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I sprayed some perfume on and looked in the mirror. My skin was brown, not like Valentina, but not pale like Bruno. My hair wasn't very curly either. It was black and reached all the way to my lower back. The front was clipped back on either side with red clips that matched my shirt. In the mirror I looked like mamá. Her big doe eyes were identical to mine and our dimples made us look more alike than either of my siblings.

Valentina looked like papi, And Bruno didn't look like anyone. Valentina and papi had dark skin and dark eyes. I don't remember him that much, but I remembered his hugs and his sweet words.

"Mis princesas y mi soldado" he would call us, pointing to Bruno at the end.
(My princesses and my little soldier)

"Yo también quiero ser soldado, papá"
(I want to be a soldier too, dad) I would say to him, pouting.

"Lo serás"
(You will be)

I don't remember the last time I saw him, or what shirt he was wearing, or if he was wearing his good shoes, or his work boots. I just remember I never saw him again. Most of all I remember missing him, and wondering when he would be back. I wondered why Mami cried whenever I asked what time he was coming home. And why Valentina would get mad at me for making Mami cry. And how Bruno would yell at her for yelling at me. It was like that for a while, but it got better as we got older.

When I got older Mami started spending less and less time at home. She was gone before I woke up and didn't come home until after I was asleep. Valentina would wake me up for school each morning and brush my hair, make breakfast, and help me pick out clothes for school. Bruno would pick me up everyday and when I got good grades he would buy me my favorite candy at the bodega. He was broke and we were poor, but he always managed.

Bruno always wanted people to think he was mean and tough, like most teenage boys I knew. But he was different. His heart wouldn't let him not care about the people around him. I wasn't dumb, I knew he was involved in some bad shit, but he's my big brother, he could never be the bad guy in my story.

When the good grades got even better, and I got older, he would make sure to tell Mami to try and cook my favorite food. He always pretended it was Mami's idea but I knew. Time passed and I sometimes still wondered about papa, but After a while, I just stopped.

I resented my parents for making me feel alone, because although Bruno and Valentina were trying their best, they were kids too. They had their own growing up to do. I thought my mom didn't care about me because she was never around. She never came to any of my award shows, or my recitals, or school plays. I hated her for it, but I was dumb then. I hated that she was never there when I cried or when I was sick. I didn't understand the way things had to be, and that it wasn't her fault.

I walked out of the house after packing my toothbrush and lotion. I jogged down the steps and headed toward the train station. I had a study date scheduled with a friend for 11. After that I was going to Amiyah's house to spend the night. My duffle was stuffed with clothes and text books. I studied a lot because I knew it was the only way I could be rich one day. Study hard, go to a good college, get a good job. When I got a good career, I would be able to pay all of the bills for mamá. She wouldn't have to work. She could stay home all day and I could call her whenever I wanted.

The bus ride was nice because it passed by all the projects and dropped me off in a wealthy residential area. I loved staying at her place. She lived in a big house in river dale. That was one of the nicest places in the Bronx. It was far from where I lived, but I always made the trip.

Her mom stayed at home and cooked and cleaned all day, like the wives in the movies. Her dad was a doctor at a local hospital. She had an older brother that was around Valentina's age. He was super handsome and played on his schools varsity football team. She had another brother that was 17 and he was top of his class, all the girls loved him, even though he was a nerd he was cute. Her family was perfect.

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