Johnny Rose gave the bedspread one last tidying tug before collapsing onto the corner of the mattress and exhaling a contrite sigh. Earlier this morning he and Moira had had their fourth fight since moving to Schitt’s Creek. It was hardly significant event, but he and his wife fought so infrequently that even a minor tiff could leave Johnny disproportionately despondent. He took another deep breath and raised himself up on his elbows to look around the room. After Moira had left for rehearsal with Stevie, John had used his surplus of argument adrenaline to exhaustively clean their motel room. The dishes had been done, fridge cleaned, kitchenette organized, bathroom scrubbed, closet decluttered, and bed made. What was left to do? With both Moira and Stevie gone more and more frequently for Cabaret rehearsals, Johnny had thrown himself into his motel to-do list and at this point had completed nearly all his projects. He was lonely.
With nothing left to distract him from his thoughts, Johnny began to replay the morning’s events in his mind. He and Moira had been sitting in bed, sipping their coffee, John flipping through the morning’s paper and Moira pouring over one of the dozens of notebooks, portfolios, and binders that she had managed to fill since Cabaret rehearsals had begun. This was how they had started their mornings nearly everyday for the last forty years, albeit for most of those forty years Johnny had been reading the Times and the Post at their breakfast table rather than the Schitt’s Creek Crier on his motel bed. Moira’s community theater documents had once been heaping stacks of correspondence from various board members from any number of the philanthropic organizations to which she had attached her name. Still, it was a routine that Johnny had always valued: sitting in companionable silence, occasionally reading aloud to one another, Moira absentmindedly rubbing her foot up and down Johnny’s pajamaed leg. However, since rehearsals had begun, the companionable silence had shifted to distracted disregard. Moira no longer looked up from her papers when John mentioned she might want to hear what Ray had written in his daily column. She no longer reached for John’s hand in between turning the pages of her book. She didn’t have time for the morning pillow talk that had become Johnny’s favorite part of starting the day at Rosebud Motel. Johnny sipped the last bit of coffee from his mug and put down the Schitt’s Creek Crier .
“Sweetheart, would you like another cup of coffee?” Moira’s eyes remained fixed on her papers. Johnny stood up with his mug in his hand. “Sweetheart?” He walked to the coffee pot and filled his mug. “Moira!” he exclaimed, slightly louder than he meant to.
“I’m fine dear, but thank you.”
Johnny looked at his wife while he blew on his cup of coffee. He was irritated, but couldn’t ignore how endearing she looked. Her legs were spread out in awkward, childlike angels on the bed, encompassing her stacks of papers and notebooks. She held a pen between her fingers, but John could see she had also distractedly tucked one behind each ear. As she silently mouthed the words she was reading her toes wiggled to the cadence of the language.
Johnny set his coffee down and, with his best flirtatious expression, crawled onto the bed towards his wife. He kissed her cheek and then pulled back, waiting for a response. When she didn’t move he kissed her again. Then once on her jaw. Then once on her neck. Finally, once on her earlobe. Usually that tactic elicited a response.
“Johhnnn,” she whined, “discontinue this distracting behaviour now, please. I’m busy!”
“Moira, you’re always busy. Or at least you have been for the last few weeks. I feel like I haven’t talked to you in ages.”
“John, you know how much this production needs my attention. It’s going to take quite a lot of work to craft something compelling with this group of charming, but wholly inexperienced laypeople. If I don’t want to bring ignominy upon myself, and by extension the entire Rose clan, I need to fully commit myself to this venture. It’s only a month until we open.”
“Moira, I don’t want to live like this for another month!” John shouted as he stood up from the bed. He we getting more hot-headed than he was comfortable with, but couldn't manage to stop himself. “Don’t you think you’re being just a little self-absorbed?”
“And YOU are being quite needy, Mr. Rose.” Moira responded in a calmer tone than her husband had expected. “I’m going to get dressed and see if Stevie would like to take me to the playhouse a bit early.” Johnny sat on the edge of the bed in silence as Moira dressed, quickly applied her makeup, and gathered her rehearsal materials. Once finished, she kissed him on the top of the head and walked towards the door without making eye contact. “You’re welcome to pick me up from rehearsal, John, but I’m sure Stevie won’t mind dropping me back here if you’re too busy”, she called behind her as she walked out the door.
As Johnny sat on their bed and reflected on the short but tense exchange, he began to feel worse and worse about how he had handled things. He knew that Moira needed this production as much (if not more) than she claimed it needed her. She hadn’t seemed this content and at peace since they had moved to this town four years ago. And while it was true that Moira had been ignoring John much more than he cared for, she had also seemed less paranoid and panicked since rehearsals started. He could survive another month of this loneliness if it meant Moira was happy. Johnny started to form a plan to make amends.
