City of Bones – Chapter 2: SECRETS AND LIES

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THE DARK PRINCE SAT ASTRIDE HIS BLACK STEED, HIS SABLE cape flowing behind him. A golden circlet bound his blond locks, his handsome face was cold with the rage of battle, and …

“And his arm looked like an eggplant,” Clary muttered to herself in exasperation. The drawing just wasn’t working. With a sigh she tore yet another sheet from her sketchpad, crumpled it up, and tossed it against the orange wall of her bedroom. Already the floor was littered with discarded balls of paper, a sure sign that her creative juices weren’t flowing the way she’d hoped. She wished for the thousandth time that she could be a bit more like her mother. Everything Jocelyn Fray drew, painted, or sketched was beautiful, and seemingly effortless.

Clary pulled her headphones out—cutting off Stepping Razor in midsong—and rubbed her aching temples. It was only then that she became aware that the loud, piercing sound of a ringing telephone was echoing through the apartment. Tossing the sketchpad onto the bed, she jumped to her feet and ran into the living room, where the retro-red phone sat on a table near the front door.

“Is this Clarissa Fray?” The voice on the other end of the phone sounded familiar, though not immediately identifiable.

Clary twirled the phone cord nervously around her finger. “Yeees?”

“Hi, I’m one of the knife-carrying hooligans you met last night in Pandemonium? I’m afraid I made a bad impression and was hoping you’d give me a chance to make it up to—”

“SIMON!” Clary held the phone away from her ear as he cracked up laughing. “That is so not funny!”

“Sure it is. You just don’t see the humor. ”

“Jerk. ” Clary sighed, leaning up against the wall. “You wouldn’t be laughing if you’d been here when I got home last night. ”

“Why not?”

“My mom. She wasn’t happy that we were late. She freaked out. It was messy. ”

“What? It’s not our fault there was traffic!” Simon protested. He was the youngest of three children and had a finely honed sense of familial injustice.

“Yeah, well, she doesn’t see it that way. I disappointed her, I let her down, I made her worry, blah blah blah. I am the bane of her existence,” Clary said, mimicking her mother’s precise phrasing with only a slight twinge of guilt.

“So, are you grounded?” Simon asked, a little too loudly. Clary could hear a low rumble of voices behind him: people talking over each other.

“I don’t know yet,” she said. “My mom went out this morning with Luke, and they’re not back yet. Where are you, anyway? Eric’s?”

“Yeah. We just finished up practice. ” A cymbal clashed behind Simon. Clary winced. “Eric’s doing a poetry reading over at Java Jones tonight,” Simon went on, naming a coffee shop around the corner from Clary’s that sometimes had live music at night. “The whole band’s going to go to show their support. Want to come?”

“Yeah, all right. ” Clary paused, tugging on the phone cord anxiously. “Wait, no. ”

“Shut up, guys, will you?” Simon yelled, the faintness of his voice making Clary suspect that he was holding the phone away from his mouth. He was back a second later, sounding troubled. “Was that a yes or a no?”

“I don’t know. ” Clary bit her lip. “My mom’s still mad at me about last night. I’m not sure I want to piss her off by asking for any favors. If I’m going to get in trouble, I don’t want it to be on account of Eric’s lousy poetry. ”

“Come on, it’s not so bad,” Simon said. Eric was his next-door neighbor, and the two had known each other most of their lives. They weren’t close the way Simon and Clary were, but they had formed a rock band together at the start of sophomore year, along with Eric’s friends Matt and Kirk. They practiced together faithfully in Eric’s parents’ garage every week. “Besides, it’s not a favor,” Simon added, “it’s a poetry slam around the block from your house. It’s not like I’m inviting you to some orgy in Hoboken. Your mom can come along if she wants. ”

“ORGY IN HOBOKEN!” Clary heard someone, probably Eric, yell. Another cymbal crashed. She imagined her mother listening to Eric read his poetry, and she shuddered inwardly.

“I don’t know. If all of you show up here, I think she’ll freak. ”

“Then I’ll come alone. I’ll pick you up and we can walk over there together, meet the rest of them there. Your mom won’t mind. She loves me. ”

Clary had to laugh. “Sign of her questionable taste, if you ask me. ”

“Nobody did. ” Simon clicked off, amid shouts from his bandmates.

