“Reuben on rye, no cheese.” Moira called out to the line cook and her fellow employee.
This was a simple delicatessen attached to a common rural filling station. Moira had been working as a hostess at this highway rest stop for a couple of years. She was saving up money to move to the city and escape the small town that had been suffocating her entire existence. One day she thought, someday soon she hoped.
She smiled at the customer across from the counter and accepted his payment. He took one of the three seats available in the meager and dusty eatery as he waited for his sandwich.
Moira hummed and occasionally sang a few lines to the music on the radio currently playing one of her favorite Elton hits, Daniel .
They say Spain is pretty, though I’ve never been…
“S’cuse me, miss?” the gentleman who was waiting on his reuben interrupted the daydreams that typically brought her temporary respite from this miserable little deli.
Moira looked at the man and smiled brightly because she knew that one of her best assets was her smile and it could earn her premium tips. More tips meant she would get that much closer to escaping rural mundanity. “Yes, sir? How may I help you?”
The customer smiled back at her, “Could you sing that bridge once more?”
Moira gave the stranger an unusual look and then she heard the line cook calling ready the man’s order. She walked over and delivered his sandwich with another coy smile. “And for whom would I be performing this little song and dance?”
He held out his hand and introduced himself, “Rocky Nichols, miss. And you can dance, too?”
It was the moment that would forever change her life. Her introduction to the stage had never gone further than a regional production of Annie and now she had an opportunity to really be someone. Rocky would end up putting her through the extensive training she needed to become a real actress. Cabaret would lead to the launch of her career and lead her far far away from this desolate deli.
“John! John, darling!! Your mother is on the phone!” Moira shouted.
Johnny Rose took the telephone from Moira, but not before placing a sweet kiss on her cheek and mouthing the words, “Thank you, sweetheart.”
“Mama! What’s the good word?” John smiled into the phone and winked at Moira as she left the room to give John some privacy to talk with his mother. Moira always found it strange how well John got along with his parents. He really loved his parents and actually enjoyed their company.
Moira couldn’t relate to John’s parental relationships. His father was a semi-successful accountant who immigrated with all of his brothers and sisters from Malta and he taught John everything he needed to know to run his own successful business. John’s father passed away the year before he and Moira married so it was important to John that he stay in touch with his mother.
Moira never really knew her father. Her birth father, anyways. Her mother worked as a secretary at a local factory and also worked as a cashier at the local grocery store to help make ends meet as a single mother in the 50’s and 60’s living in a small town. Any free time her mother had was spent courting prominent single men who could be their next father. With a mom that worked 70 hours a week Moira spent most of her adolescence and teen years raising her younger sister, Didi. Didi was always getting caught up in trouble and Moira was always there to sweet talk her sister’s way out of difficult situations. She had gotten pretty good at faking accents and telling incredibly convincing stories.
Didi was just six years old and she had stolen a wallet right out of the pocket of a man standing in line in front of them at the hardware store. Moira hadn’t discovered the theft until they were walking out the door and she noticed Didi fidgeting with an unfamiliar object.
“Delores Denise! What have you done?! This is downright inexcusable! Who does that belong to??”
Didi simply looked up at Moira with a blank expression, her blond curls framing round rosy cheeks. A man rounded the corner and noticed the two girls. He marched towards them looking angry and Didi began to cry uncontrollably.
The man yelled fowl words at Didi as he walked towards them and Moira leapt in front of her sister as the man raised his hands in the air. Didi dropped the wallet on the ground and he was close enough that Moira could smell the alcohol on his breath.
Moira had always been quick. She knew this could turn bad quickly. She plastered on a smile,“We found you!! Thank heavens!!” Moira shouted dramatically and passersby stopped in their tracks to observe the commotion. The man halted and is mouth dropped open wide, “Wh--”
Before he could finish saying anything Moira yelled once again, “How serendipitous, sir! We’ve been scouring the streets searching for the soul to which this object belongs!”
Moira knew she could easily confuse simple-minded drunks like this man with her high dollar words. She gingerly picked up the wallet and when he reached for the wallet she hesitated and asked the dumbfounded stranger, “Wait. How do I know that you are, indeed,” Moira looked down at the identification card in the wallet, “Mr. Sidney Arthur Smith?”
Again, the man was speechless, “Umm. That’s me in the picture.”
“Ha! You could be a slippery sagacious eel for all I know!” Moira exclaimed as more people began to gather around the scene.
