Sorry for the late update. Track season's started, and I'm busier than everrr.
And don't worry. Clary and Jace will kiss in due time…and hopefully it will be worth the wait(; And sorry for not replying to all the reviews. I always appreciate all the reviews. I tried to get as many as possible, but I think you guys would rather have me work on writing the story instead and updating sooner, right? I hope this makes up for it!
Just a reminder because I haven't mentioned him much, but Sebastian is Clary's older brother
Sixteen minutes late. Jace is sixteen full minutes late for picking me up. Or maybe he just forgot I was going.
I glance at my watch and peek outside the window for the 1758th time.
Mom, who has been giving me the cold shoulder ever since the play fiasco, refuses to even look at me, much less send me to the community service project. If it wasn't for Jace, I would be walking fifteen miles by foot.
I feel betrayed. My mother has chosen an English teacher over her own daughter.
Sometimes, I wish my dad had stayed. I wish he hadn't run off after I was born, with some hooker from L.A. I can't remember him at all, but I like to think of him as this handsome, tall athlete, smiling at me and throwing me in the air. He must look something like Sebastian, all muscular with angular features and white-blond hair.
Sebastian's old enough to remember him, but he won't talk about Dad. Last time I tried, his face had turned stony and cold and dark, and he had slammed the door in my face.
Mom, I didn't even try. The last thing I need is for her to break down in front of me.
So I guess it's great for her to be falling in love again. Just not with my English teacher.
A honk from outside jars me out of my depressing daydream and I jump to my feet, grab my bag, and hop into Jace's car.
"Thanks for being on time," I say, securing my seatbelt.
"Sorry," he says. "I couldn't decide what to wear."
I stare at his wrinkled sweatshirt and Adidas soccer sweats. Sure.
There's a moment of silence, which unfortunately lapses into a long, awkward pause.
Just what I had feared.
"So," I say. It comes out too loud and too forced. I cringe. "I didn't know you had an uncle."
"He's not related," Jace says. "After my parents ditched me and the Lightwoods came along, Raziel took me under his wing. He was my old coach for the Institute soccer team I used to play on."
"So now you feel obligated to help him in return."
Now Jace turns to fully look at me. "You have a really cynical view of life, Clary."
Blame it on my dad. And Valentine. And the myriad of other unfortunate events in my life. Like puking. And bullying.
"But yes," he continues. "In a way, I guess I do owe Stephen. But I do it because I genuinely want to help him, not because I feel compelled to. And besides, carnivals are fun."
"Really? Huh, I thought it was just a bunch of screaming kids and cotton candy."
"You've never been to one?" He shakes his head. "What kind of a childhood did you have? Tell me you've at least been to Disneyworld."
I mumble something incoherent.
"No way." He pets my head in sympathy. "You poor, deprived child. Your parents never took you?"
After my morning of absent-father-anguish and moody-mother-drama, Jace is treading on dangerous waters.
"My mom's been busy."
"And your dad?"
"Left," I say shortly. There's no need to elaborate. I don't want pity. Not from Jace.
He's silent for a while, probably trying to think of a line from the last sympathy Hallmarks card he read. Then: "Well, I guess we both have pretty shitty parents."
Okay, definitely not from a Hallmarks card.
At first I open my mouth to yell at him, to tell him he has no right to trash talk my parents like that.
But then I realize – he's right. He is so right. My dad really is a terrible father. He had thrown everything he loved away. He had left me, left me and my brother and my mom, left our family, all for some hooker living in a big, glamorous city.
So in the end, instead of shouting, all that comes out of my mouth is, "Yeah. Yeah, they really are."
I'm glad he's not here.
I don't even know his name.
The check-in volunteer glares at me as she peers up from behind her rectangular glasses. "You're late."
Thank you, Sherlock.
"Yeah…" I scratch my head awkwardly. "Sorry about that."
"Seriously doubt it," she mutters, scanning the roster for my name. "Clarissa Fray, right?"
I nod, wishing Jace was here to face the embarrassment with me. Instead, he had left to park the car. The volunteer girl sizes me up, and then reaches behind her to pull out a gigantic gray tshirt with the word VOLUNTEER printed on the front. I wrinkle my nose as she tosses the ugly tshirt to me.
"Sorry," she says. "We ran out of smalls. If you had come earlier…" Her mouth drops open.