Clary hung up the phone and glanced around the living room. Evidence of her mother’s artistic tendencies was everywhere, from the handmade velvet throw pillows piled on the dark red sofa to the walls hung with Jocelyn’s paintings, carefully framed—landscapes, mostly: the winding streets of downtown Manhattan lit with golden light; scenes of Prospect Park in winter, the gray ponds edged with lacelike films of white ice.

On the mantel over the fireplace was a framed photo of Clary’s father. A thoughtful-looking fair man in military dress, his eyes bore the telltale traces of laugh lines at the corners. He’d been a decorated soldier serving overseas. Jocelyn had some of his medals in a small box by her bed. Not that the medals had done anyone any good when Jonathan Clark had crashed his car into a tree just outside Albany and died before his daughter was even born.

Jocelyn had gone back to using her maiden name after he died. She never talked about Clary’s father, but she kept the box engraved with his initials, J. C. , next to her bed. Along with the medals were one or two photos, a wedding ring, and a single lock of blond hair. Sometimes Jocelyn took the box out and opened it and held the lock of hair very gently in her hands before putting it back and carefully locking the box up again.

The sound of the key turning in the front door roused Clary out of her reverie. Hastily she threw herself down on the couch and tried to look as if she were immersed in one of the paperbacks her mother had left stacked on the end table. Jocelyn recognized reading as a sacred pastime and usually wouldn’t interrupt Clary in the middle of a book, even to yell at her.

The door opened with a thump. It was Luke, his arms full of what looked like big square pieces of pasteboard. When he set them down, Clary saw that they were cardboard boxes, folded flat. He straightened up and turned to her with a smile.

“Hey, Un—hey, Luke,” she said. He’d asked her to stop calling him Uncle Luke about a year ago, claiming that it made him feel old, and anyway reminded him of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Besides, he’d reminded her gently, he wasn’t really her uncle, just a close friend of her mother’s who’d known her all her life. “Where’s Mom?”

“Parking the truck,” he said, straightening his lanky frame with a groan. He was dressed in his usual uniform: old jeans, a flannel shirt, and a bent pair of gold-rimmed spectacles that sat askew on the bridge of his nose. “Remind me again why this building has no service elevator?”

“Because it’s old, and has character,” Clary said immediately. Luke grinned. “What are the boxes for?” she asked.

His grin vanished. “Your mother wanted to pack up some things,” he said, avoiding her gaze.

“What things?” Clary asked.

He gave an airy wave. “Extra stuff lying around the house. Getting in the way. You know she never throws anything out. So what are you up to? Studying?” He plucked the book out of her hand and read out loud: “‘The world still teems with those motley beings whom a more sober philosophy has discarded. Fairies and goblins, ghosts and demons, still hover about—’” He lowered the book and looked at her over his glasses. “Is this for school?”

“The Golden Bough? No. School’s not for a few weeks. ” Clary took the book back from him. “It’s my mom’s. ”

“I had a feeling. ”

She dropped it back on the table. “Luke?”

“Uh-huh?” The book already forgotten, he was rummaging in the tool kit next to the hearth. “Ah, here it is. ” He pulled out an orange plastic tape gun and gazed at it with deep satisfaction.

“What would you do if you saw something nobody else could see?”

The tape gun fell out of Luke’s hand, and hit the tiled hearth. He knelt to pick it up, not looking at her. “You mean if I were the only witness to a crime, that sort of thing?”

“No. I mean, if there were other people around, but you were the only one who could see something. As if it were invisible to everyone but you. ”

He hesitated, still kneeling, the dented tape gun gripped in his hand.

“I know it sounds crazy,” Clary ventured nervously, “but …”

He turned around. His eyes, very blue behind the glasses, rested on her with a look of firm affection. “Clary, you’re an artist, like your mother. That means you see the world in ways that other people don’t. It’s your gift, to see the beauty and the horror in ordinary things. It doesn’t make you crazy—just different. There’s nothing wrong with being different. ”

Clary pulled her legs up, and rested her chin on her knees. In her mind’s eye she saw the storage room, Isabelle’s gold whip, the blue-haired boy convulsing in his death spasms, and Jace’s tawny eyes. Beauty and horror. She said, “If my dad had lived, do you think he’d have been an artist too?”

