Matched, p.19
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       Matched, p.19

         Part #1 of Matched series by Ally Condie
 
Page 20

 

  It takes a long time to go through each name, but I final y get to the Ts. I find one poem by Tennyson and I want to read it but I don’t have time.

  There is no Thomas. There is a Thoreau. I touch that name; one poem of his, The Moon, has been saved. I wonder if he wrote anything else. If he did, it is gone now.

  Why did Grandfather give me those poems? Did he want me to find some meaning in them? Does he not want me to go gentle? What does that even mean? Am I supposed to fight against authority? I might as wel ask if he wants me to commit suicide. Because that’s what it would be. I wouldn’t actual y die, but if I tried to break the rules they’d take away everything I value. A Match. A family of my own. A good vocation. I would have nothing. I don’t think Grandfather would want that for me.

  I can’t figure it out. I’ve thought and thought about it and turned the words over in my head. I wish I could see the words again on paper and puzzle it out. For some reason, I feel like everything would be different if I could see them outside of myself, not only in my mind.

  I’ve realized one thing, though. Even though I’ve done the right thing—burned the words and tried to forget them—it doesn’t work. These words won’t go away.

  I’m relieved the minute I see Em sitting in the meal hal . She practical y glows, and when she sees me, she lifts her arm to wave. The Banquet went wel , then. She didn’t panic. She made it through. She isn’t dead.

  I hurry through the line, sliding into the seat next to her. “So,” I ask, even though I already know the answer, “how was the Banquet?” Her radiance shines on everyone in the room. Everyone at our table smiles.

  “It was perfect. ”

  “It’s not Lon, then?” I say, making a feeble joke. Lon was Matched a few months ago.

  Em laughs. “No. His name is Dalen. He’s from Acadia Province. ” Acadia is one of the more heavily forested provinces to the east, miles away from our rol ing hil s and rivered val eys here in Oria. They have stone in Acadia, and sea. Things we don’t have much of here.

  “And . . . ” I lean forward. So do the rest of our friends gathered at the table, al of us eager for details about the boy Em wil marry.

  “When he stood up, I thought, ‘He can’t be for me. ’ He’s tal and he smiled at me right through the screen. He didn’t even look a little bit nervous. ”

  “So he’s handsome?”

  “Of course. ” Em smiles. “And he didn’t seem too disappointed in me, either, thank goodness. ”

  “How could he be?” Em shines so radiantly today in her drab brown plainclothes that I imagine she was impossible to look away from last night in her yel ow dress. “So, he’s handsome. But what exactly does he look like?” I’m embarrassed to hear a hint of jealousy in my voice, plain and clear.

  No one gathered around me to find out what Xander was like. There was no mystery because they already knew.

  Em is kind enough to ignore it. “Actual y, a little like Xander . . . ” she begins, and then she breaks off.

  I fol ow her gaze to where Xander stands a few feet away from us, holding his foilware on a tray and looking stricken. Did he hear the jealousy in my voice when Em described her Match?

  What is wrong with me?

  I try to cover it up. “We’re talking about Em’s Match. He looks like you. ”

  Xander recovers quickly. “So he’s unbelievably handsome. ” He sits down next to me but he doesn’t look in my direction. I’m embarrassed. He definitely heard me.

  “Of course,” Em laughs. “I don’t know why I was so worried!” She blushes a little, probably remembering the night in the music hal , and looks at Xander. “It al turned out perfectly—the way you said it would. ”

  “I wish they stil let you print out a picture right away,” I say. “I want to see what he looks like. ” Em describes her Match and tel s us facts about Dalen that she learned from her microcard, but I’m too distracted to hear much. I worry that I’ve hurt Xander and I want him to look at me or take my hand, but he does neither of those things.

  Em grabs my arm on our way out of the meal hal . “Thank you so much for letting me borrow the compact. I think it helped to have something to hold onto, you know?”

  I nod, agreeing.

  “Ky gave it back to you this morning, didn’t he?”

  “No. ” My heart drops. Where is my compact? Why doesn’t Em have it?

  “He didn’t?” Em’s face pales.

  “No,” I say. “Why does he have it?”

  “I saw him on the air train after the Match Banquet. He was coming home late from work. I wanted you to have the compact back as soon as possible. ” Em takes a deep breath. “I knew you’d see Ky at hiking before you’d see me here, and I couldn’t bring it straight back to your house because I was worried I’d be late for curfew. ”

  “Hiking was canceled this morning because of the weather. ”

  “It was?” Hiking is the one summer leisure activity that absolutely can’t be done in inclement weather. Even swimming can be done in the indoor pool. Em looks sick. “I should have realized that. But why didn’t he find some way to get it to you? He knew how important it was. I made sure to tel him. ”

  Good question. But I don’t want this to ruin Em’s big moment. I don’t want her to worry. “I’m sure he gave it to Aida to give to my mother or father,” I say, trying to sound lighthearted. “Or he’l give it to me tomorrow at hiking. ”

  “Don’t worry,” Xander says, looking directly at me now. He reaches out with his words to cross the smal divides that keep coming between us.

