Chapter Eighteen

"Come on, Rose! Why not?"

Gina's voice had taken on the pleading tone that she had successfully plied on Rose before, and Rose found her resistance melting.

"I just don't want to, is all."

"You know it'll be fun. Just ask him."

Rose and Gina had been going out together quite frequently. Some nights, Gina would be working and Rose would sit quietly in the corner, nursing a drink and enjoying the show. Anthony would accompany them on other occasions, and still others would find the two women going out alone to a tavern or a café, and now, if Gina had her way, they would be going dancing. But not unaccompanied; Gina wanted Rose to ask Thomas to join them.

"Why don't you just ask him yourself?" Rose asked.

Gina sat back, assuming an aristocratic pose.

"Now, you know very well a LADY doesn't do such a thing!" she said, peering down her nose.

"You sound like my mother, Gina! Come to think of it, you LOOK like her, too."

Gina laughed.

"Well, listen to your mother, then! There's a new rage of dances we need to learn."

The dog days of August had padded into New York and they seemed inclined to sit for a spell, making the rains of July seem like ancient memories. To Rose, the month had thus far been one endless, hot, sleepless night spent secluded in her stuffy apartment, and she thought the chance to be out sounded quite inviting. Still….

"It's not proper, Gina!" she responded.

"NOW who sounds like your mother? Anyway, I've heard that it's okay if it's a boy you know."

Rose laughed at Gina's logic.

"Oh, all right! I'll ask him tonight. Is it Saturday, then?"

"Great! Thanks. Saturday it is!"

I guess I've been elected matchmaker for those two, Rose mused. Chaperone as well.


Thomas and Cora were perched on the steps to the apartments, trying to cool off in the meager early evening breeze, as Rose arrived from window shopping after work. Cora spotted her first, as usual.

"Rosie's here!"

Rose neared the stoop and exchanged greetings, fanning herself after her walk. Her clothes clung to her in places and she could feel beads of perspiration dotting her brow. She glanced at the cloudless ceiling overhead and at the motionless leaves in the trees fronting the apartments.

"Not much better out here, it seems," she said.

"The frying pan is just a slower death than the fire tonight, is all," Thomas offered. He motioned for Rose to sit with them.

They chatted a bit about the weather, Cora's day, and about Red.

"Your exploits saving that horse were the talk of the neighborhood. Mr. Carson already has you canonized," Thomas said, and Rose found herself blushing. "I hear you're learning to ride him."

"He's putting up with me is more like it," Rose replied with a laugh. "I've just started this past week, actually."

"A newspaper man wanted to take Rosie's picture but she told him no," Cora chimed in.

Thomas looked quizzically at Rose.

"Why not? That was quite something. You should be proud of what you did," he said.

"I am, but I just…well, I like to keep my life simple."

Rose expected to have to explain herself, but Thomas surprised her by simply nodding.

"Still, that was something," he repeated.

Rose took a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves.

Gina should be doing this, she thought. She is much more comfortable in these situations; I'm not used to being so forward. Oh, well, this is as good a time as any.

"Thomas, Gina and I would like you to accompany us to the Pavilion on Saturday night," she said matter-of-factly, but she felt her face reddening again, undermining her nonchalance.

"Well, it's about time! I'll be going back to university soon," Thomas replied.

"What do you mean 'about time'?"

"Gina and I talked about this back on July 4th. It took you two this long to decide on a day?"

"Well, me, actually. Gina was ready to go long ago. I'm not much for that sort of thing."

Cora had been occupied chasing the late-summer fireflies that had been gathering under nearby tree branches, flashing like stars. She had been listening to the conversation with one ear.

"What's the Pavilion?" she asked.

"A place where people go to dance," her brother informed her. Before Cora could ask the inevitable question, Thomas added, "And, no, you can't go along. This is for grown-ups only."

Cora frowned only for a second as that patent explanation was often used and always expected.

"Oh, Rosie's gonna be kangaroo! Rosie's gonna be a kangaroo!" Cora sang in refrain, skipping in a circle around the nearest tree.

"What?" Rose asked, thinking she had missed part of the conversation.

"The 'Kangaroo Dip'. You haven't heard of it?" Thomas asked.

"No. Is that a dance?"

