Tied to the branches of the tree-and dangling from sconces, from the candelabras on tables, the knobs of doors-were crystalline glittering runes, each one as clear as glass yet refracting light, throwing glimmering rainbows through the room. The walls were decorated with intertwined wreaths of holly and ivy, the red berries glowing against the green leaves. Here and there were white-berried sprigs of mistletoe. There was even one tied to the collar of Church, who was hovering under one of the Christmas tables and looking furious.
Tessa didn’t think she had ever seen so much food. The tables were laden with carved chicken and turkey, game birds and hare, Christmas hams and pies, wafer-thin sandwiches, ices and trifles and blancmanges and cream puddings, jewel-colored jellies, tipsy-cake and Christmas puddings flamed with brandy, iced sherbet, mulled wine and great silver bowls containing Bishop Christmas punch. There were horns of plenty spilling treats and candies, and Saint Nicholas’s bags, each containing a lump of coal, a bit of sugar, or a lemon drop, to tell the receiver whether their behavior that year had been mischievous, sweet, or sour. There had been tea and presents earlier just for the inhabitants of the Institute, the group of them exchanging their gifts before the guests arrived-Charlotte, balanced on Henry’s lap as he sat in his rolling chair, opening gift after gift for the baby due to arrive in April. (Whose name, it had been decided, was going to be Charles. "Charles Fairchild," Charlotte had said proudly, holding up the small blanket that Sophie had knitted for her, with a neat C.F. in the corner.)
"Charles Buford Fairchild," Henry had corrected.
Charlotte had made a face. Tessa, laughing, had asked, "Fairchild? Not Branwell?"
Charlotte had given a shy smile. "I am the Consul. It has been decided that in this case the child will take my name. Henry doesn’t mind, do you, Henry?"
"Not at all," Henry had said. "Especially as Charles Buford Branwell would have sounded rather silly, but Charles Buford Fairchild has an excellent ring to it."
Tessa smiled now at the memory. She was standing near the Christmas tree, watching the members of the Enclave in all their finery-women in the deep jewel tones of winter, dresses of red satin and sapphire silk and gold taffeta, men in elegant evening dress-as they milled and laughed. Sophie stood with Gideon, glowing and relaxed in an elegant green velvet gown; there was Cecily in blue, dashing here and there, delighted to be looking at everything, and Gabriel following her, all long limbs and tousled hair and adoring amusement. A massive Yule log, wound round with wreaths of ivy and holly, burned in the enormous stone fireplace, and hanging above the fireplace were nets containing golden apples, walnuts, colored popcorn, and candies. There was music, too, soft and haunting, and Charlotte seemed finally to have found a use for Bridget’s singing, for it rose above the sound of the instruments, lilting and sweet.
"Alas, my love, ye do me wrong
To cast me off discourteously.
And I have loved you so long,
Delighting in your company.
Greensleeves was all my joy;
Greensleeves was my delight;
Greensleeves was my heart of gold,
And who but Lady Greensleeves?"
"’Let the sky rain potatoes,’" said a musing voice. "’Let it thunder to the tune of Greensleeves.’"
Tessa started and turned. Will had appeared somehow at her elbow, which was vexing, as she had been looking for him since she had come into the room and had seen no sign of him. As always, the sight of him in evening dress-all blue and black and white-took her breath away, but she hid the hitch in her chest with a smile. "Shakespeare," she said. "The Merry Wives of Windsor."
"Not one of the better plays," Will said, narrowing his blue eyes as he took her in. Tessa had chosen to wear rose-colored silk that night, and no jewelry save a velvet ribbon, wrapped twice about her throat and hanging down her back. Sophie had done her hair-as a favor, now, not as a lady’s maid-and woven small white berries in among the upswept curls. Tessa felt very fancy, and conspicuous. "Though it has its moments."
"Always a literary critic," Tessa sighed, gazing away from him, across the room, to where Charlotte was in conversation with a tall, fair-haired man Tessa did not recognize.
Will leaned in toward her. He smelled faintly of something green and wintry, fir or lime or cypress. "Those are mistletoe berries in your hair," he said, his breath ghosting across her cheek. "Technically, I believe that means anyone can kiss you at any time."
