Go on Pretending

Go On Pretending: Friday Cliffhanger, Monday Happy Ending

Chapter #13: Serials offer chance after chance to get life right.

collage of early soap operas for go on pretending serial

Jonas took a step back. The spot where his hand once rested prickled with cold. Rose fought the impulse to rub it, to scoop up what remained of his essence before it dissipated like stardust. He said, “I was also raised to pretend.” 

He turned towards the door. But, before Jonas left, he asked Rose, “What do you think we were doing at the restaurant? My parents, to this day, live the life they should have, not the one they do have; if they just act as if liberation is already here, they can will it into being. No complaining, no suggesting anything is less than ideal. Dignity and nobility. We rise above petty grievances. We turn the other cheek. Always. It’s exhausting.”

“That’s not what I’m doing,” Rose challenged.

“No?” He was the intrigued one now, eager to hear her defense.

“No.” Rose was on solid ground. She knew exactly what she was doing, and it wasn’t what Jonas accused. Well, not exactly. “I’m a writer. I’m a soap-opera writer,” she stressed the distinction. “Not a novelist, not a playwright, a soap-opera writer. I believe that no matter how dire things get, no matter how bleak the situation may seem at end of day Friday, I can always figure out how to engender a happy ending come first thing Monday.”

When life mocks her, breaks her hopes, dashes her against the rocks of despair,” Jonas intoned, “Helen Trent fights back bravely, successfully, to prove what so many women long to prove, that because a woman is 35 or more, romance in life need not be over, that romance can begin at 35.”

Rose’s first thought was, “Does he think I’m 35?” But her second, more offended one, which she spoke out loud, was, “That’s not one of Irna’s shows!”

“My apologies.” Jonas’s grin matched the merriment in his eyes.

“Are you auditioning for them?” So many issues floating in the ether between them, yet this was the one Rose felt compelled to address first. “Are they trying to poach you? What are they offering? Because, whatever they’re offering, I can match it. I can beat it.” She was already going over her budget, wondering what she could cut in order to sweeten the pot and compel Jonas to stay with them. With her. 

“What are you offering?” 



She’d felt mortified the minute the promise escaped her lips – seemingly with no input from Rose’s brain. Jonas, on the other hand, appeared anything but mortified. He appeared amused. He appeared charmed. He appeared…challenged. Rose wasn’t sure if that was a good thing. A safe thing.

“I think we should discuss your earlier offer,” Jonas informed Rose gravely, entering her office for the second time that day, after Hazel had already rushed home and the building was nearly deserted, save for the cleaning crew, security, and, of course, Rose, burning the 8:45 oil. “Not here. You haven’t had dinner yet.” Jonas made the obvious and safe assumption.

“No,” she admitted. 


They stood on the sidewalk, looking from right to left, then back again. This was the East Side of Manhattan. Their restaurant choices should have been endless. Their restaurant choices were endless. Except Rose harbored no interest in a repeat of their last dining experience. She also knew that it wasn’t her place to say so. 

“What say we try the other side of the park,” Jonas offered, and Rose nodded gratefully.

They made small talk during their walk to the West Side, Jonas asking Rose how she got started in writing soap operas, and what drew her to the genre. She told him more or less the same thing she’d told Irna at her interview. “Serials offer chance after chance to get life right. You can keep trying, over and over.”

“Until you get your happy ending?”


“So you can’t conceive of any scenario where even the most gifted of writers fails at engineering a happily ever after?” Jonas looked at her with what she thought might be newfound respect. “You are a most entrancing woman, Rose Janowitz.” It was the first time he’d used her given name. It slid ever so enchantingly off his tongue. Then again, what didn’t? She mustn’t think anything of it. But since when had knowing she mustn’t ever stop Rose from charging full speed ahead?

Their reception at a cozy Greek diner on the West Side proved the exact opposite of what they’d experienced on the East. Instead of being ignored and made to wait, the hostess went out of her way to make it clear that she understood they were together – and that she was absolutely delighted by it! She led them to a well-lit table in front of the window, so they might be easily observed by anyone passing by on the street. She handed them their menus and called over a waiter in the middle of taking another order, telling him to make sure he took extra good care of their extra special customers. As they ate, not only the hostess but the owner stopped by to make sure everything was to their liking. They wanted to stress what a friendly, welcoming establishment they ran, not like some others. Those people were a disgrace to the melting pot that was New York City, and especially the progressive and welcoming Upper West Side. The management hoped Rose and Jonas felt welcome. Did they feel welcome? Was there anything more they could do to make them feel more welcome?

This time, instead of asking for the dessert menu and lingering over his coffee, Jonas didn’t even wait for the check. He left enough money on the table to cover their dinners and yet another generous tip, then hurried Rose out.

Still somewhat flustered by the encounter, Rose could only ask — they hadn’t had much of a chance to talk over their meal, they kept being interrupted — “Is it often like…this?”

“Not as often as the alternative,” he admitted, ‘but often enough.”

“How do you bear it? It feels like being under a microscope like they’re prying you open with a stick. Or like being a performing monkey. They want you to do tricks!”

“Dignity,” Jonas repeated. “Nobility. And fleeing the scene as fast as you can.”


The next time they went out — and, somehow, they’d both agreed there’d be a next time without either articulating that they’d like there to be a next time — Rose tentatively ventured, “It isn’t fair. The previous occasions, you were the one who stood out. All eyes were on you. You shouldn’t have to be the one perennially made to feel like you’re out of place. Maybe we should go…maybe, tonight, we should go…uptown.”

Rose had countersigned Jonas’s employment contract. She knew he resided in Harlem. Sugar Hill, to be precise. The neighborhood got its name because of the “sweet life” it offered those who opted to live in its high-priced apartment houses, complete with elevators and doormen, to challenge anything found further south. But she didn’t know how Jonas felt about entertaining there. Or about being seen with someone like her.

He hesitated, and Rose was about to reassure him that he didn’t have to. She understood she might be putting him on the spot. That’s the last thing she wanted — for a moment, she feared she sounded as obsequious as their Upper West Side hosts — when Jonas clarified, “Are you certain that’s what you want to do?”

He appeared more worried about her than about himself, with presumably good reason. Rose couldn’t remember an occasion when, outwardly, at least, she hadn’t looked more or less like everyone around her. Growing up on the Lower East Side, it was the rare neighbor who didn’t look like a sibling or a cousin. Even the Greeks and Italians blended into the same crowd with the Jews. Matters changed slightly once she began working in midtown. If anybody looked closely, yes, then they could obviously see she didn’t quite fit in with the golden-haired, blue-eyed, perfectly-nosed, moneyed crowd. But, upon a quick, surface glance, she rarely stood out. That wouldn’t be the case in Harlem.

Rose told herself it would be a good experience to have. She’d lived far too comfortably for far too long. It would serve her well to see how those outside her circle lived. Didn’t writers require a multitude of experiences to fuel their imaginations? To enhance their craft? This would allow Rose the opportunity to walk around in Jonas’s shoes, to discover how it felt for him to, day after day, enter a space where he was the outsider, the one who visibly didn’t fit in. It would allow her to understand him. To get inside his skin, to see through his eyes, to experience…him.

“I’m certain,” Rose said. 


Click here for Chapter #14!


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!

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