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We Can Be Mended_A Divergent Story

Veronica Roth


  We Can Be Mended

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  We Can Be Mended

  “THE FIVE-YEAR REUNION is coming up.”

  Christina leans against the railing of the train platform, first bent, propped up by her elbows, then straightening, pressing her hips to the railing for stability instead. Her hair is longer now than it’s ever been, densely curled and standing straight out from her head. Sometimes she wears it wrapped up in a scarf, a colorful defiance of her Dauntless history, but today it’s loose.

  The words settle on me like a weight, familiar but still more than I’d like to bear.

  “So I’ve heard,” I say. Every year the former faction members who still live in Chicago reunite to celebrate—or mourn, maybe—our common history. I have gone to some of these events and not to others, but this year’s is important.

  Five years.

  “You going?”

  Christina tilts her head as she looks at me, then she shrugs.

  “I was thinking about it,” she says. “It’s in Dauntless headquarters. The former Dauntless headquarters, I should say.”

  I nod, looking out at the city lights that dot the buildings around us. Some of them show glimpses of other lives—a woman braiding her hair and laughing, a man picking up after his children, the glow of a flashlight under blankets as a child steals more time awake. A bus passes beneath us, carrying late commuters to the apartment buildings near the marsh. Behind me are the silent train tracks, the rails shining as they catch the moonlight.

  “I know you go to headquarters every so often,” she says, looking down at her hands. “Zeke told me.”

  Zeke. That traitor.

  “Yeah, I go there. So what?”

  She examines her fingernails. She’s pretending to be casual. But she’s never been very good at pretending. “What do you do there?”

  “I don’t remember agreeing to an interrogation,” I say as lightly as I can. I don’t want to awaken her prickly side too soon.

  “You don’t want to answer questions, just say so,” she says. “But I think you should have figured out by now that if there’s something you want to hide, it’s probably also something you need to talk about.”

  I groan, teasing, but she’s right. I know she’s right.

  Since she stopped me from swallowing the memory serum, I’ve trusted her in a way I don’t trust anyone else. Someone who has seen you that weak and doesn’t use it against you is worth that trust, I think. But it’s still hard to admit another vulnerability to her, to even speak the words out loud.

  “Fine,” I say, drawing my shoulders in. “I go through my fear landscape there.”

  She stares at me. “What is with you and the fear landscape, Eaton? At first it was just a quirk but now it’s downright pathological.”

  “It’s not that big a deal,” I say. “It’s . . . therapeutic.”

  “Four,” she says. She pauses. “Tobias. It’s not therapeutic if nothing ever changes, you know?”

  “Who says my fears haven’t changed?”

  “Is she still there?” Her voice softens. And not in the way other people’s voices soften when they talk to me about Tris—the way that makes me want to snap that I’m fine, lay off, leave me alone. Christina’s eyes go cloudy with loss, and grief, and I know that she understands.

  “Yeah.” My hand comes up automatically to run over my hair, cropped Abnegation short. “Yeah, she’s still there, of course she is.”

  “So you go back to see her,” she says.

  “No,” I say. “No, that’s not why.”

  “But that’s part of it.”

  “It’s . . . I—” I sigh. “It’s not that I want to see her there—you think I like watching her die over and over again?” I bring my hand down, hard, on the railing. “I just keep wanting to see if she’ll still be there. I’m just . . . waiting for the day when I’m . . . past it. When I’ve moved on.”

  She laughs a little. “You’re not just going to spontaneously be past it.”

  “What about ‘time heals’?”

  “Time doesn’t do shit.” Christina sighs, and for a moment she stands on her tiptoes, pressing out over the railing like a Dauntless on a dare. But then she sinks back to her heels and looks at me sternly, and says, “The thing about moving on is, you have to move.”

  Christina is right. I do go back to Dauntless headquarters a lot, but never to the Pit below, only to the first-floor fear landscape room. My stores of the serum are running out. I only have a handful left—just a handful of chances to get over my fears before I’ll stop knowing what I’m afraid of forever. I don’t know why I find that, in itself, so frightening.

  Maybe it’s that I used to feel like I didn’t know myself, and I don’t want to feel that way again. I spent all my life that way, sagging beneath the weight of my Abnegation grays, and I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to rely on sparks of revelation to drive me forward. I want to know.

  I have four fears, still. They are different than they were when Tris died, five years ago.

  In the first, I fly high above the city in an airplane that has run out of fuel. I tumble toward the ground, with no chance of rescue.

  In the second, I am immobile as a dark force—usually with David’s face, or Marcus’s—attacks the ones I care about.

  In the third, I am in pain, and there is no relief. All I can do is endure.

  In the fourth, she dies.

  It makes no sense, to fear the worst when the worst has already happened. Death can’t happen twice, after all.

  It was me who told her that what she saw in the simulations wasn’t her literal fear playing out in front of her—Well, are you really afraid of crows?—but something deeper, more symbolic. Still, it’s difficult not to take my fourth fear exactly as it is, with her wide blue eyes staring up at me from the ground, their spark gone out.