John texted Stevie to let her know that he would, in fact, be picking up Moira. He could have texted Moira, but that seemed like less of a grand jesture that waiting for her outside the theater and striking his best James-Dean-pose while leaning against the hood of the Rose family Lincoln. The plan was to apologize and then whisk Moira away home to present her with his nominal, but well-intentioned, peace offering.
After holding his most seductive stance for an embarrassingly long time (and inducing laughter in a number of cast and crew members that were leaving rehearsal), Moira finally made her way through the theater lobby doors. She was dressed in tight leather pants with triangle cut-outs down the side of each leg. Her white button down shirt would have looked normal enough if she hadn’t paired it with black vest made of thick, iridescent fabric with gold studs lining the lapels. Her outfit was completed by golden platform pumps, a bib necklace made of golden flowers, and a leather cabbie hat, complete with a golden chain. She looked striking, powerful, and, most importantly to Johnny, happy. John grinned sheepishly when their eyes met. Her signature red-lined lips curled into a wide smile.
“Well hello, Mr. Rose,” Moira remarked as she strode towards John.
“Moira, I just wanted to say that I...I was...I over—”
“Don’t worry, darling. Water under the bridge.” She planted a hand on the hood of the car and leaned her body against him to plant a short kiss on her husband’s lips. Johnny wrapped his arms around his wife’s waist and pulled her into a hug.
“I know this production means a lot to you, Moira, and I’m sorry that I tried to get in your way.”
“Thank you, dear.” Moira pulled back and placed a hand on Johnny’s shoulder. “And I know the perfect way you can make it up to me.”
“Well, I’ve already been thinking about that myself,” said Johnny.
“The Elmdale antique festival happens to be taking place just down the road," Moira declared before Johnny got a chance to mention his plans. "It’s reported to be a quaint little outdoor jamboree with charmingly underpriced artifacts. There are a few pieces I’m still in need of for Cabaret and I’d like to try my hand at finding them at discount in the market. ”
“Well, Moira I had hoped we could head back to the motel. I have…a little surprise in place—”
“John. I thought you just said you weren’t going to get in the way of the production anymore. I just need to find a chaise lounge that’s appropriately ratty, but still shockingly romantic. Please, John. Just one quick trip through the antique festival.”
Moira and Johnny strolled hand-in-hand down the rows of ornate dressers with chipping paint, rusted knicknacks, and foggy mirrors. It was an overcast day and a light breeze kept the air cool despite the trademark dead-of-summer humidity. Moira weaved in out of the tents of different vendors. Johnny was growing more and more impatient, although he did his best not to rush Moira along. The last thing he wanted today was to have another spat with his wife, especially a public one.
Luckily for John, thunder rumbled in the distance. Another rumble followed soon after accompanied by a splash of lightning in some far-off clouds. The antique booths started packing up their wares and battening down the sides of their tents. Patrons began to head towards the parking lot, slowly at first, and then at a near-jog as the first drops of rain began to fall. If they left now, Johnny could still have a nice afternoon with his wife and the small surprise he’d planned.
“Moira, let’s head back, sweetheart. It looks like quite the storm is heading this way.”
“Just a few more minutes, John. There are a couple of shop fronts at the end of this row that are supposed to have absolutely smashing collections.” Moira had to raise her voice to be heard over the rising wind. Before John could reply she set off down the row, against the rain. By the time Johnny caught up with her it was clear that all the booths had been closed and the majority of the antique festival-goers had left. They were all but alone on the fair grounds, being pelted with rain.
“Moira, can we leave now?” Johnny yelled, trying his best to shield his eyes from the down poor.
“Oh, damn and blast,” said Moira, “I’m sorry, John. Let’s head home, darling.”
The couple joined hands and stumbled over the uneven ground back to their car. The parking lot had already emptied. Their big, black Lincoln looked even more imposing than normal, alone in a field in the pouring rain. Moira let go of Johnny’s hand to veer off to the passenger side of the car, but as she turned away from her husband Moira’s golden platform pump slipped into a hole. Her ankle twisted and she tumbled swiftly to the wet and muddy ground. Johnny rushed to Moira and kneeled down, afraid to say anything until his wife gave an indication how severely she’d been injured. Johnny expected Moira to begin wailing as soon as the shock subsided, but Moira seemed uncharacteristically calm, despite the muck that now coated a good portion of her designer clothing.
“I...I think it’s just my ankle. I think I just twisted my ankle.” she assessed with a tone that was meant to convince Johnny, as well as herself, that she wasn’t seriously hurt.
