Every Exquisite Thing – Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson

This one was stained with something purple. This one had a hole in the sleeve. This one was missing a . back. An entire back. It was just a front of a shirt and two sleeves clinging on for dear life. “Christopher,” Anna said, turning the garment over in her hands, “how do you do these things?” Everyone had their small wonderland. For her brother Christopher and Uncle Henry, it was the laboratory. For Cousin James and Uncle Will, the library. For Lucie, her writing desk where she wrote her long adventures for Cordelia Carstairs. For Matthew Fairchild, it was any troublesome corner of London. For Anna Lightwood, it was her brother’s wardrobe. In many ways, it was very good to have a brother who was largely oblivious about his clothes.

Anna could have taken Christopher’s coat right off his back and he would hardly have noticed. The only downside was that Christopher’s clothes had suffered fates no clothes should suffer. They were dipped in acids, brushed by fire, poked with sharp objects, left out in the rain . His wardrobe was like a museum of experiment and disaster, tattered, stained, charred, and stinking of sulphur. To Anna, though, the clothes were still precious. Christopher was over visiting the Institute and Uncle Henry, so he would be gone for hours. Her mother and father were both out in the park with her baby brother, Alexander. This was her golden hour, and there was no time to waste. Christopher was taller than her now and growing all the time. This meant that his older trousers suited her frame. She chose a pair, found the least-damaged shirt, and a passable gray-striped waistcoat. She dug through the pile of ties, scarves, kerchiefs, cuffs, and collars that lay on the bottom of Christopher’s wardrobe and selected the most passable items.

On his dressing stand she found a hat that had a sandwich in it. It was ham, Anna noted, as she tipped it out and dusted out the crumbs. Once she had everything she needed, she bundled it all under her arm and slipped out into the hall, shutting his door quietly. Anna’s room was so different from her brother’s. Her walls were papered in a dusty rose. There was a white lace coverlet, a pink vase with lilacs next to her bed. Her cousin Lucie thought her bedroom quite charming. Anna had different tastes. Given her choice, the paper would be a rich, deep green, her decor black and gold. She would have a deep chaise longue on which she could read and smoke.

Still, she had a long dressing mirror, and that was all that mattered right now. (Christopher’s mirror had met its fate in an experiment in which he attempted to magnify the effect of glamours. It had not been replaced.) She drew the curtains against the warm summer sun and began to change. Anna had long foresworn wearing a corset—she had no interest in squeezing her internal organs into a lump or pushing her small bosom up. She slipped out of her tea gown, letting it drop to the floor. She kicked it away. Off went the stockings, down came the hair. The trousers were tucked in at the ankle to adjust for height. A few adjustments of the waistcoat hid the damage to the shirt.

She put one of his black ascots around her slender neck and tied it expertly. Then, she took the derby that had been hosting the ham sandwich and placed it on her head, tucking her black hair carefully up under it and arranging it until it appeared that her hair was shorn short. Anna stood before the mirror, examining the effect. The waistcoat flattened her chest a bit. She tugged it up and adjusted it until the fit was right. She rolled the legs of the trousers and knocked the hat down over her eye. There. Even in these clothes—stains and ham sandwiches and all—her confidence swelled. She was no longer a gangly girl who looked awkward in ribbons and flounces. Instead she looked elegant, her lean body complemented by more severe tailoring, the waistcoat nipping in her slim waist and flaring over her narrow hips.

Imagine what she could do with Matthew Fairchild’s wardrobe! He was a real peacock, with his colorful waistcoats and ties, and the beautiful suits. She walked back and forth a bit, tipping her hat to imaginary ladies. She bowed, pretending to be taking the hand of a fair maiden, keeping her eyes turned up. Always keep the fair maiden’s eye as you press your lips to her hand. “Enchanted,” she said to her imaginary lady. “Would you care for a dance?” The lady would be delighted to dance. Anna crooked her arm around the waist of her phantom beauty; she had danced with her many times. Though Anna could not see her face, she swore she could feel the fabric of her lover’s dress, the soft swooshing noise it made as it brushed the floor. The lady’s heart was fluttering as Anna pressed her hand. Her lady would wear a delicate scent.

Orange blossom, perhaps. Anna would press her face closer to the lady’s ear and whisper. “You are quite the most beautiful girl here,” Anna would say. The lady would blush and press closer. “How is it you look more lovely in every light?” Anna would go on. “The way the velvet of your dress crushes against your skin. The way your—” “Anna!” She dropped her airy companion to the floor in her surprise. “Anna!” her mother called again. “Where are you?” Anna hurried to her door and opened it just a crack. “Here!” she said in a panic.

