I will admit that this took me 11 months to finish this chapter. I really don't have much to say about that other than, uh, yeah, I have a busy life. Which is the same excuse I give every time, but I really do mean it. For those who are still around and reading, however, I love you very much-thank you for putting up with me. Only about 1-2 chapters left, so enjoy them while they last. I love you all so much, thank you.
Coldest winter for me
No sun is shining anymore
The only thing I feel is pain
Caused by absence of you
Suspense controlling my mind
I cannot find the way out of here
I hope they didn't get your mind
Your heart is too strong, anyway
We need to fetch back the time
They have stolen from us
I want you by my side
So that I never feel alone again
Jace and I were sitting on the floor of the laundry room, the cold of the cement seeping through our clothes and trying to compete with the heat of our bodies tangled together. I rested my forehead on his shoulder and took a soft breath, feeling the air rise up, then sink down through the rest of me; an ocean kissing its shore. There was a peace inside me that I hadn't felt in years. Wrapped in his arms, the burn of his lips still engraved against my own, it was infinity.
His hand buried itself in the tangle of my curls, and he pressed a small, gentle kiss at the crown of my head. I tightened my arms around his broad chest, snuggling deeper into the crook of his arm.
"This feels right," Jace murmured. He sighed. "I never want to let you go."
I stayed silent. My heart lurched at his words, and I wanted to tell him I felt the same way-but I couldn't. Even through the thick fabric of my coat, I could feel the scorch of the tiny box inside my pocket, a constant reminder of what I had to do.
"We have to get you away from your dad," he said with an abrupt fierceness to his voice. "You can come stay with me." He cleared his throat. "Just until you find somewhere else, you know."
I shut my eyes, heart already beginning to break as I thought about what I had to do. Taking a couple deep breaths to commit the feeling of his protective arms around me to memory, I forced a smile to my lips and sat up to memorize the planes of his face one last time. The honey of his eyes were more beautiful than ever in that moment, glowing with hope of the future.
"I'd love to," I said, devising a plan on the spot. "I have to get some things from my house first. Can you drive me?"
"Of course." He hesitated. "Won't your dad try to stop you, though?"
I shook my head. "He won't be home until morning."
A smile slowly began to bloom on his lips. "Okay, then. Yeah. We'll go right now, and after I'll take you to my hideout."
"Sounds like a plan," I said, hoping my voice sounded convincing enough.
Jace chattered on animatedly the entire way to my house as my chest grew tighter and tighter with the impending feeling that I absolutely was a horrible person. It wasn't a secret with the way he lit up around me-plus, I had read his blog-that Jace had feelings for me. And now, staring in the face of what I was about to do, it was undeniable that something inside me stirred when he was around. He had stoked a fire in me that had been nothing but ash for the past several years. There was an innate craving for him there-his touch, the brush of his lips-but the inevitable truth was that I couldn't have him.
We just wouldn't work, Jace and I. Not only did his addiction to alcohol worry me—and bring up bad memories—but I knew that someday my past would catch up with me. If I let him love me-if I let myself love him-we would both get ourselves killed trying to protect the other when my father came to collect his precious bate. And I wouldn't let Jace get hurt.
The whole drive to my house, Jace remained in an oblivious bliss. The exhausted look dredging his face down gradually lightened up, warming towards actual excitement at the prospect of having me stay with him. After a while, I pried my eyes away from his face to stare out the bleary window at the graying sky. If I watched him much longer, I was afraid I wouldn't have the nerve to go through with my plans.
Stuffing a hand in my pocket, I turned the small velvet box around in my fingers. "Imagine what it would be like as my wife. Luxury, happiness, and, most importantly, safety. If we had a life together, I would never let anyone lay a hand on you…You would be safe; so would everyone you love." Remember his promise, I thought to myself. Everyone will be better off after this-safe. And so will I.
As we pulled into my driveway, my heart began to hammer against my ribcage. My throat was so thick with nerves, I had to force myself to choke out a quick, "I'll be back," to Jace before he realized my sad, sullen change in mood. Jace nodded back, completely oblivious to what I was about to do-and that, perhaps, was the worst part of it all.
The front door was still unlocked, easily pushed open as I ran inside and took the stairs two at a time until I reached my room. I whirled around, stuffing anything I could get my hands on into a large duffel bag. I couldn't bring much, but I knew it wouldn't be a problem. Raphael had as much money as my father did; certainly he wouldn't mind buying me new clothes. Besides, I thought with a regulated swallow, as my husband, he should be the one to pick out his wife's clothes. I had no true say in the matter, really.
Zipping the duffel up with a definitive screech of the zipper, I strapped it across my body, ignoring the way it caught the thick fire of my curls, and turned to walk back out. Before I left, though, I felt caught. My heart tugged, and I couldn't help but look back out the window.
