“For a while” is a phrase whose length can’t be measured. At least by the person who’s waiting.
– Haruki Murakami | South of the Border, West of the Sun
Tessa craned her head back to look at Will. “You know that feeling,” she said, “when you are reading a book, and you know that it is going to be a tragedy; you can feel the cold and darkness coming, see the net drawing tight around the characters who live and breathe on the pages. But you are tied to the story as if being dragged behind a carriage and you cannot let go or turn the course aside.” His blue eyes were dark with understanding — of course Will would understand — and she hurried on. “I feel now as if the same is happening, only not to characters on a page but to my own beloved friends and companions. I do not want to sit by while tragedy comes for us. I would turn it aside, only I struggle to discover how that might be done.”
“You fear for Jem,” Will said.
“Yes,” she said. “And I fear for you, too.”
“No,” Will said, hoarsely. “Don’t waste that on me, Tess.”
“Say something in Mandarin,” said Tessa, with a smile.
Jem said something that sounded like a lot of breathy vowels and consonants run together, his voice rising and falling melodically: “Ni hen piao liang.”
“What did you say?” Tessa was curious.
“I said your hair is coming undone — here,” he said, and reached out and tucked an escaping curl back behind her ear. Tessa felt the blood spill hot up into her face, and was glad for the dimness of the carriage. “You have to be careful with it,” he said, taking his hand back, slowly, his fingers lingering against her cheek.
Tessa blinked away the tears in her eyes — and stared.
There was a boy standing in front of her. He couldn’t have been much more than a few years older than she was — seventeen or possibly eighteen. He was dressed in what looked like workman’s clothes: a frayed black jacket and trousers, and tough-looking boots. He wore no waistcoat, but a a thick leather belt with a number of weapons hanging off it circled his waist — daggers and folding knives and things that looked
like blades of ice.
In his right hand, he held what looked like a sort of stone — it was shining, providing the light in the room that had nearly blinded Tessa. His other hand — narrow and long-fingered — was bleeding where she had gashed the back of it with her pitcher.
But that wasn’t what had made her stare. He had the most beautiful face she had ever seen. Tangled black hair and eyes like blue glass. A scar across his right cheek that somehow didn’t mar his looks but only enhanced them. He looked like every fictional hero she’d ever imagined in her head. Except she’d never imagined one of them cursing at her while shaking their bleeding hand in an accusing fashion.
He seemed to realize she was staring at him, because the cursing stopped.
“You cut me,” he said. His voice was pleasant. British. Very ordinary. He looked at his hand with critical interest. “Now, is that any way to treat someone who’s just trying to rescue you?”
“Rescue me?” Tessa echoed. She blinked at him. “Who are you?”
“Will,” he said, and held out his bleeding hand. “Will Herondale.”