"The Jon Benet Ramsey Game," (excerpt) Tisch Abelow, 2004

“I told princess we would play the game tonight if she was good,” Mother said, sternly, looking at father. One of my crayons broke, creating a long orange line across my drawing.

He sighed and rolled his shoulders back. “Okay,” he said. “Maybe after dinner. We’ll make it short.” I took a deep breath and looked at him, relieved. My eyes were wide and desperate. “Smile, princess. Why don’t you ever smile?” I tightened my lips and turned them as upward as I could. A smile. “Oh, comon’ princess, you can do better than that. Show me some teeth.” My father was more relaxed now after drinking his coffee. I opened my lips and grinned, bottom and top teeth showing. “Now that’s what I’m talking about,” he added. He smirked at mother but her face remained expressionless.

Tonight he was going to play the game. Father got up from the island and came to sit by me at the kitchen table. “Sorry I haven’t been around much lately—Christmas time is a busy time. I’ll make it up to you tonight—how ‘bout it?” He rubbed and patted my back, watching me draw. Mother started washing dishes.

“Sure,” I said. My palms were sweaty.

He paused. “Why do you like that silly game anyway?” he said, laughing a little. He touched my head and took his fingers through my hair.

“Cause it makes me feel pretty,” I said.

“Oh but honey—you are pretty.”