Dumpster Diving, Chapter 14

Dumpster Diving, Chapter Fourteen: Fall For You
Isabelle drove Simon, Jace and I back to campus, before we broke off into couples.
Simon and Isabelle went one way – for their alone time. As I watched them walk away I wondered the ulterior motive behind Isabelle wanting a relationship with Simon, hoping in the bottom of my heart that it wasn’t a fake front. If anything, it was most likely something she was doing to get on my nerves. Her evil mastermind plan was beginning to get to me.
Meanwhile Jace ushered me back to his room, which I discovered was empty of his roommate. We sat on his bed in silence for a while, as I contemplated why I hadn’t just walked away and gone back to my room. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to ponder it, because bigger issues on my mind kept pushing forefront. It was hard for my mind not to return to the past few times I had been in Jace’s room, when he opened up to tell me about his family and then when he had taken care of me, before Isabelle came in and he changed.
We sat there quietly for a long time as I thought about a lot of things, before Jace reached out and touched my knee. Startled, I looked up into his face, unable to decipher his expression.
“You’re stronger than I thought you were, Clary,” he said.
Though I could immediately tell he was trying to be gentle and intimate, I found that it was hard for me to believe any of his words anymore. He cried wolf too many times before, his split personality making it impossible to trust anything he said.
He had the TV turned on to a football game. I eyed it, pretending to be interested. When I spoke to him, I made sure to never make eye contact.
“I don’t even know why I agreed to this in the first place. First of all, I hate everything about the way you’ve treated me in the past. Second, I would never realistically fall for you, considering the first reason. And third, your plan to foil Isabelle’s plan isn’t going to work. If they don’t end up liking me and you’re telling the truth that you don’t plan to hurt me, they would find you out when you don’t complete your end of the bargain. Or maybe you actually are in on it and you telling me was some sick, twisted way of exercising your full control of the situation. That seems the most likely because there is no real reason for you to want everyone to warm up to me. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
A moment of hesitation passed before Jace responded to my rant. “What will it take for you to believe me when I say I don’t want to hurt you anymore?”
Finally, I looked at him. He wasn’t looking at me, he was watching the game, but I could see his eyes flickering in his peripheral vision, suddenly aware that I was glancing at him.
I sighed. “Jace, a few times now you’ve given me a feeling of hope with your gentleness, right before you crush it again and revert back to your usual ways.” I knew it was only my fault for believing anything he said. He was toxic, I reminded myself.
He met my eyes, his head turned completely in my direction, the game no longer a contender for his attention. “Clary, please don’t deny the undeniable connection that we have. I know I’m not the only one to notice.”
The sincerity in his voice as he spoke about the shockwaves I was used to feeling sent electric spikes of energy through my body, reminding me that he was right. In some sense, we did have an undeniable connection, but I wasn’t sure if it was a romantic attraction. It was attraction, but possibly a negative kind, that only ended in me being hurt. I refused to give in to this notion.
I shook my head. “Even if you were right – hypothetically – that we had a connection, I would never give in to any impulses or feelings I might or might not have about you, based on your track record.” Turning my head, I refused to let myself see his reactions anymore. It was bad enough being stuck in the room, speaking to him about all these things – things that just weren’t right.
“If you can tell me you feel nothing, I’ll promise we can fake whatever we have to in order to keep up with the plan,” he said quietly, then went silent.
Suddenly I felt his hand gripping my elbow.
I met his eyes and saw a hunger in them, the gold captivating and engaging me as I realized I was falling into him. He pulled my body closer to his, as I fell onto his lap, my legs falling on either side of him.
As I straddled his body, I tried to remind my conscious self that it was a mistake coming here and I needed to free myself from the situation, but then I felt his fingers raking into my back, sending a shiver down my spine, all the way through to my legs and my toes. The sensation was freeing and all-engaging, every nerve in my body sending impulses of pleasure and glee as I felt him caressing me.
Any coherence I had left in my brain seemed to have abandoned me, as I found myself staring back into the depths of Jace’s golden eyes, my fingers tanging in his hair, playing with the fact that it made a breathy noise escape his lips when I did.
His lips parted and in the heat of the moment, I stared down at them, trying to tell myself I didn’t want to taste his lips or feel them against my own. I understood that I had lost the battle with my rationale, as I found myself desiring his touch. I wrapped my hands around him tightly, providing him with an answer to his question that he had asked…
It wasn’t true that I felt nothing, because I sure as hell felt more than I ever had before. And that was the problem.
“Jace,” I breathed, slightly pulling back from some of the contact, alarmed at my revelation. I remained on his lap, my arms entangled around him like his were around me.
He lifted a hand to touch my face, the touch gentle and warm, as he waited patiently for me to speak – or as patient as a boy could when he was caught up in the passion of a moment like this.
“Yes, Clary?” he asked, his voice uneven and breathy, like I had never heard it before.
I touched his face in response, pursing my lips as I caressed his cheek. He shut his eyes and smiled slightly. When he opened his eyes, I nearly fell back into their depths, losing myself in them. I tried to hold myself back long enough to say what I needed to.
Having any willpower in a situation like this seemed impossible. How I had gotten into this situation was beyond me.
“Before we go any further, Jace I need you to know that these feelings I have for you are very real…” I breathed out my words in a rush, trying to get past them so that I could return his gaze full strength and lose myself in his eyes again. The way it made me felt was amazing. I shook my head, trying to shake some sense into myself. “Jace I won’t let myself fall for you unless I am absolutely sure you’re willing to catch me.”
He pulled my face closer to his, craning his head down toward mine, until I could feel his breath hitting my lips. My breath caught in my throat at the tingling sensation.
“I’ll catch you,” he whispered. “Kiss me.”
The sudden rush of butterflies swarming my stomach became too much and I felt myself lunging forward at Jace, my lips crashing into his with an intensity and desire I hadn’t foreseen. I hadn’t wanted to do something so badly in my life, regardless of how wrong or stupid it was, and I couldn’t bring myself to stop the feelings in my chest from taking over my body and my senses, from kissing Jace with such intensity.
Jace’s lips were soft, as they moved in sync with mine, his gentle ferocity the perfect match for my intense craving to bring myself as close as possible as I could to him.
We toppled backward, Jace lying under me, and I wrapped my legs around his body, my back arching as he ran a hand up and down my side. He deepened our kiss, an uncontrollably moan escaping me as his tongue caressing mine with a softness I never knew he could contain.
He clutched my body tightly to his, as the uncontainable craving of contact with his skin caused any remaining morsel of logic to part ways with me. I tugged at his shirt and he broke the kiss, his face hovering close to mine, his eyes fluttering open. Their golden depths had changed colors, darkening as I imagined the passion within me darkening, burning hot like the touch of his skin, its sensation addictive.
Within a span of a few seconds, he had rolled me onto my back as he hovered over me now, his breath lingering, my heart chanting and begging him to kiss me again, like before. I ran my hands up his chest under his shirt, feeling his muscular creases, wishing I could feel my bare skin against his.
He just stared at me, his eyes grazing over my face, down my body, and back up again. His cool hand met my face with tender touches.
I moaned, begging him for more, as his lips crashed down on mine one more time, with more insistence and force. My whole body felt warm, heated by the exchange, possibly because Jace’s body was hot like a scorching fire.
I would have never wanted him to stop, would have been content kissing him like that, all too eager to act on my impulses now that I had a taste for his touch. Effectively ruining the moment, however, my phone vibrated in my pocket, as Jace jumped back, startled. He gaped at me in shock, his eyes attempting to take in the situation and understand what had just happened – that he kissed me and I kissed him back.
I fumbled for my buzzing phone in my pocket, my eyes not leaving Jace’s, as I felt my cheeks burning from embarrassment rather than passion. Moment ruined, check. The culprit? My mother.
I answered the phone, attempting to compose myself, my breath still somewhat uneven from the lack of air I had allowed myself when I was kissing Jace with every ounce of desire I had in my body fired up. It felt hard to contain the heat once it had lit my whole being on fire.
“H-hello?” I answered the phone.
My mother never called unless it was important. I pursed my lips, understanding the call must have been significant but yet I almost regretted answering it.
Jace sat back on his heels, kneeling next to me, watching and waiting. I longed to feel the touch of his lips on my skin again.
“Clary! I’m so sorry to have to tell you this over the phone, but Luke was in a car accident…”
My body felt high on ecstasy from being with Jace in the moment, until I comprehended my mother’s words and I felt my body stiffen. Jace’s eyes scanned my face, a concerned expression enveloping him as he noticed my body tensing.
“Is he okay? How badly is he hurt? Can I come home for the weekend to see him?” I asked, all my words coming out at once, as frantic energy overtook my body, replacing the feeling of the all-consuming frenzy I had felt for Jace.
My hands began to shake as I found myself worrying for Luke’s wellbeing. He could have been dead and here I was, kissing Jace like I wanted to be nowhere else in the world but here. All I could feel now was guilt – for letting myself fall for Jace, for letting Simon and Luke down by kissing the enemy, for still wanting to kiss Jace, even with the news from this phone call.
“He’s in the hospital. That’s why I called. Come home, Clary-” Jocelyn stifled a cry to the best of her ability, but the distraught sound of her voice and the manner in which she spoke told me that she wasn’t going to be okay and there was no pretending.
“On my way,” I mumbled in response, before slamming my phone shut in shock. “Oh, Jace,” I said, my emotional floodgate threatening to open.
He seemed to have understood. “Do you want me to come with you? You’re in no condition to go on your own.”
I nodded, not willing to argue. I let Jace pull me from the bed, watched as he rushed to pack a bag of his things for the weekend. He took me to my room, dragging me by my hand as I followed behind in a nightmarish trance. I could barely understand what was happening, so Jace took my room keys and filled a bag of clothes. He snagged a blanket off my bed and grabbed my car keys and then we were suddenly on the road. Jace drove, knowing I wouldn’t be able to coherently put two thoughts together, let alone have the hand-eye coordination to hit the gas on green and the brakes on red.
The drive was silent, as I began to feel guilt seeping into my every thought, tainting the otherwise passionate moment Jace and I had shared before I received the phone call. I was unable to decide what Jace and I had been doing, why we had let ourselves fall into the passion of the moment like that, when it meant we wouldn’t be able to turn off our emotions now.
The worst part about it all was I felt selfish having kissed Jace like I did, especially now that I knew Luke’s life was in danger.
It hurt, having to admit to myself that kissing Jace was wrong, because now all I wanted was for it to be right, but there were bigger things to worry about, like Luke now, and I didn’t have time to spend on Jace.
“That can’t happen again, Jace,” I said out loud. “Not until I am emotionally stable and can decide what to do about what happened.” This stupid double date was supposed to be all for show, not something that would actually cause me to fall for you, I added, silently wishing I could say the words to Jace, but knowing I couldn’t.
He was paying attention to the road, his eyes not daring look at mine. I sensed a tinged sadness as I swiftly dismissed the kiss as if it were nothing to me. But it was everything to me, and that – again – was the problem.
“I know,” he said, his voice soaked in sadness. “And I’ll wait for you, Clary.”
“If I ask to hold your hand, can it come with no strings attached?” I asked, hopeful. I doubted at this point there could be no strings attached in anything anymore, because now Jace and I were in a place we couldn’t come back from. Everything about us felt different now, so different from a few hours before when I had been so reluctant to even look at him. Now I felt like I never wanted my eyes to wander away from his body.
“I can’t promise you that. I can only promise not to act on any of my feelings for you, until you are ready to figure this out,” he said, his voice etched with sadness, as a frown formed at his lips, the sight sickening.
I hated seeing him like this – it physically hurt, somewhere deep inside, and I realized it was in my heart.
A pang of guilt stung me as I kept my eyes on Jace, as he offered me his hand. I took it, understanding what it meant to him for me to take his hand, how it hurt him. He wished it differently, and that hurt me to know I was selfishly asking for a pause, in order to deal with my family issues.
All I could feel was guilt, that I was hurting him. After all this time, I was the one hurting him. Life was sick and twisted in that way.
“Clary, I hope that me coming here and dropping football practice for the weekend proves something to you,” he finally said, his words nagging. I hadn’t considered the possibilities until he spoke of it, and remorse flooded over my body.
I didn’t say anything in response for the rest of the ride because I physically couldn’t. My throat felt so built up with pressure that I thought if I spoke I would pop a lung. Behind my eyes, a stinging sensation teased me, as tears trickled down my face, maliciously burning away at the top of my skin, leaving noticeable tear streaks.
I felt my hands begin to tremble. My hand that held Jace felt much stronger and more secure, so I gripped his hand with both of mine, remembering what it was like to tremble for him with passion as I had wanted to pull his body closer and closer to mine. Now I was trembling from the intensely overwhelming pang of anxious energy, as I thought about Luke, the man I treated as my father, lying hurt in a hospital bed. Jace’s hand squeezed mine in response, his thumb caressing in a gentle sweep over my skin that left my stomach in knots. I wondered how he could focus on driving one-handed with so much tension built up in one simple touch.
The rest of the drive I spent examining Jace’s hand in mine, trying to decide how I felt about holding it and why I felt that way. I pictured his hand in mine in many different situations: holding hands as we walked through campus, holding hands across the table as the minions stared in shock, holding hands just because we wanted to feel the warmth of each other. I felt a sense of comfort touching him in the small way of the touch of a hand and decided that it was a positive emotion. I had assumed anything I felt for Jace had to be negative, but it felt far from that. He made me feel so many positive, uplifting things that I finally had to force myself to think of something other than him to keep from crying about how things were turning out.
When we arrived at the hospital, Jace unloaded our bags and swung both of them over his shoulder. He locked the car after I stepped out, putting the keys in his pocket. On his left side of his body both bags hung from his shoulders and he held a blanket in his left hand, aware I was prepared to spend the night here at the hospital with Luke. I decided not to wonder how he knew that about me, instead graciously accepting his outstretched right hand.
We walked inside, Jace holding the door open for me, and spoke with the receptionist to gain access to see Luke. The receptionist rudely rattled off a room number in a bored tone, leaving Jace and I to maneuver through the maze of hallways to find him ourselves. I bitterly thought about how rude the receptionist was.
When Jace’s arm snaked around my waist to lead me away from the receptionist desk, I had almost forgotten how rude she had been. The light pressure of his hand on my waist reminded me that I wasn’t here experiencing this alone, but I would have him here with me. Just a few days ago, he would have been the last person I wanted here, however strangely after the turn of events that happened today he was the only person I wanted here with me.
Pushing the door open to Luke’s hospital room, I spotted my mother sobbing in the corner, her chair pushed as close as she could get to Luke’s hospital bed. Jace released me and I threw myself forward at my mother, hugging her with a different kind of desperation.
When we relaxed and let go from the hug, I cautiously stepped toward Luke’s bed, my eyes grazing over his body. Luke’s eyes were closed, his face bruised and sore. I noticed that his normally disheveled hair was tousled as usual, and that should have made me smile, but it didn’t. His left leg was in a cast, from the collision with the driver’s side door, Jocelyn explained. His whole left side of his body was casted and stitched up, the idea unbelievably unsettling.
I stared at a fragile version of Luke I had hardly ever seen before. Usually he was a strong individual, with confidence and little that could frighten him. Lying unconscious in the white hospital bed, with monitors and tubes hooked into his skin, he appeared so vulnerable.
Disheartened, I started to sob and wail, my legs giving beneath me as I fell to the ground. I would have fallen backward and landed on my tailbone if Jace hadn’t thrown his baggage to the side and fallen under me, breaking my fall. He moved with incredible speed to catch me, his arms wrapping protectively around my body as he held me up, willing me to stand.
Jocelyn watched us, a look in her eyes that I couldn’t read.
The touch of Jace’s hand at the small of my back almost sent an instant shock through my body and within milliseconds I was falling again, this time into an embrace with him. He wrapped his arms around me, whispering things, as I cried into him.
It took everything in me to suppress a larger flood of tears from escaping, instead allowing one cry of pain to pass my lips, as I wailed into Jace’s chest, which suppressed most of the noise. He cooed in my ear, lulling me into a calmer state, until I was finally able to release from the hug and turn back to Luke.
I apprehensively approached the hospital bed, reaching out to touch Luke’s face as silent tears escaped, my other hand intertwined with Jace’s, as he traced symbols and shapes on my hand, the caressing feeling more comforting that I could have ever dreamed possible.


