Matched, p.21
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       Matched, p.21

         Part #1 of Matched series by Ally Condie
 
Page 22

 

  Even though the idea of spending time with Xander isn’t at al new or scary, the idea of an Official at our meeting feels a little strange.

  I hope it isn’t the Official from the greenspace, I think suddenly.

  “Excel ent. You’l be eating outside of your home tomorrow night. Xander and the Official assigned to your Match wil pick you up at your regular mealtime. ”

  “I’l be ready. ”

  The Official signs off and the port beeps, indicating that we have another cal waiting. “We’re popular this evening,” I say to my father, glad of the distraction so we don’t have to talk about my outing with Xander. My father already looks hopeful and hurries to stand next to me. It is my mother.

  “Cassia, can I speak with your father alone for a few minutes?” she asks me after we exchange hel os. “I don’t have much time to talk tonight. I have some things I need to tel him. ” She looks tired, and she stil wears her uniform and insignia from work.

  “Of course,” I say.

  A knock sounds at the door and I go to answer it. It’s Xander. “We stil have a few minutes before curfew,” he says. “Do you want to come talk on the steps with me?”

  “Of course. ” I close the door behind me and go outside. The porch light shines bright above us and we are in ful view of the world—or at least the world of Mapletree Borough—as we sit down on the cement steps side by side. It feels good to be with Xander, in a different way than it feels good to be with Ky.

  Stil . Being with Ky, being with Xander—both things feel like standing in the light. Different types of light, but neither feels dark.

  “It sounds like the two of us have an outing tomorrow night,” Xander says.

  “The three of us,” I say, and when he looks puzzled, I add, “Don’t forget the Official. ” Xander groans. “Right. How could I forget?”

  “I wish we could go alone. ”

  “Me too. ” Neither of us says anything for a moment. The wind sails along our street, ruffling the leaves on the maple trees. In the evening light the leaves look silver-gray; their colors are gone, sucked away for now by the night. I think of the night I sat with Grandfather and thought the same thing; I think of the old disease of color blindness, eliminated generations ago, and how the world might have looked to those people.

  “Do you ever daydream?” Xander asks me.

  “Al the time. ”

  “Did you ever daydream about your Match? Before the Banquet, I mean?”

  “Sometimes,” I say. I stop watching the play of the wind on the leaves of the maple tree and glance at Xander.

  I should have looked at Xander before I answered. It’s too late now. Now I can tel by his eyes that my answer wasn’t what he hoped, that by saying what I did I closed a door instead of opening it. Perhaps Xander dreamed about me and wanted to know if I dreamed about him. Perhaps he has moments of uncertainty, as I do, and needs me to tel him that I feel sure about the Match.

  This is the problem with being an uncommon Match. We know each other too wel . We feel the uncertainties in our touch, see them in each other’s eyes. We don’t work them out on our own miles away from each other the way the other Matches do. They don’t see the day-to-day. We do.

  Stil , we are a Match, and a deep understanding runs through us even in the midst of a misunderstanding. Xander reaches for my hand and I lace my fingers through his. This is the known. This is good. When I think about sitting on a porch with him on other nights in this life we’ve been given, I can picture it easily and happily.

  I want Xander to kiss me again. It’s late evening and there’s even a newrose smel in the air the way there was for our first kiss. I want him to kiss me again so that I know that what I feel for him is real, if it is more or less real than Ky’s hand brushing mine on top of the little hil .

  Down the street, the last air train from the City sighs into the station. A few moments later we see the figures of late workers hurrying down the sidewalks to get back to their houses by curfew.

  Xander stands up. “I’d better get back. See you tomorrow at school. ”

  “See you tomorrow,” I say. He squeezes my hand and joins the others on the sidewalk walking toward home.

  I don’t go inside. I watch the figures and wave to a few of them. I know who I’m waiting for. Just when I think I won’t see him, Ky pauses in front of my house. Almost before he’s stopped, I walk down the steps and over to talk to him.

  “I’ve been meaning to do this for the last few days,” Ky says. At first I think he’s reaching for my hand and my heart pauses, but then I see that he’s holding out something. One of the brown paper envelopes that people who work in offices sometimes use. He must have gotten it from his father. I realize right away that my compact might be inside, so I reach to take the envelope from him. Our hands do not touch and I find myself wishing that they had.

  What is wrong with me?

  “I have your . . . ” I pause because I don’t know what to cal the case that holds the spinning arrow.

  “I know. ” Ky smiles at me. The moon, hanging heavy and low in the sky near the horizon, is a harvest-yel ow slice like the melon we get to eat during the Autumn Holiday. The moon’s light brightens Ky’s face a little but his smile does even more.

  “It’s inside. ” I gesture behind me, at the steps and the lighted porch. “If you want to stay here, I can run in and get it. ”

  “That’s al right,” Ky says. “It can wait. You can give it to me later. ” His voice sounds quiet, almost shy. “I want you to have a chance to look at it. ” I wonder what color his eyes are right now. Do they reflect the black of the night or the light of the moon?

