Crossed, p.29
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       Crossed, p.29

         Part #2 of Matched series by Ally Condie
Page 30


  I try not to think about the other reasons I don’t tell Cassia Xander’s secret.

  If she knows it, she might change her mind about him. And about me.

  Chapter 34


  Indie carries her pack even more carefully than before and I wonder if something happened to her wasp nest during our crawl into the Cavern. She brought the bag with her and, though she’s thin, I don’t know how she managed to protect it either coming or going in a space so tight. I don’t know how she could have kept the fragile shell of the nest from being crushed.

  Something about the story of Indie’s mother and the boat seems strange, like an echo coming off a canyon wall and leaving part of the original words behind. I wonder how well I really know Indie. But then she shifts her pack again and I have a sudden image of the fragile, papery nest inside, and a memory of a picture fallen to pieces and rose petals dry and light. I’ve known Indie since the work camps and she hasn’t let me down yet.

  Ky turns around and calls to us to hurry. Indie looks at him, and I see an expression very like hunger cross her face.

  You smell the rain here before you see it or feel it. If Ky’s favorite smell from the Outer Provinces is sage, I think mine is this rain that smells ancient and new, like rock and sky, river and desert. The clouds we saw earlier sail in the wind, and the sky turns purple, gray, blue as the sun goes down and we reach the township.

  “We can’t stay here for very long, can we?” Eli asks as we climb the path to the storage caves. A strip of lightning runs hot-white between earth and sky and thunder cracks through the canyon.

  “No,” Ky says. I agree, too. The danger of the Society coming in the canyons now seems to outweigh what we face out in the plain. We’ll have to move.

  “But we have to stop in the cave,” I say. “We need more food, and Indie and I don’t have any books or papers. ” And there might be something to find about the Rising.

  “The storm should buy us a little time,” Ky says.

  “How long?” I ask Ky.

  “A few hours,” Ky says. “The Society’s not our only danger. A storm like this could cause a flash flood in the canyon and then we couldn’t cross the stream. We’d be trapped. We’ll stay here just until the lightning stops. ”

  Such a long journey, and whether or not we find the Rising could all come down to a matter of hours. But I didn’t come to find the Rising, I remind myself, I came to find Ky, and I have. Whatever happens next, we’ll be together.

  Ky and I hurry through to the library cave and its piles of boxes. Indie follows us.

  “There’s so much,” I say, overwhelmed, as I open the lid of one of the boxes and see the pile of papers and books inside. This is an entirely different kind of sorting—so many pages, so much history. This is what happens when the Society does not edit and cut and prune for us.

  Some pages are printed; many are written by different people. Each handwriting is distinct, different, like the people who wrote them. They could all write. I suddenly feel panic. “How will I know what matters?” I ask Ky.

  “Think of some words,” he says, “and look for them. What do we need to know?”

  Together, we make a list. The Rising. The Society. The Enemy. The Pilot. We need to know about water and river and escape and food and survival.

  “You too,” Ky says to Indie. “Anything that has those words in it, put here. ” He points to the middle of the table.

  “I will,” Indie says. She holds his gaze for a moment. He doesn’t turn away first; she does, flipping open a book and scanning its pages.

  I find something that looks promising—a printed pamphlet. “We already have one of those,” Eli says. “Vick found a whole pile of them. ”

  I put down the brochure. Then I open a book and am instantly distracted by a poem.

  They dropped like Flakes -

  They dropped like Stars -

  Like Petals from a Rose -

  When suddenly across the June

  A wind with fingers - goes -

  It’s the poem where Hunter found the line for Sarah’s grave.

  The page has been torn out and shoved back in—in fact, the whole book is out of order and falling apart, almost as though it were headed for a fire on a Restoration site and then someone found it and put all its little bones back in. Parts of it are still missing—the front cover seems to have been improvised after the first one was lost. It’s now a plain square of heavy paper sewn over the pages, and I can’t find the name of the author anywhere.

  I turn over the pages to another poem:I did not reach Thee

  But my feet slip nearer every day

  Three Rivers and a Hill to cross

  One Desert and a Sea

  I shall not count the journey one

  When I am telling thee.

  The Hill. And then the desert, and the journey—it sounds like my story with Ky. Though I know I should be looking for other things, I keep reading to see how it might end:Two deserts, but the Year is cold

  So that will help the sand

  One desert crossed -

  The second one

  Will feel as cool as land

  Sahara is too little price

  To pay for thy Right hand.

  I would pay almost any price to be with Ky. I think I know what the poet means, though I don’t know anything about a Sahara. It sounds a little like Sarah, the name of Hunter’s daughter, but a child would be too high a price to pay for anyone’s hand.

  Death. Grandfather’s death back in Oria: a crust on a plate; a poem in a compact; clean white sheets; good last words. Death on top of the Carving: black burned marks; wide open eyes. Death down in the canyon: blue lines drawn; rain on a girl’s face.

