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Authors: Rachel Smith

Home: A Novel

This is a work of fiction. The events and characters described herein are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places or living persons. The opinions expressed in this manuscript are solely the opinions of the author and do not represent the opinions or thoughts of the publisher. The author has represented and warranted full ownership and/or legal right to publish all the materials in this book.

 

Home

A Novel

All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © 2014 Rachel Smith

v3.0

 

Cover Image by JJ Grinvalds

 

This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means, including graphic, electronic, or mechanical without the express written consent of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

 

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PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

For my best friend, Cayen.

Because I would have never

done this without your

encouragement.

 

Prologue

“Supper’s ready, Baby Girl!” Mama yelled up the stairs.

“I’m coming!”

I set the hairbrush onto my vanity, skipped out the doorway and into the hall. Bounding down the narrow, wooden stairs of our old farmhouse, I continued to hum the Reba McEntire song in my head.

“What’s going on up there?” Mama asked as I walked into the kitchen. “The music was so loud it sounded like it was playing right in front of me.”

“Very funny, Mama,” I answered. “I was just practicing my singing.”

“Duh, Lily.” I looked over to see my oldest brother, Alan, roll his eyes at me. “Obviously we all knew what you were doing in your room. Like singin’ into your stupid hairbrush is gonna make you famous someday.”

“It is!” I yelled back at him, stomping my foot to emphasize my point.

“Alright, that’s enough out of both of you. Lillian, please set the table. Alan, get your butt outta here if all you’re gonna do is tease your sister,” Mama scolded. Alan stood from the table and trudged off, being sure to bump into my shoulder on his way out so I would lose my balance.

I huffed as I pulled dishes from the cupboard to help Mama set the table for supper. I
 
W
AS going to be a singer someday. I would work harder than anyone had worked in their whole life to make it happen.

It was my dream.
 
T
o sing.
 
T
o perform. I was born for the stage and I knew it deep down in my soul.

Someday, I would be famous.

“Baby Girl, I love that you have big dreams,” Mama said, “but you are only eleven years old. Y
ou have a lot of years left before you need to make any decisions.
 
Y
ou know, when I graduated from high school I had no idea where life would take me. It was my freshman year at the Community College that I met your father. I realized that any dream I had before him wasn’t a dream at all. He was my dream.
 
T
his life we’ve made together, and you kids, I wouldn’t wish it any other way.”

“I might be just a kid but I know what I wanna do, Mama. And there is nobody in the world that can change my mind.”

“Just keep your options open, okay?
 
Y
ou have plenty of time to find other things you love just as much as singing.”

“There will never be anything I love as much as singing. Ever.” I said.

Mama sighed. She knew there was no way to change my mind.
 
T
o me, it was set in stone that I would be a singer and I would stop at nothing to make it happen.

“Set three extra places tonight, the DeLuca family will be joining us,” Mama instructed as she took the roast out of the oven.

“Sure thing, Mama.”

Awesome. Having the DeLuca’s over meant Justin would be here. He was my best friend. I knew he’d help convince my family I would be a famous singer someday.
 
W
e talked about it all the time so I knew he would totally be on my side.

An hour later the two families gathered around the kitchen table. I sat next to Justin on one side while my three brothers sat across from us.

“So Justin, do you feel special?” my brother Michael asked.

“For what?”

“Oh, don’t you know?” James piped in. “You’re sitting next to a future celebrity!”
 
T
he boys all giggled at the lame joke.

“I can see it now,” they continued to make fun of me. “Lily will be on talk shows, ride around in a limo, and sing for thousands of people all over the world.”

“And she’ll probably have one of those enter-trage thingys.” Michael laughed as he speared a piece of roast from his plate.

“What’s an enter-trage?” James asked.

Alan rolled his eyes. “It’s called an entourage, half-wit.”

Justin turned to me and scrunched his eyebrows in confusion. I stared down at my lap, embarrassed to be teased in front of my friend. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so brave anymore.

Justin reached under the table and grabbed my hand. Giving it a slight squeeze, he looked across at my brothers and said, “Well, I already got her autograph the other day, just so I could say I have the first one. I know she’ll make it big, and you three are gonna eat your words when she’s rich and famous.”

I beamed up at Justin. He wasn’t only my best friend, he was my hero. He stuck up for me time and time again when people teased me for always singing and dancin’ around. He even had to stay after school a few times for getting in fights with the other kids on my behalf.

“Pssh.
 