“Can you come down, please?” “Of course,” Anna replied, already pulling at the ascot around her neck. “Coming!” Anna had to step right through her fallen dancing partner in her haste. Off with the waistcoat, the trousers. Everything off, off, off. She shoved the clothes into the bottom of her wardrobe. The discarded dress was hastily put back on, her fingers fumbling on the buttons. Everything about girls’ clothing was fussy and complicated. Several minutes later, she hurried downstairs, attempting to look composed. Her mother, Cecily Lightwood, was sifting through a stack of letters at her desk in the sitting room. “We ran into Inquisitor Bridgestock while we were walking,” she said.

“The Bridgestocks have just arrived from Idris. They’ve asked us to dine with them this evening.” “Dinner with the Inquisitor,” Anna said. “What a thrilling way to spend an evening.” “It is necessary,” her mother said simply. “We must go. Can you keep an eye on Christopher while we are talking? Make sure he doesn’t set anything on fire. Or anyone.” “Yes,” Anna said automatically, “of course.” It would be a dreadful affair.

Clave business accompanied by overcooked beef. There were so many other things she could be doing on a fine summer night in London. What if she could walk the streets, finely dressed, a beautiful girl on her arm? Someday, the lady would not be imaginary. The clothes would not be borrowed and illfitting. Someday she would stride down the street and women would fall at her feet (not failing to notice her perfectly polished brogues) and men would tip their hats to a ladykiller more accomplished than they. Just not tonight. It was still sunny when the Lightwood family got into their carriage that evening. There were costermongers out, and flower sellers, and bootblacks . and so many lovely girls, walking in their light summer dresses. Did they know how lovely they were? Did they look at Anna and see the way she looked at them? Her brother Christopher bumped gently against her as they rode.

“This seems like a long route to the Institute,” he noted. “We’re not going to the Institute,” Anna said. “Aren’t we?” “We’re having dinner with the Inquisitor,” her father said. “Oh,” Christopher said. And with that, he was off in his own thoughts, as ever— inventing something in his mind, working out a calculation. In this, Anna felt close to her brother. They were both somewhere else in their minds at all times. The Bridgestocks lived in Fitzrovia, just off of Cavendish Square. Theirs was a fine three-across townhouse. The paint on the shiny black door looked like it could have still been wet, and there were electric lights outside.

A servant showed them in to a dark and close reception room where the Inquisitor and his wife greeted them. They took little notice of Anna except to say what a charming young lady she was. She and Christopher sat politely on stiff chairs and added a decorative element to a dreary occasion. The dinner gong finally sounded, and everyone shuffled through to the dining room. Anna and Christopher were seated at the far end of the table, and there was an empty place set across from her. Anna ate her asparagus soup and stared at a painting of a ship on the wall. The ship was in the throes of a storm, the masts on fire, and on the verge of disintegrating into the sea. “Did you hear they are building a Portal in the Gard?” the Inquisitor asked Anna’s parents. “Oh dear,” Mrs. Bridgestock said, shaking her head, “is that a good idea? What if it were to let demons through?” Anna envied the ship in the painting and all who sank in her.

“Of course,” the Inquisitor droned on, “there’s also the matter of money. The Consul has rejected the proposal to create an official currency of Idris. A wise decision. Very wise. As I was saying earlier—” “I’m so sorry for my lateness,” said a voice. In the doorway of the dining room stood a girl, probably Anna’s age, in a midnight-blue dress. Her hair was jet black, like Anna’s, but fuller, more luxurious, deep as night sky against her soft brown skin. But what captured Anna were her eyes—eyes the color of topaz—large, the lashes thick. “Ah,” the Inquisitor said. “This is our daughter, Ariadne.

These are the Lightwoods.” “I was meeting my tutor,” Ariadne said as a servant pulled out her chair. “We were delayed. I do apologize. It sounds like I came in just as you were debating the new currency. Shadowhunters are an international group. We must blend seamlessly with many international economies. Having our own currency would be a disaster.” On that, she plucked up her napkin and turned to Anna and Christopher and smiled. “We have not met,” she said.

Anna had to force herself to swallow, then to breathe. Ariadne was something beyond the realm of humanity or Shadowhunter. The Angel himself must have made her. “Anna Lightwood,” Anna said. Christopher was pushing peas onto the back of his fork, unaware that a goddess had seated herself across from him. “And this is my brother Christopher. He can be a bit distracted.” She gave him a nudge. “Oh,” he said, noticing Ariadne. “I’m Christopher.

” Even Christopher, now that he had seen Ariadne, could not help but be mesmerized by her. He blinked, taking in the sight. “You’re . you’re not English, are you?” Anna died several deaths inside, but Ariadne simply laughed. “I was born in Bombay,” she said. “My parents ran the Bombay Institute until they were killed. I was adopted by the Bridgestocks in Idris.” She spoke very plainly, in the tone of someone who has long accepted a set of facts. “What killed your parents?” Christopher asked, conversationally. “A group of Vetis demons,” Ariadne said.

