watching the condensation sink into my fingers.
I hear your mother moving, the sounds quick and hesitant at once,
frying pan in the sink half scrubbed as she says, water in her voice,
hurry now, we can’t be late, a pleading that makes me look up,
the red around her throat in the shape of your father’s fingers flaming out.
hand wet, I pass my palm once, twice, over my jeans and you’re gone, backpack hitched,
door slamming and it is me and your mother.
I can’t remember ever being alone with her.
it’s okay, she says, the lie big and wide. nothing you need to tell.
she waits. I wait. my chin nods, hers follows as the distance between us slips.
after school, when I go home to parents who kiss each other’s foreheads,
embarrassingly hold hands and never make secrets,
I’ll nod my chin yes when they ask, is everything okay?
and someday, maybe before, maybe after I become your mother’s age,
I will feel the wear of guilt sink into my fingers.
it tastes like oranges.
Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Art. She resides in Graham, NC with her cats, Charlie Chaplin and Janis Joplin.