T
hat’s stupid.
 
W
e all know she’ll get married and have babies like everyone else around here,” Alan said. Being the oldest of my brothers, he was the most practical. “Twenty bucks says ten years from now you guys are married.” All the boys started to laugh at Alan’s comment.

I saw red. If I could have jumped across the table and strangled him, I would have.
 
W
hat a jerk! My face was on fire from the humiliation as I snatched my hand away from Justin’s under the table.

“I hate you, Alan!” I screamed.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa now.
 
Y
ou kids pipe down and finish your supper,” Daddy scolded. “And there is nothing wrong with settlin’ down and havin’ babies.” He looked first at my brothers, and then me. Mama grinned.

“Sorry, Daddy.”

“Sorry,” the boys muttered.

I took a few more bites of food and realized I could feel the anger rolling from Justin’s body next to mine. Peeking out the corner of my eye so he wouldn’t notice me looking at him, I saw I was correct. His hands were in fists, his jaw clenched tightly shut, and his eyes were staring holes into each of my brothers.

“Hey,” I whispered. “Just ignore them.”

He turned to look at me but said nothing. His look of disgust turned into something much softer when his eyes connected with mine.

“I hate it when they act like that to you,” he whispered back to me. “They’re assholes that need to be put in their place.”

“Yes.
 
Y
ou’re right,” I giggled. Justin said naughty words all the time and it always made me laugh.

After supper my brothers disappeared, probably to call their girlfriends, so Justin and I went outside to sit in the swings. Absentmindedly, I continued to hum the Reba McEntire song I’d been working on earlier.

“Sing it,” Justin said softly. “Please, Lily, for me?”

I started to sing. Justin never took his eyes off me. I was getting old enough I could tell he liked me, but I was too busy singing to have time for a boyfriend.
 
T
he girls in my class talked about boys all the time but I didn’t see what the big fuss was all about. I had music and my best friend, what more could an eleven year old girl want?

When I finished, I looked at him and shrugged.

“You’re amazing, Lil.
 
W
hen you sing, I can tell how much you love it.
 
Y
our eyes get gigantic and such a bright color of blue, it’s like they shine. Just like you.
 
Y
ou’re gonna shine someday. I just know it.”

“Thanks, Justin. I just know it too. I will do whatever it takes to make it happen.”

“I believe you, Bright Eyes.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

H
ome.

Shit.

I was going home. I hadn’t been home in years.
 
T
welve to be exact.

Boarding the plane in Nashville, I thought back to how this wild ride all started.

On the day of my high school graduation I had one goal in mind: Get the hell out of dodge. My car was packed, my GPS was set, I just needed to throw my cap in the air and I would hit the road.

Ever since I was eleven years old, I wanted to be a singer. Growing up in the small town of Glenview, Iowa, I knew it wouldn’t be easy to make it to the big time. Every day for years I practiced in my room; singing into a hairbrush, watching myself in the mirror to make sure I
 
looked
 
like a singer.

I was hell bent on doing whatever it took to make my dream come true.

I just wish someone would have warned me about the price tag that came with being a celebrity.

I hadn’t thought about that. I just wanted to sing. I loved it.
 
W
hen I left on graduation day I drove straight to Nashville,
 
T
ennessee.
 
T
he country music capital of the world.
 
T
he place where thousands of people flocked every year with a dream and a guitar, hoping to strike gold and sign a record deal.

I knew it wouldn’t happen overnight. I knew I would have to struggle and pay my dues just like every other singer.
 
W
hen I was growing up, my three older brothers reminded me daily that it was a dream that wouldn’t be easy to reach. In fact, I don’t think they had much faith in me at all.
 
T
hey constantly teased me about becoming famous. Mama and Dad took every opportunity possible to remind me that there were other options in life.

The only person who believed in me and pushed me to follow my dreams was my best friend, Justin. By all accounts of ‘small town rules’ he and I should be planning the rest of our lives together. He was the quarterback of the football team.
 
T
all, lean, with a handsome smile to round out his All American Boy look. I was the Senior Class President, and a local celebrity of sorts. Being only five foot three, I was known as the little girl with the powerhouse voice.

Deep down, I always had a bit of a crush on Justin.
 
W
e’d been best friends since Kindergarten, but never once crossed the line of friendship. He was so thoughtful and protective of me. I couldn’t tell you the number of fights that kid got into because someone teased or disrespected me. For being such a great guy, he had one hell of a temper and could be kind of a hothead. Or maybe it was just where I was concerned. Come to think of it, the only fights I remember him getting into were somehow connected to me.

