Go on Pretending

Go On Pretending: The Guiding Light Comes First

Chapter #15: The business of Rose’s past – and how it could affect both their futures.

collage of early soap operas for go on pretending serial

“Excuse me,” Rose stumbled awkwardly to her feet. She’d only accepted a single glass of champagne, but she felt as unsteady as after a night of revelry. Her head spun, her ears rang, and her vision blurred. She was hot. She needed air. She needed to think. She needed to go. Jonas half rose when she did, as a gentleman must. 

Rose made her way to the ladies’ room, sliding into line. Maybe some water would help settle her. Maybe she was just overheated. Maybe she was just overwrought. Maybe she was in over her head. They’d been discussing Shakespeare. Shakespeare. Not real life. Hadn’t he been the one to reassure that All’s Well That Ends Well? But that was in Shakespeare. Not real life. What did Rose think she was doing? What did she and Jonas think they were doing?

Their situation was impossible. Their situation was illegal. Well, not everywhere. Four years earlier, the California Supreme court ruled that anti-miscegenation laws violated the 14th Amendment, making interracial marriage legal. New York state never had any laws against it. And why was Rose thinking about marriage? She should be thinking about her job. And Jonas’s job. Why was it acceptable for movie studio heads like David Selznick to be married to women who worked for them, like Jennifer Jones, and why was Rose thinking about marriage?

Maybe she had it wrong. The world was changing, wasn’t it? Obstacles that once seemed insurmountable were receding. Taboos that once seemed unshakable were being dismissed as old-fashioned. They had modern art, modern dance, modern furniture, and modern fashion. Surely, they were due for some modern thought.

Rose felt her shoulders relaxing, her jaw loosening, and the gnawing in her stomach turning to a pleasant buzz. She did have it wrong. They were halfway into the 20th century. The rules and mores of the past simply didn’t apply. They were free. Men like Jonas had fought a World War to keep them that way. 

Rose’s optimism lasted up until it was her turn to enter the restroom. The woman on her way out forcefully banged Rose’s shoulder with her own, shoving Rose against the wall. As Rose grappled to remain upright, already turning to say it was all right, despite no apology being offered, Rose heard her whisper to a friend, loud enough to make sure Rose heard, “It’s only the homely ones who go after our men. Because their own kind don’t want them.”

***

Rose didn’t know if Jonas witnessed the altercation. She felt certain he hadn’t heard what was said. Which was why, when she returned to the table and he asked if she was all right – why, did she look shaken? – Rose reassured him, “I’m fine.”

***

They didn’t stay for the 6 AM floor show. Even though it was Friday and neither had work the next day – there was no such thing as a weekend with Irna, but Rose didn’t need to go into the office if she didn’t want to – they left around midnight.

They left because Rose asked Jonas, “You live around here, right?” He nodded, unsure of what she was asking.  “I’d like to see your apartment,” Rose said. Sure of what she was asking.

***

Rose spent the night and most of the next day in Jonas’s apartment. The following weekend, they made it Friday night, all day Saturday, Saturday night, and all day Sunday. Rose finally went home in the evening to call Irna and hear all the criticism she’d been forced to pent up for 48 hours. Irna didn’t ask where Rose had been, and Rose didn’t offer any information. Only at the end of the call did Irna ask, “Are you happy?” She could have been referring to anything. But both women knew what Rose meant when she answered, “Very.”

“The show comes first,” was Irna’s penultimate reminder. Followed by, “Good.”

***

Rose was no innocent, but she was a virgin to the notion that happiness didn’t have to be complicated. Of course, matters were complicated. They were more complicated than they had ever been. But, at the same time, Rose could close Jonas’s apartment door to the world, to jobs, to nightclubs, to restaurants, and to nay-sayers, and it suddenly became utterly simple. There was her, there was him, there was them. Simple.

The only hurdle still between them, one that Rose had done her darndest to keep behind the shut door but it kept hammering incessantly when she least expected it, was the business of Rose’s past – and how it could affect both their futures.

They were lying in bed, Jonas on his stomach, Rose’s head propped up on one elbow, tickling her fingers down his back with her free hand while he smiled sleepily, when she finally gathered up the courage to say, “I never graduated from high school.”

Jonas rolled over slowly, facing her with a quizzical expression. “You went to college.”

“I took the test. Got an equivalency.”

The side of his mouth twitched, trying to remain serious, “If that’s the worst thing you ever did – “

“It isn’t,” Rose cut him off. And the twitch stilled.

He sat up, back against the headboard. He took her hand in his, stroking the palm with his thumb, nice and steady. He looked down to meet Rose’s eyes but, when she looked away, he didn’t push. “What is it?” Jonas asked softly.

“I told you I grew up going to Workmen’s Circle. Attended their summer camps, sang with the chorus. They’re a social action organization. They taught me to stand up for the rights of the oppressed, to call out injustice, to fight for freedom. Not just my own, everybody’s.”

“Sounds like a cause I could support,” Jonas said softly, encouraging her to continue.

“I was 17. I was sure I knew everything. I was sure I knew better. Certainly more than my mother did. Certainly more than anybody who told me to think through my actions did.”

“What actions?” No judgment, just support.

“I went to Spain. To fight with the Republicans in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade against the Nationalists.”

***

Click here for Chapter #16!

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To start Go On Pretending at the beginning, click here.

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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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