“So, basically,” she said, “I’ve screwed everything up royally. I remember you saying that growing up happens when you start having things you look back on and wish you could change. I guess that means I’ve grown up now. It’s just that—that I—” I thought you’d be there when I did. She choked on tears just as someone behind her cleared his throat.
Clary wheeled around and saw Luke standing in the doorway, a Styrofoam cup in his hand. Under the hospital’s fluorescent lights, she could see how tired he looked. There was gray in his hair, and his blue flannel shirt was rumpled.
“How long have you been standing there?”
“Not long,” he said. “I brought you some coffee.” He held out the cup but she waved it away.
“I hate that stuff. It tastes like feet.”
At that he smiled. “How would you know what feet taste like?”
“I just know.” She leaned forward and kissed Jocelyn’s cold cheek before standing up. “Bye, Mom.”
Luke’s blue pickup was parked in the concrete lot under the hospital. They had pulled out onto the FDR highway before he spoke.
“I heard what you said back at the hospital.”
“I thought you were eavesdropping.” She spoke without anger. There was nothing in what she’d said to her mother that Luke couldn’t know.
“What happened to Simon wasn’t your fault.”
She heard the words, but they seemed to bounce off her as if there were an invisible wall surrounding her. Like the wall Hodge had built around her when he’d betrayed her to Valentine, but this time she couldn’t hear anything through it, couldn’t feel anything through it either. She was as numb as if she’d been encased in ice.
“Did you hear me, Clary?”
“It’s a nice thing to say, but of course it was my fault. Everything that happened to Simon was my fault.”
“Because he was angry at you when he went back to the hotel? He didn’t go back to the hotel because he was angry at you, Clary. I’ve heard of situations like this before. They call them ‘darklings,’ those who are half-turned. He would have felt drawn back to the hotel by a compulsion he couldn’t control.”
“Because he had Raphael’s blood in him. But that would never have happened either if it weren’t for me. If I hadn’t brought him to that party—”
“You thought it would be safe there. You weren’t putting him in any danger you hadn’t put yourself in. You can’t torture yourself like this,” said Luke, turning onto the Brooklyn Bridge. The water slid by under them in sheets of silvery gray. “There’s no point to it.”
She slumped lower in her seat, curling her fingers into the sleeves of her knitted green hoodie. Its edges were frayed and the yarn tickled her cheek.
“Look,” Luke went on. “In all the years I’ve known him, there’s always been exactly one place Simon wanted to be, and he’s always fought like hell to make sure he got there and stayed there.”
“Wherever you were,” said Luke. “Remember when you fell out of that tree on the farm when you were ten, and broke your arm? Remember how he made them let him ride with you in the ambulance on the way to the hospital? He kicked and yelled till they gave in.”
“You laughed,” said Clary, remembering, “and my mom hit you in the shoulder.”
“It was hard not to laugh. Determination like that in a ten-year-old is something to see. He was like a pit bull.”
“If pit bulls wore glasses and were allergic to ragweed.”
“You can’t put a price on that kind of loyalty,” said Luke, more seriously.
“I know. Don’t make me feel worse.”
“Clary, I’m telling you he made his own decisions. What you’re blaming yourself for is being what you are. And that’s no one’s fault and nothing you can change. You told him the truth and he made up his own mind what he wanted to do about that. Everyone has choices to make; no one has the right to take those choices away from us. Not even out of love.”
“But that’s just it,” Clary said. “When you love someone, you don’t have a choice.” She thought of the way her heart had contracted when Isabelle had called to tell her Jace was missing. She’d left the house without a moment’s thought or hesitation. “Love takes your choices away.”
“It’s a lot better than the alternative.” Luke guided the truck onto Flatbush. Clary didn’t reply; just gazed dully out the window. The area just off the bridge was not one of the prettier parts of Brooklyn; either side of the avenue was lined with ugly office buildings and auto body shops. Normally she hated it but right now the surroundings suited her mood. “So, have you heard from—?” Luke began, apparently deciding it was time to change the subject.
“Simon? Yes, you know I have.”
“Actually, I was going to say Jace.”
“Oh.” Jace had called her cell phone several times and left messages. She hadn’t picked up or called him back. Not talking to him was her penance for what had happened to Simon. It was the worst way she could think to punish herself. “No, I haven’t.”
Luke’s voice was carefully neutral. “You might want to. Just to see if he’s all right. He’s probably having a pretty bad time of it, considering—”
Clary shifted in her seat. “I thought you checked in with Magnus. I heard you talking to him about Valentine and the whole reversing the Soul-Sword thing. I’m sure he’d tell you if Jace wasn’t okay.”
“Magnus can reassure me about Jace’s physical health. His mental health, on the other hand—”
“Forget it. I’m not calling Jace.” Clary heard the coldness in her own voice and was almost shocked at herself. “I have to be there for Simon right now. It’s not like his mental health is so great either.”
Luke sighed. “If he’s having trouble coming to terms with his condition, maybe he should—”
“Of course he’s having trouble!” She shot Luke an accusing look, though he was concentrating on traffic and didn’t notice. “You of all people ought to understand what it’s like to—”
“Wake up a monster one day?” Luke didn’t sound bitter, just weary. “You’re right, I do understand. And if he ever wants to talk to me, I’d be happy to tell him all about it. He will get through this, even if he thinks he won’t.”
Clary frowned. The sun was setting just behind them, making the rearview mirror shine like gold. Her eyes stung from the brightness. “It’s not the same,” she said. “At least you grew up knowing werewolves were real. Before he can tell anyone he’s a vampire, he’ll have to convince them that vampires exist in the first place.”
