TALIA: Woman in her late 20’s, mother of Sophie and wife of MARK. She is a stay at home mom.
MARK: Man in his late 20’s, father of Sophie and husband of TALIA. As time goes on he is home less and less, seemingly consumed by work.
CAITLYN: Mutual friend of the couple. Has spent the day with TALIA and the baby to help due to the baby’s illness. She is also the baby’s godmother.
At Rise: CAITLYN is bustling around the stage, set up as a living room and kitchen, cleaning up the mess left over from the day. She wipes countertops, picks up baby toys, and does other miscellaneous chores. Mark enters stage right, dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase. Both characters are clearly very surprised to see each other.
CAITLYN: Mark! You scared me. I didn’t expect to see you.
MARK: Well, I do live here, Cait.
CAITLYN: Of course. Talia said you usually get home pretty late, that’s all. She said you’d probably get home after I left.
MARK: (Glances at watch) Well, I suppose this is earlier than I’ve been getting home lately. I had to give Karen a ride, so I left a bit early—
CAITLYN: Karen from accounting?
MARK: What? Yes, Karen from accounting— how do you know about her?
CAITLYN: (Smiles brightly, nervously fiddles with the hem of her shirt) Oh, I’ve just heard you mention her before!
MARK: She’s new. I don’t think she was with the company the last time we spoke.
CAITLYN: Well—I guess Talia must have mentioned her, then.
MARK: What could Talia possibly have to say about Karen?
CAITLYN: Talia has a lot to say about everything!
MARK: Like Karen?
CAITLYN: Well, yeah. I mean, obviously you and I don’t get to talk very much— it’s certainly not like college anymore, is it? No more daily dining hall chats for us! But Talia and I talk all the time. So she just—you know, she catches me up on your life, and Sophie…
MARK: And she finds Karen noteworthy?
CAITLYN: She finds a lot of things noteworthy. (Pause) Anyway, it’s great that you got home early! That means you can help Talia. (Quickly gathers her things, pulling her jacket on and letting it hang on her shoulders messily) I’m sure she’ll be down soon; she was just laying Sophie down for the night. Of course she was fussy, but—oh, never mind. All right, I’m leaving. Tell Talia I said goodbye, will you? Let her know I hope Sophie feels better! (Waves goodbye and exits stage right).
MARK: (To himself) Sure, I’ll tell Talia you hope Sophie feels better. Sophie, our daughter. (Walks into the kitchen and sets his briefcase on the counter, shaking his head. Opens the refrigerator and starts rummaging)
Enter TALIA stage left
TALIA: Sorry, Cait, that took longer than I—oh, you’re home. Did Caitlyn leave?
MARK: Yeah, she just walked out. Said to tell you goodbye and that she hopes Soph feels better.
TALIA: That’s sweet of her. (Leans against the counter, facing Mark) So, what brings you home so early? It’s not even past ten o’clock!
MARK: Very funny. I didn’t have late meetings or clients to work with tonight. And I had to give Karen a ride home, so that got me out early, too.
TALIA: (Stiffens) Karen from accounting?
MARK: Yes. Karen. From accounting. She got in an accident last week; I’m sure I mentioned it to you.
TALIA: Right. Of course. (Talia moves away from the counter and into the living room, where she picks up any toys Caitlyn may have missed) Did you have dinner?
MARK: (Shuts fridge) Yeah, we picked up something quick on the way home.
TALIA: Mmmm. That must have been nice. I’m sure she’s much better company than your clients, hm?
MARK: Well, I’m not worried about making a deal with her, so it is a nice break. Though I do prefer having steak and drinks instead of drive-through burgers. It wasn’t a particularly… noteworthy meal.
TALIA: Well steak or no steak, you’re doing better than me. I spent half of dinner trying to convince Sophie to eat her food. And I had microwaved ravioli again.
MARK: I don’t blame her. That weird baby food blend you make doesn’t look very appetizing.
TALIA: Parents Magazine says she’ll be less of a picky eater if we feed her this way. And it’s preservative free!
MARK: Annnnnd it still looks like vomit. Though I guess she’s technically eating better than you, isn’t she, Miss Frozen Ravioli?
TALIA: You’re the worst.
MARK: I do my best. How was she today, anyway?