Cora stopped circling and, taking an exaggerated breath, addressed Rose.

"Oh, Rosie! Really!" she scolded, exhaling loudly on the last word.

Cora's imitation of a child-exasperated adult was too perfect, and Rose and Thomas chuckled in delight.

"You don't go dancing often, I guess," Thomas ventured.

"Why do you say that?" Rose asked, a bit affronted by his assumption, however true.

"Oh, it's just that you don't seem comfortable with a lot of people around. You take long walks alone, run three-legged races, save horses from rivers and them ride them… seem more of the outdoor type."

Oh, my God! Rose thought, and she laughed so long and hard that she started to cry from the effort. Thomas and Cora eyed her like she was some sort of exotic hyena.

Rose slowly regained her composure, wiping the tears from her face with both hands while still laughing in spurts; in the end a few tears of sorrow were mixed in as well. She shook her head at her two companions.

"You wouldn't understand," was all she would offer by way of an explanation.

Jack, that one's for you! Rose thought, and she could almost hear him laughing loudly as well at the irony of it all.

A bit later, after Rose and Thomas had finalized the details for their night out, Thomas shepherded his sister in to bed. Rose sat alone on the stoop, trying to trick her mind with thoughts of cool breezes. Occasional pedestrians strolled by, trying to put off the dreaded return to their own personal ovens for as long as possible, and Rose nodded greetings. For the most part there was no traffic; the street was quiet save for the sound of crickets chirping their rapid rhythm and the faint snippets of conversations drifting down from the lighted windows above her.

Rose smiled in the darkness.

Well, Jack, I wonder if you'd even want me anymore, me being an 'outside' girl and all! I really hadn't thought how much you'd influenced me until Thomas said that. I suppose I really HAVE changed a lot; Rose Dawson seems cut from a different cloth than Rose Bukater was. Or maybe the old Rose never had the chance to discover what she was really made of….

Rose's reverie was broken by a muffled cough from down the dark street. She tried to locate the sound but couldn't see anyone on the sidewalk.

There! A slight motion in the lee of an elm across the way and half a block down. Rose couldn't make out clearly, but she thought she saw a figure standing in the shadows, staring back at her.

It made her shiver.

"Hello!" she called, challenging the shadows. The phantom turned abruptly and walked rapidly down the street, away from her. Avoiding the glare of the streetlights, it disappeared around the corner without a backward glance.

There's something strangely familiar about the way that person walks, Rose thought, though she couldn't place it, and she shivered again.


Thomas knocked on Rose's door at precisely eight o'clock on Saturday evening.

Punctual, she thought, as she let him in. She wasn't quite set to go.

Rose had been proud of herself as she was prepared to depart more than a half-hour earlier, but then she had sat at her desk, lights off, having second thoughts about the evening ahead.

I'm not really comfortable being the third member of this duet, she thought. Why do they need me to go along? Still, perhaps Thomas will be good for Gina. It's long overdue, and I really wish her the best. I'm sure I'll get to be the maid of honor at the wedding!

So when Thomas arrived, Rose had to hurry to finish dressing and Thomas stood politely in the doorway, trying not to appear annoyed.

"We're meeting Gina outside the Pavilion?" he asked.

He's doesn't want to let that on he's eager to see her, Rose thought.

"Yes, Thomas. Don't fret, I'm sure she'll be there waiting," she teased him.

Thomas ran his fingers around the brim of his hat while Rose examined her appearance in the mirror over the wash basin. Her thick hair had grown back quite a bit in four short months, and was almost to the point of needing styling. She loosely tied on her hat, tilting her head to see it from various angles. Satisfied, she turned to check Thomas' choice of clothes. He was dressed casually in dark blue, and was neat as a pin.

Trying to impress her, Rose thought, suppressing a smile.

Rose had bowed to the heat, choosing a lightweight, loose lavender skirt and shirtwaist and a small, simple hat. Perfect for dancing….Or chaperoning, she thought.

"All right, I'm ready," she declared.

"You look nice, Rose. How do I look?"

"You'll do," Rose replied with a chuckle.

They rode the El north for the quick ride to Times Square. It was only a short walk from the train platform to Seventh Avenue, and as they approached their destination Rose was dazzled by a kaleidoscope of saloons, theaters, restaurants, nightclubs and dance halls, all packed so tightly in the square that they seemed to be trying to climb over one another for attention.