Luke looked as if he were about to say something, then changed his mind. “I’m sure you’re right.” They were in Williamsburg now, driving down half-empty Kent Avenue, warehouses rising above them on either side. “Still. I got him something. It’s in the glove compartment. Just in case…”
Clary snapped the compartment open and frowned. She took out a shiny folded pamphlet, the kind they kept stacked in clear plastic stands in hospital waiting rooms. “How to Come Out to Your Parents,” she read out loud. “LUKE. Don’t be ridiculous. Simon’s not gay, he’s a vampire.”
“I recognize that, but the pamphlet’s all about telling your parents difficult truths about yourself they may not want to face. Maybe he could adapt one of the speeches, or just listen to the advice in general—”
“Luke!” She spoke so sharply that he pulled the truck to a stop with a loud screech of brakes. They were just in front of his house, the water of the East River glittering darkly on their left, the sky streaked with soot and shadows. Another, darker shadow crouched on Luke’s front porch.
Luke narrowed his eyes. In wolf form, he’d told her, his eyesight was perfect; in human form, he remained nearsighted. “Is that…?”
“Simon. Yes.” She knew him even as an outline. “I’d better go talk to him.”
“Sure. I’ll, ah, run some errands. I have things to pick up.”
“What kind of things?”
He waved her away. “Food things. I’ll be back in a half hour. Don’t stay outside, though. Go in the house and lock up.”
“You know I will.”
She watched as the pickup sped away, then turned toward the house. Her heart was pounding. She’d talked to Simon on the phone a few times but she hadn’t seen him since they’d brought him, groggy and blood-splattered, to Luke’s house in the dark early hours of that horrible morning to clean up before driving him home. She’d thought he ought to go to the Institute, but of course that was impossible. Simon would never see the inside of a church or synagogue again.
She’d watched him walking up the path to his front door, shoulders hunched forward as if he were walking against a heavy wind. When the porch light came on automatically, he flinched away from it, and she knew it was because he had thought it was the light of the sun; and she started to cry, silently, in the backseat of the pickup, the tears splashing down onto the strange black Mark on her forearm.
“Clary,” Jace had whispered, and he’d reached for her hand, but she’d recoiled from him just as Simon had recoiled from the light. She wouldn’t touch him. She’d never touch him again. That was her penance, her payment for what she’d done to Simon.
Now, as she mounted the steps to Luke’s porch, her mouth went dry and her throat swelled with the pressure of tears. She told herself not to cry. Crying would only make him feel worse.
He was sitting in the shadows at the corner of the porch, watching her. She could see the gleam of his eyes in the darkness. She wondered if they’d held that sort of light in them before; she couldn’t remember. “Simon?”
He stood up in one single smooth graceful movement that sent a chill up her spine. There was one thing Simon had never been, and that was graceful. There was something else about him, something different—
“Sorry if I startled you.” He spoke carefully, almost formally, as if they were strangers.
“It’s all right, it’s just—How long have you been here?”
“Not long. I can only travel after the sun starts going down, remember? I accidentally put my hand about an inch out the window yesterday and nearly charred off my fingers. Luckily I heal fast.”
She fumbled for her key, unlocked the door, swung it open. Pale light spilled out onto the porch. “Luke said we should stay inside.”
“Because the nasty things,” Simon said, pushing past her, “they come out in the dark.”
The living room was full of warm yellow light. Clary shut the door behind them and flipped the dead bolts closed. Isabelle’s blue coat was still hanging on a hook by the door. She’d meant to take it to a dry cleaner to see if they could get the bloodstains out, but she hadn’t had a chance. She stared at it for a moment, steeling herself, before turning to look at Simon.
He was standing in the middle of the room, hands awkwardly in the pockets of his jacket. He was wearing jeans and a frayed I NEW YORK T-shirt that had belonged to his dad. Everything about him was familiar to Clary, and yet he seemed like a stranger. “Your glasses,” she said, belatedly realizing what had seemed strange to her out on the porch. “You’re not wearing them.”
“Have you ever seen a vampire wearing glasses?”
“Well, no, but—”
“I don’t need them anymore. Perfect vision seems to come with the territory.” He sat down on the couch and Clary joined him, sitting beside him but not too near. Up close she could see how pale his skin looked, blue traceries of veins apparent just beneath the surface. His eyes without the glasses looked huge and dark, the lashes like black ink strokes. “Of course I still have to wear them around the house or my mother would freak out. I’m going to have to tell her I’m getting contacts.”
“You’re going to have to tell her, period,” Clary said, more firmly than she felt. “You can’t hide your—your condition forever.”
“I can try.” He raked a hand through his dark hair, his mouth twisting. “Clary, what am I going to do? My mom keeps bringing me food and I have to throw it out the window—I haven’t been outside in two days, but I don’t know how much longer I can go on pretending I have the flu. Eventually she’s going to bring me to the doctor, and then what? I don’t have a heartbeat. He’ll tell her that I’m dead.”
“Or write you up as a medical miracle,” said Clary.
“It’s not funny.”
“I know, I was just trying to—”
“I keep thinking about blood,” Simon said. “I dream about it. Wake up thinking about it. Pretty soon I’ll be writing morbid emo poetry about it.”
“Don’t you have those bottles of blood Magnus gave you? You’re not running out, are you?”
“I have them. They’re in my mini-fridge. But I’ve only got three left.” His voice sounded thin with tension. “What about when I run out?”
“You won’t. We’ll get you some more,” Clary said, with more confidence than she felt. She supposed she could always hit up Magnus’s friendly local supplier of lamb’s blood, but the whole business made her queasy. “Look, Simon, Luke thinks you should tell your mom. You can’t hide it from her forever.”
“I can damn well try.”
“Think about Luke,” she said desperately. “You can still live a normal life.”