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Dumpster Diving, Chapter 13

Dumpster Diving, Chapter Thirteen: Sleep With The Enemy
Clary POV
For the rest of my second week of classes, I avoided as much human contact as I could manage, other than interactions that revolved around classes. Jace still sat next to me like he did every other day, but he’d kick my chair or put things in my hair to remind me of what he could do. He might have thought it was cute, but there was nothing adorable whatsoever about forcing someone into a situation they don’t want to be in. At this point it seemed impossible to cut him out of my life – though wherever I could manage to I did.
I started getting up a half hour earlier so that I was gone by the time Jace and Alec arrived to get Isabelle for our 8AM class. It was rough having that class every weekday because it meant that avoiding my worst nightmares would be nearly impossible.
However, when Friday rolled around and I had my Philosophy 108 class with Simon, I was relieved when Jace and Isabelle sat behind us instead of beside me, which made me feel slightly better because it meant Simon never needed to know what happened. He would see Jace tormenting me from behind – when he was putting things in my hair – and Simon would assume nothing had ever happened that would have meant Jace and I were ever slightly civil at one point. I didn’t want to have to explain myself and apparently Jace didn’t either.
Hodge Starkweather was the teacher, but he let us call him Hodge. He wouldn’t talk the whole class, which was nice – he’d open the floor up to discussion. Sometimes Jace would comment, always leaving some sort of innuendo available for interpretation. Some of them, I knew, were directed at me. I would just roll my eyes and kick his feet, which often he tried to rest on mine. It was annoying being short and sitting in front of someone tall. But then again, Jace knew that. That was why he did it, of course.
Class let out and I stood slowly, waiting for Simon. He was turned toward Isabelle, who evidently tapped his shoulder.
“We’d like to make official amends for peace,” Isabelle said to Simon. Her eyes flickered to me and I caught on that this was an act, like she planned. “Jace and I are inviting you and Clary to a double date for lunch to reconcile the past four years, are you interested in coming?” She was asking Simon, not me, so as to not give me a choice in the matter. I would take the most convincing, even considering the fact that Simon hated Jace; I figured he liked Isabelle more than he hated Jace, to my dismay.
Simon looked uneasily in my direction, avoiding eye contact. It was obvious he was attracted to Isabelle, but in this moment I labeled him: traitor. He shrugged, trying to feign indifference to Isabelle, but no one believed it. He was desperate and he was willing to throw me to the dogs. Apparently he was even willing to forget all the physical confrontation he and Jace had. If that wasn’t desperation, I wasn’t sure what was.
I quickly decided I couldn’t judge Simon for being desperate, since I had been so quick to accept Jace all the time. I looked more like a fool than Simon ever did – the only difference was that I knew what he was getting into and he had no idea.
“Can we?” Simon mouthed in my direction.
Narrowing my eyes, I finally turned to face Jace, who I had purposely put my back to previously. He threw his hands up in surrender, smirking like the conniving backboneless son of a bitch that he was.
“Where?” I asked Jace, reluctantly.
Everyone took my question as confirmation and began filing out of the room together, forming a four-person line in the hallways of the Philosophy building. Jace bumped my arm a few times and I swatted his hand away, painfully aware of the ruse.
“I was thinking Taki’s,” Isabelle suggested. “It’s a cool little diner, but it’s a bit far from campus. I’ll drive!”
“Shotgun!” Simon yelled, getting giggles from Isabelle. I eyed her, suspicious. It was a fake laugh, I assumed.
Simon skipped forward as Isabelle pointed toward her car. They raced there, leaving Jace and I behind in the dust. Granted, that was how I felt most of the time at The Institute, so it wasn’t much of a change. My blood began to boil – I shouldn’t have accepted this stupid invitation.
“How’s your tailbone?” Jace asked from beside me. “You’ve barely said two words unless we have group work in class. Other than obscenities, of course – speaking of, you’ve got quite a colorful vocabulary.” He grinned wide. It was one of those smiles that meant he was trying to get a smile out of me too.
I clenched my jaw and stuck my chin in the air, hurrying my pace. He caught up with ease, due to his damn long legs and the amount of muscle he probably had built in from football and other sports. Why did the jock have to be following me around? Couldn’t it have been a video game nerd like Simon that would tire easy and get bored of me? No offense to Simon – he was my backup plan, remember?
“My tailbone is fine,” I mumbled through gritted teeth. It was a lie because I had been in constant pain ever since I hurt it. Clearly I bruised my tail-end pretty bad, not that he deserved to know.
We arrived at Isabelle’s Escalade. Simon jumped in the front and I glared holes in the back of his head. Jace sat toward the middle of the backseat next to me, making invading my personal space his mission.
On the ride to Taki’s, Simon and Isabelle chatted with each other, practically forgetting that Jace and I were in the back seat. I remained quiet, staring out the window. Sometimes when I looked close enough I could see Jace reflected in the window. When he caught my eye, I quickly tore myself away, preoccupying myself with studying a scratch or bruise on my arm, or the conversation Isabelle and Simon were having that didn’t particularly interest me – except when I felt awkward meeting Jace’s eye.
“We have arrived,” Isabelle announced dramatically, a tendency that I noticed was pattern for her. She liked to over-use emphasis and dramatic pauses; all the more reason to hate her.
I pulled the door handle to get out of the car, but it was locked. “Uh, Isabelle, can you unlock it for me?” I asked, irritation slipping past in my voice. It was unintentional, but she deserved it.
She hummed for a minute in question, before deciding on “Nope!”
She giggled and got out of the car. Jace was suddenly gone from next to me, disappearing out the other door. I reached for the other door, but Isabelle locked the car again using a car remote. Simon and Isabelle giggled at me from outside the car.
Finally, exasperated, I sat back in my seat and waited for them to finish their childish games. Isabelle clicked the doors unlocked and Jace appeared at one of the doors, opening it for me from the outside, his hand outstretched to help me. Instead of refusing it, I played along knowing that the quicker this double date was over, the less time I would have to spend cooped up with Jace.
He grinned, a look of victory crossing his face, as he cherished the moment that I gave in to him. Both of us knew very well that it would be a rare instance, or at least I hoped he’d gotten the point by now that I could be as stubborn as I wanted. After all, if I couldn’t be in control of my situation, putting on a stubborn face allowed myself to maintain just enough self-control to keep sane.
Jace’s hand felt soft and gentle, as he lured me out of the car. He kept hold of my hand as we walked inside together. Simon and Isabelle were in front, but Simon looked back a few times to see Jace holding hands with me, a slight look of disgust crossing his face, as I’m sure my own face mirrored.
I wasn’t at liberty to take matters into my own hands just yet, but I remained optimistic that if I subdued my stubborn outbursts for long enough, I could catch Jace off guard and regain all the control back that I had lost when I accepted his hand. Never the one to get involved in power struggles, I felt myself constantly re-evaluating the situation, feeling trapped whenever I lost control and smug when I had it. I’d imagine this was what Jace constantly battled within his own brain, but who could know for sure what he thought about. At this point I was convinced he was bi-polar and that must have been reflected in his thoughts.
Taki’s was small, but filled with customers, which was usually a good sign that the food was enjoyable. Isabelle picked an open booth, sliding in next to Simon, too close for my liking. Simon didn’t seem to mind, yet it wasn’t as if he knew what ulterior motives were behind this double date.
Jace released my hand and motioned for me to enter the booth, which was pushed up against a wall, blocking the inside. It would allow himself complete power over my captivity during the date if I slid in first because I’d be cornered against the wall in the booth.
Displeased to say the least, I flipped my hair over my shoulder with a noise that sounded like “hmph!” as I had sometimes heard Isabelle do. Satisfied with the effect it had on Jace – a look of bewilderment and confusion – I slinked into the booth, as far toward the wall as I could manage. I realized I hadn’t thought that plan through when Jace’s body pressed up against mine; I felt squished against the wall, noticing Jace had plenty of room on the opposite side.
One corner of his mouth turned up in a half-smirk.
Bemused, he winked at me. The wink didn’t go unnoticed, as the waitress who announced herself as Kaelie showed up and asked if Jace and I wanted a room. My cheeks felt hot, no doubt flushing a bright tomato-red.
Jace leaned toward me and pinched my cheek, making matters worse.
“Stop that,” I mumbled, swatting his hand away again.
He was like an immature child, I decided. Scolding never seemed to work for children though, so my plans of reprimanding him to death most likely needed to be rewritten.
It was like he read my mind, or he had some other method of understanding my area of thought, because he winked again, knowing I wouldn’t respond this time.
“What can I get you two?” Kaelie, the waitress, asked pointedly to Simon and Isabelle, knowing well that they were much more cooperative than Jace who acted like a middle school child and myself, which admittedly I acted like a child in response when Jace did, but for good reason. Or at least that’s what I told myself.
