Dauntless

What if Tobias and Beatrice transferred to Dauntless in the same year? (Cover by the wonderful Rose)

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1. One

 

When I wake, a blanket of darkness surrounds me, accompanied by the sound of my own heavy breathing. But I have never been afraid of the dark. It’s the sharp sting of my back that terrifies me, a painful reminder of where I am. I must have hit my head when I came in here. Except, I didn’t just come into here. I was forced into here by the hand that had whipped my back just for asking a question. The same hand had held my mother’s as she birthed me sixteen years ago.

“This is for your own good, son.” I had it memorised by now, the words that followed each strike of the belt against the bare skin of my back. They haunted my dreams every night, transforming them into nightmares. The flat of my palms had become sticky with sweat and beads of it gathered on my forehead as I became aware of my surroundings. Four walls, not so far apart, were boxing me in. My heart was racing now, pounding against my rib cage in rhythm with my fists pounding against the door.

I knew no one would hear me. I knew no one would come for me. But I was trapped and I was desperate, hammering away until my knuckles were painted with purple bruises. There was nothing more I wanted than to escape from this confined closet, to escape from my father’s grasp.

I can see it, two days from now, at the Choosing Ceremony. It’s supposed to be the most difficult decision you ever make, sixteen years young, making a choice that will determine your future. But for me, it’s not about which faction I choose – Abnegation? Candor? Amity? Erudite? Dauntless? – it’s only about leaving the faction I have grown up in, leaving my father the way my mother had done. For me, it’s that easy. Yet, when the time comes I’m afraid that I won’t be able to do it, that I’ll stay in Abnegation and live in fear of my father for the rest of my life.

Tomorrow, I will take the Aptitude Test. The test will tell me which of the five factions I’m most suited for, to make the decision a little easier at the Choosing Ceremony. I’m scared it will tell me that I’m Abnegation. I don’t have to choose the faction I have an aptitude for, but that would give me the best chance of passing initiation and avoid becoming factionless. I’m supposed to trust the test. I’m not afraid of being factionless. It’s supposed to be worse than death. I’m not afraid of death either.

I hear the faint click of the front door as it closes, and heavy footsteps along the landing, growing louder as they approach me. The door of the closet opens and I’m face to face with my biggest fear, the man I have become so afraid of, the man I’m supposed to love.

“Tobias,” he says, stepping aside to finally let me out.

“Father.” I avoid eye contact, trying to mask the fear in my face as I brush past him.

He has just returned from work. My father works closely beside Andrew Prior, running the government as our faction is entrusted to do. He has invited Andrew’s family over for dinner tonight, a custom that happens at least once a week. But, it may be the last time our two families sit around the table together because Andrew’s children, Beatrice and Caleb, will also be choosing in two days.

I know I will not be of any use to my father in the kitchen, and I’m too afraid to ask, so I silently climb the concrete steps of our house and let myself into my bedroom. I close, and lock, the door behind me, sitting with my back against it, grateful for the barrier it forms between my father and I. For a while, I just sit there staring blankly at the dull grey walls and listening to the ticking of the clock. But I will myself to get up after some time knowing that my father will not take kindly to lateness for dinner. I get undressed, wincing as my shirt rubs against the new scars when I take it off. I would want to see what they look like, just to see how damaged I have become from my father’s abuse. But Abnegation don’t have mirrors.

Instead, I turn on the shower and let my body soak in the cold droplets of water. It stings, but I let it. I wish I could just wash it all away, but I can’t. Scars, I have learnt, are permanent. Over time, they may fade away physically, but emotionally they cannot be erased. I dry myself off with a towel and slip into another grey shirt and pants, just as the doorbell rings.

“Tobias!” My father’s voice reaches me loud and clear, even behind closed doors. I make my way back downstairs, standing beside my father, a false smile plastered on my face, as we greet our guests.

“Welcome,” my father says, extending a hand to greet Andrew. Beside him, is his wife, Natalie, carrying gifts in the form of food, and standing awkwardly behind her is Beatrice, a reflection of her mother in a plain grey dress and her blond hair tied back into a bun. My father ushers them inside and seats them at the table as I close the door behind them. I notice Caleb isn’t here today.

