Spousal Support

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.



14 Replies to “Spousal Support”

    1. Nate, thanks for your comments! I started this story after a conversation I had with a friend about how we didn’t see what someone saw in their spouse. I wanted to explore a character from different sides, so I decided to use too much talking as the undesirable trait. Initially I wanted to tell a story in three parts, from three different perspectives. But after I started I realized that Jeff and Carla’s perspectives were pretty explicit through their dialog. That left Stan at the end. I did think it felt a little tacked on, but I was hoping for some concrit tonight that would help me figure out a different way to handle it.


      1. So your idea was to show Maryanna through the eyes of Jeff, Carla, and Stan? I think it’s a good idea, but maybe too expansive to execute in 1,000 words. Adding a reason for this analysis would move the story more solidly from character sketch into short story territory. Have you read Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout Or Fates & Furies by Lauren Groff? These stories do something similar to what you’re thinking.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’ve got me thinking! You’re absolutely right that this is more of a character sketch, but I like the idea of expanding it. Thanks for the reading recommendations. I haven’t read either one, but I’ll look for them.


  1. I don’t know if it was intentional, but I loved the way you portrayed the loyalty we feel for our family, both the given and the chosen. I think you story says as much about Carla as it does Maryanna. I like that you tried to use the prompt, but the exchange didn’t feel necessary. It didn’t take away from it, but with your constraints, you may have been able to use the word count elsewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the concrit! I like what you took from it. I was going for an exploration of character from different perspectives, but I like that you found a message of loyalty. I second guessed everything I put in here, so maybe I should have left the prompt out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tell me about it! I feel like I’ve been fighting my writing the last few weeks. This has a lot of potential. We all have those relationships that don’t mesh or friendships that defy logic. The reason I mentioned the prompt was as a way to find space. But I like what it shows about your characters too. So I’m absolutely no help. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What I liked most about this piece was the journey I took from being annoyed at Jeff to rooting for him, as soon as Maryanna opened her mouth. Team Jeff!! I especially like the dialogue, it ‘shows’ the issue but doesn’t ‘tell’ and feels very real. I could feel the tension rising when I read this.
    One thing you could consider is softening Maryanna’s character just a little. I caught myself wondering why Carla liked her at all; everything that came out of her mouth was rude. There might be more push-pull if she was less obviously bitchy and it was conveyed more in ways that could be misconstrued by Carla, like little sideways glances or facial expressions. Does that make sense?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the detailed comments! Yes, it makes perfect sense. I only intended for Maryanna to talk too much and make an occasional careless remark that hurt Carla’s feelings, but once she started talking she couldn’t seem to help herself. 😉 If I rewrite this one into something longer, I’ll try to do as you suggest and keep her disrespect more subtle.


  3. The tension Carla and Jeff feel is well-written – I could feel myself cringing through dinner along with them! Maryanna’s dialogue showed us her character very well, too. I felt like the switch to Stan’s POV at the end fell a little flat, though – it was interesting to see how Stan viewed his wife, but it didn’t really add rest of the piece since the bulk of it was focused on how Carla and Jeff survive these dinner parties. Along with what Stan sees in Maryanna, I’d also be interested in why Carla is still friends with her!

    Liked by 1 person

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