JOHN AND ROSE
Rose quietly let herself in the front door, wondering when John would be home. He often worked late these days, struggling to keep the company going. She wondered briefly if it might be a good idea for her to invest in the company’s stock, low though it was, to help keep it solvent. John wasn’t thrilled with the idea of her supporting him, even indirectly, but he wouldn’t have to know. She could buy it in secret, under an assumed name—but if worst came to worst, and they needed the money she had saved, he would wonder where it had gone.
Shrugging to herself, Rose dismissed the idea. Buying stock in Anders Cedar Rapids, or even in Anders as a whole, was a risk, and she knew it. Money had never been terribly important to her, but she did like to have enough to keep her children fed, clothed, and sheltered, and that was more important than ever now.
The doctor had confirmed what she had suspected—she was going to have another baby. The thought of having another child pleased her, and she knew it would please her mother, but she wasn’t sure what John would think. He loved each of his children, as well as Christopher, but times were hard, and another baby would be another mouth to feed. For now, it was all right—they had enough, and Rose’s film company was doing well, in spite of the economic depression—but what if that changed? Would they be able to feed, clothe, and keep a roof over the heads of everyone?
Rose took a deep breath. She knew that something could be worked out, no matter what happened, but it might not be to their liking, or even for the best for everyone. They might wind up working in sweatshops, living in the slums again. They had done it before, and could do it again if they had to, but she didn’t want to see it happen.
Still, she was expecting a baby, and there was no going back on that. There were ways to end the pregnancy, of course, and a child that could not be properly cared for could be given up to someone else, but Rose couldn’t bring herself to even consider such options, and she doubted John would like them either. He was a good man, one who had taken in a strange child after the Titanic sinking, when he had almost nothing to support himself and his own child with, and then taken in her and her expected child as well.
She sighed, placing a hand on her abdomen. Whatever happened, she would love her coming child, and do the best she could for it, as she had done for Christopher and for Jane.
Rose looked up from the script she was perusing when she heard the front door screen open and close, indicating that John was home. Steeling herself, she came out to greet him, a happy smile on her face in spite of her worries.
"Hello, John," she greeted him, giving him a hug and a kiss. "How was your day?"
"Better than usual," he told her, hugging her back. "Things finally seem to be stabilizing. I even hired two people."
"That’s great!" Rose smiled, genuinely happy for him, and took his briefcase, setting it down in their room as he loosened his tie and changed his shoes.
"You look happy," he remarked. "What did you do all day?"
"Well…" Rose paused, debating whether to tell him about the baby right away, or talk about other things first. "The usual, mostly. I watched Jane, worked in the garden, and went over a script."
"Anything else?" John knew that Rose found those activities enjoyable, but she was smiling more broadly than usual.
"Well…I went to the doctor."
A look of concern crossed his face. "Are you all right?"
Rose nodded, beginning to feel a little nervous. "I’m fine, but…John, the doctor says we’re going to be parents again, probably sometime in December."
"You’re pregnant again?" John stared at her, not sure how to react. He loved children, but it wasn’t the best time to bring another one into the world.
Rose nodded, sinking down on the bed. "I’m sorry, John. I know we’ve been…taking precautions, but those things don’t always work."
"You’re not sorry at all, Rose. If you were, you wouldn’t have been smiling."
Rose winced at his harsh words. "No, I’m not sorry to be having another baby, but I am sorry that it’s happened in such…precarious circumstances."
"It isn’t the best time to have another child, I’ll agree."
"But there’s nothing to be done for it, now that it’s on the way. Besides, we’ll be all right, one way or another. You said yourself that things are better at Anders Cedar Rapids, and Dawson Films is doing well, and we do have some money saved…"
"I know, and if those things were sure to work, I would rest easy. But they aren’t sure. You know how stagflation has taken its toll in other countries, especially Germany, and the market could get worse at any time. If people have to cut back more—forgive me for saying it, but they’re more likely to cut back on the films you make than on the food Anders Cedar Rapids produces. People need food, but they can live without films, no matter how much they enjoy them."
Rose sighed. "I know, but nothing is ever sure. We’ve been doing our best to economize, just as we did when Mary and Nadia were young. I’ve even got the garden, to lower the cost of food, and we only have the one car now, to save on the cost of fuel and maintenance. We have things that we can sell, too, if we have to. And if all else fails, we can take to the road, as so many others have done."
John rubbed his temples, then patted his pocket absently, making sure his glasses were still there. "I know, Rose, and I’ll do the best I can…but I wish this had happened at a better time."
"Who knows when times will be better, John? It could be years. I could be too old to have a baby by then. I’m already thirty-five years old." She moved to stand beside him, looking out the window at the thriving vegetable garden below. "We’ll make do, John, somehow. We just have to take things one day at a time. Maybe things will get better soon. There’s no way of really knowing. Even the experts and the politicians can’t agree on what’s expected to happen."
"You’re right, I know, but…hell, Rose, this isn’t easy."
"No, but I know you. You love children, and you could never make our new one feel unwelcome, or push it out in the cold, if you can help it. You grew up in London’s East End, you lived in New York’s slums—you know as well as I do that there’s ways of stretching what we have, for making things last, for making do. Christopher will be grown soon, and on his own—and I know that we can depend upon our grown children to help the family if needed, just as we would help them, because we raised them to not be selfish. Many larger families than ours make do with much less—even if they have to go on relief, stand in soup lines, and travel around looking for work. These aren’t easy times, but they can’t go on forever. Eventually, something will happen. It always does, and we’ll live through it as we always have—one day at a time."
She looked out the window, where Christopher was playing with his little sister and Ruth was scolding both. Glancing back at John, she saw that his expression hadn’t changed—it was still worried and uncertain. He wasn’t at all sure that things would work out as well as his wife hoped, and Rose, in spite of her seeming optimism, couldn’t blame him.