Authors: T.I. Lowe
Coming Home Again Novel
Copyright © 2015 T.I. LOWE
design by Lynnette Bonner of Indie Cover Design -
All Scriptures taken from The
Holy Bible, New International Version
NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by
Used by permission. All rights
Julia’s Journey to Brody Widener for sharing his journey through cancer with
me. He kicked that cancer’s butt!!
loving memory of Betty Gore Boyd.
My Naked Life
I’ve heard the same thing for what feels like all of my
life—repeat of the same request, sometimes told nicely, sometimes not so much…
“Take off your clothes.
want to enjoy the view.”
I do as he says.
First sliding off my
jeans, and then my shirt.
“All of it,” he whispers.
After only a moment’s hesitation, my bra and panties join my
clothes on the floor. I am completely exposed to him. Shivering slightly, I
stare out my bedroom window.
“My beautiful Rose.
Do you know how beautiful you are?” his husky voice asks.
“Yes,” I reply, innocently.
“Take off your clothes, please. We need to fully examine
I numbly pull my clothes off and stand before these people
naked and vulnerable.
The doctor pokes and probes, the nurse takes notes, and I
stand here staring at the sterile gray wall. I just want to lie down and go to
“You realize if you don’t start eating you will die.”
“Yes,” I reply, impassively.
“Take off your clothes,” I’m instructed. I do so quickly
with no hesitation. “Good. Now, slowly circle so we can get a good look at
I do as I’m told. They motion for me to do another slow
circle and I obey.
“You’re a size two,” the agent states instead of asking.
“Yes.” I stand before them with my hands by my side while
they assess my body. I try to suck in my stomach and cheeks for the duration of
the meeting. My eyes meet theirs while I try to act confident.
“You think you can shave that down to a size zero?”
“Yes,” I assure them with determination.
“Take off your clothes. We need to check you for drug
paraphernalia. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” I mumble while peeling my clothes off. This is second
nature to me now. A female counselor checks my body over and finds me clean. I
try to focus on a poster on the wall, which is blurry but says something about
“Are you on anything now?” she questions.
“Yes,” I slur, wasted.
“Take those clothes off so we can get this party started,”
he begs. I vaguely realize I’m fumbling with my dress to get it off. I don’t have
control over my body and am having a hard time completing this simple task. A
task I have done millions of times on command. My body sways back and forth
while he watches me.
“Do you know how sexy you are?”
“Yes,” I slur, dazedly.
It’s been a long journey—a journey that is all the same.
Everyone demanding to see my body.
beast who raped me.
The counselors at the eating
The modeling agencies.
The counselors at rehab.
Did they all see me naked?
Did I hate every minute of it?
Grief keeps me company on a pew in this somber church tucked
on a lonesome street in NYC. The gloomy day appears to give no notice to the subtle
snowflakes collecting just outside. Winter has been brutal and is quite fitting
for partaking in the event for which we are gathered. Today I join my modeling
family to remember
Casio and her way too short
life. We’ve modeled together for nearly a decade. I wasn’t aware her quest to
stay super-thin had crossed over the dangerous line.
occasionally from deprivation…but hadn’t we all? Normally, all we needed to do
was down a sugary can of pop and we would be good as new.
heart couldn’t take
the stress and so we’ve lost another one of our own. I know all about the heart
hiccupping and sputtering experience. I place my perfectly manicured hand over
my own heart now to make sure it’s still doing its job. Besides the sad squeeze
from losing another friend, it feels to be in good working order at the moment.
My intake of a shaky breath catches the attention of Sawyer
Helms as he sits somberly beside me. He reaches over and gently pats my thigh
to let me know I’m okay. I don’t feel okay—at all. Sawyer is my sometimes model
boyfriend. At the moment, we’ve decided he is not. But the friends with
benefits seem to work better for us anyway. I give him a sidelong glance and
take in his perfect profile. The man is graceful, in a charcoal gray designer
suit that accentuates his long, lean body. His rich brown hair is perfectly
styled and his square jaw is accented with a slight shadow of stubble. Those
whiskey colored eyes are masked behind his designer shades. Most of the mourners
are wearing shades as well, so he fits right in. My oversized ones are perched
on my nose, concealing my swollen red eyes. I smooth my gray sheath dress which
compliments my companion perfectly.
is the fantasy we create for the public. We’ve done so many photo shoots
together, and so it seems second nature to also pair our outfits away from the
camera. You are required to keep up appearances at all times—this is actually
stated in my contract with the modeling agency.