  I move closer to try to see, but as I do, the almost-curfew bel rings down the street and we both jump. “I’l see you tomorrow,” Ky says as he turns to leave.

  “See you then. ”

  I have five more minutes before I have to be inside, so I stay out and do not move. I watch him al the way down the street and then I look up at the moon in the sky and close my eyes. In my mind, I see the words I read earlier:

  Two lives.

  Ever since the day of the mistake with my Match, I’ve never known which life is my true one. Even with the reassurances of the Official that day in the greenspace, I think a part of me hasn’t felt at peace. It was as though I saw for the first time that life could branch into different paths, take different directions.

  Back inside the house, I tip my compact out of the envelope and take Ky’s artifact from its hiding place deep in the pocket of one of my extra sets of plainclothes. When I place them side by side, it’s easy to tel the difference between the two golden circles. The surface of Ky’s artifact is plain, scratched. The compact shines brighter, and its engraved letters catch my eye.

  On a whim, I pick up my artifact, twist the base, look inside. I know Ky saw me reading the poems in the forest. Did he also see me open the compact?

  What if Ky left a message for me?

  Nothing.

  I put the compact away on its shelf.

  I decide to keep the envelope, to put Ky’s artifact inside before I put it back in the pocket of my extra plainclothes for safekeeping. But before I do, I open the case and watch the spinning arrow. It settles on a point, but I stil spin, wondering where to go.

  CHAPTER 17

  The climb is almost too easy.

  I slap branches out of the way, leap over rocks and push through bushes. My feet have worn a path on this hil and I know where to go and how to get there. I wish for a bigger chal enge and for something harder to scale. I wish for the Hil with its fal en trees and ungroomed forest. Right now, I think, if they put me on the Hil I could run straight up it. And when I reached the top there would be a new view and maybe, if he came with me and we stood there together, I would learn even more about Ky.

  I can’t wait to see him and ask him about his story. Wil he have more for me?

  I burst through t
he trees and grin at the Officer.

  “Got some competition for your spot today,” he says as he records my climbing time on the datapod.

  What does he mean? I turn to see Ky. A girl sits next to him, bright golden hair streaming down her back. Livy.

  Ky laughs at something she says. He makes no move, no gesture to indicate that he wants me to come sit by him. He doesn’t even look at me.

  Livy’s taken my place. I take a step forward to get it back.

  Livy holds out a stick to Ky. He doesn’t even hesitate. He takes hold of it right above her hand, and I see him helping her make swirling motions in the dirt.

  Is he teaching her to write?

  My one step forward becomes many steps back as I turn and walk away from it al . From the glint of sunlight on her hair; from their hands, almost-touching, writing letters in the dirt; from Ky’s eyes looking away from me; from the spot in the sun with wind and whispered words that are supposed to be mine.

  How can I talk to Ky with her sitting right there? How can I learn how to write? How can I get more of his words?

  The answer is simple: I can’t.

  Back down at the bottom of the hil the Officer gives us a speech. “Tomorrow wil be different,” he tel s us. “Stay at the Arboretum air-train stop when you arrive and wait for me so I can lead you to the new site. We’re finished with this hil . ”

  “Final y,” Ky says behind me in a voice so quiet only I can hear. “I was beginning to feel like Sisyphus. ” I don’t know who Sisyphus is. I want to turn around and ask Ky, but I don’t. He taught Livy to write. Is he tel ing her his story, too? Did I trick myself into thinking I was special to him? Perhaps many girls know Ky’s story and have fal en for the gift of writing their names.

  Even as I think these things I know they are wrong, but I can’t clear my mind of the sight of his hand guiding hers.

  The Officer blows his whistle to dismiss us. I walk away, staying slightly separate from everyone else. I’ve walked a few steps when I hear Ky behind me.

  “Anything you want to tel me?” he asks softly. I know what he’s asking. He wants to hear more of the poem.

  I shake my head no, turn my face away. He didn’t have any words for me. Why should I give him any of mine?

  I wish my mother weren’t gone. The timing of this trip is strange—summer is the busiest season at the Arboretum, so many plants to tend—and I miss her for selfish reasons, too. How am I supposed to get ready for my first official outing with Xander without her?

  I put on a clean pair of plainclothes, wishing that I stil had the green dress. If I did, I would wear it again to remind both Xander and me of what everything was like just over a month ago.

  When I come out into the foyer, my father and my brother wait for me. “You look beautiful,” my father says.

  “You look al right,” Bram says.

  “Thanks,” I tel him, rol ing my eyes. Bram says this every time I go somewhere. Even on the night of the Match Banquet, he said the same thing. I like to think he said it with more sincerity, though.

  “Your mother’s going to try to cal tonight. She wants to hear al about the evening,” my father says.

 
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ALLY CONDIE SERIES:

Matched