- Picking Up the Piecesby Candace Nola
This work has reached the exceptional level
Mothers wise words spurs a daughter to action
Picking Up the Pieces by Candace Nola
What Happened? writing prompt entry
Artwork by VMarguarite at

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.
"Just pick up the pieces," my mother said. "Life goes on". She tapped the end of her cigarette on the edge of the ash tray, blowing out smoke through pursed lips, steely gray eyes looking down her narrow nose, disdain for me apparent in her stare. "My God, Jane, you would think you're the only woman that's ever been dumped. Get over yourself."

I sat across the table from her, in the outdoor patio of the trendy cafe she frequented. She liked it because she was a "Regular" here. They knew her, knew her order and always got it right. "They respect me here, Jane, they know their place and they stay in it", she was fond of saying. The truth was, she once berated a young barista so badly, the poor girl burst into tears and quit on the spot. The remaining staff was terrified of my mother, quite honestly, so was I.

"I mean, honestly, what did you think was going to happen? You're not pretty by any means, you could lose a few pounds too. You're not very interesting either, dear." She took another drag from her cigarette and blew it out, tapping her stiletto against the wrought iron table leg. "Gregory was far too good for you anyway. He's intelligent, appreciates fine art, has excellent taste in clothes. I mean, really, darling, He's a gorgeous hunk of a man and you're just...plain." She smirked, "good old Plain Jane."

"I should have named you that as a baby, Plain Jane. Even then, you were disappointing, I honestly don't know why your father doted on you so much. Of course he was just as pathetic as you are." She sneered at me. I sat hunched over in my chair, trying to disappear. I hated these meetings, I hated her. My whole life with her was like this, degrading, humiliating, and frightening. My every move was wrong, I spent my childhood tiptoeing around her. Heaven forbid if I made a noise, or made a mess. "Just pick up the pieces, Jane., stop sniveling, you're making a scene for Christ's sake!"

"Sorry, Mother," I said meekly. "You're right. You're always right." She sneered at me as she took another drag on her cancer stick. "Of course I am." She exhaled, smashed the cigarette butt out in the ashtray. "Now then, what do you want from me? How is Mommy dearest supposed to save you now? Money? A lawyer? A place to live ? You know you can't live with me. I won't allow you back in my house, ever."

"No, Mother, of course not. I don't need any of those things. I just thought I should tell you." I was dying inside, unshed tears making my eyes glassy. No way could I tell her that I just wanted her to be a mother for once, to show a smidge of compassion for her only child.
I didn't know why I had bothered showing up today.

Another dose of public humiliation was not what I needed right now, not after seeing my husband escorting that woman out of our favorite restaurant, the one where he had proposed, the one place where we celebrated every special occasion. They both had looked at me and smirked, the blond kissing him on the lips before she got into her cab. He just looked at me and said "I told you to wait at home." Then he walked past me, to his car while I stood there, shattered on the sidewalk.

My mother stood up and sighed, "well if you have nothing to say, I'm not going to waste my time here any longer." She gathered up her purse and her cell phone. "I do have a life you know, important matters to attend to," narrowing her glare at me, she continued, "do try to pick up the pieces and move on. It's not like you were in love or something." She turned on her heel and walked away.

I sat there, seething. I was furious, finally, furious with this cold hearted bitch that I had been forced to call Mother for the last 30 years. "Pick up the pieces? Oh I will, Mother, I will". I said the words defiantly, out loud to no one. I would do exactly what she said.

I walked out of the cafe, head held high. I knew what I had to do and I did not need Mother's help or her approval. I made several stops on the way back to my home. Parking my car, I grabbed my bags from shopping and went inside.

In the kitchen, I started dinner for my cheating husband. "Mustn't keep Gregory waiting, dear", I could her my mothers words in my head. Seething inside, I chopped meat, and vegetables. Putting the pot roast in the oven, I tossed the salad and set it in the fridge to chill. Then I popped open a nice Merlot to let it breathe.