Isabelle ordered a Bloody Mary and I cringed. She noticed my look, explaining “Alec took Jace and me here the other day to check it out. Everything here is supernatural themed, it’s pretty cool. A Bloody Mary has no blood in it whatsoever, I promise.” She smiled curtly and folded her hands together on the table, looking the part of a lady, however underneath the façade I was unsure of what she was – but it was definitely something evil. There was no telling if I could trust her explanation, so I decided that she was untrustworthy all-together.
When Simon ordered a Bloody Marry, I narrowed my eyes at Isabelle, but relaxed when she looked in my direction so that she wouldn’t notice. It was hard to hate someone when you knew you were supposed to put on an act – I wondered how she felt, remembering she was putting on an act for me too; this must have been torture for her. Then I remembered that her reasons were sadistic, and I was just acting in front of Simon so that I didn’t get myself into any more trouble. I glowered.
I felt an elbow in my side as I realized it was my turn to order. “Um…” I glanced over the menu, my eyes transfixing on some of the names, all of them supernatural-themed with no indication of what they were. “Pixie Punch, I guess.”
“Same,” Jace said.
Kaelie left to fill our drink orders and almost instantly, Simon and Isabelle broke off into their own conversation. This left me forced to talk to Jace, who I wanted nothing to do with.
“So I was thinking. I don’t know very much about you yet, other than the fact that you are a redhead with a red hot temper,” Jace started, instantly aggravating my senses with his words. “How about I help you out with preparations for the midnight football game?”
I groaned, having completely forgotten all about the game. It less than two months – somewhere around a month and a half – away until Halloween, meaning I only had that much time to get my shit together. It was hard enough being left in limbo, unsure if I even wanted to pretend to go along with Jace and Isabelle’s plan. Imagine how hard it was for me when I realized that I’d have to put work into things like a game of football – the mere idea sent me over the edge with stress.
“Sure, whatever, fine,” I mumbled to Jace, attempting to drop the subject. Isabelle and Simon seemed to be paying no attention to Jace and I, which I supposed was good in a sense.
Jace caught the message and the topic dropped. We were silent again, listening to Isabelle and Simon’s conversation. They were talking about hanging out together again, alone.
“I’d really love to just spend some more time together, you and me,” Isabelle was saying, which sent me into a fit of anger.
“So Isabelle!” I said, interrupting Simon before he was able to respond.
I thought on my toes, trying to figure out an adequate conversation to distract her with. I wanted her to stay as far away from Simon as possible. If he got himself mixed up in the mess I was already in, I wouldn’t let myself live it down.
She stared at me, slight irritation lighting up in her eyes at my interruption, but she couldn’t show it. I had the upper hand here, I was sure of it. “Yes, Clary?” she asked, attempting patience.
“I just wanted to know if you’d make my Halloween costume!” I said, thinking on my toes, since I had to have had some reason to interrupt them. “Jace told me about this super cool party and I figure why not have some good ‘ole roommate bonding over wardrobe, right?” I pretended to laugh, but inside I wanted to shoot daggers into Isabelle’s chest.
She surveyed my expression, looking for signs that I was playing her like she was playing me, but I felt like I was able to hide it better than she did. Or at least I hoped so. Simon seemed to have bought it, as I noticed in my peripheral vision that his jaw dropped at my attempt at roommate bonding. If Simon believed me, anyone else would.
I felt Jace’s eyes burning on me, but I refused to make eye contact. I stared at Isabelle as she grinned and nodded. “Of course, Clary. I always knew we’d be such great friends.” She smiled, as if the events yesterday in Jace’s room hadn’t happened – as if she thought I’d forget them just like that. She was sadly mistaken.
Finally, Jace nudged me enough to the point where I was getting irritated with it. I looked at him. He was smiling.
“So you’ve accepted my invitation?” he asked, emphasizing the word ‘invitation’ to add a second meaning to the word.
To Isabelle and Simon’s listening ears, they would believe that Jace was referring to an invitation as his date to the Halloween party; Isabelle would be thrilled her plan was coming along and Simon would be shocked to learn I was ‘sleeping’ with the enemy, no pun intended. To Jace and myself, the word ‘invitation’ was a code word for ‘plan’ – and yes, I supposed I was accepting my involvement in the plan, to my dismay. There was no other option, it appeared.
I nodded as response to Jace’s question.
This meant that Jace and I would have to fake a relationship from here. This meant I would have to watch Isabelle and Alec and all Jace’s minions put on fake smiling faces and I would know the truth behind them, but they wouldn’t be aware that I knew. This meant that I would only have a month and a half to make these people genuinely like me, before they enacted their terribly malicious plan, in an attempt to scare me out of The Institute.
This meant I might actually have to sleep with the enemy.

Dumpster Diving, Chapter 12

Dumpster Diving, Chapter Twelve: In Max’s Name

Jace POV

I don’t often admit defeat, however I felt slightly weakened by my sore limbs and aching muscles that were screaming in agony after football practice tonight. Coach Herondale had been extra annoyed with me today, evidently feeling the need to try pushing me until I felt like crying – and of course I never did. My pain tolerance was high as a man of my stature, with many strengths and few visible weaknesses.

Despite my typically calm resolve, my aching bones cried out in agony, and there wasn’t anything I wanted more in the moment than an ice cold shower. If I had access to ice cubes, I’d likely bathe in them.

My skin felt hot and tingling. I imagined the sweat on my skin would surely attract the ladies. I made a mental note to stop by Clary’s room to show off a little – surely she couldn’t resist the sexy sweaty look and my endearing charm. It was an unbeatable combo. Even I, myself, could not resist my own charm sometimes.

Mentally I felt too distracted with the weaknesses I felt in my limbs to care to join in on the after-practice goofing off that my teammates seemed to enjoy. I was content remaining within my own head.

In the locker room I kept to myself, my irritation from being worked past exhaustion soon to turn into the monstrous urge to act irrationally – something I was ashamed that I was good at. I had often over-used this tactic to transform any insecurity, annoyance or bad attitude into a cold-hearted joke, the brunt of it falling to Clary.

As I fell deeper into thought, most of my thoughts had centered on Clary, I noted. I was starting to get used to the fact that she was almost always on my mind.

She was stronger than anyone else I knew, that was for sure. No matter how many times I poked at her for amusement in ways that should have broken her down, she bit back at me now. Even when she doesn’t bite back in the feisty rage she has, she still was strong enough to handle everything I was throwing at her, which was a lot for someone her size.

I wasn’t positive why I found Clary so intriguing. I guess in a way I saw things in her that I knew were absent in myself. She was strong and sexy, but didn’t let it go to her head; she was kind-hearted and forgiving almost to a fault – especially with me; and she wasn’t afraid to challenge someone bigger than her.

I always knew she had it in her – in high school she would get heated, with a warm look in her cheeks as if she suppressed the anger from the world, carrying it on her shoulders but choosing to contain it rather than expel the wrath to innocent victims. It wasn’t until college that she gained the confidence to use this to her advantage.

I only wished I could be half the person that she was. Maybe that was why I wanted to be around her all the time, I wasn’t sure. She was gentle and contained but expressive and passionate. I wanted to be all of that, and I admired it in her. She was tougher than I was.

I felt a sudden sting of a wet towel slapping my bare back. I turned to see Sebastian dressed to leave.

“I’m skipping the showers – come on, let’s go get some babes,” he said. He spoke in his typical low, suggestive voice that irked me.

“Not interested in your games today, Verlac,” I said, indifferently.

I had changed or started to work on changing myself recently. In a sense I felt like I had outgrown Sebastian and his antics. He used to be a negative influence, encouraging me to act like a jerk; I had never acted on my conceited games until I met Sebastian during freshman year of high school, when we bonded over teasing Clary. Now that I didn’t want to hurt Clary anymore, I felt like I had outgrown him.

“What’s your excuse every other day?” he asked, his voice harsh. I sensed irritation. He glared at me as if I were a traitor.

“Does it make a difference?” I crossed my arms over my chest.

“Actually, your little Clary crush is becoming a problem for me.” He pushed me back against my locker in the locker room, my shoulder slamming hard against the edge of my door. “If you don’t man up and take care of it, I’m going to have to step in.”

I felt my hands curl into fists at my side, my knuckles white and stretched. I no longer noticed the pain in my limbs as I tightened my muscles and straightened my posture, the stance I took when I felt threatened and in response needed to intimidate my enemy.

Sebastian no longer looked familiar to me. His black eyes flared with excitement as he noted I was prepared to fight him on this.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have prepared myself for a fight, because now he was going to question why. I was supposed to be acting like I was the same old Jace, setting Clary up for a disaster. This only made it look like I was on her side, which I was, considerably. He wasn’t supposed to know that, though.

