The dark is the only thing that can make Nas cry, but when her mother finds a night light and sets it up, it only takes two weeks for tears to dry.
1. This room belongs to: Anastasia-MoonbloodEdit
"Close your eyes," a soft voice murmurs. The woman strokes a hand over her daughter's hair, and the child wriggles beneath the covers, squirming her toes right down to the bottom of the bed.
"Mummy," she says, a sob in her voice, "I don't want to close my eyes. It's dark, and there could be demons in here. I want to die with my eyes open - like Uncle Jace always says."
The girl's mother doesn't soothe her fears as other parents would have. She doesn't tell her daughter that there were no demons; that she shouldn't be scared. Of course not. Isabelle Lightwood doesn't lie to children, especially not her own child and, as she well knows, there are demons. Plenty of demons.
"They can't get into the Institute," she says instead. "You know that, sweet girl."
Anastasia-Moonblood (who was going through a bit of a name phase at the moment and refusing to let anyone call her anything that she hadn't approved) rolls on her side and clutches her mother's hand to her chest. She stares up at Isabelle, running her eyes over the black hair, the pale skin, the dark eyes. Mother and daughter share the same high cheekbones, fine nose, long lashes and full lips. The only difference is the bright sparkle in Anastasia-Moonblood's eyes - the palest silver, like no one else in the family.
"Why can't I stay in your room? I'll be good, Mummy, I promise."
Sometimes, Isabelle reflects, having children is heartbreaking. "You need to learn to sleep on your own," she says, with a sternness that she doesn't feel. "It's safe here. I'm right next door, and look, there's even a special secret door connecting our rooms." She points at the door in question. "See? And Jon and Merry are right next door on the other side, and Clary and Jace are just down the hall, and Alec is across the way and Lucy, Cas and Rye are four doors down." Why has everyone piled into the same wing when there is so much space in the Institute? Sometimes Isabelle longs for the privacy of her teenage years, but privacy is a thing of the past. She's known that ever since her toddler daughter started walking, and following her everywhere. Then it had been hard to find a moment to even go to the bathroom alone.
"Jon is a boy," Anastasia-Moonblood reflects, easily distracted. "I don't like boys, but Merry says I have to marry one. Do I, Mummy?"
"Not if you don't want to," Isabelle says automatically. She thinks about it a little more. "There are plenty of ways to enjoy boys without marrying them."
"Oh." The girl frowns. "I don't enjoy Jon. He is a poo."
Isabelle hides her grin behind her hand.
There is a quiet voice at the door, "Knock, knock," and Clary pokes her head into the room. "Hi, guys," she smiles. "Hi, Anastasia."
"Anastasia-Moonblood," the child corrects. "Hi, Auntie Clary. It's bedtime, did you know?"
"I did know," Clary agrees. "I just needed to borrow your mum for a minute. Is that all right?" she asks, addressing her question more to Isabelle than anyone.
Izzy shrugs. "Sure," she said, and levers herself to her feet. "I'll be right back, munchkin," she promises. "Don't go anywhere."
When Mummy leaves, Anastasia-Moonblood pulls the covers up over her head. She can't see under here. She can pretend it is a cave. Do demons live in caves? Maybe they do. Maybe Uncle Simon lives in caves too, and he can jump-jump-jump on their heads until they are dead. Does Jon jump-jump on heads? Anastasia-Moonblood doesn't think so. She should ask him sometime. Jon says that he was older than her, which meant he was wiser. What's wiser? Anastasia-Moonblood is smart, and she's faster than Jon. That's because she's a Lightwood, and he's a Herondale. Auntie Clary is smart, though, and Auntie Clary is Jon's mum, so maybe Jon is smart too. Or maybe Merry got all Auntie Clary's smarts and Jon is like Uncle Jace. He's a funny man. Jon is a funny boy.
Something grabs her foot, and Anastasia-Moonblood squeals and kicks out. Mummy pulls the covers away from her face, grinning and tickling. She presses their foreheads together. Anastasia-Moonblood looks into Mummy's eyes. They are dark, dark, dark, like the night time. Is night like eyes? Or are eyes like night? She doesn't know.
"I like your night eyes, Mummy."
"Thank you, baby," Mummy says, and she kisses Anastasia-Moonblood's nose. "I love your eyes all the time."
"My name is long," Anastasia-Moonblood reflects. "Uncle Simon says I need a nickname. What's a nickname?"
"It's like a short version of your name," Mummy explains.
