Dumpster Diving, Chapter One: Welcome to The Institute, Clary Fray
It was apparent that despite graduating high school and moving on to college, some people would just never grow up. As I drove down the highway with my life packed in the backseat of my car, hooting and hollering from outside my window alerted me that I was nearing the campus I'd spend the next four years studying on. The feeling was a lot different than the one I got when I first stepped into Pandemonium High. College at The Institute was going to be a place of independence and growth – well, for some people.
Another group of rowdy college students shouted at me from the sidewalks, immaturely making motions I wish I could un-see. Upperclassmen got to campus before freshman, which didn't help my nerves any; if this place wasn't anything like my high school experience, I would probably be okay.
Problem was, most of the students at Pandemonium High filtered straight into The Institute. There were more than just a few faces I'd never wanted to see on campus. But there was one I definitely couldn't wait for:
Simon, my best friend.
Moving into my dorm, Raziel Hall, I felt my emotions gathering up within me, ready to burst. My nerves became unglued when I heard that my only roommate had already arrived and moved into the room. Sighing, I took the key from the registration counter and padded up the stairs until I was on the fourth floor. It would be a nightmare of a year having to trek up four flights of stairs every day.
You'd imagine my surprise when I reached my assigned room to see that it was propped open and my roommate was none other than Isabelle Lightwood, Pandemonium High's most popular female. She was standing at the other side of the room, hanging pink Christmas lights on the walls. Staring wide-eyed into the room, I saw that the living area was already being decorated according to Isabelle's taste – with pink-painted furniture and lace-covered pillows adorning the couch. A flat-screen TV was pushed up against the wall, waiting to be plugged in. From another room, her brother Alec Lightwood came walking out and leaned down to work on the TV, not seeming to notice my presence at the door.
There was no place in the living area untouched by the girl I so bitterly avoided in high school. Everything she touched turned to gold, though I had never been interested in popularity myself, like all the other Isabelle worshippers happened to be. My life was perfect without complications, and that was just the way I liked things.
Stepping further into the room, I peeked around, cringing at the fashion magazines lying in piles on the pink coffee table. Deciding I hated the color pink, I shook my head in revulsion and treaded toward the empty individual bedroom that was possibly the only thing Isabelle's touch hadn't reached. I shuddered at the thought of how her individual room might look if the living area was already so vibrantly disgusting.
My individual room was small, with a twin-sized bed pushed against one wall sitting next to a night stand, both which were opposite the dresser and desk. The closet in the room was almost non-existent, but I didn't really need much space – my wardrobe consisted mostly of graphic tees and jackets or pullovers with jeans and sneakers. The only exceptions were the clothes that my mom had thrown into my wardrobe – clothes from when she was my age. She was desperate to rid herself of anything that reminded her of Valentine, my father; I didn't want to think about him either, but accepted the clothes anyway to please my mother.
From the other room I heard shouting, most likely Isabelle's. "No that should go in my room, not the living room!" There was some shuffling and then Alec began to talk to her, wishing her luck with her roommate when she showed up. I scowled, realizing that with my short stature and resigned acceptance of my fate, my entrance had not alerted them to my arrival. There was no point in delaying the introduction, though it was apparent that Isabelle would be disappointed.
About to make my not-so-grand entrance, I paused at the doorway of my room and the living room when I heard a voice that hadn't belonged to either Lightwood sibling. Upstaging my entrance was a voice I recognized and instantly despised – Jace Wayland, Isabelle and Alec's adoptive brother. His voice echoed on the walls of the room, as he stepped into the living area from Isabelle's individual room. "If this roommate of yours doesn't like pink, we'll never hear the end of it," he sang – I mean, said. His voice really did emanate something angelic, as if he had been touched by an angel himself. I tried to ignore the feeling in my chest that stirred when I heard his beautiful voice, remembering that I hated him.
I rolled my eyes and grunted in disappointment at the situation, which tipped everyone off in the room, that they weren't alone. All eyes centered on me, standing in the doorway of my new home. I wasn't sure my face could have felt more heated or looked any darker a shade of red.
Jace pushed his tussled blonde hair behind an ear and smirked at me, tilting his head in curiosity. He leaned against Isabelle's doorframe, his body tall and lean, wearing dark-wash jeans and a simple white V-neck that show off his muscular frame. The curiosity had vanished from his face and within seconds, an expression of realization surfaced. Aside from his smirk, there was a glint in his eyes that made me extremely nervous of his revelation.
Alec and Isabelle looked to Jace questioningly, before their mouths formed an "o" and they nodded their heads remembering, too.
