“Hello,” she says.
“Hi,” I say.
“Every time I see you, you’re bigger,” she says. “I guess there’s no point in worrying that you’re eating well.”
“Could say the same to you,” I say, “but for different reasons.”
I know she’s not eating well. She’s factionless, and the Abnegation haven’t been providing as much aid as they usually do, with the Erudite bearing down on them the way they are.
I reach behind me and grab the backpack I brought with cans from the Dauntless storeroom.
“It’s just bland soup and vegetables, but it’s better than nothing,” I say when I offer it to her.
“Who says I need your help?” Evelyn says carefully. “I’m doing just fine, you know.”
“Yeah, that’s not for you,” I say. “It’s for all your skinny friends. If I were you, I wouldn’t turn down food.”
“I’m not,” she says, taking the backpack. “I’m just not used to you caring. It’s a little disarming.”
“I’m familiar with the feeling,” I say coldly. “How long was it before you checked in on my life? Seven years?”
Evelyn sighs. “If you asked me to come here just to start this argument again, I’m afraid I can’t stay long.”
“No,” I say. “No, that’s not why I asked you to come here.”
I didn’t want to contact her at all, but I knew I couldn’t tell any of the Dauntless what I had learned about the Abnegation attack—I don’t know how loyal to the faction and its policies they are—and I had to tell someone. The last time I spoke to Evelyn, she seemed to know things about the city that I didn’t. I assumed she might know how to help me with this, before it’s too late.
It’s a risk, but I’m not sure where else to turn.
“I’ve been keeping an eye on Max,” I say. “You said the Erudite were involved with the Dauntless, and you were right. They’re planning something together, Max and Jeanine and who knows who else.”
I tell her what I saw on Max’s computer, the supply lists and the maps. I tell her what I’ve observed about the Erudite’s attitude toward Abnegation, the reports, how they’re poisoning even Dauntless minds against our former faction.
When I finish, Evelyn doesn’t look surprised, or even grave. In fact, I have no idea how to read her expression. She’s quiet for a few seconds, and then she says, “Did you see any indication of when this might happen?”
“No,” I say.
“How about numbers? How large a force do Dauntless and Erudite intend to use? Where do they intend to summon it from?”
“I don’t know,” I say, frustrated. “I don’t really care, either. No matter how many recruits they get, they’ll mow down the Abnegation in seconds. It’s not like they’re trained to defend themselves—not like they would even if they knew how, either.”
“I knew something was going on,” Evelyn says, furrowing her brow. “The lights are on at Erudite headquarters all the time now. Which means that they’re not afraid of getting in trouble with the council leaders anymore, which … suggests something about their growing dissent.”
“Okay,” I say. “How do we warn them?”
“The Abnegation!” I say hotly. “How do we warn the Abnegation that they’re going to be killed, how do we warn the Dauntless that their leaders are conspiring against the council, how—”
I pause. Evelyn is standing with her hands loose at her sides, her face relaxed and passive. Our city is changing, Tobias. That’s what she said to me when we first saw each other again. Sometime soon, everyone will have to choose a side, and I know which one you would rather be on.
“You already knew,” I say slowly, struggling to process the truth. “You knew they were planning something like this, and have been for a while. You’re waiting for it. Counting on it.”
“I have no lingering affection for my former faction. I don’t want them, or any faction, to continue to control this city and the people in it,” Evelyn says. “If someone wants to take out my enemies for me, I’m going to let them.”
“I can’t believe you,” I say. “They’re not all Marcus, Evelyn. They’re defenseless.”
“You think they’re so innocent,” she says. “You don’t know them. I know them, I’ve seen them for who they really are.”
Her voice is low, throaty.
“How do you think your father managed to lie to you about me all those years? You think the other Abnegation leaders didn’t help him, didn’t perpetuate the lie? They knew I wasn’t pregnant, that no one had called a doctor, that there was no body. But they still told you I was dead, didn’t they?”
It hadn’t occurred to me before. There was no body. No body, but still all the men and women sitting in my father’s house on that awful morning and at the funeral the following evening played the game of pretend for me, and for the rest of the Abnegation community, saying even in their silence, No one would ever leave us. Who would want to?
