Chapter One: My Life So Far
Before I go too in-depth into the beginning of my problem, I need to tell you a little bit about myself. If only so you can understand what drives my decisions and reactions in this story.
The first thing you should know is my name, because I apparently haven’t told you yet: My full name is Lorena Consuela Ramirez, but everyone calls me Lora. The second thing you should know about me is that I am bi-racial. My dad is Hispanic-American, and my mom is Caucasian (white). But I am the only one of me and my brothers with light skin. All of my brothers definitely look Hispanic. It is for this reason that I’m usually frustrated when people assume that I am adopted because I don’t look like my brothers.
Also I don’t speak very much Spanish. It was always spoken when I was younger, but as I got older it was spoken less and less. You’ll find out why in the next few pages. I can speak some Spanish, but the majority of my Spanish vocabulary are swear words. I say them when I want to fool someone that doesn’t know the language. I have taken the course in school since the eighth grade, but I still can’t speak it much.
Also, I am a total tomboy, and have been from a very early age. That’s what happens when you grow up in a family with four brothers. The house has always been overtaken by testosterone. I’m not like all the other girls that you know. I don’t like to dress up unless I absolutely have to, and I don’t like to spend long hours doing my hair and makeup. I am more comfortable in just some jeans and a simple t-shirt. My hair is usually pulled up into a messy ponytail and I hardly ever wear makeup. I believe in being real; and being covered up or all exposed is not the real me.
My Family Life….
The first earliest memory I have is of my dad-or Mi Papi- and me just sitting on the couch watching TV together or as I was helping him fix things in the garage. I was his baby girl; the only girl born in a family of boys. So I was spoiled constantly and incessantly much to the anger of both my older and younger brothers. But I didn’t care; I had my daddy’s attention all for myself.
Looking back on it, I realize that he was being selfish when it came to my brothers. There wasn’t that much of an age difference between all of us, and they deserved to have that special one-on-one time with him like I did. But back then, I relished in it. It was an opportunity for me to spend some quality time with him while not having to listen to anyone scream in the house. Trust me; those kinds of moments were rare while I was growing up.
I never once doubted my parents’ love and affection for me and my brothers. It was their love for each other that I often questioned. I can’t tell you how many times I woke up in the middle of the night or the early morning to glasses breaking on the lower level of my house.
Each one of my younger brothers would eventually find their way into my room because I took it upon myself to look out for them. It was my job to protect them; and that’s what I did for them from an early age. So every time I heard the glass breaking, I would slowly make my way downstairs to decide if it was safe enough for me and my brothers to have some breakfast and eventually start our day.
Mi Madre And Padre….
My parents were young when they met. My dad was a high school drop-out working as a mechanic at a local garage. My mom was living with her horrible Aunt Cece after her parents died in a car accident when she was a teenager. They had a chance meeting at the auto shop where he worked when her car broke down in this town and she needed to get it fixed at the last minute. Needless to say, Aunt Cece was not pleased when he started coming around.
My mom encouraged my dad to get his GED, which he passed with flying colors. He saved up enough money to buy his own shop and become his own boss so he could spend his free time at home.
My mom was barely eighteen when she found out she was pregnant with my oldest brother, Alejandro (or Alec as I call him). They got married shortly before he was born and moved in together. Unfortunately, Aunt Cece cut my mom off from everything she had become accustomed to and the only place they could afford to live in was what was called ‘The Projects’ by not only residents of the small Texas town I live in, but the inhabitants of the nearby ritzy neighborhoods just across the city limits as well.
Fortunately for my parents, my dad’s family was a lot more supportive of their relationship. My Uncle Emilio and his family lived nearby in a neighborhood not that different than the one we lived in. My cousin Anton was born just a few months after my brother was so they were the best of friends practically since they were born. Our families always got together every weekend just to catch up and listen to our favorite music together.
My parents were very happy, but they yearned for another baby when Alejandro was still pretty young. They tried for many months, but nothing seemed to be happening for them. Money was tight for them at the time so they couldn’t just go to a specialist to find out what was wrong. Finally, they were blessed. After years of miscarriages and heart break, I was born to them. My mom had the perfect family she had always wanted: A wonderful husband, one son, and one daughter.
Then something unexpected happened; a little more than a year after I was born, my brother Ernesto was born. And a year after he was born, my brother Julio was born. I was seven when my youngest brother Elija was born. With each new baby, my parents’ relationship seemed to slowly deteriorate. They constantly argued about money and me and my brothers. And we just stopped wanting to spend too much time at a house that constantly seemed to be in a war zone, instead spending time at my Uncle Emilio’s with my Aunt Carina and my cousin Cristian, who was just a couple years older than me.
