Sometimes, things go sideways.
Doesn't quite work out all the time.
And you need coping mechanisms.
Not that everyone needs to know about them.
For the first 12 years, it all went pretty well. I mean, Papi was in and out with his deployments. The Army worked him a lot, but he loved it. Second generation American, and proud to be. And it was a good way to take care of his family. I don't think he ever complained.
While he was gone, we stayed in New Mexico. We were close enough to Uncle Henry and his family to be able to have holiday get-togethers and throw the kids together for birthdays. Which, by the by, is how I got so close to Carley. When you have a cousin who is just a few months off in age from you and they don't think you're anything weird? They just see you as... you? And you see them as SOMETHING GLORIOUS? Match made in heaven. She's probably one of my top 10 favorite people of EVER.
Anyhow. We spent a bit of time with them. When I was about 12, we moved. Papi got stationed stateside, in North Carolina. Doing rank training stuff. We base hopped a few times while Mom got her degree in forensic accounting... and then... he shipped out, again. And this time, he didn't come back. I was 15.
It was hard. I felt hollow. And then Esteban announced he had enlisted. Looking back, I mean, I can see that was his way of coping. He knew why Papi did it. He'd always talked about doing it himself... but he wasn't going to let the loss stop him. Papi would't have liked that.
Me? I dropped out of school. I was miserable. Someone said the wrong thing to me at school on a bad day. So, I hit them... and got suspended and things snowballed. Eventually, Mom talked me into taking self-defense classes with one of Papi's old friends. Matteo had been in basic with Papi and they had kept in contact up until he died. Now, he had a gym and I guess he'd been talking to Mom about me. So, she shoved me into his hands.
I was reluctant, initially. I didn't want to hit anyone else. Matteo started hitting me first. He had minor super strength and I could feel it. It hurt. Physically, emotionally. Everything just bubbled up and I started hitting back. Not just with fists. My claws came out and I got nasty. For all of thirty seconds, and then I fell on the floor. Crying. Like a baby.
His solution? Teach me to fight beyond the self-defense and then sneak me into an actual fight.
It took a year of REALLY hard training. But we did it. And I won my second match. My side got really damaged. I had to stay late and have it all buffed off and out of me, and there was some that was left... and we just uh... covered it up. Worked it into my etching ... tattoo things. Don't tell. That's why the stars.
I was kind of hooked, after that. The endorphins, the winning, the opportunity to freak out? Maybe, a little, the chance to do something behind my mom's back.
So now, here we are in Paragon.
I started off with several fights, got into a LOT of trouble and booked it for a year to Mexico. Got into some fights down there, one of which was with my uncle. Then there was a whole thing about him trying to hit me while I was in metal solid form... He's a dumb. So we had a falling out. I went home, fought with my mom and then left and now I'm back in Paragon. I have a new guy. He's one of Matteo's old contacts. It's going okay so far. Winning more than half of my matches.