Radiant by Christina Daley
Publication date: February 12th 2013
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Mary is part Vietnamese. Carter is a complete jerk. Normally, they don't talk much.
But when Mary's in an accident on the way to school one morning, Carter nearly dies saving her life. The doctors say his chances of living are slim, and Mary's feeling the full weight of survivor's guilt.
However, Carter's back at school in a matter of days, as if nothing had happened. Although, he is a little "glitchy," and he's developed a sudden and intense interest in Mary. She thinks he's suffering from major brain trauma from the accident. Or that he's been possessed.
As it so happens, Carter really is possessed. And the thing controlling him is having the time of its life learning to be human.
Featuring a diverse cast of characters, RADIANT is a funny "paranormal-lite" story about being human, being in love, and being healed.
A voice called to her. It seemed close, and it was getting louder as the pain got sharper. "Hey? Hey! Are you all right?" it asked.
Mary blinked several times before she could finally see again. She was in the middle of the street. The cars had stopped and people on the sidewalk were staring.
"Are you all right?" the voice asked again. It was coming from a man wearing some type of uniform.
"What…?" Mary tried to say more, but her voice suddenly stopped working.
"Careful," he said as he helped her up. "Looks like you can move all right. Here, let's get you out of the street."
He helped her over to the sidewalk. "Stay here. Someone's calling the paramedics." And then he was gone.
Mary sat there, still in a daze. She started noticing familiar stuff all over the ground—an open book bag, books, folders, unused tampons, a shoe, and an apple with one bite mark. Her eyes followed the trail of debris to a brilliant red sports car, half of which was smashed in by a city bus.
What had happened? Mary studied the whole scene, trying to puzzle together the pieces. Then it dawned on her. The car had hit her. Not intentionally. She had run in front of the bus without knowing it. It was about to hit her, but the car had gotten in the way first. It had saved her life.
Mary thought about looking in the car. Then her feet sorta moved without her meaning them to, and she made her way to the passenger door. She recognized the person inside. Carter. She knew his last name, but she couldn't think of what it was. He was slumped over the seat with blood oozing all over his face. His eyes were shut.
Mary knocked on the window. The tears in her hand stung.
She beat the window with her fist.
Mary stared. She couldn't believe it. On any other day, she wouldn't exchange two words with this guy. Just yesterday, he nearly mowed down an elderly couple while driving out of the school lot. Mary had secretly wished he'd be taught a lesson. But she didn't mean this.
She tried the door handle, but it was still locked. Suddenly, Carter's eyes flickered opened. He looked straight at her.
Mary gasped and pressed her face against the window.
Carter's eyes closed.
She stared at him, waiting for him to open them again. Waiting for any sign of life. But he was still like he was before.
Hands suddenly took hold of Mary, pulling her away from the car. Her feet moved on their own again. Someone was yelling "Miss" a lot. Parts of her brain found other noises too, like sirens, voices, beeping, and other things. The hands directed her to sit on something hard and cold.
"Miss? Can you hear me? Can you tell me your name?"
Mary didn't answer. She still hadn't found her voice, and her mind was fuzzy, too.
"Is that her bag there? Does she have a driver's license?"
A different person spoke. "No license, but I found a student ID. Her name's Mary Phan. She's seventeen and a junior here at Lewis Prep."
Mary heard a third voice. "I just talked with some of the kids on the sidewalk. One of them said her mom's a nurse at the memorial hospital."
"Find out how to contact the mom. Anyone see what happened?"
"Cops are questioning witnesses right now. Looks like she ran in front of the bus. It would've nailed her if that sportster hadn't gotten in the way."
"Anything on the bus or the driver of the car?"
"Everyone on the bus looks fine. The car belongs to a kid named Carter Maxwell. Also a junior." A sigh. "I wouldn't hold my breath. He looks really bad in there."
Mary tuned out everything else. All sights. All sounds. The only thing she could see in her mind was Carter staring at her.
"What about the kid the red car?" Mary asked.
The doctor took off his glasses. "I'm sorry. He didn't make it."
Mary stared at him. "But he looked at me."
Mom and the doctor exchanged concerned glances. Mary looked down at her bandaged hands, trying hard to remember. A lot of details still weren't clear, but she did remember Carter opening his eyes. If only for a quick moment. "Can I see him?" she asked
"I don't know if that's a good idea," Mom said.
"Mom," Mary said. "Please."
Mom's brow wrinkled. Then, she sighed. "We can see if his parents will allow it."
The doctor released her, and Mary left the room with her mother. When they got to the end of the hall, they saw a homely couple speaking with one of the ER surgeons. The woman was crying, and the man clutched her as if he was keeping her from falling apart.
"I'm very sorry Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell," the doctor said.