A short name? Anastasia-Moonblood is a long name, but maybe she likes having a long name. Or maybe not, because it's hard to spell and sometimes she gets the S backwards. S is a hard letter. Jon can't do S either, but Merry can. Sometimes she shows off her S and then everyone gets to jump-jump-jump on her head. That is a lie.
"I have a short name?"
"Not now you don't, but you can have a nickname if you want, sweetie," Mummy says. She kisses Anastasia-Moonblood again and then goes for the door.
Oh but no! "Mummy wait, don't go!" Mummy needs to come back, but she isn't. She's going to leave Anastasia-Moonblood all alone!
"I'll turn on the light, ok? Then it won't be so dark in here." Mummy bends down to find the switch by the door, and then she turns it on and the room fills with a blue glow. It's safe, like under-the-waters. "Night night, sleep tight," Mummy says.
"I won't let the demons bite," Anastasia-Moonblood finishes, and then Mummy blows a kiss and she goes out the door and she shuts it behind her. Anastasia-Moonblood is alone. For a minute she thinks maybe she won't be scared tonight, but then there is a shadow by the window and it looks like it has claws and Anastasia-Moonblood yells for Mummy as loud as she can. Maybe she'll be brave tomorrow.
2. This room belongs to: AnastasiaEdit
Anastasia runs into the room and presses her body back against the wall, just behind the door. She waits, but she wants to giggle. No giggles! Giggles are not allowed. She plasters her hands across her mouth, one, two, and they hold back the giggle. The door crashes open (doors should not making crashing or smashing or bashing sounds, Auntie Clary says, and if the door is crashing then it is too hard) and Jon runs in. Anastasia holds her breath and waits. She's so still that she might almost be a statue. Jon is looking around, but he doesn't see the still still statue behind the door. He looks under the bed and in the cupboard (where Anastasia is sure there is a demon hiding, although he doesn't eat Jon so maybe not) but he doesn't look behind the door.
"Merry!" he hollers. Jon's voice is big just like Jon. He's seven, which means he's taller than her, and he has huge feet. His feet clomp around now, as he searches for his sister, but she's hiding too, and Jon won't find her. "Nina!" Oh. Well that trick might work.
Nina is only a baby, so she calls back to Jon. "Nina!" So now he knows where to find her, Anastasia thinks. One down, two to go. They haven't had breakfast yet, and her tummy is getting rumbly. Maybe it should be breakfast time? Jon charges out of the room to follow Nina's voice. She is still yelling her own name, which is a baby thing to do. Anastasia is not a baby.
Mummy comes in, and oh! She has breakfast on a plate and it smells goooooood, like waffles. Waffles are happy in Anastasia's tummy so she thinks she should come out and eat them. Will Jon find her?
"Anastasia-Moonblood?" Mummy says.
"Anastasia," she corrects. "It's my nickname that I'm trying out." She comes out from behind the door and holds both hands out for her waffles. "Breakfast?" Mummy sits on the bed, so Anastasia climbs up beside her. "Did Auntie Clary make these?" Better safe than sorry, that's what Uncle Jace always says. Mummy's cooking is bad news.
"Yes, so don't look so terrified. I'm not going to poison you." Mummy puts the plate on Anastasia's lap and kisses her forehead. Her hair is tangled and knots pull when Mummy runs her fingers through it.
"I'll brush it for you," Mummy says, and she gets off the bed to get the brush and then she comes back and sits behind Anastasia to brush her hair. Anastasia eats her waffles and lets her hair be brushed, even though it hurts in all her knots, because she knows Mummy will make her look pretty.
Merry comes in, and she wrinkles her nose. "What are you eating?"
"Waffles," Anastasia says happily, waving her fork in the air.
"What is she doing?"
"I'm doing hair," Mummy agrees. "You want me to do your hair too, Merry? Tell you what, maybe this evening we can play hairdressers, ok? It can be a girl's night, and Clary can come too, with Nina and Lucy."
"Not Nina," Merry says. "Nina's a baby. We will play this evening, Anastasia-Moonblood!"
"Anastasia," she corrects through a mouthful of waffles. "Just Anastasia now. It's my new nickname." She wonders how long it will take the others before they understand.
They all pile into Anastasia's room after dinner. Isabelle had to drag Clary along, but she's glad she did, because at least with the two of them here she doesn't feel so outnumbered. There are four little girls and only two adults here who actually know how to do hair (although considering one of the adults is Clary, maybe Isabelle is the only one with that knowledge) and it's probably going to be a mess. Her phone buzzes with a text, and she glances down to check automatically. It's from Simon.
