“We’ll do it as a play,” Rose said. Jonas had been expecting to see her heartbroken. To see her indignant, vengeful, tearful. But all he got was Rose in damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead mode. She’d told him about P&G and WEVD washing their hands of the project, washing their hands of her, and, in the next breath, she was already full of plans for how her hard — and unpaid for — work could be salvaged. “New York is the theater capital of the world. A fresh take on Shakespeare is bound to be a hot ticket.”
The hottest ticket currently on Broadway was My Fair Lady. It was a musical based on a play by George Bernard Shaw. Theirs would be more like Kiss Me, Kate, which was based on Shakespeare’s Taming Of the Shrew. Only theirs would have fewer songs. And more class struggle.
Meanwhile, Rose and Jonas were facing a struggle of a different kind. Her going into WEVD every day and his continuing to audition for both radio and television roles had kept them busy enough that when they met up at either his apartment or hers at the end of the day, it was still possible to pretend they were living separate lives. They’d stopped trying to find a spot they could go out to in the evening where they weren’t unwelcome or too slavishly welcomed in favor of nights spent at home. But now that Rose’s office was her dining room table, and Jonas stopped by several times a day in between appointments, then often spent the night before heading out again, it was growing more difficult to pretend that they weren’t, in fact, cohabitating — while continuing to pay rent on two separate domiciles. A situation neither was comfortable with. Not due to living in sin. Due to wasting money.
“The practical thing to do,” Rose said, “would be to give up one of our apartments, or both, and find a new place.”
“The practical thing to do,” Jonas said, “would be to get married.”
“Well, yes, obviously,” Rose dismissed and attempted to hurry onto the next topic, as if a proposal — unconventional as it was; then again, what about her and Jonas was conventional except for absolutely everything…and nothing at all? — was just another on a long list of equally viable suggestions. “But, as my mother loves to say, a fish may fall in love with a bird, except where would they live? Especially in New York City.”
Jonas wouldn’t let her get away with it. She could pretend that being fired from a job she loved didn’t bother her by diving immediately into the next project. She could pretend that having a script she’d labored over for close to a year dismissed didn’t bother her by instantly deciding to rewrite it as a play. But she was not going to pretend that what he’d asked her didn’t matter by jabbering about the state of Manhattan real estate. Though, yes, he did see how it was relevant to the discussion at hand. Manhattan real estate was relevant to any discussion.
“Rose.” He grabbed her hand as she was turning away, forcing her to look at him. “Are you in love with me?”
“Like a fish loves a bird,” she all but twittered.
“Rose.” Jonas refused to let go of her hand. He cupped it between his palms, brought it to his mouth, and kissed each knuckle, refusing to break eye contact as he repeated, “Are…you…in…love…with…me?”
The voice that had snared her, the gaze that compelled her, the question that broke her. Rose couldn’t speak. She could only nod in reply.
And then that smile. If she’d been weak before, she was helpless now.
“Do you want to marry me?”
Another nod. Because “yes” was too feeble a word to encompass everything Rose longed to convey.
He pulled her closer to him so that not only their hands but their noses and foreheads were touching. She breathed in when he breathed out, his lips were close, so tantalizingly close, but he was still talking. Which he was also quite good at. “Then we’ll get married.” Rose opened her mouth to protest, but Jonas cut her off. “And we’ll find a place to rent, and we’ll find a place to eat dinner, and we’ll find a place to stage your play — “
“Our play.” Jonas could render her speechless on a personal basis. She always knew what to say when it came to the professional.
“Our play,” he agreed. “We’ll find a place to live happily ever after. You wouldn’t write it any other way.”
While they were pretending that they were living separate lives, it was easy to pretend that their relationship was nobody’s business save their own. But now that Rose was wearing a ring Jonas bought her, and they were searching The New York Times daily to see if they could read between the lines and identify a building open to renting to an unorthodox couple, it was growing more difficult to pretend they could keep the reality secret indefinitely. A situation neither was comfortable with.
“I suppose we’ll have to tell our parents,” Rose said. Which was ridiculous when you thought about it. She and Jonas weren’t teenagers. They were in their thirties. They didn’t need their parents’ permission, their blessing, or their financial support. But they also hated lying.
It was easier for Rose. Now that she’d reached official spinster age, Mama has stopped asking about romantic prospects and dedicated herself to worrying that, after foolishly quitting her job at Find Your Light and obviously doing something equally foolish to have lost her position at WEVD, Rose was going to become destitute and die alone in a flop-house.
Jonas’s parents, on the other hand, continued introducing him to admittedly beautiful, admittedly accomplished, admittedly available young women. The way Jonas described them, Rose could see why his family couldn’t understand his lack of interest.
“They’re all so…perfect,” Jonas said.
“Unlike me?” Rose wasn’t sure if she was fishing for compliments.
“Unlike you,” he agreed. And the way he said it made it clear he was giving her one.
“I suppose we’ll have to tell our parents,” Rose sighed.
To start Go On Pretending at the beginning, click here.
Alina Adams is the New York Times best-selling author of the As the World Turns tie-ins, Oakdale Confidential and The Man From Oakdale, and Guiding Light’s Jonathan’s Story. Check out her new historical fiction, My Mother’s Secret: A Novel of the Jewish Autonomous Region, out now! Only $.99 cents in January 2023!