JOHN AND ROSE
August 22, 1931
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Rose sat in her director’s chair, watching the scene before her, but her mind wasn’t on the picture she was making.
She was still angry with John. They hadn’t spoken since their argument the day before, and the silence had become so unbearable that he had finally left their bedroom, sleeping on the couch downstairs. Rose had cried herself to sleep, but presented a calm façade at breakfast the next morning.
Her concentration had been off all day. She had left Jane and Peter with the women she had hired to watch the actors’ children and had gone to the set, but she couldn’t focus. Time and time again, she had started the actors on a scene, only to forget what she was doing. More than once, the actors had finished a scene and then stopped, uncertain what to do when she had nothing to say. The crew had wondered what to do, too, but hadn’t dared to take over when she was in her present mood. Even Polly didn’t know what to say.
Now, realizing that yet another scene had ended without her recognizing it, Rose stood. "Cut!" she called. "Everybody take a break!" She turned to Polly, who was standing impatiently beside her, trying to get her attention. "What is it?"
"You have a phone call."
"Take a message. I’ll call them back."
"It’s from California."
That got Rose’s attention. "Who is it?"
"All right. I’ll take the call."
Rose hurried into her office, picking up the phone. "Rose Dawson here."
"Rose, it’s good to talk to you. I saw your last picture, and it was excellent."
"Thank you, Mr. Hinesdale." She paused, knowing that he hadn’t called all the way from Hollywood simply to compliment her on the last film she had directed. "Did you need something?"
"Rose, I’m directing a new picture starting next week—an epic of grand proportions. It has it all—romance, warfare, a story snatched straight from the ancient myths—and I want you to be my star. The title is—"
"Mr. Hinesdale, I’m flattered, but…I’m living in Iowa now, you know. I have my own studio, and I have a family. I have two small children—"
"And you’re perfect for this role. I’ve auditioned fifty actresses, but none could match you. It’s only for two months, perhaps a little longer. And this film will be partly in color—and the trade magazines have quoted you as saying you would like to work with color."
"Mr. Hinesdale…" Rose was weakening. She did want to learn about filming in color, but with the present tension between her husband and herself, she didn’t know if it would be a good idea to be away for so long. And she did have small children to think about, though she could probably bring them with her, just as she had Christopher.
"Rose, the title of the film is Only Yesterday, and the character I want you to play has all the elements I know you love. She’s the queen of a vast empire, but she’s a warrior, too. And she has two lovers, but only one can win her heart. There’s music and dancing and grand pageantry…"
"Come now, Rose. It’s been five years since I’ve worked with you, but I know your work has only grown better with the passage of time. I have already cast your stepdaughter, Mary Calvert, in the role of the queen’s chief advisor and lady in waiting. I’m certain she’d be more than happy to work with you."
Rose sighed. Hinesdale always seemed to know what to do to convince a reluctant actor to join the cast. The role sounded very attractive—she hadn’t had any really big roles since she had started her own studio, though she knew she could have created them—and she had always enjoyed working with Jonathan Hinesdale. She could even bring her children with her, if need be.
But the current situation with her marriage wasn’t as good as it should be before she left on a prolonged trip. And yet, as angry as she and John were with each other right now, it might be a good idea to have some time apart, some time to think about things. They could always talk on the telephone and write to each other over the ensuing time.
She still wasn’t sure that such a separation would be a good idea, but the more she thought about it, the more she knew she needed a break from the tension in her family, from the strain of running the studio, from the small town where her every move was known. Taking this role seemed to be just the way to get the time off she needed.
"All right, Mr. Hinesdale. You’ve convinced me. I’ll take the role of—what is my character’s name?"
"Queen Janella, ruler of the Munitalpe Empire."
"I’ll be there. When do you start filming, exactly?"
Rose thought quickly. She would need to leave the next day to be there on time and have time to get settled and study her role. She didn’t know how John would react to her sudden departure, but she would worry about that when she talked to him that evening.
That night, after supper was over, Rose quietly approached John. He was sitting in the living room, looking over some papers from work. Nervously, she sat down in an easy chair across from him.
He looked up. "What is it, Rose?" There was a hint of annoyance in his voice.
"We need to talk."
He set the papers aside. "We most certainly do, but why don’t we wait until after Jane and Peter are asleep?"
"John, this is important. We need to talk now."
He sighed. "What is it?"
"Jonathan Hinesdale called me this afternoon…"
"Jonathan Hinesdale, who I worked with several times in Hollywood."
"He wants me to go to California for a couple of months to star in his new epic."
"You told him no, of course."
Rose stiffened slightly. "Actually, I told him yes."
"What?! Rose, your life is here. You can’t just go running off to Hollywood whenever you feel like it."
"Filming starts on the twenty-eighth. I’m leaving tomorrow."
John looked at her, his face set. "Oh, really? And what about Jane and Peter?"
"I’m taking them with me. I can take them to the set with me."
"And when were you going to ask me about this?"
"I’m not asking you anything. I’m telling you."
"I’m your wife, John, not some foreman at Anders Cedar Rapids…" She trailed off, remembering a similar conversation with another man nineteen years earlier.
"Rose, do you really think this is a good time to leave, after all that’s happened?"
"It’s because of all that’s happened that I need to leave for a while. I need a break, John. I need to get away from this small town for a while. I need to get away from my mother. An after the argument we had yesterday and the way you’re reacting to my news, I need to get away from you, too."
John stared at her, his papers lying forgotten on the coffee table. "Rose…"
She got to her feet. "I’m going to get packed, John, both my own things and the children’s."
She turned to go, surprised by a sudden rush of tears. She hadn’t wanted it to be like this. She’d hoped, deep inside, that John would understand her need to get away for a while and her desire to take this role. She had been under a lot of pressure for a long time. The incident with Sam and Ruth and the Klan was simply the latest in a series of occurrences that had been troubling her.
Had there been the time and the money, she would have talked John into a family vacation long before, taking the needed break from their everyday lives without splitting the family. But there hadn’t been, and the only way she could justify taking a break was to work, to take this role and return when she was finished. It wouldn’t be forever. Would it?
She stopped, looking at the ceiling and blinking hard to hold back her tears. "What is it, John?"
"When will you be back?"
Rose turned briefly and looked at him. "I don’t know, John. I really don’t know."