Lady Midnight
Page 26

 Cassandra Clare

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At the time Emma hadn’t been able to figure out why a Silent Brother, even a former Silent Brother, had wanted her to take care of his cat. She’d called Clary, who’d said that the cat had once lived at the New York Institute but did truly belong to Brother Zachariah, and if Emma and Julian wanted the cat they should keep him.
His name was Church, she said.
Church turned out to be the kind of cat who didn’t stay where he was put. He was endlessly escaping out open windows and disappearing for days or even weeks. At first Emma had been frantic every time he left, but he always came back looking sleeker and more self-satisfied than ever. When Emma turned fourteen, he’d begun to come back with presents for her tied to his collar: shells and pieces of sea glass. Emma had put the shells on her windowsill. The sea glass had become Julian’s good-luck bracelet.
By then, Emma knew the presents were from Jem, but she had no way of reaching him to thank him. So she did her best to take care of Church. There was always dry cat food left out for Church in the entryway, and clean drinking water. They were happy to see him when he showed up, and not worried when he didn’t.
Church meowed and scraped at the door. Emma was used to this: It meant he wanted her to follow him. With a sigh she pulled on a sweater over her leggings and tank top and shoved her feet into flip-flops.
“This better be good,” she told Church, grabbing up her stele. “Or I’ll make you into a tennis racket.”
Church didn’t appear worried. He led Emma through the hall, down the stairs, and out the front door. The moon was high and bright, reflecting off the water in the distance. It made a path that Emma wandered toward, bemused, as Church kept up his trotting. She scooped him up as they crossed the highway, and deposited him on the beach when they reached the other side.
“Well, we’re here,” she said. “The world’s biggest litter box.”
Church gave her a look that suggested he wasn’t impressed with her wit, and sauntered toward the shoreline. They wandered along the edge of the water together. It was a peaceful night, the surf slow and shallow, quieter than the wind. Occasionally Church would make a run for a sand crab, but he always came back, trotting just ahead of Emma, toward the northern constellations. Emma was starting to wonder if he was actually leading her anywhere at all when she realized that they’d rounded the curve of rocks that hid her and Julian’s secret beach, and that the beach wasn’t uninhabited.
She slowed down. The sand was lit up with moonlight, and Julian was sitting in the middle of it, well up from the shoreline. She went toward him, her feet silent on the sand. He didn’t look up.
She rarely had a chance to look at Julian when he didn’t know she was watching. It felt strange, even a little unnerving. The moon was bright enough that she could see the color of his T-shirt—red—and that he was wearing old blue jeans, and that his feet were bare. His bracelet of sea glass seemed to glow. She rarely wished that she could draw, but she did now, just so that she could draw the way he was all one perfect single line, from the angle of his bent leg to the curve of his back as he leaned forward.
Only a few feet from him, she stopped. “Jules?”
He looked up. He didn’t seem the least bit startled. “Was that Church?”
Emma glanced around. It took her a moment before she located the cat, perched on top of a rock. He was licking his paw. “He came back,” she said, sitting down on the sand next to Jules. “You know, for a visit.”
“I saw you coming around the rocks.” He gave her a half smile. “I thought I was dreaming.”
“Couldn’t sleep?”
He rubbed the back of his hand across his eyes. His knuckles were splattered with paint. “You could say that.” He shook his head. “Weird nightmares. Demons, faeries—”
“Pretty standard Shadowhunter stuff,” Emma pointed out. “I mean, that just sounds like a Tuesday.”
“Helpful, Emma.” He flopped back down on the sand, his hair making a dark halo around his head.
“I’m all about being helpful.” She flopped down next to him, looking up at the sky. Light pollution from Los Angeles spilled out to the beach, too, and the stars were dim but visible. The moon moved in and out behind clouds. A strange sense of peace had fallen over Emma, a sense that she was where she belonged. She hadn’t felt it since Julian and the others had left for England.
“I was thinking about what you said earlier,” he said. “About all the dead ends. All the times we’ve thought we found something that pointed toward what happened to your parents, but it was nothing.”
She looked toward him. The moonlight made his profile sharp.
“I was thinking maybe there was a meaning to it,” he said. “That maybe finding out who it was had to wait until now. Until you were ready. I’ve watched you train, I’ve watched you get better. And better. Whoever it is, whatever it is, you’re ready now. You can face it down. You can win.”
Something fluttered under Emma’s rib cage. Familiarity, she thought. This was Jules, the Jules she knew, who had more faith in her than she had in herself.
“I like to think things have a point,” she said softly.
“They do.” He paused for a moment, eyes on the sky. “I’ve been counting stars. Sometimes I think it helps to set yourself a pointless task.”
“Remember, when we were younger, we used to talk about running away? Navigating by the North Star?” she said. “Before the war.”
He folded his arm behind his head. Moonlight spilled down, illuminating his eyelashes. “Right. I was going to run off, join the French Foreign Legion. Rename myself Julien.”
“Because no one was ever going to crack that code.” She tipped her head to the side. “Jules. What’s bothering you? I know something is.”
He was silent. Emma could see his chest rising and falling slowly. The sound of his breath was drowned out by the sound of the water.
She reached over and laid her hand against his arm, her finger tracing lightly down the skin. W-H-A-T I-S I-T?
He turned his face away from hers; she saw him shudder, as if a chill had passed over him. “It’s Mark.”
Julian was still looking away from her; she could see only the curve of his throat and chin. “Mark?”
“I’ve been thinking about him,” Julian said. “More than usual. I mean, Helen is always there for me on the other end of the phone if I need her, even if she’s on Wrangel Island. But Mark might as well have died.”
Emma sat up straight. “Don’t say that. He’s not dead.”
“I know. You know how I know?” Jules asked, his voice tightening. “I used to look for the Wild Hunt every night. But they never come. Statistically, they should have ridden by here at least once in the past five years. But they never have. I think Mark won’t let them.”
“Why not?” Emma was staring at him now. Jules hardly ever talked like this. Not with this bitterness in his voice.
“Because he doesn’t want to see us. Any sign of us.”
“Because he loves you?”
“Or because he hates us. I don’t know.” Julian dug restlessly at the sand. “I’d hate us, if I was him. I hate him, sometimes.”