Dumpster Diving, Chapter Sixteen, Full of Life
Friday turned into Saturday, as it all passed by in a blur, most of the time resulting in on-and-off sleeping at Luke’s bedside. Jace sat wide awake next to me and every time I awoke from a short ten-minute nap, I’d ask if he slept at all and he’d always respond ‘no’.
Eventually, Jocelyn kicked Jace and me out of Luke’s room, telling me that I had to go home and take a real nap. As tired as I was, sleep wasn’t the first thing on my mind.
To please my mother, Jace agreed to drive me home, assuring Jocelyn he would sleep on the couch before she could even try to enforce the ‘no boys in my room except for Simon’ rule.
Dismayed, I reluctantly dragged my feet as Jace led me outside and to my car, which he drove again. When we were on the road, he offered me his hand, which I accepted.
Jace was quiet again, focusing on driving. He hadn’t gotten much sleep either and I was guilty that my eyes were starting to shut in the passenger seat while he drove. I forced myself to stay awake, however.
When Jace pulled down my street, I noticed Luke’s car was absent from the driveway. It must have been pretty damaged from collision. The thought deterred me from giving in to my tiredness, keeping me awake, wondering about how Luke was doing.
Jace parked my car where Luke usually parked. I didn’t say anything about it, though.
Half-asleep and overwhelmed with all the emotions I was feeling from my sleepless Friday night, I had evidently started to lose my consciousness in the car, when I was shaken awake by the gentle movement of Jace sweeping me up in his arms to carry me for the third time. This time I didn’t flinch.
I heard the car door shut and Jace struggling with finding the house key on my key ring. When he found it, he struggled to get the door open.
“Hand me the keys,” I said, barely loud enough to be heard. He handed me the keys and I fumbled with the door as he held me, my head bobbing and my eyes falling shut. I unlocked and opened the door and he stepped inside, kicking his shoes off and padding into the living room with his socks on.
“Where is your room?” he asked, gently rubbing my back to make sure I was awake.
“Last room on the left,” I mumbled, my eyes falling shut as hard as I struggled against the drowsy feeling.
I listened closely to Jace’s footsteps as they took me through my house, until he turned and I was positive I was in my room. He paused at the doorway.
I opened my eyes to see the familiar walls of my room, paintings and drawings taped to the wall in uneven intervals, my desk messy with notebooks and supplies. My bookshelf looked like it was ransacked, likely by Luke. A knot formed in my stomach and I closed my eyes.
Jace took me to my bed, gently setting me down on my back on top of my comforter. I felt the relief of pressure leaving my feet, hearing the thump of my shoes hitting the ground. Suddenly the warmth of a fleece blanket was being tucked around my body, and then his hands were gone.
When I opened my eyes again, Jace was leaving.
“Come back!” I cried out to him, causing him to pause in the doorway.
“Clary, your mother doesn’t want me in here-” he started to say.
I didn’t care. “Please,” I begged. Though I felt very unaware of my surroundings from the drowsy feeling of my eyelids drooping down, I could see the hesitation in Jace.
He sighed. “Clary, I-”
I sat up quickly, feeling the blood rushing too quickly from my head. A pounding headache greeted me as soon as I was sitting up, my hands instinctively cradling my forehead. I saw a slight frown on Jace’s face.
Then, in a blur, Jace was next to me, crawling under the comforter. He lifted it for me to crawl under and I obliged. I pulled the top blanket over so it covered Jace too, providing extra warmth. I laid back down, my body curling into Jace’s. I looked into his eyes, as we both laid on our sides facing each other, in which I saw a flash of contentedness in his expression.
“Thank you,” I mumbled.
He just smirked back at me, unable to contain one of his signature quips. “Now that you’ve coerced me into bed, what are you going to do?” He winked, but it wasn’t in a way that meant to be hurtful – it was playful.
I tried to laugh, but it came out as more of a huff. “I’m going to snuggle you until you can’t breathe,” I joked, as I brought my body closer to his, feeling the warm radiation of heat between us.
His arm wrapped around my body, pulling the weight of my body against his. I could feel his chest rising and falling, hear his rhythmic breathing and the thumping beat of his heart in his chest. His arm, cradling me, rested perfectly against my body. I wrapped my arm around him in response.
“Okay now don’t move,” I said. “Ever.” I didn’t think about what events happened that got us here. I didn’t think about our past or my worries about Luke or anything. I just closed my eyes tightly and took in the moment I was spending with Jace.
As he laughed, I felt his body shaking slightly. It caused a smile to appear on my face. I buried my face in his chest, already losing my ability to stay awake any longer.
The last thing I remember before falling into sleep was Jace’s cool voice saying “Never, it is.”