"Sorry about the delay," Jace says, sliding up smoothly beside me. He tosses the car keys around in his hand and flashes the volunteer a bright smile. She practically drools. "We were caught in traffic. There was a car crash, and it took forever, you know what I mean?"
She nods vigorously, adjusting the crooked glasses on her nose. "Oh, yeah. I hate it when that happens, but, you know, you just got to live with it. And don't worry about being late. I got you covered."
Oh, really now?
"Jace Wayland," Jace says, reaching behind her to pluck a random tshirt from the pile. She blushes a wild shade of red as he gives her a front row view of his chest. My teeth clench involuntarily.
"Well, Jace," she plasters on a sickenly sweet smile. "Hope you have fun volunteering. Just call me if you need any help. I'm Amatis!"
Jace only smiles, and then looks to me. "Ready?"
With much hesitation, I pull the shirt over my ratty tshirt. It hangs past my midthigh like a long dress.
Just my luck to look grotesquely horrifying in front of the hottest guy at school.
Jace wrinkles his nose. "Shit, that shirt is ugly."
I cringe and pull at the edges. Stupid Amatis. Stupid Institute.
"Although," Jace says, his eyes glinting, "if you take off your pants, the shirt would look a million times more appealing."
"What?" He grins, tossing the shirt over his hoodie. "Come on. You know that shirt looks ridiculously oversized on you."
I huff and stop over to our booth, where people are in the middle of setting up. A random stick lies on the ground and I pick it up.
With a little too much force. I stumble and nearly fall on my butt.
Jace laughs and pats my head. "Calm down, cutie."
"I am calm!"
I am. Really. Jace snickering does not affect me in any way at all. Neither does his flirting with other girls.
Wait. What did he just call me?
He pries my fingers off from where they are clenched around the bar, smiling for some reason. "Stop being such an ice cube."
"Are you kidding?" I plant my hands on my hips. "I am not an ice cube. I am the complete antithesis of an ice cube. I'm like, like Angelina Jolie. Wait. Guys think she's hot, right?"
Jace mulls it over for a few seconds. "Yeah, I guess. Her lips are gigantic. They look like puffed marshmallows."
Huh. Maybe I should have chosen Megan Fox.
I'm just about to grab the bar back from Jace when my phone buzzes.
One new text message. Mom.
Guess she's finally come to her senses.
Val wanted to make sure you arrived on time. Do not disappoint.
And of course, her one and only form of communication would be about Valentine.
"Val," Jace says, reading over my shoulder. I slap my phone shut. "That's Morgenstern, isn't it?"
"You're calling him by his first name and corresponding with him…why?"
I just give him a look.
"You need a life," Jace says.
"I have a life," I hiss.
He raises an eyebrow, clearly disagreeing. "The fact that you have a relationship with our English teacher says otherwise."
Oh. My. God. That is just so wrong. On so many levels.
I nearly scream. "You drive me crazy sometimes, you know that?"
"Baby, I drive all the girls crazy."
Oh, jeez. I totally ran into that one. "At least my life contains more than just sex and girls."
"Ah, that's where you're wrong." He pokes my nose. "My life contains soccer, sex, and girls."
"The couple standing by the balloon booth," some middle-aged man hollers into the megaphone, pointing at us. "Quit flirting and get to work!"
My hands fly to my face in embarrassment as people from all over stop to stare. I peek through my fingers at Jace, who grins from ear to ear. He winks at me, swings the bar around in his hands, and saunters over to the booth to help.
That's all there is to describe carnivals. They are so much more than just screaming kids, dirty wrappers, popcorn, and cotton candy. Rides soar through the sky, the smell of sizzling barbeque floats in the air, and booths with crazy activities keep children continuously laughing.
The booth Jace and I have been working at for the past five hours (Clarification: Five hours since the carnival itself started, not the volunteer shift) is the balloon station. You would think that meant we blew up balloons and twisted them into shapes. But no, it was the station where we sucked helium from balloons to make our voices jump two octaves higher.
When Amatis and her friend arrive for the next shift, Jace and I almost collapse in exhaustion.
"Finally," Jace squeaks, voice still high. "I thought we'd never get a break."
I giggle. His voice is just too damn hilarious.
"Stop laughing," he demands. "It's not funny."
"You sound like a prepubescent boy."
He tackles me, hands digging under my ribs, and I shriek with laughter, unsuccessfully attempting to wriggle away. From the corner of my eye, I see Amatis eyeing me with blatant jealousy.
