In Shadowed Summer, my main character Iris trails behind her best friend Collette in the getting-to-the-beauty phase of being a teen. It doesn't occur to Iris to think about the way she looks until her uncle brings her a few faintly fashionable odds and ends from a tag sale.
Among these pieces, Iris finds a fitted, blousy shirt unlike her usual beaten-up Ts. And when she puts it on, she feels different. More obvious; more like Collette, who's still delighted enough with her recent transformation that she wants people to notice the bra strap peeking from under her sleeve. But Iris isn't ready for that kind of scrutiny yet--this new skin is pretty, but not exactly hers.
As someone who spent most of junior high wearing skinny ties and suits, then most of high school in combat boots and floor-length skirts, I relate. Trying to find myself, I tried on a lot of skins--some more successful than others. But I remember clearly, meeting up with a high school friend, later, in my 20s. By then, I had moved on to comfortably casual department store--normal enough, I suppose.
When he saw me, he said, "If I had known you looked like that, I would have asked you out."
I think if he'd said that at any other time, I would have been devastated. Felt like I'd failed somehow. But he caught me on a day when I was exactly me--and that was exactly enough. And instead of being ashamed that I hadn't been pretty enough, I was amused.
I replied, "Hey, I've always looked like this. It's not my fault you didn't see it."
Though Iris isn't at that point by the end of Shadowed Summer, I like to think she's approaching it. I like to think I'm hitting it more often than not. So I hope that on those days, when you feel exactly wrong, entirely ugly and unlovable in the extreme, you'll take a moment, stop, and realize that you've always looked like this.
And you are beautiful.
About Shadowed Summer
Nothing ever happened in Ondine, Louisiana, not even the summer Elijah Landry disappeared. His mother knew he ascended to heaven, the police believed he ran away, and his girlfriend thought he was murdered.
Decades later, certain she saw his ghost in the town cemetery, fourteen-year-old Iris Rhame is determined to find out the truth behind "The Incident With the Landry Boy."
Enlisting the help of her best friend Collette, and forced to endure the company of Collette's latest crush, Ben, Iris spends a summer digging into the past and stirring old ghosts, in search of a boy she never knew.
What she doesn't realize is that in a town as small as Ondine, every secret is a family secret. Want your own copy? Find it here.
About Saundra Mitchell
A screenwriter and author, Saundra Mitchell penned the screenplays for the Fresh Films and Girls in the Director's Chair short film series. Her short story "Ready To Wear" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her first feature film, Revenge Ends, debuted on the festival circuit in 2008. In her free time, she enjoys ghost hunting, papermaking, and spending time with her husband and her two children. Find out more about Saundra at www.saundramitchell.com or www.shadowedsummer.com