“You see how easy it is for you to get your boxers in a bunch about some girl?” he asked, rhetorically, interrupting my thought process. “This is a problem, Jace. I’m here for you, man.”

My anger flared up and I lunged at Sebastian with all my strength, slamming his body into the lockers behind him. He reacted with only a millisecond of delay, which gave me enough time to position my arms dominantly above his shoulders, giving myself the upper hand.

As I struggled to slam him back against the lockers again with the intention of knocking him out, he used his strength in an attempt to regain control. He moved fast, positioning his arms close to my neck. I moved faster, knocking him back into the lockers, his head slamming hard into the edge of an open locker. He groaned, but his face flashed with an aggressive grin, his fingers tightening around my neck.

The fight likely would have gone on longer, but we had been interrupted by Alec, who had attempted to push us apart the second my peripherals caught sight of him entering the locker section. I released my grip on Sebastian, but he seemed more reluctant to release my neck. My airwaves felt tightened, but I refused to show weakness.

Finally, Alec pried Sebastian off me, as he stepped in-between us now, fearlessly ready to protect. Though he wasn’t even a blood brother, sometimes it felt to me like he was, because he was always on my side when I needed him.

I nodded in Alec’s direction. “We were just finishing,” I said to him.

Sebastian rolled his eyes, a girly tendency that not many guys I knew did. “Jace here was daydreaming about Clary,” he spat, filling Alec in on why we were fighting.

Alec turned to face me, his agitation towards Sebastian mirroring mine from earlier before I decided to engage physically. He released the agitated look when he met eyes with me. He eyed me, confused, since he had known about my plan to seduce Clary, courtesy of Isabelle. “Clary?” Alec asked.

I nodded, ready to induce my plan to get them to believe that I really was myself. If Alec could believe it, then anyone could. No one needed to know yet that I actually wanted to protect Clary. Especially not Isabelle – she was the one that needed the most convincing to befriend Clary.

I crossed my arms over my chest and prepared myself to speak naturally. I was worried that by warning myself to be natural, it would end up looking unnatural, but I fought through it to remain calm and collected as usual. “Sebastian is needlessly rushing to conclusions, without considering that it takes a lot more than acting to pretend to actually like Clary Fray,” I stated, calmly. The words numbed my mouth, the taste of guiltiness seeping down my throat. I suffered through it to finish my mini-speech to convince them. “It can’t hurt to practice being nice to Clary behind the scenes,” I added, trying to explain myself better.

“Why bear the guns if you’re still in one the plan, tough guy?” Sebastian asked, aggression in his voice.

I shrugged. “You just irritated me.”

And with that, I brushed past Sebastian, effortlessly pulling a shirt over my head as I walked out of the locker room. Quick footsteps behind me alerted my senses that Alec had followed. He appeared at my side, carrying both his and my gym bags. I took mine from his outstretched hand, silently thanking him. He seemed to receive the thanks, as he nodded.

It was silent as we walked outside to the parking lot. I threw my gym bag in Alec’s car and threw myself onto my motorcycle, telling Alec I’d meet up with him later. I wanted to go see Clary and try to explain to her again that I meant no harm, but I wasn’t sure how well she would take to me showing up at the room.

Isabelle would likely be thrilled to see me come to visit Clary. She would attribute it to me setting Clary up for the plan, where I would seduce her for a few weeks, setting her up for the biggest heartbreak in history. I felt guilty again for ever agreeing to her plan, but with confidence I remembered that Clary and I had a backup plan. Or, well, I did and I was just roping Clary along for the ride. She probably didn’t deserve it, and it wasn’t giving me any good guy points, but it was the only way.

I sped past stop signs and drove through every yellow light from the football stadium back to the freshman parking lot, where I lazily parked my motorcycle. Trying to slow my pace to keep from looking desperate was difficult, as I became nervous the closer and closer to Clary and Isabelle’s room that I got.

I remembered how Clary reacted when I told her everything that had happened and I remembered the hurt look on her face. I couldn’t help but feel dissatisfied with myself for letting it come to this, but everything had happened so fast when Isabelle walked in on Clary napping away her sickness in my room. After that, it all went to flames, when Isabelle created her master plan. I had spent a good amount of time thinking up the counterplan, only to realize it was a pretty bad plan itself. What was I going to say to Clary at this point? All I was doing was pouring salt in the wounds.

I wasn’t sure why I cared so much about her, when previously all I saw her as was a release to my pent up aggressive emotions. Somehow along the way I had realized she might be the one link back to my humanity, the one thing that my little brother Max used to remind me that I had. He used to remind me that I didn’t need to put on such a harsh exterior. Maybe that’s why I cared so much.

I arrived at their room and pushed the door open, inviting myself in. Clary’s individual door was wide open but she wasn’t inside. Isabelle’s head peaked out from her room.

“Jace!” she shrieked in excitement, at the surprise visit.

“I see that Clary is evading my presence,” I noted.

Isabelle shrugged, mumbling something about Clary probably being with Simon. She stood up and entered the living area, plopping onto the couch and flipping on the TV. I sat next to her and watched Isabelle’s show for a few minutes in silence. It seemed like the most torturous few minutes of watching Say Yes To The Dress that I had ever experienced before and I vowed to never watch TV with Isabelle ever again.

“Clary left in a rush the second I got back,” she said out of nowhere, her eyes never leaving the TV screen as she watched a girl crying over finding her dream gown. I wanted to puke.

I looked away from the TV, toward Isabelle. “Well we did just reveal our plan a little too soon,” I said.

“I was the brilliant one that thought of it. Sure, we revealed all our cards after your mini stunt, but Clary’s a softie. You’ll get through to her in no time. And don’t worry about me, I’m great at forcing people to be my friend.”

I stared at Isabelle, unblinkingly. She finally met my gaze when I said nothing. I had never noticed before how stuck up she was. I sighed, wishing I hadn’t tainted her like this. “I actually came to see her,” I said finally.

She nodded. “I figured. You’re always an over-achiever when you have a prize in mind. The end goal will be sweet, it will be the best play of our lives!”

I pursed my lips. “We’re too evil for our own goods,” I muttered.

She didn’t think anything of my words. She seemed to believe that I was on her side. I remembered earlier that Alec showed no signs of suspicion either, so maybe I was in the clear to set my own plan in action. I wasn’t sure how I’d get it to work, though.

“Poor Clary,” she said out of nowhere.

I furrowed my brows, confused. “What?”

Isabelle was an open book, so I was prepared her words to be some sort of joke. She never showed any signs before of feeling sorry for Clary. Confusion set over me.

“The poor girl probably never deserved any of this,” she said after a slight dramatic delay, something Isabelle was good at. “She was always just in the wrong place at the wrong time! Maybe if she would have dyed her hair, no one would have ever laid an eye on her!”

I felt some comfort knowing that Isabelle at least did understand that Clary didn’t deserve our punishment, as I had realized recently myself. It was a shame that Isabelle had such harmful intentions in mind, but to her they were just a game and it appeared to be nothing personal against Clary.

Clary was just the easy victim. Someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like Max.

I shuddered at the thought, but considered it and decided to take action.

“Do you think Max would be proud of us today?” I blurted. It wasn’t my intention to bring up a hurtful subject like this, but it had been my only idea. I had been wondering how I could get Isabelle to see that harmful bullying wasn’t the right choice, so that she would befriend Clary for real, and Max was the only route I saw getting through to her. She would likely hate me for this, but it might just work.

Isabelle stared at me, her eyes watering slightly. “Why would you bring that up?” she asked, her voice pleading. “Please don’t bring Max up again.”

“Well, you said it yourself. Clary was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I couldn’t help but think of Max.” I frowned hard, mad at myself for thinking his name in the first place. I was dragging his name into a mess his memory didn’t belong in. “I can’t help but relate what we’re doing to what his killer…” I trailed off, unable to finish.

Isabelle’s eyes seemed endlessly dark, as if it was an abyss with nothingness filled inside her pupils. She was frowning, the lines on her face looking like they could become permanent. “You’re saying we’re as bad as Max’s killer?” she asked, her voice shooting up an octaves in hurt.

I shook my head. “No, we’re not. But Clary is probably feeling something similar to what we feel with Max’s victimization.”

Isabelle stood up sharply, abruptly turning off the TV and stomping a few steps away, before she turned back to glare at me. “The next time you relate Max’s murder to Clary freaking Fray, I will disown you.”

She stomped to her room and slammed the door, and I heard her burst into tears. She would never cry in front of anyone, especially not me. She always wanted to seem strong, but she came on too hard about it sometimes.

I hoped I had gotten through to her, as desperate as the attempt was. Though I probably went about it the wrong way, Isabelle probably wouldn’t see victimizing Clary in the same light again, now that I brought Max into it. At least that was a start.

Oh Max, I sighed. He was the bubbly little nine year old that brought a dream world into my reality of a tough exterior. He made me feel like I belonged to the Lightwood family, as he treated me like a blood brother. His death left a lot of unresolved feelings behind, and though I hoped to remain strong about it, I often let myself go. Isabelle probably felt the same, and I felt guilty for bringing her sadness to the forefront.

Most of my anger about Max’s murder fell into Clary, as I released all my frustrations in the form of torment. I felt a sense of guilt that I had ever let myself hurt her, thinking that it would ease the pain of losing Max. If anything, now I felt even more vulnerable and wanted even more now to release my emotions in an aggressive manner. But now I had to find a new way to release my pent up anger and sadness, without hurting Clary. It was for her sake, for the sake of the plan, and for my future as a better person.

If I was going to change, now was going to be the time. In Max’s name, I was going to right my faults. It wouldn’t bring my little brother back, but it would at least ease my pain.

Dumpster Diving, Chapter 11

Dumpster Diving, Chapter Eleven: The Plan

Jace was the only person I knew that always had something to say and he knew exactly how he’d say it. I used to think he had a sort of superpower with his ability to bend and twist words to use them as he means. The few times I had ever caught Jace seeming off-guard with his words happened to be today, as the events now seemed to rush by in a blur, whirling past me with lightning speed.

Isabelle’s eyes stared in horror into the Jace’s room, silently reprimanding Jace for sleeping with her new play toy of a roommate – that would be me. Her dark brown eyes usually had a sort of sparkle, but now she seemed dark and much different than the Isabelle she displayed publicly.  She had a certain way of making anyone fall in love with her, whether it was guys who thirsted to touch her or girls who wanted to be like her. In that moment I saw something strangely ugly, like there was a menacing beast within the body of a beautiful girl. She looked the same, but felt so much uglier now that I saw the way she was looking at me, lying in bed with Jace. Which, admittedly, was my first mistake.

I had thought Isabelle and I were on a friendly level, but it seemed as if I had been played, once I saw the dark look in her eyes. Who knew that someone who had so much perk and confidence could just hit a switch and turn it all off. I felt used.

Looking to Jace, who was speechless like I was, I met his, which widened in response to my gaze. The look he gave me was that of fear, as if he knew he was doing something terribly wrong. Then, suddenly the look of fear was gone. It had been replaced with a look I had grown all too familiar with.

