From Chapter 1:
I had a feeling the day would be less than stellar as soon as I woke up. My alarm hadn’t gone off, I had bed hair and the house was on fire. Why does the house always have to catch fire on the day I need more time to review for a geometry quiz? I checked the clock on the floor next to the cheap foldout daybed.
I had to be at the bus stop by 6:55. If I missed the bus, I wouldn’t have to worry about dying in the fire, my Stepdad would kill me. I had ninety-five minutes to save my life.
On the bright side, I’d fallen asleep in my clothes—jeans, T, and flannel—so at least I didn’t have to worry about getting dressed. I groped under the frame of the futon until I felt a cold metal cylinder, which I grabbed as I rolled to my feet. My whole room was hazy, but the living room was worse. Probably thanks to the burning couch. Coils of smoke slithered on the ceiling like stoned snakes. My housemates Laurd and Darke slumped on the floor like stoned stoners. One of them must have dropped a lit joint again.
I pulled the pin, aimed the extinguisher and sprayed the base of the fire. Foam dripped onto the seventies shag carpet, but honestly, the burnt chemical smell was an improvement over the rug’s usual shampoo of gin and vomit.
Just when I thought it would be enough, the curtain caught fire. And by curtain, I mean urine-infested sheet. I’m pretty sure the sheet was also splashed with alcohol. You could hardly ask for better kindling. Once the sheet-curtain burst into flame, I knew we were toast. Crispy, blackened toast. The fire was between me, my comatose companions, and the only exit.
I reached down, trying to pull something out of my sock. The air thickened by the moment, and I coughed like a forty-year-old two-packs-a-day smoker. Hacking and hopping and yanking at my sock all at the same time, I fell flat on my face in aromatic shag. Flames gobbled the ceiling. I pulled off the whole sock and hurled it at the fire, shouting: “Ice!”
The temperature in the room dropped by a hundred degrees. The sheet-curtain turned from a pillar of fire to a column of ice. Icicles dangled from the ceiling like a garden of Swarovski crystal carrots. Frost caked the couch. Snow drifted over the rug. It looked the set of Doctor Zhivago from the Hollywood Wax Museum, except it was cold. Kinda freezing, actually. In Hollywood, you don’t really expect that from snow.
One of my concerns with my first draft of Chapter 1 was that there was no hint of the romance subplot. I found a way to fix that by adding a brief scene where he catches an otherworldly glimpse of her in a mirror. Then I moved up their first meeting from Chapter 4 to Chapter 2. Plot-wise, I can't have Brandon travel in the flesh to the human world yet, so I cheated and devised a scene where they are BOTH spirit-walking in another dimesion. This is the scene when Brandon first meets Clare, from Chapter 2:
The human girl stood there, bewildered about the fact this crazy bus had almost hit her and no one cared. She was also freaking because she didn’t see her car anymore. I had a feeling she’d never spirit-walked before.
I threaded my way through the crowd and held out my hand to her.
“The rest of them can’t see you,” I said. “But your ride is gone, so you might as well get on the bus.”
She looked up at me in awe and fear. She accepted my hand. Everyone else was getting on the bus too. I waited until they were all seated, so we could pick an empty bench. We could have sat on an occupied one, but it’s weird to sit in someone else’s body, and, anyway, they feel it like a cold breeze.
“I’m Brandon,” I said, offering my hand again, this time to shake. Man, was I glad I had on a human masque.
She had a good grip, despite her trembling. “Clare. Um. Are you an angel?”
I had to laugh.
“The devil?” her voice quavered.
“Now you’re just hurting my feelings.”
“But I’m dead right? The car crashed and then…”
“You’re not dead. You’re just spirit-walking.”
“No. You’re joyriding another plane of existence. It’s not permanent. You’re human, right?”
“Yes.” She sat up straighter and blinked at me in sudden recognition. “I’ve seen you before! In the mirror.”
I was pleased she remembered. “You asked for my help. Are you a clairvoyant? Did you know you’d be in a car crash?”
“No, nothing like that. I do have a weird… well, what I mean is, I, uh, see ghosts.”
“You do too?” Before I could answer, her cheeks turned pink, and she muttered, apparently to herself: “Duh, Clare, of course he does.” She smiled, painfully embarrassed. “I mean, obviously you can do a lot more than just see ghosts. How did you learn to, uh…”
“Spirit-walk. Or in this case, spirit-hitchhike on a school bus.”
“Yeah. Um, where are we going?”
“Okay, are you sure you’re not the devil?”