The problem with falling asleep Saturday around lunch, having had no sleep Friday night, meant that I woke up in the early hours of Sunday, around 2:00 or 3:00 AM I decided, based on the darkness I noted outside.
I stretched my arms, yawning, as I sat up in my bed, trying to recall the events of the day before. Something was missing.
Jace wasn’t sleeping next to me, as he had been comfortably for the past few hours. Frantic, my eyes searched my dark room, until they landed on a dark form seated on the floor by my window, the blinds pulled open and the night greeting the room. I could see Jace’s reflection slightly, his eyes searching the night for any dangers.
When I stirred, he turned his head to look at me.
“Why hello, sleeping beauty,” he said, standing and approaching the bed. He sat on the edge, apprehensively reaching out to touch my face. “You seemed to be having pleasant dreams last night.”
Idly I wondered if I had thrashed at all in my sleep or said anything. When I used to sleep between my mom and Luke in their bed when I was young and afraid of the dark, they would both tell me the next morning I kicked and groaned a lot in my sleep, sometimes saying things.
“Did I say anything?” I asked, suddenly worried about what I had said in my sleep.
“No,” he paused. “I slept rather restlessly last night and when I awoke a few times I spoke to you. Whenever I did, you mumbled or moaned a few times and smiled in your sleep, but that was about it. It might have been creepy to see someone smiling in their sleep, if it wasn’t so cute on you.” He inched forward and poked me on the nose. “Do you remember any of your dreams?”
I thought about it, trying to remember, but I nothing came off the top of my head. “Not really. They say you retain knowledge in your sleep if someone whispers in your ear. You’d think I’d remember something about that.” I shrugged it off as if it were nothing, but in the safety of my mind I thought harder and two sentences came to mind.
Life is perfectly survivable until you find yourself holding someone you love. Now it seems hard to imagine a life with you, Clary.
I wondered if I was making it up or just adding my name to it, subconsciously hoping it was Jace that whispered those words to me, secretly admitting he loves me. It seemed like a far stretch.
I felt unwilling to admit that these sentences came to mind, so I pretended uninterested in the topic, changing it. “Did Jocelyn catch us?” I asked. Jocelyn catching Jace in my bed seemed like a great distraction to make him forget he had asked about any dreams or memories of last night.
“She hasn’t come home yet,” he said with a shrug. “Did you want to head over to the hospital to see how she is doing?”
I nodded. “Yeah, after a shower. Do you have my bag?”
He stood and retrieved the bag I had packed for home. My drawers and closet was empty at home, everything remaining up at college. It was lucky he had thought to bring us each a change of clothes.
“Do you want to shower first?” I asked, selecting the outfit Jace had packed for me. It was a silk blouse with skin-tight skinny jeans.
“I’ll wait,” he said.
I had been sure he was going to say something about joining me for a shower, but he never did. His mood was much more serious and slightly more vulnerable, which meant he hadn’t closed himself off to me yet.
Nodding, I got out of bed and entered the bathroom, closing the door behind me. I stripped down and stepped into a warm spray of water that soothed my skin, as if instantly dissolving any knots or tangles in my body that happened from the stress of my life lately.
Halfway through my shower as I was shaving my legs, I heard a knock at the bathroom door. Assuming it was Jocelyn coming home, I answered “Come in!”
I poked my head around the dark shower curtain, suddenly glad it wasn’t see-through, when I saw Jace open the bathroom door. He was shielding his eyes for my sake.
“I’m decent,” I said. He unshielded his eyes and looked at my face, poking out from behind the shower curtain. “What is it?” This time I absolutely positive he would say something about how I was naked just behind the shower curtain.
“Your mother called your phone, which was ringing in your room, so I answered it. She said Luke is awake.”
“Oh my god,” I shrieked, nearly jumping out of the shower. Then I remembered I was indecent. “Hand me a towel,” I said, pointing at the towel rack across the bathroom.
He shook his head. “She wants you to take your time and eat before you come. I told her I’d make you something. How do you like your eggs?”
I don’t even like eggs, I thought. “Scrambled,” I said, feeling disconnect from my brain and my body. Luke was awake, that was all that mattered.
“Don’t rush your shower, take your time,” he assured me. “I’ll have your eggs ready by the time you’re out.” He walked out and the door clicked shut behind him.
I attempted to resume my shower as if he hadn’t told me Luke was awake, but I felt my nerves bundling in my stomach. I was so anxious to see if he was okay that I completely skipped shaving my calves. Oh well, it wasn’t like anyone would notice. Hurrying, I put conditioner in my hair and finished my shower in record time.