When I left for Nashville, it was already too late to wonder about what could become of me and Justin. I knew if I never took this chance at fame there would be a day down the road I would stop and look at my husband and children with resentment, knowing I was good enough to have made it big, but never even tried. Justin knew better than to even ask me to stay here.

While I was heading off to a whole new world, Justin was staying in Glenview after high school. His family owned a farm just to the north of town and he always planned to help his dad and eventually take over.
 
T
here was once a fleeting moment I thought that life could be for me, but after countless compliments and people telling me I was born to be a star, I didn’t want to waste my only chance.

Saying goodbye that day after the graduation ceremony ended was not easy. My family gave me hugs, back pats and wishes for good luck. I struggled with tears as Justin held me tightly to his chest. He pulled back, kissed my forehead, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Go let your light shine, Bright Eyes.” I looked up and gave him my best smile. It hurt to say goodbye, knowing he would move on with his life, likely find a good woman and start a family with someone that wasn’t me. I felt a small pang of jealousy but pushed it down and buried it deep in my soul.

Driving away, I was instantly homesick. I pulled a hair tie out of my pocket and quickly gathered my long, dark brown hair into a messy ponytail. I made it to the next county and considered turning around.

You can do this, Lillian.
 
You can, damn it.

Every mile my little Buick Skylark ate up, the better I felt. I was free. I had done it. I’d actually left home to go to Nashville. Even if I didn’t make it big, at least I could say I tried. I mentally prepared myself for the letdowns that were to come. I wasn’t naïve. I knew this was not going to be easy.

That’s why when it all changed in one night, I couldn’t believe my luck.

My first week in Nashville, after finding an apartment the size of my bedroom back home, I got a job with a catering company. I figured the small hourly wage plus tips would be plenty to get me by.
 
T
hat, and I could spend all day on my music and waitress at night. It was a win-win.

I was working a swanky party with live music, decadent food and lush champagne. As I filled countless glasses full with bubbly, I realized a bottle of the stuff probably cost more than the rent on my apartment.
 
T
he people attending the party were over the top; Celebrities, Politicians & Athletes, it was the rich and famous of Nashville.


What are you doing up here all by yourself?” I turned around to find quite possibly the most beautiful man in the world standing before me. He started walking in my direction slowly, with a sexy swagger and eyes that scanned me up and down.

“I’m sorry, I needed to take a personal call so I stepped in here for a moment,” I said as I lowered my eyes to the floor. I pleaded inside my head that he would walk away so I didn’t get fired. I needed this job to pay my bills.

“What’s your name?”

I stared at him with wide eyes. He was so incredibly good looking it was making me a little dizzy.

“Do you speak English?”

I smiled. “Yes, sorry, I was just….”
 
W
hat the hell do I say here? I was just looking at your sexy body wondering what it would look like while I rubbed my hands over every inch of your skin in the shower.
 
T
he blush crept up my neck into my cheeks at the thought.

“Well, I’m Colton Jefferson. Does that name mean anything to you?”

Holy Mary Mother of God.
 
T
his was Colton freaking Jefferson. He was
 
T
HE man in Nashville. Pretty much anyone who made the rounds singing Karaoke in dive bars had the same agenda:
 
T
o get a meeting with Colton Jefferson.

“Um, yeah I know you. I mean, I don’t KNOW you, but I know OF you. My name is Lily Raftzen. I’m a singer, actually,” I said. I could feel the heat kicking it up a notch in my face.
 
What are you thinking, Lil? Why would you say that out loud?

“Oh yeah?” he looked at me and smirked. “Well, I think everyone in this town is a singer. Unfortunately, the majority of them aren’t that great and end up living on buttered noodles until they get a clue.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat. “If you’ll excuse me,” I said as I hurried around him.
 
T
he embarrassment sat heavy in the pit of my stomach. I did not want to become that pathetic person. I came here to give this a shot, and as I scrambled away from Colton Jefferson I decided I would do whatever it takes to make my dream come true.

Whatever it takes.

“Lil. Earth to Lil. Hey, where were you just now?” Sarah asked, shaking me out of my memory and bringing me back to present day.

“Sorry,” I mumbled. “My plane just landed and I’m a little out of it.”

“You aren’t changing your mind, are you?”

