Dumpster Diving, Chapter 24

Dumpster Diving, Chapter Twenty-Four: Not Breakable

It was my birthday, and without even noticing it had happened, I had become a diva.

Simon sat next to me on my bed as I had rehashed my disastrous birthday to him, realizing I had practically thrown a full-blown tantrum at Isabelle’s when she was doing my makeup. I frowned a little when I gauged his reaction.

“I’m turning into Isabelle,” I said, before he could comment on my story. “I went all control freak and pulled a diva move.”

Simon laughed and pulled a band-aid out of the box, opening it and sticking it to my forehead. “For your ego,” he said, still laughing.

I laughed, too. “Did you at least give me Han Solo?”

“Better,” he said. “In theme of your new desire for control as the new Isabelle in training, you now don the Anakin Skywalker.”

“You think I’m the new Darth Vader!?” I exclaimed in surprise.

“You know,” Simon started, his tone becoming serious. “Isabelle isn’t all that bad. Anakin was good once, too. You just need to get to know her.”

I frowned. He was still brain-washed by her, I assumed. Sometimes I wondered how someone like Simon could date someone like Isabelle. I was probably missing the whole point of his talk.

“Yeah, Simon, the same could be said to her. She never attempted to get to know me either to know that I was more than just Dumpster Girl.”

Simon nodded. “People are changing at college, it’s freaky right?”

I sighed. I guess I didn’t have time to be petty. I should try to at least enjoy the day. I could be fierce like the red in my hair, but I could still play along. After all, next I was scheduled to go to dinner with Jocelyn, Luke and Simon, the people I cared about most. I knew that they cared about me most, too.

Simon whisked me off to the drop-off at the front of the residence hall, where a beaten up truck idled. I recognized Jocelyn and Luke and practically tripped over my own feet as I ran – anything but gracefully – in their direction. Behind me, Simon chuckled, catching up with me in front of the truck, as Jocelyn put the car in park and got out to hug me, Luke limping up to me after. I embraced them both, suddenly thankful that Isabelle made sure I got my family time.

I was finally in the presence of people I had known and trusted for the majority of my life, and I didn’t have to feel so alone anymore. I didn’t have to feel like I was against the odds with Jocelyn, Luke and Simon, because they accepted me in spite of my stupid nicknames.

Suddenly, the day was becoming lighter and everything was naturally falling into place. Despite how happy I felt, I knew the light of day was trickling by too quickly, so I attempted to cherish the moments I had with my family as much as possible before it was over. We all sat around a table at a restaurant, laughing and smiling. This was where I was meant to be, today. It instantly lifted my mood from the depths of hell towards heaven, my mood suddenly floating without gravity in the air.

Simon sat across from me, eyeing me, laughing at Luke’s jokes, but yet he was somehow distant, as if he wasn’t being genuine with his laughter. It gave me a sense of sadness – I knew that Simon was distant just because I knew him so well, but it was like I didn’t know what he was distant about anymore.

I looked at him, really trying to look into Simon’s emotions like I used to be able to do. We knew each other like I knew my own hand, and I knew he felt the same – or at least he used to. But as Simon had said earlier, college really was changing people. It stung to know that it was changing our friendship the way it had – Simon was the last person I thought I would lose. He meant more to me than I had ever dreamed possible, especially because of how we met.

Simon and I met back in third grade, when we were both outcast in the school play as being the little piggies. Jace was the Big Bad Wolf and Isabelle was Little Red Riding Hood, and I remember bonding with Simon as some of the other kids in the play – led by the Bad Wolf and Little Red – made pig noises at us in amusement. Now, we were freshmen in college and we were basically in cahoots with the very people who bonded us with their teasing. It seemed a little ironic, now that I thought about it.

Throughout dinner, my mind wandered a lot. Jocelyn and Luke weren’t exactly helping with that either, because they were the ones bringing up a lot of my memories with Simon, raving about how old I had become and how I was all grown up now. I just blushed a lot and tried to wave away their stories with a laugh, as Simon also did.

Halfway through the dinner when our food came, I got noticed Simon’s hands under the table. Texting Isabelle, I assumed. A few beats later and I felt my own phone vibrating. It was Isabelle.

I read it and pursed my lips, guilt seeping into my mood, bringing it back down to ground zero. I shot a reply back quickly and returned my attention to my family, only to be brought back to a new text message, this time from Simon.

I looked up at Simon and frowned again, guilty. Isabelle was his girlfriend and he was on her side. He knew how I had treated her earlier and I felt like I had to respect Simon’s wishes to open my heart and my mind up to Isabelle.

“Jocelyn…Luke…” I said, when our dinner had finished. Everyone’s eyes were on me. “I know you guys traveled a ways to come say happy birthday and I feel so sorry to bail…”

Jocelyn smiled and nodded, her hand touching mine in a new motherly attitude that she was suddenly adopting. “Honey, if your friends want to hang out, we won’t hover after dinner.”

Luke agreed. “We just appreciate even spending this little bit of time with you.”

After all was said and done, I stared at Simon and saw him nodding in approval. This would earn me some Simon points back, I supposed. Jace would likely be happy with me, too.

The only problem was, I didn’t know how I felt about it. Isabelle wanted to drink and go clubbing tonight, and underage drinking was really the last thing I wanted to do.

Jocelyn and Luke dropped Simon and I back off at the dorms and waved goodbye. We made our way back to my living room to sit down and talk. I noticed Isabelle’s door was closed and frowned.

“I know you want me to like Isabelle,” I said, after a few moments of content silence. “I don’t really want to, but there’s so much relying on me liking her.”

Simon looked into my eyes, his comforting expression softening my mood a little. “Clary, I know it’s hard, but I don’t understand why you think you owe these people anything.”

“I thought you wanted me to like her?” I asked, confused. I felt like Simon was contradicting himself in saying he both wants me to like Isabelle, but yet he doesn’t want me to give in to the people who I owe nothing to.

I think Simon was as confused as I was. We both grew up together, trembling in fear of the people that bullied us, and here we both were dating the people who did us in all those years ago. In one sense, I could see why Simon had an open mind and an open heart to Isabelle, because I had felt the same way with Jace, but it was like both of us struggled with each other’s relationship choices. Simon didn’t like Jace just as much as I didn’t like Isabelle.

“I just want what’s best for you. I want you to give Isabelle a chance, but only when it’s right for you. And I’ll…” he trailed off, his face cringing. “I’ll try to do the same for Jace. If I have it in me to forgive him, I don’t know, but I have to try if you’re going to do the same for me with Isabelle.”

My head was spinning from everything that was going on. I felt confused and conflicted. My relationship with Simon had never been this complicated before, but then again neither of us had dated anyone before – it was probably just the protective energy we had about each other that made this such a failure.

“I’m not ready myself to give Isabelle a chance,” I admitted, “But that’s not my decision to make.”

“Then whose decision is it, Clary?” Simon asked, concern evident. “I’m not going to make you like her, so it’s clearly not my decision.”

Flustered that I couldn’t tell Simon about Jace’s plan, I just avoided his question, redirecting the conversation. Isabelle was waiting for me in her room whenever Simon and I finished our conversation, and as much as I didn’t want to go, I felt like I had to.

“Simon, I can’t really tell you why, but I have to do this.”

He nodded, attempting to give me the benefit of the doubt. “You don’t have to tell me why, Clary. But if someone is controlling you, don’t hesitate to bring me into things. I’m not breakable.” He put his arms around me in an embrace and I snuggled into his arms. “You know I’d do anything for you,” he added, whispering into my ear.

“I love you, Simon.”

“I love you too, Clary, more than you’ll ever know,” he replied. I could finally hear the smile in his voice that I loved so much. Happy Simon was my favorite version of Simon.

He left after that, with an encouraging kiss on the cheek and one more hug. It was just what I needed to suck it up and get this night of clubbing over with.

Upon hearing Simon’s exit, Isabelle’s room swung open and she stood there, clad in a skin-tight body-con dress and heels, her hair slicked back in a pony-tail, her long hair laid over her shoulder. I struggled to look at her, but I managed. The expression on her face was as intense as the height of her heels, a staggering 5 inches.

She stepped toward me, her eyes pleading for forgiveness. I nodded and she hugged me. I would do this for Simon and Jace, two of the three men in my life.

I was about to go to a club with Isabelle, and the night had barely begun.

Three shots of tequila, a long island iced tea and a Bud Light later, I woke up in a dim hospital room with an IV in my arm. Next to me, Jace sat, his eyebrows furrowed together in fear, until he finally noticed me awake.

Without a second a hesitation, he was hugging me in an embrace so tight and comforting that I would have thought it was Simon hugging me if I hadn’t already known it was Jace. I cried into his shoulder, wishing I could remember the past 24 hours of my life.

My heart began to race as I clung tightly to Jace, unable to do anything else but cry streams of tears as I tried to remember something – anything.


Dumpster Diving, Chapter 23

Dumpster Diving: Chapter Twenty-Three: Birthday Princess

The day was doomed from the moment the clock struck midnight. I resentfully glared at my clock radio as midnight passed and Friday turned into Saturday. The worst part about the clock striking midnight for Saturday was not because tonight Isabelle had pre-planned a girls night, and it wasn’t because my parents were coming up to take me out to dinner – it was because today was my birthday, and everybody seemed to remember that. The attention on myself today would be more honed in than usual.

Once I sneered at the clock for a few minutes, I crawled into bed and prepared myself to sleep until I would undoubtedly be roused by early-morning birthday celebrations. I loathed the thought. I didn’t want anything special for my birthday, other than to be left alone for the day, but of course my wishes never came true.

I let my eyes close, as I began to fall asleep.

My phone began buzzing off the hook seconds later, successfully causing panic to swim through my body at the unexpected noise. I groaned and gripped my phone, seeing messages upon messages coming in, wishing me a happy birthday.

There was just about one from everyone: Jocelyn and Luke, Alec, Magnus, Maia, Jordan, even Sebastian and Jonathan – though I scrunched my nose in disgust when I read their messages. Isabelle had even taken the time to send a text, though she was feet away from me in her room. The only people missing were Simon and Jace.

I frowned at my phone. For the next few minutes before I fell asleep, all I could think about was the two missing messages that I had expected most out of any – two out of the three men in my life didn’t send a happy birthday.

Morning broke, and as expected there was loud pounding at my door that broke me from my silent slumber. I groaned, and sat up to throw on clothes. The pounding never ceased. “I’m coming!” I shouted, scurrying around quickly to dress so the maddening pounding would cease.

As the door swung open, I was plundered with an excessive chorus of “Happy Birthday!” from a room full of people: Magnus, Alec, Sebastian, Jonathan, and Isabelle. Again, both Simon and Jace were missing. I frowned again.

Isabelle stepped forward and handed me a colorful gift bag with a card sticking out. “It’s from all of us. Hint! It’s the dress you’re wearing today!” She eyed my outfit. “Looks like you needed a peppier birthday getup anyway.”

I rolled my eyes, trying to ignore her odd way of trying to be nice. “Thanks,” I said quietly.

Magnus proceeded to step forward, with something sparkly in his hands. “Here’s your tiara, princess. Don it with pride.” He placed what I assumed was a tiara on my head. It just felt heavy and itchy, but I didn’t dare touch it in front of everyone – the more I cooperated, the sooner they would be gone.

I sighed, as Alec stepped forward with a sash. “Let me guess. It says Birthday Princess?” I asked. Alec nodded and I groaned. This had to be all of Isabelle’s doing.

Thankfully, Sebastian and Jonathan didn’t hand me anything – they were just here for the surprise awakening, apparently. I wondered why they even bothered at all. Today their presence seemed pointless, because they hardly interacted with me much anyway, at least in the positive sense.

After some small talk about birthday planning – all Isabelle’s doing – they all left the room but Isabelle. She smirked at me, a hint of something that spelled mischief. I was immediately worried.

“What now?” I asked, assuming the worst.

She just shrugged and skipped away toward her room, turning only to say “Read the cards!”

“Cards?” I asked, confused. But it was too late – she had skipped into her room and shut the door.

I groaned again and trudged into my room, the pink gift bag in hand. I removed my tiara and sash and lazily dug into the gift bag to pull out a short black dress with sequins and lace. I knew I would never get away with wearing anything but what I was given, so I sucked in a breath and changed, even adding my tiara and sash – though resentfully.

I dumped the remaining contents of the gift bag onto my bed, digging through the tissue paper until I spotted two labeled cards. I wasn’t sure how I had missed that there were two cards.

One said “Open at 11AM” and the other said “Open at 5PM”. I looked at the clock, which read 10AM.

After the hour passed slowly, as I stared at the ambiguous cards on my bed, I finally was able to open the first envelope.

Inside, a note that was cut out of magazine letters fell into my lap. It looked like a ransom note. It read: “Clary, if you ever wish to see your precious Nook again, you must meet me at the fountain, 12 o clock on the dot. Bring no one and tell no one, or you will never see your Nook again!”

I couldn’t help but smile at the note, wondering who it was from. It seemed like something Simon would do – so I immediately perked up, knowing that he had in fact wanted to see me today, despite our rough relationship lately. He hadn’t talked to me since he called the day he found out about Jace and I.

Another hour went by, but this time all I could think about was Simon, and how much I wished our relationship hadn’t been affected by the inevitable course that college seemed to be heading in. Everything at The Institute was driving us apart, and I feared that soon he may no longer be an everyday thing in my life.

I finally gathered my energy and went on my way to meet the writer of my ransom note, as it neared noon. The walk across campus received many sideways glances from those who happened to be around on a Saturday. I decided that I was able to look at them weird too for being on campus when there weren’t any classes going on.

When I reached the fountain the note referred to, I saw a streak of blonde hair, and my heart instantly raced at the revelation that it was Jace rather than Simon, though I wasn’t sure if it was because I was just excited to see Jace or if I was sort of startled to find that it wasn’t Simon. I felt both emotions of sadness and happiness, mixed into one package.

Jace was facing the opposite direction, settled down on a blanket. I saw a pile of food and a collection of daisies he must have picked from a garden on campus. He must have heard me coming, because he turned around when I came closer, a grin plastered on his face. I immediately pushed away the lingering sadness I felt about Simon not being here, and smiled back at him to prove that I was going to tough it out today.

