Crossed, p.36
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       Crossed, p.36

         Part #2 of Matched series by Ally Condie
 
Page 37

 

  “What did you trade for?” Eli asks. “You had everything in the canyons. ”

  “No,” Hunter says, “we didn’t. The Society’s medicine was always better, and there were other things we needed. ”

  “But if all your papers are so valuable,” Eli asks, “how could you leave so many of them behind?”

  “There’s too much,” Hunter says. “We couldn’t carry it all across the plain. Many of the people tore out pages or brought books that they wanted. But it was impossible to bring everything. That’s why I had to seal off the cave and hide the rest. We didn’t want the Society to be able to destroy or take everything if they found it. ”

  He finishes marking one of his arms with the lines and reaches to put the blue chalk back into his pack.

  “What do those markings mean?” I ask, and he stops.

  “What do they look like to you?”

  “Rivers,” I say. “Veins. ”

  He nods, interested. “They look like both. You can think of them that way. ”

  “But what are they to you?” I asked.

  “Webs,” he says.

  I shake my head, confused.

  “Anything that connects,” he says. “When we draw them, we usually draw them together, like this. ” He puts his hand out so that our fingers touch. I almost jump back in surprise, but I hold myself still. He traces the chalk along his fingers and then crosses over onto mine and runs the line of blue gently up my arm.

  He sits back. We look at each other. “Then you would continue the lines yourself,” he says. “Along you, and then you would touch someone else and begin a line for them. And so on. ”

  But what if the connection was broken? I want to ask. Like when your daughter died?

  “If there is no one else for the lines,” he says, “you do this. ” He stands up and pushes his hands against the sandstone wall of the overhang. I imagine a series of tiny cracks spreading from the point of pressure. “You connect to something. ”

  “But the Carving doesn’t care,” I tell him. “The canyons don’t care. ”

  “No,” Hunter agrees. “But we’re still connected. ”

  “I brought this,” I say to Hunter, reaching into my pack and feeling shy. “I thought you might want it. ”

  It’s the poem with the line he used for Sarah’s grave. The one about across the June a wind with fingers goes. I took it from the book.

  Hunter takes it and reads it aloud:

  “They dropped like Flakes -

  They dropped like Stars -

  Like Petals from a Rose -

  When suddenly across the June

  A wind with fingers - goes -”

  He pauses.

  “It sounds like what happened to us out in the villages,” Eli says. “People died like that. They dropped like stars. ”

  Ky puts his head in his hands.

  Hunter reads on.

  “They perished in the Seamless Grass -

  No eye could find the place -

  But God can summon every face

  On his Repealless - List. ”

  “Some of us believed in another life someday,” he says. “Catherine did, and Sarah did, too. ”

  “But you don’t,” Indie says.

  “I didn’t,” Hunter says. “But I never told Sarah that. How could I take that away from her? She was everything to me. ” He swallows. “I held her while she fell asleep every night, all those years of her life. ” Tears slip down his cheeks the way they did earlier in the library cave. He ignores them, as he did then.

  “I had to move away little by little,” Hunter says. “Lift my arm. Pull my face away from where I tucked it into her neck; draw back so that my breath no longer ruffled her hair. I did this gradually so that when I left she didn’t know I was gone. I saw her into the night.

  “In the Cavern, I thought I’d break all the tubes and then die in the dark,” Hunter says. “But I couldn’t do it. ”

  He looks down at the page again and reads the line he carved for her. “Suddenly across the June a wind with fingers goes,” he says, almost sings, his voice sad and soft. He stands up and shoves the paper in his pack. “I will check the rain,” he says, and goes to stand outside.

  By the time Hunter comes back in, everyone has fallen asleep except for Ky and me. I can hear Ky breathing, on the other side of Eli. It’s crowded in here, and it would be easy to reach out and touch Ky but I hold back. It is so strange to take this journey together when there is such distance between us. I can’t forget what he did. I can’t forget what I did, either. Why did I sort him?

  I hear Hunter settle near the entrance of the cave and I wish I hadn’t given him that poem. I didn’t mean to bring him pain.

  If I died here, and someone were to carve my epitaph on the stone of this cave, I don’t know what I would want them to write.

  What would Grandfather have chosen for his epitaph?

  Do not go gentle

  Or

  I hope to see my Pilot face to face

  Grandfather, who knew me better than anyone else did, has become a mystery.

  So has Ky.

  I think suddenly of that time at the showing, when he had all that pain that none of us knew and we laughed while he cried.

  I close my eyes. I love Ky. But I don’t understand him. He won’t let me reach him. I have made mistakes, too, I know it, but I am tired of chasing him through canyons and out onto plains and stretching out my hand only to have him take it some times and not others. Perhaps that’s the real reason he’s an Aberration. Perhaps even the Society couldn’t predict what he would do.

