Emma smiles at him, somewhat wistfully. She doesn't have many friends, and she'd hate to lose Henry. She can hope, but she knows there's no guarantee. Neither of them is glaringly Erudite the way his sister is.
They don't have the same classes, so Emma has to go sit through Faction History and try not to fidget nervously. She knows the tests are reliable, and safe, and that the tests don't have to change her choices. They're told it over and over again: the tests merely reveal your aptitude, but your choice is your own. But her father always brags at dinner, doesn't he? Look how good the tests are, look at their success percentage, look at how many of the 'failures' ultimately made the wrong choice and end up factionless (he calls it his "validation number"). Nothing will go wrong. Everyone knows what they're doing.
(She tries to believe it.)
When she gets to lunch, she starts for Henry's table, but she stops halfway there when a volunteer wearing Abnegation's plain grey robes calls out "- and Emma Matthews!"
Damnit. She wanted more time...
She waves nervously at Henry across the room and follows the man into the testing room. She's never been inside one before; they're used for testing and only for testing. She catches a glimpse of herself in the mirrored walls, but looks away when she sees how small and terrified she looks. She regrets this almost immediately; the chair in the center of the room is ominous and covered in wires and what is going to happen to her.
The Abnegation volunteer puts a soothing hand on her shoulder. "Do you need a minute?" he offers.
Emma swallows and attempts a smile. "No, thank you. I don't need to keep you waiting." Or draw this out.
"Good girl," he says encouragingly, leading her to the chair. "Don't worry; it won't hurt a bit. Just breathe." He keeps talking to her in a low, calm voice as he reclines the chair back and hooks her up to the elecrodes. Emma loses track of what he's saying, but his tone alone is comforting. She snaps back into focus when she feels cold glass against her skin- he's pressing a vial into her hand. "Drink up."
She eyes the glass nervously, but gulps down the clear liquid. The last thing she sees is his heartening smile before she closes her eyes.
When Emma opens her eyes, she's standing in the cafeteria again. It's empty, eerily silent, and- is that snow outside? She looks around, uncertain what to do. "Hello?" she tries, hearing her voice echo. "Hello, is someone here?"
"Choose," whispers a voice.
"Choose?" Emma looks around, and sees the table in front of her. A prettily wrapped basket with hunks of cheese sits next to a knife. "Choose... from those?"
"Choose," repeats the voice.
Well, that must be a yes. Emma stares at them. Is she supposed to eat the cheese, how do you eat the cheese without the knife... or is this about her, somehow, and she just doesn't know how? Her hand hovers back and forth between the two, but finally she settles on the cheese. She's far too nervous to eat right now, but she didn't exactly get a chance to grab lunch, and there's enough for her to share with Henry and Charlotte.
As soon as she touches the basket, the knife disappears into thin air. She stares, perplexed, at the basket of cheese. "Now what do I do?" she asks it.
As if in answer, she hears the door behind her.
When she turns around, the door is filled with the largest dog she's ever seen. It's growling as it eyes her. Emma suppresses a panicked squeak and sizes up the dog. It's not looking directly at her, she realizes, it's looking at-
She takes another look at the dog. It looks angry, but it also looks badly treated, dirty and thin and with a gash in one ear. She feels immediately guilty for her panic. The dog's just hungry and scared, isn't it? Carefully- because hungry still means dangerous- she squats to the ground and holds out a piece of cheese. "Want some food?" she says, voice low, trying to imitate the tone the Abnegation tester had just used to soothe her. "It's okay, you can have it. I get more lunch later."
The dog lets out something that's halfway between a growl and a whine. He takes a step closer to her, but it seems cautious; he isn't charging her.
Encouraged by the reaction, Emma puts down the cheese and takes out another piece. (Can dogs eat cheese? She hopes so. The poor thing looks like it hasn't had a good meal in a month at least.) "Here you go, boy. All the cheese for you." She puts the second piece down, then places the cheese basket next to it and starts to inch backwards, to make it clear she's leaving the cheese to the dog. She almost knocks over a chair, but the dog's focused on the cheese and ignores the rattle of chair legs. "Go on, boy, it's for you."
The dog is about to take a bite of the cheese when the door opens again and a small girl dances through the door. Smiling and in pigtails, she spots the scene on the floor and crows in delight. "Cheese! Puppy! Cheesenpuppy-" and before Emma can stop her, she darts towards the cheese basket.
Startled and territorial, the dog snarls and leaps for the girl-
Emma shrieks in horror and dives- she has to get there and stop it-
She lands on top of the girl, shielding her with her back just as the dog lands. The dog's lunge knocks her off balance and the two of them go rolling away, past chairs, under a table, Emma feels claws bite into her shoulder as her head slams into the floor-
-and her eyes open back in the mirrored room.
It takes her a few minutes to catch her breath, as she sits gasping in the chair. The tester detaches them both from the electrodes while she calms, then smiles at her. "Congratulations," he tells her. "You're all done. I've registered your results, and you have a strong aptitude for Abnegation."
...Emma's mind goes blank.
Abnegation, not Erudite, Abnegation not Erudite, Abnegation, notEruditenotEruditenot-
"Are you all right?" the man's voice breaks in, concerned. He offers her a cup of water. "Usually people are pleased when they learn their factions."
"The test doesn't have to change my choices," Emma recites, but with difficulty. "I'm- my whole family is Erudite!"
Seeing her distress, he squats and looks at her seriously. "Factions are community, your second family. People like you, who understand you. You're right, the test doesn't have to change your choices; but the test is also there to help you. To help you find where you belong. Your family will want you to be happy."
What a very Abnegation thing to say, Emma doesn't say, suppressing a hysterical sob. Oh, god, what will her parents say?! And Henry, and Charlotte, her friends-
He seems to sense what she's thinking. "Remember," he reminds her gently. "You can't tell anyone your results until after the Choosing Ceremony tomorrow."
At that, Emma actually does start crying. He makes a sympathetic sound and gives her a hug and a tissue. "It'll be all right," he soothes, but Emma doesn't believe him. She's not Erudite. How can it be all right?
Ten minutes later, she arrives back in the cafeteria, no longer sobbing and her face freshly washed. She's rather frozen and pale, but she manages to get in the line for lunch. She tries not to focus on her hands as she gathers her food and takes her tray to her table; seeing her blue sleeves is making her chest tighten all over again.
How can she not be Erudite?