I think all the fighting is the reason why my oldest brother joined a local gang that my cousin Anton was already a part of. I knew what he was a part of and where he went every night after we were all supposed to be asleep. I begged him to please stop, but he said it was better than spending time with people that constantly fought over the fact that the only reason they were together was because of him. And that was a huge burden to put on a kid.
I was seven-years-old the night that Alejandro was arrested. It was less than a year after my brother Elija was born. The cops came to our door looking for both him and Anton. There was some kind of altercation at a pool hall earlier that night. They both had guns on them and ended up shooting someone in self-defense. They were both tried as adults and sent to jail. It was the worst day of my life for more reasons than one.
On the same night that my brother was arrested, I lost my dad. He suffered a stroke from all the stress and died in the hospital that night. With my brother in jail and my dad gone, I knew it was on me to look after my younger brothers. So that’s what I did; I made sure they were eating, doing their homework, and getting plenty of rest like they should.
I’ve heard others say that I was giving up my childhood to look after my brothers, but I didn’t see it that way. I saw it as helping my mom out as she not only worked two jobs, but went back to school so that she could get her nursing degree. Unfortunately, that was also when my mom’s inner demons started to came out to play.
In my mom’s family, there is a history of drug and alcohol abuse; so she was already pre-exposed to it all. It all started going downhill when she got a nursing job at the local hospital. She started lifting pills from them; it was like she had free rein in a candy store. Me and my brothers noticed the subtle changes in her, but chose to ignore it. Until all the guys started coming around. She would meet these dead-beats in the hospital emergency room after they got off another bender and they would start going out to the bars every night.
My Uncle Emilio finally intervened when she was sent to a court-ordered drug and alcohol rehab facility. I was able to be a little kid again for a few short hours every day while we all lived there. My Aunt Carina told me that it wasn’t time for me to be a parent just yet, and that I deserved to be a kid for as long as I possibly could.
My mom was in and out of drug rehab centers for most of my childhood; and each time she was in there, we lived with my aunt and uncle. Cristian wasn’t used to all the people invading his space, but he eventually got used to it. We were practically best friends and enjoyed most of the same interests. But as we both got older and developed interest in the opposite sex, we drifted apart a little. I understand it’s a way of life, but it still hurt a little when he started spending all his free time with girls.
Cut to me spending time with boys; Cristian became so overprotective of me it was ridiculous. On the one hand, it felt great to realize that someone cared enough to want to protect me like that. On the other hand, I just wanted to be left alone to live my own life. It only got worse once our older brothers were released from prison.
Anton and Alec were released on parole after a five year sentence; they were both eighteen. I was with Cristian when I saw him walking down the street with Anton; we were both ecstatic to see our big brothers. Jail changed everything for them. They wanted to right their wrongs. They knew it would be a long road to forgiveness and redemption, but they were both willing to travel it no matter how long it took.
I was proud of my big brother; he stayed away from drugs, alcohol, and violence. He enrolled in a work release program and went back to school to get his degree; he obtained his GED while he was in prison. He also started reacquainting himself with me and my younger brothers; wanting to know everything that he missed while he was away.
Unfortunately, not everyone was as open to their rehabilitation as we were. My mom believed that he brought shame upon the family and forbid us to see him. I was thirteen at the time, and welcomed the rebellion that came along with it. I would make up lies about where I was going to be so she wouldn’t come looking for me while I spent time with my big brother. No matter how overprotective he was with me, I still craved all the attention that I could get from him.
When I officially started dating, Alec was slightly overbearing to my potential dates. They would get scared off too easily until I finally told him to back off. Today, I wish I hadn’t sent him away. Then maybe I wouldn’t be in the current predicament that I find myself in.
I live in Promise, Texas. It’s just a few miles away from Galveston. It’s a small town with lots of charm; a town that can make all your promises come true. Corny I know, but this is where I grew up and I love everything about it. Although, sometimes living in a small town can have its draw backs. For example, when my mom was having all her problems the whole town knew instantly.
And there is such a place as ‘The Projects’ even in a small town like this. But I learned to grow a hard shell when it came to other people’s opinions about me and my family. It sometimes bothers my younger brothers, but I’ve learned all the ways to shield them from all the negative opinions about us. It’s not our fault that we live the way we do; we were born into it.
My Younger Brothers….
I told you all about my older brother, Alejandro (Alec) earlier. Now I’m going to tell you a little bit about my younger brothers. Ernesto, Julio, and Elija. If you manage to get them on their own, they’re a bundle of energy. Get them all together in one place, and watch out!