She widened her eyes at him. "Do you think they’re likely to try?"
He touched her cheek lightly; he was wearing white chamois gloves, but she felt it as if it were his skin on hers. "I’d kill anyone who did."
"Well," Tessa said. "It wouldn’t be the first time you did something scandalous at Christmas."
Will paused for a moment and then grinned, that rare grin of his that lit up his face and changed the whole nature of it. It was a smile Tessa had worried once was gone forever, gone with Jem down into the darkness of the Silent City. Jem was not dead, but some bit of Will had gone with him when he’d left, some bit chiseled out of Will’s heart and buried down there among the whispering bones. And Tessa had worried, for that first week just after, that Will would not recover, that he would always be a sort of ghost, wandering about the Institute, not eating, always turning to speak to someone who was not there, the light in his face dying as he remembered and fell silent.
But she had been determined. Her own heart had been broken, but to mend Will’s, she was sure, would mean to mend her own somehow. As soon as she’d been strong enough, she had set herself to bring him tea he did not want, and books that he did, and harried him, in and out of the library, and demanded his help with training. She told Charlotte to stop treating him like glass that would break and to send him out into the city to fight, as he had been sent before, with Gabriel or Gideon instead of Jem. And Charlotte had done it, uneasily, but Will had come back from them bloody and bruised, but with his eyes alive and alight.
"That was clever," Cecily had said to her later, as they’d stood by the window, watching Will and Gabriel talking in the courtyard. "Being Nephilim gives my brother a purpose. Shadowhunting will mend the cracks in him. Shadowhunting, and you."
Tessa had let the curtain fall closed, thoughtfully. She and Will had not spoken of what had happened in Cadair Idris, the night they had spent together. Indeed, it seemed as distant as a dream. It was like something that had happened to another person, not her, not Tessa. She did not know if Will felt the same way. She knew Jem had known, or guessed, and forgave them both, but Will had not approached her again, not said he loved her, not asked if she loved him since the day Jem had left.
It seemed that endless ages went by, though it was only about a fortnight, before Will came and found her alone in the library, and asked her-rather abruptly-if she would go for a carriage ride with him the next day. Puzzled, Tessa had agreed, privately wondering if there was some other reason he wanted her company. A mystery to investigate? A confession to make?
But no, it had been a simple carriage ride through the park. The weather had been growing colder, and ice was riming the edges of the ponds. The bare branches of the trees were bleak and lovely, and Will made polite conversation with her about the weather and city landmarks. He seemed determined to take up where Jem had left off her London education. They went to the British Museum and the National Gallery, to Kew Gardens and to Saint Paul’s Cathedral, where Tessa finally lost her temper.
They had been standing in the famous Whispering Gallery, Tessa leaning on the railing and gazing down into the cathedral below. Will was translating the Latin inscription on the wall of the crypt where Christopher Wren was buried-"if you seek his monument, look about you"-when Tessa absently reached to slip her hand into his. He immediately drew back, flushing.
She looked at him in surprise. "Is something wrong?"
"No," he said, too quickly. "I simply-I did not bring you here that I might maul you in the Whispering Gallery."
Tessa exploded. "I am not asking you to maul me in the Whispering Gallery! But by the Angel, Will, would you stop being so polite?"
He looked at her in amazement. "But wouldn’t you rather-"
"I would not rather. I don’t want you to be polite! I want you to be Will! I don’t want you to indicate points of architectural interest to me as if you were a Baedeker guide! I want you to say dreadfully mad, funny things and make up songs and be-" The Will I fell in love with, she almost said. "And be Will," she finished instead. "Or I shall hit you with my umbrella."
"I am trying to court you," Will said in exasperation. "Court you properly. That’s what all this has been about. You know that, don’t you?"
"Mr. Rochester never courted Jane Eyre," Tessa pointed out.
"No, he dressed up as a woman and terrified the poor girl out of her wits. Is that what you want?"
"You would make a very ugly woman."
"I would not. I would be stunning."
Tessa laughed. "There," she said. "There is Will. Isn’t that better? Don’t you think so?"