“It’s the Birthday Princess,” Jace sneered, well aware of how irritated I was with the whole princess getup I was wearing, despite how hard I was trying to show my cooperation. He was lucky I cooperated at all with his sadistic sister, who only wants to set me up for failure at this point – or at least that was what I was convinced her motive was. She seemed fine lately, but you could never tell with her, since she had hid it so well the first time.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” I admitted, though I knew I would never fess up to who I wished was here with me. Jace ushered me to sit down next to him, and he started to set out some of the food he made. There were finger sandwiches and fresh fruit, chips and veggies – it was impressive. I picked up a carrot and dipped it into the vegetable dip. “What’s with this?” I asked, as I crunched down on the carrot.

“Your day was pre-planned out by Isabelle and everyone had to go through her to make any plans with you,” Jace explained, as my eyebrows began to knit together in frustration the more he spoke. “So I either got you for lunch or not at all,” he added.

I shrugged. “I don’t see what the big deal is.”

Jace nodded in agreement, which made me feel better. At least he understood where I was coming from – otherwise I would just look like a spoiled brat who wanted her way. Somehow though, Jace could see through my hard exterior to read my very thoughts: he knew this was not my day and I would feel better off ignoring it.

“Take it with a grain of salt,” Jace said simply, as he bit into a finger sandwich. “At least Isabelle is coming around. She only does this annoying plan-your-day thing for people she likes-” He paused, almost as if to retract his statement or backtrack. “Well, I suppose it could be for people she hates, because the plan-your-day festivities usually end up irritating whoever she does it for. But that would mean she hates Alec and I, which undoubtedly she doesn’t. In a strange way, she does it because she cares.”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s part of the show. That’s what she wants you to think.”

Jace shook his head. “She thinks I’m in it with her though, Clary. Why would she do the plan-your-day festivities that she does with Alec and I if she hated you, when we both know it means she cares?”

I decided I wasn’t in the mood to talk about the anarchy of Isabelle, so I dropped the subject. Jace didn’t seem to mind, because he didn’t bring it up at all during our time at the fountain.

It was kind of relaxing actually, spending lunch just sitting and talking with Jace. We were completely alone on campus because most college students avoided coming back to campus on days that classes weren’t held on. Everyone was off making plans for their Saturday night parties and whatnot. It was quite the relief to not have to worry about any of that. All I had to do was just sit and enjoy my lunch with Jace.

We talked about nothing in particular – just random topics that entered our minds. Never once did Jace bring up the plan or the mysterious biological father issues we both had or his little brother or Simon or anything else that was plaguing our college lives. For a change, I actually felt like a normal person.

I knew I shouldn’t have let it sink in too much, because the lunch ended quickly with a startling squeal coming from behind – Isabelle.

“Jace!” she shouted, behind me, successfully causing my body to leap up in surprise a couple of inches. “Why on Earth are you sitting on the ground? You’ll crush Clary’s dress!” I felt her hand at my elbow, pulling me upward. I stared straight into the face of the dragon – I mean, Isabelle. “Clary, why aren’t you wearing any makeup!? This is your birthday! I must fix this!”

Without a moment’s hesitation, Isabelle began dragging me from my relaxing picnic with Jace. I was aware this was probably the last of him that I’d see today, but it still felt surreal being dragged away from him and knowing that I had actually felt safe around him. Except now, I was being brought back to Isabelle’s torture chamber she calls a room, where she would apply pounds of makeup, telling me that I needed it because I needed to be pretty, and I wouldn’t feel safe at all. I didn’t even have the energy to be offended by how she was treating me, because I knew Isabelle’s way of being nice was so abnormal that it wasn’t worth getting worked up about.

Though, hours later, I about had it with Isabelle by the time she was almost done with me and I looked like a tortured model with stage makeup on. Though I knew my whole day was planned, my patience was wearing, and I considered opting out from all of this.

I’m stronger than this, and I knew it. Getting pushed around by a person who hardly liked me was not my favorite pastime. I was only doing it because Jace asked me to – I wondered if he even cared about me, because he was asking so much of me. Someone who really cared about me would never put me through all this torture.

Simon was right, I realized in awe, right as Isabelle was applying my winged eyeliner.

I jerked my face away from her, as Isabelle’s liquid eyeliner streaked my face in all the wrong places. She shrieked in surprise as I rose from the seat, feeling heat rising to my cheeks. I wasn’t nearly tall enough to intimidate her, but suddenly I felt 7 feet tall, as I said to Isabelle:


She stared at me in oblivion. Her jaw line tightened, and I could see her eyes flashing dangerously. Still, she said nothing as I marched out of her room, slamming her door shut.

I entered my room, slammed my door shut, and plopped onto my bed. The clock read 4PM. I wanted to cover my face in a pillow – uncaring that it would smear all my makeup Isabelle had just spent the last few hours applying – and scream. However, something caught my eye.

The 5PM envelope.

I opened it with haste, uncaring that I was opening it an hour early. Inside the envelope, in Simon’s handwriting, was an apology note, scrawled out in lazy – possibly worried – handwriting.

Tears trickled from my eyes, as I remembered all that Simon and I had been through, and all that I felt that I was losing. I was neck deep in a pool of quicksand and I had refused Simon’s hand to pull me out. Every bone in my body ached, with sore tingling sensations, for the chance to hug Simon and apologize.

Uncaring that my day was planned, uncaring that I opened the envelope too early, and most of all uncaring that I was screwing over Jace’s master plan – I called Simon, crying.

He picked up, with the understanding that I had read his note, and promised to come to my room early to pick me up before my dinner date with my parents. My second birthday surprise came early when Simon showed up at my door in dress pants and a graphic t-shirt reading “no photos please” hidden under a suit jacket. He was holding a bouquet of red roses and a box of band-aids.

He grinned at me. “You called me early so I didn’t have time to wrap your present.” He handed me the band-aids. “Here, I thought maybe you’d need some of these.” They had star wars characters on them.

Tears escaped my eyes. I lunged forward to hug Simon, and he responded back quickly with a comforting hug and a caressing touch at the small of my back.

At least now, in Simon’s arms, I felt safe again. After this, I realized I didn’t care anymore what happened the rest of tonight, as long as Simon was with me. I felt giddy as a kid looking into his eyes, as he smiled his dorky smile back at me that I had missed so dearly.

Dumpster Diving, Chapter 22

Dumpster Diving, Chapter Twenty-One: Kissing a Football Player

Friday night of my fourth week, Taki’s was loud and I felt too distracted with other conversations around me to listen to the one happening at my table. I looked around for Simon, praying I would spot him, since a lot of students seemed to end up at Taki’s in the evening – the food was way better than the dining hall’s food. It became the group’s daily dinner spot, as it was for many students, but it had been days since Simon stopped joining us, ever since he and I fought about my relationship with Jace. I located Maia and Jordan’s table at the other side of the room, but Simon wasn’t with them.

I wished Simon wasn’t so mad at me for spending all my time with Jace’s crowd. I wished he could understand that I was roped into it not because I wanted to, but because I had to. I wish he wouldn’t chastise me for dating Jace, when he had wanted to get close to Isabelle anyway. It would be easier if he wouldn’t push me away so quickly without letting me explain.

Something hit my face and I looked up, gasping. “What the hell?” I asked, looking for the culprit. Across the table sat Jace, who was shaking his head indicating it wasn’t him.

I stared at Jace a second too long. His eyes were especially gold today and his hair sat perfectly, pushed to one side of his head as if he were a hair model. I wondered how he had been so blessed with beautiful hair, while I was constantly fighting off frizzy red locks. No one liked red hair anyway.

Finally I met eyes with Sebastian, who was next to Jace. He was slyly winking at me. He must have been the attacker. I gripped a dinner roll, which had been what hit me out of my reverie, and threw it at Sebastian’s face. He flinched but caught it in his hand, scooping it up to take a bite. I sneered at him.

Under the table I felt Jace kicking my feet. We met eyes and I could read his expression; he wanted me to behave.

Sighing, I wiped the scowl off my face and faked a smile. “What, Sebastian?” I asked, using the small amount of energy I had stored up to remain patient.

Sebastian laughed, as if laughing off my irritation like it didn’t bother him. “I asked you how you ladies have been doing in preparation for the big game.” Sebastian’s dark eyes looked black, despite Taki’s being well-lit. There was always something off about him. Today, the way he looked at me felt like he was eating me up – it felt wrong.

I shuddered and averted my gaze, choosing to look toward Jace again. He always seemed to look up right when I looked to his face. We would catch eyes for a while and just stare, and it never felt weird or forced. I tried to shrug off the feelings it gave me in the pit of my stomach. Jace either made me feel sick with nausea or it was butterflies – I wanted to believe it was the former; however, I knew I couldn’t escape the butterflies.

“It’s going fine,” I said through gritted teeth.

Next to me, Isabelle was bouncing in her seat. Excitement was evident in her eyes as I turned my head to look in her direction. She was grinning at me, as if we were the best of friends. It was strange that we could sort of get along when she finally started to give me a chance; though whether the chance was fake or not, I couldn’t tell. Either way, she seemed fine getting along with me as of lately, especially ever since Jace and I became official.

“I showed Clary my workout routine today! We’ll be ready in no time!” She flipped her hair over her shoulder, regaining her composure.

Isabelle was the kind of girl who, once she really opened up, would surprise you with how crazy she was. Outsiders never seemed to be aware of how perky she could be, once she trusted someone enough to show them. Then again, I remembered that it was possible that all my information was mixed up and Isabelle was just playing me again – I just hoped this time that my intuition was reality.

“Yeah,” I confirmed, the excitement lacking in my voice compared to Isabelle’s. “Oh we definitely hit the gym this morning.” I looked back at Jace to gauge his reaction. He seemed impressed. He took a sip of his coffee, his eyes grazing the restaurant. “Except now,” I continued. “It feels like it’s hitting me back.”

Suddenly coffee spewed across the table and everyone stared wide-eyed at Jace, who was laughing harder than I had ever seen him laugh before.

Kaelie walked by the table, noticing the happenstance, her eyes dark and angry. She stomped off, returning with a rag to wipe up Jace’s spit. He couldn’t seem to contain himself at this point, as he burst into a heavier fit of laughter.

When Jace was finally able to calm his laughter, he just stared at me, smirking. “You surprise me sometimes, Red.” When Jace said his new nickname for me, I felt my body shiver. I hated to admit that I kind of liked the nickname.

The group began to talk in side conversations; Isabelle, Sebastian and Jonathan were talking about the weeklong events and their predictions on the ultimate winner, while Magnus and Alec were discussing Halloween costume ideas. Jace and I remained quiet, until I felt my phone vibrate.

I hadn’t noticed Jace texting, but it was from him. It read: Want me to show you how to throw a football tonight?

I smiled at my phone, grateful that Jace had been helping me for the past few days in preparation for the game. It was only about three weeks away until Halloween Spirit Week in the residence halls began their Boys vs. Girls weeklong competition.

Even though Jace was a male and would be playing against me, he was still there every step of the way in my learning process, teaching me the game of football and how it worked, as well as what to do in certain situations. We hadn’t gotten to the part of how to actually throw a football yet, we had so far just watched football on the TV while Jace taught me the general game.

Truthfully I felt nervous about actually learning to throw a football, because I could imagine Jace guiding me like the guys did in the movies, where they stood behind the girl and their bodies touched, as the guy positioned the girl to learn whatever it was he was teaching. It always seemed to end in a passionate kiss, which made me nervous.

Ever since Jace and I have been official only a week, we hadn’t been intimate at all – Jace stuck by his ideals and promised to never ask anything of me that I didn’t want to do. I had tested him all week by keeping the physical contact minimal – little hand-holding or kissing of any sort – to see if he would step up his game. I was almost gauging whether or not he was still involved in the plan, as embarrassed as I felt to admit it to myself. By now it should have been evident that he was on my side, but I could never be too sure.

I felt my body violently shake, as the panicking thought of kissing Jace left my mind as quickly as it entered. I typed a response to Jace: Idk, maybe we should do our English papers 2nite. Our roomies Jonathan & Isabelle r going 2 catch on if they both notice we r missing & happen 2 mention it.

I shut my phone and stared up at Jace, waiting to see how he would respond when he saw the text. He frowned at his phone in his lap, looking up to me with sad, pleading eyes. He mouthed something when he was sure no one else was looking: “You are the enemy of fun.”

I groaned quietly to myself and opened my phone, typing something else: Fine! Just quit with the puppy dog eyes or I’ll kick you!

He grinned when he read my second text and replied:You have quite the raging anger issues for a little redhead!

Smiling, I kicked him hard under the table. I saw him withhold a yelp of surprise, as he glanced at the group of friends on both sides of us, trying to decide if anyone noticed. No one did.

Laughing to myself, I sent one last text: Tonight. Pick me up at 8. Isabelle will be too busy watching Project Runway to notice me leave.

He replied one final time, his words seeming to ring through my head as I read them:

It’s a date.

Right on the dot, I felt a vibrating sensation in my pocket at 8:00 PM. I looked at my phone and it was Jace, confirming he was waiting outside in the hallway for me. I quietly grabbed my gym bag and tiptoed to the door, careful to open and close it without making much noise.

Jace waited for me in the hallway, holding his gym bag. He was dressed in athletic shorts and a loose shirt with its arms cut off and its arm holes cut down the sides of his shirt. When he stood with his side facing me, I could see his defined abs through the shirt.

He looked me up and down, noticing my gym outfit too. My outfit consisted of tight black capris-length yoga pants and a green sports bra. I wasn’t the most attractive girl around, but I knew my midriff was slightly toned and showing it off made me feel slightly more confident. The past few times we met for football preparations, we were all in front of a TV or computer, going over the aspect of the game of football; this was the first time he’d see me trying anything athletic so I was hoping my outfit made a good first impression.

Jace nodded at me and began to walk. I followed, falling into step. Thankfully he walked slower when I was with him, knowing my long legs couldn’t reach as far. We took the stairs in silence and then began our long trek to the athletic center on campus, which was open until midnight. We would have plenty of time.

