Tacked to Maria and Phil Manning's fridge is a budget detailing how the $1,600 they pull in a month is allocated. The hope—unfulfilled time and time again—is to save $450 of that, so they can move out of their trailer in Everett, Pa., and head to Bedford, where Maria would be able to re-enroll in a high school that has child care for her 2-year-old. It's the portrait of a family that Terrence McCoy argues is "surprisingly prevalent": Phil is 25, but Maria is just 16, and the two are married. "Between 2000 and 2010, an estimated 248,000 children were married, most of whom were girls, some as young as 12, wedding men," McCoy writes for the Washington Post. Maria got pregnant at 14 by a man who at one point abducted her; she now has a 2-year-old.
McCoy traces how she subsequently met Phil at a friend's trailer in February 2017; they quickly fell for each other and began sleeping together, though Maria was just 15. The two kept the relationship under wraps at first. When they decided to just be open about it, people gave Phil the nickname "Chester Cheeto," a play off the comic strip "Chester the Molester." But they married in West Virginia, with Maria's mother, Michelle, signing off on the paperwork that enabled them to do so. Michelle herself had been married at 14, unhappily. She was resistant to Maria's request, but she ultimately relented. McCoy digs into what Phil wants—a son of his own—and Maria's desire to return to school, which seems continually thwarted: One month, the extra money goes to buy a phone for Phil via Facebook; it's a dud. Then she takes her future into her own hands. Read the full story here. (Read more Longform stories.)