“Go back there. Retrace your pain. Own every footstep as you face down your scars. Do it, Violet. Your orders will be waiting when you are done.”
Context: Violet is pissed off at her boss for sending her on a mission to a place she was tortured, without giving her prior warning. Jet takes her to Greenwich for more therapy.
We were on a dirty-grey, domed roof, ribbed stone beneath us, white pillars behind us. We were in Greenwich. I could see the rigging of the ship from our perch.
“Nobody’s going to ring that while we sit here, are they?” I said, leaning to the side when Jet turned to look at the bell caged behind us.
“No,” was all he said.
“Because I have really sensitive hearing.”
“So I heard,” he whispered.
“Are you alright out here?” I said.
“In the sun, I mean.”
“Oh.” He laughed. “I won’t shrivel up and die, don’t worry.”
I was more worried that he’d go pink. He’d look like a skinned rabbit if he went pink. “So, is your name really Everett?”
“Does it matter?”
“No. Are you a nephilim or …?”
I shrugged. “Or something else?”
“Whose son are you?”
“Raphael’s.” I choked, and he gave me a quizzical look. “What?”
“I dunno, that just seems so unlikely. You’re so beautiful. Really, really, ethereally beautiful. I mean you look like an actual angel. Not that he’s not good-looking. I mean, he is … but …” I burst out laughing, because Jet was laughing beside me. “Have you seen the size of his head?”
“It is quite big, isn’t it?” he said, grinning into the wind.
“It’s a boulder. And you’re so delicate.”
“I suppose my mother must’ve been an imp.”
“You don’t remember her?”
He shook his head. “I hear her sometimes. A voice in my head.”
“You know, that might not be your mother,” I said with a grin. He nudged me with his shoulder, and I toppled sideways, gripping the edge of the roof tightly. “Hey! No throwing me off the roof.”
“You can fly, can’t you?”
“I don’t fancy getting hauled in to face Raguel, thank you very much. I heard the angels aren’t very good at cover stories.”
“Raguel’s a pussy cat,” he said. “Just ask Jaz.”
“She’s one of his?”
“Yeah, that’s why she can draw blood.”
“Oh, you mean literally draw blood?” I said, remembering what she’d done to Kite in training. “I’ve seen her do that. It’s gruesome.”
“You wouldn’t think so if you’d seen Raguel do it.”
“I saw someone sentenced once. He passed out on the tube.”
“Ah, but sentencing is … legal. You should see him in battle.”
“Yeah, I think I’ll give that one a miss.”
He snorted, then his face settled. “You’re different now.”
“How do you mean?”
“Hmm, more content.”
“Content? I’m furious.”
“You might want to work on your facial expressions,” he said, “because you don’t look at all furious.”
“I’m not furious with you. Silver shouldn’t have sent me here. It was cruel.”
“What happened at Augarten?”
“I freaked out. Lost myself. It was like being back there with Fane messing with my mind. I felt like one day, I’d just disappear inside my own head. Unreachable.”
“Silver didn’t do this to be cruel.”
“It feels like she did.”
His lips thinned, but he didn’t push. He nodded into the distance. “Can you see it?”
“The ship? Yeah.” I didn’t even want to think about that ship. “So … did Raphael raise you? Uriel said he’s forgotten how to walk on land.”
He snorted. “It’s true, he’s rarely off his boat now, but … when I was young … he didn’t know about me … didn’t find me until I was seven. He put me in a house with a ridiculous number of staff. I had a governess, and saw Raphael every weekend, even after I was fully grown.”
“How old are you?”
“A hundred and ninety-one.”
“You’re looking good on it.”
He laughed. “Thank you. And you’re right, I do need to stay out of the sun to keep my complexion so glowy.”
“I really need to paint you.”
“God, normally I have to make barbaric threats to get people to sit for me.”
He stood, and I squinted to looked up at him. His hair whipped out to the front on the other side of his face, feathering across his sharp features. Yeah, I really did need to paint him. Outside.
“Let’s get this over with then,” he said.
“I’m in uniform,” I said, looking down at myself.
“I’ll fix it,” he said, grabbing my hand.
When we landed between two buildings, I caught sight of myself in a car window at the end of the alley. I was wearing black jeans and waistcoat and a saggy-necked, oatmeal shirt.
“God,” I said. “I didn’t even feel that.”
He laughed, then squeezed my hand tighter. He whispered, “My real name is Jet. Raphael said I should choose my own name. Before that, I was nobody.”
I squeezed his hand back as we made our way to the ship, momentarily distracted by the sight of a Nando’s. I slowed to an almost stop. I was starved after missing whatever wonder-sandwiches Milo made for us, but Jet pulled me towards the clipper.
“Oh, I should probably tell you that I’m quite famous,” he said.
“Yeah, I’m a model.”
“Really?” I didn’t mean to sound so surprised, but I was.
“What, you were lying when you said I was beautiful?” He mock gasped, fanning himself dramatically.
“What kind of modelling?”
“The kind that puts me on massive billboards, and above escalators in tube stations, and over there.” He pointed at a bus, where he was sprawled across an ad banner wearing not very much at all.
“Nice pants,” I said.
He raised his eyebrows. “I have my own line of underwear now.”
“That’s … nice?”
He laughed. “I’ll have to age out and retire in a few years. Get old, all that stuff. That’s the problem with living life in the public eye.”
“How young can you go?” I said, joining the queue to get into the Cutty Sark.
“Seven,” he said.
“Oh my god,” shouted an excitable man with fearlessly quiffy blonde hair and a string bag full of pineapples. “You’re Jet Lux. I wear your underwear.” His cute face went pink. “Well, not your underwear. God, obviously not your underwear. I’m not a stalker. I don’t know where you live or anything.”
“Good?” said Jet.
“So yeah, not your actual underwear. But you know, the … the … underwear. Sorry.”
Jet grinned. “No apologies required. What’s your name?”
“Aidan,” he said shyly, like he hadn’t just told everyone in a fifty metre radius that he wore Jet’s underwear.
“Do you have your phone on you, Aidan?”
Aidan’s eyes went wide as he held his phone out. Jet tugged him to his side and they took a selfie.
Aidan stared at it like it was gold. “My boyfriend is going to die. Actually pass out and die. Think I’ll tell him after he’s made the dinner.”
“Good idea,” said Jet. “Nice meeting you, Aidan.”
“You too,” he said, turning away and waving over his shoulder.
“Wow, now everyone is staring,” I said.
“Most of them won’t have a clue who I am, but I bet they’re wondering now,” said Jet.
I saw phones casually twisted our way, but what could I say? We were at a tourist attraction. In public. He was an underwear model. I was dressed as Han Solo. Attention was bound to happen. Aidan kept turning around and walking backwards a few steps to gaze adoringly at Jet and make heart pump gestures at us. He was adorable and ridiculous.
I followed Jet, silently contemplating what it must be like to be famous. As much as my life belonged on telly, I was sure I’d hate it. I paid more attention to the way people looked at him than I did our surroundings, until finally I gasped.
I was beneath the ship, staring along the length of it. I remembered being tied to the beams that strapped the ship to the wall, thinking the floor didn’t look that far away, but the place was vast. Vast and beautiful. It wasn’t the place to exorcise any demons. I just didn’t feel them with me while I was there.
I told Jet that what would really exorcise my demons was a Nando’s. Nobody mentioned our chilli garlic breath when we got back.
The next day, one of the red tops made its way across the channel, asking the oh so serious question, Is this mystery girl Jet’s new love? Somehow, this was news. Somehow, only I was horrified.