Something a little different this week.  Working on a book, so doing some writing exercises on my characters, The Swells.  Hope you like this short story and them.  xo, maeve

The Swells have been married for 8 years. The first 4 years were good, better than good, great even. They had found love and wasn’t that something! True love. Happily ever after. Lucky them. They were shining happy people.  Theirs was a shining, happy love.  The I Love You’s flowed like wine.

Then the first child came.  They named her Tess because well, there are too many Laurie’s. She stayed home because that’s what they decided was best for their family because they had each other’s backs. They were a team after all. They would do this together and wouldn’t it be great! But then money got tight, so did time and  there was the stress and so the shine started to dull little by little. The I Love You’s lessened, they became rote.

Then the second child came, Henry, and money got even tighter, time was a depleted resource, the stress doubled and the shine rubbed right off completely. She used to see loving, supportive and generous, now she saw cold, distant and selfish. He used to see energetic and fun, now he saw cranky and nagging. They allowed something  between them. They allowed resentment and fear to squeeze right there in between their shine.


He arrives home at 6:30 every night. By 6:30pm having dealt with a baby and a toddler all day, she is counting down the moments for his arrival and some help, some relief. For someone else to sing, “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”  In fact, it is all she can do, waiting for those few moments before he walks in, to not throw herself out the 2nd floor window. Her mantra goes something like, “only 10 more minutes, only 5 more minutes, only 3 more minutes, only 20 more seconds until he gets home.”

One cold night at around 6:00pm she receives a call from her friend and neighbor informing her that she sees her husband’s car sitting across the street in the parking lot of the church. The neighbor/friend is wondering if there is a problem, did he need a jump? She is baffled and excuses herself off the phone as gracefully as possible. Was he out of gas or on an important work cal, she wonders? She waits looking out the window for 15 minutes for him to pull into the driveway. When he doesn’t, she laboriously dresses those tots in their snowsuits, buckles them in the stroller and heads off across the street curious and a just a little bit concerned that something could be very wrong.

When she approaches the car and looks inside the window, she sees him sound asleep behind the steering wheel. Surely, he must be ill. Surely he is delirious from fever and in need of help. She taps on the window startling him. He rolls down the window and says sheepishly, “Oh, hi.”

“What are you doing? Are you ok?” she asks, really curious at this point. The anger isn’t even on deck yet because it doesn’t even know it’s on the roster.

“I was just grabbing a nap before I come in.”

“How often do you do this?”, she manages to squeeze out.

“Every night.”

Anger up at bat.


They don’t talk the rest of the night. Not the punishing silent treatment silence, it’s the there is nothing more to say silence. It is far worse. The distance between them is so long and deep there seems no way back.

The next night he arrives home at 6, flowers in hand. He is sorry but more sorry he got caught, really. That half hour of time in the car was his sanctuary. Time when someone didn’t want something. She says thank you coldly and they move through the motions of a normal week night. She bathes the kids, reads them a story, puts them to bed. He sits in front of the tv and unwinds from his day. He gets to unwind from his day. She couldn’t even remember what unwinding felt like anymore…

She goes to bed without even a goodnight. There are no more I Love You’s. In bed, she is so angry and full of resentment she doesn’t think she loves him anymore. She feels alone and lonely.

He is downstairs relieved to be alone.  No talk. No argument. Whew. He wonders if he ever loved her and if she ever loved him.


She is up before him with the baby for a 4:30 feeding. She walks into the kitchen and notices the flowers he brought home in the vase she put them in on the table. Tulips. Always one of her favorites. She thinks how he used to bring her tulips all the time, for no reason. She remembers how he used to want to do things for her and take care of her. She remembers how she used to want to do things for him too.  She remembers his shine.

She gets the baby back to bed and stops before she crawls back beneath the covers. She walks back downstairs and starts the coffee machine for him, takes down his favorite mug and places it next to the brewing Breakfast Blend.


He wakes up later with her sound asleep next to him. He knows she was up with the baby and for a moment looks at her. She is beautiful and he longs to linger in bed, move closer to her and just be near her, make her know how much he appreciates her. But the moment quickly passes as he drags himself out of the warmth of the bed to his long commute and starts to think about himself and his day ahead of him. Because at some point, they had decided not to look out for one another but to look out for themselves.  They had decided not to be careful with one another.

He walks downstairs and finds the coffee made and his mug out. He feels for the first time in a long time that she is speaking to him, really speaking to him. He sits at the counter with his coffee and rather than thinking of his day ahead, he thinks of her instead. Of her getting up in the middle of the night – sometimes several times – taking such good care of the kids, making their house a home for them. How hard she works too. He is grateful.  He remembers her shine.

Instead of working out, he empties the dishwasher and washes the baby’s bottles, takes out the trash. Puts out her coffee cup and saucer (because she hates mugs) next to the coffee machine. After he showers, he leans over to kiss her sleeping head and whispers for the first time in a long time, I Love You so softly he isn’t sure he even said it out loud as he heads out the door.

She hears him but isn’t sure if she dreaming or not. But it doesn’t matter because she heard it and knows it to be true. And slowly, things begin again.  There is a glimmer of their shine again.   Because in those few small moments in the wee hours of the morning, something shifted. They realized that love is not something you feel all the time.  Love is something you do. It is an action, a verb. It’s making the coffee and taking out his mug. It is emptying the dishwasher and taking out her coffee cup and saucer.

That love, actually, is a decision.