Now, however, you may read and enjoy this little short story, "The Analog Kid," for yourselves, and discover the new first meeting between Alex Cassar (renamed from Alex Snow - this is what he's named in the final, publication-ready version too!) and Fionna. No longer are they strangers until they meet at the pool - instead, they've known each other since freshman year, allowing them to go into their date in Chapter 3 with built-in attraction and tension already.
Enjoy, my friends!My brother and I have been pretty lucky in our freshman year. He and I are no longer going to school in our old hometown, where our mixed blood made us perpetual outcasts. Now, Gabe’s enrolled at Castledown Academy in Hell, and he’s finally gotten the chance to mix, mingle, and befriend other demons like himself. As for me, I’m going to a new school as well - Balthazar Academy in Heaven. And I’ve been afforded the chance to make new friends among my fellow angels. So far, I’ve got one. But he’s a damn good one, probably the first other angel to really understand me the same way Gabe does.
Not everything can be sunshine and roses, though.
Like today. It’s our birthday weekend (although the actual day is next Tuesday), and so Gabe suggested I come across town and meet him at his school. Six months have passed since we started school, and I still haven’t seen Castledown yet, so I thought, why not?
Of course, I didn’t anticipate waking up this morning feeling feverish and flu-like.
But I don’t have the flu. What I have is much less serious, but just as annoying and uncomfortable and unavoidable. I’m molting. I keep telling myself it’s just another hurdle in angelic puberty, and I’m not the only one going through this - most other guys in my class are molting too. Sure, I’ll lose all my feathers, and my wings will be as bald and bat-like as Gabe’s, but by June I’ll grow in bigger ones as my wings finally reach full size.
Still...I’d rather just get it over with, honestly. It’s got me not only feverish, but also jumpy, for some reason. Riding the cable car up to Castledown actually gave me something most angels don’t experience - a bout of acrophobia.
But when I get off the cable car and Gabe’s waiting for me, I feel better. Mostly because he greets me with his usual bear hug and says, “Happy early birthday, you cheeky bastard.”
“Back at you, dude.”
He leads me into the building. I’m a bit surprised, but not that much, to see that the layout of Castledown is very, very similar to that of Balthazar. Makes sense - everything in this town is a mirror image of its counterpart in either Heaven or Hell. The only real difference is the colors - whereas Balthazar’s main color is green, Castledown’s is bright blue. “Not very Hellish, is it?” I laugh, pointing at the flags lining the corridor. “It looks like the Earthen sky.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Hi, Gabe!” We both turn to see a girl, about the same height as both of us, waving jauntily. “Oh, who’s this? Is this that angel twin of yours I’ve heard so much about?”
I eyeball Gabe warily. “What have you told her?”
“Only the worst horror stories about you,” Gabe snickers. “Fionna Lee, Alex Cassar.”
“Nice to meet you, Fionna,” I say, holding out my hand to shake.
She looks from me to Gabe, her brown eyes glittering, and bursts out laughing. “You’re such an angel,” she says. “Didn’t he tell you we hug around here?”
I glare at Gabe and aim a fake punch at his shoulder. “Guess not. And he calls me the cheeky bastard.”
“Can’t imagine why,” Fionna laughs. “And hey, he wasn’t kidding. You two really look different. I mean, he’s white and you’re brown...or do you prefer ‘olive?’”
I brush the longest parts of my hair - brown, not blond like Gabe’s - behind my ear. “He told you that too? Did he also say how I like it when girls know nothing about me?”
“Why, ‘cause you’re so mysterious?”
I shrug. “Maybe.”
“Well, O Mysterious One, why don’t you give me a hug like a civilized guy, huh?”
I grin at her and oblige her request. I’m so horrible with talking to girls back in Heaven, but Fionna, maybe because she’s a demon, is a lot easier to talk to. Even if she’s strikingly pretty.
Nothing can go wrong...except for her hug making me lose about half a dozen feathers out the back of my shirt. When she sees this, she lets go of me and really falls over laughing.
“Oh God, I’m sorry!” I blush bright red and bend down to gather up the dark brown primaries scattered around my sneakers.
“Don’t be,” she says when she’s recovered enough breath to talk. “Not the first time a boy’s lost his nerve around me.” She backs away, waving goodbye to me and Gabe. “Happy fifteenth...Feathers!” she laughs before turning on her heel and leaving.
Only when she’s out of sight does Gabe give up restraining his own laughter. I, however, bury my head in my hands and whisper, “Dude...kill me now.”
“No way,” Gabe says. “You haven’t seen my room yet! Come on!” He lays one arm over my shoulders and steers me away. I’m afraid if I look back, I’ll see more of my feathers forming a trail behind us with every step.