"What a pleasant surprise," Jace said smoothly, as he detached himself from the doorframe. He looked right at me as he spoke, his golden eyes striking as if they were speaking. "It seems that Dumpster Girl is your new roommate, Isabelle. You might consider changing the color palate of the room to something…" he paused, looking for words. I realized that it was most likely dramatic effect, because he always seemed to know what to say. "Trashier." He broke off with a laugh, though he maintained his composure. Everything to him seemed graceful and effortlessly attractive, which caused me to seethe from the inside-out.
Isabelle paused and sighed, stepping toward me. "Well, welcome roomie," she said, hesitating but outstretching her arms for a hug. I shut my eyes and rubbed my forehead, feeling like soon enough my brain cells would begin to commit homicide toward each other.
When I opened my eyes again, Jace was standing closer than he was before, with Isabelle's Eau de Perfume in his hand, aiming it dangerously close to my face. I watched in pure humiliation as he sprayed perfume in the air around me with a satisfied look on his face. Behind Jace, Alec laughed, but attempted to conceal it.
Isabelle, standing next to me smiled politely. "Okay, now a hug is in order," she said with less hesitation, as if the perfume had changed something. "Here's to a new future at college!" She squealed and breathed in the perfume, putting her arms around me and hugging tightly.
She coughed and waved her hand at her face, backing away, snickering. I watched in awe as Jace again stepped closer to me, the distance someone would stand if they were with a friend. However, he wasn't which made the motion feel suspicious. "You smell rather pleasant this close," he noted, winking in my direction.
Mortified, I hung my head in despair and mentally cursed myself for not straying from the typical path after Pandemonium High. Welcome to The Institute, Clarissa Fray, I thought to myself, as a small part of myself felt like it died inside.
"He really did that? What a jerk! You know, I ought to come over there and-"
I juggled my phone in my hands and switched ears as I walked with purpose as far away as I could from my dorm. Simon, my best friend, was on the other end of the phone reacting to my explanation of the scene I had just emerged from in my new room. When I placed the phone back at my ear I realized Simon was still rambling.
"Because Jace Wayland is so much worse than Narcissus himself! He really needs to realize that Pandemonium is behind us and we don't even live in Alicante anymore! We're in Idris now and he needs to move on! It's college! At The Institute! I'm telling you Clary, if he doesn't leave you alone I swear I'll sock him for you! Just give me a minute to come down-"
"Simon!" I shouted hastily, trying to keep my voice down. People were on campus in swarms, moving into their dorms and settling in to learn campus. Some curious eyes peeked my way, but I ignored them and walked faster, away from Raziel Hall. "There's nothing I can do about it so I will just suffer in silence. Silence, okay! And if he gets on my nerves too much all I have to do is ignore him," I said, shaking my head.
It would be easier said than done. Something about his whole aura drew me in – whether it was his voice or his attractiveness, I wasn't sure – but the words he spoke and the indignant attitude he had about himself easily contradicted any attraction I had toward him, cancelling the effect. Back in high school I may have dreamed of him coming to his senses; now I had grown into more common sense and a level head, with a better understanding that Jace Wayland would never change. He would forever be a bully.
On the other side of the phone I heard a loud alarm and Simon grunted. I flinched at the loud sound and my heart started to race. "Simon, are you okay?" I asked with haste. Sometimes he gave me plenty of reason to worry. He'd used to call me from the boys' bathroom in Pandemonium and ask me to bring him a change of clothes –which he kept in our shared locker – because the popular crowd of Jace and his groupies had poured sticky energy drinks all over the front of his pants. Once he'd even called from a janitor closet because Jace had locked him in; it had taken me two hours to track down someone with a key.
Simon shushed me, "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine, I just accidently hit the car alarm. Don't worry, Clary. You worry too much about other people." I could tell from his tone that despite what he said, he still appreciated that I cared. He had been the only friend I ever had or felt like I needed, and I had been his.
"I mostly worry about you," I reminded him.
There was an undeniable smile in his voice, if you could hear what a smile sounded like. "You're the best, Clary Fray."
I smiled, "What are friends for?"
There was a pause on the line, before I heard a click and looked down to see that Simon had hung up on me, which felt – sarcastically – great in retrospect of how my day had gone so far. I glowered at the phone.
"Clary!" I heard Simon's familiar voice shouting. Staring at my phone, I realized it was not the source of the voice. I looked up frantically and to my pleasure saw Simon waving at me from across the sidewalk. Apparently I had known exactly where to walk to cool down, because it was right to Simon's dorm, Azazel Hall.
Taking in my best friend – whom I had seen just last night when we had a mini goodbye high school party, just the two of us – I saw that he wore his typical ensemble of skinny jeans and a t-shirt with a funny saying on it. Today it read: "Never trust an atom. They make up everything". I shook my head, smiling in his direction; all the dorky things Simon liked seemed to cheer me up.