TALIA: As good as a sick baby can be, I suppose.
MARK: I was worried when I saw Caitlyn here.
TALIA: It’s nothing to worry about. Fever’s gone now, but she’s crabby, like anybody would be with a cough and a runny nose.
MARK: That’s good to hear. I thought maybe she had gotten worse.
TALIA: No, nothing like that. Caitlyn was just here to help. It’s hard to handle a sick baby who cries every two seconds and normal, everyday responsibilities. (Slight pause) Especially when I’m alone.
MARK: I’m glad she was here to help, then.
TALIA: Yeah. Me too.
MARK: Even Super Mom needs help sometimes, huh?
TALIA: Yeah. Especially when Super Mom also has to be Super Wife and Super Homemaker.
MARK: You pull it off, don’t worry. Mom-wife-homemaker of the year, right?
TALIA: I guess so. (Pause) I bought Sophie’s new crib today.
MARK: Oh, I thought you wanted me to do that this weekend.
TALIA: I did, but I was running errands near the store anyway and I’ve read a lot about it—I thought since the last one was recalled it was better that I do it, since I know which cribs are rated well.
MARK: Of course you do, Super Mom. Would you like to assemble it, as well?
TALIA: Haha. I think you’re a little better with tools.
MARK: No really! You are the “professional,” after all.
TALIA: (Laughs) Come on, cut it out!
MARK: But it’s true! Don’t you remember the baby bottle scare of 2016? I wanted to get the plastic bottles, but you knew better! And even worse, the baby formula! Remember when I came home with the (drops his voice) non-organic brand? It was anarchy in this house!
TALIA: All right, all right, I get it. Just for that, you get to put the crib together all by yourself!
MARK: I’d be honored!
(A comfortable silence follows, where the two stand on either side of the counter, smiling at each other)
TALIA: Did you ever ask if you could take off for Sophie’s 15-month check-up?
MARK: Shit. When is that?
TALIA: Next Tuesday. I reminded you this morning. And yesterday. And about three other times before that.
MARK: Tuesday? Tal, Peter Calahan is flying in Tuesday. I’m supposed to show him the property and take him out after the meetings—
TALIA: Can somebody else do it?
MARK: It’s really important, Talia. You know that.
TALIA: Sophie has to get three shots at this one. You know how hard it is for me when she cries over those. And what if she reacts poorly? She could get another fever!
MARK: (Gently) I think you’re overreacting a little. Do you remember how uptight you were about that helmet therapy appointment…thing? And how silly you felt at the end of the whole thing?
TALIA: That was different. This is shots!
MARK: Come on, honey, you’ve done it before.
Pause. TALIA has made her way to the couch. She sits down facing away from MARK who is leaning on the counter, looking at her.
MARK: Well, what if she’s still sick? She can’t even get the vaccines if that happens. I can’t just take work off for a “maybe.”
TALIA: Of course you can’t. Silly of me to ask.
MARK: Oh come on, don’t do that.
TALIA: Don’t do what?
MARK: You know what you’re doing. You’re doing that thing— that passive aggressive thing.
TALIA: I’m not. Wasn’t it silly of me to ask, Mark? I wanted you to miss a big, important meeting for an insignificant doctor’s appointment. It’s ridiculous, really.
MARK: You know I think this is important, too. That’s not fair.
TALIA: Not more important than work, of course.
MARK: (Visibly frustrated) That’s not fair. You know I’m working toward a promotion. I can’t blow off things like this, not now.
TALIA: I know. I know you want this promotion, but what about us? What about me and Soph?
MARK: (Pacing) Why do you think I want this so bad? I’m doing this to make sure I can take care of you two.
TALIA: There’s more to that than finances, Mark. We’re doing really well right now. Wouldn’t you rather be around for Sophie’s first steps than working day and night to make sure she’s wearing nice shoes when it happens?
MARK: You have no idea what you’re talking about. Do you know how quickly things would go downhill for us if my boss suddenly decided someone else could do a better job than me?
TALIA: (Turns to look at MARK) Sarah? She adores you— she thought you did great work even before Sophie was born and you decided you needed to be there 27/7.
MARK: I didn’t need to be there so much before Sophie was born. If I lost my job we would have been okay, you were still working.
