Matched, p.27
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       Matched, p.27

         Part #1 of Matched series by Ally Condie
 
Page 28

 

  Except. He remembers it, and now I do, too.

  A message from Norah appears on my screen, interrupting my sort. Please report to the supervisor’s station. I lift my head to look across the sorting slots toward Norah, and then I stand straight up in surprise.

  The Officials are back for me.

  They watch me as I walk along the aisles of other workers and I think I see approval in their eyes. I feel relieved.

  “Congratulations,” the gray-haired Official tel s me when I reach them. “You scored very wel on your test. ”

  “Thank you,” I say, as I always do to the Officials. But this time I mean it.

  “The next step is a real-life sort,” the Official tel s me. “At some point in the near future, we wil come and escort you to the site of the test. ” I nod. I’ve heard about this, too. They’l take you to sort something real—actual data, like news, or actual people, or a smal subset of a school class—to see if you can apply things in the real world. If you can, you move on to the next step, which is likely your final work position.

  This is happening quickly. In fact, everything seems hurried lately: the hasty removal of the artifacts from personal residences, my mother’s sudden trip, and now this, more and more of us leaving school early in the year.

  The Officials wait for me to respond.

  “Thank you,” I say.

  In the afternoon my mother receives a message at work: Go home and pack. She is needed for another trip; it may be even longer than the last one.

  I can tel my father doesn’t like this; and neither does Bram. Neither do I, as a matter of fact.

  I sit on the bed and watch her as she packs. She folds her two extra sets of plainclothes. She folds her pajamas, underclothes, socks. She opens her tablet container and checks the tablets.

  She’s missing one, the green tablet. She glances up at me and I look away.

  It makes me think that perhaps these trips are harder than they seem and I realize that in seeing the missing tablet, I haven’t seen an example of her weakness but an example of her strength. What she’s dealing with is difficult enough to make her take the green tablet, so it must also be difficult to keep inside, to not share with us. But she is strong and she keeps the secrets because it protects us.

  “Cassia? Mol y?” My father walks into the room and I stand up to leave. I move quickly over to my mother to embrace her. When I step back, our eyes meet and I smile at her. I want her to know that I know that I shouldn’t have looked away earlier. I’m not ashamed of her. I know how hard it is to keep a secret. I may be a sorter like my father and my grandfather before me, but I am also my mother’s daughter.

  On Monday morning, Ky and I walk into the trees and find the spot where we stopped the time before. We start marking again with red flags. I wish it were so easy to begin where we left off in other ways. At first I hesitate, not wanting to disturb the peace of these woods with the horror of the Outer Provinces, but he has suffered so long alone that I can’t bear to make him wait one more minute.

  “Ky. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry they are gone. ”

  He doesn’t say anything but bends to tie a red cloth around a particularly thorny shrub. His hands shake a bit. I know what that brief moment of losing control means for someone like Ky and I want to comfort him. I place my hand on his back, gently, softly, just enough so that he knows I am there. As my hand meets the cloth of his shirt he spins around and I pul back when I see the pain in his eyes. His look begs me not to say any more; it is enough that I know. It may be too much.

  “Who’s Sisyphus?” I ask, trying to think of something to distract him. “You mentioned his name once. When the Officer told us that we were going to start coming to the Hil . ”

  “Someone whose story has been told for a long time. ” Ky stands up and starts walking again. I can tel that he needs to keep moving today. “It was one of my father’s favorite stories to tel . I think he wanted to be like Sisyphus, because Sisyphus was crafty and sneaky and always causing trouble for the Society and the Officials. ”

  Ky’s never talked about his father before. Ky’s voice sounds flat; I can’t tel from his tone how he feels about the man who died years ago, the man whose name Ky held in his hand in the picture.

  “There’s a story about how Sisyphus once asked an Official to show him how a weapon worked and then he turned it on the Official. ” I must look shocked, but Ky seems to have anticipated my surprise. His eyes are kind as he explains. “It’s an old story, from back when the Officials carried weapons. They don’t use them anymore. ”

  What he doesn’t say, but what we both know, is They don’t have to. The threat of Reclassification is enough to keep almost everyone in line.

  Ky turns back, pushes his way ahead. I watch him move, the muscles in his back inches away from me; I fol ow close so that I can slip through the branches he holds back for me. The smel of the forest seems, for a moment, to be simply the smel of him. I wonder what sage smel s like, the smel he said was his favorite in his old life. I hope that the smel of this forest is his favorite now. I know it is mine.

  “The Society decided that they needed to give Sisyphus a punishment, a special one, because he dared to think he could be as clever as one of them, when he wasn’t an Official, or even a citizen. He was nothing. An Aberration from the Outer Provinces. ”

  “What did they do to him?”

