Contemporary Drama Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of substance abuse.

Maggie leans her back against the wall to let her seven year old grandson, Milo, measure her. 

Milo holds a pencil in his right hand and is standing on a step stool so that he is hovering just over Maggie. He sticks his tongue out in concentration as he makes his mark on the wall to indicate the top of Maggie’s head.

“You’ve shrunk an inch!” He exclaims gleefully.

Maggie Tsks. “Impossible.” She says. “Measure again.”

Milo obediently does as requested. “Yup.” He says, pleased with himself. “You’re definitely shrinking.”

Maggie feigns alarm and turns around to inspect the measurement. She places a delicate finger against the pencil mark Milo has made. It does indeed appear that she has shrunk.

“Hmph.” She says, unimpressed. “The floor must be sinking.”

She looks over to Milo. “Well then. It’s your turn.” She gestures for him to take his spot against the wall. He eagerly rushes over and presses his back against the wall. He stretches his neck up as high as possible. Maggie measures. She steps back for a moment observing the mark, waiting until Milo is so impatient that he finally asks; “well?”

“You’ve gained an inch.” She remarks. She peers over her reading glasses that have slowly made their way halfway down her nose and asks skeptically “Did you steal my inch?” 

Milo bursts into giggles. “Nope.” He says. “You’re just shrinking!”

Maggie pokes him in the ribs with the back of the pencil. “And you’re stealing my height. Before we know it, you'll be 12 feet tall!” 

She sighs, wondering where the time has gone. It seems like it was just yesterday that her daughter, Stephanie, came home with Milo. Maggie had been so glad to see them both. It had been months since she had last heard from them and she had begun to worry and fear the worst. Did something happen to them? Did somebody hurt them? She never liked Stephanie’s boyfriends. But, what could she do? The more she tried to express her concerns, the more Stephanie just pushed away. So Maggie stopped expressing. She kept her mouth shut and tried to be supportive. She tried to let Stephanie know how much she loved her and Milo.

And then one day Stephanie came home. She asked if she could stay for a while with Milo. She said that she wanted to go back and take classes at the local community college. She said that she wanted to go to therapy and get her life together. Maggie was so relieved. She let Stephanie know that they could stay for as long as they needed to.

The next morning when Maggie woke up Stephanie was gone, but little Milo remained. Stephanie left him with Maggie without a single word or goodbye. It broke Maggie’s heart, but she was glad to have Milo with her. He’s a quiet and sweet boy, with a good sense of humor. Maggie loves him fiercely. 

She worries constantly about Stephanie. It’s been 4 years without any word. She can’t imagine how a parent could abandon a child, especially not Stephanie. Stephanie, her beautiful little girl who used to tuck in all of her dolls and stuffed animals before she would go to bed. Stephanie, her little girl who used to microwave soup for Maggie when Maggie was ill. Stephanie, her little girl. HER LITTLE GIRL. She misses her desperately, but also finds herself furious with her at the same time.

She remembers Noah the morning Stephanie left. 

“Where’s mommy?” He had asked.

“I don’t know sweet pea, but I’m sure she’ll be back soon.”

He asked again in a few hours, later that afternoon, before he went to bed, the next day and the days after that, his little eyes filling with hope and tears each time he asked. 

“I don’t know” was always Maggie’s answer. Eventually she stopped adding “but I’m sure she’ll be back soon.”

Maggie looks at Milo affectionately now and gives him a kiss on his head. “Well, now that we’ve determined I’m shrinking, what should we do? "

Milo shrugs. “Stick paper towels under your feet?”

“No.” Maggie replies solemnly. “They’ll get wet and mushy if it’s raining.”

This sends Milo into giggles again. “You’ll make a woomp woomp woomp noise” he says excitedly performing a series of motions that look like he’s trying to walk through a swamp. “And you wouldn’t be able to sneak up on anyone anymore!”

“Who would I be sneaking up on?” Maggie asks.

Milo pauses and looks down at his feet, his cheeks quickly turning blotchy. “Mommy.” He says quietly. “When you try to find her.”

Maggie’s heart starts to ache. It doesn’t matter how long Stephanie has been gone or how many times her name comes up, Maggie always feels her heart breaking thinking about her daughter. Not only for herself, but for Milo too. Especially for Milo.

She takes her time in responding. “Milo, sweetheart. If I had any idea where your mommy was, I would definitely do my best to sneak up on her.” She squats down to his level and gives him a hug. He leans his head into her shoulder and cries. 


On Milo’s tenth birthday, Maggie takes him out to the arcade with some of his friends and then they head home for cake and ice cream. He’s had a great day and chats with Maggie about a video game that he scored the second highest score in on the way home. As they pull into the driveway, they notice someone on the front steps.

