Disclaimer: The lovely Cassandra Clare owns the The Mortal Instrument's characters!
It was one of those moments where I was having a complete out of body experience. I was in the room with everybody else. I was all dressed up like everybody else. I decorated. I did this. I made this place look like heaven. I arranged the whole party. We were in my apartment, our apartment. The difference, what separated me from the rest of our friends and family, why was everybody else screaming and excited rushing over for hugs and handshakes, while I was standing here like I had just suffered from a minor stroke. The word passed through my head again and again engaged. I swear I could taste vomit in the back of my throat.
"Ok, let's get you some air before people start asking questions." I heard Izzy's soft voice in my ear and felt an arm around my shoulders as she quickly ushered me into the kitchen shouting who wants Champaign over her shoulder. We were on the veranda a moment later. It wasn't an elaborate balcony or anything, it was about four feet by ten feet, pretty much just big enough to grill on, but it was one of the things I loved about this apartment. My hands clenched to the railing and I hung my head down over the side, reminding myself that if I threw-up from the twenty-second floor it wouldn't go over well for anybody below.
"I take it you didn't know." She said quietly as she rubbed my back. I shook my head.
"No." I spat out sounding a lot like I was about ready to break into tears. Izzy stroked my hair gently.
"The place looks amazing." She said softly. I scoffed and glanced at her sideways.
"You knew?" It sounded more like an accusation than a question. Izzy's cobalt blue eyes softened as she looked back at me. Her long midnight black hair seemed to find just enough of the moonlight to bounce off of her perfectly curled ends.
"He said he wanted to be the one to tell you." She said gently. Her hand reached towards my face and wiped away a stray tear I hadn't realized had fallen. My mind tried desperately to figure out how I had let it get this far.
It's odd what your mind chooses to remember and forget sometimes. Somewhere muddled with the memories you wish you could remember and the memories you wish you'd forget are trivial memories that seem so inconsequential.
I can't tell you the day I met the Lightwoods; Jace, his slightly younger sister Izzy and her twin brother Alec, or their much younger brother Max. I know it was in sixth grade, because that was the summer when my mother and I moved from our tiny two bedroom one bathroom apartment to a larger two bedroom two bathroom apartment. How I wish I remembered the day I met Jace Lightwood though. I wish I could pinpoint exactly when I fell completely in love with him. I wish I remembered if it was the first time I saw him that my heart skipped a beat and my breath caught or if it was something he said or did that made me feel that way. I wish I knew what my first impression was on Jace. I wish I remembered what I was wearing and what the first words out of my mouth were. I wish I knew if he noticed me, if he felt anything when he saw me, if he thought I was funny or smart. I wish, I wish, I wish. When it comes to Jace, I'm always left with wishes that never come true.
My memories of middle school and high school are a blur of jumbled snippets of recollections with few words. Although, throughout that entire time one thing remained constant, my love for Jace, the only problem, he didn't seem to notice me at all. Ok, I take that back, he noticed me, he noticed I was Izzy's best friend and he pretty much treated me like he treated her. Primarily, Jace teased me, tormented me, ruffled my hair, and tried to get a rise out of me whenever he saw me. So my love went unrequited, but my sadistic heart loved every encounter with him. My heart would race or just plain skip a beat every time he ruffled my hair, every time he pulled my ponytail, every time he tripped me while we walked to the car in the school parking lot, and every time he pushed me in the pool as he walked by me.
Jace didn't just tease and torment me though, that wouldn't be fair to say, he could be protective and caring when he felt like it. Jace seemed to need to get to know any boyfriend I dated, which I'm pretty sure involved him giving them the third degree. The guy that asked me to junior prom showed up to pick me up at the Lightwood's, I had come over to get ready with Izzy, and the guy just left after Jace answered the door. He wouldn't even answer my calls. I screamed at Jace and all he said was: 'He told the whole locker room yesterday that he got a hotel room for tonight. You don't even want to know how he elaborated. If I knew at the time he was talking about you, I would have beaten the shit out of him right then and there'. I have no idea what Jace said or did to the guy, but he didn't even show up at prom later that night, or to school on Monday, and after that he just avoided me completely.