“A sagay- what? Now, listen, missy. Just hand over the wallet!” The stranger was becoming agitated as the crowd’s interest increased.
“I think not!! I think I’ll just walk this over to the courthouse and leave it with the authorities!” Moira exclaimed and the crowd was quickly turning their suspicions against the somewhat drunken stranger.
“Listen here you little bit--” and before he could finish belittling Moira and her sister a police officer tapped him on the shoulder with a baton.
“Sid! Stop stirring up trouble. Do you need a few hours in the tank again?” The man immediately cowered and the officer took the wallet from Moira. He nodded to Moira and to Didi who was wiping away tears, “Run along, girls. I’ll take care of things from here.”
As the two girls made their way back home Didi clung tight to Moira’s hand. It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last time she had to rescue her doll-faced sibling from chaos.
As a young girl, Moira’s flair for the dramatic and extensive vocabulary didn’t do her much good outside of rescuing her sister. Moira had given up dreams of a social life or being involved in extracurriculars of any kind. When she was twelve she won the district spelling bee and because her mother needed her to take care of Didi and the trip to the state competition would be too expensive, she had to forfeit her title and gave up all dreams of ever making it to the national spelling bee. She loved words and the power it gave her to feel like she lived outside the walls of the small town in which she found herself trapped. Trapped by obligation and poverty.
When Moira was sixteen and Didi was eight her mother remarried. George was a lawyer and comfortably wealthy. Moira had no idea what her mother saw in the bland, bald, and boring old man. Well, she knew exactly what her mother saw in him. Money. Money and an escape from the hell of working for scraps. George had no patience for teenagers that had a mind of their own and now that Moira’s mother no longer had to work, Didi had both a real mother and a nanny to raise her and keep her out of trouble. Suddenly, Moira had found herself no longer needed and no longer wanted by the people she thought were supposed to love her unconditionally.
Moira had only spoken to her mother and sister a handful of times since Rocky discovered her and whisked her away to a life she was destined for, a life where she was wanted and desired. It wasn’t until she met Johnny Rose that she finally felt needed and truly loved again. Of course, everyone assumed she was only attracted to John for the contents of his wallet. It couldn’t be farther from the truth. First of all, watching her mother’s marriage for money, marriage to a man her mother could no longer stand to live on the same continent with, had already ruined her life once. Secondly, Rose Video was a fledgling company when she first met John and no matter how busy he got with the business he made the time to prioritize his relationship with her. Third, John was gorgeous, carried himself with confidence, and his face could never hide his adoration and love for Moira. John supported Moira steadfastly and loved her unconditionally. She never once felt like she was forced to sacrifice a role or her career to be with John.
Most importantly, John needed Moira and he never hesitated to tell her how much he loved her and needed her by his side. John was never much of a risk-taker and even though he carried himself with such confidence, he doubted himself and his abilities. Moria gave him the strength and courage to take risks, to make bold decisions, and to take his company from a regional chain to a nationwide powerhouse. Together they were an unstoppable force.
Moira stood in front of the mirror of her bathroom thinking about her life and the journey she and John had taken together thus far. Rose Video was now thriving and their wealth had grown exponentially in the last year. Was money going to ruin her life again? She looked down and ran her hand over her belly and wondered if *this* is what would ruin everything?
“Sweetheart? Mama sends her love.” John looked down to where Moira’s eyes were also staring, “Is that what I think it is?” John asked quietly while staring wide eyed at the pregnancy test in Moira’s hands.
Moira looked over to John with a hesitant smile and cupped his face with one hand, “Yes, dear. Your legacy.”
“Oh, Moira!! This is excellent news!!” John was jumping up and down for joy and began spouting off all the things they would need to do. “I’ve got to call Mama back!! I’ve got to call my assistant!! We’ve got to call the doctors!!”
Moira just smiled at John and while she was relieved to see the joy in his face she still couldn’t shake the feeling that something was changing about the life they had been building together.
Moira had been working on Sunrise Bay for a little over a year before she became pregnant. The directors were gracious enough to shoot only the top third of her body on film and the wardrobe department was creative enough with fur coats and bulky suits that were fashionable for the early 80’s. Vivien Blake would eventually go in to a three-month long coma when it was time for her maternity leave. She filmed multiple scenes of herself asleep in a hospital bed they could use during her time away from set.