“I like the color of your sports bra. Green is my favorite,” he said thoughtfully, part way through the walk to the athletic center. I was surprised to find that Jace commenting on my sports bra was in no way sexually teasing or stigmatizing; he was genuinely trying to converse with me.

“I picked the green one at the store because it matches my eyes,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. As a redhead I usually just picked green things because they complimented my hair in ways other colors sometimes couldn’t.

He was quiet for a while, as if searching for words, and then he said “I know.”

Blushing, I stared at the ground as I walked. I was stupid to think that in all the glares and staring contests we’d had, he’d not noticed my eyes. Of course he would have. It was just like I had noticed his golden tawny eyes!

We reached the athletic center and Jace led me inside, toward the indoor football field. He pulled a football out of his bag and set it down at the side of the field. I set my bag down with his.

It was completely empty except for us, which didn’t help my heart rate, as it sped to dangerous speeds.

He jogged out to the middle of the field. I kept my leisurely pace, eventually coming up to him. He waited for me, hands on his hips. “I’m going to need to see a little more motivation, Red.”

I sighed. “Yes, coach.”

He rolled his eyes but made no sarcastic comments. I wondered how much effort it had taken him to not say anything back – Jace, who always had to have the last word.

He backed away from me, football in hand. “I’m going to throw it at you. Catch it.”

I nodded, understanding. It was easier said than done, though. Jace cocked the football into position in his hands and threw it in my direction. The ball came at me and I tried to catch it, but it bounced off my forehead and hit the ground.

To my surprise, Jace didn’t laugh. He jogged over, picked it up, and prepared to throw again. “Hand-eye coordination, Red. Focus, I know you can catch it.” He threw it again, and I felt it make contact with my hand for a second before it slipped out of my grasp and fell to the ground.

Jace smiled at me. “Maybe now you might give me credit for being on the football team,” he remarked. I picked the ball up and stared at it, wondering how he did it. “Toss it,” he directed. “Just any way you think will best get the ball from you to me.”

I held the football like I remembered the football players doing, when I watched them on the TV in one of Jace’s crash courses of the game. I tried throwing it, but the motion failed and it bounced off at the ground, flying back in my direction; I jumped out of the way just in time.

“Try to throw it in the air, not at the ground,” Jace noted. He could have made more jokes about it, but refrained.

I picked the ball up again, staring at it in my hands. My small, uncoordinated hands could barely grip the football like Jace could. I frowned at it. “This is hard.”

Jace jogged over to my side, his eyes grazing my expression. “It takes practice. You can’t always be perfect like I am.” He winked, but laughed, trying to lighten the mood.

“Why are you helping me, Jace?” I asked, surprising even myself. “We’re on opposing teams.”

He looked at me long and hard before he decided on what to say. “It seemed only fair,” he said. I didn’t believe him though, and he recognized that. He corrected himself, “I thought it would be nice to share some of my perfection with the less fortunate.” I glared at him, shooting daggers. He took a step back. “Woah, easy.”

“No more games,” I gritted.

He sighed. “Maybe I wanted to help you because I wanted something out of it, too.” He paused, unsatisfied with his clean answer. “You’re cute, it helps your case.” His typical Jace charm radiated as he smirked at me, with dazzling eyes trained directly at me.

“Why would that change now? I’ve always looked the same.” I broke eye contact, staring at the football in my hands. It felt as wrong to hold that football as it felt standing in an empty practice arena with Jace – I was still getting used to how to react around him sometimes, and being alone with him wasn’t one of my strongest areas.

“You’re not half bad, Clary.” His voice was soft when he said my name. “You know, for a short and short-tempered redhead.” He smirked, trying to downplay the first statement. Something about his teasing made me believe that he felt slightly embarrassed admitting things like this to me.

“Wow,” I breathed. “Jace Wayland really does know how to give a compliment.”

He pushed my shoulder back playfully and snatched the football from my hands. He jogged further away and tossed it at me. I caught it without thinking and he applauded me, in the middle of the empty arena.

“I give credit where credit is due,” he said, something sweet in his voice. He jogged back to me, standing behind me. “Alright, Red. I’m going to position you into a stance that will help you throw better.”

I felt his hands at both sides of my waist, as he straightened my body. Then his hands were at my knees, knocking at them to signify that I needed to move them in or out. He pushed down on me, adjusting the bend in my knees. Then, his hand covered mine, on the football.

“There,” he said, his breath in my ear. I finally understood the movies and why it always ended in kissing. My nerves were in knots in my stomach, the butterflies invading.

His hand, still covering mine, tightened its grip on the football. He moved my hand back and forth, showing me how to throw it and how far to outstretch my hand. I felt his other hand at my waist, straightening me when I accidently moved from the stance he had positioned me in.

He stepped back, eyeing my stance, and then came close again, adjusting me. He did this a few times when he told me to stand normal and get back into stance – always fixing me with a close proximity to my body that made my heart race.

When he positioned me the last time from behind, he walked around to my front side and eyed the stance. “Your stance looks good. We just need to work on actually throwing it correctly, to get the ball to spin.”

I relaxed from the stance and held the ball in both hands, looking up at Jace as I always did, due to my height. He seemed so beautiful, in the light of the arena. His hair was shiny and his eyes were gleaming. I suddenly felt a sexual frustration when I looked at him, something I never expected to feel.

“Can we take a break?” I asked, my words coming out breathy. Jace nodded and led me over to a bench. We sat next to each other, facing forward in silence.

Jace’s hand was suddenly on my knee. “Correct me if I’m being an idiot, but…” He trailed off. I curiously looked over at him, through my hair which acted as a mask. “Do you think that you and I could ever really get past our differences?” he asked, quietly.

“We’ve made plenty of progress,” I said, my eyes darting back to his hand on my knee. I realized that his hand wouldn’t have been there if we hadn’t made any progress – I would have hit it away.

When I finally looked back toward Jace’s face, I noticed his expression was solemn. He pursed his lips, his eyes darting around my face, flecks of a tinged sadness embedded into the gold of his eyes. “It’s taken me almost five years to see past my own nonsensical torture to realize that I was corrupting your sense of self-confidence. I worry that I waited too long to begin re-building myself that I’m never going to earn your trust. We may have made progress, Clary, but you can’t tell me right now that you trust me.”

I nodded my head, sullen and slow, in agreement. He was right – I couldn’t trust him. But that didn’t mean that I didn’t want to trust him. “Trust takes time in relationships anyway,” I said, trying to stay positive. If Jace wasn’t going to be positive, then I had to somehow pick up the slack. “Maybe it will take longer than normal, but I don’t think it’s impossible for me to ever trust you.”

He shook his head. “That’s the problem. Even if you did ever find that you could trust me, it would be the biggest mistake you’ve ever made. You shouldn’t let yourself trust someone who spent the last 4 years of high school and the first few weeks of college using your humiliation as grounds for humor.”

I shrugged. “It’s over now, isn’t that all that matters? Maybe you don’t have confidence in yourself, but I’m starting to.” I turned my body more in his direction, to emphasize my point. “If I wasn’t in this with you, Jace, I would have never made it a point to actually hang out with you when we weren’t obligatorily putting on a show in front of people. And yet I’m here with you, talking.”

Though he seemed hesitant to agree, he – like me when he gave a similar speech the other day – just nodded in agreement. “I see that, Clary. But what I’m saying is you should be careful.”

I burst out laughing. Neither Jocelyn nor Luke had told me to be careful; Simon did, but only because he seemed jealous sort of; but Jace telling me to be careful of my new boyfriend, when it was him that was my boyfriend? It was the funniest thing I had heard in a long time.

I was laughing so hard after a few seconds that I accidently fell off of the bench, and began rolling on the floor laughing. My eyes were squinted, as I felt tears from my laughter escaping. I was laughing so hard I was crying!

Through my squinted eyes, I saw Jace standing above me, trying to contain his laughter as he watched me thrashing around on the ground, trying to stop laughing. Finally, I took in a few deep breaths and contained my breathing so that I could calm down.

Jace outstretched a hand and he hoisted me up off the ground. I wiped the tears that had streamed from my eyes with the back of my free hand.

“Well then,” Jace said, breaking the silence. “Evidently you find irony that the brunt of all evils is telling you to be careful?”

“You’re hardly evil,” I sneered. “In fact, I want you to just shut up about all your self-loathing for one moment to realize that I fell for you too, which obviously means you have some good qualities in you.” I noticed Jace open his mouth to try to speak, but I put a finger to his lips, as he did once before to me. “Don’t even try to argue, this is my time to speak.” Jace nodded, a smirk stretching across his face. He had probably never been told to shut up before, but he obliged. “Jace Wayland, I like you. Maybe it’s insane, but maybe it’s right. So just shut up and…and…” I trailed off, before regaining my confidence. “And kiss me!”

Without a moment’s hesitation, Jace’s lips pressed to my own, crashing down with intensity.

I’ll cross off kissing a football player in an empty sports arena off my bucket list.

Dumpster Diving, Chapter 21

Dumpster Diving, Chapter Twenty-One: Guard but Act Unguarded

“So Clary, how did Jace bribe you into going on a date with him?” Alec asked casually on Monday morning, across the lunch table. I was sitting in my new ‘usual’ spot, as everyone had decided that they liked how we were: Alec and Magnus, next to Jace and me, next to Isabelle and Simon, next to Sebastian and Jonathan.

I stared at Alec, uncomprehending his question. “Date? What the hell are you talking about?” I felt unafraid to speak my mind or swear now in front of everyone, because maybe it would scare some sense into them; that I am not to be messed with. Not anymore. Week four, I was a whole new woman compared to my first week at college.

“You know what I’m talking about,” Alec said, between stuffing his mouth full of pizza. Oh the joys of pizza day. “Last Friday, when Jace took you to Taki’s for-”

“Mango smoothies and smoochies!” Isabelle finished for Alec, interrupting. Her voice was shrill and teasing, though I couldn’t decipher if it had any malicious edge or if she was just being herself.

My eyes widened as I realized last Friday – when Jace and I became official – had actually been a date and I had never once thought about it; it had just felt so natural. Though it shouldn’t seem like that big of a deal in the long run, it sort of bothered me that everyone already knew about the date and I hadn’t been the one to tell.

Next to me, Simon’s body stiffened. I hadn’t quite told him yet that Jace and I were officially a couple, and I had spent the weekend trying to decide how to tell him. I blushed and looked down at my food, refusing to look at Simon or Jace, who was undoubtedly smirking if I were to guess.

I peeked up with my hair as a cover and Jace was staring at me silently, studying me, the perplexed expression on his face alarming. Was he worried I was embarrassed? I wasn’t; I just didn’t know how I’d tell something like this to Simon, and Jace had gone and told his siblings without warning me about it.

Jace said nothing as he pulled out his phone and began texting someone. I wanted to smack him across the table for ignoring me like this. How did he think I felt about everyone knowing? Clearly he didn’t care all that much.

“Please almighty God tell me that Isabelle and Alec somehow both heard the story wrong,” Simon pleaded, his eyes never making contact with me. He was glaring at Jace, who refused to make eye contact with anyone besides his phone.

My phone buzzed in my pocket and I connected the dots. Discreetly avoiding Simon’s suspicions, I checked my phone, a text from Jace sitting in my inbox: I told Isabelle and Alec in confidence. I was trying to jump start the plan.

I glowered at the words Jace had sent me, angry at him because now that I had to walk on eggshells around Simon. I replied hastily: Thanks for the warning. Simon is pissed.

Jace replied quickly, under the table. I watched him curiously. No one seemed to notice, they were all discussing theories about what had happened, due to the quiet tension across the table for Jace and I.

My phone buzzed and a text from Jace read: I didn’t know they would say anything in front of the whole table.

Again, I glared at my phone, wishing I could glare at him. He wouldn’t make eye contact, though. I angrily typed back: Sure, I totally believe you. Your intentions have always been SO pure. I was pretty positive my sarcasm was obvious in the text, though you could never know for sure with just words on a cell phone screen.

Have a little faith¸was all Jace texted in response.

I rolled my eyes, sending the last text I intended to send. Simon was staring at my phone, attempting to read some of the conversation. Might be easier if you ever gave me a reason to have faith in you, I had written.

I pushed my phone in my pocket noticeably so that Jace would know I was done texting about it. He needed to man up a bit if he wanted me to actually digest anything he was saying. Otherwise I would just assume he didn’t mean it.

“Clary, I didn’t actually think that stupid double date would have worked, otherwise I wouldn’t have agreed,” Simon said to me, earning a protesting shriek from Isabelle. “No offense, Izzy.”

Isabelle shrugged. “It’s not all that bad, Simon. You and Jace can learn to get along. For me?” She batted her eyelashes.

Simon looked from Isabelle back to me, unsure. For Clary he said in his expression, and I understood.

I tried to emanate a look of thanks to Simon. He caught the drift and nodded, but I was sure to get hell about this later and I knew that.

Sebastian and Alec were talking over Isabelle and Jace, making up some story about how Jace must have swept me off my feet last night, saying that it would be the only way I’d forgive him after all that time. My cheeks flushed as they created an elaborate, over-the-top story that was far from the truth to explain my change in heart.

Simon seemed red-hot as he listened, stuffing pizza in his face aggressively. I felt sorry now for not telling him before lunch, but I hadn’t expected the events of today’s lunch to go over as they did – especially with Jace pushing my buttons. Boyfriends aren’t supposed to do that. And that was what he was now, wasn’t he?

Maybe I was wrong to believe he could change.

As I held myself too tightly within the grasp of my own thoughts, chatter in the table continued around me as if I didn’t exist anymore.

Simon sat facing Isabelle, his body turned away from myself and Jace. Isabelle played the role of the neutral party, attempting to bring peace to the table by attempting to include everyone in the conversation. Alec rolled his eyes a lot as Magnus tried to make sarcastic jokes in order to ease the tension of the table. Meanwhile, I noticed that Jonathan and Sebastian were both smirking as if they had been the ones to plant the seed. But unfortunately, I couldn’t even let me anger settle on them because they weren’t the ones that planted the seed – it was Jace.