He outstretched his arms and I ran toward him, lunging into a warm embrace that made everything that happened today melt away. Simon was my best friend and having him here for my college experience meant everything to me.
He kissed my hair and pulled back to look at me. "That's my Clary, no tear stains at all! Proud of you!" He picked up my hand and examined it. "I see no blood stains either, meaning you didn't take care of the prick. You sure you don't want me to pound him in for you?" He laughed, but I could tell he was somewhat serious.
I took another look at him – his slender body had little curvature to it and his lanky height seemed disproportionate. His nerdy black frame glasses and liking for sarcastic graphic t-shirts made him appear less intimidating than a squirrel. I shook my head and went along with it anyway, as if he really could beat Jace to a pulp.
Smiling, he put an arm around my waist and ushered me inside to the third floor so he could show me his dorm room. Inside, I met his roommate, a muscular boy named Jordan. Or Kyle. I forget which, to be honest. Simon said he goes by both names, so I shrugged it off. Admittedly, I wasn't good at making friends, especially because high school seemed to give me no experience in the area. Simon and I were the people everyone picked on, so anyone who wanted to avoid bullying seemed to avoid us like the plague. We ended up not minding, using each other's company to make the experiences lightly less terrible.
Simon's living room looked like a normal dorm room should have looked – a shared space with a few personal belongings from each roommate. Mine had been completely redone by Isabelle, who had likely planned how to decorate it all summer. From what I gathered, she was a control freak about things, which made this year seem all the more dreadful.
Simon tugged at my shirt, dragging me into his room, out of my nightmarish reverie. "Check out the setup," he announced proudly.
His individual room was almost completely moved into and organized; with his video games decorating the desk, the textbooks stacked in a neat pile by his backpack, and his comic books displayed proudly on the shelf above the desk. On his bedside stand stood a single picture of himself with his sister Rebecca, his mother, and myself. Simon's arm was slung protectively around me in the picture, causing a tug at the side of my lips.
I nodded with appreciation. "Groovy place. Wish they did co-ed rooms because I'd much rather live with you than my new monster of a roommate."
Grimacing, I stared at my feet. It would be a long semester if the same thing that happened today happened over and over again. In hindsight, maybe running off had been a bad start because now they had me pinned for an easier target. I may have caused more trouble than I meant to, though clearing my head after that run-in felt important, especially if I was going to have to learn some patience.
Reluctantly, I decided that spending time to get to know Isabelle, despite what had happened, would be in my own best interest if I really wanted to have a new start at The Institute. After a short goodbye, I waved to Simon and exited Azazel Hall, trying to remember where Raziel Hall was. Before leaving it would have been a smart idea to check a map, but I guess today I felt rather impulsive.
Wandering the campus, I noticed a few things. When I was willing to smile and make eye contact with new people they often grimaced and looked away, muttering "freak" as they passed. If I saw someone I recognized they would recall my high school nickname and tell the person next to them about it. Even when I sat at a bench and tried to make conversation with the person next to me, they would just stand up and walk away.
Campus life was supposed to be different, except it felt too much like high school did, which was disheartening. I was always the perfect target for the bullies at my school, including Jace Wayland. That, I guess, would never change.
Remembering why I was on my walk in the first place, I tried to shake away the name from my thoughts, but bells in my head just kept going off. It was like his name was a beautiful song meant to be sung. Everything about his appearance seemed so surreal and made me want to believe that he was a good person – and everything I had learned about his behaviors had given the opposite effect.
Usually I tried not to judge someone before I gave them a chance. Over the years, Jace Wayland's chances were dwindling, decreasing every time he picked on Simon or myself. I badly wanted to give him a deserving college re-do that I thought everyone would be doing, except it turned out that no one seemed to believe in second chances. Instead, everyone seemed to just run with their old high school crowd or someone from another high school in the same type of clique as they were in. I guess that meant I needed to find a short, red-headed girl with a geeky best friend to befriend.
By the time I returned to my dorm, I realized it had only been about an hour since I left. Jace Wayland was gone, but Alec remained, helping his sister Isabelle to get situated by doing what he was told to do. She was barking orders when I entered the room, the door still propped open from before.
Seeing that Jace wasn't there gave my rumbling stomach a feeling of relief. On the way to the room I had felt nauseated about the incident before and prayed history would never repeat itself.
Isabelle looked up as I entered and forced a smile. It wasn't easy to decipher whether it was genuine or not; perhaps while I was gone they had devised a series of pranks to implement throughout the year so that my life remained miserable. But then again, their lives didn't revolve around me, which left me hoping that being ignored would be my punishment for being the loser that lives with Isabelle.
I could handle being shunned – but humiliated all year, I could not handle. Only time would tell which would occur.