The two women sit on the bench watching their children play. It is a warm day and both women know that they can't stay here too long. That would be selfish. But the sounds of their children running free in the meadow is a sound neither wants to hear end.
"Promise me, Natalie. Promise me that if anything ever happens to me that you will watch out for him. Keep an eye on Tobias for me, please promise me that you can do this for me," Evelyn says.
This shocks Natalie; she can hear the desperation in Evelyn's voice. But she doesn't understand where it would be coming from.
"Of course, Evelyn. But you don't need to worry, nothing is going to happen to you," Natalie says.
The women turn back to watching their children for a while when Evelyn speaks again.
"Those two weren't made for Abnegation," she says.
Natalie can't help but laugh as she watches the children. "I think you are right Evelyn, Tobias and Beatrice have too much spirit for the lives we chose."
"Tris, Tris!" Tobias shouts as they are running through the meadow. Caleb had long ago stopped running with the others. He found their games tiresome and boring.
"Marcus hates that he still calls her Tris. He can become so upset with it," Evelyn tells Natalie.
"I hadn't really thought about it. He has been calling her that since she was born. I couldn't imagine him calling her Beatrice; it would almost seem unnatural now. I think Marcus would have bigger worries than that," Natalie says.
"I suppose we should gather them in, I really need to be getting home. Marcus will be very upset if I don't have his dinner ready for him when he gets home," Evelyn says.
The two women call for their children and make their way back into the Abnegation sector of the city, just as they are about to part Evelyn says, "Remember what you promised Natalie."
It has almost been two years since Evelyn died. Tobias seems to be growing more distant every day. I don't understand it; we have been friends since I was born. He used to come and play with Caleb and me nearly every day, but since his mum has been gone he isn't allowed the freedoms that his mother once allowed him. It happened the day after we had been at the meadow with our mums. I only know this because it was the last time we ever went to the meadow. I miss the meadow.
I worry sometimes, he can look so sad. Almost as though he is in pain. I have asked him so many times what is wrong but he just shuts me down and runs from me. I have decided that I'm not going to take this anymore. Next time he is like that I am going to make him tell me. It makes me want to cry to see him that way.
I want him to be happy again. I know he must be sad because he doesn't have a mum anymore but I want to see his smile. I never get to see his smile anymore. My dad would tell me I am being selfish for wanting something. And if wanting to see someone smile is selfish then I will be happy to live with the title of selfish forever and ever.
I walk out of the front door of our house with Caleb; we always walk past the Eaton house hoping Tobias will be walking to school with us. He hasn't been to school much lately. I heard dad telling mum that Marcus told him that Tobias isn't right in the head. That his mother's death did something to him. I don't believe that. I know he is sad; I would be too if my mum died. But what dad said just didn't sound right to me.
I look up and Tobias is standing in front of his house waiting for us. I can't help but smile and I run up to him and I go to give him a hug but he moves away from me. It feels strange; I have always given Tobias a hug when I have seen him. We aren't supposed to do things like that, I don't really understand it. My mum tells me I will when I'm older. I am nine years old, I am older I think to myself.
Caleb sees what has happened and just shrugs when our eyes meet. We start to walk and Caleb is telling us both about something he learned in school yesterday. I'm not really listening; I was in the same class as him so I don't really want to hear about it for a second time. As I'm walking I think Tobias is walking with a bit of a limp, I look up into his eyes and I can see there is pain in them. I look down before he can catch me staring and I see something on his shirt.
"Tobias, you have something on your shirt," I say.
I reach out my hand and touch his top and I hear him hiss and he grabs my hand suddenly.
"It's fine Beatrice," he says.
I am taken aback when he says this. He has never, ever said my full name. Caleb can see that there is something odd between Tobias and me today and so he starts to walk ahead.
"No Tobias, it's not fine. You have never said my name like that before. Now tell me what it is," I say.
"It's nothing. Just leave it alone," he says.
"No," I say and I quickly grab at his shirt.