The myriad lights of the buildings brought an almost false-daylight to the square, and the dense throngs strolling the sidewalks were made all the more compact by those that were just out and about, fleeing the wrath of summer. Barkers hawked the specialties of each establishment, trying to sell the sizzle of their shows to an audience more inclined to spend the night outdoors. The noise level was like that of the busiest market district at the height of a weekday morning.

The Pavilion looked from the outside like a giant barn, but one made, incongruously, from red brick. A string of lights ran along the arc of the front of the building, framing a central marquee that announced "Dancing Tonite" in oversized lettering befitting a Times Square establishment.

Rose followed Thomas' lead through the crowds, feeling once again uneasy at being the odd woman out.

They spotted Gina standing just outside the entrance to the hall, and she waved a greeting to them as they approached.

"You made it…great!" Gina said brightly.

Thomas shook her hand, bowing gallantly.

"Nice to see you again, Gina."

"And you, Thomas."

Rose already felt invisible.

"We can go in in a minute," Gina continued.

Thomas turned and gazed out over square, taking in the riotous scene.

"Have you been here before?" he asked of Gina.

"Oh, yes, I would say…."

Gina's gaze moved off Thomas and fixed on the hall entrance behind Rose's back.

"How many times do you think we've been here?" she asked.

Anthony stepped forward, just emerged from interior of the hall.

"At least a dozen, I'm sure," he answered. "Hello, Rose."

Rose was so surprised to see him that she couldn't speak. Her first reaction was to expect friction between Anthony and Thomas, but neither of them seemed at all surprised to see the other and they shook hands following Gina's introductions. Thomas turned away from Rose, engaged in conversation with Anthony, and Gina seemed to engross herself in their words, trying her best to avoid looking at Rose. Rose fixed a stare at her friend.

Finally, Gina tried to steal a quick glance at Rose and her eyes were pinned like a butterfly's wings by the directness of Rose's gaze. Gina feigned a combination of innocence and relief, but she wasn't a convincing enough actress, and Rose began to realize she had been set up. She reached for Gina's arm, excused them both, and pulled her aside.

"You knew Anthony would be here!" she accused.

"Of course. Why shouldn't he be?"

Gina's innocent veneer began to crack.

"I thought you and Thomas…"

Gina smiled and leaned towards her, speaking softly.

"Oh, Thomas isn't my type. Rose…you needed to go out on a date; a real date."

"That should've been MY choice, shouldn’t it?" Rose replied, irritation rising in her voice.

"Oh, Rose! Live a little! Thomas seems nice…just enjoy yourself."

Anthony beckoned them and he led the way into the building. Thomas noticed the annoyed look on Rose's face and lagged behind the others to speak to her.

"Anything wrong?" he asked.

"You and Gina schemed to get me here," she responded.

And I DON'T like anyone telling me what to do.

"Sorry Rose, but I wanted to have a chance to get to know you better and Gina agreed to help. I knew you wouldn't go out with just me, even though I'm really a nice guy…once you get past my saloon manners, anyway."

Rose wasn't inclined to smile at his joke.

"You should have just asked me yourself," she huffed, feeling manipulated.

"And your answer would have been….."

Rose was silent for a few seconds as they walked, and then she relaxed her face a little.

"Touche," she replied.

The Pavilion's interior was laid out to be as simply functional as possible: a vast open dance floor surrounded by tables lining all the walls. A waiter led the four of them across the room, their shoes clapping against the boards of the polished wooden floor. Thomas ordered drinks and they sat down around their table.

As the others engaged in small talk, waiting for the music to begin, Rose examined the room.

Recessed in one wall was a cave of sorts in which the band sat, warming up with their instruments. A row of large windows ringed the walls, their panes thrown open to the night, and overhead the largest ceiling fan Rose had ever seen whirred busily, trying to circulate the thick air. Despite the daunting heat the room was nearly full, and abuzz in anticipation.

Rose studied the faces of the young couples, their emotions on their sleeves, so much in love. The scattered older couples were not nearly so impetuous, not nearly so overt, but their closeness obvious nonetheless.

