When Desiree Washington ventures into the darkly glittering world of legendary singer Bebe Jones, she gets more than just a job. She gets a family in crisis, a diva meltdown, and a head full of stitches...
The Unraveling of Bebe Jones revolves around the rich and famous Jones family and the people who work for them as they cope through an array of personal dramas. The story begins at the height of the Global Financial Crisis, when 23-year-old Desiree Washington lands a job with her idol, legendary R&B singer Bebe Jones. Desiree quickly discovers that the outwardly perfect Bebe is in fact a troubled and lonely diva reeling from a career in decline and a marriage in tatters, and that behind all the money, glamor and fame, there are skeletons in the family closet. Throughout all of this Desiree seeks support from her best friend Sean Minton, an aspiring music producer who hails from the insulated world of New York’s black elite burdened with secrets of his own. Rounding out the cast are Bebe's husband, Magnus Chadwick, a British hedge fund manager who cares more about money than family; her disgruntled household staff -- all with strange ties to Bebe; and her children, brave casualties of their mother's nightmare.
Beau Reve, Bergen County, NJ. Winter 2009
Bebe picked at the frayed edge of her sleeve while she sat in Dr. Novak’s office waiting for him to fill her prescription. It was 9:15, only the start of their monthly appointment and already she was waiting for the prescription. She would have to go through the motions first; everything leading up to the prescription was always a kind of performance, a dance of formalities and chitchat that revolved around the same three questions: How are we feeling today? How’s the family? Still having the nightmares?
Dr. Novak sat at his desk scanning through the notes of their last visit. Bebe glanced around the room for the umpteenth time, at the psychiatry degrees on his wall, the grinning family portraits, the monstrous antique desk at which he sat, the leopard carpet beneath their feet, the Chippendale sofa against the wall, scattered with a few dead cushions; all things she had observed many times over the last eighteen months. There was a new item on his desk she noticed, a clay sculpture of a drawstring pouch that held about a dozen marbles, and which had engraved on the front: I can help you find your marbles. She didn’t find it funny. Outside the doctor’s window a few leafless branches speared into view. It was a clear blue winter’s day.
“So, how’s the family?” Dr. Novak began. “Kids okay?”
“Yeah, the kids are good,” Bebe answered politely. She knew from experience that the slightest hint of impatience only fueled more questions. “Jedda and Jordan are going back to their old school soon, which will be good for them. They didn’t enjoy London much, as you know—”
“They're still in elementary, is that right?”
“Yeah, and Jasmine just finished college; she's in L.A., doing her acting thing.”
“And the hubby, how are things going there?”
“Magnus?” Bebe took a breath, gave a small rueful laugh. “Magnus is...well, Magnus is in Tokyo, and I’m here, that's how things are going.” She shrugged, wanting the conversation to end. She wanted the pills so she could go home and get into bed.
Dr. Novak leaned back in his chair half-smiling, half-frowning. “And how are we feeling today?”
Ugh, what a fucking tedious cliché, Bebe thought. We? Really? She wanted to say, well, you are earning $360 for what amounts to six minutes of rhetoric and I’m drowning, that’s how we are fucking feeling today. “Fine,” she answered, plucking the bit of untidy wool from her sleeve. The sleeve, she suddenly realized, that was on the designer sweater she'd bought three weeks ago for an obscene amount of money and which should not be coming undone. “I feel like I’m on the up actually, slowly. These visits help. A lot.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” Dr. Novak said. There followed one of his awkward silences. Awkward for Bebe at least. Dr. Novak didn’t seem to notice. He would either nod at her agreeably, or stare pensively into her eyes. She could never figure out if he did this out of a loss for words or because he was employing some technique of psychiatry to draw her out. She always fell for it.
“Yeah, well, you know,” she sighed, “It helps to talk things through. It does. And I’ve been taking your advice; doing the inventories, talking to Eunice, so, yeah, slowly.” Stop nodding and say something! “But lately I've been feeling like, I don’t know, I've been feeling like I’m a little, well, there's this new artist out. A young girl, Coco. And everybody's like comparing her to me, kissing her ass, and I'm frankly fucking over it.” She laughed nervously, aware that her jealously was bubbling to the surface.
