Izzy dropped her books with a clatter on Simon and Clary’s lunch table. “Hey, babe, are you available for Friday night?”
Clary smiled and nodded. “I believe I am. What did you have in mind?”
“I'm hosting the first Halloween Fundraiser Dance Planning Committee meeting at my house. There'll be snacks!” Izzy enthused.
“Cool!” Clary said. “Who else is coming?”
“Maia, Lily, Raphael, maybe Meliorn, definitely Maureen, possibly Bat, and… hopefully you two?” Izzy replied.
Clary nodded. “I'll be there. Simon?” She turned to him, waiting for his answer.
“Uh… yeah, okay. I don't think I have anything else going on,” he answered.
“Great!” Izzy said. “Thank you guys so so much!”
Clary and Simon nodded, and Izzy walked away.
“I can't believe you're so in love with her!” Simon giggled. “I can hear the wedding bells already.”
“At least I know her last name,” Clary countered, cocking her eyebrow.
Simon felt his face heat up. “Shut up.”
The bell rang and Clary and Simon both went to throw out their trash on their way into the hallway. Clary’s class was the first one on the left. Simon turned his head to say bye to her, smashing face first into a black Varsity jacket. Clary's laughter could be heard all the way from the Elementary School.
“Hey, pay attention much?” Varsity Jacket joked.
“Hey, sorry, man,” Simon sighed. Luckily, neither of them dropped anything. Simon looked up and almost dropped everything. It was Jace, the blonde kid who he'd been crushing on for a little under three weeks.
“Aren't you in my Bio class? Simon, right?” Jace asked.
Simon put on a fake relaxed smile and nodded. He looked over at Clary for support. She had already gone inside the room.
Simon glanced down anxiously at the sheet he'd designated for note taking for that period. The teacher was moving around the room to check people's notes to see if they'd been paying attention to the PowerPoint. Simon's sheet was empty.
Izzy had texted him and a bunch of others on the dance committee ten minutes after lunch had ended to say that the first thing they needed to take care of was a flyer design and if everyone could take a shot at it and bring a rough draft to the meeting, that would be great. Clary was the big artist, but Simon felt like his idea was pretty good. He his that page underneath his empty page of notes.
The teacher was checking the person next to Simon when a voice from across the room shattered the studious silence. “Mr. McMahon, can I go to the bathroom?”
The teacher stood up and looked around to see who had asked. “For the last time, you don't need to ask, you just need to sign out and take the pass. Also, no, Jace, since you interrupted what I was doing and also because the bell is about to ring.” With that, he stormed back to his desk and started shuffling his papers around. He forgot to check Simon's work.
The bell rang and the students filed out of the room. Simon meant to find Jace and thank him for saving his ass, but Jace was nowhere to be found in the hall. Even if Jace had stuck around, Simon's ability to string together a full sentence around him had been on a steady decline since the first day of school.
“First order of business: who brought flyer ideas?”
Simon hastily pulled his out of his bag. Two or three other people around the room follow suit.
“Really?” Izzy grumbled, “Guys, come on! Advertising is one of the most important parts! If no one shows up, it'll defeat the purpose of a fundraiser.”
Maia chimed in, “You didn't give us that much notice. And we'd have more inspiration if this dance had a theme.”
“How about Witches Brew?” Clary suggested.
“I think the goal is to not have the punch spiked,” Bat countered. Everyone agreed.
Simon had an epiphany. “What about a Costume Ball?”
“That's a good idea,” said Izzy. People around the circle nodded.
After a while, the meeting devolved into people lounging around, taking advantage of the snacks and talking amongst themselves.
“Hey, Iz,” Simon asked, “do you have any more orange juice?”
“Yeah,” replied Izzy, “it's in the fridge. Can you go grab it?”
“Sure thing,” said Simon, getting up and heading towards the kitchen.
He opened the fridge. The orange juice appeared behind a carton of milk, a container of greek yogurt, and two bottles of kefir. He moved the other items around to get the juice. No sooner than he’d closed his hand around the neck of the juice bottle, someone behind him popped something into the microwave and closed the door. Simon spun around, dropping the bottle when he saw who it was.
“Are you all right?” Jace asked, genuine worry on his face.
Simon scrambled for something to say, his eyes hitting the juice bottle lying on its side on the spotless floor. The lid had been on very securely. “Whoever closed that juice bottle, they… they did a solid job.”
Jace cracked a smile. “Thanks.”
“I gotta… go,” Simon mumbled. Jace nodded, his confusion evident.
“Hey, Iz?” Jace said.
“Yeah?” The reply came from somewhere down the hall.
“You know Clary’s friend Simon?” Immediately, he felt silly.
Izzy popped her head out of a doorway, laughing. “Yeah? Why?”
“I ran into him at your meeting last night, right after I got home.”
“Wait, when would you have…” Izzy gasped as the realization sunk in, “Wait, were you in the kitchen?”
“Oh my god,” Izzy laughed, “Oh, my god… what did you do?”
Jace crinkled his eyebrows. “I swear I didn’t do anything.”
Izzy laughed some more. “Really? Because he looked like he’d seen a ghost.”
“Maybe he did. It is almost Halloween, after all,” Jace said, stifling a giggle and wiggling his fingers ominously.
Izzy tried her best to stop laughing. “I'm serious. What happened?”
“He was getting juice and he heard me put something in the microwave so he spun around and then he dropped the juice on the floor. And then it didn't spill because the bottle was closed so he made a comment about whoever screwed on the top doing a really good job and then he… he left,” Jace explained, sounding oddly heartbroken on the last couple of words.
