I drag my feet as I walk, after the talk with my father last night, I didn't get much sleep. I sat up most of the night worrying about what I will decide and how it will affect others.
“Shiloh, pick your feet up when you walk.”
I rub my eyes, “sorry, I'm tired.”
Nonetheless, I pay attention to my steps and lift my feet instead of dragging. Now that I'm more aware, I finally see how many people are actually littering the street outside the school. The Candor are sitting on a patch of grass smoking. I wonder what it would be like to smoke...
Abnegation teenagers are weaving in and out of people, keeping their head bowed down low as they act selflessly in acts such as holding the door open, letting people in front and taking the stairs.
The Dauntless are shouting and cheering as they watch a mock fight between two blacked clothes people. I notice the boy, whose name I heard as Eric, watch them with hawk eyes from the Erudite mass. There was something in his eyes, his stance. I know instantly that he'll choose Dauntless today, I can tell.
Suddenly everyone moves and I realize that the time has come for the ceremony to start as everyone files into the school. As the lifts fill up, I watch as the Abnegation take the stairs, what idiots. There will be in no circumstance where I take twenty flights of stairs to the top. It's madness and I would very much like to use my legs again after today.
“The lifts are full, we need to take the stairs,” my father calls as he pulls me towards them.
There is some groaning and muttering behind me and I turn to see Zahn running up the stairs, weaving in and out of the climbing bodies. “Sorry, really sorry. Excuse me, sorry.” his voice calls.
I turn back to the front as we all reach the top floor and everything enters the ceremony room. I am just about to enter when Zahn lightly tugs me back.
I stumble slightly. “Zahn, what the-? What are you doing?”
His expression is full of panic and distress. “I was thinking last night and I figured something out.”
I frown, “what?”
“I understand now, how could I be so blind?”
I place both my hands on his cheeks and rub my thumbs in circles. “Zahn, calm down and talk it out. What do you understand?”
His eyes meet mine. “I understand you.”
I am confused. “That's a good thing, right? What's causing this panic?”
He rests his forehead on mine and sighs, “you're not staying.”
He presses his lips to mine urgently and I feel his tears merge into our kiss. He thinks this is goodbye. My heart aches. I'm a horrible person.
His lips leave mine and he lets go of me. “My heart goes with yours, forever. Remember?”
He turns on his heels and I realize what he means. “No!”
“Shiloh, what's going on?”
I turn to my father with tears streaking my face. “Zahn, he's going to do something stupid.”
He pulls me into a hug and holds me tight to his chest. This could be the last time I hear my father's heartbeat. “Zahn is a mature man. He'll make the right decision that suits him. You shouldn't worry about him, he'll be fine. Focus on your decision today.”
“Dad, he's making his decision based on mine, I know it!”
He kisses the top of my head. “Stop worrying, you'll get wrinkles.”
He pulls me into the room just as it falls silent and pushes me towards my seat. I offer him a sad smile before sitting down, watching as he takes his seat beside my mother, sister and Steve.
We sit in alphabetical order which means I'm nowhere near Zahn, the place I need to be. I need to change his mind, to convince him that he's being stupid.
Marcus, an Abnegation leader, stands up and he raises his hands, the hall falls into complete silence instantly. I keep my eyes on Zahn, his eyes stay facing the front, his jaw set tight. He's made his decision, I can't do anything now.
“Welcome, welcome to the Choosing Ceremony. Welcome to the day we honour the democratic philosophy of our ancestors, which tells us that every man has the right to choose his own way in the world.”
I look around, I know what is coming next, everyone does. It's the short lecture about us as teenagers and our choices we will soon make. It's the speech they give every year, I'm surprised the crowd don't mutter along with the words at the same time... or tell him to just get on with it since we already know it all.
“Our dependants are now sixteen. They stand on the precipice of adulthood, and it is now up to them to decide what kind of people they will be.” His voice weighing each and every word as he speaks. “Decades ago our ancestors realized that it is not political-”
I rub the back of my neck and let my mind drift as he speaks. I can no longer look at Zahn as it hurts too much so I let my eyes wander. The Abnegation crowd catch my attention. More specifically, the male named Tobias Eaton. It is like he's staring at me but as I look harder, I realize he's staring beyond me and at the wall behind.
“Those who blamed aggression formed Amity.”
My mind races with ideas, trying to guess his past, his present and what he will choose for his future. His expression is a mix between fear, relief and heartache as I watch his knee bounce up and down. He seems to be uneasy and jumps slightly whenever Marcus speaks.
He catches me watching and I can't break my gaze. His blue eyes bore into mine and I feel that he'll attack me if I look away.
“Those who blamed ignorance became the Erudite.”
I can't break my stare, I need help.
