Hello my dears, it has been awhile. And I mean a rather long while. I actually started this almost exactly a year ago and it has since been sitting on my desktop, glaring at me. I waited to post it, to share it with anyone. I wanted to be sure this story had a voice that needed to be heard.

For my returning readers, I am so happy you are still with me. I know that I started off writing strong, and then faded into complete distance. Let me share, for those that wish, to let you know a bit how I am. I am much better, for those of you that were so rightly concerned. My husband who has a chronic illness has been dealing with the adjustment for 2 years now and he is stable. Thing will never be how they were for him or us, but they are better.

I continue to struggle with anxiety and depression at times. I find myself wandering around without purpose, but I do know one thing clearly, writing and hearing reviews gives me a sense of joy I have never found elsewhere. You all are my medicine, and I love you all dearly for it. You give me a voice, and allow me to be heard.

Now on to logistics. Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Mortal Instruments characters but this plot is my own. I know the format is not unique, dystopian future is common in literature, but this story is from my head. I write for my pleasure and the pleasure of my readers with no monetary gains. Characters as always belong to the talented Cassandra Claire, whom we all love and support.

Chapter 1

Today is her wedding day. She is a virgin and it's her wedding. She has never been in a room alone with a man and she is a virgin and today is her wedding. She has never met the groom. Today is her wedding day.

Clary was pacing back and forth in her white and fully encompassing gown. It was the same gown worn by hundreds of other girls before her. She had always wondered how they had managed to fit so many girls of so many sizes into the same few gowns but now that it was her turn to wear it she understood. It adjusted in size much the same way a sack for potatoes could be gathered at the top no matter how full the sack was. Only this "sack" had holes for arms and feet, but it bunched up around her ankles and fell haphazardly to the floor so it almost resembled a dress. Clary had never worn a dress before and this one wasn't very flattering. Dresses were only worn on the day you get married, the day you present a child and every day after your husband dies. The second was the only dress that ever made the wearer look beautiful. The first was the only shared dress, as the marriage rite was not done for the individuals but for the shared interest of the community. The third dress was a curse you hoped never to wear; a woman without a husband was a dangerous thing to be and you wear that dress until you are married again or until you die. Most women that don the widow dress are buried in it.

Clary looked down and attempted to flatten out the heaps of material into something semi-attractive but it was no use. The material that was called white was as yellowed as any other fabric worn through the dusty streets, but at least the dress was cleaned in between uses whereas normal clothing was rarely washed in water. She hoped she looked presentable to her new husband. Her apple red hair was twisted around the crown of her head with wildflowers stuck between the braided strands. The bridal maids had inked black around her eyes and stained her lips and cheeks red, as she had seen on other brides, but there was no way for her to see how it made her look. Other brides she saw when she was younger had all looked different but similar with the paint on. For some, they transformed into something almost magical while others looked unnatural and wrong in the paint. She supposed it didn't matter; her husband would not have the option of turning her away even if he thought she was ugly. Clary just hoped that she would be given a young husband and not a recyc.

The door to her room opened and Clary stopped pacing. Her heart was racing and it felt like she needed to pee for the 8th time this past hour. She had always looked forward to her womanhood celebration where she would be given a husband but she had not anticipated that she would feel this nervous. After today she would no longer be at school with the other maidens. She would be moving into a new home with her husband and have access to the village. Unmarried girls were only ever allowed in the school or in the inner courtyard. The madams were their teachers, their mothers, their cooks, their seamstress their everything. The only time Clary had seen anyone other than a madam or another maiden was during weddings where all the maidens gathered to watch their sisters be given to their husbands.

"It's time." Her head maid said, standing in the doorway. She wore the standard tan pants and dark top tucked in neatly. The maid's blue hooded cape was secured around her neck and flowing around her as if she were cold. It was the same outfit Clary had worn her entire life and she wished right now that she was the one standing there in her standards while someone else was in this garish bag dress.

Clary timidly stepped forward and almost fell. Her maid did not try to catch or steady her, it would have been wrong for them to touch as it was always wrong for any maids to touch. Clary tripped on the bottom hem of her dress and hit her knee on the small table near the door. A small groan escaped her as her knee radiated hot with pain. Her maid did not make a noise or an attempt to move toward her. Her dark brown eyes were cast down and her long black hair was tied tightly to the top of her head. She was Clary's best friend, Isabelle, and the only maid Clary really wanted to help her on this day. Clary's eyes looked to Isabelle, and she caught her giving back an almost unperceivable smirk. A madam would have blistered them both if one had caught the exchange, but on this day, Clary was free from the madams.

Clary steadied herself and stood straight while smoothing out the dress again. She held her chin high and breathed deeply knowing that at this moment she was not bound to looking only at the floor. The doorway was open and empty, waiting only for her to walk through and that was exactly where she was going to go.

Isabelle coughed loudly breaking Clary's stride. "Your veil," she whispered.

Clary hurried and grabbed the large sheer fabric from behind her head and pulled it all the way over her head until it rested well below her chin. Inside it felt immediately hot and moist like her breath had nowhere to go. She felt immediately worse as if she was about to suffocate. A panicky, itchy feeling took over and Clary fought back the urge to rip the cloth off her face so she could breathe clean air again. The fabric sucked in toward her face with each heavy breath.

Clary felt cold metal nudge her fingertips and it helped to snap her out of whatever had been focusing all her attention. Isabelle held one end of the security rod; it was Clary's job to hold onto the other end. The metal rod was approximately 2 foot long and each maid held one end so that they may walk securely together without touching. Clary had been walking with a security rod since she was a toddler, and it had always been Izzy at the other end.

