"All right everyone. Your results to the tests are on this blackboard. If your name isn't on this list, you did not pass initiation. The train will arrive in fifteen minutes to bring you to your new residence." Eric turns the board around.
I scan the list, hearing shrieks of joy and cries of despair. I find my name in the fifth spot and sigh in relief. Johanna made fourth, Tris earning second, while Four placed first. Third place, to my great disappointment, went to Peter.
I feel a tap on my shoulder and turn around hesitantly.
"So. Looks like I beat you by that much," Johanna gloats, holding her index finger and thumb about an inch apart for emphasis.
"Congratulations," I say sincerely, causing her to smile supportively at me. She knows how nervous Peeta's upcoming visit is making me.
Tris is behind me, and when I turn she holds out her hand to shake. Dauntless do not hug.
I take her hand, and she smiles widely at me. "Thank you for all of your help. I don't know where I'd be without you." She glances over to the mass of crying initiates, the new group of factionless.
"No problem. It wasn't only me, you know. Johanna helped, too. You know what you should do? Go tell her how nice she was for helping you. She'll really appreciate it."
"Thanks! I will!" She begins to walk over to Johanna, and I watch as Johanna's expression goes from confused, to mock happiness, and then, once Tris walks away, anger. She glares at me.
The people expecting visitors gather in the dining hall to wait for them to arrive. I sit alone, nervously tapping my foot in impatience. I stare intently at the door, willing it to open. What could be taking so long?
The door opens suddenly and in spills twenty or so people, all going to their designated tables. Everyone greets people appropriately for their faction, and everything seems very formal. I can see Peeta, my Peeta, gazing around the room for me. His outfit consists of a basic yellow polo shirt and red pants, Amity attire.
When he spots me a smile spreads across his face, the smile I've missed so much. I can't wait any longer and start jogging over to him. We meet in the middle and I embrace him tightly, him hugging back. When we pull apart, he looks surprised.
"I thought the Dauntless weren't that affectionate." He gives me another smile.
"I go by my own rules. I thought you knew that by now," I tease him, and he nods seriously.
"Definitely." He looks me up and down, adding, "Nice outfit."
I look down at my Dauntless attire, which consists of a black t-shirt, black pants, and black combat boots.
I shrug. "What did you expect, pink?" I say, letting out a shallow laugh.
He nods, looking worriedly at me. "Are you okay?" he asks quietly, and I shake my head dismissively.
"Don't worry about me. How's Amity? Is it what you expected?"
"Aw, come on. Smile. I bet you haven't been truly happy since..." He sees the look on my face and stops short. "Sorry." He puts his hands on my shoulders. "Look. It's time to move on. We can do it together, okay?"
I shake my head. He doesn't understand. How am I supposed to be happy? How can I enjoy myself and pretend everything is okay, even though I watched so many people that I loved and cared for die? Rue, Mags, Finnick, Prim, Cinna. How is it possible to be happy when they are constantly on my mind? It just isn't.
I force a small smile for his sake, and he seems satisfied. "There you go! Now, tell me about what you had to do for initiation. I bet it was more exciting than us trying to annoy each other to insanity. We basically tried our best to annoy the others, and whoever cracked first was out," he explains. He leads me over to my table, sitting next to me and holding my hand.
"That doesn't sound very boring," I mutter, looking down at my lap.
"Listen, Katniss." I gaze up to meet his eyes. "You've been through a lot. We all have," he begins, gesturing around the room. "But we need to move on. No, we can't change our pasts. No, we can't bring back the dead. But we can live for now. And that's what you should focus on. Okay? We'll be fine. Most importantly, you'll be fine."
I take a deep breath. "You're right. Of course you're right. I'm sorry. I'll be better, I promise."
Peeta shakes his head. "Don't promise me. Promise yourself. Do you think Prim would want you moping around forever?"
I glare at him. "No."
"You see? That's one of your problems. You can't even talk about your sister anymore. Listen, Katniss. She's gone. She's not coming back. But that's okay."
I almost retaliate before noticing the tears gathering in his eyes. He hadn't even known Prim for that long and he is crying for her. I feel my own eyes tearing up, and I sniff and smile. A real one.
I will be fine. The past is in the past, and I need to move on from it and live my new life. I'll always know that somehow, some way, I'll be okay, and I will get through this. My past will always loom over me, but I have to use that as a reason to try, a reason to keep going. They will become my reason. I will do it for them, for the dead. I am Dauntless. I am brave.
I pull Peeta into a hug.
"I love you," I whisper, and he squeezes me tighter.
"I love you, too."