TALIA: Is that what this is about? Me not working anymore? Because that was your idea—
MARK: No! That’s not what this is about— this is about me working hard and moving up and always being able to take care of you both.
TALIA: You’re worried we’ll end up like your family, aren’t you?
TALIA: You are. That must be it. Mark, you aren’t your father.
MARK: That’s not the point. (Pause) I will not have Sophie go through what I went through. She’ll have everything she needs, everything she wants. Including a father who provides for her and a mother who isn’t too busy working three jobs to take care of her. I’ll be damned if that happens to my wife and child. (Stops pacing, stands in the center of the living room with his arms crossed, facing away from TALIA)
TALIA: That won’t happen to us… Your father was an alcoholic, and a deadbeat, and a cheater. You are none of those things… are you? I know you work hard for us and I know you love Sophie, but she needs to see it, Mark. She needs to have her Daddy around while she grows up, not working to make up for the shortcomings of his own father. (Rises from the couch and comes up behind MARK, wrapping her arms around him and resting her head against his back). You’re not pretending to be a good man in spite of your father. You are a good man, aren’t you? No way all this good guy stuff is just an act…
MARK: No. It’s not an act.
TALIA: I didn’t think so.
MARK: I’ll work on it, okay? This promotion is still important, but I’ll work on it. Look, how about you change the date of the appointment to this weekend, all right? I can do that. We can go on Saturday.
TALIA: (Too quickly) No.
MARK: Well… why not?
TALIA: (Suddenly uneasy) I can’t Saturday. My sister is in town, remember?
MARK: (Turns to face TALIA) Well, I can do it.
TALIA: I don’t know if that’s a good idea— You’ve never gone by yourself.
MARK: So? It’s bound to happen eventually anyway, right? Why not now?
TALIA: You wouldn’t ask the right questions.
MARK: You can tell me what to ask—
TALIA: (Pulls away from MARK) Don’t worry about it, okay? I’ll take her. It’s fine. I’ll make sure we can go to the next one together.
MARK: Talia, you just made a huge deal about how hard this appointment is going to be for you. I’m happy to do it this weekend so you don’t have to handle it on your own.
TALIA: I just told you I can’t do it this weekend.
MARK: And I hear you. But if it’s as upsetting to you as you say—
TALIA: Of course it is.
MARK: …Yes, I’m sure. If it’s that upsetting for you than maybe it’s for the best that I go alone— this way you won’t have to worry about Soph getting upset during the shots—
TALIA: But it’s not about me! It’s about her. She needs her mom there to comfort her.
MARK: Can’t her dad do the same thing?
TALIA: Mark, no. Please don’t push this.
MARK: You always do this.
MARK: You ask me to do more and then you freak out when I try to.
TALIA: What do you mean, always? You’ve barely ever taken any initiative before now!
MARK: You shut it down when I try, like you just did. How can I be more involved when you won’t let me be?
TALIA: Mark, you don’t even pick up the right laundry detergent when you run to the store. Do you see why I might be a little concerned about sending you off to an important doctor’s appointment alone when you haven’t done that before?
MARK: Well, gee, Tal, I’m sorry I didn’t realize the only kind of detergent we can use is made from the tears of Greek gods. Who am I to think Tide is acceptable?
TALIA: The other detergents gave our daughter a rash.
MARK: How was I supposed to know that?
TALIA: See, this is what I’m talking about. How can I trust you with something so important right off the bat? I love that you’re trying, but you’ve hardly spent any alone time with her. And when you do, she’s asleep.
MARK: And why is that, Talia? Maybe because you never give me the chance? I’ve offered to change diapers and been turned down because you don’t think I’m capable of doing it correctly.
TALIA: We both know the last time you offered to do anything for Sophie by yourself was a long time ago.
MARK: I offered to do something two minutes ago and you said no. What more can I do?
TALIA: You’re missing the point.
MARK: What is the point, then? Because I think it has something to do with your inability to ease up on the reins and let Sophie bond with somebody else.
TALIA: That is obviously not true—
Footsteps, and CAITLYN enters stage right. MARK and TALIA are standing feet apart, arms crossed.