He started to smirk and winked at Isabelle. “Clary, I hate to bear the bad news,” he smirked darkly at me, a dangerous look glinting in his eyes. His golden eyes, which seemed like they could be so innocent and endearing, held a certain amount of disdain – or hate. “I’ve been setting you up all day,” he mused. Isabelle cracked a smile, clearly proud and accepting of her brother’s actions. “I had this big plot to exploit your feelings for me to use as material for more practical jokes. Have to freshen the material every now and then.”

He spoke with such pride in what he was doing, that I almost choked on tears threatening to spill from my eyelids.

“Wow, I’m impressed,” Isabelle cheered. Her positivity toward the situation overwhelmed me with annoyance, as I realized how dark a person she was to find this humorous.

Jace just nodded, looking at me, waiting expectantly for tears to fall. However, I remained stoic as I stood from Jace’s bed, untangling him from me. Wordlessly, I excused myself from the room, unable to comprehend the current situation. As quick as I was to deny earlier that Jace had changed, I had almost wanted it to be so badly that I let myself believe the easiest of lies. He had fooled me, even more than Isabelle had fooled me.

Isabelle chased after me, throwing my backpack at my back. I stopped, gritted my teeth, and picked it up. Glaring at her in the second floor hallway of Jace’s dorm, she looked back at me almost as if she had done nothing wrong.

“Wait up,” she said, with a tease. “Don’t want my best friend to have to walk alone back to the room!” Her laugh felt uncontained and malicious. “Oh wait, I wonder why you’d ever get the idea that you’d ever fit in among us!” She giggled again. “Silly me.”

Frustrated with myself, I turned on my heel and stomped away from Isabelle, nearly falling down the stairs I took them so quickly. Instead of going downward, I went up, toward Simon’s room on the third floor of the same dorm.

All my energy felt sapped as I pounded on the door to the room I had been to frequently throughout the past week and a half.

Simon’s roommate, Jordan, opened the door and nodded his head. “Hello, Clary,” he said with a quick smile. We had only met a few times, but he had always been nice to me. “Simon should be back from class in a few minutes, if you want to come in and wait,” he said, noting the urgency in my expression.

Grateful, I accepted the offer and walked into the room after Jordan. He wasn’t alone – there was a tanned girl sitting on the futon, her dark curly hair falling effortlessly down her back. She glanced in my direction and flashed a welcoming smile. “I’m Maia,” she greeted. “Jordan is my boyfriend. You must be Simon’s?”

Flushing, I shook my head and took a seat on the couch next to her. Jordan sat on the opposite side, resting one hand on her knee. From first glance it was obvious that they were the kind of couple who had been together for years and it had made them inseparable. It made the world around me fill with hope, that there were some guys out there that treated girls right.

Simon had always warned me to be careful, but I had always brushed off his words, pretending like a future relationship was the last thing on my mind. Maybe it never was. I felt guilty now for once again ignoring something Simon said, because he was right as usual.

“Simon and I are friends from birth, basically,” I corrected. “He’s one of those friends I’ve known since kindergarten, when we used to share the big box of crayons with the sharpener built in. We got married with Ring Pops under a big Oak tree on the playground once.”

Smiling, Maia nodded her head as if she knew exactly what I was talking about. “That’s like me and Jordan,” she said, with glee. Her voice was soft, but severe around the edges. Regardless, it made my body fill with ease, like Simon does when he talked. “Then one day, we decided to try more than friends, and things have been perfect ever since.”

It was like I watched her confidence about herself and her relationship radiating off her body at that point. The believability of their relationship made me have confidence in Simon and myself. I had always told him that if we’re not married by the time we’re forty, he’s mine to marry. He had always prided himself, knowing that. It felt silly that he would feel so accomplished to be my backup, but I think it was more of the idea that as a best friend he knew he would always have a place in my heart.

The door creaked open again and Simon stepped in, but he wasn’t alone. Isabelle was standing with him. Her eyes met mine and they pulsated with excitement. I groaned – from the look on Simon’s face he clearly had no idea that the girl he was inviting into his room was a closet bitch.

Simon, taken aback by my unannounced appearance, grinned. “Clary! How was your day?” He threw his backpack off and hugged me, his arms fitting tightly around my waist. I craned my neck up to look at him – in what world was it right for Simon hang out with Isabelle, the girl who just moments ago announced her intention of ruining my life?

I recalled they had made some sort of connection last week, when Simon and I were hanging around Isabelle a lot, but I hadn’t anticipated he would ever invite her to hang out alone. And now that I knew who she was, I felt dismayed to see her here.

“Fine, thanks,” I mumbled. “Isabelle, what a surprise.” Trying not to make my hatred obvious felt difficult. Every bone in my body began to heat, until I felt like the temperature became too hot that my bones would melt from hatred.

She grinned and shrugged her shoulders. “Found Simon walking back from class and thought I’d see if he wanted to hang out!” Something about the tugging smile on her lips had a hint of dangerousness. Simon, releasing me, stepped back and looked at her, but clearly looked past any of the signs of her danger. “Simon was kind enough to invite me over! Isn’t he just the sweetest?”

Her smile never faltered, but I saw through the façade. My eyes cut through the scene like a knife cutting butter, revealing Isabelle’s true intentions. How had Simon not noticed? How had I not noticed?

Unable to say anything about it, I remembered Maia and Jordan sitting on the couch, and turned back to them. “Wow, full room. I should get going. It was so nice to meet you!”

It was regretful that with all the tension between Isabelle and me that I had to be the one who would miss out on any possible bonding with Simon’s roommate and his girlfriend – I liked them a lot more than the Jace / Isabelle crowd, who I now knew were two-timing jerks I could never trust again. Jordan and Maia were actually real, with no ulterior motives or intentions. Those were the kinds of people I wanted to put myself around.

Simon, confused by my departure, wrapped an arm around me again in a half-hug, then let me go. “We’ll see you around. I’ll call after Isabelle leaves so we can talk about your day.”

Walking out of the room, I left his goodbye unanswered. My feet carried my body away in a hurry, though I had never anticipated I would need to escape from the one place I felt could be like a new home. Now even Simon’s room felt off-limits, as much as my own suddenly did. The air around Isabelle was almost choking, as if there were significantly less oxygen around her.

The rest of the day, I wandered campus. Thankfully I didn’t bump into many faces that I knew, which felt satisfying. Maybe people were starting to move on. It was just the table of minions who remained childishly punishing me for doing absolutely nothing but existing.

I found a bench nearby the fountain on campus, looking up at the greenery of the area surrounding it. This was my new home, I decided, as I dug out my sketch pad from my backpack and began to hastily draw.

Avoiding the situation seemed pointless, and yet I couldn’t bring myself to leave that tranquil nook at the edge of campus. It was closer to the dorms than I would have liked, but it would provide great escape whenever I needed it. I wished I had discovered it here last week, when I needed it most.

Though I hated to admit it, college seemed to have gotten to me. I had sworn it never would, but there were so many complicated feelings and emotions I was struggling to sort through. In a way it felt like I was re-learning things about myself that I may have never known.

Based on what I recognized from my drawing, Jace had been one of the central things on my mind. I hadn’t put him there myself – when I draw I let my mind wander and my hand just captures what is in my subconscious. In my drawing, Jace’s strong jaw and attractive features were present, but his expression bizarre in the drawing. I must have been picturing him in a positive light, because he looked beautiful. His golden locks of hair curled and twisted delicately past his chin. Behind him, angel wings sprouted up on both sides. Despite the way I’ve seen him act, it was clear from my drawing that I wanted to see him in a different light.

There was no use putting so much thought into it. What happened was done and there was no going back, no matter how much I wish I could just replay the events of today, even if I could just watch from afar, out-of-body, to understand it. Now all I wanted to do was stop over-analyzing the situation, fall sleep and forget this day had ever happened. But of course Jace wouldn’t let that happen, even in the safety of my own thoughts.

Aggravated with my drawing, I shut my notebook and threw it in my bag, stumbling to my feet and smashing into someone as I did. Losing my balance, I toppled over and landed on my tailbone, feeling a sting of shock shoot through my body, tingling and throbbing. This time I didn’t feel like I was able to move from the shock of pain.

“Oh my God,” the person said. A hand appeared and wrapped behind my back, helping to push my body upwards into a standing position. Dizzy and hurting, I met eyes with a dark-haired boy, his eyes equally dark, however with a sense of weightlessness to them. Sebastian Verlac.

“Why does everyone have to keep finding me today!” I shrieked, surprising myself. Usually I kept to myself about my misfortunes. I had no intention of letting Sebastian in, to ruin my life like his friends did.

He stared at me quizzically and released his hand from my back, which I hadn’t noticed was steadying me until he released. Stumbling forward, he caught me again. “Careful,” he warned.

“I’m just going to-” I grimaced, stopping myself. My tailbone hurt too badly and I felt like my legs couldn’t work on their own. I wanted to just run away from the world, but how could I if I felt like I wanted to just lie down and never stand back up again?

“How about I walk you home?” he suggested, tenderly. It felt wrong, like the whole day had felt, even as I tried to deny it all day long. “Unless you don’t feel you can walk?” he asked. In response I shook my head. “I’ll carry you home, where do you live?”

Before I could react, I felt his arms wrap around my back and under my knees, lifting my body from the air. At first I winced and shrieked from the pain, but relaxed when I found a comfortable position. Personally I never liked to be carried, especially with how Jace had treated me when he had picked me up last Friday before dropping me to my emotional doom.

In this case I felt like it was an exception to the fact that I hating being carried, due to the circumstances and the pain in my tailbone. Strange that the exception would be with Sebastian, of all people, but I had no choice.

“I live with Isabelle,” I mumbled, the name scorching on my tongue.

He began to walk me toward my room, stopping a few times to adjust his grip. I had hoped I wasn’t too heavy to make the journey difficult, but if I was he didn’t show that I was bothering him. This was actually the closest I’d ever been with Sebastian and admittedly I hoped it would be the last.

Along the way, Sebastian had run across some of the people from Pandemonium High. They all curiously stared at me, wondering why Jace’s best friend was holding their arch enemy. A few times I remembered some of the faces from the scene of the crime, back when I earned my infamous nickname as Dumpster Girl.

I recognized Aline Penhallow, Jace’s vengeful ex-girlfriend – who snarled at me. Jace more or less taught everyone he knew that they should hate me. I also saw Zach Silent – who would shoot you if you called him Zachariah, his full name – and with him was Meliorn, Isabelle’s ex-boyfriend. The two liked to play jokes on me even when Jace or Isabelle weren’t around to facilitate it; Meliorn was a scornful trickster, I realized. When his eyes met my face as he passed, I felt a hiss forming in the back of my throat. Sebastian noticed but said nothing about my reactions to his friends. It was clear that our social crowds didn’t and wouldn’t ever mix. He remained silent until he reached my room.

“Can you knock? My hands are full. Unless you can get your key out.”

I fished in my backpack hastily, hoping to locate my keys, but unable to find them. Sebastian grew impatient holding me in his arms as gently as he could, so I pounded on the door.

It was right to expect Isabelle to answer, assuming she would be back from hanging out with Simon since hours had lapsed since the incident. But of course it wasn’t her – Jace answered. He eyed his friend suspiciously before his gold eyes flickered to my green ones.

Without a word, Sebastian handed me off to Jace, who cradled me in his arms. At first I was alarmed, worried he would drop me again – this time on the tile floor – but I felt much steadier in Jace’s embrace than Sebastian’s, if that could even be possible.

