City of lost souls, p.41
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       City of Lost Souls, p.41
 

         Part #5 of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
Page 41

 

  Sebastian made no reply. They were nearly to the steps when Sebastian called out: "Clary. "

  She turned around, drawing her hand out of Jaces. "What?"

  "My scarf. " He held out his hand for it.

  "Oh. Right. " Taking a few steps toward him, she tugged with nervous fingers at the knotted cloth around her throat. After a moment of watching her, Sebastian made an impatient noise and stalked across the room toward her, his long legs covering the space between them quickly. She stiffened as he put his hand to her throat and deftly undid the knot with a few motions, then unwrapped the scarf. She thought for a moment that he lingered before unwrapping it fully, his fingers brushing her throat-

  She remembered him kissing her on the hill by the burned remains of the Fairchild manor, and how she had felt as if she were falling, into a dark and abandoned place, lost and terrified. She backed up hastily, and the scarf fell away from her neck as she turned. "Thanks for lending it to me," she said, and darted back to follow Jace down the stairs, not looking behind to see her brother watch her go, holding the scarf, a quizzical expression on his face.

  Simon stood among the dead leaves and looked up the path; once more the human impulse to take a deep breath came on him. He was in Central Park, near the Shakespeare Garden. The trees had lost the last of their autumn luster, the gold and green and red turning to brown and black. Most of the branches were bare.

  He touched the ring on his finger again. Clary?

  Again there was no reply. His muscles felt as tense as strung wires. It had been too long since he had been able to raise her using the ring. He told himself over and over that she could be sleeping, but nothing could untie the terrible knot of tension in his stomach. The ring was his only connection to her, and right now it felt like nothing more than a hunk of dead metal.

  He dropped his hands to his sides and moved forward, up the path, past the statues and the benches inscribed with verses from Shakespeares plays. The path turned a curving right, and suddenly he could see her, sitting up ahead on a bench, looking away from him, her dark hair in a long braid down her back. She was very still, waiting. Waiting for him.

  Simon straightened his back and walked toward her, even though every step felt as if it were weighted with lead.

  She heard him as he approached and turned around, her pale face going even paler as he sat down beside her. "Simon," she said on an exhale of breath. "I wasnt sure youd come. "

  "Hi, Rebecca," he said.

  She held out her hand, and he took it, silently thanking the forethought that had made him put on gloves that morning, so that if he touched her she wouldnt feel the chill of his skin. It hadnt been that long since hed seen her last-maybe four months-but already she seemed like the photograph of someone hed known a long time ago, even though everything about her was familiar-her dark hair; her brown eyes, the same shape and color as his own; the spatter of freckles across her nose. She wore jeans, a bright yellow parka, and a green scarf with big yellow cotton flowers. Clary called Beckys style "hippie-chic"; about half her clothes came from vintage stores, and the other half she sewed herself.

  As he squeezed her hand, her dark eyes filled with tears. "Si," she said, and put her arms around him and hugged him. He let her, patting her arms, her back, clumsily. When she pulled back, wiping at her eyes, she frowned. "God, your face is cold," she said. "You should wear a scarf. " She looked at him accusingly. "Anyway, where have you been?"

  "I told you," he said. "I was staying with a friend. "

  She gave a short bark of laughter. "Okay, Simon, that so doesnt cut it," she said. "What the hell is going on?"

  "Becks. . . "

  "I called home about Thanksgiving," Rebecca said, staring straight ahead at the trees. "You know, what train I should take, that sort of thing. And you know what Mom said? She said not to come home, there wasnt going to be any Thanksgiving. So I called you. You didnt pick up. I called Mom to find out where you were. She hung up on me. Just-hung up on me. So I came home. Thats when I saw the religious weirdness all over the door. I freaked out on Mom, and she told me you were dead. Dead. My own brother. She said you were dead and a monster took your place. "

  "What did you do?"

  "I got the hell out of there," said Rebecca. Simon could tell she was trying to sound tough, but there was a thin, frightened edge to her voice. "It was pretty clear Mom had lost it. "

  "Oh," Simon said. Rebecca and his mother had always shared a fraught relationship. Rebecca liked to refer to his mother as "nuts" or "the crazy lady. " But it was the first time hed had the sense she really meant it.