By the time I re-dressed and emerged from the bathroom, I could smell the aroma of breakfast foods in the kitchen. Jace was just dumping the scrambled eggs from the frying pan onto a plate when I stepped into the kitchen.
“Eggs are done, just waiting on the hash browns,” he said.
I nodded and sat at a bar stool at the kitchen bar, watching Jace as he prepared food for us both. He served the potatoes and took the toast out of the toaster, sliding it onto a plate. He handed me my plate and sat next to me. His eggs were also scrambled.
“Thanks,” I said, and forced the eggs down. It wasn’t the taste that bothered me as much as it was the smell.
I hurried to finish, anxious to get to see Luke when he was awake. I successfully forgot that I had to wait for Jace to finish eating and take a shower. I groaned, seeing he still had half a plate left by the time I was done.
“I don’t eat fast under pressure,” he teased. “Maybe if we had showered together, we could have been there sooner, too.” He winked playfully.
There it was. That was what I was expecting earlier. “I was kind of wondering how long it’d take you to say that,” I said, laughing.
He laughed too and finished his food. “I’ll be quick,” he said as he entered the bathroom and showered.
I went to my room and brushed out my hair, blow drying it until it was only slightly damp. Aside from that, I didn’t care how I looked.
Jace emerged when I finished my hair, wrapped in only a towel around his waist. He entered my room and saw me blushing beet red.
“My apologies,” he said. I knew he didn’t mean it. He was a guy, of course they always joked about this kind of thing.
I wasn’t angry at him for the jokes; they weren’t harmful to me in any way. It seems like Jace couldn’t completely leave his jokes behind, even when he opened up. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind a few quips here and there.
I left the room for him to dress and dry his hair. He met me in the living room when he was finished, car keys in hand. “Ready,” he announced.
I bolted for the door, refreshed and ready to see Luke. Jace laughed, joining me. We walked outside and he once again took the driver’s side.
The drive to the hospital was quiet, aside from the radio, which was tuned to a mainstream-type station. I listened blankly to the radio, as they announced the British singer Cher Lloyd’s song Want U Back.
I bopped my head to the beat, mildly wondering if Simon would agree with the lyrics. I remembered how jealous he was when there was a chance I’d take Jace’s side, and he had thrown himself in a dumpster because of it.
I listened to the song’s lyrics:
Remember all the things that you and I did first?
And now you’re doing them with her?
Remember all the things that you and I did first?
You got me, got me like this!
And now you’re taking her to every restaurant,
And everywhere we went, come on!
And now you’re taking her to every restaurant,
You got me, got me like this!
I tried to forget how the words might have applied to my life, instead thinking about Simon and his music taste. He typically had strong opinions on music and their lyrics. He had been on and off in a band with his gamer friends Eric, Matt and Kirk. Their band name changed from week to week. They hadn’t practiced together since college started, and I wondered if it would happen anytime soon.
By the time the song was over, we were at the hospital. I nearly threw myself out the door once Jace had parked. He was walking slowly behind me, so I grabbed his hand and pulled him forward, forcing him to pick up his pace. He laughed at my urgency.
Annoyed to drag Jace all the way to Luke’s room, my impatience began to wear on my mood. We finally reached Luke’s room and I threw the door open, releasing Jace’s hand once inside to approach Luke’s bed.
Jocelyn was smiling at Luke, sitting in the chair next to the bed, her hand gripping Luke’s with a desperation I understood. She had been worried sick about her companion – I couldn’t imagine what that felt like.
When my eyes met Luke’s, I gasped. He looked so full of life now, compared to when he had been unconscious the last time I saw him. The bruising on his face was still prominent, but he was healing. He grinned at my arrival, beckoning me to him.
I approached him and touched his free hand, standing on the other side of the bed from Jocelyn.
“So great to see you again so soon, Clary.” His voice was rough around the edges, but still contained his charming Luke-like quality.
I wanted to hug him but refrained in fear it might hurt him. “We were all so worried!” I shrieked, the emotion from the past few days returning to my voice with harsh force.
He looked past me, where I remembered Jace was standing. I waved Jace to my side and he appeared next to me, uncertainty in his expression.
“Jocelyn told me you’ve been quite the gentleman, young man,” Luke said, as a greeting.
Jace just nodded. “Clary was too distressed to drive.”
“You also drove Jocelyn home?” Luke asked apprehensively.
He nodded again, this time saying nothing.
“Well thank you for taking care of my girls,” Luke said.
Despite the hidden disgust for Jace that Luke had, he seemed to smile warmly at him, thankful that Jace took care of me. I knew Luke hated the way Jace had once treated me – and he could tell right away that this was the boy who hurt me through all the years. He said nothing about it though, as if he noticed something different between Jace and I like my mother had when we first entered the room.
