The music is already blasting; I can hear it from thirty feet away. Today it sounds like Beyoncé. Tomorrow it might be some French singer Charlie discovered and wants everyone to hear. Or maybe Malaysian hip-hop. Whatever it is, Charlie will be right in her assessment: it will be fantastic. Hair and makeup is always an actor’s first stop, and Charlie learned early on that her space sets the tone for the entire day. I’m grateful that my career has landed me in a place where, contractually, I can request my own hair and makeup people on a shoot; as Head Make Up Charlie has glam and happiness down to a science.
I pull open the door, and she turns, hurling herself into my arms with an eardrum-piercing scream. My closest girlfriend, my oldest friend: when I find my people, I try to keep them. When she pulls back to inspect me, I feel comparably dull: She’s wearing skin-tight leather leggings, stilettos, and a tank top with a series of strategically-placed rips. Her thick black hair is pulled into a high ponytail, and her wild makeup is so intricate, I don’t think I could re-create it even if she gave me all her tools and an entire day.
“Wow, hi.” I pinch her hip. “You look good.”
“You will too. Sit.” She motions me to the chair in front of the wide mirror, and Trey—1st Assistant Makeup—comes over to peck my cheek and give me some water. A few weeks ago, we decided on a soft palette for my makeup: lots of pinks and soft browns. A series of Polaroids are taped to the mirror—photos of me from all angles and in a variety of early-1960s outfits with the corresponding wigs and makeup. They’ll be Charlie’s reference throughout the shoot.
Beside them is a series of photos of my costar Nick Tyler in costume. Trey is handling Nick’s makeup, and I can see the excitement in his posture, the way he fidgets with the tools on the counter beside Charlie’s, arranging them, rearranging them.
“I heard you get Nick.” I lean into the name and wink at him.
“I will never survive this shoot,” he says. “Never.”
“He seems really nice.” And it’s true. Not only is Nick Tyler hot to the point of distraction, he was lovely during our screen tests together and has a good reputation on set.
“Really?” Trey asks.
“Yeah. We’ve met a few times but I mean, we don’t hang out.” My films to date have mostly been glossy Chosen One paranormal flicks, girlfriend comedies, and rom-coms. Nick has done sports films and a couple bigger action movies. Gwen, and the studio heads at Paramount, are really taking a big risk on both of us in this nuanced, cinematic feature.
Anxious fire reignites again in my chest.
“Maybe you’ll start hanging out now.” Trey leans back against the counter, facing me while Charlie cleans off my face with a wipe.
“Romance on set,” she sings. “God. Just think about this place. All the sneaking around and making out against trees.” As much as cast and crew hookups are technically frowned upon, they still happen. Just more quietly than they did in my dad’s day.
“Ruby does feel a little summer camp,” I admit. “I’m sure there will be cabin visits a’plenty. Time to place our bets.”
“Tate and Devon Malek,” Charlie says automatically.
I gape at her. “Can you see directly into my brain?”
“I know you have a thing for those obscenely deep dimples and those flirty eyes? Forget it. I know your weakness.”
I tilt my chin up for her to clean my jawline. “I feel exposed.”
“You need to get some action going,” Charlie says. “I’m tired of knowing the tabloids are lying about all these men you supposedly have on the hook.”
Trey samples a few shades of lipstick on his arm. “My vote was going to be Charlie and the writer guy.”
“The screenwriter?” I ask.
Charlie nods and begins blending foundation into my skin.
“Oh yeah?” I ask. She nods again. “A pretty, creative type?”
She looks at Trey over the top of my head, squinting. “I wouldn’t say pretty, exactly. I’d say gorgeous, bearded, looks like he could throw someone around a bed pretty well.” She looks at me, takes in my skeptical expression. “I’m not joking, Tates, he did immediate things to my blood. Think Tom Hardy but taller, and I bet he’s even more capable with his hands.” Pausing for effect, she says, “I mean, he wrote a screenplay about a lovesick farmer.”
“Is this why you’re wearing leather pants your first day on set?”
“I will neither confirm nor deny.”
I frown. “I guess I assumed the writer would be the usual: nerdy and bald, or willowy and sensitive. I’ll have to mentally realign.”
Trey pulls out the chair beside me. “Can we talk about me now?”
I laugh. “Yes, Trey baby.”
“Are we sure sure Nick Tyler is straight?”
“I’m pretty sure he’s hardcore into the ladies,” Charlie says. “And a bit of a player. Related: he’s my second bet for Tate getting laid on location.”
“You seem awfully sure I’m going to be getting laid when you know pretty well it’s been dry as the Sahara around here.”
Charlie grins. “I’m getting back-to-nature, wild-farm vibes. It can’t be helped. There’s something in the air out here.” She looks at me, and the exact angle of her face, of her expression reels me back to when we were kids, running down the creek bed together, our hair in tangles behind us, fingertips blackberry-stained.