  "Damn right, oh," Rebecca snapped. "I was frantic. I texted you every five minutes. Finally I get that crap text from you about staying with a friend. Now you want to meet me here. What the hell, Simon? How long has this been going on?"

  "How long has what been going on?"

  "What do you think? Mom being totally mental. " Rebeccas small fingers picked at her scarf. "We have to do something. Talk to someone. Doctors. Get her on meds or something. I didnt know what to do. Not without you. Youre my brother. "

  "I cant," Simon said. "I mean, I cant help you. "

  Her voice softened. "I know it sucks and youre just in high school, but, Simon, we have to make these decisions together. "

  "I mean I cant help you get her on meds," he said. "Or take her to the doctor. Because shes right. I am a monster. "

  Rebeccas mouth dropped open. "Has she brainwashed you?"

  "No-"

  Her voice wobbled. "You know, I thought maybe shed hurt you-the way she was talking-but then I thought, No, shed never do that, no matter what. But if she did-if she laid a finger on you, Simon, so help me-"

  Simon couldnt take it anymore. He stripped off his glove and held his hand out to his sister. His sister, whod held his hand on the beach when he was too small to toddle into the ocean unassisted. Whod mopped blood off him after soccer practice, and tears off him after their father had died and their mother was a zombie lying in her room staring at the ceiling. Whod read to him in his race-car-shaped bed when he still wore footie pajamas. I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. Who once accidentally shrunk all his clothes in the wash so they were doll-size, when she was trying to be domestic. Who packed his lunch when their mother didnt have time. Rebecca, he thought. The last tie he had to cut.

  "Take my hand," he said.

  She took it, and winced. "Youre so cold. Have you been sick?"

  "You could say that. " He looked at her, willing her to sense something wrong with him, really wrong, but she only looked back at him with trusting brown eyes. He bit back a flare of impatience. It wasnt her fault. She didnt know. "Take my pulse," he said.

  "I dont know how to take someones pulse, Simon. Im an art history major. "

  He reached over and moved her fingers up to his wrist. "Press down. Do you feel anything?"

  For a moment she was still, her bangs swinging over her forehead. "No. Am I supposed to?"

  "Becky-" He pulled his wrist back in frustration. There was nothing else for it. There was only one way. "Look at me," he said, and when her eyes swung up to his face, he let his fangs snap out.

  She screamed.

  She screamed, and fell off the bench onto the hard-packed dirt and leaves. Several passersby looked at them curiously, but it was New York, and they didnt stop or stare, just kept moving.

  Simon felt wretched. This was what hed wanted, but it was different actually looking at her crouching there, so pale that her freckles stood out like ink blots, her hand over her mouth. Just like it had been with his mother. He remembered telling Clary there was no worse feeling than not trusting the people you loved; hed been wrong. Having the people you loved be afraid of you was worse. "Rebecca," he said, and his voice broke. "Becky-"

  She shook her head, her hand still over her mouth. She was sitting in the dirt, her scarf trailing in the leaves. Under other circumstances it might have been funny.
>
  Simon got down off the bench and knelt down next to her. His fangs were gone, but she was looking at him as if they were still there. Very hesitantly he reached out and touched her on the shoulder. "Becks," he said. "I would never hurt you. I would never hurt Mom, either. I just wanted to see you one last time to tell you Im going away and you wont need to see me again. Ill leave you both alone. You can have Thanksgiving. I wont show up. I wont try to stay in touch. I wont-"

  "Simon. " She grabbed his arm, and then she was pulling him toward her, like a fish on a line. He half-fell against her, and she hugged him, her arms around him, and the last time shed hugged him like this was the day of their fathers funeral, when hed cried in that way one cried when it didnt seem like it was ever going to stop. "I dont want to never see you again. "

  "Oh," Simon said. He sat back in the dirt, so surprised that his mind had gone blank. Rebecca put her arms around him again, and he let himself lean against her, even though she was slighter than he was. She had held him up when theyd been children, and she could do it again. "I thought you wouldnt. "

  "Why?" she said.