Izzy's laughter started to come out in gasping shrieks. “Oh my god, that's adorable.”
“What is?” Jace asked.
“Your voice… you got all sad at the end,” Izzy giggled. “That means…”
Jace felt his face heat up. He immediately left the kitchen. He knew what Izzy was implying, but it couldn't be true… could it?
Simon rang Izzy's doorbell for the second time, shifting the weight of his backpack around while trying not to spill the tray of coffees he'd picked up. Finally, after waiting forever, Izzy let him in.
“Thanks for getting coffee,” she said, “Clary's already here.” She led him to the kitchen, taking one of the coffees from the tray and sipping it with a contented hum.
The three of them sat around the kitchen table, which had a couple of full sheets of loose leaf and Clary's laptop on it. It was the week before the dance, and the only thing left to do was to perfect the playlist. They felt as though they'd accurately represented the student body's diverse music taste. Now they just needed to narrow the playlist down a little bit.
Jace strode confidently into the kitchen, plucking the last coffee out of the tray. “Can I have this?” He asked.
“It's all yours,” Izzy replied, “Simon got it for you.”
Jace flashed a blinding smile at Simon, who nearly melted into the floor. He's cute when he blushes, Jace thought. “Thank you, Simon.”
“Welcome,” Simon replied, smiling like it was his birthday.
Jace and Izzy ran into each other in the kitchen again after Clary and Simon left. “I think I like him, Iz.”
Izzy laughed. “I think water is wet, Jace,” she replied in a scarily accurate imitation of Jace's voice.
“No, I'm serious. What do I do?” He huffed. He wasn't used to having actual genuine feelings for someone.
“He's going stag to the dance, you know,” Izzy said. “And so are you.”
“So what, you just want me to go up to him out of nowhere and be like, ‘Hey, you're the first crush I've had since I was eight years old. Want some punch?’” Jace asked.
“He's not that intimidating, Jace,” Izzy laughed. “It'll be fine.”
“Fine,” Jace conceded, “but if anything goes wrong, anything at all, I'm blaming you.”
Simon took a deep breath before strolling into the school gym. He took a quick look around, convincing himself that the reason he was disappointed was that their playlist had been rejected and the music was shitty, not because a certain someone wasn't there. He saw Izzy at the other end of the gym with Clary and walked over to them.
“Hey, Izzy!” He started. At this point, he knew that she knew and there was no point trying to hide. “Have you… uh, have you seen Jace around?”
Izzy shook her head. “He couldn't come. He's sick.”
Simon left the gym.
The doorbell rang. Jace groaned, dragging himself off of the couch to answer it.
“Hey, um, Izzy told me you were sick?” Simon said. Jace almost closed the door in his face. “Um, I just wanted to check on you. Also I brought Halloween movies. Sorry if this is weird.”
Despite it indeed being weird, Jace shook his head. “Thanks. Come on,” he said, opening the door slightly farther so Simon could come in. Simon gently touched the sleeve of Jace's sweater that he was wearing on top of another sweater.
“Do you have a fever? You're not supposed to bundle up if you have a fever. You're supposed to try to cool down,” Simon pointed out.
“If you wanted my shirt off, Lewis, you could have just asked,” Jace retorted. The effect was somewhat negated because he was congested so “my” came out like “by.”
Simon still blushed and looked away. “Well, excuse me for not wanting you to hyperthermiate and die,” he muttered. Jace's heart melted.
One of them put the DVD into the player. They started with Jace on one end of the couch in his blanket nest and Simon on the other. They started that way, but they had an immensely different setup by the time the first song started.
“Wait, it's a musical?” Jace complained.
Simon paused the movie. “What do you mean ‘what do you mean it's a-’... wait, have you not seen this?” Simon asked. Jace shook his head. “What do you mean, you've never seen The Nightmare Before Christmas?”
Jace's demeanor clouded over. “I had a… complicated childhood.”
Simon looked at Jace. “I've talked to your mom. Your parents don't seem that complicated.”
“I was adopted when I was ten,” Jace revealed.
Simon put his hand out as a symbol of comfort, but the only thing it landed on was the back of Jace's hand. “I’m sorry,” Simon apologized, “I didn't… I shouldn't’ve…”
Jace shook his head, twisting his wrist around so that he and Simon were properly holding hands. “Can you put the movie back on?” He yawned.
Simon's phone buzzing woke him up. He realized with a start that he'd fallen asleep sprawled across Jace's chest. Jace was still asleep. He read the text message from his mom.
Hey monkey, I hope you're having fun at the dance! I don't know when you'll be home but I had to run out so I wanted to make sure you remembered your key. Love you!!
He laughed, waking Jace up. “What's so funny?”
Simon shook his head. “Just my mom, being a dork. Hey,” he said, checking the time, “it's a little late. I should, um, go. I hope you feel better.”
“Wait, Simon?” Jace said, stopping Simon as he got up. “Why… why did you come?”
Simon blinked hard. “I don't know. Nobody should be alone on Halloween.”
“Really?” Jace asked.
Simon scoffed. “No, not really, okay? I came because I grossly misread the situation and I thought… I don't know what I thought. It was stupid. I'm sorry.”
Jace stood up, too quickly. “Simon, wait… you didn't,” he said, steadying himself on the side of the couch.
Simon smiled like the sun. “Are you serious?”
Jace nodded, slowly approaching Simon.
He leaned in to kiss him, but a hand on his wrist stopped him. Simon giggled, “Jace, you're sick.”