“I, Lydia Branwell, of New York, New York, the current legal parent of Maxine Monteverde, born on 09/13/2015, here by appoint Alexander Lightwood of New York, New York as legal guardian in the event I shall die as the sole parent of the minor child.” The words reverberated in Alec’s mind over and over until his heartbeat echoed in their place. He knew there were words being exchanged in the small office in New York, but he couldn’t hear any of them.
Lydia was his best friend. In high school, she was the first person he came out to, the only person he trusted with his deepest secret. He remembered crying into her arms, begging her to still be his best friend.
“Lydia, I… I don’t want you to think of me differently. I’m still Alec. I’m still your best friend. I promise this doesn’t change anything and I…” He sighed loudly, closing his eyes. “I’m gay.” He was close to hyperventilating, waiting for her to acknowledge the words that left his mouth. He’d never spoken them out loud until this very moment. With his eyes still closed, the silence was deafening. When he opened them after a few moments, Lydia was smiling at him.
“Alec, I’m so proud of you.” Those words were just what he needed to hear as he fell into her arms, sobbing.
He remembered the gallons of ice cream they ate together. He remembered fighting over what move they would watch to commemorate this moment.
“Okay, so google did not let me down. We’re watching Edge of Seventeen.” Alec groaned, having never heard of it.
“Lydia, why don’t we just watch one of our usual’s. This isn’t a special occasion.” She smacked him across his upper arm, gaping at the thought.
“Alec, this is HUGE. You just came out to me so to commemorate the moment, we’re watching a gay movie about a gay kid coming out. It’s perfect.” Alec shook his head at her with the smile never leaving his lips. Lydia was the best friend he could ask for.
He remembered falling asleep next to her, her hand grasping his and telling him that everything was going to be alright.
“I don’t think I can tell my family yet. The most important person who needs to know, knows now. I’m happy with that.” He squeezed her hand, cuddling closer to her. They often slept in each other’s beds, basking in the company. Neither of them particularly liked anyone else, but they had each other and that was all that mattered.
“Everything will work itself out, Alec. When you’re ready to tell your family, I will be there for you, you know that right?” She squeezed his hand even tighter, maintaining eye contact with him. He could see in her eyes just how truthful she was being. It made Alec’s heart grow, knowing he had someone in his corner.
“I know, Lydia. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Alec. Till the end of the world.”
After graduating high school, Alec and Lydia were both accepted to attend NYU’s business program. During their first year, they rented an apartment together right across from their main campus. They had parties (mostly at Lydia’s request), they studied late into the night, they watched movies, ate popcorn, and gossiped about the cute boys on campus.
“Alec, I’m just saying, if you don’t put yourself out there, you’ll never find him. I invite literally every gay person I know to our parties and you hide out in your room for half of them!” Lydia threw a handful of popcorn in his direction. They were watching The Office, their go-to show for school nights. Alec rolled his eyes in response, picking a piece out of his hair and tossing it into his mouth dramatically.
“I’m not looking for ‘him’, Lyd. I don’t need a person to determine my self-worth. Isn’t that what your feminist side is always yelling at me?” She rolled her eyes right back.
“I’m just saying, you don’t have fun anymore, Alec. I ran into a psychology major the other day. He was beautiful. His hair styled to perfection, subtle makeup on his eyes that made them pop, an outfit I might actually kill for. I invited him last night and you were holed up in your room and missed him. My work should not go unnoticed, my dear.” He sighed, pausing the TV right as Jim looked at the camera with a judgmental look in his eyes.
“I feel like Jim right now. If there was a camera I could look at every time you said something annoying, they’d have hours of footage of just that.” She gasped, faux offended, and threw another handful of popcorn at him. “I’m serious, Lyd. I’m fine with how things are. Plus, you have enough of a love life for the both of us.” She rolled her eyes yet again, reaching for the remote to play The Office again.
“Let’s just watch the show, dorkface.” He smiled at the name and continued eating popcorn from the shared bowl, letting his arm drape around her shoulders in a friendly gesture.
At the end of their first year, Lydia met John. Alec remembered when Lydia came home from their first date.
A soft knocking woke Alec from his restless slumber. He groaned softly, turning on the bedside light. “Lydia, what’s up?” She opened the door slowly, tears in her eyes. Alec shot up from his horizontal position, eyes growing angrier. “What did that asshole do? I will kill him.” Lydia laughed, confusing Alec to no end.
“Alec, he didn’t do anything. He was damn near perfect. We talked, ate, laughed. He walked me home because ‘it’s too late for a pretty girl to be on her own’, which made my heart flip no matter how much of a feminist I am. He kissed me goodnight and it was… amazing. Alec, this was the best date I’ve ever been on and I’m so damn happy. I just wanted to tell you that.” After the initial shock her tears created, Alec let a smile grace his lips.
