I won't forget the times,
I looked you in the eye and told you I loved you,
Despite the way I feel tonight,
There's tears in my eyes,
It was lovely to love you.
-'Lovely to Love You'
By Evan Blum ft. loren North
"So, Clary, how's it going? Grades all right? Friends all right?" Jonathan asked me over the phone. I could hear the trepidation hiding in his voice. Things had been weird. Between us, between our parents, between us and our parents, and with me in general. The even weirder thing, though, was that I felt okay.
After unloading my secret to Jace, a weight had been lifted. I felt freer and happier than I had since Jonathan had moved out those 3 or so odd years prior. It wasn't an immediate feeling. It wasn't even an overnight feeling, but it was there. Slow and gradual as the days turned to weeks and the weeks would turn to months and then to years.
I smiled despite myself. "Everything is actually okay. It's strange but I'm okay." I sucked in a deep breath, preparing for my next statement. "Uh, so I told Jace everything."
Silence. I could hear Jonathan's breath coming in stilted huffs.
"He was really good about it. And he asked me to prom." I continued, counting the seconds of silence between us.
"I'm assuming you said no." He joked. I could hear the smile in his voice, the release of tension momentarily.
"Yep, I said never in a million years." I laughed in response. My heart instantly felt lighter thinking of the way Jace had asked me to prom. It was sweet and definitely had to have taken him a while to prepare, and he risked a lot doing it in the room I shared with Kaelie. She would've had both of our necks if she walked into that before he asked. I made sure to clean up the mess before she came back to our room, but I kept some of the confetti for sentimental purposes.
He sighed deeply, the tension seeping in his voice again. "Clare, mom wants to talk to you."
I jumped back as if I had been slapped. I hadn't heard from our mother since the dreaded trip during Thanksgiving, and I didn't think I really wanted to talk to her. I had an understanding that most of the wrong I felt that my parents did to me stemmed from Valentine, but I never felt like I had support from my mother. She never defended me. She didn't fight to take Sean to court, and she definitely more than pushed me to The Shadow Institute. What would she even have to say?
Jonathan must have taken my silence for an agreement of sorts because the next thing I knew, Jocelyn Morgenstern was speaking through the phone. I pulled the phone away from my ear and stared at it as if it was a snake. I felt the familiar buzzing in my ear that meant I was on the cusp of one of my infamous breakdowns.
I sucked in a deep breath and tried to quell the sinking in my stomach. In. Out. In. Out. It was all I could do to focus on my breathing. My mother said something. I could hear her rambling, but none of her words sounded like English. In. Out. In. Out. Focus. In. Out. Breathe.
The buzzing started to subside and I slowly lifted the phone back to my ear. I truly wanted to be better. I wanted to face my fears and my demons. College was only a small bit of time away, and I didn't want to go into the college experience with all the chips on my shoulder. "Mom," I whispered, squeezing my eyes harshly together, trying to fully push the buzzing away.
She stopped talking and I knew she could hear the strain hiding in my voice. "I'm sorry. I know this is difficult. I, uh, I know-" she broke off, sniffling. I felt my heart wrench. I remembered how angry I was with her months ago. How I felt so betrayed, and how I felt so bitter and so resentful for so long. When in reality, the move to the institute was one of the best things to happen to me.
"I'm sorry, mom. I've been so angry and hateful to you, and I just wanted to say that I'm sorry." I interrupted quickly while I still had the nerve.
She released a sob. "Baby, don't be sorry. Don't be sorry at all. I wasn't the best mother in the world. I wasn't even close." She's blubbering and my heart squeezed painfully again. "I let your father... I let Valentine hurt you and Jonathan... and myself for so long. I knew what he was doing and I thought maybe if I stopped fighting him so much, he'd grow into being a father and not a dictator, but I was so wrong and I went along with so much of his bullshit. You got hurt so much. I tried to fight him about Sean, but he-" she gulped down a breath greedily in between her sobs. "He wasn't having any of it. Sean's father was too big of an investor, he said, and he wasn't jeopardizing his career over some "lover's spat," as he put it. I didn't know about the baby until it was too late. I should've left him before Jonathan showed up, but I was afraid. I'm still afraid of what your father is capable of. I think the only thing holding him back from doing anything is the knowledge that I could wreck his empire with a few words to the press..." she sighed, and I could hear her sniffling still. "I can understand if you don't forgive me. What you've had to go through... it's a miracle you're still alive, honestly. I just hope that you know that I do love you, and I thought the institute was heaven sent because it got you far away from Sean and far away from your father. I thought maybe you could do some healing there. I know you felt like it was a punishment, but I just wanted you to get better and I knew our house wasn't the place that it could happen."