“It’s upsetting you,” Dr. Novak said.
“Hell yeah it’s upsetting me, because I'm me, I've worked too hard to be me. Just feels like it's so easy for people to push you aside. They're with you one minute, then the next some skinny turkey comes along and everybody's like kissing her butt. Why, because she's young? And how long she been out anyway, few months? What does she know about it?”
Dr. Novak was on to the pensive staring now. Bebe looked away. She felt wistful all of a sudden, more than she would have expected. She didn't want to cry. She began to rub her eyebrows, as if her sanity depended upon it. The pills, she needed the pills. “I'm tired, Greg,” she said finally, “I'm just really tired.”
“Still having the nightmares?”
Oh yes, the nightmares. Officially, she was receiving treatment for acute anxiety disorder, brought on by recurrent nightmares of a crazed fan who’d stalked her last year and had broken into her West Village apartment to place a series of doctored photographs of the two of them around her bedroom, as if they were a couple.
“Yeah,” she paused a moment. “But I had a different dream last night. Not a nightmare, not really. But it was weird. I dreamed that I was at a school at some girl’s birthday party and she was trying to blow out the candles on her cake, but instead of the candles it was me that was being blown away, like I was ashes or something, and I could feel it, too, like a million tiny matches all over my skin. And the girl kept saying ‘you’re welcome, you’re welcome’ to me, but I don’t know what I thanked her for, and all the while flash bulbs are going off everywhere. Gave me the creeps. I woke up from it a little shaken to be honest. Is it anxiety?”
“Could be, could be,” Dr. Novak said, nodding contemplatively. He was looking at her but seemed to be thinking of something else. Then he began to write in his notepad. “We can talk more about it if you like,” he said.
“Well, I don’t really know what to make of it, just I guess the part of me slowly turning to ashes was weird, you know? But it didn’t really scare me, just shocked the hell out of me. Like, wow, that was something. Does that make sense?”
“Yes, it does.”
“Anyway, that’s it, nothing special.” She laughed slightly, wanting to shrug it off, even though it stayed with her, crept into her like a chill.
“How are your headaches going?” Dr. Novak asked, still taking notes.
“Not every day, last time was maybe a couple months ago, longer maybe.”
“Well let’s continue with the course then, shall we?” He looked at his watch then started to scribble in his prescription pad. Finally, Bebe thought.
“It seems to be helping, yes?” Dr. Novak added as he signed off.
“Especially now that you’re about to go on tour, right?” he chuckled. “Have I got that right, you are going on tour soon?”
“Yeah, later this year.”
“My wife and the girls would love some tickets if you could work something out.” He handed Bebe three slips of paper, one at a time. “Here’s for the Lambutal, the Zomat, and the Noxy.”
Bebe thanked him as she folded the scripts and tucked them into her purse.
Dr. Novak said, “Okay, then, we’ll see you in four weeks.” He got up and walked her to the door. As usual, Bebe left feeling grateful that the doctor was only a ten-minute drive from home. She knew that he worked at a hospital in the city, but on the side, he fed off the cream of Beau Reve’s gated community.
Outside in his driveway, she felt the sting of a sub-zero day. She hurried over to Henry, who was swiftly at attention, opening wide the car door while the engine growled softly, ready to slip her away.
Rojé Augustin (pronounced ro-jhay) has more than fifteen years experience in television production. Born and raised in New York, Rojé began her career at the New York Daily News, where she wrote for the lifestyle publication BET Weekend Magazine. She then moved to television, first at CBS New Productions where she cut her teeth on hour-long documentaries, then to 20/20 with Barbara Walters and John Stossel, Primetime with Diane Sawyer, and Good Morning America Weekend Edition as a writer and producer for ABC. She has also produced for The Tyra Banks Show and E! In the summer of 2006, Rojé moved with her husband and two daughters to London where she began work on her debut novel The Unraveling of Bebe Jones. Rojé also established Breaknight Films shortly after her move to Sydney in 2009 to develop and produce television series. Rojé has lived and studied in both Paris and London and she is an honors graduate of Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature & Writing.
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