Crossed, p.38
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       Crossed, p.38

         Part #2 of Matched series by Ally Condie
Page 39


  She holds the tube out for me to see, trying to explain. It glints in the light from our headlamps and it takes me a moment to read the name: REYES, SAMUEL. Her grandfather. “I took it when you were all looking at Hunter, after he broke the tube. ”

  “Eli stole one too,” I say. “He gave it to me. ”

  “Who did he take?” Cassia asks.

  I look over at Indie. She could push the boat away now and leave Cassia behind. But she doesn’t. I knew she wouldn’t. Not this time. If you want to go where Indie wants to go, you couldn’t find a better pilot. She’ll carry your pack and get you through the rough water. She turns her back to us and stands perfectly still under the trees next to the boat.

  “Vick,” I tell Cassia.

  It surprised me at first that Eli didn’t choose his parents, and then I remembered that they wouldn’t have been there. Eli and his family had been Aberrations for years. Vick must have been Reclassified recently enough that the Society hadn’t had time to remove his tube.

  “Eli trusts you,” she says.

  “I know,” I say.

  “I do, too,” she says. “What are you going to do?”

  “Hide it,” I say. “Until I know who was storing the tubes and why. Until I know we can trust the Rising. ”

  “And the books you brought from the farmers’ cave?” she asks.

  “Those too,” I say. “I’m going to look for the right place while I’m following the river. ” I pause. “If you want me to hide your things, I can. I’ll make sure they get to you somehow. ”

  “Won’t they be too heavy to carry?” she asks.

  “No,” I say.

  She hands me the tube and reaches into her pack for the collection of loose papers that she took from the cave. “I didn’t write any of those pages,” she says, an ache in her voice. “Someday I will. ” Then she puts her hand against my cheek. “The rest of your story,” she says. “Will you tell it to me now? Or when I see you again?”

  “My mother,” I begin. “My father. ” I close my eyes, trying to explain. What I say makes no sense. It’s a string of words—

  When my parents died I did nothing

  So I wanted to do

  I wanted to do

  I wanted to do

  “Something,” she says gently. She takes my hand again and turns it over, looking at the mangled mess of scrapes and paint and dirt that the rain hasn’t yet washed away. “You’re right. We can’t do nothing all our lives. And, Ky, you did something when your parents died. I remember the picture you drew for me back in Oria. You tried to carry them. ”

  “No,” I say, my voice breaking. “I left them on the ground and ran. ”

  She wraps her arms around me and speaks in my ear. Words just for me—the poetry of I love you—to keep me warm in the cold. With them she turns me back from ash and nothing into flesh and blood.

  Chapter 50


  Do not go gentle,” I tell him, one last time, for now.

  Ky smiles then, a smile I’ve never seen before. It’s the kind of daring, reckless smile that could make people follow him straight into a firing, a flood. “There’s no danger of that,” he says.

  I put my hands on him, run my fingers over his eyelids, find his lips, meet them with mine. I kiss the plane of his cheekbones. The salt of his tears tastes like the sea and I don’t see the shore.

  He’s gone, in the trees, and I’m in the river, and there’s no time left.

  “Do what I say,” Indie tells me, shoving an oar into my hands and yelling over the sound of the water rushing near us. “If I say left, paddle on your left. If I say right, paddle right. If I tell you to lean, do it. ” The beam of her headlamp glares in my eyes and I’m relieved when she turns to face forward. Tears stream down my cheeks from the farewell and the light.

  “Now,” Indie says, and we both push the boat away from the bank. We sit suspended for a moment and then the stream finds us, pushes us along.

  “Right,” Indie calls.

  Scattered snowflakes star our faces as we ride, little white dashes in the light from our headlamps.

  “If we ever flip over, stay with the boat,” Indie yells back to me.

  She can only see far enough ahead to have time for one fast call, one quick decision; she’s sorting in a way I never could, with spray in her face and water shining silver and black branches tearing at us from the banks, broken trees looming at us from the center of the stream.

  I copy her, follow her, shadow her strokes. And I wonder how the Society ever caught her that day on the ocean. She is a Pilot, on this river, tonight.

  Hours or minutes, they don’t matter, it’s only changes in the water and turns in the stream, shouts from Indie and oars flicking water as we move them from side to side.

  I glance up, once, aware that something is happening above me; night lifting, the earliest part of morning that is still black, but black that feels like it’s rubbing off around the edges, and I miss the moment Indie screams at me to paddle right and then we’re over, over in the stream.

  Cold dark water, poisoned from the Society’s spheres, rushes over me. I see nothing and feel everything, freezing water, driftwood battering me. It’s the moment of my own death, and then something else hits my arm.

  Stay with the boat.

  My fingers scrabble along the edge, and I find one of the grips and hold on, pulling myself to the surface. The water tastes bitter; I spit it out and cling tight. I’m inside the boat, under it, trapped and saved in a bubble of air. Something tears my leg. My headlamp is gone.

