Crossed, p.32
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       Crossed, p.32

         Part #2 of Matched series by Ally Condie
 
Page 33

 

  “Later, in the village, I heard Cassia talking with that boy about the Pilot, and about you. She wanted to follow you, and that’s when I first thought you might be the Pilot. I thought Cassia knew that you were the Pilot, but that she was keeping it a secret from me. ”

  Indie laughs. “Later I realized that she wasn’t lying to me. She hadn’t told me that you were the Pilot because she hadn’t realized it herself. ”

  “She’s right. ” I say it again. “I’m not. ”

  Indie shakes her head dismissively. “Fine. But what about the red tablet?”

  “What do you mean?”

  “It doesn’t work on you, does it?” she asks.

  I don’t answer but she knows.

  “It doesn’t work on me, either,” she says. “And I bet it doesn’t work on Xander. ” She doesn’t wait for me to confirm or deny. “I think some of us are special. The Rising has chosen us somehow. Why else would we be immune?” Her voice is eager and again I know how she feels. To go from discarded to chosen—it’s what all Aberrations want.

  “If we are, the Rising didn’t do anything to save us when the Society sent us out here,” I remind her.

  Indie looks at me scornfully. “Why should they?” she says. “If we can’t find our way to them on our own, we shouldn’t be part of the rebellion. ” She lifts her chin. “I can’t tell exactly what the map says, but I know it tells us how to get to the Rising. It’s like my mother said it would be. That black spot is the ocean. Where the words are—that’s an island. We just have to get there. And I found the map. Not Cassia. ”

  “You’re jealous of her,” I say. “Is that why you let her take the blue tablet?”

  “No. ” Indie sounds surprised. “I didn’t see her take it. I would have stopped her. I didn’t want her to die. ”

  “You’re willing to leave her here. And Eli. ”

  “It’s not the same thing,” Indie says. “The Society will find her and take her back where she belongs. She’ll be fine. Eli too. He’s so young. It must have been a mistake that he ended up out here. ”

  “And what if it’s not?” I ask.

  She sends me a long, searching look. “You’ve left people and run away. Don’t act like you don’t understand. ”

  “I’m not going to leave her,” I say.

  “I didn’t think you would,” Indie says. But she’s not defeated. “That’s partly why I gave you the scrap about Xander’s secret. To remind you, if it came to this. ”

  “Remind me of what?”

  Indie smiles. “That you’re going to be a part of the Rising one way or another. You don’t want to run and come with me. Fine. But you’re still going to be part of the Rising no matter what. ” She reaches for the miniport and I let her take it. “You’ll join because you want Cassia and it’s what she wants to do. ”

  I shake my head. No.

  “Don’t you think it would be better for you to be part of the Rising?” Indie says bluntly. “The leader, even? Otherwise, why would she choose you when she could have Xander?”

  Why would Cassia choose me?

  Predicted occupations: nutrition disposal worker, decoy villager.

  Predicted chance of success: Not applicable to Aberrations.

  Predicted life span: 17. Sent to die in the Outer Provinces.

  Cassia would argue that she doesn’t see me the way the Society sees me. She’d say their list didn’t matter.

  And to her it doesn’t. That’s part of why I love her.

  But I don’t think she would choose me if she knew Xander’s secret. Indie gave me the scrap because she wanted to play on my insecurities about Cassia and Xander. But that paper—and the secret—mean even more than Indie guesses.

  Something must show in my face—the truth of what Indie’s said. Her eyes widen and I can almost see her thoughts settling into place: My reluctance to join the Rising. Xander’s face on the microcard. Indie’s own obsession with him and with finding the rebellion. In the whirling, determined kaleidoscope of Indie’s bright, peculiar mind, these pieces make a picture that shows her the truth.

  “That’s it,” she says, her voice certain. “You can’t let her go to the Rising without you or you might lose her. ” She smiles. “Because that’s the secret: Xander is part of the Rising. ”

  It was the week before the Match Banquet.

  They found me walking home and said, “Aren’t you tired of losing, wouldn’t you like to win, wouldn’t you like to join us, with us you could win. ” I told them no. I said I’d seen how they lost and I’d rather lose my own way.

  Xander found me the next evening. I was out in the front yard planting newroses in Patrick and Aida’s flower bed. He stood next to me and smiled and acted as though we were talking about something common and everyday.

  “Did you join?” he asked.

  “Join what?” I asked Xander. I wiped the sweat from my face. Back then I liked digging. I had no idea how much I’d have to do later.

  Xander bent down and pretended to help me. “The rebellion,” he said quietly. “Against the Society. Someone approached me this week. You’re part of it, too, aren’t you?”

  “No,” I told Xander.

  His eyes widened. “I thought you would be. I was sure of it. ”

  I shook my head.