“Let’s get you in the car, dear. Do you think you can stand?” Moira nodded hesitantly. Johnny pulled Moira up from the ground and wrapped his arm around her waist. They were both soaked and coated in splotches of mud. Johnny helped Moira limp to the passenger side door. No part of this day was going according to Johnny’s plan.
Back at the motel, Johnny propped open the motel door before returning to the car to help is wife out of their car. The rain had, thankfully, slowed to a drizzle.
“John, I’m afraid my ankle swelled when I took of my shoe. I don’t think I can put any weight on it.” Moira pushed off her other heel to join it's partner on the floorboard. “Do you think you can have Roland carry me? Or perhaps Stevie? She's quite strapping, you know.”
“I can do it, sweetheart.”
“But, John, your back.” Given Moira’s recent heightened self-involvement, Johnny found it unusually touching that she would be concerned about his back when she was clearly the one with the more pressing injury.
“Don’t you worry, dear. I’ve been sweeping you off your feet for forty years and I don’t intend to stop today.”
“That’s a lovely thing to say, John.”
Johnny helped Moira to her feet before placing an arm at the bend in her knees and lifting her off the ground. He carried her across the threshold just as he had on their wedding day all those years ago (although the honeymoon suite at the Plaza had been slightly more impressive than their set-up at the Rosebud).
Johnny gently placed Moira on the bed (being careful not to make any noises that would give away the strain he currently felt in his lower back) before running back out to the car to close the passenger side door. When he reentered the motel room he saw Moira bewilderingly looking around the room. In the chaos of the twisted ankle Johnny had forgotten the surprise he had planned for his wife.
The table in the middle of the motel room was covered with brand new office supplies: sticky notes, pens, highlighters, paperclips, fresh notebooks. Johnny had also moved an old magazine rack he found in the motel lobby next to the table and had sorted Moira’s various Cabaret documents into it. It was a small, but fully furnished home office.
On the kitchenette counter was a vase of fresh flowers, a plate of strawberries (gone slightly soft in the summer heat), and two bottles of champagne in an ice bucket. The ice had melted, but at least Johnny had gotten two bottles, remembering that Moira believed that a bottle per individual is the minimum acceptable serving size for champagne.
Johnny looked at Moira’s face as her eyes darted from the desk to the flowers to the champagne and then back again. Her mascara and eyeliner had run sightly in the rain. The dark, thick smudges around her lids made her blue eyes sparkle even more than normal.
“I know it’s not much, Moira, but I wanted to show you that I support your work on this production. Obviously, I also hoped we’d have an evening of champagne and strawberries, but I guess that will have to wait for another day.”
Moira continued to look around the room in silence, not meeting her husbands eyes. Finally she murmured, “John, can you help slip these trousers off my legs and over my ankle.” Moira had already taken off her vest, necklace, hat, and shoes in the car to assess the damage done to them by the mud and water. With only her leather pants, white button down, and her wet, wavy hair she seemed smaller and more vulnerable than Johnny was accustomed to seeing.
Johnny gingerly slipped his hands under Moira’s shirt and grabbed the waistband of her leggings. She wrapped her arms around his neck to lift herself slightly off the bed while her husband undressed her. Johnny gently pulled the tight pants from Moira’s pale legs. The rain had made the already clingy fabric even harder to remove. When he reached her ankle, Johnny carefully pulled the pant leg over Moira’s swollen joint, moving at a tenderly slow pace. As he discarded her pants on the floor, Johnny looked up and met his wife’s eyes. She was gazing at him with more warmth and affection than he had seen in weeks. He reflexively smiled and sighed, relinquishing the stress of the day’s events.
“John, can you help me unbutton this blouse.” Moira cooed.
“Moira I thought you said your hands were fine. Did you hurt your wrists, too?”
“My wrists are fine, John. It’s just that perhaps I’ve been a tad overly independent recently and I’ve been reminded what a great partner I have in my sweet husband. And right now I’d like to request your assistance in undressing me.”
John saw that the tenderness in her expression had slightly rearranged itself into a mischievous grin. Without saying anything else he reached up and slowly begin to unbutton Moira’s blouse. When he reached the button just below her bra, Moira wrapped her hand around the back of Johnny’s neck and pulled his head slowly towards her. She placed her mouth on his and slowly parted her lips, drawing him into a deep kiss. After a few moments, Johnny pulled away to catch his breath and noticed that Moira had finished unbuttoning her shirt and had already started work on his.
“Moira, are you sure this is a good idea given your ankle, sweetheart.”
“I’ll be fine, darling. Especially after a glass or two of bubbly to numb the pain. Why don’t you open a bottle?”
Johnny leaned in to give Moira a sweet and lingering kiss before crawling off the bed. As he opened the first bottle of champagne, he thought to himself how it wasn’t so terrible to be occasionally lonely. Moira was always worth waiting for.