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Home > Four: The Traitor (Divergent 0.4)(5)

Four: The Traitor (Divergent 0.4)(5)
Author: Veronica Roth

“Did you think overcoming cowardice would be easy?” I say.

“That isn’t overcoming cowardice! Cowardice is how you decide to be in real life, and in real life, I am not getting pecked to death by crows, Four!”

She starts to cry, but I’m too struck by what she just said to feel uncomfortable with her tears. She’s not learning the lessons Eric wants her to learn. She’s learning different things, wiser ones.

“I want to go home,” she says.

I know where the cameras are in this hallway. I hope none of them have picked up on what she just said.

“Learning how to think in the midst of fear is a lesson that everyone, even your Stiff family, needs to learn,” I say. I doubt a lot of things about Dauntless initiation, but the fear simulations aren’t one of them; they are the most straightforward way for a person to engage their own fears and conquer them, far more straightforward than the knife throwing or the fighting. “That’s what we’re trying to teach you. If you can’t learn it, you’ll need to get the hell out of here, because we won’t want you.”

I’m hard on her because I know she can handle it. And also because I don’t know any other way to be.

“I’m trying. But I failed. I’m failing.”

I almost feel like laughing. “How long do you think you spent in that hallucination, Tris?”

“I don’t know. A half hour?”

“Three minutes,” I say. “You got out three times faster than any of the other initiates. Whatever you are, you’re not a failure.”

You might be Divergent, I think. But she didn’t do anything to change the simulation, so maybe she’s not. Maybe she’s just that brave.

I smile at her. “Tomorrow you’ll be better at this. You’ll see.”

“Tomorrow?”

She’s calmer now. I touch her back, right beneath her shoulders.

“What was your first hallucination?” she asks me.

“It wasn’t a ‘what’ so much as a ‘who.’” As I’m saying it, I think I should have just told her the first obstacle in my fear landscape, fear of heights, though it’s not exactly what she’s asking about. When I’m around her I can’t control what I say the way I do around other people. I say vague things because that’s as close as I can get to stopping myself from saying anything, my mind addled by the feeling of her body through her shirt. “It’s not important.”

“And are you over that fear now?”

“Not yet.” We’re at the dormitory door. The walk has never gone by so quickly. I put my hands in my pockets so I don’t do anything stupid with them again. “I may never be.”

“So they don’t go away?”

“Sometimes they do. And sometimes new fears replace them. But becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it, that’s the point.”

She nods. I don’t know what she came here for, but if I had to guess, it would be that she chose Dauntless for its freedom. Abnegation would have stifled the spark in her until it died out. Dauntless, for all its faults, has kindled the spark into a flame.

“Anyway,” I say. “Your fears are rarely what they appear to be in the simulation.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, are you really afraid of crows?” I grin. “When you see one, do you run away screaming?”

“No, I guess not.”

She moves closer to me. I felt safer when there was more space between us. Even closer, and I think about touching her, and my mouth goes dry. I almost never think about people that way, about girls that way.

“So what am I really afraid of?” she says.

“I don’t know,” I say. “Only you can know.”

“I didn’t know Dauntless would be this difficult.”

I’m glad to have something else to think about, other than how easy it would be to fit my hand to the arch of her back.

“It wasn’t always like this, I’m told. Being Dauntless, I mean.”

“What changed?”

“The leadership. The person who controls training sets the standard of Dauntless behavior. Six years ago Max and the other leaders changed the training methods to make them more competitive and more brutal.” Six years ago, the combat portion of training was brief and didn’t include bare-knuckled sparring. Initiates wore padding. The emphasis was on being strong and capable, and on developing camaraderie with the other initiates. And even when I was an initiate, it was better than this—an unlimited potential for initiates to become members, fights that stopped when one person conceded. “Said it was to test people’s strength. And that changed the priorities of Dauntless as a whole. Bet you can’t guess who the leaders’ new protégé is.”

Of course, she does immediately. “So if you were ranked first in your initiate class, what was Eric’s rank?”

“Second.”

“So he was their second choice for leadership. And you were their first.”

Perceptive. I don’t know that I was the first choice, but I was certainly a better option than Eric. “What makes you say that?”

“The way Eric was acting at dinner the first night. Jealous, even though he has what he wants.”

I’ve never thought of Eric that way. Jealous? Of what? I’ve never taken anything from him, never posed a real threat to him. He’s the one who came after Amar, who came after me. But maybe she’s right—maybe I never saw how frustrated he was to be second to a transfer from Abnegation, after all his hard work, or that I was favored by Max for leadership even when he was positioned here specifically to take the leadership role.

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