At this point, I was sobbing too. "It's okay, mom." I was heaving to catch my breath from how much I was crying. "Mom, I just want us to be us again. I got accepted into NYU. I'm guessing Jon told you that. Can we do Sunday dinners again? Ya know, sans Valentine?" I hedged, wiping my face to clear some of the tears.
She chuckled dryly. Her crying seemed to have subsided. "Definitely sans Valentine and maybe your friends can join too? Jonathan also told me that they were accepted too. I'd love to see them all under better circumstances. That William sure is a sweet one. Oh, and Jace... he's so very kind. He was very complimentary of my artwork back in November. How are those Herondale boys?"
I sighed, falling back into the dream that was Jace's promposal. "They're all right. Jem, he's um..." I felt my throat tightening with tears again. "He's very sick, and it's affecting Will pretty terribly. They're like brothers. They've grown up together, and to be honest, I think Jem has already sort of given up. I can't blame him. He's in all sorts of pain. But Will, Will is pissed. Not at Jem, in particular, but at the world." I sniffled again and wiped my eyes.
"Oh dear, Clare Bear," Jocelyn sighed sadly. She hadn't called me that in a long time. I smiled despite the conversation. "That's so horrible. And Jem, he had a girlfriend, right? She was so pretty. Brown hair, grey eyes?"
"Tessa, yeah, she's torn up about it too. She's taking it better than Will, I guess, but I think she almost had an idea that she'd live longer than him. She's sad, but she's tough and she's doing what she can to keep him happy and comfortable."
Mom grunted unhappily. "Why on earth is he still there and not in the hospital or with his parents?"
"His parents are dead. All he has back at home is his grandmother. He made the decision to stay here. He said he'd rather be here with his friends who were family than in a hospital forcing his grandmother to watch him die." I sighed. It was horrible to think of his poor grandmother. Who would ever imagine that they would not only outlive their own kids but their grandchild too?
Mother stayed silent for a couple of beats. "Do you think you'd want to come home and finish school here? Hodge would love to homeschool you. It'd be easy. We'd keep Sean away from you easily."
I balked, surprised by the question. "No, mom. I couldn't..." I thought of the idea of leaving my friends behind. I needed to finish this year out with them. It would only be right. "I wouldn't." I amended.
She sighed, but it sounded like a sound of approval and acceptance. "I can't wait to watch you graduate, Clare. You deserve that experience, unhindered, and if that experience involves the Institute, I understand completely. I'll see you in a few weeks. Jonathan is off doing something else now, so we'll talk later, okay?"
I walked out of the telephone room with a feeling of freedom. My relationship with my mom was on the mend, and I would be graduated soon. My brother was back home, and my dad was currently out of the picture. Things were getting better.
I shut the door behind me and spun around to leave, but I was blocked by another person. I jumped away and glared at the blond witches standing in front of me. Kaelie glared at me, arms crossed in front of her chest. Jessamine sulked beside her, but she still gave me a snarl for good measure.
"Can I help you?" I sighed in frustration. I spent more nights sleeping in Magnus's room lately. Fear of being impaled in my sleep and all that nonsense.
"You're in the way. My boyfriend called." She smirked at the surprise that crossed my face.
"Your brother called?" Isabelle sidled up next to me and sized up Jessamine and Kaelie. I snickered at her quick-witted remark and she grinned back at me. I was thankful for Isabelle in more ways than one. We had agreed that a fresh start in roommates would be necessary in college. My brother helped us find a quaint apartment only a 10 minute walk from NYU, and the plans for our future felt immaculate.
Kaelie grimaced at the two of us. "Oh hardy har, you think you're so clever, Isabelle Lightwood. It's too bad your brother is a raging fag and you hate yourself enough to sleep with every guy from here to there."
"Kettle meet pot." I bit out, the anger licking through my veins. I knew Isabelle could handle herself. She had no shame in who she was. She was exactly who she wanted to be and no amount of hate spewing from Kaelie would change how much Isabelle had grown into herself in the past year I had known her. Her coming after Alec, though... too far. Alec didn't fully love himself yet, so we all loved him even more to make up for that.