I felt embarrassed that they saw me with him like this, in the stages of Jace and myself trying to figure out what we really were, especially since all my parents knew about him was that he constantly sent me home from school in tears during high school. If only they knew about the events at college, they might hate him. I wondered why I didn’t, and then remembered it was too complicated a topic to begin untangling.
For reasons I couldn’t disclose – possibly because I wasn’t sure of my reasoning – I didn’t tell them anything about Jace’s initial torture at college. There was hope within me, deep down, praying that the changes I was seeing in Jace would withstand when we had to return to campus. For now, all I could do was blindly put my trust in him.
I could tell Luke noticed the blind trust I was putting into Jace, as concern etched on his face. I touched his hand, silently assuring him that I would take care of myself. After that, he didn’t seem to look at Jace again with any uncertainty – it was like he pushed that from his mind, for my sake.
We all spoke with Luke for a while, Jace mostly watching by my side. After a half hour, a nurse came in and decided Luke needed his rest, as she ushered Jocelyn, Jace and I out of the room.
Jocelyn turned to me and enveloped me in a hug. “You should get back to campus, sweetie.”
I nodded, silently agreeing. We hugged goodbye. It was still different hugging her, but with the circumstances I didn’t care.
After our goodbyes, Jace and I returned to the car. I looked back at the hospital apprehensively, unsure if I wanted to leave. The nurse wouldn’t let us see Luke anyway, but it felt wrong leaving him after he just woke up. Unfortunately, school resumed tomorrow, so I knew I couldn’t stay.
Jace changed the radio in the car to a metal station. Some band called A Day To Remember was playing and I wondered if Simon’s band had ever come up with a cool name like that. I decided they never had – their names ranged from Untamed Contradiction to Walking Entropy to Sophisticated Daylight.
“What are you thinking about?” Jace asked after a while.
I hadn’t really been thinking of much. I’d hear a lyric on the radio and think of Simon or Jocelyn or Luke. It was really nothing of substance. What I should have been thinking about was what might happen when Jace and I returned and had to explain to everyone why we both disappeared. My phone had about six missed calls and ten unread text messages from Simon. I could only imagine how many messages and voicemails Jace had when he disappeared. Maybe people thought we killed each other.
I had nothing to answer his question with so I settled on asking him one. “What do you think will happen when we get back?”
“We go back to hating each other,” he said nonchalantly.
I stared at him, my eyes bugging out. “What do you mean we-”
“Kidding,” he hushed me. “Too soon?” His eyes met mine. I wanted to punch him.
“Don’t do that ever again,” I scolded, my eyes narrowing.
His eyes flickered back to the road. “It was right there, I couldn’t resist myself.”
I rolled my eyes. “Resist next time.”
He nodded. “Ma’am yes ma’am.”
I glared at him harder. “You’re not going to just flip the switch again and throw me in another dumpster are you?”
Jace met my eyes, every sarcastic and teasing aspect of him fading into brooding seriousness. The way he looked into my eyes was almost enough to make me forget where I was, as well as any insecurity I had about having any kind of relationship with him.
His voice was as serious as his expression. “When we get back, I’m going to let you figure out your feelings for me. And from there, we’ll see.” His eyes went back to the road. I didn’t mind obviously, because focusing on driving should always be more important than ‘the talk’.
Pursing my lips, I wondered why he hadn’t said he needed to figure things out for himself either. Did he already know how he felt? “Jace?” I asked
“Hm?” he asked, his eyes flicking to me.
I paused, unsure if I wanted to ask. The question burned in my mind, tempting me. I just wasn’t sure what kind of answer I was expecting, or if I even wanted an answer. Things were already complicated as it was.
“Do you already know what you feel for me?” I finally asked, blurting, almost wishing I hadn’t.
He looked pondering for a moment, before his expression settled and he took my hand. Squeezing it, he said “Yes, and because of how I feel, when we get back I will do everything in my power to fix all the damage I’ve done, before Isabelle can enact her plan.”
His answered seemed to dodge the question. I wanted to know how he felt, regardless of my inability of knowing how I’d react to his answer. If he felt positive things about me, I wouldn’t know if it’d be the path I want to take. But at the same time, if he didn’t feel something for me, I’d probably hurt a lot more knowing. It seemed like a double-edged sword.
I still had to know.
“How do you feel?”
He sighed, his expression hesitant. Finally, he calmly said “If I had it my way I’d want you as mine to hold and cherish, and I’d spend the rest of my time trying to make up for all the pain I’ve put you through.” He sighed. “I’m sorry, Clary. I do hope you’ll forgive me one day.”