Matched, p.20
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       Matched, p.20

         Part #1 of Matched series by Ally Condie
Page 21


  Stil , the Officer warns us to take it slow on our way back to the bottom of the hil .

  I want to walk down with Ky, but he attaches himself to the Officer and makes himself useful in getting Lon back down the mountain. I wonder why the Officer bothered hauling Lon to the top at al until I hear him muttering something to Ky about “making quota so they don’t get after me. ” It surprises me, even though I know Officers must report to people, too.

  I walk with a girl named Livy who is getting better and better at hiking as the days go on and who acts enthusiastic about everything. She talks and talks, and I imagine Ky’s hand making that sweeping curve of the C for my name and my heart beats faster.

  We’re late getting back; I have to rush to the train bound for the Borough, and Ky has to rush to the one that wil take him to the City for work. I’ve given up on talking to him again today when I feel someone brush past me. At the same time I hear a word so soft and quiet I wonder if he said it up on the hil and the wind has just now carried it down to me.

  The word is yes.


  I’m getting good at C. When I arrive at hiking I practical y sprint to the top of the hil . After I check in with the Officer, I hurry to my spot next to Ky.

  Before he can say anything, I pick up a stick and draw a C right there in the mud next to him.

  “What’s next?” I ask, and he laughs a little.

  “You know, you don’t need me. You could teach yourself,” he says. “You could look at the letters on your scribe or your reader. ”

  “They’re not the same,” I tel him. “They don’t connect like yours do. I’ve seen your kind of writing before, but I don’t know what it’s cal ed. ”

  “Cursive,” he says softly. “It’s harder to read, but it’s beautiful. It’s one of the old ways of writing. ”

  “That’s what I want to learn. ” I don’t want to copy the blocky, flat symbols of the letters we use now. I like the curves and sweeps of the ones Ky knows.

  Ky glances over at the Officer, who stares fiercely into the trees as though daring someone else to fal and get hurt today. We don’t have long before the others arrive.

  “What’s next?” I ask again.

  “A,” says Ky, showing me how to make a smal letter a, embraced by a little swoop at the beginning and at the end, to attach it to what comes before and after. “Because it’s the next letter in your name. ” He reaches and takes hold of the stick above my hand.

  Up, around, down.

  Guiding, gentle, his hand presses against mine on the downward strokes, releases a little on the upward ones. I bite my lip in concentration; or maybe it’s that I don’t dare to breathe until the a is finished, which it is, al too soon.

  The letter looks perfect. I exhale, a little shakily. I want to look up at him, but instead I look down at our hands, right next to each other. In this light, his don’t look so red. They look brown, strong. Purposeful.

  Someone is coming through the trees. We both let go at the same time.

  Livy bursts into the clearing. She’s never been third before, and she’s almost beside herself with excitement. While she chatters at the Officer, Ky and I stand up and casual y trample what we’ve written into oblivion.

  “Why am I learning to write the letters in my name first?”

  “Because even if that’s al you learn to write you’l stil have something,” he says, bending his head down to look at me, making sure I know what he’s saying, what he’s about to ask. “Was there anything else you wanted to learn to write instead?” I nod and his eyes brighten with understanding.

  “The words from that paper,” he whispers, his eyes moving to Livy and the Officer.

  “Yes. ”

  “Do you stil remember them?”

  I nod again.

  “Tel me a little every day,” he says, “and I’l remember it for you. Then there wil be two of us who know. ” Even though the time is short before Livy or the Officer or someone else comes over to talk to us, I pause for a moment. If I tel Ky these words, I step into an even more dangerous place than I was before. It wil put Ky in danger. And I wil have to trust him.

  Can I do it? I look out at the view from the top of the hil . The sky does not have an answer for me. The dome of City Hal in the distance certainly doesn’t. I remember thinking of the angels from the stories when I went to my Match Banquet. I don’t see any angels and they don’t fly down on their cotton-soft wings to whisper in my ear. Can I trust this boy who writes in the earth?

  Someplace deep within me—Is it my heart? Or perhaps my soul, the mythical part of humans that the angels cared about?—tel s me that I can.

  I lean closer to Ky. Neither of us looks at the other; we both gaze straight ahead to make sure that no one wil suspect anything if they glance our way. That’s when I whisper the words to him, my heart so ful it’s about to burst because I’m saying them, real y saying them out loud to another person: “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage, against the dying of the light. ” Ky closes his eyes.

  When he opens them again he slips something rough and papery into my hand. “Look at this for practice,” Ky says. “Destroy it when you’re done. ” I can hardly wait for Second School and sorting to end so that I can look at what Ky has given me. I wait until I’m at home in the kitchen, eating my dinner alone because my work hours were long tonight. I hear my father and Bram playing a game on the port in the foyer and I feel safe enough to reach into my pocket and pul out Ky’s gift.