<A girl's night in? Sounds like fun. Will there be pillowfights et al? Wish I could come.>
She writes back;
<Can't come unless you're a girl or you have an excess of hair.>
Simon texts a response almost immediately.
<I don't know, I think I could pull it off. A couple of pigtails, maybe a barrette...>
It actually makes Isabelle laugh out loud, and Clary turns around to stare at her.
"Simon," she says, as though the word itself is an explanation, and apparently it is, because Clary smiles knowingly and nods.
They've put the little girls in pyjamas, and now everyone settles on the floor, most of them cross-legged. Clary's flexibility doesn't quite reach the level of the rest of them, so she sticks her legs out in front and lets Nina clamber over them. The littlest girl is very short for her two years, and very clumsy. Her walking is still unsteady and her talking almost nonexistant, although no one can figure out why. She says her own name a lot, and that seems to be it.
"I will have a braid," Merry announces, "and then I will do Auntie Isabelle's hair, because her hair is pretty."
"I'm doing my own hair," Lucy says, with all the haughty arrogance of an eight-year-old. "You kids will just mess it up."
"I'll do Clary's hair, then," Isabelle offers, and sees Clary grin at her over a sea of tiny heads. Huge silver eyes smile up at Isabelle, and Anastasia scrambles into her lap, and Isabelle wonders how she became this person. This was never the future she imagined, not even for a second, but here she is, holding her daughter, teaching a bunch of children and her best friend how to plait hair, and it doesn't seem as wrong as it should. Then again, it isn't Isabelle who's changed her life dramatically. Clary was the one who gave up demon hunting while the children were small, happy to stay at home and look after them. It's not as if she's a housewife, because she trains as hard as the rest of them and works with the kids, too - it's more as though they all agreed that someone needed to stay out of danger. No point bringing children into the world if you intend to orphan them.
Following that logic, maybe Izzy should be more careful, because Anastasia doesn't have a father. She can't bring herself to stay home, though. The danger is a part of her life, and if she's honest with herself, she's a bit of an andrenaline junkie. She craves that moment of absolute power, that certainty that she feels when she's fighting with her whip and her stele at hand, and she knows beyond any shadow of doubt what to do next. Parenting is the opposite of that feeling. Parenting is like walking through a dark room, and having no idea how far along the floor extends. At any step, you could plunge into the abyss, but you keep stepping forwards anyway.
Simon texts again, pulling her out of her thoughts.
<Promise to video any pillowfights which may or may not occur?>
She smiles at the phone, and holds it tighter, wondering how it would feel if he was here. If he could stay here, sharing her room like Jace shares Clary's.
Clary is weaving Merry's hair into a tight braid, pulling the strands over and under. It's sloppy, and messy, and Izzy could do a better job, but Clary looks so proud that she doesn't say anything. She loops Anastasia's hair around and begins a waterfall braid, sweeping across the side of her daughter's head. Anastasia has thick, black hair just like her mother. Isabelle hasn't been able to bring herself to have it cut, either, so it falls almost to the girl's waist. Honestly? Izzy thinks her daughter looks like a princess. She's so proud of Anastasia so often - and not just because she's gorgeous on the outside, either. She's a sweet, kind, sensible girl. She won't be like her father.
"Love you," she says now, finishing the braid at the bottom and wrapping the rubber band around it. The braid cuts diagonally across the back of Anastasia's hair, with the cascade effect making it look very striking.
"Love you too, Mummy," the girl grins, putting her hand up to gently finger her hair. "Is it pretty?"
"Very," Isabelle assures her. "Look at Merry!"
"Ooh, I like it, Merry!" Anastasia compliments, reaching for Merry's bright hair. Clary smiles.
"No!" Nina announces when they reach for her, so she's left alone.
Merry crawls behind Isabelle and grabs her hair. "How do you braid?"
"Separate the hair into three sections," Isabelle recites dutifully. The little fingers tug and pull and she closes her eyes. She'll have to fix this later, of course, but right now? It feels great to have someone pampering her. It was worth it, Isabelle thinks, as the children chatter and Clary helps Lucy with the giant knot she seems to have tied her hair into. It was all worth it, every moment, because it led to this. She's so glad that she made the choice to keep Anastasia. She was so close to not doing it. It was all worth it, she thinks again, and relaxes with a happy sigh.