"We're not the Maxwells," the man said. "I'm Marcos Romero, and this is my wife Linda. We're their housekeepers. Carter's father and stepmother are out of the country right now."
"I see," the doctor said. "Have either of you contacted his parents? Or his mother?"
"I called and left a message for Mr. Maxwell," Mr. Romero said. "Carter's mother past away several years ago from cancer."
Mrs. Romero wailed. From the way she was crying, she might as well have been Carter's mom. Mary wished that she could cry with her. Mom once joked that Mary was born with the tiniest tear ducts in the world, so she didn't cry often. Now, she wished she could drum up a couple tears, if anything to not seem so unsympathetic.
Mary looked at her mother, who nodded. Then, she cautiously approached them. "Excuse me. But I'm Mary. I'm the…what I mean is…." She couldn't find the right thing to say. Mary had always been terrible with words. Especially the sensitive ones needed for things like this.
Mrs. Romero looked at her disheveled school uniform and her bandaged hands and knees. "You were the girl who was almost hit by the bus," she said.
"Are you all right?" Mr. Romero asked.
Mary nodded. "I am, thank you. But I was wondering if I could see him? Carter, I mean."
"I would advise against that," the surgeon said. "The body…I mean Carter…is not—"
"Please," Mary begged.
The stout couple looked at one another. At last, Mrs. Romero said, "Let her."
The doctor looked at her. At last, he sighed and gestured for Mary to follow him.
Mary was used to hospitals, ever since Mom became a nurse. But she had never seen an operating room occupied. Instruments and equipment were still in the places where the doctors and nurses had left them when they were trying to save Carter's life. At the center was the operating table with a still figure on it, covered with a bloody sheet.
The doctor took part of the sheet. "Are you sure about this?"
No, Mary thought. But she nodded nonetheless.
He pulled the sheet down to Carter's neck.
Mary stared at the broken, pale face of a boy she hardly knew.
"I'll give you a few minutes." The doctor left the room to wait outside.
Mary studied Carter's closed eyes. Maybe when they had opened in the car, it was because of an involuntary spasm. Or maybe she really had just imagined it.
Mary bowed her head, once again wishing she could cry now. But all she could offer was a meager, "I'm sorry."
Mary took one last look at Carter as she turned to leave. But she stopped.
A single tear slowly fell from the corner of Carter's right eye.
Mary rubbed her eyes, making sure her vision was clear. Then she looked again.
Another tear escaped from the corner of Carter's eye.
Mary bolted from the room. "He's crying!"
Everyone looked at her like she was a lunatic.
"Mary, calm down," Mom said.
"But Mom, he's crying!" Mary repeated. "He has tears coming from his eyes."
The doctor looked at her curiously. "Are you sure? Maybe the tears came from you?"
Mary frowned. Couldn't he tell she wasn't crying? "You have to check him again," she said.
The Romeros looked at the doctor, like they had seen a glimmer of hope struggling through the sorrow. He sighed and shrugged, but he turned and went back into the operating room.
A tense few minutes passed. Suddenly, the doctor burst from the door, calling for his team. Several nurses rushed in and the door closed again.
Mary and the others hardly breathed, let alone spoke, as they waited in the hall.
Finally, after what felt like ages had passed, the doctor came out again, followed by the undeniable sound of the heart monitor beeping.
Carter was alive.
Christina Daley made her first book with neighborhood friends when she was four years old. They "wrote" out some semblance of lettering with crayons, cut up a cardboard box for the cover, and bound it all together with clear adhesive tape. It was brilliant.
Quite a few years later, Christina is trying her hand at writing "real" books. She lives in Dallas, Texas, with a pet plant named Herb.
Interview With Christina:
1. What was your inspiration for Radiant?
I was working on another book called Seranfyll at the time, but I ran out of ideas about 20 pages into it and set it aside. I then came across these random science articles--some were about comets and others were about health, for instance. I can't remember where the possessing idea came from, but I started to wonder what it would be like for a person to almost die and then get possessed by something that wasn't a ghost or an alien. The story grew from there into Radiant. After I got Radiant out of my system, I came back to Seranfyll and finished that as well.
2. Do you have any other works in progress?
I always have WIPs! I'm working a historical fiction YA that I'm keeping under wraps for now (translation: I haven't gotten very far on it, lol!). And recently, I pulled out some of my old art supplies and started re-learning how to draw. I'm not very good at it, but if you're interested in seeing a sampling of what I've done since April, check out my blog at christinadaley.blogspot.com
3. What is your writing process like?
I'm not entirely sure, lol! It's different for each project. I don't outline, but I may write a bunch of notes or even a working synopsis (that ALWAYS changes by the time the first draft stage). Sometimes I write the first few chapters long hand, and other times I'll go straight to the computer and start typing. Sometimes I write at my desk, but I've been favoring my couch lately because it's more comfortable.