“She fell and can’t walk,” Sebastian said, in explanation, before Jace slammed the door shut in his face by kicking it shut behind us. He walked me to my room and kicked at the doorknob, successfully landing his foot so that the door fell open. Impressive.

“Where are you hurt?” he asked, hesitant to set me on my bed until he knew. He stood, hovering nearby and I realized how messy my room was, considering how little time I wanted to spend in it now.

I whispered, “Tailbone.”

“How am I supposed to put you down?” he asked, alarmingly.

I wondered if I could even sit, with as much pain I was feeling. His words reminded me that I had no idea what to do about tailbone injuries.

“Do you think you can lie down?” he asked. Unsure how to respond, I pursed my lips. “Let’s test it,” he amended, slowly lowering my body toward my bed.

My tailbone made contact with the bed and I felt too much pressure building; I yelped in pain. Jace reflexively lifted me back into his arms.

“I’m at a loss,” he said.

“No, that would be me, again,” I spat, suddenly my displaced anger bubbling up inside me – it should have come out earlier instead of now.

I decided I didn’t need his help, not after Isabelle and Jace revealed their terrible plans after I napped unknowingly in his bed. I thrashed and struggled in his arms, feeling the sting of my tailbone whenever I moved in the wrong direction.

Jace stared at me, unblinking, as I tried to free myself but failed. Finally, he tilted my legs toward the ground and allowed me to stand. Like before, I felt weak and toppled over.

It was all in my head, I told myself. I didn’t need Jace because it didn’t even hurt that bad.

Pushing his arms away from their contact with my skin, I balanced myself and crossed my arms over my chest. Finally, I muttered “I’m fine.” His eyes scanned my face, searching for the truth. I didn’t like the way he pretended to care. “However, you shouldn’t be here. Isabelle isn’t even here, so that means you have no right to be in this room.”

“I’d like to talk to you before you go running off again and break your legs this time.” His voice was steady, but worn, as if he was in a heated argument and lost his voice at some point since I had run away from his room.

“What do you care?” I challenged, raising an eyebrow and huffing.

Delicately, I allowed myself to lower toward the bed. Wincing and shrieking, I fell backward, trying to find a comfortable position lying down, but to no avail.

Jace’s eyebrows furrowed and flinched as I whimpered, but he made no move to help me, knowing very well that I might bite him if he got too close. At least he was learning to not mess with me.

Finally after only about thirty seconds of whimpering, he got fed up. He reached down and swiftly picked me back up again off the bed. To my relief, the pressure off my tailbone died down as I hovered in the air.

As stubborn as I felt about it, I silently thanked him and he half-smiled. I could have sworn that this was how he was acting earlier when we were alone, but then I remembered he could change as easily as flicking a light on with a switch. The same way Isabelle had done. I silently told myself to stay away from Alec, just in case it was a family thing.

“It’s apparent that you can’t take care of yourself without my stunning presence to prevent you from feeling any pain,” he said, without his breath so much as catching. He must practice his lines in a mirror until he perfects his speech pattern. “I hurt you earlier, Clary, and I want you to know that I was lying-”

“About what?” I interrupted, my anger sparking up again. It was like he turned the burner under me from low to hot and I was beginning to bubble over. “First you tell me you want to change with my help. And then you tell me it was all a sick joke and Isabelle was in on it!”

His confidence wavered for a split second. He rocked back and forth on his feet, uncomfortably. Vulnerability was not something Jace Wayland seemed to emanate often.

“The truth is that I meant everything I said to you when we were alone…” he trailed off. “But honestly I can’t disappoint my friends or family by publicly taking your side, since I was the one that built them up against you-”

I huffed, interrupting, but shut my mouth and looked away, upset.

“I just need some time for them to warm up to it,” he said, pleading. His tone was wildly believable, and yet I knew it would be a mistake to once again fall into that trap. “I have an idea until then, but I wanted to know if I had your permission.”

Eyes bulging, I looked back into Jace’s eyes, which were closer than they had ever been. Our faces felt inches apart, as he held me up in his arms. I felt his arm at my back, caressing.

“You have my attention,” I admitted, with some reluctance.

He grinned, and told me his plan to get everyone to warm up to me, for real this time – and not as a joke, as they had before.

As I listened, I wondered why it became an important part of any plan for anyone to warm up to me – whatever that meant. Had he decided that he suddenly actually wanted to be friends? Making sense of the situation became difficult, as he explained that he wanted his friends to think they were in on a prank against me, similar to what happened today.

It was hard to follow at first. He said he wanted his family and friends – Isabelle, Alec, Sebastian and his roommate Jonathon who was from a neighboring high school but in the same type of crowd as Jace – to pretend to be friends with me as they had been. My job would be to actually get them to start liking me, so that by the time their big humiliation stunt was supposed to unfold, they wouldn’t go through with it.

“What is the big humiliation stunt going to be?” I asked, curiosity getting the best of me.

It would bother me for as long as the plan was in action, knowing the big finale of his plan to convince them that a long stunt to humiliate me was worth pretending to be friends for a few weeks, but I needed to know what it was that would convince four people who hated me that they needed to befriend me for a few weeks.

They had already evidently done so, I reminded myself that I had learned this today when Isabelle walked in on Jace and I napping, but this time I would actually be aware that they were faking friendship.

Jace sighed, but began to explain the humiliation part of the plan. “There’s a few guys talking about a Halloween party-”

“Woah,” I warned, holding my hands up. “You’re going to ask your friends to continue pretending they like me for almost two months? There is no way they’ll do it!”

He frowned. “Clary, you don’t understand. In their state of mind, they hate you. Jonathon doesn’t know you, but he would likely be into the plan if Izzy, Alec and Sebastian were.” He paused. “The Halloween party would be the focus of the plan. I want to convince them that at this party we can break your heart.”

“And how do you plan to do that?” I crossed my arms over my chest, waiting. It was weird hanging in the air for so long, with Jace practically embracing me the whole conversation.

Sheepishly, he met my eyes, staring under his long eyelashes at me. “Well, over the next two months I’d tell them I plan to seduce you and in the greater scheme you’d fall for me. They’d believe that I’d dump you in front of everyone at the Halloween party and they’d all out of nowhere be able to show that they hate you again, and it would hurt you even more since you’d believe that they were your friends too. Isabelle wants you out of her dorm room, so I think she’d assume you’d drop out of school because of it… that’s why they’d be in.”

I stared blankly at his face, unsure of what to say. He wanted me to agree to let four people fake friendships with me, while he faked a relationship with me, all in the grand scheme of getting them to like me – for who even knows why. None of it actually made much sense. He was claiming they’d never actually get to the end of the plan because they’d like me by then and he wouldn’t have to hurt me. But it was him that is the pivotal part of the plan, with the fake relationship part of the scheme. That was not something I was sure I wanted to go along with.

“I don’t know,” I mumbled, confused.

He took in a long breath. “The thing is, Isabelle was the one that came up with the plan just a few hours ago, after she had walked in on us and I had made up that lie. She said she thought it’d be funny if I re-created that and seduced you in a bigger scheme with my dashing charm-” He paused, to smile and give himself credit for being attractive. He continued, “And she said she’d pretend to be your friend again until then, setting you up for like a quadruple whammy…” He paused, looking ashamed of himself. “I agreed to it, which is why I’m here alone.”

“Wow.” I breathed, reminding myself that I didn’t even know this boy.

What I did know about Jace was that he wasn’t someone I ever wanted to associate with. It just wouldn’t be believable if I instantly fell for him and suddenly accepted the friendship of four people I probably would never care for.

In the long run, why did I care if they finished the plan or not? The way to get these people to like me felt wrong – there was no point in keeping a friendship that would start out of hatred and the burning desire to hurt my feelings.

“No,” I said, sternly. “Now get out.”

I reached out and smacked him across the face for the second time, a red mark left where my hand made contact. He flinched and released me from his arms, setting me down on the ground.

I threw myself back on the bed, screaming out in pain from both my tailbone and the emotional overwhelming rush of emotions, and covered my face with my pillow. I screamed again into the pillow, from the emotional pain of my life rather than the pain of the situation.

He had already agreed to the plan. That was the worst part. It would be exactly what I experienced today that had caused me to run out and hurt my tailbone, except it would be on a greater scale. I could either go along with the plan, knowing this time that Isabelle and Alec and Jace’s minions actually hated me, or I could fight it and chance them finding a more malicious way to hurt me that didn’t involve the temporary truce.

I felt a hand on my back and the weight of the bed shift, as Jace sat down beside me. He rubbed circles into my back and tried to coo, but I thwacked the pillow at him.

“Ouch!” he said, out of surprise rather than pain. I peered up at him. “Clary, I’m more stubborn than you are, and I will make this all right no matter what. This is all I have to work with right now – this terrible plan. If I can change Isabelle’s mind about it, I will. But she expects me to-”

“If you really cared about changing, you’d never do that to me!” I shouted, sitting up. The pain of the pressure on my tailbone was excruciating. I bit my tongue, tasting blood from biting too hard. “I’d never agree to go out with you anyway! You’re terrible and I’d never want to associate with you! Any of you!”

I watched as he winced, but recovered himself. He smirked at me and glowered. “I can break you either way, Clary. Maybe you should accept this plan, before I have to resort to forcing you into it by tormenting you again.”

“All the more reason to never agree to it! Stop playing me for a fool!” I screamed, with hate seeping into every word. “Go away!”

Aggravated, he threw the pillow at my face and it stung. I removed it and stared at him in shock, recalling how much I hated him. Even if it was just this side of him, it was enough to make me realize that I would never fall for someone who had such a bi-polar personality.

I could never trust him, especially now knowing that he’d either be constantly pining after me with a plan to break my heart at Halloween, or he’d torment me even worse to convince me that I needed to go along with the plan. I just wasn’t interested in either option.

“I don’t want you in my life, period,” I said.

Swearing, Jace got up and stomped out of my room, slamming the door shut behind him. Frustrated, I screamed into my pillow again.

Warrior Cover Contest winner revealed

Beth Crowley’s Warrior Cover Contest has come to a close and her team of judges have chosen a winner. Here is the video announcing the winner!

She announced that there was a runner-up to the contest….and it was me! My video is here!

However, congrats to go Selena Thor for winning. She will get to co-write and record a song with Beth Crowley! I’ll keep you posted when they post their video in the future.

A big shout out to all who participated in the Cover Contest! I watched a lot of the entries and they were impressive!

-Merissa Faye

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.

Dumpster Diving, Chapter 09

Dumpster Diving, Chapter 09: Our Lives Became Intertwined

“Excuse me, Professor Morgenstern?” I asked quietly, suddenly nervous, as I knocked on the office door of my English professor’s office.

It was my second week of school on a Monday night and I was tired, ready to retreat to my room for the night; it had already been a long day. I felt a nagging feeling in my stomach as I stood at the door of Professor Morgenstern’s office for his office hours, where students could come in and express any concerns with him. His hours happened to fall in the evening, after dinner time, right when all my energy was zapped.

Professor Morgenstern looked up from some papers he was looking at on his desk, his lips pressed in a line. He waved me inside his office. “Come on in, Miss…?” He paused, waiting for my name.

