To understand Petra and Jane, we have to first look at who connects them: Rafael. Or rather, what draws them to Rafael, for often ill-advised romances stem from trying to find in someone else what you yourself struggle to grow in yourself.
For Jane, it’s pretty simple: Rafael represents a romanticism that she denies herself in her life through her ruthless practicality, which partly stems from her worry about repeating her mother’s mistakes.
For Petra, it’s because she wants someone to love her.
Petra’s life is full of people who don’t love her – her manipulative mother, her abusive ex-boyfriends – even hot mess Luisa looks down on her. The cruelty of this is that Petra loves most of these people deeply, wholeheartedly. But her vulnerability is constantly crushed under other egos – under toxic masculinity, insecure love, the dispassionate desire to own her soul. Petra loves Rafael because he’s simply the only one on the list who loved her passionately and openly, without wanting anything back except for her love. Yes, it started badly, with him stealing her from a terrible fiancé, and ended badly, with their love cracking like an egg against reality. But Rafael was always kind to her and she mourns that, especially after pulling away from her manipulative mother, who, while manipulative (and, you know, in jail for assault), was the only other person who ever knew or listened to her.
Jane loves deeply but she is also beloved herself, and feels worthy of love in a way that Petra doesn’t. When we pick our partners, we also pick our family. Jane’s family is a jackpot of kindness and caring – and exactly what Petra yearns for, though she has trouble acknowledging or even understanding this. Jane’s problem is that she constantly tries to throw off her romanticism and make it someone else’s responsibility to absolve her of the guilt of being romantic in the first place. Take it from a romantic – the biggest problem with being one is being in denial about it.
So when Rafael calls Jane a writer, it evokes in her the validation that every dreamer with unrealized potential hungers for. Jane doesn’t really want Rafael; she wants to take a risk, a leap that could help her realize her dreams, without suffering through the practicality of the situation. She isn’t drawn to Rafael because he’s rich, but his privilege does make it easy for him to automatically support Jane’s dreams. Jane tries to be a TV writer and a romance writer in the series, and she shows great potential. Rafael encourages her in both, and this is nothing to sneeze at – but he does little else except encourage. What Jane truly needs, besides support, is practical, ruthlessly logical advice and help. Rafael encourages her to follow her dreams, but what Jane needs is a way to accomplish her dreams.
That’s where Petra would come in. Michael tries his best, but he has little resourcefulness for a dream that’s powered by hope and chance; he’s a Hufflepuff at heart. (While Rafael comes from a family of Slytherins, he’s a classic Sirius Black case – a Gryffindor at heart.) Petra is scheming, cunning, clever, a Slytherin to the core. Jane’s work ethic and intelligence could make her a Hufflepuff or a Ravenclaw, which, paired with a Slytherin, is a lethal, take-over-the-world combination. But, more importantly than that: it would make them both happy.
This hypothesis is also partly supported by their one scene alone together: Jane comforting a crying Petra on the stairwell.
Such a quick scene, and yet Petra is startlingly vulnerable with Jane. While the narrator often intercedes in scenes to say what the character’s are thinking, he leaves this scene relatively alone when they talk. Jane even makes Petra laugh through her tears! And defends her when Rafael speaks ill of her! And gives her an idea for her next scheme, of course.
Imagine that within the context of their relationship: Petra, finally able to be vulnerable with someone who will treat her heart with care and appreciate her love; Jane, coming to Petra for advice when someone is cruel to her, or when she’s too sweet to comprehend politics at work — because with Petra on her side, she can take her dreams seriously and find a career that makes use of both her strengths and her aspirations. Imagine Petra, enacting the perfect defense against the neighbors playing loud music that both cows them into being more respectful of Jane’s time and make them fight to be Jane’s friend in the process. Imagine Jane, talking to Petra about the differences between their families, about what family love could really be like in their future together. Petra, always right beside Jane to fight whoever’s in her beloved’s path of world-changing hard work; Jane, always at Petra’s side, able to listen wholeheartedly and appreciate all the soft, tender parts of Petra she’s buried beneath her mountains of defenses.
How might it happen? By Jane and Petra bonding during yet another moment of truth for Petra. By Petra advising Jane without even thinking about what’s in it for her. By more small, hidden, treasured moments that balloon into regularity and, eventually, necessity. By Rafael leaving both Jane and Petra well enough alone so he can sort out his conflicted feelings about his best friend/criminal Roman Zazo (but that’s another essay). And, finally, by these two women realizing that the passion and effort they’re lavishing on the man set between them could be put to better use if they looked past him – and at each other.
Sulagna Misra writes about the weird things that pop into her head when she's not paying attention. She's on Twitter so she can not pay attention more effectively.