Home > Someone Else's Shadow

Someone Else's Shadow
Author: Monica James



This book is dedicated to me. I thought I was broken. But then, then I wrote this book…



Something about a thunderstorm in June is utterly captivating.

With the sunlight kindling across the horizon, one cannot be condemned for peering up into the heavens and believing we’re not alone because only the hand of God could create something so perfect, so picturesque. But just beyond the skyline, an undercurrent of electricity soon overshadows the sun.

Before long, the sunshine surrenders to the darkness, disappearing to an untouched paradise because Mother Nature has no mercy when it’s her time to shine.

The clouds emerge quickly but quietly, setting the stage for Act 1. The destruction lingers in the air minutes before you can hear it or feel it. One can taste it on their tongue. People scurry like mice, desperate to get indoors and safe in their houses because the roar of the thunder warns what’s approaching from the distance.

Dark gray blankets the vibrant sky, and without warning, it’s illuminated by a flash of lightning. By setting an ominous mood with the warmth still loitering, one can almost forget that the heavens will open and baptize us all with driving rain in seconds.

A thunderstorm in the summertime is such an oxymoron. The weather is stifling, yet the punishing downpour forbids basking in the seasonal heat.

But for me, I must be the epitome of an oxymoron—a smart fool—because all I can think about is breaking free from the suffocating confines of this car and dancing in the rain. My feet yearn to kick at the puddles, bouncing recklessly into each one like a five-year-old. I want to tear off my clothes—overpriced garments which could feed a small nation—and spread my arms out wide and fly. I want to feel the rain on my face trickle into my mouth as I scream in liberation.

I don’t care what others think of me; let them ridicule me because I’ve always been utterly captivated by a thunderstorm in June or…so I think I have.

“Peyton, is everything all right?” Tearing my gaze from the storm just outside my window, I meet Stella Lane’s hazel eyes.

I can see the resemblance. I have her large eyes, which are almost too big for my heart-shaped face. My locks are a deeper, darker orangey copper than Stella’s, but we both wear our hair long. My lips are naturally full, tinted a rosy pink. Stella’s are plump, thanks to her cosmetic doctor. Our builds are slim.

Yes, I can definitely see the similarities…but it’s still so difficult to accept this stranger as my mom. “Yes, I’m fine. Just a lot to take in.”

I know she wants me to say more, maybe explain why I’ve decided to move from her gated mansion in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to a small, secluded property forty-five minutes away. But I can’t give her a reason because I don’t have one. I have no idea why this less than luxurious home appeals to me. It just does.

Stella’s pout slants downward, and I know what she’s going to say. “We can always turn this car around and go home.”


They say home is where the heart is, but the problem is, I’ve misplaced my heart, along with the memories that go with it.

When I look into the mirror, I don’t recognize the person staring back at me because I don’t know who I am. Snippets of information have been relayed to me over the past six months in hopes that it will jog some kind of memory, but all it does is leave me feeling empty; I’m a stranger in someone else’s skin.

They tell me my name is Peyton Veronica Lane. I was born on October first. I’m twenty-seven years old. I have four siblings—two brothers, two sisters—and I’m the third oldest. I’m a marketing manager who loves water sports and having a glass of wine while listening to classical music. The small scar on the underside of my chin is from falling off my mare, Sabina, when I was nine.

It seems I’ve lived a full, rewarding life, one which many may envy, thanks to the blue blood running through my veins. Still, I would give it up, all of it, in a heartbeat if only I could remember who I was.

Six months ago, I woke up…woke up from a coma with no recollection of anybody, anything. The doctors told me I was involved in a head-on collision that almost claimed my life. On the outside, I look unscathed, a pillar of perfect health, but the unseen, like an iceberg submerged deep in the murky depths, has caused me the most harm. My mind is a blank slate. Every moment in time was wiped clean.

I’m told by my friends and family that I’m a good woman, that I’m loved, but I just can’t remember any of it…any of it at all.

“Thank you, but I need to do this. I think.”

Stella tugs at her mother-of-pearl earring—a sure sign she’s annoyed I’ve said no, a word she doesn’t hear too often. Augusto Lane, Stella’s husband and my father, merely sits quietly in the driver’s seat, occasionally glancing at me in the rearview mirror. He seems just as unsettled as I am.

It’s disconcerting to have people you don’t know but who know you trying to narrate your life. Every time someone details a memory, I see the hope flash before their eyes—they’re hoping something will finally resurface. But nothing ever does.

Only time will tell if I’m forever broken. The doctors aren’t even sure.

So I’m sitting in this Mercedes on the way to my new home because it’s the first flicker of familiarity I’ve had in so many months. I’m drawn here, and I need to know why.

Stella said it’s because we vacationed on the lake when we were kids. She has the photos to prove it. But those photographs may as well have been taken in another lifetime because I’m looking at them through the eyes of a stranger.

When Augusto takes a left, the lush vegetation becomes thicker and the location more remote as we journey down a quiet stretch of road. The bustle of Myrtle Beach has left me with a perpetual case of seasickness. The world moves faster down there, but here, the easygoing pace appeases my need for calm.

The wide road is unevenly paved, but it doesn’t seem to bother the locals. Appearing to have been standing for an eternity, the weathered lake houses radiate warmth and love. The neighborhood is everything you’d expect a small community to be—private, tended, and still.

As the storm subsides, I rub a circle in the condensation and peer out the window, all but pressing my nose to the glass. The farther Augusto drives, the more secluded we are, but who needs civilization when a mysterious lake emerges from the isolation? I hold my breath.

Its size is considerable, almost daunting, and one can’t be blamed for looking into the cavernous depths and wondering what secrets it conceals. With trees forking from within the water and low-hanging branches skimming the water’s edge, it throws off a swamp-like feel.

The car decelerates before veering down a steep driveway. I know without looking that this is my new home.

Stella whispers something to Augusto, who turns over his shoulder, his thin lips slanted into a puckered line. I know they’d rather I live anywhere but here, but this isn’t their decision. I’ve lived by their rules for the past six months, and I’m no closer to unearthing just who I was…who I am. Unsnapping my belt, I reach for my backpack, unable to leap from this car fast enough.

“Peyton! Use your umbrella. And dear Lord, put on some shoes!”

I pay no heed to Stella’s requests because the moment I step foot outside and my bare feet connect with the recently showered earth, my lungs fill with air, and I breathe. The oppression gradually fades, and I take a moment to appreciate everything around me.

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