Jace told Alec and Isabelle about our date, and they spilled the news to the rest of the table, which means that now everyone knows we’re an item. Well, we wouldn’t be for long at this rate if that was how Jace wanted to treat things. Here I had thought that maybe for a second this was something personal that we could keep to ourselves.

Right, but I forgot that this was all a stupid plan, something that was meant to trick everyone else into believing that nothing was out of the ordinary. Jace was supposed to convince his friends that he was still himself, but also that they should like me. Meanwhile, Simon was hung out to dry, completely out of the plan; Simon could only watch in confusion as the events moved forward. I wished I could tell him.

I felt a little conflicted, knowing that on one hand I had actually been excited this whole weekend to be titled Jace’s girlfriend, yet in the same respect it was all a show – something to show the outside world. But I didn’t want it to be like that. If Jace and I were going to be anything, I wanted it to be personal.

Suddenly I was self-conscious about being the center of this plan, when it meant that my relationship with Jace – even if it was real – would be on display for everyone to see. Maybe it would work – maybe they would all start to like me – but that still meant that the basis of my relationship with Jace began as something false, and everyone would have seen that.

I decided that maybe now was the time to take Simon seriously. I needed to guard my heart a little, but I couldn’t do completely close it or I’d lose Jace’s cooperation and he would likely turn the plan around, in the end only hurting myself more.

I wouldn’t shut him out but I wouldn’t let him in; that was my new game plan.

I felt little pieces clicking together in my head as if I were putting together a mental puzzle. Had I finally solved the problem? Was it really as easy as to guard but act unguarded?

My phone buzzed in my pocket, bringing myself to reality. It was a phone call from Luke. I excused myself from the lunch table carelessly, grabbing my things and escaping the lunch room.

On the other end of the phone, Luke spoke to me in a caring, sympathetic way he always did. His voice kept my sanity in-tact as I excused myself to walk across campus, tucking myself in a nook to hide from the world.

“So what’s this I hear about a boyfriend?” Luke asked, a little while after our small talk had ended. He was usually more direct about issues, rather saying something along the lines of ‘Jace asked you to be his girlfriend, what’s that about?’

However, this was uncharted territory for the both of us – I had never had a boyfriend before, and Luke didn’t know how to react to it. It was hard enough explaining it to my mom, when I called her this weekend to break the news. All she could say was ‘and that was the boy that slept in the same house as you? I’m not sure how I feel about this, Clary.’

Because I was unsure how to go about the situation, I shrugged my shoulders. Suddenly, I remembered Luke was on the phone rather than in person. I sighed. “It’s really nothing, Luke. Jocelyn likely overreacted. It’s not like we’re getting married – it’s just dating.”

Luke laughed on the other end of the line, his voice hoarse. He had likely just awoken from rest, as he had been still recovering from his accident, likely sprawled across the couch back at home. I was just glad that he was out of the hospital.

“Don’t always assume that Jocelyn reported the worst,” Luke said, with a slight chuckle. “She was leery at first, but remember – that boy took care of you two girls. For that he seems like a respectable young man.”

I squinted my eyes and looked up into the sky, wondering how it was possible for my mother and Luke to think that Jace was a respectable gentleman of any sort. Was this reality?

“So you didn’t call to lecture me about it?” I questioned, somewhat hesitantly. I half-expected the whole ‘be careful’ speech, as Jocelyn would have given me if she knew how to deal with the boyfriend part of parenting a daughter.

Luke laughed again. “Absolutely not, Clary. You’re in college, and you’re making your own decisions. I would only remind you that you need to go with your gut on things like this. He’s hurt you before, Clary. Be smart and don’t let him do it again.” He laughed. “We all know how much of a sass-back you can be – use it to your advantage in this one.”

I gasped, out of surprise. “Luke!” I shrieked.

He chuckled again. “Take care, Clary. Have a good week of school!” After that we said our goodbyes and hung up the phone. I was glad our relationship was simplistic because that always made the goodbyes easier.

I shook my head, in light of the strange phone call I had gotten from Luke. It wouldn’t be the first strange thing that had happened at college, but I was sure that it definitely would never be the last. There were many strange things to come, and though I was unprepared for them, at least I knew I had the support of Jocelyn and Luke. Now, all I needed was Simon’s support.

After about twenty minutes of complete silence, without my mind so much as flirting with the topic of Jace, I was finally forced to face reality once again. I saw out of the corner of my eye a tall silhouette – perfectly sculpted, golden hair, eyes as radiant as the sun – approaching me with speed.

I frowned in Jace’s direction, not nearly as excited to see him as he was, the smile in his eyes evident. He reached my bench and met my eyes, stopping for one second to just look at me. Then he started walking the other way, leading the way, knowing that I’ll follow. I stood up and trailed without word.

After a while he stopped, and we were in front of the fountain I sometimes came to when I wanted to draw. Jace sat on a bench, patting the spot next to him for me to join him. I sighed.

“What was the point of this relocation?” I asked, irritation spewing out like venom.

Jace retracted as if the venomous words had soaked into his skin and caused him to flinch a little. He hardly flinched any other time, but today seemed slightly different. It was our first day being unveiled as a couple and we were already struggling – I guess it goes to show that fairytale relationships were nothing more than a myth.

“For now, I know sorry is just a word, but for what it’s worth I am very sorry for hurting you today,” Jace said, avoiding my initial question.

I didn’t mind that he got straight to the point; I hated the small talk as much as he did. We both seemed to be very direct people, at least. Though, for argument’s sake it might not have been the best quality for both of us to have – winning a fight would be nearly impossible with him.

“You pushed my buttons earlier. You didn’t even warn me that you told them. That is what we normal people like to call being considerate.” My words, as harsh as brittle bones breaking under the pressure of a thousand pounds, hissed. I hadn’t anticipated that my anger with Jace had been as great as it was – maybe this guarding part of my plan had been too extreme.

Jace narrowed his eyes, clearly taking offense to my severe words. Evidently I had pushed his button as well, when I questioned Jace’s respectability. “You think I’ve not been considerate? I waited a whole week without response to hear how you felt about me, and I did everything I could to woo you.”

I rolled my eyes. “None of that matters if you can’t fulfill a simple boyfriend duty a mere three days after we’ve became official.”

Jace shook his head, aggravation leaking into his usually perfectly-composed expression. I understood now that his pet peeve must have been anyone questioning his abilities; he was too cocky to let anyone say anything to this extent.

“Oh I’m sorry I wasn’t completing every wish you had in the exact manner that you would like me to. I’m only human, Clary.” He attempted to maintain his composure by pulling himself up straight, pushing his shoulders back in a position of power. “I’m sorry you find it so wrong that I told my family we were dating. Can’t a man get excited to unveil his new girlfriend to the people who mean the most to him?” He whipped his head around, unable to look at me as if I repulsed him.

His words had caught me off guard, surprisingly me with the intensity from the way he spoke. However, I wasn’t going to let him gain any ground in this argument, knowing that he was the type of person who I had to work hard to win against. “Maybe not, Jace! Now when they think this is all some sort of ruse!” My voice had risen about five times in volume, and passersby just stared in disbelief as they passed the fountain. I didn’t care. “Of course they already knew that we were getting together, because it was the stupid plan that Isabelle created!”

“By the Angel, Clary!” Jace swung back around to look at me, his hands clasping hold of mine, squeezing tight. “This is real,” he said with emphasis, as he clutched my hands in his. “They’re not stupid, they know that there’s no way I could be acting about this-”

I cut him off with frustration. “How do you even know that? How can you tell for sure? Suddenly you can read Isabelle’s mind and you know with one hundred percent certainty that she sees this is real?” I tugged on my hands, releasing them from his grip.

He just stared at me, his hands remaining outstretched to me. His body was still turned toward me on the bench, showing no signs of backing down. “Clary, I would have been way more aggressive about this if I really wasn’t in this with you. I wouldn’t have tried to be romantic as I asked you to be my girlfriend. I wouldn’t have spent so much time courting you. I wouldn’t have protected you from them, when Isabelle wanted to jump start the plan, but I asked her to let me handle this.”

I looked at him strangely. “What do you mean she wanted to jump start the plan?” My voice had suddenly lost the animosity within it, and now all I was left with was the pain.

Jace sighed, realizing he had gotten through to me. He finally spoke with more gentleness in his voice. “Isabelle spent the last week begging me to work my magic already, but I waited because you asked me to.”

I pursed my lips, unable to form coherent thoughts. “Thanks.”

“Clary,” Jace breathed. He gripped my hands again, and I let him. “If I wasn’t in this with you, I would have already seduced and screwed you a week ago and have called it a day, since that was all that the plan entitled – that I get you to sleep with me and fall for me and then we’d break your heart on Halloween. But have you heard me ask once for sex?”

I shook my head. Now, I couldn’t form words at all.

“Exactly, Clary. I’m not going to. That’s the biggest part of Isabelle’s plan – for me to sleep with you, to get you vulnerable to me, so that they could finish the job later. But Clary, I’m not going to. I care about you, more than I care about anything else.”

“You’re a guy,” I mumbled. “Isn’t sex all that ever crosses your mind?”

He shook his head. I realized we were nearing the end of the argument. “No, Clary. I don’t need sex when I feel this way about you. All I need is you and I’m happy.”

I nodded my head, finally giving in to Jace, forgiving him for everything. His words had been so sincere that I found it nearly impossible to not forgive him.

I leaned inward to hug him, but stopped short when the loud vibration of my phone in my pocket caused me to jump up, bumping my forehead into Jace’s on accident. He pulled away rubbing his forehead and I screeched.

“You okay?” he asked, still rubbing his forehead.

“Yeah, sorry. No one really calls me to just talk, so it must be urgent.” I opened the phone, as Jace signaled that he would wait patiently to continue our conversation. He sat quietly, rubbing his palm on his forehead.

“Clary?” Simon’s voice boomed through the phone.

“Simon, what’s wrong?” I asked, confused why he was the one calling – he didn’t look like he wanted much to do with me earlier when he found out about Jace and I. This whole week, Simon had been distant, almost as if he suspected this would be the case – that I would finally give in to Jace.

“What?” Simon asked on the other line, his voice mock-hurt. “I can’t call my best friend unless I have something important to say to her?”

I looked a Jace, eyeing him, wondering if having a phone conversation with Simon while we were trying to figure out our complex relationship was a good idea. I sighed. “Simon, it’s just that I’m with Jace right now and-”

He cut me off. “Seriously Clary? I know I said I can’t control what you do – and if it makes a hypocrite for saying this then oh well… Jace is just bad news, Clary.”

I rolled my eyes. I didn’t have time for this. “Let’s not have this conversation right now-” Once again he cut me off.

“Clary, just listen to me. Just listen,” Simon said, before pausing. I watched Jace, who must have heard some of what Simon was saying, mumbling “just listen” in that high pitched nagging voice you give people when you don’t like them.

I groaned. “Okay, Simon. I’m all ears.”

If I could see Simon now, I would guess he was doing some sort of victory dance, since I hardly ever agreed to just settle as quickly as I did just now. “You used to take each day as it came,” Simon said. “And you always looked both ways before crossing the road. Then Jace did some male-version of a siren seduction song, and now you’re planning dates and jumping headfirst into flaming pits of knives surrounded by lava!” By the end of Simon’s speech, his voice had risen so high that I was almost positive that Jace had heard every word Simon said.

“It’s not what you think-” I tried to say, but seemed unable to get any words out without interruption.

“I get it, Clary. He’s the reason you live. His love lifts you high into the sky, into cloud nine. I get it.” He sounded hurt on the other line of the phone, as if this was some sort of goodbye that he was saying to me, and he was ever-so regretfully.

“It’s not like I’m marrying the guy,” I said to Simon, as I stared straight into Jace’s golden eyes. The distraction they gave me from the explanation I needed to give Simon was almost too much for me to focus. “I’m just experimenting, okay? I know what I’m doing.”

Simon hadn’t cut me off that time, but I could tell with the hurried way that he spoke that he would have if he knew I was going to say what I did. “No, you know what you’re doing? You’re getting yourself into trouble and you damn well know that you are!” Simon huffed.

I guffawed. “He’s been nothing but good to you lately, and you’ve seen how he’s treated me. Maybe he can change, Simon. I’m not just going to pre-emptively break up with him because you think he’s bad news.” I watched as my words seemed to treat Jace like a king. He tilted his head back and smirked at me, a move that made me melt on the inside.

“I’m sure he loves the inflation of his ego right now,” Simon said sarcastically, in response. “It’s got to be filling up the planet Earth though, so you might want to be careful and budget your oxygen intake.” After a second of silence after Simon’s last words, I heard a click.

I pulled the phone away from my face, staring blankly at the screen without taking a word of it in. The events of today had my head spinning, going by in a blur. I could try to sort everything out, but I would likely fail every time.

Jace sat on the other end of the bench, staring at me, patiently waiting as I realized he had been for a while. I tried to smile at him, but for some reason the edges of my lips wouldn’t readily turn up.

He just nodded at me, before pulling my body into a soft embrace, his lips close to my ear. He kissed my ear, a weird sort of affectionate kiss, like when dads kiss their daughters on the nose, and for some reason I felt at peace in his arms.

Despite Simon’s warnings and the up-and-down way I felt about Jace today, I still ended up in his arms. I remembered back to Luke’s words earlier, when he told me to go with my gut. I ended up in Jace’s arms at the end of the day, so I figured that was clue enough that this was meant to be something.

Dumpster Diving, Chapter 20

Dumpster Diving, Chapter Twenty: Ball and Chain

Friday evening, everything had quieted down and I was starting to get a better grip on the situation that had formed in the past three weeks. I determined that I wasn’t going to let things I couldn’t control take over every aspect of my life, like school.

I had started to fall behind in homework as my social standing began to rocket throughout the week. People I had never met before were starting to talk to me on campus, though some were – as usual – rude. Those people included Aline Penhallow or any other ex of Jace’s. The list was apparently longer than I knew of, because an angry ex came up to me more than once to warn me that Jace was theirs for the taking. I had to hold back from rolling my eyes every time.

