(Author’s note: These are a short pair of scenes I whipped up in my spare time. I’m currently using “The Double” as one of my writing samples, since many job opportunities in my area call for interactive fiction, predominately in the contemporary romance subgenre.)
The knock on my trailer door was not totally unexpected, but I was in character with Theo at the time. By “in character,” I mean I was Chantal Ravensoul, twenty-first-century girl in the body of a seventeenth-century witch, and Theo was a young Cardinal Richelieu who wanted me, in chains. That comma isn’t a typo — when I figured out the knocking person wasn’t going away, I climbed off of Theo, looked for the key to his manacles, failed to find them, and quickly covered myself with the costume cloak we’d left on the floor near the bed.
“Who is it?” I called through the door.
“Jessie Cruz?” came the voice from outside. “I’m supposed to choreograph the climax with Ms. Bellamy?”
Was that tonight? “Right!” I called. “Climax. Super important. One minute.” I dashed back to the bedroom and started throwing on panties and a bra.
“If you’re busy, I can wait…” came the voice from outside.
“No, no, I was just learning my lines, and, uh, cramming for tomorrow.” I was pretty sure my underwear went on backwards, but if there’s one rule in this town, if it’s out of sight, it doesn’t count.
“Fie! Witch! Do you intend to leave me in this condition?” All things considered, Theo was staying in character pretty well, or at least he did right up until I finished putting on shorts and a shirt and tossed the manacle keys onto his chest.
Really, I thought he’d be more pleased, but he was yelling a millennial’s idea of medieval oaths and something about how he couldn’t reach, you know, anything. Honestly, I wasn’t paying attention. I escaped into the afternoon outside, shut the door behind me, and turned to face my would-be fight choreographer.
I was expecting some six-foot-four tattooed guy with abs that could stop bullets, but instead there were these cornflower blue eyes and this mop of long black hair, like if you took the girl from The Ring on a makeover show until it ended with a perky smile. Her workout clothes looked elegantly simple, but I’d seen their logo on Rodeo Drive stores. She brushed a lock of hair away from her face, hair that resembled the wig I was wearing now.
“Hi, Maya,” Jessie said. “I’m your stunt double for the scene.”
“Where’s Linda?” I asked. “Was there a memo?”
Jessie pointed to the plastic receptacle nailed to my trailer door, now filled with new script pages and a heap of official-looking memos. “Oh,” I said. That wasn’t embarrassing at all.
“Linda’s best at kung fu,” Jessie explained. “But the final scene when Chantal returns through the time tunnel to the present, she absorbs Kenny’s spirit, and Kenny…”
“Right, he was a cage fighter, so they want it to look different!” I exclaimed. “So you’re the specialist. Anything else I should know?”
“If I tap you twice like this,” she said, “it means stop choking me.”
“Okay,” I said. “And if I tap you three times like that, it means you’re fired. Got it?”
Her face fell. I could see why she was a stuntwoman rather than an actress. “Sorry,” I said. “A little superstar humor.”
At that moment, Theo started yelling, most of the muffled words from inside the trailer sounding something like “witch” and “help.” Then, rather clearly, came “You’ll never find love! You only love yourself!”
“Should we do something about the screaming guy?” Jessie asked, eyes a little wide.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “He’s staying in character. He’s really convincing at it.”
“Okay,” Jessie waited for a second. “So why aren’t you, um, helping?”
“I’m aspiring to be just as good,” I said. “Let’s rehearse.”
Stage #5 had a springy wrestling mat on its floor, which was good, because I fell on it a lot. Jessie was patient, but she was also firm. Wolfgang, the executive producer, didn’t want to pay for sticking my face on her body digitally. I was going to do at least some of my own stunts, even if I did a really good impression of a sack of potatoes.
“Okay,” said Jessie after about a half hour of preliminaries were out of the way. “Now at this point, you look up, your eyes glow, and playtime is over. So you twist out of my grip, slam me to the floor, and mount me.”
“I’m sorry, I do what?” I said. She didn’t have to step on the gas like that.
Jessie looked like I said I didn’t know who the President was. “The mount? It’s a Brazilian jiujutsu position?”
“Right,” I said. “Sounds very… full Brazilian.”
Jessie’s eyes twinkled. “If I wanted you to assume the position,” she said, “I’d have let you know before now. Come on, now. I grab your hair like a nasty villain man, you slam down on my elbow like this, twist a little, and I’m on the floor.” As she talked, she led me to the ground. I got it smooth after a couple of tries.
“Okay, now what’s this mount?”
“You sit on my hips, so you can punch my face like a kid at the playground.”
As I settled down on top of her, I couldn’t resist. “Here in Los Angeles, this move is called the cowgirl.”
“You’re terrible. Keep your mind on the punchy bits,” she said.