Frost coated the glass, distorting the scenery, but I could still make out the willowy form of Jace from inside his truck, fixing his hair in the mirror with trembling hands. I remembered how those hands had felt on me just a few minutes ago, trembling even then as he passed them down the length of my neck, the dip of my waist, the chilled skin of my shoulder as he pushed my jacket off just long enough to kiss my freckle there before he wrapped the leather back around me. I wondered if the shaking was a side effect from being around me, like my racing heart and short breaths.
Tears pricked at the back of my eyes, and I tore myself away from the window, my bag knocking into my bedside table. Something crashed against the hardwood, but I didn't look to see what it was. I pushed the tears down into a lump in my throat, pounded down the stairs, and stalked through the house, feeling anger begin to boil in my stomach. As I passed the kitchen, I smacked a ceramic fruit bowl off the counter, kicked over the same bar stool that my father sat in that day I came home after my first encounter with Jace. I tore all the food that I was restricted from eating out of the cabinets, grinding them into the linoleum with my bedraggled Jimmy Choos. Then, as the last bubble of rage popped, I took my arm and swiped everything off the counter. It all clattered to the ground in an eruption of noise Jace undoubtedly heard.
Breathing heavy, I gripped the edge of the counter, staring at the faint granite reflection of myself.
My name is Clarissa, I thought to myself. Fiery as my mother, and as hard as stone like my father. I would not break.
Just like that, I found the strength to push myself up, spine straightening out with a prim crack. Holding my head high, I walked out the back door with two sharp clicks of my heels, leaving the blinds swinging back and forth with the slam of the door.
Spring was kissing the earth, her green lips brushing warmth upon the snow, cradling it as it melted. She blew away the clouds, tacked the sun to the sky, and whispered her siren song to the birds as she sent them migrating back home. The citizens of New York City were blooming once more, shedding their winter layers of sorrow that had iced them over for so long and bursting out in a bountiful collection of energy that hummed beneath the L-train rails, adrenaline screeching through veins.
Tucked away in a warehouse decorated with band posters and cigarette butts galore, was the last bit of icy snow clinging on to the scraps of a season they didn't know how to live without. The snow didn't know a life of warmth; only the cold ceramic surface of white sterility.
Jace stirred on the warehouse floor, rolling over onto his back. His bed was feet away, only a thin, white sheet-now stained yellow from months of clinging to his sweaty body-resting on top; his pillow was tossed to one corner, he couldn't remember which. Though he was only wearing a pair of boxer-briefs, there was a puddle of his sweat pooling beneath him on the cement, which had been accumulating ever since he had first rolled out of bed, gasping from the humidity that consumed him, and passed out on the floor between one and two a.m.
Reaching blindly out to his left, his shaking fingers clambered around the multitude of bottles standing at attention, knocking a few to the ground before he could get a decent grip on one. He didn't care which one, just as long as it wasn't empty. With a grunt, he sat up and pressed the bottle to his lips; when he had guzzled down the rest of its spirit, the now useless bottle soared through the air and shattered against the wall. Glass went everywhere, but he figured he'd sweep it up later. Maybe.
The warehouse door whipped open, making Jace's heart tumble. A scrawny boy with a shag of mousy brown hair shuffled in, arms full of two plastic grocery bags, sunlight illuminating his silhouette and poking through the holes of his Star Wars shirt.
"Shit," Jace muttered as the door slammed. "Knock much?"
"For the thousandth time, I'm not knocking on the door of my own home."
Simon went over to the fridge and started transferring in the groceries. With bleary eyes, Jace twisted around and saw another mattress placed neatly in line between the two walls of a corner, a simple, blue blanket tucked around it.
Simon and Jace's unusual friendship began when they ran into each other-quite literally-as both were rushing around the streets of Manhattan to try and find Clary. Back then, Simon was limping from a healing kneecap, and numerous parts of his body were swollen and black-not to mention two trails of fresh, scarlet blood trailing from torn stitches. For a moment, Jace set aside his pursuit of Clary to help Simon back to Magnus' apartment, figuring that was what Clary would have wanted anyway. By the time that Simon had completely healed, there was still no sighting of Clary whatsoever. Occasionally, one of the boys would spot a bobbing head of fiery hair and chase her down with a manic passion, but it was only ever Just Some Girl. And neither were interested in Just Some Girl-not even Jace, despite his notorious reputation.
However, Simon was the closest link Jace had to Clary, and since the boy was still homeless (Magnus refused to keep Simon in his apartment a second longer than what was absolutely necessary) Jace offered out his humble dwelling to him. That was six months ago.
Six months. 183 days. No Clary.
Jace scratched at the stubble sprouting upon his jawline, for he had been too lazy to take care of it as of late. His would have a fit later that day, a strict 'no facial hair' policy being italicized and bolded in the official employee handbook in order to keep a 'clean' image. As if Walgreens was some five-star restaurant.