One young woman in particular captured Rose's attention. She sat, her eyes lit like diamonds as she listened to her companion speak, and it was almost as though she commanded her own spotlight; she seemed surrounded by an aura of happiness and fulfillment.

Rose felt a tightness in her chest, an emptiness, and she forced in a deep breath. After four months of maintaining walls, the emotion she had so well kept at bay suddenly welled up inside her.

I miss feeling like she does, Rose thought. Feeling a part of something magical, something wonderful, knowing that, whatever might happen in the rest of the day, it will still be there. I miss the coziness that comes after the novelty wears off, the special shoulder to lean on; believing in one person, knowing him, trusting him.

Jack, that's something we were never given the time to reach, and I'll forever regret that. We never had the time to really live our love. But I'm sure you understand my feelings now.

I'm lonely.

"….what about you Rose?" Gina was addressing her.


Lost in her thoughts, Rose had failed to notice the band begin to play, and couples were filtering out onto the dance floor. Gina and Anthony stood at the head of the table, looking down at her.

"Are you going to dance?" Gina asked again.

"In a bit," Rose replied, and the couple left for the floor. Rose glanced at Thomas, who returned her gaze expectantly but said nothing.

The idea of a night out dancing had sounded appealing, but now that she was face-to-face with the reality, Rose wasn't sure she was up to it.

I haven’t danced with a man since…that night, below decks….

She could recall Jack's touch, his voice, the smell of his hair, what he had been wearing. She knew that room had been brimming with people but she only remembered him and her and the music that filled their world.

Can that really be four months ago? Rose wondered. It seems like yesterday.

That night had been magical, but she knew she needed to loosen its grip on her. Her heart cried to go back, but needed to move forward.

She shook herself slightly and returned her attention to Thomas, who sat quietly watching her without judgement.

"I know I've been quite reserved around you, Thomas, maybe even rude. Why would you want to get to know me better?"

"I wonder that myself sometimes. I guess I can't shake the feeling that there is a lot more to Rose Dawson then you let on, and some of the things you say and do make me very curious."

"You remember the curious cat, don't you?"

Thomas laughed. He waited for her to continue.

She so much wanted to really trust someone; to know and to be known, completely.

"Thomas, what do you want out of life?"

He was obviously surprised at her question and sat back, his hands clasped on the table before him, considering his reply.

"Oh, the same as everyone I guess. Wife, children, house, career."

"Not love?"

"Well, sure, that goes without saying. What's marriage or a family without love?"

"You men always say 'it goes without saying'."

Rose studied Thomas' face. She wasn't sure why she had started this line of conversation with him, and she felt like a blind person, feeling her way along.

"Have you ever been in love?" she asked him.

He seemed a bit uncomfortable with the question, squirming slightly in his chair.

"No chit chat on a Saturday night for you, huh? Okay…I'm game. Close a few times but…no, not really."

"And that doesn’t bother you, that you haven't been in love?"

"Everything in its time, Rose. I haven't been in Pittsburgh, either."

"Now you're making fun of me."

"No, I'm not. It's just…this is an awfully serious discussion for so early on a Saturday night. What brought this to your mind now?"

Rose didn't reply, thinking Thomas wouldn't be likely to empathize with the emotions that filled her as she watched the happy couples. She longed to be like them, but she wasn't sure if those feelings lived inside her still. Thomas waited for her to answer, but when none was forthcoming he shrugged his shoulders.

"Well, what about you, what do YOU want out of life?" he asked.

"Six months ago, I would've answered just as you did, but now I want more than what one career, one passion, one city could ever offer. I want….everything."

"So, it's out there, somewhere," Thomas said, sweeping his arm in a wide arc. "Not here in New York?"

Rose's eyes followed a dancing couple but her mind was miles away, considering his question. She hadn't really faced that prospect directly before, but his query seemed to flip a switch in her mind and she realized she had known the answer for some time.

"No…I don't think so. My future is not here in this city."


"No, not truly that. Travelling is nice but it's more complicated than that. I want to really LIVE."

"We all feel that way, Rose. It's not always easy to keep focused on it, though. For myself, I would like to get away from the city after I graduate, settle down somewhere quiet with a family of my own. I guess that sounds too tame to you."