Luke looked taken aback. Before he could answer her, the door swung open and Clary’s mother stalked into the room, her boot heels clacking on the polished wooden floor. She handed Luke a set of jingling car keys and turned to look at her daughter.

Jocelyn Fray was a slim, compact woman, her hair a few shades darker than Clary’s and twice as long. At the moment it was twisted up in a dark red knot, stuck through with a graphite pen to hold it in place. She wore paint-spattered overalls over a lavender T-shirt, and brown hiking boots whose soles were caked with oil paint.

People always told Clary that she looked like her mother, but she couldn’t see it herself. The only thing that was similar about them was their figures: They were both slender, with small chests and narrow hips. She knew she wasn’t beautiful like her mother was. To be beautiful you had to be willowy and tall. When you were as short as Clary was, just over five feet, you were cute. Not pretty or beautiful, but cute. Throw in carroty hair and a face full of freckles, and she was a Raggedy Ann to her mother’s Barbie doll.

Jocelyn even had a graceful way of walking that made people turn their heads to watch her go by. Clary, by contrast, was always tripping over her feet. The only time people turned to watch her go by was when she hurtled past them as she fell downstairs.

“Thanks for bringing the boxes up,” Clary’s mother said to Luke, and smiled at him. He didn’t return the smile. Clary’s stomach did an uneasy flip. Clearly there was something going on. “Sorry it took me so long to find a space. There must be a million people at the park today—”

“Mom?” Clary interrupted. “What are the boxes for?”

Jocelyn bit her lip. Luke flicked his eyes toward Clary, mutely urging Jocelyn forward. With a nervous twitch of her wrist, Jocelyn pushed a dangling lock of hair behind her ear and went to join her daughter on the couch.

Up close Clary could see how tired her mother looked. There were dark half-moons under her eyes, and her lids were pearly with sleeplessness.

“Is this about last night?” Clary asked.

“No,” her mother said quickly, and then hesitated. “Maybe a little. You shouldn’t have done what you did last night. You know better. ”

“And I already apologized. What is this about? If you’re grounding me, get it over with. ”

“I’m not,” said her mother, “grounding you. ” Her voice was as taut as a wire. She glanced at Luke, who shook his head.

“Just tell her, Jocelyn,” he said.

“Could you not talk about me like I’m not here?” Clary said angrily. “And what do you mean, ‘tell me’? Tell me what?”

Jocelyn expelled a sigh. “We’re going on vacation. ”

Luke’s expression went blank, like a canvas wiped clean of paint.

Clary shook her head. “That’s what this is about? You’re going on vacation?” She sank back against the cushions. “I don’t get it. Why the big production?”

“I don’t think you understand. I meant we’re all going on vacation. The three of us—you, me, and Luke. We’re going to the farmhouse. ”

“Oh. ” Clary glanced at Luke, but he had his arms crossed over his chest and was staring out the window, his jaw pulled tight. She wondered what was upsetting him. He loved the old farmhouse in upstate New York—he’d bought and restored it himself ten years before, and he went there whenever he could. “For how long?”

“For the rest of the summer,” said Jocelyn. “I brought the boxes in case you want to pack up any books, painting supplies—”

“For the rest of the summer?” Clary sat upright with indignation. “I can’t do that, Mom. I have plans—simon and I were going to have a back-to-school party, and I’ve got a bunch of meetings with my art group, and ten more classes at Tisch—”

“I’m sorry about Tisch. But the other things can be canceled. Simon will understand, and so will your art group. ”

Clary heard the implacability in her mother’s tone and realized she was serious. “But I paid for those art classes! I saved up all year! You promised. ” She whirled, turning to Luke. “Tell her! Tell her it isn’t fair!”

Luke didn’t look away from the window, though a muscle jumped in his cheek. “She’s your mother. It’s her decision to make. ”

“I don’t get it. ” Clary turned back to her mother. “Why?”

