Crossed(11)By: Ally Condie
“Of course I do,” I say, stung.
“No,” he says. “Not the way Ky left you. He didn’t want to go. Do you know what it’s like for someone to choose to leave you?”
“I didn’t choose to leave you behind. We were Relocated.”
Xander exhales. “You still don’t understand,” he says. “You left me before you left Oria.” He glances over at the Official and then back at me, his blue eyes serious. He’s changed, since I’ve seen him, become harder. More careful.
More like Ky.
I know what he means now about my leaving. For Xander, I began to leave when I chose Ky.
Xander looks down at our hands, still clasped together.
My gaze follows his. His hand is strong, the knuckles rough. He can’t write with his hands, but they are quick and sure over the cards and in the games. This physical contact, though not with Ky, is still with someone I love. I hold on as if I won’t ever let go, and part of me doesn’t want to.
The air in the main hall feels cool and I shiver. Would you call this season late fall? Early winter? I can’t tell. The Society, with their extra crops, has blurred the line between seasons, between when you can plant and harvest and when you must let things lie. Xander takes his hands away and leans forward, looking at me deep. I catch myself gazing at his mouth, remembering our kiss back in the Borough, that sweet innocent kiss before everything changed. I think Xander and I would kiss differently now.
In a whisper that brushes along my collarbone, Xander asks, “Are you still going to the Outer Provinces to find him?”
“ Yes,” I whisper.
The Official calls out the time. Only a few minutes left. Xander forces a smile, tries to speak lightly. “You really want this? You want Ky, whatever the cost?” I can almost imagine the words the Official taps into the datapod as he watches us now: Female Matchee expressed some agitation, soon after the male Matchee told her about his field assignment in Camas. Male was able to console her.
“No,” I say. “Not at any cost.”
Xander draws in his breath sharply. “So where do you draw the line? What won’t you give up?”
I swallow. “My family.”
“But you don’t mind giving me up,” he says. His jaw tightens and he looks away. Look back, I think. Don’t you know that I love you, too? That you have been my friend for years? That I still feel Matched to you in some ways?
“I’m not,” I say softly. “I’m not giving you up. Look.” And then I risk it. I pull open the bag and show him what’s still inside, what I kept. The blue tablets. Though he gave them to me to find Ky, they are still Xander’s gift.
Xander’s eyes widen. “You traded Ky’s compass?”
“Yes,” I say.
Xander smiles and in the expression I see surprise and cunning and happiness all mingled there together. I’ve surprised Xander—and myself. I love Xander in ways that are perhaps more complicated than I first expected.
But it’s Ky I have to find.
“It’s time,” the Official calls. The Officer looks in my direction.
“Good-bye,” I tell Xander, my voice catching.
“I don’t think so,” he says, and he leans down to kiss me the way I kissed him earlier, right near my mouth. If either of us moved a little, everything would change.
Vick and I lift one of the bodies and carry it toward a grave. I recite the words I say over all of the dead now:“For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.”
I don’t see how there can be more than this. How anything from these bodies can last when they die so easily and decay so fast. Still, part of me wants to believe that the flood of death carries us someplace after all. That there’s someone to see at the end. That’s the part of me that says the words over the dead when I know they don’t hear a thing I say.
“Why do you say that every time?” Vick asks me.
“I like the sound.”
Vick waits. He wants me to speak more but I won’t. “You know what it means?” he asks, finally.
▶ Also By Ally Condie
- · Crossed