Tessa didn’t remember when she had fallen, only that her knees ached as the cold of the bathroom tiles seeped into her bones.
It wasn’t that she hadn’t thought about it. It was something she knew—something she had always known that she wanted and that she had wanted to give to Jem.
She had thought about it often, even more so recently. Jem was getting older and she knew better than most how time could get away from you if you weren’t careful. She just hadn’t expected it to happen without any preparation.
Her mind wondered to when she had found out about her Jamie. Little Lucie had been easier, no less frightening, but easier in that she could better deal with the fear. But now…
Was it wrong, she asked herself. Would they hate her for moving on and having more children? Would they think that they were only a passing moment? Would this little one think that?
Then a new vision entered her mind and it calmed her somehow. In it there was a little brown haired girl brutally debauching a note on a violin and Jem standing over her and adjusting her grip, the note coming out strangled still, but less so than before. Then a little boy flew into her mind, sitting in her lap with a child’s book and mispronouncing almost every word wrong while she gently corrected him and he would repeat the word wrongly a few more times before he got it right. She saw her and Jem and the little boy and girl sitting at a dinner table, smiling at one another and laughing at jokes that their family shared between only their selves.
It was as lovely as it was frightening.
“Tessa?” The voice was Jem’s. The crinkling sound of plastic bags altered her that he had been grocery shopping. She could see him in her mind’s eye with bags weighing him down, walking in the door to their little London apartment and kicking it shut behind him. Then she pictured it again, but this time she changed one detail. He still carried the bags, but this time there was a little child, pulling at all of them, trying to find something of theirs. “Tessa, I’m home,” he called out again.
She wanted to answer enthusiastically, to come out of the bathroom beaming like a soon-to-be-mother should be, to kiss him and tell him of a new someone who would share their future with them.
But that wasn’t what she did. Instead, her mind went to Will and James and Lucie. Would she be the same with her and Jem? When he aged and finally died—she shivered at the thought—would she run off and leave her child or her children like she did to Jamie and Lucie—visiting rarely, watching from afar and only knowing that they were gone from this world through the words of others?
She remembered Lucie, who had gone first. It had been two years after her death before Tessa had even found out. Once they had reached their sixties she had cut off all contact with them, knowing that their deaths would be soon.
She knew of James’s though. He had written her a letter just a few days before he had gone, one she still kept with her, though she rarely read it.She had memorized it, but somehow looking at the words, written in his handwriting that was aged with him. Shaky because his hand shook. He had been so old—seventy-seven, and she remembered wanting to pretend that the dried and crinkled droplets on it were from something other than his tears, though she knew that they were not.
He had written so many beautiful things—Will’s lovely way with words had been passed to their son. In the letter, he had expressed his wish to die. It had and still did make her heart ache. When she had gotten it, it had filled her with envy and empathy. Envy because he would find his peace, and empathy because he, just as she, had watched everyone he loved wither and die. He had watched his parabatai, his sister, his wife—but most of all she felt pain, because the letter was signed two months before she ever had the courage to open it, and she had known then that he was gone. Her golden-eyed baby boy was gone.
Would she feel the same pain she felt looking at the Herondale and the Blackthorn families when she looked her new baby’s family in the future when her own was all gone?
A cabinet banged in the kitchen.
Shakily standing up she took the pregnancy test and threw it in the trash, wrapping some toilet paper in her hand and throwing it over, though she doubted Jem would know what is was anyway. Then again, he had formed a certain affinity with modern soap operas, so she wasn’t taking any chances.
She walked into the kitchen, praying to the Angel that her hands weren’t still shaking. Jem was staring at the label of a can of something, brows furrowed and fully engrossed in whatever he was seeing. When she had first taken him grocery shopping, he had been surprised and delighted at all the things that you could buy canned. But that had gone out the window when he realized he couldn’t pronounce half of the ingredients.
She went up and wrapped her arms around his waist. “Hello,” she said, kissing his neck and leaning her head against his back. His sweater was soft and she felt herself close her eyes and lean into him even more. “You didn’t have to go to the store. I could have done it.”
He unwound her arms from around him and turned to face her, his face alight with gentle love. “It is my apology.” His hands were still wrapped around her wrists. He brought them back around his waist and then put his own around her and pulled her close so that they were chest to chest. “Since you are the only one who can cook, I decided that I would be the one to get the groceries.”
Her heart swelled with love. Even Jem, who was from a time when it was solely the woman’s job to take care of everything at the house, thought to help her out. Only her Jem would have listened to her when she made the comment that they were almost out of laundry detergent and go and buy some…
Her heart stopped as she gazed at the laundry detergent that he had purchased, sitting on the counter behind him in all of its accusatory wonders. It was a brand made specifically for infants and was meant to be gentle and non-allergenic.
“You bought detergent meant for a child?” It came out accusatory. Did he know? He couldn’t have, could he?
Jem looked bashfully at the blue bottle sitting on the counter. “I must have grabbed the wrong one,” he admitted with a shrug. It was the truth. Jem had always been a terrible liar when it came to her. “Sorry,” he ducked his head down. “Perhaps my trying to help is more of a burden for you than help if I can’t get the right things.”
Tessa immediately felt bad. She hadn’t meant for her words to come out like that. “Don’t be ridiculous Jem. We can use the detergent just the same. Besides,” she added, smiling at him warmly. “How do you know that I am the only one who can cook? Have you ever tried?”
At this, his face became very red and he ducked his head down even more. “No,” he said. There was that terrible liar.
“Oh, now you’ve got me interested.” She stood up on her tiptoes and kissed his chin lovingly. “I must hear about his.”
