Today my brain isn’t sending many signals to my mouth. I’m sitting face-to-face with the man of my dreams, the one who could potentially change my life, and all I can think about is whether or not I turned the stove off. Tawny, get it together.
My blonde tipped locs dangled across the top of my shoulder and swayed back and forth as I nodded to myself.
Yes, I turned it off. I’m pretty sure I did. Wait, did I? No renter’s insurance and I’m already late for this month. I can’t set that woman’s house on fire.
“Miss Jacobs. Did you hear what I asked you?”
Michael Epstein’s voice brought me back to myself. I looked around and noticed a picture of his aging wife and only son, Jared on the desk. He was an older Jewish gentleman with young hands, grey hair, and a smile slicker than the snake that tricked Eve. Michael’s eyes danced the fine line between blue and green and had scanned my frame within ten seconds of entering his Aventura office. A favor called in by my childhood best friend, this audition was my ticket out.
Though the film industry was fairly new in Miami it was growing. As one of the few actors of color with actual talent in South Florida, there was always one role worth switching from Latina to “mixed race”, multi-ethinic, or black. With L.A. and New York experience under my belt, I was a rare commodity; having landed a national ad campaign a few years earlier, my face was vaguely recognizable. I was on a quest to be a household name.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Epstein. What did you say?”
“What do you think of the part? You know, the more risqué, the better.” His eyes undressing me with every word.
“I didn’t audition for that part. I want to be taken seriously.”
“So did Halle Berry when she took that role in Monster’s Ball. Look, Tawny, is it? In this business, you have to make some sacrifices.”
Mike handed me a contract to sign. Without an agent, I had to attack this business head on. As a woman of color, I was at somewhat of a disadvantage but I was determined to make a name for myself. My determination, however, was always challenged with roles that would pigeonhole me as a sex kitten or vixen.
“Mr. Epstein, I appreciate this opportunity, but – “
“So, you’re going to take it?” His eyes lit up at the thought of my acceptance of his offer.
“- I can’t be a stripper.” I stood, adjusted my skirt and glided out of his office with my head held high.
“You’ll never make it with that attitude. Mark my words!”
Once the elevator made it to the bottom floor, regret swam through my head.
Could I possibly take that role and be taken seriously? Did I do the right thing? Black strippers never win Academy Awards. Look at what it did to LisaRaye’s career.
For the fifth time in as many auditions, I had walked away. Some would say I walked away from my only shot of ever being on the silver screen, but I knew better. It may not have happened that day, but I was sure it would happen.
Since leaving L.A. and moving back home to Miami, acting had been put on the back burner. The first five years were spent playing house and adjusting to life as a live-in girlfriend and mother. My “family” came before my dreams. The relationship ended and Reagan, my feisty five year-old daughter, started school. My days were dedicated to chasing the dream and getting bit by the acting bug was the start of it all.
Before I was Tawny Jacobs, I was Teresa Jackson, a seventeen year old girl with a dream. Lauded as one of the best sprinters in the state of Florida, I had schools nationwide vying for me. Running had been part of my life since I was seven. It had gotten me a prep-school scholarship and had taken me from miles away from the Liberty City neighborhood I had been raised in.
During my freshman year at Gulliver Prep, my father made an agreement with my best friend’s parents so I could live with them until I graduated. Their house was just blocks away from the school. When practices ran late or I had to be to school early, there would be no rushing from bus to bus.
As an only child, I was elated. I lived with my best friend and I was away from the hood – a place I never felt comfortable living in the first place.
It worked out seamlessly. I lived a happy, healthy existence in an upper middle class neighborhood. My life was as close to perfect as it could be. When I visited my father during holidays I felt like I had been away at college. Papa was always so proud of me. He told me every chance he got.
After graduation, I chose a school on the West Coast. Anything close to Hollywood. I legally changed my name from Teresa Jackson to Tawny Jacobs and juggled school, running, partying, and auditioning for “anything that could get my name in the right lights”.
I had always been determined. Determined to be different. Determined to escape my past. Determined to make it.
Fifteen minutes too late, I pulled into the parking lot of my daughter’s school. My heels somehow managed not to break as I ran to the afterschool activities office, still dressed in the pencil skirt from my audition. I panted, adjusted my clothing, and rang the desk bell in one fell swoop.
“Ms. Jacobs. Reagan’s father picked her up about ten minutes ago,” Mr. Peters, the school principal, said.
“Her father? Oh. Okay. Thank you.”
“Have a good evening and get some rest.”
With my heels in my hand, I walked back to my car, got inside and just breathed for a little while. My life wasn’t what I had imagined. I was a struggling actor, an okay mom, and possible homeless woman. I picked up the phone and dialed Reagan’s dad.
“Scott. I’m so sorry. I had an audition.” I waited for his lashing.
“It’s cool. I’m waiting for you at the house.”
“Are you inside?”
“Yeah, uh, and so is Mrs. Stephens. She said you left the stove on this morning.”
Great. Just great.
To be continued…
*** Hey readers! It’s me, Sepia. I hope you enjoyed meeting Tawny. She’s a new character I’m developing. I’m doing a blogger’s challenged called NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). The theme for August is fiction which is perfect for me. I have to post one entry per day every day for the month of August. I’ll be posting here and on the NaBloPoMo hosted by BlogHer. Be sure to share with your friends. I love you for reading!***