JOHN AND ROSE
August 20, 1931
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
It was nearly three o’clock in the morning when the Calverts and Sam returned home, weary and shaken by the events of the night. Nadia sat in the back seat with Sam, fussing over his bruises and rope burns until he pushed her hands away in frustration.
Both Rose and Nadia knew where Sam lived, but no one, including him, was eager to make the trip across town to drop him off at home. And although he wouldn’t admit it, Sam wasn’t eager to be alone. He had been in tight spots before, but this was the closest he had ever come to getting killed, and he wanted to stay with the friendly, familiar faces, even if Nadia did persist in fussing over him.
When they reached the house, Jane burst out the front door, running towards the car as soon as it had stopped and throwing herself into her mother’s arms. She reached out to her father, but he just patted her on the back gently, his other hand balancing the bayonet-tipped rifle and holding it as far away from other people as he could. He didn’t want to injure anyone.
Ruth followed Jane outside more slowly, a brief look of relief crossing her face as she saw that everyone was safe and unhurt, even Sam. But Rose just walked past her, not even glancing in her direction, and the other Calverts followed her lead. Only Sam nodded politely to her, so glad to be alive that he was even happy to see Ruth, no matter how much she despised him.
Rose started to carry Jane up to bed, then stopped, realizing that there was no way that the anxious, overexcited child would fall asleep anytime soon. Instead, she brought her into the living room, where everyone was milling around, not sure what to say or do.
As she had many times before, Rose took charge. "Sit down, everyone," she told them, giving Jane to Nadia. She and John put their weapons away in the cabinet, John shaking his head and giving Jane a stern look when she tried to get out of Nadia’s lap to see what was in the cabinet.
"Mother, go and get us some coffee," Rose told Ruth, acknowledging her for the first time since they had returned home. "Bring some milk for Jane."
Rose ignored her mother, sitting down beside John and leaning wearily against him. The events of that night had been terrifying, but now that they were over, and everyone was safe, the adrenaline that had kept her and the others going was wearing off, leaving everyone but Jane and Sam sleepy. Jane was too keyed up to relax, and Sam was still anxious, not entirely convinced that he was safe.
Ruth finally came from the kitchen with the coffee and milk. Rose opened her eyes and leaned forward, gesturing to the coffee table. "Where’s Peter?" she asked, her eyes narrowing as she realized that her infant son was nowhere to be seen.
"He’s upstairs asleep, Rose, and I suggest that you keep your voices down unless you want to wake him up."
"Mother…" Rose shook her head. "Just sit down and stay quiet. After what you did…"
"What did she do?" Sam interrupted, glancing at Ruth, who had sat down stiffly, glaring at her daughter.
"She overheard those men discussing their plans to attack us and kill you, and didn’t say anything."
Ruth’s head snapped in Nadia’s direction. "That isn’t true, Nadia. I tried to warn him off. I couldn’t be sure that anything was going to happen, anyway. You know how people talk sometimes."
"Why didn’t just tell us what you’d heard outright? We would have stayed here instead of going into town." Nadia set her coffee down, her eyes fixed on her grandmother. "Did you want something to happen to us, Grandma?"
"Of course not, Nadia. You know I would never do anything to hurt you."
"And Sam? Would you do something to hurt him?"
Ruth’s silence was all the answer they needed.
Rose set her coffee cup down on the tray, getting to her feet and standing over Ruth. "Mother, how could you? You seem so different than you used to be, but deep inside, nothing ever changed, did it? You’re no different now than you were nineteen years ago, when you let a good man be taken away into the depths of a sinking ship. He might have lived if you’d spoken up, if you’d kept Cal from having him taken away, but you just couldn’t stand to see a member of your family with someone you perceived to be lower than you." It was the most she had talked about Jack in years, and she was surprised at the anger that still lingered. "You haven’t changed a bit."
Ruth stood, her face only inches from her daughter’s. "I don’t have to sit here and listen to you talk to me this way."
"No, you don’t. And as of tomorrow, you won’t be here to hear it. I won’t have someone who would do such things in my house anymore. I thought you’d changed, but you haven’t. As of tomorrow, you can find your own home and your own job."
"And who will watch your children?"
"I’ll take them to work with me. It’s my business, so I guess I can bring my own children along."
"Rose…" Ruth looked at John, hoping that he would intercede, but he just glanced at his angry wife, then looked away.
"As of tomorrow morning, there’ll be an opening at the factory. The job is yours, if you want it."
Rose turned and stared at her husband for a moment, her eyes narrowing, before nodding. She couldn’t let her mother go hungry and homeless, no matter how angry she was with her.
Ruth stepped away from Rose. Straightening, she looked at John and nodded. "I’ll take the job. What time should I be there?"
"Seven o’clock, and you work until six. Sundays are off."
"All right. I’ll be there." She turned to look at her daughter. "Good night, Rose."
Head held high, Ruth marched from the room, not looking back.
There was silence for a moment, finally broken by Sam. "Mrs. Calvert?"
"I…she…a lot of people feel the way she does. I don’t want anyone being driven from their home because of me."
"This isn’t the first time she’s done something like this. It’s not just you. It’s anyone she thinks is lower than herself. She’ll be all right. The job that she’s been offered pays enough for her to live on, and she has some friends who will no doubt take her in until payday."
"Mom?" Nadia asked. "You said that Grandma had done something like this before, nineteen years ago. What—"
"It’s something I’d prefer not to talk about, Nadia. It was a long time ago, and it’s over. Maybe someday I’ll talk about it—but not now." She glanced at John, suspecting that he had some idea of what she was talking about, but he didn’t say a word, respecting her wish to keep things to herself.