Matched, p.10
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       Matched, p.10

         Part #1 of Matched series by Ally Condie
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Page 11

 

  They do not feel as true as they should.

  Em says something to Xander and he turns to answer. I stare straight ahead for a moment, thinking about how strange it is that I have started keeping secrets from Xander just as we have been Matched.

  “It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been able to spend Saturday night with al of you,” Ky says. I glance over at him as the lights begin to dim, softening his face and, somehow, lessening the space between us. His next words hold a trace of bitterness—only a trace, but more than I’ve ever heard from him. “Having my vocation keeps me busy. I’m glad you al don’t seem to mind. ”

  “It’s no trouble,” I say. “We’re your friends. ” But even as I say it, I wonder if we are. I don’t know him the way I know the others.

  “Friends. ” Ky says the word softly, and I wonder if he is thinking of the friends he must have had in the Outer Provinces.

  The theater goes dark. I know without looking that Ky isn’t turned toward me anymore and that Xander is. I look forward, straight into the black.

  I always enjoy these few seconds in the theater before a showing, when al is dark and I am waiting. I always feel a drop in my stomach—

  wondering if, when the lights of the showing come on, I might find myself completely alone. Or wondering if the lights won’t come up at al . I feel like I can’t be sure; not in that first moment. I don’t know why I like it.

  But of course the lights come on the screen and the showing begins and I am not alone. Xander sits on one side of me, Ky on the other, and in front of me the screen shows the beginnings of the Society.

  The cinematography is excel ent; swooping low across the blue ocean, the green of the coast, over snow-crowned mountains, and on into the golden fields of the Farmlands, over the white dome of our very own City Hal (the audience cheers when it comes into view). Across more rol ing green and gold toward another City, and another, and another. In each Province of the Society, people are likely cheering as they see their City—

  even if they have seen this showing before. When you see our Society like this, it’s hard not to feel proud. Which, of course, is the point.

  Ky takes a deep breath and I glance over at him. What I see surprises me. His eyes are wide and he has forgotten to keep his face stil and calm.

  Instead, it is alight with wonder. He seems to think that he is real y flying. He doesn’t even notice me watching.

  After that soaring beginning, however, the showing is basic. We go through how things used to be before the Society came into being and before everything worked according to statistics and predictions. Ky’s face settles back into its usual smooth expression; I keep sneaking glances over during different parts of the showing to see if he is reacting again. But he’s not.

  When they get to the part about the implementation of Matching, Xander turns to look at me. In the pale light from the screen, I see his smile and I smile back. Xander’s hand tightens on mine and I forget about Ky.

  Until the end.

  At the end, the showing takes us back to how things were before the Society. How things would be again if the Society fel . I don’t know what set they used for this, but it is almost laughable. They have gone over the top with the dramatic, barren redlands; the shabby little houses; the few sul en, hard, sad-looking actors walking around the dangerous, almost-empty streets. Then, as if out of nowhere, sinister black aircraft appear in the sky and the people run screaming away. The Anthem of the Society plays in the background, ornate higher notes crying across a strong bass line that pounds the feelings home.

  The scene is overdone. It’s ludicrous, especial y after the quiet scene at Grandfather’s that I witnessed on Sunday. This isn’t what death looks like. One of the actors fal s to the ground dramatical y. Garish red bloodstains cover his clothing. I hear Xander give a little snort of laughter next to me, and I know that he feels the same way I do. Feeling bad that I’ve ignored Ky for so long, I turn to him to share the joke.

  He is crying. Without a sound.

  A tear slips down his cheek and he brushes it away so quickly I almost don’t know if it was there, but it was. It was. And now another tear, gone as quickly as the first. His eyes are so ful that I wonder how he can see. But he does not look away from the screen.

  I am not used to seeing someone suffer. I turn away.

  When the movie ends, reprising the sweeping travelogue from the beginning, Ky takes a deep breath. I can tel that it aches. I don’t glance over at him again until the lights go back up in the theater. When they do, he is calm and composed and back to the Ky I know. Or the one I thought I knew.

  No one else has noticed. Ky does not know that I have seen him.

  I say nothing. I ask no questions. I turn away. This is who I am. But not who Grandfather thought you could be. The thought comes into my mind like a sideways glance, like a flash of blue next to me. Ky. Is he watching me? Waiting for me to meet his gaze?

  I wait one moment too long before I turn back. When I do, Ky is not looking at me anymore. If he ever was.

  CHAPTER 9

  Two days later, I stand with a group of other students in front of the main building of the Arboretum. An early morning mist lifts around us, shapes of people and trees appearing, it seems, out of nowhere.

  “Have you ever done this before?” the girl next to me asks. I don’t know her at al , so she must be from another Borough, a different Second School.