Senior year of high school Jace was gone and I missed him terribly. He was only forty-five minutes away at Columbia, but he lived on campus without a car freshman year and he barely ever came home to visit. I still had Alec and Izzy, but it wasn't long before we were all embarking on journeys of our own. I was headed to Columbia, which arguably had nothing to do with Jace going to that college. Izzy was offered a position as a model in the city, so she was taking a semester or so off of college to pursue her dreams. Alec was headed off to Berkley to study pre-law.
When Jace came home at the end of the school year he surprised everybody with the news he just signed the lease for an apartment off campus. I can't tell you if Jace's offhanded offer for me to move in with him was sincere or him just being polite, but I can tell you I took him up on the offer without a second thought. Izzy tried to talk me out of moving in with Jace and argued relentlessly that this was a very very bad idea, but I was way too thrilled to back out now.
Moving in together was a transition and I was quickly regretting it. Suddenly, from the moment I stepped foot in that apartment, there was an awkwardness between Jace and I where there had never been before. He dated, a lot, which I wasn't prepared for. Not only him going out on dates, but him bringing them back. That, I really wasn't thinking about, though Izzy tried to warn me, I completely ignored her.
However Jace and I use to interact, sibling banter, good friends, questionably flirting at times, whatever it was, it was gone. Now he just seemed agitated when I was around and he acted like he couldn't get out of whatever room I was in quick enough. Every accidental touch was followed by a strange almost irritated apology. He apologized every time we even came close to touching, even when it was clearly my fault. I started feeling so self-conscious I started apologizing every time we touched or almost touched. I felt like every graze of my hand against his and every brush of my body past his just pissed him off. He seemed to start going completely out of his way to avoid me. More than once I'd be sitting in the living room watching a movie alone and he'd walk in the front door and beeline to his bedroom with a half assed muttered hello, or a couple times he just turned around and left again without saying anything. We passed each other, mumbled good morning, split the chores, and left notes on the fridge of what was needed in the apartment. I couldn't understand what happened between us to change things so dramatically. I started hiding my sketchbook and my journal fearing he might have read something I wrote about him or seen a picture I sketched of him. I questioned if Izzy had said something to Jace, but she swore she hadn't.
After the first couple weeks of these uncomfortable interactions and girls being brought back to the apartment nearly every other night, I started seriously looking at moving out. Unfortunately that wasn't going to be that easy. I hadn't signed up for campus housing and it was too late to apply for the fall semester. I mulled over apartment listings, but everything was well over what I could afford by myself and I wasn't ready to break down and live with a complete stranger. When I moved out to go to college, my mother decided to pack up and move four hours away to live with her boyfriend Luke, so moving in with them and commuting to school was out of the question. Unless I wanted to drop out of school before it started, I was stuck living with Jace until at least the spring semester.
Then one night everything just changed between Jace and I. School was starting in two days, and Jace was out with another bimbo while I was home alone sulking. I had found myself sitting on the small veranda outside, one of my favorite places to go and feel less alone. That may sound odd, but my mom always seemed to get that movie An American Tail stuck in my head and when I look at the moon I just think that whoever I'm missing is looking at the same moon as me. My friends all scattered for college, nobody stayed close, and I was missing everybody, so I was just staring at the moon crying.
I was missing my mom, Luke, Izzy, Alec, just everybody. I should have followed Alec to San Francisco, or my buddy Simon to Alaska like he kept pushing me to, or maybe I'd be loving Texas with Luke's niece Maia right now. Maybe I should have taken a semester off to find myself like Izzy, because right now I was feeling so lost. I had no motivation to draw at all, which was going to suck once school started. It's a little hard to major in art and have no inspiration to be artistic. I felt sad and alone. I was surprised not only with how much of an adjustment it had been to move in with Jace, but how much of an adjustment it had been to move away from my mother. I had wanted independence and freedom for so long, but didn't expect I'd miss her so much. I wished I had a car, I'd drive upstate tomorrow morning to see my mom and Luke.