I shouldn’t be so surprised to find that a faction is full of liars, but I guess there are parts of me that are still naive, still like a child.
“Think about it,” Evelyn said. “Are those people—the kind of people who would tell a child that his mother was dead just to save face—are they the ones you want to help? Or do you want to help remove them from power?”
I thought I knew. Those innocent Abnegation, with their constant acts of service and their deferent head-bobbing, they needed to be saved.
But those liars, who forced me into grief, who left me alone with the man who caused me pain—should they be saved?
I can’t look at her, can’t answer her. I wait for the train to pass a platform, and then jump off without looking back.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but you look awful.”
Shauna sinks into the chair next to mine, setting her tray down. I feel like yesterday’s conversation with my mother was a sudden, earsplitting noise, and now every other soun
d is muffled. I’ve always known that my father was cruel. But I always thought the other Abnegation were innocent; deep down, I’ve always thought of myself as weak for leaving them, as a kind of traitor to my own values.
Now it seems like no matter what I decide, I’ll be betraying someone. If I warn the Abnegation about the attack plans I found on Max’s computer, I’ll be betraying Dauntless. If I don’t warn them, I betray my former faction again, in a much greater way than I did before. I have no choice but to decide, and the thought of deciding makes me feel sick.
I went through today the only way I knew how: I got up and went to work. I posted the rankings—which were a source of some contention, with me advocating for giving heavier weight to improvement, and Eric advocating for consistency. I went to eat. I put myself through the motions as if by muscle memory alone.
“You going to eat any of that?” Shauna says, nodding to my plate full of food.
I shrug. “Maybe.”
I can tell she’s about to ask what’s wrong, so I introduce a new topic. “How’s Lynn doing?”
“You would know better than I do,” she says. “Getting to see her fears and all that.”
I cut a piece from my hunk of meat and chew it.
“What’s that like?” she asks cautiously, raising an eyebrow at me. “Seeing all their fears, I mean.”
“Can’t talk to you about her fears,” I say. “You know that.”
“Is that your rule, or Dauntless’s rule?”
“Does it matter?”
Shauna sighs. “Sometimes I feel like I don’t even know her, that’s all.”
We eat the rest of our meals without speaking. That’s what I like most about Shauna: she doesn’t feel the need to fill the empty spaces. When we’re done, we leave the dining hall together, and Zeke calls out to us from across the Pit.
“Hey!” he says. He’s spinning a roll of tape around his finger. “Want to go punch something?”
“Yes,” Shauna and I say in unison.
We walk toward the training room, Shauna updating Zeke on her week at the fence—“Two days ago the idiot I was on patrol with started freaking out, swearing he saw something out there … Turns out it was a plastic bag”—and Zeke sliding his arm across her shoulders. I run my fingers over my knuckles and try not to get in their way.
When we get closer to the training room, I think I hear voices inside. Frowning, I push the door open with my foot. Standing inside are Lynn, Uriah, Marlene, and … Tris. The collision of worlds startles me a little.
“I thought I heard something in here,” I say.
Uriah is firing at a target with one of the plastic pellet guns the Dauntless keep around for fun—I know for a fact that he doesn’t own it, so this one must be Zeke’s—and Marlene is chewing on something. She grins at me and waves when I walk in.
“Turns out it’s my idiot brother,” says Zeke. “You’re not supposed to be here after hours. Careful, or Four will tell Eric, and then you’ll be as good as scalped.”
Uriah tucks the gun under his waistband, against the small of his back, without turning on the safety. He’ll probably end up with a welt on his butt later from the gun firing into his pants. I don’t mention it to him.
I hold the door open to usher them through it. As she passes me, Lynn says, “You wouldn’t tell Eric.”
“No, I wouldn’t,” I say. When Tris passes me I put out a hand, and it fits automatically in the space between her shoulder blades. I don’t even know if that was intentional or not. And I don’t really care.
The others start down the hallway, our original plan of spending time in the training room forgotten once Uriah and Zeke start bickering and Shauna and Marlene share the rest of a muffin.
“Wait a second,” I say to Tris. She turns to me, looking worried, so I try to smile, but it’s hard to feel like smiling right now.