As Carla was putting on her earrings, Jeff appeared at the bedroom door. “Your timer went off. Should I take the lasagna out of the oven?”
“Thanks. I’ll get it.” She took a final look at herself in the mirror and followed him to the kitchen. She took the heavy pan out of the oven and slipped in a pan of sliced bread to toast.
“Mmm.” Jeff inhaled. “Smells good. Wish they would be on time for once.”
“This will keep.” She felt her shoulders tense, waiting for what was coming next.
“He’s okay, but I don’t know if I can stand a whole evening of her talking. That voice! I don’t know how he stands it.”
“Maryanna has been my friend my whole life.”
“Maryanna. It’s like they gave her more syllables just to give her more to say from the beginning.”
She tried for humor. “It’s Stan I wonder about. I want to know how his hair is still black.”
He raised an eyebrow. “What color do you think her hair will be this time?”
She didn’t smile.
“She sets my teeth on edge, Car.”
Carla looked him in the eye and folded her arms.
“I spend every holiday with your brother,” she said evenly. “You can do this twice a year.”
Just then the bell rang. “Will you let them in while I get the bread out?”
Carla tossed the salad and brought it to the table along with the lasagna and bread, adding a bottle of red wine and a pitcher of water. She could hear Maryanna in the foyer.
“I just love this old-fashioned house. You never change anything so it’s always the same.”
“Actually, we –“ Jeff started.
“Our house is so open, no boundaries. Here you’re so compartmentalized. But then that’s the neighborhood, isn’t it?”
As Carla went to meet them, she barely said, “Nice to see you, Stan,” before Maryanna wrapped her arms around her in a tight hug. Carla could feel her ribs and sharp shoulder blades.
“Carla! It’s so good to see you! Have you gained a little weight? It looks good on you. Just more to love, right?”
Jeff rolled his eyes at his wife and she shook her head slightly. “Let’s go in and eat.”
“Ooo! Lasagna! No wonder you’ve gained weight. Smells delicious!”
Jeff turned to Stan. “How are the kids, Stan?”
Stan only smiled. Maryanna jumped in. “They’re great! Tim is in an internship at Google and Justin aced his sophomore year at State. You know he got into Princeton, but there was that girlfriend of his. Of course, we love her, but it just killed us that he chose her over Princeton…”
Jeff bent his head and picked up his fork. He didn’t raise it again until Carla managed to say, “Who wants dessert?”
“I’ll get it!”
As he came in with the pie and a stack of plates, Maryanna cocked her head. “Oh, apple pie. I think you made that last year. Carla, you never could vent your crust properly. And look at those edges.” She laughed. “Oh well, it probably tastes fine.”
Carla forced a smile. “My mom always said, ‘it all goes to the same place.’”
Maryanna laughed again. “Your mom couldn’t make a pie crust either.”
After the door finally closed behind them, Carla leaned into Jeff’s arms and whispered, “Thank you.”
In the car on the way home, Maryanna continued. “That was nice. You know they do the best they can. I was always a better cook than Carla, but she sure tries hard. Her lasagna was pretty good, though not as good as mine.”
Stan stopped at a red light and nodded happily. The dinner had been tasty, but his wife really was the better cook. He was such a lucky man. Social events weren’t his thing, but with Maryanna along, he never had to say a word.