  “You can trust Ky. ”

  CHAPTER 15

  As I walk to the air-train stop the next morning, things feel crisp, less weighted. The cool of the night accomplished what the rain yesterday did not; the air feels fresh. New. The sun blinking through the last of the clouds dares the birds to sing, and they do. It dares me to let the light in, and I do.

  Who wouldn’t rage against the death of something so beautiful?

  I’m not the only one who feels it. At hiking, Ky finds me standing at the front of the group, just as the Officer begins speaking. Ky presses the compact into my hand. I feel the touch of his fingers and I think he leaves them there, on mine, the smal est bit longer than necessary.

  I put the compact into my pocket.

  Why here? I wonder, stil tingling. Why not give it to me at home?

  I’m glad I lent it to Em, but I’m glad I have it back, too. The compact is the one link that I have left to my grandparents and I vow never to let it out of my hands again.

  I think maybe Ky wil wait for me to go in the woods, but he doesn’t. When the Officer blows the whistle, Ky takes off without a backward glance, and al at once my new-bright feeling dissolves a little bit.

  You have your compact back, I remind myself. Something returned.

  Ky disappears completely into the trees ahead of me.

  Something lost.

  Three minutes later, alone in the woods, I realize that Ky didn’t give me back my compact. It’s something else—I can tel the moment I pul it out of my pocket to make sure it looks al right. The object is similar: gold, a case you can snap open and shut, but it’s definitely not my artifact.

  There are letters—N,E,S,W—and an arrow on the inside. It spins and spins and keeps pointing back to me.

  I didn’t think that Aberrations could have access to artifacts, but Ky obviously does. Did he give it to me on purpose? By accident? Should I try to give it back or wait until he says something to me?

  There are far too many secrets in these woods, I decide. I find myself smiling, polished bright again, ready for the sun.

  “Sir? Sir? Lon’s fal en. We think he’s injured. ”

  The Officer swears under his breath and looks at Ky and me, who are the only two up on the top of the hil except for this boy. “You two stay up here and keep track of who comes when, al right?” The Officer gives me the datapod
and, before I can say anything, he disappears back into the forest with the boy.

  I think about tel ing Ky that we need to exchange artifacts, but before I say the words, something stops me. For some reason I want to hold on to the mysterious spinning arrow in its gold case. Just for another day or two.

  “What are you doing?” I ask him instead. His hand moves, making shapes and curves and lines in the grass that seem familiar.

  His blue eyes flash up to me. “I’m writing. ”

  Of course. That’s why the marks look familiar. He is writing in an old-fashioned, curved kind of writing, like the script on my compact. I’ve seen samples of it before but I don’t know how to do it. No one does. Al we can do is type. We could try to imitate the figures, but with what? We don’t have any of the old tools.

  But I realize as I watch Ky that you can make your own tools.

  “How did you learn to do this?” I don’t dare sit down next to him—someone could come through the trees at any moment and need me to enter them in the datapod—so I stand as close as I dare. He grimaces and I realize I am standing right in the middle of his words. I take a step back.

  Ky smiles but doesn’t answer; he keeps on writing.

  This is the difference between us. I live to sort; he knows how to create. He can write words whenever he wants. He can swirl them in the grass, write them in the sand, carve them in a tree.

  “No one knows I can do this,” Ky says. “Now I have a secret of yours and you have one of mine. ”

  “Just one?” I say, thinking of the spinning arrow in the gold case.

  Ky smiles again.

  Some of the rain from last night pooled in the heavy, drooping petals of the wildflowers here. I dip my finger in the water and try to write along the slick green surface of one of the broad leaves. It feels difficult, awkward. My hands are used to tapping a screen, not to sweeping and swirling in control ed movements. I haven’t held a paintbrush in years, not since my days in First School. Because the water is clear, I can’t real y see my letters but I stil know that they aren’t formed correctly.

  Ky dips his finger into another droplet and writes a glistening C on the leaf. He makes the curve smoothly, graceful y.

  “Wil you teach me?” I ask.

  “I’m not supposed to do that. ”

  “We’re not supposed to be doing any of this,” I remind him. Sounds drift up from the tangled trees and undergrowth below us. Someone is coming. I feel desperate to make him promise to teach me before anyone gets here and this moment vanishes. “We’re not supposed to know poems or writing or . . . ” I stop myself. I ask again. “Wil you teach me?”

  Ky doesn’t answer.

  We’re not alone anymore.

  Several people have reached the top, and from the wails I can hear through the forest, the Officer and Lon’s group are not far behind. I have to enter these names into the datapod, so I step away from Ky. I look back once at where he sits with his arms folded, looking out over the hil s.

  It turns out that Lon wil survive. Once the Officer cures the melodrama accompanying the injury, they find that al Lon has is a slightly twisted ankle.

 
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Matched