"Aren't you going to be late today?" asked Simon. "It's already four."
With a yawn, Jace stood and padded over to paint-chipping dresser that he had bought off a homeless man for fifty dollars, and trifled through the drawers for a somewhat cohesive ensemble to wear that day.
"Working the graveyard shift for Teresa." Teresa was a withering older woman of about sixty who wore 99-cent fluorescent lipstick that always caught on her teeth, and applied such a heavy amount of mascara that Jace was surprised her lashes hadn't fallen off yet. But she always had a smile for him, and would smooth down any cowlicks that he hadn't cared enough to comb from his hair.
"Won't that be hard for you?"
Simon was referring to Jace's daily ritual: Wake up with a hangover, eat out the entire fridge, go to work, come home, drink until passed out. Working the graveyard shift would eliminate his daily alcohol consumption, something Jace hadn't missed for the past four months.
"I'll be fine."
"Simon," Jace threw a frozen meal into the microwave, "stop acting like my wife."
Simon threw him a dirty look which was normal to be seen on an average of twelve times per day. Then he went over to his side of the studio, collapsed onto the bed, and began to fiddle with his phone. He remained there, silent, until Jace left for work at 10:45.
This time, instead of smoothing his cowlicks, Teresa rubbed his growing stubble and tsked rather loudly. Jace believed that if she had had a razor on her, she would have shaved the growth right then and there. When she left, Jace and his less friendly co-worker, Jason, were the only two people in the entire store.
Leaning against the register, opening and closing the cap of a Sharpie, Jace began to daydream. He wasn't going to lie-his pulse was racing for a drink, fingers shaking ever so slightly, a damp sheen of sweat on the nape of his neck. The liquor aisle was only a few feet away from his post. It would be so easy to go over, sneak a mini bottle up his sleeve, and chug it in the bathroom. The only thing that prevented him from doing it was the fact that he was on constant surveillance, and despite the lack of care he had for his job, he needed it to keep the studio Simon and him were living in. His lip twitched. His mind went blank of his own will, figuring that if he continued to dabble in his thoughts, he'd eventually find a way to convince himself that it was okay to steal a drink on the job.
The automatic doors of the store whirred to life, and a short, slender figure walked in. Despite the warming weather, the girl wore a parka, the fur-infested hood shucked up to obscure the majority of her face. Large sunglasses blocked her eyes. For a Manhattan Walgreens, it wasn't necessarily uncommon to see an odd character walk through the doors, especially during the graveyard shift. So what caught Jace's attention wasn't the seasonally abnormal attire, it was the single lock of bright red hair that was poking out from around the hood, just barely noticeable amongst the fur.
Jace blinked several times, half expecting the lock to disappear or change colors. When it didn't, he perked up a little straighter, trained his eyes on her, analyzed her every movement. Her shoulders were hunched over, not at all how Clary would have held herself, but the gait of her walk was unmistakable: her hips swayed lazily, though her arms were swinging fast, and every so often she would shift her weight to the balls of her feet, a side effect from wearing heels all the time. Could it be that Jace was reading too far into it, or was that actually Clary who had just walked past him, oblivious to-or ignoring-the fact that he was standing mere feet away?
Dropping the Sharpie on the ground, Jace blindly followed the girl down to the tea aisle, as though he were being pulled by an invisible string.
He stood adjacent her, and shoved his hands into the shelf, purposefully messing up the order of the products so that he would have to rearrange it all; after all, if he just stood there staring at her, she would immediately accuse him of stalking and run from the store. No, he had to at least pretend to do his job.
The first thing she did was take off a single black glove, revealing delicate, pale fingers. However, the fingernails had either been chewed or torn down to the very skin, looking ragged and frail; her hand was trembling slightly, too, just as Jace's did when he didn't fulfill his addiction. Despite this, she took her time with the tea, holding each box as steadily as she could and reading the description on the back. When she didn't like what she read, she'd shake her head, then replace it with another box.
Eventually, she tapped a box twice with her index finger and nodded once. Turning on her heel, she marched back up to the front of the store. For a second, he just stood there, frozen, watching her walk away. Then he realized she was going to the register-which was currently void of employees-and he rushed after her.
When he reached the register, she was leaning over the counter, as though she was expecting the cashier to be crouching out of view. Jace popped up out of nowhere, making her recoil as though stung. A frown stained her features; Jace flushed.
"Sorry." His voice was raspy; he cleared it. "Can I help you?"
Still frowning, she nodded, and placed the box of tea on the counter with a trembling hand. Somehow, he thought, it seemed as though it was shaking even worse than before. He scanned it, the beep sounding impossibly loud among the tension that had suddenly accumulated in the air.