Jessamine seemed to falter at Kaelie's tone. She seemed at a loss for words. Isabelle and Jessamine used to be close, and I think Kaelie's hatred for me and now everyone else by proxy has soiled her existing relationships with everyone.
"You're one to talk." Kaelie turned her blue eyes on me. She analyzed me slowly, deliberately. I could tell she was searching for any chinks in the armor I had managed to forge. "Almost a teen mom. It must've been such a relief taking care of that issue, especially since you would get beaten half to death every few days." She clucked softly, brushing a hand through the curls that has slipped out of my ponytail. "Poor Clary Morgenstern. Raped. Beaten. And deserted. I'm surprised you haven't killed yourself. I'd be ashamed to live through all of that." She sighed softly with a small, vindictive smile.
Jessamine's face dropped. "Kaelie!" She gasped in shock. Her eyes bounced between Isabelle and myself before she turned and ran away.
"It's a shame I can't find anyone worth keeping around. Lost her and Sebastian both... good thing I keep others on reserve." She smirked triumphantly. "Anyways, like I said, boyfriend is waiting and all. Ta ta, bitches." She waved her fingers toward us and slipped into the telephone room.
"Ugh, I hate her." Isabelle groaned as the two of us traipsed towards the elevator. I threw a half smile at her, knowing that Kaelie's words got to me more than they did her. Isabelle patted my arm reassuringly. "Boyfriend? How the hell is she dating someone? Where would she even meet him?!"
"Who has a boyfriend?" Jace asked softly, joining us as we entered the elevator. He reached out and slung an arm over my shoulders, pulling me into his body. I leaned instinctively into his body and melted into his arms.
Isabelle shot him a look full of disdain before selecting our floor number. "Obviously not Clary." She looked him up and down before clucking in disapproval.
"Are you still mad at me because I just asked her to prom? Build a bridge and get over it!" He huffed, throwing his free arm in the air.
She smirked at him. "She's still single though. All the time for someone to wiggle their way into her heart." She raised her eyebrows suggestively and laughed at our disbelief.
He whipped his head towards me and opened his mouth to say something, but before he could say whatever stupid thing he had come up with, I slapped my hand on his mouth. "If you even try to pity ask me to be your girlfriend after Isabelle's goading, I might just have to kill you."
The only response was Isabelle's peeling laughter and Jace just grinned past my hand. "I was just gonna ask if you were hungry." He mumbled around my hand. I rolled my eyes and stepped out of the elevator after the doors slid open.
"We're actually starving, Jace. You grabbing us dinner?" Isabelle grabbed my hand and pulled me away. "Say a little bit of Chinese for... let's say..." she trailed off as she started counting to herself, fingers held up as she added new people to her count. "Ten or so people? I'd go big. There will be at least ten people. Will and Jem's room. I'll be expecting you in about 20 minutes. Chop, chop!" She clapped her hands before smacking the button for the first floor.
I gave him a quick wave and he shot me an accompanying wink before the elevator doors closed again.
I took in the details of the hallway with familiar eyes. It felt like just yesterday when I was dreading the year I had to spend at the Institute. Now here I was with a new family, drawing close to the end of my senior year. One day soon, we'd all be walking down this hallway for the last time.
As we approached Jem's and Will's room, I could not help but ruminate of Jem's remaining time. There was the possibility that he had less time at the Institute than the rest of us.
Isabelle took my hand before opening the door. Jem grinned from his place on his bed. He was sitting up with what seemed like hundreds of pillows stacked behind and around his head. He wore a knit hat over his head, despite the warmer temperature in the room. Side effects of the chemotherapy, I imagined. His hair had thinned out some but it was still there. He looked thinner too. "Clary! Isabelle!" He exclaimed with a wave. His attitude had not diminished, though. His sweet, positive attitude that we all relied on to get us through the tougher days. I guess it was our turn to get him through his tougher days.
Isabelle gave my hand a quick squeeze before gliding over to Jem's side. "Thanks for coming, Clare. You don't know how much it means to him to feel normal." Tessa whispered to me, joining me by the door. I looked up at her grey eyes that were filled with love and gratitude.
"I'd do anything for Jem. He's like a brother to me... speaking of brothers, where's Will? Cecily is here with Gabriel alone." I said feigning shock.
"Ha ha, Morgenstern. I was going to help Jace with the food, but he just sent me on with the appetizers." Will grumbled as he entered the already open door, arms full of food.
"Well where is Jace?" I asked, looking behind Will for Jace.