"I don’t know," Will said, eyeing her. "I’m afraid to answer that. I’ve heard that when I speak, it makes American women wish to strike me with umbrellas."
Tessa laughed again, and then they were both laughing, their smothered giggles bouncing off the walls of the Whispering Gallery. After that, things were decidedly easier between them, and Will’s smile when he helped her down from the carriage on their return was bright and real.
That night there had been a soft tap on Tessa’s door, and when she had gone to open it, she had found nobody there, only a book resting on the corridor floor. A Tale of Two Cities. An odd present, she had thought. There was a copy of the book in the library, which she could read as often as she wanted, but this one was brand-new, with a receipt from Hatchards marking the title page. It was only when she took it to bed with her that she realized that there was an inscription on the title page as well.
Tess, Tess, Tessa.
Was there ever a more beautiful sound than your name? To speak it aloud makes my heart ring like a bell. Strange to imagine that, isn’t it-a heart ringing? But when you touch me, that is what it is like, as if my heart is ringing in my chest and the sound shivers down my veins and splinters my bones with joy.
Why have I written these words in this book? Because of you. You taught me to love this book, where I had scorned it. When I read it for the second time, with an open mind and heart, I felt the most complete despair and envy of Sydney Carton-yes, Sydney, for even if he had no hope that the woman he loved would love him, at least he could tell her of his love. At least he could do something to prove his passion, even if that thing was to die.
I would have chosen death for a chance to tell you the truth, Tessa, if I could have been assured that death would be my own. And that is why I envied Sydney, for he was free.
And now at last I am free, and I can finally tell you, without fear of danger to you, all that I feel in my heart.
You are not the last dream of my soul.
You are the first dream, the only dream I ever was unable to stop myself from dreaming. You are the first dream of my soul, and from that dream I hope will come all other dreams, a lifetime’s worth.
With hope at last,
She had sat up for a long time after that, holding the book without reading it, watching the dawn come up over London. In the morning she had fairly flown to get dressed, before she’d seized up the book and dashed downstairs with it. She caught Will coming out of his bedroom, hair still damp from the pitcher, and hurled herself at him, catching his lapels and pulling him to her, burying her face in his chest. The book thumped to the floor between him as he reached to hold her, smoothing her hair down her back, whispering softly, "Tessa, what is it, what’s wrong? Did you not like-"
"No one has ever written me anything so beautiful," she said, her face pressed against his chest, the soft beat of his heart steady beneath his shirt and jacket. "Not ever."
"I wrote it just after I discovered the curse was false," Will said. "I had meant to give it to you then, but-" His hand tightened in her hair. "When I found out you were engaged to Jem, I put it away. I did not know when I could, when I should, give it to you. And then yesterday, when you wanted me to be myself, I had hope enough to take out those old dreams again, to dust them off and give them to you."
They went to the park that day, though it was as cold as it was bright, and there were not many people about. The Serpentine was bright under the wintry sun, and Will pointed out the place where he and Jem had fed poultry pies to the mallards. It was the first time she saw him smile while talking about Jem.
She knew she could not be Jem for Will. No one could. But slowly the hollow places in his heart were filling in. Having Cecily about was a joy for Will; Tessa could see that when they sat together before the fire, speaking Welsh softly, and his eyes glowed; he had even grown to like Gabriel and Gideon, and they were friends for him, though no one could be a friend as Jem had been. And of course, Charlotte’s and Henry’s love was as steadfast as ever. The wound would never go away, Tessa knew, not for herself and not for Will, either, but as the weather grew colder and Will smiled more and ate more regularly and the haunted look faded from his eyes, she began to breathe more easily, knowing that look was not a mortal one.
"Hmm," he said now, rocking back on his heels slightly as he surveyed the ballroom floor. "You may be right. I think it was round about Christmas when I got my Welsh dragon tattoo."
At that, Tessa had to try very hard not to blush. "How did that happen?"
Will made an airy gesture with his hand. "I was drunk …"
"Nonsense. You were never really drunk."
"On the contrary-in order to learn how to pretend to be inebriated, one must become inebriated at least once, as a reference point. Six-Fingered Nigel had been at the mulled cider-"