I asked the question, if one could describe me in just one word, what word would be used, to my close friends and family? The answers were both humbling and surprising in a good way. I didn’t know that so many people felt that I am their strength, joy, peace and other great adjectives, but the one that stood out most was “free”. As I sit here and look around, I am saddened because my life wasn’t always this way. I think back to the times when those kind words from the people that I love most could have possibly helped to keep me from making a lot of stupid mistakes. But hey, we live some, we learn some, and love can make us all do some crazy things.
Being in the limelight has both advantages and disadvantages, but the consequences of life will eventually catch up with you. I think back to the day I almost lost it all by keeping my personal life just that, personal. Who says that celebrities have to expose every detail of his or her life? What does it matter? We do what we do, and that should be enough. Wishful thinking, I guess because I wouldn’t be sitting here right now about to share my life in its entirety.
Just walking to the studio the other day, I passed by the same newspaper stand I stop at on my way to work, to buy a Celebrity Life magazine and guess what I saw? There, on the front page of Essence magazine was someone from my pass, smiling with his new wife and beautiful baby girl. At first, I was pissed because I gave that man some of the best years of my life. He looked good, I must admit, but why was I working strenuous hours, with little sleep, and getting underpaid when he was basking in the spotlight with the woman he cheated on me with. Life wasn’t fair by any means. I looked up to the sky and smiled, thanking God for delivering me just the same.
My publicist called me as soon as I entered the building asking a millions questions. I didn’t know what she was talking about, but she made it really clear that if I didn’t do something about the rumors, I would lose everything. I smiled at Susan, the receptionist in our building and walked over to the elevator. She didn’t make small talk with me as she usually did when I was waiting, so something was definitely up. She simply smiled a pity smile and looked back down to whatever had her attention.
The elevator door opened. I stepped inside. “Hold the door please,” I heard just before the doors closed. I used my freshly manicured hand to keep the doors from closing, hoping whoever was about to enter expressed his or her gratitude. I wasn’t prepared for was happened next.
He was gorgeous to say the least, with piercing, deep slanted, light brown eyes, a freshly shaved head and dimples to treasure in a museum. His skin, the color of brown sugar, and I could tell from the way his shirt hugged his body that he hid muscles underneath. I love a brother who takes care of himself. I love the gym. Once upon a time, I lived in the gym. I was still a regular jogger, so I knew that I looked good in my firm fitting business suit, and deadly Manolo Blaniks.
“Thanks. I really appreciate it,” the breathtakingly handsome gentleman said. “Oh, no problem at all,” was all I managed to reply. I pushed the seventeenth floor button. He smiled. I almost drowned in the wetness between my legs. What where the odds of us getting off on the same floor? Needless to say, we did. I walked from the elevator to give him a little eye-candy, and then turned quickly to see if he was looking, which he was and that million dollar smile should have been enough to walk away, but I ignored all the sense God gave me. I would later have him for dinner or breakfast, maybe both over and over again. Slow down, pump the brakes a minute. Back to the main dilemma, my career in jeopardy. That mysterious seduction of the elevator guy would just have to wait. Right now, I was about to embark on a painful journey down memory lane.
Cynthia was sitting in her seat deeply concentrating on whatever she was reading when I entered her office. She glanced in my direction and looked back to the interesting article on her desk. “What has you so uppity this beautiful afternoon,” I asked taking a seat in one of the oversized chairs facing Cynthia, my publicist and good friend for many years now.
When she finished reading what had her so engrossed, she tossed the magazine over to me. I looked down and frowned. It was the same Essence with my ex and his family occupying the front cover. “Pages 65-69 if you will,” Cynthia spat. “What is he talking about, Jazz? Tell me all of that stuff is not true. We have been friends for too long and I feel as though I don’t know anything about you.”
Turning to the given pages, I looked up at Cynthia. “What are you talking about? We are friends.” She raised an eyebrow in a questioning notion, and folded her arms defensively across her chest. “Oh really, I will wait until you finish and then we can just see about that!”
I began reading the article and almost cried when I finished. How could he? He promised never to speak about what happened in our marriage. Now it was everywhere. I should have never trusted that bastard. I did everything I could to make our marriage work and now this is how he tries to play me? Well not good enough. Jazzlin Camille Banks was not going to just sit around and let him destroy the future I made for myself. If he wanted to play dirty, then I would roll with the punches, becoming the dirt queen.
There were things that no one knew but him. Things I wanted to take to the grave. If my family and friends found out that the things he spoke about were true, I won’t have anyone left in my corner. He just so conveniently left out the parts were he was threatening, abusing and manipulating the actions I was forced to result to. No, he wouldn’t tell that. He wanted to play the victim, get sympathy from all who would listen and believe his pathetic ass story. Not even, Jazz thought as she continued to read.