Ernesto is a little more than one year younger than me. He’s definitely the sportiest brother I have. He’s been involved in football, basketball, and soccer since he was in grade school. His favorite pastime, besides playing a sport, is watching it on TV. And in the off-seasons, he can be found dribbling some kind of sports ball all throughout the house. He lives and breathes his sports.
Julio is two years younger than me. He’s definitely my musical brother. He learned how to play the guitar at a very young age, and he writes his own songs and performs them whenever he can. At a really bad financial time in our family, he would take his guitar out on the sidewalk in town and perform his songs for passersby. You can sometimes catch him making up songs in his sleep. I can picture him going far with his music.
Then there’s Elija. He’s my special brother. I don’t mean rides the short bus special. I mean special special. He was born when I was seven and became my baby. Our dad died before he was even a year old, and mom didn’t have time to deal with the rest of her kids let alone a newborn. So I took care of him. I fed him, changed him, and put him to bed at the right times. He even shared a room with me since his birth. His first word was Mama, but it was to me. And I’ve taken it upon myself to protect him from Ernesto and Julio, as well as school and neighborhood bullies. I would definitely say that Elija has perseverance. He’s a little small for his age, but he still participates in the same sports that Ernesto does. He is definitely the fighter.
High School Life….
Like most teenagers, I was excited to start my high school years. For me, it meant that I was closer to finishing school and getting out of the dead-end life I found myself in. It also meant being able to spend eight hours a day away from my younger brothers. Don’t get me wrong; I love my brothers more than words can express, but it was time to do something for me. I wanted to join all the clubs and activities that I possibly could. According to the rest of the family, I excelled at gymnastics, dance, and singing from a very young age. So I knew that I wanted to join the school Chorale. It was a show choir that made up their own dance routines and competed in yearly state competitions. I tried out during the summer and was the only freshman to make it in so many years.
On top of Chorale, I also made the cheerleading squad. All the girls were really nice to me and often invited me to the parties or other events that they went to. I was a social butterfly, according to Alec. I spent two hours before school three times a week practicing Chorale; and I spent almost three hours every day after school at cheerleading practice unless it was a game night. I was hardly ever home on the weekends as well because that was when the parties were.
Everyone warned me to take it slow; it was only my Freshman year of high school. I had to pace myself; there were three more years left for me to experience everything. But I didn’t listen to them. The more time I spent out of the house, the more time I had to be just a kid. To experience everything that every kid had the right to do. It was a direct result of this attitude that led me to meeting Johnny.
It was at an end-of-year party after our Sophomore year ended. I had seen him around; he was a star player on the football team. Being a cheerleader meant that I was constantly around athletes. Johnny was always surrounded by a swarm of girls, so I couldn’t fathom why he was talking to me. We hit it off from the start; had the same interest in movies and books, and we both wanted out of this town. He said and did all the right things; it turned out that he was just saying what he knew I wanted to hear.
All my friends from the cheerleading squad warned me that he was nothing other than a player. He had a different girl every week, and all he wanted from each of them was only one thing. But it was the first time that a boy had spent an extended period of time being interested in me, so I chose to ignore them. But I shouldn’t have.
I spent every waking moment of my summer vacation with Johnny Baker. I found his life fascinating. He was an only child. His mom had passed away when he was younger and it was just him and his dad. He was groomed at an early age to be an athlete. He knew he could go far if he was able to get out of this town. I told him about my messed-up family life and found it refreshing that he didn’t run screaming for the hills.
As we continued to spend so much time together, I felt pressure to take our relationship further. From the time I was thirteen, my mother had always drilled into me, ‘Don’t have sex before you’re ready. You don’t want to end up how I am now.’ So I informed Johnny that I just wasn’t ready for that yet. He seemed understanding as he told me that we had all the time in the world. But I still felt so much pressure from him.
It was the night before I was supposed to leave for cheer camp. We had a picnic on the beach that night and started a campfire. I felt ready to take that next step. I felt that it would help our relationship, not ruin it. So we did it. He was so sweet to me afterwards; asking if I regretted anything and if I was ok.
The next morning, I left early on a greyhound bus for cheer camp. I spent the next month preparing for the next school year as we practiced old routines and came up with new ones. I also wrote home to my family and Johnny every day. My family constantly wrote back telling me what all I was missing at home. I found it strange that Johnny didn’t return a single postcard. My teammates assured me that it was probably nothing; that there was most likely a good explanation for why he wasn’t responding.
It turns out they were right.
And this is where my story really begins….