Turned into this (still a work in progress)…which is better?

“That Much”


She never told anyone where she went those nights. Teenagers are good at hiding things. She just left. She couldn’t handle the fighting anymore. Her mom was usually away on trips, but when she’d come home – not ten minutes would pass before she started screaming. Tonight mom came home drunk. She started yelling. First at the things she tripped over, then at her. Abby couldn’t remember what she was saying, mostly because she wasn’t listening. She just picked up her sweatshirt and left to go to Roxie’s house.

Abby used to go to Roxie’s after school until her mom was done with her airline class. Although Abby and Roxie’s friendship originated from convenience, Abby still went to her house even after her mom was deemed a stewardess for Jet Blue.

She called Roxie on her cell to make sure she was home. It’s a Wednesday night, of course she’s home.

“Hey Rox, is it cool if I come over? Mom’s not doing too good tonight.”

“Yea, dad and I are just watching the Godfather. We’ll pause it till you get here.”

“Cool. Thanks.”

Abby decided that she’d stop by Val’s Burger to pick up some chocolate milk shakes to take to Roxie’s. Her dad had taken the girls there a couple times and they had the best shakes in town. It was on the main road on the way to Roxie’s house anyway, so it was safer to walk that way at night.

            Val’s was a small, airstrip type family restaurant nestled between the post office and towns barber shop with a candy cane light out front. Abby’s mom used to meet friends at the café across the street. She used to like Sylvia, the friend who would buy her 10 cent baguettes to keep her from being loud while they chatted about sex and shopping. Abby still loves baguettes.

She crossed the street to Val’s and walked in just as a man dressed in a postal uniform brushed past, his fingertips holding the door just long enough for her to squeeze inside with a breathy ‘thank you sir.’

Our mail usually comes in the afternoon; I guess it’s different for burger joints.

The milkshakes were handmade and thick, so they usually took a while. Abby knew that, but she waited until after she had placed the order to go before she called Roxie. She knew Roxie couldn’t tell her ‘don’t bother, we have stuff here’ if she was already there and waiting for the order. “Three chocolate mama shakes please. –  Yea, the middle one –there – that’s the mama size. – Thanks.”

She plopped down on a cherry red booth seat, avoiding a ketchup glop on the table as she put up her elbows and called Roxie’s house. I’ll be there in a bit, I just stopped for some shakes. Your dad still likes chocolate best, right? – Yea, go ahead without me, I’ve seen it before – I know how it starts. – K, see you soon.

The walls were plastered with sponsored little league team photos and Abby almost hit her nose on the plastic cover when she leaned closer to see if the blurry oval face in one of the photos was someone she knew.

Abby thought the place seemed a bit busier than usual for a Wednesday night. Then again, she hadn’t really ever been there on a Wednesday night – so she couldn’t really say.

            Abby walked carefully the remaining three blocks; balancing the flimsy egg-carton cup holder with the three shakes. When she got there, Roxie’s dad, Jack, took the straws Abby had clamped between her teeth – they were too long to fit in her pocket – and took the shakes with the other hand.

            “Hey Abs! You’re just in time, the big guy’s about to find the horse head in his bed,” he smiled and headed toward the kitchen.

            Roxie came up and gave her a hug. “Hey Abs, how ya holdin’ up?”

            “I’m alright, mom’s just havin’ one of those nights.” Abby saw Roxie scanning her face. “No, she wasn’t swinging tonight.” She saw Roxie’s face turn a bit red and she averted her eyes.

            “Sorry,” she said.

            “Hey I saw a picture of your brother’s baseball team on the wall at Val’s. I didn’t know he goes outside,” Abby smiled and Roxie stifled a laugh.

            “Hey, only I’m allowed to make fun of mr. recluse,” she shoved Abby lightly, “but yea, he played on the team for like – two weeks – before he claimed he was allergic to grass. Ha-ha!”