  I could wait for the train with the others, standing calmly on the platform as it slows to a stop, boarding, sitting in one of the freshly installed seats like a normal person. But it doesn’t feel right to me, will never feel right to me again.

  Instead, I take the long walk through the restored streets of Chicago, the city that refuses to die. It burned, once, and they rebuilt it with brick. Then it was pelted with explosives and bullets, evacuated, and populated with five factions. Then it came apart again, and we are responsible for its fourth life. We are equal parts fringe-dwellers, ex-faction members, Bureau dropouts, and migrants from other cities.

  We no longer care about genetic purity, we say. Of all the places that claim such a thing, this is perhaps the place where it comes closest to being true. But I still remember the images of my genetic code that made me realize I was broken in some deep, fundamental way. I didn’t, as some of the others did, tattoo it on my body. I only do that for things I want to be reminded of.

  I leave the clean path, taking side streets instead. They are still as busted and broken as they used to be. Sagging concrete giving way to the pipes and vents that form the city’s infrastructure, green things growing in the cracks in the road, waist high. The sun is setting, and there are no lights here to flicker on and guide the way. I put my hands in my pockets and keep walking, trusting the fading light and my own memory to get me there.

  I hear laughing up ahead. A familiar laugh—Zeke’s.

  He spots me from a long way off. His teeth are a flash of white in the dark.

  “Four! Come over here!”

  “Hey.” I sidle up to him. Familiar faces m
aterialize around me: Shauna, standing upright with the help of the spinal implant and leg braces; Christina in full Dauntless regalia, her hair wrapped up in a black cloth; and, standing tentatively at the edge of the group, Caleb Prior.

  I no longer look at him and ask myself why he’s alive when she isn’t. There’s really no point to that kind of question anyway. For the most part, he seems determined to avoid me, and that suits us both. He nods to me, and I nod back, and if we are both lucky, that will be the end of it.

  “I was just complaining about this year’s recruits for the peacekeeping force,” Christina says.

  “Again?” I ask.

  “Same as every year,” Shauna supplies. “Apparently they’re uncoordinated and rowdy.”

  “Rowdy recruits.” I grin. “Yeah, because you don’t know anything about that, Chris.”

  “I may have been rowdy, but I was nowhere near this stupid,” Christina says, jabbing me in the chest with a finger. I grab the finger and turn it around, trying to muscle her into poking herself. It’s not as easy as I thought it would be.

  “Plus,” she says, freeing her hand from my grip with a smile, “this isn’t nearly as difficult as Dauntless initiation; they don’t know how good they have it.”

  “That’s a good thing,” Shauna reminds her. “We don’t want people to know what it’s like to grow up in a faction. You can’t fault them for not knowing something we don’t want them to know.”

  “I can fault them for whatever I want,” Christina says with a sly smile.

  We walk toward the Pire, which is lit up warm and bright all the way to its top floor.

  “Who else are we meeting, again?” Zeke says. “Cara’s bringing Matthew, Nita can’t come—”

  “Cara?” I say. “I thought she was still in Phila—dels . . . burg.”

  “Philadelphia,” Caleb corrects me in a low tone. Probably automatic for him, but I still give him a look.

  I haven’t seen Cara in over a year. She’s been traveling, speaking to important people about the developments she and Matthew have made in their laboratory. I didn’t know she had returned.

  We walk into the lobby with the floor made of glass. For a moment I stare through it, down at the Pit. The Pit used to be a place where I kept memories—bad ones, of corpses pulled out of the water below, and good ones, of laughing on the rocks with Zeke and Shauna. But now someone has scrubbed away the paint the Dauntless splattered everywhere, years ago, to cover up the cameras. And strings of glowing bulbs hang in straight lines along the paths to light them. It looks, for the first time . . . nice.

  My chest aches dully. At least when this place was just for memories, it was mine. But now, like this? This bright, cheerful space is someone else’s.

  “Tobias!” Matthew claps me on the shoulder. He’s holding a cup of something dark and strong; I can smell it from where I stand. But his eyes are clear where they rest on mine. “Haven’t seen you in a while; heard you dropped out of the political game.”

  “Yeah, kind of,” I say. “It wasn’t exactly what I expected. As it turns out, you have to be charming to make it anywhere.”

  “Charming, and a bit of a liar,” he says sympathetically. “You should talk to Cara about that; it’s a source of endless frustration for her.”

  “Where is she, anyway?” I say.

  But just as I’m finishing my question, I see a head emerge from the hatch in the floor that opens up to the Pit. Her hair has turned a darker blond in time, and it is loose around her face. Her mouth curls into a smile at the sight of us.

  She hugs me, briefly, and as her blouse pulls away from her shoulder, I see the corner of a tattoo. A broken double helix, a sign of her damage.

  “Wasn’t sure if I’d see you,” she says.

  “Wasn’t sure if I’d come,” I say. “How was Philadelphia?”

  “You remembered the city name!” She smiles. “I knew you’d develop an interest in geography one day, now that there are maps available.”

  “I have to admit, I called it Philadelsburg,” I say. “Caleb corrected me.”

  She snickers. “Philadelsburg was good. But did Matthew tell you our news?”

  I shake my head.

  “Of course he didn’t.” She eyes him.