The pregnancy was difficult. John’s mother was not well so he had to leave every few days to check on her and in addition to filming 15 hours a day she could barely keep any food down. Of course John brought in the best doctors to help make Moira more comfortable and eventually she was ordered to stay on bedrest for the last two months of her pregnancy. The Sunrise Bay writers decided that her long lost brother Victor would accidently push her off of a cliff and into the eponymous Sunrise Bay where she could spend a few months lost at sea and develop an off-screen relationship with a merman.
She gave birth to a son, David Joshua Rose, on a memorable summer day. It was an unseasonably cool day and Moira had spent the morning lounging on the patio outside with John. By the end of that day she held him tight and smiled down at the bundle of dark, wavy hair and tiny toes. Her mind raced with a million reasons of how she could screw up this little human’s life. She basically raised Didi and she turned out to be a manipulative trouble-maker that Moira still found herself bailing out from time to time.
She handed over David to John and her worries evaporated. She had John. As she looked lovingly at her husband doting on his son she knew that John would be there with her every step of the way.
The first two months of David’s life consumed Moira’s entire existence and she thrived knowing that this human needed her, relied on her, was comforted by her presence. David would look up at her with his father’s eyes, with the same look of adoration John held for Moira. David would grip and cling tightly to Moira even as he slept. It was as if he was greedy for her touch and affection.
But then Johnny’s mother died only a few weeks after David’s birth. It was tough on Johnny and on Moira. He struggled to be the pillar of strength she needed as a new mother. They hadn’t planned on hiring a nanny until Moira went back to work, but Adelina became part of their lives when David was only two months old so that Moira could be by John’s side as he coped with his mother’s death. Moira spent less and less time with David so she could focus on helping John deal with his personal loss. John channeled all of his emotions into focusing on Rose Video and it was Moira that helped sweet talk a major distributor into an exclusive deal. By the time David could crawl, Rose Video was a conglomerate and multi-million dollar empire. Johnny Rose’s wife and child would never want for anything.
Moira found it more and more difficult to connect with David in the ways she did when he was a newborn. By the time he was three years old it was no longer her touch and affection that brought him the most joy. It was a toy that flashed in brilliant colors and trips to exotic places that seemed to put the biggest smile on David’s face. If that was what brought her beautiful boy joy, then she’d do what it took to keep that beautiful smile on his face.
Alexis was not at all like David. She was fiercely independent and loud and adventurous. Moira could not keep up with her and Adelina was their lifeline. The Roses had upgraded their home to a custom-built mansion by the time Alexis arrived. The nursery and David’s playroom were in a separate wing of the house and it allowed Moira and Johnny to focus on their work and on providing the best they could for their children. Moira and Johnny would always do whatever they could to provide a comfortable life for their children and ensure they never had to experience the hardships they had faced. That’s what you were supposed to do—give your kids a better station than you yourself had, give them a quality of life that was comfortable.
Moira never saw herself as a nurturing mother. She was a provider. She gave of herself what she could to David and Alexis. She knew early on that David had a gift for the dramatic arts and entered him into the world of pageantry and child acting. He would often visit the set of Sunrise Bay with her and he would spend hours with the wardrobe department staring at all the colorful clothes in awe and wonder. Alexis was the most beautiful child Moira had ever seen and her beauty shone inside and out. At the age of eight she was already traveling the globe as an aspiring model. These were the things she could provide her children and the things that made them happiest.
It also meant that she spent very little time with Alexis. Not that she spent much time with her before she jetset across the world. The life of Moira Rose was filled with social engagements that left her drained physically and emotionally. Partying hard in the 80’s and early 90’s meant that cocaine was a party favor and Vicodin was an appetizer. It also meant that Moira would go months at a time with her head wrapped up in the clouds to avoid thinking too deeply about what this life of fortune had done to her and her family.
Moira wasn’t supposed to play favorites, but she knew that she and David would always have a special bond. She styled and dressed him well into his teen years, she introduced him to the designers and artists he admired, and on occasion she even trusted him with her prized wigs. David was sweet and generous and always threw himself completely into the things he loved whether that be the latest fad (Moira would never understand the allure of pacifier accessories) or current fling. Moira and John knew that the world of tortured artists and persnickety patrons that David desired to be part of could tear their beautiful boy apart and they did what they felt was best to provide David with the comfortable life he deserved.