“My name is Clary Fray. I’m in your 8AM English 101 class.”

He nodded and motioned toward the chair across the desk from him. “Have a seat, Miss Fray. And you may call me Mr. Morgenstern. Professor is too formal. What can I help you with today?”

I fumbled with my backpack, laying it on the floor next to the chair, before plopping down. I dug through my bag, looking for my English folder. “I, uh…” I continued to search in my bag until I found the folder, pulling out a graded assignment from last week. “I wanted to know why you graded my paper as a C. I thought I had covered everything you asked for in the assignment.”

I handed him the paper and his eyes grazed the paper. He nodded his head, remembering. “Ah, yes. It was a well-written paper, Miss Fray, but I could sense that your writing potential is much greater. The analysis is there, I was just looking for something more than straight analysis…” He trailed off, handing the paper back to me. “I suspect you are a young woman capable of some creativity. I’d like to see you use some of that to find more abstract ways to explain your stance on the topic.”

Blankly, I stared at the paper, noticing only a few red marks. Last Friday when he gave the papers back, I had spent ten minutes in awe, staring at the grade and wondering why I had gotten such a low grade for a paper I had put hours into. It was as if the results of my first week were biting me in the ass, as I hoped they wouldn’t due to the intense amount of pain I felt during that time.

I pursed my lips, trying to shut my brain off. I needed to focus on something other than pain or sadness for once. Last week was in the past and these were just minor setbacks. I needed to bring Bad Ass Clary back,

“But my writing is fine, other than that?” I asked for confirmation.

“Yes,” he agreed. “You unmistakably put a lot of time into it. I was just anticipating something more. College is a place to really challenge yourself to think in a different way.” He stared at me, a smile forming on his face. “I am pleased you came to see me. It shows that you are devoted to your education. Next time I presume you will prove me right and earn an improved grade.”

I tried to smile, except I still felt a little upset at his highly-set expectations. It seemed impractical to give someone a C when he liked the writing but wanted more. He was the professor though, and I couldn’t really defy him about it.

Sighing, I nodded. “Thank you for your time,” I said. I started to stand up, but hesitated, another question burning in my mind. “May I bring a draft before the next paper is due so that I can have some criticism before the final copy is turned in?”

“I would be glad to look over a draft next time.” He nodded. Suddenly his attention was distant, as he stared at the door, noticing something. “I apologize, it seems as if my son has arrived.”

“Oh, then excuse me,” was all I said. I started to stand up. “Thank you, again, Mr. Morgenstern.” As I reached the door, I found myself face to face with Jace. My jaw dropped and I stuttered. “J-Jace?”

Jace looked at me sideways, unsure if he should tease me at all, in front of Mr. Morgenstern, who was evidently his father. “Why are you here?” Jace asked me, shock evident in his voice. I hadn’t seen him this morning and regrettably this was the last place I wanted to see him. The air began to fill with awkward energy surrounding us; I had no idea how to act around him, especially in front of a professor.

I heard Mr. Morgenstern’s voice behind me, as he was suddenly standing next to me, looking at Jace. “Ah, Jace. You are friends with Clary?”

Jace nodded, apparently not willing to correct his father about the word “friend” which didn’t accurately describe our relationship at all. I wondered what kind of relationship he had with Mr. Morgenstern – who was no doubt a man with high expectations – that would cause him to lie like that.

“Well,” Mr. Morgenstern said, clasping his hands together. He stared directly at Jace as he spoke, never once making eye contact with me. “I can’t help but wish you were as ambitious as Miss Fray. She seems to care more about her education than you do. Maybe you could spend a little more time with her, preparing for my class.”

Jace flinched slightly. I wouldn’t have noticed if we hadn’t been standing so closely together. “Father, I-” He was cut off.

“Miss Fray,” Mr. Morgenstern said, his eyes making contact with mine again. There was an uncomfortable feeling that told me I shouldn’t stare too closely at him, so I averted my eyes, pretending to look at Jace. “I would gladly increase your paper’s grade to an A if you would promise to help Jace with the next paper? I will be assigning it tomorrow in class.”

My hands felt clammy and my stomach began to churn. How do you tell a Professor, let alone Jace’s father, that you didn’t even like Jace and didn’t want to bother with the extra credit because of it?

The answer: you couldn’t.

“Sure,” I said uneasily, glancing nervously back in Mr. Morgenstern’s direction. He smirked slightly, something I recognized from Jace’s tendencies.

“I appreciate your commitment to my class, Miss Fray.” He took a step back. I turned in his direction and saw him scribble something on a sticky note. “Your grade will change in my grade book to an A.”

“Thank you,” I said, in awe. Everything always seemed to come back to Jace, and I didn’t quite understand why. “Um, Jace…” I trailed off, making eye contact with Jace, who seemed slightly shaken up about the situation. Maybe I would have never recognized this before, but we had spent increasing amounts of time together, however unenjoyably they were, so I felt like I was slightly more used to his predispositions. “We’ll talk tomorrow in class about when we can meet up,” I said politely. I felt obligated in Mr. Morgenstern’s presence to be civil; it still felt strange.

His jaw tightened as he suddenly avoided meeting my gaze. Usually Jace had been all too ready to watch me fall into the depths of his eyes, but not now. He seemed distant as he mumbled a response. “Sure.”

“Have a great day, Miss Fray,” Mr. Morgenstern said, excusing me.

I nodded curtly at them both and relieved myself from the scene, feeling the awkward sense of relief to be out of the room. It was startling to realize that Mr. Morgenstern was a lot like Jace – it definitely explained a lot of why Jace did what he did.

As I slowly made my way out of the English building, I heard shouting. I realized, with a fire burning at my cheeks, that it was Mr. Morgenstern. In response, I heard another sharp yell, a smacking noise, and then a loud thump of a door slamming.

The second yell had been Jace’s voice.

Tuesday morning, I awoke hearing pounding at my individual door. Groaning, I stared at my clock to see that it was 6:30 AM. Who the hell was pounding at my door? I didn’t need to even be ready for another hour! If it was Isabelle, I swear I was going to slam my door shut in her face.

I sighed, groggily. The problems from my first week never seemed to end, as they rolled over into my second week, which I had hoped would be more like a normal week of college. I was dead wrong, as usual.

Sleepily, I trudged toward the door, uncaring that my pajamas last night had just been my undergarments – I hadn’t felt the need to throw on my shorts and a tank, assuming it was Isabelle at the door, once again here to try to force me into heels and makeup. Even if it were Simon, I wouldn’t have cared about him seeing my undergarments, because it wasn’t like we saw each other as anything as more than friends. It was too early to care, regardless.

Swinging the door open, Jace stood there, leaning against one side of the frame, fully dressed for the day. He had slight purple under his eyes and I wondered how early he had woken up to bother me so promptly. I suddenly remembered what I was wearing and who was standing in front of me and my drowsy eyes shot open wide.

“It seems as if you were expecting me, seeing that you already dropped your pants before you even saw me.” He smirked, clearly satisfied with himself.

Nothing about his attitude this morning seemed to indicate that today might be any different with how he would treat me. Ever since I had forgiven him for ripping out a chunk of my hair, he had returned to his normal Jace-like dispositions, aside from the run-in with his father, at Mr. Morgenstern’s office.

“What do you want?” I asked irritably. I tried to cover my chest with my hands, unsuccessfully. He stared past my attempts to conceal myself. “Stop looking!” I growled. He disobeyed, as expected. “Ask any other girl and they’d willingly drop their pants for you. I am only indecent because you are knocking at my door before I usually get up for the day!” I felt my voice rising with agitation.

He shrugged, pushing past me into my individual room. He had never come inside before, mostly because I never invited him in. He took it upon himself today to grant the invitation, as he began opening my drawers and snooping inside. It was too early to remember how to object to such an invasion of privacy.

I was startled when he threw clothing at me, when he located a V-neck tee in my middle drawer and jeans in my bottom drawer. I struggled into my jeans with haste and threw the shirt over my head, relieved to be clothed in front of him.

“For your sake, much better,” he said, seemingly deep in thought, his eyes averted.

“Why are you bothering me this early?” I asked, dejectedly. I plopped onto my bed and rubbed at my eyes – I was not a morning person as he appeared to be. He was just as annoyingly in-my-face for a Tuesday, as Isabelle been last Friday.

“It’s fun, first of all.” He smirked his signature teasing smile, but then his face changed and he looked as if he were suppressing a new emotion from showing. “Actually, I’m here because you walked in on something that no one else knows about.”

I was unsure of what he was referring to, until I remembered that I had seen him yesterday entering Mr. Morgenstern’s office. “Are you talking about your dad?”

He nodded grimly. “You see, he is my biological father. He reached out to me back in high school and I never told anyone that we made contact, or that I even knew who my father was. They had all assumed my father’s surname was Wayland – it was the name on my birth certificate, which they found when I was dropped on the Lightwood’s porch as a child too young to have memories. But Michael Wayland, my father’s name on the birth certificate… well, that person doesn’t exist. He won’t explain any of it to me though. He just promises that I am his son, and well – don’t I look like him?”

Confused, I dropped my hands from my face. Rubbing at my eyes seemed to only make me feel more tired.

I eyed Jace, looking for similarities to Mr. Morgenstern. He had white-blond hair while Jace had long golden blond hair, but each of them had sharp jawlines and strong foreheads. They both seemed to have a smirking and teasing smile, which Jace must have adopted from his biological father’s behavior. Their looks didn’t appear to be the most similar, but their mannerisms most definitely were.

I shrugged. “Yes, you do seem alike. Why are you telling me this?”

“Because,” he began. He seemed hesitant to continue, until I glared at him, annoyed he was here and irritated that he was taking so long to get to his point. Smirking, he sat on my bed next to me. “You know a secret of mine now,” he admitted, resentfully. “I told you that no one else knows.”

“Why not?” I asked, forgetting that I didn’t actually care. I was just going with the flow of the conversation. If it were my choice, I probably wouldn’t have let him in my room, but that was just because I wanted to avoid my problems. I needed to stop being a baby about everything, I realized resentfully. So I listened.

“Robert and Maryse Lightwood adopted me when I was a child– far too young to remember who my biological parents were. I grew into their family and I fit in. I never wanted them to find out about meeting with my biological father because I thought it would make them feel like I’d rather be Valentine’s son than a son of the Lightwood family. I don’t want them to think that, because I love them too.” When he finished talking, he was looking down at his hands. “I should feel ashamed that I used to run off to visit Valentine, but-”

“Who is Valentine?” I cut in, politely – or my attempt at being polite for it being 6:30AM.

He looked up at me. “Morgenstern; his first name is Valentine. He prefers I call him by his first name, I forgot to mention that.” I nodded, and he continued where he left off before I interrupted him. Evidently he wasn’t resentful about my interruption. He continued, “There’s something so great about learning your roots and where you’ve come from… I just felt I owed it to myself and to Valentine to see what kind of father-son relationship we could have.”

I sat still and stared at Jace, dismayed that once again I was being dragged into his grasp, this time with his family drama. What about this boy kept him coming back and intervening with my life? I was starting to get very maddened by it. Suddenly the image of the Mad Hatter jumped into my head and I no longer pitied him, but understood what it felt like to be driven mad. I was being driven mad, by Jace.

