the choices we make
“We’ve been waiting for this day for basically our entire lives. You know what tomorrow is.”
The faded red skirt blew in the wind as Tatiana leaned against the branch of an apple tree, taking a bite from the fruit she’d just plucked off from the closest bough. As the blonde in the branch a bit above hers reached out her hands, the brunette grinned and tossed an apple her way, which Seren caught neatly before settling back.
“It’s tomorrow,” Tatiana murmured aloud, and her friend shot her a hazel look and took a bite out of her apple from above.
“Seren,” she laughed, “We’ve been waiting for this day for basically our entire lives. You know what tomorrow is.” There was no unkindness in Tatiana’s tone, nothing patronizing or mocking about it – for not only were her and the blonde best friends, but this was Amity, after all, and their faction was built on the values of kindness and compassion.
The other young woman paused and then slid off of her branch, settling carefully onto one more level with Tatiana’s. “So, have you thought about it?” Seren questioned nonchalantly, as if they weren’t discussing one of the biggest decisions of their lives.
“A lot,” the brunette admitted with a sigh, leaning her head against the tree again before her gaze flitted to the other’s. “How about you?”
“It’s hard not to think about it, really. I don’t want to leave my family, or Frankie,” referring to the boy a year older than them who’d stayed in Amity his whole life and had a thing for Seren, “But at the same time, I’m confused,” she finished, solemnly studying the apple in her hands.
There was a pause as she turned the red fruit between her fingers before she glanced up, light eyes locking on the other’s. “You have to promise me something,” Seren added urgently.
“Yes, of course, anything,” Tatiana replied, sitting up straight and turning herself sideways, the tree no longer at her back as she instead steadied herself on the branch. It wasn’t difficult, since she’d grown up doing this, but she still had to keep her balance as she gazed intently at her friend, who’d leaned in.
“No matter what we choose or where we go or anything, we still have to be best friends,” the young woman breathed to her in urgency.
Tatiana glanced back, her eyes widening. “Even if we’re in different factions and don’t see each other?”
The blonde nodded solemnly.
The brunette hesitated for a moment – friendships were easy to forge to her and hard to break, but this was asking a lot, especially if they never saw each other – but she glanced back at Seren and saw fear reflecting in the other’s eyes. Finally, Tatiana nodded, curving her pinky around the other’s briefly and then drawing back. “I promise.”
“Good.” Seren had brightened again now that this burden had been lifted from her shoulders, and she tossed an apple core behind her as she swung herself off the branches. “Dinner time, isn’t it? Are you coming?”
“Of course,” the brunette grinned as she swung off, trying her best not to think of the results of her aptitude test and where she stood in their society. She had an entire night of not getting any sleep to ponder over it, anyway.
“It’ll be fine,” Josie assured her daughter as Tatiana shifted on her seat, glancing around at all the other sixteen year olds who looked just as nervous as her. “I know you’ll make the right choice.”
“Like Dai did?” Tatiana replied and then immediately felt guilty upon seeing her mother’s face fall and her father’s harden beside them. She hadn’t wanted to bring it up, but she had to – her brother had transferred to Erudite two years earlier, and she felt his absence acutely as she sat between her parents.
Her hazel gaze shifted now to her classmates. She sat with Amity, and briefly caught Seren’s eye and shot her a smile before she kept looking around. There was Benjamin Gray of Abnegation looking extremely content in his gray clothes; Ariel Jameson and Nathaniel Taylor of Candor arguing; Will Shimizuno and Lee Hart of Erudite having a quite conversation, Lee pushing glasses up his nose nervously; and Chastity Hamilton-Reed of Dauntless, looking unamused and waiting for the ceremony to start.
The brunette thought of her aptitude test results once more, glanced at her parents beside her, and resisted the urge to get up and leave the room as fast as she could. She could leave her home and family – but would she? She was free to choose anywhere she wanted to fit into, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to make the same choice as her brother had to leave his faction behind.
A hush spread through the room as Candor’s leader, Max Bryants, took the center stage and began a speech about how this was a rite of passage, a coming-of-age ceremony for the young students who were about to pick their place that day. Tatiana tried to listen, but she was too busy wiping her sweaty palms on her thighs, the faded red skirt growing even more unkempt in her frustration.
Her gaze fixed on a figure wearing Erudite blue, looking forward resolutely. Daniel. She hadn’t seen him since he’d left, spare for occasionally glimpsing him on the street as he bought a newspaper or passed by her school. She frowned, glanced sideways at her father, who’d noticed him as well with an identical frown to hers, and she hastily glanced back at the front.