Aside from being scolded by any of Jace’s exes, I was beginning to feel more comfortable in my skin I decided. Tonight was the first time I’d been alone in a while to really let everything sink in – every other day this week being full of drama-infested lunches with the table of hell, Simon’s avoidances of my company and Jace sticking to me like glue. Since everything had gotten so busy, I still hadn’t had much time to debate about how I wanted to treat the Jace thing, as it had been about a week since he and I first kissed.

I knew he wanted some sort of answer soon, but I hadn’t felt at liberty to discuss any of it yet, mostly because I’d been avoiding discussing it with myself in the safety of my own thoughts. At least now I was able to do just that, now that I was finally alone – for the first time in the three weeks of college.

My phone began to buzz, as the peace and quiet of my Friday night instantly faded. It seemed like I couldn’t get any space around here – people were constantly in my business. Isabelle was back to her annoying friendly ways and she would bother me while I was in my room; maybe it wouldn’t bother me so much if I knew whether or not she was faking the friendship again. Though, I was almost 100% sure that she was being fake again.

I flipped my phone open, assuming it was a text. I was wrong when I heard Jace’s voice through the speaker in my phone.


I put the phone to my face. As aggravated as I was that I hadn’t gained peace for the night, I didn’t mind a phone call every once and a while.

“What is it?” I asked into the phone, hastily pushing my procrastinated school work aside on my desk. I placed my elbows on the desk, resting my head in my hands, in a sense relieved that I could avoid my homework a while longer. It was English, and I wasn’t even ready to think about what my English homework entailed. I got an eerie feeling every time I so much as thought about Morgenstern and whatever reason he had for somehow stealing my father’s ring when I hadn’t noticed. I decided not to linger long on the topic.

“Would you like to go for a walk with me?” Jace asked. His voice on the phone sounded slightly different – maybe more gentle or serene than it usually was, lacking that usual spark of his sarcastic tongue.

I thought about his question, but decided I really did need to do my homework. I had been putting it off for the past week, busying myself with the tedious task of fitting into Jace’s crowd and attempting to beg Simon to be okay with my relationship with Jace. Though Simon had decided he couldn’t control my decision to be with one of the populars – especially since he was with Isabelle who was from the same walk of life – he still didn’t like that I was “blindly falling into the arms of a demon”, as he liked to put it. It was clear he still had hard feelings, but it was hard for me to understand how he couldn’t even try to be happy for me.

“I don’t know, Jace-” I tried to object.

“We could get smoothies to go at Taki’s,” he suggested, hope filling his voice.

I groaned, deciding he deserved my cooperation. After all, he had been so dutiful about following my directions in keeping his heart open to me this week. It was the least I could have done, especially after he went to see Luke with me last weekend. In a way, I sort of owed him; I wanted to cower at the thought.

“Sure, just let me get dressed.” I sighed, looking down at my superman pajamas and tank top. Simon got them for me for Christmas last year and insisted the superman symbol stood for superwoman when I donned it.

“I’m in my pajamas, don’t feel pressured to put jeans on,” he said suddenly.

I stared at my phone. Jace was in his pajamas? On campus? It seemed weird, but freeing at the same time. “Okay, pajamas it is,” I agreed, too quickly.

“I hope your pajamas are more than just undergarments, because that’d be slightly inappropriate on campus. Not that I don’t want to see you in them, it’s just-” He was rambling.

“I get it,” I assured him. “Meet you at the Raziel / Azazel crosswalk in a few?”

He agreed. “See you soon.”

I hung up the phone and stood to look in the mirror. For a moment I contemplated putting on a more attractive set of pajamas, but decided it was unlike me to dress up for anything, even if I was just putting on classier pajamas; Superwoman would have to do.

I quickly ran a brush through my hair and snatched my room key, sneaking into the main room quietly to not wake Isabelle. It was late at night.

Usually I expected the worst possible situation: like Jace showing up whenever I never wanted him to or Simon seeing through what I didn’t want him to see. Thankfully for once Isabelle didn’t seem to have heard me leaving, even as the outside door clicked close a little too loud.

I sighed relief as I walked down the hallway, down the many flights of stairs. A distance away I could see Jace standing in the crosswalk, his arms crossed over his chest as he waited; he was wearing Superman pajama pants and a white t-shirt. I blushed when I realized we were both wearing the same type of pajama pants.

He saw me coming and burst out laughing, his smile stretching further than I had ever seen it. “Oh god, don’t tell me you’re Superman too, because I was pretty sure that I was!” he said, through his laughter.

I rolled my eyes. “Of course you would assume you are the true Superman. But while you are off being conceited and snarky all the time, I am the Superwoman who saves the world.” I smiled proudly.

He nodded his head in approval. “Ready?” He offered his arm. I finally got close enough to wrap my arm around his arm, the way people did to escort their date at formal events. It felt comfortable though.

We started walking, in the direction of Taki’s to get smoothies. Hardly anyone was out on campus on Friday night, except for us, which gave us plenty of alone time. I wondered if that was his plan all along, to drag me out late at night when everyone was either partying somewhere or sleeping.

The crisp, cool breeze of an autumn night washed over me, cleansing the air around us as Jace and I walked. It was relaxing and perfect. He had most definitely planned it to be like this.

“I feel dumb wearing pajamas,” I said to Jace, as I eyed someone walking by in the direction of the dorms, clearly staring at us as if we were crazy.

Jace just shrugged, nonchalant. “You look fine. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t pay much attention to what you wear. Just how it looks on you.”

I looked at him, maintaining a calm expression but melting inside. That line might have been the only one that had ever gotten through to me.

Jace must have noticed my blushing, despite my efforts to hide it. “I can tell I’m making you uncomfortable,” he noted thoughtfully.

I sighed. “This is all still weird for me.”

“I’m not moving all that fast,” he admitted.

“I wasn’t aware we were moving at all,” I remarked thoughtfully. Had he thought we were?

He stopped in his tracks, turning to look at me. I stopped too, staring up into his eyes, my green ones connecting with his golden ones. “Clary, if you’re going to be stubborn, then I’m going to be stubborn too. You set rules for me last weekend, and I would like to set some for you.”

I crossed my arms over my chest, defensively. “The only rules I set were no kissing until I could decide what to do and then I asked if you would open your heart.”

He tilted his head downward to look at me better. “And then you said you would open yours if I opened mine, and you haven’t done nearly enough to prove that to me this week.”

I stared at him in a sort of shock. I had thought I was being plenty open with him – I had already shown him around my room, he had been around my family during an emergency, and now I was sitting with him at lunch every day. What more did he want? This was already too fast a pace for me to handle. He had to understand that I was trying to forget years of torture and you don’t just forget all of that in a moment’s notice.

“I have opened up,” I determined. “It’s just a lot harder for me based on what you’ve done to me over the years. Dead rats in my locker, ‘kick me’ signs on my back, and then throwing my ring in the dumpster. It kind of adds up to be a lot.”

His expression darkened and his jaw dropped ever so slightly. To him, it wasn’t showing much, but it was enough for me to understand he was stunned. “What ring?”

“When you made me get in the dumpster for my things? I would have left them all in there if it wasn’t for my father’s ring.” I wasn’t wearing it now because ever since Jace had found it in Morgenstern’s office drawer, I was uncomfortable with the idea of wearing something he touched. Just the creepy idea that Morgenstern stole that from me, after admitting he knew my father, had my mind reeling. But I didn’t want to think about that.

He frowned. “I threw away your father’s ring? As in your father that left you?”

I nodded my head. “Yes.”

“I apologize, Clary,” he said, pulling me into a hug. Any other time I would have swatted him away, but I realized he didn’t say he was sorry very much. Whenever I said sorry, he reminded me it was just a word; so I had a feeling he didn’t take apologizing lightly. I accepted the hug.

After a moment of his embrace, I pulled back first. “Jace I get that you’re a different person now than before, but do you understand why I have to be realistic here? Chances aren’t in my favor – for all I know tomorrow you could be the same jerk I hated back in high school.”

He nodded, understanding. “It’s nice to dream, though.”

“It is. But I have to be realistic, too. You’ve been nothing but nice and sweet lately, and that’s great. But…” I trailed off, unsure if I wanted to continue.

He touched my hand, urging me to go on. “Clary, open up…” he whispered.

I exhaled. “I don’t want to be let down. The feelings I have for you, I just crush them. On purpose. I’m scared.” I hadn’t meant to tell him straight out that I was afraid, but it had slipped.

“I don’t want you to be scared,” he said, looking down. His eyes stayed down, unable to meet mine. I frowned when I realized I had hurt his feelings a little when I admitted I was afraid of him.

I knew I would kick myself for it later, but I couldn’t help myself. I touched his face, cupping his cheek with my hand. His eyes finally flickered up, the gold dancing, anticipating my next moves.

I wasn’t sure what had caused me to do it, but I kissed him.

I kissed him hard, longingly on the lips, feeling the tension in his body relax at the impact. His arms wrapped around me, tugging me in toward his body, the touch gentle but his hands desperate to hold me closer. I felt him relaxing into me, as if we became one entity, the kiss tender and soft.

He pulled back to look at me after a moment, his eyes twinkling again the way I liked it. The way they sparkled in the dead of the night with their golden aura made my knees shake.

“You caught me off guard,” he whispered into my hair, as I rested my head on his shoulder, burying my face in another hug. “Not many people can do that.”

“I think I caught myself off guard too,” I mumbled into his chest. It rose and fell with slight laughter.

After that, the walk to Taki’s was open and comfortable, as if the kiss had exposed a part of me I hadn’t realized existed. I saw lightness in Jace’s eyes, an excitement and happiness for the night and its presents. It felt genuine, the way we soaked in each other’s company and enjoyed it. I found myself laughing, smiling a lot more than I had in a while.

We reached Taki’s and ordered our mango smoothies, a favorite we both shared. At this point it was small talk, though I didn’t mind it. The pressure of other issues seemed to fade away.

“Want to sit for a while?” Jace asked. I nodded and he chose a booth tucked in the corner.

It was so late that hardly anyone else was out, but Taki’s was always open. It felt like the room was intimately ours. I tried to remind myself there were bartenders and workers here, so it wasn’t like I could throw myself across the table and kiss Jace again like I had on our walk. I kind of wanted to, though.

“So what are you doing for Halloween next month besides the big party?” Jace asked out of nowhere.

I shrugged. “I’m not sure. I usually don’t go out. Simon and I rent scary movies and watch them, which results in a lot of terrified screaming on my part.” I laughed.

Jace rolled his eyes at Simon’s name. “Maybe you and I could do that sometime. I think scary movie marathons might fall under the boyfriend category.”

“Is that what you are?” I asked, nearly frightened by his use of the word. A label?

“Is that what you want me to be?” he asked in response to my question. It seemed hardly fair to answer a question with a question, but that was just his way with words I supposed.

“I don’t know, doesn’t boyfriend someday translate into husband? I can’t picture you aging, I think I need a husband who ages normally.”

I was trying to joke to avoid the subject, since I didn’t quite know if I did want the labels. In a way, I sort of did want the label, but it wasn’t as if I wanted to admit that to him. I finally understood why he used such a roundabout way of talking with sarcastic comments all the time – it provided a way to avoid answering things directly.

He grinned. “Of course I’d age normally. I’d just rather die young for fear that aging would affect my dashing good looks.” He sounded serious, but I knew he wasn’t. Or hoped he wasn’t. For all I knew, he was the kind of guy who was a thrill-seeker, jumping off cliffs and throwing himself into dangerous situations without imagining its consequences. It reminded me of the way he was so carefree the other day when we were snooping in Morgenstern’s office, as if he wasn’t afraid of being caught. He must be an adrenaline junkie, I decided.

I laughed. “You can’t be serious.”

“Oh I’m not serious. Your attempt at avoiding my question merely sparked an opportunity I couldn’t resist. My looks are dashing, are they not?” Jace wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, earning a roll of the eyes from me.

“Like an angel,” I said sarcastically, rolling my eyes. He grinned.

“You know, labels aren’t that bad,” he said thoughtfully.

His eyes burned into my soul like wildfire. I could feel my insides heating to dangerous temperatures. I couldn’t avoid it now; he already knew I was trying to avoid all of this.

“You strike me as someone who doesn’t like to be tied down,” I said, still searching for better ways to avoid the topic. I came up short.

“If you’re asking if I would be one of those guys that calls you the old ball and chain in old age, I promise to never think of you like that.” He smirked.

His way with words was too good, I decided. I would never win this battle; I would have to give in; I had no choice in the matter. “You sure know how to wait for the perfect moment to spring these things on me,” I said.

He smirked, in slight amusement. “I like to take a moment and make it perfect. I get too impatient to wait for the perfect timing.”

I rolled my eyes, imagining him practicing all these lines in the mirror before he called me tonight. It seemed like something he would have done. How else could he come off so cool and collected all the time? It shouldn’t have been humanely possible.

“So in all seriousness – will you, Clary Fray, do me the honor of being my girlfriend?” His voice was soft and gentle as he asked, his expression tamed but excited and yet nervous at the same time. Everything about the way he had asked – his hair falling into his eyes, his smirk tugging at his lips, the vulnerable twinkle in his golden eyes that I found myself melting in – was genuine.

There was no way I could say no to him at this point. Everything about the situation seemed perfectly planned and in that respect I would be a jerk for rejecting him. As wrong as the idea of being Jace’s girlfriend was, it was so right. From here on, things could only change for the positive, right? I hoped so.

I looked into his gorgeous golden eyes, the ones that could ask me to do something and I would gladly obey in a trance. He smiled crookedly, his smirk tugging at his lips, teasing me. I smiled and nodded, saying “Yes.”

Across the table, Jace smiled. He had gone out of his way to ask this, and he had succeeded. He looked as if he felt a major victory and I couldn’t help but giggle at how excited he seemed for my answer to be yes.

Without question, he had surprised me tonight. I decided to surprise him back.

Standing up, I marched myself over to Jace’s side of the booth, plopping down and throwing my arms around him. He wrapped his arms around my body again, as they were earlier when we kissed under the moonlight.

I admitted defeat, initiating a kiss that Jace happily agreed to. His lips met mine in the middle of our embrace, everything about the kiss perfect and tender.

