Home > Every Exquisite Thing (Ghosts of the Shadow Market #3)

Every Exquisite Thing (Ghosts of the Shadow Market #3)
Author: Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan

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 ill-fitting. 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 lady-killer 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.

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