“No. I need to do this,” I said. “I was actually just thinking of the last time I was in Iowa.”
 
W
ell, it was sort of the truth. I didn’t want her to know I ever thought about that asshole, Colton.

“Okay, good, considering you just flew all the way out there. So, call me back when you get settled at your parents’ place, okay?”

“I will,” I said and ended the call.

As I made my way through the airport terminal to the rental cars, the realization hit me of just how much I would miss seeing her every day.

Sarah was my personal assistant.
 
W
e became instant best friends during my first catering gig. She was the yin to my yang.
 
T
he perfect blond haired girl with legs that went on forever. She was at least five inches taller than me, and had a dark complexion that made her blond hair seem almost blinding.
 
W
hen I first met her I thought maybe she was trying to be a model, she was that beautiful. I soon learned that Sarah came to Nashville with the dream to be a star as well. It only took one week of hitting up the Karaoke bars and sizing up the competition to make her change her tune. Sarah knew the stage was not her place. Instead, she threw herself into helping me make it big.
 
W
e were as close as sisters and would do anything for each other.

She was the only person I found I could trust one hundred percent. Everyone else just wanted a piece of me.
 
T
he moment I signed with the record label and cashed my first big check, she was hired.

She was also the only person besides my lawyer that knew what I’d been up to the past six months. Not even my parents knew. I’d become this awful version of the Lily I was raised to be. It didn’t start out that way. It started out fabulous, actually. I was nineteen years old and had the world at my fingertips. Money, fame, celebrity, power. It was all just part of the gig. I thrived on the fact that people knew my name and wanted my autograph.
 
T
he first magazine cover I was on, I think I bought a hundred copies. Part of me wanted to send one to every single person who said I’d never make it in the business. And I did send one to each of my brothers.

But after a while, the fame started to wear me down.
 
T
here were nights after a show I just wanted to chill. I wanted to kick back, relax, and watch reruns of
 
Friends
 
with my best friend all night. Instead, I was signing autographs and giving interviews. I never seemed to get a break.

And then there was this little voice, who sounded an awful lot like my Mama by the way, asking me if this was still my dream.
 
W
as this what I really wanted out of life? I mean, was this it? Since I was eleven years old I had dreamed of being a famous singer. A celebrity. And now that I had it all, I had to wonder if maybe Mama was right.

At night I laid in bed thinking of a simple life, a life how I grew up. I remember Mama telling me when I was young that after she met my Dad, she realized any dream she had before they met wasn’t a dream at all. My heart was empty. I wanted that dream. But eating crow and going home with my tail between my legs just seemed too hard.
 
W
hat was I supposed to do? Quit? I didn’t even think that was possible.

The unhappy days soon outweighed the happy ones. I didn’t want to perform. I didn’t want to record. Doing yet another talk show made me want to pull my toenails out one by one.

Still, I pushed forward.
 
T
he pressure continued to build and I knew I would eventually snap. I figured I would end up with a stint in rehab or some sort of public meltdown if I didn’t pull myself together.

But another year passed as I made yet another record, and sold out show after show. I sat on another talk show dodging questions of my horrid love life. I waltzed through the motions of life but there was one problem: I didn’t have a dance partner.

And then, six months ago, I’d had enough.

“Thank you, Kansas City! God Bless y’all,” I yelled into my microphone. It was the end of the show. I was exhausted and sweaty, but pure adrenaline flowed through my veins. God, I loved to be on stage.

After setting the microphone back on the stand, I strolled across the stage to the exit. I could see Sarah waiting for me just in the wings. I put both arms up in the air and waved to the crowd. Even after all these years it was surreal to hear thousands of people chant my name, likely for an encore. I already knew tonight we wouldn’t be going back out.
 
T
omorrow night’s show was scheduled for Des Moines, Iowa, and since my hometown was only a couple hours away my parents were meeting me there.
 
T
onight, I planned to head straight to my tour bus and get on the road.

“Great show, girlfriend,” Sarah yelled in my ear like she did after every show, but I barely heard her. Man, the crowd was loud tonight.

“Thanks, babe!”

I shooed her with my hands in the direction of my dressing room so I could get changed into something more comfortable.

As we walked through the hallways I noticed there was an unusual amount of people milling around. Most of the time it was just a few venue workers or employees of the record label.
 
T
onight the fans seemed to be everywhere.
 
W
e hardly made it into the main hallway leading to my dressing room when I heard high pitch screeches coming from every direction calling out my stage name.

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