SNAPS1000 Story: Pieces of You
Califina David Burke-Johnson stood in the church office’s doorway holding a flute filled with champagne. She was all of 4’11 and a 100 pounds wet, but her mouth could set the world afire with its meanness, especially—and always—toward her daughter Stephanie.
“What,” Stephanie’s best friend DeeDee whispered, “is that her first or fifteenth glass of champagne?”
Despite herself, Stephanie chuckled. “Stop being bad,” she said while turning to face her mother. “How’s everything going out there?”
“Wonderful though our side of the church is awfully sparse. Brian has hordes of friends and family members. Where are your friends, Stephanie? DeeDee can’t be your only friend.”
Stephanie walked toward the mirror. She would ignore her mother this time. She had to. She didn’t want her anger to build to the point of saying or doing something that would ruin the most significant day of her life.
On the church’s marble steps, Stephanie sat, legs splayed wide, but all her goodies hidden under the dress’ tulle, silk, and beads.
In her hand was a crumpled letter she had read at least two dozen times.
He couldn’t be with her as long as her mother ruled her life. She had promised him, more than once, that things would change, be better after they were married, but Brian didn’t believe her.
Stephanie ripped up the letter and tossed the pieces into the air, watching them flutter like confetti. But this was no celebration. She looked out and saw the limo that was to take her and Brian to the reception. Instead, she would be getting into it and going home, alone.
Slowly, she stood and made her way to it. The driver jumped out and raced to her side to open the door. His eyes said, I am so sorry. She nodded and slipped inside.
Several days later…
Stephanie did not move nor say a word as DeeDee entered her apartment and yelled, “Oh my God, something died in here.”
Stephanie didn’t lift her head or open her eyes, but she knew what DeeDee saw: clothes thrown all over the place, everything Brian had ever given her shredded and tossed about the living room, delivery boxes of half-eaten food on the coffee table and on the chair, and a despondent Stephanie on the sofa, still dressed in her wedding gown, unwashed.
“This will not do,” DeeDee said as she slammed the door shut, hung her purse on the door’s knob–the only clean place in the room, and raced to the kitchen to return with several trash bags. “What, did you think you were just going to lay here and die?”
With no response, DeeDee added, “You knew I lost my key. Had to get Brian’s from his brother.”
Stephanie opened her eyes, tears instantly spilling. “Brian?” she whispered.
“Yes, Brian.” DeeDee cleared the chair and sat. “He’s worried, too. Your voicemail is full. Half the messages are from him. When I told him I hadn’t heard from you, he got worried. Got even more so when I told him I stopped by your mother’s house to look for you, and she didn’t even have the decency to come to the freaking door.”
Stephanie smiled, briefly, before allowing her face to morph back into one stricken with paralysis.
“Sis,” DeeDee said, creeping over to the sofa, “we need to get you cleaned up.”
Gingerly, Stephanie stood and smoothed out her dress as if it were crisp white and just off the hanger. She trudged down the hall toward her bedroom.
“I’m going to straighten up while you take a shower,” DeeDee said.
Stephanie walked into her bedroom and stared at her disheveled, dirty self in her dresser mirror.
“Not the pretty little bride now, are you?” she said to her reflection. “No one will ever want you.”
She lifted her hands and began to pull pins from her long, thick hair that was matted and knotted to the point of distraction.
Stephanie took her time slipping out the dress; she remembered the first time she let the gown fall down her arms, then bosom, waist, and legs before dropping to the floor in all its shiny new beauty. Now, it dropped in a dirty thud, thickly puddling about her feet like sludge.
A perfect red circle upon thick plastic–it was the first thing she saw upon entering the bathroom. She hadn’t been in there since she had returned from her mother’s home on her wedding day.
Grabbing a can of disinfectant, Stephanie sprayed down the entire bathroom as snatches of her last argument with her mother played on her mind:
“You never loved me,” she’d said. “Ever. Hell, you never loved anyone. Daddy would still be alive if you were a half-decent woman, but everything you fucking touch dies inside.”
“I have no control over your life,” Califina replied, “or your father’s. I only worry about one life–my own.”
“Brian loved me.” Stephanie swallowed a sob. “He left me because of how you treat me. He left me because I didn’t know how to say no more to you.”
A fluctuating level of anger always dwelled within Stephanie regarding her mother, but even in her anger, she could never hate her mother.
“And why,” her mother continued with mirth in her voice, “do you still have that dress on? Your first and only chance at marriage is over, Stephanie.”
Stephanie looked at this slender woman who had stolen her joy, happiness, peace, and her heart, and saw pure hate.
It was then her mind thought, Retaliate.
Stephanie knelt beside the toilet where the red circle was. Lightly, she touched the now-drying organ that had created the circle.
“I can pump as much love into you as I want,” she said, smiling, “and all you can do is let me.”
She eyed the organ again before walking toward the shower, and for the first time ever, she felt love coming from her mother’s heart.