  Who put Ky into the Matching Pool in the first place? My Official pretended that she knew, but she didn’t. I decided it didn’t matter anymore—I’d chosen to love him, I’d chosen to find him—but the question comes to mind again.

  Who could it have been? I’ve thought of Patrick. Aida.

  And then I have another thought, the most striking, unlikely, believable one of all: Could it have been Ky?

  I don’t know how he could have done it, but I also don’t know how Xander could have managed to get the papers inside the tablet compartments. Love changes what is probable and makes unlikely things possible. I try to remember what Ky said back in the Borough when we talked about the Matching Pool and the mistake. Didn’t he say that it didn’t matter who put the name in, as long as I loved him?

  I’ve never known his whole story.

  Maybe only parts of our stories can keep us safe. The whole can feel like too much to bear, whether it’s the story of Society or a rebellion or a single person.

  Is this what Ky feels? That no one wants the whole? That his truth is too heavy to carry?

  Chapter 43

  KY

  Everyone else sleeps.

  If I wanted to run, now would be the time.

  Cassia told me once that she wanted to write a poem for me. Did she ever get past the beginning? What words did she use for the end?

  She cried before she slept. I reached out to touch the ends of her hair. She didn’t notice. I didn’t know what to do. Listening to her made me ache. I felt tears stream down my face too. And when I accidentally brushed Eli with my arm his face was wet where his tears ran down.

  We have all been carved out by our sorrow. Cut deep like canyon walls.

  I saw my parents kissing all the time. I remember one time when my father had been in the canyons and just come back. My mother stood painting. He came close. She laughed and drew a streak of water along his cheek. It glistened. When they kissed she wrapped her arms around him and let the paintbrush fall to the ground.

  It was kind of my father to send that page to the Markhams. If he’d never done that, Patrick might never have known about the Archivists and couldn’t have told me the way to contact them in Oria. We would never have had the old scribe. I would never have known how to sort, or how to trade. I wouldn’t have been able to give Cassia her bir
thday poem.

  I cannot let my parents go unmarked any longer.

  Careful not to step on anyone, I feel my way over to the back of the cave. It doesn’t take long to find what I’m looking for within my pack—the paints Eli gathered for me. And a paintbrush. My hand closes around its bristles.

  I open the jars of paint and set them in a row. Reach out again and make sure the wall is in front of me.

  And then I dip the brush in and make a stroke above me on the wall of the cave. I feel some of the paint drip onto my face.

  I paint the world, and then my parents in the middle of it, while I wait for the light to come. My mother. My father. A picture of her looking at a sunset. A picture of him teaching a boy to write. It might be me. In the dark I can’t be sure.

  I paint Vick’s stream.

  I paint Cassia last.

  How much do we have to show the people we love?

  What pieces of my life do I have to lay bare, carve out, and put before her? Is it enough that I have pointed the way to who I am?

  Do I have to tell her how back in the Borough I was sometimes jealous and bitter about how different I was? How I wished I were Xander, or any of the other boys who got to keep going to school and who would at least have a chance to be Matched with her?

  Do I have to tell her about the night when I turned my back on all the other decoys and only took Vick and Eli? Vick, because I knew he’d help us survive, Eli to appease my guilt?

  I have to tell her the truth, but I haven’t even told it to myself.

  My hands begin to shake.

  The day my parents died I was alone on the plateau. I saw the fire come down. Afterwards, I ran to find them. That much is true.

  When I saw the first bodies I was sick. I threw up. And then I saw that some things had survived. Not people, but objects. A shoe here. A perfect, unopened foilware meal there. A paintbrush with clean bristles. I picked it up.

  Now I remember. What I’ve lied to myself about all along.

  After I picked up the paintbrush and looked over and saw my parents dead on the ground, I didn’t try to carry them. I didn’t bury them.

  I saw them and I ran.

  Chapter 44

  CASSIA

  I am the first to wake. A beam of sunlight shines through the door of the cave and I glance over at the others in surprise, wondering how they haven’t yet noticed the bright light and the absence of rain.

  Looking at Ky and Eli and Hunter, I think of how many invisible injuries are possible. Ones scored on your heart, your brain, your bones. How do we all stand? I wonder. What is it that keeps us moving?

  When I step out of the cave, the sky blinds me. I put my hand up the way Ky does to block the sun, and when I bring my hand back down, I think for a moment that I’ve left a thumbprint, a mark of wavy dark lines blotting the sky. Then the print moves and turns, and I see that it is not the whorls of my fingers but the whirls of a flock of birds, tiny, moving high in the distance. And I laugh at myself for thinking I could touch the sky.

  When I turn back to wake the others I draw in my breath.

  While we slept, he painted. With swift, light strokes; paint-dripped haste.

  He covered the back of the cave with rivers of stars. He made the world rocks and trees and hills. He painted a stream, too, one dead and alive with footprints along its bank, and a grave marked with a stone fish whose scales cannot turn back the light.

 
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