Crossed, Page 22Ally Condie
She’s going to the Rising.
“You were going to keep this from me,” Cassia says. “If Hunter hadn’t come back, I would never have known how to find the rebellion.”
I don’t answer. There’s nothing to say.
“What else are you hiding?” Cassia asks me, her voice breaking. She picks up the map and holds it in her hands. Carefully. The way she used to hold poetry on the Hill. “You lied about Xander’s secret, didn’t you? What is it?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“It’s not mine to tell,” I say. “It’s his.” It’s not just selfishness that keeps me from telling Cassia Xander’s secret. I know he wanted to tell her himself. I owe him that. He knew my secret—my status as an Aberration—and he never told anyone. Not even Cassia.
This isn’t a game. He’s not my opponent and Cassia’s not a prize.
“But this, on here,” Cassia says, looking at the map, “is a choice. You were going to get rid of my—our—chance to choose.”
The air in the house smells acrid and bitter from the burning cloth. I see with a chill that Cassia looks at me as a sorter would. Sifting facts. Calculating. Making a call. I know what she sees—the boy on the screen with the Society’s list scrolling up next to him. Not the one who stood with her on the Hill or the one who held her in the dark of the canyon with the moon above.
“Where’s Indie?” she asks.
“She went outside,” I say.
“I’ll find her,” Hunter says, and he disappears through the door and Cassia and I are alone.
“Ky,” she says, “this is the Rising.” A trace of excitement comes into her voice. “Don’t you want to be a part of something that could change everything?”
“No,” I say, and she steps back as if I’ve struck her physically.
“But we can’t run forever,” Cassia says.
“I’ve spent years holding still,” I say. “What do you think I was doing back in the Society?” Then my words come out in a rush and I can’t seem to stop. “You’re in love with the idea of the Rising, Cassia. But you don’t actually know what it is. You don’t know what it’s like to try to rebel and see everyone die around you. You don’t know.”
“You hate the Society,” Cassia says. Still trying to do the math, make the numbers add up. “But you don’t want to be part of the Rising.”
“I don’t trust the Society, and I don’t trust rebellions,” I say. “I don’t choose either of them. I’ve seen what they both can do.”
“Then what else is there?” she asks.
“We could join the farmers,” I say.
But I don’t think she even hears me.
“Tell me why,” she says. “Why would you want to lie to me? Why would you take a choice from me?”
Her gaze has softened and she’s looking at me as Ky again—the person she loves—and somehow that’s even worse. All the reasons I lied run through my head: because I can’t lose you, because I was jealous, because I don’t trust anyone, because I can’t even trust myself, because, because, because.
“You know why,” I say, anger flaring in me suddenly. At everything. Everyone. The Society, the Rising, my father, myself, Indie, Xander, Cassia.
“No, I don’t,” she begins, but I don’t let her finish.
“Fear,” I say, holding her gaze. “We were both afraid. I was afraid of losing you. You were afraid, back in the Borough. When you took my choice away from me.”
She steps back. I see it on her face that she knows what I’m talking about. She hasn’t forgotten it either.
Suddenly I’m back in that hot, shiny room with red hands and a blue uniform. Sweat runs down my back. I’m humiliated. I don’t want her to see me work. I wish that I could look up to catch a flash of her green eyes and let her know that I am still Ky. Not just another number.
“You sorted me,” I say.
“What else could I do?” she whispers. “They were watching.”
We’ve talked this through on the Hill but it seems different down in the canyons. It feels clear to me here that I will never reach her.
“I tried to fix it,” she says. “I came all this way to find you.”
“To find me, or to find the Rising?” I ask.
“Ky,” she says. And stops.
“I’m sorry,” I tell Cassia. “This is the one thing I can’t do for you. I can’t join the Rising.”
I’ve said it.
Her face looks pale in the darkness of the abandoned house. Somewhere above us the sky seeps rain and I think of snow falling. Pictures painted with water. Poetry breathed between kisses. Too beautiful to last.
Hunter pushes open the door behind us and walks in. Indie is with him. “We don’t have time for this,” he says. “There is a Rising. You can find it by following that map. Can you read the code?”
“Then the map is yours for telling me what was in the cave.”
“Thank you,” I say. I roll it up carefully. The map is made of thick cloth and dark paints. You could use it in the rain and drop it in the water and it would last. But it can’t hold up against fire. I look over at Ky, my heart aching, wishing we could bridge the river of what just happened as neatly as one could mark a crossing on a map.
“I’m leaving for the mountains to find the others,” Hunter says. “Those of you who don’t want to join the Rising can come with me.”
“I want to find the Rising,” Indie says.
“We can all go as far as the plain together, at least,” I say. We can’t come such a long way only to break apart so quickly.
“You should all start now,” Hunter says. “I’ll catch up to you when I’m finished blocking the cave.”
“Blocking the cave?” Indie asks.
“We made a plan to seal off the cave and make it look like a landslide,” Hunter says. “We don’t want the Society to get our papers. I promised the other farmers I’d do it. But it will take me some time to prepare everything. You shouldn’t wait.”
