Nothing ever happened in Ondine, Louisiana, not even the summer Elijah Landry disappeared. That was an incident; and being specific, it was "The Incident with the Landry Boy."
Since he never was found, it gave me and my best friend, Collette, something to wonder about, and in Ondine, wondering was about all we had to do.
According to the sign out by the highway, Ondine was home to 346 good people and 3 cranky old coots and was a good place to live, but that was a lie.
Ben Duvall's daddy hung the sign out during the evacuation. Ondine was on the way to Baton Rouge, and people seemed to think if we touched up our paint, some of New Orleans's storm refugees would stay and make this home.
Nobody stayed longer than it took to get supper, and why would they?
We had a gas station and a Red Stripe grocery store that rented DVDs for three dollars a night--they didn't have anything good.
Collette's mama regularly lost her temper over the broken grill at the diner. And Father Rey was brimstone enough that even our Baptists would sit in his pews instead of driving a town over to worship, especially if he trotted out the sermons about loving the sinner and hating the sin.
That was entertainment, and that was all we had.
When school was in, there was maybe ten of us, and we rode a bus forty minutes to St. Amant. That was different, at least, but come summer, all we had was stale movies from the Red Stripe, extra Masses, and making stuff up.
Since we couldn't drive yet, me and Collette did a whole lot of making stuff up.
Well, we used to, anyway.
Sometimes we'd be knights. It didn't matter that knights were supposed to be boys; we could ride horses and swing swords if we wanted to. Sometimes we'd be witches, or elementals, or whatever good thing we thought up or got from our library books.
We found magic everywhere, in the trees and the wind, in teacups and rainstorms. We were bigger than Ondine, better than the ordinary people who came and went and never stopped to wonder what lay underneath the church's tiger lilies to give them such bloodred hearts.
Nobody but us seemed to wonder or bother or ask about anything, and we felt strangled being the only ones. When we were twelve, Collette pricked her finger to make a vow that she'd get us out of Ondine as soon as she got her license. It made me a little dizzy to see the red beading up on her skin, but I let her poke me, too. Anybody could make a promise; we had to bind ours with a spell.
But that was used-to-be, back when we had a New Orleans to run away to, before the storm, before we turned fourteen. Fourteen changed everything.
Collette was first; she was born in February. She developed first, too. She wanted everybody to think she was embarrassed when her bra strap kept slipping down her arm, but I knew her better than that. Every time, her dark eyes darted, looking to see who'd noticed.
I turned fourteen in May, and I was just fine with the way things were. I didn't need a bra, or want one, either. Ondine wasn't any bigger, we still couldn't go anywhere, and driving was two years out yet. Our games suited me fine.
Collette, though, rewrote them some. We never played only witches anymore; somebody had to have a sweetheart. Or we had to taint apples with twisted love spells. Most important, though, we couldn't play out where the boys could see us and throw rocks.
We used to throw rocks back. But making up imaginary worlds was more important to me than arguing with Collette about her being boy-crazy, so I just went along.
After Mass, we invaded the cemetery row by row, back to the old side of the yard.
"Where y'at?" Collette asked, and helped me onto Jules Claiborne's crypt.
It was just a grayish slab box, maybe six feet long. Its top was pocked from rain, rough and nubbly, and it made our jeans catch on the surface.
Folding my legs up, I settled on the stone. "I'm fine. How are you?"
Collette looked down to make her dark curls fall in her eyes. She had good hair. There was a springy kind of coil to it that made me want to reach out and tug it, just to watch it bounce back. I always wanted hair like that, even though she said I didn't--too much trouble. I'd argue about it, though. She'd never had to suffer straight and stringy dishwater blond.
"I'm all right. But listen."
Collette had a new spell to cast; she glared and threw her hands out to catch lightning, her hair rising like a midnight halo around her head as she tried to call the spirits of the dead.
I cupped my hands behind my ears and closed my eyes. At first, I smelled more than I heard. Water and stone, overperfumed magnolias ripening with the heat. A bite of bitter cypress swirled around under that, and my stomach turned before I managed to pay attention with my ears.
To be honest, I didn't hear anything unusual: a little bit of wind, some birds, a couple of spring peepers confused about the time of day, and cicadas. Those rattled and hummed, ticking like a windup clock, then exploding with a maraca burst before starting over again.
But Collette wouldn't make a point of listening to them. Since I didn't hear anything new, I faked it. Trying to sound spooky, I barely whispered, "What is that?"
"They're trying to talk to us," Collette said, stroking the crypt top with both hands.
"We're the only ones who can hear them, Iris."
I nodded, getting into the feel of something mystical, even if I didn't know what it was. Possibility prickled at the back of my neck; it made my heart beat fast in anticipation.
A copper tang spread on my tongue, a taste that made me go all tight inside, waiting for something to happen.
Still low, I just breathed out, "Ohhh . . ."
"Can you hear them?" She always insisted that winds shifted for us, winds the rest of Ondine never felt at all.
"Uh-huh," I lied.
Collette pushed up suddenly. Turning like a weather vane, she pointed at the next crypt over and fell into her best spell-casting voice. "We have to cover their bones. You go lay over there."
In a second, I'd hopped down from Jules Claiborne's granite death-bed, and grunted my way onto his wife Cecily's. My pants caught on the frills edging her slab, but I didn't even wince when I felt the denim tear. My jeans were already short by a half an inch; a hole in the knee wouldn't matter much. Besides, the dead were talking; I wanted to listen.
Spreading myself out, I closed my eyes. "What now?"From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell. Copyright © 2009 by Saundra Mitchell. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.