I just needed a friend right now and Jace was the last person I felt like seeing; at least that's what I thought when he opened the sliding glass door from the kitchen to the veranda. It wasn't the first time I had cried since I moved in, but it was the first time he had caught me crying. It had to be after one in the morning on a Friday night. I glanced passed Jace into the living room and noticed the image of a tall strawberry blonde with a skirt that barely covered her ass.
There wasn't anything out on that veranda, so I had just opted to sit down right on the ground. When Jace walked outside, instead of standing there towering over me, he crouched down in front of me. I couldn't tell you the exact words Jace said, but I remember thinking his voice was oddly gentle and filled with concern. I remember looking at him briefly as I wiped away at the tears and thinking this was the most we had interacted since I had moved in. Before I got too lost in his eyes I averted my gaze and made-up some lame excuse for crying. I remember the soft warm touch of his hand as he gently cupped my chin and guided my face to look at him; it was purposeful, there were no apologies. His eyebrows were furrowed slightly and the look on his face was thoughtful, but soft and caring, probably the first time I remember him looking at me with so much feeling. After a brief exchange he vanished back inside, seemingly content with the excuses I had given him as to why I was outside bawling like an idiot, and I gazed back at the sliver of the crescent moon.
I have no idea how much time passed before Jace opened the sliding glass door again, but it didn't seem like all that much. He was wearing red long pajama bottoms with a simple design and a white wife beater. He had a bowl of popcorn in one hand and the remote control in the other. With hardly any persuasion Jace coxed me back inside. I remember that first movie we watched together was Sweet HomeAlabama. Of course we had seen movies before with Izzy and Alec, but this was the first time just the two of us watched a movie together.
I don't remember falling asleep on the couch, but I remember waking up the next morning leaning up against Jace's chest. My legs were drawn up and his arm was draped around me under the blanket that was laying over both of us. Jace's legs were still hanging over the edge of the couch and his bare feet were on the carpet. I glanced up over my shoulder and I could see his head drooped forward, his eyes closed, his blond curls falling forward to almost his eyes, a whisper of a smile playing on his lips. I didn't want to climb out of that position, but I knew I was fooling myself. I gently moved his arm and silently rolled off the couch. I headed down the hallway and jumped into the shower.
I opened the bathroom door with just a towel around my body, which I had grown accustomed to doing since I had moved in, but I was completely surprised to see Jace standing silently on the other side of the door. I jumped nearly dropping my towel as I let out with a little yelp. Might I clarify I had become accustomed to walking around in just a towel because Jace always made a point of being scarce when I was home, so I had given up being modest. He looked amused as he smirked and crossed his arms over his chest.
He asked casually what we were doing today, as though we always spent the day together. We went out to breakfast, went shopping, walked around the city, and just talked about trivial things. As quickly and seamlessly as things had turned awkward between Jace and I, they weren't anymore. Jace and I started to hang out all the time, well when he wasn't on dates that is, and he stopped bringing girls back to the apartment, though I never asked him to stop, he just did. We both worked and went to school, but in the evenings, and on the weekends, we spent a lot of time together.
I'm not really sure how or when, but at some point it became casual and familiar to just automatically curl up against Jace whenever we sat down on the couch together, one of his arms wrapped around me, and a blanket over both of us. I can recall so many times he'd be on the couch before me with a blanket draped over himself and when I walked into the room he'd hold the covers open invitingly and tell me to hurry up. So many nights we fell asleep that way.
Jace became the one I always talked to, I always turned to. At some point he became my best friend, the one that probably knew me better than anybody else. He knew all my favorite things and I knew his. We may not have known every secret about each other, he definitely didn't know all my secrets, but we knew quite a few. There wasn't any question in my mind if I trusted Jace; I trusted him implicitly. He was the one I could count on to always be there if I needed him.
