The Ticket: A Short Story in Seven Parts (Part V)

Part Five: A Room of Her Own

The Ticket is a work of short fiction written by former Three Rivers resident and local author Charles Thomas. The story has been split into seven parts, all of which will be published on Watershed Voice in the coming days/weeks.

Madison’s mother didn’t think it was a good idea for a 17-year-old high school junior to have a job. 

“Your job should be school,” she explained over dinner at their house on Elm Street. “You’ll have more than enough time in the years ahead to work. Why rush things?”

Madison had seen the poster about the Triple Ripple Café looking for help while picking up an after-school latte, and had begged her mother to let her apply.

“I’ll learn things I can’t learn in school,” she said pressing her case. “Like good work habits and how to manage my own money.”

Her mother was still not convinced, but when her father commented, without looking up from his phone, that Madison should be allowed to live her own life, her mother relented.

Since she’d become a teenager, Madison felt her mother was always trying to stop her from doing anything. When Madison talked to her mother about joining the Wildcat Marching Band, her mother refused because it would distract her from her schoolwork. When Mason, a senior, had asked her to prom when she was a sophomore, Madison’s mother told her she couldn’t go. It was not appropriate for her to date a boy so much older, she said.

All her mother seemed to care about were grades and getting into college. While it would take Madison until she was in her mid-twenties to understand, her mother’s strict insistence that she always get good grades was related to her own regrets of never going to college.

Madison’s mother and father were high school sweethearts who married right after they graduated from Three Rivers High. While the couple had succeeded in making a comfortable life for Madison and her younger brother, Noah, Madison’s mother always saw college as the biggest missed opportunity of her life. Maybe if she’d gone to college, her mother often thought, they’d be able to afford a house where Madison and Noah could have rooms of their own. 

A lot of Madison’s friends at Three Rivers High applied for the Triple Ripple Café job, but Brittany ended up choosing Madison. After they’d worked a few shifts together, Brittany explained it was Madison’s pristine school record that convinced her she was the one for the job. At her mother’s urging, Madison had enrolled in two AP classes at TRHS, and until that moment she hadn’t regretted taking on all that extra work.

Madison loved working at the coffee shop and had grown to really look up to her shift leader, Brittany. Brittany was a grown woman but would still play coffee cup golf with the rest of the high schoolers when things got slow. She had a comfortable life, a husband with a good job, and seemed very successful to Madison. Everyone in town knew her and loved her.

Who could ask for more than that?

Madison was working behind the espresso machine on the day Ernie Marvin accidentally dropped his lottery ticket in the tip jar. She hadn’t seen him or any of the customers that hour because they had been so busy. It was at the end of their shift that Brittany found the ticket.

“Look at what someone left us,” she said to Madison and Daryl, flashing the yellow ticket.

“Wow!” Madison exclaimed in delight from behind the espresso machine. “That could be worth a lot of money!”

Daryl chuckled. “Those tickets are pretty much worthless, Madison,” he explained in a way that was more than a little condescending. “The odds of winning the lottery are almost zero. People who play the lottery are just suckers.”

“Don’t bust her bubble,” Brittany yelled at Daryl from across the room. “Someone has to win. Why not us?”

Daryl just shook his head and went back to wiping down the tables that spread out over the cafe like soldiers at attention. 

“Why don’t I hold on to the ticket and text you guys the numbers?” Brittany suggested. “We might win a few bucks at least.”

They all agreed and when Brittany went back to the office to count the till, Madison followed her.

“Hey, Brittany. Can I ask you something?” 

“Sure,” Brittany said still counting out twenties. 

“You know how I’m graduating next year and all. Well, I’ve been thinking about what I want to do after high school, and I think I want to work here full-time and try to become a manager like you.”

Brittany stopped counting the bills and looked up at the high schooler. “I thought you were going to go off to college?”

“That’s what my mom wants,” Madison explained. “But I think I want to be a manager here. Like you.”

Brittany smiled. “You’d be a great manager, Madison. Like, really great. Let’s sit down and talk more about it next week.”

When Madison left the Triple Ripple Café that night, she had the first clear plan for her future she’d ever had. But the next afternoon, a phone call would change all that and make her question everything she thought she knew about her friends and her future. 

Charles D. Thomas is a writer and psychotherapist who made Three Rivers his home for over a decade. Feedback is welcome at [email protected]