“I’m so happy for you. Now, go to sleep. Tell me all about it in the morning.” Lydia kissed his cheek, letting out a small squeal in excitement before heading to her own room.
Things with John were perfect for her. Alec had met him multiple times and they became friends. Lydia invited him to move in shortly after they started dating which Alec was hesitant to accept but knew it would make his best friend happy. Six months later, Lydia found out she was pregnant.
“Alec…” Lydia walked out of the bathroom slowly, holding a white stick in her hand. Alec paused what he was watching to widen his eyes at hers.
“Lydia, are you…?” She nodded slowly, the smile on her lips widening. Her nodding became more aggressive as the news took over. Alec jumped over the top of the couch, grabbing her into his arms and swinging her. He put her down quickly, thinking of the baby. He glanced at her stomach, holding both her hands in his own.
“I have to go tell John. He’s at work, but I have to…” Alec nodded, placing a kiss on his best friend’s head.
“Go! I’ll be here when you both get back. Champagne in hand.” She jumped towards the door, laughing on the verge of hysterical.
“I love you, Alec. I can’t believe this!” He shook his head as she slammed the door, smiling to himself. Lydia deserved the life she had, and he loved seeing her happy.
Her and John were so excited for the prospect of a baby, no matter how unprepared they were for parenthood. Alec moved out soon after, relinquishing his room to a nursery. Five months after Lydia found out she was pregnant, the unthinkable happened.
“Alec, I need you…” Her words shook as she gave him the address to the nearest hospital. Alec grabbed his coat, running down the streets of New York, gasping for air when he opened the doors to the emergency room. Lydia was speaking with what Alec assumed was a doctor. He saw her face break as she fell into the chair behind her. He ran to her, pulling her into his arms.
“I’m so sorry, Ms. Branwell. We did everything we could, but the injury was just too severe.” Alec heard the words but couldn’t focus on anything besides his best friend.
“Alec, he’s gone.” The words barely escaped her sobbing lips. He pressed gentle kisses to her cheeks and hair, letting his hand run down the back of her head. He murmured words he knew were worthless into her ear, letting her grasp onto his shirt. Twenty minutes later, Lydia was calm enough to speak. “They… They said it was an accident. The driver was a tourist, looking at the sights. John didn’t even see the car coming. He’s gone, Alec. He’s gone!” Her sobs erupted once more.
“Oh, Lydia. I’ve got you, hold on to me.” His own tears were stinging his eyes, falling slowly at the heart wrenching gasps leaving his best friends’ lips. “I’ve got you.”
After John’s funeral, Lydia welcomed her beautiful baby girl. Lydia didn’t have any family to be there with her, so Alec’s was there for support. His sister, Izzy, and his adoptive brother, Jace waited patiently in the waiting room while Alec joined her in the delivery room to hold her hand. Lydia named her after Alec’s late little brother, much to his shock. She took John’s last name, which called for a lot of tears in the delivery room. Maxine Monteverde was six pounds and three ounces of pure heaven. Alec was the first to hold her after Lydia.
“Meet your uncle Alec, Maxine. He’s the reason you’ll grow up with a father.” Lydia spoke through her tears, holding the small child up to Alec’s waiting arms. He cradled her in his arms, gaping at how tiny her existence was. He smiled down at her, letting his index finger run gently against her smooth cheek.
“Hi, Maxine. I’m so happy you’re here. Angel, you look so much like your mom. You have your father’s nose, though, no question.” The comment made Lydia laugh before she grabbed the camera and snapped one of Alec’s favorite pictures. “You have the strongest, most amazing mother in the world, Maxine.” He felt the tears coming before they fell, choking up at the sight of the beautiful baby girl and his best friend in front of him. “We’re going to make sure you have the best life of any baby in this hospital, you hear that?” Alec could’ve sworn he saw a small smile grace her lips, even though he knew it was impossible.
“Alec, will you be her godfather?” Alec gaped at Lydia, nodding slowly.
“Lydia, I will gladly accept that honor.”
Six months later, Alec couldn’t think of a better life for himself. He’d moved back in with Lydia, reverting the nursery back to a regular room. They were constantly searching for a three-bedroom apartment for when Maxine was old enough for her own room. Lydia grew into the most wonderful mother just like Alec expected. She continued studying part time at NYU with Alec. They coordinated their schedules, so they didn’t’ have to worry about childcare. When it didn’t work out, Izzy and Jace were the first to volunteer to watch the little one.
When Alec agreed to be Maxine’s godfather, he never expected anything to happen to Lydia. He noticed her fatigue right away. She dismissed it initially, stating she was just stressed or there was too much going on. When the fainting spells started, Alec insisted she go to the doctors. They diagnosed her with anemia, telling her to increase her iron intake and pushing her out the door. Then her symptoms were more severe.