“Oh! I knew someone at the Academy that was killed by a Vetis demon!“ “Christopher,” Anna said. “You go to the Academy?” Ariadne asked. “Not anymore. I caused one of the wings to explode.” Christopher took a bread roll from a plate and happily began buttering it. Anna looked at the painting of the ship again, trying to will herself onto the deck and then into the black, pitiless waters. The most lovely girl in the world had just walked into her life and in thirty seconds her dear brother had managed to bring up the death of her family, a death at school, and the fact that he had blown up part of the Academy. But Ariadne was not looking at Christopher, even as he inadvertently placed his elbow into the butter dish. “Have you caused any explosions?” she asked Anna. “Not yet,” Anna replied.

“But the evening is young.” Ariadne laughed, and Anna’s soul sang. She reached over and lifted her brother’s elbow from the butter, never taking her gaze from Ariadne. Did she know how beautiful she was? Did she know her eyes were the color of liquid gold, and that songs could be written about the way she turned out her wrist to reach for her glass? Anna had seen beautiful girls before. She had even seen a few beautiful girls who looked at her the way she looked at them. But that was always in passing. They went by on the street, or their gaze lingered a bit long in a shop. Anna had practiced the art of the prolonged stare, the one that invited them: Come. Tell me of yourself. You are lovely.

There was something in the way Ariadne was looking at Anna that suggested . No. Anna had to be imagining it. Ariadne was being polite and attentive. She was not eyeing Anna romantically over the dinner table, over the roasted potatoes and the duck. Ariadne’s perfection had caused Anna to hallucinate. Ariadne continued to contribute to the conversation at the other end of the table. Anna had never been so interested in the economic policies of Idris. She would study them night and day if she could join Ariadne in discussing them. Every once in a while, Ariadne would turn back to Anna and look at her knowingly, her mouth twisting in a smile like a bow.

And each time this happened, Anna would wonder again what was happening, and why that particular look made the room spin. Maybe she was ill. Maybe she had developed a fever from looking at Ariadne. The pudding came and went, and Anna vaguely remembered eating it. As the dishes were cleared and the women stood to leave the table, Ariadne came and hooked her arm through Anna’s. “We have quite a good library,” she said to Anna. “Perhaps I could show it to you?” Anna, with a show of supreme self-control, did not immediately fall to the floor. She managed to say yes, the library, yes, she would love to see it, yes, library, yes, yes . She told herself to stop saying she wanted to see the library and looked over at her mother. Cecily smiled.

“Go on, Anna. Christopher, would you mind accompanying us to the greenhouse? Mrs. Bridgestock has a collection of poisonous plants that I think you will quite enjoy.” Anna cast Cecily a grateful look as Ariadne led her from the room. Her head was full of Ariadne’s orange-blossom perfume and the way her tumble of dark hair was pinned up in a gold comb. “It’s this way,” Ariadne said, leading Anna to a set of double doors toward the back of the house. The library was dark and had a chill. Ariadne released Anna’s arm and illuminated one of the electric lights. “You use electricity?” Anna said. She had to say something, and that was as good a thing as any.

“I convinced Father,” Ariadne said. “I am modern and possessed of all sorts of advanced notions.” The room was full of crates, and only some of the books had been unpacked and shelved. The furniture, however, had been placed. There was an ample desk, and many comfortable reading chairs. “We’re still settling in here,” Ariadne said, sitting herself prettily (she had no other way) on a deep red chair. Anna was too nervous to sit, and paced along the opposite side of the room. It was almost too much to look at Ariadne here in this dark, private place. “I understand your family has a very interesting history,” Ariadne said. Anna had to speak.

She had to figure out a way to be around Ariadne. In her mind she donned her real clothing—the trousers, the shirt (the mental one had no stains), the fitted waistcoat. She slipped her arms through the sleeves. Thus attired, she felt confident. She managed to sit opposite Ariadne and meet her gaze. “My grandfather was a worm, if that’s what you mean,” Anna said. Ariadne laughed aloud. “You didn’t like him?” “I didn’t know him,” Anna said. “He was, quite literally, a worm.” Clearly, Ariadne didn’t know that much about the Lightwoods.

Usually, when one’s demon-loving relative develops a serious case of demon pox and turns into a giant worm with massive teeth, word gets around. People will talk. “Yes,” Anna said, now examining the gilded edge of a writing desk. “He ate one of my uncles.” “You are funny,” Ariadne said to Anna. “I’m glad you think so,” Anna replied. “Your brother’s eyes are quite extraordinary,” Ariadne noted. Anna heard this a good deal. Christopher’s eyes were lavender in color. “Yes,” Anna said.

“He’s the good-looking one in the family.” “I quite disagree!” Ariadne exclaimed, looking surprised. “Gentlemen must compliment you all the time on the shade of your eyes.”

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