            Roxie’s brother was two years younger than she and wasn’t the athletic type. He was more like Roxie’s mom, and Roxie was more like her dad; sporty, energetic, joked a lot and didn’t mind bloody movies.

            “So where’s your mom?” Abby asked when they gathered in the kitchen.

            “She and Josh flew down to LA last night to help set up for the festivities,” said Roxie, pouring the shakes into tall glasses. Abby had squeezed one of the cups too hard when she was trying to balance it walking over and the lid popped off – the shake oozed over the edges a bit.

            Roxie’s grandma was turning 97 and although she was still kicking, the whole Williams family decided it was a good age to throw a party / family reunion. Just in case. Roxie had a huge extended family, most of them living in Southern California. Abby had never met any of her extended family beyond her grandparents on her mother’s side. She often wondered if she had any cousins.

            “Roxie’s got an away game tomorrow,” said Jack. “So we’ll be driving down Friday with Rosco and Sasha.”

            Roxie was on the varsity soccer team and her dad was assistant coach. Abby sometimes went to her games and dog-sat the self-proclaimed, but not completely unofficial mascots, two very large and very energetic huskies. They often ran up and down the side lines together and ate French fries when they got tired.

            The more she heard him – his fine sandpaper voice – defending her against herself, silently convincing her she was worth something – the more she wished he were hers – her dad. She’d thought about it before. But then she would scold herself, saying it wasn’t fair. She should be thinking and praying about her own dad. She would daydream, wondering what he was like now. She felt like a child. Not so innocent, but definitely helpless – dreaming. And like a child, she suddenly had to go to the bathroom.

            She got up suddenly, quicker than she realized and scooted the stool back under the lip of the counter.

            “I’m gonna run to the bathroom real quick, be right back,” she said as she slide her shoes off before stepping onto the cream carpet running down the hall.


            Abby paused after she washed her hands, to smell the juniper breeze fragrance on her fingers, then she unlocked the door and started back. She walked down, what Roxie had dubbed “memory lane.” The hallway stretching back toward the family room was plastered with family photos; the trip to Disneyland, Roxie’s preschool graduation, Roxie’s mom and brother, Josh, smiling at a piano recital, Roxie under her dad’s arm – pulled close after winning a soccer game.

            Abby smiled when she saw a picture of her and Roxie dressed up in her mom’s clothes. Roxie’s dad came home from work one day to find Roxie and Abby holding an extravagant tea party in the living room, wearing his wife’s church clothes. He ran to get the camera, took a picture, then told us to get our “hind-quarters upstairs and out of mommy’s church clothes.”

            Abby grinned and started for the kitchen. She paused in the entryway when she heard Roxie and her father talking. She wanted to make sure it wasn’t a serious conversation.

            “Your mom and I have talked about it and we’ve decided that you and your brother can each bring one friend this weekend. But just one. We can’t have a whole party come with us.”

            “Really? I thought the reason we were going was to throw a party.”


            “Besides, Josh doesn’t really have any friends – does that mean I can bring two?”

            Roxie started giggling. Abby imagined her father was teasing and tickling her – a small chase around the kitchen table.

            “You really should call your grandmother sometime tonight, before it gets too late. It is her party you know.”

            “Yea – I’ll go do that real quick right now, before we start the movie again.”

            Abby thought the conversation was done and took another step, but paused again when she heard Roxie’s voice again.

            “Hey, if grandma says it’s alright, can I bring more than one friend?”

            “Roxie –“her dad said in a playful warning tone.

            “OK – OK, I was just askin’.”

Abby caught herself smiling. Roxie always used that line. She’d hold her hands up with the perfect timing and say things like, “Hey now, take it easy – no harm – all love,” or “Easy there tiger, put those teeth away, I’m not the hunter here.”

Roxie runs to the study to call her grandma and Abby walked in and took a seat at the counter. Jack was humming some ambiguous, made-up tune and reading the newspaper by the phone.  He hadn’t noticed Abby come in with stocking feet. She didn’t say anything right away; she just listened to his personal hum concert.