“Those who blamed duplicity created Candor.”
Tobias looks away and I sigh in relief, I'm free.
“Those who blamed selfishness made Abnegation.”
I am selfish, I know that now.
“And those who blamed cowardice were the Dauntless.”
The Dauntless... my results.
“Working together, these five factions have lived in peace for many years, each contributing to a different sector of society...”
Zahn finally looks at me and his cheeks are still tear stained. It pains me to see this side of him, I don't like it. I want him to be happy, laughing. I want him to be Amity Zahn. But something snaps inside of me and I frown at the ground. His tears make him look weak, pathetic, small. I rub the back of my neck, why am I thinking like this? Tears should not determine the strength of a person. In fact, it takes more strength to show your emotions than to hide them. I should be proud that Zahn can be this honest with how he feels. Why does it disgust me?
My mind races and Marcus' words punctures my own thoughts. “Therefore this day marks a happy occasion—the day on which we receive our new initiates, who will work with us toward a better society and a better world.”
I notice Tobias scoff at those words. Wow, this guy's got issues.
The five bowls in the centre finally catch my eye as sixteen year olds start going out, one by one to choose their future, their faction.
Gray stones for Abnegation. Earth for Amity. Glass for Candor. Water for Erudite. Lit coals for Dauntless. We must spill our blood into one of these bowls.
I watch nervously as one by one, they take a knife to their hand and release the blood to their chosen faction. So far, no one has transferred yet.
Somehow my feet move forward as my heartbeat gets stuck in my throat. Now or never. Don't think about it. Just do it.
Marcus hands me the knife as I stand looking at the bowls. I take it in my left and bite my lip. I feel the gaze of my family on my back as I hesitate, now is the time I have to ultimately choose. There's no turning back now. I can't escape.
I wonder what would happen if I just stuck the knife into Marcus and ran. I would be free... until they kill me. But at least I would be free, no choice. Dead, but no choice.
I shake my head. Stop thinking about killing people!
Stones, that's a no go. Glass, definitely not. Water, heck no!
I stand in front of the Amity bowl and stare at it. My home, can I truly be happy there? Will I grow up and marry Zahn, have a happy life? Is that what I want?
I drag the knife over my palm and bite back a yelp. It stings badly and I feel my eyes are about to betray me and start to water.
Without thinking, I thrust my hand over a bowl and let the blood drip into it.
The coals sizzle. I am dauntless.
The crowd gasps and I hear my mother's anguished cry as I walk over to the Dauntless initiates. Marcus calls for silence as he announces the next name.
I watch as the brown haired male walks with his head bowed low to the table. He flinches back slightly as he accepts the knife. He slides the knife over his palm and instantly holds his hand over the coals. He's chosen Dauntless too. The crowd erupts into noise as his decision sinks in.
Pain flashes across Marcus' face at this choice as he takes the knife back. Tobias clenches his fist over his cut and takes his place beside me. He's about a head taller and looks more striking up close. His hands are clasped behind his back but this time, his head is held high. I nudge him slightly to get his attention. “Are you OK?” I whisper.
He doesn't look at me. “Yeah,” he breathes back.
I nod and focus back on choosing. There are two transfers to Erudite. Three to Amity and one to Abnegation. The majority have stayed within their own factions and returned to what they know. Tobias and I are the only Dauntless so far.
The coals sizzle. Make that three Dauntless transfers. Eric has selected this faction over his home faction, Erudite.
There are two more people before Zahn and my heart starts to sink. I know exactly what he'll do, I just hope I'm wrong.
One more for Erudite as the water turns a darker red.
One for Candor as the drops of blood ping onto the glass.
I watch in shock as he walks to the table and accepts the knife. He stands in front of the table, his eyes flicking between two bowls.
I grasp the nearest thing to me, Tobias' arm. “No,” I whisper into the air.
Zahn raises the knife to his hand and rests the point of the blade on his palm, ready to drag it across and release the blood.
A muscle in Tobias' arm moves yet he does not remove my hand as I grip tighter. “Please, no,” I plead quietly.
He drags the knife across and the red pools into his palm. He sets the knife down and clasps his hand shut. He holds his hand to his chest and closes his eyes. The space between his eyebrows crease in thought as he takes a deep breath.
“NO!” I find myself yelling.
He turns to look at me, his eyes alive with the decision he has just made.
“Don't do this!”
“I have to,” he says before letting his blood fall.
I sob as I grip Tobias' arm. Eventually he jerks his arm and puts his arm around my shoulders. An act of comfort, yet is does not do it's job. My gut wrenches and my heart fails as I watch.
I can't bare it any more as I turn my head and sob into his shoulder. This is my fault. All my fault.
Zahn is Dauntless because of me.
He won't last.