Will's lips pulled back into a tight smile. I could see the pain in his eyes at the mention of Jace. "He's still down there. There's a lot of food." He shut the door behind him and carried the food over to one of the desks and began setting the food out.
"Oof, that was painful." Tessa remarked, watching Will, his back stiff as he worked.
"Am I a horrible person?" I sighed, hands pressed to my temples.
Tessa sighed as she looked between Will and Jem. "I don't think I'm the one to be asking that question, but if you want my opinion... I say no. Sometimes things just don't work out between two people. Fate has a funny way of setting us all up."
I analyzed Tessa's face for any sign of distress or fear. There was none. "Do you think he'll make it?"
Tears shone in her eyes, but she didn't shed them. "I believe that he doesn't believe he will make it, and because of that, I don't have much faith he will. Sometimes it takes sheer determination not to die, and I think he's tired of fighting already."
"You speak like you're a hundred years old, Tessa." Will has rejoined us by the door, far away from Jem.
"Well maybe I feel as if I've lived a hundred years. Thanks for setting up the food... this is Jem's only real chance at an end of year celebration. He doesn't think he'll be able to handle going to prom." She patted his arm and departed to join Jem.
Will sighed but remained silent. It should have felt awkward, but I felt comfortable with Will. I watched as our friends mingled and took turns entertaining Jem with their antics. Jace still hadn't shown up, but it was still comforting to see everyone together like this.
"I just wanted to say-" I said as Will opened his mouth and spoke.
"You know that I-"
We both broke off and laughed awkwardly. "Go ahead." I nudged his arm with my own.
He smiled softly at me. "I'm sorry. I haven't been there for you like I should have been. It's been so hectic around here and I could've been a better friend. I hope you'll forgive me."
I reached down and squeezed his hand. "I was going to apologize too." He squeezed my hand in return. "I was a mess, and instead of trying to be better, I actually let myself go and I was sort of the worst. So I'm sorry. I should've been a better friend and instead I just gave up. I won't do that again."
"You're forgiven... as long as I'm forgiven." He smirked.
"We're forgiving each other now? All it takes is a little threat of death... pathetic." Sebastian had entered the room and he tutted with no real sympathy from beside us, mirth seeping in his tone.
"Oh, screw you, Verlac." I hissed, pulling away from Will and glaring at the boy with enough venom that would make even Kaelie proud.
He rolled his eyes and then glanced around the room. "Is this a pre-funeral, or...?" I could see the wheels turning in his head and could tell he was itching to fight. It took a lot of guilt to drive you to make fun of someone with cancer just to get your ass handed to you. Was it just because he hadn't been around really since Jem had found out he had cancer?
Surprisingly Will just brushed past him and bumped into his shoulder harshly. He didn't say a word as he passed, just shooting me a look that was hard to decipher. I sighed, angry that I was stuck dealing with a moody Sebastian.
"If you came here to fight, I'm sorry to disappoint. I don't have a mean right hook." I supplemented, hoping that would keep him at bay. We didn't need any drama today... or really any day. I think we have had enough drama to last us quite some time.
He groaned and kicked his heel at the ground in frustration. "I know Cecily was following me around. I know she saw me with Kaelie and Jessamine. What did she tell you?"
His words reminded me of what Kaelie had said earlier. She mentioned losing him. My heart sank to my stomach. "What did you do?" I could barely hear myself talk over the thundering of my heart.
His face fell and I could see the pure anguish that he could no longer mask. "You didn't... you didn't know?"
I stumbled back and away from him, almost falling down in the process. He reached an arm out to catch me but I threw an arm out to push him away. "What. Did. You. Do?" I enunciated each word deliberately and carefully. I tried to keep my voice down, still trying to maintain my composure.
"Clary, I fucked up... I fucked up so bad. She was blackmailing me. She told me that she knew about how my aunt had been laundering money. She threatened to go to the cops if I didn't help. I didn't know what to do." His words came out broken, distorted. He had tears in his eyes as he tried to take my arm again. I pulled away once more, staring at him as I tried to put the pieces of the puzzle together, the new information clicking together slowly but surely.
He grabbed at his hair and pulled at it frantically. "I didn't think it would get this bad. I thought she was just being jealous and spiteful. I didn't think she had a plan to actually hurt you."
I could feel the tears forming in my eyes. Sebastian, the first friend I had made at The Shadow Institute, had betrayed me. I didn't even care what he did or how extreme the betrayal was. I just felt the white hot pain that someone that I had chosen to trust had explicitly made the decision to help someone else hurt me.