  “They gave him a job. He had to rol a rock, a huge one, to the top of a mountain. ”

  “That doesn’t sound so terrible. ” There’s relief in my voice. If the story ends wel for Sisyphus, maybe it can end wel for Ky.

  “It wasn’t as easy as it sounds. As he was about to reach the top, the rock rol ed back to the bottom and he had to start again. That happened every time. He never got the rock to the top. He went on pushing forever. ”

  “I see,” I say, realizing why our hikes on the little hil reminded Ky of Sisyphus. Day after day we did the same thing: climbed back up and came back down. “But we did make it to the top of the little hil . ”

  “We were never al owed to stay there for long,” Ky points out.

  “Was he from your Province?” I stop for a moment, thinking I’ve heard the Officer’s whistle, but it’s merely a shril birdcal from the canopy of leaves above us.

  “I don’t know. I don’t know if he’s real,” Ky says. “If he ever existed. ”

  “Then why tel his story?” I don’t understand, and for a second I feel betrayed. Why did Ky tel me about this person and make me feel empathy for him when there’s no proof that he ever lived at al ?

  Ky pauses for a moment before he answers, his eyes wide and deep like the oceans in other tales or like the sky in his own. “Even if he didn’t live his story, enough of us have lived lives just like it. So it’s true anyway. ”

  I think about what Ky said while we move again, quickly, tying off areas and helping each other around and through the tangled parts of the forest.

  There’s a smel here that I have smel ed before: a smel of decay, but it doesn’t seem rotten. It smel s almost rich, the scent of the plants returning to the earth, of wood giving way to dust.

  But the Hil could be hiding something. I remember Ky’s words and pictures and I realize that no place is completely good. No place is completely bad. I’ve been thinking in terms of absolutes; first, I believed our Society was perfect. The night they came for our artifacts, I believed it was evil.

  Now I simply don’t know.

  Ky blurs the lines for me. He helps me see clearly, too. And I hope I do the same for him.

  “Why do you throw the games?” I ask him as we pause in a smal clearing.

  His face tightens. “I have to. ”

  “Every time? Don’t you even let yourself think about winning?”

  “I always think about winning,” Ky tel s me. There’s fire in his eyes again, and he snaps a branch off a tree to make room for us to go through. He to
sses the first branch to the side and holds another one back, waiting for me to pass, but I stay right there next to him. He looks down at me, shadows from the leaves crossing his face, and also sun. He’s looking at my lips, which makes it hard to speak, even though I know what I want to say.

  “Xander knows you lose on purpose. ”

  “I know he does,” Ky says. A smile tugs at the corners of his mouth, like the one I thought I saw last night. “Any other questions?”

  “Just one,” I say. “What color are your eyes?” I want to know what he thinks, how he sees himself—the real Ky—when he dares to look.

  “Blue,” he says, sounding surprised. “They’ve always been blue. ”

  “Not to me. ”

  “What do they look like to you?” he says, puzzled, amused. Not looking at my mouth anymore, looking into my eyes.

  “Lots of colors,” I say. “At first, I thought they were brown. Once I thought they were green, and another time gray. They are most often blue, though. ”

  “What are they now?” he asks. He widens his eyes a little, leans closer, lets me look as long and as deep as I want.

  And there’s so much to see. They are blue, and black, and other colors, too, and I know some of what they’ve seen and what I hope they see now.

  Me. Cassia. What I feel, who I am.

  “Wel ?” Ky asks.

  “Everything,” I tel him. “They’re everything. ”

  Neither of us moves for a moment, locked instead in each other’s eyes and in the branches of this Hil we might never finish climbing. I’m the one who moves first. I step past him and push my way through some more tangled leaves, climb over a smal fal en tree.

  Behind me I hear Ky doing the same.

  I’m fal ing in love. I am in love. And it’s not with Xander, although I do love him. I’m sure of that, as sure as I am of the fact that what I feel for Ky is something different.

  As I tie another red flag on the trees and wish for the fal of our Society and its systems, including the Matching System, so that I can be with Ky, I realize that it is a selfish wish. Even if the fal of our Society would make life better for some, it would make it worse for others. Who am I to try to change things, to get greedy and want more? If our Society changes and things are different, who am I to tell the girl who would have enjoyed the safe protected life that now she has to have choice and danger because of me?

  The answer is: I’m not anyone. I’m just one of the people who happened to fal in the majority. Al my life, the odds have been on my side.

  “Cassia,” Ky says. He snaps another branch off and bends down in a swift movement to write in the thick dirt on the forest floor. He has to push away a layer of leaves and a spider hurries away. “Look,” he says, showing me another letter. K.

  Thankful for the distraction, I crouch down beside him. This letter is more difficult and it takes me several tries to even come close. In spite of my practice with the other letters my hands are stil not used to this; to writing in any way but tapping. When I final y get it right and look up, I see that Ky is grinning at me.

 
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ALLY CONDIE SERIES:

Matched