"No, I want that too……it's hard to explain. I used to think that was ALL I wanted, but then my eyes were opened and I realized I needed to break free of the expectations everyone else had for me; to make my OWN destiny."

"What changed you?"

Rose considered how best to reply. She looked at the brightness in Thomas' eyes and thought he would understand.

"I fell in love."

Thomas leaned forward, his forearms resting fully on the tabletop. He paused before continuing, watching her closely.

"I'll understand if you tell me to mind my own business, Rose, but….what happened?"

Rose closed her eyes. She so much wanted to tell Thomas, to tell someone, to share the burden…. but she knew that, for her, Jack was a book that had to remain sealed forever.

"It ended," was all she said.

Rose was startled by the sound of chairs being drawn back very nearby, and opened her eyes to find Gina and Anthony had returned.

"Are you two still sitting here like logs?" Gina kidded. "What have you been talking about?"

"Oh, Rose was telling me that she'd like to have ten children and I was just asking what their names will be," Thomas replied.

They all laughed and sat back to relax, sipping their drinks. An emcee walked to the front of the bandstand and signaled for quiet.

"Ladies and gentleman….it's time for everyone to become…animals!!"

A cheer arose and, en masse, couples streamed out onto the floor. Thomas stood, offering Rose his hand.

"May I?"

Rose lifted her glass and took two long swigs of the beer. I'll have to face this sometime, she thought.

Standing, she let Thomas guide her onto the floor, Anthony and Gina by their side.

"I don't know any of these dances," she confessed to Thomas.

"Actually, neither do I," he replied with a grin. "We'll just watch the others for a bit and follow along."

The music started and the emcee called out the "Camel Amble". A fairly slow number ensued and the couples leaned forward and walked side-by-side in exaggerated steps, pausing every few strides to lift their heads and look slowly from right to left. Rose and Thomas watched briefly and then dropped into step with the others, Rose laughing at how much like a real camel Thomas looked when he scanned the horizon for trouble.

Rose's anxiety at dancing was reduced by the novelty of the steps and the distance the dances dictated between partners. There was no time to think about the past.

The "Bunny Hug" and the "Lame Duck" followed, both danced to a much faster Ragtime beat. Rose found them more challenging, requiring acrobatic steps to be performed on the alternating downbeats, but she learned quickly. Finally, the "Kangaroo Dip" commenced. The partners started together, forward hands clasped, and they stepped forward with the music. As the music hit the downbeat, the dancers hopped a step and then dipped deeply forward, as though foraging for food.

At first, Rose fought off waves of embarrassment, feeling out of place. She felt ridiculous doing the hops but, then, everyone around them looked equally silly, and as the effects of the beer and the heat drained her tensions she began to enjoy the rhythm and motion of the dance.

It feels so free out here, Rose thought. So unstructured. No rigid pinkie, no constantly thinking about what is 'proper'.

She and Thomas laughed as they danced, and they nearly collided with Anthony and Gina during one particularly deep hop-and-lean. The four retired to their table for a rest when the number ended, feeling lightheaded from all the dips.

Gina wiped the perspiration from her brow with her handkerchief.

"I need to use the ladies room," she said. "Will you go with me, Anthony?"

"Already?" Anthony grumbled, as he uncoiled from his chair to escort her across the floor. Thomas and Rose sat sipping their drinks, surveying the room as they cooled off.

He glanced over at Rose, silent, but his face still held questions about their earlier conversation.

"No more deep talk for tonight, Thomas, I promise. Let's just dance," Rose said.

"It's all right if you need to talk," he said, but his face seemed to brighten considerably at her words.

He smiled his crooked grin at her, and when the orchestra resumed with more traditional dances they returned to the floor for a waltz.

"Finally, all my years in finishing school will pay off," Thomas said as they took positions.

"Yes…finally," Rose replied with an audible sigh, and then she laughed and Thomas followed suit.

Rose felt the gentle pressure of Thomas' fingers against the small of her back, the strength of his hand clasping hers, the nearness of his body, the warmth of his smile, and she was a little confused, unsteady, unsure if what she was feeling was right, of what was allowed, of what she wanted, but she decided she didn't want to care or worry or think, and she closed her eyes and surrounded herself with the soft music and Thomas' touch and just let herself be carried away.


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