The rest of the night after that, I didn’t remember much about. I was too focused on the happy way that I was feeling – the relaxation of all my muscles in my body and the calming sensation of the air surrounding us.

Jace and I walked slowly through campus, talking and laughing all night, holding hands again as we had before, but this time as a couple. He dropped me off at my room, hovering at the doorway, looking at me through love-struck eyes – or what I imagined love-struck eyes would look like.

He tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and leaned in to kiss me in the hallway. This time excited to feel his lips again, I stood on my toes and kissed him back, with a short, tender kiss, our arms wrapped around each other in a newly-comfortable embrace.

He smiled brightly at me, as he held me in a hug, just outside my doorway. “I find it funny that life is perfectly survivable until you find yourself holding someone you love. Now it seems hard to imagine a life with you, Clary.”

His words rang in my ears, reminding me of the memory I had of Jace back when we slept in the same bed. I could have sworn he had said the same thing then. Now, those words couldn’t have felt more perfect.

“Here’s to being the old ball and chain,” I said, giggling.

“If beauty were time, you’d be eternity,” he said.

I blushed, though aware it was a standard pick up line. Just the way he spoke made his words believable.

Feeling cheeky, I decided to implement a line of my own. Gathering all the confidence I could within myself, I sucked in a deep breath, preparing myself.

Open up. He wants you to open up.

“I was wondering if you had an extra heart,” I said, pausing. He was unaware of the line I was about to pull on him.

“An extra heart?” he repeated, curiosity settling in his expression.

“Yes… mine seems to have been stolen,” I said, blushing as I did. I never used pickup lines, but I had heard this one somewhere.

The grin on his face when I finished my line couldn’t have been outshined by anything. Not a star, or the moon or the Milky Way galaxy. His bright smile didn’t fade as he touched my cheek, caressing. “You’re more than I can handle, you know?”

I nodded my head, touching his hand at my face. “Just be prepared, Jace Wayland. You’ve met your match – now you’ll constantly be competing for the title of prettiest in this relationship.” I winked at him, feeling confidence building in myself as he stared with desire into my eyes. I knew he appreciated the banter, just as I realized that I did.

“Just because you’re my girlfriend, that doesn’t mean I’ll go easy on you,” he chided playfully, poking my nose.

Somewhere in my heart, I was glad that he wouldn’t; I liked a challenge.

Jace Wayland, you really have met your match.

Dumpster Diving, Chapter 19

Dumpster Diving, Chapter Nineteen: Morgenstern’s Ring

“Miss Fray, may I please have a word with you?” Professor Morgenstern’s voice boomed Wednesday morning, over the cluttering noise of chairs pushing back and backpacks zipping. Class had just ended and the entire classroom of students were eager to escape the room, some with lingering stares as they wondered what our English professor wanted to ask me.

My eyes flickered to Jace, who shrugged his shoulders as if he had no idea what his biological father had to say to me.

“Alone, Miss Fray,” the professor added, as he eyed his biological son with a certain level of carefulness. He must have somehow noticed my interactions with Jace, assuming we were dating. So was this going to be one of those awkward talks about dating? I wanted to scream that we weren’t even together!

Jace, Isabelle, Alec, and the ever-intimidating Sebastian filed out of the room slowly, our normal routine of walking together having been interrupted by Professor Morgenstern’s mysterious concerned look.

I walked to the front of the room, clutching my books to my chest, my backpack hanging haphazardly open on my shoulder. Morgenstern nodded his head at me, waiting for all the students to leave the room before he spoke.

“I wanted to speak with you about your recent academic performance,” he said, his eyes darting in my direction to gauge my response.

“I, uh..” I trailed off, unsure of what to say. I thought at college professors didn’t hassle you like in high school – you were just on your own to judge your own learning. Somehow, this seemed abnormal to me that I was being confronted. “Things just got busy,” I mumbled, because it was none of his business.

He nodded, his hands appearing at his chest to straighten his tie. He adjusted his suit and leaned against his desk in the front of the room. “Miss Fray, your potential far exceeds this classroom of students. I worry that my son has had some effect on your learning-”

“It’s not Jace,” I said in a rush, effectively cutting him off. He stared at me with dismay, slightly irritated that I cut him off so disrespectfully.

Morgenstern made a noise, resembling a “hmmm”, though from him it was more throaty, and slightly more intimidating. Was it like a requirement for professors to be so unapproachable?

“Your last essay was turned in a day late, and its quality was unlike your other pieces,” he said, after a moment of silent thought, the direction of the conversation turning sour.

I shrugged, picking through my mind for the words so that my actual stressors didn’t sound like an excuse to a professor. “It’s been sort of stressful back at home, my stepdad was in an accident last week and his recovery has been difficult for my mom. And, well…for me, too.”

He nodded in response, his thoughtful eyes searching my face for fallacies. He realized I wasn’t making up some excuse like a lot of college students did when their work was subpar. “Yes, well family emergencies are understandable.”

“Thank you,” was all I could think of saying in response.

“Our next essay is a narrative piece. Why don’t you consider writing about your family dynamics or dysfunction?” Morgenstern suggested.

I stared at him strangely, unsure of why he was picking my topic for me. “There’s not much dysfunction,” I corrected him.

“You said you had a stepdad, Miss Fray. Perhaps you have been curious about your biological father?” he questioned, his tone strangely over-caring.

“I’m not like Jace,” I said quickly, heat rising in my cheeks. “I don’t want to know about him if he left me.” I felt guilty for sort of lying to a professor’s face, but he really had no business questioning me about my personal life. If that was all he wanted to talk about, I didn’t want to talk.

“Ah, but I see you wearing that ring around your necklace every day,” Morgenstern said, as he pointedly stared at the long chain with my biological father’s ring strung around my neck.

I grasped the ring in my hand, slipping my finger in and out of the ring out of habit, a sense of comfort arising from the motion. Granted, I never knew my biological father – and sometimes I never wanted to know him – but his ring remained around my neck, reminding me that in his place I had Luke. I wasn’t ever sure if I wore the ring because I wanted to know him.

As Morgenstern stood silently watching me, I traced the tiny imprint of a star on the ring. “How did you know it was my father’s ring?” I asked, avoiding why the ring had importance. I was more curious why Morgenstern was getting so nosey.

He sighed, long and deep. “I knew your father, Clarissa.”

My jaw popped open slightly, the words Morgenstern spoke having a shocking effect on my body, every nerve firing off and every muscle tightening in response.

“Well did he tell you who?” Jace asked, his eyebrows furrowing across his forehead, an undeniable look of confusion as to how his biological father could have known my biological father. This was far beyond my comprehension for the day – I wasn’t ready to admit to myself that Jace and I may have connections potentially dating back to before we were born. I shuddered at the thought.

Looking at Jace, I saw in his expression the same thoughts and feelings that I was experiencing. He was as dumbstruck as I was. “He said he was sworn to secrecy,” I said, rolling my eyes. “I mean who tells someone that they know their father, but, oh! Can’t tell you!” I guffawed. “He must have been lying.”

Jace shrugged, looking around the hallway. “I don’t know Clary, Valentine doesn’t just go around saying things he doesn’t mean.”

Jace’s sure response that his father wasn’t lying earned a long sigh on my part. I felt frustrated, unable to do anything about it, but somehow desperately wanting to know. “So what do I do? Ask Jocelyn and Luke? Because that sure won’t bring up bad memories,” I said sarcastically, spitting the words out.

“I guess we’ll need to do some digging,” Jace suggested. “Valentine won’t tell me outright, but maybe if I can snoop around his place just off campus – look at old pictures and stuff – maybe I’ll find information on someone who has your last name.”

I sighed again, harder. “The only problem is that I have my mom’s last name, not my dad’s. I don’t even know his last name. She never told me.” I shook my head. “I never needed to know, either. Luke was there, and that was all that mattered.”

Something glinted in Jace’s eyes, a curiosity I recognized in myself sometimes. He had searched high and low for Morgenstern himself, always wondering what it would be like to have his biological father in his life. He might have understood why I would want to know mine, despite the fact that I refused to acknowledge how I wanted to know. He somehow saw through me.

“Clary, you might not care about your biological father as much as I did when I was searching for Morgenstern, but I will help you find this out. It will help bring closure.” Jace took my hand in his, as he glanced around to make sure no one was watching. “And maybe this will be enough to show you that I’ve been true to my word all week. I hope this earns an answer soon enough?”

With hesitance, I stared into Jace’s eyes, falling into the depths of a green ocean of color. I nodded. “Maybe.”

Thursday morning, I sighed as I kicked a rock on the sidewalk. I had escaped my room just barely before the barrage of people came to walk as a group to class. Today, the walk to class seemed longer, maybe knowing that Morgenstern was waiting across campus with a snide look on his face and a mysterious secret tucked into his cuffed sleeves.

A part of me regretted my walk alone, despite the peace and serenity it had given me for the first time in a while. There was a nagging sensation that told me that I wanted to see Jace and his perfect smile. This part of me set confusion in my brows, because as it was I had been confused about what he was to me, yet at the same time he had been nothing but kind to me lately.

In secrecy, as I slowed my steps, I realized I was also sort of scared to meet eyes with Jace. This small inkling of doubt inside of me hinted that maybe I wasn’t ready to talk to Jace this morning, in case he had a sudden change in heart – maybe reverting back to his jerk-self or suddenly deciding he just wanted to be friends. I shook my head, wishing away the thought as soon as it had crossed my mine. Somehow, the thought of being just friends with Jace didn’t sound nearly as frightening as being his girlfriend sounded.

Was teen love supposed to be this complicated? I wondered. As I sighed, I passed a large group of students I recognized. Tipping my chin to the ground was the only thing I could think of that might prevent their attention from landing on me. None of them so much as looked. Maybe, college was finally becoming realistic.

But then how come everything with Jace was just so unrealistic and strange? Teenage love was never supposed to be complicated, was it? And if it was, wasn’t the point of it to just have fun? It wasn’t like I was about to get into a committed relationship with Jace that would last forever – as it was I could hardly stand the guy sometimes.

It was just too bad that I couldn’t turn my heart off. That would make everything much easier, I decided.

As I approached Morgenstern’s classroom early, I had to muster a lot of confidence before I even considered turning the doorknob. Reaching for the handle, I felt my heart begin to beat much faster.

“Clary?” a familiar voice from behind echoed, my hand jerking away from the door at the sound. I spun around to see none other than Jace Wayland, the bane of my morning. I’d say existence, but I wasn’t sure if he was even so much as that anymore.

“Oh, Jace,” I breathed. “Hi.” An awkward silence rested upon our shoulders. I sized Jace up, noticing he was wearing a sweatshirt that said “Institute Football” across the front. I realized I had never really seen Jace in anything but a nice shirt.

“What are you doing here so early?” he asked me, eyeing the door. “I thought I told you that I’d take care of it?”

I shrugged. “Impatience, maybe?” I had no real answer, so this one would have to suffice.

“I am somehow not surprised.” He laughed slightly. “Come on, you’re here early, you might  as well join me for an office snoop.” Jace began to walk down the hall, past the lecture classroom toward his father’s office. I followed behind him slowly, almost unwillingly, until we reached the office.

“Empty,” I breathed. “Why am I not surprised with your Jace Wayland luck that it’s empty?”

He laughed, turning his body to look at me for a moment, before shaking his head and grabbing the doorknob. “It’s the charm. Irresistible, albeit very useful.”

Jace slipped into the office, which was also surprisingly – or unsurprisingly, remembering Jace’s luck – unlocked. I slipped in behind him and watched as Jace ruffled through some of the files on the desk. In the corner, I noted Morgenstern’s briefcase. “Jace,” I whispered, eyeing the briefcase harder. “He’s probably here, we’re going to get caught.”

He stopped what he was doing to look up at me. “If you’re going to be so afraid to snoop, then why don’t you just leave?” he suggested.

I shook my head. “I’m not afraid, just realistic.”

He rolled his eyes. “Right, my mistake.” With another almost inaudible laugh, Jace began to look again. This time I helped, scanning my eyes over pages, lifting folders, opening drawers.

“What were we looking for again?” I asked. My eyes landed on a falcon feather neatly tucked into his office supply drawer. “All I’m finding is weird things like a falcon feather, swatches of silk, and an old chalice. Either this guy is a creepy collector, or there’s something really strange going on.”

Jace shrugged. “I’ve never gone through his things before. He always expected me to have a sort of blind trust in him, but for some reason I always had. Maybe it was my intense want to find him, or maybe the memories I created in my head to accompany his image that kept me quiet. I just never thought to ask him any questions.” He looked at me solemnly, though his composure stood tall and straight. “I’m fairly positive that he’s hiding something – from one of us at least.”

Though he sounded strong, I could hear in his voice a slight sense of hesitation. His tone betrayed how uneasy he felt, going through his father’s things. Instantly, I felt guilty for dragging Jace into my mess.

Then, I sensed danger, as if I knew someone was coming. Tiny sounds of footsteps echoed outside the room, and I realized the danger was real. What would it look like if Morgenstern caught us snooping in his office? What would that mean for Jace?

I panicked. “Jace!” I tugged at his shoulder. “We need to get out of here!”

Jace tilted his head, waiting – listening, and his eyes widened when he confirmed my suspicions. We needed to escape. “Come on,” he whispered, leading the way out, ducking into the next office over, dragging me behind him. He shut the office next to Morgenstern’s, as we peaked out the tiny office window just in time to catch sight of a black suit disappearing into the office next to us – Morgenstern’s office.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

Jace looked at me, his eyebrows knitting into a look of concern. “Clary, I found something in his drawer.”

I looked at him curiously, my eyes landing on an object in his hands. My eyes almost couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Instinctively, I reached toward my neck, trying to feel for the ring I wore every day on my necklace. It was gone.

Jace was holding it – because he had taken it from Morgenstern’s office desk.

“All I’m saying is it looks kind of suspicious when you both sneak off separately and we catch you both together, hiding in a corner.” Magnus flippantly shrugged his shoulders as he spoke, a careless whisp of sarcasm evident in his tone, as if he enjoyed using his words to his advantage. It almost reminded me of Jace.