"It was you, wasn't it?" The tears had started slipping down my face now. "You told Kaelie about everything... you're the reason why she knows how to torture me." The realization hurt more than I expected. I wasn't as close to Sebastian as I was to some of the others, but I still considered him one of my closer friends. "I trusted you, and she exposed my secrets to the WORLD. How dare you come in here and try to pick a fight to ease your stupid conscience!"
Sebastian seemed genuinely taken aback. "You didn't know..?" He whispered in response.
"Of course I didn't know!" I hissed, still trying to keep some semblance of calm. I tasted my tears as they fell into my mouth. "I wouldn't have even looked at your face if I had known that you chose to out the fact that I was raped and then forced to have an abortion. Are you crazy?!"
"Clary, please-" he whimpered, reaching for my hand. I snatched it away and darted through the door, running straight into Jace's chest.
The food he was carrying fell onto the floor, crashing and reverberating the sound of the colossal mess down the hallway. Sebastian had followed me and stood in shock at the door, the faces of our friends mirroring his own.
Jace glanced at the food on the floor momentarily before meeting my eyes. My own pain reflected in his eyes. He reached forward, ignoring the food on the ground and grabbed my face in his hands, rubbing my cheeks and brushing away the tears. "What happened?" He asked carefully, avoiding Sebastian's gaze.
"Jace... it was him. He-he told Kaelie ev-ev-everything." I was sobbing at this point, the tears flowing down my cheeks uncontrollably. Jace pulled me into his chest, his hand resting at the base of my neck, massaging the pain I felt there.
"Jace, I never meant-" I heard Sebastian start to say, but he was cut off mid-sentence.
Behind me I heard the sound of his body hit the wall. "If you have half a brain cell and know what's good for you, you will leave this room right now." Magnus hissed dangerously, sounding surprisingly terrifying for someone coated in glitter ninety-eight percent of the time. "Jace is no longer your roommate. Clary is no longer your friend. In fact, your only friend is Kaelie Whitewillow. Now scurry along and ruin someone else's night."
I heard Sebastian fall to the ground before the sound of him leaving was all that remained. "Biscuit, are you okay?" Magnus tried to console me, his voice sweet and lilting again, no remnants of the threatening voice leftover. I began to almost doubt that was him in the first place.
Jace squeezed me softly, pulling me from his chest slightly to get a look at my face. He had such a painful look of guilt on his face. "I knew that he did it. I'm sorry... I should've told you, but I knew it would hurt you and you were getting better. You didn't deserve to be hurt by him, and I didn't want him to ruin the progress you've made." He ran his hands down my shoulders, squeezing my arms. "I should've told you. I'm so sorry." He repeated.
I reached out and touched his face gently. He closed his golden eyes, seeming to bask in my touch. "It's okay. We're okay." I leaned in to whisper in his ear. "I'm proud of you for not beating him up." I said it half joking, but I could tell by the way his shoulders relaxed how much it meant to him that I noticed his restraint.
He barely smiled at me, but I could see the warmth in his eyes. "You're more important to me than Sebastian needing a black eye."
"Debatable, but we'll worry about that later." Cecily quipped from the door, glancing over the two of us before taking Gabriel's hand. "I think it's time we go back to celebrating Jem, eh? I'll give them a ring to let them know about the mess in the hall."
I turned to Magnus and squeezed him in hug, throwing as much love and warmth into as I possibly could. "I didn't even know you had it in you to threaten someone like that." I said lightly.
"It was hot. No wonder Alec is so into you. I'm a little turned on." Isabelle teased, bumping his hip with her own.
Alec, standing opposite of his sister, simultaneously blanched and blushed at her words, his ears turning a brilliant shade of pink. "Don't you ever say something like that again." He barked out around fits of laughter.
Simon groaned and pretended to gag. "Is this really what I have elected to put up with for the next four years?"
I grinned up at him, peering past my best friends to see the rest of our little makeshift family. Cecily had her arm flung over Will's shoulders awkwardly since she was a few inches shorter than him. Her other arm was reached over to casually touch Gabriel's hand. Tessa had Will's hand tight in her own while she ruffled Jem's, now revealed, hair. Despite the circumstances, they were happy. We were family.
"Boy, Si, do I have bad news for you." I chuckled, patting his chest before taking Isabelle's hand in my own. He raised an eyebrow at me in question. "You're stuck with us for way longer than just four years."