  It’s like the Cavern, I’m caught but alive.

  “You will,” Ky said then, but he’s not here now.

  Suddenly I remember the day I met him, that day at the clear blue pool, when he and Xander both went under but came back up.

  Where’s Indie?

  The boat shoots to the side and the water goes still.

  A light shines in. Indie, pushing the boat up. She held on to the outside and somehow she still has her headlamp. “We’re in a smooth spot,” Indie says fiercely. “It won’t last. Get out here with me and push. ”

  I swim out under the side. The water is black and glassy, puddled for a moment in a wide place in the stream, dammed somehow from below. “Did you hold on to your oar?” Indie asks, and to my surprise, I did. “On three,” Indie says, and she counts, and we flip the boat back over and grab again for the sides. She flops, fast, like a fish, into the boat and grabs my oar to pull me over, too.

  “You held on,” she says, “I thought I was finally done with you,” and she laughs, and so do I, both of us laughing until we hit the next wave of river and Indie screams, wild and triumphant. I join in.

  “The real danger begins now,” Indie says when the sun comes up, and I know she’s right. The river is still fast; we can see better, but we can be seen, and we are exhausted. The heavier cottonwoods here have been choked out by thinner, less concealing trees that grow spindly, grayish-green, and snarled with thorns. “We have to stay close to the trees for cover,” Indie says, “but if we’re going too fast and we hit those thorns, they’ll finish our boat. ”

  We pass a huge dead cottonwood with scaly brownish bark that has fallen over, tired and done after years of holding on to the bank. I hope Hunter and Eli are in the mountains, I think, and that Ky has cover in the trees.

  Then we hear it. Something overhead.

  Without saying a word, we both pull closer to the bank. Indie reaches with her oar into the thorny branches but it slips and doesn’t hold. We start to drift and I stab my oar into the water, pushing us back.

  The ship overhead flies closer.

  Indie reaches out and grabs hold of the thorny branches with her bare hand. I gasp. She hangs on and I jump out and pull the boat over to the side, hearing the rasp of the thorny bushes along the plastic. Please don’t break, I think. Indie lets go, her hand bleeding, and the two of us hol
d our breath.

  They pass over. They haven’t seen us.

  “I’d like a green tablet right now,” Indie says, and I start laughing in relief. But the tablets are gone, along with everything else we had, swept away when we flipped in the water. Indie had tied our packs to one of the boat’s handles but the water tore them away in spite of her careful knots; some branch or tree cut right through the rope and I should be grateful it wasn’t our flesh or the plastic of the boat.

  Once I’m back inside, we keep close to the bank. The sun climbs high. No one else flies over.

  I think of my second lost compass sinking to the bottom of the river, like the stone it was before Ky changed it.

  Evening. The reeds at the edge of the stream whisper and hush in the breeze, and in the traces of the sunset in a high and lovely sky, I see the first star of the evening.

  Then I see it shining on the ground, too. Or not the ground, but in water that stretches out dark in front of us.

  “This,” Indie says, “is not the ocean. ”

  The star flickers out. Something has passed over it, either in the sky or in the water.

  “But it’s so huge,” I say. “What else could it be?”

  “A lake,” Indie says.

  A strange hum comes across the water.

  It’s a boat, coming fast for us. There is no way to outrun it and we are both so tired we don’t even try. We sit there together, hungry and aching and adrift.

  “I hope it’s the Rising,” Indie says.

  “It has to be,” I say.

  Suddenly, as the humming draws closer, Indie grabs my arm. “I would have chosen blue for my dress,” she tells me. “I would have looked right into his eyes, whoever he was. I wouldn’t have been afraid. ”

  “I know,” I say.

  Indie nods and turns back to face what’s coming. She sits tall. I picture the blue silk—the exact color of my mother’s dress—blowing around Indie. I picture her standing by the sea.

  She is beautiful.

  Everyone has something of beauty about them. In the beginning for me, it was Ky’s eyes I noticed, and I love them still. But loving lets you look, and look, and look again. You notice the back of a hand, the turn of a head, the way of a walk. When you first love, you look blind and you see it all as the glorious, beloved whole, or a beautiful sum of beautiful parts. But when you see the one you love as pieces, as whys—why he walks like this, why he closes his eyes like that—you can love those parts, too, and it’s a love at once more complicated and more complete.

  The other boat comes closer and I see that the people on board wear waterproof gear. Is it to avoid getting wet? Or do they know the river is poisoned? I wrap my arms around myself, suddenly feeling contaminated, though the skin hasn’t burned from our bones and we’ve resisted the temptation of drinking the water down.

  “Put your hands up,” Indie says. “Then they can see we don’t have anything. ” She puts her oar down across her lap and raises her hands in the air. The gesture is so vulnerable, so uncharacteristic of her, that it takes me a moment to follow her lead.

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