Here I am, walking down the halls in Dauntless. Everyone I pass nods their head in my direction. I only know half of them. I am the tattoo artist here. Tori quit; she is now a Dauntless leader. I feel bad for her. All the work that is involved with managing a faction full of drunken imbeciles. I have seen up close how all of that responsibility and stress affect a person.
I look up ahead and see Eric, head Dauntless leader. Max died of a heart attack 3 years ago, which was 5 years after my initiation. I walk up to Eric, after looking around me for observers. I wrap my arms around his neck. I am returned a sweet smile, the skin stretching with his facial piercings.
“Tris, I thought you were working on the training schedule for the upcoming initiates with Four? They come in a week, love. You need to have that ready,” Eric whispers.
After being with him forever, it still surprises me how amazingly gentle and soft he is. He is a giant teddy bear. We have decided long ago, in the beginning of our relationship, that we will keep it a secret. We aren’t supposed to be together. Eric is supposed to stay single so he doesn’t get distracted from his leadership. It was an idiotic rule implemented before Max’s death. Nobody knows about us. I have no idea how we have kept it a secret all of these years. You would think people would start to wonder why I have been “single” for 5 years.
“We just finished. You don’t have to worry, okay? Wanna go eat lunch?” We never eat lunch next to each other, not even at the same table. My friends think he is crazy and a sadist. It is extremely offensive, but we live with it. We have to.
“I’m starving. But I want to be with you. Want to eat in the apartment? I can make bacon…” He teases, jabbing his fingers into my ribs. I roughly grab his wrist and twist. He grunts in response. I let go, give him a quick peck on the lips, and jog off in the other direction.
He curses under his breath. Before I know it, he grabs my small waist with his large calloused hands, lifting me over his shoulder. I am squealing, pounding my small fists into his sculpted back. He runs around a few more corners and then comes to a halt. His muscles tense beneath my fingers.
“Put Tris down, Eric!” I hear a voice snarl. It's Tobias. Shit… Eric slowly puts me down, acting rough, but in reality he’s gentle. He glares at me, but not without a smirk.
“This isn’t done, stiff.” With that, he walks off. I wish we didn’t have to act this way.
Tobias grabs me by the forearms, pulling me into a hug. He starts checking my body for damage. When he sees none, he lets out a sigh.
“Tris, I was so worried. You said you were going to meet us in the cafeteria in 10 minutes. It’s been 30 minutes. I also noticed Eric wasn’t around. I’m worried he’s going to hurt you. He stares at you all the time.”
“Toby, I can handle myself.”
“I know, Tris.” He laces his fingers with mine, and he starts the long trek into the cafeteria.
I step foot into the dimly lit cavern. It never ceases to amaze me: the laughter, the yelling, the food. The food has just gotten better over the years.
Last year, the kitchen staff added a new cake: Cowboy Cake. It's chocolate cake made with coffee. Strangely, you don't taste the coffee. The cake is absolutely mouthwatering. I would choose it over Dauntless Cake any day. I plan on having it on my wedding day. It obviously depends if Eric proposes.
Tobias tugs me into the seat beside him, laying his large arm over my sholders. It makes me uncomfortable; I feel as if tiny spiders are crawling into my skin through my pores. I shrug his appendage off causing him to give me a scowl.
He leans over, whispering in my ear, "Tris, are you okay? You've been acting off since I caught Eric running off with you. What were you even doing with him?"
"He was just asking if we're finished with the training schedule."
He gives me a disbelieving look. I wish I could just come out and say, "I'm with Eric! Shove your damn comments up your ass and fuck off!"
"So Tris, Will and I are going on a date tonight. Will's friend from the control room is a hottie. He is single and ready to mingle," Christina hummed.
She is always trying to set me up. I always have to come up with an excuse. I'm not going to say yes; I can't do that to Eric. I don't want to do that to Eric.
"Your point is?" I drawl out.
"The point is he is interested in meeting you. He wants to go on a double date with you. Come on, Tris. You haven't dated anyone since our first year in Dauntless. What's going on? I'm worried about you."
"Nothing's the matter. Please, just stay out of my personal life. I'm happy; that's all that matters."
I stand up and pull out my phone, readying my hand to dial Eric's number. This is getting too difficult. I need to tell people of our relationship. My anxiety is getting out of hand. I'm paranoid someone is going to figure it out. I don't want something to happen to the love of my life.
Before I can even walk three feet, a calloused hand clasps around my elbow. I'm spun around to come face to face to deep blue eyes.
"Tris, can I talk to you?" Four pleads. His eyes are filled with anxiousness and dread.
We lay down in the net, looking up into the skies through the seven story drop. I can tell it will rain later on in the day.
I feel the net move beneath me. I turn to see Tobias studying me. He showed me his fear landscape during initiation. We kissed shortly after. We were together for a few months. I thought I was in love.
Later in our short relationship, we started to drift apart. He was an active participant in a Dauntless investigation. He was sifting through hours and hours of video feed. We never had time together.
One night, we decided we should just end it. We stayed close friends: best friends. We tell each other everything, except about Eric. I wish I could. He told me about his disastrous past.
Tobias starts to tilt his head toward mine, slowly closing his eyes. I put my hand on his chest pushing him back. His lashes brush his cheeks before flying open with surprise.
"Toby, is everything all right?" I inquire.
"Ya...it's just that...how do I put this?"
"Just spit it out. It's just me."
"I still love you."