I’m vaguely aware of some short chick singing some sad song
as she is dwarfed by the six-foot-tall portrait of
she is standing beside.
was an absolute Latina
goddess with long raven hair and golden skin that was always flawless. It’s
such a shame she’s no longer here. Almost unbelievable, in fact, and I’m sure I
would deny it today if I didn’t see her lying in that fancy casket at the
viewing last night.
Shaking off my disbelief, I allow my eyes to scan this
ultra-sleek congregation. I’m looking just towards my right side when my eyes
land on fellow model Greyson Stone. I have to look twice, because I barely
recognize him. We’ve worked together off and on for my entire modeling career,
which began when I was only sixteen. I’m on the other side of thirty now, so
it’s been a long friendship. Well, maybe that’s the wrong word for
it—acquaintance is more realistic. I’m not so sure if I have any real friends.
It’s hard to tell in this industry. I sling the word
around with abandon as all my
do, but I honestly don’t know the true meaning of it.
I’ve not laid eyes on Greyson in two years, since he pretty
much vanished, and I’m not crazy with what I see. He is beyond pale and has a
gaunt appearance to him. The last time I saw him, he was bronze with long dark
honey hair—a hue between blond and brown that has always been unique to him.
Though he has always been thin, he used to have an elegant lean muscle tone.
From where I sit, it looks like he has lost all of that. He is wearing his own
pair of shades and has a black beanie covering his head. I know he is trying to
blend in, but blending in is not possible for Greyson Stone. He has always
carried such a presence with him, although the presence is a bit scary today.
He is wearing all black and looks like a vampire, quite frankly.
Sawyer nudges my arm to get my attention and I have to tear
my eyes away from the shock of Greyson. Sawyer looks over my shoulder to see
what or who has drawn my attention. He lets out a faint gasp as he spots
Greyson and shakes his head disapprovingly.
come and go in this industry, but I have always felt a
twinge of regret from losing Greyson. I just hope the guy hasn’t entered the
danger zone. From the looks of him, my hoping is fruitless. The danger zone
varies between eating disorders and substance abuse, and he looks to be
fancying one or both at the moment. My legs beckon me to scoot out of my pew
and meet him just a pew away, but I stay put to avoid causing a commotion. He’s
a ghost of himself, and I worry he will vanish before I can get to him. I
silently beg him to look at me, but he remains focused forward. He has to know
I’m just off to his left.
Sawyer meets my eyes in his own disbelief. “Dude looks bad,”
he whispers. I nod my head in agreement before returning my attention to the
reason why we are here today; to say goodbye to another friend.
Another pew in another church in NYC.
It is a dreary March day with rain spilling down in a subdued
mist. Everything seeps gray with sorrow and is fitting for my emotional state
at the moment. I cannot believe we’ve lost another friend. I had my suspicions
a while back that straying over to the danger zone had occurred. All the signs
were there, but I chose to ignore them just as everyone else did. Now we have
to bury another fellow model.
A cocaine overdose is not a nice thing. Sure, you start out
on a euphoric high like no other. You are invincible with crazy amounts of
energy. You can go for days, and sometimes a week passes without you having any
recollection of it. But in a blink, everything tilts off its axis and things
become confusing. Insomnia can really trip you up as the comfort of sleep
evades you ruthlessly. Then the fever sets in and you are on fire. It scorches
you and nothing can quench your thirst. Chest pains kick in and add to your
misery. It’s agonizing, and above all, terrifying. You try to grasp onto a
flimsy cord that attaches you to your life and the threat of it severing is ever
I came dangerously close and this scared me right into a
stint in rehab, where I left that nasty habit permanently. Never do I want to
feel that way again.
My friend got too dangerously close and nosedived right off
the cliff with the cord snapping completely, which is why we are here to say
goodbye. A friend I was not ready to lose. I saw what was going on…
knowing I might have been able to have done something, leaves me sick to my
something. Now it’s too late to wrestle with the what-ifs. My friend died a
painful, horrific death and I did nothing to prevent it. My throat tightens at
this reality, making it almost impossible to swallow.