“I have to get away, Clary,” Jocelyn said, the corners of her mouth trembling. “I need the peace, the quiet, to paint. And money is tight right now—”

“So sell some more of Dad’s stocks,” Clary said angrily. “That’s what you usually do, isn’t it?”

Jocelyn recoiled. “That’s hardly fair. ”

“Look, go if you want to go. I don’t care. I’ll stay here without you. I can work; I can get a job at Starbucks or something. Simon said they’re always hiring. I’m old enough to take care of myself—”

“No!” The sharpness in Jocelyn’s voice made Clary jump. “I’ll pay you back for the art classes, Clary. But you are coming with us. It isn’t optional. You’re too young to stay here on your own. Something could happen. ”

“Like what? What could happen?” Clary demanded.

There was a crash. She turned in surprise to find that Luke had knocked over one of the framed pictures leaning against the wall. Looking distinctly upset, he set it back. When he straightened, his mouth was set in a grim line. “I’m leaving. ”

Jocelyn bit her lip. “Wait. ” She hurried after him into the entryway, catching up just as he seized the doorknob. Twisting around on the sofa, Clary could just overhear her mother’s urgent whisper. “…Bane,” Jocelyn was saying. “I’ve been calling him and calling him for the past three weeks. His voice mail says he’s in Tanzania. What am I supposed to do?”

“Jocelyn. ” Luke shook his head. “You can’t keep going to him forever. ”

“But Clary—”

“Isn’t Jonathan,” Luke hissed. “You’ve never been the same since it happened, but Clary isn’t Jonathan. ”

What does my father have to do with this? Clary thought, bewildered.

“I can’t just keep her at home, not let her go out. She won’t put up with it. ”

“Of course she won’t!” Luke sounded really angry. “She’s not a pet, she’s a teenager. Almost an adult. ”

“If we were out of the city …”

“Talk to her, Jocelyn. ” Luke’s voice was firm. “I mean it. ” He reached for the doorknob.

The door flew open. Jocelyn gave a little scream.

“Jesus!” Luke exclaimed.

“Actually, it’s just me,” said Simon. “Although I’ve been told the resemblance is startling. ” He waved at Clary from the doorway. “You ready?”

Jocelyn took her hand away from her mouth. “Simon, were you eavesdropping?”

Simon blinked. “No, I just got here. ” He looked from Jocelyn’s pale face to Luke’s grim one. “Is something wrong? Should I go?”

“Don’t bother,” Luke said. “I think we’re done here. ” He pushed past Simon, thudding down the stairs at a rapid pace. Downstairs, the front door slammed shut.

Simon hovered in the doorway, looking uncertain. “I can come back later,” he said. “Really. It wouldn’t be a problem. ”

“That might—” Jocelyn began, but Clary was already on her feet.

“Forget it, Simon. We’re leaving,” she said, grabbing her messenger bag from a hook near the door. She slung it over her shoulder, glaring at her mother. “See you later, Mom. ”

Jocelyn bit her lip. “Clary, don’t you think we should talk about this?”

“We’ll have plenty of time to talk while we’re on ‘vacation,’” Clary said venomously, and had the satisfaction of seeing her mother flinch. “Don’t wait up,” she added, and, grabbing Simon’s arm, she half-dragged him out the front door.

He dug his heels in, looking apologetically over his shoulder at Clary’s mother, who stood small and forlorn in the entryway, her hands knitted tightly together. “Bye, Mrs. Fray!” he called. “Have a nice evening!”

“Oh, shut up, Simon,” Clary snapped, and slammed the door behind them, cutting off her mother’s reply.

“Jesus, woman, don’t rip my arm off,” Simon protested as Clary hauled him downstairs after her, her green Skechers slapping against the wooden stairs with every angry step. She glanced up, half-expecting to see her mother glaring down from the landing, but the apartment door stayed shut.

“Sorry,” Clary muttered, letting go of his wrist. She paused at the foot of the stairs, her messenger bag banging against her hip.