“No,” I say. “We can wait.” We can’t leave Hunter behind again. And though I know our group—our small, fragmented little group that has somehow come together—must splinter eventually, I don’t want it to happen now.
“So that’s why you saved some of the explosives,” Ky says to Hunter. I can’t read Ky’s expression—his face is closed-off, remote. This is the Ky of the Society again and I feel a sudden ache of loss at the Ky of the Carving. “I can help you.”
“You can wire?” Hunter says.
“Yes,” Ky says. “In exchange for something I saw in one of the caves.”
“A trade,” Hunter agrees.
What is Ky trading for? What does he want? Why won’t he look at me?
But no one argues anymore about splitting apart. We stay together.
While Ky and Hunter gather the wires, Indie and I hurry back to the caves to wake Eli and fill our packs with things we’ll need for the journey. We ready the cave for the explosion by sealing the lids on the boxes in the library and stacking them back against the wall so they’ll be protected. For some reason I’m drawn to the pages that have come loose from other books. I can’t resist; I put some of these papers into my pack along with food, water, matches. Hunter showed us where we could find headlamps and other gear for the journey and gave us extra packs; we fill them, too.
Eli tucks paintbrushes and papers in alongside his food. I don’t have the heart to tell him to throw them out and take more apples instead.
“I think we’re ready,” I say.
“Wait,” Indie says. We haven’t spoken much and I’ve been glad; I’m not sure what to say to her. I don’t understand her—why did she take the map to Ky first? What else has she been hiding? Does she even think we are friends?
“I have to give you something.” Indie reaches into her pack and takes out the delicate wasp nest. Even after everything, i
t’s still miraculously intact. She holds it carefully in her hands and an image comes to my mind of her lifting a shell from the edge of the ocean.
“No,” I say, touched. “You should keep it. You’re the one who brought it all this way.”
“That’s not what I mean,” Indie says, impatient. She reaches into the wasp nest and pulls something out.
It takes me a moment to understand.
“You stole this from me,” I whisper. “Back in the work camp.”
Indie nods. “It’s what I hid on the air ship. I pretended later that I hadn’t hidden anything, but I did. This.” She holds it out. “Take it.”
“And I took this from someone in the village.” She reaches into her pack again and pulls out a miniport. “Now you can view the microcard,” she says. “The only thing you’re missing now is one of the scraps. But that’s your own fault. You dropped it yourself when we were walking to the plain.”
Bewildered, I take the miniport, too. “You found one of the papers?” I ask. “Did you read it?”
Of course she did. She doesn’t even bother to answer the question. “That’s how I knew that Xander had a secret,” Indie says. “The scrap said he had one and that he’d tell you when he saw you again.”
“Where is it?” I ask Indie. “Give it back.”
“I can’t. It’s gone now. I gave it to Ky and he didn’t keep it.”
“Why?” I hold up the miniport, the microcard. “Why all of this?”
At first I think Indie won’t say anything. She turns her face away. But then she looks back and answers after all. Her expression is fierce; her muscles tense. “You didn’t belong,” she says. “I knew it the minute I saw you in the work camp. So I wanted to see who you were. What you were doing. At first I thought you might be a spy for the Society. Later I thought you might be working for the Rising. And you had all those blue tablets. I wasn’t sure what you planned with them.”
“So you stole from me,” I say. “Every step of the way, from the work camp into the Carving.”
“How else was I supposed to find out anything?” She gestures to the miniport. “And you have it all back now. Better, even. Now you can look at the microcard whenever you want.”
“I don’t have everything,” I say. “Remember? Part of Xander’s message is gone.”
“No it’s not,” Indie says. “I just told it to you.”
I want to scream in frustration. “What about the silver box?” I ask. “You took that, too.” It’s not rational but suddenly I want it back, that memento of Xander. I want back everything that I’ve ever lost, whether it’s been stolen or traded or taken. Ky’s compass. Bram’s watch. And, most of all, the compact from Grandfather with the poems snapped safely inside. If I had that back I’d never open it again. It would be enough to know that the poems were there.
I wish for the same thing with Ky, that I could tuck everything beautiful about our relationship inside and seal it up safe, shutting out all the mistakes we’ve both made.
“I left the box back at the work camp when I ran,” Indie says. “I dropped it in the forest.”
I remember how Indie always wanted to see the painting; how she threw it away when it disintegrated and I could tell that she cared; how she stood in the painted cave and stared at the girls in the dresses. Indie stole from me because she wanted what I had. I look at her and think that it’s like looking at a reflection in a rippled place in the river. The image is not quite exact—it’s distorted, churning—but so much the same. She’s a rebel with a streak of safety and I am the opposite.
“How did you hide the microcard?” I ask.
“They didn’t search me when they found me,” Indie says. “Only on the air ship. And you and I figured out a way around that.” She pushes her hair back from her face in a gesture that is perfectly Indie: abrupt but with an element of gracefulness about it somehow. I’ve never met anyone so direct and unashamed about trying to get what she wants. “Aren’t you going to look?” she asks.