Clary was relieved when she felt the rod pulling her forward, and she blindly let Izzy lead her. It was nearly impossible to see out of her veil, there was nothing more than blurred colors. Clary could see now the importance of having a maid walk you down the aisle. She wondered who would be there to walk Izzy once Clary was married. She wouldn't get to see her friend again until after she also had a husband and moved in with him. Clary hoped it wouldn't be long until Izzy came into her womanhood and then a husband would be chosen for her too. She turned her head to smile at her friend but then realized that there was no way for her friend to see her either. Clary decided to just look forward instead as a large dark object moved in front of her vision, taking up all that she could see. Clary knew where she was now, the large double doors just outside the marriage hall. Inside there would be rows and rows of her sisters seated and waiting for the doors to open and Clary to be led down the center aisle, past the madams to the head of the room where her husband would be standing facing the judge. Clary found her stomach threatening to empty the glass of water she had been allowed for the morning. Apparently, vomiting was so common that you were only allowed a single glass of water on your wedding day.

Clary tried to take in a deep breath but the veil only allowed in a small stream of air through the tiny holes. The feeling of suffocation was back and threatening to claw its way into Clary's brain and make her rip off the veil again but just in time the large door slowly creaked open and the sound of a thousand voices filled Clary's ears; the wedding song was always sung by the maids, as a farewell to their sister.

All the sisters sang in unison. Clary remembered the words having sung them herself, but now she heard them from new ears and realized how haunting they were. It was not a joyous song as she remembered through misty edged memories. It was a lament, the Clary that they had known was dying and this her farewell. She struggled to move forward, feeling the slight pull on the security rod as Isabelle was half a step ahead of her. Clary knew she needed to make her right foot continue the step forward, but it did not want to comply. She was frozen still, unable to breathe or move. The tug on the other end became more urgent. She needed to move before the guests noticed. She felt a slight hum through the bar. Isabelle tapped twice on her end, sending a code to Clary that she understood entirely. "It's ok," the message said.

With renewed strength she found her foot complying and continued painstakingly forward. There were blurs of colors to her left and right. Dark and blue on her left, signifying her sisters. She knew they would be standing in unison singing her lament. To her right was blurs of reds and dark, madams and governors. Governors were the only men Clary had ever seen, and generally only their feet. They were the ruling men of their society, and only married men with power and money could hold the position. Any man void of a wife, through youth or widowed, was stripped of their title and no longer allowed to hold an opinion on matters. That was why being a recyc was so daunting for men. Widowed men never stayed that way for long, and rarely would they take a widow of their own. They usually sought a new bride, one just coming out of youth and fertile for heirs. Clary had seen men approaching death marrying fresh 4 cycle women.

Clary had just reached her 4th cycle which signified her womanhood. In order to produce a child, a woman needed to maintain her moon cycle for 4 years without complications. Clary was 17, she had perfect moon cycles since their onset, something she had boasted amongst her sisters before this day. Now she realized her naivety, if only she had a little more time in the comfort of her home before rushing into marriage.

The end of the aisle was approaching, the blurs fading and the security bar was sliding through her grip. A moment of panic bubbled again to surface and she realized she didn't want to let go. Isabelle was on the other end and being pulled from her life. Clary wasn't ready to let go of her dear friend. She wasn't ready to be married. Another hum came through the bar, three more knocks from Isabelle and Clary let go. Three knocks meant her husband was attractive, four would have meant he was ugly. It was a stupid failsafe they had made years ago. Their own secret language through knocks on the bar. One knock meant they were not ok, two if they were. Three and four were for marriage and five was leave me alone. They had never needed more, they honestly had only ever used the first two before today.

Isabelle left her to be seated, as Clary knew she would have to. Faintly she heard her friends voice as she picked up the song with the other sisters. Tears rolled down Clary's face. She hoped she hadn't smudged the paint.

Like a voice through water, she heard the singing stop and the shuffling of well-worn shoes as everyone found their seats. Her breathing hitched as the judge began her wedding initiation. There were words of duty, honor, and acceptance but Clary couldn't hear a single one. The sound of whooshing in her ears blocked out all but faint garbling. She could hear herself swallow and her stomach churn as another fit of nausea washed over her body. Beads of sweat began to trickle down her forehead. She felt overly hot. All she needed was a single brush of cool fresh air, but the veil denied her that. Clary felt like she was dying, black spots appeared on the edge of her vision. Sounds around her faded and a loud hum began in her ears. She was going to pass out.

Her knees went weak and she began to fall but was caught in that moment by a strong arm around her back and a hard body in her front. She had never been touched in such a way before. Her veil was promptly removed from her face and she stared into the eyes of the stranger that held her on her feet.

She felt a rush of cool air hitting her overly warm face, and a tingling rush buzzing throughout her body. The face that stared back at her was young and handsome. There was a look of concern in his amber gold eyes. There were tiny flecks of brown mingling with the rest of the colors. His hair was blonde, with natural ash tones as it fell past his ears haphazardly. There was no stubble on his jaw and his cheekbones were set squarely. He was the most beautiful man Clary had ever seen.

His face came closer, inching along like lines of worry became that of amusement. He hovered before her lips and she felt her entire body tense.

"Falling for me already?" He said with a slight smirk before fitting closed lips against her own.

And in a whirl, she felt herself being straightened up by the man that had just kissed her. Her first kiss. Her lips tingled in the aftermath and the judge announced them married.