I leaned down close to her face and gave her my most predatory grin. “Or what?”
In response, Jessie thrust her hips up. I fell forward onto my wrists, and Jessie scooped one into her arms as she twisted, rolling me onto my back. She stayed on me: now she was between my legs, face right up near mine. Her long black hair dangled down, tickling my neck.
“Or I’ll think of something,” she said. Part of it was playful. Part of it was not.
Staring into her eyes, this close to her, I felt my face flush. Most girls stammer or object a little when I bring it on, but she seemed like a cat playing with her food. All the stammering would be done by me.
Time to reassert control. I squeezed my thighs around her stomach, but she didn’t seem to be even slightly discomforted by it. She gave a little smile.
“Are you trying a move?” Jessie asked.
“I saw Famke Janssen do this in a James Bond movie,” I said. “She crushed people to death with her super thighs.”
“I think your heroes are going to disappoint you,” Jessie said. “All that does is kind of grind me against you.”
I frowned. “Is that a bad idea?”
“Well, I’m pretty sure you have a boyfriend back in your trailer.”
“I have a co-star,” I corrected. “After I found Theo fondling his makeup assistant, we broke up two weeks into principal photography. But you know cameras… they pick up every little hesitation. So we decided it’d be best to fake it.”
I’ve told three people this secret, and both of them reacted as I’d expect. The first was my doctor, who told me to use condoms because Theo probably, quote, got more ass than a toilet seat at LAX. The second person I told was my manager, who told me it’d be good to save the news until I could go to Cannes with someone new on my arm and get some tabloid headlines. The third was Aldrich, the director, who told me “attagirl” and put the sex scenes first in the shooting schedule so any bad chemistry later on had no chance of ruining the footage.
Jessie’s response was to say, “Oh, my god. You still have to pretend you’re into him? That must be super traumatic.”
I let go of her and she sat up, the flirty moment over. “I’m pretty hard to damage,” I said.
In a small voice, Jessie said, “I used to think that too.”
I looked at her a little differently, then. The stuntwomen I knew, like Linda, were adrenaline junkies who had confidence oozing out of them. I was at a loss for words.
Did you get betrayed? I wanted to ask. On the heels of that, No one can hurt me unless I let them, but something in the way her face softened told me that comparing myself now would be like kicking a puppy. As a rule, I don’t kick puppies, not even when a director insisted it’d be method acting.
“The thing you have to remember,” I said, “is that they’re trying to make you cry. They want you to scream and rant, and then they look like a hero for working with the diva. Or they get video of you melting down, and the next thing you know, it’s on the Internet next to bootleg footage of your love scene, and pow, your career is a punch line.” I stared her in the eyes. “They are waiting and praying for that day. Don’t give it to them.”
I gave her my most serious face, and then two seconds later, a light went on behind Jessie’s eyes. She let out a long, shaking laugh, pounded the mat once, and pointed at me. “That’s from Closing Nights! You still know the speech!”
I smiled. “I am Maya freaking Bellamy,” I said. “I gotta have something to help me love myself. I’m sure doing jiujitsu or whatever does it for you.”
“I saw that movie when I was in film school! I wrote an essay on it!”
“Fangirl later, hon,” I said, but it was nice getting the starry-eyed treatment, because I was pretty sure it was genuine. “Where were we?”
“You were on top of me, doing the ground and pound,” Jessie said.
I looked askance at her. “You are totally making that phrase up.”
“I swear, next you’ll have me do a throw called Swing Both Ways and the finisher called You’re Going Down.”
“So give me some incorrigement,” I said, scrambling onto her and playfully meeting her eyes.
“You’re a co-worker,” she said, a little indignant. But I could hear in her tone that it was a little mocking of the idea, as if she’d had a fling or two at the office before.
“Think of it as me being in a superior position,” I said, and leaned in to kiss her. She held still, and I thought at first that I might have scared her or gotten her thinking about getting fired. But her mouth opened up, and she slipped a warm tongue between my lips. After a few delicious seconds, I broke it off to get a little air. I needed a little, the way my heart was going.
“Well, now,” Jessie said, a bit husky. “I wasn’t sure you were… um…”
“I did plenty of ‘um’ in college,” I said. “Usually followed by some ‘oh,’ and then a lot of ‘yes.’ But I’ll understand if you’re not going past ‘um’ any time soon.”
She chuckled, a cute, small noise. Her face was a little rosy as she sat up and touched her nose to mine. “The longer we go, the shorter the time we’ll have left,” Jessie said, “but I blocked out four hours for the rehearsal.”
My fingertip touched the base of her throat and stroked lightly downward. “I guess we’ll see who’s a quick study?” I said.
“Just leave enough time for the finisher,” Jessie responded.