  “I was just about to,” Matthew says.

  “Sure,” she replies. “Well, we’re getting married, is the news.”

  “Congratulations,” I say, and more because I know it’s expected than because it’s comfortable, I pull each of them into a one-armed embrace, in turn. “It’s about time,” I say as I pull away.

  “About time for what?” Christina asks from somewhere behind me, and they move on to tell her.

  I finally look around. The crowd gathered at the bottom of the Pit, near the edge of the chasm, is dense and multicolored, as I’ve never seen it before. And the people—old and young and everything in between, cradling cups to their chests and talking. My eyes still search for faction divisions even now, but I don’t find any—even in myself, my shirt Candor white, my jeans Erudite blue, and my shoes Dauntless black.

  We are just people now.

  Parts of the dining hall—entire walls, even—are stripped of what I remember, but neatly. After we reclaimed the city from the Bureau, there was a wave of pillaging and theft, and pockets of iconoclasts urging everyone to burn anything faction related they could get their hands on. Not many of them made it to Dauntless headquarters, given that it’s such a hazardous place, but I’m sure some of them did.

  Now the prevailing wisdom is that certain things should be preserved. I am not sure how I feel about that anymore.

  We sit around a table in the middle of the room. Conversations echo off the walls, rattling in my head. Zeke and Shauna bicker about something—who said what, when—but there is a curl to Zeke’s mouth that means he’s not taking it seriously. Matthew, Caleb, and Cara are deep in conversation. Christina sits backward in her chair to talk to her parents, who stand behind her.

  Hands close over my shoulders and I tense, suppressing the urge to twist and grab and shove. You’re not in danger, I think to myself. Not anymore.

  “Sorry,” my mother says, lifting her hands. “I should know better.”

  I turn to face Evelyn. She is carrying her age well, but still carrying it, in the lines around her eyes and mouth, and the widening streaks of gray in her hair. She lives in the city now, working in transportation—and she’s qualified, thanks to years of tracking the city’s trains with the factionless. I can tell it bores her, but it’s steady enough.

  “I haven’t seen you in a while,” she says. “Been feeling all right?”


  She gives me a dubious look. But I have been all right, really. It’s just been difficult for me to be around people, and I’m not sure how to explain that to her.

  “It just doesn’t feel right, being here,” I say. “Everything’s so clean. Like a museum.”

  Which is what it is now. The Dauntless compound restoration was completed a few months ago, and the city offered tours to travelers to teach them about the faction experiment, its results, and its aftermath. It is an attempt, I suspect, to combat such a narrow focus on genetic purity. It will take at least a few generations to see any kind of change, but we are hopeful. Or, I should say, they are hopeful, since I’m not doing my old work anymore.

  I spot Johanna over my mother’s shoulder, a mug of something cradled against her chest. She is still in elected office, overseeing our city. She has the stomach for it, and I don’t. Whenever she called on me to speak to people from outside the city, I went cold at the first sign of their judgment, their scrutiny. That’s not the way to get things done, she told me, and I agreed, but I couldn’t escape the person I was. Am.

  So now my focus is smaller. Fix the streets, the streetlights, the buildings. Settle refugees from other places into permanent housing, make sure they have heat and clean water. Simple things.

  Johanna feels my eyes on her, and
she turns, showing me the scarred side of her face, exposed now that she wears her hair short. She smiles a little, and I nod back.

  “Johanna told me you’re working on city improvement projects,” Evelyn says.

  “I am,” I say.

  “That’s a very Abnegation career path,” Evelyn says. “Are you sure it’s what you want?”

  “Abnegation was what you didn’t want,” I say. “Not me.”

  My mother touches my face.

  “You know I want what’s best for you, right?” she says. It’s a strange thing to say.

  “Of course.” It’s not something I could have said years ago, but I believe it now.

  “Then do you know that Tris would want what’s best for you?” Her mouth tugs into a frown.

  My gut clenches, like a rope pulling taut. I’m tired of people telling me meaningless things and pretending they’re what she wanted.

  “You didn’t know her. You can’t say that.”

  She takes her hand away. “I never say the right thing with you, do I.”

  She says it like it’s my fault.

  “That’s the problem,” I say. “You think there’s a right thing to say. There isn’t.”

  It’s to her credit that she doesn’t snap back right away. A couple years ago, she might have. She was always ready to fight then, but now she thinks about my words. I watch her chew on them.

  “Fair,” she says, which is always what she says when she decides I’m right. “But you’re very hard on me sometimes.”

  I sigh. “Fair.”

  I glance at Christina, who is speaking in low tones to her father, her brow furrowed. At least I’m not the only one who still fights with his parents.

  I stand, my appetite lost to the strangeness of this once-familiar place. I let Evelyn draw me into a hug, and I even hug her back, no longer willing to separate from anyone I care about with tension still between us. People are too easily lost.

  I tell her I’m going for a walk, and I leave the dining hall to walk along the railing that once kept us separate from the rushing water of the chasm. Now it just keeps us from tumbling to the rocks below. I miss the spray of the water and the sound of its roar. But there is one benefit to the quiet, I suppose—I hear Christina when she calls after me.