up and power on.
Zahn appears beside me, his cheeks flushed like mine yet he seems more at ease with the physical stress than I do. I keep my eyes forward as he does, focusing on the people in front. For me, it was more focusing on the feet in front and my own, to make sure I didn't trip myself up – as I tend to do sometimes. The front section of the Dauntless mass start to leap onto the train, I can tell that they are all Dauntless born as they jump smoothly with no worries or cares.
I spot Eric landing in the train carriage, smirking at his own achievements. The others seem to ignore him as he tries to boast about his jump. Tobias is the next face I recognise to make the jump. He immediately sits himself in the furthest corner from everyone as he stares at the floor.
Zahn jumps first, hitting his knee off the edge. He kneels up and beckons me in with his hands. A look of urgency on his face. I speed up and jump when he yells for me to do so. I power of the ground with my legs and land on the carriage floor in a lump.
He pulls me to my feet and nods. “Well done,” he says flatly.
He then sits down and pulls his jeans leg up to take a look at his knee. It's not cut but I can tell by the redness that it will be severely bruised in the morning.
I sit down beside him so that our shoulders touch. I don't say a word as I look around, gazing at my knee faction members. Some are sitting like myself. Some are laughing still, like this is just a walk in the park, no big deal and others, they are pacing the floor, wearing it down with nerves. Eric runs a hand through his hair, the smirk still evident on his cocky face.
A small sigh escapes my lips and I look up at Zahn, his face still impassive and unchanging. “I'm so sorry,” I whisper.
He slowly turns to me. “You have to stop that,” he says.
His warm hand finds mine and my heart leaps, he still has the same touch as before. I can already feel my insides calming down as I turn my hand palm up to link our fingers. He stares at our hands for a long time, weighing his choice of words to answer me.
“Being a Dauntless is about being brave, you have to prove that you are what they want. To show their traits and basically be one of them.” His eyes meet mine. “Stop apologizing for your choice, it happened and you have to move on and become stronger.”
All I can do is nod.
He continues, his features soften slightly as he brushes his cheek with a soft hand. “I don't want to see you hurt.”
I lean my cheek into his hand. “I don't want you to be hurt either.”
He smiles for the first time today. “I won't, I'm going to kick their asses and show them how we Amity do it.”
I chuckle. “Kick their asses with peace, kindness and generosity. Yeah, that'll go down well.”
His eyes turn serious. “Just promise me you won't regret this choice. A life of regret-”
I interrupt him, finishing his sentence, “-is not worth living.”
As the train speeds along the track, we seal the promise with a kiss.
I feel eyes on me as our lips continue to merge together in a smooth movement but I don't care, for all I know, the initiation might take our time up and I might not get the chance again. His fingers knot in the back of my hair and I smile at the contact.
A sneer echoes from Eric's throat. “Do you have to make us throw up?”
Zahn breaks the kiss and smirks slightly. The action looks alien on his features. “Then don't watch and bugger off.”
The former Erudite runs his hand through his short black hair once again, a twisted smile appearing on his lips, giving him a cold, hard and intimidating look. I squeeze Zahn's hand tight as Eric slides the glasses on his nose back up. “Don't tell me what to do. I'm clearly more superior than you, you have no chance.”
I snap, “Let me guess, you read a book about being superior?” I can't help but smirk at my own words. “Sorry to let you know but I don't think it's working. You should go back to Erudite and study more.”
He snarls and takes a step towards us but his path is blocked by a huge Dauntless born. He has jet black hair that stands out against his pale complexion. His eyes are almost as black as hair. “Don't you dare, now is not the time.” With one push, Eric is thrown against the train wall and the male turns to everyone. “In about a minute, we have to jump. Get on your feet and be ready,” he nods at another male then stands at the edge, watching the scenery flash past. His eyes intense as he spots something that we don't. “Get up now,” he shouts over the roar of the wheels as they slow down slightly.
Seconds later, he jumps and other follow him. Zahn pulls me up and I bite my lip at the gap. I watch as the male who reprimanded Eric landed and rolled to his feet.
I run to the edge with Zahn and together we jump from the train. My feet plant on the roof of the building and I fall flat on my stomach. Luckily Zahn's landing is hardly graceful and when we stand up, we let out a laugh.
I look back to the train and I see that a boy and a girl have both remained. They have chosen to be Factionless. No one can help them now.
The jump is exhilarating and I wish to get back on the train to do it again but an older man speaks up. He is standing on the edge with no care in the world that he could fall and die. “Listen up, my name is Max and I am a leader of this faction. You made the jump from train but below me,” he motions with a thumb behind him, “is the Dauntless headquarters.”
I look at him, his dark hair just starting to grey sits on his creased brow. A few shouts and murmurs resonate from the throats of initiates around me. “That's just a black hole, do we have to jump again? I don't think I can,” a small girl says.
Max laughs, it chills me. “It's the members entrance. If you won't jump then why are you here?” His eyes harden. “It's jump or to be factionless, your choice.”
Eric steps forward, his smug smile back. “Bring it.”
Without a word, he jumped feet first into the hole. The girl who spoke up squeaked slightly. “Whose next?”
One by one, people jumped down into the black abyss. Zahn pulls me towards it and I falter slightly. “You go first,” I mutter.
He nods and without another word, he jumps into the hole. I bite my lip and turn to see who is left. Shockingly, Tobias is one of them. I frown then approach him. “Are you OK?” I ask quietly.
He nods, he's almost white as a sheet. “I'm fine,” he manages to say.
“Scared? I am too, heights are horrible,” I offer.
He nods slowly, “yeah, horrible,” he repeats.
Max folds his arms over his chest. “Make the jump or leave,” he states.
I place a hand on Tobias' shoulder. “We jump together?”
He walks with me to the edge and looks down. A flash of panic crosses into his eyes then within moments, it's gone like it wasn't there. His jaw is set and he braces himself. “I can do it.”
I wish I had his determination. Fear is not easy to ignore.
“Great,” I murmur, my fear is not quite ignored yet.
He turns to me and gives me a small smile. “Come on, if I can do it, you can too.” He turns back to the hole. “Find that inner self that allows you to be brave.”
With that he jumped and I gasp slightly. Max steps in line with me. “It's jump or-”
“Be factionless, so you've said,” I sigh.
He chuckles, “not the reaction I expected from an Amity born.”
I take a step back. “I'm not what anyone expects.”
He raises a greying eyebrow at me. “Are you backing out? Is the jump too scary?”
I grit my teeth. “Not. At. All.” I take a running start to will myself on, then I jump.
I close my eyes as I fall through the air, my stomach churns violently and I want to throw up but within seconds, I hit something and I bounce.
I stand up and stumble slightly. A pair of hands reaches out and pulls me from the net. “Thanks,” I groan as I rub my left hip.
I look up and I am met with the harshest eyes I have ever seen. His thin lips have no trace of a smile on them as he backs off and walks to the front of the crowd. His muscles bulge from under his black t-shirt as he looks around at the initiates.
His eyes are still on me as he opens his mouth to speak. “Name?”
I stand stunned for a few moments. His voice is like liquid, smooth, calm and endearing. Yet his appearance shows that he can kill me with one finger if he wanted to.
I clear my throat. “Shiloh. Shiloh Gynne.”
He nods then raises his voice.
“Welcome to Dauntless.”