Tears betrayed Jazz as she placed the magazine on Cynthia’s desk. She was done crying over Drake Ellington and his lies. Now, here I am reneging on the promise I made myself years ago to never cry when it came to him again. Cynthia handed Jazz some tissue.
“Thanks,” I struggled to say. Wiping my face careful not to smear my makeup, I took a deep breath and composed myself. “Cynthia, the things he said are true but he didn’t mention the abuse, torture and him being the reason for it all. We promised to never bring it up again and he assured me that I could trust him. I wanted to tell you a long time ago, but I couldn’t. I am a person of my word. I didn’t want to go against that. I was almost healed from all of the horrible things he forced me to do, but now the whole world will know about them. What am I going to do Cynthia? I can lose everything!”
Cynthia knew from just looking at her dear friend that she was telling the truth. She walked around the desk and sit next to Jazz. She reached over and grabbed her hand. “Don’t worry. We will get through this and when we are done, he will have to pay you a lot of money.” Jazz managed a smile through all the sadness. “Thanks Cynthia, but it’s not about money. I just want my character restored. There are many people who I love and cherish who are going to look at me differently now. I pray that God warms their hearts.”
“Well, Jazz. If they are that special, they won’t believe a word of it. But be prepared to lose a few endorsements, contracts and contacts. People in this business are sharks, they will bite you and move on to the next, leaving you for dead. I will be with you along the way. I just need to know the truth so that I can intercept some of the bad press.” Cynthia paused a minute. “And Jazz, I know you not going to like this, but you have to do a press release. We have to say something. Just leave it all to me. I am on it. I got you girl!”
Cynthia got to her feet and was on the phone without seconds. Then she called an emergency staff meeting with her entire team. Everything was moving so quickly, but Jazz only thought about the question she asked her family and friends about her. Would their answers change once they found out the truth? That was just something she would have to face and live with when the time came.
Jazz thought back to when she was a little girl. Her mother and father were always spoiling her and her siblings. They went places together every weekend, and then on Sunday morning they all went to church. Jazz loved music. She knew every song on the radio and song along; which her two sisters and brother hated. They would always hit her and tell her to shut up. When she joined the Sunbeam choir at church and led her first of many solos, they soon encouraged her to follow her passion for making others smile and surrender to God through her music.
Jazz loved those moments in her life. She used them to overcome the trials and tribulations throughout her journey. She and her siblings spoke several times a week. They all prayed together. It was hard not seeing them daily, but knowing they had her back, helped her adjust when she decided to move to Los Angeles to pursue her singing career when she graduated from college.
Thinking of her siblings, Jazz pulled out her cell phone. Although they all called her whenever things were going on in their lives for support, insight and advice, Jazz now found herself on the other side of the spectrum. It was all new to her. Everyone came to her in their times of trouble, so this was something totally out of her element. She pressed speed dial number three, and within seconds she was speaking with her brother Trent.
Trent was the eldest of the four Banks clan, always being overprotective of the three Banks girls, as everyone who knew them, called her and her two sisters. His voice smiled when he heard it was her on the other end of the line. “What up Jazzie? I was just thinking of you girl. Where you at? I thought you had a big meeting today and whatnot.” She already felt better just hearing Trent’s voice. “Hey big brother, you have a minute or two? I really need some advice and help right now. Can you pray with me? I can really use the strength as we speak bro.”
Trent was in the middle of driving, so he pulled over to the side of the road to give his little sister his undivided attention. He was also caught off guard. Jazz was always the one he and his other sisters called in their time of crisis. If she was calling, there was definitely something terrible going on. “What’s up Jazz? This sounds real serious.” Jazz sighed. That was an understatement.
“It is. It is about Drake.” Now it was Trent’s time to sigh. He didn’t care much for Drake when he was married to his sister, and now he was trying to come back into their lives. Not if he had anything to do with it. His sister had gone through hell and back with that dude. Only the grace of God kept him alive. Trent wanted to kill him, would have, if Jazz hadn’t begged him not to. He remembered that day like yesterday.
Pushing the painful memory to the back of his mind, Trent began praying for his sister, who wept into the phone. Yes, she was in pain. Trent wanted to know now more than ever, what Drake had to do with that fact. If he had done anything to cause Jazz more pain, Trent told himself that he would be on the next plane to wherever he lived and whip his ass. No one messed with his family, especially his sisters. His father always told him to look out for his sisters, protect them, no matter the circumstances and to this very day, he had done just that. His father would be proud if he didn’t have Alzheimer’s and lived in a retirement home for special needs in Florida. Summer was approaching and they would be together and see him then. Shaking the sadness from his heart, Trent prayed with Jazz like never before and by the time they got off the phone, she felt hopeful, strength, and encouraged to endure any situation thrown at her. Little did she know that she would need every ounce and then some because Drake was about to storm her life like a tsunami.