  “I thought we’d both be in it,” he said. His voice sounded strange, confused. I hadn’t heard Xander sound that way before. “I thought you’d probably known about it all along. ” He paused. “Do you think they asked her, too?”

  We both knew who he meant. Cassia. Of course.

  “I don’t know,” I told Xander. “It seems probable. They asked us. They must have had a list of people to approach in the Borough. ”

  “What happens to the people who say no?” Xander asked me. “Did they give you a red tablet?”

  “No,” I said.

  “Maybe they don’t have access to red tablets,” Xander said. “I work at the medical center, and I don’t even know where the Society keeps the red ones. It’s somewhere away from the blue and the green. ”

  “Or it might be that the rebellion only asks people to join who won’t turn them in,” I said.

  “How could they know that?”

  “Some of them are still in the Society,” I reminded him. “They have our data. They can try to predict what we’ll do. ” I paused. “And they’re right. You won’t turn them in because you joined. I won’t turn them in because I didn’t. ” And because I’m an Aberration, I thought but didn’t say. The last thing I want to do is draw attention to myself. Especially with a report about a rebellion.

  “Why don’t you join?” Xander asked. There wasn’t any mockery in his tone. He only wanted to know. For the first time since I’d known him I saw something like fear in his eyes.

  “Because I don’t believe in it,” I told him.

  Xander and I were never sure if the rebellion had approached Cassia. And we didn’t know if she’d taken a red tablet. We couldn’t ask her either question without putting her in danger.

  Later, when I saw her reading those two poems in the forest, I thought I’d made the wrong choice. I thought she had the Tennyson poem because it was a Rising poem, and I’d missed my chance to be in the rebellion with her. But then I found out that the poem she truly loved was the other one. She chose her own way. And I fell even more deeply in love with her.

  “Do you really want to join the Rising?” I ask Indie.

  “Yes,” Indie says. “Yes. ”

  “No,” I tell her. “You want it now. You might be happy there for a few months, a few years, but it’s not you. ”

  “You don’t know me,” she says.

  “Yes, I do,” I say. I lean in fast and close and touch her hand again. She holds her breath. “Forget about all this,” I say. “We don’t need the Rising. The farmers are out there. We’ll all go together, you and me and Cassia and Eli. Somewhere new. What happened to
the girl who wanted to leave and lose sight of the shore?” I grab her hand tight and hold on.

  Indie looks up, her face stunned. When Cassia told me Indie’s story, I realized what had happened. Indie had told the version about her mother and the boat and the water so many times that she began to believe it too.

  But now she remembers what she’s trying to forget. That it wasn’t about her mother. It was about her. After hearing her mother’s song all her life, Indie built the boat and caused her own Reclassification. She failed to find the Rising. She never even lost sight of the shore. And, eventually, the Society sent her away from the ocean to die in the desert.

  I know it happened that way because I know Indie. She’s not the kind of person to watch someone else build a boat and set sail without her.

  Indie wants to find the Rising so badly she can’t see anything else. Certainly not me. I’m even worse than she thought I was.

  “I’m sorry, Indie,” I say, and I feel sorry. I ache all over with how sorry I am for what I’m about to do. “But the Rising can’t save any of us. I’ve seen what happens when you join with them. ” I strike a match at the edge of the map. Indie cries out but I hold her off. The fire licks the edge of the fabric.

  “No,” Indie cries, trying to snatch the map again. I push her away. She looks around but we both left our canteens back in the cave. “No,” Indie cries out again, and pushes past me out the door.

  I don’t try to stop her. Whatever she tries to do—catch the rain or go to the river for water—will take too long. The map is as good as gone. The air fills again with the scent of burning.

  Chapter 38

  CASSIA

  It’s hard to concentrate on the words before me when I wonder what is being said outside the cave in the night. I find myself reading poetry again, the next part of the I did not reach Thee poem:The Sea comes last - Step merry, feet,

  So short we have to go -

  To play together we are prone,

  But we must labor now,

  The last shall be the lightest load

  That we have had to draw.

  The poem ends there, though I can tell other stanzas come after. The next page is missing from the book. But even in these few brief lines I hear the poet speaking to me. Though gone, but she or he still has a voice.

  Why don’t I?

  Suddenly, I realize that this is why I’m so drawn to this author’s poetry. Not only the words themselves, but a sense of how she could put them down and make them her own.

  There’s no time for this now, I remind myself. The next box is full of books that look similar to one another; they all have the word LEDGER carved into the leather of their covers. I pick up one and read some of the lines inside:

  Thirteen pages of history, for five blue tablets. Trader fee: one blue tablet.

  One poem, Rita Dove, original printing, for information regarding the movements of the Society. Trader fee: access to information exchanged.

 
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