I can’t help myself. I slide Xander’s microcard into the miniport and wait for his face to come up.
I should have seen this information back in my home in the Borough with maple leaves rustling outside. Bram could have teased me and my parents could have smiled. I could have looked at Xander’s face and seen nothing else.
But Ky’s face came up, and everything changed.
“There he is,” Indie says, almost involuntarily.
I had forgotten how he looked, even though it’s only been days since I’ve seen him. But it all comes back to me, and then his list of attributes begins to come up on the screen.
The list on the microcard is exactly the same as the one he concealed in the tablets; it’s what Xander wanted me to see. Look at me, he seems to say. As many times as it takes.
I don’t know how he added the extra line on the scrap Indie found. Could she be lying? I don’t think so. And I wonder why he didn’t just tell me his secret that day when we visited the Archivist. I thought we might not see each other again. Did he think differently?
But he didn’t mean for someone else to read all about him. I click back through the records. The microcard wasn’t only viewed last night; it was viewed the night before, the night before, the night before.
Indie’s been looking at this all along. When? While I was sleeping?
“Do you know Xander’s secret?” I ask her.
“I think so,” she says.
“Tell me, then,” I say.
“It’s his secret to tell,” she says, echoing Ky. Her voice sounds unrepentant, as always. But I notice something; a softening around her eyes as she looks at the picture on the screen.
And then I see. It’s not Ky she loves after all.
“You’re in love with Xander,” I say, my voice too hard, too cruel.
Indie doesn’t deny it. Xander is the kind of person an Aberration can never have. A golden boy, as close to perfect as they come in the Society.
He’s not her Match, though. He’s mine.
With Xander, I could have a family, a good job, be loved, be happy, live in a Borough with clean streets and neat lives. With Xander, I would be able to do the things I always thought I would.
But with Ky, I do things I never thought I could.
I want both.
But that’s impossible. I look again at Xander’s face. And, though he seems to tell me that he won’t change, I know he will. I know there are parts of him I don’t know, things happening in Camas that I don’t see, secrets of his that I haven’t learned that he will have to tell me himself. He makes mistakes, too—like giving me the blue tablets, a gift that was given with great risk and care but was not what he thought it would be. It didn’t save me.
Being with Xander might be less complicated, but it would still be love. And I have found that love brings you to new places.
“What did you want with Ky?” I ask Indie. “What were you trying to do when you showed him that scrap and gave him that map?”
“I could tell he knew more about the Rising than he’d say,” Indie says. “I wanted to make him tell me what it was.”
“Why did you give this back to me?” I say, holding out the microcard. “Why now?”
“You need to choose,” Indie says. “I don’t think you see either of them clearly.”
“And you do,” I say. Anger wells up in me. She doesn’t know Ky, not like I do. And she’s never even met Xander.
“I figured out Xander’s secret.” Indie moves toward the entrance of the cave. “And it never occurred to you that Ky might be the Pilot.”
She disappears through the door.
Someone touches my arm. Eli. His eyes are wide with worry and it shakes me out of my trance. We have to get Eli out of here. We have to hurry. This can all be sorted later.
I am tucking the microcard in my pack when I see it there among the blue.
My red tablet.r />
Indie and Ky and Xander are all immune.
But I don’t know what I am.
I hesitate. I could put that red in my mouth and I wouldn’t wait for it to dissolve. I would bite down, hard. Maybe even hard enough that my blood would mix with the red and it would truly be my choice, not the Society’s.
If the tablet works, I will forget everything that happened in the last twelve hours. I won’t remember what happened with Ky. I wouldn’t have to forgive him for lying to me because I wouldn’t know that he had. And I wouldn’t remember what he said about my sorting him.
If it doesn’t work, I will finally know, once and for all, if I’m immune. If I’m special like Ky, and Xander, and Indie.
I lift the tablet to my mouth. And then I hear a voice from a place deep in my memory.
You are strong enough to go without.
Fine, Grandfather, I think to myself. I will be strong enough to go without the tablet. But there are other things I’m not strong enough to go without, and I intend to fight for them.
Carrying the boat is like carrying a body; it’s heavy and bulky and awkward. “Only two can fit inside,” Hunter warns me.
“That doesn’t matter,” I say. “It’s still what I want.”
He looks at me as if he’s about to say something but then he decides against it.
We drop the boat in the little house at the edge of the township where Cassia, Indie, and Eli have gathered to wait for us. The boat hits the ground with a heavy thump.
“What is that?” Eli asks.
“A boat,” Hunter says. He doesn’t elaborate. Indie, Cassia, and Eli stare at the heavy roll of plastic in disbelief.
“I’ve never seen a boat like that,” Indie says.
“I’ve never seen a boat,” Cassia and Eli say at the same time, and then she smiles at him.
“It’s for the stream,” Indie realizes. “So some of us can get to the Rising fast.”