CAITLYN: Oh. Hi. Sorry. I forgot my purse. I kind of need that. You know. For everything. Oh look, there it is! (Walks in quickly and grabs purse, before heading straight for the door) Have a good night!
TALIA: Cait, wait! I never got to thank you for today. You made my life a million times easier; I couldn’t have done it without you.
CAITLYN: Oh, come on, it’s not that big of a deal—
TALIA: It absolutely is. You put your life on hold for an entire day so I could take care of my sick daughter. That is a huge deal.
CAITLYN: I really didn’t mind. What else are friends for, right?
TALIA: Of course. I just hope you know how much I appreciate it. (Hugs Caitlyn while staring at Mark) It’s just so nice knowing I can always count on you being there when Sophie and I need you.
CAITLYN: (Pulls our of the embrace) I guess Sophie picked a good time to get sick. We just wrapped up one of our peak periods so the office is kind of slow this week. But really, stop thanking me. I didn’t mind. Gotta make sure my Goddaughter is okay, you know?
MARK: (Interjecting suddenly) Yeah, Caitlyn, we really appreciate it. I know how hard it can be to take off of work—It’s really nice having someone we can trust to help take care of our daughter.
CAITLYN: Um, it’s no problem.
TALIA: (To Mark, overly bright) She’s been so great from the beginning, hasn’t she? Sophie was barely a day old when Cait started calling and asking how she can help. She’s spent so much time learning how to handle Sophie and built so much trust with her, it’s amazing. They’ve really bonded.
CAITLYN: I mean, like I said, it isn’t that big of a deal—
MARK: Of course it is! It’s so important that we have someone we can trust our daughter with. You know, Talia has a hard time trusting other people with Sophie. I’m so glad she chose you to be the person that helps out with her.
TALIA: I’m glad she put in the effort to get to that point.
CAITLYN: (Nervously, looking back and forth between the two) Well, uh, I’m glad I can help when I’m needed. I love spending time with Sophie. (Looks at Mark speaks faster) Of course, I’m just the godmother. Not like, her real mom. Or dad! Definitely can’t fill that void. Not that there is a void! She’s got such great, loving parents. (Pause. Nobody speaks, so CAITLYN beelines for the door) Anyways, I gotta go. Um, have a good night. (Exits)
Long Pause, both looking at the door.
MARK: That was absolutely ridiculous.
TALIA: And whose fault is that, hm?
MARK: I don’t know. Did I attack you for being unreliable after we just discussed the issue?
TALIA: No, but you made it pretty obvious what you think about my parenting skills.
MARK: I said nothing bad about your parenting skills. I just think it’s funny that you’d rather have a friend help you with the baby instead of letting her father—
TALIA: Like you didn’t set that precedent yourself. You know you’re never home.
MARK: And you don’t let me do shit when I am!
TALIA: Caitlyn helps because she’s shown me she’s willing to put in the time and effort and learn. You’ve hardly done anything on your own with Sophie since she was born. Excuse me for wanting to make sure everything is as good as it can be for her. I’m her mom. It’s literally my job to make sure she’s properly cared for.
MARK: Why did you bother telling me to make more of an effort to be around if you won’t let me, hm? What’s the point in me being here when you can’t even trust me with our kid?
TALIA: You should want to be here more! I shouldn’t have to tell you to be home for us more. You just should have done it all along.
MARK: But Talia, I have daddy issues, remember? I’m a bad dad because my dad was fucked up.
TALIA: I—I never said that.
MARK: You pretty much did. And you know what? Maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m more like him than we ever thought.
Silence. TALIA stares at MARK, shocked by his outburst. MARK will not look at her. Suddenly, his cell phone rings. He pulls it out of his pocket, glances at the screen, and silences it.
TALIA: (Weakly) Work again?
TALIA: They—they call you a lot. Late, too.
MARK: What’s that supposed to mean?
TALIA: Nothing! I was just saying…
MARK: What, Talia? Saying what? I’m already a shitty father just like my old man, what else could I possibly be doing wrong?