  “Not real y,” I say, distracted by the fact that one of the figures appearing out of the mist has the shape of Ky Markham. He moves quiet and strong. Careful. When he sees me, he lifts his hand to wave. Apparently he has signed up for hiking as his summer leisure activity, too. After a second’s pause, during which I smile and wave back at Ky, I add, “No. I’ve been walking. Never hiking. ”

  “No one has done this before,” says Lon, an annoying boy that I know from Second School. “It hasn’t been offered in years. ”

  “My grandfather knew how,” I say.

  Lon won’t shut up. “Knew? As in past tense? Is he dead?”

  Before I can answer, an Officer in Army green clears his throat as he comes to stand in front of us. He’s older with crisp-short white hair and olive skin. His coloring and bearing remind me of Grandfather.

  “Welcome,” the Officer says in a voice as clipped and sharp as his hair. He does not sound welcoming, and I realize that the similarities to Grandfather do not go far. I have to stop looking for Grandfather. He won’t materialize from the trees, no matter how much I wish it could happen.

  “I’m your instructor. You wil address me as Sir. ”

  Lon can’t stop himself. “Do we get to go on the Hil ?”

  The Officer fixes him with a gaze and Lon wilts.

  “No one,” the Officer says, “speaks without my permission. Is that understood?” We al nod.

  “We’re not going to waste any time. Let’s get started. ”

  He points behind him to one of the thickly forested Arboretum hil s. Not the Hil , not the big one, but one of the smal er foothil s that are usual y off-limits unless you’re an Arboretum employee. These smal hil s are not that high, but my mother tel s me that they are stil a good climb through underbrush and growth.

  “Get to the top of it,” he says, turning on his heel. “I’l be waiting. ”

  Is he serious? No tips? No training before we start?

  The Officer disappears into the undergrowth.

  Apparently he is serious. I feel a smal smile lifting the corners of my mouth, and I shake my head to get rid of it. I am the first to fol ow the Officer into the trees. They are thick summer green and when I push my way through them, they smel like Grandfather. Perhaps he is in the trees after al .

  And I think, If I ever dared to open that paper, this would be the place.

  I hear other people moving through the trees around me and behind me. The forest, even this type of semicultivated forest, is a noisy pla
ce, especial y with al of us tromping through it. Bushes smack, sticks crunch, and someone swears nearby. Probably Lon. I move faster. I have to fight against some of the bushes, but I make good progress.

  My sorting mind wishes I could identify the birdcal s around me and name the plants and flowers I see. My mother likely knows most of them, but I won’t ever have that kind of specialized knowledge unless working in the Arboretum becomes my vocation.

  The climb gets harder and steeper but not impossible. The little hil is stil part of the Arboretum proper, so it isn’t truly wild. My shoes become dirty, the soles covered in pine needles and leaves. I stop for a moment and look for a place to scrape off some of the mud so I can move faster.

  But, here in the Arboretum, the fal en trees and branches are al removed immediately after they fal . I have to settle for scraping my feet, one at a time, along the bark-bumped side of a tree.

  My feet feel lighter when I start walking again and I pick up speed. I see a smooth, round rock that looks like a polished egg, like the gift Bram gave to Grandfather. I leave it there, smal and brown in the grass, and I move even faster, pushing the branches out of my way and ignoring the scratches on my hands. Even when a pine branch snaps back and I feel the sharp slap of needles and sinewy branch on my face, I don’t stop.

  I’m going to be the first one to the top of this hil and I’m glad. There is a lightness to the trees ahead of me, and I know it is because there is sky and sun behind them instead of more forest. I’m almost there. Look at me, Grandfather, I think to myself, but of course he can’t hear me.

  Look at me.

  I veer suddenly and duck into the bushes. I fight my way through until I crouch alone in the middle of a thick patch of tangled leaves where I hope I wil be wel concealed. Dark brown plainclothes make good camouflage.

  My hands shake as I pul out the paper. Was this what I planned al along when I tucked the compact inside the pocket of my plainclothes this morning? Did I know somehow that I’d find the right moment here in the woods?

  I don’t know where else to read it. If I read it at home someone might find me. The same is true of the air train and school and work. It’s not quiet in this forest, crowded with vegetation and thick, muggy morning air wet against my skin. Bugs hum and birds sing. My arm brushes against a leaf and a drop of dew fal s onto the paper with a sound like ripe fruit dropping to the ground.

  What did Grandfather give me?

  I hold the weight of this secret in my palm and then I open it.

  I was right; the words are old. But even though I don’t recognize the type, I recognize the format.

  Grandfather gave me poetry.

  Of course. My great-grandmother. The Hundred Poems. I know without having to check on the school ports that this poem is not one of them. She took a great risk hiding this paper, and my grandfather and grandmother took a great risk keeping it. What poems could be worth losing everything for?

  The very first line stops me in my tracks and brings tears to my eyes and I don’t know why except that this one line speaks to me as nothing else ever has.

  Do not go gentle into that good night.

  I read on, through words I do not understand and ones that I do.

  I know why it spoke to Grandfather:

  Do not go gentle into that good night,

 
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ALLY CONDIE SERIES:

Matched