            After a few seconds, when he starts to dance a little bit as he turns the page of the newspaper, Abby starts to feel a bit guilty for watching and she clears her throat.

            Jack jumped. “Oh! Abs, I didn’t hear you come in,” he laughed and reached to hand her a straw for her shake.

            “Sorry ‘bout that,” she blushes noticeably and accepts the straw.


Jack rubs his jaw and Abby notices a white scar under his lower lip. Without thinking, she touches it with her fingernail, then draws back suddenly.

He looks at her – searching her eyes for a second. He knows.

“My old man. He popped me one. ‘Cept he forgot to take his ring off.”

Abby lifts her hair off her neck and points to a mark under her earlobe.

“Mine, too.”

Jack sets down his beer and leans on the counter.

“I know.”

His eyes travel past her face to her fingers fidgeting with her sleeve. Fold, wrap, pull, fold, wrap, pull.

“So have you told-“

“No. You?”



“A brother. Ricky’s three years older. You?”

Abby spreads out her palms.

“No. Just me. Mom had me at 17 – thought she could keep my father around. She stopped after me.”

She felt him looking at her neck. She wanted him to see how smooth her skin was under her necklace. Her hand rose to tug on the chain softly. Look here.

Abby can remember only one other time when someone looked at her like that – made her feel worth something. Donnie took her out once. He’s the only guy who had ever taken her out. They were sitting on the tailgate of his truck; the look that passed over his face before he kissed her told her this: I like you. She’d met him when she was working at Sheri’s, bussing tables. He tipped well. The fourth time he came in was when he tipped the most. An apology she assumed. He was with his wife that time.

Her eyes traveled from the countertop to his hand – to his ring.

“How long it last?” he asked gently.

“I was ten. They had a fight-he left, never came back. She ran upstairs, nearly stayed.” Her sleeve was getting stretched out. She placed both hands on a glass of water in front of her, watching the reflected light swirl on her fingernails. “Grandma sent me to the store with five dollars to get bleach for the stains. Blood never really cleans out you know.”

“Yea, I know.”

“On this one show-they have special lights that show blood, even after the guy tries to scrub it clean. They spray it with this stuff and it always shows up. It’s always there, we just can’t see it.”


Roxie leaped into the room and slid across the kitchen floor in stocking feet. Abby noticed they were the ones she had given her for Christmas last year. She smiled.

            “Grandma was on the other line with Aunt Janice,” she announced.

“Dear dear Aunt Janice.” Jack clicked his tongue and shook his head. “Well, do you girls want to start the movie or wait until grandma’s done chatting with –“

His pager went off. “OK, never mind, you girls go ahead and start it up without me, the cavemen are calling.”

Jack called the men he worked at the construction company cave men because at work they “play with rocks or sit all day in caves.” By caves, he meant the office. Also, he joked that the company hadn’t evolved enough yet to upgrade to cell phones instead of pagers. “We haven’t made it to an advanced era yet – we’re technologically challenged.”


Abby and Roxie sank into the plush, oversized, L-shaped couch and started the movie again.

Abby watched the screen but didn’t see the pictures. She couldn’t stop thinking about Jack. She glanced sideways at Roxie, she was chewing on her straw and the pictures flashed in her wide, unblinking eyes. She doesn’t even know – how does she not know that about her father?

Abby was torn inside. God – she’s my best friend. Should I tell her?

She felt convicted – but special. She knew something about Roxie’s father that she didn’t even know. They were even. Doesn’t that make me his daughter too? Sort of?

Roxie grabbed her arm suddenly – she jumped.

“Ohmygod! Did you see that?!” Roxie was pointing at the screen, starring at the horse head bloodying the white sheets.

“I thought you just watched this part,” she laughed and pried her hand from her arm. “Like- not more than a half hour ago, before I got here.”

“Yea, well…” Roxie sat up, held her chin high jokingly, “so what if I did. It just – um – catches me off guard.”

“Every time,” Abby poked at her.

