“No, No, NO! Cara, how many times must I show you? Watch me.”
Cara watched as her mother moved her arms with practiced grace. She paid close attention to how her mother placed her slippered feet confidently upon the worn floorboards. She knew this dance far better than she let on. Her missteps and clumsy movements were Cara’s way of rebelling. As much as she hated to admit it, her mother’s dancing ability was something Cara always coveted. Some of Cara’s fondest childhood memories were of dancing alongside her mother. She would watch as the local men spent their hard earned cash to see her mother’s dances and forget about their wives.
When Cara was seventeen she thought herself old enough to start earning money with her dancing too. She danced for some local boys behind the general store. Unfortunately they weren’t interested in spending money; they were interested in kisses and more. Cara was worried about what her mother would say or do when she found out what happened. Her mother didn’t scold or berate her. She hugged Cara until Cara stopped crying. The next day Cara began learning a new dance. Every bit as seductive as the others, but concentrating on new steps and movements and rhythms helped Cara forget the events of the previous day.
Cara’s mind snapped back to the present as her mother’s dance ended.
“Sorry mother, I’m just a little tired,” said Cara
“Well, you better get un-tired and get it right. I spoke with Mr. Johnson today and he agreed to let you dance on stage this weekend,” Said Cara’s mother.
Cara’s face blanched. “I – I don’t know if I’m ready mom,” said Cara. She couldn’t look her mother in the eyes. “I don’t want to be a whore.”
Cara flinched as her mother’s hand flew toward her face. It stopped just before making contact.
“I am not a whore!” Her mother grabbed Cara’s chin and lifted her head, forcing Cara to make eye contact. “Cara, I don’t take those men into my bed. There was only one man in my life, your father, and he was murdered when you were young.”
“I know,” said Cara sullenly.
Her mother let out a large sigh. She was a strong woman and Cara knew her mother was anything but a whore.
“One more time, Cara, then we’ll go downstairs and get some food.”
Cara watched as her mother walked across the floor of their small room above the saloon. She had no desire to hurt her mother and knew exactly how she would make it up to her. Her mother placed the needle at the beginning of the record and cranked the phonograph.
The music started. Cara danced. Perfectly. Every step perfectly placed. Every movement of her arms perfectly timed. Her lithe body curved provocatively left, right, left, down. Her back arched. Her chest heaved. The music quickened. Her movements were hypnotic. Her silk skirt slid down her long leg as it kicked up past her head. The music became part of her. The room and her mother disappeared. All that was left was the dance. A perfect melding. A perfect dance.
Cara’s mother stood in stunned silence as the needle bounced back and forth against the label of the record. She smiled as she realized that Cara had been holding back for years. She ran across the room to hug her daughter.
“I know we aren’t whores mom,” said Cara. She pulled back from her mother to see her face. “You said something about food?”
The next few days passed quickly as Cara and her mother practiced their steps during the day and worked for the saloon at night. Cara was a serving girl and spent most of her nights in the smoke filled saloon trying to keep her bottom from being slapped by the men playing faro. But tonight was different. Tonight she was in the dressing room getting ready. Cara smiled as she looked at herself in the mirror. She wore a black, high-cut dress. The bodice was cut low and revealed an obscene amount of cleavage. Cara walked to the side stage to watch her mother dance.
There was a large group of men Cara had never seen before in the saloon tonight and they were rowdy. That was good though. It meant her first night would be a lucrative one. Cara watched her dance until two of the men rushed the stage.
Cara ran out to help her mother but was quickly captured by two more men and pinned against the wall.
The men stunk of whisky and their stubble scratched her skin as they began to have their way with her. She screamed for her mother. One of the men holding her grabbed her by the hair and held her head still.
“You might wanna watch this sweetheart.” The man said breathily into her ear. “Your momma pissed off the wrong man some years ago and Jack don’t take shit from no whore.”
Her mother, held by two men struggled to get free, while another man, presumably Jack, advanced slowly.
“Remember me bitch?” said Jack. “I’m the hombre who killed your husband.” Jack backhanded Cara’s mother across the face, splitting her lip. “Did you think you could hide from me forever?
“I’ll kill you!” Screamed Cara’s mother, as she struggled against her assailants.
“When I’m done with you I’m gonna let my crew loose on your daughter.”
Cara’s mother turned her head to look at Cara. “Cara, I want you to run from here and don’t come back, no matter what.”
Jack laughed openly. “She ain’t going nowhere, bitch”
Cara watched as her mother jerked one wrist free and then drove her elbow into the nose of one of the men behind her. Cara recognized her mother’s powerful movements. It was the new dance. Cara realized that for years her mother was teaching her far more than how to make a living; she was teaching her how to survive, how to fight and how to kill. Cara saw her mother reach into her tall black boots and retrieve two silver daggers. She hurled each one in Cara’s direction.
Each dagger plunged into the chests of the men restraining Cara. Cara instinctively pulled them free from their chests. They felt as though they were made to fit her hands. Cara, in the midst of this horror couldn’t help notice every little detail of the daggers. They were perfectly balanced. The handles were fashioned from silver and inlayed with wooden crosses. She held them ready. Her mother’s final gift.
“Run” shouted Cara’s mother. “Don’t look back. I love you.”
Cara started towards her mother.
“NO Cara! Run! Now!” Her mother fixed her gaze on Cara for a second and Cara knew she had to run.
Cara ran. And as her mother continued her dance, Cara swore vengeance.
Author’s Note: I hoped you enjoyed this story. It was composed for Write Anything’s Fiction Friday challenge. This week’s prompt: Write about a misunderstanding between three people. Astute readers will notice that this story is slightly more than 1000 words. Please don’t hold it against Cara and her mother, they had a lot to say. Hopefully Cara and Gabe (see last week’s story) will be meeting up in the near future. Thank you for reading and commenting.