Early the next morning, I find myself preparing to shoot a gun. Eric has told us that we must pass all stages of initiation to be considered a member of Dauntless.
I shot a gun when I was in District 13. It was required. This gives me an advantage over the others, besides the ones from Districts 1 and 2, who did target shooting during their training for Peacekeeper positions.
I steady the gun in my hands, aiming carefully at the center of the red and white target a few yards in front of me. I squeeze the trigger when Eric says, sending a bullet that is a few inches off target. I curse under my breath and begin reloading. I do so much better with a bow.
We've been doing this for over an hour. Most of us are making steady progress. If he had the capability, Eric might even be smiling right now.
After we shoot a few more rounds we go into another room, this one with mats on the floor. We're going to practice fighting; it's obvious.
The other initiates and I line up against the wall. Eric begins pairing us off.
Tris faces off with Peter, which I can tell is a terrible idea, since he already wants to "get rid" of her. I suspect that Eric did it on purpose, seeing how much he enjoyed them arguing.
Her fight seems to go on for hours, which is expected when watching someone get beaten so badly. Peter showed her no mercy.
She loses terribly, winding up with a black eye and bruised ribs. Stumbling over to where Johanna and I stand, she catches my shoulder.
"Sorry. I'm just feeling really dizzy right now." She clings onto my shoulder like it's a lifeline, and I stand up straighter to make it easier to lean against.
I hear Peter yell, "You fight like a girl!"
Johanna goes right up to him and punches him square in the jaw. He crashes to the ground. "Now who fights like a girl?" she shouts. Tris and I stand there with our jaws dropped.
"What?" she asks us. "Someone had to make him pay for that. And you, Girl on Fire," she begins, gesturing me towards her. I hesitantly make my way over to her.
"You know he misses you," she says quietly so no one else can hear. I know exactly who she's talking about.
I sigh, nodding. "I miss him, too."
"You know," she begins, a slight smile playing on her lips, "I think you might see him very soon."
This takes me by surprise. "What do you mean? How?"
"Visitation day. It's supposed to be for parents, but I think they'd make an exception for the star-crossed lovers of District 12." She winks at me.
She nods. "You don't expect to not be allowed to see your family ever again, do you?"
"Yeah. Thanks, Johanna. You can be really. . . sweet sometimes," I say teasingly, and she glares at me.
"Never say that," she whispers, turning and stomping off, mumbling, "I'm nice to her once and now I'm sweet. Perfect."
Visitation day isn't for another couple of days, but I'm still distracted while I fight. Today I'm up against Molly, a vicious girl with a good punch from District 6.
I stand in the center of the arena and bring my arms up to my face, curling my hands into fists. Peeta and I spent a little time in the Training Center practicing hand-to-hand combat, but that was nothing compared to what I already have witnessed today.
Molly punches first, and I just manage to dive under it. By the time I'm standing up straight again she's punching with her other arm, so I take this opportunity to kick her in the rib.
I manage to duck at the same time, my foot landing right below her ribcage. I hear the air whoosh out of her as the smirk disappears from her face, being replaced by a look so full of hatred that I don't know how to respond.
She hits me in the face, causing me to stumble backwards, and she doesn't hesitate to add a kick that takes my feet out from under me. I land hard on my back, the air knocking out of my lungs.
It stings, to say the least. Then again, I am soft serving it as much as possible. The only other time I experienced pain like this was a year ago, fighting off muttation monkeys in the arena, when one tried to drown me in a pond. My lungs burning from a terrible lack of oxygen felt better than this.
I can feel her start kicking my side as I try to crawl away, causing her to have to move. I scramble to my feet and swing my fist at her, hoping it connects with a part of her body that would make her feel pain.
I hit her shoulder and she almost loses her balance, but quickly regains it and punches again. It hits me right in the jaw. I can tell that she put all of her effort into that one hit. The pain shooting through my whole face like this is almost unbearable. It feels like she dislocated my jaw, and she might as well have.
Blinking away the stars in my eyes doesn't quite work, but I have little time to recover, so I swing my leg to hit behind her knees. It works, and she finally goes down.
With an animal growl she leaps up, grabbing my hair. I respond by taking a fistful of hers, and we begin pulling each other by the head back and forth. I would probably find it funny in a different situation.
"Okay, okay, we've seen enough." Eric taps my shoulder dismissively, and I release my fist. Molly sends me one more death glare before flaunting off, boasting her win. I roll my eyes and go to join Tris, who's still nursing her swollen lip. She's holding a tissue to it and it's still bleeding.
I try to remember what my mother would do. There were occasional fights in the mines of District 12, and Peacekeeper beatings left people swollen for over a week, so none of this is new to me.
"Putting ice on that will bring the swelling right down. Pressure will stop the bleeding," I told her, and I can't help but feel proud that I remember after all this time.
"Thanks," she says, "but I don't think ice is even allowed here. Wouldn't that show weakness or something?"
I thought suddenly of Gale being whipped in the square. He wouldn't get up, telling me he was fine, even though he was a few whips away from death.
"No. That's ridiculous. Ice doesn't show anything except that you care about yourself." Or someone else.
She looks a little shocked at my sudden outburst, but I just turn around and walk towards the dining hall so she can't see my tears.