“Alec, I’m fine. I just got light-headed, that’s all.” She was sitting on a bar stool in the kitchen, sipping from the glass of water Alec had handed her.
“This isn’t right, Lyd. You need to go to the doctor’s again.” She shook her head with a slight laugh.
“You’re being dramatic, Alec. I don’t need…” She stopped speaking, her eyes staring off beyond Alec’s shoulder. He stopped and turned, expecting to see someone behind him. When he turned back around, Lydia was on the floor convulsing. Alec kneeled down next to her, supporting her head in his lap.
“Lydia! Lydia, stay with me. I have you.” He reached for his phone, dialing 9-1-1 as quickly as he could. She had stopped convulsing by the end of the call. He checked her pulse and felt the distant thumping. “Please hurry!” He called Izzy next, barely controlling the tears in his eyes.
“Hey, big bro…”
“I need you to come to the apartment right now! Lydia just had a seizure. I need you to watch Maxine. The ambulance is on its way here.” He hung up before she could get a word in, trusting she would be there within the next ten minutes. The ambulance arrived at the same time as Izzy. He still had an unconscious Lydia’s head cradled in his lap. The EMT moved him aside, checking her vitals quickly. Alec felt like he was in a movie. He couldn’t believe that any of this was real.
“Alec, go with them. I have Maxine. Keep me updated.” Alec nodded, letting the second EMT guide him to the ambulance. The drive was a blur. The image of Lydia on the gurney replayed in his head until he felt a comforting hand on his shoulder. He wasn’t sure how he had made it inside to the waiting room. He turned towards the source and found Jace sitting next to him.
“Hey, I’m here.” His tone was soft, as if anything louder would break Alec. He wasn’t quite sure that wasn’t true. He sat in the waiting room for hours, three hours he found out later. Three hours later and his best friend was gone.
“Are you Lydia’s husband?” Jace nodded, pointing to Alec.
“We’re her family.” The next words didn’t register in Alec’s head. He knew by the look on the doctor’s face and the tears welling up in Jace’s eyes what had happened. When the initial shock wore off, he spoke softly.
“Where is she?” The doctor grabbed his shoulder, leading him back to the room where Lydia lay. One look at her and Alec was gone. The tears that had kept themselves locked up unleashed in sobs. He dropped on his knees at the side of her bed, grabbing her hand in his. Jace stood back, letting Alec have the moment he needed. “I love you, till the… till the end of the world, Lydia.” That was it. This was the end of Alec’s world. He’d lost the best person in his life. She was laying on the table in front of him, gone from the world. Alec vaguely remembered Jace bringing him back to the apartment. He vaguely remembers Izzy holding on to him with everything she had in her. What he did remember was laying eyes on the beautiful little girl in her crib. She reached out to him with her tiny hand, unaware that her life had just changed. Alec picked her up, cradler her in his arms, and cried.
“Alec, we need you to sign the paperwork in order to make this official. I know this is hard and we’re so sorry, but this is a new start for both of you.” The attorney held out a pen, waiting patiently for Alec to respond. The hand on his arm brought him out of his memories.
“Hey big brother, we’re here for you.” He glanced around the room, taking in the people before him. Izzy was sitting next to him, a small smile gracing her face. She was the strong one in this situation. She had dropped everything to help Alec in his time of need. Next to her was Jace along with another smile. Alec knew they were both keeping him going. He returned their smiles, grasping the pen in his hand. He read the words in front of him again. I accept full custodial responsibility for Maxine Monteverde. He signed his name on the signature line, closing his eyes. This was real now. He had to be strong for Maxine, just like Lydia wanted.
“One more thing,” the attorney added. He reached into his briefcase and handed Alec a DVD labeled Just in Case. Alec couldn’t help the tears that welled up in the back of his throat. He’d recognize that handwriting anywhere. “We’ll leave you on your own.”
“Alec, do you want us with you?” Izzy asked quietly. Alex shook his head, wiping a single tear from his cheek. He waited until everyone had left the room before inserting the DVD into the laptop in front of him. The first thing he saw was blonde hair, way too close to the camera. He couldn’t help but chuckle as he heard a small bang, the camera shaking slightly. He heard someone clear their throat before they backed away from the camera, sitting on a chair in front of it. Alec let more tears flow as he saw his best friend.
“Hi, Alec. So, it’s been one week since I had Maxine and I think it’s been one of the happiest weeks of my life. Naming you as her godfather was the smartest decision I’ve ever made because I can see how much you love her already. Part of being her godfather means taking care of her if something were to happen to me.” Alec rolled his eyes slightly, realizing he should have expected Lydia to be prepared for anything.