TALIA: That’s not what I said, and that’s not what I think. (Steps toward MARK tentatively, one hand outstretched)
MARK: (Pulls away before TALIA can touch him. Is very animated throughout the next few lines, pacing and making broad, angry gestures as he speaks) Of course it is. I’m not around enough. I can’t be trusted to take care of my own child. Only Mighty Mom can do that. So tell me, Talia, what else are you accusing me of? Going out with work buddies on late-night drinking binges? That’s something my dad would do. Fucking Karen from accounting, maybe? Can’t be a good dad or husband, but I can be good at that.
MARK: (Stops and looks at TALIA) Oh for fuck’s sake, I’m not cheating on you—
TALIA: Why would you even say that? How could you say that?
MARK: (His anger seems to have dissipated; he is still frustrated, but more baffled than anything else) That’s what you’re stuck on? After everything that’s been said?
TALIA: (Clearly not listening, makes her way back to the couch and sits down slowly) I just—cheating? My God, I’m an idiot. I should have—I should have known. Karen from accounting, right? Of course. Karen with the career, with the red lipstick and the high heels—
MARK: Talia, stop it—
TALIA: Why should I? My husband is cheating on me. You’re cheating on me.
MARK: I didn’t—that’s not what I said. You’re blowing this out of proportion.
TALIA: HA! I’m blowing things out of proportion?! Of course. Blame me. Your wife, the mother of your child, the woman you always leave alone. You know, it all makes sense now. That’s why you’re never here. It has nothing to do with this promotion, does it? All those meetings with clients— I’m sure you wrap up with them before dinnertime. And then you wine and dine your whore—fucking Karen from accounting—
MARK: I’m not sleeping with Karen from accounting.
TALIA: LIKE HELL YOU AREN’T. You wine and dine your whore, and then you hop into bed with her, and then, when you’re done, you come home when your daughter is asleep and your wife is exhausted, successfully avoiding the possibility of spending any time with us!
MARK’S phone rings again.
That’s her now, isn’t it? Go ahead, answer it. See how much I care. I don’t need you. Sophie doesn’t need you. I’m practically all she has right now anyway. You expected me to trust you with our daughter while you’re so busy sleeping around? No way. I’m glad I’ve done so much with her on my own. You leaving for someone else won’t make a—
MARK: (Raises a hand to silence Talia and answers the phone) I can’t talk right now. I’ll call you back as soon as possible, okay? Of course. Yes, I’ll call. Thanks. Bye.
Mark hangs up the phone and slowly sets it on the table, regarding Talia as if she is a wild animal.
It was Ricky. The man from work. Not the imaginary women you think I’m cheating with.
TALIA: You practically came out and said that you were.
MARK: Talia, I was upset—I didn’t mean that.
TALIA: I don’t believe you. You’re happier when you’re away from us—you’re happiest when you’re at work, or when you’re with her. Not when you’re with the people who make you most afraid of turning into someone you never wanted to be. Into someone I never thought you could be.
MARK: (Slowly steps toward her, taking her hands in his) Talia, I love you. And I love our daughter. I would never do that to you, okay? I was angry, and I said things I shouldn’t have. But I saw my father cheat on my mother, and I swore I’d never do that to the woman I love. That’s you, and it always will be. Sophie needs a father and you need a husband. Another woman isn’t a part of that deal.
TALIA: (Pulls her hands away) You haven’t acted like a father and a husband in a long time, Mark. Even if there really is no other woman.
MARK: Maybe you’re right. I know you’re right. I’ve—I’ve been trying really hard to make sure I could take care of you— but you’re right, getting a promotion isn’t the best way to do that if it means being away all the time. I’m going to try to be better, okay? I’m going to be the man I want to be instead of the man I don’t want to become.
TALIA: (Hesitantly) Why should I believe you now?
MARK: Because I mean it now. I get it now. I want you to trust me, okay? You want me at that appointment Tuesday? Ricky can take Calahan to lunch. We’ll make it work, okay?
Off left, the cries of an infant suddenly sound.
TALIA: (Closes her eyes. Pause.) Ah, Sophie. I have to go get her. Her fever could be back, or—
MARK: Hey, it’s okay. I’ll get her, okay?
MARK: Just let me try, okay? You have to let me try.
Mark exits left, and moments later, the crying stops. TALIA sits on the couch. She rests her elbows on her knees and clasps her hands in front of her, staring at the ground. After a moment, she turns, and looks stage left, where MARK previously exited. CURTAIN.