Max was stepping away now, and the five bowls had been placed up onto the counter. Tatiana already knew what each stood for, and she eyed them each apprehensively now before the names begun being called out.
Her name was firmly near the middle-end of the alphabet, and she shifted uncomfortably as the first name was called on the list. It started off with the Taylor boy from Candor, who switched shockingly to Abnegation, and was followed by the Shimizuno bloke from Erudite, who looked bored and remained in his faction.
Halfway through watching Tim Sherick walk up to the stage, Tatiana realized that she was probably next and bit her lip, wrapping her arms around herself suddenly as if that would serve as a shield. Seren seemed to realize this as well and glanced back at the brunette from two rows in front of her, leveling a reassuring smile in her direction that Tatiana only returned half-heartedly.
After the boy had chosen Dauntless, the young woman held her breath as her own name was called out. Her mother’s hand was on her shoulder, squeezing it reassuringly, and her father murmured quickly, “Good luck.” Tatiana stepped away from them, trying not to look back, and carefully picked her way to the front.
The knife that glinted on the table was an uncomfortable sight. Amity didn’t believe in weapons, after all, but she knew what she had to do. She pressed the blade into her palm quickly, the sting barely registering as her eyes instead turned to the bowls. The bowl full of earth, Amity’s symbol, was right in front of her. As the blood trickled from her palm, she reached straight out –
And then quickly turned her hand to the side, over the water. The blood dropped in, and there was a call somewhere behind her of someone yelling, “Erudite!” The polite clapping that followed startled her as she began moving toward the blue-robed section, chancing a glance at her family. Her mother’s eyes were glistening with tears, and her father looked upset as well as he clutched his wife’s hand. She hurriedly turned back to Erudite, noticing her brother’s lips beginning to quirk up at her in a smile.
Taking a seat next to the Japanese boy, who offered her a band-aid silently, she turned her attention back to the bowls at the front as the events proceeded. Soon, it was Seren’s turn, and the brunette waited with bated breath as the other girl carefully picked her way up to the front.
There was no wince on Seren’s part as she sliced her palm, apparently more involved in the decision than she was in the pain. Her eyes flicked quickly to the Amity bowl, but her hand quickly moved over, as if she’d planned this move a hundred times, to the Dauntless bowl. The blood sizzled on the coals and there was a raucous cheer from the black-clad section of the room. Tatiana watched her friend step away, feeling regretful but at the same time trying to recall the promise they’d made. Seren wouldn’t forget her, and she wouldn’t forget the other. It wasn’t that easy to.
Ariel Jameson remained in Candor, Chastity Hamilton-Reed stayed in Dauntless, Lee Hart stayed in Erudite, but there was a bit of surprise when Benjamin Gray switched to Amity. She tried to pay attention to the rest, but her heart wasn’t really into it, and finally, the entire ceremony was over and her lot was shuffling toward the exit with the newest initiates.
She found herself wedged between the Japanese boy and an Asian girl as she stepped back with the other Erudite members.
“Quincy Lee,” the girl beside her offered.
“Will Shimizuno,” the boy beside her added.
The curly-haired boy on Will’s other side leaned forward to offer his name as well, “Leander Hart.”
“Tatiana Penvrane,” she returned before pausing. “So, what’s our initiation?”
“IQ test,” Lee answered, and upon seeing her alarm, shook his head. “Don’t worry. If you’re smart enough to choose Erudite over the rest, you’re probably intelligent enough to get in and not be sent out with the factionless.”
“It’s the Dauntless who need to worry,” Will snickered, glancing over at them. Tatiana followed his gaze and then her eyes landed on Seren, who was following the others quickly, trying to keep pace and run in her red skirt while the new initiates whooped and sprinted down out of the room.
“What happens with them?” Tatiana asked, her voice tight in worry.
Quincy shrugged beside her, tugging at the collar of her Candor shirt. “Most of the transfers seem to end up with the factionless. Dunno why, really, I just guess they must kick them out or something if they don’t train enough.”
Tatiana caught a last look of the blonde braid of her best friend before it disappeared in a sea of swarming Dauntless out the door and she sighed. She’d already let down her parents today, for the sake of making her brother proud, but she wouldn’t do the same for her friend.
No, they would both make a place for themselves in their new factions and they would remain friends. It was a promise that they’d made, a vow to keep, and given everything they’d sacrificed to find where they belonged – they deserved at least one selfish attachment, and this was theirs.
So Tatiana leaned into her new faction members and began a breezy conversation about the ethics of making children choose at sixteen years of age as they left the Hub, ready to step into her new life.