She slid a credit card across the counter. The name Raphael Monroe glinted against the fluorescent lights.
Monroe. Jace didn't know the name, didn't know how Clary would know such a name either-but he couldn't give up the hope that it was her.
As he picked up the card to swipe it in the reader, Jace glanced at the girl and said: "Isn't it hard to see beneath those glasses? It's pretty dark out tonight."
Instead of responding, she faced forward.
"But what do I know." He slid the card. "Here's your card back."
When she reached for it, Jace saw the perfect opportunity. In a flash, he dropped the card, yanked her to him by the wrist, and tore off the sunglasses. Beautiful, mossy eyes the color of the fresh spring earth grew wider than he ever thought possible, astonishment shining in them as her pale, pink lips parted with sharp gasp.
For a moment, everything was frozen. The two stared at each other, a fire kindling within the inches between their skin, threatening to explode. Jace's heart was pounding in his throat, his mouth dry as cotton.
Then she tore away from him, stumbling back a few paces and nearly tripping into the magazine display behind her. Her chest was rising and falling tumultuously, straining against the buttons of her parka; every inch of her was quaking, and soon tears began spilling rapidly down her cheeks, streaking through foundation. Jace moved around the counter to comfort her, but she barked out a short scream and pressed her back up against the magazine rack, cowering into the smiling faces of celebrities.
"Stay away from me!" Her voice was ragged, like the shattered glass of a broken window.
Jace took a step forward. "Clary-"
Something in her voice made him do just that. Keeping her eyes trained on him at all times, she moved back to the counter and grabbed the box of tea. She then gingerly picked her glasses off the ground and perched them back on her face. Licking her lips, she took a few steps back, towards the exit of the store.
"Don't follow me."
With that, she whirled and sprinted from the store. For a moment, Jace stood frozen, bound by the manic tone of her words. Then he shook his head free of its cobwebs and tore after her, not caring that he was leaving the only job he'd be able to get at this point-but the streets were empty, void of a single soul. He jogged a few paces here, then in the opposite direction. Nothing. In an instant, she had flared up into the beyond of night, and was gone.
Jace stepped inside the studio and immediately turned on all the lights; in the corner, Simon flailed, cursed, and fell from his bed.
"What the hell are you doing?"
Jace ignored him, going straight for the phone book that was collecting dust atop of the refrigerator. Slamming it down on the lilting kitchen table (it was missing a leg), he tore it open and began ravaging his way through the pages. Simon threw a shirt on to go with his boxers and staggered over to Jace, repeating his previous question.
In hindsight, Jace realized he was mumbling a string of incoherent phrases: "Find her, I must, Monroe, where I, don't give a shit Walgreens, short hair, short hair, still red, so pale, so scared, who am I?"
At last, Simon shoved Jace, knocking him back into a chair, the wood clattering to the ground and it, too, lost one of its legs. Jace blinked a few times, shoved a hand in his shaggy curls, and closed his mouth against the heaving breaths he hadn't been aware he was producing.
"Jesus, Jace. What is wrong with you?"
"I-" he licked his lips, rubbed his hands over his weary face, "I saw her."
"Clary. I saw Clary."
Simon cursed again-he'd been doing a lot of that since moving in with Jace-and pressed his lips together in a slim line. Jace could tell he was thinking, trying to process it all, just as Jace had done mere moments before, but there was no time to waste. Going back to the phone book, Jace looked more carefully at the multitude of names glaring at him, trying to find the one that would match the credit card Clary had left behind, lying on the linoleum behind the register.
"What happened? Is she okay? Where is she?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know?" Simon barked out a short laugh. "What do you mean you don't know?"
"She ran away from me."
"And you don't go after her?" He was shouting now, hands soaring in grand, angry gestures.
"I did, but she was too fast."
Simon shoved himself into Jace again, pinning him against the counter. Both men were breathing aggressively, uncontrollably, their eyes dilated, skin flushed and perspiring despite the spring chill that was seeping in from the draft the studio door never protected them against.
"That's bullshit and you know it! You're ten times faster than her-anyone is."
"You didn't see her!" Spit was flying. "She's not the same girl. It is as if every ounce of her spirit had been crushed. Gone. I didn't catch up with her because I didn't want to-she didn't want me to."
"Then what are you doing here? Tracking her down? Why do that if she didn't want you to?"
"Because I realized that I don't care anymore. I don't care what she wants-I've given her what she wanted, and it's destroyed her." Jace shoved past Simon. "She needs someone to take care of her."
Dragging the unbroken chair over, he sat down and began flipping through the pages again. After a moment of silence, Simon dragged the piano bench over and sat down beside Jace.
"Okay. I'm in."
Review if you enjoyed (I seriously love hearing what you all have to say). Hopefully I update by the new year. *fingers crossed*