Moving into the dining room, I set the table for three, using all of my finest crystal and china. Polishing the silver, I laid them out properly next to each place setting. I released the heavy golden drapes from their hooks and pulled them closed, then I lit the candles on the table and the mantle. It was perfect, the setting truly looked like it belonged in a magazine.

Picking up my phone, I dialed Mother. Two rings and she answered it, asking snidely, "What is it now,Jane ? I really am busy." Calmly I replied, "I'm sorry, Mother, forgive the intrusion. I wanted to thank you for today, for setting me straight. Won't you come to dinner tonight? I've made Gregory's favorites, I'm sure you'll approve." I hated the pleading tone that appeared in my voice.

She sighed deeply, "Very well, I'll be there at 7:30. But then, you pick up the pieces, got it? He doesn't want you anymore." I made my voice contrite and soothing, "yes, Mother, of course". Hanging up the phone, I went upstairs to shower and dress for dinner. Two hours later, dressed, primped and polished in a satin gown, I was ready for the evening.

Floating down the steps with a smile on my face, I readied the wine, filled the glasses halfway and set the roast on the cutting board to rest. I heard the door open and went to greet my darling.

"Gregory, dear, there you are. How was your day ? Was it dreadfully busy? I know how you despise those long days." I took his coat and hung it up in the closet, all the while, smiling cheerily and chattering about my lovely coffee with Mother.

He looked a bit shocked but then steadied himself. "Jane, you seem pleasant this evening. " I smiled sweetly, "yes dear, I've had such a grand day. I've made all of your favorites for dinner and Mother is joining us. Isn't that delightful?" He looked pleased. "Well, how nice. That will be a nice treat. But I thought, you were upset about Gwendolyn ? ". He had the decency to look uneasy saying her name.

I tittered perkily,swallowing the bile in my throat, " oh that, boys will be boys, Mother always said. Time to pick up the pieces and move on, isn't that so , darling?" I handed him a glass of wine. "Go relax while I carve the roast. Mother should be here shortly." I floated off to the kitchen in a swirl of gray satin.

Back in the kitchen, I carved the beautiful roast and settled everything on the serving platter. The doorbell chimed just as I finished bringing dishes to the table. Quickly, I strode to the entryway and opened it. "Mother. How lovely to see you. May I take your coat?" She shrugged the fur jacket off into my waiting hand and walked into the living room. I could hear her greeting Gregory as she did so.

I returned to the living room and announced dinner. As we went into the dining room, Gregory looked a bit shocked. "What's the occasion, Jane dear? You have outdone yourself tonight. ". My mother snickered, "yes, you've actually set the table properly for once." Gregory helped her to her chair and then he sat at the head of the table.

As I sat in my chair, I lifted my wine glass, "A toast then, to picking up the pieces", I said. I drank deeply, relishing the full body of the wine. They followed suit, looking a bit perplexed, but they emptied their glasses. Quickly I stood to refill them and then slowly began to serve the food. As I did so, they talked to each other and I became invisible.

When their speech began to slur and their heads grew heavy, I pulled out the heavy roll of duct tape. As they passed out from the drugged wine, I pulled their chairs away from the table, facing each other and taped their torsos to the chair backs. I wove the tape around and around their bodies and limbs. Then I readied my electric carving knife and went to work.

Mother came to while I was still attending to Gregory. I had to tape his mouth shut because his begging and screaming was driving me insane. "Jane! What have you done? What are you doing? Stop this instant! Oh My God, is he dead? Did you kill him?" Her voice became more shrill with every question.

I backhanded her, leaving a bloody handprint across her face. "Do shut up, Mother. You're making quite a spectacle of yourself." I gave her a disgusted look as I finished sawing Gregory's left leg off, "I'm just taking your advice. I'm picking up the pieces." Picking up my saw, I stepped over to her as she began to scream.

Writing Prompt
Write a story that starts with: "Just pick up the pieces..."



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