His shirt goes a little up his back and what I see makes me gasp. All over his back are long bloody red lines. Some look darker like it is dried blood but there are also fresh ones. No wonder he looks like he is in pain. I can't believe he can walk with how painful it all looks.
"What happened?" I whisper.
"Nothing, leave me alone," he says.
This makes me angry. He is my best friend and I want to know who could do this to him, I don't understand how this could have happened.
"No. No you are my best friend Tobias and you need to tell me what happened," I demand stomping my foot to the ground while I ball my hands into fists.
I can see a small smirk on Tobias's face and I think he knows me well enough by now that I am not going to let him get away with ignoring my questions.
"Not now. We have to go to school. If we don't I'm going to have more of these," he says.
"What do you mean?" I ask. Why would he have more wounds on his back for being late for school?
"Tris I will tell you later. I can't be late," Tobias says.
Caleb has walked into the school building and we are standing on the front steps. "No if we walk in that building you will never tell me. Come on," I say and I start to walk back down the steps and away from school. I'm sure I will be in big trouble from my parents but at this minute I don't care. I need to know what is going on.
"Tris, Tris wait," Tobias calls after me. I hear him sigh but I also know it means he is following me. I can also hear his footsteps as he gets closer to me.
"Where are we going?" He asks.
We reach the bench at the edge of the meadow and I put my bag on the ground and I sit on the bench. Tobias does the same and we just sit there in silence. We must have sat here for a couple of hours without talking when I finally say, "are you going to tell me what is going on?"
"He will kill me if I do?" He says.
"Who? Who is doing this to you?" I ask. I can't imagine who would be doing this to Tobias.
"My father," he says. It is so softly spoken that it comes out not as a whisper but more as a breath. What? How? Marcus has always been such a good guy. He runs our government, he helps everyone he meets. Everyone in Abnegation loves him.
"Why?" I ask.
"I don't really know. He keeps telling me it is for my own good," he says.
"We need to tell someone," I say.
"No, no no! You cannot tell anyone. He will kill me if he finds out that I told," Tobias says and I can hear the fear in his voice.
I finally get Tobias to tell me what he does and I am trying so hard not to cry. I really am but just knowing that my friend has had to endure so much on top of losing his mum breaks me. He tells me how he is scared to walk up a flight of stairs because his dad would hold him at the top and threaten to drop him, he has even been pushed down them a couple of times. How he knocked over a glass of water and was beaten unconscious. There have been so many times and for such silly reasons.
I can't believe that Tobias is still alive. He tells me how it used to happen to his mum and that he would usually only have to listen as his dad beat her. He only occasionally beat Tobias while his mum was alive but now he takes all his anger out on Tobias.
"Please don't cry Tris," he tells me. But I can't help it, I feel so helpless.
"I'm sorry Tobias," I say. "I just hate to think of him doing this to you."
"I can handle it," he says. "We better go, school is about to get out. We need to go home."
We start to walk home and when we get to Tobias's house his dad is at the door waiting for him.
"Get inside," he snarls at Tobias. I can already see he is reaching for his belt before he has even shut the door.
Panic overcomes me and I know I have to get to my house as quickly as I can. I run as fast as my nine year old legs can take me and I burst through the front door. Mum and dad are both sitting there waiting for me and I can't speak because I am so out of breath from running.
"You better have a good reason for not being at school today Beatrice," my dad says.
"Dad . . . Have to help . . . Tobias . . . Hurry," I say, as I bend over trying to catch my breath.
"What? What is wrong with Tobias?" My mother asks.
I stand, still trying to catch my breath. "Dad I know I'm in trouble but I need your help," I say.
"Beatrice what is wrong?" He says.
"I need you to go to the Eaton house. Don't knock, please. You just need to help him, he can't get to the door," I say.
My parents both just stand there looking at me.
"Please," I beg as I start to cry.
I think the tears are what work because my dad seeing me cry has him rushing out the door.
"Beatrice come and sit down and tell me what is going on," my mum says. We go into our living room and I can't get the words out. I put my head in my mother's lap and I continue to cry. I am so scared that dad will be too late. My mother rubs my back soothing me. Once I calm down a little I tell her what happened today.