Maggie’s breath catches. It’s Stephanie. She has a backpack beside her along with a present wrapped in spider man wrapping paper.

Maggie freezes for a moment and then says to Milo; “Milo, stay here for a minute honey.”

“Is that…..” Milo’s voice trails off without finishing his question.

“Yes.” Maggie replies. “That’s your mom. I know you probably want to see her, but let me talk to her first please.” She places a protective hand on his knee.

Milo shakes his head. “I don’t want to see her.” He says. “I’ll wait here until she’s gone.” He turns his body and faces away, looking out the window.

Maggie nods. “Okay Milo. That’s your choice. You can do whatever feels right to you.” She hesitates. “I love you” she adds “no matter what.”

“Same.” Milo responds still peering out the window.

Maggie gets out of the car and makes her way towards Stephanie. At first hesitantly, but then her steps quicken and she rushes to wrap her arms around her little girl.


“Can I see him?” Stephanie asks after they have sat in tearful silence for a few minutes. She is looking toward the car, hoping to catch Milo’s attention.

“Not right now.” Maggie responds. “Not until he’s ready. I can give him the gift though.” She nods towards the spider man package. “And he can open it if he chooses.”

Stephanie bends her head down and looks dejected, but she’s nodding her head lightly. She looks about twenty years older than when Maggie last saw her, like life has beaten her down. 

But, Maggie thinks. She’s alive.

“Where have you been all this time?” Maggie asks. 

“Oh mom!” Stephanie sobs. “I’m so ashamed!” She attempts to collect herself. “I’ve been trying to get sober.”


The word sends a chill through Maggie. She didn’t know that Stephanie was using anything. She feels a mixture of emotions; sorry, pity, loss and a bubbling anger.

“For six years?” Maggie asks, her mouth turning dry. “without letting us know where you were?” She can feel the emotions coming up like a tidal wave. “We thought you were never coming back! Or worse - that you were dead! You left your little boy and never even said goodbye! She pauses and then asks “why didn’t you tell me what was going on?”

“I didn’t want you to know.” Stephanie says a little defensively. “When I was here last time I thought about changing my life around, but didn’t feel like I could so I left Milo here. I was ashamed. I knew I wasn’t going to try to get sober. Andrew and I just wanted to be high all the time and I knew that I couldn’t have Milo around us. Around that. So I left him with you. And then things kept getting worse and worse. I missed Milo. I missed you. But, I didn’t want to come home because I was a mess. I finally went to rehab, but I was still with Andrew and so I used again with him once I got out. And then Andrew died. He died, Mom. He died and then I just kind of lost it for a while.” Her eyes turn dark and distant for a moment, almost as if she is reliving the experience. “But, then I went back to rehab for a second time and then a third time” She pauses. “I’ve been through thirteen different rehabs and seven IOP programs.” 

Stephanie looks up at her mom, shame filling her face. “I’ve been sober for four months now and I want to continue to be sober. Forever. I want to be sober for Milo and for you….and for me. I want to be a better mother and a better daughter.”

Maggie feels her anger subside a bit. It breaks her heart to think that her daughter went through all of this, that she has struggled with so much. She is wondering how she failed to protect her daughter, how she was so oblivious to her daughter's struggle with substance use. She wraps her arms around Stephanie, leaning her head into her shoulder and says “We will figure it out.”

Maggie kisses Stephanie on the top of the head. “I’ll always be here for you. I hope you know that.” She looks towards the car and watches Milo shift about in his seat and says “I think you should respect what Milo wants for now though. I think you should leave it up to him to decide when he’s ready to see you, if he decides to see you.”

“Okay.” Stephanie says softly nodding her head. “I want whats best for him, for everyone. I’ll do whatever you think is best.” She looks broken and her hands are trembling.

Maggie reaches over and turns Stephanie’s face so that their eyes meet. She stares at her daughter and pushes a strand of Stephanie’s hair behind her ear and says softly “But, you are still my little girl and I will always be here for you.” 

Stephanie grabs Maggie’s hand and gives it a light squeeze. “I’m staying at the sober house three blocks from here. I have to be back soon. We have some restrictions to follow... to help with sobriety. But, I love you mom. I won't run away this time.”

“How can I help ?” Maggie asks. “I mean, without involving Milo.”

Stephanie leans in and kisses her mother on the forehead. “Oh mom!” she says. “Do what you always do. Just be here for me the way you always have and I will step up now and do the same!”


It’s been an hour since Stephanie left and Milo opens his gift. It’s a notebook from Stephanie that is filled with many messages to him that Stephanie has written over the past six years. It includes apologies, hopes and dreams and ways she wants to be a better mother.

For him, for her little boy.

Milo isn’t sure how he feels after looking through the notebook, but thinks that maybe he will call his mother one day just to at least say “thanks.”

March 29, 2022 16:55

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