The huge white tent was buzzing with activity—hairdressers and makeup artists working in a rush, assistants going back and forth to prepare for the shoot, camera men tinkering with their equipment, dancers practicing with their music, extras and stuntmen chatting while getting ready.
I could also hear excited chatter and motorcycle engines revving right outside the tent, blending into the background of the director’s booming voice calling out orders.
A young woman with a clipboard suddenly peeked into the tent’s makeshift flap doors. “Three minutes, stunt people!” she called out.
Well, that’s my cue. It’s been three years now that I’ve been working as a stuntwoman, doing tricky feats and risky acts of all sorts to stand for actual commercial models and even famous actresses. It was the perfect job for me, I guess, after having had years of informal gymnastics and martial arts training by my foster parents. Once I was old enough to live on my own, I moved out and sort of just jumped from one crazy odd job to another.
What’s more, I’ve always kind of lived on the edge even in my early teens. Yes, that’s a more interesting way of putting it, considering the trouble I always got myself into since I became an orphan at ten years old.
I grinned as I looked at my reflection one last time in the wide mirror in front of me. My heart was pumping hard, flushing my cheeks even more than the blush that the makeup artist had painted onto them. My bluish gray eyes were bright with anticipation, reflecting the rush I always felt right before a shoot. They had been dolled up with smoky eye shadow and long, thick false eyelashes. Looking at the heavy makeup on my face, I used to think this appearance was on the verge of being “clownish.” But it was always just right for the cameras.
I fluffed my dark brown tresses, which cascaded past my shoulders in layers of waves. The hairdresser had attached hair extensions to make it longer, so I’d seem like the football team’s head cheerleader Eve.
Meanwhile, my cheekbones seemed a lot higher and the bridge on my nose had also been tweaked. I hardly recognized myself in the mirror, but that was part of what made this job even more interesting for me. At times, it was a relief to somehow hide behind a temporary mask and pretend to be someone else.
“You look amazing, Tasha Rodriguez,” a low male voice suddenly said, making me look up. I saw the reflection of my good friend Corky Anderson, one of the stuntmen I had worked with on many projects. “I almost didn’t recognize you!” he added.
I laughed, turning around to face him. “You’re not supposed to, Corky,” I said. “You don’t look bad yourself. I see you’ve been working out more.”
He grinned, flexing his muscles. His extra-well-built physique was still emphasized despite wearing a full biker’s attire in navy blue leather. I had on a similar outfit, but in flaming red.
“You noticed, huh?” he said, chuckling. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re probably catching on the Corky fever!”
“The Corky what?!” I said, laughing. “Screw you, Corky! I’ll never go out with you in a million years.”
“Ouch!” he exclaimed, acting like a bullet had just hit him on the chest. We both laughed.
“Let’s go, girls!” Lia, one of my best friends, said.
“You look hot!” I told her as we all walked out of the tent.
“Hotter than the real Shelly Morgan?” she asked jokingly, referring to the cheerleader she was going to be standing in for.
“Definitely,” I said with a wide grin.
“Places, everyone!” the director yelled.
I couldn’t help whistling as I admired the mean machine in front of me. I climbed on the Harley-Davidson, feeling like a really cool and stylish gangster. I squeezed the clutch lever with my left hand, turning it all the way before pressing the start button. The roaring sound filled my ears. I felt the machine come to life under me, giving me a sense of power and control.
There were eight riders in all, three women and five men. We were lined up horizontally on an empty highway a little far off from Windfield City. The long road loomed ahead, bare lands and some forested areas on either side of it.
This’ll be a cinch, I thought as I looked on with concentration. All we had to do was drive the motorbikes straight ahead at top speed. There were no obstacles or actual bike stunts involved, which I had done in the past.
I heard the countdown begin. When the director shouted “Go!”, I plunged onward, zooming at top speed, loving the way my adrenaline picked up. The wind blew hard on my face, my wavy locks dancing behind me. I was hardly aware of the drone following us or the camera crane that we passed.
When I saw two crew members waving red flags up on the road, I slowed down along with the others until we came to a stop. They handed out bottles of water. I downed mine in a hurry, my heart still beating hard from the rush.
“Piece of cake, huh?” Corky said to me with a wide grin.
Nodding, I answered, “Easy-peasy!”
After finishing off our water, the assistants said we could head back for the second take. Once we were back, the director emphasized that even if we were moving at full speed, we had to make sure nobody was getting too much left behind.
It only took one more take. “Great job, guys!” the assistant director said, patting us on the back. The director didn’t even bother praising us. But that was fine since I wasn’t here for the recognition. We weren’t the big stars of the shoot, anyway. We were all here for the money. For me, apart from the lucrative pay, I just loved the thrill and adventure.
We had a long break, during which I got to do some girl talk with Lia and our other good friend Bella. The three of us had met on a movie set when I was just starting out. Both of them had been in the industry longer than me.
“Check it out,” Bella said, giggling as she pointed out Corky who was dozed off on a cot inside the tent.
“Ugh, that guy!” I said, shaking my head. “I can’t believe he could just sleep like that after the adrenaline rush.”
“Well, he always can,” Lia said, laughing. “I kind of envy him, though.”
That made us all laugh.
“Isn’t he hung over?” Bella wondered. “Didn’t he crash at your place last night, Tash?”
“No way!” I immediately answered. “I told you many times before, I’m totally not interested in him. He’s a great guy and all, but he’s always been like a brother to me.”
“Poor guy!” Lia said, lowering her voice. “He’s not hung over, girls. He’s just hung up on Tasha.”
We all giggled loudly, making the other stuntmen give us a curious look. One of them was Bella’s boyfriend Josh, whom she’d met in a bar and had recruited to work as a stuntman. They were quite good together.
“So… you and Josh…” I started, giving Bella a meaningful look. “Any plans of settling down? You two are so perfect for each other! And you’ve been going out for, like, five years?”
Bella nodded with a smile. “Yes, but we’re taking things slow. Still saving up, you know.”
“I guess that’s important,” I agreed.
“What about you, Tasha?” Bella asked. “Who are you dating now? Anyone special?”
“Oh, you know, a lot of guys…” I said, making them laugh. “But no one serious. After three failed relationships, I just want to take a break. Or maybe there’s really no one special yet that had come along so far.”
“The football players are total hunks, you know!” Lia said with emphasis and meaning, wiggling her eyebrows at me. “If you’re not going to get their attention, I definitely will.” She tossed her hair back and pouted her lips.
“That’s if they’ll be interested in tough, wild stuntwomen,” I pointed out. “We’re a far cry from those rah-rah girls they’re used to.”
“Well then, we’ll surely catch their attention even more!” Lia declared.
“Let’s see,” I said with a smile, picturing the top five football players of the Windfield Warriors that we knew were on their way now to the shoot. I was a little bit familiar with them because I liked watching football games, too.
We’re most likely going to meet them for the wall climbing part of the shoot. The men were going to be doing it themselves, along with us stuntwomen who will be standing for the lady stars of the TV commercial.
I’ve never met a professional football player before. This is bound to be interesting.