  A napkin. My first reaction is disappointment. Why this? It’s a normal napkin, the kind we get from the meal hal s at Second School or the Arboretum or anywhere else. Brown and pulpy. Smeared and used. I have the impulse to incinerate it right away.


  When I open it up there are words inside. Gorgeous words. Cursive words. They were beautiful up on the green hil with the sound of wind in trees and they are beautiful here in my gray-and-blue kitchen with the grumbling of the incinerator in the background. Dark, curling, swirling words curve across the brown paper. Where dampness has touched them the words are slightly blurred.

  And it’s not just words. He’s drawn things, too. The surface is covered with lines and meaning. Not a picture, not a poem, not the lyrics to a song, although my sorting mind notices the pattern of al these things. But I can’t classify them. This is nothing I have seen before.

  I realize that I don’t even know what you would use to make marks like this. Al of the words I practice are written in the air or traced in the dirt.

  There used to be tools for writing but I don’t know what they were. Even our paintbrushes in school were tethered to artscreens, our pictures wiped away almost immediately after we finished them. Somehow, Ky must know a secret, older than Grandfather and his mother and people before them. How to make. Create.

  Two lives, he’s written.

  Two lives, I whisper to myself. The words hush and hang in the room, too soft for the port to hear above the other sounds in the house. Almost too soft for me to hear above my heart beating fast. Faster than it ever has in the woods or on the tracker.

  I should go to my room, to the relative privacy of that little place with my bed, my window. My closet where plainclothes hang, dead and stil . But I can’t stop staring. It’s hard, at first, for me to figure out what the picture is meant to be; but then I realize it’s him. Ky. Drawn twice, once on each side of the fold of the napkin. The line of his jaw gives it away; the shape of his eyes, the spareness and strength of his body. The spaces left empty; his hands and the nothing they hold, though they are cupped, tipped skyward, in both pictures.

  That’s where the similarity between the pictures ends. In the first picture, he looks up at something in the sky, and he looks younger, his face is open. The figure there seems to think his hands might stil be fil ed. In the second, he is older, his face narrower, and he looks down at the ground.

ng the bottom he has written Which one is the true one, I don’t ask, they don’t tell.

  Two lives. I think I understand this—his life before he came here, and his life after. But what does he mean by the line of song or poetry or plea at the end?

  “Cassia?” my father cal s from the doorway, behind me. I scoop the napkin up with my foilware from dinner and take it al toward the incinerator and the recycling bin.


  Even if he sees it, it’s a napkin, I tel myself, looking at the brown square on my tray. We incinerate them after every meal, and it’s even the right kind of paper, not like the one Grandfather gave me. The incineration tube won’t register the difference. Ky is keeping you safe. I lift my eyes to my father.

  “It’s a message for you on the port,” my father says. He doesn’t look down at what I carry; he’s focused on my face, to see what I’m thinking.

  Maybe it’s there that the real danger lies. I smile, try to look unconcerned.

  “Is it from Em?” I slide my foilware into the recycling bin. Only the napkin left.

  “No,” my father says. “An Official from the Match Department. ”

  “Oh. ” Just like that, I push the napkin down the incineration tube. “I’l be right there,” I say to my father. I feel the faintest hint of heat from the fire below as Ky’s story burns, and I wonder if I wil ever have the strength to hold onto something. Grandfather’s poems. Ky’s story. Or if I wil always be someone who destroys.

  Ky told you to destroy it, I tel myself. The man who wrote the poem is gone, but Ky is not. We have to keep it that way. Keep him safe.

  I fol ow my father into the foyer. Bram glares at me on his way out of the foyer because this message has interrupted his game. Hoping to hide my nervousness, I give him a playful shove as I walk toward the port.

  The Official on the screen is not one I’ve seen before. He’s a cheerful, burly looking man, not at al the cerebral, ascetic type I imagine hovering over datascreens in the Match Department. “Hel o, Cassia,” he says. The col ar of his white uniform seems tight around his neck, and he has laugh lines near his eyes.

  “Hel o. ” I want to look down and see if my hands are stained from the drawings, the words, but I keep my eyes on the Official.

  “It’s been over a month since your Match. ”

  “Yes, sir. ”

  “Other Matchees are arranging their first port-to-port communications now. I’ve spent the day putting those together for your peers. Of course, it would be rather ludicrous for you and Xander to have a formal port-to-port communication. ” The Official laughs cheerful y. “Don’t you think?”

  “I agree, sir. ”

  “The other Officials on the Matching Committee and I decided it makes the most sense for the two of you to have an outing together instead.

  Supervised, of course, by an Official, as are communications for the other Matchees. ”

  “Of course. ” Out of the corner of my eye I see my father standing in the door of his room, watching me. Watching over me. I’m glad he’s there.

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