Clary’s brownstone, like most in Park Slope, had once been the single residence of a wealthy family. Shades of its former grandeur were still evident in the curving staircase, the chipped marble entryway floor, and the wide single-paned skylight overhead. Now the house was split into separate apartments, and Clary and her mother shared the three-floor building with a downstairs tenant, an elderly woman who ran a psychic’s shop out of her apartment. She hardly ever came out of it, though customer visits were infrequent. A gold plaque fixed to the door proclaimed her to be MADAME DOROTHEA, SEERESS AND PROPHETESS.

The thick sweet scent of incense spilled from the half-open door into the foyer. Clary could hear a low murmur of voices.

“Nice to see she’s doing a booming business,” Simon said. “It’s hard to get steady prophet work these days. ”

“Do you have to be sarcastic about everything?” Clary snapped.

Simon blinked, clearly taken aback. “I thought you liked it when I was witty and ironic. ”

Clary was about to reply when the door to Madame Dorothea’s swung fully open and a man stepped out. He was tall, with maple-syrup-colored skin, gold-green eyes like a cat’s, and tangled black hair. He grinned at her blindingly, showing sharp white teeth.

A wave of dizziness came over her, the strong sensation that she was going to faint.

Simon glanced at her uneasily. “Are you all right? You look like you’re going to pass out. ”

She blinked at him. “What? No, I’m fine. ”

He didn’t seem to want to let it drop. “You look like you just saw a ghost. ”

She shook her head. The memory of having seen something teased her, but when she tried to concentrate, it slid away like water. “Nothing. I thought I saw Dorothea’s cat, but I guess it was just a trick of the light. ” Simon stared at her. “I haven’t eaten anything since yesterday,” she added defensively. “I guess I’m a little out of it. ”

He slid a comforting arm around her shoulders. “Come on, I’ll buy you some food. ”

“I just can’t believe she’s being like this,” Clary said for the fourth time, chasing a stray bit of guacamole around her plate with the tip of a nacho. They were at a neighborhood Mexican joint, a hole in the wall called Nacho Mama. “Like grounding me every other week wasn’t bad enough. Now I’m going to be exiled for the rest of the summer. ”

“Well, you know, your mom gets like this sometimes,” Simon said. “Like when she breathes in or out. ” He grinned at her around his veggie burrito.

“Oh, sure, act like it’s funny,” she said. “You’re not the one getting dragged off to the middle of nowhere for God knows how long—”

“Clary. ” Simon interrupted her tirade. “I’m not the one you’re mad at. Besides, it isn’t going to be permanent. ”

“How do you know that?”

“Well, because I know your mom,” Simon said, after a pause. “I mean, you and I have been friends for what, ten years now? I know she gets like this sometimes. She’ll think better of it. ”

Clary picked a hot pepper off her plate and nibbled the edge meditatively. “Do you, though?” she said. “Know her, I mean? I sometimes wonder if anyone does. ”

Simon blinked at her. “You lost me there. ”

Clary sucked in air to cool her burning mouth. “I mean, she never talks about herself. I don’t know anything about her early life, or her family, or much about how she met my dad. She doesn’t even have wedding photos. It’s like her life started when she had me. That’s what she always says when I ask her about it. ”

“Aw. ” Simon made a face at her. “That’s sweet. ”

“No, it isn’t. It’s weird. It’s weird that I don’t know anything about my grandparents. I mean, I know my dad’s parents weren’t very nice to her, but could they have been that bad? What kind of people don’t want to even meet their granddaughter?”

“Maybe she hates them. Maybe they were abusive or something,” Simon suggested. “She does have those scars. ”

Clary stared at him. “She has what?”

He swallowed a mouthful of burrito. “Those little thin scars. All over her back and her arms. I have seen your mother in a bathing suit, you know. ”

“I never noticed any scars,” Clary said decidedly. “I think you’re imagining things. ”

He stared at her, and seemed about to say something when her cell phone, buried in her messenger bag, began an insistent blaring. Clary fished it out, gazed at the numbers blinking on the screen, and scowled. “It’s my mom. ”

“I could tell from the look on your face. You going to talk to her?”