4. Any writing tips you would like to share?
Read well and as often as you can! Certainly read in the genre you write in, but also read in other genres for the sake of enjoyment and perspective. I'm a pretty slow reader, so I don't get to read a whole lot of books each year. But I jump around genres a lot, from kids books and classics to manga. And don't shy away from books you think aren't well done, since those are valuable at teaching how you don't want to write.
The other tip I'd give is to do it for the love of the game. There is a business aspect to be aware of when you decide to publish your work for profit. But at the end of the day, write because you love to tell stories and because this is the medium by which your thoughts flow best. If you write for any other reason, you're probably wasting time.
5. What are your favorite books?
That's tough! But at the top of the list is C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I also really loved Ender's Game (looking forward to the movie when it comes out!). And this may be just because I'm learning how to draw right now, but two manga that I really enjoyed are Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa and Bleach by Tite Kubo (although, I haven't read Bleach beyond the anime run).
6. How can readers contact you?
All my contact information is on my blog (christinadaley.blogspot.com), including my email and links to my Facebook page and Twitter. I tend to get really quiet on social media whenever I'm working on a project (like now!), but if you @ me on Twitter or post something on FB or email me, I'll definitely respond.
The bell rang again, and Mr. Hubert began the Pre-Calculus lesson. But Mary hardly paid attention as she thought about what Sienna had told her. Was Carter really here at school? Now? She only had her last class with him—Physics. He normally sat in the back with some of his friends, while Mary took one of the lonely desks near the front. She'd have to wait until then to see if he was in a body cast or something.
When Pre-Cal was finished, Mary gathered up her stuff and headed for the door with the others as usual. But the moment she stepped outside, she collided with another person. "Gah!" she cried as waves of pain surged through her bruised side, bringing her to her knees.
"Mary!" Sienna said as she came over to her. "Geez Carter. What's wrong with you?"
Mary looked up. The person she had run into was Carter Maxwell. He wasn't in a body cast and he didn't have crutches or anything. He looked normal, actually. Except for the thick black sweater he wore over his school uniform.
"I am sorry," he said. "I did not mean to cause harm." He then knelt down and looked Mary in the eyes. There was a subtle spark of life in his green irises. "Are you all right, Mary?" he asked.
She didn't say anything for a moment. Mary didn't know that Carter knew her name, and she had never noticed he had green eyes before. Nor how nice they looked when he was concerned.
She shook her head quickly to break off his gaze. "No. I mean, yeah. I'm fine."
The corners of his mouth curled into a half-smile. "I am glad."
People were staring at them. Mary blushed under the added attention, and she quickly got to her feet.
"Need help carrying your stuff?" Sienna asked.
"Thanks," Mary said. "But I'm just gonna swing by my locker. I'll be fine."
"All right. See you in Art." Sienna shot one last warning look at Carter before heading down the hall.
Mary picked up her bag and turned the other direction. As she walked, she realized people were still looking at her. That's when she noticed Carter was walking next to her. And he was doing it in a really weird way. He made each step deliberate, like he was doing mini-lunges.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"I am walking," he said.
"Um. Okay." Mary looked forward again, thinking that when she got to her locker, he'd go away. But he didn't. He stopped with her.
"I'm all right, Carter," she said. "You don't have to help me."
"Okay," he said.
Mary looked at him from the corner of her eye as she put her Pre-Cal stuff away and got her Art things. "Are you all right?"
Carter smiled. "I am. Thank you for asking."
Sienna was right. Carter was acting weird. That bus sure did a job on his brain.
"Don't you have to go to class or something?" she asked.
"Yes," he said.
Mary closed her locker and headed towards Art. Carter followed. The halls were emptying as kids got to their rooms, but it was still embarrassing with him lunging next to her. Mary stopped and faced him. "Listen, Carter. I really am all right. You don't have to walk with me to class." In fact, she preferred that he didn't.
He smiled. "You said that already."
"Yeah," she said. "So…stop following me."
Carter wrinkled his brow. "Do I make you uncomfortable? Walking with you like this?"
Give the man a prize. "Uh, yeah," Mary said. "Very."
He looked a little sad suddenly. "I am sorry. I will leave you alone." He turned and walked down the other hall.
Mary felt bad. She didn't mean to make him sad. She just wanted him to stop following her. She sighed and headed down the same hall to apologize. But when she got there, she didn't see him. "Carter?"
He was nowhere. Despite the weird lunges, he apparently could move quickly.
That's when she remembered. For days, Mary had put herself through a series of guilt trips, thinking Carter was going to die or end up a vegetable. She had never considered everything going back to normal. Or, relatively normal. This was the first time she'd seen Carter since the hospital, and she had forgotten to thank him for what he had done.
Grand Prize Giveaway
5 winners: paperback of Radiant + a bookmark (US/CAN)