Finally, I sighed. “Why don’t you just try to explain it to the Lightwoods? I’m sure they’d understand your special bond with Professor Morgenst-…I mean, Valentine.”

“I can’t,” he said quietly. His voice was low and sullen, which caused me to look up sharply. I stared at his face, lines etched into it. Were those worry-lines?

“Why not?” I asked, attempting to keep my voice soft.

I was the only one who knew about this, so I had better bite back at my hatred for him for just a second and listen. As much as I thought I could have hated him, he deserved to have at least someone who knew about all this, and evidently because I walked right in on it, that person would be me.

He pursed his lips, before hesitantly responding. “I’m afraid they’ll kick me out of their family if they think I like Valentine better, since I’ve been secretly visiting him all these years…”

Jace was surprisingly quiet after his confession in the morning. We went to English class and were assigned a paper, which Jace said we could start tonight, since I was obligated to help him. He told me he’d text me when I should come over and I agreed to give him my number, however tentatively. It felt like just another avenue he could tease me through – just another way he could infiltrate my life.

He was quiet again after the exchange, causing me to wonder what he was thinking about. This was the most civil interaction we have ever had. All our other attempts at being civil had otherwise ended badly, as I sorted through my memories of the first week, remembering how easily he could turn off his gentleness and become a demon again.

Even though we went through the rest of our classes together in silence, sitting together he somehow seemed more distant. He never once teased me – no redhead jokes, no tripping or teasing; he was too deep into thought to notice my existence. I probably should have liked it that way, but I didn’t.

At lunch he sat with his crowd, which I once again felt alienated from. Even if I had wanted to sit with them – which I swear I didn’t – Simon was my lunch buddy and always would be. Except for when I was extremely mad and embarrassed that I sat alone all last weekend; besides that lonely time, Simon would forever be my lunch date. At least that much I felt confident about.

A few of Jace’s newly-initiated minions – they introduced themselves as Camille and Raphael – came over to my table with Simon and made fun of us probably in an attempt to make Jace happy. I was surprised that Jace never joined.

Simon pretended not to notice that Jace didn’t tease us too, still carrying on about how I should throw some more of my anger in their faces in the form of a sucker punch. I still refused, somewhat believing that I could actually form a sort of neutral friendship with the table, even if it was just a truce. I was so done with all the drama.

The rest of the day seemed to go by soundlessly when I returned to my dorm room after classes finished for the day, until out of nowhere I got a text from Jace: My place or yours? 😉

Alarmed that he was still acting like himself, I glared at the phone. I quickly typed in a response, unwilling to play his games. I typed my response: Yours. You already infiltrated my personal space here once today.

My phone buzzed again almost instantly after I had sent my message. It said: You can infiltrate my personal space any day 😉 204 Azazel Hall. See you soon, Red.

Staring at my phone in disbelief, I realized that he had never called me “Red” before. It appeared like it was more of a nickname than an insult, but you could never be too sure with Jace. He had been the one to invent the “Dumpster Girl” nickname; I hadn’t heard that one in a while, which should have been reassuring but wasn’t.

After I packed my backpack with my homework from the day, I headed toward Azazel Hall, feeling especially guilty that I was going there to visit Jace rather than Simon. Even with the revelations I had about Simon’s lie and the drama it had caused Friday, it somewhat felt wrong to be there without visiting him. However, I needed a 4.0 in college and apparently my English grade depended on Jace of all people.

Thankfully Simon and I never crossed paths as I made my way to the second floor of the dorm. I reached room 204 and knocked once, the door immediately shooting open, Jace standing there impatiently. “You can wait in my room, I need to use the men’s room,” he half-shouted as he disappeared to relieve himself.

I closed the door shut behind me and took a stab at which room was Jace’s, assuming it was the one on the side by the bathroom he ran into. His roommate Jonathan’s door was open, but the room was empty of human life. Jace’s door was open, too. I wondered what it would feel like to be comfortable around a roommate.

Living with Isabelle, I kept my individual door closed, regardless of the positive steps we had been making in getting to know each other. I guess I had more reason to be a recluse, considering the past I had with all these people I recently began to associate myself with. Though, it was mostly out of my control that I was associating myself with the Jace crowd.

Stepping into the room on the side of the bathroom Jace was occupying, I noticed the walls were white and empty – unlike Simon, Jace had pinned up no posters. I was half-expecting naked women to cover his walls or at least self-portraits with “sexy” written all over them in his handwriting. On his desk, his school supplies were neatly organized, and he appeared to be completely unpacked into his closet with a relatively small wardrobe of dark colored shirts and distressed jeans. His bed was made with a dark green comforter and matching pillow case. I wondered if it was his favorite color.

There wasn’t much to tell from the room, other than the fact that it was unrealistically clean. Like Simon, he had one picture frame on his bedside stand, of him with Isabelle and Alec; and there was a young boy in the picture too. I picked up the picture and stared, having never seen the boy before.

“That’s my younger brother, Max Lightwood.” Jace stepped into the room behind me. I knew he had meant adoptive brother because he had never taken their name. I never thought to ask him why; it didn’t seem like any of my business at the time, except now his family life was kind of my business.

I set the frame down and nodded at the room. “You packed light,” I noted.

“Football season starts soon,” he said out of nowhere. Looking up at him, he acted as if he were talking to an old friend, with a sense of ease about him. “Maryse is going to drop off my football gear this weekend because I couldn’t fit it in the car when the three of us were moving in to campus. Isabelle took up all of her car and some of Alec’s sports car, which was where my stuff was because I have a motorcycle. Poor Alec had no room either. Isabelle drives an Escalade, that’s how much stuff she brought.” He laughed.

It felt alien to be let into Jace’s life almost as if he was authorizing me to. It was too nonchalant, as if we hadn’t been old enemies for the past four years; as if he hadn’t forgotten the welcome he gave me when I first walked into my new room and every torturous moment up until this point in time; as if we could just drop our past, forget it, and move on. I certainly hadn’t forgotten.

It felt wrong, and normally I would object, but I couldn’t quite tell his angle. Curiosity was what kept me waiting to see how much Jace was going to tell me about his life or how long it would take for him to crack a joke or pull a prank. So far, it didn’t seem like he was going to. And that made me feel somewhat panicked. I tried to suppress it.

“So how old is Max now?” I asked quietly, as I situated myself at the foot of his bed, my legs hanging off. He sat next to me, toward the front end of the bed. I silently thanked an angel that he didn’t sit closer, because I wasn’t sure if I could handle the proximity – it probably would have sent me over the edge in either anger or admiration. I felt sickened by the way he was able to leave me so conflicted.

He looked over at the frame and picked it up, delicately fingering the edges. “He died last year on my birthday when I turned 17.”

Before, I had felt the tension in the room easing as he opened up about himself; but now the energy in the room became depressing as he spoke about his adoptive brother’s death.

I thought back to how Jace acted during our senior year of high school. He, and his brother and sister had let up on the jokes and teasing slightly that year. I recalled Simon and I had been wondering why they were less torturous and hoping they were just reaping the karma from their bullying over the years.

Sitting in Jace’s room, staring up at his face as he looked to be suppressing tears, I felt guilty for ever thinking that. His little brother had died and I had selfishly wished bad things upon him.

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled, the only thing I could think of saying.

“Sorry is just a word,” he mumbled back, regaining some of his Jace-like composure. “The only person who should be sorry about it anyway is the low life that murdered him.”

My eyes bugged out. “Oh my God,” I breathed, reaching out to Jace. I retracted when I realized that I didn’t know if touching him was the brightest idea.

He pretended to ignore my conflicted gesture. “They never caught who did it,” he said, his voice breaking when he said “it.” He was talking about his brother being killed, and I could tell the word “it” did not encompass how he felt about the situation.

I wasn’t sure why I did it. I scooted myself over toward Jace, leaning against the headboard of the bed next to him. He looked apprehensively at me, however made no move to stop me from coming closer.

“I’ve got a lot of unanswered questions about my life,” he spoke, his words filled with sorrow and uncertainty. “Max is dead and his killer is still out there; Valentine abandoned me, but he’s in my life now; and no one can explain why my last name is Wayland, even when I know that my father’s last name is Morgenstern. Nothing adds up for me anymore.”

All the years being bullied by Jace I had suffered immense amounts of pain and punishment. I thought I could never feel sorry for someone like him, because he chose to inflict pain on people for entertainment. I had always hated him for being so cruel, but had never once wondered why he was that way.

Now that I was finally getting a glimpse into his everyday struggles, I realized that his problems were a lot more complex than mine ever were. My only struggle was being bullied, which was directly affected by him. But he was affected by so many things – and though it wasn’t right, he took those things out on me. Maybe I couldn’t forgive him for that, but I could empathize with how he felt at least.

It felt strange, but I that moment I couldn’t think of anything else to do but wrap my arms around him in a hug. Touching Jace Wayland had never been on my mind before – I used to avoid him like the plague or admire him from a safe distance as I sometimes felt myself falling into his eyes. But I had never once acted on anything I felt. And now that I was, I didn’t know how I felt about it.

Comforting the person who should have been comforting me over the years was a conflicting experience. It wasn’t until he wrapped his arms around my body in response that I realized he was probably the one that felt sorry now. I was here in his time of need, when he never was. And though I wasn’t here by choice but rather because I had walked in on something, I was glad that I was able to provide some sort of support for him that he couldn’t have gotten from anyone else.

From that point on, my relationship with Jace Wayland became much more complicated than I would have ever imagined, as our lives became intertwined.

My Shadowhunter cosplay

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So my Halloween was quite the event. I had so many last minute plans coming up and then imploding. But oh well! No matter! Because I was dressed as a Shadowhunter, and I was out to kick some demon ass … Continue reading

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween to all!

Today is the most glorious day, when you get to dress up and be someone you are not! Oh, but with a spooky twist of tricks and scares! Marathons of scary movies have been on for weeks, in preparation for tonight. Thriller movies are the main focus, but of course there are our favorite Disney Halloween movies. Who could forget Halloweentown!?

I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t watched any scary movies in preparation for Halloween.

Last year for Halloween I drove home to my boyfriend’s house where he held a Halloween party. We were Batman and Catwoman. My Catwoman costume was complete with a whip. I’d share a picture, but my boyfriend sometimes reads my blog and I know he hates his Batman costume from that year. The year before, we were Batman and Robin…except I was the Batman! Can you tell my boyfriend likes Batman? He claims he is The Batman, however you’d think on Halloween he’d want to dress as something he’s not… Haha!

This year I am unable to spend Halloween with my boyfriend. Instead of sitting at home doing lonely things, I am going with a friend to a Halloween costume contest on Halloween and a couple of college parties on Saturday!

I am going as a Shadowhunter! My costume consists of black pants, a long-sleeved black blouse with a black corset over it, a black studded belt, a black leather jacket, and 5 inch black heeled boots! My friend is letting me borrow a lot of clothes from here to complete the look! Basically I borrowed everything except for the leather jacket, which I purchased recently.

My friend is going as a steam-punk girl, complete with dress, corset and accessories! Wish us luck in the costume contest!

Anyone have some exciting Halloween plans they want to share? Comment below with your costumes! I’ll post pictures of mine afterwards!

Have a safe Halloween! It’s raining in Michigan, so especially if you have to drive anywhere just be careful!