I wasn’t born for Candor. I can’t give honest opinions. I don’t even think I can keep a secret, let alone tell anyone the truth.
My mum says, that I am honest, but she isn’t around much, and she doesn’t know me the way I do. Dad, on the other hand, says I am a stubborn, rude, annoying, a liar, and just about any other word he can think of. As long as it makes me a bad child.
Dad’s president Snow's right hand man, he helps run the Factions. He always makes sure that I am in my room when his workmates come round. So they don’t suspect any of his beatings.
The cuts from when he last pelt me with his belt, haven’t healed yet, and I don’t intend on getting any more any time soon. No matter how many times he hits me, the pain never lessens or worsens, it’s always just the same, sharp and excruciating.
I pad into the bathroom, lock the door and turn on the shower. I step in and sigh as the hot water hits my cold bare skin. I let my head droop and close my eyes, and within a few seconds my hair is plastered to my scalp. I can feel the dirt and the grime and the sweat being washed away and it feels good.
I wash my hair.Feeling my muscles loosen. I was starting to relax. I hadn’t realized how tense I was, but I figure that I could probably do with a massage right now, Mum would probably know who to call about that. I dry my body and put my black and white Candor outfit on.
I try to think about how I will go about my Aptitude test, and butterflies swam in my belly. I shake my head in attempt to get rid of the thought.
Mum enters the room, and try to force my best fake smile so she thinks that I’m OK, and go to sit in front of the mirror.
“So today is the day,” she says.
“Yes,” I reply.
“Are you nervous?”
I stare into my own eyes for a moment. Today is the day of the aptitude test that will show me which of the five factions I belong in. And tomorrow, at the Choosing Ceremony, I will decide on a faction; I will decide the rest of my life; I will decide to stay with my family or abandon them.
“No,” I lied.
“The tests don’t have to change our choices.”
“Right.” She smis.
“Let’s go eat breakfast.”
She kisses my cheek and leaves the room. I think my mother could be beautiful, in a different world. Her body is thin beneath her black and white robe. She has high cheekbones and long eyelashes, and when she lets her hair down at night, it hangs in waves over her shoulders. But she chooses to hide her beauty. We walk together to the kitchen. On these mornings when my mum makes breakfast and hums as she clears the table—it is on these mornings that I feel guiltiest for wanting to leave her.
The bus stinks of exhaust. Every time it hits a patch of uneven pavement, it jostles me from side to side, even though I’m gripping the seat to keep myself still.
The Abnegation man next to me, wears gray clothes—Abnegation standard uniform. Their faction values selflessness and sees the vanity as the cause of our separation and so they choose to wear and eat plain things and to spend their lives being selfless, so that is what they wear. The gaps between the buildings narrow and the roads are smoother as we near the heart of the city. The building that was once called the Sears Tower—we call it the Hub —emerges from the fog, a black pillar in the skyline. The bus passes under the elevated tracks. I have never been on a train, though they never stop running and there are tracks everywhere. Only the Dauntless ride them. Five years ago, volunteer construction workers from Abnegation repaved some of the roads. They started in the middle of the city and worked their way outward until they ran out of materials. The roads where I live are still cracked and patchy, and it’s not safe to drive on them. We don’t have a car anyway.Abnegation values selflessness, but our faction, Candor, values honesty. The bus stops in front of the school and I get up, scooting past the Abnegation man. I stumble over the man’s shoes, My slacks are too long, and I’ve never been that graceful. The Upper Levels building is the oldest of the three schools in the city: Lower Levels, Mid-Levels, and Upper Levels.
Like all the other buildings around it, it is made of glass and steel. In front of it is a large metal sculpture that the Dauntless climb after school, daring each other to go higher and higher. Last year I watched one of them fall and break her leg. I was the one who ran to get the nurse. “Aptitude tests today,” I mumble under my breath. Then straighten up and pass through the front doors. My muscles tighten the second I walk in. The atmosphere feels hungry, like every sixteen-year-old is trying to devour as much as he can get of this last day. It is likely that we will not walk these halls again after the Choosing Ceremony—once we choose, our new factions will be responsible for finishing our education.
Our classes are cut in half today, so we will attend all of them before the aptitude tests, which take place after lunch. My heart rate is already elevated. I walk toward Faction History, chewing on my lower lip. The hallways are cramped, though the light coming through the windows creates the illusion of space; they are one of the only places where the factions mix, at our age. Today the crowd has a new kind of energy, a last day mania. A girl with long curly hair shouts “Hey!” next to my ear, waving at a distant friend. A jacket sleeve smacks me on the cheek. Then an Erudite boy in a blue sweater shoves me. I lose my balance and fall hard on the ground. “Out of my way” he snaps, and continues down the hallway. My cheeks warm. I get up and dust myself off. A few people stopped when I fell, but none of them offered to help me. Their eyes follow me to the edge of the hallway. This sort of thing has been happening to me for months now. Now I guess people see me as an easy target. I pause by a window in the E Wing and wait for the Dauntless to arrive. I do this every morning. At exactly 7:25, the Dauntless prove their bravery by jumping from a moving train. My father hates the dauntless, he thinks they're stupid. They are pierced, tattooed, and black clothed. Their primary purpose is to guard the fence that surrounds our city. From what, I don’t know. They should perplex me. I should wonder what courage—which is the virtue they most value—has to do with a metal ring through your nostril. Instead my eyes cling to them wherever they go. The train whistle blares, the sound resonating in my chest. The light fixed to the front of the train clicks on and off as the train hurtles past the school, squealing on iron rails. And as the last few cars pass, a mass exodus of young men and women in dark clothing hurl themselves from the moving cars, some dropping and rolling, others stumbling a few steps before regaining their balance. One of the boys wraps his arm around a girl’s shoulders, laughing. Watching them is a foolish practice. I turn away from the window and press through the crowd to the Faction History class room.