Two Days Before Choosing
"What?" I recognize Marlene's tone and realize it's missing something. But what?
"It's two days before Choosing Day."
"I know." It's missing the happiness.
I turn around from the rail of the chasm to find Lynn and Marlene staring at me intently.
"What are you going to choose?" Lynn asks me, attempting for a casual tone, but I see the panic in her eyes. Ever since that first day of fifth grade, we've been inseparable. Jumping off the train at the same time and putting my arm around Marlene's shoulders as we run towards the school have both become types of sentimental traditions.
"I don't know. Most probably Dauntless, though." Marlene's eyes light up, and Lynn's stiff position relaxes a bit.
"What about you?" I ask, not wanting to hear the answers, almost, especially Marlene's. Her constant happiness and smiling were signs of the Amity, and I didn't want to lose her to those weirdos. Unless she became one. Then they wouldn't be as weird.
"Dauntless, obviously." Lynn's clear voice rang around the hallway. I smiled.
"I think I'm going to be Dauntless, too. The cake is a huge plus point," Marlene said, grinning. "But seriously. I hope we all are." Then she looks away. "Even though people say the test shouldn't change your choice, it does." Her looking away from us irresistibly reminds me of an incident that happened about a week ago. When we were jumping off the train, her black shirt lifted up a bit, revealing her tanned stomach. Nearby, boys started wolf-whistling. One of them had even called out, "Mar, you wouldn't mind giving me some of that, would you?" She turned away from them, and angrily, I had glared back at them and tightened my grip around her shoulders. She looked at me and I obviously felt angry that they had made fun of Mar, but the sudden flaming anger inside of me signaled I felt something more. But I don't know what it was.
I don't want to lose her. Not Marlene, who is always there to put a smile on someone's face. Not Marlene, who taught me how to loosen up and grin more and mingle with others more easily. And not Marlene, who is the rock of us three, keeping us together when Lynn gets out of hand or I fall into an occasional rage.
Lynn looks at her, alarmed. Then her expression softens. "It's our choice in the end, anyway. Not anyone else's." For a moment, I find myself looking at Lynn. She's so strange. Three days ago, a boy in the Dauntless compound had tried to beat her up. And he succeeded. Most of the time, they had taunted her, making comments about her body and femininity. In the beginning, she had the upper hand, but when the started teasing her, she lost her rhythm and ended up as a bloody mess on the floor. Marlene and I had carried her to the hospital wing, and she had recovered well, except for bruises all over her face and body. But that attack took so much of her confidence away that she asked Marlene and I to shave her head. At first we were astonished and refused. However, she grabbed a nearby scissor and started cutting her hair off. Despite our refusals, she continued, and finally, we relented and helped her. She stopped wearing tight-fitting outfits and exchanged them for loose, baggy ones. Even though Marlene had pleaded with her to not let them get to her, she continued.
Now when I look at her, I think of how brave she was. Wait, is. Even though people might see her submission as an act of cowardice, I think of it as altering her course to give her an advantage. Her golden eyes give out less warmth now. She's more of a threat, which I think was her intention.
We walk back to the Dauntless dining hall in silence and go to the counter.
"Three pieces of chocolate cake, please," Marlene ordered, smiling, "and make them rather large." The boy at the counter smiled at her for too long, but she didn't seem to notice. He went into the kitchen and cut out three pieces, and when he came back, he handed her the plates, staring at her the whole time. I glared at the guy and tugged Marlene away.
"Whoa. What's wrong, Uri? You looked as if you were about to murder that guy." Lynn caught us and sat down next to Marlene, taking her helping of cake.
"He was being an idiot," I muttered quietly.
"What?" I heard a smile in Lynn's voice, and when I looked at her, she looked as if she knew something that I didn't. She grinned at me, then looked away. What is up with her?
"Nothing." She keeps smiling slyly and cuts her cake into small pieces. Then, I watch her face contort into one of anger and bitterness.
"Are you okay, Lynn?" Marlene asks softly.
"Yeah, I'm fine." Her face returns to normal, and her cake is gone. "I'm going to talk to Shauna. Haven't talked to her in a while. See you guys later."
"Bye!" Marlene calls. And with her bald head glinting in the sun, she walks away.
When I look back at my cake, it's gone. And I didn't eat it. I look to my side to see Marlene holding it, evilly grinning.
"You wouldn't," I say slowly to Marlene in my best 'you're in trouble' voice.
"Yes, I would." She gets up and starts running out of the cafeteria.
"Marlene!" I bellow and sprint after her.
She runs through hallways and training rooms alike and her long legs are impossible to keep up with, especially after that head start.
Finally, I gain on her and she starts screaming. I crack up and run after her into the training room. I grin. Jared always locks the door on the other side after 6:00. It's 6:43 right now.
Marlene enters the room, and then gasps. She looks back wildly, then sighs. She knows that she's cornered. And she knows that I can beat her in a fight. In an action of surrender, she holds up the cake in surrender and gives it to me. I laugh and snatch the cake from her, splitting it in half and after a moment of hesitation, give her the bigger piece. Marlene grins lopsidedly and we both sink to the floor, catching our breath.
"I don't want to lose this," she says, looking at the training room which was so familiar to us. I remember all the times that we beat each other up and rolled on the floor, laughing, while Jared tried to control us.
I chew quietly, deep in thought. I don't want to lose this either. I don't want to lose Zeke or Shauna or my mom or Lynn or Marlene. But am I fit out for Dauntless? Is this truly where I am supposed to be?
"I'm going to see where Lynn is. You coming?" Mar asks me.
"Yeah." I heave myself up and walk alongside her in silence.
I don't want to lose this.