Once there was a boy,” said Jace.Clary interrupted immediately. “A Shadowhunter boy?”“Of course.” For a moment a bleak amusement colored his voice. Then it was gone. “When the boy was six years old, his father gave him a falcon to train. Falcons are raptors – killing birds, his father told him, the Shadowhunters of the sky.“The falcon didn’t like the boy, and the boy didn’t like it, either. Its sharp beak made him nervous, and its bright eyes always seemed to be watching him. It would slash at him with beak and talons when he came near: For weeks his wrists and hands were always bleeding. He didn’t know it, but his father had selected a falcon that had lived in the wild for over a year, and thus was nearly impossible to tame. But the boy tried, because his father told him to make the falcon obedient, and he wanted to please his father.“He stayed with the falcon constantly, keeping it awake by talking to it and even playing music to it, because a tired bird was meant to be easier to tame. He learned the equipment: the jesses, the hood, the brail, the leash that bound the bird to his wrist. He was meant to keep the falcon blind, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it – instead he tried to sit where the bird could see him as he touched and stroked its wings, willing it to trust him. Hee fed it from his hand, and at first it would not eat. Later it ate so savagely that its beak cut the skin of his palm. But the boy was glad, because it was progress, and because he wanted the bird to know him, even if the bird had to consume his blood to make that happen.“He began to see that the falcon was beautiful, that its slim wings were built for the speed of flight, that it was strong and swift, fierce and gentle. When it dived to the ground, it moved like likght. When it learned to circle and come to his wrist, he neary shouted with delight Sometimes the bird would hope to his shoulder and put its beak in his hair. He knew his falcon loved him, and when he was certain it was not just tamed but perfectly tamed, he went to his father and showed him what he had done, expecting him to be proud.“Instead his father took the bird, now tame and trusting, in his hands and broke its neck. ‘I told you to make it obedient,’ his father said, and dropped the falcon’s lifeless body to the ground. ‘Instead, you taught it to love you. Falcons are not meant to be loving pets: They are fierce and wild, savage and cruel. This bird was not tamed; it was broken.’“Later, when his father left him, the boy cried over his pet, until eventually his father sent a servant to take the body of the bird away and bury it. The boy never cried again, and he never forgot what he’d learned: that to love is to destroy, and that to be loved is to be the one destroyed.

~ Cassandra Clare

After seeing Dylan with the redhead, I sunk deeper into a depression. Even working at Lark’s house did nothing to distract me. I simply went through the motions. Fortunately, Lark was especially tired and slept most of the day, so she never noticed my bad mood. Harlow wasn’t as oblivious as we washed dishes after dinner. “What’s up, stinky pup?” I rolled my eyes at her nickname for me. “Nothing.” “She doesn’t want to deal with the leaves,” Jace said from behind us. Our ten year old brother crossed his arms like Dad often did when suspicious. “See, she got spooked last night and bailed on raking the leaves. They ended up blowing around the yard and now she’s trying to get out of raking them again.” “That’s not it.” “Sure, it is,” he said, his dark hair covering his narrowed eyes. “What else could it be?” Grumpy, I decided to punish him. “It’s about a sexy guy.” Jace’s face twisted into horror. “Eww!” he cried, running out of the room. Harlow and I laughed at the sound of him telling on me to Mom. “In a few years, girls will be all he thinks about,” I said, returning to the dishes. Harlow leaned her head against my shoulder. “Sexy guy, huh?” “Shouldn’t you be getting ready for your fight?” Harlow glanced at the clock. “Yeah. When I get back, I want to hear about the sexy guy making you sigh so much.” As my sister dressed to go, I finished the dishes and struggled to stop sighing. I was still grumpy when Dad got home. In this living room, he told Harlow to be careful. She said something and laughed. When Harlow started fighting at the Thunderdome, she called herself Joy and hid it from our parents. She didn’t think they’d approve and she was right. Harlow and I were naïve to assume they wouldn’t find out long before she told them the truth though. Dad might be a pastor, but he learned about the Lord in prison. As a member of the Reapers, Dad had eyes and ears all over Ellsberg. He likely knew Harlow was fighting before she threw her first punch. Entering the kitchen, Dad smiled at me. “Stop talking about cute boys around your brother. He has a sensitive gag reflex.” I laughed as he got himself a beer and joined me at the sink. “Mom said we have leftovers. Mind warming them up for me?” Shaking my head, I filled a plate and set it in the microwave. “Are you okay?” Dad asked, frowning at me. “You look worn down.” “I had a long day.” “You sure that’s it?” We watched each other and I remembered the first time he asked if I was okay. Five years earlier when I was brought to this house and met my new family. I didn’t remember a lot from that day besides thinking these people were too good to be true. I figured they’d wait until Kirk was gone then hurt me. I couldn’t remember when I knew Dad was a good man who loved me. Not like my real dad loved me. Tad felt the kind of love a person died to protect. I saw the love in his eyes as he waited for his food to finish warming. “I wish I was stronger.” “So do I,” he said softly. “Everyone does. They just don’t admit it. That’s what makes you so brave. You can admit your fears.” Even thinking he was full of shit, I smiled. “Thanks, Dad.” Taking his plate out of the microwave, he inhaled. “Mom makes the best meatloaf.” “I made it.” Grinning, Dad nudged me with his hip. “If you make this meatloaf for the boy you’re hung up on, you’ll own him.” “I’ll remember that.

~ Bijou Hunter