I use a tissue to lightly dab at the escaped tears. After
taking a few deep breaths to compose myself, I steal a glance at Sawyer. His
head is solemnly bent during this long-winded prayer. We are both in midnight
blue and look fitting enough to be a couple, yet he is sitting two pews over
from me on the other side of the aisle. He must sense me staring because he
peeks sideways in my direction. I look away quickly, hoping he didn’t catch me,
because I can’t do this with him today. Maybe I shouldn’t
with him ever again. The man is on fire and I’m getting so
tired of being burned by him repeatedly. We decided he was my boyfriend again,
but I walked in on him playing boyfriend to another woman just last week.
I keep my gaze towards the left, away from Sawyer. As I look
over the crowd, I see another familiar head bowed. Bella Warren was a close
friend to Greyson as well as me and he has snuck in here today to pay his
respects. His head is concealed today with a fedora that matches his black
sports coat, trying to look inconspicuous, I’m guessing. Again, he is failing.
Bella adored everything about Greyson Stone, as most do, and always loved him
in a pair of jeans. I can hear her now in my head, flirting with him about how
only he knew how to properly fill out a pair. I ease up in the pew to get a better
look at him, and sure enough he is wearing a pair of dark washed jeans. It’s
evident that this is his tribute to her. My throat constricts painfully with
Greyson is a great guy friend to have, an “always got your
back” kind of person. He was always riding Bella and me to keep our acts clean.
I can only imagine the guilt he carries for not being around for her. It seems
he’s been off somewhere wrestling with his own demons. Again, it’s too painful
I had planned on grilling him after
funeral a couple months back, but he disappeared during the closing prayer.
I’ve tried looking up his number over the last year and have also tried talking
the modeling agency into sharing a contact number for him, but they are adamant
about the whole client privacy issue. His elusive self has only popped in at
funerals. Weird, I know. Greyson always had his act together and I’m still in
shock at his odd behavior and him disappearing over the last two years. He’s
lying really low for some reason, and I’m beginning to worry he has gotten
himself into some type of trouble. He still looks like a vampire—too pale and
The prayer finally concludes. Now some guy stands at the
podium and begins to sing in a rich voice. I start to go over a mental
checklist as he sings about days gone by. It is midday and I need to get a run
in after this service. It was raining too hard this morning, but I can manage a
run in a drizzle just fine. I had a half of a green apple and a bottle of
protein water today, so that’s approximately seventy-five calories. If I run
four miles, I can finish the apple and have three shots of vodka tonight and
still be in the good.
I have all the details worked out by the end of the song.
The dark-skinned singer is now replaced with a pale speaker with ruddy cheeks.
His voice is on the opposite side from the singer as well—fragile and aged.
“Bella Warren was a bright light that was unfortunately
dimmed way before her time…”
After respectfully trying to listen for a while, my phone
vibrating interrupts my best intentions. I slide it out of my small clutch and
check the screen. It’s a confirmation for the flower delivery to Bella’s
family. I’ve ordered my signature Julia Rose bouquet to be delivered to their
home—an all-white arrangement of various roses. I have a long relationship with
the floral company due to me having a white rose arrangement delivered to my
apartment once a month.
I’m about to put my phone away when it vibrates again—a
horribly timed text message from my agent. She wants me to pick up the contract
Bella is now unable to fulfill. It’s a designer jeans ad and pays an obscene
amount because the campaign requires partial nudity. The only thing you wear is
the jeans. No top. No shoes. I went over the contract with Bella before she
decided to do it, so I know it states that the model’s hair will be styled to
flow over the nipples and hands will be placed to conceal the breasts in some
of the shots as well. It was a great opportunity for her and I encouraged her
to take it.
I had a feeling that text would be coming after I got the
news of Bella’s fatal overdose. We are close in appearance with long pale
blonde hair and baby blue eyes. We have a subtle sun-kissed look to our skin and
we are both five-feet-eleven-inches tall. The only difference is that I’m a
size double zero and she was a zero. I was initially passed up for the ad
because I was deemed too skinny. Go figure.
Tucking my phone back into my clutch, I cancel my vodka plans,
not wanting to chance any puffiness since the photo shoot is scheduled two days
Four miles, then I will finish the apple with another
protein water and head to bed early. I resolve these plans by the time the
speaker concludes and is followed by another long prayer. As soon as amen is
said I look over to Greyson and sure enough he has disappeared once again. I
wish I was the praying type, because I would whisper one for him.
I decide to whisper one anyway. I’m just not very confident
that God hears me.