Once we’re all sitting, my father at the far end and I, beside Andrew, opposite Beatrice and her mother, a prayer of thanks is given to God. We eat in silence, save for the sound of our cutlery clattering against our plates, passing food around in a clockwise motion the way every other Abnegation does. Beatrice hands me the bowl of rice and my finger accidentally brushes hers as I take it. Her eyes fix onto a mine for a moment and I realise that I’m still staring at her long after she breaks away, lost in those stern blue eyes.

When we finish eating, we are permitted to speak again. My father asks me to clear the table, and Beatrice offers to help me, while our parents discuss politics. They close the door after we leave, letting us alone in the kitchen.

“Where’s Caleb?” I ask, unsure how to start the conversation between us.

She stands beside me, brushing my arms with hers as she dumps the plates into the sink, “Sick.”

“Oh.”

We work together, mostly in silence. I hand the wet dishes to her, and she dries them. “What do you think they’re talking about?” She asks.

“Who?” It’s a stupid question and she raises her eyebrows, confirming that it was indeed a stupid question. “Politics?” I say, shrugging my shoulders.

“Why do you think they closed the door?” I shrug again.

It doesn’t take us long to finish what we were assigned to do so we sit down opposite one another at the breakfast table in an awkward silence, looking at anything but each other. The first time I saw Beatrice was at my mother’s funeral, and occasionally I see her walking the hallways at school or in the Abnegation sector but I’ve always just admired her from a distance, wishing I had the courage to get closer. But now that she’s sitting so close to me, I’m too afraid to look at her so I stare at the table instead.

I don’t know what to ask her either. We’ve never been left alone like this before because Caleb has always been there. I decide to ask her about the one thing I haven’t stopped thinking about today. “Are you nervous for your test?”

“No,” she says, biting the inside of her bottom lip.

“You’re a terrible liar,” I point out.

“Guess I’m not cut out for Candor.” She smiles, but she’s not looking at me.

I push a little further. We’re not supposed to discuss the tests but I try anyway. “What do you think you’re going to choose?”

She looks at me then, quizzically, and I’m afraid she won’t answer. But after a moment of hesitation, she says, “I guess that depends on the result of my Aptitude test.”

“But if you were choosing right now, which faction would you choose?” Her blue eyes fall upon mine and they stay there this time.

“Abnegation,“ She says.

“You wouldn’t want to leave?” I ask, raising my eyebrows in question.

“No.” But she’s biting her bottom lip again, and there is an uncertainty in her tone. “What about you?” I don’t respond. “You’re not going to choose Abnegation?” I don’t look at her when she says this but I know that she’s surprised.

“What makes you say that?”

“You would do that?” She asks.

“Do what?” I reply, “I didn’t say I was leaving.” I can’t bring myself to look at her anymore, feeling a surge of guilt, though I do not know what for.

“I’m not stupid, Tobias,” I can feel her eyes upon my face, cutting into me, as she questions, “You would leave your father?”

“I have no reason to stay.” The words come out before I can stop them.

“Your mother d-“

I interrupt her before she can say it, “Beatrice, she didn’t die.” I almost choke on my next words, “She left.”

I turn my face to study hers. “But, I went to her funeral.”

“My father didn’t want to have to explain why she left.” I don’t know why I revealed this information to her. I had sworn to my father to keep it a secret.

“Why did she leave?” She asks.

“That’s not the point.” I answer as bluntly as possible, afraid that I’ll reveal too much , that I’ll reveal all the secrets I have worked so hard to keep hidden.

“Do you know where your mother is?” Her hands fall upon mine but I pull away reflexively. I know she was just trying to comfort me, but Abnegation rarely use physical contact so I find it discomforting.

“No.” As I answer her, there is rudeness in my tone. But she did nothing to deserve this. It’s all the anger I have built up towards my father that I have never been able to let out.

“How do you know she’s still alive?” Her is voice calm and compassionate.

“I don’t,” I say, “And if she was, I wouldn’t care.”

“How can you say that?” She doesn’t seem to understand but I don’t expect her to. I have told her everything, yet I have told her nothing.  

“She left me,” I choose my next words carefully, spitting the words out with disgust, “With him.” I don’t know what else I could possibly say and I don’t feel like saying anything else. I get up to leave, but her hand falls upon my arm, holding me back.

“I’m sorry.” I want to tell her she’s done nothing wrong to apologise for. I want to tell her everything. I want to, but something holds me back.

“Good luck,” I say, before I walk out.

In two days, at the Choosing Ceremony, I will walk out; on her, on my father, on our faction. And there will be no turning back.

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