Jace and my friendship grew closer over the fall and through the winter and then Easter came. I remember it was the first holiday that I couldn't get time off of work, so I couldn't go home. Neither Izzy nor Alec were going to be home, so the Lightwoods were going to Aruba with Max for his spring break instead of having a traditional Easter dinner. Jace and I were stuck at school with nowhere else to go. I could have just enjoyed the day with him, but I told him I didn't feel like doing anything. Jace ended up going somewhere for the day saying he couldn't stay home and do nothing, but I just stayed home melancholy.
When Jace got home that night he came in my bedroom and found me lying in bed crying. He didn't even say anything as he took in my pitiful state. He walked over to the bed and laid down next to me. He collected me into his arms as I buried my face into his chest and cried. We both fell asleep like that. Prior to that night there seemed to be an unspoken rule that my bedroom and his were off-limits, but after that night, that idea faded away seamlessly. Some nights when we found ourselves up late talking in my bed or his we did on a number of occasions just fall asleep in each other's arms.
Izzy was right when she scolded me so often about the amount of time I spent with Jace. I didn't date, not at all, I had Jace, and that's all I wanted. I dated more senior year of high school than I dated any of the years before or afterwards. Jace asked me a few times why I never dated and I just told him I was too focused on school for distractions and I had plenty of time to date once I had my degree. That excuse seemed to work for him. He dated though, a lot, and I knew that, but I never asked and I just really didn't want to know. He'd introduce me to girls sometimes, more because he had stopped home to grab something and a girl was with him. The only time he talked about the girls he dated was after he had broken up with them and he was pointing out some major flaw they had and joking about the fact I even let him date the girl in the first place, like I could have ever stopped him. The girls changed so frequently though I didn't even bother keeping track of them, but maybe I should have.
I listen to that Taylor Swift song, You Belong With Me, and I always close my eyes and imagine that being Jace and I. I keep waiting for him to stop dating those girls and see me, see that I've been the perfect girl for him and I've been here the whole time. That's just a song though, and real life isn't like that. It's time for me to stop daydreaming. Maybe if I had actually faced reality and stopped living in my imagination sooner I would have noticed earlier that Jace had found somebody he was serious about and that somebody wasn't me…
Two hands cradled my face and pulled me away from me trance. The unsuspecting pedestrians of New York City might be saved after all from the risk of me emptying the contents of my stomach onto them. Izzy's cobalt blue eyes bore into mine.
"Clary, you're starting to worry me. You've been quiet for a really long time." I blinked a few times and just looked back at her.
"Seven months Izzy. He's only been dating her for seven months." My voice wavered with a hint of hysteria. To be fair this has been his longest relationship by far, but still. Who gets engaged after seven months? Did he have to announce his engagement like this, at his 21st birthday party? Twenty-one, he's only twenty-one. Who gets engaged that young anymore? Suddenly this veranda was bringing back too many memories; suddenly this whole apartment was bringing to mind too many painful memories. Jace had one year left of his undergraduate program and he had already applied to several medical schools, with Stanford being his top choice. I was going into my junior year at Columbia in the fall. Jace and I had no intentions of moving, at least none that he had voiced to me. I didn't know how much that even bothered me, I was just looking for something else to focus on besides the painful truth, Jace was getting married. I could only partially register that Izzy had been talking to me. I was too busy drowning in self pity.
My head snapped up to the sound of the sliding glass door opening as Izzy's hands fell from my face. Luckily I wasn't bawling like an idiot, I just had that one stray tear that Izzy had wiped away, but I quite possibly looked a little crazed right now. There, standing in the open doorway, was the cause of my anguish. The way the light from inside was shining behind Jace, made him almost look like he had a halo around his head. He looks like a sexy Greek God with those loose golden blond curls that fall to just about ear length, those unique golden amber eyes that just seem to captivate you the moment you look at them, and that stunningly ripped body.