“Not right now,” Clary said, feeling the familiar bite of guilt in her stomach as the phone stopped ringing and voice mail picked up. “I don’t want to fight with her. ”

“You can always stay at my house,” Simon said. “For as long as you want. ”

“Well, we’ll see if she calms down first. ” Clary punched the voice mail button on her phone. Her mother’s voice sounded tense, but she was clearly trying for lightness. “Baby, I’m sorry if I sprang the vacation plan on you. Come on home and we’ll talk. ” Clary hung the phone up before the message ended, feeling even guiltier and still angry at the same time. “She wants to talk about it. ”

“Do you want to talk to her?”

“I don’t know. ” Clary rubbed the back of her hand across her eyes. “Are you still going to the poetry reading?”

“I promised I would. ”

Clary stood up, pushing her chair back. “Then I’ll go with you. I’ll call her when it’s over. ” The strap of her messenger bag slid down her arm. Simon pushed it back up absently, his fingers lingering at the bare skin of her shoulder.

The air outside was spongy with moisture, the humidity frizzing Clary’s hair and sticking Simon’s blue T-shirt to his back. “So, what’s up with the band?” she asked. “Anything new? There was a lot of yelling in the background when I talked to you earlier. ”

Simon’s face lit up. “Things are great,” he said. “Matt says he knows someone who could get us a gig at the Scrap Bar. We’re talking about names again too. ”

“Oh, yeah?” Clary hid a smile. Simon’s band never actually produced any music. Mostly they sat around in Simon’s living room, fighting about potential names and band logos. She sometimes wondered if any of them could actually play an instrument. “What’s on the table?”

“We’re choosing between Sea Vegetable Conspiracy and Rock Solid Panda. ”

Clary shook her head. “Those are both terrible. ”

“Eric suggested Lawn Chair Crisis. ”

“Maybe Eric should stick to gaming. ”

“But then we’d have to find a new drummer. ”

“Oh, is that what Eric does? I thought he just mooched money off you and went around telling girls at school that he was in a band in order to impress them. ”

“Not at all,” Simon said breezily. “Eric has turned over a new leaf. He has a girlfriend. They’ve been going out for three months. ”

“Practically married,” Clary said, stepping around a couple pushing a toddler in a stroller: a little girl with yellow plastic clips in her hair who was clutching a pixie doll with gold-streaked sapphire wings. Out of the corner of her eye Clary thought she saw the wings flutter. She turned her head hastily.

“Which means,” Simon continued, “that I am the last member of the band not to have a girlfriend. Which, you know, is the whole point of being in a band. To get girls. ”

“I thought it was all about the music. ” A man with a cane cut across her path, heading for Berkeley Street. She glanced away, afraid that if she looked at anyone for too long they would sprout wings, extra arms, or long forked tongues like snakes. “Who cares if you have a girlfriend, anyway?”

“I care,” Simon said gloomily. “Pretty soon the only people left without a girlfriend will be me and Wendell the school janitor. And he smells like Windex. ”

“At least you know he’s still available. ”

Simon glared. “Not funny, Fray. ”

“There’s always Sheila ‘The Thong’ Barbarino,” Clary suggested. Clary had sat behind her in math class in ninth grade. Every time Sheila had dropped her pencil—which had been often—Clary had been treated to the sight of Sheila’s underwear riding up above the waistband of her super-low-rise jeans.

“That is who Eric’s been dating for the past three months,” Simon said. “His advice, meanwhile, was that I ought to just decide which girl in school had the most rockin’ bod and ask her out on the first day of classes. ”

“Eric is a sexist pig,” Clary said, suddenly not wanting to know which girl in school Simon thought had the most rockin’ bod. “Maybe you should call the band the Sexist Pigs. ”

“It has a ring to it. ” Simon seemed unfazed. Clary made a face at him, her messenger bag vibrating as her phone blared. She fished it out of the zip pocket. “Is it your mom again?” he asked.

Clary nodded. She could see her mother in her mind’s eye, small and alone in the doorway of their apartment. Guilt unfurled in her chest.

She glanced up at Simon, who was looking at her, his eyes dark with concern. His face was so familiar she could have traced its lines in her sleep. She thought of the lonely weeks that stretched ahead without him, and shoved the phone back into her bag. “Come on,” she said. “We’re going to be late for the show.”

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