  "Im a vampire," he said. It was weird, hearing it like that, out loud.

  "So there are vampires?"

  "And werewolves. And other, weirder stuff. This just-happened. I mean, I got attacked. I didnt choose it, but it doesnt matter. This is me now. "

  "Do you. . . " Rebecca hesitated, and Simon sensed that this was the big question, the one that really mattered. "Bite people?"

  He thought about Isabelle, then pushed the mental image hastily away. And I bit a thirteen-year-old girl. And a dude. Its not as weird as it sounds. No. Some things were not his sisters business. "I drink blood out of bottles. Animal blood. I dont hurt people. "

  "Okay. " She took a deep breath. "Okay. "

  "Is it? Okay, I mean?"

  "Yeah. I love you," she said. She rubbed his back awkwardly. He felt something damp on his hand and looked down. She was crying. One of her tears had splashed onto his fingers. Another one followed, and he closed his hand around it. He was shivering, but not from cold; still, she pulled off her scarf and wrapped it around them both. "Well figure it out," she said. "Youre my little brother, you dumb idiot. I love you no matter what. "

  They sat together, shoulder to shoulder, looking off into the shadowy spaces between the trees.

  It was bright in Jaces bedroom, midday sunlight pouring through the open windows. The moment Clary walked in, the heels of her boots clicking on the hardwood floor, Jace closed the door and locked it behind her. There was a clatter as he dropped the knives onto his bedside table. She began to turn, to ask him if he was all right, when he caught her around the waist and pulled her against him.

  The boots gave her extra height, but he still had to bend down to kiss her. His hands, on her waist, lifted her up and against him-a second later his mouth was on hers and she forgot all issues of height and awkwardness. He tasted like salt and fire. She tried to shut out everything but sensation-the familiar smell of his skin and sweat, the chill of his damp hair against her cheek, the shape of his shoulders and back under her hands, the way her body fit to his.

  He pulled her sweater over her head. Her T-shirt was short-sleeved, and she felt the heat coming off him against her skin. His lips parted hers, and she felt herself coming apart as his hand slid down to the top button on her jeans.

  It took all the self-control she had to catch at his wrist with her hand, and hold it still. "Jace," she said. "Dont. "

  He drew away, enough for her to see his face. His eyes were glassy, unfocused. His heart pounded against hers. "Why?"

  She squeezed her eyes shut. "Last night-if we hadnt-if I hadnt fainted, then I dont know what would have happened, and we were in the middle of a room full of people. Do you really think I want my first time with you-or any time with you-to be in front of a bunch of strangers?"

  "That wasnt our fault," he said, pushing his fingers softly through her hair. The scarred palm of his hand scratched her cheek lightly. "That silver stuff was faerie drugs, I told you. We were high. But Im sober now, and youre sober now. . . "

  "And Sebastians upstairs, and Im exhausted, and. . . " And this would be a terrible, terrible idea that both of us would regret. "And I dont feel like it," she lied.

  "You dont feel like it?" Disbelief colored his voice.

  "Im sorry if no ones ever said that to you before, Jace, but, no. I dont feel like it. " She looked pointedly down at his hand, still at the waistband of her jeans. "And now I feel like it even less. "

  He raised both eyebrows, but instead of saying anything he simply let go of her.

  "Jace. . . "

  "Im going to go take a cold shower," he said, backing away from her. His face was blank, unreadable. When the bathroom door slammed shut behind him, she walked over to the bed-neatly made up, no residual silver on the coverlet-and sank down, putting her head in her hands. It wasnt as if she and Jace never fought; shed always thought they argued about as much as normal couples did, usually good-naturedly, and theyd never been angry with each other in any significant way. But there was something about the coldness at the back of this Jaces eyes that shook her, something far off and unreachable that made it harder than ever to push away the question always at the back of her mind: Is any of the real Jace still in there? Is there anything left to save?

  * * *

  Now this is the Law of the Jungle,

  as old and as true as the sky,

  And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper,

  but the Wolf that shall break it must die.

  As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk,

  the Law runneth forward and back;

 
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