"There you are. I thought you guys were getting Champaign?" Jace laughed out in an excited voice with his arm around Aline's waist. My eyes never met Aline's as I glared venomously at Jace. At least that was the look I was shooting for, it might have looked more like I was about to be sick, which was the other predominant feeling I was still trying to stave off. No sooner were the words out of Jace's mouth than his eyes locked with mine and his face immediately fell.
"Hey what's wrong?" He asked with all the concern and feeling that I had gotten so use to hearing in Jace's voice.
"Nothing." I spat coldly and looked back out off the veranda.
"Hey babe, give me a minute?..." Jace asked quietly and I saw Aline retreat into the house from my peripheral vision.
"…Seriously, what's up?" I shook my head as I gazed off into the bright city lights and my hands tightened on the metal railing.
"You could have given me a heads-up if you were kicking me out." I snapped lamely.
"Oh Clary…" Jace's voice sounded so sweet as he walked over to me and tried to put his arm around my shoulders, but I shrugged him off and took a side step away from him. Jace let out with a soft sound somewhere between a chuckle and a scoff as he crossed his arms over his chest.
"…Ok Miss Oversensitive…Nobody said anything about kicking you out. I asked Aline to move in with us." I glared up at him.
"Nice of you to check with me first." I hissed. Jace huffed.
"It's my apartment Clary, I don't' have to check with you first."
"One bathroom is hard enough to share between the two of us, it will be impossible with Aline too." I spat.
"You're complaining about sharing the bathroom?...I know you better than that Clary. If you have something to say to me just come out and say it. Don't act like you're upset about one thing when it's really something else you're pissed off about…" I scoffed as I looked back over the city. He knew me too well.
"…I know you don't like Aline-" I tightened my hands on the railing.
"I never said I didn't like Aline. I barely know Aline." I spat rather harshly.
"Don't you think it's time we changed that?" I scowled in Jace's direction.
"No!" I snapped coldly.
"Alright Clary, I don't know why you're acting so crazy. Give me a clue what this is about. Is it that time of the month again?" My glare turned vicious.
"You're such an asshole Jace." I snapped. He smirked that confident smirk he gets when he thinks he's right.
"Ok…I understand now…Good girl…" He said in a condescending tone as he reached his hand out towards me like he was going to pet me. I made a frustrated noise as I took a step back and swatted his hand away. He just chuckled.
"…Easy girl…Why don't you come inside and have some wine…Maybe some Midol?" He chuckled out. I was biting my tongue so hard right now I swore I could taste blood in my mouth.
"Leave her alone Jace." Izzy said gently.
"Oh come on…She knows I'm just teasing her…This is my big day…Where's the love?" Jace asked as he crossed his arms over his chest again. Where's the love? That was the last straw. I couldn't stand it anymore. I just snapped. My dagger glare intensified as I straightened myself and took a daunting step closer to him. Not that he acted intimidated at all, he was over a foot taller than me and twice my size.
"Where's the love?...What makes this the hardest is that you really never had any idea how hopelessly in love with you I've been for the last nine years have you?…Happy birthday Jace. Congratulations on your engagement. I'll have somebody come tomorrow to move my stuff…You won't have to ever see me again." Jace just stared back at me speechless with his mouth agape and a dumbfounded look on his face. Izzy's wide eyes looked shocked and her lips were tightly pursed. I pushed by them both, threw the sliding glass door open and hastily stormed across the kitchen, across the living room and out the front door. I slammed the door behind me, but I'm sure nobody noticed, the music was so loud in there I'm surprised our neighbors hadn't complained. It would have been a much more dramatic exit if I had my purse and keys. There was no way I was going back in there now. I leaned up against the hallway wall next to the apartment door and let myself slide down to the floor. I wasn't sure if I was mortified or relieved that after all these years I finally told Jace how I felt about him. I'm sure I could have gone about that all a million times better, but I didn't want to scrutinize what had just happened. What was done was done. I couldn't take it back now. I could still feel my eyes burning, but I wasn't going to cry. I'd already cried too many tears for Jace Lightwood, what was the point.