Isabelle’s nose wrinkled, as if completely disgusted by the idea. I wondered if she still held her grudge against me, her public show of disgust surely out of the ordinary – usually she seemed better at hiding it. Unless, I was just making all of this up because I was paranoid and Isabelle was actually just being playful.

“Anything you tell us about your little fling in the corner of the English building is TMI for me,” Isabelle said, giggling. She stuck her tongue out.

“Mature,” Simon said, unmoved by the group’s jokes. “All of you, real mature. They weren’t doing anything, Clary isn’t like that.”

I stared at Simon, unsure what his motivation behind his comments were. Was he trying to convince the group or himself? I kept quiet in response.

The group unharmoniously erupted into chatter amongst pairs, but I felt lost within the chatter, my eyes flickering around the lunch room. Once again, the table of doom was dragging me down with it.

My eyes averted from Jace, landing on Simon, curiously staring at him to decipher his actions. He didn’t seem to be holding much of a grudge today, but yet his comment had left me with a sense of doubt.

“Simon,” I said, trying to catch his attention. His eyes flickered toward me and paused, eyeing my expression.

“Yeah, Clary?” he asked. He reached up to touch his hair without much thought, as if it was something he did because he had a nervous energy about him. I hadn’t noticed how much Simon had changed since we came to college – this being one of the things. He usually didn’t have nerves when he looked my way; we were always  those friends that created a sense of comfort for the other.

I frowned. “We hardly hang out anymore. What do you say to a movie night, just the two of us? Tonight?”

Simon frowned in return. “Sorry, Clary. Isabelle and I have movie plans at the theatre. Another time though, okay?”

I nodded my head, a sort of sadness enveloping my mood now. “That’s okay.” I looked away from Simon, toward Jace. “Jace and I will just make plans, then.”

As if I had taken a steak knife and jabbed it into Simon’s arm, he jerked back, frowning – almost pained. “Yeah,” he mumbled. “Another time then.” He looked away. “Have fun tonight.”

Simon and I didn’t meet eyes again after that. I looked toward Jace for guidance, noticing that he was smirking. He must have been excited knowing that we suddenly had plans. I shook my head, signifying to him that I didn’t actually want to see him. He frowned, too.

I felt backed into a corner, the boundaries of my relationships clearly being drawn out in front of me, and I didn’t like it. Simon and I were growing apart, while Jace and I were inevitably growing together. I wasn’t ready for the amount of change that I was experiencing, but it didn’t seem avoidable.

I felt my heart silently cracking, reaching its breaking point. As much as I was conflicted about my growing closeness to Jace, my distance from Simon felt heartbreaking. I wasn’t sure what I would do from this point forward, but I knew that I needed to make a big decision about the direction of my relationships.

If I would ever be ready for this, I didn’t know.

Dumpster Diving, Chapter 10

Dumpster Diving, Chapter Ten: Poisonous

Despite the progress I felt like Jace and I were making since last week, I was still tense knowing that at any moment he would just change his mind and hate me again. All Wednesday I avoided him, sitting in random empty seats in my morning classes so that he couldn’t sit next to me. With this avoidance, I had a lot more time to myself to finally feel the anger for letting myself get wrapped up in Jace’s drama.

What was it about him that made it so that he wouldn’t leave me alone? I was starting to realize that I deserved a lot more privacy than I was given. Even though I would never get that being in college with people living in such close quarters, I felt like Jace specifically went out of his way to bother me. It was overkill.

Now that I finally was being left alone in class, I loved the space that avoiding Jace had given me. I used the entire lecture of Professor Morgenstern’s class to ponder my life and everything I had reacted wrong to this week.

I thought about when Jace and Sebastian ganged up on me and threatened to dump me in a dumpster. I thought about how I should have stood up to them instead of letting Simon get caught up in it, which had directly led to Simon exploding on Jace with physical violence, not once but twice. It had also caused Simon’s character to alter, as he threw himself in a dumpster in an attempt to get me to believe him that Jace was bad news.

Too, I reminded myself that I had run away too easily in many situations, like on the first day when I drove all the way home to Jocelyn and Luke. They had been able to provide me with extra encouragement like Simon had, but their words apparently were wasted. It didn’t stop me from running away when Isabelle first started to warm up to me or after Jace pulled out my hair. I was a coward, despite all the people I had supporting me – in a way I felt like I had let them down.

There was no running away now, I decided. I wouldn’t let myself. I had to start standing up for myself or else no one would ever take me seriously. Once they had all seen how capable I was at unleashing my anger, they backed off and appreciated it, but then I had regressed and shown weakness again and that was almost like an open invitation for events such as the incident with Simon and Jace that resulted in my hair being pulled out. It was my own fault, and that was the worst part.

If I hadn’t backed down, if I had learned to be stronger like Luke and Simon had always taught me, maybe I wouldn’t be in this predicament. Here I was, avoiding Jace like trying to avoid the Sun, but it was impossible. The only thing I could do would be to put on my sunblock – or in real terms, my angry face. That was the only thing I could do.

I felt a sharp poke in my back halfway through the class as I turned around and realized Jace was throwing pencils at me. All day went by like that, Jace throwing things at my back, trying to get my attention. I wasn’t interested, possibly because of the fact that I hadn’t confronted him about many things that I should have and I was unsure what I would say if I did confront him about them.

Something else made me want to continue avoiding Jace and his childish pencil-throwing. I was unnervingly scared of the progress Jace and I were making lately, if that’s what you would call it. We shouldn’t have made any progress at all – that was what was so alarming about it. I had already given him too many chances. It suddenly felt so right ignoring him, as hard as he had tried to get my attention during classes.

On my way to my last class of the day, I tried to slip out and sneak to my next class without him noticing, deciding that I would confront him later. I didn’t want to deal with him just yet – I felt content ignoring the situation.

He tracked me down somehow, in the usual way that he surprised me by showing up out of nowhere with the worst possible timing.

“Did you really think me a fool?” his cool voice asked. Stopping in my tracks, I turned around to face Jace. I crossed my arms across my chest – I was cornered, again. Well, there were open sidewalks all around me, but just the fact that Jace had stopped me to talk made me feel cornered as if I couldn’t escape.

“I’m just tired of drama,” I said reluctantly. “I’m going to go now-”

Disinterested in his games, I attempted to walk away, toward class, but his arm gripped my elbow. Annoyed, I turned and shot daggers into him. He had most definitely cornered me.

“What. Do. You. Want?” I growled, darkly. I had rarely heard my own voice contain so much irritation in each word. That was a good thing, I reminded myself.

“I was thinking –you really helped me a lot with my English paper last night. I turned it in to Valentine outside of class and he told me that I did well on it. I wanted to know if you’d be my partner for the English project he was telling us about in class today,” he said, with the sarcasm and teasing void from his voice. “Isabelle and Alec already picked each other,” he added, when I said nothing. “Well, Isabelle practically pounced to steal Alec since he is usually my partner, but that’s beside the point.”

I hadn’t remembered Mr. Morgenstern talking about a project, but then again I had felt so red hot with anger this morning as I had reminded myself of my countless mistakes. I was just beginning to realize how much of an annoyance Jace’s petty problems were on my life and I had finally felt my anger, however displaced that it was. Unfortunately, with that anger I felt in class I had also been too distracted with avoiding Jace at all consequences lately that it was affecting my ability to focus on anything academically. If this was just the first two weeks of school, imagining the rest of the school year made me want to drop out.

“Fine, partner,” I seethed, ensuring that he was aware of how much I despised agreeing to working with him. “Are you going to leave me alone now?”

To be honest, it seemed strange that I was hanging around Jace Wayland, the most popular and powerful guy from my hometown of Alicante. Here in Idris, he seemed different – still a conceited jerk, but obviously without a life if he was busy following me around all day. Or maybe he had seen something in me, when I had been there to help him. Doubtful, but it could be possible. I tried not to hope for it, reminding myself of the past times I had hoped for a change in him and had been mistaken.

“Leave you alone? We have the same classes,” he noted, again without sarcasm. That time I had expected him to be annoyed or have a double-edged meaning behind his words, but they just felt indifferent. “Let’s get to Psychology. I hear Pangborn is being spiteful today. Sebastian had him this morning and apparently there’s a quiz today.”

“Lovely,” I mused.

It seemed like everything today revolved around Jace and how I had to feel about that. It was exactly what he liked and everything I didn’t.

I glowered as we walked in silence toward our third Wednesday class together. His long legs reached much further than mine, so he had to slow down a few times for me to keep up. It wouldn’t have bothered me at all if he just kept his own pace and we made it to class separately, but he insisted on falling into step with me when he could.

Being only the height of 5’4 compared to his 6’0 stature had its downsides. I was sure it was the reason he picked me as his high school play toy to begin with – either that or my fiery red hair and my obvious temper. With hope, I realized that Jace had no idea the wrath I could ensue if I actually stopped holding all of it back; the slap and the tears were only fragments of the emotions I truly felt welling up inside of me, waiting to be set free. That was a demon for another day.

“You haven’t made any ginger jokes today,” I noted, mostly to myself, as we walked. Looking to my side, I saw Jace nod with slight amusement on his face. “I’m not asking you to, but I’ve just noticed,” I added awkwardly. Small talk with him felt uncomfortable and forced. It was almost easier to just banter with him – that felt more natural.

“I decided it was cruel to tease you for your red hair, when you undoubtedly envy my golden locks. I look like an angel, and you…well, your hair must have just caught on fire once or twice.”

Though his words held enough of a sting in them, his facial expression and the tone he used to speak didn’t match up. He was teasing and sarcastic as always, but I caught for one second a look in his eyes that was unresponsive. Either he was trying to lighten up to prevent me from just walking away or he was trying to break high school habits.

Something seemed dangerously wrong about all this interaction. As Simon might say, my spidey senses are tingling.

All through psychology, I kept peering over curiously at Jace from my notes, using my hair as a cover. He was mildly focused on the lesson, preparing for the quiz he heard about. Meanwhile, I had forgotten all about it and felt flushed when the professor passed out the quizzes to the lecture hall and I painfully remember staring at Jace instead of paying attention. The quiz was five questions and I would lose all five points. A great addition to my already-wonderful second week, I thought sarcastically.

Jace’s voice caught me off guard. It was hushed in a whisper, and I realized it was the answer to the first question. Startled, I scribbled the answer on my paper and stared at the second question on my sheet. My pencil hovered as I racked my brain, wondering who the heck Freud was and why he was important. Jace’s voice surprised me again, providing that answer too.

When he gave me all the answers and I had finished writing them, we got up one after another and handed the quizzes in, leaving the hall but keeping our distance to prevent the professor from noting odd behavior. The professor didn’t seem to notice.

I stepped outside of the lecture hall, ten paces behind Jace, and looked around for him; he seemed to have disappeared. I shouldn’t have been frustrated with this because it would provide an escape, but something inside of me felt slightly disappointed.

“Over here,” Jace’s voice said, a short distance down the hall. He was seated on the bench, rummaging through his backpack. “I’m just looking for my room key. Mind if we make a stop at my dorm room before we go get lunch?”

My eyes scanned his face for some sort of joke or catch, but there was none. I watched as he fished out his room key. He re-zipped his backpack and threw it over his shoulder.

“Ready?” he asked, calmly, as if we were the best of friends.

I nodded numbly, confused but curious. One second he was gone and the next he was inviting me to his room. I hadn’t thought about why I accepted so hastily until after Jace started leading me through the halls.

I shrugged it off. There wasn’t much I could lose going with him – my reputation was already at the lowest of the lows, so the idea of whatever trap I figured he was setting me up for didn’t seem to faze me. I had the ability now that provided me with ammo to fire back at him, if all else failed. This could be a sort of test run of getting back into the swing of things with my feisty side. I needed to bring back the bad ass in me – I wasn’t sure how, but I needed to.

I obediently followed Jace as he led me through campus toward his dorm, which was of course the same one Simon lived in. Praying to myself I never saw Simon, we entered the building and climbed the stairs silently, toward Jace’s room. I remembered thinking the same thing the last time I was here, last night, when I helped Jace write his English paper. I most definitely should not have been here for a second time to see Jace rather than Simon; I was a terrible best friend.

Half-expecting to run into Simon at the dorm, I kept my head down, following behind Jace by watching his feet, as if I were doing the walk of shame. He guided me through to the second floor and unlocked his door halfway down the hall, throwing his backpack on the couch as he sprinted for his bathroom. It seemed like a trend for him to just disappear and leave me to explore his room.

I stepped inside his individual room and threw myself at his bed, burying my face in his pillow and grunting in frustration. I wondered if he was planning on dragging me around all day, idly. What would Simon think of what I was doing? What was I doing anyway? Just this morning I had given myself a pep talk to stand up for myself and here I was submitting myself to possible sabotage.

A million thoughts were going through my head at once and I felt conflicted.

Finally, Jace reappeared and pulled me off his bed by my backpack strap. Surprisingly I hung in the air a few inches off the ground. He laughed, but let go, gently returning my feet to the ground. I had flashbacks of the last time he lifted me in the air and promptly dropped me on my tailbone. I frowned.

“Did you want to leave your backpack here while we eat?” he asked, with slight enthusiasm. He must have just been hungry.

When I forgot to answer, he manually removed my backpack, deciding for me that I’d have to return to his room with him after he took me to lunch – something he also decided.  I wondered what he was thinking through this all. Was this an evil plot to usher me around kindly when we were alone, only to crush my spirits? Or did he genuinely want someone’s company and I just happened to be there, along for the ride, just as I had happened to be there when I walked in on him secretly visiting his father?

I supposed I should have used my stubborn nature to my advantage and refused all invitations, but until I saw the angle of his Wednesday torment, I was apparently going to go along with it out of pure curiosity. It would be my own fault if anything happened because of it; I guess I would have to accept that.

We left his dorm room to go to the campus dining hall, which all the dorms shared. Walking down the tight hallway, I suddenly felt conscious of how close Jace and I were walking, our arms nearly bumping as we walked down the hall like old friends. I consciously brought my arms closer to my body as I walked, trying to avoid touching him, even though the urge was there deep down.

“I’m feeling soup and salad,” I announced, unsure if Jace was listening, when we entered the cafeteria.