  And in the cave, rows and rows of sparkling tubes.

  It would never be us, not again. Even if they pulled our bodies from the water and the earth and made us work and walk again, it would never be like the first time. Something would be missing. The Society cannot do this for us. We cannot do this for ourselves. There is something special, irreplaceable, about the first time living.

  Ky puts one book down and picks up another. Is he the one I loved first?

  Or was it the boy who gave me my first real kiss? Every scrap Xander has given me has a solid memory underneath, one so distinct I can almost touch and taste and smell it. I can almost hear it, calling me back.

  I always thought Xander was the lucky one to have been born in the Borough, but now I am not so sure. Ky has lost so much, but what he has is not a small thing. He can create. He can write his own words. Everything Xander has written in his life—tapped out on a port or a scribe—has not been his own. Others have always had access to his thoughts.

  When I meet Ky’s gaze the doubt I had a moment ago when he and Indie exchanged glances disappears. There is nothing uncertain in the way he looks at me. “What did you find?” he asks.

  “A poem,” I say. “I need to focus better. ”

  “So do I,” Ky says. He smiles “The first rule of sorting. It shouldn’t be so hard to remember. ”

  “Can you sort, too?” I ask, surprised. He’s never mentioned this before. It’s a specialized skill, not one that most people have.

  “Patrick taught me,” he says softly.

  Patrick? The shock must register on my face.

  “They thought Matthew would be a sorter someday,” Ky says. “Patrick wanted me to know how, too. He knew I’d never have a good work assignment. He wanted a way for me to be able to use my mind once I couldn’t go to school anymore. ”

  “But how did he teach you? The ports would have registered it if he showed you there. ”

  Ky nods. “He figured out another way. ” He swallows, glances across the cave at Indie. “Your father told Patrick what you’d done for Bram—how you made it so he could play games on the scribe. It gave Patrick an idea. He did something along the same lines. ”

And the Officials never noticed?”

  “He didn’t have me use my own scribe,” Ky says. “He traded for one—from the Archivists. He gave it to me the day I got my work assignment at the nutrition disposal center. That’s how I learned about the Archivists in Oria. ”

  Ky’s face stills; his voice grows far away. I know this look. It’s the way he looks when he says something that he hasn’t talked about in a long time, or ever before. “We knew the assignment wouldn’t be a good one. I wasn’t surprised. But after the Official left, I—” He pauses. “I went in my room and got out the compass. I sat there holding on to it for a while. ”

  I want to touch him, to hold him, to put that compass back in his hand. Tears start in my eyes and I listen as he speaks, even more softly now.

  “Then I got up and put on my new blue plainclothes and went to work. Aida and Patrick didn’t say a word. Neither did I. ”

  He glances at me and I reach for his hand, hoping he’ll want my touch. He does. His fingers tighten around mine and I feel myself taking in another part of his story. This happened to him, while I sat in my house on the very same street, eating my premade food and listening to the port and daydreaming about the perfect life that was about to be delivered to me, the way everything always was.

  “That night, Patrick came back into the house with a black market scribe. It was old. Heavy. With a screen so archaic it was laughable. At first I told him to take it back. I thought he’d risked too much. But Patrick told me not to worry about it. He told me that my father had sent him a page of old writing after Matthew died. Patrick said he’d used that page for the trade. He told me that he’d always planned to use it on something for me.

  “We went to the kitchen. Patrick thought the rumble of the incinerator would cover any sounds we made. We stood where the port couldn’t see us. So. That’s how he taught me how to sort—mostly without speaking—just by showing me. I hid the scribe with the compass in my room. ”

  “But that day the Officials came to take away all our artifacts,” I say. “How did you hide it then?”

  “I’d already traded the scribe when they came,” he says. “For the poem I gave you for your birthday. ” He smiles at me, his eyes back with me now. Back with me here in the Outer Provinces. We have come so far.

  “Ky,” I whisper. “That was too dangerous. What if they had caught you with the poem?”

  Ky smiles. “Even then, you were saving me. If you hadn’t told me the Thomas poem on the little hill, I would never have gone to the Archivists to exchange the scribe for your birthday poem. Patrick and I would have been caught. It was much easier to hide a single paper than it would have been to hide the scribe. ” He brushes his hand along my cheek. “Because of you, there was nothing for them to take when they came to the house. I’d already given you the compass. ”

  I put my arms around him. There was nothing for them to take because he had traded, given it all away, for me. Neither of us speaks for a moment.

  Then he shifts a little and points to a page in an open book before us. “There,” he says. “River. That’s one of the words we need,” and the way he says it, the way his mouth looks and his voice sounds, makes me want to leave these papers alone and spend my days in this cave or in one of the little houses or down by the water, trying only to solve the mystery of him.

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