He smiled down at her. His face was still red but it had diminished a bit. He nuzzled her jaw, and she imagined that it was more to hide his embarrassment that it was anything else.
"I attempted to cook a meat loaf once while you were out with Catarina.” He leaned back up and bit his lip, scratching his neck. “Even Church would not eat it.”
Tessa giggled. “Well, I appreciate the thought.”
He grinned and his eyes crinkled at the corners. “I should probably put the milk up before it ruins.”
Tessa stepped back reluctantly and allowed him to grab the milk cartons and put them into the fridge. All the while she was eyeing the detergent.
“I can take it back you know,” Jem said seriously. He had stopped what he was doing and stood looking at her, a box of cereal in his hand. “It really isn’t a problem Tessa.”
“No,” she murmured. “No, that’s okay. Who knows, we might need it.” It had been a suggestive thing to say, and she carefully gauged his reaction. He only tilted his head to the side and furrowed his brows, sticking the cereal into the cabinet before turning around and grabbing some more groceries.
“Well, yes.” He put something else in the fridge. “I know that. I doubt you’d be able to stand me if I did not use soap. You might still smell okay, but I would not. What I mean to say is that while we will certainly need it, it doesn’t have to be that specific brand meant for infants. I can go and get another brand.”
She cleared her throat. Her palms felt slick. “What I mean to say,” she spoke and was surprised that her voice wasn’t shaky, “is that we might well need that brand.”
Jem had stopped what he was doing and had leaned back against the counter top. He was truly confused.
It was in that moment that Tessa realized that of course, he wouldn’t have any idea what she was talking about, and for not the first time in her life, she felt pity for him.
He had been so young when he had been told he was dying. At just eleven he would have never thought about having children, and after that, he had been sick and dying and still could not have thought about it. Even after he had been freed from the brotherhood and had been with her for almost five years he did not consider it because it was always so far away—so impossible for him.
“Tessa, why would we need a brand designed for infants?” he asked, looking at her strangely. He looked like she had lost her mind and then, all of the sudden his eyebrows shot up and she thought, he has finally realized. But that was not so. “Are you allergic to the other detergent?” he asked.
It was such a very bizarre thing to say that she might have laughed had she not been so sad that that was the first conclusion he could come to. It seemed more realistic to him that she had been hiding an allergy towards their laundry detergent for five years than it was that she could have been talking about a child.
She walked up and to him, close but not touching.
“We might not need it,” she told him. She looked down at the musician’s hand that hung at his side, and reached out, grabbing it loosely. He watched her downturned eyes. “But someone else might.”
She didn’t dare look him in his face, but his chest seemed to rise and fall faster and his hand tightened in hers.
“Who?” His voiced cracked and he cleared it. “Who might need it?”
“A baby?” she shrugged and then added a soft, “perhaps”.
It was whispered so softly that she didn’t know if he heard until he asked, “A baby?” He still held her hand in his but it had stiffened. His voice had risen an octave. “Where would we get a baby?”
A nervous giggle left her mouth and before she could stop it, it had turned into a full tide of nervous laughter that she couldn’t get to stop. When she finally, did her eyes were full of tears that she knew were not from the laughter. One rolled down her cheek unchecked. “You don’t know what it is we’ve been doing all this time? I assumed you realized that that might result in one.” One—a baby, but if hung between them unsaid.
He had been staring at their joined hands and now he looked up at her through dark lashes. A darkness that she had to become accustomed to after so long of silver—after so long of closed eyes, though they were never unseeing. “You want to have a baby?” he whispered. He was breathing so fast now. He dropped her hand but quickly moved it to cup her cheeks. He was so close and his breath fell against her lips in short, warm bursts. “You want to have a baby with me?” His eyes were wide with wonder and something that looked like… hope. “Tessa, I—” he broke off looking flustered and shaking his head in amazement. “I had never even considered. It—the thought. It was always so far away—impossible. It has never been an option for me. And I did not know if you wanted to—not after…” James and Lucie. The words were unspoken between them. He above all knew the pain that came with losing her children. The unnatural deep ache of not going before them. “Tessa?” his voice broke and he looked at her with wide eyes that held such hope and happiness and fear that she was forced to look away. “Do you want to have a baby?”
She gave him a crooked smile. “Actually,” another tear broke free from her eye and rolled down a path beside where the other one had. “I already do.”
She gently took one of his hands off her face and brought it down to where she rested it against her stomach. His eyes remained on her face for a moment before they followed the trail of his hand.
She was not showing yet and her stomach was as flat as it had always been, but something about the gesture must have done something to Jem.
“Oh God.” It was somewhere between a choke and a sob as he fell to his knees, burying his face against her stomach and holding her against him. She kept her eyes up, stroking his silky hair. Though it had changed colors, it had never lost is texture. It still felt like pinfeathers between her finger.
Something about it all, the way he grasped at her as if she was his living and breathing salvation, the way his hands gripped at her back almost painfully, how she could feel his sobbing breaths through her clothing—and she remembered the night he had proposed to her. The heartbreaking proposal of a man who knew he could only offer her nothing but himself and a short time but promised to give everything of himself in that time. The disbelief in his silver eyes when she had said yes—everything was so similar to that night that she could not help but fall down in front of his and bury her face against his neck so tightly that she could taste her own salty tears against his skin.
And there was no thought about the future or the past, about James and Lucie or Will, or the inevitability of how she would be forced to watch the man in her arms and the child in herself age and die. It was just Jem and Tessa and the one new addition to their strange little family.