The Fiery Trial (Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy #8) by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson

Simon was starting to wonder about the fires. The fires didn’t like him. The fires moved around.

That seemed paranoid.

Outside, the trees were bare and the grass was brown. Inside, even the mold had retreated to its winter quarters between the stones in the basement walls. Shadowhunters didn’t believe much in central heating. The Academy had fireplaces, never too close together, and never near enough to anyone. No matter where Simon sat, they were at the far end of the room, crackling away. The elites tended to get into rooms first, and they took the fireside seats. But even when they didn’t—even when everyone entered at once—Simon ended up farthest from the fire. When you’re cold, a crackling fire starts to sound like gentle, mocking laughter. Simon tried to dismiss this thought from his head, because clearly the fires were not laughing at him.

Because that was paranoid.

There were several fireplaces in the cafeteria, but George and Simon had stopped trying to get seats near them. Simon had enough to worry about. He was looking at his plate. He had also told himself to stop doing this. Stop thinking about the food. Just eat the food. But he couldn’t help himself. Every night he teased it apart. Tonight looked to be some kind of stir-fry, but it appeared to have bread in it. There were peppers. There was something red.

It was pizza. Someone had stir-fried a pizza.

“No,” he said out loud.

“What?”

His roommate, George Lovelace, was already shoveling down his dinner. Simon just shook his head. These things didn’t bother George in the same way. Back home in Brooklyn, if Simon had heard that someone had stir-fried a pizza he would not have been upset. He would have assumed that some hipster restaurant had decided to deconstruct the pizza because that is what hipster restaurants in Brooklyn do. Simon would have laughed, and maybe at some point it would have become popular, and then there would be trucks that sold stir-fried pizza, and then he would have eaten it. Because that is how Brooklyn works and because pizza. Best guess in this situation? Maybe someone dropped the pizza, or it broke up in the middle of cooking and for some reason the only conceivable solution was to put it in a pan and wing it.

The problem wasn’t the pizza, not really. The problem was that the pizza made him think of home. Any New Yorker confronted with bad pizza will mentally return home for at least a few moments. Simon was born and raised a New Yorker in the same way the elites were born and raised Shadowhunters. It was a part of him—the hum and the throb of the city. It could be as rough as the Academy. He knew to look down for rats on the subway tracks or near the edges of public squares. He was trained instinctively to swerve to avoid getting splashed with dirty snow slush by cabs. He didn’t even need to look down to step over puddles left by dogs.

Obviously, there were better parts than that. He missed coming over the Brooklyn Bridge at night and seeing the sweep of it all—the city lit up for the night; the grand, man-made mountains; the river surging underneath. He missed the feeling of being around so many people doing and making amazing things. He missed the constant feeling of the whole thing being a magnificent show. And he missed his family and friends. It was the holiday season now, and he should have been at home. His mother would have already taken out the menorah that he had painted at the do-it-yourself clay workshop when he was a kid. It was bright, decorated in thick, messy strokes of blue, white, and silver paint. He and his sister were in charge of making potato pancakes together. They’d all sit on the sofa and exchange gifts. And everyone he cared about was just a short walk away, a subway stop at the most.

“You’ve got that look again,” George said.

“Sorry,” Simon said.

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