“Oh, hey…I was gonna ask you,” Roxie switched the subject suddenly. “You wanna come with us this weekend?”

Abby stilled, holding her smile, but brewing underneath. Oh, god – she chose me. Of all her options – she chose me – the one who’s lying to her. Keeping stuff from her that friends shouldn’t keep from each other.


Why’d she pick her? Out of all the other friends she had – friends who all had families that would pay money for them – who would cancel a hair appointment to come to their high school graduation. She chose her the way her tabby Rufus picked the one person at her birthday party who didn’t like cats. The one least qualified to be his buddy for the night.

Teachers never picked on her to answer questions in class; she was always looked over when teams were picked at PE; why were these people suddenly seeing so much value in her? They picked the one person who is least qualified.

Maybe it was because they knew she’d fit in the trunk the best, or maybe they could see she wasn’t a talker. She wouldn’t be annoying or take up that much space in the Suburban on the drive down.

She remembered her grandma’s car: how it had the arm rest that folded out of the back seat. She used to trace the rim of the plastic cup holders on the way to school. The armrest also opened up a hole to the trunk. She’d crawled through one time when her mom left her in the car and went to meet some friends at the mall. She’d waited for her to come back and find her gone. She’d waited to hear the wailing and panic-laced screams of a mother who’d lost her beloved child. She’d waited three hours and fell asleep in the warmness of the trunk – curled up on a pile of clothes from the last shopping trip.

O god, how could she ride in a car with her, for six hours, watching her talk with her dad, and not tell her.

Roxie was the only friend she’d never hid anything from. And Jack trusted her with this secret. What’s it worth? A father or a friend? How much will this secret cost me?

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4 Responses to “Turned into this (still a work in progress)…which is better?”

  1. danjor says:

    Hey… I don’t think we were properly introduced. I’m Jordan, I sat next to you last night during Indiana Jones. Anyway, you seemed pretty cool so I checked cassie’s friends list and sure enough, there you were.
    I definitely like this version better, while the other one may have had a bit more excitement, it seems like it almost reaches the point where it would be tough to escalate the suspense any more. I also like the shift in Abby’s realization that she has worth, to an inner battle going on in her head with less dramatic events leading her to that conclusion. I also really liked the analogy of Roxie choosing Abby in the same way Rufus picked out the non-cat person in the room. You said something just like that last night. I think it’s cool how you embed slivers of your own musings into the story to give your characters more depth.
    Anyway… I’d like to read more. So I hope you don’t mind if I add you to my friends list. I’m also interested in writing, and I have a lot of notes about a scifi/cyberpunk novel that I’ve worked on occasionally for the past several years. I can’t say if it will ever be developed, but reading your story was definitely inspiring.

  2. sarahmadson says:

    Hi Jordan, nice to make your aquaintance! Thank you for your commentary. It’s very helpful and I’ll be sure to post the final version as soon as it’s finished. (Like any work can really be finished, yea right!) It was fun to sit next to you during the movie the other night. I was a bit worried that Abigail and I were causing a rukus and being loud during the movie, ha-ha. But I’m glad you had as much fun as I did. 🙂
    I’m honored to be added as your friend. I’ve added you back, hope you don’t mind. I’m interested to read some of your writing as well. You’ll have to post a story some time.
    P.S. – I like your journal name…ha-ha, very creative. 🙂

  3. sarahmadson says:

    P.P.S. – “so I checked cassie’s friends list and sure enough, there you were.”
    How’d you know it was me?

  4. danjor says:

    Deduction my dear Sarah 🙂 … most of the people who go to ABC movie nights have LJ’s
    Well, I’m already familiar with a bunch of cassie’s LJ friends, many of them are on my list as well. From there… I clicked through the ones I wasn’t familiar with, most others were very obviously not you, and when I got to the P’s I saw your LOTR elf user icon. If it hadn’t been for that, I wouldn’t have found you.
    While we’re on the subject I can’t help but be curious, how did you choose your user name?

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