He nodded. Around us, the loud echo of the dining hall made it impossible to speak coherently and actually have Jace hear me. I followed him as he led me toward Soup and Salad, silently.

“Are you getting soup and salad too?” I asked, my voice loud as I tried to talk over the background noise.

I thought about my question and wanted to hit my head up against a wall. He was on the football team – why would a football player want soup and salad? It seemed like it wasn’t a manly meal, but once again Jace just nodded in response.

I stared at the back of his head through narrowed eyes, willing myself to prod his brain with the answers to all my questions about his behavior, but came up blank. His intentions today were as clear as the oil spill courtesy of BP.

When we got to the food station, Jace picked Hearty Potato soup with a Caesar salad and I picked up Vegetarian Vegetable and a Caesar salad as well. He chose a booth that only sat two people. I looked around, confused, wondering why we were eating alone.

After we dropped our food at our table, he waved me to follow him again – as if he thought I was incompetent to find the drinks station, despite the fact that I came here every day with Simon. I poured myself lemonade, watching Jace carefully as he chose iced tea.

When we sat back down, I decided I was tired of my questions forming in my head that remained unanswered.

“Okay, what the hell are you doing?” I asked, not hiding any agitation.

He was already crunching on his salad when I asked. His golden eyes met mine and I realized with a startle that he looked gentle.

I continued, trying to maintain my confidence from earlier, but I felt it slowly fading. “I don’t understand why you were throwing things at me all morning and then once you caught me you’ve been leading me around, expecting me to follow. Did someone put you up to this?”

He stared at me quizzically, as if I spoke Martian.

“You’re supposed to hate me,” I clarified. “You hated me just fine last week. So why are you suddenly getting along with me? With the quiz answers and inviting me to your room…” I paused. “And are we on a date?”

The last word made me choke, as I contemplated the context of the situation. There was no way I was on a date with Jace Wayland. His buddies were about to jump out at any moment and dump ice over my head.

But they never showed up.

“Today is the first chance I was able to spend time with you alone when we weren’t being forced to,” he said, shrugging. “It was a test, I guess.”

Not following, I waited until he continued, but he seemed content stopping there. Annoyed, I poked angrily at my salad. He watched with lightness in his eyes, looking impossibly gorgeous.

After I realized what I had just thought, I wanted to slap myself. You cannot find him attractive. He has only been nice for like 5 minutes. It’s all an act and it will be over soon. No matter how many times I said this over and over to myself, I still thought he looked attractive across the table from me. Stupid Clary.

“Okay,” I said, uneasily. “And why do you need to test me alone? We’ve been alone other times, when we talked about your family and stuff and I helped you with your paper. What’s so different about today?”

He shrugged his shoulders indifferently. “I just thought I’d try a different approach today. Doesn’t everyone deserve a second chance?” His voice again remained nonchalant and indifferent.

Was that really what he was doing?

Scoffing, I stared down at the cucumber I stabbed, my voice sounding alien to even myself as I spoke. “You could have at least considered that maybe I didn’t want to give you one. And maybe I didn’t ask for you to either.” I was beginning to sound stubborn, I realized with conflicted happiness on the matter. Did it make sense that in a way I was happy that I was becoming angry? Nothing seemed to make sense anymore, I thought.

In a sense it relieved me to realize I still had a backbone, no matter how small and fragile it was. Stubbornness was something I was effectively able to weaponize now, as needed. Apparently I chose now to need it. Once again, I was displacing my stubborn energy – I should have used it before when he dragged me to his room or invited me to lunch. But now? The timing was off. What was wrong with me?

Watching me carefully, Jace’s eyes flickered around my face as I was pondering. Was he trying to read me? I realized with shock that he was probably catching every emotion I felt as I sat deeply in thought across from him.

“Stop that!” I shrieked, slightly too loud. A table nearby glared at me, laughing among themselves at my expense. I heard Jace laughing, too, but his laugh was different. “And stop laughing. God, this is high school all over again.”

“It doesn’t appear like that to me. If it was, I’d be the one leading the pack of snickering college students.” He smiled with dignity about his leadership qualities. It irked me.

“You seemed perfectly fine tormenting me with other people around to watch,” I protested. “It just seems strange to me that the second everyone leaves us alone, you just become a different person-”

Clary, can’t you just consider the possibility that I don’t necessarily want to be who everyone wants me to be anymore?” Jace snapped back, with haste and irritation. He relaxed his jaw slightly and cast his eyes downward. “Sorry to snap at you, but I’m tired of…” He trailed off, lost in thought. “Maybe I’m just tired,” he mumbled, as if to himself.

Numbly, I pushed my salad around. I considered taking a bite, but suddenly felt like I wasn’t hungry anymore. The idea that somewhere deep inside of this person seated in front of me was an actual human being rather than a maniacal jerk startled me. He was claiming things that I had no proof to believe him on, because for all I knew everyone was in on it and the conversation was being recorded for public humiliation on YouTube.

But with the seriousness of his tone, I could tell that this was the first time he was speaking some of these words. And the strangest part of it all was that he decided to speak them to me, the girl he picked on aggressively for four years. Here I was adding another thing to the list of things that only I know about him. It made me feel sick and queasy – that should not even be a list.

“I just think it’s kind of bizarre that you chose now to decide to change yourself,” I commented with honesty. “You’ve kind of got a lot of ground to make up if you plan to right yourself in any way for all that you’ve done.”

He avoided eye contact as I spoke. It was sad, but he was the one I felt bad for – he was asking me, the girl he bullied, for a second chance when I was barely ready to give one to him. The reason I had stayed with him as long as I had today felt unknown, but it didn’t feel like it was because I thought I owed him a second chance. Maybe I had always wanted him to feel like he owed me one.

“I suppose I was wrong to just spring it on you. You know, asking for your forgiveness and a second chance and all,” he said thoughtfully, taking another bite of his salad and speaking with his mouth full. “It’s bothered me all night after you left and all morning during class…things are falling into place for you and me.”

I stared at him, dumbfounded, my jaw agape. “What do you mean things are falling into place for us?” I nearly choked on the words as they came out of my mouth, the taste bitter and surprising. These were words I never wanted to speak again, if I could help it.

“Don’t you think it’s sort of fate that we have all five classes together? That Isabelle, my sister, is your roommate? That you walked in on my reunion with my father and you haven’t told a soul about it? Clary, this has to be a sign that you’re here to help me change.”

Dumbfounded, I stared at him, trying to decipher his face. Was he an evil replicant or a twin nobody knew about? Could I really be staring into the golden eyes of the real Jace Wayland?

And had he used my real name, not once but twice now?

My head started pounding and I felt immediately dizzy. I rubbed my temples in agitation, unsure what to think about the situation. This was what I had mentally prepared myself for earlier, and here I was feeling queasy and troubled about the mere thought of something as unexpected as this. That was a lot of pressure to find out that the person you practically despised not only expects you to keep a secret for him, but also asks for your forgiveness and a second chance, expecting you to be the person who will change him. How the hell would I do that, when just recently he was nearing the point of no-return in the “second chances category”?

Nausea bubbled up inside me, as I started to feel more and more uncomfortable with my current situation. Suddenly my legs were moving under me and I was sprinting away from the table, towards the bathroom, ready to lose my stomach contents in the toilet. The anxious energy I had felt all day about running away from my problems was catching up with me, especially now that I was hearing Jace’s revelations about the fact that I was apparently his savior. My name and the word ‘savior’ do not belong in the same sentence as ‘Jace Wayland’.

I guessed the true test would be to see if Jace could wait for my stomach to empty and not only that but not joke about it. After I felt less nauseated and able to return to my table, I slowly made my way back, expecting an empty table, but found Jace waiting. He was done eating, and when his eyes caught mine I saw a look of concern.

I narrowed my eyes suspiciously. There was no way someone could change as quickly as he had – one day after the father-son incident – because previous to that he was tormenting me as usual. There was no way that this guy seated in front of me was the same person.

Uneasily I sat down and stared at the food I left untouched and felt woozy again. This was all happening too fast, all the concepts I couldn’t handle – that Jace was actually opening up to me like this.

“If you can hold it in, we can walk to my dorm and you could nap the sick feeling away,” Jace said, noting my expression. “I’d even make you pasta or something bland in the community kitchen once you feel better.”

His offer seemed genuine. Despite the fact that I felt troubled about everything in the situation, I agreed, nodding my head quickly and with urgency – I needed to get back to a bathroom again, quickly. That was the only reason I accepted, I told myself.

We rushed back to his apartment and he handed me an empty trash basket to lean over. He flipped on the TV hanging on the wall above his dresser, which I hadn’t noticed before. He instructed me to lay back into his bed to rest, but the request felt awkward and uncomfortable this time. We were getting too close for comfort.

“Clary Fray,” he said sternly, when I objected to using his bed.

“So you do know my name?” I asked. It was the first thing I’d said since our talk at the dining hall before I had rushed out to throw up my nervous feelings.

He frowned and winked. “I know more about you than you think, Clarissa Adele Fray.”

“Ouch, full name this time.” I half-smiled, still slightly weirded out with the situation and with the fact that he somehow knew my middle name, which I expended immense amounts of effort covering up over the years. He must have snatched a teacher’s seating chart in high school and read it, probably intending to use it as torture one day, though he never had.

“I will tuck you into that bed so tight that you will have to consciously breathe, if you don’t make yourself comfortable this instant,” he growled, in a voice I had never heard before.

I obeyed and ducked under the comforter of his bed. The sheets had yellow ducklings on them.

I started to laugh but he cut me off, “And do not laugh at my duck sheets, I’ve been stuck with them since Max died. If everyone would stop laughing at me about them, that would be great,” he mumbled.

“What do you have against ducks?” I asked politely, trying to avoid the awkward conversation bordering on the topic of his brother’s murder.

He shuddered, as if a winter breeze swept over the room. I didn’t feel anything, just the warmth of his comforter and duck sheets. With that, he dropped the subject, closing the door and hitting the light switch, the room suddenly darkening except for the light of the TV.

“Mind if I crawl in?” he asked.

I nodded in the darkness, hoping he could see. If there was one thing that I was going to object to, it definitely wasn’t going to be that; the proximity of his body against mine actually seemed like it would be comforting through it all. Better it be physical proximity than emotional – I wasn’t sure I was ready to forgive and forget the terrible memories he gave me – the hair pulling, the dumpster dumping, the tears and the pain. An attractive – though, maniacal jerk – lying in the same bed with me didn’t seem like such a bad thing, though. Could that ever be a bad thing?

He crawled under the blankets behind me and draped an arm across my stomach, which rumbled slightly since I hadn’t finished my lunch. He moved his hand away, instead letting it cup the side of my curves. It felt strange, letting him touch me like that, when the only other person who got that close to me was Simon.

With the lights off and the warmth of Jace behind me, it was easy to drift in and out of consciousness, despite the flashing of the TV. I figured it was more for his benefit – otherwise something other than football might have been on the TV.

After a while – I wasn’t sure how long – I awoke with a startle, my stomach feeling void of the sick feeling earlier, as Jace had said it would disappear if I napped. The door to Jace’s room slammed open and the light flicked on.

Isabelle’s nosy head poked into the room and she gasped. I was slowly regaining consciousness when I realized what she was seeing.

Sitting up too fast, I felt a head rush and nearly banged my head into Jace’s, as he jolted upright to meet Isabelle’s eyes, which were dark with resentment. Who knew that a girl so small and fragile looking could be so direct and poisonous.

Jamie Bower takes over @GlamourMagUK’s Twitter

Jamie Campbell Bower fans,

Check out this news from GlamourUK about a new interview with Jamie:

Got a question you’re dying to ask Jamie Campbell Bower? Now is your chance.

The star of The Mortal Instruments and Twilight will be taking over our Twitter profile tomorrow (Thursday 24 October) at 3pm (British time).

All you have to do is tweet your questions to us, making sure you use the hashtag #GlamourJCB, and he’ll try and answer as many as he can.

Jamie will be with us at the BT Tower (cool, huh?) talking films, acting and his new partnership with BT TV and Curzon Home Cinema.

So if you’ve got a question about how Jamie started out in acting, his career and biggest films so far or his future projects, tweet it at us (@GlamourMagUK) NOW as we’re already collecting the best to put to Jamie.

3pm UK time would mean 10am Eastern / 9am Central / 7am Pacific 🙂

Personally I will be in class at this time but I will make sure to have the tweets sent to my phone so I can interact! Try the same thing if you’ve got a commitment during the time of the interview!


Just kidding! Jamie Bower returns to Twitter!

Wow. I am actually very happy Jamie Campbell Bower has returned to Twitter. He has so many fans that are looking up to him and he is really taking it upon himself to be that role model that so many people will look up to. I, myself, look up to Jamie in the sense that he really knows how to be himself and he makes me want to openly express myself too, as he shows his fans that it is important to do.

So everyone can stop freaking out now!

Here’s the official post from his blog regarding his return:

Moralistic Reversal:

Good evening all you lovely people.

I do hope this “hump day” is treating you well. I have heard through a blood relative of mine that it is Potato Week in Denmark.

Here it is. I’m coming back to twitter. I have received an overwhelming amount of support and heard stories of how you, like myself as a kid, need someone to stand up and speak the weirdness it is that you feel.

I have made the conscious decision to reactivate my account. There are too many people to let down if i stay away.

I feel somewhat responsible for you all.

This however does not take away from the fact that a select group of individuals really fucked me off and betrayed my hard earned trust. Believe me when i say this.

I love the true people that make my world better (through social media) and i wish i could reply to any of you but the fact of matter is, if i respond to 1 person i’m only going to piss off the numerous others that i cant get back to.

I love all you true Muddafuckahhhhhhhhhssssssss. and to those who bent me over and fucked me without any lube in the words of Asher Roth “sucka dick butt kiss”

princess Jamie.


Everyone welcome Jamie back… and no one try to bend him over backwards and do him in the ass, as he says… That is just wrong. “Haters gonna hate”, as the saying goes. Hackers better not ruin this for everyone else a second time!

Okies, peace my lovely readers. I have an Anatomy exam study session to attend to. Stay beautiful.