They always did the best for their children. The best tutors. The best schools. The best money could buy. And if something ever felt like it was missing they had the means to fix their problems.
It was the money and wealth that ruined everything again. Watching all that she and John had built together come crumbling down around them meant they could no longer provide their family with security, comfort, and happiness. The first year of living in Schitt’s Creek with low water pressure and the fussy asymmetrical faces of motel patrons caused Moria to have nightmares of the life she lived growing up in a small town.
When they came home from Mutt’s barn party, Moira sat at the vanity and looked at herself in the mirror. She wanted desperately to find her way back to the life where she could protect her precious children the way she knew how. She didn’t know how to protect them from the narrow minds and uncultured views of a small town like the one in which she lived.
But Schitt’s Creek didn’t have red-faced bigots walking the streets and threatening children. Schitt’s Creek didn’t have absentee fathers and trophy wives clawing at men’s wallets to escape poverty. Schitt’s Creek didn’t have dangerous men that wanted to take advantage of her daughter. Schitt’s Creek didn’t have people who wouldn’t hesitate to break her son’s heart for a chance to get famous. Schitt’s Creek wasn’t a world where she had to protect her family from the life she had or the life they had been provided.
“John?” Moira called to John softly from the vanity.
“Yes, Moira?” John replied from his side of the bed, looking up from the three decades old news magazine he was reading.
“Your mother. How did she know? How did she know what you needed?”
A fond look fell over Johnny’s face as he thought about his mother. “Oh, Moira. I don’t know. I-I think she just knew we needed her to be there. Papa was tough on us boys and she would never cross him or contradict anything he said, but she was always there if we needed to cry into her apron or if we needed someone to quietly celebrate our victories. Sometimes that’s all you need is just someone who you know will be there when you want to celebrate the good things or be there when you need to get through the bad times.”
Moira walked towards the bed and sat on the edge. “John. You’re right. We’re here, aren’t we? The kids will be fine?”
“I’m not sure we could get much closer, sweetheart.” He leaned over gave her a sweet and tender kiss on the cheek. “And yes, they’ll be just fine. They’re making friends and so far they seem to be making okay decisions.”
John still looked at her with the same adoration and love he always had. He was her steady rock who always managed to reassure her in those rare moments she let it be known she doubted herself.
“UGH! Mommmm!! Daaadd!” Alexis huffed in to the room. Johnny gave Moira a knowing look.
“Yes, Alexis, dear? What is so important as to require an interruption during such a pleasant night time quiescence?” Moria asked and crossed her arms.
“David won’t give me back my phone charger!” Alexis exclaimed while waving her phone clutched in her paws.
“Um. Excuse me. You mean MY phone charger. Remember you broke my last charger!” David was now standing in the doorway between the two motel rooms with his hands folded across his chest and brows knit together in defense.
“Oh my god, David. That was like not even my fault those cute little bunnies chewed through the cord! I was distracted!” Alexis protested.
“Ha. Distracted by Ted’s abs.” David teased and gave an open mouthed smile towards his mother in search of her approval of such a quick jab.
Moira nodded, “Yes, Alexis. You shouldn’t let that fine young specimen distract you. Rabbit bites can fester and no one wants to date someone with open wounds that refuse to heal.”
“Ew, Mom!!” Alexis looked to her father with pleading eyes and recognizing he was being asked to step in to resolve the situation he rummaged through the bedside table.
“Here, Alexis. Problem solved! People always seem to leave these behind in their rooms.” Johnny handed her a jumbled cord.
“Aww! Thanks, Dad!” Alexis smiled wide at her father and gave a triumphant “hmph!” to David as she walked past him towards the room she shared with her sibling. David shut the door behind him and whispered a soft “Good night” to his parents.
Moira turned to John, “Well done, Mr. Rose! Another crisis averted successfully!” They settled into bed and just as they turned out the lights they heard a feminine growl, “Dad! This is a cord for a printer!”
“Night, night kids! Remember sharing is caring!” Moria called through the walls and smiled at John.
“They can’t say we didn’t try.” Johnny shrugged in reply to Moira. As they settled in to bed, it was only a few minutes later they could hear laughter and giggles coming from the room next door, a sign that that the brother and sister had reconciled whatever drama had previously caused a stir.
Moira smiled at the joy she could hear in the sounds coming from her children. Perhaps she wouldn’t need money or influence to help her family find happiness in this miserable and marvelous small town. All they would need is love.