February 5, 2009
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On June 23rd, 1993, Maria Adela was born to Amelia Brown and Marco Sanchez in an old, run-down hospital in Mexico City. Born with a thick cap of silky black hair, light blue eyes, and golden skin with an ivory undertone, she entirely embodied an exact mix of her parents. Maria's grew up within her small, close-knit neighborhood in a tiny brick house with a shingled black roof and a bright red door. 'Colors make it home,' Her mother always said, smiling widely at whatever portion of the house she had decided to splash with some bright shade. 'S', si el hogar es un arco iris.' Her father would go on to say, receiving a sharp smack from his smiling wife before she continued on with her project.

Maria's first day of school was the easiest. Children at that age were the least judgmental, and the most curious. 'What is wrong with your eyes?' One boy asked her across the table as they copied their names on battered mini-chalkboards. 'What do you mean?' She replied in Spanish, still concentrating very hard on the precise shape of the 'r'. 'Son de color equivocado.' He said, before turning back to his name and quickly losing interest in his own question. They are the wrong color.

That night, as her family gathered around the carved wood dinner table, Maria sat quietly; mulling over the tomato soup her mother had made especially for her- a treat for her first day of kindergarten. 'What is wrong, querida?' Her mother asked finally, twirling one of her strawberry blonde locks around her finger as she did when she was worried.

'Mama,' Maria said slowly, 'Is something wrong with your eyes?'

Amelia stopped short, her blue eyes meeting her daughter's- that were a mere reflection of her own.
'No, Maria. Why do you say that?'

'All the other ninos tengo ojos caf'.' She replied quietly. 'Pero la ninos ingles tengo mi ojos.'
But only the english children have my eyes.

'Whether or not the other children's eyes look like, there is nothing wrong with yours.' She said sharply.

Maria looked up, surprised. She'd never heard her sweet-tempered mother use that tone with her- ever.

Marco sighed, glancing at Amelia with a tired expression. 'We expected this,' He said slowly in his rich accent. Speaking in English had always calmed her mother, especially when Marco did it- he struggled actually speaking the language entirely and she usually appreciated his effort.

But this time, Amelia's expression didn't soften.

Two years later, Maria came home- her white dress dripping with thick black mud, her hair knotted and dirt-streaked. Two boys had followed her home, pulling her hair so hard she fell back into the street, calling her awful names and insulting her heritage. As her abuelita pulled a comb through wet hair, the bathroom door couldn't block the loud, heated exchange between her parents.

'Esta bien, esta bien.' Abuelita said quietly, her deep brown face wrinkled and kind with her old age. Her black hair fell to her back in thick masses, though now striped with silver. It's ok, it's ok.

When Maria was in the fourth grade, her mother finally got her way. Packing up their belongings, they shut the red door behind them for the last time that last summer in Mexico. They were on their way to California, and a new life.

By the time she was thirteen, Maria was popular and well integrated into her Los Angeles school. By then, she was very fiery and rebellious; entering the age that her mother insisted was like torture of the parents. She was very sensitive to those she cared about, but had grown very good at hiding it, burying her hurt beneath her pretty smile and brush-off attitude. Her friends, which were many, were convinced she was the most invincible queen-B ever, a strong but sweet leader. Her enemies, who were mostly jealous, called her hotheaded and snobby, self-centered and arrogant. The truth, as always, was in between.

Maria was happy; in a shallow way- she had friends, and lots of them, but not one best friend. But then, there was Aaron. She was one of the only girls in her school that had a boyfriend, who happened in her case to be a year older. He was a freshman in high school that was well known for his shock of white-blonde hair and charmer's smile. She saw him as being the one person that really cared about her, in a deeper way, so in their relationship, they also formed a deep friendship that went along with it all.

At home, her life was less pleasant. Amelia and Marco were struggling, financially and martially, to support their family. A year before, Marco's mother and Maria's beloved abuelita passed away quietly in her sleep, somewhat heartbroken from being away from her homeland. After that, Marco had grown angrier, insisting that Amelia had pushed them to America before they were ready to make the choice. Maria spent her time up in her room, listening to CDS, texting her boyfriend, and checking her email- trying desperately to drown out the flaws she wanted to banish from her life. It didn't matter, most of the time, because usually she could still hear the yelling.

By the time Maria was fifteen, Amelia had locked away her paints, and went to work in a retail gap downtown. Their small home was white and bland, and there were no longer splashes of color to remind them that life had its unexpected joys. So they forgot.

Later that year her boyfriend broke up with her on Valentine's Day claiming that he was getting older and didn't want to be 'tied down'. It was a clich', as Maria knew, and not altogether that uncommon. But it didn't make it hurt any less. Ultimately, she was devastated.

In early June, her parents, who by then had separated- though not legally- decided that they would celebrate Maria's birthday as a family. Her father met up with her and her mother at her favorite restaurant. She ordered tomato soup, and after had vanilla ice cream and a slice of dark chocolate cake. Her parents smiled at each other from across the table, and Maria felt the increasing swell of something almost whole again. She had the feeling her family was going to be ok in the end.

That night, driving home, her mother laughed loudly at something Marco had said, squeezing Maria's hand. Maria smiled at her mom, shaking her head at the ridiculous story. 'Thanks, guys,' She said after a short silence, 'For this.'

Both of them nodded, and she leaned back against the seat, sighing. The only thing that would've made this night better was if Aaron was with me, she thought.

'Maria?' Her father asked suddenly.

'Yeah, Dad?' She flipped open her phone. Nine new messages.

'You have seatbelt on?'

'Um, yeah'.'
One new message- Celia

Omg I know!! Hey How's the B-Day Going?

'Est' lloviendo duro aqu'.' He said quietly, leaning forward in his seat. It's raining hard out here.

One new message- Dee.

Yea we just chilling out here. Come over l8er?

'Maria- pay attention to your dad- you don't have your seatbelt on.'

She sighed, pulling it over her shoulder and clicking it into the buckle. 'Happy?' She asked, the sarcasm in her tone biting. Tucking a black lock behind her ear, she turned her body away from her parents, facing the car window.

One new message from- Aaron.

Her heart stopped. She willed herself to open it- but couldn't. She took a deep breath, and pressed a button.

Hey, I kno we haven't tlked for a while'but I rememebered it was ur b-day today. Need to c u sometime- been thinking bout u. Miss ya'Aaron.

Happy Birthday indeed, she smiled to herself.

A sudden white flash blinded her, and she looked up, startled, still smiling. 'Dad what's that-

'Marco watch out!' Amelia cried- but not before the truck slammed into the side of the car. The awful keening scream of jagged metal and glass ripped through the air, and a blinding gold glow exploded around them before Maria's world faded to deep, bottomless black.

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