Kaci Skiles Laws

Dance

Dance. Nicole was always telling me
what to do,
orchestrating something wild
that she called fun.

If I didn’t do it,
she’d badger me, threaten me,
go into mini rages.

You’d better or else. You’d better
or I’ll tell your dad what you did.


Half the time I couldn’t even remember 

what I did.
She was persuasive and conniving,
convincing
and beautiful in all the ways I thought 

mattered.

I liked to look at blood.
Nicole would tell my dad. How sadistic
I was at age five asking to see
the cut my cousin got off the edge 

of a rusty bike with no seat.

The family would hold me 

under a microscope like a disease, disgust
written all over their faces

 as if they didn’t want to see the blood too.

At age six I’d seen a whole movie called,
Kids, about how you get AIDS.
Up in her room with the door locked, 

Nicole told me
if I ever even thought about having sex I’d die. 

I never told my dad.

Truth or dare.
Nicole demanded. I stopped taking dares 

because once
she wanted me to dance naked
in front of her
upstairs window with the lights on
while a car drove by.
I had to do it—
or I’d be banned from her room forever.

I didn’t want that 

because then I’d be stuck downstairs listening
to the grown-ups play poker, 

surrounded by clouds of cigar smoke,
smelling of whiskey while Nicole taunted me, 

calling me names
in passing, like a ghost whispering on the stairs 

or from behind a curtain.

I was stuck for days listening
to my dad’s wife talk
mad shit about my mom.
They’d see me
in the shadows and pretend
I wasn’t there, that I couldn’t hear.

I wanted to go home.
Nicole would say, it’s fun. Dance.

***

Previously published in Red Fez

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