“Don’t roll your eyes at me, Alexander Lightwood.” Alec let out a laugh, surprising himself. He didn’t think he could laugh anymore. “As I was saying, it will be your job to protect her if anything were to happen to me. Now, I know if I told you I was making this video, you’d laugh and say that nothing is going to happen but we both know how quickly things can change. When John passed, you took care of me. You pulled me out of the dark hole I found myself sinking into and helped me see how important my life was, especially for Max. I will never be able to thank you enough for all that you did for me during those days. I know that you’ll be there for Max whenever she needs you, which is why I want you to raise her as your daughter if something is to ever happen.” Alec shook his head at the screen, letting his tears resume.
“I want Max to know that she had two adoring people in her life who loved her more than they thought possible, but she’ll need a father. I can’t think of anyone better than you, Alec. But you do know me. I have a couple requests to go along with this.” Alec wiped at his tears, nodding at his best friend.
“One, I need you to start living again. I know that losing me is going to hurt. I know that you’re walking on a thin line right now and it needs to stop. If not for me, then for Max. I want you to take Izzy and Jace to that stupid nightclub Izzy and I used to drag you and John to tonight. Wear those black jeans that fit in all the right places and the shirt I bought you for your first day of school. You know, the navy button down with the white polka dots?” Alec rolled his eyes again, remembering the day she somehow convinced him to wear that shirt.
“I know you hated it, but I also know you literally can’t so no to me, especially now. Two, I want you to cherish each and every day with your family. I had no one growing up and your family took me in as their own. I want you to tell Izzy that I will miss our Wednesday morning coffee chats and our monthly window-shopping trips. I want you to tell Jace that I definitely cheated at Clue that time, but he really needed his ass handed to him. Most importantly, let them know that I learned everything I needed to know about family from them and it’s memories with them that I will cherish forever.” Lydia’s voice broke in the video, causing Alec to let out a soft sob.
“Lastly, I want you to find someone. I know you’re always saying that you don’t need anyone but Alec, someone deserves you. You have everything to give and when you find that person, maybe the walls around your heart will finally fall. You deserve everything that is good in the world, Alec Lightwood. I hope you and Maxine will find that everything. I love you, Alec, till the end of the world.”
With that, he watched her walk up to the camera, fumbling to turn it off. While he expected to see the screen go black, it kept recording, so Alec continued watching. He heard a slight cry and recognized it as Max’s immediately. He watched as Lydia made her way over to the crib behind her, cooing the small child as she picked her up in her arms. She was so small then, only a week old. Lydia rocked her back and forth, singing a lullaby softly.
“If anything were to happen to me, you’re going to have the best daddy, Max. Alec loves you so much, just as much as I do. He’s the reason we’re both still here today and I can’t thank him enough for it.” He heard a door slam, causing Lydia to jolt slightly. Her posture softened when someone walked into the room. Alec saw himself enter, holding out his arms instinctively for Max.
“How’s my baby girl doing?” He heard himself coo. He wrapped his arm around Lydia’s shoulder, pulling her to his side as she wrapped her arms around his waist.
“She’s just woken up, waiting for her favorite person to come home.” She smiled up at him, causing Alec to sob at the sight. He’d remember that look on her face for the rest of his life, he was sure of it. It seemed like something caught her eye near the camera. She separated herself from Alec, walking over to it. The screen went black and Alec let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. A soft knock on the door a minute later pulled him out of his own head.
“Alec, can we come in?” It was Izzy. Alec was sure Jace was right behind her. He wiped the tears away from him face once again, sniffling hard to compose himself before sitting up straight in his chair.
“Yeah, Iz, come on in.” He turned towards the door as it opened, revealing his family behind it.
“Hey, are you ready to get going? We have to pick up Max from Clary’s place.” She spoke softly again. He wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to the gentleness in her voice.
“Actually, can you call Clary? See if Jocelyn and Luke can watch Max for the night?” Izzy’s eyes widened slightly as she nodded. “Lydia made a request and it seems I can’t say no to it.” His eyes sparkled with humor for the first time in the weeks since Lydia passed.
“Yeah! Of course. Is Clary invited?” He nodded, taking out his own phone to check the time.
“You, Jace, Clary, and I are going to Lava tonight.” He didn’t think it was possible for Izzy’s eyes to widen any more. “It was Lydia’s idea…” He shrugged as if that was enough of an answer. It seemed to be for Izzy as she was already holding the phone up to her ear, squealing with Clary on her way out the door. Alec followed her, letting Jace rest a hand on his upper arm.
“You okay, buddy?” Alec smiled slightly, nodding his head.
“I will be. I’ve got Max to think about now.” At the sound of her name, both men smiled wider.