I smirk. Life may not be so bad after all.
Jace grins down at me, hair messily windblown. The sky is slowly darkening around us, and the lights flicker on, wrapping everything in a yellow haze. A child dashes past us, yelling, "Mom! Hurry up, the Ferris Wheel is starting!"
"You wanna?" Jace asks, tipping his head towards the ride.
I crane my head up, up, up, mouth dropping by the time my eyes find the top of the wheel. On pictures it looks tall; in person…I may have just pissed in my pants.
"Um," I gulp. But Jace is already gone, and I'm scrambling to catch up.
We catch the last cart, and, as the wheel begins moaning, my heart flutters – and not because of Jace. My stomach rolls as I peer over the edge of the basket, down tens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of feet to the ground. A vision of me tumbling out of the car and smashing to the ground in a pool of red, legs bent at funny angles, flashes momentarily in my mind, and I clutch the edge of the seat so hard my knuckles turn white.
Across from me, Jace smirks. "What's wrong?"
"N-nothing," I stammer out. "Nothing at all."
The cart creaks suddenly and I tense, my shoulders flying up and my legs squeezing together.
Jace laughs. "Scared?"
He reaches over and pulls me towards him. I squeak, surprised as well as frightened, for there's nothing for me to steady myself with, and crash into his side. Before I know it, he has an arm snaked around my shoulders, tightly hugging me to him.
"I'm not scared," I huff, voice annoyingly breathy.
"You sound out of breath."
Damn him and his exceptional observation skills. The heat of his skin, burning through our clothing into me, turns my brain into a mush of pudding as I scramble for a reasonable excuse.
"Well, the oxygen up here is far less compared to the amount at ground level," I say lamely.
"Sure," Jace grins, and I'm close enough to see the chip in his incisor. "But just in case you become scared, don't look down. Look up, or forward."
I do, and it takes my breath away.
The sky blushes pink and purple, the clouds scattered across it appear dark blue, and the sun blazes a scorching red. The array of colors is so spectacular my fingers itch for a palette and sketchbook.
"Wow," I breathe. "It's amazing."
Jace had been looking at the sunset, but now he turns to me, eyes focusing on my face. He doesn't reply, but for once, the silence feels peaceful, not awkward.
He lifts a hand and pulls one of my curls toward him. The brown dye is starting to wear off and in the light, it glows caramel, splattered with bits of brilliant red and streaks of the exact gold color of his eyes. "It's pretty," he says, voice subdued.
"Yeah," I agree. "I love sunsets. The view's like one from the top of a mountain."
"No," he says. "I meant your hair. It's pretty."
For the first time since I've met him, I'm speechless. Utterly and completely lost for words. I stare at him, mouth slightly open and eyes wide, mind still ringing from his words.
No one has said that in years. Not Simon, not Aline, not my own mother. They look at it, pitying it, dismissing it, making my life hell for it.
And Jace tells me it's pretty.
His eyes flicker to mine for a second and then slide away quickly. His Adam's apple bobs. "It's pretty," he says again, earnestly like I didn't believe him. "Really. It's pretty."
"Yeah, well not everyone thinks so." I shrug.
His mouth hardens a little. "Don't dye it anymore."
When he looks at me again, his eyes are clear – without the usual mocking and teasing. He looks at me as if for the first time he realizes that I'm not just a sophomore. That I'm not someone's little sister, not a freak, not the girl who threw up on him.
His expression says that maybe I'm something more. Something worth discovering.
He stares at me for a while longer, eyes passing over my eyes, my nose, my freckles, and my lips, and he smiles – a real smile, I realize with a shock. Not a teasing grin, a sarcastic, arrogant smirk, or a sexy, barely-there smile. A real smile, directed at me – before turning back to intently study the sunset.
I look at him in profile, at his jaw, his hair curling around his ears, the beginnings of a stubble, and my mouth curls up as well. My heart pounds and my hands sweat as I take a chance and lay my head lightly against his shoulder. In response, his arm tightens around me.
I think about tonight, the carnival, the rides, the sunset, but mostly I play the scene in my head, where he tells me my hair is beautiful, over and over and over.
We sit like that, side by side, staring off into the horizon until the Ferris Wheel churns to a stop.
Next chapter's the second half of the carnival…the night half(;
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