I stared after Clary as she walked across our apartment and out the front door. I was so stunned. I couldn't move. I couldn't react. All these years I never knew she felt that way about me. From the first time I ever saw her I remember thinking she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. For years Clary was the girl of my dreams, but she never seemed to react to me like the other girls did. I thought that meant she wasn't interested in me. Somewhere along the way my feelings for Clary subsided to more of an absentminded thought in the back of my mind. When I invited her to move in with me I didn't think it was going to be a big deal, I thought I was over her, but apparently I wasn't. That nearly extinguished amber that was slowly dieing out ignited into a raging fire.
It was so awkward after we moved in together. I felt like I was on pins and needles whenever I was around her. I couldn't sleep knowing she was sleeping in the room across from mine. I couldn't concentrate knowing she was in the shower completely naked. I couldn't stand being around the apartment, because it was a cruel reminder that she wasn't mine. I thought maybe if I just kept my distance it wouldn't be so painful, but it wasn't working. Then one night I came home and she was crying on the veranda alone and I couldn't stay away from her anymore. It hurt to be around her, but it hurt more not to be.
The closer we grew the more I couldn't stand being so close to her and not being able to touch her like I wanted to so badly and not being able to be with her the way I wanted to. The only thing that kept me from acting on my deepest desires was the fear that in doing so I might end up ruining what we had. I couldn't stand the thought of never again being able to put my arms around her to comfort her, never hearing the sound of her laughing at my jokes, and never seeing her emerald green eyes sparkle and her face light up when I made her smile. Even if I longed desperately to hold her naked body in my arms, I would never take the risk that doing so might mean I would end up never being able to fall asleep again with my arms wrapped around her. Clary and I had the most amazing relationship, she was my best friend and I would never do anything to jeopardize what we had together, which is why I never told her how I felt. At some point I just sort of gave up on the idea of her ever being mine and embraced our friendship.
Clary was my best friend and I couldn't bear the thought of her being so upset with me. I didn't know what I was going to say, but I had to go after her. She was upset and I had to be there to comfort her. I finally managed to take a couple unsure steps back towards the open doorway when I felt a hand on my arm.
"Don't go after her." Izzy's voice was a low gentle whisper.
"I have to." The words were a soft exhale. Izzy stepped between me and the open doorway and put her hands on both my shoulders.
"No. You don't Jace. Listen to me…" I swallowed hard and lowered my gaze to Izzy's torn expression.
"…I don't want to see her hurting anymore than you do. I know you want to run after her and put your arms around her and make everything better, but the only way you going after her is going to make this better right now is if you're prepared to tell her you love her, and not just tell her you love her, because I know you do, but mean it the way she feels…She's completely in love with you…Not a fleeting crush, not a passing desire, not something brought about by confusion over you getting engaged, but a deep down love that has only gotten stronger over the last couple years…Maybe you do feel the way she does Jace, I don't know, but if you're thinking you're going to go running after her and tell her you're in love with her, make sure you mean it…You just announced your engagement to Aline…Are you really sure you're prepared to breakup with Aline for Clary? If you're not absolutely certain of your feelings, you won't make anything better going after her, you'll make it worse…I know it kills you when she's upset with you, but I'm sure she didn't mean everything she said. I can't believe she never plans on seeing you again. You mean so much to her…Just give her a little time to calm down Jace…And think about what you really want." Izzy's hands fell from my shoulders and she turned around silently and walked back into the apartment. Izzy was right. I didn't know what to do. Clary meant too much to me to risk losing her, but I didn't know if I was terrified of losing my best friend, or was I truly scared I could be letting the love of my life slip away from me. If we tried to have a romantic relationship and we failed I would lose both Clary and Aline, although, I found myself much more distressed about losing Clary at the moment. If I told Clary I didn't feel the same way as her, was it still possible to save our friendship? Right now I was so confused I honestly didn't know how I felt or what to do, but I was petrified my relationship with Clary was never going to be the same.
An American Tail (1986)
Taylor Swift You Belong With Me
A/N - Thank you for reading, favoriting, following, and reviewing!
(No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without written authorization.)